Who ate the third loaf of bread?

A man once accompanied Jesus, saying to him “I want to be with you and be your companion.” They set forth and reached the bank of a river, where they sat down to eat. They had with them three loaves. They ate two loaves, and a third remained. Jesus then rose and went to the river to drink. When he returned, he did not find the third loaf, so he asked the man: “Who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

Jesus set forth once more with the man, and he saw a doe with two of her young. Jesus called one of the two, and it came to him. Jesus then slaughtered it, roasted some of it, and ate with his companion. Then he said to the young deer, “Rise, by God’s leave.” The deer rose and left. Jesus then turned to his companion and said, “I ask you in the name of Him who showed you this miracle, who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

The two of them then came to a body of water in a valley. Jesus took the man by the hand and they walked upon the water. When they had crossed over, Jesus said to him, “I ask you in the name of Him who showed you this miracle, who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

They then came to a waterless desert and sat down upon the ground. Jesus began to gather some earth and sand, and then said, “Turn to gold, by God’s leaves,” and it did so. Jesus divided the gold into three portions and said, “A third for me, a third for you, and a third for whoever took the loaf.” The man said, “It was I who took the loaf.” Jesus said, “The gold is all yours.”

Jesus then left him. Two men came upon him in the desert with the gold, and wanted to rob and kill him. He said to them, “Let us divide it into three portions among us, and send one of you to town to buy us some food to eat.” One of them was sent off, and then said to himself, “Why should I divide the gold with those two? Rather, I shall poison the food and have all the gold to myself.” He went off and did so.

Meanwhile, the two who stayed behind said to each other, “Why should we give him a third of the gold? Instead, let us kill him when he returns and divide the money between the two of us.” When he returned, they killed him, ate the food, and died. The gold remained in the desert with the three men dead beside it. Jesus passed by, found them in that condition, and said to his companions, “This is the world. Beware of it.”[1]

– Excerpted from the book: The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi.

The story is seen as a moral fable of longstanding deep interest in many cultures, from late 9th century AD.

Reading the book, this particular story stood out to me. The main theme of the story is about greed and deceit and I saw it could relate to our times. It has much to say about the way we live, how we crave for worldly things. How easy it is to let our materialistic desires define our own character and actions. I find it concerning to see society like this, particularly the youth today, having the latest phone, jacket, expensive hair cuts etc. this is what defines most of them. And if they don’t have that then they have an identity crisis.

Looking at how people are so caught up in the world, gaining wealth and influence and ‘respectability’, one can understand why the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) discouraged liking this life and this world too much. As we can read in the Qur’an, one of my favourite passages regarding worldly matters:

“Competition in (worldly) increase diverts you until you visit the graveyards. No! You are going to know. Then no! You are going to know. No! If you only knew with knowledge of certainty, you will surely see the Hellfire. Then you will surely see it with the eye of certainty. Then you will surely be asked that Day about pleasure.”[2]

The story may be a fable; one might question the authenticity of the story. However, I think one can spend his time more effectively by reflecting on the essence and deep meaning of the story.

References

[1] Abu Bakr ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 281/894), Kitab Dilamm al-Dunya, in Mawsu’at Rasa’il, 2:49, excerpt no. 87. Cf. al-Ghazali, IIIya’, 3:267 (Asin, pp. 383-384, no. 54; Mansur, no. 136; Robson, pp. 97-99); al-Makki, Qut, 1:255 (Asin, pp. 387-388, no. 54 quater; Mansur, no. 26); al-Thriushi, Siraj, pp. 79-80; Ibn ‘Asakir, Sirat, p. 95, no. 82; al-Abshihi, al-Mustatraf 2:263-264 (Asin, p. 385, no. 54 his and pp. 386-387, no. 54 ter; slight variation).

[2] Qur’an 102

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Moral responsibilty to disobey unjust laws

This applies today, tomorrow just as much as it did yesterday. To be a citizen of a certain country does not mean to blindly follow its government. One has the right to say ‘no, what you are doing is wrong’, to contest, be opinionated against what is disliked and what is wrong with society and political systems. Being critical towards our governments makes us better citizens for our country, it makes us responsible.

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Debate: Is the Islamic face veil a barrier to integration in the West?

