Ask a Muslim [split from introductions]
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20-04-2012, 08:58 AM
Ask a Muslim [split from introductions]
Thank you for all the welcomes everyone. I appreciate it. And I will try to stick around.

Logisch, you asked me some good questions, so now I'm going to answer them one by one. Also, I'm aware this long post of mine may lead to more discussions and/or questions, so if the moderators want to split this post into a separate thread, then feel free to do so. Either way, I don't have a problem.

Zephony, I think that you answered his questions very well and they are to the point. You're not wrong at all. So, thank you for answering them.

Now, I'm going to answer the questions also (since they were addressed toward me), and I'm going to explain everything more thoroughly for you guys.

(17-04-2012 06:18 AM)Logisch Wrote:  - Do muslims really believe we're free to believe what we want to believe? Or is it one of those things that you really feel we deserve eternal punishment or some other sort of punishment if we truly decide we are against what the book says?

In my opinion, most Muslims do believe that everyone is free to believe whatever they want. I believe that also. And by that, I mean that we are not allowed to forcefully convert anyone, although we can certainly 'invite' people to Islam in the sense that we're teaching them something about the religion and then letting them decide for themselves, as the Quran says, "Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance" (16:125).

There are certain Muslims who do interpret certain parts of the Quran in a way as if they must convert people to Islam. They think that the Quran is telling them to carry out a jihad on all the non-believers. But, the thing is is that the word jihad doesn't mean "holy war," but simply a "struggle" toward a moral, intellectual, and a spiritual improvement. The word does include a struggle in the military sense, but it has a wider connotation and embraces almost every kind of striving, and it doesn't have to be a violent one. So, there are also non-violent forms of Jihad which can be done with pen, tongue, hands, the media, internet, and in many other ways which are not necessarily harmful to society.

The important thing to know is that Muslims are strictly prohibited to start a war and/or fight against non-Muslims except for the purpose of self-defense. No Muslim should take action by hurting someone unless he has the intention of defending himself in a battlefield or anywhere else. Also, when a group of aggressors approach Muslims and they pray and ask for forgiveness (for their wrong actions), they should be let go. So, the point is that we always have to leave the door open for showing mercy. An Islamic state is not allowed to fight non-Muslims who are not hostile to Islam, who do not oppress Muslims, or try to convert Muslims by force from their religion, or expel them from their lands, or wage war against them, or prepare for attacks against them, as the Quran says, "Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them" (4:90).

In fact, according to what I know, the Prophet Muhammad granted the citizens of an Islamic state the freedom to practice their own religion as long as they sign a pact of non-aggression and pay taxes as demanded by the state. During that time, there were many examples of Christians, Jews, and other religious communities flourishing under Islamic rule without being forced to live as Muslims.You can find more information about this in a book entitled "The Jews of Islam," by Bernard Lewis.

(17-04-2012 06:18 AM)Logisch Wrote:  - What is this shariah law stuff? I've heard this is part of it? Or is this something only in specific countries? Or is this something only held to believers and not the nonbelievers? (this kind of goes back to my first question)

Shariah can be simply translated to mean a "divine path" or a "moral code." In Arabic, it literally means "a clear path to a large body of fresh water." Muslims believe that all the previous messengers of God were given a Shariah, not just Muhammad. In other words, Abraham had a Shariah, Moses had a Shariah, and Jesus had a Shariah as well. What distinguishes each of them is merely that the laws differed slightly from time to time. As Muslims, we believe in something known as 'progressive revelation' by which God revealed the Old Testament to the Jews, then the New Testament to the Christians, and lastly, the "Final Testament" (the Quran) to the Muslims, but the message is still for everyone. In that sense, according to Islamic belief, there is a divine continuity in religious belief between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Sharia has certain laws which are regarded as divinely ordained, concrete and timeless for all relevant situations (such as the ban on drinking alcohol, for example), and it also has certain laws which are not divinely ordained since they are established by Islamic lawyers and judges based on their own method of application of the Quran and Sunnah. Altogether, these laws cover a wide range of aspects about a Muslim's life such as certain day-to-day activities, and certain matters in politics, economics, banking, business, marriage, divorce, social issues, and so on.

