Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim!
In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Merciful!
DR. PASHA’S ISLAMIC SOLUTIONS
27 Dhul Hijjah 1426/28 January 2006
From the United States of America
I trust you are well.
Another E-Letter -- quick on the heels of the last one. I guess this is # 11 in the series. The idea is to get them out to you while we can -- as Allah makes it possible and as he makes it happen. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!
May Allah allow us to continue to do his work -- as he sees fit -- in the best possible way, using the best possible means.
“Revisiting” Al-Asmaa’ Al-Husnaa
Revisiting Allah’s beautiful names? Is that what I said?
Revisiting? Allahu Akbar!
May Allah forgive my use of the language!
“Revisit” Al-Asmaa’ Al-Husnaa?
My thought is: How dare we take our eyes off them in the first place? How dare we absent ourselves from their universal glow and presence even for the blink of an eye?
A good question to ask may be just where were we when we were not basking in the glory and radiance of Allah’s beautiful names -- when we took our eyes off that light? What were we doing?
Where were we hiding? What place, in heaven or earth, was big enough, safe enough, far enough to provide us shelter from the brilliance of Allah’s most glorious names that lights up every nook and cranny of heavens and earth?
But I do feel a bit sensitive about encroaching on your sensibilities. I do not want to appear to be repeating the same thing over and over and thus bore or insult you or cause you to lose interest -- even though I don’t think I am quite repeating myself.
But do forgive me if I am.
But now that we are here -- one more time -- kindly allow me to share a few things with you.
Divine vs. Human Speech
We talked about Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. This to me is not human speech. Human beings do not speak like that; they do not write like that.
They will be either too embarrassed or too conceited to write like that -- coupling these two names and attributes together without the usual intermediacy of the conjunction “Wau” -- or however you write it (or any other Arabic letter) in English.
Only Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, can speak like that. And only he can repeat it so many times in the Qur’an the way he does.
Without a single instance to the contrary!
Did you hear that? Without a single instance to the contrary -- in all the roughly 6666 Aayats or passages of the Qur’an! Unless I am totally and completely wrong, which I don’t think I am.
What amazing consistency coming out of a cave that an unlettered manused to frequent, surrounded by an unlettered culture with an unlettered population!
I am saying “so many times,” rather than give the exact count, because the exact count is somewhat subject to controversy among Muslims. And if there is one thing I try my best to avoid, it is getting involved in Muslim fights.
As a child I made up my mind to try to stay out of Muslim fights -- as much as I could, or as much as any Muslim reasonably could afford to.
Not Even A Comma?
I first had a comma after Ar-Rahmaan, before Ar-Raheem, as I first started to write this letter. I then removed it, as I realized what an audacious error it was -- trying to sunder, even by so much as a comma, even in a language which is not the original Arabic of the Qur’an, that which Allah has fused together in one seamless flow of mercy and love -- Rahmah!
Did we invent the expression “seamless” too?
You think I am making too much of it? Well, try to remember what Hazrat Abu Bakr said: What heaven will shelter me, and what earth will bear my burden, if I said anything about Allah’s book that is not there?
Doing the Numbers
I hope I am right about my numbers. May Allah forgive me if I am wrong.
Time was when I could fairly easily count up to three. Then my ability to count diminished to two. Now it is rapidly dwindling to one.
So, may Allah forgive me if my tallies don’t come out right.
Besides, put it down to time and resource constraints.
How many Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem are there in the Qur’an?
Everyone agrees that Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem is part of Aayat 30 inSurah 27 (An-Naml). But is it also the first Aayah of Surah Al-Fatihah? And is it, thereafter, part of every Surah at the beginning of which it appears? Not everyone seems to think so.
There are 114 Surahs in the Qur’an, but only 113 of them begin with Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem. But it is amazing how Allah completes the count -- of 114.
There is an extra Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem in the Qur’an -- right in the text of the Qur’an -- and that is the one in Aayat 30, Surah 27. So, in the end, the number comes out 114 anyway.
