SEPTEMBER OCTOBER 2008
We are looking forward to the season of the rose and the tulip. O Rose; we are all your loyal servants; Despite so many difficulties, we always follow in your footsteps, Although we may stumble at times, we are always in your circle. . .
FROM BRIGHT YESTERDAY TO BRIGHT TOMORROWS Search for Life on Planets Orbiting Other Stars OTTOMAN WOMEN: MYTH AND REALITY
July / August 2008
CANADA: $ 5.95 • TURKEY: 6. 00 YTL • UK: £ 2.95 • USA : $ 5.50
A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
EDITORIAL Adaptation to Conditions SEPTEMBER ∙ OCTOBER 2008 ISSUE 65
n August when the world’s focus was fixed on the most costly ever Olympic Games in Beijing (estimated costs to be over $40 billion), the ugly face of war was seen in another part of the world as news agencies reported clashes between Georgia and Russia. Images and reports coming from the region during the clashes that lasted for almost a week were horrifying, as many courageous reporters dared to enter cities like Gori and Tskhinvali while bombing continued and managed to dispatch videos and frames of unarmed civilians wounded, in tears, or searching for someone dear. I could not help but hear a fleeting inner voice ask me why I was so horrified at the war in Caucasia, while news about another one that has been continuing for years in Iraq, with tens of civilian casualties every day, did not even catch my attention any more. In this issue the article on “The Adaptation in the Senses” points to the fact that the human body is blessed with an ability to adapt to the surrounding conditions by way of which our senses get used to changing climate, light, and even pain. This feature of our body is a mercy, considering that if we could not adapt to circumstances, life would be torture. Could this be the reason bombings and civilian sufferings in Iraq do not irritate me—because I have been watching or reading about it for more than five years now and my senses are adapted to being exposed to the same play on the Iraqi stage?
A MAGAZINE OF SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL THOUGHT
September / October 2008
While voicing a strong longing for the lofty and colorful life of centuries ago, the lead article is a consolation for the victims of all times as it reminds the reader of how joyous enthusiasm was once achieved: “We believed as long as we could employ our willpower up to its potential all problems could be overcome as a result of divine help. We always managed to discover contentment in our soul and proceeded on our course.” In such a state of psychology no misfortune can shake any individual or community.
In this issue you will meet Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality, a book which won the Benjamin Franklin best book in history award in May 2008. Its description of the legal rights and social status of Muslim women in the nineteenth century will shatter life-long prejudices about harem life. Another writer, Dr Salik, takes us on a space journey to discover planets orbiting other stars where scientists hope to test theories developed on planet creation. Thomas C. Smedley offers an interesting pattern of engaging with foreign cultures as a result of his personal experiences with the Turkish community in the USA. Smedley says that by practicing role reversal, a person of good will can overcome the barriers of language, religion, and nationality. Ramadan mubarak! We wish this holy month of Islam may be a means of peace and joy for all peoples of the world.
Arts & Culture
From Bright Yesterday to Bright Tomorrows
A Moment for Reflectıon
M. Fethullah Gülen
/ Tears of Regret
/ Fasting in Ramadan and Developing
Self-Control Yuksel A. Aslandogan & Muhammed Cetin
On the Perfecting of a Prophet Kathleen St.Onge
/ Reflections on the Children of Israel
and the Qur’an Rabbi Allen Maller
/ The Fundamental Spiritual Benefit of
Fasting Mehmet Ozalp
34 49 53
Turning the Tables to Build Intercultural Friendships Thomas C. Smedley
/ A Historical Review of Dreams
/ The Relationship between Law and Literature
Ahamuduzzaman & Sharif Rakib Hasan
/ The Adaptation in the Senses
/ Some Logical Principles in the Qur’an
Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality
John Quincy Adams
Search for Life on Planets Orbiting Other Stars
/ O Lord, Thy All-Discerning Eyes
/ Biogas as a Clean Energy
/ The Horizon of Science
It’s me Peter, your Lungs! Irfan Yilmaz
M. Fethullah Gülen
/ What does “insaf” mean?
September / October 2008
M. Fethullah G端len
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or centuries we have enjoyed commitment to a belief in eternity, and the atmosphere we inhaled every moment was filled with eternal considerations. Each of our pursuits triggered in us feelings from beyond time; our dreams were set in motion on a tour from a crystal-clear past through a joyful future; our souls were made to sense the beauties of the years and centuries that have gone by and the years and centuries yet to come, transforming our vision into a vast, contemplative pleasure. Each happy moment and what it reminded us of covered our horizon with its enchanting rose-like scent, stroked our heads with a silken touch, made us almost forget our transience, dropping a ray of eternity on the eyes of our heart and making our spirit taste the joy of the life beyond. This state was to such an extent that for us this world was like the head of a waterfall and the life to come was like its bank; we were never distracted by any thoughts of an imminent end or termination. Based on a sensible interpretation of the cosmos and events, we considered the arrival and departure of each existence in this world very normal, a process taking place in a gentle manner; this mysterious journey instilled
e had a powerful voice then; we had a word to utter for everyone, and our presence conveyed a deliberate message for all humanity. We regarded one another with compassion and mercy, and embraced everything and everyone with love. Satanic sparks that seldom turned up were weathered in the atmosphere of our conscience, softened, and then transformed into some sort of light and returned thus to their source.
the dark aisles of corporeality, believers set forth for a new dimension of life every morning and every night; they are receptive to what may descend from the beyond and they welcome any surprise in submission. Believers restore and purify any hardship or misfortune that has struck through the filters of patience, and for them such hardships are nothing less than bathing to wash off the dirt. They see the beautiful as nothing less than beauty and they deepen their perception with praise. Those things that appear ugly believers beautify with the rays of beauty from their conscience, and they pursue a colorful life. Indeed, once upon a time, humankind experienced such a life filled with joyous enthusiasm, as if we were strolling on the vibrant slopes of the life beyond. We were informed of the beginning and the end of our life, its meaning, and what it offers for tomorrow. We knew where the thoroughfare we were on was going to reach as well as we knew the directions to our home. At times,
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in us profound spiritual expansion, for it was a means of reunion, each action and replacement was like being discharged of duty and freedom from the burdens of service at the end of which await the realms of divine favors and rewards. There may be such people even today, but those days in the past were unique, just like the people therein who were deep in the heart. They were unique in the way they deliberated on this world and the hereafter, on matters like departing for the Almighty, bidding farewell to this life, and greeting the afterlife. As they reached puberty and started developing self-awareness, a test anxiety would fill their spirits, then they would spend their days in self-accounting. Their feelings and thoughts were occupied with fear and awe, their hearts beating with love and enthusiasm, eyes seeking the divine mercy, hearts satiated with imploring, and with such feelings they would walk beyond this universe as if they were stepping into their wedding night. They were often in a state of fear governed by constant hope and alertness, for they knew this life was but temporary and short, and that all our experiences and delights are destined for termination, and the time for our appointed hour of departure is unknown to us. They were hopeful, for the road to follow is evident, the target is over there and the destination is known. Their paths were bathed in the light of inspiration by their faith and spiritual well-being, and by their vast conscience over a domain that was way beyond their physical capacity. Unlike those unfortunate ones who cry in the pangs of having incarcerated themselves in their limited level of perception, and who observe the entire creation and all divine signs from such a narrow perspective and waste their lifetimes in
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we were afflicted by anxiety regarding our path and concerns about what would become of us; but, at the same time, with firm belief that everything was linked with His vast mercy, we fixed our eyes on the furthest limits and our inner vision on the horizon and beyond, and sent our thoughts in the direction of our inner disposition seeking His pleasure. We were not much concerned with anything other than these; we did not occupy ourselves with how events unfolded; our rhythm of action was not affected by thousands of concentric calculations in a complete correlative unity nor by developments apparently occurring in an unfavorable direction. We believed as long as we could employ our willpower up to its potential all problems could be overcome as a result of divine help. We always managed to discover contentment in our soul and proceeded on our course. We had a powerful voice then; we had a word to utter for everyone, and our presence conveyed a deliberate message for all humanity. We regarded one another with compassion and mercy, and embraced everything and everyone with love. Satanic sparks that seldom turned up were weathered in the atmosphere of our conscience, softened, and then transformed into some sort of light and returned thus to their source. By and large, we were all at peace and breathed serenity. Our joy and pleasures were forever, sorrow and grief temporary. If we moaned once, we would cheer ten times; in return for one ruin we would delight in countless joys. Like a baby peacefully sleeping in a cradle and nursed in comfort with lullabies, we were in a trouble-free environment with pure wishes and crystal-clear dreams. Concerns and anxieties were like clouds moving above us dropping temporary shade; their passing was momentary, and it was lit up all around. The days were so, and so were we . . . Then, some kind of moth infested the spirit of our communityâ€”the beginning of this accursed period dates back a few centuries. It nibbled at the roots of the spirit and meaning that made us what we were. Heavily wounded and rotten in many aspects, it seemed almost impossible for this entity to stand by itself. Winds of opposition were shaking and eroding it while breaking its branches and causing cracks here and there, heaping heavy blows
so as to kill it off. At a time when the world really needed a just, balanced, and truthful power, it was disqualified from its capacity to show direction to nations and to determine world events; its wonderful administration and influence completely faded. It was a long retreat; its voice was not heard, nor was it listened to. It kept losing rank and it was far from preventing this dragging down. It drifted toward an unknown end as it was transforming into something else while at the same time nations and communities that were once either brothers in faith or citizens under the same rule were now turned into enemies of one another. Traditions and customs were being knocked down one by one across a wide region. Religious and national attitudes that complemented one another, an exemplary social order that had lasted for centuries, cultures that voiced the collective worldview of millions of people, the arts and the human spirit, the sense of history, all were being stripped off their soul, turning them into lifeless corpses. It was such a plague of metamorphosis under various names and titles that cast away what was local, replacing it with the junk of others. There were so many people, especially from the elite, who transformed during this rather rapid change, so that in the face of all that was happening, the masses twisted their original makeup, jumped from one fantasy onto another, and moved away from their own selves. All these events were nothing but the death throes of a glorious civilization, humanity denying its own nature, as if peeling off its own skin, and trading its soul for some rambling notions devoid of spirit. High human virtues and ideals were being sacrificed for blind imitation. Today, our eyes observe the strength and vigor of the human spirit, our hopes are fixed on the door of the All-Merciful that we believe is not completely closed to us, our hearts are expecting additional divine blessings, and we are fully convinced that we will revive, even though we appear like a corpse rotten for hundreds of years. If waiting is a condition, then we are ready to wait for another three or even four hundred years with this hope and faith. May our Lord, the All-Merciful Who is aware of our expectations, not make us suffer from other misfortunes.
Omer Arifagaoglu that is constantly heard, touched and smelt; we, as humans, don’t hear or feel certain things after a certain period of time. In medical terms, this process is called “adaptation to the senses.” If we have to go into a very stinky place, we intensely feel the smell at first, but after a while, we begin to feel it less. Another example can be given about those who wear glasses. They sometimes search for their glasses in different places thinking that they have lost them, even though they still wear them. Our friend’s adaptation levelwas a little higher than the normal, but considering the disturbance of those who wear glasses would feel on their noses, it is better understood that this adaptation is a great favor of All-Powerful and AllKnowing God. In the absence of adaptation If we weren’t endowed with the capacity of adaptation, our brain would be busy with unnecessary
information and we would be disturbed by the constant touching in our body. The cells that feel the senses are called “receptors.” There is an amazing adaptation in most parts of the cells that sense the touching in the skin. For instance, when we wear something, we feel the first touch of the garment to our body, but this feeling caused by the garment disappears afterwards. If we were to feel everything touching our skin, life would be very difficult for us. Likewise, in some patients, the adaptation to senses disappears and this makes the things harder for them. Some patients, on the other hand, develops hypersensitivity.
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When I was a student at medical school, I used to share a house with some of my friends. Since we had to study until late hours, we were unable to wake up without the alarm clock. At first, we used to wake up easily after setting the alarm clock, but after a while we failed to get up despite continuous ringing of the clock, because we got used to hearing its sound. Later, an early-bird started to splash water on our faces to awake us. The coolness of water made some of us wake up comfortably. We were jokingly saying that it was the “buoyant force of the water” that woke us up. But somehow one of us was even resisting to the “buoyant force” (!) of the water. One night, when there was water cessation in our neighborhood, we left the taps open and water flooded all over the house early in the morning. I woke up when the water level was considerably high and awakened the others. Not caring for the buoyant force of the water, the same resisting guy was still sleeping although he was on an inflatable bed. Rising water was flowing into his nose and making him breathless, so he was constantly turning in his bed. Although he was seriously disturbed in his sleep, somehow he was unable to wake up. As told in this story, since nervous system was created in a way to adapt, after a while, to the things
Motor cortex Hair shaft Epidermis Dermis
Thalamus Meissner’s corpuscles
Pacinian corpuscles Medulla
Skin Spinal cord
Temperature receptors Pressure receptors
Connection of receptors with the sensoria in the brain
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They feel pain and suffering even by the slight touching of their garments. It is very hard to cure this illness which is called “neuropathic pain” in medicine. They feel cancer-like severe pain. Scientists are still working on the studies to stop this kind of pain.
How does adaptation occur? Adaptation happens as a result of a different mechanism for each sense. Touching causes a liquid movement in the cytoplasm of the receptor cells. This movement is sensed by the cell and conveyed to the brain in the form of electric signals. Despite the continuation of touching, the cytoplasm movement in receptor cells is stopped after a while and no signal is sent to the brain. So, no touching is felt. But when touching
stops, as a result of a liquid movement in the cytoplasm Skin receptors of the receptor cells, a new signal prompts the brain that “touching is over.” In short, only the beginning and the end of touching is communicated to the brain. Despite the continuation of touching between the beginning and the end, the brain (rather the “soul”) is not bothered by this redundant information. Even though, many types of receptors serve in the process of adaptation to touching, only six of them have been thoroughly studied and named. The adaptation is not the same in all receptors; fast and advanced in some of them, while in some of them it is slow and weak. For example in touching receptors of the skin (Merkel disks), the adaptation is relatively little and there is no adaptation at all in some senses such as feeling the pain. In some receptors (such as Ruffini’s corpuscles) located in dermis (bottom layer of the skin), deep organs and joint capsules, the adaptation is very little. These receptors send the weight and pressure signals required for the absence of adaptation. Weight and pressure receptors located in the joint capsule are responsible for sensing the angle degree of the joint. The brain receives information from them about the angle degree of the joints and it constantly uses it while sending orders of movement to the muscles of the skeleton. We can walk and do the other movements that require balance thanks to these perfect processes happening beyond our consciousness. If the brain didn’t know the information regarding the angle degree of the joints, some jobs
Adaptation in various senses Adaptation in seeing (accommodation): Adaptation in seeing is different from the one for touching. If we keep looking at an object, we keep seeing it. In this sense, there is no interruption in adaptation and seeing. This is another favor of God among many of His favors. If the adaptation in seeing were to be similar to the one in touching, we wouldn’t be able to do many activities that require walking, reading, sitting, standing and being in balance. All-Merciful God placed different adaptations in our eyes appropriate for the jobs that they do. Adaptation in seeing near and far: We keep seeing an object no matter how nearer or farther we move it. Despite the change in the distance of the object, our vision doesn’t change. These processes are automatically carried out depending on the distance we look and they are operated under the framework of optical principles such as changing the shape of the eye lens and approaching of the lens to the retina or moving away from it. Adaptation in seeing in the light and dark: Our eyes detect and adapt to the new surroundings, be it light or dark. During this adaptation process, seeing in the dark and light is made possible by adjusting the degree of vision and increasing and decreasing it one million times. The activities of the photoreceptors (in the shape of rod and cone) are carried out by an amazing knowledge and power. Adaptation in smelling (olfaction): The smelling receptors of the nose adapt to the bad smell at a rate of 50 % in its first encounter. So, the dense bad smell felt in the first encounter disappears immediately. A minute after this encounter, the sensing of the bad smell is eliminated upon the orders coming from the brain to the nerves of smell. Garbage men or cleaners or the people working in slaughterhouse or sewerage do not get disturbed, as a favor of God, by the bad smell as much as other people do. Adaptation in tasting: the adaptation happens one minute (at most) after the “tasting.” Yet All-Powerful and AllKnowing God created the adaptation capacity for the bitter materials very low, because most of these materials are a kind
of poison for our body. Therefore when the babies unconsciously want to eat something poisonous, they take them out at once and are avoid of being poisoned. Adaptation in temperature: The temperature receptors are intensely stimulated in sudden temperature changes. The adaptation occurs in 30 seconds or one minute as the intense of stimulation decrease. However there is no 100% adaptation, because the receptors sense both the sudden changes and constant situations. Remember, both extreme hot and cold are harmful for the body. The fact that the adaptation in this sense is limited is another favor of God. Adaptation in hearing: When we enter a noisy environment, we are disturbed by the extreme noise. But two tiny muscles located in the middle ear contract as a manifestation of His mercy and prevent the sounds from being conveyed to the middle ear by masking all the sounds except for the ones of normal conversation. Workers in a noisy environment keep working as though they do not hear the noise at all. Adaptation in feeling the pain: There is no adaptation in feeling the pain which is an indication of God’s mercy. If there were any adaptation to the pain, we would lose the patients before diagnosing and curing the illnesses. If a patient bothered by the gastrointestinal bleeding or appendicitis were to have an adaptation to the pain, after a few minutes he would not feel any pain before taken to the hospital and think that his illness is over and does not feel any need for a treatment. But possible inflammation of the appendix might result in the risk of death after a while. Many of us are not aware of this perfect mechanism of adaptation. All these examples put forward the fact that the mechanisms bestowed upon our senses are very harmonious and adaptive to the working principles of our intellectual and spiritual faculties in the evaluation of various situations that we encounter in our life and they also show that humans were created as a whole. If we were deprived of such a blessing, we wouldn’t be aware of many changes that threaten our life and be bothered by the disturbing environmental conditions. Omer Arifagaoglu is a professor of medicine. He lives in Turkey.
Bitter Sour Salty Sweet
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that require delicate balance such as the job of construction workers wouldn’t be properly done.
