A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
A DREAM WORTH THE ENTIRE WORLD
Can Genes Alone Explain Everything? modesT dress in abrahamic TradiTions
July / August 2008
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Wherever we look, whatever we see, there is Your Beauty, All seen things swaying with secrets, In this bright world, with its colorful contents… If only we could once see through this mystery!
NOVEMBER ∙ DECEMBER 2008 ISSUE 66
t missed the seventh anniversary of 9/11 by a hair’s breadth, but many will remember 9/15 of 2008 as being as traumatic as the former, if not as tragic, when Lehman Brothers, a gigantic investment bank in the US, filed for bankruptcy. Shockwaves in the aftermath soon hit shores across the ocean with stocks plummeting, and now everyone is expecting financial storms to take effect worldwide. We will all be economically hurt by this global credit crunch, but in order to take lessons from this misfortune, a careful analysis of the causes that paved the way to this result has to be very well considered. The presidential candidate of the Democrats in the US, Barack Obama, comments on this crisis in an email posted on his campaign web site (http://my.barackobama.com): “The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has created a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression.” Likewise, Nicole Pope of Today’s Zaman wrote “Shorttermism and greed are clearly not a sustainable combination,” warning of the challenges economies worldwide will face in the coming years. Greed is a very powerful feeling in human beings; if not restrained, it is very harmful. Expressing his deep longing for times when most of the crimes we know today “only existed in the dictionary,” Gülen is in a sense pointing to this sickness of greed of today when he praises “the auspicious people of those days” who “were exceptionally contented with what they possessed, stayed away from what was forbidden, and fixed on what was lawful, and they pursued a life in justice.” Greed for more property, greed for more wealth, territory, welfare, comfort, and pleasure can only be subdued by contentment.
A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
November / December 2008
The Aral Sea is another victim of greed. The communist regime, which wanted to transform the whole of Uzbekistan into a huge field of cotton, diverted the rivers that fed this, once the fourth biggest inland sea in the world, into deserts. The regime was successful in that Uzbekistan really became the largest cotton producer of the world; but the cost was high. Timur Ceylan analyzes a very serious ecological problem in Asia as the Aral Sea is dying before the world’s eyes.
Three articles in this edition are dedicated to topics concerning women in the context of Islam. Fulya Celik deals with the enormous change in the lives of women that took place following the advent of Islam. Stressing an analysis of the social conditions before and after Islam, she mainly discusses how Qur’anic principles restored the universal human rights women were denied before and even today. Eren Tatari deals with her experience of the dress code of Islam for women. Drawing attention to Christian nuns and icons of Virgin Mary as well as the Jewish dress code for women, she underlines the fact that covering one’s body is in the nature of being human and Islam was not the first to enjoin it. And finally, Asli Sancar narrates her journey into discovering a role model for women, a journey which started in the US, continued in Turkey for decades, and was crowned back in the US with her award-winning book: Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality.
Arts & Culture
A Dream Worth the Entire World M. Fethullah Gülen
/ Women and the Qur’anic Prescriptions
/ Time Management in the Life of
the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Yuksel A. Aslandogan
On Hibernation and Bedsores Omar Bagasra D. Gene Pace
/ Knocking on Your Door
M. Fethullah Gülen
/ Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time
Review by Korkut Altay
Reevaluating Cholesterol Bulent Aydogan
/ The Death of the Aral Sea
/ Can Genes Alone Explain Everything?
/ From Soap Bubbles to Technology
/ The Eighty-Twenty Rule in the Risale-i Nur
Is Redundancy Always Redundant?
/ Ruminants and Their Contribution to Our Life
/ Soil-Cleaning Plants
H. Arif Ustaoglu
/ It’s me, Peter, your intestine!
Modest Dress in Abrahamic Traditions Eren Tatari
Belief Spırıtual Lıfe
A Journey of Discovery Asli Sancar
/ Khawf and Khashya (Fear and Reverence)
M. Fethullah Gülen
/ You alone do we worship
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M. Fethullah GĂźlen
Every day started with a new beauty as the cries of spring were heard everywhere; the morning breeze brought the scent of Prophet Josephâ€™s shirt and rivers overflowed from the life-giving spring of Prophet Job . . . a kind of joy from the afterlife was being tasted in this realm. As the days were illumined with the rays from the sun, so were our hearts lit with the light from beyond the heavens.
thers may think differently; but for me our world is so charming with its exquisite climate, landscape, mountains and rivers, orchards, prairies, and prosperous settlements. It is so welcoming and tender that those who can once perceive its essence fall in love with it and never consider leaving it. I reckon having a bond to this world a privilege and bliss. I have always been rejuvenated by it when I was inside this realm, and when outside I am consoled by its colorful images in my memory. In my view, with its wonderful people, welcoming nature, and geographical features, this realm is no different than a hallway to the heavens. Once upon a time in its golden age this realm used to be perceived as a trajectory to the highest gardens of Paradise, and its value was worth the entire world. In those days, travelers from faraway lands would visit this realm, and once they sipped its dazzling flavor and felt inside the heavenliness in its aura their spirits were raised, and on departure they comforted their hearts with a promise of a revisit. The inhabitants of this realm were more intimately connected with physical phenomena than we are today; they were in close embrace with all existence, and were like brothers and sisters to nature. Their homes, villages, and towns were in harmony with nature from all aspects; they were spacious and heart-expanding, and their surroundings were like a botanic garden. With their celestial horizons, crystal-clear sentiments, and otherworldly spirits these homes, villages, and towns made people living there feel as if Paradise was only one step away. This was why people considered their graves an important station on this journey of a single step. They decorated their cemeteries with the colors and patterns of their angelic horizons, for they believed the cemetery was the first point of arrival in the
Afterlife. They transformed this splendid area, which appears horrific to the materialistic mind’s eye, into a pleasant resort. When we were ourselves, our homes, streets, and walkways exchanged warm glances with their inhabitants; their demeanor was so meaningful that those who could observe them from the angle of their spirit could feel as if these places were intoning things that were unique to our realm. Almost everyone in this realm was intoxicated with a kind of music originating in their heart and refined in their beliefs, dreams, and subconscious. Every moment thrilled them with a different breeze of meanings and they were overjoyed. There were occasional occurrences of frustration and sorrow, but they did not last for long. Such moments were immediately followed by the victory of this realm’s unique character, texture, and ever-enchanting nature that would overcome all the tumult in people’s conscience and convert the darkest autumns into the brightest springs. Our days and nights were always cordial, our months and years were all resplendent. Every day started with a new beauty as the cries of spring were heard everywhere; the morning breeze brought the scent of Prophet Joseph’s shirt and rivers overflowed from the life-giving spring of Prophet Job . . . a kind of joy from the afterlife was being tasted in this realm. As the days were illumined with the rays from the sun, so were our hearts lit with the light from beyond the heavens. Like sunflowers, the eyes of the heart were vigilant for this light, our souls lived on a schedule adjusted according to the prayer times—the propitious times of the day—and hearts would beat with its excitement. Each portion of the day would then become like a new festival; each week, month, and year would come and pass in unique colors, caressing the heads of these fortunate people and reminding them every season that they were strolling on the walkways of Paradise. Every morning in the lands of this privileged community was like a kind of Resurrection; every noon rose with a new touch of heat; a cool breeze was felt everywhere in the afternoon; the music of silence was heard in the depths of the heart every evening . . . the entire day
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offered a feast of scenery through its windows opened to the beyond. Enchanted by this profundity and color, even the ones with hearts harder than rocks would soften like silk. The generations of those days were blessed with glowing hearts and an affectionate setting. Unyielding security and peace ruled everywhere. Mobs, anarchy, tyranny, deep state, unsolved murders . . . these crimes that we experience so much today were unknown to those generations. They were foreign words, for order, harmony, justice, and mercy prevailed in their realm. Ambition, jealousy, ill-gotten gains, illegal hoards, bribery, nepotism, swindling, cheating, embezzlement . . . these crimes were out of the question. Indeed, some of them only existed in the dictionary, for the auspicious people of those days were exceptionally contented with what they possessed, stayed away from what was forbidden, and fixed on what was lawful, and they pursued a life in justice. Occurrences of enmity, feelings of murder and revenge, mischief and corrupt plots, passion for authority were the rarest things, for the people’s mindset was directed towards a serious dialogue effort, a philosophy of tolerance, an ethics based on love and compassion. Autocratic rule was regarded as tyranny from ancient times; for them, despots were no different than pharaohs and were mentioned
with imprecations; defaming and classifying others were works of despicable ones. People maintained a life in humility, munificence, and generosity—they acted on forgiveness and courage, breathed with sacrifice and sincerity. In that bright era, alcoholism, drug abuse, smuggling were never as frequently committed as today. You would not see modern problems like “homeless children” or “addictions to various substances” even as entries in dictionaries. For people then behaved with their hearts, spirits, and minds in control; there were people who made intellectual efforts, sincere hearts that beat for their country and humanity. They were the prototype people of virtue, and in their abode neither filthy affairs such as those listed above nor corruptions like sinfulness, prostitution, impertinence, and bohemian lifestyles that bring disgrace on being human, could exist. Above all, avoiding sin, and maintaining chastity, virtue, divine ethics, and accountability were their most distinct attributes and natural state of being. They were on a straight track with a clear road map in their hands; they were blessed with a humane profundity that prepared them to walk on such a broad road. They lived straight, walked straight, and became a blissful memory for the generations to come. I wonder where we are on this road.
Omar Bagasra D. Gene Pace
Hibernation AND Bedsores
You would have thought them awake though they were asleep. We caused them to turn over to the right and the left, and their dog lay outstretching its two forelegs on the threshold. Had you come upon them unprepared, you would certainly have turned away from them in flight, and would certainly have been filled with awe of them. (Kahf 18:18)
eligion involves abstract concepts, including the belief in a Supreme Being that can intervene in human affairs. Such intervention can take the form of divine communication, which in its written form becomes scripture, the holy word that exceeds in quality and wisdom the literary achievements of mortal writers. These writings outline basic beliefs, and provide counsel that give humans certain guidance as they pursue their mortal pilgrim-
age in an uncertain world. Besides their profound impact on individuals, these guidelines help to form, and even transform, cultural and behavioral patterns that unify group thinking and social structure, that influence legal codes, that shape educational programs, and that influence life in innumerable ways. Religion, with its reliance on faith in the unseen, seems to clash with the scientific method, with its insistence on empirical data, on proof. Yet no such clash exists in
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Secrets of Modern Science Embedded in the Qurâ€™an
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true religion, which embraces all truth, visible or invisible, from whatever source. Faith and science, then, are merely different ways of knowing, two useful means of discerning truth. Science and religion are so intertwined that some church names announce the connection: Church of Scientology, and Church of Christ, Scientist. Some of the great scientists do not feel there is a scienceonly limit on their research, and perceive themselves as much more than narrowly-focused scholars. For example, Dr. Francis H. C. Crick (1916–2004), the co-discoverer of the current DNA double helix model, researched the human spirit1; Dr. Henry D. Eyring (1901–1981), world famous for his work on reaction rates in chemistry, saw no conflict between authentic religion and accurate science.2 These and innumerable scientists have affirmed belief in the existence of the human spirit and life after death. The claim that the Holy Qur’an is scripture sent by the Creator Himself should be easily verifiable in any stage of human civilization, according to the degree of knowledge a society has at a specific time. Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the last and final revelation of God, the miracle of miracles. It is the ultimate book of guidance and warning for the whole of humanity, a merciful message for mankind sent by God through the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). Therefore, Muslims critically investigate the veracity of its claims, and analyze them scientifically; they find every aspect of it to be true according to well established scientific facts. It is pertinent to mention that we are only talking about well-established scientific facts, not theories or hypotheses, which are numerous and prone to change.3 Modern humans, however, too often have sold themselves short by limiting the quest for truth to empirical logic and reason, by granting science supremacy over scripture. This is not to say that the scientific quest is fruitless, simply that it is unduly limited. Islam has made reason the ultimate judge in everything; in the Qur’an, God links disbelief to the refusal to use reason: “Those who disbelieve simply do not use their reason and neither do they understand” (Baqara 2:171). Reason and understanding, then, are meant to buttress belief, to fortify faith. Otherwise, one incurs the merited displeasure of God, who not only compares the disbeliever to one “who hears the sounds of a call but does not dis-
tinguish any word or idea,” but also teaches that to converse with such a person “is like talking to the deaf, dumb, and blind” (Baqara 2:171). In the Holy Qur’an, God calls upon humans to look into the universe and discover its construction and structure. He commands them to do so in the conviction that their investigation of the organization of the universe will lead them to the discovery of God and His Unity: “In the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the succession of day and night, in the phenomena of ships sailing across the seas with goods for the welfare of human beings, in the fall of rain water from sky to quicken a dead earth, in populating the earth with all species of animals, in ordering of winds and clouds between sky and earth – in all these there are signs and pieces of evidence for those who reason” (Baqara 2:164). According to the Qur’an, any scripture claiming to be a divine revelation must also be acceptable on the strength of its own reason and logic. The Qur’an is not a book of science but one of signs (each verse in the Qur’an is called aayaat which also means “sign”). Nevertheless, it conveys scientific knowledge; of the 6,000 or more verses in the Qur’an, over 1,000 of them deal with core scientific facts. For example, Anbiya 21:30 suggests that the discovery of an expanding universe, commonly called the Big Bang theory, was revealed by illuminating inspiration long before it was discovered by such scientific luminaries as Edwin Hubble and Alan Guth: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?” The Holy Qur’an is full of scientific explications, including tantalizing intellectual nuggets that describe the spherical nature of planets, the nature of their orbits, human embryology, and the fundamental role water plays in life on planet Earth.4 In this article, we would like to point out a yet another scientific secret that apparently has not been analyzed by Qur’anic scholars. The verse with which this article begins (Kahf 18:18) invites discussion of two important topics that are of interest to modern physicians and others: hibernation, and the prevention of bedsores that may afflict humans during times of extended immobility, as in hibernation or serious paralytic or other illness. In the Qur’anic story of the “people of the cave,” two signs appear: an instance of
long-term sleep (hibernation) and a simple method to prevent bedsores. The chapter state that a small group of youth, believers in One God who were fleeing their own family for fear of persecution, took refuge, and sought divine grace in a large remote cave, for which they are known as the “people of the cave.” They were overtaken by sleep in the cave, which was away from sunlight and is mentioned as one of the Signs of God. These youth slept in the cave with their dog for an exceptionally long time (309 years according to the verse 18:25), during their slumber their physical position was periodically changed, and the cave was away from direct sunlight. You would have seen the sun, when it rose, moving away from their Cave to the right, and when it set, turning away from them to the left, while they lay in a spacious hollow in the Cave. That was one of God’s signs. (Kahf 18:17) Let us now discuss these topics: the hibernation or a state of sleep in which they thought they were awake— a hypnogogic state, the repeated turning over, and the avoidance of sunlight in the cave. First, let us examine hibernation, which is defined as a state in which mammals, and some non-mammals, experience depressed metabolic activity characterized by exceptionally slow breathing and lower body temperature during an extended period of inactivity. A means of rest and energy conservation, hibernation reduces the need for food by relying on fats already present in the body itself. Bears are perhaps best known for their hibernation during winter, when food is more difficult to acquire, but squirrels, bats and rodents also hibernate. The Common Poorwill, a bird found in North America, hibernates, as does the Western Diamondback rattlesnake, and the Dwarf Lemur, which hibernates more than half the year (sometimes in warm temperatures). It should be noted that in the Qur’an the hibernation is described as a hypnogogic state, a state when a person believes that he or she is kind of awake. Scientists and others are currently intrigued by the potential that hibernation offers to humans. Could induced hibernation save a seriously injured person until appropriate medical help arrives? Could hibernation reduce the demands on the heart and other organs of
seriously ill patients? Could life be extended through this means? Would persons suffering from clinical depression benefit from some “time off” with no stress? What about astronauts, who would benefit from hibernation during long flights to distant locations in space?5 The Qur’an seems to suggest the possibility of space travel, as allowed by God: “O company of jinn and men, if you have power to penetrate (all) regions of the heavens and the earth; then penetrate (them)! You will never penetrate them save with (Our) sanction. Then, which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” (Rahman 55:33–34) Is there any evidence of human hibernation in recent years? Of course, the story of the believers mentioned in the Qur’an relates to a miracle that occurred long ago and it is mentioned to show the power of belief, and as one of the small signs denoting God’s existence and His mercy. However, documented occurrences of human hibernation in recent years have been highly publicized. For instance, in 1991, Brittany Eichelberger, a West Virginia three-year-old, was rescued from a late December snowdrift, on a night when temperatures fell to –3°C. She survived, lost only a portion of one toe, and suffered a little from a weak arm and some minor pneumonia. A decade later, thirteen-month-old toddler Erika Nordby seemed to have frozen to death after crawling into the cold one night in Edmonton, Canada in February 2001. Although clinically dead, she came back after serious treatment by doctors who dealt with frostbite issues and were astounded to find that she suffered no major brain or other physical injuries that would be expected for one who had been outside for perhaps three to four hours. Although the brain had been deprived of oxygen for an extended time period, apparently the decreased body temperature and the resultant metabolism slowdown reduced the need for normal brain activity and blood flow. These “miracles” have prompted increased interest in whether similar miracles could be intentionally performed to prolong life. Karlee Kosolofski, a two-year-old, survived a sixhour ordeal in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, Canada on a night so cold (–22°C) that her body temperature plummeted to a documented 14.16°C (which placed her in the Guinness Book of World Records). A physician who helped her survive likened her badly-frozen legs to
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ice blocks. She lost a leg, had another severely scarred, and required grafts and surgeries. Ironically, Krista Rempel, the paramedic who was first on the scene in Rouleau later arrived first in Edmonton, to rescue Erika Nordby.6 To religious observers aware of the dual-rescue “coincidence,” it seemed apparent that the same paramedic was assigned to serve by God again to witness another miracle. Cryogenics, which deals with the changes in materials when frozen, has helped humans (including astronauts and heart patients) by improving materials that help propel spacecrafts or that make open heart surgery safer. But what about the branch of cryogenics called cryonics, which deals directly with people, specifically frozen people? Could people be intentionally frozen until specialized help arrives within a few hours? What about within a few decades? Could patients be placed in suspended animation until a surgical procedure is improved or until genetic engineering becomes more advanced? So far, cryonicists have not succeeded in freezing and then reviving humans. Hibernation induction (inducement) triggers (HIT) Scientists have good reason to hope that induced hibernation can work on humans because it has worked on animals. For example, when HIT—hibernation induction (inducement) trigger—is extracted from the blood of a hibernating squirrel in winter and injected into an active squirrel in the spring, this second squirrel goes into hibernation. HIT can even be shown to induced short-term hibernation in a monkey, which normally does not hibernate.7 HIT, which a bear’s body releases when the temperature decreases, is thought be a type of opiate that is similar to morphine in its chemical makeup (http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/animals.html). Could HIT help terminally ill patients, such as cancer patients who take morphine? Could it lengthen the time that animal or human organs can remain independent in transplant operations? Studies have shown that a synthetic substitute called DADLE, can dramatically “increase the time animal organs can survive in the laboratory from 8 hours to 46 hours by using an opiate-like compound in combination with a preservation method that keeps a number of organs from the same donor animal linked with connecting veins.”8 In the Qur’an we do not find mention of the hi-
bernation inducing agents that may be present in the cave, but it is intriguing to consider that various kinds of gases, including carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide, are found in dark caves. Called oxygen-mimetic gases, these have a molecular similarity to oxygen. Because they mimic oxygen in their binding capacity, these gases can inhibit the body’s capacity to utilize oxygen (known as oxidative phosphorylation). This inhibition is important because it can reduce metabolic activity to the point that a state like sleep or even hibernation can ensue. Later, revival occurs as organisms are again placed in regular air. The cave story in the Qur’an suggests that the cave was intentionally deprived of sunlight and kept cool. With regard to the second sign, the Holy Qur’an mentions a state of “a very long sleep” in a group of believers and their dog. One of the most interesting aspects of this miraculous sleep is that God says, “We caused them to turn over to the right and the left.” As any health care professional is well aware, a human being cannot lie down on a bed or on the ground for a long time without developing bedsores unless they change positions periodically. It is continual, unrelenting pressure that damages skin and other tissue and causes bedsores (pressure sores), especially when this pressure is applied to areas of skin that cover areas in which bones or cartilage are prominent. The parallel between the modern remedy for bedsores and the universal wisdom of the Qur’an is impressive. There are numerous secrets in the Qur’an that we see the world has ignored due to apathy, ignorance, or arrogance. Muslims, as well as others who seek for truth wherever it exists, would do well to pay closer attention to the Qur’an and to the aayaat or signs of God. As this article demonstrates, faith complements science at its best, and true science becomes a subset of true religion. Together, the two function more like an intertwined double-helix in DNA than like two geometric rays pointed in different directions. Dr. Bagasra, MD and PhD, is Professor of Biology and Director of the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology at Claflin University, SC. He is a winner of SC Governor’s Award for Scientific Awareness. Dr Bagasra is a practicing Muslim. Dr. Pace is a practicing Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who has great respect for the positive religious, cultural, and health contributions of Islam. The two have collaborated on HIV/AIDS re-
search and writing, and have worked together in India to organize HIV prevention programs. Both writers are Professors at Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA. Notes
Neither empty hope, nor despair... our path is truthfulness. ***
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1. See Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, 1994. 2. See The Faith of a Scientist, 1969. 3. See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962. 4. These and many other subjects have been explored by many authors—notably Dr. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qu’ran and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge (1990), but also by such scholars as A. Abd-Allah, The Qur’an, Knowledge, and Science (USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts. University of Soutern California. Internet. <http://www.usc.edu/dept/ MSA/quran/scislam.html>. Accessed 30 May 2008.), and Dr. Zakir Adbul Karim Naik, Qur’an and Modern Science – Compatible or Incompatible? (2003; see also http:// www.irf.net/irf/drzakirnaik/dznindex.htm (download of text), http://www.irf.net/irf/ drzakirnaik/index.htm, and http://www.islamicvoice.com/may.2000/religion.htm). 5. Tariq Malik, “A Sleepy Science: Will Humans Hibernate Their Way Through Space?”, Science 12 October 2004. Internet. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/ scitues_hibernation_041012.html. 6. CBC News Online, “Hypothermia.” Indepth: Health. 16 July 2004. Internet. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/ health/hypothermia.html. See also, Robert Roy Britt, “New Hibernation Technique Might Work on Humans.” 21 April 2005. Internet. http://www.livescience.com/ health/050421_hibernation.html, John Harlow, “Race to be first to ‘hibernate’ human beings.” The Sunday Times. TimesOnline. 27 May 2007. http://www.timesonline. co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article1845294.ece 7. Great Moments in Science, ABC, http://www.abc.net.au/ science/k2/moments/s1038546.htm. 8. (Neil Swan, “Hibernation-Triggering Opioid Extends Life of Organs for Transplantation.” NIDA Notes, Research Advances. Vol. 11, no. 1 Jan–Feb. 1996, See also Chien, S.; Oeltgen, P.R.; Diana, J.N.; Salley, R.K.; and Su, T.-P. Extension of tissue survival time in multiorgan block preparation with a delta opioid DADLE. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 107:965–67, 1994; Oeltgen, P.R.; Horton, N.D.; Bolling, S.F.; and Su, T.-P. Extended lung preservation with the use of hibernation trigger factors. Annals of Thoracic Surgery; Oeltgen, P.R.; Nuchols, P.A.; Nilekani, S.P.; Spurrier, W.A.; and Su, T.-P. Further studies on opioids and hibernation: Delta opioid receptor ligand selectively induced hibernation in summer-active ground squirrels. Life Sciences 43:1565–1574, 1988; Charles F. Schwartz, MD, Anthony J. Georges, MD, Marsha A. Gallagher, Le Yu, Kenneth S. Kilgore, PhD, Steven F. Bolling, MD, “Delta opioid receptors and low temperature myocardial protection.” Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 1999;68:2089–2092. Internet. http://ats.ctsnetjournals. org/cgi/content/abstract/68/6/2089.