If this choreography of numbers doesn’t mean anything to you, I am not going to say anything either.
But to me it is nothing less than a numerical rhapsody. What one of my friends, Allah bless him, will, I am sure, insist we call “rhythm” -- rhythm of numbers.
A Merciful, Loving, Doting God!
What is not too complicated for our understanding, however, is the fact that our Rabb is Rabbur Rahmah -- that Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, is a most merciful, loving, doting God.
Other than Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem at the beginning of the Surahs, the name Ar-Rahmaan appears in the Qur’an more or less 50 times. If you count the Surah beginnings, the count goes up to about 164 or so?
That means Allah emphasises his quality of mercy about 164 times in the Qur’an, using the name Ar-Rahmaan alone.
Outside Bismillah, the Qur’an uses Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem -- the two names together -- four times.
Other than that, Allah uses Raheem -- outside the context of Bismillah -- over 120 times.
I hope my counts are right. May Allah forgive me if they are not.
If anyone still does not get the message that the dominant attribute of Allah in the Qur’an is Rahmah, I don’t know what to say.
The Most Forgiving One: God Describes Himself in His Own Words
All of the above does not include all the other similar names that Allah uses to describe himself. Names like Al-Ghafoor and Al-Ghaffaar and Al-Wadoodand Al-Hannaan and Al-Mannaan and Al-‘Afuw.
Ghafoor means the most forgiving one.
Ghaffaar is another name from the same root, which also means the most forgiving one.
Do you have any idea how many times Allah describes himself in the Qur’an as “The Most Forgiving”?
Ghafoor and Ghaffaar: two ways of saying the same thing -- each better, stronger and more profound, powerful, inclusive and comprehensive than the other?
Just like Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem?
And in case anyone still missed the point -- all too many people do -- there is always that other name that leaves nothing to chance: Al-‘Afuw.
I don’t know what all or any of this means. All I want to do is to bask in the glow of these wonderous names and attributes of Allah.
And, whenever I can, and as Allah makes me, try to share my excitement through the medium of these E-Letters -- and through my Website www.IslamicSolutions.Com and through my Qur’an and radio programs (Pasha Hour International) -- with those who would permit me to do so.
What Is the Source of the Claim? Who Is the Author of the Assertion?
When discussing the matter of divine love and mercy, there are two important questions that we all need to ask ourselves:
(A) What exactly is the claim or assertion that is being made?
(B) Who really is the author or source of that claim or assertion?
That means what are the assertions we are making and who is making them?
And based on what?
What we really need to get at is how far and how high in the hierarchy of the belief system and of its holders and advocates and proponents does this notion of divine love go?
What is their real source?
A scholar? A pious person? A devotee? A leader? A religious organization or institution? A committee of experts?
In Islam, It Is Not People Making a Claim of Love and Mercy on Behalf of God, But it Is God Himself Making the Claim in His Own Words
I am not talking here about someone else claiming “their” God to be this or that -- forgiving or not forgiving.
Nor am I talking about someone putting across an argument as to why”their” God should or should not be considered one thing or the other -- as a forgiving or unforgiving God.
I am talking, instead, about the simple fact of God Almighty himself describing who he really is and referring to himself as “The Most Forgiving One” -- in the plainest and most straightforward terms -- over and over again, using a wide range of words and expressions.
And then coupling all those statements with yet another statement that says in yet another way that God Almighty is even more so: Most Forgiving.
You figure out which is which and what is what. I haven’t a clue!
Comparing Apples and Oranges, As We Say it in America
I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but a good bit of what the proponents of a number of other belief systems and religions advance as the core teachings of their respective faiths often do not go any higher than some specially prominent adherents and followers of that faith.
For example, a good bit of Christian beliefs and practices are traceable to such prominent champions and interpreters of the Christian faith as Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Luther and others, and to the Church as an institution, and to Church leadership as a whole.
And in all too many instances these beliefs and behaviours are not directly traceable to the Bible or to Hazrat Jesus, Alaihis Salaam.
