Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taj Hargey's "Open Mosque Members": justifying the light fantastic

"Open Mosque Members" assert Hadith,or Prophetic
Tradition is akin to irrationality.
THE ARTICLE ‘Seeking the Light
Fantastic…’ by Shafiq Morton (MuslimViews
December 2014) is a shocking reality
of the distorted and irrational beliefs
that have permeated Islamic society.
It is also an insult to many Muslims
who have become complacent to
this type of expression and hence do
not bother to respond.

To claim that the soil near Quba
has special healing properties is the
type of thinking that has made many
young Muslims become disillusioned
with the level of Islamic preaching
and Islamic literature of today, and
also makes the religion a laughing
stock amongst its opponents.
Islam is a religion of Revelation
and Reason, not Stories and Irrationality.

There is no scientific evidence of
the Quba soil claim. The same can be
said for the water from the Zamzam
source, which has in fact been
analysed to contain high levels of
arsenic and declared unfit for human
consumption by the Association of
Public Analysts in the UK.

The sight of Muslims carrying
heavy containers laden with water,
and now digging up the soil from
Quba, is a sad reality of the level to
which Muslims have sunk.

Besides the many contestable opinions
expressed about the city of Madinah,
the verse quoted in Surah Maida
5:15 ‘O People of the Scripture! Now
hath Our messenger come unto you,
expounding unto you much of that
which ye used to hide in the Scripture,
and forgiving much. Now hath come
unto you light from Allah and plain
Scripture,’ (M M Pickthall) undoubtedly
refers to the light of the message,
a figurative expression, not to the
physical make-up of the Prophet

The claim that emanates from this
verse is tantamount to raising the
Prophet to a state of divinity, as
Christians did to Jesus (AS), an
attempt propagated by scholars of

That the Prophet was light before
he became form is not mentioned in
the Quran nor that he performed any
miracles such as emitting light from
his incisors.

The Quran, in fact, stresses the
mortality of the Prophet (SAW) in one
of the many verses, such as 18:110:

‘Say: I am only a mortal like you.
My Lord inspireth in me that your
Allah is only One Allah. And whoever
hopeth for the meeting with his
Lord, let him do righteous work, and
make none sharer of the worship due
unto his Lord.’ (M M Pickthall)

To say that this argument is
backed by interpretations of the
Quran and hadith is to absolve the
writer from responsibility. This can be
accepted if the writer is an author of
fiction but not one with a journalistic
background in which the ethics of
investigation and rationality prevail.

To perpetuate the lies that the light
of the Prophet (SAW) moved through
the DNA of the Quraish, that the
Prophet (SAW) was born circumcised,
and 500 of his nearest ancestors were
not pagan, indicates acceptance of
stories handed down and distorted
along the way.

The term ‘DNA’ of course was not
around when hadith was constructed
around 250 – 300 years after the
death of the Prophet, so with time
comes further distortion.

The author’s claim that the
Prophet (SAW) will be granted the
‘station of intercession’ is also contradicted
in the Quran in verses 7:188
and 2:48.

‘Say: For myself I have no power
to benefit, nor power to hurt, save
that which Allah willeth. Had I
knowledge of the Unseen, I should
have abundance of wealth, and adversity
would not touch me. I am but a
warner, and a bearer of good tidings
unto folk who believe.’ [(M M Pickthall)

‘Beware of a day where no person
can avail another person, nor will any
intercession be accepted from it, nor
will any ransom be taken, nor will
they have supporters.’ (2:48)

The remainder of the article is
filled with opinions and hearsay from
past so-called scholars, and is not
worthy of analysis, except to say that
Muslims must move away from such
unfounded thinking and focus on following
the true example of the
Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Members of The Open Mosque
Wynberg, Cape Town

Answer to the Open Mosque: Justifying the Light Fantastic

The "Open Mosque Members" claim
Madinah's soil has no
healing qualities
THE assertion by ‘Members of the Open Mosque’ that my article Seeking the Light Fantastic on the Prophet (SAW) reflects that I am a liar is a view that they are entitled to. As they state, Islam is a religion of reason and revelation – but if they want to debate on Islamic matters, surely they will have to use Qur’an and Hadith as the primary sources of reason and revelation themselves too? 

However, there is cause for concern here. The Members – apart from bizarrely demanding journalistic proofs alone – brush aside Hadith (which they regard as historical distortion) and pour arrogant scorn upon the academic enterprise of over 1,400 years of Islamic scholarship on the history of the Prophet (SAW).

Nevertheless, given the authentic, classical paradigm (via Hadith) the healing qualities of Madinah’s soil are not a fairy story as The Members so cynically allege. We have the saying in which the Prophet (SAW) asked the Bani Khazraj – who were ill – whether they’d forgotten the soil of Su’aib (a place near Quba).