Most countries in the Middle East and North Africa maintain a dual system of secular courts and religious courts (ruled by Sharia). However, Sharia does not have to be limited to Islamic countries only. They can be established in a Western country as well, and the non-Muslims would not be expected to live according to the demands of the Shariah. It would only apply to Muslims who have willfully pledged and vowed to live according to the Islamic teachings. Also, there is no such thing that the Shariah is "imposed" on a non-Muslim country because the overall jurisdictional power of that country is ultimately in the hands of non-Muslims. Therefore, if there were ever to be shariah courts in a Western country, it would only be to the extent of their own regulations, and thus allowing Shariah courts to exist is under their own jurisdictions and their own prerogative.

Furthermore, under the Shariah itself, if there are communities that have their own rules and religious beliefs, the Shariah automatically allots them a jurisdictional power and legislative powers of their own choosing. Likewise, as Zephony rightly said, the Shariah does not apply to the non-believers either. Hence they are still subject to the secular law.

(17-04-2012 06:18 AM)Logisch Wrote:  - Do muslims believe there ever was a jesus? Or do they think he's made up? Or do they think he's made up but nothing more than someone carrying a message of some sort?

Muslims do believe in the existence of Jesus, and that he was also one of the prophets of God, as Zephony answered. But, we also believe that another prophet came after him (who was Muhammad) and thus he wasn't the last one. The last prophet is Muhammad according to Islamic belief, who is known as the seal of the prophets and was given the same task that were given to all the other prophets.

The main difference in the Islamic view of Jesus from the Christian one is that we do not believe that Jesus had God-like attributes. He was only a prophet, and that's why we don't pray to him although we do highly respect him. Some Christians may say that Jesus is the son of God. Well, maybe he is indeed the son of God, but I wouldn't take the word "son" literally, as if he was the begotten son of God. I think it was just another way of saying that he was a "servant of God," or something like that, or perhaps just a way of showing reverence to him. We also believe that Jesus was not crucified nor killed, but that he was only raised up (alive) by God as a manifestation of the Truth when seized by his opponents, and to protect him from any harm and humilitation.

Do Muslims believe that Jesus was also carrying around a message? Yes, and we believe that the message was the inspired word of God. However, the only problem is that the original form of the revelations that were given to Jesus do not exist anymore. The Muslim contention is that certain widely-held Christian beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus, are associated not with the original words of scripture but with later alterations. In other words, we believe that the actual revealed words became mixed with the additions of human copyists and editors. And when this happened, God sent another book (and a final one), the Quran, as as an updated version of the previous scriptures that were tampered with. The Quran, however, contains everything that was important from all the earlier works that were revealed to the prophets and it is the uncorrupted word of God (or such is the Muslim point of view).

To my understanding, there are even many devout Christians who do not claim that every single verse in the Bible is the infallible word of God. Also, many of them believe that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic and that some of the English translations still do not effectively translate the original message of Jesus. These Christians recognize that the Bible had human authors and that there may be some distortions in it, so they tend to concentrate on the spirituality in the Bible and not on the supposed flaws.

(17-04-2012 06:18 AM)Logisch Wrote:  - Are there denominations of Muslims just as there are denominations of Christianity? Someone on here recently said there is now 35,000 (number struck me as insane) denominations of Christianity. Do muslims also have a similar thing going on? Or is it pretty much just one revision of the qu-ran? I'd assume there's probably not a mormon equivalent, in other words do you deal with the same thing that christians do in terms of people "changing the translations" of a book?

Yes, there are, and the two main denominations in Islam are the Shiites and the Sunnis. However, this division was not caused by a different translation nor a different interpretation of the Quran. In fact, both Shiites and Sunnis interpret the entire Quran pretty much the same way except for a few minor verses which you can see here. The difference between Shiites and Sunnis, in a nutshell, lies in the fact that the Sunnis believe that the Prophet Muhammad's rightful successors to lead the Muslim community were firstly his 4 companions which are: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, then lastly, Ali ibn Abu Talib (the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad). It is Ali that is believed by the Shiites to be the first of the 12 imams (each of the later imams being the son of the previous one), while Sunnis believe that he is the last of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (known as Rashidun). From then on, there was a rift between Muslims that stemmed from a disagreement amongst themselves over who should be the rightful successors to Muhammad.