The Bible: “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me!”
In fact, some of the Christian teachings are in direct contravention of some of the most fundamental teachings of the Bible.
For example, the original First Commandment of Tauheed (monotheism or the uncompromising worship of one God) in the Bible has been replaced by the Christians with the later doctrine of Trinity -- which has nothing to do with the teachings of Hazrat Jesus, Alaihis Salam, or the Bible.
People may interpret it how they want, but it is clear that to a nonpartisan onlooker, it is Islam and Muslims, rather than Christianity and the Christians, that would appear closer to the First Commandment -- the true teaching of the Bible.
Read what the Bible says and then judge for yourself.
Here is what the Bible says about the First Commandment:
“I am the Lord thy God, … ,
Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus, Chapter XX).
How much clearer can it get?
Awwal Kalima-e Tauheed: Laa Ilaaha Illallah!
I don’t know how many Urdu speakers are reading this E-Letter. Does anyone remember, going back to their childhood days, being taught by their parents or teachers to say: Awwal Kalima-e Tauheed -- Laa Ilaaha Illallah?
Well, this is what it is: an almost exact rendering of the First Commandment in the Bible.
The Bible: “Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image!”
The Second Commandment in the Bible has been shelved and overridden by both Christians and Jews, as their practice is the complete opposite of what the Commandment teaches.
Here is what the Second Commandment has to say:
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,
nor serve them…” (Exodus, Chapter XX).
Do you care to comment on this? I don’t.
How much clearer can it possibly get? And what can you possibly say that will help to further clarify what the Bible has already said with such amazing divine clarity?
As for me, I am going to leave it right there. For, I have neither the time nor the resources nor the inclination to pursue it any further.
Maybe some Muslims somewhere, who are blessed by God with abundance of all kinds, and who like to invest their bounties in erecting grand mosques and setting up other grandiose buildings and projects, should consider channelling some of their attention and resources to efforts of this kind -- simple, no-frills efforts that get down to the brass tacks and deliver the goods.
In simple, understandable, common-sensical terms!
Where in the Bible Does it Exist?
But before I sign off on this particular aspect of our conversation on the question of divine mercy and love, let me ask a more specific question: Where in the Bible, for example, did this concept of divine love originate?
I am not saying it is not there. I am not saying it is not even the dominant theme of the Bible. Not at all.
All I am saying is where exactly in the Old and the New Testaments does it exist?
Pope Benedict on Love
According to media reports -- sometimes, that is all one has to go by, and we are all beginning to realize what a treacherous track that can be -- the new Pope, Benedict XVI, has just issued an Encyclical -- the highest form of papal writing.
The major theme of the new Encyclical is Love -- at least that is the first major theme, which is then followed by the concept of Charity.
The Pope argues that in times such as ours, when such terrible things are being said and done in the name of “religion,” it is fitting and proper that his first statement of Christian policy and ideology as Pope -- his first papal Encyclical -- should be devoted to Love.
I wonder who are the people who, according to the Pope, may be saying and doing all kinds of terrible, terrible things in the name of “religion.”
I also wonder what “religion” that would be in whose name people are saying and doing such terrible, awful and atrocious things.
I would hate think the Pope is referring to Islam and Muslims that way.
Do you have any guesses as to who those people are? And what that”religion” may be?
But remember all I have to go by are some sketchy media reports skimmed in great hurry.
Pope’s Two Kinds of Love: Including One Outside Marriage?
According to some of these media reports, the Pope divides Love into two parts or aspects: Erotic Love between men and women, including marriage, and “agape,” a higher-level intellectual or spiritual Love.
I think it is wonderful, what the Pope says. Even though I need to understand better his comments on love between man and woman outside the bonds of marriage.
That is why you need to have the actual text of these things in front of you, and be able to digest it fully and carefully, before you can comment on them.
Then it largely becomes a question of time and resources, doesn’t it?