Kathleen St.Onge It is one of the articles of faith of Islam to believe in the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. So when anyone casts a shadow on his character, the Muslim world feels deeply antagonized. Yet some remarks are extreme in their negativity and many non-Muslims really question the Prophet of Islam—who is he, and why do Muslims embrace him so completely? When I first came to Islam from Christianity almost two years ago, I asked myself this question, too. Muslims believed in him purely from their hearts. I admired them, but I was still captive of a secular, overly rational mindset. If I were going to accept the Prophet fully, it would have to “make sense” logically. Muslim friends told me about his hard work, his impeccable character, and his innumerable virtues. Ironically, the more they spoke of his perfection, the more I resisted. It reminded me too much of the fervor of Christians regarding Jesus, peace be upon him. Risk comes with excessive praise—
It is simply illogical to think that a man in his 50s and 60s, with a perfect young wife already, would seek to complicate his life by adding more people to his household, including many offspring of other men, just to satisfy his sexual needs. Clearly, his complex home life was part of his calling and in no way reflected deviance on his part. The image of the Prophet as a warrior was another point of contention which I found myself debating with my own Christian relatives. For after extensive reading, my conclusion was that he was simply a man with an opinion far different from the prevalent viewpoint, and this is never easy in any place at any time. He fought to defend himself and his community, and to protect the right of himself and others to profess their faith. He did it superbly, but excellence is hardly something to hold against someone. A simple and factual look at his choices tells it best. He could have been at home quietly with a few children and grandchildren, in comfort and peace. Instead, he was on the battlefield with rocks strapped to his stomach to fade the feeling of hunger, washing his body with sand. He did not become rich, nor did he retire to a leisurely life. Instead, he remained poor, tired, harassed, and threatened. He did not become the object of worship for anyone—proof is in the fact that Muslims celebrate his birth, death, and calling simply as days of reflection and prayer. The Muslim high holidays relate strictly to the message of Islam— the submission to one God—and not to the man. If he were really a megalomaniac, as those strongly opposed to Islam argue, why didn’t he “invent” verses of the Qur’an to compel Muslims to recognize him as better than all the prophets and make himself the object of all prayers? Instead, he is respectfully referred to in the Qur’an as a beautiful example of humanity, an illiterate among his own people, and a simple messenger. The message is always clear—all praise is due to God, not the Prophet. Yet in a further assault on his character, non-Muslims then and now insist that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was fed all his information by other people and simply “rehearsed tales of the ancients.” Yet this is illogical. First of all, the Prophet spent most of his time prior to his calling with salesmen, not scholars. These caravan merchants knew “a little about a lot,” having traveled extensively, but they could hardly be expected to know worldly subjects deeply. Most of them were illiterate themselves,
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inadvertently a wonderful prophet can be raised to a status higher than a mortal man. Like many current and former Christians, I would not believe that Jesus was God, and I was scared of language which elevated any prophet too highly. So every time I read about the Prophet, I prayed for protection from my own misconceptions, my own cultural prejudices. Then one day, I came upon a lovely story about the infant Prophet being nursed by a Bedouin. While he lived with the tribe, they enjoyed bountiful harvests and animals full of milk. The Bedouins soon became convinced this particular baby was very special. I had seen God looking out for the children in my life and providing for them inexplicably at particularly difficult times. So, by the grace of God, the Bedouin’s story opened a door for me. Slowly, with more reading, the walls around my heart began to disintegrate. Polygamy was acceptable among Muslims, Jews, Christians, and polytheists at the time. But the Prophet had many wives, and nonMuslims eagerly cited this as evidence of perversion. What was the rational truth? First, he was loyal to one wife for 20 years, until her death, though she was his elder by 15 years. After her death, he married two women within a few years—one the elderly, destitute widow of an old friend, and the other the beloved daughter of his best friend and staunchest supporter. The latter, the lovely Aisha (may God be pleased with her) was a bright, beautiful, young woman he had known since her birth. She was one of the first converts to Islam and remained one of his most loyal confidantes throughout his life, as well as being a gifted historian. Having the option to marry only her, why wouldn’t he have done so? She was surely everything he could desire, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, and he chose her company on his deathbed. Yet he married others later, relative strangers, women from different cultures, age groups, physical attributes, and social positions—most bringing several children to add to his responsibilities, and most destined to a life of destitution as widows without the mercy of his offer. His marriages formed alliances between previously disparate peoples—Egyptian Copts, Jews, warring Arab tribes, and Africans—and shattered the roots of racism and social repression. Simultaneously, his home became the first school of Islam, as his wives and their children became ambassadors among their own peoples, thereby increasing both the acceptance and the reach of Islam.
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with an education suited strictly to trade. Yet the Qur’an contains extensive details about past communities and religious doctrines, and about geological and human history. The depth of the knowledge conveyed is too great to be simply hearsay gleaned at a fireside chat among tradesmen. This knowledge requires full-time scholarship to acquire even today, never mind 1,400 years ago when there were few texts and scientific instruments, and even fewer translations. When do his opponents suppose he would have acquired so much knowledge anyhow? This would have required daily conversations with sages in the middle of numerous battles, an incredibly busy family life, countless daily prayers, and his own mission to deliver the message to others. Yet he was never seen with any mortal teacher, and even his enemies have never suggested that he had one. In fact, some fervent opponents insist that the Prophet Muhammad was delusional—receiving inspiration from his own insanity. But if this were true, how could he simultaneously administer a massive, complex household with many wives and children, an intricate administration composed of alliances between peoples of different religious, socio-cultural, political, and economic backgrounds, and also strategize the stability of the Islamic empire for both the present and the future? The Prophet’s military and political savvy are enshrined in the historical record, in volumes upon volumes published by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And the basic reality is that he cannot have been insane and infinitely pragmatic at the same time. Besides, if his only goal had been to manipulate people, why didn’t he have more commonly accepted tactics? Magic, for example, is easy to learn. Yet the Prophet’s record, even as quoted by non-believers, is devoid of cheap illusions. And what of the “new knowledge” contained in the Qur’an—the scientific revelations about the rotation of the earth, speed of light, layers of the atmosphere, creation of stars, separation of the oceans, types of rocks, origin of the rain, gender of plants, composition of human tissue, formation of the embryo, origin of iron, and so on? Of all the sacred books around the world, only the Qur’an contains verifiable scientific data. What mortal source could have imparted such things to the Prophet? None. And to what end? Since these facts could not be verified until very recently, what benefit were they in convincing anyone in his time? None. If the Prophet intended to persuade people with some
sort of self-contrived document, why put in a lot of material that wouldn’t make sense to anyone for another 1,000 years or more? Truthfully, if he simply hoped for personal gain, for an easier life for himself, he would have been better off to just keep quiet and forget about the Qur’an completely. I see how my own life would have been much smoother with my relatives if I hadn’t converted to Islam. The Prophet Muhammad had already lost his father, mother, and guardian grandfather. Why wouldn’t he want to please and protect the only family he had left, his beloved uncle, and adhere to polytheism? Why wouldn’t he have wanted to simply retire comfortably in Meccan society as a prosperous husband, good father, and prominent member of the community? The fact is that the Prophet Muhammad was a hard-working, brilliant, courageous, and spiritually profound man who gave everything he had in this life to argue the faith of Islam amid tremendous opposition, sacrificing his wealth, his family, his health, and his personal comfort. His only purpose was to convince anyone who would listen to worship one God, not himself. In less time than most people spend getting a basic education, he engineered the first welfare system in the world, installed a national health policy of cleanliness, good diet, and preventative care that is still valid today; he abolished slavery, eliminated female infanticide, and gender discrimination in family life and inheritance, overthrew racism, inclined millions upon millions of potent, passionate people towards sexual conservatism, and he convinced entire nations and generations after them to abstain from alcohol. What is more, he is personally responsible for the fact that over a billion people around the world pray daily in constant remembrance of one God. With painstaking precision, he related a divine message, some of which—the scientific truths—meant no sense to anyone at the time. The Prophet was competent in all fields of existence and achieved more than anyone who has ever lived. What is more, his accomplishments are historical facts easily substantiated by any person with the inclination to read, in any library around the world. Thus we can understand why Muslims embrace the Prophet Muhammad so completely—because his life has been and will always be the light which makes the path to what is right more visible and more achievable. Kathleen St.Onge is the author of Bridge to Light: Spiritual Wayfaring Towards Islam.
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iven the emphasis by the Qurâ€™an on logical reasoning, it is understood that its audience (all of mankind) is expected to have a basic understanding of logical principles. It is our purpose in this article to go over a few basic principles of logic and give examples of how they are used in the Qurâ€™an.
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When we read the Qur’an, we notice that it appeals to human reasoning and invites us to reason. Among many verses in this regard, consider these: “How little you reflect” (A’raf 7:3), “God sets those who do not use their reason in a mire of uncleanness” (Yunus 10:100), “And in the alteration of night and day, and in the provision (rain) God sends down from the sky and reviving thereby the earth after its death, and His turning about of the winds there are clear signs for a people who are able to reason” (Jathiya 45:5). “…We set out in detail the signs for people who will reason and understand” (Rum 30:28). According to the Qur’an, using reason is a necessary condition for humans to attain belief in God. One of the arguments disbelievers use to justify their rejection of tawhid (belief in the oneness of God) is that they found their ancestors worshipping idols. The Qur’an challenges this argument and invites them to think for themselves: “When he [Abraham] said to his father and his people: ‘What is it that you worship?’ they said, ‘We worship idols; and we are ever devoted to them.’ Abraham said: ‘Do they hear you when you invoke them? Or do they benefit you or harm you?’ They replied: ‘But we found our forefathers doing the same.’ Abraham said: ‘So, have you considered what you have been worshipping?’” (Maryam 19:70–75). Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, is an example of a person who rejects his father’s beliefs when he realizes that what he was doing did not make any sense, and did not stand up against logical reasoning. Given the emphasis by the Qur’an on logical reasoning, it is understood that its audience (all of mankind) is expected to have a basic understanding of logical principles. It is our purpose in this article to go over a few basic principles of logic and give examples of how they are used in the Qur’an. Logical principle 1: Proof by contradiction. An important aspect of logic concerns methods of proving or disproving statements. This is one of the basic principles of proving statements, and it is commonly used to prove mathematical statements. To show that a statement is true using this principle, suppose its negation is true, that is, that the statement itself is false. If
you can then obtain a contradiction, something that is clearly false, this shows that the original statement is true. We shall illustrate this principle with an example. The reason we choose this example is that it is a classical result in mathematics, and the argument is beautiful. According to Hardy, this is an example of a first-class theorem about a significant mathematical fact (“a real mathematical theorem”) that is accessible to a general, educated audience (Hardy, 1967). There is a fundamental theorem in number theory which says that “there are infinitely many prime numbers.”1 There are many other proofs of this theorem but the most elementary and elegant proof is given by Euclid and it is by contradiction. Hardy claims that “both the statement and the proof can be mastered in an hour by an intelligent reader, however slender his mathematical equipment” (Hardy, 1967). Here is that proof: Suppose there is only a finite number of primes. Call them p1 , p2 , … pn. Now, consider the number N = p1 , p2 , … pn +1. Clearly, N is not equal to any of the primes in the list. Therefore, N itself is not a prime, and hence N must be divisible by one of the primes p1 , p2 , … pn (this is by “the fundamental theorem of arithmetic” which states that every integer greater than 1 can be written as a product of prime numbers). However, that is not the case: when N is divided by each one of pi there is a remainder of 1. This is a contradiction, and it arises from the assumption that there are only finitely many primes. Hence, the assumption cannot be true, and we conclude that there are infinitely many primes. Proof by contradiction, or reductio ad absurdum in Latin, is one of the mathematician’s finest tools. There are many examples of theorems in mathematics where the simplest proof is by reductio ad absurdum. Another classical example is to show that √ 2 is not a rational number (Hardy, 1967). Now, we would like to give examples from the Qur’an where this logical principle is used. Consider the verse: “Had there been in the heavens and the earth any deities other than God, both would certainly fallen into ruin” (Anbiya 21:22). Here the argument is: suppose there were gods other than God. Then the
tion. Therefore the Qur’an is the word of God. The final example we would like to give related to this principle is expressed in the verse: “If you are in doubt about the Divine authorship of what We have sent down our servant (Muhammad) then produce just a sura (chapter) like it and call for help to all your supporters” (Baqara 2:23). Here the statement to be proven is the same as the one in the previous example. The argument goes like this: If it was possible for anybody other than God to produce the Qur’an, you should be able to make something like it with all of your supporters, if not an entire book, just a chapter of it. The Qur’an presents disbelievers with a challenge. However, they have not been able to meet the challenge. They chose to fight with the sword because fighting with words was not possible. Therefore the assumption that “the Qur’an could have been written by a human” is wrong. Logical principle 2: The next principle we would like to discuss is the equivalence of an implication to its contrapositive. A statement of the form “If P, then Q” is called an implication. In such an implication P is called the premise, or the hypothesis and Q is called the conclusion. Such a statement asserts that whenever
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earth and the heaven could not maintain their order (because the powers and wills of different gods would interfere with each other). Since this is clearly not the case (because we see perfect order in the universe), this contradicts the logical consequence of the initial assumption. Therefore, the initial assumption (i.e., there are more than one god) is wrong. For another example, let us consider the verse: “Do they not contemplate the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than God, they would surely have found in it much inconsistency” (Nisa 4:82). Here the statement to be proven is “The Qur’an is the word of God, and it is from God.” To prove this statement by reductio ad absurdum, suppose for a moment the opposite statement is true, that is, that the Qur’an is not from God. A logical consequence of this assumption would be it is the word of a human being, but then there would be inconsistencies in it because the Qur’an talks about such great matters that if a human being had written it he would have made mistakes and inconsistent statements (for more on this point see Unal, 2007, page 228, and Nursi). However, we see no such statements in the Qur’an, thus contradicting the initial assump-
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P is true (or satisfied) then Q is guaranteed to be true. However, if/when P is not true, it does not say anything about the truth value of Q. An example of an implication from daily life is: “If it is rainy, then it is cloudy.” Here the premise is “it is rainy” and the conclusion is “it is cloudy.” Another example would be: “If you are in New York City, then you are in the US.” A mathematical example is: “if a number n is divisible by 6, then it is even.” An implication can also be read as “P implies Q,” or written “P => Q.” The contrapositive of an implication “if P then Q” is “if not Q then not P.” For example, the contrapositive of the first implication above is “if it is not cloudy then it is not rainy,” of the second one, “if you are not in the US, then you are not in NY city,” and of the third one, “if n is odd (not even) then n is not divisible by 6.” Here are two examples from the Qur’an where we can apply this principle. The first one is the verse we discussed above: “If you are in doubt about the Divine authorship of what We have sent down our servant (Muhammad) then produce just a sura like it and call for help to all your supporters.” We can rephrase this statement as “if the Qur’an is not the word of God, then humans can produce a like of it,” and its contrapositive is “if humans cannot produce something similar to the Qur’an, then it is the word of God.” Remember that these two statements are logically equivalent. Now, we know that humans cannot produce anything comparable to the Qur’an despite much effort and motivation, therefore it follows that it is the word of God. The second example we want to consider is the verse: “Say (to them, O Messenger) if you indeed love God, then follow me, so that God will love you and forgive your sins” (Al Imran 3:31). The contrapositive of this statement can be stated as (slightly simplified) “if you are not following his messenger, then you really do not love God.” So, we obtain a clear measure of whether one really loves God or not. Following the Prophet is a necessary condition to attain the love of God. Logical principle 3: The final principle we discuss is false implies anything. This is actually a special case of an implication of the form “P implies Q.” Recall that such a statement asserts that whenever P is true, Q is also true, so P promises Q. However, if P is not true then it does not claim anything about Q; it may or may not be true. For example, if it is not rainy then it may or may not be cloudy. An implication is false when P is true yet Q is false. Intuitively, we can think of this
as breaking a promise. The question arises as to what the truth value of an implication should be when the premise P is false. It is accepted that the implication will be true in this case, because when the premise is false, the conclusion is totally irrelevant. This is called “false implies anything.” One can make any conclusion whatsoever based on a false premise, but it really does not mean anything. For example, the statements “if 2+2=5, then there are only finitely many primes,” and “if the world is flat, then there are no wars in the world” are both true statements. These statements are true but they really do not have any substance. They are true by a convention in logic. The important point one needs to pay attention to is this: Once you believe a premise that is not true, it is possible to make any conclusion you want and the whole argument looks right. However, such an argument is quite meaningless. So one needs to examine very carefully what is being assumed in a logical argument. One example we want to consider from the Qur’an related to this principle is the verse: “Those who deny Our Revelations and turn arrogantly from them—for them, the gates of Heaven will not be opened and they will not enter Paradise unless a camel can pass through the eye of a needle” (A’raf 7:40). With a little simplification, we can rephrase this verse as “if a camel passes through the eye of a needle, then disbelievers will enter Paradise.” Since the premise is false (obviously, a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle), this implication is true. However, this is not good news for disbelievers because the truth of this implication has nothing to do with the truth of its conclusion. This again shows the point: One needs to examine logical arguments carefully. What looks true or convincing formally and on the surface may not mean anything in reality if it is based on a false premise. Nuh Aydin is an associate professor of Mathematics at Kenyon College, in Ohio, USA. Notes 1. A positive integer n that is greater than 1 is called a prime if its only positive divisors are 1 and n. 1 is not considered to be a prime. Thus the sequence of prime numbers is 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29… References Hardy, G. H. A Mathematician’s Apology, Cambridge University Press, 1967. Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said. The Words (translation), The Twenty-Fifth Word, Available online at http://en.nurglobal.net/ modules/mastop_publish/?tac=The_Twenty-Fifth_Word Unal, Ali. The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English, The Light Inc., 2007.
Recent years have witnessed rapid industrialization and population growth, along with profligate consumption of energy. This in turn has triggered enormous increase in energy production based on non-renewable energy resources such as oil, coal, and natural gas. In order to break the dependence on fossil fuels, much research is underway to find new and efficient ways of energy production from renewable energy sources. Wind power and solar energy are two widely known examples of such alternatives.
According to a recent report by the UN, factors like climate change and high demand for energy are the main reasons for switching to alternative sources, among which biogas is an essential one. The same report also indicates that increasingly higher shares of budgets are spent on biogas, solar and wind energy research. What is Biogas? Biogas is a mixture that is produced by microorganisms during the decomposition of vegetable and animal wastes in an oxygen-free environment. It consists of methane (60–70%), carbon dioxide (30–40%) and hydrogen-sulfide
(0–2%). For its production, plant seeds that are rich in oil (e.g. sunflower), vegetables rich in carbohydrates (e.g. potato, wheat, corn, beet), fiber-rich plants (e.g. flax), other plant and tree remains (e.g. branches, hay, roots, bark), and animal remains can be utilized as raw material. Municipal and industrial waste can also be utilized on the condition that they are purified from inorganic materials like plastic and glass. Biogas is an environmentally friendly energy source that is easy to produce almost anywhere. Biogas production capacity is directly proportional to the agricultural level of a country. Its ease of production and relatively higher efficiency compared to other renewable ener-
Biog as is an envir onm entally frien dly ener gy sour ce that is easy to prod uce almo st anywher e.
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gy sources make it particularly important for countries which are not self-sufficient in energy production. Biogas production in reactors Biogas is produced by two main methods. In one case, the amount of biogas that can be extracted from the available organic waste is calculated. Then reactor tanks are designed according to the rate of production. In the other case, the energy requirement of a certain system (in terms of biogas energy) is calculated first, and then the reactors are built accordingly. The main concern in both designs is of course achieving the maximum efficiency and ease with minimum cost. We can list the parameters in the design of a reactor tank as follows: - Type and amount of organic material - Type and amount of raw material - Meeting the heat requirement of the chemical process - Mixing various materials in appropriate proportions
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Currently, reactors that are fed with raw materials on a daily basis are widely used in rural areas. This type of reactor is known as a continuous reactor. In cases where daily feeding is not possible, semi-continuous reactors are used instead. In this second type, re-feeding of the reactor is not necessary till the end of the first production cycle, but at the end of each cycle, the reactors have to be emptied and cleaned for the next cycle. Keeping the temperature of the medium at the correct level is crucial. Solar energy can be used to manage this. It can help heat the liquid mixture up to the desired temperature and prevent the heat loss in certain designs by providing the green-house effect.
