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22 Apr '16

The Good Times of Baghdad, Iraq - Remembering

Posted by Nosheen Z in Good Times of Baghdad

Baghdad, as we know it today had a different face during certain periods of history. Headlines from the golden periods of the past were different from the current ones that mostly report carnage, mayhem, and killings of the many by many.  Today, the battlefields of Baghdad and its surroundings may depict a society totally unable to live in harmony, let alone be innovative and creative for the advancement of anything constructive. However, a little glimpse of it’s history reveals that on the contrary, Baghdad was one of the cities that not only was the cradle of civilization but also contributed to human advancement, the likes of which were unparalleled in history and the signs of which are very visible even until today in all societies and cultures of the world.

Golden Periods of Baghdad, Iraq

Starting from 4000 BC and until very recently, Baghdad, although had it’s ups and downs similar to many other cultures and civilizations, raised people that contributed immensely to various walks of life. Some of the highlights of the good era of Baghdad include the following:

¨  House of Wisdom: Also called “Bait-ul-Hikma”, this was one of the very famous libraries and research centers in 8th, 9th and 10th centuries during the times of the Abbasid Rulers. This site was considered by many as the primary intellectual centers of the entire world where scholars from many countries and origins (Christians, Muslims, Jews and others) would meet to research, innovate, create and thus contributed to the advancement of many disciplines including astronomy, physics, medicine, mathematics and other sciences.

¨  Foundation of Algebra: Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi worked in the house of wisdom in Baghdad during the 9th century and authored his famous book “Al-Kitab Al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr Wal-muqabala”. The words al-jabr in the title of the book led to the advent of Algebra as we know it today. The book’s title is translated as “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing”. He also contributed enormously to the areas of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography, cartography, trigonometry, and provided a systematic and logical approach to solving linear and quadratic equations.  

¨  Advancement of medicine: Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi was a well known Persian researcher, scholar and scientist who had his lab in Baghdad during the 9th century. He is credited with the discovery of “sulfuric acid”, ethanol and its refinement and use in medicine. His works contributed enormously to advance the field of chemistry and medicine as we know it today. He also contributed to the fields of medicine, chemical engineering, and philosophy and authored well over 184 books and articles. 

¨  Heart of the Islamic Golden Age: Baghdad was the center for all during the period termed as the Islamic Golden Age. This period lasted from 7th century AD to 13th century AD. It was during this period when scientists contributed enormously to various disciplines and also translated the works of many (including those of Aristotle and others) in various languages.  

¨  Largest Libraries in the world: During the Islamic Golden Era, Baghdad’s libraries were known to have more than 400, 000 books – more than the books found in some of the libraries today.  

¨  Urban Sophistication: Babylon, near Baghdad was not only the greatest civilizations around 600 BC but also led the world in advanced urban development and construction. Historians refer to Babylon as a city of many gates with each gate crafted with splendid architectural elegance. The hanging gardens of Babylon according to some historical accounts, are considered one of the wonders of the world. Historians also write about the cities of the area that had very straight streets, multi-storey buildings and a well developed economic system. The areas in and around Babylon though had little rainfall but had abundant crops attributed to a very sophisticated irrigation system.  

¨  Pre-historic advancements: Even long before this, the Sumerian civilization in the area near Baghdad in the 3000 BC / 4000 BC era had many contributions including those of being the first to devise the art of writing, advanced record keeping, the use of plow, and most importantly in devising the unit of time as we know it today (division of day in 24 hours and division of each hour in 60 minutes).  

 

22 Apr '16

The Culture of Jordan

Posted by Nosheen Z in Culture of Jordan

Jordan Cultural Overview

The culture of Jordan is the product of the fusion of Arabic and Islamic elements. Islam is the state religion of Jordan. The majority of Jordan population belongs to the Sunni sect with a small minority of people belonging to the Shi’a sect. Jordan offers a great degree of protection to other religions too. Since 1980s, the government is popularizing a moderate form of Islam, denouncing religious fanaticism.

Arabic Language

Arabic is the official language of Jordan and is spoken by all Jordanians. English is widely used in government and business circles. Arabic and English are compulsorily taught in schools. The other languages found in the land are French, German, Italian, Spanish, Tagalog and Sinhala. The Circassian community has retained Circassian language to this day apart from speaking Arabic.

Islamic Clothing of Jordan

The popular male costume consists of tunic, pants and an elaborate over garment with a belt or waist sash. Normally, the head is covered either by a scarf, turban or tarbush. The female costume allows for greater variety in decoration through embroidery with variety of colors and patchworks with great many regional styles. A long rectangular slit or decorative panel seen in the front is typical to Jordanian costumes. Shirsh is the prominent traditional costume in the north of Jordan. This lengthy attire comes with long, tight sleeves and a decorated neckline and embroidered sides. Often, the dresses of central and southern Jordanians are of double length with long pointed sleeves.