Spinoza, the Other Benedict: A 17th Century Philosopher-Scientist’s Intellectual Love of God
In a similar vein, some time ago, the 17th century philosopher Benedict de Spinoza also had talked -- quite powerfully in fact -- about what he called the Intellectual Love of God. He thought of it as the highest and most blissful state for a human being to attain -- beyond the bondage of human passions and beyond the limitations of human reason.
Don’t ask me what intellectual traditions or antecedents may have influenced Spinoza’s thinking. Because then we will need a lot more time -- and resources -- to do that question any semblance of justice.
It is absolutely wonderful that people -- philosophers and popes -- should talk about love and love in relation to God in particular.
But what I am asking is how far up the hierarchy does it reach? Because, Pope or Philosopher or Scientist (Spinoza could be considered both), they are all human beings after all.
And their utterances and writings, no matter how inspired or otherwise, are all human and not divine speech.
At best, they approach the writings of some of the great writers, thinkers, saints and scholars of Islam, but not the Hadith, and certainly never the Qur’an.
But more about it some other time, should Allah’s mercy allow that to happen.
But when it comes to Allah, and his love and mercy and forgiveness for his creation, so far as Islam is concerned, it is not Muslims saying things and attributing what they say to Allah, but Almighty Allah himself saying these things, in his own words, in the loudest and clearest form possible -- in the Qur’an.
I think there is a difference. A huge and glaring difference, in fact. And it is time people began to see that difference.
Love in the Bible: Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
Offhand, I do, however, know one place in the Bible -- the New Testament -- where the concept of love is spelled out in a most powerful and tantalizing language. In literary beauty and excellence, very few writings would seem to excel it.
Here is a part of that beautiful writing from the New Testament -- Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians:
“Love suffers long and is kind,
love does not envy,
love does not parade itself,
is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in truth;” (Chapter 13, verses 4-6).
In fact, the entire chapter -- Chapter 13 -- is a beautiful read. But we are back to the same old question: Who is saying all this?
The answer is: Paul -- in a letter he wrote to the Corinthians.
It is not Jesus, Alaihis Salam, or God Almighty, but Paul -- in a letter he wrote to the Corinthians.
Besides, it is not about God’s love for his creation, but the kind of love that people should have among themselves.
Also, besides, is it really Love that Paul spoke about in his epistle -- letter -- to the Corinthians? Or is it something else?
Is It Love or Charity: What Did Paul Really Say?
I mean that. What exactly did Paul write in his letter to the Corinthians? What was he really talking about? What concept? Using what term or word to express that concept or idea or notion?
Some of the newer editions or versions of the Bible use the word Love. But not so the earlier ones.
That means, if you go back 50 or 70 or 80 or a hundred years or so -- just to be safe -- and read that same chapter (chapter 13: verses 1-13 of Corinthians I), it is not the word “Love” that you are likely to encounter. The word that will actually meet your eye is likely to be “Charity.”
That means, in the earlier versions, the Bible -- Paul, that is -- talks about the concept of Charity, using precisely that word, as it is translated in English. But in later, more recent, versions the word “Charity” has been replaced with the new word “Love.”
As to why it is so, I have neither the time nor the resources -- nor, in fact, the requisite qualifications -- to go into at this time.
Looking for Truth: Is Truth the Missing Link in Our Discourse?
I deliberately ended the quote from the New Testament on the word “truth.”Because, often, truth seems to be the missing link in much of our thinking and discourse these days.
Whereas in reality, whether the topic is Love or Charity, neither of them makes much sense without a deliberate, open, serious and unambiguous commitment to truth.
Nor, for that matter, does anything else make any sense in the absence, on our part, of a clear commitment to truth.
Once truth is ruled out as an arbiter of reality, or reduced to a helpless bystander, right ceases to be might and might -- brute force -- then automatically becomes right. This then paves the way for cheating, robbing and enslaving others as individuals, groups, nations and societies, which has been the dominant theme of much of the story of the world.