Implementing in daily use How to implement biogas as an alternative source of energy in real life is surely an important subject. Currently, energy production from biogas is carried out either by direct burning or enriching and converting it into other forms of fuel to be used in industry. One may wonder how good biogas really is compared to current energy sources. In terms of biogas production capacity, 440 lbs of food waste is equivalent to the daily manure production from 5 cows. From this much food waste or manure, 88 ft³ of biogas can be obtained. In terms of energy, this is equivalent to 9 lbs of wood, or 3 lbs of charcoal or 0.16 gallons of coal oil, 1.5 lbs of gasoline and finally 56.50 ft³ of natural gas. What can we really do with this much energy? Here is a small list of things we can do:
- cook 3 meals a day for a normal size family for 3 days - run a 2-horsepower engine for an hour - keep a 60–100 Watt lamp on for six hours, which is approximately 1.25kWh electrical energy - heat two bedrooms daily Humanitarian issues Although when the western developed countries are considered, biogas is an excellent way of making use of waste food and other organic remains, it still calls for global thinking. In western countries, cutting food waste and turning it into useable energy is an advantage of biogas. Whether that energy is really needed is another issue to think about. People need to evaluate honestly how much energy they really need; they must consider the lights that are left on for no purpose, the heating and cooling systems that are over-used for extreme comfort, the excess of food they leave on plates and the pots of food dumped in the trash… Besides, in much of the rest of the world, there is malnutrition and a shortage of food. So, a straightforward question is, “Is it fair to consume edibles to make energy that we do not necessarily need, while there are people suffering from hunger?” Biogas clearly holds promise to resolve both the energy problem and the environmental crisis of our modern days. However, will it ever be possible to find resources that can satisfy the consumption needs of a humanity that lacks virtues such as contentment and the desire to share? Bekir Mugayitoğlu is an environmentalist engineer. He lives in West Virginia, USA.
A Moment for Reflection
was sitting at the dining table, minding my own business, that is, struggling to read a novel too tricky for a fifteen-year-old girl like me, when the doorbell brought me back to reality. My older sister, who had been watching some noisy opera all evening, jumped up from the couch to open the door. With my older brother and sister out at their part-time jobs, I knew it must be my parents arriving home. I rose from my seat to greet them. Mom and Dad marched in,
bringing a cold draught full of damp and rain inside. It seemed as if a storm was approaching, so I was happy my parents were home. They took their muddy shoes and heavy coats off. Dad, looking very sad, sat down on the sofa while my mom whispered something quickly to my sister before vanishing to her bedroom. I could only catch some ominous words like, “...dead…. wake…. we got to go.” My sister did not ask any questions. In no time, Mom
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came out of her room dressed in black, kissed me on the cheeks, and left. Dad, who up to that moment had been silently gazing at the brown carpet, robotically stood up and followed her. On his way out, he reminded my sister to lock the door. ****** My sister turned the key twice as if the Big Bad Wolf might knock on the door in a minute. Then she turned off the TV—custom dictates that there is no music or laughter in a mourning house. We sat there looking at each other in silence. My sister looked pitiful, so I gave her some time to digest whatever Mom had whispered to her. Meanwhile, I started to decode what my little radar had caught. Someone is dead—no doubt about it. Since the news was given sotto voce, it had to have been a shameful death like committing suicide or being shot while stealing. Or, God forbid, it might be an awful death like being crushed by a train or chopped to pieces by a revenge murderer. Since my parents were grieving, it probably involved somebody significant to us. Could it be one of their coworkers? A relative? At this point I grew so anxious I knew I would explode if I did not ask. “Who is dead?” I asked in a trembling voice. “Dad’s stepmother,” my sister answered matter-of-factly. The answer took me by surprise because I did not know Dad had a stepmother. I knew he had lost his mother suddenly at age six and had lost his father ten years later. I sensed a mystery concealed before me and I could have sworn my sister knew more. The question was how I could fish out the secrets my sister’s heart held so faithfully. My sister, an ordinary eighteen-year-old, was nice to me most of the time except when I asked too many questions and messed up her drawers. She would never repeat what she knew about her friends and acquaintances, so at times I felt my sister was a mysterious person and I imagined her heart was full of secrets. “Dad’s stepmother?” I repeated it in my mind over and over trying to define what it meant to me. I knew of only one stepmother, a pretty infamous one for that matter: Snow White’s stepmother. She was mean and cruel. Some people would rejoice at such a person’s death. Yet, everybody was sad. I made up my mind to go ahead and ask my sister no matter what the consequences. My assumptions were taking me nowhere. “Where did she live?” I asked, expecting to be hushed. “In our town,” my sister answered. “Is she nice?” I
asked, then corrected myself. “I mean, was she nice?” My sister nodded. Seeing her handle my interrogation calmly, I was encouraged to ask more. Mercifully, my sister spared me all the sweating by revealing the story on her own. “Dad was six years old when his mother died. Grandpa married again right away so that somebody would take care of his little boy. He chose to marry a close relative of his first wife. Apparently, everybody was surprised that an attractive man with a high standard of education married someone so plain and uneducated. But I guess he only cared that a relative of Grandma would treat his son nicely. He had three more children with his second wife, two girls and a boy.” I stood there all ears, almost forgetting to breathe, listening to this astonishing revelation. Not only had I a step-grandmother, but a step-uncle and two step-aunts as well. I forced myself to stop wondering and focus on my sister, who, after taking a deep breath, went on: “Grandfather was right. She took care of Dad so well that she didn’t make any difference between her own children and him. She continued to be good to him even after Grandfather died ten years later. She never remarried. She worked hard to make ends meet, and Dad, because he was the eldest child, helped by dropping out of high school to work full time. That was when he took evening courses and learned to be an electrical repairman. “At twenty-six, Dad married Mom. I heard that his stepmother loved Mom and boasted to her neighbors about what a fine lady her son had married. In the beginning, everything was fine and they all lived happily together in the same house. After a while, Dad started to give less and less to the family budget and spent more and more from his pay on gifts and movie theater tickets. Mom and Dad used to like to go to the movies every week in those days. “One night Dad’s stepmother apparently complained. She reminded Dad that she was having a hard time paying the bills. Dad accused her of being interfering and jealous of his love for his wife. His stepmother must have felt humiliated because she vowed that unless he apologized and changed his ways, she wouldn’t speak to him again. Dad insisted he had done no wrong and saw no reason to apologize. Both of them must have gone to bed feeling sore and angry at each other. The next day, when his stepmother came home from work, most likely hoping that the new day might
we missed. Every day I came home from school with our neighbor’s son, passing by their door, stopping by just to breathe in the wonderful smell of baking bread and to envy the big smile of his grandmother, knowing quite well that a cold and empty home was waiting for me to turn the key. I was angry with Dad because his pride was depriving us of a God-given right—the wonderful presence of a grandmother. Why did everyone in town just stand by and watch this tragedy? Everyone was pretending to mind their business. No one had the courage to intervene and bring it to an end.” My sister started crying and I felt pity for us my eyes watered too. Who knows what beautiful bedtime stories she might have known, who knows what delicious meals she could have prepared, and whether she would have had the ear to listen to me—the ear my mom, who worked full time, never had. “But why did she kiss me twice and give me two candies?” I asked, almost to myself, fearing that my sister would reprimand me for such a stupid question. “She…,” my sister sniffed trying to collect her voice, ”she worked in the only day care our town had. So she practically took care of me and our big sister and big brother as a part of her job for four whole years each. When you were born she had retired. I guess she was sad that she never got to hold you as a baby.” I could hold the tears no longer. Her soft kiss on my cheeks and her compassionate, intense look lingered in my mind. She would have made a wonderful grandmother. ****** The doorbell startled us, and we hurried to open the door, wiping the tears on our way. Surprisingly, my parents had returned in much worse shape than they had left. Usually close relatives of the deceased stay at the wake until dawn. My parents had been gone for barely an hour. This time Dad, soaked to the bone with rain, his face swollen red from crying, went straight to their room. Mother looked distressed too. She sat on the coach and took several deep breaths. “What happened?” asked my sister when she realized that Mom was not going to tell us without prompting. “We were not wanted there,” Mom managed to say before she broke down in tears. I shivered as I imagined someone yelling at my parents, “Get out of here!” “Who told you that?” my sister demanded. “Her son,” Mom said. I could not help but note that “her son” would have been our uncle, had all this not happened.
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have helped him to see things in their true color, she found that Dad and Mom had packed up their stuff and moved out. She must have felt betrayed. The sting in her heart, I reckon, made her swear an oath that she never broke. She sent word to Dad telling him that from now on she would have nothing to do with him and warned him never to come back.” My sister stopped her narration and it felt as if time had stopped, too. “This is too awful to be true,” I mumbled in disbelief. “Did they ever speak again?” I asked, hoping against hope. My sister shook her head. “Neither she nor her children ever spoke to our parents.” My sister continued, “They saw each other almost every day on the street, in the shops, at the stadium, at the hospital, at the post office, you name it. But they changed paths or ignored each other.” She shook her head. “Pride is such a terrible thing sometimes,” she concluded, and I could not have agreed more. “You know, you met her once!” My sister startled me with this exciting remark. “I did? When? Where?” I impatiently looked into her eyes. “Remember the day when you hurt your knee in the park and when we were on our way back home, and you were limping, two old ladies stopped us in the middle of the road?” “Yes, I remember,” I interrupted her. Although it had happened almost five years ago I recalled the incident clearly because that peculiar encounter had made quite an impression on me. The intensity with which one of the old ladies looked at me, the way my sister looked around as if she did not want to get caught doing something wrong, had naturally not escaped my curious eye. “I remember, one of the old ladies kissed you on the cheeks. Then she looked at me and asked her friend, ‘Is this his youngest daughter?’ Her friend said yes and then the first lady hugged me, wiped tears from my face with a tissue, and gave me two candies. Then you pulled me away. You said we were late and our parents would be worried. I followed you but I was looking behind, waving back at the nice lady because she made me feel so special. Later, when I kept asking you who she was, you hushed me. You were angry and sorry at the same time. I even saw you wiping your eyes. I thought you were crying because she didn’t give you any candies.” “No, silly,” my sister tried to laugh, though I sensed that the same mood of anger and sorrow had overtaken her. “I was crying,” she explained, “for all the things
At a time when impudence and insolence have become so pandemic, is it not fair for us to expect the inheritors of the Prophethood, “volunteers of service,” to show that human values have not totally vanished?
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“He shoved us out,” Mom continued, sniffing. “He told us that it’s useless to honor the dead when we had shown her no respect in her lifetime.” That made sense to me as much as I wished it did not. “What did Dad do?” asked my sister. I was becoming annoyed with Ms. Detective. I was afraid of what was coming next. “What could he do?” Mom took a deep breath. “Your Dad stood there speechless for a few minutes. He couldn’t confront his stepbrother. No one at the wake came to his defense, so we left the house in humiliation. He wept all the way home,” Mom said breaking into tears again. A deep sadness flooded my heart as I realized that our step-grandmother had taken with her to the grave any chance of reconciliation and that I would never come to meet my uncles and aunts. I left Mom to my sister’s questioning and went to check on my dad. The door of their room was ajar. He was sitting on the bed, his back bent, his gaze fixed on the floor. I wished I could read his mind, but more than anything I wished I could console him. But how could I? There sat my dad, a middle-aged man, proud father of a son and three daughters. There sat my dad, a diligent follower of politics who never missed the evening news in the election season. There sat my dad, a faithful patron of the coffee shop, and a big fan of soccer who could never get enough of the Brazil team at the World Cup. There sat a man sobbing like a child with his head between his palms. I wondered if he felt like a loser. For some unknown reason I could not side with him, although my heart was breaking with pity. And suddenly, I realized that I had spent the whole afternoon utterly fascinated by my sister’s account of my parents’ sins. Immediately, I felt sick and afraid. Did disloyalty flow in our veins? Was that to be the inheritance in our family? Right at that moment Dad raised his head and looked at me with an expression pleading for something neither I nor anybody else breathing on earth could grant him: forgiveness. Avoiding my reproachful look, he raised his fists and started hitting his graying temples, shouting painfully to himself, “Ungrateful, Ungrateful!” I could not stand watching him any longer. I backed out and closed the door. And at every rapid beat of my heart I prayed to God to have mercy on us all for what we had done to our parents and to show us a way of atonement. Mirkena Ozer had her major in Turkish language and literature. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
THE HORIZON OF
The cosmos is a realm of geometrical rules and operating on the principles of physics in an orderly and organized manner. The small things possess the same properties of bigger things; the former ones are perhaps not more elegant nor are there more wisdom in their makeup than the latter ones; but they do not fall too far behind either.
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Atoms and molecules function at the foundation of the entire visible universe and its emerging characteristics. Our nutritional needs of sugar, fats and proteins are made up by atoms merging. For example chlorophyll is like a factory made out of the atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and magnesium. It is given only light, water and carbon dioxide, and a short time later we get boxes of sugar, rolls of material, exquisite clothing and delicious foods. This skill is not in chlorophyll but there is the hand of Mercy and Omnipotence behind this bounty and blessing.
A new world At the end of the nineteenth century the belief was widespread in the scientific world that everything had already been discovered and all that remained was detail. If we look at it from a physicist’s perspective Newtonian mechanics was only one aspect of the explanation of matter. With quantum mechanics at the beginning of the twentieth century our outlook expanded and the existence of other dimensions was unveiled. These developments were indicators that other dimensions could follow. In 1927 Bohr (1885–1962), Heisenberg (1901 –1976) and Pauli (1900–1958) were looking for answers to questions like “What is an atom? How does it function? What does it resemble?” The philosophical explanations were fairly striking. Studies had shown that truth was not deterministic but statistical (based on probabilities) and that material truths were also based on the observer. In conclusion, quantum truths were colored by objectivity. Rutherford’s (1871–1937) experiments showed that atoms were not hard and unbreakable but comprised mainly space with little particles roaming about. Quantum theory, on the other hand, showed that the atom was unlike the hard objects in traditional physics, and that matter, rather being comprised of concrete subparticles, had dual properties (waves/particles). The particles that made up the atom are seen not as being entities with existence in their own right but as going from one form to another like a dance of energy. The physical aspect of the universe is like the waves produced by TV broadcasts. Just as television broadcast waves may show an apple, a flower, birds or human images the energy waves in the universe similarly take the forms of apples, flowers, birds, humans and, indeed, sound.
On the topic of electrons and light Richard Philip Feynman (1918–1988) argues that the only thing we can say regarding the behavior of tiny things is that they behave differently. An atom acts in a manner which is quite different to what we have seen previously. For Feynman it needs imagination to understand how they behave. Feynman asserts that not all the conclusions drawn in science are absolute; they are only results or hypotheses on what may happen in the future. For Feynman we cannot know what will happen because we have not carried out countless number of perfect tests.
The aim of science For Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) the true aim of science should be to find answers to the questions of who we are, where we came from and where we are going. John Eccles (1903–1997), who received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1964, thinks science in its current state can neither bring explanation to the wisdom of our existence nor can it offer answers to basic ques-
tions like “Who am I? Why am I here and why do I exist? What will happen to me after I die?” In a similar vein, Robert Jastow thinks that science will never unveil the secrets shrouding creation. The 1980 winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, neurophysiologist Roger Sperry (1913–1994), in an interview in 1983 stated that science itself is in conflict with materialism. For him there is no explanation of why the science and religion should be conflict. He thinks such a conflict is a remnant of the conditioning produced by the materialist philosophy. With materialism taking root in the scientific world, life became meaningless, everything seemed banal. In the twentieth century when developments that rocked the very foundation of materialistic philosophy started to change the picture of the universe, it became clearer that there was no differentiation between science and religion. The sciences became more apparent as a way of knowing God. We believe that these developments will carry on to the 21st century in an exceeding manner. Osman Cakmak is a professor of chemistry at Gaziosmanpasa University, Tokat, Turkey.
Feynman, Richard. The Character of Physical Law, The 1964 Messenger Lectures, MIT Press. Schrödinger, Erwin. What Is Life? Cambridge University Press, 1992.
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The truth of oneness The cosmos is a realm of geometrical rules and operating on the principles of physics in an orderly and organized manner. The small things possess the same properties of bigger things; the former ones are perhaps not more elegant nor are there more wisdom in their makeup than the latter ones; but they do not fall too far behind either. All existence is in a chain of creation from the twine to the quark, from thereon to atoms and molecules, and finally reaching the human. In every thing, every task, every organization there is a perfect ranking and unity from the smallest to the largest. From the electrons that exist within one millionth of a millionth of a centimeter to galaxies with diameters of one hundred thousand light years everything in the universe is connected. As David Bohm says (1917–1992), Quantum mechanics has proven that things very different from one another are connected to each other without the cause and effect chain. Everything is connected to everything else. Scientists who read the book of the universe in the light of science arrive at the Qur’an’s greatest truth, in other words, the truth of Unity and the reflection of Oneness in the physical world. In the early days, it was noticed that the four basic forces (electromagnetic force, gravity, nuclear and weak nuclear forces) formed the basis of the atom bringing about one force. This raised the thought that a simpler theory could be made to explain all events and the universe as a whole. “Implicate Order” was a step in this direction. This theory explained that the energy fields light, heat, electricity and magnetism, once considered to be separate entities, could now be seen as “different aspects” of the same thing. The forces and material factors that help all systems to function in a harmonious way were nothing more than a reflection and manifestation of the one absolute truth.
Ramadan Yuksel A. Aslandogan
AND Developing Self-Control
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amadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is sometimes referred to as the â€œSultan of the 11 months.â€? During this month healthy adult Muslims fast, from the break of dawn until sunset. Fasting requires abstinence from eating, drinking, and intercourse during the daylight hours; that is, about an hour and a half before sunrise until sunset. An early breakfast is recommended in the prophetic tradition, taken before dawn. At the end of the day the fast is broken with a meal called the iftar. It is the prophetic tradition to break the fast with a date, olive or some water. Ramadan is a time of intensive worship and devotion to God, of reading the Qurâ€™an and reflecting on its teachings, of comprehensive thanksgiving, giving to charity, practicing self-control and kindness, of training oneself to be a better person spiritually and improving relationships with others. Fasting is not that difficult To non-Muslims fasting in Ramadan may appear to be a time of hardship and deprivation, but that is not the experience of Muslims. There are at least five ameliorating factors that make fasting much easier than it appears. These are (1) the magic of intention, (2) the community spirit, (3) the ability of the human body to adapt, (4) social/cultural
he month of Ramadan, in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance for people, and as clear signs of Guidance and the Criterion (between truth and falsehood). Therefore whoever of you is present this month, must fast it, and whoever is so ill that he cannot fast or on a journey (must fast the same) number of other days. God desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you, so that you can complete the number of the days required, and exalt God for He has guided you, and so it may be that you will give thanks (due to Him). Baqara 2:185 Ramadan as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. The four dimensions of Ramadan As the third “pillar,” or religious duty in Islam, fasting has many dimensions: The behavioral dimension, the religious dimension, the social dimension and the spiritual dimension. The first is the obvious behavioral dimension. Fasting in Ramadan is a means of learning self-control. Due to a lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours when fasting, the spirit gains a measure of ascendancy. The soul is freed of the chains placed by carnal desires. Fasting provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence. During fasting, not only the stomach, but also the tongue, eyes, ears, other limbs, and the heart and mind are equally obligated to be restrained. Just as we control our physical appetites, we also must control our negative emotions and actions. The Messenger of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him,
expressed that fasting is not only restraining from food and drink, but that it also means refraining from impious acts. He said that if a person does not control their senses and behavior, then God does not require that person to refrain from eating. He added that if someone verbally abuses you, acts ignorantly towards you, or even hurts you, you should respond by only saying, “I am fasting; I am indeed fasting.” According to the masters of Sufism, the spiritual dimension of Islam, not only one’s organs, but also one’s thoughts and feelings need to be tightly controlled during this month.