The Islamic face veil is an interesting issue for discussion, becoming more and more popular due to now what I may call the ‘burqa ban fever’ which has hit many western countries. Some of which have already banned the face veil, others considering it.

Recently, I participated in an online debate against the motion: the Islamic face veil is a barrier to integration in the west, on Debate.org. It was a rigorous, thought-provoking debate with my opponent, and I hope those that read through it will enjoy it as much as I have had taking part. Thank you.

What are you looking at?

‪‪”What are you looking at? Because when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror you’re looking at the appearance, at what you present to others. You’re not looking at your own self; you’re not even looking what is inside. A difference between the ones who forgot God and the ones who remember Him is, in the morning, the first thing the ones who forgot God are accustomed to, is the water to look clean on the outside. And the ones who remember God are familiar to the water to purify themselves from the inside. And it shows on the surface.” – Tariq Ramadan

I found this quote floating around on the internet in a blog entry and YouTube, and its been attributed to Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan to have said it. Whoever the author may be it is a wonderful sentence we should reflect on.

We are engrossed so much in our materialistic desires and physical appearances, that we’ve made them our own gods; distracted from the real matter of what our hearts and minds have turned into. And instead of blaming ourselves and doing something about it, we blame society for it. But the funny thing is, we are the society.

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My Top 5 Favourite Verses from the Qur’an

In this piece of writing is a collection of my top 5 favourite verses I have come across throughout the times I have read the Qur’an. I remember reading them and thinking how profound and meaningful they stood out to me. Each of these verses I saw conveying a powerful meaning or a subtle message relating to us as individuals, or a community, and the situations we live in.

Wherever you may be from and whatever your beliefs, you may find at least one verse which expresses to you a sense of subtlety and wisdom.

1. The Prophet frowned

“The Prophet frowned and turned away because there came to him the blind man, (interrupting). But what would make you perceive, (O Muhammad), that perhaps he might be purified or be reminded and the remembrance would benefit him? As for he who thinks himself without need, to him you give attention. And not upon you (is any blame) if he will not be purified. But as for he who came to you striving (for knowledge) while he fears (Allah), from him you are distracted.” – He Frowned 80:1-10 

Some may find this passage unusual and unexpected. We can see here Muhammad (pbuh) is being reprimanded by God because he turned away and frowned at a blind man who came to him for guidance, as he was conversing with some non-Muslims leaders in Makkah, hoping that they would join Islam.

The passage focuses on correcting the Messenger’s (pbuh) slight of moral slip. And it tells us that of course he was a Prophet of God, but also he was human, limited in power and ability like the rest of us. Any of us can make mistakes in our judgement and we can differ, we learn that like the Prophet (pbuh) we are not perfect in our humanity and we need correcting.

I enjoyed this passage much that I even wrote about it, which can be read here.

2. Social justice

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not (personal) inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort (your testimony) or refuse (to give it), then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” – Women 4:135

This verse as I read it, spoke on many levels about how important justice is within society. The emphasis on how we should ‘persistently’ strive for it, be it against ourselves or even parents or relatives, we shouldn’t compromise, because the “truth presides above everyone and is preferred to everyone” – Tafsir Ibn Kathir[1].

I like that it teaches to be precise in the matter of justice and not to follow our personal desires if it is wrong. We should not favour someone because they are rich or poor, rather be neutral and see who is right and wrong. And most of all it stresses to be just and fair for the sake of Allah, because to Him belongs ultimate justice, “Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted”.

3. Backbiting

“O you who have believed, avoid much (negative) assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful.” – The Private Rooms 49:12 

I had heard about this verse years back before I had any interest in Islam, I only came to truly understanding it when I started reading the Qur’an. I noticed it as a very strong verse, one that could not be forgotten easily, as it uses a strong figurative example to convey the essence of its meaning. We don’t like to eat dead flesh because of our very human nature, that same way we should hate to make assumptions or spy or backbite of someone on account of our faith.

4. To know each other

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another (not that you may hate each other). Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”- The Private Rooms 49:13

This passage achieves a very powerful meaning by the simplest example. That we come from one pair of male and female, thus share the honour of ourselves equally. And as we have become into nations and tribes, different cultures and colours and diverse societies, this is for us to know each other in good faith. Not that we should discriminate and despise one another for whatever reason.