“In the name of Allah…the dust of our soil mixed with our saliva is a cure for the sick by the permission of Allah,” said the Prophet (SAW) to them.

If this is considered weak, there is a supporting Hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) says that the dust of Madinah is a cure for leprosy. And in another Hadith, Sayyidah A’ishah remarks that the Prophet (SAW) would wet his finger, put it in the dust and then apply it to a sick person.

But the question: is this unscientific? The Saudi Journal of Science did a study in 2010 by taking soil samples from Madinah mixed with saliva. The findings were that the soil and the saliva both possessed certain anti-bacterial qualities. Similar studies were done in India, Yemen and Egypt.

As for Zam-Zam being contaminated with arsenic. The Members have relied upon a 2005 report in which the British Food Standards Authority issued warnings against ‘fraudulent’ Zam-Zam water being sold in Britain. ‘Fraudulent’ is the word in the report.

However, in 2011 the BBC also found arsenic in Zam-Zam samples. The critical question is whether Zam-Zam has been contaminated at source, as the Saudis reportedly damaged the eye of the well when dynamiting rock for the expansion of the Haram.

The ‘old’ Zam-Zam water has a unique balance of salts and minerals. Space does not allow further commentary, but I do have a sample of Zam-Zam water from 1987. The Members are welcome to take a sample to the lab.

In any case, a reading of prophetic hagiography will tell us that Zam-Zam is one of the reasons why Makkah exists today – and arsenic or no arsenic – its religious significance does not diminish in any way because of possible contamination.

As for the Prophetic light, or nur. The Prophet (SAW) was in possession of miraculous attributes afforded by God, and there were times when his nur would become physically apparent. The writings on this on fill volumes in libraries.

By relying upon English for Qur’anic commentary, The Members have  misread the verse at the end of Surat ul-Tawbah, which they use to justify that the Prophet (SAW) was a man ‘like us’ with no special qualities.

If they were to read the Arabic – as opposed to translator Pickthall – they would realise the Qur'an reflects on the notion of the Prophet’s humanity in an elevated form.

Indeed, the Prophet (SAW) was like us in flesh, but in other aspects he was not. That is why the Qur’an does not use the colloquial word for man, ‘rajul’, when it addresses the Prophet (SAW).  Instead, the elevated word ‘bashr’ is used. Lexically, ‘bashr’ does not mean ‘man’, but ‘the bearer of good news’.

The Qur’an is very specific in linking the Prophet (SAW) to the revelation, which sets him apart. The next word after the phrase ‘like you’ refers to the revelation. In other words, the message is: ‘I am a man like you, yes, but….’ and there is immediate confirmation that the Prophet (SAW) has attributes superior to us.

It is also the view of the classical scholars that the Prophet (SAW) will intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. There are over 40 Ahadith on this in all the major books, one account attested to by 14 Companions alone.

It is reported from Ibn ’Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet (SAW), that he personally heard the Rasulullāh (SAW) saying each prophet up until Jesus had been given a special prayer for his people. “I have saved mine for the hereafter, and that will be my intercession for my ummah on the Day of Judgement.”

The Arabic in the Hadith is “du’a-ti shifa’t ul-ummati yawmul qiyamat”. The word ‘shifa’t’ means ‘intercession’. What the traditional sceptics always forget to mention is that the Prophet (SAW) never did anything without Divine Sanction. His du’ah, his special prayer, was that it be postponed and Allah, the Almighty, granted permission.

As for the Prophet’s (SAW) nasab, or lineage. Firstly, anybody who knows history will know too that the Arabs specialised in detailed family trees. Secondly, the Prophet (SAW) said about himself: “Nothing of me hailed from the fornication of jahiliyya (or moral debasement). I was only born through the union of Islam.”

Thirdly, Ibn Sa’d and Ibn Asakir report from Hisham ibn al-Kalbi that his father investigated 500 grandmothers of the Prophet (SAW) and found no signs of paganism or moral degeneration in any of them.

My allusions to the prophetic DNA are an interpretation, yes, but if The Members want to dispute this they have to come up with an alternative as to how the prophetic nur travelled from generation to generation.

The karamat, or minor miracles, of how this light manifested itself amongst the Prophet’s (SAW) Quraish ancestors are remembered because they were so remarkable. In the same vein, so is the extraordinary birth of the Prophet (SAW).

The Members, it seems, are prepared to accept the immaculate conception of Jesus, but struggle with the magnitude of the noble Prophet’s entry into the world, which was extensively witnessed and recorded.

Finally, with the final sweep of a dismissive pen, we Muslims are summarily urged to follow the ‘true path’ of the Prophet (SAW).  However, with the Prophet (SAW) stripped of his Sunnah, one can only wonder what this really means.

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