Friday, August 21, 2020

I Hope That Allah Will Bring From Their Descendants People Who Will Worship Allah Alone

We have narrated that after spending hundreds of years calling people to tawhid without much success, Great Flood had been sent to drown all the disbelievers among the people of Noah.

Similar pattern can be seen with the subsequent prophets. After Noah, came Hud, Shalih, Abraham and Lot. Allah also destroyed the disbelievers among the people of these prophets. During Prophet Adam and Idris, who came before Prophet Noah, punishment like this did not happen.

When Prophet Noah did not know how else to convince his people to leave idol worshiping, Allah inspired to him that the hearts of his people were already sealed. Then Prophet Noah made doa, asking Allah to destroy them all. We can see this in the Quran chapter 71: verses 26-27:  "My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth. If you leave them, they will mislead Your slaves and they will beget none but wicked disbelievers."
And Allah granted his request.

After the great flood, the children of Prophet Noah started to multiply and spread all over the earth. One of his descendants was called Aad. He lived somewhere in the present day Yemen. His descendants became the people or the tribe of Aad. They worshiped the idols, so Allah sent a prophet among them named Hud.

After preaching for so many years without much success, Prophet Hud AS warned his people that if they do not believe in the One True God, he feared that Allah will punish them. Instead of taking his advice kindly, they mocked at him, calling him mad. Then Allah sent drought to them. Prophet Hud warned them, saying the drought is a warning that Allah is angry. If they repent, Allah will forgive and send them rain.

But, instead of believing in his warning, they mocked at Prophet Hud and became more stubborn. The drought increased, the trees turned yellow, and plants died. Then a day came when they found the sky full of clouds. The people were happy, thinking that the rain is coming. But it was not a rain. It was a storm that came to destroy everything. Only Hud and his followers remained unharmed.

Another of Noah’s descendant was called Thamud. He lived somewhere between north of Saudi Arabia and south of Jordan in the present day. His descendants became the people or the tribe of Thamud. Like the people of Aad, they also worshiped the idols, so Allah sent a prophet among them named Shalih.

Prophet Shalih was more successful as he had some followers. But, fearing that his followers would increase, the chiefs among his people then tried to discredit him. They asked him to perform a miracle. They said, if he can make a unique she-camel come out of a mountain rock, then they will believe in him.

Prophet Shalih then prayed to Allah to grant their request. Allah split the mountain rock and a great camel came out. The people were astounded with the wonderful event. Some people declared their belief, but most of them continued with their disbelief.

This camel did not only come out of the mountain rock miraculously. It was also a miraculous she-camel. She can produce more milk than all their camels combined. But she also drank a lot of water. When the she-camel drank, their well would run dry, so the people had to wait until tomorrow. They had to alternate between their day to use the well and the she-camel’s day. This situation made their leaders hated Shalih more. So they plotted a conspiracy. Offering great rewards and beautiful wives, they engaged some young men to kill the camel. And the camel was killed.

They celebrated the death of the miraculous camel but Prophet Shalih warned them: "Enjoy life for 3 more days then the punishment will descend upon you." Prophet Shalih was hoping they would repent, but instead of repenting, they mocked and challenged him: "Why three days? Let the punishment come as quickly as possible." Three days after the warning, thunderbolts filled the air, followed by severe earthquakes which destroyed the entire tribe and its homeland.

After that came Prophet Abraham and his nephew Prophet Lot. Allah had sent two angels to destroy the people of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah. But before they went to Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels visited Prophet Abraham first who lived in the area of Canaan.

The visit was to tell Prophet Abraham about the good and bad news. The good news was that Abraham will have a son with his wife Sarah. Although very surprised because both of them were already very old, they were overjoyed with the good news.

After the good news, the angels told Prophet Abraham that they were on their way to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Prophet Abraham was alarmed, saying that his nephew Lot was there. The angels told him that Lot and his family who believed in him will be saved. Except his wife, because she disbelieved in him.

Then Prophet Abraham tried to plead with the angels to spare the people of Lot. But the angels said the matter had been decided by Allah and told Prophet Abraham to stop pleading.

The angels then came to Prophet Lot’s house as handsome young men. This worried Prophet Lot immensely because his people indulged in homosexuality. So he hid them in his house. But his wife went out to tell people about the handsome young guests.

Soon people came to his house demanding him to surrender the two men so that they can satisfy their lust. Prophet Lot tried to reason with them, saying they can marry his two beautiful daughters as that would be more decent. But they only laughed at him, saying they are not interested in women, and demanded him to surrender the two guests. When they demanded more violently and Prophet Lot feared something really terrible would happen, the guests said: "Do not be anxious or frightened, Lot, for we are angels, and these people will not harm you."