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cooperation, and (5) divine help. The initial intention significantly reduces the perceived difficulty. Once one commits to fasting, it becomes much more doable and feasible. Knowing and seeing that fellow believers are fasting with you and sharing the early breakfast or the dinner with them strengthens the community spirit. Thirdly, the human body is amazingly adaptable. Within the first few days of fasting the body adapts to the new schedule and one does not feel hunger as one normally would. In communities where Muslims are a majority or a significant minority, there is assistance or cooperation offered to the fasters, such as flexible holidays and working hours. Finally, for any worshipper, there is divine help which eases the task once the worshipper has committed to doing it. Over 500 million Muslims, from age 9 to 90 fast every year. Fasting does not prevent them from conducting their mundane work or business as usual. As a pillar of the religious life in Islam, fasting is probably the most practiced form of worship. Muslims think of
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As far as the social dimension is concerned, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate and thus learning thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties. Fasting increases people’s sympathy and compassion for those who have been deprived of their daily means of survival. Although everybody knows, in an abstract sense, that there are people who suffer from hunger and poverty around the world, this knowledge may not be great enough to have an impact on our daily behavior. During the fast of Ramadan, this knowledge is internalized, because we now not only know that there are hungry people, but we have a glimpse into their experience of hunger. This deeper, internalized knowledge helps us minimize wastefulness and to sincerely do our best to help those in need. Ramadan is also a time of generosity. People are more generous, more cordial, and more ready than at other times of the year to do good and charitable work. Muslims often invite one another, friends and guests, Muslims and non-Muslims, in particular neighbors, regardless of creed, to share the evening meal and exchange gifts and best wishes. Fasting establishes a continuity of practice with religions such as Judaism and Christianity, in which fasting is recognized as an important element of devotion to God. The very verse in the Qur’an that commands Muslims to fast reminds them of this connection: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed on you just as it was prescribed on the people before you.”
The spiritual dimension In the spiritual dimension, fasting during Ramadan is an act of obedience. It leads to sincere thankfulness, which is the heart of worship. It also empowers our spiritual side over our physical tendencies. If we imagine our body as a vessel, such as a ship, our mind, heart and carnal desires are like hands that are trying to control this vessel. Fasting weakens the effect of the carnal self and strengthens the effects of the mind and the heart on the control of the body. The experience of hunger in fasting breaks the illusory lordship of the carnal self, or ego, and, reminding the carnal self of its innate helplessness, convinces it that it is only a servant. Self consciousness, or the notion of “I,” is part of the “trust” that has been given to humans as the vicegerents of God on earth [The Qur’an, Ahzab 33:72]. “The All-Wise Creator entrust-
ed each human being with an ego that has clues and examples that urge and enable them to recognize the truths about the attributes of the Lord of Creation and His essential qualities. Ego is the measure that makes known the qualities of His Lordship and the functions of His Divinity.” [Nursi, 2005, 552] Although God is closer to us than our jugular vein [The Qur’an], His names and attributes cannot be fully comprehended as they are infinite and we are finite, mortal, limited creatures. The virtual attributes that God gives us can serve as units of measure for comparison and for a better appreciation of God’s names and attributes. It may be asked “Why did God make our ego a means to know His attributes and names?” Nursi answers this question as follows: An absolute and all-encompassing entity has no limits or terms, and therefore cannot be shaped or formed, and cannot be determined in such a way that its essential nature can be comprehended. For example, light undetermined by darkness cannot be known or perceived. However, light can be determined if a real or hypothetical boundary line of darkness is drawn. In the same way, the Divine Attributes and Names (e.g., Knowledge, Power, Wisdom, and Compassion) cannot be determined, for they are all-encompassing and have no limits or like. Thus what they essentially are cannot be known or perceived. A hypothetical boundary is needed for them to become known. In our case, this hypothetical boundary is our ego. Ego imagines within itself a fictitious lordship, power,
Ego contains thousands of states, attributes, and perceptions that, to some extent, disclose and make knowable the Divine Attributes and essential Qualities. It is like a measure, a mirror, or an instrument for seeing or finding out, an entity with an indicative function. [Nursi, 2005, 552] It is not necessary for a unit of measure to actually exist; like hypothetical lines in geometry, a unit of measure may be formed by hypothesis and supposition. It is not necessary for its actual existence to be established by concrete knowledge and proofs. The self, however, sometimes forgets its true nature and imagines its “knowledge,” “power,” “ownership,”
and “ability” to be real. When the self forgets its true nature and the purpose of these feelings, it becomes a seed that may grow into a tree of arrogance. Nursi points to the importance of fasting for keeping the self under control: Fasting Ramadan breaks the carnal self’s illusory lordship and, reminding it that it is innately helpless, convinces it that it is a servant. As the carnal self does not like to recognize its Lord, it obstinately claims lordship even while suffering. Only hunger alters such a temperament. God’s Messenger relates that God Almighty asked the carnal self: “Who am I, and who are you?” It replied: “You are Yourself, and I am myself.” However much God tormented it and repeated His question, He received the same answer. But when He subjected it to hunger, it replied: “You are my All-Compassionate Lord; I am Your helpless servant.” [Nursi, 1995, 222-3] Conclusion Fasting in Ramadan may appear to be a difficult form of worship to those who have not experienced it. But there are many factors, some of which are listed above, that help the faithful to fulfill their commitment. Only God knows the true wisdom behind fasting, but we get a glimpse of it through the Qur’an, the prophetic tradition, and our personal experiences. Fasting is first a means of self-control, a way to increase in piety and find freedom from the tyranny of carnal desires. Secondly, fasting provides an opportunity for reflection, intense worship, and thankfulness. It enables members of the community to empathize with those who suffer from poverty and hunger. In the spiritual dimension, fasting leads to a sincere appreciation of God’s bounties and deep gratitude for the same, which is the essence of worship. Finally, the experience of hunger in fasting reminds the self of its true nature; that is its weaknesses and its dependence on the grace of God. It breaks the illusory lordship of the self and it reminds the carnal self of the purpose for its creation, which is faith, knowledge, worship, and love of God, as well as service for humanity. Yuksel A. Aslandogan is the Vice President of Institute of Interfaith Dialog, Houston, Texas. Muhammed Cetin is the editor and Publications Coordinator of IID, Institute of Interfaith Dialog.
References Nursi, S. The Words, The Light, Inc. NJ: 2005. Nursi, S. The Letters, Truestar, London: 1995.
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and knowledge, and so posits a bounding line, hypothesizes a limit to the all-encompassing Attributes, and says: “This is mine, and the rest is His.” Ego thus makes a division. By means of the miniature measure it contains, ego slowly comes to understand the true nature of the Divine Attributes and Names. Through this imagined lordship, ego can understand the Lordship of the Creator of the universe. By means of its own apparent ownership, it can understand the real Ownership of its Creator, saying: “As I am the owner of this house, the Creator is the Owner of this creation.” Through its partial knowledge, ego comes to understand His Absolute Knowledge. Through its defective, acquired art, it can intuit the Exalted Fashioner’s primary, originative art. For example, ego says: “I built and arranged this house, so there must be One Who made and arranged this universe.”
REFLECTIONS ON THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL AND THE QUR’AN The Qur’an does not attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim umma, contains groups of faithful believers and a party who disbelieve.
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Rabbi Allen S. Maller
The Qur’an is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes other religions. There have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by God who urged their society to avoid destruction by turning away from its corrupt and unjust ways and turning to the One God who created all humans. The Qur’an mentions twenty-five prophets by name (most of them known to nonMuslims too) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown. Of the twenty-five mentioned by name in the Qur’an
only four (Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad) revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for three religions that still flourish today. According to the Qur’an, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to it in its own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets. The Qur’an does not explicitly tell us why so many prophets arose among the Children of Israel, but a careful reading of the Qur’an reveals an answer. This was what I learned from a profound and enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Khan in a book entitled JewishMuslim Encounters edited by Charles Selengut (Paragon House 2001). The book is a collection of eleven papers given at a conference in Cordoba, Spain, sponsored by the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace. Almost all prophets, according to Khan, are like Hud who was sent to the people of Ad or Salih who was sent to the people of Thamud to warn them of their
impending destruction due to their corrupt and immoral ways and to call them to repentance. However, the prophets of the Children of Israel are different. First, Abraham is the only prophet we know of whose two sons, Isma’il (Ishmael) and Ishaq (Isaac), are also prophets. Indeed, Abraham’s grandson Ya’qub (Jacob) and great grandson Yusuf (Joseph) are also prophets. Thus, starting with Abraham, God established a family dynasty of prophets. With Joseph and his brothers (the tribes) the extended family became the twelve tribes of Israel, or as they are usually called the Children of Israel/Ya’qub. The Children of Israel were blessed with many prophets inviting them to stay firm in their faith to God; this is expressed in various places in the Qur’an: “When death approached Ya’qub, he said to his sons, ‘Who will (you) worship after I am gone?’ They answered, ‘We will worship your God, the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, the One God. Unto Him we will surrender ourselves.’” (2:132) Second, when Musa (Moses) is sent by God he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” ( 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46), “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12). Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if the Pharaoh does not stop setting himself up as a God and does not let the Children of Israel go free. Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Is-
covenant with all individuals “lest [they] should say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were indeed unaware of this.’” This reminder by the Qur’an that no religious community should be self-righteous is similar to that of prophet Amos who tells the Children of Israel, “’Are you not like the Children of Ethiopia to me, O Children of Israel?’ says God. ‘Did I not redeem Israel from Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?’” (Amos 9:7). Thus, although the covenant was made with the whole community of Israel, this community like all other nations, also had people among them whose hearts are like rocks that spring forth streams, while others only yield water when split, and others sink for fear of God (2:74). It is this last segment of the Children of Israel that Prophet Muhammad refers to when he rebukes the Children of Israel. The Qur’an correctly understood does not attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim umma, contains groups of faithful believers and a party who disbelieve. This has always been true and sadly will remain true until the end of time when Judgment Day will occur. There are ten other papers in this book which will be informative and enlightening to most people; one of them is a stimulating comparison of the similarities and differences between Sufism and Kabbalah mysticism. I recommend the volume to both Jews and Muslims who would like to get an insight into a neighbor’s religion as well as a new insight into one’s own religion. Allen S. Maller is the former Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. He has authored several books and is currently the editor of a series of prayer books for the Jewish High Holy Days.
Notes 1. See A’raf 7:143–145 for information on God’s speaking to Prophet Moses and the Tablets being entrusted to him. 2. Editor’s note: With all respect to the author’s religious tradition claiming an “ongoing covenant” between God and the Children of Israel, which he further expounds on in the paragraph that follows in his interpretation of the Qur’anic verse 2:63 extending the said covenant to cover all generations of the Children of Israel, Muslim interpreters have commented on this verse and 2:64 arguing that favors mentioned in these verses were related to a certain period when the Divine trust—the representation and promotion of God’s eternal religion—rested on the shoulders of the Children of Israel. Muslim commentators point out that the Children of Israel had great power as a leading nation of human civilization even before Prophet Moses, especially in Egypt during and after the time of Prophet Joseph.
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rael. Only when the nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Moses without any mediation of an angel.1 This very enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Khan stimulated me as a Reform Rabbi to realize that, as opposed to the accusations of some who blame the Qur’an for being antagonistic toward Jews, there are many narrations in the Qur’an, which present events from Jewish history as archetypal events for all humanity to draw lessons from. Perhaps the fact that the spiritual history of the Children of Israel was so well known is a simple explanation of this. As a Rabbi I believe that the many prophets God sends to the Children of Israel is a sign of the ongoing covenant between God and the Children of Israel.2 The Qur’an narrates Prophet Musa speaking to his people as follows: “O my people! Remember God’s favor upon you, for He appointed among you Prophets, and appointed (among you) rulers, and He granted to you favors such as He had not granted to anyone else in the worlds” (Maidah 5:20). The principle that God can make a covenant with a whole people, and not just with those who are faithful believers, also helps me understand a powerful verse where the Qur’an narrates that at Sinai, before God gives the Torah to the Children of Israel, He makes a covenant with them. God raises the mountain above the whole people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it” (2:63). The whole nation’s fate stands under the shadow of Mount Sinai, and this explains the miracle of all Israel agreeing to the covenant. This may be the reason why Musa is the only prophet whose book comes not from an angel but directly from God. Individuals who hear a prophet may choose to believe or disbelieve, but in this case God Almighty makes “an offer that you cannot refuse,” so, as far as Judaism is concerned, everyone of the Children of Israel has to struggle for all generations to come with living up to the covenant they chose to enter into. This concept, of a chosen (by being pressed into choosing) people, can lead—and among many ultra orthodox Jews has led—to exaggerated and self-righteous feelings of pride. Thus, when the Qur’an (A’raf 7:171) mentions another time the same event, when the Mount was moved above the Children of Israel, this verse is followed by a reminder in 7:172 that the “children of Adam” were all made bear witness against their own souls: “‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said ‘Yes, we do bear witness.’” God Almighty made a
Em era ld Hi lls huZn (SadneSS or SorroW) M. Fethullah Gülen
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Sadness protects a believer’s heart and feelings from rust and decay. It helps the traveler on the path of perfection to attain the rank of a pure spiritual life that another traveler cannot attain even after several fortyday periods of repentance and austerity.
ufis use the word huzn (sadness) as the opposite of rejoicing and joy, and to express the pain one suffers while fulfilling his or her duties and realizing his or her ideals. Every perfected believer will continue to suffer this pain according to their degree of belief, and weave the tissue of life with the “threads” of sadness on the “loom” of time. In short, one will feel sadness until the spirit of the Muhammadi Truth has been breathed in all corners of the world, until the sighs of Muslims and other oppressed peoples cease, and the Divine rules are practiced in the daily lives of people. This sadness will continue until the journey through the intermediate world of the grave (‘Alem al-Barzakh) is completed, safe and sound, and the believer flies to the abode of eternal happiness and blessing without being detained by the Supreme Tribunal in the Hereafter. A believer’s sorrows will never stop until the meaning of: Praise be to God, Who has put grief away from us. Surely our Lord is All-Forgiving, Bountiful (35:34) becomes manifest. Sorrow or sadness arises from an individual’s perception of what it means to be human, and grows in proportion to the degree of insight and discernment possessed by one who is conscious of his or her humanity. It is a necessary, significant dynamic that causes a believer to turn constantly to the Almighty and, perceiving the realities that cause sadness, seek refuge in Him and appeal to Him for help whenever he or she is helpless.
A believer aspires to very precious and valuable things, such as God’s pleasure and eternal happiness, and therefore seeks to do a “very profitable business” with limited means in a short span of time (his or her life). The sorrows a believer experiences due to illness and pain, as well as various afflictions and misfortunes, resemble an effective medicine that wipes away one’s sins and enables the eternalization of what is temporary, as well as the expansion of one’s “drop-like” merit into an ocean. It can be said that a believer whose life has been spent in continuous sadness resembles, to a certain degree, the Prophets, for they also spent their lives in this state. How meaningful it is that the glory of mankind, upon him be peace and blessings, who spent his life in sorrow, is rightly described as “the Prophet of Sorrow” by Necip Fazil, the famous Turkish poet and writer. Sadness protects a believer’s heart and feelings from rust and decay, and compels him or her to concentrate on the inner world and on how to make progress along the way. It helps the traveler on the path of perfection to attain the rank of a pure spiritual life that another traveler cannot attain even after several forty-day periods of repentance and austerity. The Almighty considers the heart, not outward appearance or form. Among people’s hearts, He considers the sad and broken ones and honors their owners with His presence, as stated in a narration: I am near those with broken hearts.1 Sufyan ibn Uyayna says: God sometimes has mercy on a whole nation be-
cause of the weeping of a sad, broken-hearted one.2 This is so because sorrow arises in a sincere heart, and among the acts making one near to God, sadness or sorrow is the least vulnerable to being clouded by ostentation or one’s desire to be praised. Part of every bounty and blessing of God is assigned to those who need it to purify that bounty or blessing of certain impurities. That part is called zakat, which literally means “to cleanse” or “to increase,” for it cleanses one’s belongings of those impurities that entered them while they were being earned or used, and causes them to increase as a blessing of God. Sadness or sorrow fulfills a similar role, for it is like the part in one’s mind or conscience that purifies and then maintains this purity and cleanliness. It is narrated in the Torah that when God loves His servant, He fills his or her heart with the feeling of weeping; if He dislikes and gets angry with another, He fills his or her heart with a desire for amusement and play. Bishr al-Khafi says: Sadness or sorrow is like a ruler. When it settles in a place, it does not allow others to reside there.3 A country with no ruler is in a state of confusion and disorder; a heart feeling no sorrow is ruined. Was the one with the most sound and prosperous heart, upon him be peace and blessings, not always mournful and deep in thought? Prophet Jacob, upon him be peace, “climbed and went beyond the mountains” between him and his beloved son, Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, on the wings of sorrow and witnessed the realization of a pleasing dream. The sighs of a sorrowful heart are regarded as having the same value and merit as the habitual recitations and remembrance of those who regularly and frequently worship God and the devotion and piety of ascetics who abstain from sin. The truthful and confirmed one, upon him be peace and blessings, says that grief arising from worldly misfortune causes sins to be forgiven.4 Based on this statement, one can see how valuable and meritorious are the sorrows that arise from one’s sins, from the fear and love of God, and that pertain to the Hereafter. Some feel sorrow because they do not perform their duties of worship as per-
fectly as they should. They are ordinary believers. Others, who are among the distinguished, are sad because they are drawn toward that which is other than God. Still others feel sad because, while they feel themselves to be always in God’s presence and never forget Him, they also are spending time among people in order to guide them to the Truth. They tremble with fear that they may upset the balance between always being with God and being in the company of people. These are the purified ones who are responsible for guiding the people. The first Prophet, Adam, upon him be peace, was the father of humanity and Prophets, and also the father of sorrow. He began his worldly life with sorrow: the fall from Paradise, Paradise lost, separation from God, and, thereafter, the heavy responsibility of Prophethood. He sighed with sorrow throughout his life. Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, found himself enveloped by sorrow when he became a Prophet. The waves of sorrow coming from the absolute unbelief of his people and their impending chastisement by God appeared in his chest as the waves of oceans. A day came, and those waves caused oceans to swell so high that they covered mountains and caused the earth to sink in grief. Prophet Noah became the Prophet of the Flood. Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, was as though programmed according to sorrow: sorrow arising from his struggle with Nimrod, being thrown into the fire and living always surrounded by “fires,” leaving his wife and son in a desolate valley, being ordered to sacrifice his son, and many other sacred sorrows pertaining to the inner dimensions of reality and meanings of events. All of the other Prophets, such as Moses, David, Solomon, Zachariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, upon them be peace, experienced life as a series or assemblage of sorrows, and lived it enveloped with sorrow. The Greatest of the Prophets and his followers tasted the greatest sorrows. Notes 1. 2. 3. 4.
Al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1:203. Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala,139. Ibid., 138. Nur al-Din Abu al-Hasan al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id wa Manba‘ al Fawa’id, 9 vols. (Beirut, 1967), 4:63.
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s of the Heart
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Introduction It is usually easy to associate with people from oneâ€™s own culture. Why step out of your comfort zone to extend a friendly hand to someone from a different culture? Perhaps, if my experience is typical, to enjoy one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. This opportunity is readily available to Americans who wish to make the effort. To interact successfully with Turkish students and professionals in America, for example, the American host must navigate differing perceptions of family, society, and ultimate duty. By practicing role reversal, a person of goodwill can overcome the barriers of language, religion, and nationality. Allow the person getting help to become a helper, and the student to become a teacher. Take into consideration the enthusiasm many cultures have for personal relationships. You might find your own life changed for the better.
Turning the tables to build intercultural friendships Americans in university cities can build lifelong friendships with sojourners from around the world. Year after year, bright and ambitious young people leave other countries to acquire an American degree, make American friends, and soak up a culture and language very different from their own. They have traveled halfway
B rev y pr goo ers acti the dwi al, a cing l p r rel barri l can erso ole ig e o n All ion, rs of verc of ow an la om the d na ngu e per tion age, hel he so al per lp t n g ity. o e to , and bec tting Tak bec th om e i om e st e a n e u cul the to co a te dent tur en ns ach rel es ha thusi idera er. ati ve asm tio on fo shi r p mann p cha find s. Yo erson y nge yo u m al d f ur o igh or wn t the li bet fe ter .