Timur Ceylan “The Aral crisis is the best example of an ecological problem with serious social and economic consequences, directly or indirectly connected with all the states of Central Asia. The critical situation caused by the Aral Sea drying off was the result of agrarian economy tendency on the basis of irrigated agriculture development and volume growth of irrevocable water consumption for irrigation.” Conference of the Central Asian region ministers. States of Central Asia: Environment Assessment Aarhus, Denmark, 1998.
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he Aral Sea was once the fourth biggest inland sea of the world, located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (formerly in the Soviet Union). It moderated the inland climate for many centuries through water evaporation, which gave life to the surrounding deserts of Central Asia. The Aral Sea also was inhabited by more than one hundred fish species and supported productive fishing industries. Some fifty years ago the Aral Sea was surrounded by prosperous fishing towns like Moynaq.
The water area of Aral has periodically expanded and contracted in the course of history. These changes have affected the climate and the state of the region and led to important migrations in history. In spite of the massive glacier melting in the North and South Pole because of global warming, which would be expected to increase the level of inland waters, the Aral is rapidly losing its water. Because of poor environmental planning and the negligence of humans, the Aral Sea is now dying and according to the experts it will disappear in less than ten years. The Aral Sea started to dry off in the early twentieth century. In 1918 Lenin decided that the only two water supplies of the Aral, the River Amu and the River Syr should be diverted for irrigation of the desert to increase land for agriculture. The idea was to boost agriculture, and this worked for a short period of time. The Soviets or Uzbekistan became the world’s largest exporter of cotton, which they referred to as white gold. The area of irrigated lands increased from 3 million hectares to 8 million. The population of the region increased from 7 million (1940) to 50 million
age 20cm fall per year until the 1970s, when (2000). At the initial stage of this project which the fall became 50–60cm a year, and now it seemed a brilliant idea at first sight, the irriis 80–90cm a year. Especially in the period of gated land built up the economy of the Central 1960–1980 the diversion of water doubled, Asian Soviet States and produced millions of which reflected on cotton cropping as much as jobs. Although, the result of the project was on the decreasing sea level. brief joy and success, the price of poor planning turned out to be by far too high. The loss of water exposed the salty sea bed in the Southern Aral. Dust storms spread salty First of all, the government had decided to soil into the irrigated areas. Farmers tried to grow cotton in a desert terrain. Cotton farmfight against salt contamination by flushing the ing requires lots of water, which would not ocsoil with large volumes of water, which makes cur naturally in the desert. They also increased its way back to the sea. In addition, farmers the production of other crops like water melused high levels of pesticides and fertilizers ons, cereal, and rice. Diverting the rivers cut to increase the efficiency of crop production. the supply to the Aral Sea, and due to evapoHowever, these chemicals ration, it began to shrink. leave traces of nitrogen and The first irrigation canals his story has other salts in high amounts were initiated in the 1930s; in the soil. By flushing the everything in however, these canals were soil with water to reduce salt poorly built, extremely init. Humans levels, pesticides and fertilizefficient, and wasted more who disregard the ers were also washed out and than 50% of the water. Even ecosystem takes the further polluted the sea. today in Uzbekistan only gift in nature for 12% of canals are leakproof. Even more unsettling is The level of the sea has gone granted. As we can that the Soviet government down constantly ever since; knew that they would lose see, however, nain the 1960s it became obthe Aral Sea; in 1968 an exture is not infinite vious that the sea level was pert said “it is obvious to evand it is breakable. falling; there was an avereryone that the evaporation
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Hundreds of years may pass until the region completely recovers.
of the Aral Sea is inevitable”; and they also knew that fishing would be hit but the sad fact is that the government saw the Aral as an “error of nature.” The consequences of cutting the Aral’s water supplies and the irrigation of the desert were the beginnings of serious ecological and social problems in the 1960s. The sea was lost to fishing and transportation. This business of “killing nature” has not only affected the people living in the immediate vicinity of the sea. They did lose their jobs and they had to restart their lives, but the whole environment was affected too. Loss of water caused an increase in the overall salinity of the sea. Besides that, the bed of the sea, which held toxic chemicals and pesticides, was now revealed. The local drinking water is hence contaminated. The Aral was once the habitat of more than 120 unique species; now it has only thirtyeight. Being a heat reservoir, it had a cooling effect on the environment, but now the temperature can go above 120 degrees, winters still being harsh. Poisonous dust and salt storms take their toll. Infant mortality, tuberculosis, cancer and lung disease are thirty times higher than normal levels because the water is contaminated by fertilizers, pesticides and salt. Currently the sea has lost more than 60% of its surface area and more than 80% of its volume; as of 2004 the salinity is 45g/l, normal value being 10g/l. While shrinking, it has split into two lakes, the North and South Aral Seas, now 95 miles away from Moynaq, leaving vast areas of salty desert behind. A BBC reporter said, “What appears to be snow on the seabed is really salt. The winds blow this as far as the Himalayas. The children of Moynaq have made a playground out of the wrecks of ships which might have provided food and a future for them.”
Figure 1. Satellite Images of the Aral Sea in 1989 and 2003.
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Landsat mosaic at 250 m resolution. The image on the right was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on August 12, 2003. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
July - September, 1989 August 12, 2003
This story has everything in it. Humans who disregard the ecosystem takes the gift in nature for granted. As we can see, however, nature is not infinite and it is breakable. Hundreds of years may pass until the region completely recovers. The magnitude of the disaster is comparable in scope to those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and might be even worse. This is a great example of short-term greed and ill-guided economic moves disregarding the whole ecosystem and bringing consequences which have to be dealt with in the long run. In this particular case, there could have been other ways to avoid the damaging decision to cut the water supply of the lake fully, such as relying on a different type of crop which requires less water, or making more efficient use of water, and so on. This disaster is a single example of the type of global catastrophe we might encounter again in the future. This being so it should be kept in mind when we think of our future. A lot of the damage humankind causes might still be avoided if we act firmly and quickly. This is not just necessary for our grandchildren or our children but even for our own generation since the consequences of ecological destruction are being seen more rapidly now. The widely known global warming cannot be belittled, and, as the Aral Sea example might have taught us, the consequences can be terrible. It is likely that more such unpredicted events will afflict us. Added to this, there are water pollution, deforestation, and the destruction of wet-lands. Every day we hear or read about these consequences of negligence and greed. But these geographical features are all in perfect harmony, and we cannot rudely and unthinkingly destroy them. As Lester Brown comments, “Previous generations have always been anxious about the future, but we are the first who decide if the Earth inherited by our children will be inhabited.” Timur Ceylan is an expert engineer at AMD Technologies, San Francisco. References National report: “On the environment state and use of natural resources in the Republic of Uzbekistan.” State Committee on Nature Protection of Uzbekistan. Tashkent, 1998. K.Isentaev. “Geological structure and perspectives of oil and gas reserves of the Aral Sea.” Workshop report. Almaty, 1997. Ministerial conference of Central Asia. “Assessment of the environment.” Aarhus, Denmark, 1998. J. Mahambetova. Non-government union. “Aral tenizi.” Aralsk, 1999.
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Figure 2. Shipwrecks in Moynaq
The drying out of the Aral may lead to even more serious consequences in future if measures are not taken soon. First, increased temperatures may lead to the degradation of mountain glaciers. This could be highly dangerous for the region because the glaciers feed the River Amu and River Syr, and they are the only remaining storage for the supply of fresh water and moisture. Second, the Aral’s sea bed emits massive amounts of salt and dust into the atmosphere. Polluted air is carried over the area by a powerful air stream. Traces of pesticides and salt from the Aral region are now found in the blood of penguins in Antarctica. Moreover, the pollution affects areas thousands of miles away, such as the glaciers of Greenland and the forests of Norway. In 2003 Kazakhstan decided to make this split permanent by building a dam (Kokaral Dike) between the northern and southern parts. The restoration effort focuses on the Northern Aral which is small and less polluted. This seals the fate of the Southern Aral, and is synonymous with its vanishing. The northern water supply, the River Syr has been restored and diverted back into the sea. Although it will not be the same again for sure, planners think that fishing will be rescued and the North Aral Sea will stabilize the climate by smoothing out the high and low temperature extremes and increasing rainfall. The efforts have helped to lower the salinity level which has even allowed the reintroduction of fishing in this area. The result is surprisingly encouraging. There are other proposals like diverting the Volga, Ob, and Irtysh rivers but this would be very costly and could cause yet another catastrophe.
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the economic principles detailed in the Qur’an provided such rights to women that women in the rest of the “civilized” world would have to wait until the nineteenth century for these rights to be recognized and granted
ne of the most sensitive and oftdebated issues with regard to Islam concerns the status and role of women in society. Arguably one of the aspects of social life which the emergence of Islam affected most was the status of women, with “the Qur’an hav[ing] more to say about the position of women than any other social question.”1 At the time of its revelation in the seventh century, the Qur’an exacted considerable change in Arabian society regarding the question of women and continued to do so in the centuries that followed. The principles outlined in the Qur’an which determine the lives of Muslim women can be outlined in several distinct terms. These include the social, spiritual and economic status of women. In order to discuss the multiple nature of Islam’s reformations to the position of women, an exploration of pre-Islamic Arabian society, especially its sociopolitical, economic and religious landscape, and a comparison to Qur’anic principles, is required. The social milieu that provided the background for the emergence of Islam in Arabia is described by Muslims in one term: Jahiliyya, or The Age of Ignorance.2 Armstrong argues that this term was not used to define a historical era but to illustrate the spirit that pervaded this time of “spiritual and moral crisis,”3 thus referring “to a state of mind that caused violence and terror in seventh-century Arabia.”4 Women were not exempt from this violence and social crisis: infanticide, the burying alive of baby girls, was rife; marriage was not sanctioned5; women did not have the right of inheritance and bequest; they were not treated fairly during divorce; and women were not afforded full control of their wealth.6 It is in placing the Qur’an and its principles against the backdrop of such a setting that the reform-
The Qur’anic principle of spiritual and moral obligation has meant that women, from the very early days of Islam, have played an essential role, not just in practising the faith and engaging in Islamic mysticism,14 but also in writing the official history of Islam and compiling foundational works establishing the standards of religious and social practice for Islamic society.15 Another essential principle pertaining to women which is woven through the fabric of the Qur’an is that of marriage. Ahmed identifies marriage as the area where Islam has introduced the greatest reform, with no institution of marriage present at the advent of Islam.16 The reformist nature of Islam, however, lay not just in introducing new regulations, but also in overlaying new ideas to existing practice.17 While the institution of marriage, for instance, did not exist in the traditional form in pre-Islamic Arabia, there were different forms of it that were present.18 The Qur’an defines marriage as a contract between man and woman, with both assuming equal, though not identical, places. It sees the institution and the sexual relations between husband and wife not as shameful, but as commendable: By another sign He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you might live in peace with them, and planted love and kindness in your hearts.19 The status of women and the family in Islamic society was thus the product chiefly of Qur’anic prescriptions, which endure in affecting the lives of Muslim women. As a final point, the economic principles detailed in the Qur’an provided such rights to women that women in the rest of the “civilized” world would have to wait until the nineteenth century for these rights to be recognized and granted.20 With the advent of Islam, women were granted the right to inherit and bequeath property, have possession and complete control of their wealth and receive a dowry, while married and after divorce.21 The economic autonomy detailed in the Qur’an was perhaps one of the most striking reforms at the time, and still continues to be discussed today. The principles outlined in the Qur’an which regulate the lives of Muslim women transformed the tribal society in which Islam emerged. While a satisfactory evaluation of each of these principles is beyond the scope of this paper, it is axiomatic that the transformations that Islam induced have had far-reaching implications for the
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ist spirit of Islam, which restores the true human character, can be seen. One of the most important principles detailed in the Qur’an which regulates the lives of Muslim women is the spiritual status assigned to women. Viewed by Muslims as the literal word of God, the Qur’an is taken to be the means through which God makes Himself known and describes His laws.7 When Islam emerged in tribal Arabia, religion reflected the tribal nature of society and its social structure.8 Polytheism and idolatry were dominant, with the Ka‘ba, the shrine revered since the time of Abraham, housing 360 idols. Families banded together to form clans and clans came together to form tribes; tribal allegiance was the most important factor governing an individual’s position in society. One of the points discussed with reference to women in pre-Islamic society is the level of their participation in religious rites and traditions. Some have argued that, while being seen as improving the rights of women, the advent of Islam in fact restricted them. Leila Ahmed, most notably, includes among the roles of Jahiliyya women, “priestesses, soothsayers, prophetesses” and “warrior-leaders.”9 However, in his discussion of the feminine in Islamic mysticism, Elias locates the chief reason for women’s involvement in soothsaying, blackmagic and such occupations, as being women’s exclusion from religion.10 Islam’s emergence drastically altered the spiritual landscape of Arabia for women. One of the most important principles outlined in the Qur’an is the notion of religious, moral and spiritual, obligations being incumbent upon all individuals, regardless of sex. The Qur’an states, for example: “Those who submit to God and accept the true Faith; who are devout, sincere, patient, humble charitable, and chaste; who fast and are ever mindful of God—on these, both men and women, God will bestow forgiveness and a rich recompense.”11 Listing this and another ten sections from the Qur’an, Stowasser claims that these Qur’anic references “converge to establish the absence of the doctrine of woman’s spiritual inferiority in Koranic teaching.” 12 Moreover, in contrast to the central concept of Original Sin in Christianity and Judaism, the Qur’an never mentions that woman is the devil’s gateway or a deceiver by nature: The Qur’an clearly rejects any such notion of the “inherent” evil of woman. It explicitly demands respect for her “inherent” good as potential child-bearer (and primary nurturer). It places her on absolute par with men in terms of the spiritual potential (to know and serve Allah) and the potential to attain Paradise, provided she and he strive to realize such potential.13
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lives of Muslim women and have directly impacted how these lives are played out in ever-changing societies. Fulya Celik is coordinator of Religious Studies at a private college in Australia. Notes
Devotion is a very important merit on the way to realizing a cause.
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1. A. Guillaume, Islam, 2nd edn, Harmondsworth, 1956, p.71. 2. H. Smith, ‘Islam’, The World’s Religions, San Francisco, 1991, p.223. 3. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad:Prophet for Our Time, London, 2006, p.34. 4. Ibid., p.19-20. 5. L. Ahmed, ‘Women and the Advent of Islam’, Signs, Summer 1986, p.668. 6. B.F. Stowasser, ‘The Status of Women in Early Islam’, in Hussein, F (ed), Muslim Women, New York, 1984, pp.1517. 7. Smith, ‘Islam’, p.235. 8. J.L Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, New York, 2005, p.3. 9. Ahmed, ‘Women and the Advent of Islam’, p.691. 10. J.J. Elias, ‘Female and Feminine in Islamic Mysticism’, Muslim World, July/Oct 1988, p.214. 11. N.J Dawood, The Koran, London, 2003, p.296. (Ahzab 33:35). 12. Stowasser, ‘The Status of Women in Early Islam’, pp.20–23. 13. A. Wadud, Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, New York, 1999, p.99. 14. See Elias, “Female and Feminine in Islamic Mysticism.” 15. Ahmed, “Women and the Advent of Islam,” p.671. 16. Ibid., p.667. 17. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, p.94. 18. Ahmed, “Women and the Advent of Islam,” p.670. 19. Dawood, The Koran, p.285. (Rum 30:21). 20. Esposito, 2005. 21. Stowasser, ‘The Status of Women in Early Islam’, p.15-18.
References Ahmed, L, “Women and the Advent of Islam”, Signs, Summer 1986, pp.665–691. Armstrong, K, Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time, Harper Press, London, 2006. Armstrong, K, Islam: A Short History, Phoenix Press, London, 2004. Dawood, N.J, The Koran, Penguin Books, London, 2003. Elias, J.J, “Female and Feminine in Islamic Mysticism”, Muslim World, July/Oct 1988, pp.209–224. Esposito, J.L, Islam: The Straight Path, OUP, New York, 2005. Guillaume, A, Islam, 2nd edn, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1956. Smith, H, “Islam”, The World’s Religions, Harper, San Francisco, 1991. Stowasser, B.F, “The Status of Women in Early Islam”, in Freda Hussain (ed), Muslim Women, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984, pp.11–43. Wadud, A, Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, OUP, New York, 1999.