Jordanian Foods

Jordan has a remarkable culinary tradition. Halloumi is a traditional cheese made from goat or sheep milk, often served in a sandwich of pita-style bread. Rice, flat breads, legumes, olives, lamb or chicken, yogurt, vegetables and fruits form the basis for most meals. Rice is the major ingredient of several dishes. In a typical meal, a large tray of rice and meat is placed on a covering laid on the floor surrounded by small dishes of yogurt and salad. Tea, Turkish style coffee and juices are served during special visits.

Mansaf is the national dish consisting of lamb cooked in dry yogurt. This is served on flat bread with seasoned rice. Mansaf marks celebrations and special events. Known as mezze or muqabalat, the appetizers are the most popular among Jordanian dishes, often comparable to a feast by themselves. Food is one of the central features of Jordan’s culture and mealtime is more of a community event. Each time a meal is served, there exists a festive atmosphere glorified by the great hospitality and generosity of Jordanians. A 'Jordanian invitation' symbolizes that the guest is expected to bring nothing and eat everything.

Jordanian Social Life

Men and women do not mix freely in public situations. Jordanians live in extended families. However, due to the shortage of resources especially water, population control is widely advocated and practiced these days. Due to the relaxation of social segregation of sexes, educated younger women are increasingly seen in mosques and social gatherings. The prominent aspects of Jordan’s culture include the music of Jordan along with popular sports like football and basketball.

22 Apr '16

What is the Quran (Koran)?

Posted by Nosheen Z in Quran

Quran is the word of Allah

The Quran (Quran / Koran) is the word of the Lord of the Worlds, which Allah revealed to His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), to bring mankind forth from darkness into light: 

“It is He Who sends down manifest Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) to His slave (Muhammad) that He may bring you out from darkness into light

[Surah (Chapter of) al-Hadeed 57:9 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 


Quran has details on what benefits mankind

Allah has told us in the Quran (Quran / Koran) the stories of the earlier and later generations and the creation of the heavens and the earth. He has explained in detail what is halaal and what is haraam, the basics of good manners and morals, the rulings of worship and dealings with others, the lives of the Prophets and the righteous, and the reward and punishment of the believers and disbelievers. He has described Paradise, the abode of the believers, and He has described Hell, the abode of the disbelievers. He has made it (the Quran (Quran / Koran)) an explanation of all things:

“And We have sent down to you the Book (the Quran (Quran / Koran)) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims)”

[Surah (Chapter of) al-Nahl 16:89 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran has names and attributes of Allah

The Quran (Quran / Koran) explains the names and attributes of Allah and what He has created. It calls us to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers and the Last Day: 

“The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers’ — and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all)’”

[Surah (Chapter of) al-Baqarah 2:285 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran describes the Day of Judgement

The Quran (Quran / Koran) describes the Day of Judgement and what will happen after death – the resurrection, the gathering, the judgement and being brought to account. It describes the Cistern, the Siraat (bridge over Hell), the Balance [in which deeds will be weighed], the blessings and torment, and the gathering of mankind on that great Day: 

“Allah! Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Surely, He will gather you together on the Day of Resurrection about which there is no doubt. And who is truer in statement than Allah?

[Surah (Chapter of) al-Nisaa’ 4:87 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran shows us signs of Allah

The Quran (Quran / Koran) calls us to examine and ponder the signs of Allah in the universe and the verses of the Quran (Quran / Koran): 

“Say: ‘Behold all that is in the heavens and the earth’”

[Yoonus 10:101 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran makes us to think deeply

“Do they not then think deeply in the Quran (Quran / Koran), or are their hearts locked up (from understanding it)?”

[Muhammad 47:24 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran is a book for all humanity

The Quran (Quran / Koran) is the Book of Allah for all of mankind: 

“Verily, We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Quran (Quran / Koran)) for mankind in truth. So whosoever accepts the guidance, it is only for his ownself; and whosoever goes astray, he goes astray only for his (own) loss. And you (O Muhammad) are not a Wakeel (trustee or disposer of affairs, or guardian) over them”[Surah (Chapter of) al-Zumar 39:41 – English interpretation of the Quranic Verse] 

Quran confirms the previous divine revelations from Allah

The Quran (Quran / Koran) confirms the Books which came before it, the Tawraat (Torah) and Injeel (Gospel), and it is a witness over them, as Allah says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Quran (Quran / Koran)) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Muhaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures)”[Surah (Chapter of) al-Maa'idah 5:48] 

