“Our appreciation to The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Rowan Williams for his warm Eid message on behalf of The Anglican Communion. May you be blessed.”
~ Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director, The Association of British Muslims.
I was asked to share my views on Valentine’s Day. Personally, I really don’t see what’s the problem that some people seem to have with this celebration. The fact that it’s a Western, originally Christian festival is in all honesty, completely besides the point. We should celebrate Love everyday!
Many cultures have something similar, a day to celebrate love, to send a message of love to your beloved – a person whom you would like to marry or is already your husband or wife. Seriously, what’s wrong with that? What could possibly be wrong with that?
The only argument I’ve heard against Valentine’s Day, is the same one I hear about every other festival besides the two Eids – it’s not part of Islam. Well, sorry, if that’s the best these people can come up with, it’s a pathetic argument – cars and aeroplanes aren’t technically part of Islam either, but we still use them!
More to the point, a Muslim can celebrate any festival, even the social aspect of those of other religions, as long as this doesn’t mean they end up committing shirk – i.e. worshipping another deity besides God or associating partners with God – and this is the position of the mainstream scholars of Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
Indeed, for the vast majority of people who celebrate it, Valentine’s Day isn’t even that religious, rather it’s just a wonderful opportunity to show loved ones how much you appreciate them – which is something every Muslim should do anyway, even if they do not celebrate Valentine’s Day!
As Muslims, we shouldn’t be afraid of Christmas or any other festival. Nowhere in the Holy Qur’an is wishing people a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or even a Happy Diwali declared haram (forbidden) – it’s just not there, if you don’t believe me, study your Qur’an, please don’t just take my word for it!
While the Qur’an does question certain beliefs that many Christians may hold, it doesn’t forbid wishing people a Merry Christmas or even joining in with some of the festivities, like having a halal Christmas dinner. To suggest otherwise and go around telling other people these are haram is to be a cause of fitnah. This type of behaviour is itself biddah too, as we should lead through example (like our Prophet, peace be upon him), not through bullying people! If we followed this approach like Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his noble companions, may Allah reward them, we would develop ourselves more and build a better more friendly and supportive community.
“And strive hard in God’s cause with all the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has elected you [to carry His message], and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion…”
- Holy Qur’an 22:78 (M. Asad)
The mullahs who promote the idea that Christmas is haram, are the very same people responsible for the lack of development within the Muslim community and traditionally Muslim nations. Not only are they opposed to Christmas, but many things characteristic of our present time. Labelling everything ‘haram’ will get us nowhere, and indeed will only tie us all up in knots, preventing us from doing anything really useful with our lives. Very few things were declared haram by the Holy Qur’an or by our Prophet, peace be upon him, and those that were (e.g. murder, stealing, the consumption of alcohol and pork etc.), are mostly common sense, as they’re harmful to us, or to our brothers and sisters in our human family.
“And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way…”
- Holy Qur’an 2:143 (M. Asad)
What we need to cultivate, is a more constructive attitude, be less judge-mental, study more, develop ourselves and our critical reasoning skills. We should not be taking mullahs as our idols! Real scholars do not seek to be worshipped, but seek only to learn, develop themselves and help others to do the same. Real scholars do not seek to manipulate and control people as sadly many mullahs are doing today.
Let’s leave these mullahs and strive to understand the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of our Prophet, peace be upon him, and to implement them in our own lives. In the process, we will develop a new generation of true scholars and professionals in all fields, who will take a genuine interpretation of Islam and the Muslim community from strength to strength, forward, working towards building a better future for all humankind!
The Right Hon Mrs Theresa May MP
HM Secretary of State for the Home Department
House of Commons
1 Parliament Square
London SW1A 0AA
2 August 2011 / 1 Ramadan 1432
Dear Home Secretary,
Pastor the Rev Dr John Charles Hagee
I’m sure that by now you are aware of the intended visit of the above controversial American cleric to a “Rally and Prophecy Conference” to be held at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, between 18 and 20 August (which will just happen to coincide with 17 and 19 Ramadan this year).
Dr Hagee has come in for considerable criticism within the USA from the American Jewish communities for his expressed anti-semitism, as summarised by the website Jews on First!:
“Hagee declares that Hitler was “part Jewish.” He says that Jews attribute special healing powers to the “spittle” of their first-born sons. He repeats anti-semitic canards about Jewish control of the financial system.” (http://www.jewsonfirst.org/audio-video/Display5.aspx?id=5149)
His Christian theology has raised considerable concern among respected and mainstream British Christian religious, such as the late Rev Dr John Stott (Rector Emeritus of All Soul’s, Langham Place, London), Rev Dr Stephen Sizer (vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, himself who has described it as “dangerous fantasies”.
I believe that it was because of such anti-semitic views as are causing concern among American Jews that you excluded the Indian cleric Dr Zakir Naik in June 2010; and recently took action against Shaykh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, on the complaint of Mr Michael Freer MP, member for East Finchley, although the Israeli authorities have not found him guilty of this.
In the context of the detention of Shaykh Raed Salah you recently stated, “I will seek to exclude an individual if I consider that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, and the government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe that they might seek to undermine our society.”