The American Heart Association recommends reducing daily intake of dietary cholesterol to reduce the risk of coronary heart problems. However, there are quite a few studies to suggest the contrary.
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he message to lower cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease has been widely circulated. However, recent findings beg the reevaluation of common knowledge about cholesterol. Among many, the following are some examples of questions that we might have: Is cholesterol level a good indicator of one’s risk of heart attack? Is it true that one can reduce his or her risk of coronary heart disease simply by lowering one’s cholesterol level? Is it really true that we should avoid eggs if we want to live longer? The name cholesterol originates from the Greek chole- (bile) and stereos (solid), and the chemical suffix -ol for an alcohol, as researchers first identified cholesterol in solid form in gallstones in 1784.1 Cholesterol is a soft and waxy sterol (a combination steroid and alcohol) found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream of all animals and humans. Trace amount of cholesterol also exist in plants. Even though cholesterol can be found in almost every cell, it is mostly found in the brain, heart, bowels, and liver. It is an important part of a healthy body because it is used to form cell membranes and some hormones, and is needed for other functions. A small amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood is enough for the body to undertake all these important functions. But a high level of cholesterol in the blood— hypercholesterolemia—is accepted as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which may lead to heart attack. As cholesterol and other fats dissolve, in normal conditions, only in oil, they cannot dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are several kinds of these, but the ones to focus on are lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL, so called bad cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or the good cholesterol). The American Heart Association suggests that the risk of coronary heart disease increases in adults with total cholesterol and LDL greater than 200 mg/ dl and 130 mg/dl, respectively. It is also advised to keep HDL greater than 35 mg/dl to avoid cholesterolrelated diseases. HDL level for young healthy adults is found to be, on average, around 55 and 45 mg/dl for women and men, respectively. Aging, diet, obesity, and menopause are among the factors which increase cholesterol, especially LDL, in addition to hereditary causes. While exercise helps in reducing LDL and
increasing HDL, smoking, alcohol, and stress cause the opposite effect. As you eat, cholesterol from food is absorbed by your digestive tract. It then makes its way into your liver and can circulate through your body in your bloodstream. That is one source. There is also a little-known second source of cholesterol—your body. Cholesterol from food is hard to get away from, even though you may be watching your diet. All foods of animal origin contain cholesterol, including eggs, red meat, and shrimp. Generally, it is also suggested to limit foods that are high in saturated fats or trans-fats. Egg is one of the most controversial foods in our fight against coronary heart disease. On average, one egg contains 66% water, 12% protein, 11% minerals, 10% fat, and 1% carbohydrate. The cholesterol level in one egg ranges from 180–210 mg based on its weight. It is found that each egg cause a temporary cholesterol spike of 3–4 mg/dl in the body, which tend to normalize after its digestion. The American Heart Association recommends reducing daily intake of dietary cholesterol to reduce the risk of coronary heart problems. However, there are quite a few studies to suggest the contrary2–6. The “dietary cholesterol equals blood cholesterol” view is a standard of dietary recommendations, yet few consider whether the evidence justifies such restrictions.4 Over fifty years of cholesterol-feeding studies show that dietary cholesterol does have a small effect on plasma cholesterol concentrations. The 167 cholesterol feeding studies in over 3,500 subjects in the literature indicate that a 100 mg change in dietary cholesterol changes plasma total cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dL.4 In 1999, Frank B. Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues reported no increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in people who ate more than one egg per day. The analysis compared diet and cardiovascular risk among nearly 38,000 participants of two longrunning epidemiologic studies.3, 5 In a separate study, Dr. Song and colleagues from the University of Michigan analyzed the diets and blood-cholesterol data of more than 27,000 people selected carefully to be a representative cross-section of the US population.5 They reported that cholesterol was lower in people who ate more than four eggs per week than among people who avoided eggs in their diet. However, a researcher
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Cholesterol f rom th e foo dy o
cautioned, “this study should not be used as a basis for These results suggest that any LDL-cholesterol reading recommending higher egg consumption for regulation that ignores lipoprotein size may exaggerate the heart of serum cholesterol.” Nonetheless, until recently, risks posed by eggs’ cholesterol. Several recent studies there were no scientific findings to explain why it is have also shown that healthier people tend to package so. Studies have shown that vitamin A, E, B, B6, B12 relatively more of their cholesterol in these large LDLs and folate, which can be found in egg, reduce the risk than do people with diabetes or heart disease and the of coronary heart disease. But it was not until recently differential effects of small and large LDL lipoprotein that we knew the scientific reasons behind the findings particles could be used as a marker for coronary heart of all the earlier studies. Recent studies have shown disease risk.4, 6 that our body is quite intelligent in managing the extra In conclusion, limiting eggs or other foods in our cholesterol increase after eating eggs in a way that limits diet cannot be the solution to reduce cholesterol level damage to the heart. and thus the risk of coronary heart diseases. Our fight It is well known that the consumption of several against any disease requires a holistic approach, better eggs a day does tend to increase blood concentrations understanding of our body and the world around of cholesterol, particularly the us in addition to choosing amount circulating in LDLs. a more balanced diet and However, a new study from stress-free lifestyle. Recent the University of Connecticut scientific findings allow us to showed that eating eggs can put an important question: Cho t a l est also increase the amount of Is it too simplistic to believe ue Liver and cholesterol in HDLs.2 When that the One who placed other cells people ate three or more the cholesterol in the egg throughout eggs per day their bodies yolk is the One who created your body Digestive tract made bigger LDL- and HDLa defense mechanism in the lipoprotein particles than body in a way that limits its when they ate no eggs. That damage to the heart? Blood vessel is important because other Bulent Aydogan, PhD, Cholesterol from both sources can build recent studies have suggested is a research fellow at up in your bloodstream that larger LDLs are less likely the University of Chicago than small ones to enter artery Department of Radiation walls and contribute their and Cellular Oncology. cholesterol load to arteryclogging plaque.3, 4, 6 Similarly, Notes larger HDLs are more effective than smaller ones 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholesterol. at moving cholesterol out of the bloodstream and, 2. Greene CM, Waters D, Clark RM, et al. Plasma LDL and HDL characteristics and carotenoid content are positively ultimately, out of the body. In addition, researchers influenced by egg consumption in an elderly population1. from the University of Connecticut found that not all Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006;3:6. people respond similarly to cholesterol. Studies have 3. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study shown that 30 to 40 percent of any given population is of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Jama 1999;281:1387–1394. made up of “hyperresponders.” In these people, blood4. McNamara DJ. The impact of egg limitations on coronary cholesterol concentrations increase disproportionately heart disease risk: do the numbers add up? J Am Coll Nutr in response to dietary cholesterol. Surprisingly, such 2000;19:540–548. people are found to put an egg’s cholesterol into 5. Song WO, Kerver JM. Nutritional contribution of eggs to larger-sized lipoproteins than most other people do. American diets. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:556–562. In contrast, among normal responders, only small 6. Yeomin Yoon JS, Hyung Doo Park, Kyoung-Un Park and Jin Q. Kim. Significance of small dense low-density lipoproteins increases in blood cholesterol occurred during the as coronary risk factor in diabetic and non-diabetic Korean egg diet, and the size of LDL- and HDL-cholesterol populations. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine particles covered the full range of lipoprotein sizes.2 2005;43:431–437.
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ormally, we associate the idea of redundancy with such concepts as wastefulness, uselessness repetition, and superfluity. However, there are many instances where redundancy can actually be very useful. One of the prime examples is language. In fact, in linguistics redundancy is considered to be a crucial feature, not a deficiency, of a language. The main use of redundancy is to increase the possibility of the receiver (listener, or reader) recovering the original message when the message received is not the same as the message sent due to such factors as noise, lack of clarity, ambiguity, hearing difficulty, and so forth. We employ redundancy in a natural way in learning and processing language, without even noticing it. It turns out that the
basic principles that we use in human language can also be applied in the precise language of mathematics to deal with errors caused by noise or other external factors and introduced to digital messages during transmission. We will explain these ideas in more detail in the rest of the article. Use of redundancy in human communication We make use of redundancy that is present in human language to
correct errors. This happens in both oral and written communication. For example, if you read the sentence “There is a miscake in this sentence,” you can tell that something is wrong. So we can detect an error. Moreover, we can even correct it. We are achieving two things here: error detection and error correction. What are the principles that we are using to achieve these goals? First, because the string “miscake” is not a valid word in English, we know that there is an error. Here, the redundancy manifests itself in the form of the fact that not every possible string is a valid word in the language. In a sense, some strings are wasted: potentially they could have been used as words of a language but they are not. The benefit of this “wastefulness” is that it lets us
harder to read, that means that a lot in the shapes of the letters is redundant (could you still manage to read with 2/3 covered?). Mathematical use of redundancy in digital communication As we see, redundancy is present and useful in human languages in a number of different ways. Engineers have considered the question of whether computers can use some of the same principles to achieve error detection and correction in digital communication. Since computers have very limited capabilities compared to humans, for example they cannot make sense of words, it is the method of explicitly adding redundancy to original messages (as opposed to using the context) that can be used to achieve this goal in computers using the precise language of mathematics. To illustrate the use of redundancy in a mathematical way in digital communication systems, consider the following example. Suppose we want to communicate with another party in a simple manner: sending messages that represent Yes or No, Let us agree that a 1 represents Yes and a 0 (zero) represents No. Unfortunately, there is often noise in the communication channel which may distort messages by flipping the binary bit (a 0, or a 1). If we just send the messages as they are, do we have any way of knowing if an error occurred during the transmission? Note that the reason we can do nothing against errors is that all possible strings (that all have length 1 in this simple example) are valid codewords. Codewords in digital communication correspond to valid words in a language. Compare this to the earlier example about correcting the typo in the word “miscake.” Data of any kind is stored and processed as binary strings, that is strings of 0s and 1s, in computers. Every letter has an ASCII code. For example, the ASCII code of the letter “A” is 01000001. Typically, data consists of billions of bits. A bit is a 0 or a 1. To employ redundancy, data is broken into blocks of a fixed length. We now consider and compare several encoding schemes where the block size is 4. Scheme 1: Perhaps most intuitive way of adding redundancy is simply to repeat the original message. Instead of sending 1011, we send 10111011. Here 1011 is the original message and 10111011 is the codeword. The string obtained after adding redundancy is called a codeword. What does this scheme buy us? Do we get any error detection or correction capability? If you think about this for a moment, you can see that if there
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detect or correct errors in communication. Secondly, the word “miscake” is closest to the valid word “mistake” in the language, so we conclude that it is the most likely word intended. Of course, we can also use the context and meaning to detect and correct errors but that is an additional feature, not available to computers. If you enter the string “mistaky” to Merriam-Webster online dictionary,1 it cannot find an entry for it; however, it comes up with a list of suggested words, first of which is “mistake.” So the computer is telling us that “mistake” is the most likely word intended because it is closest to the given string. This is called the maximum likelihood principle. As I type this article on my computer I witness many instances of this principle used by my word processor. For instance, when I mistakenly typed “fisrt” it automatically corrected it to “first.” There are also other ways redundancy is used in natural languages. As already pointed out above, redundancy in context often enables us to detect and correct errors, vagueness and ambiguities. When humans communicate, redundancy, either explicitly introduced by the speaker or author or built into the language, comes into play to help the audience understand the message better and to overcome such obstacles as noise, accent, hearing difficulties, and so on. Shetter  gives a number of examples in which redundancy is manifest and useful in languages. We include a few interesting examples from his article here. 1. If we strike out all the vowels in a sentence, “xt slxws yxx dxwn bxt thx sxntxncx xs stxll lxgxblx, xsn’t xt”? (Can you read the part in quotes?) Since the consonants seem to be giving us most of the information we need, there must be a lot of redundancy here too. 2. The sentence “These three dogs are retrievers” shows grammatical redundancy in forms: plurality is expressed multiple times. Examples in other languages are just as easy to find, for instance, obligatory gender agreement in a language such as Spanish: La única otra señora venezolana “The only other Venezuelan lady.” 3. A language’s stock of words (called the lexicon) shows a lot of redundant overlapping. To be convinced of this, all you have to do is to grab a thesaurus and look up a few words (big, little, fat, to die) that have lots of near-synonyms with only small stylistic differences. 4. Even the way languages are written is highly redundant. Try another experiment: take a piece of paper and cover up the LOWER HALF of all the letters in any sentence you have not read yet. If it is not significantly
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is a single error, then it can be detected. We simply break the received word in half, and compare the two halves. If there is exactly one error, the two halves will not be the same. We also note, however, that we cannot correct any errors. Also, if the number of errors is 2 (or even) we may not be able to detect that, depending on the location of the error. To quantify what we gain by employing an encoding scheme, let us assume that the probability of a bit error for a channel is 0.001, and there are about 3000 bits on a page. If we do not employ any encoding scheme, we expect to have an average of 3 words in error per page. If we employ this scheme though, there must be at least 2 errors per word in order for an error to go unnoticed. This improves the expected number of incorrect words to 1 in about 50 pages. Can we do better? Scheme 2: This scheme repeats everything 3 times. So the original message 1011 is encoded as 101110111011. What are the pros and cons of this scheme? It is not hard to see that not only can we detect single or double errors; we can also correct single errors by using the “majority opinion.” This improvement comes with a cost though: only 1 out of 3 bits sent are information bits (so 2 out of 3 are redundancy bits). We say that the rate of this code is 1/3. The rate of the previous code was 1/2. With this improved error correction capacity, the expected number of incorrect words is 1 in about 6250 pages. Scheme 3: This is a well-known and commonly used encoding scheme that adds a single parity check bit at the end so that the number of 1’s in the resulting codeword is even. Therefore, the original information 1011 is encoded as the codeword 10111. Another way of describing this method is that the modulo 2 sum of all bits (including the redundancy bit) is 0. In modulo 2 arithmetic 1+1=0. It is easy to see that this scheme detects any single errors, but cannot correct any. Scheme 4: This is also a well-known example of an error correcting code that was one of the earliest codes designed. It was discovered by R. Hamming . In this scheme 3 bits of redundancy are added to the information bits. The first redundancy bit, or the fifth bit of the codeword, is the sum of the first, second, and fourth bits. The next redundancy bits are the sum of the first, third, and fourth bits. The last bit is the sum of the second, third and fourth bits. All sums are modulo 2. According to this scheme, the information bit 1011 is encoded as 1011010. Although it is not obvious,
this code can correct any single error. Therefore, compared to the second scheme above, the Hamming code achieves the same error correction ability in a more efficient way: The information rates are 1/3 vs. 4/7. Although codes used in practice are longer and more sophisticated, the basic principles are the same. These examples show that there are different ways of employing redundancy, some more efficient than others. The question is, therefore, not whether or not redundancy can be useful but how best to use it. Error correcting codes are used in a wide range of communication systems from deep space communication, to quality of sound in compact disks and wireless phones. Researchers are still looking for more efficient codes to make use of redundancy in more clever and useful ways. It is remarkable and surprising that a lot of theoretical mathematics can be used in the design of good codes. Some seemingly useless and abstract parts of mathematics are being used in very practical applications. Other examples of “redundancy” We have looked at the use of redundancy mainly in communication systems. But there are apparent redundancies in other places as well. For instance, the so called “vestigial organs” in humans and other living beings are an interesting topic of controversy. Initially, these organs were thought to be useless and nonfunctional. However, some functions of these organs have since been discovered. The German Anatomist R. Wiedersheim made a list of vestigial organs in 1895 which included approximately 100 organs, including the appendix and coccyx. As science progressed, it was discovered that all of the organs in Wiedersheim’s list in fact had very important functions. For instance, it was discovered that the appendix, which was supposed to be a “vestigial organ,” was in fact a lymphoid organ that fought infections in the body. This fact was made clear in 1997:2 Other bodily organs and tissues—the thymus, liver, spleen, appendix, bone marrow, and small collections of lymphatic tissue such as the tonsils in the throat and Peyer’s patch in the small intestine—are also part of the lymphatic system. They too help the body fight infection.3 It was also discovered that the tonsils, which were included in the same list of vestigial organs, had a significant role in protecting the throat against infections, particularly until adolescence. It was found that the coccyx at the lower end of the vertebral col-
And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to our servant, then produce a sura (chapter) like it. (Baqara 2:23) They have since been unable to meet the challenge. They used to hold literary competitions where the best poems were chosen and exhibited on the walls of the Ka‘ba, and called the Seven Hanging Poems. The Qur’an demonstrated such eloquence that it caused Labid’s daughter to remove the poems from the walls of the Ka‘ba. She declared while doing so, “Besides the verses of the Qur’an these no longer have any value” . When a Beduoin poet heard verses from the Qur’an, he bowed down in prostration before its eloquence despite the fact that he did not convert to Islam. All of this should make us search for the reasons and wisdom behind the repetitions in the miraculous divine book. Nursi gives a number of such reasons in The Words . He says that since the Qur’an is a book of invocation, prayer and summons, the repetition is desirable, even necessary. Also, it speaks of such mighty matters of extraordinary importance that their repetitions are most appropriate. Two examples of verses that are repeated many times in the Qur’an are Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny? (55:13, repeated thirty times in Sura al-Rahman) and Woe on that day to the deniers (77:15, repeated ten times in Sura al-Mursalat). These verses proclaim before Earth, the heavens, the ages, and in the face of humanity and jinn, their ingratitude, unbelief, and wrongdoing. They also proclaim their violation of the rights of all creatures, which brings the heavens and Earth to rage, spoil the results of the universe’s creation, and indicate
contempt and denial of Divine Sovereignty’s majesty. If these two verses were repeated thousands of times, in a universal teaching related to thousands of issues, a need for them still would remain. It would be conciseness in majesty and miraculousness of eloquence in grace and beauty . For a more detailed account of the reasons behind repetitions in the Qur’an, we refer the reader to Nursi’s The Words . Conclusion We have seen many examples where redundancy is very useful. We have seen redundancy is inherently built into the natural languages we speak, and it serves a purpose. Inspired by this fact, we introduce redundancy explicitly into digital communication systems when we want to be able to correct errors caused by noise. We have seen other examples where what appears to be redundant or unnecessary at a first glance really serves a purpose, and hence is not really redundant. We have seen that there are repetitions in the Qur’an but they too serve a purpose. The Qur’an and the universe reflect each other. We see apparent redundancies in both, but in the end we understand that there is a purpose behind everything that may initially appear to be redundant; hence, we cannot really find anything in the universe that is truly redundant. Therefore, we should keep in mind that apparently redundant or useless things in the universe may have hidden treasures behind them. Given that the creator is All-Wise and has wisdom in everything He does, it is our duty to go beyond the surface and seek that wisdom. Nuh Aydin is an associate professor of Mathematics at Kenyon College, in Ohio, USA. Notes 1. http://www.m-w.com 2. http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/embryology_02. html#313. 3. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home edition, Merck & Co., Inc. The Merck Publishing Group, Rahway, New Jersey, 1997. 4. http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/embryology_02. html#313.
References Richard W. Hamming, 1950. “Error-detecting and error-correcting codes”. Bell System Technical Journal. 29: 147-160 R. Pinch, “Coding theory: the first 50 years” http://pass.maths. org/issue3/codes/ Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Words, Sozler, 1992. William Z. Shetter, “This essay is redundant” http://mypage.iu.edu/~shetter/miniatures/redund.htm
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umn supports the bones around the pelvis and is the convergence point of some small muscles and for this reason, it would not be possible to sit comfortably without a coccyx.4 Another important example we would like to consider is repetitions in the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book. There are several historical events or divine decrees and commands that are repeated in many places in the Qur’an. Some have criticized this as redundant. However, this is a superficial view. The Qur’an is the word of the All-Wise Creator, who has wisdom in everything He does. So, there must be some wisdom behind these repetitions. Seventh-century Arabs were very skilled in literature and poetry. The literary masters of Arabic admitted and appreciated the miraculous eloquence and literary power of the Qur’an. The Qur’an challenged them to make something similar to it:
The ultimate phenotype (what we can see or measure from a trait) emerges from the joint effect of many genes as well as interaction with the particular environment in which the individual develops.
