How should government officials treat people?

SHAFAQNA – When Mohammad ibn Abi Bakr was the governor of Egypt, Imam Ali (AS) wrote to him: Be humble with people, be gentle and kind, be cheerful and smiling, treat people equally in your look, half look and at the time of staring at them, in order that those in high positions do not have the expectancy of your oppression, and the deprived ones do not get disappointed in your justice [1].

[1] Nahjul Balagah, Letter 27.


Imam Ali (AS): The holy Quran is undefeatable

SHAFAQNA – Imam Ali (AS) said: The book of Allah (SWT) which is amongst you is a speaker/communicator whose tongue will never get tired of talking about the truth, and is always expressive. The book of God is clear, articulate and eloquent. It is like a house which its pillars/columns will never collapse, and is the possessor of such greatness and strength that its friends/helpers will never be defeated [1].

[1] Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 133.


Nahjul Balagha – The Creation of the Universe

SHAFAQNA – In this sermon he recalls the creation of Earth and Sky and the creation of Adam and in it he mentions the Hajj

ومن خطبة له (عليه السلام) يذكر فيها ابتداءَ خلق السماءِ والاَرض، وخلق آدم عليه الصلاة والسلام

(فيها ذكر الحج)

(وتحتوي على حمد الله، وخلق العالم، وخلق الملائكة، واختيار الانبياء، ومبعث النبي، والقرآن، والاحكام الشرعية)

Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks.

الحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذَي لاَ يَبْلُغُ مِدْحَتَهُ القَائِلُونَ، وَلاِ يُحْصِي نَعْمَاءَهُ العَادُّونَ، ولاَ يُؤَدِّي حَقَّهُ الُمجْتَهِدُونَ، الَّذِي لاَ يُدْركُهُ بُعْدُ الهِمَمِ، وَلاَ يَنَالُهُ غَوْصُ الفِطَنِ، الَّذِي لَيْسَ لِصِفَتِهِ حَدٌّ مَحْدُودٌ، وَلاَ نَعْتٌ مَوْجُودٌ، وَلا وَقْتٌ مَعْدُودٌ، وَلا أَجَلٌ مَمْدُودٌ. فَطَرَ الخَلائِقَ بِقُدْرَتِهَ، وَنَشَرَ الرِّيَاحَ بِرَحْمَتِهِ، وَوَتَّدَ بِالصُّخُورِ مَيَدَانَ أَرْضِهِ.

The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute.

Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and whoever recognises His like regards Him two; and whoever regards Him as two recognises parts for Him; and whoever recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and whoever mistook Him pointed at Him; and whoever pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and whoever admitted limitations for Him numbered Him. Whoever said: ‘In what is He?’, held that He is contained; and whoever said: ‘On what is He?’, held He is not on something else.

أَوَّلُ الدِّينِ مَعْرِفَتُهُ، وَكَمَالُ مَعْرِفَتِهِ التَّصْديقُ بِهِ، وَكَمَالُ التَّصْدِيقِ بِهِ تَوْحِيدُهُ، وَكَمَالُ تَوْحِيدِهِ الاخْلاصُ لَهُ، وَكَمَالُ الاخْلاصِ لَهُ نَفْيُ الصِّفَاتِ عَنْهُ، لِشَهَادَةِ كُلِّ صِفَة أَنَّها غَيْرُ المَوْصُوفِ، وَشَهَادَةِ كُلِّ مَوْصُوف أَنَّهُ غَيْرُ الصِّفَةِ، فَمَنْ وَصَفَ اللهَ سُبْحَانَهُ فَقَدْ قَرَنَهُ، وَمَنْ قَرَنَهُ فَقَدْ ثَنَّاهُ،وَمَنْ ثَنَّاهُ فَقَد جَزَّأَهُ، وَمَنْ جَزَّأَهُ فَقَدْ جَهِلَهُ، وَمَنْ جَهِلَهُ فَقَدْ أشَارَ إِلَيْهِ، وَمَنْ أشَارَ إِلَيْهِ فَقَدْ حَدَّهُ، وَمَنْ حَدَّهُ فَقَدْ عَدَّهُ، وَمَنْ قَالَ: «فِيمَ» فَقَدْ ضَمَّنَهُ، وَمَنْ قَالَ: «عَلاَمَ؟» فَقَدْ أَخْلَى مِنُهُ.

He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.

