We usually think of the heart as either a physical organ of the body or the place of emotions. But the Quran uses the word for “heart” in ways that show us a more expansive range of meaning, one that in fact revolutionizes our way of thinking about who we are and how our lives, bodies, choices/ decisions and actions intertwine, with deep and important consequences. The heart is one of the most important concepts in the Quran. as both a physical living organ and symbolically, as the seat of the soul or self, the nafs. The very name of Allah contains the image of a heart and the sound of the heartbeat, as if the heart itself was created as a symbolic force expressing Allah’s presence.
It should make sense that the Quran, as a divine message, is mubeen or clear and unambiguous.
طس ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْقُرْآنِ وَكِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
Ta, Seen. These are the verses (ayat) of the Qur’an and a clear Book. (Quran 27:1)
The word “mubeen” here is translated “clear” for readability but the exact meaning has stronger implications than merely “clear.” It is unambiguous and the opposite of occult. That in turn is important because the Quran is a book sent for people to understand, not to create mysteries that require a special clergy or priest-like caste of scholars to interpret.
As mentioned frequently on this website, “thinking” is mentioned in the Quran itself so often that its significance as an imperative is indisputable. Thinking, in Arabic the verb form of ‘aql which in modern Arabic means “mind” or intellect, is used in parallel with “faith” or “to have faith in/ believe”, implying that without thinking there can be no faith. This stands in direct opposition to the Christian concept of a “leap of faith” in which the believer accepts “absurdity” — precepts that contradict one’s own logic — and therefore “leaps” over or sidesteps the intellect in favor of a particular belief, such as the confounding of human with divine in the deification of Jesus. Some Islamic movements such as the salafi, reject the use of the mind in favor of unquestioning adherence to a dogma based on certain hadeeths or sayings of Prophet Mohammad, and narrow interpretations of Quranic text, in effect creating an Islam much like “evangelical” Christianity: dogmatic, rigid, and hostile to logic or scientific or abstract thought, which are viewed as dangerous. The Quran clearly admonishes the exact opposite: freedom of thought and faith arrived at by one’s own inquiry and inherent logic, based on a clearly elucidated tenet that faith in Allah is the logical conclusion of deep and unadulterated (by compulsion) meditation and intellect-based thinking. Thinking, in the Quran, takes place in the heart.
Pilgrims on Mt. Arafat at dawn, above.
Hajj is the ultimate lifetime journey. The sheer numbers of pilgrims who make this journey each year is unlike anything else.
Each ritual has a deeper meaning than its mere performance. All pilgrims are equal in the Hajj regardless to ethnicity or race or nationality or “school” of Islamic practice. They wear special clothing to emphasize this, as simple as possible.
A picture of Makkah from about 1700. The Ka’aba itself looks the same! But look at how the city has changed.
The same rituals are performed as they were during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad. Below, a picture from around 1940.
And below this, a modern photo of the same ritual, throwing stones at a rock representing Satan.
More people, more urgency to get enough space to do the ritual. Sometimes gets out of hand. And other rocks are much larger to accommodate more people.
The front of the Ka’aba from up close, with its beautiful cover and calligraphy.
Remembering Arafat, the high point of the Hajj, we return to the Ka’aba to circle it seven times.
And have a blessed Eid!
It’s a common statement, used to counter non-Muslims’ erroneous idea that Islam is a warlike religion, that “Islam Means Peace.” Others, including many scholars and translators, assert that “Islam means submission——to submit to Allah.” But do either of these words convey the meaning of Islam in Arabic as used in the Quran? An examination of the possible translations for a Quranic word can often lead to a better understanding of Islam and/or the Quran and its message. And so I will introduce what I believe to be another possible interpretation/ translation of the word “Islam” in English, which is the word “surrender.”
As this most sacred of months, Ramadan, continues, we think about what its true meaning is. It’s about more than fasting from food and drink, because one must also abstain from bad behaviors, such as lying, slander or profanity, and obviously from committing any crimes, or from acting with cruelty to others such as bullying or mocking others, in person or online, openly or in secret. Not only must one abstain from sexual activity of any kind (and one considers that for Muslims this will be marital, lawful), but refrain oneself from any sexual thoughts or innuendos or behaviors that approach this area, including viewing sexually explicit materials online or elsewhere. Even excess anger is prohibited. One strives, in other words, to be a truly good person, thinking about it, being aware of Allah. So it is a kind of emptying out of those things of this world that lead us away from thikr Allah, actively remembering Allah and calling upon Him and invoking His name while alert. It is a kind of purification of the heart. We also strive to be compassionate and kind and thoughtful to others. So it is an emptying out of the selfish part, our tendency to be driven and moved by our selfish desires.
The mathematical constants of our universe and their evidence that the universe is fine-tuned for life has been considered proof that the most reasonable explanation for the creation of the universe is not random events or necessity but design. And design means, essentially, God. Christians have taken this up and added further embellishments to support beliefs unrelated to the physics. The Quran however teaches that God “has no similitude”, the meaning of God defined as unlike anything or anyone else. This is the one fact that is revealed in the “fine-tuning” discovery. Truth-seekers would do well to consider that such a God would also communicate with the life God created: with divine revelation such as the Quran.