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enetics is probably one of the fastest developing contemporary sciences with an incredibly large accumulation of knowledge. This knowledge of genetics has been extensively utilized in a broad spectrum of areas including unveiling the genetic secrets of different traits. This has paved ways to improving human health and sustaining agriculture, and preserving biological diversity on this planet. In addition to its practical implications, genetics is a major issue for philosophy, ethics, ecology, and economy. Genetics has also been readily incorporated into the public perspective through different means of mass communications, that is, electronic and print media. The complex nature of genetics and its wide implications for all living organisms from viruses to hu-
Mendel’s laws in the early twentieth century. Genetic information is coded in the form of a short string of DNA called a gene, which is employed in the expression of a trait(s) or mechanism(s) through synthesizing a chain of amino acids called proteins. These proteins either can be stored in different body parts or serve as enzymes in various biochemical reactions such as fighting infections. This flow of genetic information from gene–mRNA–protein synthesis is called the “Central Dogma” in biological sciences. In this biological doctrine, a very solid and predictable mechanism is assumed. Prior to the release of the human genome sequence information, the number of genes in the human genome was estimated as ~100,000. However, this estimate was far more than the actual number of genes (~35,000), which led us to question the validity of the “Central Dogma” as an explanation of the complexity of human beings. Out of these ~35,000, only 300 genes are unique to the human species.1 This is another blow to the authenticity of the original central dogma theory. Are those 300 genes the foundation of all humankind and do they distinguish us from the rest of the mammals? Reducing humankind to its biology and explaining it based on genes has been questioned extensively and could be the subject of another discussion. But even considering such a view valid for purely practical purposes, the big gap between humans and other mammals cannot be due to the existence of this small number of genes. Recent scientific discoveries have revealed a key point about the structure of genes—that each gene
has a set of sub-segments called exons. Each exon can make a new protein. Hence, the gene can be the template for more than one protein. In the presence of other genes and proteins, the code of a particular gene can yield different kinds of proteins under variable circumstances. The flow of information can be both ways, and hence there are no predetermined factors controlling the flow of information. That means, we might know the information on what genes are present, and we can even decode it to know what is in there, but we cannot be sure what result (proteins in this context) will come out at the end when it is in the context of real life.
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mans provide raw materials for creative imaginations. In the present scenario, many consider it vital to comprehend all the genetic information necessary to support life on this universe. One of the common constraints on the understanding of genetics is the assumption that genes are the sole causes of all activities of living organisms and can explain all aspects of biological life on earth. For example, some believe the behavior and development of an organism can be predicted, if its genetic information is known—this belief is called “genetic determinism.” However, it is true that neither all aspects of inheritance are in all cases well explained, nor that the mere effect of genes on complex traits is well interpreted. The boundaries of the effects of genes on physical existence, development, survival, and the behavior of organisms are not always simple and straightforward. The capacity of humans for genetic manipulation—at least as it is commonly assumed or claimed— is limited in several ways and some of the basic causes of such barriers have yet to be explained. The focus of this article is to point out the limitations on attempts to appoint genes as the driving force of life. The Central Dogma Genes are small fragments of genomic DNA, encoding mRNAs which are later translated into proteins that participate in different biological metabolisms, hence conferring different traits on an organism. The biological functions and transmission patterns of genes over generations were being investigated well before the discovery of DNA as hereditary material and date back to the recognition of
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From physical characteristics to their genetics Working back from a particular trait and trying to infer the genes that are involved in expression of such trait is a different approach to reveal the role of genes but surely it is not an easy task. Traits that are expressed by a single gene or a small number of genes are known as Mendelian/qualitative traits and their pattern of inheritance is simple and detection of the gene(s) is straightforward. Some of the disease resistance in plants and blood groups in humans are classic examples of Mendelian traits. The main distinction between such traits and the quantitative ones is their discreteness. For example a human being can have only one of four blood types: A, B, AB or O, and each of these groups is solid and no other blood types exist in between. In this type of trait, the role of a particular gene(s) is usually predictable and the pattern of transmissions over generations both for the future and the past can be inferred. However, only a small percentage of traits is qualitative and expresses Mendelian inheritance. Most traits, such as intelligence, skin color in humans, height of an organism, seed yield of a grain, and diseases that have genetic causes like cancer, are quantitative traits and complex in nature. The ultimate phenotype (what we can see or measure from a trait) emerges from the joint effect of many genes as well as interaction with the particular environment in which the individual develops. The number of genes that is involved in the expression of a particular trait can be hundreds or even more. An objective assessment of each trait and quantification (called the phenotype) is impractical in most cases and could lead to another discussion. But assuming that we can measure a trait feasibly, the inference of genetic bases could still be controversial. Considerable efforts have been devoted to unveiling the effect of genes in the expression of com-
plex traits whose inheritance pattern deviates from Mendelian inheritance. A special genetic technique, known as genetic mapping, is used to identify multiple genes that underlie a complex trait and this has practical applications for crop improvement. In humans, efforts are directed toward the detection of genes which predispose to complex inherited diseases. In this type of situation, the effects of genes on a trait are additive and can only explain a certain amount of change in the trait that we are interested in. Detection of all genes involved in the expression of a quantitative trait is practically impossible. The environment is an important factor with a pivotal role in the expression of such traits. The term â€œenvironmentâ€? is not restricted to what is present within the cell or surrounding the cell or individual. It rather
termine the presence of genes by simply observing the phenotype or expression of a trait. Considering each individual gene separately will allow us to understand its possible functions more clearly and accurately. Nevertheless, the knowledge of possible functions and structure is not enough to predetermine if the information coded in the gene will be used by the organism, and, even if it will be used, how much of that information will be processed is uncertain. Whether the information that is processed will be observed or not is another ambiguity. Assuming that we can and will know all components of life by having the knowledge of genes is known as genetic determinism. In some cases, genes are described as independent entities that drive living organisms and manage life because of the assumption that their presence will be enough to predetermine all the biology and the behavior of an organism. Simply, in order for a gene to be an independent agent by itself, it needs to have the knowledge of all other genes as well as all the non-genetic factors for expression of a simple trait. In reality, genes contain a very limited amount of knowledge which makes them no more than tools or parts of living organisms that are employed in the existence of life on earth. Biological life itself is incredibly complex and its sustainability requires a more comprehensive knowledge that is beyond our current understanding based on the genetic code. Seyyidhan Mirza is a PhD candidate of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics. He can be contacted at email@example.com Notes 1. Siepel A., M. Diekhans, B. Brejová, L. Langton, M. Stevens, C. L.G. Comstock, C. Davis, B. Ewing, S. Oommen, C. Lau, H. Yu, J. Li, B. A. Roe, P. Green, D. S. Gerhard, G. Temple, D. Haussler, and M. R. Brent. 2007. “Targeted discovery of novel human exons by comparative genomics.” Genome Research. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; ISSN 1088-9051/07; www.genome.org 2. Cardno, A. G., Rijsdijk, F. V., Sham, P. C., Murray, R. M. & McGuffin, P. “A Twin Study of Genetic Relationships Between Psychotic Symptoms.” 2002. Am. J. Psychiatry 159, 539-545 3. Epinat-Le Signor, C., S. Dousse, J. Lorgeou, J.B. Denis, R. Bonhomme, P. Carolo, and A. Charcosset. 2001. “Interpretation of genotype x environment interactions for early maize hybrids over 12 years.” Crop Sci. 41:663–669 4. Kooter, J.M., Matzke, M.A., and Meyer, P. 1999. “Listening to the silent genes: Transgene silencing, gene regulation and pathogen control.” Trends Plant Sci. 4: 340–347
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refers to larger scale effects in the process of biological life that cannot be explained by genetics and the term can be used interchangeably with non-genetic effects. One of the most striking examples of the role of genes on the expression of the phenotype is the presence of differences between identical twins. Despite the fact that they have completely identical sets of genes, studies have shown that twins can indicate different degrees of psychiatric diseases such as bipolar disorder.2 Similar phenomena may be observed in crop species. In crop breeding programs different varieties are usually tested in different environments. In most cases varieties rank differently based on their performance in different environments.3 Genetic background Genes that do not code any information for the trait of interest can also be a part of the process of expression of the trait. In other words, certain genes can be employed to stop or alter the function of a particular gene. Modifying the utility of a gene can also be done by a series of complicated reactions within each organism through mechanisms known as epigenetics. This type of alteration in gene function is also observed empirically during the process of transferring genes between different organisms through genetic engineering.4 Most transferred genes are silenced (turned off) by different mechanisms in a new organism regardless of patterns of inheritance. This is particularly interesting because it clearly indicates that the existence of a particular gene in the body does not necessarily guarantee that it will be functional. Even if it is functional in one individual, it might be silent in others. Even if a gene is functioning in all the individuals carrying it, the degree of expression may be variable. The end of genetic determinism With the discovery of the code of genes, we now know more about the biology of living organisms than ever before, as new genetic tools have enabled us to better understand what kind of information is stored in each gene. Most of the traits of living organisms are affected by the existence of many genes as well as non-genetic effects (denoted as environment in genetics). Although Mendelian traits can be predictable to some degree, yet we can not completely infer all the genes that are employed in the expression of a complex trait, nor the amount of contribution from each single gene and portion attributed by non-genetic factors. So we cannot de-
TIME Management in the Life of the Prophet MUHAMMAD (peace and I blessings Yuksel A. Aslandogan
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be upon him)
n the preface to his book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Michael Hart noted the supreme success of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, on both the religious and secular level [Hart 1978]. The Muslim community, which started as four individuals, himself, his wife Khadijah, his close friend Abu Bakr, and his cousin Ali, reached over a hundred thousand companions by his death in 23 years. Only ten thousand or so of these companions are buried in the graveyard at Medina today, as most of them died in remote lands spreading the message [G端len 2000]. Contrary to the common perception in the west, the Prophet Muhammad did not spend most of his time in battle fields or even involved in political affairs. The total number of casualties in the battles in which he partici-
pated throughout his life is not even 800 [Hamidullah]. Instead, the activities that occupied most of his daily life were worship, prayers, and supplications, followed by family and community affairs, including conveying Godâ€™s message to his people. While always confident of Godâ€™s help, the Messenger (upon whom be peace and blessings) was also a master of skillful time management. In this article we will review some of the time management practices that he employed in his life.
Four principles emerge as we examine the life of the Prophet Muhammad from a time management perspective [Canan 1994]. Interestingly, these are also the principles agreed upon by most contemporary experts of time management [Taylor 1998, Jasper 1999, Covey, Morgenstern 2000]. These are: 1. Appreciation of the value of time and, consequently, making the best use of every piece of available time.
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2. The guidance of a mission, a set of values, and priorities in planning every activity. 3. Establishment of a time policy or a time budget. 4. The scheduling and completion of activities within allocated time slots. Now we will give examples of how these principles were put to practice in the prophetic tradition.
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Appreciation of the value of time The value of time is emphasized in many verses of the Qur’an and in many prophetic sayings. In particular, God swears by time at the beginning of the chapter Asr in the Qur’an, meaning “time through the ages” or “afternoon.” It is the general opinion of the interpreters of the Qur’an that such references are intended to draw attention to those concepts and emphasize their importance. The remaining two verses of this short chapter reinforce this view: “1. By the (token of) time (through the ages)! 2. Verily man is in a state of loss. 3. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to steadfastness.” Another such oath is to be found at the beginning of Chapter 93, Ad-Dooha or “The Morning Hours”: “(1) By the morning hours, (2) And by the night when it is still.” (*) The particular translation we have adopted here is by Uzunoglu [Uzunoglu 2003]. Other contemporary translations of the Qur’an include Abdel Haleem [AbdelHaleem 2004] and Cleary [Cleary 2004].
In the prayer books attributed to the Prophet Muhammad we see that there are prayers for every occasion [Gülen 2000]. Examples include prayers for beginning an activity, beginning a meal, ending a meal, leaving for a journey, returning from a journey, during the journey, looking in a mirror, during ill health, for rain, against excessive rain, against cold or extreme heat, when entering the bathroom, when exiting the bathroom, and countless others. From these prayers we learn that there is almost no time slot in the Prophet’s life that was not occupied with a useful activity or a prayer. It was observed on one occasion that the Prophet refused to greet a person who was sitting idly. He greets the very same person on his way back upon seeing them occupied with an activity. The following Prophetic saying summarizes his attitude: “The majority of humanity is at a loss as they do not recognize the value of two of God’s gifts: Health and (discretionary) time.” [Bukhari, Riqaq, 1997]
Guidance of a mission After receiving the divine call, the life of the Prophet Muhammad was focused on living and conveying the message. His ultimate goal was to fulfill his mission as a servant and messenger of God. This involved two aspects: On the personal front a spiritual ascension towards the state of being a perfect human (insani kamil) as a servant of God and on the social front sharing the faith and practicing conduct that was pleasing to God and others. His values and priorities were shaped completely by the scripture as well as by the other communications of God that he received, which did not become part of the scripture. In his farewell sermon during his last pilgrimage, he is reported to have asked the present audience, which numbered in the tens of thousands: “Do you bear witness that I have fulfilled my mission as God’s messenger?” Of course the answer was a resounding yes, accompanied by tears [Gülen 2000]. Weekly time policy In a weak prophetic tradition narrated by Ibn Abbas [Canan 1998, Harf 2000], the cousin of the Prophet, the regular activities of his days are listed: “Sunday is the day for planting seeds and construction. Monday is for travel. Tuesday is for giving blood. Wednesday is for acquisition and alms giving. Thursday is for bringing community matters to the governor. Friday is for weddings and spending time with your family. Saturday is for hunting for livelihood.” The authenticity of this narration is weak and therefore we cannot conclude that it is obligatory to perform these duties on these days. However, it does give the idea of designating specific days of the week for specific projects or activities. In another, stronger prophetic tradition, the Prophet was heard to say, “Seek knowledge on every Monday” [Fayz al-Qadr 1/543]. Other prophetic sayings emphasize the importance of Friday as a day of festivity and the early part of Friday as the time to clean the body and care for one’s clothing. Another established prophetic tradition is to fast voluntarily on Mondays and Thursdays. From the observations of his companions it has been firmly established that the Prophet, peace be upon him, established a weekly schedule with preferred activities on each day. Daily time policy The most detailed information about the time management of the Prophet Muhammad is available concerning his daily schedule. Two types of activities occupied
Various accounts of the Prophet’s daily life tell us that he was very careful in the observation of his daily schedule. We understand this particularly from the observation that when the Prophet changed his schedule, this was a cause for worry in the community. For instance, one companion relates: “The Messenger of God (upon whom be peace and blessings) left his home at a time when normally nobody saw him outside.” [Usd al-Gaba 1/168, cited in Canan 1994]. Another one is: “The Messenger of God (upon whom be peace and blessings) ascended the pulpit. He was never seen on the pulpit except on Fridays before.” [Ibn Maja, Fitan, 33, cited in Canan 1994]. Night activities The narrations from his companions tell us that the Prophet used to divide his night into three segments. One segment was dedicated to worship, one to his family and one segment to his personal matters. At times, he is seen as giving his personal time to his community in meeting with them and trying to address their needs. The Prophet was observed to halt his daily activities after sunset [Mustadrak: 3/461, cited in Canan 1994]. This does not mean, however, that he rested for the remainder of the evening; he sometimes held meetings after evening or night prayer. As a general principle, he did not like sleeping before the night prayer or talking after it [Bukhari, Mawaqit, 13/23, cited in Canan 1994]. His wife Aisha (may God be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, used to sleep during the early part of the night and wake up for worship during the later part [Ibn Maja, Iqama, 182, cited in Canan 1994]. On exceptional circumstances, the Prophet was observed to stay awake and deal with community affairs until late hours of the night. The night stances (qiyam al-layl), the hours he spent in worship, reflection and prayers all occupy an important place in the Prophet’s life. He is reported to have spent on average between 2/3 to 3/4 of each night in worship, remembrance, reflection, and supplication. This corresponds to a period of 4 to 7 hours each night, depending on the season. He explains this emphasis on night prayers in the following way: “God descends to the first heaven of the earth every night and announces, ‘Is there anyone who repents; I will forgive, is there anyone who prays; I will accept,’ and this continues until early dawn” [Usd al-Gaba: 6/91;
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his time: The spontaneous (un-programmed) activities and the regular (programmed) activities. The spontaneous activities included giving an audience to an envoy or a representative group, the meeting of an urgent need, or helping a stranger who spontaneously sought help. Such activities were accommodated within the time slots that were not dedicated to programmed activities. Furthermore, if a representative body were to arrive in Medina for a one-off meeting, then it would be scheduled at the first available time. However, if the group was to stay in Medina for a while, then the meetings with this group were included in the regular plan of activities. An example of such accommodation can be seen in the case of the representative group from the tribe of Thaqif. As the group was to stay in Medina for a while, the Prophet visited them and talked with them after each night prayer. When one evening he delayed his visit, the group asked him: “O Messenger of God, you did not come at the time you used to come today; you were late, what is the reason for this? [Usd al-Gaba 1/168]. Regular/scheduled activities Regular prayer times form the framework around which all other regular activities are scheduled. Two aspects of the Prophet’s daily schedule were (1) The same activities were scheduled in the same time period every day, and (2) each activity had a designated time limit. Regular daily prayers are ordered by God at specific times [The Qur’an 4/103] and the start and end times for each prayer were taught to the Prophet Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel. In authentic prophetic traditions we learn that Archangel Gabriel asked the Prophet Muhammad to join him in performing each prayer at the beginning of the time period time throughout one day. The next day, they performed each prayer at the very end of the period that was dedicated to that prayer. The Prophet said “The best of deeds in God’s sight is the prayer that is performed in time” [Bukhari, Mawaqit al-Salat; Muslim, Iman]. While the beginning time for each prayer period is preferred, the prayer can be done anytime between these limits. If the time limit is exceeded even by a minute, the prayer is invalidated and the person has to perform a makeup prayer in the next period. It is easy to see that regular observation of these prayer times gives a person a high level of time consciousness. It also reveals the fallacy of the view that precise timing and punctuality are modern traditions.