كائِنٌ لاَ عَنْ حَدَث، مَوْجُودٌ لاَ عَنْ عَدَم، مَعَ كُلِّ شَيْء لاَ بِمُقَارَنَة، وَغَيْرُ كُلِّ شيء لا بِمُزَايَلَة، فَاعِلٌ لا بِمَعْنَى الْحَرَكَاتِ وَالاْلةِ، بَصِيرٌ إذْ لاَ مَنْظُورَ إلَيْهِ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ، مُتَوَحِّدٌ إذْ لاَ سَكَنَ يَسْتَأْنِسُ بهِ وَلاَ يَسْتوْحِشُ لِفَقْدِهِ.

خلق العالم

He initiated creation most initially and commenced it originally, without undergoing reflection, without making use of any experiment, without innovating any movement, and without experiencing any aspiration of mind. He allotted all things their times, put together their variations gave them their properties, and determined their features knowing them before creating them, realising fully their limits and confines and appreciating their propensities and intricacies.

أَنْشَأَ الخَلْقَ إنْشَاءً، وَابْتَدَأَهُ ابْتِدَاءً، بِلاَ رَوِيَّة أَجَالَهَا، وَلاَ تَجْرِبَة اسْتَفَادَهَا، وَلاَ حَرَكَة أَحْدَثَهَا، وَلاَ هَمَامَةِ نَفْس اضطَرَبَ فِيهَا. أَحَالَ الاْشياءَ لاِوْقَاتِهَا، وَلاَمَ بَيْنَ مُخْتَلِفَاتِهَا، وَغَرَّزَ غَرائِزَهَا، وَأَلزَمَهَا أشْبَاحَهَا، عَالِماً بِهَا قَبْلَ ابْتِدَائِهَا، مُحِيطاً بِحُدُودِها وَانْتِهَائِهَا، عَارفاً بِقَرَائِنِها وَأَحْنَائِهَا.

When Almighty created the openings of atmosphere, expanse of firmament and strata of winds, He flowed into it water whose waves were stormy and whose surges leapt one over the other. He loaded it on dashing wind and breaking typhoons, ordered them to shed it back (as rain), gave the wind control over the vigour of the rain, and acquainted it with its limitations. The wind blew under it while water flowed furiously over it.

ثُمَّ أَنْشَأَ ـ سُبْحَانَهُ ـ فَتْقَ الاْجْوَاءِ، وَشَقَّ الاْرْجَاءِ، وَسَكَائِكَ الَهوَاءِ، فأَجازَ فِيهَا مَاءً مُتَلاطِماً تَيَّارُهُ، مُتَراكِماً زَخَّارُهُ، حَمَلَهُ عَلَى مَتْنِ . الرِّيحِ الْعَاصِفَةِ، وَالزَّعْزَعِ الْقَاصِفَةِ، فَأَمَرَها بِرَدِّهِ، وَسَلَّطَهَا عَلَى شَدِّهِ، وَقَرنَهَا إِلَى حَدِّهِ، الهَوَاءُ مِنْ تَحْتِها فَتِيقٌ، وَالمَاءُ مِنْ فَوْقِهَا دَفِيقٌ.

Then Almighty created forth wind and made its movement sterile, perpetuated its position, intensified its motion and spread it far and wide. Then He ordered the wind to raise up deep waters and to intensify the waves of the oceans. So the wind churned it like the churning of curd and pushed it fiercely into the firmament throwing its front position on the rear and the stationary on the flowing till its level was raised and the surface was full of foam.

Then Almighty raised the foam on to the open wind and vast firmament and made there-from the seven skies and made the lower one as a stationary surge and the upper one as protective ceiling and a high edifice without any pole to support it or nail to hold it together.

Then He decorated them with stars and the light of meteors and hung in it the shining sun and effulgent moon under the revolving sky, moving ceiling and rotating firmament.

ثُمَّ أَنْشَأَ سُبْحَانَهُ رِيحاً اعْتَقَمَ مَهَبَّهَا، وَأَدَامَ مُرَبَّهَا، وَأَعْصَفَ مَجْرَاها، وَأَبْعَدَ مَنْشَاهَا، فَأَمَرَها بِتَصْفِيقِ المَاءِ الزَّخَّارِ، وَإِثَارَةِ مَوْجِ البِحَارِ، فَمَخَضَتْهُ مَخْضَ السِّقَاءِ، وَعَصَفَتْ بهِ عَصْفَهَا بِالفَضَاءِ، تَرُدُّ أَوَّلَهُ عَلَى آخِرِهِ، وَسَاجِيَهُ عَلَى مَائِرِهِ، حَتَّى عَبَّ عُبَابُهُ، وَرَمَى بِالزَّبَدِ رُكَامُهُ، فَرَفَعَهُ فِي هَوَاء مُنْفَتِق، وَجَوٍّ مُنْفَهِق، فَسَوَّى مِنْهُ سَبْعَ سَموَات، جَعَلَ سُفْلاَهُنَّ مَوْجاً مَكْفُوفاً، وَعُلْيَاهُنَّ سَقْفاً مَحْفُوظاً، وَسَمْكاً مَرْفُوعاً، بِغَيْر عَمَد يَدْعَمُهَا، وَلا دِسَار يَنْظِمُها.

