Tag Archives: Islam

Love Your Neighbour as Yourself?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This reading is from Gospel of Mark 12:28-34.

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”l

And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions

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All the established religions of the world concur in one axiom, namely, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

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In Hinduism

The Hindus, followers of the oldest of the religions now being practised, believe that one’s own Self or Soul is really identical with the Self or Soul of all other creatures. Hence one who injures another injures oneself. In the Hindu Vedas, “Love your neighbour as yourself'” is an inherent precept of unity with the absolute self, ‘That art thou’ (tat tvam asi). So, it follows that because one loves oneself, one is bound to love one’s neighbour, who is not different from oneself”

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” (Mahabharata 5,1517)

“One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.” (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8)

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In Judaism

For the devout Jew, all the commandments were to be kept with equal care, but there is evidence of preoccupation in Jewish sources with the question put to Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:15-18, we read:

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbour justly.

You shall not go about spreading slander among your people; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbour’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.

You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart. Reprove your neighbour openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.

It is a mitzvah (commandment) for every human to love each and everyone from Israel as he loves his own body (self). As it is written, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself“, therefore one must sing his neighbour’s praises, and show concern for his financial well-being, as he would for his own well-being and as he would for his own honour. Anyone who aggrandizes himself at the expense of another person has no portion in the world to come.

In the first century BC, Hillel (later known as Hillel the Elder) migrated to the Land of Israel from his birthplace Babylonia, to study Torah. He worked as a woodcutter and eventually became the most influential force in Jewish life. Hillel is said to have lived in great poverty. He was known for his humanitarianism. One of his most famous sayings, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate of the Mishnah), is “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

The following source Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a is usually quoted to approve of Hillel’s indulgence of the gentile and the wisdom of this approach.

Shammai, a native of the Land of Israel was Hillel the Elder’s friendly adversary.  Little is known about him, except that he was a builder, known for the strictness of his views. He was reputed to be dour, quick-tempered and impatient.

One day a gentile came to Shammai and said to him: “Convert me (to Judaism) on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.”

Irked by the request of the gentile, Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding.

A few days later this same gentile went to Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

Let us take Hillel’s words seriously and try to understand what he means.

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In Zoroastrianism

That nature is only good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. (Dad istan-i-Dinik)

“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” (Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29)

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In Jainism

“A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.” (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)

“One should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Agamas Sutrakritanga 1.10.13)

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In Taoism

Regard your Neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. (T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien)

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In Buddhism

“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” (Samyutta Nikaya v. 353)

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udana-Varga 5:18)

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In Confucianism

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.” (Analects 12:2)

“Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” (Mencius VII.A.4)

Tsekung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu–reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15.23)

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In Islam

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” (#13 of An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths)

I am reproducing here a part of the article “‘Love thy neighbour’ in Islam” written for the January 2008 issue of the London-based Faith Magazine. cf. http://www.faith.org.uk (See Related Articles at the bottom for the link to the full article).

  • Another point needs to be made. Whereas Christian doctrine prescribes loving thy neighbour like thyself, Muslim doctrine prescribes loving for one’s brother (an yuhibba  li-akhî-hi) what one loves for oneself. Here, Islam’s wording of the golden rule is not dictated by any of Arabic’s linguistic or syntactical rules but is instead intentional. It is not love thy neighbour, but love for thy neighbour [. . .].” The object of man’s love is again beyond mankind because it is of God. As the eminent medieval theologian al-Ghazâlî (d. 505/1111) wrote, only God is the One who deserves love; man’s love for himself leads directly to God since every man owes his existence to God.
  • But who is the one for whom we must love that which we love for ourselves? Another important collector of canonical sayings and deeds by and about the Prophet, al-Tirmidhî (d. 278/899), said that “if you love for those you love what you love for yourself, you are a Muslim.” One’s brother is also Muslim and, not unlike neo-testamentary writings, brotherhood is first of all linked to confession, this according to the writings of the Tradition. For many, the Muslim’s brother is a Muslim, the believer’s brother is the believer, everyone is a brother in God’s religion and in His Book, that is to say in the pact with the Messenger, and even a slave is a brother when he prays. The Qur’an itself says that “believers are naught else than brothers” (Qur’an, 49:10) and that “He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace” (Qur’an, 3:102-103).