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Ibn Maja, Iqama, 182, cited in Canan 1994]. He also she had passed away, when he was already over 50. likened his night stances to those of the Prophet David: The reasons and occasions for these marriages form “The best nightly prayer in God’s sight is that of David. the subject of a separate article. But suffice it to say that He used to sleep during the early part of the night, then in general these marriages could be categorized into wake up and spend a third of the night in prayers and three types: (1) Marrying the widow of a martyr to take sleep a little again before dawn” [Bukhari, Tahajjud, 7; care of her and to honor the family. (2) Marrying the Muslim, Siyam, 189; Nasai, Qiyam al-layl, 14, availdaughter or other relative of a community leader to esable in Harf 2000]. tablish family ties with that community to avoid armed conflicts. (3) Marriage with a woman of a special status Daytime activities so that woman could become a teacher and role model The Prophet prohibited his companions from sleeping for Muslim women. This third function was especially after the morning prayer. He used to stay at the mosque important, as the aspects of faith that pertain to special until sunrise and have group conversations with his circumstances of women could only be taught by the companions. The subjects of these conversations were experience of the wives of the Prophet. The Prophet both religious as well as entertaining, for example, powas observed to visit and spend equal, fixed times with etry would be read or the dreams of the previous night his wives during his family time. Figure 1 depicts the would be related. It is understood that these hours time allowances in a regular day of the Prophet as estiwere spent in a felicitous way, with companions laughmated by this author. ing at times and the Prophet smiling [Nasai, Sahw, 98, Muslim, Ruya, 23, cited in Canan 1994]. The Prophet underlines the significance of these Daily Activities of the Prophet hours held for him with the fol(peace be upon him) 7 Night & lowing saying: “Sitting together Congregational Prayers with a group of Companions and 7 Community remembering God with them after Affairs/Invitation the morning prayer until the sunrise is more valuable to me than fighting in the cause of God. The 4 Family Time same is true for the hours after the afternoon prayer before sun4 Rest set” [Usd al-Gaba: 2/466, cited in Canan 1994]. 2 Conversations/ Following the conversation informal meetings with his companions, the Prophet would then spend time with his family. On days when he was not fasting, he would have breakfast Figure 1: Estimated time allowances for various activities during this period. He is known to have eaten two in a typical day of the Prophet Muhammad. meals each day, a late breakfast and a dinner. Towards noon, he would take a nap and encourage others to do the same, as this would help them to stay awake Human biorhythm and activity changes Researchers on human biorhythms tell us that mulat night for prayers [Mednick 2002]. After the noon tiple periodic biorhythms operate within the human prayers came the time for community matters. The body with different cycle times, changing from 90 minafternoon prayer was followed by time for the family utes (ultradian) to daily (circadian), to longer than a day once again. In the Meccan period, the Prophet was [Smolensky 2001]. As the human body operates with married to Khadeeja for 25 years, his only wife durchemicals, hormones, and electrical signals, it needs ing this time. His multiple marriages occurred after
Yuksel A. Aslandogan is the Vice President of Institute of Interfaith Dialog, Houston, Texas. References Abdel Haleem, M.A.S., The Qur’an: A new Translation, Oxford University Press, 2004. M.M. Khan, Sahih al-Bukhari: The Translation of the Meanings, Darussalam Publishers, 1997. Ibrahim Canan, Islam’da Zaman Tanzimi (Time Management in Islam), Cihan Publications, Istanbul: 1994. Ibrahim Canan, Kutub-i Sitte, Muhtasari Tercume ve Serhi (The Six Books of Hadith, Translation and Commentary), Akcag Yayinlari, Ankara: 1988. Chafetz, Michael D., Smart for Life, Penguin Books, NY: 1992. Cleary, T., The Qur’an: A New Translation, Starlatch LLC, 2004. Cleary, T., The Wisdom of the Prophet: The Sayings of Muhammad, Shambala Publications, Boston, MA: 2001. Stephen R. Covery, First Things First. Simon & Schuster Ltd, 1999. Fethullah Gülen, Prophet Muhammad: Aspects of His Life, The Fountain Publications, VA, 2000. M. Hamidullah, Introduction to Islam, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, 1992. M. Hamidullah, The Prophet of Islam, S. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Lahore, Pakistan. [Hart 1978] Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Hart Publishing Company, Inc., New York: 1978. [Harf 2000] Harf Information Technology, Hadith Encyclopedia, contains 9 books of Hadith in Arabic, namely: Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan AlNasa’i, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Muwatta’ Al-Imam Malik and Sunan Al-Darimi, Cairo, Egypt, 2000. [Jasper 1999] Jan Jasper, Take Back Your Time, St. Martin’s Press, NY: 1999. [Mednick 2002] Sara Mednick, Ken Nakayama, Jose L. Cantero, Mercedes Atienza, Alicia A. Levin, Neha Pathak & Robert Stickgold. “ The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration.” Nature Neuroscience, published online May 28, 2002. [Morgenstern 2000] Julie Morgenstern, Time Management from the Inside Out. Henry Holt & Co., September 2000. [Rossi 1991] Ernest Rossi, The Twenty Minute Break, The Ultradian Healing Response, Zeig, Tucker & Co., 1991. http://home.earthlink.net/~rossi/ultradia.htm. [Smolensky 2001] Smolensky, Michael, and Lamberg, Lynne, “Body Clock Guide to Better Health,” Henry Holt and Co., NY: 2001. [Taylor 1998] Taylor, Harold L., Making Time Work for You, Harold Taylor Time Consultants Inc, North York, Ontario, Canada: 1998. [Uzunoglu 2003] Nurettin Uzunoglu, The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentaries, Islamic Publications for the Holy Qur’an Association, Istanbul: 2003.
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to replenish these resources once in a while [Chafetz 1992]. One mechanism for achieving this is having a short break such as a nap [Rossi 1991, Mednick 2002] and another is to change one’s activity when feeling tired. the Prophet Muhammad points to this important fact by saying “Relieve us O Bilal!” Bilal was the chief caller to prayer. The Prophet was indicating that they were tired and less productive in the activity in which they were involved and that it was a good time to take a break and pray. “Relieve us” means “Please make the call to prayer” so the community will gather in the mosque for a congregational prayer. The interweaving of different activities in his daily schedule is another indication that the Prophet was cognizant of the effect of the biorhythm on one’s productivity. Conclusion The popular mental picture of the Prophet Muhammad in the non-Muslim world depicts a person who spent most of his time in the battlefield or enjoying the spoils of war. Nothing can be further from truth. In this article we examined the life of the Prophet Muhammad from a time management perspective. The picture that emerges from this analysis is very different from the popular perception in the west. We learn that the Prophet spent most of his time engaged in worship, prayer, remembrance, and supplications. The next two most important activities in his life were community matters, including spreading God’s message and family matters. We also learn that the Prophet was a very punctual time keeper. He did not waste even the smallest amount of time and admonished those who did. We learn that he kept a tight daily schedule to the extent that his companions became worried when this schedule was not observed. He designated certain days and hours of each day for certain activities. He encouraged staying awake after dawn and having a short nap at noon. He practiced such principles as eating moderately, sleeping moderately, and talking moderately, all of which ultimately help with better time management. He took advantage of every discretionary moment in life for remembering God and offering prayers. Every activity in his life was guided by his main goal of living and sharing God’s religion for a happy life on the Earth and in the Hereafter. Interestingly, many of these practices are now recognized and recommended by modern experts of time management. In summary, we witness a life that was lived fully and productively, yet opportunities for smiling were not neglected.
Em era ld Hi lls khawf and khashya (fear and reverence)
M. Fethullah Gülen
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n Sufism, khawf (fear) denotes abstaining not only from all that is forbidden, but also from deeds from which it is advisable to refrain. It also signifies, as the opposite of hope or expectation, that a traveler on the path to Truth does not feel secure against deviation and thereby fears incurring Divine punishment in the Hereafter. As a result, the traveler refrains from conceit and self-praise. According to Al-Qushayri, fear forces a traveler on the spiritual path to hold back and refrain from displeasing God. As such, fear pertains to the future. Fear arises from one’s apprehension of being subjected to something displeasing, or uneasiness over not obtaining what is desired. In this sense also, fear pertains to the future. In many verses, the Qur’an points out the future results of one’s deeds and actions, and thereby seeks to establish a world that embraces the future, one in which it is possible to discern the future with both its good and bad elements. Implanting fear in the hearts of its followers, fear concerning their end or whether they will die as be-
lieving Muslims, the Qur’an warns them to be steadfast in their belief and practice of Islam. Many verses cause hearts to tremble with fear, and are like threads with which to knit the lace of life. For example: Something will appear before them which they had never anticipated (39:47); and Say: Shall We tell you who will be the greatest losers by their works? Those whose efforts have been wasted in the life of the world while they thought they were doing good (18:103-4). How happy and prosperous are those who knit the “laces” of their lives with these “threads”! With such warnings, the Qur’an orients us toward the Hereafter and encourages us to consider it more important than anything else. In His luminous Speech, God Almighty uses fear as a whip to force us to His Presence and honor us with His company.1 Like a mother’s reproofs to her child that draws him or her to her warm, affectionate arms, this whip attracts the believer toward the depths of Divine Mercy and enriches him or her with the blessings and bounties of God; blessings and bounties that He compels humanity to deserve and receive out of His Mercy and Graciousness. For this reason, while every decree and command mentioned in the Qur’an and forced upon humanity originates in Divine Mercy and uplifts souls, they are also alarming and threatening. One whose heart is full of fear and awe for the Almighty cannot be afraid of others, and is therefore freed from all useless and suffocating fear. In His luminous, hope-giving Speech, the Almighty tells people
not to fear anything or anyone other than Him: Have no fear of them. Fear Me, if you are true believers (3:175); exhorts them not to suffer groundless phobias: Fear Me alone (2:40) and: They fear their Lord, overseeing them from high, and they do all that they are commanded (16:50); and praises those hearts that fear and hold only Him in awe: They forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope (32:16). He praises such believers because those who arrange their lives according to their fear of God use their willpower carefully and strive to avoid sins. Such sensitive and careful souls fly in the heavens of God’s approval and pleasure. The following is an appropriate saying by N. ’Abd al-Rahman ibn ’Ahmad al-Jami, the author of Lujja: If you are fearful of God’s wrath, be steadfast in religion, For a tree holds fast to earth with its roots against violent storms. The lowest degree of fear is that required by belief: Fear Me, if you are (true) believers (3:175). A somewhat higher degree of fear is that arising from knowledge or learning: Among His servants the learned alone fear God truly (35:28). The highest degree of fear is that combined with awe and arising from one’s knowledge of God: God orders you to fear Him in awe (3:28). Some Sufis divide fear into two categories: awe and reverence. Although these terms are very close in meaning, awe connotes the feeling that leads an initiate to flee toward God, while reverence causes an initiate to take refuge in Him. An ini-
s of the Heart
A man who weeps for fear of God will not enter Hell until the milk drawn (from a mammal) is put back into the breasts (from which it was drawn).4 Shedding tears is the most effective way of putting out the fires of Hell. A believer sometimes confuses what he or she has done with what he or she has not done and, fearing that the action has arisen from his or her fancy or carnal self due to a personal failure to resist temptation, feels great regret and seeks refuge in God. The description of such souls is found in the following Tradition: When the verse: Those who give what they give while their hearts are in awe, because they are to return to their Lord (23:60) was revealed, ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, asked the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings: Are those (who are in awe because they are to return to their Lord) those who commit such major sins as fornication, theft, and drinking alcohol? The Prophet, the Glory of Mankind, answered: No, ‘A’isha. Those mentioned in the verse are those who, although they perform the prescribed prayers, fast, and give alms, tremble with fear that such acts of worship may not be accepted by God.5 Abu Sulayman Darani says that although a servant must always be fearful (that God may not be pleased and therefore punish him or her) and hopeful (that God may be pleased), it is safer for one’s heart to beat with fear and reverence.6 Sharing the view of Darani, Shaykh Ghalib expresses his feelings of fear: Open the eyes of my soul with a thousand-fold fear! Notes 1. Fear is an essential ingredient in the stages of one’s relationship with God. When the person is able to remain between and balance fear with hope, true education and training in the way of God begin. While it may seem to us that we are being “forced” by God into His Presence, in reality we are not, for this is only one of God’s ways of reminding us of our true purpose. This is explained in the following hadith: “My relation to you is like a man who forces back those who are throwing themselves into a fire. You are throwing yourselves into a fire (by committing sins), but I am pulling you back.” This metaphor informs us that there are those who, although good-natured, believing, and inclined to good, cannot completely refrain from committing sins. To help them in their struggle to avoid sins, God, in His Mercy, may cause some misfortune to come upon them. 2. Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 9; Ibn Maja, Zuhd, 19. 3. Al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 323. 4. Al-Tirmidhi, Fada’il al-Jihad, 8; Al-Nasa’i, Jihad, 8. 5. Al-Tirmidhi, Tafsir al-Qur’an, 24. 6. Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala, 128.
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tiate who continuously feels awe thinks of fleeing, while one seeking shelter strives to take refuge in Him. Those choosing to flee make progress on the path difficult for themselves, for they live an ascetic life and suffer the pains of separation from the Almighty. However, those holding Him in reverence drink the sweet, enlivening water of nearness, which comes from taking refuge in Him. Perfect reverence was a characteristic of all Prophets. When in this state, the Prophets fell down nearly dead, as if they had heard the Trumpet of Israfil and had been brought before the full Majesty and Grandeur of the Truth. They were always conscious of the meaning of: When His Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down, and Moses fell down in a swoon (7:143). Among those brought near to God, the one nearest to Him and the master of reverence, upon him be peace and blessings, said: I see what you do not see and hear what you do not hear. If only you knew with what the heavens creak and groan. In fact, they must do so, for there is not even the space of four fingers’ breadth in the heavens where angels do not prostrate themselves. I swear by God that if you knew what I know (with respect to God’s Grandeur), you would laugh little but weep much. You would avoid lying with your wives and cry out prayers unto God in fields and mountains.2 Here, the Prophet reveals his reverence that leads him to take refuge in God, and describes the awe of others that causes them to flee. Abu Dharr expresses this attitude of fleeing in his addition to this Prophetic Tradition: I wish I had been a tree pulled out by the roots and cut into pieces. One whose soul is full of reverence and awe of God does not commit sins, even if he does not seem to feel fear. Suhayb was one of those overcome with awe of God. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, praised him, saying: What an excellent servant Suhayb is! Even if he did not fear God, he would not commit sins.3 One who fears God sometimes sighs and sometimes weeps, especially when alone, in an attempt to extinguish the pain of being separated from Him, as well as the fire of Hell for him or her, which is the greatest distance between him or her and God. As stated in the Tradition:
The surfaces of soap bubbles have a very important feature. These surfaces which have minimum surfacetension potential energy also have minimum areas.
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Scientists have, for hundreds of years, been doing experiments with soap bubbles, developing mathematical theories, and transferring the data compiled in this way into technology.
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hildren love playing with soap bubbles; they like to blow a circle after dipping a bubble wand into soapy water and watch the bubbles flying out of it. However, it is not only children who play with soap bubbles and soap film. Scientists have, for hundreds of years, been doing experiments with soap bubbles, developing mathematical theories, obtaining various surfaces and transferring the data compiled in this way into technology. The surfaces of soap bubbles have a very important feature. These surfaces which have minimum surfacetension potential energy also have minimum areas. That is, soap bubbles or clusters have a natural tendency to minimize area for the volumes they enclose. Two different frames and the areas formed are shown in Figure 1. For a given closed frame, at least one such minimal area can be formed; however, mathematicians have had to strive to prove it. The famous mathematician Richard Courant (1888â€“1972), together with his students, did soap bubble experiments with various frames. Minimal areas can also be formed by using more than one closed frames. Figure 2 shows the minimal surfaces obtained by holding two circular frames parallel. If the frames are kept too far from each other, no surface will form. If they are kept sufficiently near to each other, surfaces similar to those shown in Figures 2a and 2b will be obtained. If they are kept close enough to each other, then three minimal surfaces adjacent to each other as shown in Figure 2c can form. The minimum energy principle is commonly observed not only in living organisms, but also in lifeless matter. A chain will take the shape which produces the least potential energy of attraction when it is fastened at two points onto a rod as shown in Figure 3. This form (function) is called â€œcatenaryâ€? in mathematics.
The areas which are formed as a result of rotating the catenary curve around an axis A are called catenoids. Two different types of catenoids are shown in Figures 4a and 4b. As presumed, catenoids are minimal areas and can be obtained by the use of soap bubbles. If such formations were selected and used in everyday utensils, such as glasses, dishes and so forth, ideal shapes which cause the least loss of heat could be designed. If the katenoid shown in Figure 5a is cut from its edge as shown in Figure 5b and turned by being slightly extended, a helical form or a helicoid will be obtained as shown in Figure 5f. This helicoid also is a minimal surface. Architects have widely used this form in spiral-shaped staircase structures. See Fig. 6.
come together, they form 120° angles along a line. If soap films come together within a tetrahedron frame as in figure 8, then the angles between the lines will be 109° 28′ 16″.
Fig. 1. Closed frames and soap film surfaces formed1
Fig. 3. Chain hung at its two ends is a catenary curve1
Fig. 2c. Three soap film surfaces over two parallel circular frames1
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Fig. 2a&b. Single foam film surfaces over two parallel circular frames1
Plus, the perpetual screw system which is widely in use in technology is also in a form similar to this geometry. If a cylinder of the smallest volume that can house a helicoid is drawn (Fig.7a) and the lines on which the surface and the cylinder intersect are marked, then a double helix structure (Fig. 7b) is obtained; this is used in modeling DNA molecules which are the genetic codes of living species. There are two elementary principles related to soap bubbles. The first principle says that if a bubble touches a surface that supports it, it unites with that surface in a way to make 90° angles. The soap bubble on that plain surface forms into a semi-spherical shape and the angle between the bubble surface and the supporting surface will be 90° at every point of contact. The second principle says that if three soap bubble surfaces
Fig. 4a&b. Two catenoid surface areas having same and different base radii1
The Steiner problem which is an elementary problem in mathematics can be solved by the application of the 90° and 120° principles. The Steiner problem investigates how n points over a surface can be united in the shortest way by a web. Two transparent surfaces are connected with thin and parallel pins of equal lengths and then dipped into a soapy solution. When it is taken out, soap films will form. These films have a 90° angle with the supporting transparent surfaces and when three soap films come together, they connect at 120° angles with one another. When observed from above, the intersecting lines between the soap film and one of the surfaces give the
Children love playing with soap bubbles very much; they usually blow a round circle after dipping a wand into soapy water and then watch the bubbles flying out of it. However, it is not only children who play with soap bubbles and soap films. Scientists have, for hundreds of years, been doing experiments with soap bubbles, developing mathematical theories, obtaining various surfaces and transferring the compiled data into technology.
Fig.11-Minimal surfaces obtained from soap bubble using needles and thin threads1
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shortest web which unites the points in n numbers. How four points are united is shown in Figure 9a and how five points are united is shown in Figure 9b. Someone seems to have equipped lifeless objects such as soap bubbles with the ability to solve complex problems like a math genius. Periodically repeated minimal areas have been observed on walls separating organic and inorganic substances in the skeletons of certain sea animals like the sea urchin and the starfish. Figure 10 shows the micro structure of a sea urchinâ€™s skeleton. It has calculated that the geometry of its skeleton has perfectly been shaped in such a way as to prevent the extension of possible cracks. Experiments with soap bubbles have been a source of inspiration also for architects. Such experiments have yielded inspiration for roof and tent designs. The German architect Frei Otto is one of the most eminent names in this regard. Figure 11 shows the minimal areas which Frei Otto managed to obtain by dipping hair-thin threads in soapy water. In order for such a soap bubble model to be converted into an architectural structure, it is carefully photographed and precisely measured. Later, solid models are made and tested in wind tunnels. The tensile pressures likely to form under loads of wind and snow are measured by special precision instruments. In real structures, thin steel cables having high tensile strengths replace the hairy threads, and transparent plastic and synthetic materials replace the soap bubble film. Figure 12 shows roof of the Munich Olympic Stadium, Figure 13 shows the roof of the Munich Olympic Athletic Arena and Figure 14 shows the roof of the Olympic Swimming Arena in the same city. All these roofs have been designed and erected using the minimal surfaces obtained from soap bubble experiments.
Experiments with soap bubbles have been a source of inspiration also for architects. Such experiments have yielded inspiration for roof and tent designs.
Fig. 12-Roof of Munich Olympic Stadium1
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Fig 13-Roof of Munich Olympic Athletic Arena1
2) These roofs can easily be erected, dismantled and transported to elsewhere, whereas traditional buildings cannot easily be re-located. 3) These structures which are designed according to tensile strengths are very sturdy all over, whereas the tensile pressures of classical buildings are so high that extremely heavy materials such as concrete and brick are used in order to balance the pressure. The structures of light and strong materials granted to living things are splendid. The lightness and endurance of our skeleton system, the perfect endurance in the stems of slender plants such as wheat and barley, the extremely thin and elastic structure of a fly’s wing, and thousands of similar examples can be given.2 The word of German architect Frei Otto in this subject are expressive: “Biology has become indispensable for architecture.” Witnessing similar perfections also in inanimate structures such as soap bubbles proves that laws in nature originate from the same hand. Obtaining minimal surfaces has become much easier as a result of immense increases in computer capabilities. Extremely complicated minimal surfaces which can be obtained through computer-aided-designs and calculations have become easily available as alternatives to soap bubble experimentations. If we, as human beings, are aiming to realize developments in science and technology, we should look,more carefully and meditatively, at events which are seemingly simple and unimportant around us and we should also discover the beauties and perfections that God has granted us and put them into service of humanity. The more our designs are compatible with the laws of nature, the higher our chances of success will be. References
Fig. 14-Roof of Munich Olympic Swimming Arena1
S. Hilderbrandt, A. Tromba, The Parsimonious Universe, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1996. M. S. Polatöz, Tabiatta Mühendislik (Engineering In Nature), Kaynak Publications, Izmir, 2003. A. B. Smith, The stereom microstructure of the echinoid test. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 25, 1–85, 1981.