Such a disagreement also led both sides to adopt different practices in regards to acts of worship because even though they both read the same exact Quran, the differences arise from Hadiths (or sayings of the Prophet) that have differing chains of narration since they believe in different Imams (who were the compilers of Hadiths), while scrutiny is placed on the authentication process and the trustworthiness of the narrators that the Imams relied on. So, essentially, the point is that there are some minor differences in the acts of worship between Shiites and Sunnis, and this is only because they accept a different set of Hadith books from each other. But, again, all Muslims read the same exact Quran although some of them may have different interpretations irrespective of their denominations.

Just to add something else, the Shiite faith is based on a system called "Imamat." The system of "Imamat" implies that after the Prophet Muhammad, there shall be no other prophet (which is something all Muslims believe in), but the only true leader of the Muslims, at a given time, is an "Imam" who, like the prophets of God, is directly appointed by God. The appointment of the first "Imam" was made by God through the last Prophet (Muhammad) and every subsequent "Imam" was appointed by God through the "Imam" who precedes him. In other words, the appointments of the Imams by God naturally follow the order of descendants starting from Muhammad. This is what the Sunnis disagree with (and so do I because I'm a Sunni), because we believe that only the prophets were directly appointed by God, not the Imams/leaders (nor anyone else).

That being said, there are actually more denominations than just Shiites and Sunnis, although I'm pretty sure that the number is not as great as it is in Christianity. For example, another denomination in Islam are the Sufis, who believe in the principles of Sufism. This is a branch that covers many areas of study such as philosophy, metaphysics, art, science, culture, psychology, etc. There are also subdivisions in both Shia and Sunni Islam. The Sunni Muslims, for example, can be further specified into one of the 4 schools of thought which are: Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki, and Hanbali.

You can see a list of most of the branches in Islam and descriptions of them at the link below:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_sch...d_branches
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20-04-2012, 10:01 AM (This post was last modified: 20-04-2012 03:27 PM by GirlyMan.)
[split] An intro thread because I'm bored
Do Muslims believe any interest rate > 0% constitutes usury? If so, how do they purchase houses? Do they have to save up the cash first?

And KidCharlemagne just reminded me I was being a bit forward and even rude there. Welcome Mullah.

I am us and we is me. ... bitches.
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20-04-2012, 12:01 PM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
What about condemning women to death by stoning for adultery? Good, bad or utterly evil ?

What about apostasy - conversion to another faith from Islam? I have heard that this is punishable by death in Egypt for example (probably not an official law, but one of us in Egypt said it was a genuine concern for him).

Are these things *right* or are they relics of a barbaric past that should be done away with? I'm sure you can guess my position Wink
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20-04-2012, 01:02 PM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
Welcome aboard, I hope you enjoy it here.

" Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous."
David Hume
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20-04-2012, 07:31 PM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
Welcome.

Why do you believe in Allah? Why not some other god? Why any god?

Why would any woman with any intelligence and self-respect be a Muslim?

That, I think, is enough to start with.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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20-04-2012, 08:28 PM (This post was last modified: 21-04-2012 06:36 AM by itsacow.)
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
(20-04-2012 07:31 PM)Chas Wrote:  Welcome.

Why do you believe in Allah? Why not some other god? Why any god?

Why would any woman with any intelligence and self-respect be a Muslim?

That, I think, is enough to start with.
I will leave it up to mullah to answer the questions but here is what I have learned from the Koran so far:

1. Allah is the same god that is in the bible., it is just that the other faiths have not correctly followed his word.

2. They are born into it and they are circumcised at about the age of 13, as are males. They know nothing different so they go along with it so they can get to heaven with all the flowing water and fountains.

