Archive for September, 2010

Qur’an 57:25 – benefits and dangers of technology, by Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss)

September 24, 2010

Bismillah. With thanks to Dr. Ameen Kamlana for this.

The mention in verse 25 of “iron” and all that this word implies (see note 2 below) so impressed the contemporaries and successors of the Prophet that this surah (al-Hadid) has always been known as “the surah in which iron is mentioned” (Tabari).

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace

Indeed, [even aforetime] did We send forth Our apostles with all evidence of [this] truth;

and through them We bestowed revelation from on high,

and [thus gave you] a balance [wherewith to weigh right and wrong],

so that men might behave with equity;

and We bestowed [upon you] from on high [the ability to make use of] iron,

in which there is awesome power [1] as well as [a source of] benefits for man [2]:

and [all this was given to you] so that God might mark out those who would stand up for him and His Apostles,

even though He [Himself] is beyond the reach of human perception.

Verily, God is powerful, almighty! [57:25]

 

Footnotes:

(1) Or: “potential evil”

(2) Side by side with enabling man to discriminate between right and wrong (which is the innermost purpose of all divine revelation), God has endowed him with the ability to convert to his use the natural resources of his earthly environment.

An outstanding symbol of this ability is man’s skill, unique among all animated beings, in making tools; and the primary material for all tool-making – and, indeed, for all human technology – is iron: the one metal which is found abundantly on earth, and which can be utilized for beneficial as well as destructive ends.

The “awesome power” (ba’s shadid) inherent in iron manifests itself not merely in the manufacture of weapons of war but also, more subtly, in man’s ever-growing tendency to foster the development of an increasingly complicated technology which places the machine in the foreground of all human existence and which, by its inherent – almost irresistible – dynamism, gradually estranges man from all inner connection with nature. This process of growing mechanization, so evident in our modern life, jeopardizes the very structure of human society and, thus, contributes to a gradual dissolution of all moral and spiritual perceptions epitomized in the concept of “divine guidance”.

It is to warn man of this danger that the Qur’an stresses – symbolically and metonymically – the potential evil (ba’s) of “iron” if it is put to wrong use: in other words, the danger of man’s allowing his technological ingenuity to run wild and thus to overwhelm his spiritual consciousness and, ultimately, to destroy all possibility of individual and social happiness.

Advertisements

Free Jaafar al-Hasabi, a British-Bahraini human rights activist

September 21, 2010

Please see also the new blog:

JUSTICE FOR JAAFAR

Bismillah. I learnt recently that Jaafar al-Hasabi, a 38-year-old British-Bahraini with a wife and five children, has been detained without trial in Bahrain since mid-August 2010 (Ramadan 1431). Jaafar graduated from Middlesex University in 2009 with a B.Sc. in Business Information Systems with Information Technology. He studied my module (Decision Support Systems) in 2007, which is when I got to know him briefly. He was an activist amongst some of the Arab communities in London, and seemed to be a pleasant person.

It is alleged that he has been tortured in over the last month. Jaafar had previously alleged that he had been tortured in the 1994 before coming to the UK. Details are given in the links below. The British and Bahraini governments and embassies need to act swiftly to rectify any injustices that may have occurred. We can help by campaigning appropriately for justice.

The Guardian, 7/9/2010: Britain urged to act over Bahrain torture claims

Press TV: Committee set up to pursue Bahrain “torturers”

Press conference, 7/9/2010: Bahrain’s “slide into the abyss”

The same press conference with the detailed Q&A session, including a voice challenging the activists

Some background from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights website: attacks on activists etc. (a collection of articles)

Free Jaafar al-Hasabi page at the Gulf Cultural Club website

Jaafar’s story of torture from 1994 (REDRESS website); or read it here: JafaarAlHasabi.

Brief coverage at the “Atlas of Torture” website

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has a number of alerts about the recent arrests in Bahrain, plus a forthcoming publication (30/9/2010) about the country called “Broken Promises.”

May Allah keep Jaafar safe and reunite him with his family very soon.

UPDATE (23/9/10):

Here is the website of the Bahraini embassy in the UK, tel. 020 7201 9170.

The main news item on the website of the UK Embassy in Bahrain (tel. +973 17574100) has a large photo of William Hague with the headlines from his speech in London 15/9/10:

Please watch this space for more info.  I would also appreciate any advice, links, connections etc. in demanding justice for Jaafar.  Thank you.