And I like that it states the noble among us in the sight of God almighty are the ones who are most righteous, this is how He judges us. Our race, cast or heritage does not give us a free pass into God’s good books. And it certainly gives no reason for anyone to take pride about their race, colour or heritage and feel a position above any other.

I see this verse as very deep and significant for our times and an exceptionally useful to tackle the issue of discrimination and racism.

5. Kindness and forgiveness

“Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is free of need and Forbearing.” – The Cow 2:263 

I see this as a very simple yet meaningful part from the Qur’an which seeks to soften ones character. Kind compassionate words and supplications, and forgiveness of an injustice is better than charity (Sadaqa) followed by injury, sadness or even grieving. This has a subtlety in it and gives the right sense of principle for humanity.

I have many more verses that are equally beautiful and wanted to include them all in this piece, but hopefully when I have more time. I hope this is at least somewhat inspirational to read and motivates more people to achieve a clearer, deeper understanding of the Qur’an.


The Farewell Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The final sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is to many Muslims one of the most inspiring sermons to be read. After fourteen hundred years the contents of the message in it is still powerful and intense. Leaving the listener to think and take time to realise where one has gone wrong. The message sets the priorities of life; showing us what we must understand first, what must be taken care of and what we must at all times steer clear of. It teaches simplicity and humility, equality for all. This final message of the Prophet (pbuh) is relevant today just as much as it was fourteen hundred years ago. It is important to deeply understand its content, what Muhammad (pbuh) was passionately emphasising and how it can help our fragile society today in the 21st century.

What he said in this sermon becomes ever stronger and compelling and heart-warming as his final piece of message, when we realise that this is what he was struggling to achieve for so long. It summed up his mission as a Prophet of God for the last 23 years of his life, where he went through so many hardships and battles, exiles, trails and tribulations. This was not just a simple sermon by the Prophet (pbuh) but a heart felt plea to his people to take heed and believe sincerely in what he stood for. It shows his deep concern and worry for his nation, his followers, and that he was troubled for what the future may hold for Muslims. Therefore he was advising all his followers to firmly hold fast to the way he has shown: the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the way of the Prophet (pbuh).

One who understands Muhammad’s (pbuh) life and his mission as a messenger of God, cannot help but be moved by his loving request in his speech to stay within the boundaries and limits that he has shown by the order of the Creator. One cannot undervalue the message in it. The complete simplicity of the speech can reach the hearts and minds of the listener like no other speech. As it calls everyone to a greater unity as one Muslim nation, equality throughout the entire human race and realisation that there is only one goal and one reality; which is the al-Mighty. And what he spoke was not of his own accord but of his Lord, and this itself makes his sermon much more potent and persuasive to the minds that seek peace and serenity.

Mount Arafat

Muhammad (pbuh) delivered this final sermon on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. (632AD) in the Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Mecca. It was the time of the annual rites of Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) which was lead by him. The sermon was delivered to pilgrims numbering between 124,000 and 144,000 according to different narrations. The prophet spoke the sermon in short portions so that his word could be repeated by various men around him, in order to convey the speech to everyone in the valley. So after praising and thanking the Giver of all, the messenger Muhammad (pbuh) started by stating that he did not know whether he would meet the people at the same place next year. So “therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and take these words to those who could not be present here today”.

The Prophet (pbuh) first reminded the people the sacredness of their lives and their property as sacred as they regarded the place and month they were in[1], “so return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners”. He said “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you, remember that you will indeed meet your Creator, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds”. Notice how the Prophet emphasises the meeting with God, because we will be present in front of our Lord one day, and He will Judges us by our deeds. Any Muslim who indeed fears his God and loves God has to abide by His command. Anything he does wrong whether openly or secretly, anything he hides wrongfully from another person; his Lord will know. And the final judgement will be upon him for whatever good or bad he has done. It is a call for Muslims to be just and merciful, to be united. Another beautiful statement made here by Muhammad (pbuh) “hurt no one so no one may hurt you”. Do not inflict pain on anyone because you know you wouldn’t like the same to be done to you, physically or verbally. “Do no oppress and do not be oppressed”.

