Spreading the message of Islam in India

Updated 30 December 2012
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Spreading the message of Islam in India

India is the largest Muslim country in the world with more than 200 million followers of Islamic faith. Muslims in general and Islamic propagators in particular face a lot of challenges because of the lingering wounds created by the partition of the Indian subcontinent, misunderstandings about Islam and lack of efforts to reach out to the country’s huge non-Muslim population.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a leading Islamic movement in India has been trying its best to fill this gap and remove the misunderstandings of Hindus, Christians and other non-Muslims in the country by publishing Qur’an translations and Islamic books in different Indian languages, conducting friendly dialogues with people of other faiths and implementing welfare programs for the benefit of all people.
Sheikh Muhammad Karakkunnu, vice president of Jamaat in the south Indian state of Kerala, has been in the forefront of this noble endeavor. Author of more than 70 books in Malayalam, some of which have been translated into English, he has been actively involved in the campaign to spread the message of Islam in the state by establishing good contacts with non-Muslim politicians, intellectuals, academics and religious and youth leaders, giving public lectures and organizing dialogue forums and table talks.
He believes that Indian Muslims should represent Islam through their lives, rather than talk. “Our welfare programs should be designed to benefit all people in the country, not only the Muslim community,” he said, citing examples from Islamic history. When Caliph Omar came to know that the son of then Egyptian Governor Amr bin Aas had done injustice to a Coptic Christian, he ordered Amr and his son to come to Madinah, and asked the Copt to lash the governor’s son. Once the Caliph saw an elderly and poor Jew sitting along the street and he immediately instructed treasury officials to provide that man with necessary assistance.
“If we can make India’s non-Muslims enjoy the benefits of Islam through our lives and services it would be the best way to propagate Islam in the country,” said Muhammad. “Non-Muslims are not looking at how we pray and do our religious rituals. They are watching how we engage in public life and we should represent Islam properly while dealing with others, inspired by the teachings of Islam and the Prophet.”
Muslims in India and elsewhere in the world are facing an image problem as most of them are educationally and economically backward, giving the impression that Islam is the religion of a backward community.
“Actually, Muslims are destined by God to be the best among nations. Our Prophets had hailed from reputable families. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), for example, was from Quraish while Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was brought up in the palace of Pharaoh. The most saddening fact is that Muslims are backward not only in education and economy but also in moral and spiritual areas,” Muhammad said.
Although Kerala is known as God’s own country famous for its communal harmony, the Jamaat leader expressed his fears about the growing communal polarization in the state that boasts of cent percent literacy rate. The general public in Kerala has been brainwashed to have an anti Muslim mindset and the media has played a big role in creating such an unhealthy atmosphere. As a result, most Keralites are not ready to stand up against the injustice being committed against Abdunnaser Maadani, chairman of People’s Democratic Party, who has been jailed in Bangalore for more than two years as a remand prisoner without any charges.
“The media exaggerates a small mistake committed by Muslims and ignores big crimes committed by Hindus,” he said citing various examples including the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gujarat and arrests of Muslim youths without any genuine reasons. Jamaat has been supporting victims of natural and man-made calamities across the country.
“For Endosulfan victims we gave Rs 10 million and for people hit by the Tsunami more than Rs 20 million. The beneficiaries of our relief activities included people from all faiths. We have also constructed more than 1,000 housing units for the poor across the state. Non-Muslim social activists have praised Jamaat’s relief and welfare programs for the poor and needy, inspired by the humane teachings of the Prophet.
Misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims is a major problem facing Islamic propagators. According to Muhammad, even non-Muslim teachers, politicians and intellectuals do not know the basic teachings of Islam. One Hindu teacher had thought Muslims exchanged the greetings of “Assalamu Alaikum” to insist that Islam is the only religion and it reflected Muslims’ intolerance. Some Hindu religious leaders think that Muslims consider Prophet Muhammad as their god.
“We cannot accuse non-Muslims alone for these misunderstandings because they did not get a chance to learn about Islam. Until 1960 there was no translation of the Qur’an in Malayalam. “The most important thing the Jamaat did in the country was the publication of Qur’an translation in all Indian languages including the national language of Hindi,” Muhammad said. Jamaat began its activities in Kerala in 1945 by establishing the Islamic Publishing House, which has to its credit more than 600 Islamic books.
“When Jamaat published Prabodhanam, it was the only Islamic weekly in Malayalam at that time. It gave an opportunity for non-Muslims to understand Islam. We attended non-Muslim celebrations of like Onam and we invited them to our special occasions like Eid. This way we were able to change the impression that Muslims are a closed society. In 1969 Jamaat held a big state conference in Malappuram where Hindu and Christian leaders were invited to address the gathering for the first time in the history of an Islamic organization.” He described the funeral of Kamala Suraya, the famous novelist and story writer who had embraced Islam, at Palayam Mosque in Thiruvananthapuram as historic. The mosque authorities allowed Suraya’s Hindu sons and relatives as well as Hindu and Christian politicians and religious leaders to join the funeral prayer. “When Muslim League leader Panakkad Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal died, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, who is a Christian, and several non-Muslim leaders took part in the funeral prayer,” he pointed out. The Jamaat leader also spoke about his organization’s efforts to enlighten the Muslim community about Islam and protect them from superstitious beliefs and un-Islamic ideologies like Communism. “When some Muslim youngsters drifted to extremism, we tried to convince them about the danger of following such a destructive path. Instead of isolating them from the community we tried to dialogue with them to change their attitude.”
According to Muhammad, Jamaat-e-Islami has played an important role in the empowerment of Muslim women, the main victims of the community’s backwardness. “We published the first Muslim women’s magazine in Malayalam, which is now run by a group of women. Women leaders were allowed to address our state conference in 1969. Our women’s wing organized a big state conference in Kuttippuram attended by more than 100,000 women,” he added.
Jamaat also tried its best to promote an Islamic culture in society. There are now thousands of young Muslim men and women in the state who are proud of upholding the values of Islam. Muslim girls at colleges and universities wear the Islamic dress. Jamaat also succeeded in providing Islamic and material knowledge through its educational institutions. “We also engage in politics to establish social justice and promote moral values,” he added.
The Jamaat leader spoke highly about the Arab Spring, saying it was instrumental in changing many wrong perceptions about Islam and Muslims. It changed the view that Islamic organizations are against democracy and women’s rights. “Out of 91 candidates of the Islamic organizations in Tunisia, 42 were women while 42 of 49 women in the country’s Parliament were from Islamic groups. It encouraged Muslim youths to use modern social media to demand their rights and change governments. They are using this media to spread the message of Islam. Speaking about the opposition against Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, he said there is nothing unusual. “People are allowed to express their views in a democratic setup. What happens in the Indian Parliament is sometimes worse than what is happening now in Egypt. Arab countries do not know such things because they were not having democracy,” he said.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.