A MUSLIM RESPONSE TO STEPHEN HAWKING’S LATEST PRONOUNCEMENTS ABOUT GOD

September 17, 2010

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

WHAT BREATHES FIRE INTO THE EQUATIONS?

A MUSLIM RESPONSE TO STEPHEN HAWKING’S LATEST PRONOUNCEMENTS ABOUT GOD

by Usama Hasan, 7th September 2010

The Introduction to the original 1988 edition of Prof. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press) was written by the late Carl Sagan, a leading American physicist who was also atheist. In this Introduction, Sagan put a decidedly atheist slant on Hawking’s work:

“In this book are lucid revelations on the frontiers of physics, astronomy, cosmology, and courage … This is also a book about God … or perhaps the absence of God. The word God fills these pages. Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein’s famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe. Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do.”

Since many, if not most, people who bought the bestseller failed to make much headway into a rather difficult read for the non-specialist, Sagan’s resounding words at the beginning of the book had enormous influence, no doubt. Many people would have been left unaware that Hawking’s short, concluding chapter maintained an agnostic position, rather open to the idea of God. Just over two decades later, the publication of extracts from Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, shows that the “greatest physicist since Einstein” has not followed the latter’s mystical view of God, but rather opted for a Sagan-like position.

Over the past week, many journalists and commentators have dug up Hawking’s concluding paragraph from 1988 (p. 175), and reasoned that he has now simply changed his mind:

“However, if we do discover a complete theory … it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

However, Hawking had made the more important, philosophical points a couple of paragraphs earlier (p. 174), points that have largely been ignored in the recent debate:

“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?”

It would now appear that Hawking has forgotten these crucial questions by claiming in his latest book (as reported in The Times, 2nd September 2010) that,

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

Here, Hawking fails to explain where the law of gravity comes from, and fails to answer his own question from 1988,

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

Or, as Professor Paul Davies puts it,

“A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing?”

Hawking’s “spontaneous creation” is God-by-another-name: our atheist friends, like theists, have many names for God!

Hawking’s reliance on M-theory (related to string theory) is objectionable because it goes against his own strong positivist position that demands experimental tests for any theory. Paul Davies says, “It is not testable, not even in any foreseeable future,” and Professor Jon Butterworth adds, “M-theory is highly speculative and certainly not in the zone of science that we’ve got any evidence for.” (Both quotations are from The Times)

Furthermore, the physicists Lee Smolin and Peter Woit have both written popular books about the problems of string theory (The Trouble With Physics and Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory, respectively).

As to the idea of the multiverse, the cosmos as a vast (possibly infinite) collection of universes inferred by Hawking from M-theory, Neil Manson once said that, “the multiverse is the last resort of the desperate atheist.” However, whereas some of our Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends may have objections to the multiverse, given the centrality of the Israelite people, Christ and Muhammad respectively in our theologies, others have no such problems. The Qur’an teaches that God created “seven earths” (Surah al-Talaq or Chapter: Divorce, 65:12). The great early commentator, Ibn ‘Abbas, taught that “on each earth there is an Adam, a Moses, a Jesus and a Muhammad.” In other words, there is life on other planets and possibly in parallel universes, and since all creation is there to glorify God, other forms of intelligent life may also reach the heights of spirituality amongst their species.

God as Creator (al-Khaliq, and also the intensive form al-Khallaq) is able to create as many universes as He wishes. So in answer to the question, “God or multiverse?” it is obviously possible to believe in God as Lord of the Multiverse (Rabb al-‘alamin).

In conclusion, it should be remembered that Hawking is a brilliant scientist.  Science does an excellent job of describing Nature, or as a theist would say, how God creates.  But science can say nothing essential about why we are here and how we should live our lives: only true and balanced faith and religion can answer those questions, with Messengers of God to show us the Way.

Dr. Usama Hasan is Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Middlesex University, an imam at Al-Tawhid Mosque in London and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Click here for a PDF version of this article: On God and Hawking 7-Sep-2010

App for learning Pashto, Persian, Arabic etc

September 11, 2010

Bismillah. A request from a friend, below. Perhaps it should be renamed the Arabic-Persian-Pashto App, or the APP App for short? 😉

If you have an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod Touch or use iTunes would you please read on. I have an App which some friends have launched and we would welcome your sampling and review. It is the first of a series of language learning apps and is for Pashto. The Dari/Persian one is also available and the Arabic one is being developed. If the platform works they are planning to expand into teaching these languages and especially classical Arabic.