Under Repair.
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20-04-2012, 09:11 PM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
(20-04-2012 08:28 PM)itsacow Wrote:  
(20-04-2012 07:31 PM)Chas Wrote:  Welcome.

Why do you believe in Allah? Why not some other god? Why any god?

Why would any woman with any intelligence and self-respect be a Muslim?

That, I think, is enough to start with.
I will leave it up to mullah to answer the questions but here is what I have learned from the Koran so far:

1. Allah is the same god as our god, it is just that the other faiths have not correctly followed his word.

2. They are born into it and they are circumcised at about the age of 13, as are males. They know nothing different so they go along with it so they can get to heaven with all the flowing water and fountains.
Our god? No

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-04-2012, 06:33 AM (This post was last modified: 21-04-2012 06:37 AM by Internet Mullah.)
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
(20-04-2012 10:01 AM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Do Muslims believe any interest rate > 0% constitutes usury? If so, how do they purchase houses? Do they have to save up the cash first?

First, I'm going to explain the relation between interest and usury according to Islamic perspective.

The consensus prevailing among Muslims throughout the world is that, usury, among other things, includes interest. The Arabic word for usury is "Riba" (as used in the Quran). Riba is an Arabic noun derived from the verb Raba meaning 'to increase', ‘to grow', or 'to exceed'. So, in the Islamic terminology, Riba is an extra profit or that profit which comes free from compensation or that extra earning obtained that is free of exchange. It has been described as a loan with the condition that the borrower will return to the lender more than the quantity borrowed. Again, the word literally means an "increment” or “excess," but in essence, it means unfair advantage or profiteering and this is what is prohibited for Muslims. Accordingly, the Pakistan Council of Islamic Ideology (PCII) also reflected this consensus on one of it's reports on the elimination of interest from the Pakistan economy stating that:

"The term riba (usury) encompasses interest in all its manifestations irrespective of whether it relates to loans for consumption purposes or for productive purposes, whether the loans are of a personal nature or of a commercial type, whether the borrower is a government, a private individual or a concern, and whether the rate of interest is low or high" (PCII, 1980, p.1). - Islamic Economics

The word "riba" as it appears in the Quran is translated in English as "usury" by some translators and as "interest" by others. However, both translations are correct because we go by a principle known as "usury includes interest" (whatever the interest rate is), and thus we do not take "interest" and "usury" separately. Rather, the two words can be used interchangeably as a translation of the word "Riba." They are almost the same thing to us because interest is just a milder form of usury, or less exorbitant than usury, but we still consider it usury. So, the answer to your question is that, if the interest rate is anything greater than zero percent, then yes, that constitutes usury.

You also wanted to know how we purchase houses if interest is something unlawful in our religion. Well, the thing is that we have to make a distinction between "taking" interest and "paying" interest. The Quran says that we are not allowed to take interest, but it doesn't say anywhere that we are forbidden to pay it (when required to do so). For example, in one of the verses, it says, "O you who believe! Do not consume Riba (interest), doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful" (3:130). And likewise, in every other verse which talks about interest, they only mention the sin of consuming/taking/devouring interest, not paying it. For that reason, I am of the opinion that paying interest is permissible for us in situations where there is no way to avoid it.

Furthermore, because of the structure of the world economy, in general, it may sometimes be impossible to save oneself from paying interest. The reason for this is that interest has been integrated into the economic structure in many parts of the world. So, sometimes we cannot avoid paying it. Under these circumstances, and especially when something is very important for a good/healthy survival (such as a house, for example), it is my opinion that a Muslim may be allowed to purchase that particular item while paying an interest rate without it being a sin. Only taking an interest would be a sin.

On the other hand, unlike myself, there are also many Muslims who believe that both taking and paying interest are sinful actions. That's why they will try to save up all the money to purchase a house. However, I think that belief is mainly caused by the interpretation of certain hadiths (or Prophetic narrations) that apply to certain cases during Muahammad's lifetime only, but not in general, and not supported by the Quran. You can read more about this at the article below (where my opinion is summarized in the last paragraph).