That is why a cynic can say that in talking about Love and Charity without any reference to or respect for Truth, our object may be in fact to use the lofty expressions and noble professions of Love and Charity themselves as a ruse to deny Love or Charity to others.
Subjecting others to all kinds of injustices and inequities then becomes possible -- in fact it becomes a lot easier and a lot more palatable -- once we remove truth from playing an active, visible and decisive role in human affairs.
Because once we eliminate truth as a factor, we can then freely commit all kinds of oppressive, atrocious and uncharitable acts on all kinds of others -- and then lie about it.
In a sense, it is precisely that kind of iniquity, unfairness and injustice that Islam came into this world to end.
Muslims and the Concept of Love
So, when the Muslims abandon, with such alacrity, to Christians and others, the concept of Love -- either in general or in relation to God, and especially in relation to God’s mercy and love for his creation -- I want them to pause and take another look at what they are doing.
In the haste of some of them to go down as the Taqwa people -- I am not going to comment on what Taqwa is at this time -- and as the people who fear God, rather or more than love him and be loved by him, they may have surrendered to others something so absolutely precious, so valuable -- and so quite possibly unique and special.
They may have thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Allah, The Most Forgiving One: A Quick Count
Let me give you a quick count, hoping I am right, and may Allah forgive me if I am wrong, of just one of those most beautiful and glorious names and attributes of Allah, namely, Ghafoor.
It is not one. It is not two. It is not 10 or 25 or 50. But a full 89 times by my count -- may Allah forgive me if I am wrong. That is how many times Almighty Allah uses that most amazing and beautiful name for himself in the Qur’an -- The Most Forgiving One!
What do you want me to say?
I did not make up these numbers. It does not matter whether the person doing the count is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. The numbers are there for anyone to see. And they are going to be the same numbers for everyone undertaking the count, regardless of the race, religion, faith or belief of those doing the counting.
It Is Not Just Ghafoor, But Also Ghaffaar
All this means that along with everything else that he says he is, Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, is also the Most Forgiving.
He is Ghafoor.
And he is also Ghaffaar. Whatever the difference between the two names.
That means if the story of Allah’s mercy and love does not end withRahmaan and Raheem, but continues to unfold in the form of Ghafoor, a name that Allah uses for himself in the Qur’an about 89 times, it does not stop with Ghafoor either.
It finds even more reason to saturate his creation. And this time it does so in the form of another name of the same derivation as Ghafoor, namely, Ghaffaar.
In the same way as, earlier, Rahmaan was further described using another name of the same root, namely, Raheem.
Thus, in the Qur’an, Allah refers to himself by the name of Ghaffaar, not once or twice, but at least five times. And that is in addition to the 89 times where he refers to himself as Ghafoor.
So, he is both Al-Ghafoor and Al-Ghaffaar -- The Most Forgiving and The Most Forgiving, even more so -- just as he is both Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem -- the Most Merciful and Loving and the Most Merciful and Loving.
What does it all mean? I think I will be better off if just said “I haven’t a clue!”and moved on.
All I am doing is sharing with you what I see -- what is out there. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
But what I am saying is what is out there for any naked eye to see.
Once again, the Missing “Wau”: The Miracle of Conjunction without a Conjunction
But all this is not all either.
The story of Allah’s mercy and love continues -- unstopped, unstoppable, immense, overwhelming, immeasurable and without pause or interference.
Remember the Wau-less conjunction of Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem?
A conjunction without a conjunction?
A glorious example, in our own hands, of the power of Kun fa Yakoon?
Others need the aid of a conjunction like “and” to be able to pile one thing on top of another. Allah does not.
When he wants to do something, he just says to it “Be!” and lo and behold it happens -- it comes into being.
So, remember the wave after wave of the flood of Allah’s mercy and love -- unremitting and without so much as the pause or interference caused by an alien and interjecting “Wau”? There is much more of it in the Qur’an than many of us seem to know -- or care about.