Thomas C. Smedley
around the world to meet us. Traveling a few miles across the city is a small step by comparison, but the rewards are great. My adventure in trans-cultural friendship combined a personal interest in the Turkish language and culture with a graduate-school class. I analyzed interactions with Turkish sojourners in several different settings, wrote a scholarly paper, and completed the class. My family also made lifelong friendships with fascinating people. Much that we learned can be applied in other contexts.
First adventure In August 2004, I went to a local university to meet a “language partner.” Picture a casually dressed, fiftysomething man walking through the parking lot with an elegant young woman. The director of the language partners program introduces them, gives them a list of suggested activities, and leaves it to them to make further arrangements. “Dawn” is an engineer who wants help with her colloquial English. The fifty-something man wants to learn Turkish. Each wants to see the world through the eyes of the other culture. The two arranged a first meeting in a wide-open public place—the university’s student union. They brought notebooks. He brought a Turkish elementaryschool primer. They sat on adjacent chairs and practiced reading aloud. On the second meeting, in the same place, Dawn introduced her husband “Freedom.” The researcher and Freedom chatted for a few minutes, discussing common interests in history and politics. The researcher apparently passed the test, since the couple extended an invitation to continue the lessons at their apartment. When you are invited into a Turkish home, the researcher had learned, expect to be served food and drink, and be sure to bring a small gift. With this in mind, he purchased a book at a used bookstore. He knocked on the door, greeted the couple, and stepped in. Freedom reminded him to leave his shoes at the door. The three chatted for a few minutes about history and politics, Dawn served tea and cookies, and they began doing language work.
This established the pattern the visits followed over the next eighteen months. The American would speak to Freedom first, discussing Freedom’s academic progress. He would present them with a small gift, usually an inexpensive but thoughtfully chosen book. Dawn would serve tea and a snack of some kind—baklava, spinach cake, yaprak dolmasi (stuffed grape leaves), and so on. The language partners would work together on their parallel projects while the husband was in the apartment. Week by week, I made progress in my Turkish textbook. Since I am a professional writer, I also proofread Freedom’s scholarly papers for colloquial correctness. Towards the end of the experience, I also helped Dawn translate three affidavits into clear English. A few months into the adventure, the researcher invited his young friends over for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Turkish couple brought a bouquet of roses. Dawn brought a pair of fluffy slippers in a grocery bag to wear while visiting, which greatly fascinated the American six-year-old daughter. The families ate together, then sat in the living room and talked while the six- and eight-year-old girls frolicked. The guests enjoyed being around children. Some time later, Freedom and Dawn invited the researcher’s family to their apartment for an iftar, the formal after-sunset feast held during Ramadan. That year, at the end of Ramadan, the researcher’s family had their friends over for a Bayram (Eid) dinner. Over the course of the project, the researcher had the Turkish couple over for dinner several times, and invited them to attend his daughter’s wedding as valued friends of the family. Towards the end of Freedom’s master’s degree program, Dawn got a job translating for a Turkish family that had come to the USA seeking specialized medical care for their thirteen-year-old son. Dawn introduced the researcher to this family so that he could continue his informal self-study of Turkish. In May of 2006, Freedom completed his degree program, and the couple returned to Turkey. I e-mailed them nearly twice as often as they emailed me (142 to 74). Fifty-one times, these exchanges involved the kind of practical help that a native speaker of English can offer someone whose native language lies completely outside of the Indo-European family. These numbers are not asymmetric when weighed against the fact that I was a guest in their apartment
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Edward T. Hall describes Turkey as a “high context” culture, and America as ““low context.” In Turkey, much more time is devoted to developing the relationships behind transactions than to the transactions themselves (Friedman, 1979, pp. 45–54). Relationships, connections, and group harmony are the important values. The validity of the group is more important than individual rectitude. Given these insights, it would appear that an American wishing to establish rapport with Turkish sojourners should understand the basic elements of Turkish culture. Beyond this, the technique of “turning the tables” has value. Create a situation in which the guest can function as a host, the student as a teacher, the outsider as the portal to an alternate inside.
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approximately sixty times, and received from them the coaching I needed to acquire a rudimentary knowledge of Turkish. Another goal of the encounters, to foster mutual understanding, was also apparently reached. In an e-mail from Turkey several months after their return Dawn wrote: “Turkish people are religious people (of course not all of them but the majority). I saw the same thing in the USA. From the cinema and TV shows we watch through TV, American people seem like they don’t care about religion and they are very free about what they do in their lives. I think in real life it is not like that. As I see in your family, you care about your family very much and you try to teach your children about what is important in life for you. I think it is the same in Turkey.” (Gençer, 2006)
Second adventure A second adventure in acculturation involved a Turkish family sojourning in the USA to seek medical care for a seriously ill son. The project began when Dawn introduced everyone at the clinic lounge. Later social encounters included picnics, and a series of language exercises at the hospital cafeteria. The “Smith” family consisted of “Henry,” the father. “Margaret,” the mother. “Janet,” a seventeen-yearold daughter, and “Eric,” a son who had his thirteenth birthday while in a sterile ward of the hospital, undergoing bone marrow transplant therapy. I met the family through Dawn, who had found work as a translator for the Smiths, helping them in their dealings with medical personnel. At one highly stressful point in their sojourn, the daughter’s student visa was revoked. Janet had curtailed her exchange student activities to find the university-connected health center, whose services offered the last hope of saving her brother’s life. As she was the only member of the family comfortable with the English language, Janet was needed at the hospital. Furthermore, Eric had only consented to the painful course of treatment because that ordeal gave him the opportunity to spend time with his beloved sister. While Janet’s visa situation was being negotiated, she, Henry, and Margaret composed affidavits to plead their case. Dawn translated these into English, to the best of her ability, and asked for my help with a final edit. At the initial meeting, following Dawn’s directions,
I found the fourth-floor children’s lounge. Dawn took me in through the airlock, and explained how to put on the disposable overshoes. We went to Eric’s room. He was seated in his bed wearing pajamas and playing a video game. Janet, the big sister, was also present. Dawn and the parents, Henry and Margaret, escorted me to a visitor’s lounge. We sat around a table, they offered me some donuts, and we conversed. Henry and Janet had an apartment near the hospital, but Margaret spent every night with her son in the hospital room. Dawn explained that American hospital personnel do not understand the intensity of the family bond in Turkish families. Apparently, it would be unthinkable for a Turkish mother to leave a dangerously ill child in the care of strangers overnight. She slept in an overstuffed chair in the room. Janet’s visa problems were resolved, and I had banked some good will for my earlier efforts on their behalf. They were glad to hear that our church was praying for their son’s healing. After all, Margaret explained through Dawn, Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I brought a few small presents, including a book of handy English phrases, listed with their Turkish equivalents, and the English repeated phonetically in the Turkish alphabet. The Turkish tutorial sessions began in June 2006, and lasted almost six months. For our first tutorial session, Henry greeted me with a smile, and led me to the first-floor cafeteria. He was cleanly dressed, but looked as though he had missed shaving that day. I used an unobtrusive digital voice recorder to record the lessons. A continuous buzz of background conversation can be heard on the recording. Henry brought out several sheets of neatly hand-written Turkish sentences, and a brief essay describing his situation. The bulk of the conversation consisted of discussing the prepared lesson. I heard myself on tape frequently interrupting, and interjecting encouraging words (Yes! Yes!) and attempts at Turkish repartee. Henry spoke carefully, slowly, with frequent backtracking and repetition. After we had talked for a bit over an hour, Henry asked, “Is that OK for today?” “I’ve learned a little sentence in Turkish that goes like this: Affedersiniz. Kaybolduk. Bana yardım eder misiniz?” I answered. (Excuse me. I’m lost. Can you
help me?) He laughed, I turned off the recorder, and we made arrangements to meet the next week. Time after time, when we settled down to talk, Henry’s careful preparations guided the remainder of the conversation. He was in charge, genial, and seemed to take pleasure in imparting information, in helping. We exchanged frequent e-mails to set up or cancel our meetings. Henry spent at least five times as long coaching my Turkish as I did his English. In part, this was because his English is much better than my Turkish. Twice, Henry accepted an invitation to attend a picnic—one on the Fourth of July, sponsored by my church, the other a few weeks later sponsored by the Divan Cultural Center, a Cary, NC organization dedicated to fostering Turkish–American friendship. Both times, he and Margaret seemed to enjoy themselves, and delight in the opportunity to interact with other adults. Even under conditions of weariness and extreme personal stress, this Turkish professional, a government-employed engineer, was unfailingly polite, and seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with a sympathetic American. The format of becoming a tutor, a mentor, apparently provided a space of mastery during a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Henry maintained control of the conversations, staying on the sure ground of a topic he knew well, the Turkish language. Although I was able to buy him a beverage once, he was careful to not let that happen again. When he attended a Fourth of July picnic sponsored by our church, he brought us a gift bag of imported delicacies. When he came to the Divan Cultural Center picnic, he timed his arrival to be after the food had already been mostly consumed. He was apparently wary of incurring asymmetrical obligations.
and respect for, their home culture, I helped them to feel at home in my culture. By fulfilling the Turkish expectations of guests, I helped guests in my country to fulfill the satisfying role of hosts. The first project demonstrates the progress of a mutually satisfying and symmetrical relationship with a Turkish family over the course of nearly two years. The second project demonstrates how important control can be to a Turkish sojourner whose life has been shaped by traumatic events beyond his control. Although Henry often looked tired, he was always punctual and fully engaged in our conversations. The heart of each encounter consisted of animated conversation in simplified English and Turkish, a great deal of laughter, and a sense of delight in being able to make ourselves clear to one another in the other’s language. What insights were conveyed over the bridges thus built? To some extent, Turkish sojourners and immigrants do indeed bring with them “differing perceptions of family, society, and ultimate duty.” For example, to avoid offending Turkish sensibilities, the wise westerner avoids extended contact with someone of the opposite sex unless the other party’s spouse is also present. The longing all respondents expressed was for Americans to think beyond their own culture, and to take an interest in the different lives of people in other parts of the world. Given the Turkish enthusiasm for personal relationships, a small effort by a citizen of the United States can dramatically aid cultural understanding in both directions.
Conclusions My family has “adopted” another young Turkish couple. This ongoing project involves several issues. How can an American establish rapport with people from a different nation, linguistic family, and religion? What can he learn once the rapport is established? The technique of “turning the tables” helped insights and perspectives to cross the boundaries. By becoming a student of the Turkish language, I allowed people who were immersed in an alien linguistic environment to feel at home, and to talk about a topic they knew very well. By demonstrating a sincere interest in,
References Berry, J., Kim, U., Minde, T. and Mok, D. (1987, Autumn). Comparative Studies of Acculturative Stress. International Migration Review. 21-3, 491-511 Gençer, N. (2005). Personal conversation. Gudykunst, W. & Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Culture and Interpersonal Communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Teske, R. and Nelson, B. (1974, May). Acculturation and Assimilation: A Clarification. American Ethnologist. 1-2, 351367. Weinstock, S. (1963, June). Role Elements: A Link between Acculturation and Occupational Status. The British Journal of Sociology. 14-2, 144-149.
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Thomas C. Smedley, MS, is a student at Regent University pursuing a doctorate in Communication Research. He is a technical writer with a special interest in building bridges between disparate communities – programmers and end users, Americans and Turks.
The fundamental spiritual benefit of fasting
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The prime goal of Islamic spirituality is to establish an intimate and personal closeness to God. While the beliefs of Islam direct a Muslim along a wide path towards God, the five pillars of Islam provides a regimen to traverse the path, removing the barriers between a Muslim and God. While the shahadah, the testimony of faith, detaches one from finite and false masters, the salat, the ritual prayers, detaches one from worldly affairs, zakat, charitable alms, detaches the worshipper from the pangs of material wealth, and hajj, the pilgrimage, is a means of detachment from the burden of sins and racism or nationalism, and sawm, fasting, detaches the worshipper from physical desires and emotional impulses. What appears to be a self-inflicted ordeal to some is really a profound human experience. Fasting addresses a fundamental weakness in the human self—the tendency to act on impulse. The constant exercise of will-
power to refrain from eating, drinking or having sexual relations, even though the body is constantly sending impulses to the human self, means that the will is in control. Fasting is not just about staying hungry or thirsty; it is also a struggle to refrain from any destructive impulses of the human self. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, remarked, “If one does not abandon lies and acting on lies while fasting, then God has no need for him to give up food and drink.” So the main outcome of fasting is the curbing of all physical impulses that do not originate consciously from the person. In this way, one’s absolute dependence on these desires and impulses is detached and transformed into a relative dependence and one is guided only by God, which leads the worshipper closer to God. Therefore, the fundamental spiritual benefit of fasting is to exercise the willpower and to attain the selfcontrol that we need for success in every part of our
1. Coleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, London: Bloomsbury, 1996, pp. 81-82.
O Lord, Thy AllDiscerning Eyes O Lord, Thy all-discerning eyes My inmost purpose see; My deeds, my words, my thoughts, arise Alike disclosed to Thee: My sitting down, my rising up, Broad noon, and deepest night, My path, my pillow, and my cup, Are open to thy sight. Before, behind, I meet Thine eye, And feel Thy heavy hand: Such knowledge is for me too high, To reach or understand: What of Thy wonders can I know? What of Thy purpose see? Where from Thy spirit shall I go? Where from Thy presence flee? If I ascend to heaven on high, Or make my bed in hell; Or take the morning’s wings, and fly O’er ocean’s bounds to dwell; Or seek, from thee, a hiding-place Amid the gloom of night— Alike to Thee are time and space, The darkness and the light.
John Quincy Adams 1767–1848
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lives. Fasting consecutively for 30 days truly sharpens the willpower and makes self-control a habit; this is true to such an extent that at the end of Ramadan most people feel as if they are still fasting. The benefit of attaining such a razor-sharp willpower extends its positive impact to every part of human life. It is important to maintain this newly gained ability throughout the year until the next Ramadan. The Holy Prophet used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays every week outside of Ramadan. He recommended Muslims to do the same or come up with other formulae for regular fasting, although this was not made compulsory. An interesting experiment was done in the 1960s at a preschool on the Stanford University campus when the ability of four-year olds to resist temptation was tested. A marshmallow was placed in a room and the children were told that they could have the marshmallow immediately, or if they waited until the tester had run an errand and returned, then they could have two marshmallows. Some children waited for two marshmallows, while others ate one immediately. These same children were followed over 14 years to see how they managed in life. Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent, personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. The third or so who grabbed the marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of these qualities and shared instead a relatively more troubled psychological portrait. Even more surprising, those who had waited patiently at four were far superior as students to those who acted on whim. Most astonishingly, they had dramatically higher scores on their SAT tests. There is perhaps no physiological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act.1 Naturally how one is raised in childhood has a great bearing on the skill of self-control. If our parents do everything we want and bring us everything we ask for our selfcontrol will be low. Fortunately, Islam’s practice of fasting can break this negative childhood conditioning. Mehmet Ozalp is the Executive Officer of the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Auburn, Australia. He is the author of 101 Questions About Islam. Note
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There are two questions concerning dreams, which have always puzzled human beings. One concerns the actual meaning or significance of dreaming. The other is the relationship between the dream and the waking world or the degree of reality one may attribute to it. These are questions that are easy to ask but very difficult to answer. The most honest answer in general is that we do not yet know the function or functions of dreams. To understand why one dreams, researchers and psychologists team up to study precisely when dreams occur during sleep. Despite many theories we still do not fully understand the purpose of sleep, nor do we know the functions of different kinds of sleep. There are two main kinds of sleep that possess markedly contrasting physiological characteristics and mechanisms, and both of them occur normally
in any extended period of sleep. One of these is known as activated sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that may also be referred to as “dreaming sleep” because it seems to be the stage where dreaming takes place.1 This state is characterized by a high degree of central nervous system (CNS) activity, a suppression of peripheral motor activity, and a temporal association with the vivid, hallucinatory experiences we call dreams. Brainwaves speed up, heart rate and breathing increases, blood pressure rises and the eyes dart around behind closed lids. Research has shown that if a person is awakened every time REM begins, preventing them from dreaming, after about three nights the individual will begin to show signs of having a nervous breakdown. Clearly dreams are an inner release mechanism which helps provide us with emotional balance and maintain our sanity. Dreams
can be considered as guardians of our mental and emotional wellbeing. The significance attributed to dreams will be presented here from a historical perspective starting from ancient times, passing through the Abrahamic religions and finally compared with contemporary psychological evaluations. In most ancient cultures, consideration and even veneration of dreams played a great part. Some groups felt that dream life was more real and important than waking life. Not only were dreams looked to for information about hunting, as in Eskimo and African groups, but also for ways of healing physical and psychological ills, as seen in the Greek Dream Temples of Asclepius.2 Sources for information about dream divination in the ancient pagan world range from Homer in the eighth century bce to Artemidorus in the second century
and the Greek Magical Papyri, some of which were written in the fourth century ce. Artemidorusâ€™ five books are a compilation of dream interpretations that he collected from a variety of sources and then classified in a system. The system represented a synthesis of knowledge of dream interpretation at the time.3 Even though dreams are still a mystery, religious traditions value dreams and acknowledge that they can be used by God for divine revelation. Although the three Abrahamic religions differ on many other topics, they find substantial agreement on this particular point: dreaming is a valuable source of wisdom, understanding, and inspiration. In the Qurâ€™an, as in the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament, dreams serve as a vital medium by which God communicates with humans. Dreams offer divine guidance and comfort, warn people of impending danger, and offer prophetic glimpses of the future. Dreams have long been considered a legitimate form of divine revelation, particularly in Jewish mysticism. In Judaism information about dream divination is found in the Torah and the Babylonian Talmud. In the Torah dreams play an important part in the history of the ce
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n most ancient cultures, consideration and even veneration of dreams played a great part. Some groups felt that dream life was more real and important than waking life. Not only were dreams looked to for information about hunting, as in Eskimo and African groups, but also for ways of healing physical and psychological ills.