ثُمَّ زَيَّنَهَا بِزينَةِ الكَوَاكِبِ، وَضِياءِ الثَّوَاقِبِ، وَأَجْرَى فِيها سِرَاجاً مُسْتَطِيراً، وَقَمَراً مُنِيراً: في فَلَك دَائِر، وَسَقْف سَائِر، وَرَقِيم مَائِر.


Why Muslims See the Crusades So Differently from Christians

SHAFAQNA – The following interview was conducted by in order to shed some light on how Muslims look upon a rather contentious chapter of our world history.

It’s often said that winners dictate history. Not so for the medieval holy wars called the Crusades.

Muslim forces ultimately expelled the European Christians who invaded the eastern Mediterranean repeatedly in the 12th and 13th centuries—and thwarted their effort to regain control of sacred Holy Land sites such as Jerusalem. Still, most histories of the Crusades offer a largely one-sided view, drawn originally from European medieval chronicles, then filtered through 18th and 19th-century Western scholars.

But how did Muslims at the time view the invasions? (Not always so contentiously, it turns out.) And what did they think of the European interlopers? (One common cliché: “unwashed barbarians.”) For a nuanced view of the medieval Muslim world, HISTORY talked with two prominent scholars: Paul M. Cobb, professor of Islamic History at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades, and Suleiman A. Mourad, a professor of religion at Smith College and author of The Mosaic of Islam.

HISTORY: Broadly speaking, how do Islamic perspectives on the Crusades differ from those of the Christian sources from Western Europe?
Suleiman Mourad: If we wrote the history of the Crusades based on Islamic narratives, it would be a completely different story altogether. There were no doubt wars and bloodshed, but that wasn’t the only or dominant story. There was also coexistence, political compromise, trade, scientific exchange, love. We have poetry and chronicles with evidence of mixed marriages.

Do Muslim perspectives match Western ones in terms of chronology and geography?
Paul Cobb: Chronologically, Muslim sources differ from the Christians because they don’t recognize the Crusades. They recognize the events we call the Crusades today simply as another wave of Frankish aggression on the Muslim world. (I use “Franks” or “Frankish” to refer to western Christians.) For them, the Crusades didn’t begin in Clermont with Pope Urban’s 1095 speech [rallying crusaders], as most historians say, but rather decades earlier. By 1060 Christians were not only nibbling at the edges of the Islamic world, but were actually gaining territory in Sicily and Spain. And whereas most Western historians recognize the 1291 fall of Acre as the end of the main Crusades, Muslim historians don’t see the end of the Frankish threat until, I would say, the mid-15th century, when Ottoman armies conquer Constantinople.

SM: To say the Crusades started in Clermont in 1095 and ended at Acre in 1291, we are fooling ourselves. History is not that clean cut. What came before and after reflected a lot of continuity and not abrupt change.

And geographically?
PC: Muslims saw the Frankish threat as Mediterranean-wide. It’s not just Franks invading Jerusalem, holding it 87 years and leaving, but a long-term and consistent assault on the most exposed areas of the Mediterranean edge of Muslim world—Spain, Sicily, North Africa, and what is now Turkey—over hundreds of years.

Let’s back up. As the Crusades began, what were the physical boundaries of the Islamic world?
PC: The Islamic world—that is, those lands that recognized Muslim rulers and the authority of Islamic Law—was much bigger than the land of the Latin Christian west. It stretched from Spain and Portugal in the west to India in the east. And from central Asia in the north to Sudan and the horn of Africa in the south.

Portrait of Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. While Saladin led Muslim opposition to the western Crusaders, he also befriended some, like King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images) Portrait of Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. While Saladin led Muslim opposition to the western Crusaders, he also befriended some, like King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

At that time, the core of the Islamic world was divided between a Shi’ite dynasty in Egypt and a Sunni dynasty in Syria and Iraq. But there was eventually a movement toward unification, right?
PC: Saladin, Islam’s most famous counter-crusading hero, was a very astute politician who knew he had to get his own house in order before he could deal with the Franks. He took over Egypt, then set about reconquering Syria and parts of Iraq. He would go on to ultimately recapture Jerusalem from the crusaders and push them back to a thin strip along the Mediterranean.