The App Pashto is £1.79 – please buy it if you can. Please have a look at the App and please do write a short review. Search on iTunes for App Pashto by the Curzon Initiative Ltd.

Eid-ul-Fitr: Friday 10th September 2010, God-willing

September 8, 2010

Bismillah. Please refer to the “next new moon” at http://www.crescentmoonwatch.org: the moon is invisible tonight but visible from most of the world tomorrow (Thurs 9th). Hence, Eid-ul-Fitr (The Festival of Breaking the Fast, 1st Shawwal 1431)should be on Friday 10th September 2010 for the whole world.

Saudi have the right date for Eid – they’ve announced it for Friday.

The ECFR / Leeds Mosque announcement of Eid for Thursday 9th September follows Sheikh Ahmad Shakir (using conjunction rather than visibility) and is similar to the Jewish method: it’s their New Year tomorrow (Rosh Hashanah).

Life and Debt – 20 Sept

September 8, 2010

Bismillah.

TIPPING POINT FILM FUND DRAWS ON PUBLIC SUPPORT TO BACK CHALLENGING, TRUTH-TELLING CINEMA DOCUMENTARIES THAT COMBINE THE POPULAR APPEAL OF FILM WITH AMBITIOUS INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH CAMPAIGNS.

Dear Friends, To mark the re-release on DVD this summer, join us on:-

Monday 20th September 7.15pm, Lexi Cinema, Kensal Rise NW10 for a special film screening of LIFE AND DEBT followed by a panel discussion:

‘When will rich countries own up to their responsibility in keeping developing nations poor in order to grow their own wealth?’

With Dr. Robert Beckford, Dr. Patricia Daley, Nick Dearden (Jubilee Debt Campaign) http://www.tippingpointfilmfund.com/news/tpff-screening-of-life-and-debt-at-the-lexi-cinema-September-20/

The Film and Panel

Whether you have seen her film before, know of it by reputation, or are hearing about it here for the first time, Stephanie Black’s film LIFE AND DEBT is a classic feature documentary and to mark its DVD re-release this August, Tipping Point Film Fund is launching its film club with this powerful film, followed by a panel discussion which will delve deeper into the truth behind why many developing nations are still under-developed.

‘Who owes who’ in the relationship between the rich north and the poor south? A timely discussion in light of the recent petition of France to return to poverty stricken post-earthquake Haiti, the 90 million gold francs (£14bn) it took as ‘compensation’ to French slave-owners for Haiti’s independence in 1804.)

This event follows the successful TPFF hosted sell-out screening and panel debate of Oliver Stone’s ‘South of the Border’ at the Lexi in July.

We hope you can join us for this next one! And feel free to forward this email/ PDF Flier to colleagues and friends.

Booking tickets

Tickets cost £10 purchased through The Lexi Cinema website
http://thelexicinema.co.uk/bookings/?event=ic4drr

Or by calling the box office on 0871 704 2069 (lines open 9.30am – 8.30pm and there is a £1.50 Booking Fee).

Free to Tipping Point Film Fund regular donors

Getting there

The Lexi Cinema is located at 194 Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, NW10 3JU. It is around 7 minutes walk from Kensal Rise over-ground station and a good bus service runs from central London. The 52 (from Victoria) and the 6 (from Oxford St) stop directly outside the cinema.

We do hope you can join us.
Best Wishes
The TPFF team

LIFE AND DEBT

“A must-see film” NEW YORK OBSERVER

“Powerful! … offers clearest analysis of globalization and its negative effects that I’ve ever seen.” 4 STARS – NEW YORK TIMES

“Mandatory viewing for anyone interested in globalisation” 4 STARS – THE GUARDIAN

“Engaging… incisive… Life and Debt is a very powerful weapon in the arsenal of the global movement for a more equitable economic order.” LINTON KWESI JOHNSON

“A timely, powerful work” 4 STARS – WHAT’S ON

“Brilliant” 4 STARS – BBC MOVIES

OUT NOW ON DVD: Axiom Films
http://www.axiomfilms.co.uk/Catalogue.asp?col_scheme_ref=0