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Jews, particularly as the motif of Jewish dream interpreters in a foreign court. Solomon, peace be upon him, received a dream from Yahweh who asks what he may give him (Kings 3:5). Solomon asks for the wisdom for which he became famous. Jacob, peace be upon him, dreams of the gates of Yahweh’s heaven and Yahweh promises Jacob land and blessedness for his people (Genesis 28:12). Joseph’s dreams in Genesis are prophetic and play an integral role in his brothers’ anger and conspiracy to kill him, peace be upon him. The brothers say “Here comes the dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits, then we shall see what will become of his dreams” (Genesis 37:19–20). Daniel’s dream visions illustrate how faithfulness to Jewish practice brings divine aid to triumph over enemies. In Joel, Yahweh declares that dreams are a valid form of spiritual information, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. . .” (Joel 2:28) In Numbers, Yahweh declares that he speaks to prophets in visions and dreams; however, this story is singling out Moses, peace be upon him, as a leader because God speaks to him “face to face.” In the Talmud, there are 217 references to dreams covering the origin of dreams, their purpose and meaning, wish-fulfillment in dreams, the relation of dreams to reality, and the technique of dream interpretation.3 The New Testament is full of dreams that are explained by prophets. There are constant references to communication between humankind and God, between humankind and the angels, and between the human being and his or her higher self through the medium of dreams. The moral standards of the individual are exactly reflected in the clarity and degree of quality of his or her dreams. Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, peace be upon them, had the ability not only to remember and interpret his own dreams, but to interpret those of others.4 God has chosen to communicate with humankind through dreams and visions according to the New Testament (Acts 2:17). He guides and counsels us through our dreams (Psalms 16:7). He establishes covenants with us through our dreams as in the dream of Abraham (Genesis 15:12, 13, 18). He grants us supernatural gifts in our dreams, like that given to Solomon (I Kings 3:5, 9, 12, 15). He has utilized dreams from Genesis to Revelation, and declared that He will continue to use them in the last days. Islam has historically shown greater interest in dreams than either of the other two Abrahamic traditions, and has done more to weave dreaming into the daily lives of its followers. From the first revelatory vi-
sions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, to the myriad dream practices of present-day Muslims, Islam has developed and sustained a complex, multifaceted tradition of active engagement with the dreaming, imagination, origins, functions, and meanings of dreaming. Muslim scholars and theologians have followed the prophetic path in dealing with dreams, and have judged dreams according to the Qur’an and the Sunna, examples from the Prophet’s life. The episodes about Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, in the Qur’an are similar to those in the Old Testament (Genesis 37–50), and these episodes combine to make a clear point: dreams, and the ability to interpret them, are an important sign of God’s favor (Yusuf 12:4–100). In chapter 37, The Ranks (Saffat), the Qur’an retells a story found in the book of Genesis. Here the main subject is Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, whose life is recounted in Genesis 12–25. The Qur’anic version focuses specifically on God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Prophet Abraham is true to his dream, not by literally enacting it in the physical sacrifice of his son (which is finally prevented by God); rather, he “fulfills his vision” by a demonstration of his absolute obedience to God. There is a very important point here which is worth noting. It is the unquestioned assumption by both Prophet Abraham and his son that the dream is a command from God, peace be upon them. In addition there are narratives about the dreams of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in Qur’an, in chapter 8, The Spoils (Anfal). After the Muslim victory at Badr (March 15, 624 ad), where some three hundred and fifty believers vanquished close to a thousand nonbelievers, the Prophet received a revelation in which God affirms that He brought to pass the encounter which, without His contriving, neither of the parties would have sought. In this context the Prophet was told: “When God showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many you would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but God saved (you); surely He is the Knower of what is in the breasts ”(Anfal 8:43).5 Muslim scholars have ruled that true dreams are from God—some warn and others bring glad tidings. Ibn Mas’ud narrated, “The Prophet said, ‘Prophecy is finished but tidings remain.’ People asked, ‘What are these tidings?’ He replied, ‘A true dream which a man sees, or others see for him’” (Bukhari and Maalik). These tidings could be good or bad as God says in the Qur’an, which says, “So give them tidings of a painful doom” (Inshiqaq 84:24). These dreams are the ones about which the truthful and trustworthy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “At the end of time, the believer’s
significance in the history of Abrahamic religions, let us turn now to psychology for a contemporary evaluation of dreams. Freud looked upon the dream as a somewhat disturbed form of mental activity, or as a form of psychic activity that, if it worsens, would tend to become pathological—an activity that is not significant in itself and at the very most manifests a more or less infantile desire. Freud insisted that one’s dreams were one’s earliest mental images and memories. He regarded the brain as a sponge.6 He said one’s primal evolutionary impulses were catalogued in dreams. Freud believed these were held in one’s memory for interpreting events that occurred later in life. Freud explained the dream as a picture-word puzzle.7 Jung completely abandoned such prejudices against the dream. He sees the dreams as a spontaneous, normal, creative expression of the unconscious in the form of images and symbols.1 Jung believed that dreams speak in symbols, images and metaphors, a language that is the unconscious mind’s natural way of expression. For Jung the dream world was just as rich, as diversified, and as polymorphic as the conscious world. One is not able to understand this “language” right away because the images are different from the language in one’s everyday life.6 Jung divided dreams into two levels. The first level is the objective level, when dreams illustrate the relation with the external world. This would be a thing such as people, events or activities. The second level is the subjective level. This level deals with the thoughts and feelings of the person.7 Many religious traditions still “believe that the ability to receive visions through dreams and in the waking state is a faculty that is latent in human beings, whose attachment to material things clouds their receptivity to impulses from the spiritual realm.”8 What has changed our view of dreams as divine revelations? Could it be simply our strong desire for worldly and material things that is blocking our divine communication channels? Muhammed Toprak is a research fellow at The Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Notes 1. Grunbaum, Gustave Von, Roger Caillois. The Dream and Human Societies, University of California Press, 1966, p. 85. 2. Crisp, Tony. Dream Dictionary: An A to Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind, Gramercy Books, 2005. 3. http://www.sonoma.edu/users/h/holmstrl/DIVINATION.html 4. Virkler, Mark and Patti Virkler. Hear God Through Your Dreams, Communion with God Ministries, New York. 5. Translation of the Qur’an by M.H. Shakir. 6. Lohff, David C. The Dream Directory. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 1998. 7. Bulkley, Kelly. “Dreams of Social Transformation.” Association for the Study of Dreams. 27 Nov. 2001. 8. Hoffman, Valerie J, “The Role of Visions in Contemporary Egyptian Religious Life.” Religion (1997) vol. 27, no. 1, p. 53.
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dream will rarely be incorrect; the more truthful a person is, the truer his dreams are; and the dream of a faithful believer is a part of the forty-six parts of Prophecy” (Bukhari and Muslim). What people see in their sleep is one of the three types. As narrated by Awf Ibn Maalik, the Prophet said, “Dreams are of three types: some are from Satan to sadden the son of Adam, some are the result of what a person thinks about while he is awake so he sees it in his sleep, and some are one of the forty-six parts of prophecy” (Ibn Majah). Although dreams are not considered decisive, especially when there is an apparent contradiction with common sense, there is a very strong tradition on dreams in Islam, and there have been several scholars who have put a significant effort into composing books about dreams and their interpretations. Looking in more detail at Muslim teachings, the first example to consider comes from the scholar Ibn Arabi (1164– 1240). His classification of dreams establishes the basic framework used throughout later Muslim history. According to Ibn Arabi, there are three basic types of dream. The first is an “ordinary” dream, produced by the imagination when it takes experiences from daily life and magnifies them as in a mirror, reflecting in a distorted symbolic fashion our wishes and desires. The second and much more significant type of dream draws its material not from daily life but from the “Universal Soul” (Preserved Tablet), a source of knowledge closely associated with the faculty of abstract reasoning. “Universal Soul” dreams reveal fundamental truths about reality, although, like the first type of dream, these are distorted by the imperfect mirror of the human imagination. Interpretation is therefore required to discover what the symbolic images mean. The third and final type of dream involves a direct revelation of reality, with no distortion or symbolic mediation—a clear vision of divine truth. Ibn Arabi’s typology portrays a wider range of dream experience than is usually acknowledged in Western psychological thinking, which focuses its attention almost exclusively on his first category, the “ordinary” dreams of daily life. A further elaboration of this classification appears in the monumental Muqaddimah (“An Introduction to History”) written by the scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332– 1402). Briefly, he emphasizes the idea that in sleep, people are liberated from their senses, freeing their rational souls to gain glimpses of transcendent truth. The distinctive feature in Ibn Khaldun’s theory is that he asserts the divine wisdom of creating sleep could be that it is an opportunity for humans to “lift the veil of the senses” and gain access to divine realities and higher forms of knowing. Dreaming appears in this light as one of God’s gifts to humankind, a “natural” means of spiritual insight potentially available to all people. Having said this much about the dreams and their
Ahamuduzzaman Sharif Rakib Hasan
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LAW AND
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THE BENEFITS OF INTERMINGLING THEM
rom the ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles to Shakespeare, Dickens and modern legal dramatist Grisham, stories about law have fascinated readers and offered an outsiderâ€™s view of the efficiency of justice system. The law and literature movement which began in the first half of the twentieth century has contributed to the development of the concept of the interdisciplinary connection between law and literature. Now many prominent universities offer literature courses to law students and law courses to literature students. As a result law students and lawyers are better equipped with rhetoric skills, while literature students and writers are gaining more expertise at incorporating law, a very important part of social life, into literature. Law and literature The relationship between law and literature is ages old. If we go back to the origins of law, among the
ancient Greeks it was aligned with rhetoric, speaking and writing. Rhetoric was originally intended to present arguments in court. As law became more professional, it was closed off from this. Thus, law and literature have taken different ways, literature being more and more concerned with the expression of human emotions and feelings, while law became increasingly concerned with the maintenance of social order. Nexus between law and literature Law and literature are closely interrelated. One of the sources of law is “legal fiction.” Legal fiction, that is, fictio juris means “any assumption which conceals or tends to conceal the fact that the rule of law [has] undergone any alteration, its letter remaining unchanged but its operation being modified” (Islam, 2002). By means of a legal fiction, a child can be adopted from one family into another. In the eye of the law a limited company is given a personality which is distinct from that of its members. Case law is based on a fiction that while enacting a particular rule of law, the legislature had a particular intention. Fiction also played an important role as a source of law in ancient times. There was a rule of procedure in Rome by which a non-Roman was allowed to make a false allegation that he was a Roman citizen and thereby a praetor urbanus was able to try his case. The fiction of citizenship was adopted merely for the purpose of extending the Roman law to the non-Romans. All were under the same “lex gentium.” In England the Court of Exchequer took jurisdiction over civil cases by means of a legal fiction that the plaintiff was the debtor of the king. These fictions were adopted by the courts as devices to add to the jurisdiction of the courts. The old Roman law was laid down in the Twelve Tables, and additions to it were made by Responsa Prudentium—the judgements of the men learned in law. The teachings of
the most highly qualified of various nations are still considered as a source of international law. Fictions stand in the way of the codification of law. A property may be in the actual possession of X, but at the same time may be in the constructive possession of Y, the owner. No trust may have been created, but law may presume the same. By fiction, a Hindu child in the womb becomes entitled to family property. Legal fiction and legal presumption, however, are not the same. Legal fiction is a source of law while legal presumption is a rule of law. One fact is recognized by law as sufficient proof of another. A notification in the official gazette is presumed by law to have been duly signed by the person by whom it is purported to have been signed. These few examples are perhaps enough for us to understand that law can be regarded as literature. In this context, we can very relevantly talk about the Holy Qur’an which gives the impression of a perfect piece of exposition on one hand and a storehouse of law on the other. The Qur’an may sound astonishingly literary in terms of content and style, and at the time of its revelation poetry and oratory skills were the most outstanding forms of art in Mecca. Having heard the Qur’an’s enchanting verses, the best poets of the time tore apart their poems for they thought they could not challenge it. But as the Qur’an is the word of God, ascribing literary characteristics to the Holy Scripture is to devalue it. Nevertheless, various powerful forms of expression are found in the Qur’an to convey the message of Islam. The chapters and verses of the Qur’an maintain phonetic and thematic structures so that people can recall the message of the text. The narrative style of the innumerable events, particularly their dramatic presentation, have continued to amaze the scholars throughout the centuries. Sells says, “The values presented in the very early Meccan revelations are repeated throughout the hym-
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One of the sources of law is “legal fiction.” Legal fiction, that is, fictio juris means “any assumption which conceals or tends to conceal the fact that the rule of law [has] undergone any alteration, its letter remaining unchanged but its operation being modified.” By means of a legal fiction, a child can be adopted from one family into another.
nic suras. There is a sense of directness, of intimacy, as if the hearer were being asked repeatedly a simple question: what will be of value at the end of a human life?” (Sells, 1999). But these very verses are basically the laws meant to be for the whole humanity. Coupled with the Prophet’s practice the Qur’an as a main body of Islamic religious law undoubtedly covers almost all the aspects of human life ranging from family, sexuality, hygiene, social issues, business, economics, to politics both national and international. Thus the ultimate law comes in the form of a perfect exposition.
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The impact of literature on law is far reaching with regard to teaching, legal writing, statutory interpretations and duly submission of petitions before the bench. Many authors have tried to show the human condition and the law’s effect on it through their literary works from a neutral point of view. The fictional situations presented in literature, they assert, can tell a great deal about political and social situations, and the individuals that often find themselves before the court. Ronald Dworkin in his article, “Law as Interpretation” stated, “I propose that we can improve our understanding of law by comparing legal interpretation with interpretation in other fields of knowledge, particularly literature” (Dworkin, 1982).
Intermingling of law and literature as reflected in the works of some great authors Some popular as well as critically acclaimed literary works by prominent writers like Shakespeare, Kafka, Dickens, Camus, have dealt with the theme of law. Almost every careful reader would know that these writers were influenced by the legal system of their own time and were aware of its impact both the personal and social level. It would be wrong to think that they took law as the subject matter of their novel or play just to tell an interesting story. In fact, through skilful plot development their views about the then legal system are expressed. What is most interesting here is that they were influenced by the law and have definitely influenced the law as well. The Stranger or The Outsider is a novel by Albert Camus where the virtues of truth confront the deceits and corruptions of law. We also come to know about the justice system of the time and existing loopholes as the trial for the murder of an Arab proceeds. Furthermore, the novel addresses the issue of the inevi-
table conflict between defective legal proceedings and a man’s individual way of thinking. Franz Kafka’s The Trial is another novel where the author exposes how law is abused and made to bring enormous suffering to a man’s life. The main character, Josef K., awakens one morning and, for reasons never revealed, is arrested and subjected to the judicial process for an unspecified crime. Some crucial questions of judicial proceedings like a backlog of cases, arresting on suspicion and detaining a person for an uncertain period, absence of proper investigation, and absence of the right to self-defence are brought to our attention. Shakespeare’s works contain a remarkable quantity of law terms and they are used very accurately. The use of legal jargon in Hamlet is particularly impressive. But it is The Merchant of Venice, a controversial tale of a Jewish moneylender, that examines themes of justice and the bias of legal systems. Dickens’ popular novel Bleak House is particularly known for the novelist’s blunt attack on the flaws of the British judiciary system. Dickens’ experience of working as a law clerk in London came in handy in unearthing and depicting the law’s flaws so vividly. The plot concerns a long-running legal battle that takes place between two parties claiming the inheritance of a large property, a battle which in the end costs both parties dearly. Many believe that Dickens’s harsh portrayal of the lengthy Chancery system made way for the reforms that took place in the 1870s. Benefits of intermingling of law and literature The intermingling of law and literature produces certain benefits for both the subjects. First, literature is exceptionally capable of probing human psychology and conditions through text. This capacity can be combined with the legal framework which regulates human actions in real life and truly pave the way for a democratic judiciary which is a prerequisite for establishing a just and moral society. Second, literature is considered to be a carrier of human will and freedom of expression. This characteristic can be positively incorporated into the judicial system to facilitate more humane legal decisions. Third, literature helps us understand the text’s role in defining human experience as used in legal rhetoric. Fourth, by applying literary methods in legal writing, laws can be more readily interpreted and legal decisions can be conveyed more effectively. Fifth, reading and writing literature helps
However, one need not think that only law will benefit from this intermingling; rather, it is advantageous for literature as well. The law has immensely enlarged the area and scope for literature already. The law enriches itself every day and this ever widening sphere of law can be a great source for literature. Until now most literature in which law plays a major role has concerned criminal law, ignoring the many disputes over inheritance, contracts, divorce and real property. These very issues can be presented with more legal focus in literature if the writers are interested in knowing a bit more about law and the legal system. In this context we do very well remember the nineteenth-century British novels which are rich sources of thinking about law and lawyers and offer insight into the legal heritage, mainly because the novelists Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope and others participated in the debate about the best way to implement legal reform. In this regard more scope will be created to consider human feelings, emotions, and the environment where a person is raised. Then theories of punishmentâ€”as there are different theories available, like reformative, punitive, deterrent, expiation, preventive, and so onâ€”should be analysed thoroughly. This is where literature can open up windows of thought for the reformers.
In fact, law is not at all a stagnant subject, rather it has undergone huge changes over the ages and literature can very well claim to be the greatest contributor. Different writers in different ages have made the lawmakers think about the loopholes of the prevailing laws through their writings. This is how new interpretations of different laws have come about, and thus the loopholes have been exposed. Similarly, writers have provided us with new ideas about how to define crime and punishment under different circumstances and helped clarify law. Likewise, the discretionary power of the judges and its effects on the justice system can be viewed in a broader literary perspective. In this context the effort of Lord Denning, the greatest law-making judge of the century is worth mentioning. Lord Denning showed his willingness to override precedent to do what he saw as justice and foreshadowed the move towards moulding the law to suit changing times and circumstances. The definition of an offence can be scrutinised even more critically if it is seen through literature. Taking lessons from literature, life can be improved, which can substantially help the law-enforcement agencies to maintain order in society with ease and comfort. Social and communal conflicts are commonplace in every country and they are well-depicted in literature; law can borrow these materials to deal with them. Literature also helps to find ways of dealing with psychological problems which are quite common in human life and have certain effects on the whole of society. Again literature tells us how to look at these sensitive issues and therefore may help the law manage them in a more delicate way. As edification is one of the objectives of literature, the blending of law and literature ultimately helps the moral development of anybody concerned with the law. Since literature critiques lawyers and the overall legal system, this intermingling will certainly widen the scope for criticising the different shortcomings of the legal system, such as delays in trial proceedings, imprisonment without trial, torture on remand or interrogation, lack of sincerity in investigation, corruption, and so on, and will no doubt help to find ways to curb them. Recently, in the global perspective, law has expanded its sphere and in the process problems like eviction, mass killing, war crimes, arbitrary power, and illegal occupation by foreign armies have come to the fore.
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improve clarity of expression which is a must for everybody involved in the legal profession. Moreover, every citizen of a society should also acquire this clarity to enable them to defend themselves in the legal arena. Next, special cases can be accommodated through the application of literary standards to legal documents and thus despotism can be reduced to a great extent. In this regard some proponents of the admixture of law and literature argue that this looks back to and restores the image of the lawyer as a person of letters possessing a broad liberal education and being well versed in languages, rhetoric and literature, who views law as an aspect of the humanities and the public life, not a science or a business. Lastly, one of the skills literature teaches lawyers is the power of the imagination so that lawyers learn to place themselves in the shoes of the client, the opponent, the witnesses, the judge, and the jury in order to anticipate reactions to their pleadings, presentation of evidence, arguments, and settlement proposals.
“What wrong have we done?” is enough wrong as a thought.
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All these issues are the themes of many literary works by different writers, which can assist legal experts to find ways to think about and deal with them. Literature also helps in building a better society by illustrating the consequences of committing crimes and the dreadful conditions of a criminal life. To conclude, the intermingling of literature and law can give us hope of having a legal system touched by humanity. It may help writers to produce literature with more experience of life and society. At the same time, we need not forget that law is a part of our culture, not a mere technical study and it has a lot to offer to literature as well. As literature is a storehouse of alternative visions of law and society, the more literature comes into the thoughts of a lawyer or a law student, the better is the chance of law in a society paying due regard to human values and emotions, a quality which many people believe law seriously lacks. Likewise, literature should be more concerned with the everyday problems of life and a true reflection of society in the broad view. The times demand that writers do not just project a series of imaginary pictures playing in their minds, and law can truly help literature meet this demand. Ahamuduzzaman is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Law, ASA University, Bangladesh. Sharif Rakib Hasan is a Lecturer at the Department of English at the same university. References Brooks, Peter and Gewirtz, Paul. Law’s Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law, London: Yale University Press, 1996. Campbell, John. Shakespeare’s Legal Acquirements, London: Kissinger, 2001. Camus, Albert. The Stranger, USA: Tandem Library, 1999. Dickens, Charles. Bleak House, London: Yale University Press, 2000. Dien, Mawil, Izzi. Islamic Law: From Historical Foundations to Contemporary Practice, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004 Dworkin, Ronald, M. “Law as Interpretation,” Critical Inquiry, 1982, Vol. 9, No. 1. p. 179. Islam, Mahmudul. Constitutional Law of Bangladesh, Dhaka: Mullick Brothers. Second edition, 2002, pp. 58–60. Minda, Gary. “Law and Literature at Century’s End,” Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, 1997, Vol. 9 No.2, pp. 245–258. Kafka, Franz. The Trial, Munich: Kurt Wolff Verlag, 1925 Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’an, USA: White Cloud Press, 1999. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. USA: Dover Publications, 1992 ——. The Merchant of Venice, USA: Penguin Group, 1998.