Bediüzzaman uses the Pareto Principle persuasively as an answer to the following question: “As sending Prophets has caused many people to become unbelievers because of Satan’s seduction, how can you say that creating evil things and acts is good, that raising Prophets is a mercy for humanity?"
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he famous Islamic scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1877–1960) referred to mathematics in various forms in various places in his work the Risale-i Nur. In the different parts of the Risale-i Nur Collection, numerous examples, from simple arithmetic to jifr and abjad (the studies of deriving numerical values such as dates from Arabic words, particularly Qur’anic verses and hadiths), and to probability calculations, are used to explain Qur’anic verses. When we read Bediüzzaman’s works, we realize that either Bediüzzaman was aware of the Pareto Rule, or he discovered it by himself. The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923) observed that eighty percent of the income of a country was received by 20% of the country’s population. Later, this principle was generalized as eighty percent of the consequences stem from twenty percent of the causes. This principle is called “the eighty-twenty rule” today. If we extend this rule, it is possible to say that eighty percent of problems are solved with twenty percent of the effort expended. The other eighty percent of the effort only solves the remaining twenty percent of problems. So what needs to be done is to separate the smaller number of factors with more impact from the greater number of factors with less impact on the outcome in order to solve eighty percent of problems with twenty percent the effort. Let me give you some everyday examples. For instance, most customer complaints (eighty percent) stem from a very few reasons (twenty percent). Eighty percent of problems in a company are caused by twenty percent of the employees. This idea is often applied to data such as sales figures: twenty percent of clients are responsible for eighty percent of sales volume. Eighty percent of our expenditure, stems from twenty percent of the items we buy. If we can differentiate cheap items from expensive items, then, we can develop ways to save on our shopping. We need to realize that we make eighty percent of our phone calls to the same twenty percent of our acquaintances. If we look at the clothes we wear, we realize that eighty percent of the time we wear the same twenty percent of them. We can also use this principle to plan our daily schedule and to order things according to their importance. For example, we may calculate the length of the time to do something and determine the importance
of the thing we are to do. We calculate the percentages according to all the things waiting to be done. Later, with twenty percent of our time, we put our attention and energy into the things which carry eighty percent of the importance. We leave the things with twenty percent importance to later because those things require eighty percent of our time. What needs to be observed here is that quality is preferred over quantity. Some of us postpone tasks which can be done in a short time, due to the belief that we can somehow do it later. According to the Pareto Principle, it is not a good idea to delay things which are important in terms of quality even if they take a bit of our time to carry out. Bediüzzaman used this rule very intelligently in his works at explaining the wisdom behind seeming realities. For example, in the answer to the second question under the Twelfth Letter, Bediüzzaman uses the Pareto Principle persuasively as an answer to the following question: “As sending Prophets has caused many or even most people to become unbelievers because of Satan’s seduction, how can you say that creating evil things and acts is good, that raising Prophets is a mercy for humanity?” In this answer, Bediüzzaman emphasizes the importance of quality over quantity. According to him, quantity has no importance in relation to quality. Moreover, Bediüzzaman shows that it is not an evil to lose atheists and hypocrites, who are many but less important in terms of quality, when you compare them with prophets, saints, and the righteous who are few, in terms of quantity. It is interesting that he uses a twenty percent to eighty percent ratio in each of his two examples: “As quality is always far more important than quantity, we should consider only qualitative values in making our judgment. To cite an example: 100 datestones are worth only 100 cents until they are planted and grow into palm trees. But if only 20 grow into trees and the remaining 80 rot because of over-watering, how can you say it is an evil to plant and water them? Everyone would agree that it is wholly good to have 20 trees at the expense of 80 datestones, since 20 trees will give 20,000 date-stones. “Again, 100 peacock eggs are worth maybe 500 cents. But if she sits on the eggs and only 20 hatch, who can say it is an evil that 80 eggs were spoiled in
they hear from acceptable and reliable people, in consequence of their good opinions of them.” Therefore, it is possible to say that Bediüzzaman, an investigative observer, found the Pareto Principle without using any contemporary methods such as surveys. Besides being known as an eminent Islamic Scholar and Saint of Islam admired by most of the people, Bediüzzaman use of mathematics, physics, astronomy, and sociology in the Risale-i Nur show us how to contemplate the universe using modern science. Persuasion through Probability in the Risale-i Nur Bediüzzaman often uses mathematical logic and probability in his works which were written to save the faith from evil (thought). For instance, under the section on the stratagems of Satan in the Twenty-Ninth Letter, Bediüzzaman states how harmful it can be if you use the feeling of fear against its purpose of creation. He gives an example of how he persuaded a person, who had to fear of drowning, to embark on a boat willingly without any fear through giving an excellent example of probability: An important man (may God’s mercy be upon him) was afraid to travel by boat. One evening, we went to Galata bridge to take the ferry to Eyup. He did not want to get on, saying that he feared he would drown. When I asked him how many boats were in the Golden Horn, he replied that there might be as many as one thousand. When I asked him how many boats sank each year, he replied usually one or two, and sometimes none. I made this analogy: “Since a year has 365 days, your chance of drowning is 1:365,000. Why does such a small chance scare you?” I asked: “How much longer do you expect to live?” He answered: “Maybe 10 years; I am old already.” I continued: “As there are 3,650 days in 10 years, your chance of dying today is 1:3,650. But since we do not know when we will die, you could die at any time. So repent and weep! Write your last will and testament!” Seeing the truth in my words, he got on the boat even though trembling. On the boat, I told him: “God Almighty placed fear in our nature so that we might preserve our life, not ruin it. He did not give us fear to make life an unbearable burden full of pain and torment. If there is a risk of 1:2 or 1:3 or 1:4, or at most 1:5 or 6, it may be permissible and tolerable to fear and avoid the risk. But to fear a chance of 1:20, 1:30, or 1:40 is groundless suspicion, a sort of paranoia that changes life into a torment.”
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return for 20 peacocks? On the contrary, it is wholly good to have 20 peacocks at the expense of 80 eggs, because the 20 peacocks will be worth far more than the eggs and will lay more eggs.” In another example, Bediüzzaman explains why he remained distant from politics in the Thirteenth Letter as a response to the third question: “…We are travelers in this world. Basing myself on the Qur’an’s light, I say that humanity has reached a marsh in this century. Whole caravans of humanity are trying, with great difficulty, to advance in this putrid marsh. A small minority follow a safe way and some have extricated themselves, but the majority continues to flail around in the dark. Although 20 percent of this majority seems quite happy with this struggle, mistaking its dirt and filth for musk and ambergris, whereas the other 80 percent knows that it is in a filthy marsh but cannot see the safe path (leading them out). We must bring that majority out of the marsh. To do so, we must use a mace to knock the 20 percent back to its senses or provide the 80 percent with a light to see a way to safety. I see that most people hold maces, but almost no one gives light to the helpless 80 percent. If some still have light, they are not trusted because they also carry maces. People are afraid of being beaten after being drawn to the light. Besides, the light may be extinguished if the mace is broken.” In this example, Bediüzzaman states that the first thing that needs to be done for those who have deviated from the right path is to show them the Qur’anic truths instead of helping them through politics which is associated with hitting someone on the head. Again it is interesting to see that Bediüzzaman used the Pareto Principle to explain the example. Bediüzzaman considers human beings to be walking in a dark swamp. Moreover, he believes that the priority is to enlighten most of the people’s road (eighty percent) with a small (twenty percent) effort, rather than to help a small number of people (twenty percent) with a large amount of political power (eighty percent of effort). In the Twenty-Eighth Letter’s seventh matter, Bediüzzaman emphasizes that twenty percent of scholars surpasses the other eighty percent in terms of quality while he is examining how strong truths seem weak in the hands of weak people: “Eighty percent of mankind are not investigative scholars who can penetrate to reality, recognize reality as reality and accept it as such. They rather accept matters by way of imitation, which
And surely in the cattle (feeding on the pastures of the revived earth) there is a lesson for you: We give you from that which is within their bodies, (marvelously distinguished from) between the waste and blood, milk that is pure and palatable to those who drink. (Nahl 16:66)
Ruminants, probably the most abundant of the herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats, are foregut fermenters with a four-chambered stomach (rumen, November / December 2008
and abomasum) and are an essential component of utilizing marginal land in the world in a sustainable way.
obtain about fifty percent of the meat and most of the milk they consume from ruminants. Scientists who have conducted studied on ruminants have developed cow breeds, which have higher milk and meat production than traditional cow breeds, and thus supplied an important development to meet the nutritional requirements of humans. Pre-gastric fermentation provides three important nutritional advantages to the host animal. First, cellulose and other plant polysaccharides are brought into solution and become available as energy sources. Cellulose is the most abundant natural carbohydrate polymer in nature, but mammals do not produce enzymes that can degrade it. Ruminant animals utilize cellulose via a symbiotic relationship with ruminal cellulolytic microorganisms. During ruminal fermentation, microorganisms ferment the carbohydrates to produce energy, gases (methane and carbon dioxide), heat, and volatile fatty acids (VFA) in the rumen. Effective digestion of plants requires a means of dealing with cellulose, the most important structural material of plants, which is extremely insoluble and remarkably resistant to a chemical attack. Cellulose digesting enzymes that are called cellulases and produced by microorganisms are also present in the intestinal tract of several invertebrates that feed on wood and similar plant products. Rumen harbors the different functional groups of the microbial population, which is responsible for about seventy percent of total digestion in ruminants, and the ability to digest cellulose has been ascribed to a large number of bacterial, fungal and protozoal species isolated from the rumen. The energy content of plants is low, and the herbivore must consume a large quantity in order to satisfy its energy requirements. Therefore, herbivores spend a lot of time eating; eight or more hours per day may be spent eating. Secondly, the rumen microorganisms can utilize nonprotein nitrogen for growth, converting it into microbial protein which becomes available to the host. Proteins provide the amino acids needed for maintenance of vital functions, reproduction, growth and lactation. Non-ruminant animals need pre-formed amino acids in their diets, but ruminants can utilize many other nitrogen sources because of their rare ability to synthesize amino acids and protein from non-protein nitrogen sources via a symbiotic relationship with ruminal microflora.
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n the verse above from the Qur’an, the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe draws our attention to many of the benefits we get from domestic animals. While the main message of the verse is easily understandable to the general reader, it also contains some concise hints, even descriptions about the physiological details of milk production in ruminants that would be fully understood and explained by science only centuries after the Qur’an was revealed. The purpose of this article is to explain this process in a general sense and milk production in some detail. Mammals are generally categorized according to the dietary habits into three classes—flesh-eating (carnivore), plant-eating (herbivore) and both flesh and plant-eating (omnivore). In a sense, humans (omnivores) and carnivores depend on herbivores for their nutrition. Generally speaking, all humans and animals in the world have directly or indirectly benefited from the plants. The ability of herbivores to utilize plants as their main energy source is dependent on symbiotic microorganisms which live at various sites within their gastrointestinal tract. The animal provides the microorganisms with food and habitat for growth and the microorganisms provide the animal with fermentation acids and microbial protein. Herbivores are divided into two types, those with post-gastric (hindgut) fermentation and those with pregastric (foregut) fermentation. Fermentation is a chemical process during which microorganisms obtain energy from organic products. Ruminants, probably the most abundant of the herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats, are foregut fermenters with a four-chambered stomach (rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum) and are an essential component of utilizing marginal land in the world in a sustainable way. Rumen and reticulum contain millions of microorganisms, which form about 3 to 10 percent of rumen fluid. A major reason why human beings keep ruminants is their ability to convert food which humans find inedible—or at least unpalatable—to food (meat, milk) which humans can eat. They play an important role in the livelihood of farmers throughout the world, providing sustenance such as milk and meat, manure for crop production, cash income from sales of their products and a safety net of capital assets to face risks and misfortune in harsh environments. Currently, humans
Rewarding the achievements in the path of righteousness and truth is a requirement of respect for goodness, and therefore, for religion and God.
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Ruminants possess a rumeno-hepatic nitrogen circulation mechanism, which does not exist in nonruminant animals, in order to save nitrogen. By this mechanism, ruminants can be fed non-protein nitrogen sources such as urea and nitrate when nutrients are in short supply to obtain high quality milk protein. Feed proteins are degraded by microorganisms in the rumen via amino acids into ammonia. Ammonia is used by bacteria to build their proteins and any excess of it is absorbed through the rumen wall into the blood and then converted to urea in the liver. When a diet is low in nitrogen, large amounts of urea (which is normally excreted in the urine) return to the rumen where it can be used by the microbes. In non-ruminants, urea is always entirely lost in the urine. If ammonia levels in the rumen are too low there will be a nitrogen shortage for bacteria and feed digestibility will be reduced. Too much ammonia in the rumen leads to wastage, ammonia toxicity, and in extreme cases, death of the animal. Thirdly, vitamin synthesis by the microbial population makes the ruminant animal virtually independent of dietary sources of all vitamins, except for vitamins A and D. However, rumen fermentation also brings some disadvantages. First of all, rumen metabolism causes environmental pollution. Methane is produced as a natural consequence of the anaerobic fermentation; it is a potent greenhouse gas. Dairy farming is the largest agricultural source of methane, one of the greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the major environmental concern associated with the animal industry is ammonia volatilization, which increases atmospheric acid deposition because of the impact of nitrogen-rich excreta on the environment. Therefore, worldwide, scientific research projects have been carried out to find sustainable strategies for reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas methane and ammonia volatilization from domestic ruminants to the environment. In conclusion, the symbiotic relationship between ruminants and ruminal microorganisms plays an important role in the recycling of nutrients between humans and plants. This relationship also contributes to human life by converting low quality nutrients (grass and hay) to high quality food (meat and milk). Humans will benefit more from ruminants as scientific knowledge about relationships between ruminants and rumen microorganisms advances. Zubeyir Altuntas has a PhD in Molecular Medicine. He is a research associate in Immunology Department of The Cleveland Clinic.
KnockIng on Your Door Open your door as a compliment, make your slave happy, Serve my spirit chants from the tongues of beyond. Do so and quench the storms that besiege my heart, Just like You lend your hand to the hopeless. You are that compassionate one; to me Allow a gift and join my way to your land. In every obscurity, a brightening sign from your presence Send to my heart; cover my poverty with your gift. I am spiraling down from one exile to another, Let the day shine, end the time of darkness, You are the owner of this grieving heart of mine, Appear to me, please, like You do to everyone. As I wait in excitement for a new reunion, Let the joys of your compassion descend to my heart. Have my spirit take wings with the flood of your love, Soothe my afflictions of separation. Let me feel the moment of your appearance My perspectives all colored with eternity I shall see the time when ardor converts to reunion It matters not if I am engulfed in flames. Let me burn, for that state is my water of life. Matter dissolved in the bosom of metaphysical Spirit lies in my heart to ambush your appearance. Mesmerized sentiments on the horizon of vision.
M. Fethullah G端len Translated from Turkish by Sermed Ogretim
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As nothing can be heard but Him What reaches ears is the composition of emotions, Clocks know not tick-tock, nor days rise and fall. Time and space are the mysterious geometry of the unknown.
Modest Dress in Abrahamic Traditions
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ne of the questions I am most commonly posed in the United States is about the way I dress. Why do Muslim women cover themselves from head to toe? Usually I respond to this question with another question: Why does a Christian nun or an orthodox Jewish woman cover herself? Or I simply say, I have not seen a bareheaded picture of Mary in any church, I do it for the very same reason she covers… There are a great many similarities between the three monotheistic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The central goal of the religious journey in these Abrahamic traditions is to acknowledge the Creator and to love Him by obeying His wise and compassionate guidance. A common area where almost all the doctrines of the three traditions are overlapping is unquestionably “morals.” Decency, chastity, modesty, righteousness, and purity are virtues that believers are encouraged and required to struggle to achieve. When people look at Muslim women who wear a headscarf, usually they only notice the headscarf as being different than Western-style
clothing. Many believers who wear a headscarf prefer to use the term “modest dress” since it captures the essence of the practice better. Modest dress is prescribed to both men and women in the Qur’an. The general guidelines include covering certain parts of the body, wearing loose and non-transparent clothing to conceal the silhouette, and to dress in such a way as not to draw attention to one’s self. Modest clothing and covering the body is enjoined for men as well as for women; men are advised to cover at least between the knees and the navel, whereas for women the only parts that can be revealed are the face, hands, and feet. This difference is solely due to the physical nature and attractiveness of the female body, and should not be misinterpreted as gender inequality. Still, most men prefer to cover themselves from head to toe especially during prayer as a sign of respect in the presence of God Almighty. Nevertheless, some people have a hard time grasping why the hair is so important. First, the hair is only one of the many parts that need to be covered. Second, if hair was not so attractive, women would not spend hours in front of the mirror or spend hundreds of dollars to
make their hair pretty! However, the concept of covering in Islam is not restricted to only the headscarf, which would be undermining the meaning and effect of this practice. The underlying principle is to keep your beauty to yourself, your spouse, and those of the same sex, so that you will not be viewed as an “object.” The ultimate goal is to be modest before God and other human beings. Western feminists contend that one of the greatest problems of our age is the reduction of women to mere objects that are valued only for their physical beauty. I must add, though, that in Islam, physical beauty and marital relations are not viewed as a sin or something to be ashamed of. They are a gift of God and we are to enjoy them within the limits prescribed by God. In the Qur’an, God has commanded believing men and believing women to act in certain ways to avoid indecent interaction with the opposite sex, which has great repercussions for individuals and society in this world and the Hereafter. Islam is a religion of prevention and protection, rather than a religion of punishment. All aspects of Islamic law aim to prevent sin in order to avoid punishment that would otherwise be necessary to ensure perfect justice. (It is also important to point out that in Islam, sin is regarded as a transgression against one’s self or a state of being away from God and acting contrary to our own nature) In other words, God knows His creatures and their weaknesses best and lays down guidelines to keep them from sinning because of His love and mercy for His creatures. Modest dress also has the same logic and nature. God has commanded it in the Qur’an and Prophet Mu-
And tell the believing women that they (also) should restrain their gaze (from looking at the men whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts, and that they should not display their charms except that which is revealed of itself; and let them draw their veils over their bosoms, and (tell them) not to display their charms to any save their husbands, or their fathers (and grandfathers and both paternal and maternal uncles), or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands (both their own and stepsons and grandsons), or their brothers (and foster- and step-brothers), or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or the Muslim women and the women of good conduct with whom they associate, or those their right hands possess, or the male attendants in their service free of sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of femininity. Nor should they stamp their feet (i.e. act in such a manner as) to draw attention to their charms (and arouse passion of men). And O believers, turn to God all together in repentance that you may attain true prosperity. (Nur 24:31) Reasons for wearing modest dress First and foremost, it is essential to know that “There is no compulsion in religion” (Baqara 2: 256). Faith is a personal matter between a believer and her Creator. Likewise, choosing to put one’s faith into practice is a natural outcome of the believer’s spiritual journey. I decided to start wearing the headscarf after about two years of soul searching. Despite being raised in a Muslim family and a predominantly Muslim society, I was taken by the numerous positivist philosophies sweeping away the young generations. I did have a vague belief in God that I never really thought about or confirmed in my heart and my mind. Hence, I did not really know what I believed in and why, which made it all the easier to drift away on the currents of disbelief. I cannot thank God enough though for bringing certain seemingly difficult incidents into my life that forced me to question who I was and where I was going. As a matter of fact, every person is endowed with the inner urge to find meaning in his or her existence. If and when we choose not to shut off these existential questions and try to find satisfying answers, our personal quest for our Creator begins. We are all given numer-
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hammad implemented it in his life and taught it to his followers for sound and compelling reasons. The practice of wearing modest dress existed in various cultures and religions prior to the advent of Islam. Hence Islam did not invent the covering of one’s hair or modest dress in general. Veiling (I use the term here to refer to wearing a headscarf and not to covering the face as the term “veil” may also connote) was a common practice in the Byzantine Empire during the Hellenistic era and also among the Sassanids of Persia. The veil was a sign of respectability and high status and was used to distinguish noblewomen from slaves and unchaste women who were not allowed to cover their heads. Subsequently, the practice was established in the Judaic and Christian systems1 and the Arabic peninsula at large (even prior to the advent of Islam). Judaic doctrines and traditions have emphasized the covering of hair and modest dress throughout history. Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman, since it is considered nudity.2 Jewish women in Europe wore the headscarf until the end of the nineteenth century when the pressures of a secular society triumphed over religion. Today, many Jewish women cover their hair in synagogues, yet only certain sects such as Hasidic Jews continue the practice in everyday life by wearing a wig. The place of veiling in Christianity is as prevalent as in Judaism. The most obvious sign is the modest dress nuns have been wearing for centuries. Veiling was part of the Christian tradition, not exclusively for nuns: “And Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac… she took her veil and covered herself” (Genesis 24:65). The Catholic Church had a canon up until the 1950s requiring women to cover their hair inside a church. Certain Christian denominations such as the Amish and the Mennonites still retain a head covering for women. Likewise, there is a strong connection between clothing, modesty, and morality in Islam. Thus, the concept of modesty extends beyond mere clothing and encompasses austere manners. This ideal code of conduct and modest dress are required from both men and women. There is strong emphasis on the protection of people’s dignity in the Qur’an. (For instance, assaulting someone with words or slander is a grave transgression.) One of the most compelling reasons for modest dress in the Qur’an is modesty and to protect women from molestation. It is not a sign of male superiority or of high status, as was the case in ancient societies.