Tell me about medieval Islamic civilization. Wasn’t there a flowering in the 9th and 10th centuries?
SM: Actually, Islam’s “golden age” goes much longer, from the 9th to the 14th centuries—and it moves around, from Baghdad to Damascus to Cairo. Within that time, there were golden ages of mathematics and astronomy and medicine, with many advances. One example: A physician named Ibm al-Nafis, who lived in the 13th century in Cairo, was the first person to describe the pulmonary circulation of blood—four centuries before the Europeans discovered that.

The main accomplishment was when, on a large scale, Muslims began to creatively engage with the science and philosophy of the classical Greco-Roman-Byzantine tradition—and began to rethink those ideas. For pretty much the whole apparatus of science, mathematics and logic, Muslim scholars, along with others based in the Muslim world, provided corrections to the Greco-Roman tradition.

How would you compare European and Islamic civilizations during this time?
PC: The Islamic world was much bigger and more urbanized, with more wealth and cultural patronage, and more ethnic and linguistic diversity. Whereas the cities of western Christendom had populations measured in the thousands—Paris and London would have had maybe 20,000 each—Baghdad likely had hundreds of thousands of citizens.

So we’re talking about an invasion of peoples from a marginal, underdeveloped region of the world to one of the most urbanized, culturally sophisticated zones on the planet. That accounts for the sense of trauma from the Muslim side. How could people from the edge of the known world invade this divinely protected, culturally sophisticated and militarily triumphant region? There was a lot of soul searching on the part of the Muslims.

Saladin's forces recapture Jerusalem from the crusaders, 1187. (Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images) Saladin’s forces recapture Jerusalem from the crusaders, 1187. (Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

If the crusaders’ mandate was to reclaim the Holy Land and regain control of important Christian sites like Jerusalem, what was the importance of this territory for the Islamic world?
PC: Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest cities after Mecca and Medina, was one of its most pious pilgrimage sites. Islamic tradition built on many Christian traditions and revered many of the same figures known from the Bible and elsewhere—including Jesus. So for them, Jerusalem was at the center of a vast sacred landscape that stretched to Palestine and Syria.

SM: There’s a lot of literature that enjoins Muslims to protect the Holy Land and safeguard it as an Islamic space. But many places—in Jerusalem, in Acre, Saidnaya and elsewhere—were claimed by more than one community. These were sacred sites for everyone, not just one group.

Wait. So they were actually sharing sacred sites that, in theory, they were supposed to be fighting over?
SM: Today we have a rigid understanding of sacred sites being for one group, and the others won’t—and shouldn’t—come near it. Back then, there was a more collective approach to sanctity of space. The Islamic theory said, “we should fight these people and protect the Holy Land.” But in practice, they were willing to share. We know for a fact that when the crusaders came, most Muslims did not raise a finger. And to a large extent, the crusaders didn’t interfere with Muslim religious space.

No sooner did the crusaders infiltrate, they were accepted into the political landscape as any others that came: with alliances, wars, treaties, commerce. We have letters from Saladin to the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin III, that convey friendship and deep alliances. The relationship wasn’t dogmatic, it was pragmatic.

What did medieval Muslims think of Europeans?
SM: The broad Muslim perception of Europeans was as cross-eyed barbarians. There were clichés that got repeated up until the 19th century—usually about their lack of cleanliness, the fact that they defecate in the street without any sense of privacy. There is a story about crusader medicine, that they blood-let in order to let the demons out. The people who knew the crusaders gave a much more refined understanding, but the positive narratives were not widely disseminated.

PC: Muslim travelers had a hierarchical world view. In the center was the Islamic world. On its margins, the people of Western Europe weren’t on the extreme edge, but were warming their hands on the fires of civilization. Europe was considered cold and dark and surrounded in mist. In ancient medieval ethnography, geography was destiny. It was believed the Franks were hairy, pale and from the dark and unwashed North. The medieval Islamic world’s view of the west is a mirror of today’s view of Islam by the west: exotic and distant, populated by a fanatical warlike population, slow to develop, economically backwards—with nice monuments and raw materials, but otherwise not much to recommend it.

