Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Alone do We Worship

Written by Fethullah G├╝len, Wednesday, 13 February 2008 21:00

You alone do we worship. (Fatiha 1:5)

In this phrase, the object pronoun "You alone" (iyyaka) is placed before the predicate. This implies a very subtle point: "O God, we wholeheartedly proclaim, acknowledge, and confess that it is only You, and none but You that we turn to, bow before, and seek comfort in. We believe that by Your side alone we can attain serenity and peace." Another point to note here is the tense; instead of abada, which is the past tense, in this verse God uses na'budu, the same root in the present. In the past, abada connotes "we did, we made, we performed, etc." Such a tone, however, would in a way be contrary to the nature of worship, for it sounds like an accomplishment, which implies pride, as if the worshipper fulfilled something all by himself or herself.

The present tense form of na'budu implies that the task is not yet finished, which renders such a misinterpretation impossible. Meaning "we worship," na'budu refers to the intention and determination to acknowledge the eternal impotence and poverty of humankind before His Presence. This can also be paraphrased as follows, "O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want. My intention is my greatest worship; I hope that You will accept my intention as my worship. I plead for Your favor, not in proportion to the number of things that I have done, but to those I have intended to do."

In this phrase, na'budu, "we worship," also emphasizes that the worshipper is not alone with such thoughts. Hoping that all others are thinking in the same vein, the worshipper proclaims, "In making this request, I am in full concord with all my fellow worshippers." Through such an indisputable alliance, the worshipper is empowered with confirmation and testimony, and thus he or she turns to the presence of the Almighty Lord Who meets all needs. In this manner, they can relieve themselves of evil involuntary thoughts, and they can enact a complete form of worship toward the Perfect Divinity.

~Excerpted from
Fethullah Gulen is a controversial Sufi teacher from Turkey. Founder of the Gulen Movement, he has authored 60 books and is a leader in the world of interfaith and ecumenical engagement.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Abu Hatim Razi on "Those Upon Whom Thou Hast Bestowed Favors"

Abu Hatim Ahmad ibn Hamdan Razi (d. 934) was a renowned Dai and physician who wrote a major treatise on the nature of a prophet's knowledge of the world in A'lam al-nubuwwah, translated by Everett K. Rowson as "Science of Prophecy." From what he writes it would appear that Razi had a particular appreciation for the favor of knowledge and wisdom that were revealed to the prophets:

"But as for the true ancient sages who composed these valid works on astronomy, medicine, geometry, and other natural sciences, they were the sages among the people of their eras, the leaders of their ages, and God's proofs to His creatures in their times, whom God supported with revelation coming from Him and whom He taught this wisdom. Thus each of them contributed a particular kind of wisdom. One contributed the science of medicine, while other contributed other mathematical and natural sciences. They presented them to the people, who took them from them, since God wanted to make His creatures aware of the wisdom in these principles, to manifest the ranks of these prophets in their times, and to display God's proofs to His creatures by means of their tongues. So, for example, it has been handed down that the principles of astronomy come from the prophet Idris. Some people have interpreted God's words in the story of Idris that 'We raised him to a high place' as meaning that God raised him up to the mountain which is at the navel of the world, and sent him an angel to teach him the things connected with the celestial sphere, its terms and zodiacal signs, the planets and the periods of their orbits, and other aspects of the science of astronomy.

Furthermore, they say that the Hermes mentioned by the philosophers is Idris, his name among the philosophers being Hermes but in the Qur'an Idris - both these names resemble those names like Galenos, Aristoteles, and so forth, which end in 's' - and in the other revealed books Enoch. This, then, is an indication that such men used to have these names as aliases. The same pattern can be seen, among the names of prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, in Elias as well as Idris. Among those prophets and sages mentioned by the People of the Book there are Simon, the disciple of the Messiah, who was called Petros; his brother, one of the twelve, whose name was Andreios; among the twelve apostles, Philippos; Marcos, one of the four; and Malghus, the apostle who obeyed among them. Among the prophets they mention are Saraqsis, Agabos, Lucios, Paulus, and Philadelphius. So there are many such names among the prophets and sages, which resemble the names of the ancient philosophers, who composed the books of medicine, astronomy and geometry, using such names as aliases. " (2008, pp. 149-150)

~Excerpted from "Ismaili Thought in the Classical Age", edited by S.H. Nasr & M. Aminrazavi

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Cross and The Crescent

Phil Parshall is one of the leading authorities on ministry to Muslims. He has lived among Muslims since 1962, first with the International Christian Fellowship (Now SIM) in Bangladesh and most recently in the Philippines. His book "The Cross and the Crescent - Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind" aspires to inform and educate Christians about Islam so that they can minister to them. Despite this agenda, Parshall does manage to capture the essence of Islam:

"Millions of Muslims have testified to the impact of the Quran on their lives. My intimate Muslim friend, Dr. Ali, about whom I have written in previous books, has testified to a life-changing experience when he began to read the Quran in his own language. Reading and reciting Scripture in Arabic, which he did not understand, made minimal impression on his daily life. But when he was able to comprehend the teachings of Allah, his life was brought to a full point of dedication. Even though he is a busy layman, he still finds time to search the Quran for guidance.

An experience like the following is not at all uncommon in the Muslim world:

They waited now with emotion for that old voice, melodious and worn with age, to utter the opening strophes of the Holy Book, and there was nothing feigned in the adoring attention of the circle of faces. Some licked their lips and leaned forward eagerly, as if to take the phrases upon their lips: others lowered their heads and closed their eyes as if against a new experience in music. The old preacher sat with his waxen hands folded in his lap and uttered the first Sura, full of the soft, warm coloring of a familiar understanding, his voice a little shaky at first, but gathering power and assurance from the silence as he proceeded. His eyes now were as wide and lusterless as a dead hare's. His listeners followed the notation of the verses as they fell from his lips with care and rapture, gradually seeking their way together as they fell from and into the main stream of the poetry like a school of fish following a leader by instinct out into the deep sea (Durrell 1958, 256).

It may be of interest to note that John 3:16 is not the most frequently quoted Scripture in the world. The above-mentioned first Sura of the Quran holds that distinction. Five times a day Muslims bow in prayer while facing Mecca and recite these first words of the Quran:

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Owner of the Day of Judgment,
Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
Show us the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou has favored;
Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger
nor of those who go astray." (2002, pp. 61-62).

~Excerpted from "The Cross and the Crescent - Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind" by Dr. Phil Parshall, who holds a doctorate from Fuller Seminary and has had fellowships with Harvard and Yale universities.