On hearing this, the mob was terrified and fled from Lot's house, hurling threats at him as they left. The angels warned Prophet Lot to leave his house before sunrise, taking with him all his family except his wife. While fleeing from the town, Allah destroyed the town of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Bible said that Prophet Lot also took his wife along, and warned her not to turn his face toward the town no matter what. While fleeing, an earthquake rocked the town and a storm of stones rained on the city, leaving horrifying sound behind. None of them turned their face to look at what happened, except his disbelieving wife. She turned to look at the terrifying event and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Some biblical commentators said that she was turned into a pillar of salt because, when the angels came and her husband hid them, his wife told him there was no salt in the house. Salt is very important in food preparation. Without salt, food would be tasteless, and that is not the way to treat special guests. So she told her husband she needed to go out to borrow some salt. In reality, she went out to tell the people about the guests. Since she lied about the salt, God turned her into a pillar of salt.

In the story of Prophet Lot, we saw that Prophet Abraham tried to appeal to the angels to spare the people of Lot. In the case of Prophet Noah, he himself had asked Allah to destroy all of the disbelievers. While Prophet Hud and Prophet Shalih did not directly ask Allah to destroy the disbelievers, they did not plead to Allah to spare or save them either.

Here, we see a similarity between Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammad. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, asked him one day whether he had encountered worst day than the Battle of Uhud.

In the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet was very sad. Not only that the Muslims had lost the war, but 70 of his companions were also killed, and among them was his beloved uncle Hamzah, who was not only killed, but mutilated. His belly was cut open, his liver was taken, his nose and his ears were cut off. The Prophet also lost his tooth and got badly hurt.

Despite all that, the Prophet said he had a worse day than the Day of Uhud. In the Lesson “Humble Beginning,” we have narrated how his people had treated him and his followers badly for 10 years. Then he lost his protective uncle Abu Talib and his beloved wife Khadijah. As he did not know what else to do, he went to Taif with a high hope that the people in Taif would believe in his message.

But, instead of treating him kindly, they chased him. The elders told the foolish people and the kids to stone him. He ran away bleeding and felt the world was closing on him. Then the angels came, saying that if he like, they can make the mountain crushed and destroyed all the people in Taif. Instead of agreeing with the angels’ proposal, the Prophet said: “No, rather I hope that Allah will bring from their descendants people who will worship Allah alone without associating partners with him.”

Here we see the likeness between Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Ibrahim. When asked which prophet looked like him, the Prophet used to say: “I am the one who resembles Abraham the most amongst his children.” He was referring to physical resemblance, but we can see that their approach is also similar. Unlike other prophets, both Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Abraham tried the best they can to save the people from being punished.

It is not a coincidence, therefore, that among 124,000 prophets, these two are often single out as the greatest. Or, in the story of the Brick House of Prophethood, these are the two greatest bricks.

And We Made His Offspring The Sole Survivors

According to biblical story, Prophet Adam AS lived for 930 before he died.  After Adam, the next prophet the we know by name is Idris.  He is called Enoch in the Bible.  It was said that Prophet Idris AS was born when Adam was 622 years old.  This means that when Idris was born, Adam was still alive.  

In Arabic, Idris means “the instructor, the teacher.”  In Hebrew, he is called Enoch, meaning, “initiated, dedicated, disciplined.”  He was the first one who taught writing and reading, and also the first one who tamed horses for riding.  He was also the first to teach people mathematics and astronomy. 

According to both biblical and Islamic legends, Prophet Idris did not die but he was raised to the lofty place.  The legend said that he asked the Angel of Death to take his life so that he can taste death.  So the Angel of Death took his life and his soul went to the Paradise.  This took place when he was 365 years old, or after Prophet Adam had died for 57 years.

But when the Angel of Death came to him to make him alive again, he asked the Angel how many time people die.  The Angel said only once.  Then the Prophet Idris said that since he had already died once, he should not live and die again.  So the Angel did not revive him.

Since Prophet Idris was the great teacher and highly revered, his disappearance had caused great distress to his people and they had made a statue in his remembrance, that is, some kind of memorial.  From time to time, they bowed to the statue to show respect.

The later generations who did not live with him and did not know why the statue was made in the first place had turned to worship the statue instead of remembering Idris.  This is said to be the first instance of idol worshiping.

The third prophet is Noah (Nabi Nuh).  According to the Biblical account, Prophet Noah AS was born in the year 1,056 of the Jewish Calendar, or about 126 after the death of Adam.  This is equivalent to 69 years after the disappearance of Prophet Idris. 

By the time the third prophet appeared, people had forgotten the tawhid or the oneness of God.  All of them worshiped idols instead.

Quran said Prophet Noah lived for 950 years.  In spite of the length of his prophethood, however, he managed to convince only a few.  According to Islamic tradition, his followers, including the members of his family, numbered only 83 or so.  Even one of his sons did not believe in his message.

According to Bible, it was only his family who believed in him.  They were his wife, his three children, Ham, Shem and Japhet, along with Prophet’s Noah daughter in laws as well as his grandchildren.  Islamic tradition, meanwhile, said that even his wife did not believe in him.   In addition, one of his sons named Kanaan (also called Yam) also did not believe in him and was drown later on during the great flood.  This son who disbelieved in him was not mentioned in the Bible.

After long preaching without much success, in his doa (supplication) to God, Prophet Noah said that there was nothing more he can do. The people were beyond repair.  Allah then commanded Prophet Noah to build an ark (a ship).   It was very huge and was built on the land, far from the sea.  His people were laughing at him saying that he was mad to make a ship when there was no sea nearby.  They did not know that afterward, Allah had sent the great flood and destroyed all of them except Noah and his followers or families in the ship. 