Instant and Blanket Amnesty for Wrongdoers
So, the flood of Allah’s boundless mercy and love and forgiveness continues to flow. Now in the form of a loud and open call for those seeking an escape from this flood of mercy to stop and turn back.
Now the invitation goes out to all those on the run from Allah’s mercy and love to stop running and return to Allah’s mercy and love.
To all those gone astray -- and which one of us has not strayed at one time or another, in one way or another, for one moment or longer?
To all those on the run -- those who had foolishly turned their back on Allah’s mercy and love.
An open and unconditional invitation to all wrongdoers to return.
A blanket and instant amnesty of the kind the world never heard and never could imagine.
So, It Is Not Just Ghafoor and Ghaffaar, But Also Tawwaab and ‘Afuw
Allah now calls himself Tawwaab -- the one who is most welcoming and accepting of repentance: of those who return to him.
Those who pause in their waywardness and decide to turn back.
And he calls himself Afuw.
And that is in addition to Ghafoor and Ghaffaar.
And again he does so not once or twice or five times but about 11 times or so.
Furthermore, he couples that expression of Tawwaab with Raheem -- the most merciful and loving. For example, in the two Aayats below:
1. Wa Anat Tawwaabur Raheem (2:160).
And I am the most welcoming and accepting of repentance and the most merciful and loving.
2. Innallaha Huwat Tawwaabur Raheem (9:104; 9:118).
Surely Allah, he is the most welcoming and accepting of repentance and the most merciful and loving.
This is what Allah has to say about himself in the Qur’an.
So, how do you explain away any of these things? How do you so nonchalantly surrender the turf of Love to others -- without so much as making an effort?
More importantly, is that how you explain the notion of God to yourself, your family and friends, and to the rest of the world of Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala?
Or are you one of those who never thought of explaining God -- either to yourself or to anyone else?
How Like a Doting Parent!
And how like a doting parent it all is! The way Allah treats the children of Adam!
First, shower your favourite child with a topless mountain of favours and gifts of the kind no one can imagine.
Then, let lose on that child a bottomless ocean of mercy and love and compassion and kindness from all sides.
And in between continue to overlook the errors and follies of that child with utmost grace and compassion and tolerance and accommodation.
And in the end, when that child continues to misbehave, chase that child down and do everything to bring that child back to his senses and smother him with forgiveness.
And, when that child continues to insist on his foolishness, and continues to ignore all warnings and invitations, leave the door of repentance and return wide open for that child.
An “open-door” policy? We invented that idea and that expression!
Well, our God of infinite love and mercy did!
And “leave the lights on”? We invented that idea and that expression too!
Well, our God of infinite compassion and tolerance and forgiveness did!
Did I hear you say someone out there has a more dynamic and more complete model of God’s mercy and love and compassion and grace and tolerance and forgiveness for his creation?
I Am Glad You Are with Us
Once again, I am glad you are with us -- reading this E-Letter. Allah bless you for doing that.
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Nothing but Drafts
Do bear in mind, however, that our manuscripts -- whatever we write, put on the Web or send in the form of letters and E-mails, etc. -- are mostly drafts in need of further research and revision, which we are often unable to undertake or complete due to serious time and resource constraints.
Part of that time and resource constraint is our inability to be more exact in our Transliteration. If there are inconsistencies, please overlook them.
Don’t Forget Us in Your Du’as!
As you read, please do not forget me, my family, my parents, my teachers and my ancestors in your Du’as.
And all those wonderful people, Allah bless them, who may help me, now or in future, with this immense project. Especially, our wonderful Webmaster, Allah bless him, who slaps these E-Letters on the Web with the same speed with which I finish writing them.
And do please find within you the generosity and compassion to forgive me if I have in any way offended you; or said something I should not have said; or said it in a way that you thought was not appropriate.
Ask Allah to forgive me for any errors that there may be in my E-Letters and to protect me from them in future.
May Allah be with you!
Where and in the way you want him to be!
Allahummaghfir Li-Ummati Muhammadin, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
Wassalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah!
© 2006 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.