Then he talks about the use of interest now being completely forbidden: “Allah has forbidden you to take usury; therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequality. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all interest due to Al Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib be waived”. The messenger (pbuh) of God knew what usury could do to a society therefore making it clear in his final sermon that it is completely abolished amongst Muslims. This is firm advice to take heed of, even in today’s time and situation; the gap between the rich and the poor still grows primarily because of the use of interest. The Prophet (pbuh) said by shunning the use of interest; we neither inflict nor suffer inequality, inequality which interest takes advantage of and causes more and more. Al Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib was an uncle of the Prophet (pbuh), he was a rich man, a wealthy merchant in Makkah. Muhammad (pbuh) saw it so important to cut all obligations of interest due towards his uncle. He also ordered that all blood feuds from the pre-Islamic days be forgotten. Because it was now time to start with a new clean sheet. And forgiveness must be a priority here, without this there would be no peace.

And the Prophet (pbuh) warned the people that those who seek mischief will try to allow what is wrong and forbid what is right in Islam. And that they may tamper with the calendar which God has ordained right. So Muhammad (pbuh) taught: “Know that with your God the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy; they are successive, except one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban (meaning Rajab)”[2]. In these holy months all war and feuds are forbidden, to help peaces prevail and to allow the rites of major and minor pilgrimages to be carried out kindly.

“Beware of Satan! For the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will be able to lead you astray in major things so beware of following him in small things”. The Messenger (pbuh) did not forget to caution the people against Satan, who is a sworn enemy. Even though Muhammad (pbuh) had taught the Muslims to successfully recognise Satan, he was still worried that he may lose some through minor actions which they may have thought were just simple innocent deeds. This piece of advice is most relevant today where all sorts of things are cause of distraction from the reality of the world and the One. “O People! Listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford it”, being steadfast in worshipping God and following His commands is the only way one can escape the whispers of Satan.

Next the Prophet (pbuh) expresses the rights of women. Saying that it is true that Men have rights over their wives, but also that wives have their rights over their husbands. He reminds the men that they have taken them as their wives “only under Allah’s trust and with His permission”, swearing that they will take care of them and protect them. We can understand from this statement of Muhammad (pbuh) that: to be unfair to our wives is also injustice towards God and His commandments and His trust. “So if they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers”. Here mentioned by the Messenger (pbuh) a very important role of women as wives in Islam, that they are partners to their husbands, not only as wives but as companions and friends. They can know their men better than anyone, so they are the fittest to stand by for help, advice and comfort. They are ‘committed’ helpers, because they love their husbands, their help is invaluable, and can go a very long way. Every man longs for such a wife and such a wife has the utmost right to be sheltered, clothed and protected with kindness by her husband. “And it is your (the husband’s) right that they (the wives) do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well never to be unchaste”. This is not only a right of the husband but also of the wife as well, as and the Prophet (pbuh) said “women also have rights over their husbands”. A husband also may not make friends with whoever the wife disapproves of as well as being chaste, and other matters in which the husband or the wife may rightly disagree of.

 “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor does a Black have any superiority over a White except by piety and good action.” Muhammad (pbuh) could not be more clear and explicit on the matter of race and colour. That every single person on this world is descended from Adam (pbuh) and Adam is from dust. Whether black or white, an Arab or an Englishman, no one has the right to treat someone unfairly on the bases of race, colour or language, because ultimately we all came from dust. One should humble him/herself because God judges by piety and good actions. “And learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly”.

And then it is said the he quoted a verse from the Qur’an: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”[3].  This verse is profound and extremely relevant even for our times. It speaks of recognising each other for who we are, we are different so we may know one another not that we should fight, hate or destroy one another.

Nearing the end of his sermon, Muhammad (pbuh) reminded that there will be no more prophets to come after him and no new revelation or religion. “So Reason well, therefore O People, and understand the words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray”. He warns us of false prophets and religions and to be united as one Muslim nation holding fast to the Qur’an and his way (Sunnah). The Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) complete the religion of Islam for the entire Muslim community, providing knowledge on major and minor aspects in life, for a Muslim this is total guidance and correctness. And without these a Muslim would fall off course from the teachings of Islam.

He was not only concerned for the Muslims present but also for those who weren’t present as well, such as future generations. So he said: “All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly”, making it an obligation to those present to pass the message on to those who weren’t present. This is how much the Prophet (pbuh) worried for his nation.

Now ending the speech he spoke “O Allah, be my witness, that I have conveyed your message to Your people”.