According to the Bible and some Islamic scholars, he was the father of all nations through his three sons who had survived, namely, Ham, Japhet and Shem.  Japhet is said to be the father of white colored people such as the Europeans, the Turkish people and the Iranians; Shem is said to be the father of the Jews and the Arabs; and Ham to be the father of the rest of the people. 

Many Islamic scholars also believe that he was the Father of all nations.  This is based on their interpretation of the Quran chapter 37 verse 77: “And we made his offspring the sole survivors.”  This verse refers to the great flood that drown everyone except those in the ship.  Thus, people nowadays are all descended from him.

The evolution scientists treat the story of great flood as mere legend.  They do not consider Noah to be the Father of all nations.  They do not even consider Prophet Adam to be the Father of mankind.  They say human being evolved from monkey.  

The evolution scientists imagine that some monkeys must have gotten tired of swinging from one tree to another.  So some of them try to walk on the ground.  At first they walked on all four feet.  Then some of them got tired of walking on four feet and tried walking on two.  The other two feet became their hands.  At long last they did not know how to walk on four feet anymore.  So they became human beings. 

This version of the story is known as the Evolution Theory.  The theory says that in the beginning, there was only tiny bit of living matter like bacteria or amoeba.  After long time, these tiny creatures got bigger and evolved into fish.  Then some fish tried to crawl on lands.  After they got used to it, some of them became reptiles.  Some of these reptiles tried flying and evolved into birds, while others turned into mammals.  Some mammals became monkeys and later on some monkeys became humans.

We did not know exactly how Allah created all the creations, including humans.  As Muslims, we believe Allah made us special, to be khalifah on earth.  When we were created, Allah “breath” His soul into Adam.  He made us to be aware of Him, and we are held accountable to our belief/faith and actions.  Animals including monkey are not held accountable for their actions.

As Muslims, we believe there was great flood that drowned everyone on the face of the earth during Prophet Noah time because that is what Quran tells us.  The Christians and the Jews also believe the same, because similar story is written in the Bible.

If we read a bit more, actually it is not only the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims who believe in the great flood.  In fact, all cultures in the world have their legends about the Great Flood. 

The Malays who are Muslims would go with the story in the Quran, but our aborigines such as the Jakun also have their legend as well.

Their story goes something like this.  The ground that we stand on is merely a skin.  Underneath is all water. Long ago, the god Pirman broke up this skin.  As a result, the whole world was flooded.  But Pirman had created a man and woman and placed them in a completely closed ship. All mankind are descended from that first pair.

The Mandayas, a tribe in the Philippines, also have their stories.  A great flood once drowned all the world's inhabitants except one pregnant woman. She prayed that her child would be a boy, and it was. When he grew up, he wed his mother, and all Mandayas are descended from them.

Even the people in Tibet also have their story. Long time ago, Tibet was almost totally inundated, that is, covered with water, until the god Gya took compassion on the survivors, drew off the waters through Bengal, and sent teachers to civilize the people, who until then had been little better than monkeys. Those people repopulated the land. 

There are hundreds of other similar stories but we need not waste space here.   Over times, of course, the stories had changed considerably, but the memory of the great flood remained, even to people in Tibet, the highest place on earth.

One common theme about all these stories is that those who were saved from this great flood had repopulated the earth.  We the Muslims believe the great flood was during Prophet Noah.  And through his offspring developed many nations that repopulated the earth.

Friday, July 3, 2020

I Know What You Do Not Know - On Why Mankind Is Made Khalifah On Earth

Prophet Muhammad SAW stated that he was the last brick in the House of Prophethood.   If we imagine each brick represents one prophet, then about 124 thousand bricks were used to make this house. 

Furthermore, if we imagine a house of bricks, then we can see that some bricks may be bigger, more prominent and more shining than the others.  But all bricks are important.  The absence of any of those 124 thousand bricks would make the house incomplete.  Likewise with the prophets.  Some prophets are more shining and more prominent while others are more obscure. 

Of those 124 thousand prophets, 25 of them are very special as they are specifically mentioned by names in the Quran.  And of all the prophets, five are made most prominent.  These are the prophets that Allah singled them out as the Most Resolute Prophets (ulul azmi). 

Some prophets are more prominent than others in their own way.  Prophet Noah (Nabi Nuh) is special for being noted as the Father of Nations.  Prophet Abraham as the Father of Prophets.  Prophet Moses (Nabi Musa) as the Founder of Judaism.  Prophet Solomon (Nabi Sulaiman) as the prophet who can communicate with animals and can command the genies (jinn). 

In this episode, let’s briefly focus on Prophet Adam AS.  Prophet Adam is special because he was the first prophet and also the first man.  He was the father of mankind.  All other prophets, and in fact all human beings, come from him.  He was the first brick in the House of Prophethood.  All other bricks are actually made, fashioned or designed after him.

