Thursday, December 12, 2019

What It Means - Day 269

"Say, 'I am only a human being like you. It is revealed unto me that your God is one God. So whosoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner unto his Lord in worship."
Quran 18:110

I suppose as Muslims we shouldn't have "favorite" surahs, but, I guess, here's another example that I am not a particularly good Muslim because I'm culling out an example from one of my favorite surahs: al-Kahf, usually rendered as "The Cave," the eighteenth surah. I'm a little surprised that I haven't delved into this surah more thoroughly so far, but that may also be an indication of how much I love it. As we'll discuss down the road, it's a richly metaphoric surah, and one that surprised me the first time I read it (trapped, as I think I was, in the belief that the Quran was a harsh and painfully literal work). However, that's another discussion for another day. I chose this passage, the last in the surah, because it emphasizes one of the key elements of Islam, the notion that while Muhammad was an incredibly important prophet he was just a man. Recently I started reading Kecia Ali's The Lives of Muhammad, so expect a series of posts related to perceptions of the Prophet. After making this point clear the message then returns to a central theme of the Quran: the path to the next world is for those who "perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner unto his Lord in worship." So, Muhammad is revered, but he's not the point.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What It Means - Day 268

"And whosoever desires the Hereafter, and endeavors for it earnestly, and is a believer, it is they whose efforts shall be appreciated."
Quran 17:18

This brief passage is drawn from the seventeenth surah, al-Isra, here rendered as "The Night Journey."

Nasr tells us, "This verse is an important basis for the Islamic doctrine that deeds are judged according to their intentions, since here one is rewarded for desiring and earnestly endeavoring for the good, as a believer, without mention of the success or completion of all of one's endeavors." (p. 700)

I was talking to my Jordanian friend Mahmoud one time about the hajj and he told me that he had never had the time nor opportunity nor resources to go, but felt that he had successfully gone because he sincerely wanted to go. I'm not exactly certain this is what the Quran has in mind here, but it is another example from the Quran wherein we are reminded to lead an active and intentional life, focused on doing what is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

What It Means - Day 267

"Had God willed, He would have made you one community."
Quran 16:93

A short post in response to a short passage, drawn from the sixteenth surah, al-Nahl, here rendered as "The Bees."  It may be a short passage, but the implications, obviously, are profound. As we've discussed many times the perception from outside Islam is all too often that the religion is intolerant, and while we have more than our fair share of intolerant Muslims the faith itself is the furthest thing from intolerant. We are told repeatedly to respect other traditions, and in this passage we are told in no uncertain terms that diversity is a blessing, and not a punishment from God or something that must be overcome.

Monday, December 9, 2019

What It Means - Day 266

"Hast thou not considered how God sets forth a parable? A good word is as a good tree: its roots firm and its branches in the sky. It brings forth fruit in every season, by the Leave of its Lord, God sets forth parables for mankind, that haply they may remember. And the parable of a bad word is a bad tree: uprooted from the fact of the earth,; it has no stability."
Quran 14:24-26

Here is a passage drawn from the fourteenth surah, Ibrahim, rendered, not surprisingly, as "Abraham." Considering that the divine is, well, ineffable, it's not particularly surprising that all too often the prophets of all faiths resort to metaphors or parables to try and explain the unexplainable. In this instance the parable is more clear cut. Nasr tells us, "A good word is understood to refer here to the formula of the shahadah, 'There is no god but God.' . . . Like the date palm, which if firmly rooted in the earth, so too is the meaning of the shahadah ('There is no god but God') firmly rooted in the hearts of the people of Divine Unity. Al-Razi refers to this same reality by saying that when the tree of knowledge is firmly rooted in the land of one's heart, one becomes stronger and more complete, thereby enabling 'fruit' to issue forth from its 'branches' in abundance." (p. 634)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dim Sum Carnage

When I have more time (Finals Week is upon us) I'll devote lengthy post to our trials and tribulations in making it to Jordan last week. Suffice it to say at this point that the normally reliable Student Universe was an unmitigated disaster this trip, with, seriously, five different screw-ups along the way. I'm still planning on using them this spring for the March trip to India, but they're definitely on a short leash. I don't have a lot of time - and should, truthfully, be grading right now - but the brief version of the story is that we ended up trapped in Montreal for an extra day on the flight out. Now, we could have sat in our hotel rooms and sulked, but instead we gathered our large crew and headed to China Town. Most of the students had never been there, and an even smaller number had ever tried Dim Sum. One Dim Sum Carnage later and they were quite content - and off we went for the Middle East.

One of the fundamental rules of student management is keep feeding them and they're usually happy.

At Sea Level

And yet another picture of me from the recent trip to Jordan. As I've made clear over the years I'm not a big fan of posting pictures of myself, and not simply because it is almost impossible to take a good picture of me. Still, it was a very memorable trip and thus I'll break the cardinal rule.

This was snapped on our last day as we traveled from Petra to the Dead Sea, with a brief stop to roam around Shobak Castle.

Yes, and there's the Rising Sun shirt again.

Road to Damascus

OK, so I swiped this picture from one of the students on the recent Jordan trip. I pity my camel.

As I opined on Twitter, the camel and I will reach Damascus before the Vikings make it back to the Super Bowl.