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Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Posted on 17th July, 2021

Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Eid al-Adha commemorates the obedience of Abraham who, at the command of God, was ready to sacrifice his son. The Qur’an describes this event:

When Abraham’s Lord tested him with certain commandments, which he fulfilled, He [God] said: “I will make you a leader of people.”  (Q 2:124)

What this test was is related in a later passage of the Qur’an:

He [Abraham] said: “I will go to my Lord: He is sure to guide me. Lord, grant me a righteous son, so we gave him the good news that he would have a patient son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said: “My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?” He said: “Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.”

When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid his son down on the side of his face, We called out to him: “Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream.” This is how we reward those who do good – it was a test to prove [their true character] – We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice, and We let him be praised by succeeding generations. ‘Peace be upon Abraham!”  (Q 37:99-109)

 

When these verses are compared to the account given by the Bible (Genesis 22:1-14), we can notice that the Qur’an does not mention the ram that had been caught in a bush by its horns and that served for the sacrifice. More importantly, it does not mention the name of the son who was to be sacrificed. Because sura 37 of the Qur’an, after speaking of this sacrifice, continues by saying:

 

We gave Abraham the good news of Isaac – a prophet and a righteous man – and blessed him and Isaac too (Q 37:112-113).

 

Since the name of Isaac is mentioned only after the episode of the sacrifice has been related, most Muslims identify the son to be sacrificed with Ismael, Abraham’s first born. 

However that may be, the real point of Eid al-Adha is to celebrate the submission (islam) of Abraham to the will of God. In the passage from the Qur’an first quoted above (Q 2:124) the term translated “leader” could also be translated “model”. Abraham is indeed a model of belief in God and of obedience to God, not only for Jews, Christians and Muslims who relate together on the basis of their reverence for Abraham, but also for all believers.

 

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the Pilgrimage Month, which is the last month of the lunar calendar followed by Muslims. The sacrifice observed by the pilgrims to Mecca at the conclusion of the rites of pilgrimage, is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. It includes the sacrifice of an animal; a portion of the meat, usually one third, is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, the rest being given to the poor. There is a special prayer on this day, and greetings and gifts are exchanged. Though it is considered the most important feast of the year (al-‘id al-kabir, the great feast), it is in fact less popular than Eid al-Fitr (al-‘id al-saghir, the lesser feast) which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan.

 

Just as it is good for Christians to accompany Muslims during Ramadan, so we can accompany them as they celebrate Eid al-Adha. With this in mind, greetings have been sent to local communities of Muslims “from the priests and people of St Vincent de Paul church, L1.

Happy Eid

Posted on 13th May, 2021

 

Dear Muslim Sisters and Brothers,

 

On behalf of the priests and people of the Catholic parish of Saint Vincent de Paul in L1 we wish you a very happy Eid al-Fitr.

 

‘Îdukum mubârak

 

We have been accompanying you with our prayers during this holy month of Ramadan. We realize that the restrictions due to the Coronavirus epidemic have made the observance of Ramadan more difficult for you. So all the more reason to wish you a very joyous celebration of the Breaking of the Fast. May the Almighty and Merciful God pour down upon you an abundance of blessings.

                                                             

                                                               Father Terry Madden

                                                           Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald

 

                                             Christian Community of St. Vincent de Paul

                                                          13 Hardy Street, L1 5JN

YAWM

Posted on 12th May, 2021

28 Yawm – Day

 

 

Earlier in this series of posts on Facebook mention was made of the congregational prayer which takes place on Friday (see post 5). Friday, in Arabic, is yawm al-jum’a  - the Day of Congregation. Another expression is yawm al-dîn, the Day of Judgement. In the prayer which forms the opening sûra of the Qur’an, al-fâtiḥa (see AR 20), a mention of this Day is to be found:

Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgement (Q 1:2-4).

 

The Day of Judgement is also known as the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyâma), in other words the general resurrection at the end of time when all human beings will be assembled in God’s presence for their actions to be judged. This is one of the Islamic pillars of belief (see AR 17).

 

It is not known when this Day will come, but come it will. The Qur’an calls it the “Inevitable Hour” (Q 69:1-3). It is described in an apocalyptic manner which may remind Christians of the book of Revelation. Here is one example:

            When the sun is rolled up,

            when the stars are dimmed,

            when the mountains are set in motion,

            when pregnant camels are abandoned,

            when wild beast are herded together,

            when the seas boil over,

            when souls are sorted into classes,

            when the baby girl buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed,

            when the records of deeds are spread open,  

            when the sky is stripped away,

            when Hell is made to blaze and Paradise brought near,

            then every soul will know what it has brought about (Q 81:1-14).