Unlike all other human beings, he was not born but created.  So those who claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because he was born without the father, do not seem to understand that, if such is the criteria to be the Son of God, then Prophet Adam is more qualified.   
Prophet Adam is more qualified not only because he did not have father or mother, but he was specially created by Allah.  Jesus Christ at least had a mother.  And he was born, not created.

When was he created?  Scholars say around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.  But only God knows best.

In Hebrew (Ibrani), Adam means “human being,” or “man.”  This name is fitting since he is the first mankind.  Prophet Adam is significant in the bricks of prophethood in at least three aspects.

First, the purpose of human creation itself.

Why was mankind created?  Allah says in the Quran to be the khalifah/vicegerent on earth.   Khalifah or vicegerent means someone who acts on behalf of other.  In short, a representative.  So Allah made Adam to be His representative on earth.

But why mankind?  Why not angels.  Angels are lofty creature.  They make no wrong.  Why not genies.  Genies have bigger appetite.  Why not animals.  Animals are stronger.  Why not mountains.  Mountains are bigger.

Because, to fulfill the role as a vicegerent of God, that creature must have some godlike qualities such as free-will, creativity, drive or motivation and the ability to understand and make things.  Angels are lofty creatures, but they have no free will on their own, which means that they would not do anything on their own desire.  Animals have drives and desires and they are stronger, but they are not bestowed with creativity or ability to understand beyond their limited scope.  Genies resemble human beings in terms of intellect and desires, but they are made from fire and do not belong to material world. 
Only human beings, therefore, have the required characteristics.

When Allah communicated His intention to make Adam to angels, they asked why Allah wanted to make a creature that will create mischief on earth.  Allah replied:  I know what you do not know.  To illustrate His point, Allah asked angels to name certain things, but the angels replied that they only know what Allah had told them.  Allah then called Adam and asked him to do the same, and Adam elaborated on those names one by one. 

The significance of this story is that only man is capable of fulfilling the role as Allah’s vicegerent on earth.  Man can fulfill this role because he has some godlike qualities as mentioned above.  For instance, creating is God’s attribute.  Allah creates things.  Man also has some of this creative ability.  The difference is that Allah creates from nothing, while human beings create something new from what Allah had created.

Throughout history, man has harnessed the nature to create things for the betterment of their lives.  For example, man has no wings, but he is able to create a machine that flies; he cannot lift heavy stuff, but he has created tools to move mountains; he cannot run as fast as a leopard, but he has created a machine that run many times faster; he cannot swim like a fish, but he has created a ship and a submarine to swim in the ocean.  Man even creates a machine that enables him to communicate long distance simultaneously. 

No other creature can do what mankind can.  Birds may build nest, but there is no improvement on their nest since the time immemorial.  Yet mankind can make a house from as simple as a hut to a skyscraper. 

In addition, humans also have intellect and soul that enable them to think and “interact” with God like the angels or the genies. Animals have brain but do not think.  They act only on instinct.  In short, only humans have God-like qualities that enable them to be the vicegerents on earth.

Secondly, the story of Adam is important because what angels predicted have come true.  The angels had prophesied that man is the most destructive creature.  The qualities that make man great are also used to create mischief.  Man’s destructive nature shows its ugly head very soon in the history of mankind when Adam’s son, Cain (Qabil), killed his brother Abel (Habil), because of jealousy.

No other creature has caused greater bloodshed than man.  Animals also cause bloodshed, but animals only kill for food, or for self-defense, or at most for survival.  But man kills for many reasons, including for fun, for vengeance and for glory. 

Because of this dual nature of man, angelic and satanic, Allah sent His prophets to teach and guide them to the correct way of life.  In Arabic, man is called “insan” which also means forgetful.  It means that man tends to forget who he is.  To make mankind remember again, prophets have to be sent as reminders.

The third and last point about the important of Adam is that, because of their dual nature, good and bad, humans can and will make mistake.  Adam and his wife Eve were allowed to do anything they like in the heaven where they first lived, except to eat fruits from one particular tree.

Then the Devil (Iblis) seduced them to eat the fruit of that tree.  The Devil said it is the tree of life.  The only reason God prohibits them to eat the fruit is so that they will not live forever.  At first Adam and Eve resisted the temptation but at last they succumbed to it.  So they ate it. 

For disobeying God’s command, they were thrown out of heaven and had to live on earth.  Having realized they made great error, they repented and were forgiven.  What Adam showed here is not that we humans make mistakes, but that when we make mistake, we have to ask for forgiveness, and Allah will forgive.

This behavior is different from the behavior of the Devil or Iblis.  When Adam was created, Allah commanded both the angels and the Devil to bow down to Adam.  Angels quickly obeyed, but the Devil refused.  The Devil refused because he thought he was better than Adam, since he was made of fire and Adam was only made of soil.  Because of his refusal to obey Allah’s command and his refusal to admit mistake and repent, the Devil and all their kinds are condemned forever.

Here, the story of Prophet Adam illustrates that we should behave like him.  We will make mistake but we must ask for forgiveness.  We cannot behave like the Devil.  He refused to admit his sin and behaved arrogantly.  If we behave arrogantly like the Devil, then we also would be condemned forever. 