Dr Hagee also has a track record of consistently maligning and excoriating Islam, Muslims in general, and the Prophet Muhammad in particular. It would appear – although that is far from clear, as yet – that the Norwegian gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, was influenced by the Evangelicalism of Dr Hagee and other such peddlers of Islamophobia.
Given that this proposed Conference in Birmingham will take place in the middle of Ramadan in a city with a large polyethnic population, not a few of whom are Muslims, we in the Association of British Muslims would respectfully request that you issue an Exclusion Order for Dr Hagee.
Amir of the Association of British Muslims
30 August 2010
It is always a shock when you regard something as self-evident and then come across someone who believes the opposite. It forces you to analyse your belief — you can no longer take the mathematician’s refuge of saying “it’s obvious!”
Five years ago, I drafted the membership leaflet for the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. The content is repeated on the Forum’s website in the section “Why this Forum was created”, and amongst other things it states: “Islam and Judaism are closer to each other than any other two religions.” Accordingly, when I had lunch a couple of years ago with a senior Anglican cleric, I was astonished to find that he regarded Christianity and Judaism as very close while both being quite far away from Islam.
Before trying to measure their relative closeness, it is worth stepping back to summarise how the three religions see each other.
Here chronology dictates everything.
Written first, Judaism’s holy book (my copy is “The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text” from the Jewish Publications Society of America) says nothing of either Christianity or Islam.
In this context, it is not necessary to consider Christian and Muslim views that Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them and upon all the other prophets mentioned in this article) respectively are both prefigured in the Jewish Holy Scriptures. What matters in this context is how the Jewish Holy Scriptures are understood by Jews.
All of the first Christians were Jews, and the Christian Bible contains the entire text of the Jewish Holy Scriptures albeit resequenced. Conversely, the Christian Bible says nothing about Islam.
To condense an immensely complex issue into one sentence, the Christian Bible regards the Old Covenant made between God and the Hebrews at Mount Sinai as being superseded by the New Covenant mediated through Jesus.
Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.
Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.
God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.(Hebrews 8, New Revised Standard Version)
The last in the sequence to be revealed, the Quran acknowledges the existence of both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. The Quran recognises that non-Muslims can achieve salvation.
VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (Quran 2.62.)
This and all other Quran quotations in this piece are from “The Message of the Quran” translated by Muhammad Asad.
The Quran states that the previous Scriptures have been tampered with, but without giving details of where they are now incorrect and where the text we have is still correct.
AND, INDEED, God accepted a [similar] solemn pledge from the children of Israel when We caused twelve of their leaders to be sent [to Canaan as spies]. And God said: “Behold, I shall be with you! If you are constant in prayer, and spend in charity, and believe in My apostles and aid them, and offer up unto God a goodly loan, I will surely efface your bad deeds and bring you into gardens through which running waters flow. But he from among you who, after this, denies the truth, will indeed have strayed from the right path!”
Then, for having broken their solemn pledge, We rejected them and caused their hearts to harden – [so that now] they distort the meaning of the [revealed] words, taking them out of their context; and they have forgotten much of what they had been told to bear in mind; and from all but a few of them thou wilt always experience treachery. But pardon them, and forbear: verily, God loves the doers of good.
And [likewise,] from those who say, “Behold, we are Christians.” We have accepted a solemn pledge: and they, too, have forgotten much of what they had been told to bear in mind – wherefore We have given rise among them to enmity and hatred, [to last] until Resurrection Day: and in time God will cause them to understand what they have contrived. O followers of the Bible! Now there has come unto you Our Apostle, to make clear unto you much of what you have been concealing [from yourselves] of the Bible, and to pardon much. Now there has come unto you from God a light, and a clear divine writ, through which God shows unto all that seek His goodly acceptance the paths leading to salvation and, by His grace, brings them out of the depths of darkness into the light and guides them onto a straight way. (Quran 5.12 – 5.16)
The Quran is also very critical of Trinitarianism.
Indeed, the truth deny they who say, “Behold, God is the Christ, son of Mary” – seeing that the Christ [himself] said, “O children of Israel! Worship God [alone], who is my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer.” Behold, whoever ascribes divinity to any being beside God, unto him will God deny paradise, and his goal shall be the fire: and such evildoers will have none to succour them!
Indeed, the truth deny they who say, “Behold, God is the third of a trinity” – seeing that there is no deity whatever save the One God. And unless they desist from this their assertion, grievous suffering is bound to befall such of them as are bent on denying the truth. Will they not, then, turn towards God in repentance, and ask His forgiveness? For God is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace.
The Christ, son of Mary, was but an apostle: all [other] apostles had passed away before him; and his mother was one who never deviated from the truth; and they both ate food [like other mortals]. Behold how clear We make these messages unto them: and then behold how perverted are their minds! Say: “Would you worship, beside God, aught that has no power either to harm or to benefit you – when God alone is all-hearing, all-knowing?”
Say: “O followers of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds [of truth] in your religious beliefs; and do not follow the errant views of people who have gone astray aforetime, and have led many [others] astray, and are still straying from the right path.” (Quran 5.72 – 5.77)