 

The last ten days of Ramadan are a special time of prayer in preparation for this Day of Judgement.

The following prayer is recommended:

            O God. I ask you for Paradise and whatever words and actions may take me near it. I seek your

            protection from the fire [of Hell] and whatever words or actions that may take me near it. I

            beseech you to make Your decisions for me good.

            (cf. Abdullah Quilliam Mosque and Heritage Centre, Ramadan Guide 2019 p.35).

 

           

NUR HADI WUDU

Posted on 10th May, 2021

25 Nur – Light.         

 

Among the Ninety-nine Beautiful Names of God (see AR 26) is that of Light (nûr), a name often given to a girl. It is one of the few Names of God, together with al-Salam (Peace), al-Haqq (Truth) and al-‘Adl (Just), which is not derived from a verb of action. This Name, Light, occurs in the following passage of the Qur’an:

God is the Light of the heavens and earth. His Light is like this: there is a niche, and in it a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, a glass like a glittering star, fueled from a blessed olive tree from neither east nor west, whose oil almost gives light even when no fire touches it – light upon light – God guides whoever He will to His light (Q 24:35).

 

God is therefore represented by a light which is constant (the lamp is always in the niche), universal (the oil which burns is neither from the East nor the West) and pure (the glass is like a sparkling star, and the oil would give brightness even if it were not lit).

God guides through His Light – darkness is associated with being lost.

 

It is interesting to note that the Qur’an continues by saying that the light is

Shining out in houses of worship. God knew that they would be raised high and His name remembered is them, with men in them celebrating His glory morning and evening: men who are not distracted, either by commerce or profit, from remembering God, keeping up the prayer and paying the prescribed alms (Q 24:36-37).

These verses are understood as referring to monasteries in the desert. The Arab nomads, including the young Muhammad before his religious experience, would have seen them from far away, and would have known that they would receive hospitality in these places of prayer. This underlines the importance of prayer and of disinterested charity in the witness of faith.

 

 

26 Hadi – The Guide

 

 

Another of the Beautiful Names of God is al-Hâdî, the Guide. Anyone who has crossed a desert or climbed a mountain will recognize the importance of having a good guide, since the right tracks are often difficult to find and to follow. This Name is found as such in only one passage of the Qur’an:

            In truth, God is the Guide of those who have believed [leading them] to the straight path.

                                                                                                               (Q 22:54)

Yet the idea of divine guidance is well-anchored in the minds of Muslims by this petition contained in the opening sûra of the Qur’an, the Fatiha (se AR 20):

            Guide us to the straight path (Q 1:6).

This is the translation given by Abdel Haleem. I would prefer the translation of A.J.Arberry:

            Guide us in the straight path.

The prayer is not just to be guided to the straight path, and after that one can manage for oneself, but to be guided in or along the path. There is need for continual divine guidance (hudâ – another pretty name for a girl). In fact this idea of divine guidance corresponds in some way to the Christian belief in the Holy Spirit.

 

27 Wudu – Ablutions

 

 

Before performing the ritual prayer (ṣalât) Muslims, both men and women, must complete a cleansing ritual. This comprises washing the face, the hands up to the elbows, the feet, and rubbing a wet hand over one’s hair. Many Muslims start by washing their hands and adding to the ritual the rinsing of the mouth and clearing the nose, rubbing the ears and the neck. This ritual purification (wuḍû’) is mentioned in the Qur’an (though the technical word for it is not used):

You who believe, when you are about to pray, wash your faces and hands and arms up to the elbows, wipe your heads, wash your feet up to the ankles and, if required, wash your whole body (Q 5:6).

The last requirement for a full bath or shower is when sexual intercourse has taken place.

 

Since Islam as a religion began in Arabia, a region in which water is scarce, if water is not available an alternative is foreseen:

[If you] can find no water, then take some clean sand and wipe your face and hands with it. God does not wish to place any burden on you; He only wishes to cleanse you and perfect His blessing on you, so that you may be thankful (Q 5:6).

It can be understood from this it is indeed a matter of ritual cleansing; the real purification is brought about by God.