In conclusion, the important of Prophet Adam’s story, or the story of the first brick, is that we are special because mankind is made in the best of fashion.  But we also have bad qualities that can lead us to be the worst of creature.  And the best thing we can do is that when we make mistake, we ask for forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Did Allah Command You To Leave Us Here?

Prophet Muhammad SAW was born in Makkah around the year 570 or 571 the Christian Era (CE). Makkah was a thriving town at that time. Most of the Makkans engaged in trades and tended livestock. As Makkah was barren, and basically nothing could grow there, they did not engage in agriculture.
Makkah was the most important religious center in the Peninsular Arabia at that time. This is because it has a cube-like structure called Kaabah. It is considered as the House of God, where the Arabs came to do pilgrimage, either the major one known as Hajj, or the lesser one known as Umrah.
So Makkah was both the trading center as well as religious center for the Arabs.
About 2,500 years before that, however, Makkah was just a barren land. No one lived there, as the place had no source of water. So how did Makkah get populated?
The story started with the Prophet Abraham (Nabi Ibrahim). He lived around 4,000 years ago, or about 2,500 years before the Prophet Muhammad was born.
When Abraham was born, no one worshipped the one true God. The Tawhid, that is the belief in one true God, as was taught by the first man and the first Prophet, Adam AS, had been lost. People at that time worshipped idols, that is, the images they made to represent the gods they worship. These images could be the sun, stars, moon, trees, human beings, animals, spirits, or anything that they consider as gods. Even Aazar or also known as Terah, the father of Prophet Abraham, was an idol maker.
Allah had chosen Abraham to revive the true belief, namely tawhid. But after the long struggle, instead of believing in him, they threw him into inferno. He had no choice but to leave his people and travel to other regions with the hope that some people would believe in him. In the journey, he brought his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot, who believed in him.
His nephew, Lot (Nabi Lot), was to become another prophet. Years later, when Abraham decided to part ways, he told his nephew to go to the region called Sodom and Gomorrah. People in this region, however, indulged in homosexuality. The men prefer men to be their sexual partners. That is why homosexuality is called sodomy. The name sodomy is taken to represent the towns of Sodom that Allah destroyed.
Back to the story of Abraham, among the places he visited with his wife was Egypt. The king of Egypt was someone who cannot see beautiful woman, and Sarah was very beautiful. So the king took Sarah to be among his concubines. But whenever he wanted to take Sarah to bed, he became inflicted with some kind of paralyzing disease. In short, he cannot lay his hand on Sarah. He became normal again the moment he left Sarah alone.
After trying for three nights and the same thing happened, the king realized that this was a special woman. So instead of trying for the fourth time, the king presented Sarah with one of his slave girls name Hagar to be the bondmaid. Some said Hagar was the daughter of the king of Egypt himself. Others said she was the daughter of the King of Maghreb, that is the country west to Egypt, but was captured during the war with Egypt, and was made the slave by the King of Egypt. Allah knows best.
After many years of traveling here and there, Abraham finally decided to stay at the region called Canaan. The place is now in Israel.
Abraham mission was not very successful in terms of getting the believers. Not many people believed in him. And after many years of marriage, he did not get any offspring. He was worried that if he did not have any children, the message he brought will be lost again. So he prayed continuously to God to give him children. By then, both Abraham and his wife Sarah were already old.
Sarah knew that her husband wanted very much to have children. However, she was not only barren, but already beyond the age of conception. So she told her husband to take her bondmaid Hagar to be his second wife.
After Abraham slept with Hagar, they got a son. They named the son, Ishmael. All three were happy. But not for long. Because the woman’s jealousy quickly interfered. Sarah could not bear to see Abraham paid too much attention to the boy and the boy’s mother who used to be her bondmaid.
Sarah then told her husband to put away Hagar and the boy so that she didn’t have to see them again. That way, she would not be overwhelmed by jealousy. But, instead of bringing Hagar and the infant Ishmael to the next village, Abraham sent them thousand miles away from home. He brought them to Makkah, a barren valley he never visited before.
After staying with them for a while, he left. Being left in a valley where nothing grew and no source of water, we can imagine how desperate Hagar had become. It meant that they cannot survive for long, as there was only a little food and water left. So she repeatedly called for her husband who was already leaving. But Abraham did not say anything. He did not even turn around looking at his desperate wife and young infant.
Hagar, however, was a good believer. She knew her husband would not have left her and her infant boy in that deserted area, not only because he was a good man, but also because he loved both of them. Furthermore, Abraham had been wanting to have a child. When Ishmael was born, he was overjoyed. Thus, it did not make sense that he would leave the mother and the infant son like that, unless he received order from the Higher Up. So she asked: “Did Allah command you to leave us here?”
Abraham turned his head around and said: “Yes.”
Then Hagar said: "We are not going to be lost, since Allah, Who has commanded you, is with us."
A few days later, the food and water ran out. Hagar went looking for water. She thought she saw water at the mount Safa. When she reached there, there was no water. Then she thought she saw water at the mount Marwah. She walked briskly there. No water also. This walking back and forth took place seven times. But no water found. Nevertheless, it was from this event of walking back and forth, known as sa’i, that we take as part of our ritual of umrah or hajj.
After completing the seven round of walking back and forth between these two hills, Hagar saw her infant boy was playing with water. Apparently while she went looking for water between the hills of Safa and Marwah, the angel came to the infant boy and dug a fountain of water there. That fountain of water, known as zam-zam, remains until these days.
At that time, there was a tribe coming from Yemen camping outside of Makkah valley. The tribe is called Jurhum. They saw birds flying above the barren valley of Makkah. The flying birds circling the area indicated that the area has water. They sent scouts to go and check. When they saw a woman with young infant boy and a source of water, they asked for Hagar’s permission to live there.
Hagar agreed because she also needed other people around. It was dangerous to live only with her infant boy. The Jurhum were the Arabs. Hagar was an Egyptian, while her husband was a Hebrew, so she and her infant boy Ishmael learned to speak the language spoken by the Jurhum. When Ishmael grew up to be a man, he married a woman from this tribe of Jurhum.
Like Prophet Lot, the nephew of Abraham, God also appointed Ishmael the son of Abraham to be the prophet as well. We know him as Prophet Ishmael (Nabi Ismail). He had 12 sons, and through them his descendants multiplied and spread all over Arabia. They were known as Ishmaelite Arabs. About 2,500 years later, one of his descendants was born. He was named Muhammad. He was none other than our Prophet. It is said that there were 60 generations between Ishmael and Muhammad.
So Hagar, the great-great-great-great grandmother of the Prophet, was right. Allah did not abandon her when her husband was commanded to leave her in Makkah. Those who have no faith would say that Abraham was very cruel to have left his younger wife and an infant boy like that. But we the people of faith understand that Allah has a greater plan. The plan was to create a great nation giving birth to the great and last prophet, that is, to prepare the way for the coming of the last brick in the house of propethood.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Humble Beginning

