My first experience of Islam: From an Indian Christian’s perspective

By Justin Jos

Since the existence of humans questions have been raised about the idea of religion. The orientation of individuals towards a particular religion is mainly because of a resort to a super natural entity in order to achieve certain ends of human soul. When I peep through my so called “spiritual mind” to seek answers to such questions I find chaos everywhere. There exists no fixed pattern of thought process in my mind regarding this issue. To accept a particular religious philosophy on account of being born into that community or group is devoid of not only merit but also reason. It is to be noted that certain words or verses are recited during the Namaz but their meaning is unknown to the general masses as they are in Arabic. Arabic is said to be the first and the only language of Islam. It is believed by Muslims that Allah gave the word i.e. Quran through Prophet Mohammed. Their existed four prophets including ProphetMohammed upon whom the word of Allah was revealed through certain scriptures. These scriptures comprised of Bible, Torah, Quran and Zabur. Even Adam knew of the arrival of ProphetMohammed according to Islamic history. Jesus is also one of the prophets and he is named as “Isa alas salaam”. Therefore, I have observed a convergence of Christianity with Islam which leads me to the unity of the two religions in an epistemological perspective.

To understand and experience the flow and vitality of Islamic principles I went to the nearby mosque. My first observation was absence of women in and around the mosque. This patriarchal bent is visible as well as evident but not absent in reasoning. Maybe, during earlier times, to keep the women safe from the continuing ravaging wars in the deserts any form of adventure was disallowed however this is just a presumption on my part. After removing my slippers, I was supposed to cleanse my exposed portions through application of water thorough out my body. This ritual is called as Wudu and the underlying rationale is that there should be Pak-Safi i.e. a clean body and mind before entering the mosque. And the mandate of cloth being above the ankle also symbolizes the idea of cleanliness. Wearing of a Topi is not a directive to read Namaz but since it is a Sunnath people generally prefer to wear the Topi. The first inscription as seen on the wall of the mosque was “. أشهدُ أنْ لا إلهَ إلاَّ الله. وأشهدُ أنَّ محمّدًا رسولُ الله”which translates intoLailahaillallahMuhammadurRasulullah. The meaning of the phrase is “Allah is the greatest and Prophet Mohammed is his messenger”. These verses are the first Kalma of Quran where Kalma refers to the introduction to the principles of Islam.

To start off with the Namaz, there is a specific posture of sitting during the Namaz which derives its authority from the practice of prophet himself(Sunnah).After the attainment of the above said posture, a bayaan is given by the Imam who is selected through board meetings of Ulema Council which is basically an Arabic to Hindi or Urdu translation of teachings of Koran. Bayaan on this Friday reflected upon the principle of defamation. It was told that without evidence any act of defamation is an act worse than eating the meat of a dead donkey. A Muslim brother in no case shall defame another Muslim brother without evidence. The character/Imaan should be kept clean and any deviation from such path of righteousness is not only formidable but also punishable by eight lashes/whips.  The primary objective of Bayaan is to spread the knowledge of Islam. On this question we ask ourselves the idea regarding forced conversion in Islam. The answer is said to be in the negative and any such thought is a false interpretation of the text which is furthered by few corrupted individuals for malafide intentions. After the bayaan an azaan is delivered by Muazzin (a qualified or well versed Momin). Azaan is the calling of Allah for the gathering of its believers. Thereafter, the Qutba is read out which seeks for unity of Muslims and pleads for a gathering to praise Allah. These essential practices are comprised of Farz (must) and Nafl (not must) and any breach of the five essential practices of Haj, Namaz, Roza, Zakat and Hadith leads to addition of Gunaah. After the Qutba Niyat is done which are alternatively standing and sitting facing the Kabbah and continuously chanting “Allah Hu Akbar”. The Niyat embodies two rakat (for Jumaah). There is also a specific hand posture which is to be maintained with eyes gazing at the floor. The Imam recites the Ayat which is called Kirat and subsequently we have to look down. The posture of hand on knees is called Ruku and this posture is performed in reverence of Allah. During this posture, the words recited are “subhana rabbiyal azeem” which meansAllah is the Honorable one. After this sajda is performed which is basically an act of touching your forehead to the ground with hands and knees on the floor. The command is that a Muslim should only bow down before Allah and none other. After the repetition of this process the devotee sits down and recites the pre-determined three ayath and after that he is obligated to turn his head firstly on the right hand side and then on the left. The Namaz is considered to be complete and ended in its full entirety only after this process is completed. The last words being “Assalamualaikum warahmatullah” (May Allahkeeps you safe) and a subsequent Dua may be done which are not a mandate and a personal imposition.