 

Mosques normally provide places for performing the ablutions. At the Abdullah Quilliam mosque in Liverpool the original Victorian areas for wuḍû’ have been completely renewed. “Both male and female wudu (ablution) areas combine real plants with natural stone and wood to create a harmonious atmosphere and a very unique experience for the user” (Abdullah Quilliam Mosque and Heritage Centre, Ramadan Guide 2019 p.16).

24 Mihrab = Niche

Posted on 6th May, 2021

24 Mihrab = Niche

 

When Muslims perform the prayer (salât), whether as a congregation or alone, they always face towards Mecca (see post 20). In mosques the directions of prayer (qibla) is marked by a niche called a miḥrâb. This is an arch, often finely ornamented, set in a wall of the mosque. The imam, or leader of the prayer, will stand in the mihrab, facing Mecca himself, while the congregation will form lines behind him. The lines are sufficiently distanced to allow those who are praying to prostrate and touch the floor with their foreheads. Within the lines, however, the worshippers are close to one another – social distancing during the COVID pandemic has been particularly difficult for Muslims and some mosques have preferred to remain closed for safety reasons.

In the mosque (masjid – literally “the place of prostration”), at least in the prayer room, the women are separated from the men, either in a gallery or behind a veil. Some mosques have a separate prayer room for women.

23 Layla – Night

Posted on 5th May, 2021

23 Layla – Night

 

Layla is a name frequently given to girls. If you google it you will find a reference to Eric Clayton (born 1967) and the band he formed, Derek and the Dominos. Layla was a love song in the 1970s Blues rock or Classic rock style. Layla actually means “night”. There is a well-known book of Arabic tales, alf layla wa-layla, A Thousand and One Nights.

But layla also comes into the Qur’an. Sûra (chapter) 97 is entitled sûrat al-qadr, translated as “The Night of Glory”.  Here is the text of this short sûra:

We sent it down on the Night of Glory (laylat al-qadr). What will explain to you what that Night of Glory is? The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months; on that night the angels and Spirit descend again and again with their Lord’ permission on every task. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn (Q 97:1-5).

In his translation of the Qur’an, in the introduction to this sûra, Abdel Haleem explains: “This Meccan sura celebrates the night when the first revelation of the Qur’an was sent down.” The tradition is that Muhammad received the first chronological passage of the Qur’an on the 27th day of Ramadan (see AR 21). Accordingly this night of special blessing, the Night of Glory (sometimes called the Night of Destiny or Power) is very dear to Muslims. Since the tradition that it corresponded to 27 Ramadan is not absolutely sure, pious Muslims tend to give particular observance to each of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan in order to make certain of obtaining divine blessing.

Kitab – Book

Posted on 4th May, 2021

Kitab – Book

 

Words in Arabic normally have three basic consonants as their “root”. The root k t b is used to convey the meaning of “writing”. So kitâb indicates any piece of writing: a letter, or a document, a written contract, or a book, etc. If it is given the article, al-kitâb, it often means “The Book”. i.e. the Qur’an, or the Bible as the case may be. Arab Christians refer to al-kitâb al-muqaddas, the Holy Book, the Scripture.

The following is a passage from the Qur’an in which al-kitâb obviously signifies the Qur’an itself, although it has been translated ‘Scripture’:

This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God, who believe in the unseen, keep up the prayer, and give out of what We have provided for them; those who believe in the revelation sent down to you [Muhammad], and in what was sent before you, those who have firm faith in the Hereafter. Such people are following their Lord’s guidance and it is they who will prosper (Q 2:2-5).

This passage has been quoted at length because it refers to “what was sent before you”, in other words to pre-Islamic Scriptures (see AR 27). Those who have received these Scriptures, particularly Jews and Christians, are called “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitâb). So the injunction is given:

        [Believers], argue only in the best way with the People of the Book (Q 29:46).

This is surely a kind command, and yet we Christians could protest that we should not be called People of the Book, because we are really followers not of a book but of a person, Jesus Christ, and that is why we are called “Christians”.