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In Sikhism

Treat others as thou wouldst be treated by thyself. (Adi Grandth)

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In Bahá’í Faith

Desire not for anyone the things that ye would not desire for yourselves. (Gleanings 66)

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Recently I read the following passage attributed to the American Shawnees Indians: “Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbour, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you.”

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There are many people
who will say they’re Christians
and they live like Christians on the Sabbath day

But come Monday morning, til the coming Sunday
They will fight their neighbor all along the way

{chorus}
Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

In the Holy Bible, in the Book of Matthew
Read the 18th chapter in the 21st verse
Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy
There’s a special warning in the 35th verse

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

There’s a God almighty, and you’ve got to love him
if you want salvation and a home on high

If you say you love him while you hate your neighbor
then you don’t have religion, you just told a lie

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

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The Hadith of Gabriel


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديث‎) means a “report, account, narrative”. To Muslims, the word Hadīth connotes “report on the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad”.

The Hadith of Gabriel (ḥadīth Jibrīl) in Sunnī Islām, is the single most important Hadīth. It is found in both the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and the Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

The five pillars of Islam

Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:

  1. Shahadah (belief, confession, or declaration of faith – Muslim life)
  2. Salat (obligatory worship in the form of prayer)
  3. Zakat (compulsory alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
  4. Sawm Ramadan (self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
  5. Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)

The Arabic word Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم‎; plural: صيام ṣiyām), regulated by Islamic jurisprudence literally means fasting – to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

The Muslims of Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh use the words roza/rozha/roja/oruç, derived from Persian.

The Muslim communities in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines call it puasa, the word derived from Sanskrit, upauasa.

Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.

The Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]

Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th-century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green - 1
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

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While my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.

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You Need Only One Hand to Help…


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Instead of using your two hands to pray to your God, gods and goddesses, why not stretch one hand and help the poor?

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Photo source: Unknown
Photo source: Unknown

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Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.

For the Christians, prayer, fasting and almsgiving mark Lent. Of these three, almsgiving is the most neglected.

Why is almsgiving better than prayer and fasting?

In a way, almsgiving is a form of prayer and not just philanthropy.

Almsgiving is also a form of fasting. It requires some sacrifice. One has to give up something, even if it hurts. It is not just giving something to someone. It is “giving to God”.

The Book of Tobit, named after its principal character has an engaging story about Jewish piety and morality combined with folklore. The book has enjoyed wide popularity in both Jewish and Christian faiths. The inspired author of the book places a firm emphasis on almsgiving. The following verses 12:8-10 in Tobit is the only place in the Bible where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are brought together.

Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves one from death and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies. (Tobit 12:8-10)

Almsgiving is also a form of fasting. It requires some sacrifice. One has to give up something, even if it hurts. It is not just giving something to someone. It involves giving money, food, clothes, and materials or providing capabilities such as education, health facilities, and other amenities.

Almsgiving is a necessary part in all religions. It is “giving to God”.

Almsgiving in Buddhism

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Novices receive alms, Nyaungshwe, Myanmar (magical-world - flickr.com)
Novices receive alms, Nyaungshwe, Myanmar (magical-world – flickr.com)

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In Buddhism, a layperson shows respect to a monk, a nun, a spiritually developed person or to any other sentient being by giving alms. It is not charity. Being humble, giving alms, and showing respect to the monk or nun and the religious society, provides a symbolic binding of the layperson with the spiritual realm.

According to the Buddhists, the more a layperson gives without seeking anything in return the wealthier he or she will become. The act of giving destroys the acquisitive nature that leads to further suffering. Generosity is an act of merit performed by a donor to help the receiver.

The Mahayana Buddhist tradition emphasizes that generosity towards others as one of the perfections (paramita) as found in Lama Tsong Khapa’s ‘The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path‘:

Total willingness to give is the wish-granting gem for fulfilling the hopes of wandering beings.

It is the sharpest weapon to sever the knot of stinginess.

It leads to Bodhisattva conduct that enhances self-confidence and courage. It is the basis of the universal proclamation of your fame and repute.

Realizing this, the wise rely, in a healthy manner, on the outstanding path of being ever-willing to offer completely their bodies, their possessions, and positive potentials.