What do specific accounts say?
PC: Most famously there was an Arabic author named Ibrahim Ibn Ya’qub, who traveled around Europe in the 10th century, and his work was quoted by others. He left first-hand accounts of France, Italy and Germany, among other places. We learn, for example, of lushness of the land in Bordeaux, feasting practices in Germany, even whaling practices near Ireland. For all these, he was pleased by the land, but appalled by the people he met. “They do not bathe except once or twice a year, with cold water,” he wrote. “They never wash their clothes, which they put on once for good until they fall into tatters.” What you have is a classic strategy by which one society “others” another society—much as Europeans did to Muslims.

SM: Those who lived with the crusaders at close range sometimes gave a subtler picture. A diplomat named Usama ibn Munqidh went to crusader territories and befriended the leaders. He writes about visiting a court, and being very impressed with it. He liked that it wasn’t fully autocratic.

Jerusalem was one of the holiest places in the eastern Mediterranean—for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. (Credit: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images) Jerusalem was one of the holiest places in the eastern Mediterranean—for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. (Credit: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

What did Muslims think of Templar knights?
PC: They were aware of the Templars’ special status as elite holy warriors and considered them their most fearsome Frankish opponents. They also saw them as principled, fanatically loyal and unwaveringly fierce. It’s a backhanded compliment that after the battle of Hattin in 1187—the great defeat of the Franks at the hands of Saladin, who was usually magnanimous—he insisted the Templar prisoners be executed because they were seen as such a dire threat.

On the other side, Usama Ibn Munqidh tells the story of a Frank, recently arrived to the Holy Land, who harassed him about how he was praying when he was in a Templar chapel. And the Templars apologized and helped Usama. Hosting him to pray was part of a diplomatic code.

SM: The Templars represented to the Muslims a model blending religiosity and militancy that was novel. To give a modern parallel, they were perceived not unlike the way Muslims today might think of Isis: that they are too fanatic for their taste. They bring to their fighting a kind of religious zeal, and they bring to their religion a kind of militancy.

Are jihad and crusade related?
PC: There is a family resemblance because they share roots in monotheism, where God is a jealous God. And both Crusades and Jihad offered martyrdom to those who die. But while they look alike, they have some important differences. Crusades were directed at the liberation of sacred land considered rightfully Christian, whereas Jihad was about rescuing souls.

SM: I personally don’t find any structural difference between the two. Jihad has an Islamic concept: religiously sanctioned aggression. The Crusades were precisely that.

What was the impact of the Crusades in the Muslim world?
SM: The legacy of the Crusades in the Muslim world is that a lot of Muslims think of where they are today in terms of Western encroachment. For some, the Crusades are seen not just as a medieval threat, but as a present one—a perpetual Western attempt to undermine Islam. It could be physical colonialism or cultural colonialism.

The groups that paid the biggest price of the crusader experience were the local (non-European) Christians. By the time the crusaders were kicked out, the dominant ruling dynasties happened to be Sunni. Many Shi’ites and local Christians felt their best option was to convert. After the crusader period, the Middle East becomes far less Christian and far less Shi’ite.

Why are the Crusades still relevant today in the Middle East?
PC: It’s a bit like what Mark Twain said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.” Modern ideologues might draw on the Crusades to justify contemporary conflict as part of some millennium-long continuum. But the truth is, crusaders and Muslims fought for their own goals, not for the ones that motivate us today.

SM: Three words: politics of religion.


Michigan Muslim Student Association Hosts Islam Awareness Week

SHAFAQNA – In the wake of escalating tension and prejudice throughout the US, Michigan State University’s Muslim Student Association hosted an Islam Awareness Week to promote understanding of the religion to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Anti-Muslim assaults and hate crimes have reached peak levels, exceeding 2001’s rate, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. The FBI reported 127 assaults in 2016 as compared to 93 during the year of 9/11. Across the board, vandalism and intimidation against Muslims is also increasing.

Islam Awareness Week spanned six days and featured presentations from an imam, seminars about different branches of Muslims worldwide, and a talk on Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) and how it distorts the Quran. Each night was capped off with food from a Muslim-dominated country.

On the fifth night of festivities, MSU Religion Professor Mohammed Khalil spoke to a packed room about Daesh and how it manipulates Islamic Law to give credibility to their twisted values. Khalil specializes in Islamic thought and Muslim culture.

MSA Vice chairman, Batoul Sadek, a human biology major, said the event gave students an opportunity to create change at a grassroots level.

“There’s a very negative Muslim rhetoric, and so we wanted to start small and focus on how we can change things on campus,” he said.

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