Quran is the book of guidance until the end of the world

After the Quran (Quran / Koran) was revealed, it became the Book for all of mankind until the Hour begins. Whoever does not believe in it is a kaafir who will be punished with torment on the Day of Resurrection, as Allah says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“But those who reject Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), the torment will touch them for their disbelief (and for their belying the Message of Muhammad)”[Surah (Chapter of) al-An’aam 6:49] 

Because of the greatness of the Quran (Quran / Koran) and the signs, miracles, parables and lessons contained therein, in addition to its eloquence and beautiful style, Allah says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“Had We sent down this Quran (Quran / Koran) on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rent asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect”[Surah (Chapter of) al-Hashr 58:21] 

Allah has challenged mankind and the jinn to produce something like it, even one soorah or one aayah, but they could not do that and will never be able to do that, as Allah says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“Say: ‘If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Quran (Quran / Koran), they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another’”[Surah (Chapter of) al-Israa’ 17:88] 

Because the Quran (Quran / Koran) is the greatest of the heavenly Books, the most complete, the most perfect and the last of them, Allah commanded His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to convey it to all of mankind, as He says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“O Messenger (Muhammad)! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His Message. Allah will protect you from mankind” [Surah (Chapter of) al-Maa'idah 5:67] 

Because of the importance of this book and the ummah’s need for it, Allah has honoured us with it. He sent it down to us and has guaranteed to preserve it. Allah says (English interpretation of the Quranic Verse): 

“Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Quran (Quran / Koran)) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)” [Surah (Chapter of) al-Hijr 15:9] 

22 Apr '16

Belief of "Heaven" / Jannah / Paradise in Islam

Posted by Nosheen Z in Belief of Heaven

Heaven is also known as Paradise. It goes by the Islamic name of Jannah. There are many levels of Paradise depending on how righteous a person is on Earth. The highest level that all Muslims are encouraged to ask for is Jannatul Firdaus.

Like with other aspects of the unseen, Muslims are obligated to believe in Heaven in order to complete their faith.

The bounties and beauty of Heaven are immense, so much so that it is beyond abilities of mankind’s worldly mind to comprehend.

However, Allah, in his Mercy, has given us descriptions of what Heaven is like as an incentive for us to strive to please Him and earn His ultimate reward – which is a place in Heaven.

  • Eternal Life – Paradise is forever. Once a Muslim reaches Paradise, he will not want to be anywhere else and he will live there for eternity.
  • Wealth and Riches – there will be an abundance of wealth and beauty in Paradise. Allah says in the Quran, Surah Al Kahf, verse 31: “For them will be Gardens of eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade. They will recline therein on raised thrones. How good [is] the recompense! How beautiful a couch [is there] to recline on!”
  • Eligibility for Paradise – whoever has worshipped no one but Allah is qualified to enter Heaven. This includes the followers of past prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc who adhered to their true teachings and worshipped Allah without partners. However, according to Islamic teachings, the followers of Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) will be more abundant in Heaven than those of other prophets.
  • Great Rewards – what bounties of Paradise cannot be comprehended when compared to worldly riches. Allah has told us many things about Paradise, but in a narration in Saheeh Muslim, the Prophet said: “Never mind what Allah has told you; what He has not told you is even greater.
21 Apr '16

Interest (Usury or Riba) in Islam

Posted by Nosheen Z in Interest in islam

Whether it is one per cent or 50 per cent, Islam forbids taking of interest in all its forms.

In Islam, interest comes under the category of “riba”, or usury. A Muslim is not allowed to receive, pay or witness interest payments. However, the concept of interest has been twisted and abused to such an extent that many Muslim countries have allowed financial institutions to engage in interest-based activities.

Muslims should be aware of the seriousness of interest and other forms of riba, by referring back to Allah and his messenger, Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).

  • War – Allah has declared war on those who consume interest. In Surah al-Baqarah, verses 278-27 of the Quran, He says: “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah and give up what remains (due to you) from riba (usury) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allah and His Messenger . . .”
  • The scope of forbidding Interest – the Prophet has clearly told us those who are parties to an interest-based contract. Jaabir reported that the Prophet cursed “the one who consumes riba, the one who gives it to others, the one who writes it down and the one who witnesses it. They are all the same.” (Muslim, 3/1219).
  • Trade – Allah has made a clear distinction between riba and trade, to quash the arguments of those who say they are merely engaging in trade. In the Quran, surah al-Baqarah, verse 275, He says: Those who eat riba (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitan (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: ‘Trading is only like riba,’ whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden riba. So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating riba shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allah (to judge); but whoever returns (to riba), such are the dwellers of the Fire - they will abide therein.”