The ever-vigilant lama has practiced like that.

If you too would seek liberation, Please cultivate yourself, in the same way.

Almsgiving in Hinduism

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Lady giving alms at the Temple, by Raja Ravi Varma, (1848–1906)
Lady giving alms at the Temple, by Raja Ravi Varma, (1848–1906)

In Hinduism, Bhiksha is a devotional offering. It is  usually food, presented at a temple to the destitute, a religious Brahmin, a swami, or an ascetic.

In Chapter XXIX of Vasishtha Samhita we find:

  1. Through Alms giving to poor obtains all his desires.
  2. (Even) longevity, (and he is born again as) a student of the Veda, possessed of beauty.
  3. He who abstains from injuring (sentient beings) obtains heaven.
  4. By entering a fire the world of Brahman (is gained).
  5. By (a vow of) silence (he obtains) happiness.
  6. By staying (constantly) in water he becomes a lord of elephants.
  7. He who expends his hoard (in gifts) becomes free from disease.
  8. A giver of water (becomes) rich by (the fulfilment of) all his desires.
  9. A giver of food (will have) beautiful eyes and a good memory.
  10. He who gives a promise to protect (somebody) from all dangers (becomes) wise.
  11. (To bestow gifts) for the use of cows (is equal to) bathing at all sacred places.
  12. By giving a couch and a seat (the giver becomes) master of a harem.
  13. By giving an umbrella (the giver) obtains a house.
  14. He who gives a House to a poor family obtains a town
  15. He who gives a pair of Shoes obtains a vehicle.
  16. Now they quote also (the following verses): Whatever sin a man distressed for livelihood commits, (from that) he is purified by giving land, (be it) even “a bull’s hide”.
  17. He who gives to a Brâhmana guest a vessel filled with water for sipping, will obtain after death complete freedom from thirst and be born again as a drinker of Soma.
  18. If a gift of one thousand oxen fit to draw a carriage (has been bestowed) according to the rule on a perfectly worthy man, that is equal to giving a maiden.
  19. They declare that cows, land, and learning are the three most excellent gifts. For to give learning is (to bestow) the greatest of all gifts, and it surpasses those (other gifts).
  20. A learned man who, free from envy, follows this rule of conduct which procures endless rewards, and which through final liberation frees him from transmigration.
  21. Or who, full of faith, pure, and subduing his senses, remembers or even hears it, will, freed from all sin, be exalted in the highest heaven.

According to the Hindu scriptures, every human owes five important karmic debts called pancha-maha-yajna: to gods, to ancestors, to guests, to mankind, and to nature.

Debt to the gods for their blessings. Repaid by rituals and offerings.

Debt to ancestors and teachers. Repaid by supporting them, having children of one’s own and passing along knowledge.

Debt to guests. Repaid by treating them as if they were gods visiting one’s home.

Debt to Mankind. Repaid by mutual cooperation and helping others by giving money, clothes, shelter and land to poor people, feeding the hungry, and helping orphans and destitute.

Debt to Nature. All humans are indebted to plants, trees, birds, animals and nature. Repaid by offering good will, food, water, or any other help that is appropriate.

So, a human to place himself in correct relations with the gods, ancestors, spirits, men, the cosmos, nature and himself must repay these debts during his or her lifetime.

Almsgiving in Islam

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Zakat (Source - infopediapk.weebly.com) (Custom)

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One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and, so, human beings hold wealth in trust.

Islam divides the concept of charitable giving into Sadaqah or voluntary giving, and the Zakāt, an obligatory practice governed by a specific set of rules within Islamic jurisprudence.

Sadaqah is possibly a better translation of the Christian notion of ‘alms’.

Zakāt (Arabic: زكاة‎ ,”That which purifies”), the third of the five pillars of Islam, is the mandatory practice of charitable almsgiving. Every mentally stable, free, and financially sound adult Muslim, male or female, has to pay Zakāt to ease the economic hardship of others and end the inequality of financial status. Zakāt consists of giving 2.5% of one’s savings and business revenue and 5-10% of one’s harvest for distribution to the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors, and travelers. As such, Zakāt plays a much larger role in Islamic charity.