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ous faculties, such as our mind, heart, senses, and so forth, that are meant to be used in this quest. By observing the universe and our own continuous creation, we can witness that there is no deity but God, and that He is the Creator of causes and effects simultaneously. This confirmation compels us to heed the message of God (the scriptures) and to read it with an open mind and heart to verify its truth. Once we confirm that the Qur’an is indeed our Creator’s message sent to us personally to inform us of the purpose of our creation, then our worldview is transformed. In a way, the Qur’an is like a manual. It is “our” manual, teaching us how best to use our faculties and our lives. God is telling us why and how He creates us (what our reality is) and what sort of attitude and conduct is in harmony with our creation (our nature, fitrah). If we follow His recommendations, which are glad tidings (bushra), we will be at peace with ourselves and the universe. He also warns us that when we do not follow the instructions in the manual, we may harm ourselves. In other words, we will be unhappy and live in a “hellish” state of mind and heart in this life and the Hereafter. It is ultimately our choice (since we are given free will) to heed and follow this manual or not. Every believer can experience and attest to the truth of the message in their life (or not). Analyzing the messages in the Qur’an from this paradigm, we may find endless wisdom and mercy in its recommendations. The following is a summary of the many wisdoms and the mercy I see in the prescription of modest dress for all believers who may choose to adopt it in their lives, and this is why I decided to start practicing it: A. Individual level: Inner peace and harmony Adhering to the guidelines of Islamic modest dress brings inner peace to the individual for several reasons. Modesty and striving to mold one’s self in Islamic manners helps to discipline our ego which is the main source of personal ills. When I use the term “Islamic.” I am particularly referring to the literal meaning of the word Islam, “submission.” So, a Muslim is someone who tries to submit her free will to the Truth, that is, the truth that we (and everything else around us) are being sustained and created continuously by God, and do not exist independently. Our ego, which is only one of the many faculties we have, is given to us as a tool. By striving to discipline its excessive desires, and channeling them in a positive direction, we transform ourselves for the better.3 Submitting to the wisdom and compassion of God and obeying His recommendations about how we
should dress is only one of many aspects of trust in God. Adhering to modest dress always reminds us that God is Ever-Seeing and that we are constantly in the presence of God. This is the utmost source of inner peace. As a side note I would like to also add that many women mention that wearing modest dress frees them from the pressures of society to conform to a particular physical type or to fashion. Knowing that they are not being judged as feminine “objects” helps to enhance their self-esteem. When we dress and act modestly, others value us as human beings based on character and intelligence. B. Family life: Solidarity and peace The family is considered a vital unit in Islam. A peaceful marriage is essential for many reasons, one of which is the adequate upbringing of children. The break up of families leads to crisis for family members as well as society as a whole. That is why divorce is described as the most disliked of the permissible practices. The practice of modest dress and piety by both husbands and wives may help to maintain the solidarity of the family. Being extremely careful about the way one acts, talks, and dresses around the other sex may serve as a barrier preventing many indecencies from occurring. As I mentioned above, Islam is a religion of prevention (vs. punishment). Therefore, all the ways to temptation are blocked in case we destroy our lives in this world and the Hereafter. Statistics leave no doubt that these incidents are very common in both Western and Eastern societies in this century due to the decay of the role and importance of religion in the face of the rise of materialism. Thus, the Qur’an and the Prophetic traditions on the matter of modest dress and manners aim to reduce these indecencies and preserve peaceful marriages. Even though many examples of men and women who claim to be pious, yet engage in unlawful acts with the opposite sex, may be cited, the ideal of Islam still proves to be true. God knows that human beings are imperfect creatures and the guidelines are there to set the perfect standards one should struggle to achieve. C. Social level: Perseverance of society Islam does not only seek to guide the individual out of the context of her surroundings. The realities of everyday life require human beings to interact with others unceasingly, hence social matters are also addressed in the Qur’an. The modesty of an individual’s dress and manners automatically affect society at large. Indeed, the problems of sexual harassment of women and sexual as-
sault are widespread in our societies. Trying to catch and punish the perpetrators of these offences after the harm is done does not solve the problem. Individuals should reform themselves, learn good morals and values. Only in such a way can the entire society be reformed. When and if women practice ranges of nudity, the society at large is affected negatively. For instance, harmony among married couples and the piety of individuals may deteriorate. This does not mean that only women must watch the way they act and dress, but as the Qur’anic verse 24:30 states, men are obligated to lower their gaze and adopt modest dress and manners as well. Tell the believing men that they should restrain their gaze (from looking at the women whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts and chastity. This is what is purer for them. God is fully aware of all that they do. (Nur 24:30)
1. Esposito, John. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islamic World, OUP, 1995, pp. 108–111. 2. Muhammad, Sherif. “Women and their Legal Rights in Monotheistic Religions.” The Fountain, Issue 41, Jan-Mar 2003, pp. 30–44. 3. For instance, the ego falsely claims or wants to be independent. It does not like to recognize authority or feel gratitude. Hence, the challenge is to use the other faculties God has given us (such as our intellect and heart) to discipline our ego and submit our free will to God’s will. In Islam, human beings are not deemed intrinsically evil. We have the potential to be higher than angels or lower than animals. We have been given many faculties as tools to find and stay on the Straight Path.
References Unal, Ali. The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English, NJ: The Light, Inc., 2006.
oil has significant functions for securing the maintenance of life on earth. The food and water that plants need are provided via soil. A wide variety of living species which find shelter in the bosom of the soil performs vital functions for securing life in the continental ecosystem. Bacteria, mushrooms, ants, larvae, spiders, earthworms, snails and rodents are only some of this variety. These living species exist abundantly in the soil. In a soil layer of one hectare (2,47 acres or 10.000 m2) and 30 cm (approx. 1 feet) thickness, for instance, approximately 25 tones of subsoil organisms are sheltered. The conservation of soil is also important. But as its value has not been properly appreciated until recently, soil has become seriously polluted with chemical substances which can hurt the living species in it. These poisonous chemical substances include cadmium, arsenic, chrome, and mercury at excessive levels, lead, nickel, molybdenum and fluorine at medium levels and boron, copper, manganese and zinc at low levels.
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Men are first warned to control themselves, and then the required dress for men and women complements the decency of society. Also, to reduce the debate only to the matter of clothing is indeed wrong and misrepresentative of Islam. God is concerned with our inner selves primarily. Thus, modest dress serves its purpose only when it is appropriately complemented by the right morals and manners, and a whole Islamic way of life. Eren Tatari is a PhD student in the Political Science Department, Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research interests include Muslims in Western politics, gender studies, and the political representation of minorities. Notes
H. Arif Ustaoglu
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There are a number of sources of these substances which accumulate in subsoil. Tones of such substances are dispersed into the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, the casting of minerals and other industrial activities. Atmospheric processes cause these substances to disperse and mix with the soil first and penetrate into plants later; polluted water and soil consequently cause disastrous problems for construction, the environment, and health. The level of borax which is available in soil, for instance, is becoming overwhelming due to the extensive use of detergents and fertilizers. Super phosphate, which is a kind of fertilizer, and limestone, which is found in soil, are generally composed of small quantities of cadmium, copper, manganese, nickel and zinc. Cadmium and chrome are utilized in producing metal coatings; cadmium is also used in battery production; and arsenic is utilized in cotton, tobacco and fruit plantations as an insect and weed killer. As products in which these substances are found have been increasingly used in recent years, these substances have been consumed by human beings in higher proportions in their daily air, water and food intakes. Although presently a partial solution, a method of improving soil by the use of plants has recently been developed and introduced as a clean and permanent solution. Research conducted has proved that plants have important functions in cleaning chemically polluted soil, and significant scientific findings have been obtained about how plants survive in an environment replete with poisonous chemicals. Plants: The volunteer soil cleaners The use of plants to eliminate substances which are unfriendly to the environment or to diminish their negative effects on the environment is called â€œphytoremediation.â€? Cleaning polluted soil with techniques that necessitate engineering processes is a rather costly operation. On the other hand, certain plant species have been granted the ability to concentrate heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium and nickel, which they take up from the soil, in their stems, shoots and leaves. The parts of these plants containing the concentrations of heavy metals are collected, reduced in volume and are stored for future use.
Plants which are capable of storing metals in themselves are used for soil-cleaning purposes in the mining industry. Bio-mining is defined as obtaining minerals by way of growing plants in polluted or mineralized soils and then harvesting them as soon as they have concentrated a sufficient amount of minerals in their tissues. Plants are burned after being baled and their residual ashes are being sold as mineral ores. Zinc has been produced at a rate of 30â€“40 % from ashes of the plant thlaspi caerulescens which was grown in a plantation rich in zinc in Pennsylvania. How plants are employed in soil cleaning Lately, a number of research projects have initiated on the plant thlaspi caerulescens, which is seen as useful in terms of soil cleaning. Thlaspi is a member of the broccoli and cabbage family and it grows in soils containing high rates of zinc and cadmium. These plants develop wide root formations in soils containing heavy metals; they transfer these heavy metals via their hairlike roots first to their stems and later to other parts, and store those heavy metals in their leaves. Storers like thlaspi are a good model of the mechanism of metal-storing and even shed light onto the biological system which plays a role in this process. The biological composition of these plants has been enriched with genes so that they assume a role in increasing the solubility of heavy metals in soil, in the transfer of metals to their roots, and in producing proteins to play the intermediary in such transfers. While a typical plant is equipped with a storage capacity of 100ppm (gr per ton) zinc and 1ppm cadmium, thlaspi is created with a storage capacity of up to 30,000 ppm of zinc and up to 1,500ppm of cadmium, without any signs of being poisoned, whereas an ordinary plant may be poisoned with a zinc level of only 1,000ppm or
cadmium between 20 and 50ppm. What would it have meant for living beings which are nourished by plants, if all plants had been created with as high a storage capability for heavy metals as that of thlaspi? It has been noted, while researching the zinc-storage mechanism of thlaspi, that certain parts of the plant have been stimulated for the purpose of transferring zinc. While in ordinary plants gene-decoding of proteins which are charged with zinc transfer is regulated according to their zinc contents, in thlaspi synthesizing of the carrier proteins continues until the zinc contents of its tissues reaches very high levels. How radioactive cesium is cleaned It has been found, as a result of research into soils polluted with radioactive cesium-134 and cesium-137, that the area polluted by cesium-137 is under the threat of radioactive pollution, even if the effects of pollution that it caused over the soil surface would be lessened. One of the most important reasons for this is that cesium-137 is a long-lasting radioactive isotope with a half-life of 32.2 years. Phytoremediation is preferable to alternative cleaning methods, which cost much more due to high energy inputs. However, cesium, in the form it is found in soil, is not absorbed by most plants, and ammonium ions cause the dissolution of cesium-137 in soil. However, amaranthus retroflexus, which is a member of the goose-foot plant family, has been found to be forty times more efficient than other plants tested in cleaning the soil of radioactive cesium. Thus, polluted lands are expected to be cleaned within fifteen years if this plant is grown and harvested two or three times annually. A plant fed by arsenic Arsenic is utilized in the production of agro-chemicals that are used to kill weeds and insects in the sub-soil.
The fern named pteris vittata has been found to be created with the capacity to store arsenic. When this plant fern was discovered to contain two hundred times more arsenic than the surrounding soil, it was understood that it is fed by arsenic. This discovery is expected to open new horizons in cleaning the agricultural land, especially in industrial and mining areas. How damage caused by aluminum can be decreased Aluminum, which is one of the most abundantly available elements (among oxygen, silicon, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, aluminum and calcium) in the earth, is among the main components of clay in sub-soil. It does not pose a threat to plants when it has a basic or neuter pH value. However, Al+3 which is a kind of aluminum dissolvable in acidic soils, is poisonous to the extent that it threatens plant roots. How some plant species, among which are wheat, corn and barley, can be cultivated in acidic soils in spite of high metal rates is being researched. Studies in this context are being conducted on arabidopsis thaliana (the mustard family) whose gene map is prepared and which constitutes a model. A mutated arabidopsis, for instance, has been discovered to have been equipped with the capacity to render aluminum harmless. If the genes which play their role in this process can be determined, then gene transplantation will be possible to increase the resistance of plants which are sensitive to aluminum, such as barley, and barley production will accordingly be increased. All these facts clearly indicate that the earth is like a great and continuously working factory or a guest house continuously becoming full and empty. The pollution which is an inevitable result of the activities of living creatures is kept under control by micro organisms, plants and animals which are the mirror-bearers of Almighty God’s attribute, “the All-Pure.” The relations between these living creatures and the universe have been so perfectly programmed that all of them beautifully perform their duties. References Brady, N.C. The Nature and Properties of Soils, 1990, 10th Edition. http://www.agclassroom.org/teen/ars_pdf/9earth/2000/06ph ytoremedation.pdf Altunay, Bedirhan. “Biotechnology of the Environment,” 2006, Sizinti, No: 335, p.526–528.
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eter, maybe now you will snap at me saying, “What are you trying to do? You are nothing but a set of long pipes, you are the last one to talk about itself!” But take care and do not be so quick to dismiss me; do not make a face at me for the waste material I carry. You need to know first that your organs—the heart, kidneys, liver, and others—cannot work without me. Exaggeration? Not at all! So just listen to me and see for yourself. Dear Peter, in order for you to understand me better, keep in mind a basic principle about the functioning of living organisms—they all depend on energy use. If no energy enters a living system, then no metabolic activity, no life function can be carried out. Think about a car without fuel. No matter how great the car is, it simply won’t work without any fuel in the tank. The human body is no different. Plants and animal products which people consume as food provide the body with fuel. However, you cannot make use of the energy in nutrients in the form in
which you take them in. They need to undergo a process so that they become usable fuel for us, like crude oil being refined into gasoline to make a car work. This is roughly what my duty is. Without my functioning, you would be devoid of the energy to move a finger, and eventually die. Do you understand now how important a set of pipes I am? You just think that I look like a soft and hollow canal and misjudge me as simple. Well, I know that I don’t have such complex parts as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, but I’m created as a perfect work of art in plain design. Although the hoses you use for watering your garden wear out and break in a relatively short time, my walls made of four layers keep functioning through a lifetime without any holes unless I contract a disease like cancer. My outer layer consists of a durable connective tissue, the next one consists of two sets—one horizontally and one vertically laid—of straight muscles, the next layer under that consists of glands spread in a soft connective tissue, and the innermost layer is the epithelial mucosa where the actual absorption takes place. Now, let’s come to how I achieve digestion, one of your body’s vital activities. Actually, there is no place for me to take any pride in it; I’m just doing as I am ordered. Anyway, the complex processes occurring within my simple-looking walls are just fascinating! Every one of my cells producing the particular enzymes to break up each nutrient is like a separate factory. Some of these enzymes break proteins into different levels of peptides, some break the peptides into amino acids, some break fats into fat acids and glycerin, whereas some break carbohydrates down into glucose. All of these particular enzymes have their sub-branches within themselves. For example the enzymes breaking down fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and starch are all different. In order for the enzymes to be effective, my inside needs to have the right pH level; the enzymes work in very sensitive conditions. To give you an idea, the enzymes in the stomach—which happens to be the second station the nutrients are destined for before they come to me—work in an acidic environment (pH: 2.5–3). In my case however, basic fluids are secreted and this strong acidity is neutralized for my enzymes to work. My overall length is around 8.5 meters from the first entrance at the stomach to the last exit. The small intestine is nearly 7 meters long and the remaining 1.5-meter section is the large intestine. Although the small intestine is the longest section of the digestive tract, it is still called small since it is smaller in diameter than the large intestine. The small intestine is also divided into three sections. The very short (25–30cm) and relatively thicker part right
after the stomach is the duodenum. Bile—which works like detergent and facilitates breaking up fats—produced by the liver and digestive enzymes from the pancreas enter the duodenum. Thus, the nutrients are digested one step further and pass on to the second section (jejunum) and then to the third (ileum). You cannot easily tell apart these final two sections. As blood circulation is more intense in the second section, this section is more reddish and the contractions here are faster and stronger. The third section is narrower and has thinner walls. The blood circulation here is relatively lower and the movements are more limited. The thin membrane of connective tissue (mesentery) around me which attaches me to the abdomen wall and prevents me from knotting up is relatively fatty in this third section. My most vital parts are the villi—tiny nipples covering the curly surface of my inner wall like a carpet. Shaped like the fingers of a glove, villi yield an enormously large inner surface. They contain a net of capillaries and lymph canals. In addition to the glands secreting the enzymes to break down nutrients, the secretion of certain glands protects me against the destructive effect of the stomach acid. Some cells secrete mucus for lubrication and protection of the passing nutrients. As some cells of the villi secrete digestive enzymes, some of my cells absorb the nutrients broken down until the final phase and pass them to the bloodstream. Peter, how can some guys mistake such a splendid mechanism as a work of unconscious nature? What I’m telling you about is a manifestation of such great knowledge and might that it leaves you spellbound. I know the characteristics of foods, I know about the other organs’ needs, I adjust various enzymes and an absorption system, I fit them in a limited space… In addition, I do all these in the most ideal way, without any waste or flaw! C’mon Peter, can all these happen by themselves? Now, if I were to start telling everyone about the absorption mechanism in detail, they would probably see those cells as divine beings! The One who assigned spe-
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cial carrier molecules and a system for every nutrient molecule, has placed two transfer systems as blood and lymph pathways in every single one of those millions of villi! The blood pathway passes amino acids, water and salts into the blood directly, whereas the lymphatic pathway absorbs fats to pass them to the blood indirectly. After absorption, the nutrients become a property of the body and they are carried in the bloodstream to all the cells waiting for them in need. Well, what about the waste then? Since everything you eat is not beneficial and usable, and some things are even toxic, they should be disposed of as soon as possible. The unabsorbed remnants are still too watery to be disposed of; sending them away as they are will be a waste of water and minerals. But don’t worry, everything is perfectly planned! Now the large intestine comes on duty. In this 1.5-meter section, the water of the waste and certain minerals are absorbed, and the waste solidifies. The large intestine is also divided into three sub-sections. The pouch connected to the junction of the small and large intestines is named the cecum and there’s the appendix at its end. This end sometimes festers and you have to have it removed in an appendectomy. Now, there’s this made-up story that the appendix was once longer since your ancestors only ate plants, that it has evolved into a shorter form for I now eat more meat, so on and so forth… Bah! Nothing is created in vain, Peter. If it didn’t have a duty, it simply wouldn’t be created. Only after some time did it dawn on them, after researchers proved that it is so necessary, that as a lymphoid organ, rich in blood vessels, it produces antibodies to fight the germs which somehow make their way into me. The rest of the large intestine is the colon and the rectum. The mucosa covering my inner surface is rather smooth. It secretes mucus to facilitate the removal of waste. In addition, useful bacteria are made to work in abundance in the large intestine for your needs. These bacteria synthesize the group B vitamins like B12, thiamin, and riboflavin, along with vitamin K. You see how all the processes are carried out so splendidly? If it weren’t for vitamin K, your blood would fail to coagulate, and the slightest injury to your blood vessels would kill you. Could you ever have imagined that what looks to you like a sewage canal could produce vitamins of vital significance? Your Creator has infinite wisdom. Peter, now you may wonder how the acts of this organ which resembles a long hose are regulated, how the nutrients inside are propelled, and then thrown out. To put it briefly, the “willful” part of your brain does not even know about it. Indeed, if it knew, it would be con-
stantly busy with me and unable to do anything else. Under the control of the autonomous nervous system, the straight muscles of my walls gradually contract in waves—this is squeezing act is called peristalsis. The nerve fibers connected to me fall into two basic categories—sympathetic and parasympathetic. As the sympathetic fibers pressure me to slow down, parasympathetic fibers stimulate me to act. Thus, I try to keep a balanced functioning between these two opposite effects. When the waste material I propel this way assumes a state to be disposed of, it reaches the rectum, and when the walls here strain, I make a natural call to you that I need to get rid of garbage. This is the step where your will has a partial interference. Colon cancer, which troubles many people today, appears in this final section. The major reason is consuming too much meat and fatty foods, lack of movement, and leading a stressful life. When these are combined, I fail to function properly. If you want to help me at that, you should consume fiber-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables, and also lead a peaceful life. My web of nerves is amazingly rich and complex. Therefore, I am sensitive to nervous changes. If you feel down or sad, and if you suffer too much stress, I begin to go into spasms. Then I fail to dispose of waste, the toxic material inside me begins to damage my inner walls and eventually increases your cancer risk. Therefore, you’d better take up the habit of a glass of warm water when you get up in the morning, and try to have regular meals at the same times of the day. Most importantly, always have fresh green vegetables on your table, reduce meat intake… and it would be great if you could afford to consume olive oil rather than any other. Hey, wait! I was about to forget the most important point. If you don’t have any peace of mind, all of these will be useless. This doesn’t mean that you will never worry; after all, this world is a testing ground and you are a human being like anyone else. However, if you give in to troubles and get overcome by feelings like panic, fatigue, and hopelessness, then my functioning will be upset. So, troubles faced with active patience and effort without giving up hope do not harm me much. Peter, I do not wish you to wait until you see colon cancer patients disposing of waste through a hole in their belly into a plastic bag before you feel grateful for the blessings you enjoy. Actually, maybe I have told you at most a tenth of what I know about myself. Anyway, I think even this much will give you an idea of what a work of art I am. Thanks for listening to me, Peter! Irfan Yilmaz is a professor of biology at Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, Turkey.