When the Prophet SAW died at the age of 63, he left behind more than 100,000 companions.  For more than half of his mission as a prophet, however, he had only a handful of followers.  Most of the time, they were being persecuted.

The Prophet started his mission at the age of forty, when he received the first revelation in the cave of Hira.  A man suddenly appeared to him and asked him to read verses written on a piece of cloth the man was holding.

As Muhammad was unlettered and said he cannot read, the man embraced him so hard he was choking for breath.  This happened three times and finally the man himself read the verses to him and these verses were imprinted in his heart.

Muhammad  was bewildered and very confused with the event.  He ran home as soon as the man suddenly disappeared.  He thought he had been possessed by the demon.  His wife comforted him, saying that Allah will not put a good man like him under the spell of the Devil.  Then she took him to see her cousin, Waraqah, the Christian scholar in Makkah at the time.

After listening to his story, Waraqah declared that the one who visited him was also the one who visited Prophet Moses.  Then Waraqah said if he is still alive the day Muhammad is being persecuted, Waraqah would stand behind him.

Muhammad became more confused and anxious, and asked Waraqah why would people want to do horrible things to him.  Because all along people always like him and even called him al-Amin, the trusted one.  Waraqah said that such is the nature of the job as a prophet and the mission he carries.

Details about this story can be found in the tafsir  of surah al-Alaq (Quran: 96).  Or any seerah book.

Because the Prophet was so bewildered and confused, and because he did not want people to call him a madman, he thought that death would be better.  So he went to the hill nearby with the idea of throwing himself down.  When he was at the top of the hill, the same being who visited him the first time appeared again.  But this time not as a man. Rather, as an angel. 

The angel, whose name is Gabriel, appeared on the sky in his own form.  He was so gigantic that he covered the whole horizon.  No matter where Muhammad turned his face, he saw the Angel Gabriel.  By then he knew the matter was not his choice.  It is decreed that he shall be the last prophet, or the last brick in the house of prophethood.

His wife, Khadijah, readily believed in him.  Then he talked to his bosom friend, Abu Bakar, a man about two and half year younger than him.  Abu Bakar also readily believed in him.  His slave whom he adopted as his son, Zayd, who about 25 years old, also readily believed in him. 

He didn't talk about his experience with Ali, because Ali was just a boy of 10 years old at the time.  But Ali, who lived with him, saw the Prophet and Khadijah were praying.  Upon inquiry, Muhammad told Ali about his appointment as a prophet to revive the true religion. 

Ali also readily believed in him, but thought that since he was a minor, he must get permission from his father first, Abu Talib.  Half way to his father’s house, the young but wise boy thought that his father never asked permission from God for Ali to be born.  Why should he now ask his father’s permission to believe in one true God.  He came back and declared his faith.

Through his wife, a few women entered Islam.  Through Abu Bakar, many young man of noble birth entered Islam.  Through Zayd, many men of slave or servant status entered Islam. 

Several months later, about 40 people became Muslims.  The Prophet taught Islam to them secretly.  After three years had passed, Allah commanded the Prophet to spread the message of Islam openly.  Then the persecution started.  The torture and persecution were so severe that a few of his followers died.  The Prophet then told his followers to find safer place to live and practiced Islam.  About 100 of his followers then migrated to Abyssinia in two successions.  Only a handful were left behind in Mekah.