Qur'an 9_60

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
(The Holy Qur’an 9:60)

Almsgiving in Judaism

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Tzedakah pouch and gelt (Yiddish for coins - money) on fur-like padding. (Photo - Cheskel Dovid)

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In Hebrew, Tzedakah literally means righteousness but is commonly used to signify charity. In Judaism, Tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just. It is considered one of the greatest deeds that a human can do. In practice, most Jews carry out Tzedakah by donating a part of their income to charitable institutions, or to needy people that they may come across.

Traditional Jews practice “ma’aser kesafim,” tithing 10% of their income to support those in need. Jewish farmers leave the corners of their fields for the starving to harvest for food. They do not pick up any grain dropped while harvesting because such food may benefit the starving.

Jews perform special acts of Tzedakah on significant days. At weddings, it is a tradition among couples to offer charity to symbolize the sacred character of  marriage. It is traditional at Passover to be welcome hungry strangers, and feed them at the table. During the joyous holiday of Purim, to increase the total happiness, it is obligatory for every Jew to offer food to one other person, and gifts to at least two poor people, in an amount that would equate to a meal each.

Jews are cautioned about how they give out Tzedakah  money. They should check the credentials and finances to be sure that their Tzedakah money will be used wisely, efficiently and effectively.

Also, they are admonished:

Do not rob the poor because they are poor, nor crush the needy at the gate;” (Proverbs 22:22)

Jews are taught that Tzedakah money was never theirs to begin with, rather, it always belongs to God, who merely entrusts them with it so that they may use it properly. Hence, it is their obligation to ensure that it is received by those deserving of it.

Almsgiving in Christianity

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James Tissot, "The Lord's Prayer" (1886-96)
James Tissot, “The Lord’s Prayer” (1886-96)

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Jesus spoke of almsgiving thus:

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  (Matthew 6:1-4)

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Who Are We to Judge?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Judge not others

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Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.

But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others?

This brings to my mind two sayings in Tamil:

  • “இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”

    (Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?)

    Meaning: “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”

  • “கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”

    (Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.)

    Meaning: “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investigate thoroughly.”

So, we must investigate thoroughly before condemning others. Also, we must learn to forgive those who displease us.

Forgiving

All of us have a right to our justified anger.

Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.

Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.

Martin Luther King Jr., said:

First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Giving

Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.

The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.

For the Hindus, there are five important points to keep in mind:

  1. Give with the heart not with the head.
  2. Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
  3. Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
  4. Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
  5. Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance.

For the Buddhists,

  1. Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
  2. Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
  3. Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).

In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.

Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).

True  Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 — Luke 6:36-38

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
— Luke 6:41-42

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To Worship or Not to Worship Shirdi Sai Baba: That Is the Question…


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)
Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.

The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.

Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.

The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai,  said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”

However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)
Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.

Shirdi Sai Baba - 2 Shirdi Sai Baba - 1 Shirdi Sai Baba - 3

However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?

Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.

The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.

At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.

After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.

Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.

Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.

Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.

It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.

A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.

Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.

Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said:

Trust in me and your prayer will be answered“.

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February 1: World Hijab Day


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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World Hijab Day - 2

Today, February 1, 2014 is “World Hijab Day”

More than 50 countries of the world celebrated “World Hijab Day” on February 1, 2013.

A New Yorker Nazma Khan born in Bangladesh founded the World Hijab Day. It was organized almost solely over social networking sites. Muslims and non-Muslims in more than 50 countries across the world have been attracted by it.

Nazma Khan came to the United States from Bangladesh at the age of 11. She was the only person in her Bronx school to wear the Hijab, the traditional Islamic veil or scarf that is worn by many post-pubescent Muslim women to cover the head and chest.

Her classmates and schoolmates ridiculed her for wearing the Hijab and called her names. They tormented her throughout her time in the middle school and high school for wearing the Hijab. She suffered many hardships when she entered City College of New York, especially after the four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda in New York City and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. At that time, some New Yorkers wary of Muslims made her a target for ridicule and suspicion.

Nazma said: “I was made to feel like a criminal, as if I was responsible for 9/11 and owed an apology to everyone.”

However, Nazma, true to her religious beliefs, steadfastly wore the Hijab, shrugging off the rancorous comments and venomous stares.