Regarding the Narratives Prohibiting Taking Interest

That being said, I should also mention that, for centuries in Christendom, usury meant "lending money at any interest rate" and was forbidden to Christians. Later on, at one point, the meaning of usury was changed to "lending money at an excessively high interest rate." Here's a quote below from Wikipedia that says:

Wikipedia Wrote:Originally, when the charging of interest was still banned by Christian churches, usury simply meant the charging of interest at any rate (as well as charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change). In countries where the charging of interest became acceptable, the term came to be used for interest above the rate allowed by law. The term is largely derived from Christian religious principles; Riba is the corresponding Arabic term and ribbit is the Hebrew word.

And lastly, what is the reason that interest and usury are prohibited in Islam? It's because they are both giving someone an unfair advantage, while usury is an excessive and a wicked charge of interest and therefore it is condemned by the Quran as well as the Bible. It is forbidden because the unscrupulousness of this practice causes the lender to become richer and the lendee, poorer. It is always going injure either of the two parties who are involved in a financial transaction. There are more reasons for the prohibition against usury/interest in Islam and they are explained in the following article: Usury and its Harm

(20-04-2012 10:01 AM)GirlyMan Wrote:  And KidCharlemagne just reminded me I was being a bit forward and even rude there. Welcome Mullah.

I do not think you were being rude, GM. You just asked a question. There's nothing rude about that. But, even if it is, it's not really going to affect my participation here. I mean, I don't have any kind of a big issue with how people want to express themselves to me (whether they're being rude, nice, or whatever). I will just focus on answering the questions as honestly as I can.

Morondog and Chas, you guys asked some good questions also (and difficult ones, too), but I'm going to reply to them later when I have more time. It might take me a while because there are lots of things that I want to explain. If anyone else has any comments and/or questions while you're waiting, then feel free to post them.
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21-04-2012, 10:26 AM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
(21-04-2012 06:33 AM)Internet Mullah Wrote:  
(20-04-2012 10:01 AM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Do Muslims believe any interest rate > 0% constitutes usury? If so, how do they purchase houses? Do they have to save up the cash first?

First, I'm going to explain the relation between interest and usury according to Islamic perspective.
...

Thanks, Mullah! I've asked that question going on a half dozen times here and now I got an answer.

(21-04-2012 06:33 AM)Internet Mullah Wrote:  
(20-04-2012 10:01 AM)GirlyMan Wrote:  And KidCharlemagne just reminded me I was being a bit forward and even rude there. Welcome Mullah.

I do not think you were being rude, GM. You just asked a question. There's nothing rude about that.

Felt rude to ask a question before a proper greeting is all. Wink

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21-04-2012, 02:15 PM
RE: An intro thread because I'm bored
First off, thank you for taking the time to answer the questions put to you so thoroughly! It's simply amazing the amount of knowledge you put into your posts, and I believe I speak for the community when I say thank you and that we really do appreciate it.

On an aside, if you have the time and are willing, might I suggest starting a "Ask a Muslim" thread in the Atheism and Theism section? Our friendly resident Calvinist, kingschosen, started his own and it's been a great success. The reason I suggest this is because the information you've already provided us is just too good to be hidden in the Introductions section Tongue and I'm sure there are many others already on this forum who have their own questions they'd like to ask and discuss with you.

(20-04-2012 08:58 AM)Internet Mullah Wrote:  Zephony, I think that you answered his questions very well and they are to the point. You're not wrong at all. So, thank you for answering them.

Now, I'm going to answer the questions also (since they were addressed toward me), and I'm going to explain everything more thoroughly for you guys.

Hehe, oops. Of course those questions were addressed towards you and I apologize for jumping the gun and answering them myself. It has been so long since I've exercised my knowledge of Islam that I needed to bring it to the forefront, and if my knowledge was rusty and incorrect, you would have corrected me. I'm glad to see I haven't lost too much of it and was pretty much right.

Here's hoping you don't hold it against me!

"The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace." -- Carlos Santana
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