Search for Life on Planets
Orbiting other Introduction For a long time astronomers have talked about the nine planets orbiting the Sun. These nine heavenly bodies have always been more special than other objects orbiting the Sun, such as asteroids and comets. The nine planets are larger than others; you can see some of them in the sky even with the naked eye if you know where to
look. In September 2003, astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech and his colleagues announced the discovery of a new object in the sky, then named 2003 UB313 Eris, which is 27% larger than Pluto. This made astronomers reconsider the definition of a planet, thereby making Pluto and Eris two of the new category of objects orbiting the Sun dubbed â€œdwarf planets.â€?
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While astronomers are engaged in the debate on planet definitions, astrophysicists still have not agreed about how planets were created. In fact, the journal Science recently put the birth of planets on the list of the top 125 questions scientists will tackle in the next quarter century.1 The comment ended with: “Planetary systems around other stars should provide clues.” The reason scientists are interested in extrasolar planets— planets orbiting other stars, or exoplanets in short— is not limited to their curiosity about how planets were created. The second major motive for exoplanet research is the attempt to detect another “habitable” planet. NASA’s Origins Program,2 for example, is attempting to answer the question, “Are there worlds like the Earth around nearby stars? If so, are they habitable, and is life as we know it present there?” This is one of the major questions the new field of astrobiology is striving to answer. In this article, we give an overview of planets and exoplanets with an emphasis on the critical conditions for life on a planet.
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Planets and Exoplanets The International Astronomical Union’s 2006 definition of a planet states that a planet is a celestial body that (1) is in orbit around a star, (2) has sufficient mass so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape) but is not itself a star, and (3) has “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit. According to this definition, Pluto is indeed not a planet as its “moon” Charon is half the size of Pluto, whereas the moons of all other planets are much smaller than their respective parent planets. In addition, Pluto’s orbit is not as “clean” as the orbits of other planets. Having introduced the new planet definition, we want to emphasize the first and foremost condition: a
planet has to be in orbit around a star—not around the Sun. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s PlanetQuest website, as of August 2007, about 250 exoplanets in 99 planetary systems have been discovered. (The site exoplanets.org gives 228 planets around nearby stars.) Discovery of solar planets is not too challenging: you take a clear picture of the same portion of the sky periodically, and compare the successive pictures. If you see an object that changes its position, then you can be sure that it is an object orbiting the Sun. Because stars are very far away compared to bodies orbiting the Sun, they seem stationary relative to us. To give a sense of how far the stars are from us, think of the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is 4.3 light years away. One light year is the distance light travels in one year, which is 5.88 million million miles. If you fly a supersonic jet—a jet that can break the sound barrier (765 mph), such as the SR-713 or the MiG-25R, which can reach three times the speed of sound in the air—you would have to fly for about 1 million years nonstop to arrive at the nearest star. The most distant planet, Uranus, is about 0.002 million million miles away from the Sun, which is more than 12,000 times closer than Proxima Centauri—your trip to Uranus with a supersonic jet will take only about 80 years. Exoplanets are as far away as stars. Therefore, it is impossible to detect them using the simple picturethe-sky method utilized for the solar planets. Every star with planets in its orbit is affected by the mass of the planets. This causes the star to sway back and forth. With extremely sensitive instruments measuring the Doppler shift in the frequency of light received from the star, the effect of the planet on the star can be detected.4 Another method is called astrometry: precise measurement of the positions of the stars relative to
How are planets created? The motion of a planet around the Sun can be described using two conservation laws—conservation of energy and conservation of angular momentum. Based on the understanding of orbital mechanics and the well-known laws of motion (first published in their entirety by Newton), it has become routine to place satellites in orbit around different planets to conduct various studies. Although science has been quite successful in describing planetary motion, we still do not know how planets were created. The conservation laws mentioned above do not determine the number, orbits, rotation directions, sizes, or type—rocky or gas giant—of planets. Initial conditions play a significant role; initial mass distribution around the star, the size of the particles orbiting the star during the early stages of the star’s life, and the initial orbits of these particles—when considered with the laws of motion, conservation laws, and the law of gravitational attraction—result in different planet-creation scenarios.
There are currently two main theories of planet creation, the gravitational instability and core accretion theories. In the gravitational instability theory, planets form during a rapid collapse of a dense cloud. In the core accretion theory, planets start as small rock-ice cores that grow as they gravitationally acquire additional mass.8 By detecting planets recently created around different stars, scientists hope to test these theories. Search for life on exoplanets Diverse life forms on the Earth are taken for granted. The average individual does not think much about the inner workings of life and the conditions that make life possible on the Earth. Earth is a rocky planet that contains heavier elements, such as silicon, iron, and so on. We know that heavier elements were created during the supernova explosions,9 which comprised a few generations of stars, and therefore more than a few billion years. In a galaxy that is very young, one does not expect there will have been enough supernova explosions to produce heavy elements. In an old galaxy, however, one does not expect to see radioactive elements. Thus, the planets that form in an old galaxy might be as dead as the moon because there will not be enough radioactive fuel. The Milky Way, our galaxy, is neither very young nor very old. Note that ages of galaxies and stars are in the order of billions of years— our sun is estimated to have been created about 4.6 billion years ago, and it is a middle–aged star. In the Milky Way, our sun is placed at just the right spot, about halfway from the center.10 At the core of our galaxy, the density of stars is so high that they collide with each other. At the outer extremities, at the rim of the galaxy, the star density is too low to generate the heavier elements that make up planets as very few supernova explosions are expected.11 The orbits of all planets are elliptical, but very close to being circles. This is very significant for a planet if life is to prosper. Eccentricity is a measure of the elliptical shape of an orbit. A perfect circular orbit has an eccentricity of 0 (zero), and as the eccentricity comes closer to 1, the orbit becomes like a sausage. The earth’s orbit around the sun has an eccentricity of 0.067, very close to a perfect circle. If the eccentricity were to become 0.3, the average global temperature would become 73 ºF (23 ºC), compared with 58 ºF (14.5 ºC) on the Earth now, and, “some parts of the African, South American and Australian interiors heat up to 140 ºF (60 ºC)” when the Earth passes closest to the Sun,” according to Darren Williams and his colleagues of Pennsylvania State University.12 On an orbit
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very distant stars, which appear stationary because they are far away. Small movements of the star because of the presence of planets can be detected.5 Direct optical detection of exoplanets is extremely hard, as they do not give off their own light. In the presence of the bright star, the planet becomes totally invisible. There are a few solutions. In the transit method, a planet blocks some of the star’s light as it transits past the star.6 Sensitive instruments can detect such small dips in the brightness of the stars. Also, interferometric detection7 can be used to detect the extremely weak light from the planet. Another optical detection method is called the “choronograph,” which is used to physically block the glare of the parent star, exposing the planet.
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with eccentricity of 0.4, the average temperature would increase to 86 ºF (30 ºC). Given the current scientific opinion on global warming and how catastrophic conditions could become because of a few degrees increase due to increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you can imagine how unbearable the Earth would become for many complex life forms. Therefore, for a planet to bear life on its surface, its orbit must be at an optimum range of distances from the parent star, which is dubbed the “habitable zone.” All planetary orbits around the Sun—not only that of the Earth—are nearly circular, and they do not cross each other’s orbits. If there were a number of planets with highly eccentric orbits around the Sun, some of them would cross the Earth’s orbit increasing the probability of a collision. Obviously, a planet with life as we know it on Earth would need to be a rocky planet. In the solar system only four planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are rocky planets; the other four (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are gas giants. The existence of gas giants, Jupiter being the largest of all, appears to be very important, too. Meteorite collision is a likely Doomsday scenario for the inhabitants of the Earth. In fact, meteorite collisions are cited as the main cause of the extinction of many species from the face of Earth in its several billion-year history.13 Jupiter is about 5au away from the Sun—1au is the mean Earth–Sun distance, nearly 150 million km—and as the most massive planet it plays a critical role in protecting the Earth from meteorites and comets. In addition to all these astronomical conditions, the Earth has a magnetic belt that protects it from charged particles ejected from the Sun and other bodies. The Earth has an atmosphere,14 and the presence of water is absolutely critical for life.15 Of the almost three hundred exoplanets so far identified, most of them are gas giants as massive as Jupiter— more than 300 Earth masses. Therefore, scientists do not expect a glimpse of life on them. Recently, Christophe Lovis of the University of Geneva and his colleagues reported three low-mass planets orbiting the nearby star HD 69830, described as “hot-Neptunes” or “superEarths”, as their masses are from 5–20 times the mass of the Earth. Scientists predict that two of these planets may be rocky planets based on theoretical calculations.16 For more conclusive results, however, telescopes with much higher resolutions are needed. Such telescopes are expected to be operational within a decade.
In conclusion, research interest in exoplanets originates from questions about the mechanism of planet creation, and the attempt to find planets where life can exist as we experience it on our blue planet. We do not know whether we will be able locate other worlds similar to the Earth with their own inhabitants. One thing we know, however, is that life is only possible through a great many critical conditions acting together in stars and planets as well as in cells and molecules. Life is very special indeed. Although the existence of other planetary systems suggests that our solar system is not as unique as once thought, with its “blue” planet —a planet that can support biological life—it still seems absolutely unique. Many scientists think, however, that with better tools and methods it is only a matter of time before we locate an Earth-like exoplanet. Time will prove or disprove their predictions. Dr. Ertan Salik is an Assistant Prof. of Physics at California State Polytechnic Univ, Pomona. As well as teaching and conducting physics research Dr. Salik is currently involved in many education programs. * Images in this article are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.
1. Science, Vol. 309, No. 5731, pp. 1–204 (2005). 2. NASA Origins program: http://origins.jpl.nasa.gov and http://origins.stsci.edu/ 3. http://www.sr-71.org/ Accessed 2008-07-26. 4. Struve, Otto. “Proposal for a project of high-precision stellar radial velocity work”, The Observatory 72 (1952): 199–200, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppler_spectroscopy Accessed 2008-07-26. 5. http://www.planetary.org/explore/topics/extrasolar_planets/ extrasolar/astrometry.html Accessed 2008-07-26. 6. Charbonneau, D.; T. Brown; A. Burrows; G. Laughlin (2006). “When Extraslar Planets Transit Their Parent Stars”. Protostars and Planets V, University of Arizona Press. 7. Exoplanet detection using a nulling interferometer, Manuel P. Cagigal and Vidal F. Canales, Optics Express, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2 July 2001. 8. http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/news/giantRockyCore.cfm Accessed 2008-07-26. 9. Gedik, Nuh. “Supernova Explosions and a Miracle of The Qur’an,” The Fountain, April-June 2006. 10. Weed, William Speed. “Circles of Life,” Discovery, November 2002. 11. See Charbonneau 2006. 12. Weed, 2002. 13. Gonullu, Omer Said. “The Message of Meteorites,” The Fountain, January–March 2005. 14. Cakmak, Osman. “A Journey in the Atmosphere,” The Fountain, January–March 2002. 15. Gedik, Nuh. “The Miracles of Water,” The Fountain, January–March 2005. 16. Lovis, Christophe et al. Nature, 441, 305–309 (18 May 2006).
By Aslı Sancar Published: 2007, The Light, Inc., New Jersey
Aslı Sancar, born and raised in the United States of America, has been living in Istanbul for over twenty years. For more than half of this period she intermittently pursued studies on the social status of Ottoman women and Ottoman family. Struck by the difference between the image of Eastern women in the West and the legacy left by Ottoman women themselves, the author researched the real status and role of women in the Ottoman Empire. Aslı Sancar has two more books and numerous articles, mainly dealing with women and family. This book by the author, entitled “Ottoman Women: Myth and Reality,” combines both splendid design and objective narration, and could be referred to
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Review by Valeria Kolos
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as a proof of the real status of women at that time giving full information on every aspect of their lives. World of women—not as seen on TV In our time when the rights of women are not well protected but are at least widely spoken about, it is very important to have research on the position of Ottoman women based not on common imagination (sometimes very colourful), but on the historical truth. Unfortunately the further the topic moves to the East the more deviated the data becomes. Remarks untrue from the very beginning are more and more likely to be decorated with what-somebody-thinks-(s)he-couldhave-seen. So for decades, when it came to the issue of a woman living in Muslim society there were only two options: whether a sultan’s harem full of silk, coffee, gold, hatred and intrigues or a harem in a mud house managed by a cruel and uneducated husband. The truth had always been a card – laid at the table, played and beaten. Real facts were mixed with fruits of imagination; objective data was presented only when it could have been useful for the narrator. In her book the author successfully presents the real state of affairs proving her point of view by documents from Ottoman records and remarks by Western travelers. Ottoman society was a highly organized and sophisticated system, so the position of a woman – should the issue concern her life in a household harem, childbirth and custody, charity and social activities – was regulated by religion and law. Even the foreigners disliking Muslim society and bearing hostility towards the Ottoman Empire, in particular, could not help but admit that Ottoman women enjoyed much more freedom and were way more respected and loved than their Christian sisters. Ottoman woman: social position, rights, life in the harem This research consists of six main chapters describing all the main aspects of Ottoman women’s lives. The chapters are dedicated to description of Ottoman women by Western travelers, life in the household harem, the status of slaves in the harem, the imperial harem, Ottoman women in court records and the metaphysical meaning of being a woman in the Ottoman Empire. The first chapter presents observations through Westerners eyes. Placing this part at the beginning is quite logical in respect to putting things in order and separating proven documentary facts from the fairy tale. Special attention was paid to the remarks of sev-
eral female travelers and persons who had stayed in the Ottoman Empire for a long time and thus witnessed Ottoman life. Even travelers’ comments needed to be studied with great care. Their accuracy had to be taken into consideration. The Ottomans would never have tolerated any interfering in their private life, so even female travelers with well-established diplomatic connections were accepted into the Ottoman harems with great restrictions. Arabian nights vs. Ottoman daylight: outbeating the harem myth When a woman needs to struggle with an enemy, she does it in a very delicate, feminine way. Here we see the author beating the harmful myth of harem life in a very confident and logical manner. “Women are not prisoners in any sense of the word, nor are they pining behind the latticed windows as we are sometimes led to believe…,” Elizabeth Cooper wrote in 1916. Starting the second chapter of the book dedicated to life in the household harem by breaking with a popular myth presenting Ottoman and thus Oriental women as prisoners of their homes, is both bold and logical. It can be clearly seen that Ottoman women were never captives of their part of the house. But the fantasies of the Arabian nights made her image a hostage to common opinion in Western eyes. French translation of Arabian tales published in Europe at the beginning of XVIII century served the Ottoman women badly, turning them into sensual, infidel, vile creatures inventing one intrigue after another while spending their days in the sweet laziness of the harem. Contradiction between exotic tales and reality should be solved fairly – this is what the author wants, and what women would have desired. They were secluded because they were loved and cared about, not imprisoned. The harem had never been a prison, but a sacred space where all the family enjoyed everyday life, celebrated holidays and was engaged in various social activities. Richer women were busy with distributing charity and caring for orphans and the disabled. They hardly had time for gossip, and their strong faith in God and the education they had would never have let them act improperly. The chapter dedicated to the imperial harem is marvelous. Whoever thinks of “dolce far niente” practiced by the harem women day after day should study it carefully. A reader will see that not a single creature
Winning her rights back: court records Imagine an Ottoman woman coming to the court to protect her rights. An Ottoman woman appealing to an Ottoman court. Winning the case, having been restored in her rights. It is not simply “possible.” This was a real documented process clearly showing that a woman living in the Ottoman Empire should never be thought of as something between a nice pet and a piece of the home decor. For centuries she was free in her half of the house which was considered sacred. Here I can give a lot of examples of what an Ottoman woman did in her life. And the reader acquainted with Oriental life and traditions only by means of pocket novels written in a month, read in a couple of days and forgotten forever, could think that this book is just another fantasy product attributing more freedom to the prisoners of the harem in order to gain more attention by female readers. The truth is even more shocking. A creature considered indolent, depraved and exotic will sooner or later come to the court of civilization and appeal to get back her dignity and good name. Indeed she has all the evidence of what she really was – the author presents citing from the Ottoman court records as well as the opinion of Lucy M. Garnett who in 1909 wrote: “With regard to their legal status, Turkish women – already possess the legal, personal, and proprietary rights necessary to give them a social position equal, if not superior to that of European women generally.” Design of the book “The interior is as exciting and rich as the exterior. Images are beautifully reproduced be they photographs, drawings or old paintings.” (PMA review of the design of the book) “Her beauty is of color rather than of line”, says Z. Duckett Ferriman. Design of this book is both of color and line. It is of luxury worthy of the Topkapı Palace.
Graphical concept is deeply connected with the spirit of the book. Richness of colors and illustrations, selected with major taste and care, seem to reflect the position and respect an Ottoman woman enjoyed. The very notion of East has always been associated with luxury, mystery and wonderful colors that could hardly be seen in the West. This time this is not just a stereotype. That is why there are so many attractive definitions like “Oriental green,” “Turquoise,” “Glow of the Desert” used especially for goods closely related to style and fashion. The cover could be called royal green with semi-sweet coffee foam beige and wedding bracelet gold on it. Gentlemen in charge of art and graphic design did everything possible to turn this book into a real pearl of the harem – with textile details and paintings by Osman Hamdi, every page takes us to the world of women – beautiful, pure and splendidly decorated. The book was highly appreciated by PMA for its perfect design. Everyone who will read it will be deeply impressed by the luxury of every single page, clarity of paintings, photographs and any other illustrations each of them in its place, in total harmony with the message of the “Ottoman Women.” Ottoman woman: year 2008 Finishing this review, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and admiration to the author, Aslı Sancar Hanımefendi, for marvellously starring in two roles at the same time: one of them is that of an American-born lady writing fairly on Ottoman women (almost three hundred years after Lady Montague, one hundred and seventy after Miss Julia Pardoe and nearly a hundred years after Z. Duckett Ferriman), and the other is the role of a Turkish woman, member of the new society feeling respect and devotion to history and the truth. There is also a third one behind every line and in every color of this book. An Ottoman woman in the court. Presenting her book. Calling for justice. Valeria Kolos is a Ukrainian Turkish-English-Russian translator. Having graduated from the Oriental Studies Department of the Kyiv Shevchenko National University in 1999, she has been living in Istanbul for 6 years. V.Kolos has some publications (poems in Turkish) in several literature magazines.
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in the imperial harem possibly could be accused of doing nothing. If one takes a walk in modern Istanbul, no matter what the route is, he/she will surely see a mosque, a public bath, a hospital, a market complex, a water-spring, or a school ordered to be built by a queen mother, or by a mother of a prince, or by any other high-ranked lady from the harem. For God’s sake when did they manage to do all these? Between gossiping and intriguing? Oh that’s a shame! There should be some Turkish coffee break in between…
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First, lean back and let me expand, so that I can take in more air. The more air I take in, the easier your brain works and the better you’ll understand what I’m telling you. Irrelevant? Not at all Peter! Every organ in your body has relevance to everything, to the entire cosmos. Your brain needs sugar to work, and you need oxygen in order to burn this sugar and provide your neurons with energy. As I happen to be the organ that takes oxygen from the air and helps it to be transferred into your blood, I will tell you about myself. As a matter of fact, talking about oneself is usually a sign of being self-conceited, but my case is rather different; I actually wish to make you reflect on how perfectly I’ve been created.