Nazma Khan (Source: language.chinadaily.com.cn)
Nazma Khan (Source: language.chinadaily.com.cn)

She launched the website worldhijabday.com on January 21, 2013 with the mission to make non-Muslims understand the virtues of wearing the Hijab, the traditional Islamic headscarf.

Through her website, Nazma Khan has gained many Muslim and non-Muslim friends. Many of her Muslim followers are immigrants themselves, and have all experienced similar pains like her. Nazma has inspired many Muslim students to wear the Hijab.

World Hijab Day

In a message, she appealed to women across the world to wear the Hijab for just one day on February 1, 2013, to support the personal freedom to wear clothing of one’s own choice.

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I have listed and described the names of some common clothing worn by the Muslim women – from the least to the most conservative such as the Hijab, Khimar, Shayla, Abaya, Chador, Niqab, Yashmak, and Burqa, in my post titled, “A Muslim Woman’s Veil.

Jess Rhodes, 21, a student from Norwich in the UK with and without her Hijab (Source: bbc.co.uk)
Jess Rhodes, 21, a student from Norwich in the UK with and without her Hijab (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Even though there is no basis for celebrating World Hijab Day, Muslims in more than 50 countries of the world celebrated the day on February 1, 2013. However, there are detractors too among Muslims who are against celebrating the so-called World Hijab Day. Umm Ibrahim (https://www.facebook.com/umm.ibrahim.56) living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, vehemently says:

✦ Please know there is no BASIS for Hijab Day, Mother’s Day, etc etc. Neither the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) nor his sahabah and none from the pious predecessors ever celebrated such stuff! Our scholars have warned us clearly against innovated festivals/occasions. Muslims should avoid initiating or encouraging innovated occasions in imitation to those of the kuffar, such as Mothers’s Day, the day of the Earth, etc!

✦ DAWAH starts with TAWHEED not HIJAB! Hadith of Mu’adh, when Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) sent him to Yemen, he said, “O Mu’adh, you aer going to a nation from the People of the Book, so let the first thing to which you will invite them, be the TAWHEED OF ALLAH.” (Saheeh Bukhari (book 93, no 469)

✦ This is making fun of Hijab by asking support of non-muslims to wear for a day! Allah alone is sufficient for us. More reward for sisters who are struggling more to continue their hijab in west! IF possible, migrate from their lands which ban/mock Islam. Otherwise, just stay firm and be sincere and ask Allah to help. We know many sisters who wear Niqab in the West, Alhamdulillah! So, in future do we expect World NIQAB DAY, too?

✦ Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), who said: “I urge you to adhere to my way (Sunnah) and the way of the rightly-guided successors (al-khulafa’ al-raashidoon) who come after me. Hold fast to it and bite onto it with your eyeteeth [i.e., cling firmly to it], and beware of newly-invented matters.”

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This is Communal Harmony in My Beloved India


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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United We StandTHIS IS MY BELOVED INDIA!

Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis …

” And peace on Earth to people of good will …”

This is India - Merry Christmas!
This is India – Merry Christmas!

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I came across the above fabulous photo on the internet. Do you like it? What message does it convey?

Here are some photographs I came across while surfing the net. 

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The vow of Hindu-Muslim unity

Talking about communal harmony on April 8, 1919, Mahatma Gandhi said:

“If the Hindu-Muslim communities could be united in one bond of mutual friendship and if each could act towards the other as children of the same mother, it would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But before this unity becomes a reality, both the communities will have to give up a good deal, and will have to make radical changes in ideas held herefore. Members of one community when talking about those of the other at times indulge in terms so vulgar that they but acerbate the relations between the two. In Hindu society, we do not hesitate to indulge in unbecoming language when talking of the Mohammedans and vice-versa. Many believe that an ingrained and ineradicable animosity exists between the Hindus and
Mohammedans.

“When both are inspired by the spirit of sacrifice, when both try to do their duty towards one another instead of pressing their rights, then and then only would the long-standing differences between the two communities cease. Each must respect the other’s religion, must refrain from even secretly thinking ill of the other. We must politely dissuade members of both communities from indulging in bad language against one another. Only a serious endeavour in this direction can remove the estrangement between us.” (25:201-202)

He made the members present take a vow as under:

“With God as the witness, we Hindus and Mohammedans declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of each shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.”