The above ritual is sacrosanct and is never to be deviated from. My experience of this Jumah Namaz was an ecstatic one. I found out that even though Islam being highly commanding and prohibitive in nature it truly associates a person with his way of life. The ritual is a kind of purification which absolves one of the sins he commits during the conscious mind.

The emergence of widespread terrorism and prejudiced opinion about Muslims leads me to the question of whether killing of people is justified in the name of terrorism. Islam forbids such acts and any such act cannot be against a begunaah (innocent). In a modernized and highly industrial world, sustenance of Islamic principles reflects the attachment of a Muslim with Allah through adherence to Quran and other Islamic dictates. Horizons of human behavior have expanded and touched upon the periphery of obscenity, vulgarity and indecency which was predicted during the enunciation of Islam thereby making Islam a pioneer in the domain of religious foreseeability. The rules regulating the conduct of a Muslim are not only rigid but also virtuous in nature. Certain ideas like proscription of photography, women to not attend mosque prayers along with men and extensive streamlining is to be understood in light of conditions prevailing during medieval ages. However, I found the experience enlightening and delving into this realm allowed me to appreciate the principles and versatility present in Islam.

PS:- I would like to acknowledge Arbaaz Hussain without whom this write-up would not have been possible.

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My first experience of Islam: From an Indian Christian’s perspective

Crisis faced by Youths

Youths are defined as individuals in the age group of 14-28. They have always acted as positive change makers in changing global context. However, the youth of today is facing three major problems. These problems are such that they inevitably impact the global welfare. Firstly, lack of employment plagues  youth from across the world. Because of lack of job opportunities youths feel disempowered, discouraged and disheartened. Opportunity to work is very essential for creating a peaceful society as the responsibility to build a stable nation rests on the shoulders of the youth. Secondly, the next major problem faced by the youth is lack of access to education. Education is an everlasting process of learning which ultimately culminates into enlightenment of the individual. Unfortunately, many youths of today lack the required skill set to perform most of the professional jobs due to lack of access to education. This leaves the youths as an educated yet an ill-equipped lot. The third problem is the lack of guidance and assistance. It is to be noted that several educated youths receive no moral guidance, especially in conflict ridden areas, and they are exploited by political, subversive and radicalized groups for their own selfish purposes.  Youths being individuals at the prime of their age get easily swayed in lieu of money, ideas or other such benefits.  This is the misuse of youth energy and potential.  To curb all such situations of crisis the solution lies in raising awareness about such issues through the use of social media, generating
debates on such issues at school level and organizing youth sensitizing camps which would help youths to realise and direct their energy for constructive purposes. Encouraging entrepreneurship and providing free vocational training would also provide youths with the required skill set for performing various jobs and seeking a secure life for themselves.