The situation was getting worse by the day.  The leaders of Makkah, frustrated that Abu Talib, the uncle and protector of the Prophet, refused to hand Muhammad for them to kill, boycotted the whole clan of the Prophet, known as the clan of Bani Hashim.  No one shall have any relationship with Bani Hashim, although the majority of Bani Hashim were not yet believers at that time.  If they refuse to hand over Muhammad so that they can kill him, then the whole clan shall die of starvation.

Abu Talib, as the leader of the clan, brought the whole clan to camp at the valley outside of the Makkah city, living secluded from people.  The boycott lasted three years.  Many died of sickness and malnutrition.  Many times they went without food and had to survive even on leaves and grass.

Soon after the boycott was lifted, his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadijah died.  The severity of the boycott had taken toll on their health.  The  Prophet had lost his protector (uncle) and his comforter (wife).  This took place on the tenth year of his mission.

He went seeking help at the nearby town called Taif.  Instead of helping him, the leaders of Thaqif, as the people of Taif is called, chased him out, telling the kids to throw stones at him.  He fled, bleeding.

There was nothing more he can do with the Makkans, his hometown people, known as Quraish.  Those who believed him have believed.  The majority of them followed their leaders, who considered Muhammad the enemy number one.  So the Prophet went for other tribes who came to Makkah during hajj season to spread the mission. 

His task was made difficult because the leaders of Makkah kept following him telling the people not to listen to him, accusing him as a madman who bring nothing but trouble to the people.  One of these leaders was his own uncle Abu Lahab, who sided with the enemies.

When things appeared bleak and his mission met dead end, Allah sent help in the form of six men from the town in the north known as Yathrib.  These people belonged to Khazraj clan of Yathrib.  They believed in him and spread the message in their town.  The message was well accepted.  Next two years, they came back to Makkah with 72 delegates to pledge their obedience to him and invited him to migrate to their town. 

The Prophet then sent his followers to Yathrib, including those who came back from Abyssinia.  Soon the Prophet also migrated to Yathrib and change the name of the town to Madinatul Rasul, meaning the City of the Messenger.  The town is called Madinah for short until this day.  He migrated to Madinah three years after the death of his uncle and his wife.

For the first five years in Madinah, the city was continually under attacks not only from outside including from Makkah and other tribes who wanted to destroy Islam, but the Muslims had to contest with the enemies from inside the city, the Jews and the hypocrites.  After that, the Muslims were stronger and by the eight year of his migration to Madinah, the Prophet brought 10,000 armies to conquer Makkah without bloodshed.

By the time he died three years later, he subdued the whole of Arabian Peninsula.   About five years after his death, the Muslims defeated the world superpowers at that time, the Persian and Roman empires. 

The final brick at last perfected Allah grand design.  The house that Allah built through His prophets since the prophet Adam was not a single house that we imagine, but the world itself.  From a humble beginning, the universal and timeless message that the Prophet brought reached the whole world.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I Am The Brick That Completes The House.

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: 'Would that this brick be put in its place!' So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets."

In this hadith, the Prophet SAW likens prophethood to a beautiful house made of bricks. Each brick represents one prophet, from Adam to Jesus. The house is missing one brick. Prophet Muhammad is the last brick that completes the house. As the house is already completed, there is no more need for any new brick. Likewise, as prophethood is already completed, there is no more need for any new prophet after him.

This would be the literal interpretation of the above hadith.

It would be more useful, however, to imagine that the teaching of our Prophet Muhammad SAW is the amalgamation of the teachings of all prophets. In other words, Allah combines and refines all teachings from all prophets and put everything into one nice package.

That one nice package is the Quran.

That is why Quran is a complete guidance for our lives. It guides all affairs in our lives, whether it is about faith, act of worship, economy or how to make a living, relationship with others, family life, the do and don't, everything.

Maybe some of us will say: I read Quran but don't really understand. In what way, therefore, Quran is said as a complete guidance?

The answer is that, like other guidebook, we often need teacher to help explain. Imagine we are not used to cooking. Then one day we try cooking using the recipe book. Definitely we will not be successful. The food that we cook will not be tasty.

Likewise with Quran. It needs the teacher who shows us the way. And the first teacher is the Prophet himself. As the teacher, the Prophet leads his life exactly as Quran wants. That is why the Prophet is called the walking Quran. In other words, we have two forms of Quran. First in the form of book. Second in the form of living person.

Although the Prophet had already died as a person, he is actually still living among us. This is because his life has been fully captured. It is what we call sunnah. We will find his sunnah in the book of hadith, seerah, or any book that talks about his life and teaching.

That is why the Prophet said whoever follows the Quran and my sunnah, he will be rightly guided.

After the Prophet died, the next teachers who help explain the guidance in the Quran were his companions. After them, the teachers are the scholars.

To summarize, we have with us the basic teachings of all prophets nicely packaged in one book called Quran. Together with Quran, we have the Prophet’s sunnah in the book of hadith, seerah, etc. To help us understand these guidances, we have scholars who explain to us what we do not understand.