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Prayer Beads: The Islamic Subha / Masbaha / Tasbih


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) proclaimed: “Worship is the pillar of religion.”

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Salat, or prayer, is one of the Five Pillars, or essential rites in Islam. Recited five times a day (at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and nightfall), salat intersperses the rhythms of daily life with habitual opportunities to stand before The Almighty in entranced concentration.

Islamic Prayer Beads Tesbih Subha 99 Malachite
Islamic Prayer Beads Tesbih Subha 99 Malachite

Nowadays, many Muslims pray with prayer beads as a device to keep track of the words of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) they repeat while glorifying Allah.

Muslims probably gained the concept of prayer beads from India. When this happened, however, is uncertain. However, scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India, and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian Rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.

In India, a strand of Islamic prayer beads is known as Subha (Arabic: سبحا) derived from the Arabic phrase Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah.” It is also known as Masbaha (Arabic: مسبحة) or Tasbih (تسبيح).

Subha may vary in style or decorative embellishments ranging from cheap mass-produced prayer beads, to those made with expensive materials and high-quality workmanship.

Subha beads are most often made of spherical glass, wood, plastic, amber, or gemstone. The cord is usually cotton or silk.

Subha may have either 33 beads, or 99 beads separated by flat disks into three groups of 33. There is often a larger, leader bead and a tassel at one end to mark the starting point of recitations.

The believers touch one bead at a time while reciting words of dhikr which are often the 99 names of Allah (Arabic: أسماء الله الحسنى‎ ʾasmāʾ allāh al-ḥusnā),  which help the believers in their communion with Allah.

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At times the believers repeat phrases which express reverence, complete submission and gratitude to Allah. Following are the most used phrases, each repeated 33 times:

Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah
Alhamdulillah (Arabic: الحمد لله‎) meaning “Praise be to Allah
Allāhu Akbar (Arabic: الله أكبر) meaning “Allah is Great”

At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims did not use prayer beads as a tool during personal prayer, but may have used date pits or pebbles. Caliph Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) used a Subha similar to modern ones. The widespread manufacture and use of Subha began about 600 years ago.

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Prayer Beads in Major Religions


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

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In many major religions and cultures, the device most used to help devotees to pray and meditate is the strand of prayer beads. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population meditate or pray with beads.

Hindu/Buddhist 108-bead mala of  jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.
Hindu/Buddhist 108-bead mala of jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.

Many scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India,and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled east to China and Japan, and to the west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.

Catholic Rosary
Roman Catholic Rosary

Traditionally, the prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word “rosary.” In Latin the term “rosarium” means ‘crown of roses’ or ‘garland of roses.’ The Roman Catholics sometimes write the word ‘rosary’ with an initial capital as ‘Rosary.’

Since counting prayers were initially so important, each religion embracing the use of prayer beads developed its own symbolic structure to follow. In addition to helping keep one’s place in structured prayers, the prayer beads also symbolize the commitment to spiritual life. With its circular form, a string of beads represents the interconnectedness of all who pray.

Common to many strands of prayer beads is the number nine. Greatest of the single-digit numerals, nine symbolizes completion. Where the numbers do not add up to nine, they are often divisible by three, symbolic of the trinity in Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), the three central concepts of Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and the trinity in Christianity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

In addition to their use in the religious rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, the prayer beads find a place in the spiritual practices of cultures as diverse as the African Masai, Native Americans, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy.

Eastern-Orthodox Prayer Rope
Eastern-Orthodox Prayer Rope

Many similar prayer practices exist in various other Christian communities, each with its own set of prescribed prayers and its own form of prayer beads or prayer rope. These other devotions and their associated beads are usually called “chaplets”. The rosary is sometimes used by other Christians, especially in Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Church.

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Hindu Muslim Bhai Bhai


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Krishna Janmashtami - 2

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Today, while Hindus all over the world are celebrating Krishna Janmashtami, I was flipping through my vast collection of photographs harvested from the World Wide Web. I came across photographs that heartened my soul with love for my country where my Hindu and Muslim brethren coexist as a closely knit family.

THIS IS MY BELOVED INDIA!

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