Ottoman women were honored in the harem, not imprisoned there. Unfortunately, this way of perceiving women has all but been lost today. Much of the time women are perceived mainly as physical beings and, in its lowest form, as sex objects.
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first became interested in Ottoman women in the early 1990s when I read a newly published book on the Ottoman harem. Although the book was beautifully illustrated, the text just basically repeated the time-worn sensationalist approach of the Orientalists: women in the harem were exotic, indolent and suppressed. I was not fully convinced, because I had met several Ottoman ladies in person during my long residence in Turkey who were anything but â€œexotic, indolent and suppressed.â€? To the contrary, they were all exceptionally respectable, active (two were writers and one was a founder of a private college) and independent ladies. However, I had no hard proof in my hands that the sensationalist stereotype or myth of the harem was false. So I decided to roll up my sleeves and investigate the subject for myself.
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By a quirk of fate, I found myself spending a year with my daughter who was studying for a master’s degree in Islamic studies at a leading North American university. One of the courses she took was related to the Muslim qadi or judge and Ottoman court records. Much to my amazement I learned that throughout the duration of the Ottoman state (six centuries) women had many significant legal rights, more perhaps during that time than any other women in the world. This was a point that had been somehow overlooked in the many sensationalist books on the harem! Investigating this point further, I learned that Ottoman women had legal agency or, in other words, they could sue and be sued in court independent of their husbands. They could enter into legal contracts like marriage contracts with their husbands, or into business contracts with others. They had the right to own property and to inherit it. They had the right to initiate divorce. They had full control over their own income and property and could do with it as they wished. Ottoman women also had the right to be guardian of their children in case of the death of or divorce from their husband. European women, on the other hand, gained these rights much later, and today in some parts of the world women are still struggling to obtain them. British women, for example, did not have these rights until 1882. Previous to that time they had to turn over any property, inheritance or income to their husband upon marriage. Women did not have legal agency nor were they able to make legal contracts independently. Also they were unable to defend themselves in divorce cases and they could not get legal guardianship of their own children. I began my research by reading all the Turkish material I could find on the subject. Most of the works I found were Turkish translations of European travelers’ reports about Ottoman life. Of course, it was necessary to separate fact from fiction, because many travelers, males in particular, described aspects of Ottoman life they had never personally seen—the inside of the harem, for example. But in spite of this, I was able to glean a fairly accurate description of Ottoman women and the harem from a number of different travelers (mostly women) who can be considered as eye witnesses to harem life. The portrait of Ottoman women that emerged reflected a very feminine appearance and demeanor, refined manners and decorum, and a pious and chaste character. Their domestic roles of wife and mother further reinforced this strongly feminine image.
Furthermore, I learned that not only did Ottoman women have these legal rights, but that they actively pursued their rights as well. There are thousands of court records that attest to this. By no means were legal rights enjoyed just by a privileged few. They were accorded to Ottoman women of all social and economic strata. For example, one of my favorite cases was taken from early seventeenth-century Kayseri court records. It involves a woman named Teslime who was working on her land when her neighbor’s donkey strayed onto her property. When she seized the animal, her neighbor, who was a man, cursed her. Teslime immediately filed a complaint with the local qadi. Two witnesses were found to support her complaint and she won her case. While reading her case, I could not help but wonder how many women today would take a man to court for cursing them; and if they did so, how many would be taken seriously? There are countless recorded cases of Ottoman women who turned to the courts to get redress for injustices perpetrated against them. Upon review of such cases a different image of the Ottoman woman in the legal arena emerged: a strong and courageous woman who put Haqq (Truth and Justice) above everything else. The portrait of Ottoman women I found from my reading was a far cry from the Orientalists’ exotic stereotype. I learned that only approximately ten per-
cent of the young slave girls in the imperial harem were actually royal concubines, and this number included concubines to the princes as well as to the sultan. The rest were groomed and trained for service to the royal family by means of the administrative hierarchy in the imperial harem. Even the belly dance, which is always associated with slave girls in the harem, apparently did not even exist in the imperial harem. That is what we are told by Leyla Saz Hanımefendi who grew up in the palace from the age of four and who was closely associated with the royal family during the reign of six different sultans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Armed with the information and knowledge I had gained from many travelers’ reports and secondary sources, I felt ready to challenge the sensationalist myth of the harem. Little did I know at the time, however, that an even greater discovery regarding Ottoman women awaited me in future research. It was the discovery of this side of Ottoman women that really clenched my respect and admiration for them, because it enlightened me in regard to how Muslim women should be. They were not only very feminine and refined, but they were also strong defenders of Haqq. Their feminine and masculine natures were amazingly well balanced. As a Muslim convert, I have found the female model I was looking for. Whenever I get into trouble, I first ask myself, “What would an Ottoman woman do?” Furthermore, I discovered that the spiritual nature of women was honored in Ottoman society. Ottoman women were honored in the harem, not imprisoned there. Unfortunately, this way of perceiving women has all but been lost today. Much of the time women are perceived mainly as physical beings and, in its lowest form, as sex objects. They are often valued to the degree that they can rival the accomplishments of men. Ottoman women, however, were honored and valued as women.
I wanted to share these discoveries with others. I began lecturing on the subject of Ottoman women in Turkey, and these lectures eventually led to a small book in Turkish entitled, “Osmanlı Toplumunda Kadın ve Aile (Women and Family in Ottoman Society).” Later on I began thinking about writing a book on Ottoman women in English—not an academic work, but a book giving a general overview that would appeal to any Western reader interested in the subject of women. Again, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work. As the book took form, so did my concept of how the book should be illustrated. I wanted it to reflect the spirit of the Ottoman woman—the beauty and harmony and refinement of her life. Once Tughra Books (formerly The Light, Inc.) agreed to publish the book and the design concept was agreed upon, members of their graphics design department did an extraordinary job that eventually led to the book being a finalist for the 2008 PMA Benjamin Franklin Award in the category of cover design/large format. My book was published under the title “Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality” at the end of 2007. In the spring of 2008 I went on a book promotion tour in some major US cities: Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Pittsburg, Rochester and Newark. The people I met and spoke to—men and women, young and old, American and Turkish, Muslim and non-Muslim—all responded positively to the book. Many were surprised to learn about the high social status of Ottoman women, particularly about their legal rights. Some, young Turks in particular, were thankful that the myth of the harem was finally being challenged. Almost all commented on the beautiful design of the book. The highlight of the tour occurred on the evening of the annual PMA publishing awards dinner in Los Angeles. That night my long journey of discovery in regard to Ottoman women was crowned when my book won the PMA Benjamin Franklin publishing award in the category of history/politics. As a final comment, I would like to mention the great contribution to the book of my now deceased son, Şahin Sancar. He was with me every step of the way, from the signing of the contract with my publisher to the final touches in the design. He was a beautiful person and he contributed greatly to the beauty of the book. May he live eternally in beauty and light. Asli Sancar is the author of Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality.
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Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time Review by Korkut Altay
By Karen Armstrong 2006 Eminent Lives Series HarperCollins 9780060598976 256 pages, hardcover
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hen Karen Armstrong was asked to make a wish as one of the 2008 TED prize winners, she wished for a Charter for Compassion to be crafted by a group of thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions, based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect. She has authored a long list of publications about the mainstream religions with the same perspective. Armstrong believes that as a paradigmatic personality, the Prophet Muhammad has important lessons, not only for Muslims but also for Western people. The title of her most recent book on the Prophet of Islam reflects this message— Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time. I remember Karen Armstrong at the Islamophobia conference in Istanbul, telling us how Americans rushed to the bookstores after the notorious 9/11 events and swept the books they could find on Islam off the shelves, including her own. A Prophet for Our Time holds a critical ground, as attention turns to Islam and the Prophet with every scandalous event, whenever certain persons with “Arabic names” are engaged in violent acts, or some impudent remark or drawing to offend Muslims comes up in the West. Unfortunately, shock waves seem bound to keep com-
ing, for as long as we wait for them to awaken us to the necessity of making an attempt to understand the “other.” As for Armstrong, this is what her efforts are all about: not only understanding the other, but also learning to respect them in order to live in a peaceful world. A Prophet for Our Time is not a first. In fact, Armstrong published her earlier study Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet in 1991, ten years before 9/11. Armstrong had seen that Western people were in no position to revise their negative impression of the Prophet. She writes that Western culture has a long history of Islamophobia that dates back to the Crusades, and that Christian monks of the twelfth century in Europe insistently defamed him. In her own words, “This distorted version of the Prophet’s life became one of the received ideas of the West, and Western people have always found it difficult to see Muhammad in a more objective light.” After 9/11, things got worse as some sectors of the Western media continued this tradition of hostility, and went so far as to make provoking insults. Her response in the face of this unfair attitude is virtually her mission statement on writing about the Prophet:
love affair. At this point, we had better turn our attention to the sources of the book. Some Western critics praise A Prophet for Our Time for being based on early Islamic sources such as Tabari and Ibn Ishaq. However, those who are familiar with Islamic studies know that the significance of these scholars of the early period was their compilation and recording of verbal reports which varied in reliability. Their works provided precious material for the next generation’s scholars, like Bukhari and others, who meticulously refined these reports and included the authenticated ones in their books. However, Orientalist researchers have felt very easy about referring to the early period compilations, taking the weak and unauthenticated reports as true, and rationalizing everything in their own way. Thus, most of the narrations from Tabari and Ibn Ishaq in A Prophet for Our Time are actually taken from just such a commentary by Alfred Guillaume. The gharaniq issue can be given an as example. A Prophet for Our Time repeats the claim that the Prophet did not at first condemn the worship of the cult of the three gharaniq—the idols which pagans believed to be the three “daughters” of God. Different Muslim academics have indicated why such claims are impossible, so it will suffice to draw attention to a simple fact. Belief in one God, with absolute rejection of any idols, daughters, or sons to be ascribed to Him, was essential in Islam from the very beginning: the first martyrs of Islam, Sumayya and Yaser, preferred to die than to accept the idols of the Quraysh. A Prophet for Our Time is a useful book from different aspects. Above all, Armstrong’s powerful language is especially commendable for its success in reflecting the author’s positive approach and dedication to mutual understanding between members of different faiths and to promoting a sense of “compassion” across the world. In this regard, Muslims as well as non-Muslims should respond to her call with their support. With due respect to her decent cause, I would still encourage those who would like to learn more about the Prophet to look for publications that are based on more authentic sources of Qur’anic exegesis and Traditions, and to be cautious about information derived from other sources that simply conveys narrations without any filters of authenticity. Korkut Altay is a staff editor for The Fountain.
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“We can no longer afford to indulge this type of bigotry, because it is a gift to extremists who can use such statements to ‘prove’ that the Western world is indeed engaged on a new crusade against the Islamic world. Muhammad was not a man of violence. We must approach his life in a balanced way, in order to appreciate his considerable achievements…” A Prophet for Our Time is a short biography, but not in the classical sense. The author informs the reader about the culture and conditions of the time, with the awareness of addressing a Western audience. As the events unfold, the book focuses on different aspects of the Prophet’s life such as the underlying reasons behind his wars, marriages, and so forth. We have a portrait of a decent person who made certain decisions and acted in a certain way for fair and understandable reasons. Rather than a holy figure, we are presented with a moral and social reformer who, in the face of a new situation, falls into a deep trance and then comes up with what he “believes” to be revelations to settle the issue. It should be noted that the overall narration reflects in many ways the tradition of Orientalist scholarship in which elements of Islam are explained by reference to the pre-Islamic society of the Arabian peninsula. Here, one cannot help but remember Said Nursi challenging the critics of the Prophet. He wrote that if a person claims to bring messages from God, he is either telling the truth, or is the greatest liar. What we see in A Prophet for Our Time however, is an attempt to find a position in between. A comment in The Economist about the earlier biography summarizes the author’s stance: “respectful without being reverential…” The Muslim audience may find the book a bit disappointing. In fact, the book has various points on which Muslims will agree, beg to differ, oppose, and even find offensive. Take the Prophet’s marriages for instance. They are explained in quite an agreeable way. However, Muslim scholars reject the account of the Prophet’s marriage to Zaynab as given in the book. Muslims believe that God Almighty willed people to understand that an adopted son (Zayd) was not like a real son, and the revelation about this marriage simply shattered a pre-Islamic taboo. Although the book notes this dimension, it rather makes the case sound like a
Questions and Answers O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want.
How would you comment on the Qur’anic verses “You alone do we worship . . .” (Fatiha 1:5) and “This is the Book: there is no doubt about it. A perfect guidance for the Godrevering, pious, who keep their duty to God” (Baqara 2:2).
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n this phrase, the object pronoun “You alone” (iyyaka) is placed before the predicate. This implies a very subtle point: “O God, we wholeheartedly proclaim, acknowledge, and confess that it is only You, and none but You that we turn to, bow before, and seek comfort in. We believe that by Your side alone we can attain serenity and peace.” Another point to note here is the tense; instead of abada, which is the past tense, in this verse na’budu is used for “worship”, the same root in the present. In the past, abada connotes “we did, we made, we performed, etc.” Such a tone, however, would in a way be contrary to the nature of worship, for it sounds like an accomplishment, which implies pride, as if the worshipper fulfilled something all by himself or herself. The present tense form of na’budu implies that the task is not yet finished, which renders such a misinterpretation impossible. Meaning “we worship,” na’budu refers to the intention and determination to acknowledge the eternal impotence and poverty of humankind before His Presence. This can also be paraphrased as follows, “O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire
for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want. My intention is my greatest worship; I hope that You will accept my intention as my worship. I plead for Your favor, not in proportion to the number of things that I have done, but to those I have intended to do.” In this phrase, na’budu, “we worship,” also emphasizes that the worshipper is not alone with such thoughts. Hoping that all others are thinking in the same vein, the worshipper proclaims, “In making this request, I am in full concord with all my fellow worshippers.” Through such an indisputable alliance, the worshipper is empowered with confirmation and testimony, and thus he or she turns to the presence of the Almighty Lord Who meets all needs. In this manner, they can relieve themselves of evil involuntary thoughts, and they can enact a complete form of worship toward the Perfect Divinity. Perfect guidance This is the Book: there is no doubt about it. A perfect guidance for the God-revering, pious, who keep their duty to God. (Baqara 2:2) “Guidance,” in this verse is in the infinitive form. Since the infinitive is a verb form, like in other languages, in Arabic it expresses action and engagement; therefore, it implies that individuals cannot find guidance, or, ultimately, the main goal to which it leads, without having exerted any effort. The word also ends with a tanween (indefinite noun-ending with letter nun); a rule in Arabic grammar suggests that if a concept is used in the indefinite/unconditional form, then
its perfect meaning is intended. Therefore, there is no doubt that this book is a transcending divine guidance for the pious. It is perfect guidance for the pious, as it is they who are free from the slightest skepticism, and it is they who are ready to comply with both the injunctions of faith (shariat al-garra) and the principles that are in effect in nature (shariat al-fitriyya). The pious are disposed to acknowledge the truth, and since they are not prejudiced, such perfect guidance can be viable for them alone (with the above-mentioned condition that they have to exert effort). Nevertheless, there is another use of “guidance” at the end of the same page in the Qur’an in the following verse: “Those (illustrious ones) stand on the true guidance from their Lord” (2:5). Here “guidance” is in the form of a verbal noun (while the infinitive form implies human responsibility, the verbal noun is God’s creation).1 That is, it is a kind of actual guidance God bestows upon His servants, whomever He will, without the intervention of any cause-effect relationship. As far as we can deduce from the conditional in “for the
God-revering, pious,” how one attains such guidance is by attaining a true level of piety. Faith and knowledge of God are the first level of ascending on this path, the last being the pleasure of God Almighty. Finally, as clearly expressed in the verse, only those who can live up to such guidance will attain salvation. It can be derived from the context of this last verse that guidance is dependent upon God’s having created it. However, the behavior and preferences adopted through the exercise of free will are necessary if such guidance is to ensure safety and comfort in this world and if it is to become a means of salvation in the hereafter for humankind. To conclude, the first “guidance” is a cause and the second is a blissfully granted result. Both are an answer to the prayer of “Guide us to the straight path” in Fatiha (1:7), while serving as guidelines for those on the road. Note 1. See Nursi, The Words, Twenty-Sixth word, Sixth Way, for an explanation on verbal noun and infinitive in Arabic grammar.
November / December 2008
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November / December 2008
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November / December 2008
Abandon sorrow, and for once turn your eyes to Him, Look up! See a shimmering world already rising, Bring an end to this mourning silence, submit to the Lord, The last station for the broken hearts is His abode.