Since Islam is based on Quran, and since the teachings in the Quran combine the teachings of all prophets, that is why no issue, no problem and no question that Islam cannot answer. If we don't know the answer, then we must ask those who know. Those who know are what we call scholars or ulama.

And this is the more practical way to understand the meaning of the hadith quoted at the beginning of this article.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Even Mahathir Can Bring Najib Down If He Refuses To Step Down

I have heard since the middle last year (2014) that Malaysia will have the new prime minister before the year end, or the latest, by early 2015.  

That was a year and a half ago.  Today, mid December 2015, Najib appears to be stronger than ever before.  Wrapping up the UMNO Annual General Meeting 2015 on Saturday afternoon a few days ago, he not only appeared confident, but managed to stage a dramatic closing, making many delegates and visitors wet in tears.

The picture was not a meek, uncomfortable man like he was a year ago, while delivering new year message, on the eve of January 1, 2015.  In all likelihood, this upcoming new year message, to be delivered in two weeks time, will be made by the same person, but not the same man.  Of course the person will still be Najib, and the man would also carry the same name.  But it will not be the meek and uncomfortable man bearing similar name a year ago.  It would be a man filled with confident and sure about himself.

Najib's resilience surprised everybody.  The one most surprised is probably his former mentor, now his number one nemesis, Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia for 22 years, and the one who picked Najib to be his successor in waiting.  Successor in waiting because Mahathir did not give the seat straight to Najib, but to Abdullah Badawi, with the gentlemanly agreement, it was alleged by Mahathir himself, that Abdullah, affectionately called Pak Lah, would give the seat to Najib after a few years.

The transition from Pak Lah to Najib was not as smooth as Mahathir or Najib had wanted.  All the while under Mahathir's shadow, Pak Lah suddenly became his own man after assuming the prime ministership.  Mahathir was incensed that Pak Lah did not continue with the policy and programs he devised before stepping down.  Instead, he reversed many of these and devised programs and policies of his own. So Mahathir used all his power and influence to bring Pak Lah down.  There was bitter fight, but before long, Pak Lah did step down, leaving the mantle of leadership to Mahathir chosen's successor, Najib.

To begin with, Najib was the one Mahathir intended to be his successor, after his falling out with Anwar, the then prime minister in waiting, but is now residing in jail for his alleged sodomy excursion.  And Mahathir did publicly praise Najib during the first year of his prime ministership for his competence, as opposed to Pak Lah's incompetence.  Yet it was not long before the two fell out with one another.  The reasons had to do with the National Coalition's worst performance in the General Election, held in 2013, along with numerous alleged scandals, especially 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion "donation," plus the first lady alleged wasteful expenses using state money.

Like what he did to Pak Lah, Mahathir did the same to Najib.  He demanded Najib to resign.  When Najib refused, Mahathir publicly attacked Najib.  With the kind of scandals Najib are implicated, and knowing the kind of man Mahathir is, many predicted that Najib won't last before the year end.  That was last year.

Any observer could see that Najib was threading the worst period of his political life.  He appeared extremely uncomfortable giving speeches, no matter how hard he tried to keep his cool.  With his "soft" disposition, many thought that he would fall as easily as his predecessor.

But one and a half year later, it is his attacker, Dr. Mahathir, who appears to be on the losing side.  The story is still being written, but if the current trend continues, then this will be the first time Mahathir fails to bring down the PM of the day.  Already 90 years old, this will be his last as well.

Of course the only apparent PM he brought down was Pak Lah, his successor, but the fall of the first PM of Malaysia, Tunku, had to do, to some extent at least, with his Open Letter and his book the Malay Dilemma, along with his many other speeches and criticisms against the Father of Malaysia.  Mahathir was thrown out of UMNO for his attack on Tunku, but Tunku's political career did not last that long either after that.

Mahathir's predecessor, Hussein, resigned on health reason, but many know that the real reason was due to the "overwhelming presence" of his deputy.  Mahathir did not oust him, of course, but health reason could not have been the only factor.  The only PM that escaped Mahathir's involvement in the termination of his career was Abdul Razak, the father of Najib.  He died prematurely while still in office.  And supposed he lived longer, Mahathir would probably not force him out, for he was the one rescuing Mahathir from his political wilderness.

When he was the PM, Mahathir too was not free from attempts to oust him.  First by the group led by Finance Minister and  ex Deputy PM.  Second by his protege turned enemy, Anwar Ibrahim.  In both occasions he refused to budge and utilized the incumbent advantage, helping himself with the state apparatus to ensure that he continued to be in power.  He ended his prime ministership on his own accord after 22 years in office, in 2003, during the period whereby there was no threat to his throne.

Mahathir and Najib seem worlds apart.  The former is confrontative, the latter is evasive.  The former has no qualm about making enemies, the latter prefers to conciliate and accommodate all and sundry.

But one thing they seem to have in common.  Both know and will not mind using whatever apparatus and means available to them as the men in power in order to remain in power.

Learning from his former mentor and current nemesis, Najib seems to know that no one can force the PM of Malaysia to step down if he does not want to.  Mahathir had proven that during his time.  Najib seems to want to prove the same.