Thikr Allah and the Human Soul

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The word thikr ذكر in Arabic encompasses layers of meaning, as do many Quranic words — no single English word can replace it in all instances, thus translations use various English words in different contexts. However, knowing that this is the same word helps in grasping the depth of the Quran.

It basically refers to “remembrance” or “bringing to mind” by means of words, and indeed thikr ذكر means also “to invoke” (powerful words/ names) or “say/ mention.” Thus when we say “ithkur Allah” (“ithkur” being a verb form of thikr), we mean to mention or invoke Allah and thus bring Him to mind. It has been translated “remind/ reminder.” But it also can mean simply “remember” or “bear in mind” or even “memorize,” as indicated by the context of its usage. The Quran itself is referred to as “thikr al-hakeem:” thikr (in this case, a book) which is wise, just, and balanced (hakeem), whose purpose is to bring the deeper truths about Allah and our purpose in life to our understanding.

“Remembrance” in English often implies recalling or commemorating something from the past, whereas thikr implies a “reminder” of something of which one was oblivious; something like a wake-up call from an oblivious state.

The Quran tells us that thikr Allah, both invoking His name(s) and remembering Him, is the greatest form of worship and also the most effective way to stay on the straight path:

Surat Al-ankabut 29:45
اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ

“Recite what is inspired/ revealed to you of the Book, and maintain the salat (“contact prayer”—the formalized physical worship which has geo-astronomically determined time of day/ direction perimeters to maintain “contact” with Allah), for the salat prevents (or inhibits) immorality and vice; but certainly the remembrance of Allah (thikr Allah) is the greatest. And Allah knows everything you do.”

Why is thikr Allah the most important, even though salat (formal Islamic “prayer”) is one of the most crucial requirements for a Muslim? Is there some greater “power” in Allah’s name or the thought of Him?
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The Sixth Pillar

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The five pillars of Islam are widely known in the Muslim world to refer to first, a declaration (literally “I bear witness”) that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammad is His Prophet. The name Allah is the Arabic Word for God and does not mean some other “deity.” The second pillar is the establishment of daily salat, referring to a form of worship often translated as “prayer,” but with specific protocols such as a direction to face and exact times of day to be performed. The third pillar is the zakat, which refers to a portion of one’s income to be paid to charity set aside specifically for the poor. The fourth is to fast for the month of Ramadan, and the fifth is performance of the Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in one’s lifetime if able. But there is a sixth important pillar missing from this list: reading the Quran. Continue reading

The “Holy War” Lie

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Syria's Tragedy Exposes Dark Side of War

Syria’s Tragedy Exposes Dark Side of War

The Quran is unequivocal and mubeen (perfectly clear) on the subject of war: it is prohibited to be fought as a means of converting people to Islam——

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

(Surat Albaqara 2:256)

There is no compulsion in religion; the proper way has been clearly distinguished from the wrong way. Whoever rejects evil, and believes in Allah, indeed he has taken grasp of the strongest hold that will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.

Islam, according to the Quran, does not permit the acceptance and adoption of a belief system to be by force. All true belief must be freely chosen from the heart. Free will is an essential component of faith. Allah prohibits forcing people to convert to a particular religion or to adopt a belief system. To force others to convert to Islam (or any belief, for that matter) is oppression, and hence incurs Allah’s wrath. Contrary to what is being promulgated by some, the above aya unequivocally states that such use of force is both “wrong” and “evil”.

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A Closer Look at “lā ilāha illā Allāh”

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lā ilāha illā Allāh
This statement of tawheed or “oneness” of Allah (monotheism) is the heart of Islam, a complete system of values, laws for their implementation, and worship/ devotion (faith) that does not claim to be a separate “religion” that came with the prophet Mohammad, but rather the very same such system (with some changes in the details but not the basic principles) sent to “al-aalameen,” “the worlds,” all people with minds, free will, and language since such people began to exist.

Jews and Christians can recognize in it the First Commandment, the basis for sacred law and faith. Other seemingly more divergent but major such systems, for example Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, also reveal common ground if viewed more closely and in greater depth.

The statement is simple:

لا أله إلا الله
lā ilāha illā allāh
“There is no god (one to be worshipped/ higher authority) but God.”

Simple, but profound. And in the original Arabic, full of signs and wonders for those who care to see…and hear.
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Ramadan 1: The Meaning of Ramadan

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One could say Ramadan commemorates the tanzeel or sending down of the Qur’an, which occurred on the “Night of Power” or Laylat-ul-Qadr, a night the Quran describes as “better than a thousand months.” One fasts from the first thread of light of dawn until what the Qur’an mentions as “layl” or night, but which is usually interpreted as the first darkness, or sunset, although some wait longer to be sure it is really night. The fast includes not only food and drink (including water), but also abstention from profanity, smoking, sexual relations, and any other “impiety” such as lying, stealing, or fighting. War is prohibited except in actual self-defense. It is a sacred month, one of four, and the most sacred of all. Continue reading

The Qur’an as a Whole

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Although we may read from any part of the Quran we wish and take from it wisdom, the Quran is an inviolable whole in a more profound sense, which is important to take into account in trying to understand it. The Quran is unique in being utterly comprehensive in scope, free of contradictions or confusion, presented with great clarity for ordinary people to understand, easy to remember, and of the utmost integrity, both in the sense of being well-integrated and in the sense of being unimpeachable. If one thinks about it, these qualities are mind-boggling. But how can all this fit into a relatively small book, commonly printed at slightly over 600 pages of Arabic text?
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Is Allah “Personal,” “Impersonal,” or None of the Above?

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A not-infrequent complaint from Christians about Islam is that the Islamic idea of Allah is not personal enough. Another complaint from people in arguments against religion generally is that God is too impersonal. There is this general belief that God created the universe (if they even believe that), then left it alone to fend for itself, retiring into abstract glory to answer, perhaps, a prayer or two. The first idea, of a personal God, seems based on human interpersonal relations. The second on possibly kings or dictators. Neither idea is true of Allah, the Almighty, All-Merciful, who describes Himself in the Quran as being “closer than your jugular vein.” (Surat Qaf 50:16)
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