Crisis faced by Youths

TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE: QUESTIONING MY RELIGION & FAITH

From the very beginning of time humans have reflected themselves to be insecure creatures. This insecurity of humankind has considerably reduced through the epochs of fruition of humankind because of the development of human reason. In the ancient world thundering and lightening was considered to be the wrath of various gods and goddesses but today we have a scientific explanation for the same. However, science is yet to solve the riddle called ‘Religion & Faith’. Faith in a particular religion has remained in different forms throughout the world and are broadly termed as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jewish, Zoroastrianism etc. Organized religion has compelled people across the world to believe in ideas which neither can be proved logically nor by the use of science yet do the followers believe in the faith propagated by the particular religion. The only pillar of support for the arguments forwarded by the religious leaders of the world is through invocation of the scriptures or the so-called ‘Word of God’. But it does surprise me as to how in the name of religion enormous amount of money is donated by individuals from all walks of life. If we observe carefully, it is not the religion which usually demands for a lot of money (except for tithes in Christianity and alms in Islam) it is the religious institutions which seek money for their own welfare. I am personally not against religion but I am in search of truth on the basis of provable scientific principles and rationales. It would be outrageous to propagate that if one does good deeds in this life, s/he will go to heaven or hell. For a rationalist to believe in such an idea, existence of heaven and hell need to be proved first in order to justify the other premise. Various other questions such as existence of soul, afterlife, Karmic cycle, miracles etc. need to be proven logically. Skepticism is the essence of progress of our power to reason and any belief which is contrary to my power to reason requires a re-look. I disagree to agree on the idea of religious faith without the consonance of reason. Belief has a core of uncertainty and I urge the reader to realize that unless and until the core is certain one should not allow the faith to overshadow reason.

TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE: QUESTIONING MY RELIGION & FAITH

The Transformation Of ‘Me’ Into A ‘Digital Me’

With the advent of modern technology, humankind has progressed exponentially. Driver less cars, medical cures to terminal diseases and virtual networking being some of the fruits of the ever-growing science. But have you ever realized how the fast pacing technology affects one’s identity in the modern contemporary era. For me it is not a sociological but an experiential question. One needs to relate oneself to the amount of hours spent on the use of technology to the effective loss of hours which could have been utilized for socializing. This perspective being subjective in nature cannot be verified through an empirical analysis. The greater the existence in the virtual world the greater it inversely effects the idea of one’s being in the real physical world. The strength of virtual networking is such that it has hampered upon our social skills and created a hiatus in our daily social interactions. However, we all are inextricably imbibed in this modern phase and I see no reason to deny this quotient of indissolubility of our identity with technology. The fact that the use as well as the misuse of technology is in the hands of the user one should inherently limit and suggest the circumference of ones interaction with modern-day technology. The interface between human and technology is mutually coexisting in nature and the dependency factor in such an equation is quite high. Any form of departure from all forms of technology will be reversion to the state of nature and is highly preposterous. The evolution of the digital self is directly linked to the active exposure one receives through electronic modes of communications such as internet, media, movies etc. Placing the responsibility on the individual is the only solution to the rise of compulsive internet usage disorder among the youths of today. The balance and harmony are to be maintained as human are social animals. Any replacement of ‘in person’ communicative skills through ‘internet chat’ does not positively fulfill the innate human desire to socialize but does serve the objective of connectivity. As I stated earlier that this idea of transformation is subjective and experience based, I would tell you about the change in the nature of relationship between me and my one friend due to the advancement of the telecom sector (let’s call that person ‘X’ for purpose of anonymity). I and my friend shared a cordial relation from childhood. However, after we left for our higher studies in different cities the flame of our friendship grew dull due to growing distance. But, then came the savior chat system of instant messaging and now I remain connected to my friend even when I am hundreds of miles away. And whenever I meet my friend in person we always talk and mingle in the same manner as we used to before; sometimes even more than before! This shows that if wisely used, technology can play a great role in the rise of interpersonal relationships but it is up to an individual to constraint himself and not to allow oneself to fall slave to the technology. I embrace my digital self but with great circumspection and caution and I would conclude by saying that “Technology isn’t all obsessive and gross if the user makes it known to the technology who’s the boss.”

The Transformation Of ‘Me’ Into A ‘Digital Me’