 

20 Fitr – Breaking of the Fast

Posted on 2nd May, 2021

 

20 Fitr – Breaking of the Fast

 

The month of Ramadan is followed by a feast, Eid al-Fitr, or the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast (see AR 30). It is known as the Lesser Feast (al-‘îd al-ṣaghîr) compared to Eid al-Adha, the feast of the Sacrifice, or the Greater Feast (al-‘îd al-kabîr), commemorating the sacrifice

of Abraham, which takes place at the time of the Pilgrimage (ḥajj). Since Eid al-Fitr comes at the end of the difficult period of fasting, it is usually celebrated with greater rejoicing than the Eid al-Kabîr. Children will receive gifts of new clothes and toys, as well as sweets. A special act of almsgiving is enjoined (zakât al-fiṭr) (see AR 28) before the celebration of the feast.

 

It could be said that during Ramadan there is a daily feast, the iftâr, or the meal after the fast is ended (see AR 4). Special dishes will be prepared, and the meal will be shared by the whole family or even the whole street. Very often non-Muslims will be invited to share the iftâr, and sometimes non-Muslims take the initiative to offer an iftâr. This common meal thus becomes an interreligious gathering through which Muslims and people of other religions get to know each other better.

19 Ghayb - The Unseen

Posted on 1st May, 2021

19 Ghayb - The Unseen

 

This time again it is good to start with some information about the letter ghayn which does not exist in our alphabet. The transcription ‘gh’ represents a guttural sound, rather like a Parisian ‘r’.

 

The word ghayb is found 48 times in the Qur’an. It is translated in different ways by Abdel Haleem. Here are some examples:

He [God] has the keys to the unseen: no one knows them but Him. He know all that is in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowledge (Q 6:39).

 

            God know the secrets of the heavens and earth: He sees everything you do (Q 49:18).

 

Say: “God! Creator of the heavens and earth! Knower of all that is hidden and all that is open (Q 39:46).

 

This last example is particularly interesting. It refers to the belief in God the Creator which is fundamental for both Christians and Muslims. The first message Muhammad was called to proclaim was “Recite! In the name of your Lord who created” (Q 96:1) and Christians recite in their profession of faith: “I believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth”.

 

God is the Self-Subsistent (Al-Qayyûm), not requiring anything or anyone to justify his existence. He is the Rich (Al-Ghanî), the one who has no need of anything. So there was no necessity for God to create the universe and all that it contains, including ourselves. We can say that the very fact that we exist is part of the Mystery (al-ghayb).

 

This surely leads us to praise and glorify God. Muslims pray: “Praise belongs to God, Lord of the worlds” (Q 1:2). Christians proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest”. We are united in this belief and in the way it influences our prayer.

 

'Isa - Jesus

Posted on 30th April, 2021

18 ‘Isa – Jesus

 

A short word of explanation before tackling today’s subject.

The Arabic alphabet does not include the three vowels that are used: ‘a’ ‘i’ and ‘o’. These are not normally written (the reader has to know which vowel to supply). The apostrophe in the name ‘Îsâ represents the consonant ‘ayn, a guttural sound that does not exist in English.

 

The story of the Annunciation to Mary (maryam), that while remaining a virgin she is to bear a son, Jesus, and the account of his birth, are given in chapter (sûra) 19 of the Qur’an, a chapter entitled ‘Mary’ (maryam) (See AR no.8 and no.24).  There is another version of the Annunciation in sûra 3 (‘The Family of ‘Imran). Here Jesus is described in the following manner:

The angels said, “Mary, God gives you the news of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world and the next, who will be one of those brought near to God (Q 3:45).

So Jesus is called a ‘Word (kalima) from God’. Now while kalima is feminine in form, the pronoun referring to it in ‘whose name’ is masculine (‘the name of him’). But Christians should not jump to the conclusion that we have here the Logos, the Word of God as understood by the Gospel of John where we find: In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).The Word (kalima) here in the Qur’an would seem to indicate the creative word of God, for the angel says to Mary: “This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says ‘Be’ and it is” (Q 3:47). So for Muslims Jesus is the son of Mary, but not the Son of God.

Yet, as the passage from the Qur’an quoted above states, Jesus is ‘held in honour’, he is one of the prophets, and he is ‘brought near to God’. This latter phrase may be a reference to the Islamic understanding of the Passion of Jesus. This is found in the following passage of the Qur’an:

[The Jews said] “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary.” (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them….they certainly did not kill him – No! God raised him up to Himself). (Q 4:137-138).

This leads the Second Vatican Council to declare:

Although not acknowledging him as God, they [the Muslims] venerate Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honour, and even at times devoutly invoke.

Despite these fundamental differences in belief, the same document says:

Let them [Christians and Muslims] together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values (Nostra Aetate 3).