Shortly after Muhammad (pbuh) had given the speech, a verse of the Qur’an was revealed to him: “…This day have I perfected for you, your religion and fulfilled My favour unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion…”[4][5] After this the prophet realised that he had completed the mission ordained on him by his Creator. It took him 23 years of hardship and effort, and thus it was time for the last cycle of his messenger-hood to draw nearer, which was to return to his Lord al-Mighty. And so he asked one of his companions: Rabiah brother of Safwan (ra) to relay the sermon sentence by sentence with his loud voice. The Prophet (pbuh) then finally asked the people “O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message (of Islam)?” To which every person present and listening replied “Allahumma na’m” meaning ‘O Allah! Yes!’ and this reply rings around the whole valley so awesome. Muhammad (pbuh) then cried again “O Allah bear witness that I have conveyed your message to your people”.

A few months later Muhammad (pbuh) grew very ill with strong fever and passed away at the age of 63[6]. But his legacy lives on. Never has a man been missed by so many people, longing to have been in his presence just one more time. The world still remembers his works, his mercy and his love for the creation and more so for its Creator. At a time when violence and bloodshed and war were the order of the day, he successfully taught how love and respect the world. He taught us to recognise God and how to worship Him and love Him, the creator. By loving God and by loving His creation we love the holy prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

This final sermon of Muhammad (pbuh) speaks to every age group, teaching us the value of life and to recognise and respect our Creator. And it seems so that it is more relevant today than ever before, for both Muslims and non-Muslims. It reminds us of the greater equality that we all seek to establish, that we are one human race. Every human is the brother of every other human, whatever the colour and whatever the race, whatever the language, whether we are rich or poor, man or a woman, what ever the social or religious status may be; we must unite ourselves and become brothers and sisters in humanity. God only judges by what is inside us, he sees our sincerity and belief, He judges by our actions. It teaches love and appreciation for the creation, to seek peace not war and to be kind and generous to our women. The time of Muhammad (pbuh) was a time when women were thought to be inferior to men. All sorts of unthinkable crimes were committed against women at the time. They were believed to be a curse, a misfortune for families. It was only the rich and protected women that were able to live a decent life, the poor and unfortunate were the ones who had to struggle like this. The Prophet (pbuh) saw to put an end to such mistreatments, and he successfully did by the aid of God, likewise to many other crimes and injustices committed against man during his lifetime.

Notice it was a final message and advice of the Prophet and a summarisation of his prophetic life. Teaching the dire importance of establishing peace and respect in our society by the best means: racial equality, social justice, the rights of women and economic equality, and these are requirements from the al-Mighty. Throughout the speech Muhammad (pbuh) reminds us of our Creator that we will all return to Him and how He judges, that it is God who is the only Legislator. It reminds us that in every aspect of life, be it marriage, financial or social; our foremost obligations belongs to the Creator and Provider. It is a sermon meant not only for Muslims but for the entire world, for every community and nation, and every environment regardless of religious or societal backgrounds. It tackles issues of which every human may face. We must recognise the vital teachings in it.

Muslims are reminded not to forget the obligations to their faith. To always adhere to the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, to be constant in worshiping and obeying the Creator, to fear and love Him. And to teach everything they learned from Muhammad (pbuh) to others who may not know.

Today we need to make great efforts to establish peace, justice and equality in the social order. To improve our future, the safety of our children, to ensure that society doesn’t fall to the gutters again; we need to make the efforts. The final sermon of Muhammad (pbuh) has advices, lessons and ideas in it which are beneficial for the environment and people all around; to rid of racial and sexual discrimination, to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, to establish social justice in every aspect, and other important issues. I believe that this last sermon of the last and final prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is an effective tool to help liberate our modern society of the injustices and misdeeds which we all bare along with. It shows what we have understood and what we have misunderstood, where we have gained and lost. And most importantly it shows where we have been unsuccessful and where we need to reach.

Read the complete sermon here.

References

[1] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 8, Book 81, Hadith 776 (English Reference)

[2] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 4, Book 54, Hadith 419 (English Reference)

[3] Qur’an 49:13

[4] Qur’an 5:3

[5] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 1, Book 2, Hadith 44 (English Reference)

[6] Sahih Bukhari: Vol 5, Book 58, Hadith 243 (English Reference)