I am placed inside your chest cavity as two air sacks—or bellows—surrounded by your muscles. I took my first breath right after birth and I still keep working non-stop. Even while you are sleeping, I fulfill my function with the automatic command I receive from the respiratory center at the back of your brain. My close friend Heart started working even before me while you were in the womb. I was resting then; actually I hadn’t even formed fully. As all your needs like food and oxygen were met in the body of your mother—whose heart you occasionally break—I didn’t have to make extra effort to get air, being filled and emptied. Even if I had attempted to do so, I would have had no chance of succeeding; since you were contained in the amniotic fluid, an attempt to breathe could have caused you to drown. The first breath I take after birth is critical and rather difficult, since the windpipe is still much narrower than normal. On the other hand, the number of my alveoli where oxygen exchange with the capillaries is realized is so high in relation to body size that it balances the situation. When I make my first move and fill with air, I put pressure on the arteries and veins. Then the
vessel directly connecting my artery to my mother’s aorta is dismissed, the curtain between the valves is closed and the blood circulations are separated. If this curtain is not properly closed and a gap remains in between, the oxygen-rich blood and the used-up blood mix and result in the disease known as cyanosis—or “blue baby” syndrome. As these two kinds of blood mix, the tissues are not supplied with sufficient oxygen and the white parts of the skin and eyes assume a bluish appearance. Turning blue-purple due to lack of oxygen in the tissues is the same for smokers. Cigarettes—my archenemy—contain hundreds of toxic substances, such as carbon monoxide, which combine with the hemoglobin in blood and prevent oxygen transfer. Therefore, the lips of smokers turn slightly purple. You need to be careful with the air you inhale. The windpipe which brings air into me is covered with a ciliated epithelial tissue which catches the dust brought along and sweeps it outside. While you are asleep, the vibrating cilia of this sweeper work throughout the night and in the morning you get rid of the outcome of their propulsion by clearing your throat. However, every draw of a smoker kills 800–1,000 of our ciliated epithelial cells. After some time, they become unable to sweep the toxins (carbon, sulfur, lead, etc) inhaled with the air. I can’t stand it
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anymore! The increased air pollution is already putting enough strain on us… this habit is just too much for a lung to handle! It is just… an open invitation for cancer! Sorry, Peter, I didn’t mean to be rude. I appreciate that you don’t smoke, but I wish those who do would realize how splendid a mechanism they are destroying. Now let me tell you about what a work of art I am. As you also know, art in a structure becomes more meaningful with functionality. As is the case with my other friends with which I work in your body, I am perfectly made to fulfill my duty. In other words, never mind forming an organ like me as a consequence of molecules and cells accidentally coming together, even a single protein molecule in my structure does not come to existence through unconscious causes. With every breath you take, the pressure of the oxygen within the air inhaled rises, so it passes through my membranes by diffusion and into the adjacent capillaries; there it combines with hemoglobin molecules. At the same time, the carbon dioxide passes through the same membranes into me, and I dispose of it. Both of these are easier said than done! You breathe 13–14 times a minute and the whole thing is repeated over and over. As I keep expanding and contracting during breathing, which you are unaware of most of the time, first of all I need to be very flexible. Together with this flexibility, my most important quality is having the largest possible surface area within the smallest volume. My surface area of around 100m2 (as large as a tennis court) is made to fit into your chest cavity in the form of thin membranes so that my large surface allows gas diffusion. These membranes need to be kept wet; a special fluid is secreted as a precaution and respiration is realized smoothly. Without this fluid, my membranes would just stick together, unable to carry out their duty. You can compare the course of the air inhaled to that of a car passing from a highway onto increasingly smaller roads and in the end reaching a dead end in the small sacks named alveoli. The air coming in through the mouth and nose unites at the expressway named the trachea, or the windpipe, which is 15cm long and 2–3cm in diameter. Incidentally, I have a couple of things to tell you about the way you breathe. As a matter of fact, inhaling is the duty of the nose. I’m sure it also has a lot to say as well, but let me just mention a simple fact about it. Now, you should inhale through your nose, so that the air you take in gets warm, wet,
and is cleaned from dust. If you try to breathe this way, you do not trouble me much, and reduce the risk of catching a cold or an infection of upper respiratory system. Inhaling through the mouth helps dust and germs get into me and you might contract various illnesses from bronchitis to pneumonia. Now you know why kids who have adenoids who sleep with their mouth open get ill so easily. Sorry, I couldn’t help speaking on behalf on the nose. Well, what were we talking about before that? Oh yes! The ways through which the inhaled air passes. As the name suggests, the windpipe which makes the air reach me is a cylindrical tube surrounded by 16–20 cartilaginous rings. As it is placed beside the esophagus, one side of the rings is made of soft cartilaginous tissue instead of hard, so that they don’t hinder swallowing. The muscular tissue near these rings helps them widen and narrow during respiration or coughing. I sometimes warn you by making you cough. Maybe it seems to be a disturbance, but if I don’t push out air by coughing through the contracted windpipe, contaminants can clog me up and cause you to suffocate. Therefore, the burst of air—what you call a cough—is a great blessing to you. The sound system at the tip of the windpipe is another wonder. The used air I send out vibrates the cords in that voice-box and produces such melodies, gives voice to such speech! The air divides into the two lungs. My two sides are not symmetrical; the one on the right is divided into three, and the one on the left into two. I think this was meant to make room for the neighbor on the left, the heart. In addition, if there’s any cancer growth in me, the diseased part can be taken out by an operation and I can keep on functioning. God knows the wisdom behind this form. After that, these main bronchi separate into 8–10 thinner branches, like highways connecting to narrower roads. This branching resembles a tree turned upside down. At the tips of these thin branches are the respiratory bronchioles resembling clusters of grapes. The small spheres which make up the cluster are the end of the road and are the most vital parts. These spheres named alveoli are made of very thin membrane and they are surrounded by a net of capillaries (picture 5). These are the functional spots where gas exchange is realized. I hang in the thorax with veins and arteries all around. There are two layers of protective membrane over me. One of them is stuck on me, whereas the other
is stuck on the ribs which form the chest cavity. There is a fine and slippery fluid in between these two layers and it neutralizes the friction every time I inflate and deflate. If it hadn’t been placed there, I would wear out and be damaged. As I inflate during inhalation, the chest cavity should expand simultaneously to make space for me. If it weren’t given a flexible form, I would fail to breathe and you would eventually die. Fortunately, the protective set of ribs and their connection with the spine are flexible enough to make me work comfortably. In addition, the dome-shaped muscular partition (diaphragm) separating the thorax from the abdomen contracts and pushes down the organs in the abdomen. Thanks to the simultaneously programmed movement of both the ribs and the diaphragm I inflate with air and expand. Being in constant contact with the outer environment makes me susceptible to various diseases. Coughing is among the foremost signals I give in the case of disease, and sometimes—excuse me—I produce a mixture of blood and phlegm. Also, I may have difficulty in breathing and warn you with chest pain. You should be alert to my signals. If bacteria and viruses infect me, they might reproduce inside my air sacs, and cause stiffening and suppuration. I am particularly sensitive to allergic disorders. When the straight muscles on the walls of my bronchi contact an alien substance, pollens for instance, the consequent histamine secretion makes my muscles contract. In addition, allergic diseases, which can affect blood vessels, affect me a lot since I happen to be one of the major organs contributing to blood circulation. As a result of the contraction of my bronchial muscles and difficulty in disposing of the mucus I secrete to defend myself, I have trouble with breathing—you call it asthma.
As a rider can appraise a horse, so too does a noble horse appraise the knight. ***
Peter, I’m sorry, it is not possible to summarize a work of art like me within a few pages, but I need to stop now… but please, keep away from polluted areas and cigarette smoke! Send me as much fresh air as you can. And even though you mostly take me for granted, like my other teammates, please reflect upon what a blessing I am. Irfan Yilmaz is a professor of biology at Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, Turkey.
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In addition to this, we can mention diseases like emphysema, acute or chronic bronchitis as problems I frequently face. Even your anger has a great impact on me. Breathing becomes more difficult immediately.
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What does â€œinsafâ€? mean? What are the signs of possessing it as a virtue?
Questions and Answers
nsaf means accepting and confessing the truth, treating everyone with mercy and justice, observing others’ rights besides one’s own, behaving not according to one’s carnal self, desires, and fancies, but according to one’s conscience and reason together with universal human values and being very sensitive about observing all kinds of rights.1
Insaf is half of religion The term insaf, which sometimes denotes righteousness, fairness, justice or never deviating from truth, is the term for not violating others’ rights while claiming your own, even wishing what you wish for yourself for others as well and giving priority to them if need be, and being balanced at doing the right thing by refraining from extreme behavior. God’s Messenger counted insaf among the three basic components of good character. He stated that three things are originated by one’s faith: “Not giving up insaf despite the urges of the carnal self, promoting greeting, and spending in God���s way even during financial straits.” Another beautiful phrase—even though it is not a hadith—reflecting his views about right and justice is “insaf is half of religion.” When we evaluate a matter in a certain fashion according to our own logic and reasoning, we might take our personal considerations as a basis and view the issue from the perspective of our carnal selves and corporeality. When doing that, we may be mostly mistaken, make wrong judgments and think ourselves to be definitely right. In such a case—even though our personal feelings, thoughts, inclinations and wishes are different—siding with the right as soon as we recognize the truth and taking a stance in spite of our ego is an expression of insaf. Being respectful toward the requirements of faith all the time, blending our morality with righteousness, always being in pursuit of truth, and, in spite of the pressure of carnal inclinations, listening to the voice
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When we evaluate a matter in a certain fashion according to our own logic and reasoning, we might take our personal considerations as a basis and view the issue from the perspective of our carnal selves and corporeality.
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of the conscience and championing the right is a requirement of having insaf. A human being without insaf is cruel and ruthless; such people use every opportunity to have an ill opinion of others, ignore their tens of good deeds for a single evil one and always fail to cherish a good opinion. Even though the Islamic moral code counsels having insaf and holding a good opinion, a person without insaf takes unfairness and ill opinion as a basis. Therefore, they become trapped by one bad apple and conclude that the entire orchard is barren and putrid. As a matter of fact a damaged banknote in the state treasury does not lessen the reserves, but in the sight of one who lacks insaf—a bad trait which we can compare to the damaged note—the riches of being human can turn into an object of no value.
A single mistake should not nullify many good deeds Actually, given that a good deed is counted tenfold and a misdeed only once in the sight of God, one mistake should not be allowed to evoke ill feelings toward a person in spite of his or her many good deeds. Believers who have insaf should always try to think positively and recognize someone’s good side; they should not totally condemn a person because of one mistake. They should even consider one of a person’s good deeds to compensate for all of his or her misdeeds. For instance, when a person devoted to a righteous cause considers one of his fellow friends, he should say, “Such and such person committed this misdeed, but I cannot overlook his loyalty to serving in the way of God,” and thereby be very faithful toward his companion and always do the decent thing and hold the truth dear. Nevertheless, an event narrated in the books of hadith underlines a very important point about this issue: A Companion of the Prophet who was not very conscious about drinks and could not break his addiction would sometimes get intoxicated and be rebuked by God’s Messenger each time. The same Companion was one day brought to the presence of God’s Messenger for the same offense. One of those present said, “O God, curse this man! He is being punished for the same offense for so many
times but still does not behave himself.” On hearing this, God’s Messenger said, “Do not curse him. I swear by God that he loves God and His Messenger from the heart!” Then he told them to pray for him saying, “O God, grant mercy to him and forgive his faults.” Given that this Companion’s sincerity is appreciated so much, we can better picture what it brings to a person to serve in the way of God and to strive for His name to be engraved in hearts. Thus, we can make a well-placed evaluation of the attitude we are to take in the face of that person’s faults and mistakes. Commitment to the right and wishing to hold the truth dear The worst example of lack of insaf in our time is seen in criticism which is based upon grudge, guile, and pride. In fact, true criticism, which means analyzing the good or bad sides of somebody or something, making a comparison between what is and what should be, is a means of walking toward the ideal. Making constructive criticisms and being open to criticism is a scholarly principle. However, this should be done within a certain manner and form. After all, the person who criticizes should have insaf, he or she should speak not out of personal considerations but in the name of God’s good pleasure and have no intention other than goodness. The drive for criticism should arise from striving toward the right and a wish to clarify the truth. A critic with insaf should only hold the aim of unearthing the truth. Otherwise, criticism without insaf—which serves pride and beguilement— destroys the truth and leads to unfairness and wrong. As you know, we can define a debate as the act of having an exchange of views in order to clarify a truth, brainstorming within certain rules and principles, cooperative thinking, mutual discussion, and presenting decently expressed personal considerations to collective reasoning. Unfortunately, in almost all the gatherings held under the name of debate in our time, we witness lack of insaf in the form of criticism. Today, almost everyone who joins the quarrels at the platforms of dispute, sophistry, and demagogy—what we can call verbal duels—has certain presumptions and the debat-
Do we really have insaf? On the other hand, concerning the followers of other faiths or philosophies one sometimes cannot help but say, “I wish these people had some insaf, and they would look at the Qur’an and the Prophet’s message accordingly! Insaf might open their eyes as well and be a means for them to draw different conclusions. I wish they could be freed from their biases for a moment and could consider Islam with insaf.” With such reflections in mind, we invite people to hold insaf. But are we taking into account what falls to our part while expecting insaf from them? I wonder to what degree we have been able to present the right and truth to them. Have we been able to be credible and inspire trust? Have we been able to represent the truth properly so as to invoke insaf in them? Muslims have moved to many different countries of the world and their population has reached a considerable level in certain places but their influence has not been proportionate to their number, because they have worked for others mostly with worldly concerns. As masters do not care for their slaves, they did not listen to Muslims’ words; they usually used Muslims like slaves and sought ways of disposing of them when they had profited from them. In this respect, even though Muslims have gone to many different lands, we cannot consider the message of Islam to have reached the people of those lands. Particularly at a time when materialism and naturalism prevail, people who are accustomed to looking at things and events with a materialist perspective cannot be said to have met the logic of Islam and the Qur’an. Therefore—with the exception of the body of tyrants who dye the world in blood and oppress the weak—the people from whom we expect insaf can in many respects be regarded as equivalent to the people of the Interregnum Period.2 Then isn’t it we who should have insaf in the first place? For not having been able to go to all corners of the world and present a credible type of behavior, stance, and example, for not being able to represent the truths of the Qur’an—which are truly beautiful by objective criteria—shouldn’t we first question ourselves? If people
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ers usually strive to make the opposite side accept their own views rather than clarifying a truth. To the degree that they spend utmost effort in this matter—sometimes they engage in a play on words or play of logic, or resort to unbecoming acts like provoking their opponents or silencing and embarrassing them—they always remain closed to the truth. Rather than revealing truths, they turn their words into dialectics by opposing the expressions of thought and philosophy of the other side, and the debaters act with the intentions of defeating, humiliating, and silencing one another. In fact, such an argument can never be called a true debate; it seems to me like a quarrel between mentally disabled ones. Unfortunately, nowadays assemblies of debate have become grounds of dialectics. The only remedy for this disease is not to give up insaf, always to do the decent thing, to hold the truth dear and never sacrifice it for the sake of anything else. Every party to a discussion should reproach their own ego and not favor themselves but the person or people they address. Let alone humiliating the other party, when a person who proves right makes the other selfconscious, he or she should be regarded as being disrespectful to human values. As Said Nursi suggests, the attitudes at a decent scholarly debate based on the principle of insaf are to be evaluated as follows: if a person asserts a certain opinion, proves right, and becomes happy about it, that person lacks insaf because what matters is not proving right but discovering the right. A person who is happy about both proving right and the opposite site being wrong loses. That is, the person who proves right does not learn anything new or benefit from the debate. Moreover he or she may be taken by pride and suffer further loss. However, if the opposite side proves to be right—without any possibility of loss—the person benefits by learning something new and is freed from pride as well. So a righteous person with insaf rejects his or her own ego for the sake of the truth; even if he or she sees the truth in the hands of the opponent, he or she accepts it anyway with good consent and supports the other.
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are saying, ”What we are being told is so good, but we haven’t seen any community with these truths ingrained in their life. We haven’t witnessed any people who have been adorned with those laudable virtues. We have found no paragons of virtue who live with meticulous sensitivity. Where are the people who are completely closed to sins and are determined to remain so? Where are the living examples of true believers? We cannot believe without seeing them!”, if they are saying this and they voice this on Judgment Day, how can we give an answer before God? In this respect, when we talk about insaf and call others to be fair, we should not forget that we need a vision to trigger the feeling of insaf within ourselves. An example from the Prophet to evoke the feeling of insaf Did not those who saw the Pride of Humanity say, “We haven’t witnessed any lies from you so far”? Did they not admit the truth in saying, “We never doubted your being a truthful and trustworthy person”?... Truly, the noble and virtuous stance of God’s Messenger in a way became a reference for his addressees to pay attention to the Qur’an, listen to the message of Islam, and listen to the truthful Prophet. The unique example of the perfect guide evoked the feeling of insaf in consciences. Today as well, what has an influence on hearts and brings people to insaf is “representation.” Few people say, “I found the truth after I heard such and such words.” But there are many people who say, “I embraced faith after seeing this sincere example of such and such true believer.” Likewise, the words which become a means for others’ faith are always fruits of what the heart voices and what our actions reflect. For conveying the message finds its true value through genuine representation. The case of an American professor is one of hundreds of examples proving the power of proper representation: This person, who was an expert on the history of religion, visited Urfa, southeastern Turkey. He was attending a charity meeting of a group of chivalrous souls. As they were all seated around a table, he briefly spoke with the person beside him. In the conversation, the professor mentioned that he had just re-
turned from Southeast Asia. On hearing this, his poor neighbor whispered humbly, “I support a school in Cambodia.” The professor described that devoted man with the following words: “He looked poor. He was modest; however—surprisingly—he was giving nearly all his surplus income for a school he will probably never see in this life. Cambodian children were being educated thanks to the sacrifices including his own and he was happy beyond expression.” The professor said that he did not need any further proof about the sincerity of those devoted ones. That professor and others like him are not unaware of the Qur’an; however, what makes an impact on them is representation. Again, there is someone I know who read books on Islam for almost ten years with no significant change in his life. One day, he visited one of our friends and heard that sincere person saying God’s name with his every act; he was such a devout believer that even though he spoke very little, his acts, his looks, and the way he prostrates himself in prayer reflect the Almighty. The condition of that devoted person affected his guest very much, who then saw that the principles he had read about in books were built on a sound basis and that things fit in their place; he was then able to say, “These acts derive from such and such essential disciplines.” In this respect as we invite representatives of different understandings to insaf, the necessity of a degree of exemplary representation to evoke insaf in them should not be ignored. Showing the truth through exemplary representation to the people whom we expect to be righteous is a requirement of holding insaf. We can even say that the sole duty of the volunteers who have dispersed to every corner of the world today is an exemplary representation to evoke the feeling of insaf by the language of love. Notes 1. In Islam, people have a responsibility to their Creator, and to all people including themselves, and the entire creation. 2. After Jesus, people failed to keep up his original message from God and deified him instead. From then on until the Prophet Muhammad came—the Interregnum Period—there was no undistorted religion for people to follow. Therefore, God will not hold them responsible in the day of Judgment.
The servants who are eagerly desirous of worship do not delay their prayers; they impatiently wish for the time for the next prayer to come and look forward to new moments of supplication.
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THE FOUNTAIN announces
ESSAY CONTEST Please refer to The Fountain website for detailed information on the contest rules and regulations. This contest is open to all undergraduate and graduate students.
For more information and submissions:
September / October 2008
We strive to make a road strewn with roses and flowers, Devoted to offering a rose to every soul in turmoil; This is the right time to build such a road And the right day for us to express ourselves . . .