Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reason and Revelation

Reason and Revelation
by Enver Masud

Moderator's Notes follow;

[Speech given by Mr. Masud at the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Washington, DC fund-raising dinner in Rockville, MD.]

When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away in 632 A.D., he was the effective leader of all of southern Arabia. By 711 A.D., Arabs had swept across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. In less than 100 years, the Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the Word of God, had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean - the largest empire that the world had yet seen.

Muslims conquered lands as was the custom of the day, but Islam was not spread by the sword. Indonesia is a prime example. Indonesia, with 6000 inhabited islands, today has the largest Muslim population. No Muslim armies landed in Indonesia.

Muslims offered an appealing message: There is One God; mankind is one; goodness is the only measure of a person's worth. Man was urged to care for the poor, the infirm, the orphan, to respect all faiths, and to search for knowledge.

200 years later Muslims are divided; the path forward is less clear.

In the Baghdad of 813 A.D., Caliph al-Mumun struggling to build a nation, is caught between the ideas of literalists and those of religious thinkers, and he has a dream.

He sees a figure of light and gold standing before him.

"Who are you?" asks a frightened al-Mamun.

"I am Aristotle", the spirit says. "I have come to answer your question".

"And what is my question?" al-Mamun asks - he knows but wants the spirit to say it.

"Your question is, What is better for the affairs of man and the affairs of society, reason or revelation?"

Al-Mamun nods, and asks, "And what is your answer to the riddle?"

"My son," says Aristotle, "they are not in opposition. But to find true revelation, man must first choose reason, because reason is the doorway to revelation."

Of course, the dream is imaginary. Author Michael Hamilton Morgan describes it in his book "Lost History" (p. 47).

So great was al-Mamun's love of knowledge that after defeating the Byzantine emperor, he asks not for caskets of gold but a a copy of the Almagest - Ptolemy's book on astronomy written around 150 A.D.

Al-Mamun goes on to establish the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Later al-Hakim will build the House of Knowledge in Cairo.

Revelation won hearts and minds

Reason gave Muslims the superior strategy and technology that helped win battles. Revelation taught Muslims the principles of just-war, and of mercy and compassion.

Muslims taught and practiced a degree of tolerance remarkable for their time. The Quran reminded them: "For each we have appointed a divine law and traced out the way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community." (5:48)

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was twice president of the Indian National Congress, a renowned scholar, and India's first Education Minister (my father was his private secretary), wrote:

"The unity of man is the primary aim of religion. The message which every prophet delivered was that mankind were in reality one people and one community, and that there was but one god for all of them, and on that account they should serve Him together and live as members of one family."

By providing opportunities based on merit to all, Muslims won the hearts and minds of the conquered people. Muslims worked side by side with Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others to create the centers of learning and cultural expansion in Iraq, Iran, Spain, Egypt, and India.

Knowledge lifted civilization

The Quran is replete with verses inviting man to use his intellect, to ponder, to think and to know, for the goal of human life is to discover the Truth. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) tells us: "The first thing created by god was the Intellect." And that: "One learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers." His words exhort us to: "Go in quest of knowledge even unto China." And to: "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."

The love of knowledge helped create cities that drew scholars from across the world.

Will Durant in his Story of Civilization (vol. IV, p. 237) writes:

"When Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongols it had thirty-six public libraries. Private libraries were numberless. It was a fashion among the rich to have an ample collection of books. A physician refused the invitation of the Sultan of Bokhara to come and live at his court, on the ground that he would need 400 camels to transport his library. Al-Waqidi, dying, left 600 boxes of books, each box so heavy that two men were needed to carry it. Princes like Sahab ibn Abbas in the 10th century might own as many books as could be found in all the libraries of Europe combined."

Muslims built a civilzation that would lift Europe out of darkness.

HRH, The Prince of Wales, in his October 27, 1993 speech titled, "Islam And The West", said:

"Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilization, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour -- in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music.

"Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilized city of Europe. . . . Many of the traits on which Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Mediaeval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West.

"[Islam] has contributed so much towards the civilization which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all fields of human endeavor. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart."

End of Empire, beginnings of Aligarh University

The Christian reconquest of Spain in 1492 under Ferdinand and Isabella was the beginning of the end of the Muslim era. By 1858, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar, who ruled little more than the city of Delhi, was exiled by the British to Burma.

In 1875, Sir Syed, seeking to improve literacy among Indian Muslims, founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. This college became Aligarh University. It nurtured many leaders of India and Pakistan. You, the alumni of Aligarh University, are continuing the tradition by funding scholarships for those less fortunate than yourselves.

Today, as it was for Muslims in the early 7th century, the key to successfully negotiating the path ahead, for yourselves and for generations to come, remains reason and revelation.


THE WAR ON ISLAM -- Recipient Human Rights Foundation Gold Award

Moderator's Notes:

Indeed, Islam is universal and all embracing approach to life. There is no compulsion in matters of faith, and the Qur'aan, repeatedly adds knowledge - the very basic for co-existence, to remove arrogance in humans. It is accomplished through prayers on one hand and acknwledging the existence of other ways of living. If God had willed, all of us would have been alike.

The loving God welcomes all those who do good deeds, deeds thatbenefit the humankind in general.
5:18 And [both] the jews and the Christians say, "We are God'schildren, [30] and His beloved ones." Say: "Why, then, does He cause you to suffer for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of Hiscreating. He forgives whom He wills, and He causes to suffer whom Hewills: for God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth andall that is between them, and with Him is all journeys' end."
Qur'an, Al-An'am, Surah 6:163-164: I ask whether I should seek anygod besides God--when he is the Lord of all things. All people willreap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another's burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he willresolve your disputes.
49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and afemale, [15] and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. [16] Verily, the noblest of you inthe sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him.Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

4:124 whereas anyone - be it man or woman - who does [whatever hecan] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise,and shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of adate-stone.
5:42 those who eagerly listen to any falsehood, greedily swallowing all that is evil! [54] Hence, if they come to thee [for judgment], [55] thou mayest either judge between them or leave them alone: for, if thou leave them alone, they cannot harm thee in any way. But if thou dost judge, judge between them with equity : [56] verily, God knows those who act equitably.
God care if you are a good being or not, by submitting to his will, you'd be good to his creation ; humans and environment and that is Islam and following it is Muslim.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.