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Quranic Principles to The Military Jihad

Some Applications of
Quranic Principles to The Military Jihad:

Six Examples of Early Muslim Treaties With Conquered Lands
by David Dakake [ excerpt from The Myth of Militant Islam* ]

1.) Treaty with the city of Damascus

Balâdhurî reports that after the surrender of Damascus, Khalid ibn al-Walîd wrote for the inhabitants of the city a document stating:

In the Name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.
This is what Khâlid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus, if he enters therein: he promises to give them security for their lives, property and churches. Their city shall not be demolished; neither shall any Muslim be quarted in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the pact of Allah and the protection of his Prophet the caliphs   and the "Believers". So long as they pay the poll-tax,[51] nothing but good shall befall them.[52]

 

2.) Treaty with the city of Jerusalem

In addition to these accounts, al-Tabarî records the "Covenant of `Umar, a document apparently addressed to the people of the city of Jerusalem, which was conquered in the year 15 A.H. / 636 C.E. The document states:

This is the assurance of safety (aman) which the servant of God `Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has granted to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and the healthy of the city, and for all the rituals that belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited [by Muslims] and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their crosses, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted [ ... ] The people of Jerusalem must pay the poll tax like the people of [other] cities, and they must expel the Byzantines and the robbers [ ... ].[53]

These conditions, respecting Christian practices and places of worship, were also given to other towns throughout Palestine, according to al-Tabarî.[54] In regard to the Armenian front, we have references to treaties made with Jewish and Christian as well as Zoroastrian inhabitants of the region. It is noteworthy that both al-Tabarî and Ibn Kathir in their Qur'an commentaries mention Zoroastrians (al-majûs) within the classification of "People of the Book"[55] - Zoroastrianism being the other major faith, besides Judaism and Christianity, that was encountered by the Muslim armies as they spread out of Arabia and which, like Judaism and Christianity, possessed a sacred text.

3.) Treaty with the town of Dabîl

Balâdhurî mentions the treaty conduded by the Companion of the Prophet, Habîb ibn Maslamah al-Fihrî   (d. 42 A.H. / 662 C.E.), with the people of the town of Dabîl which states:

In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.
This is a treaty of Habib ibn Maslamah with the Christians, Magians [i.e., Zoroastrians], and Jews of Dabil, including those present and absent. I have granted for you safety for your lives, possessions, churches, places of worship, and city wall. Thus ye are safe and we are bound to fulfill our covenant, so long as ye fulfill yours and pay the poll-tax [ ... ].[56]

In addition to this, al-Tabarî mentions treaties that the Muslims made with the Armenians of al-Bab and Muqan in the Caucasus Mountains guaranteeing "their possessions, their persons, [and] their religion"[57]

Turning to the region of Persia, Balâdhurî mentions two agreements, one with the people of Rayy,[58] and the other with the people of Adhârbayjân.[59] The texts of each of these agreements guarantee the safety of the lives of the inhabitants, as well as offering a promise not to "raze any of their fire temples", a reference to Zoroastrian âtashkâdas. In al-Tabarî's "History" as well, treaties are recounted involving the town of Qûmis,[6o] the peoples of Dihistân in the province of Jurjân,[61] and the people of Adhârbayjân[62], each treaty granting "safety [...] for their religion."

4.) Treaty with the city of Alexandria

Finally in Egypt we can point to the example of `Amr ibn al-`Âs,   a companion of the Prophet and the commander of the Muslim forces on the Egyptian front. He concluded a treaty with the Bishop of Alexandria on the orders of the Caliph `Umar   , guaranteeing the safety of the city and agreeing to return certain Christian captives taken by the Muslims after an initial skirmish. According to al-Tabarî, `Umar's instructions to Amr were as follows:

[ ... ] propose to the ruler of Alexandria that he give you the jizya in the understanding that those of their people who were taken prisoner and who are still in your care be offered the choice between Islam and the religion of their own people. Should any one of them opt for Islam, then he belongs to the Muslims, with the same privileges and obligations as they. And he who opts for the religion of his own people has to pay the same jizya as will be imposed on his co-religionists.[63]

 

5.) Treaty with the Metropolitan of Misr (Egypt)

'Amr also concluded an agreement with Abu Maryam, the Metropolitan of Misr. Al-Tabarî quotes Amr's words in an apparent face to face meeting with the Metropolitan:

We call upon you to embrace Islam. He who is willing to do so will be like one of us. To him who refuses, we suggest that he pay the jizya and we will give him ample protection. Our Prophet [ ... ] has determined that we keep you from harm. lf you accept our proposition, we will give you constant protection.[64]

 

6.) Treaty with the people of Misr (Egypt)

AI-Tabarî then quotes the actual text of the treaty agreed to between them as follows:

In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.
This is the text of the covenant that Amr b. al-'As has granted the people of Misr concerning immunity for themselves, their religion, their possessions, churches, crucifixes, as well as their land and their waterways [...] .
lt is incumbent upon the people of Misr, if they agree on the terms of this covenant and when the rise of the Nile water comes to a halt to afford the jizya [ ... ]. He who chooses [not to agree to these terms but] to depart will enjoy immunity, until he has reached his destination where he can be safe, or has moved out of the territory where our authority prevails.[65]

 

notes

[51] The poll-tax or jizya was required to be paid by the People of the Book to the Islamic state according to verse 9:29 of the Qur'an and certain hadith. This tax, unlike feudal taxation in Europe, did not constitute an economic hardship for non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. The tax was seen as the legitimate right of the Islamic state, given that all peoples - Muslim and non-Muslim - benefited from the military protection of the state, the freedom of the roads, and trade, etc. Although the jizya was paid by non-Muslims, Muslims were also taxed through the zakat, a required religious tax not levied on other communities.

[52] Balâdhurî, Futûh al-buldûn, trans. P.Hitti as The Origins of the Islamic State [New York: AMS Press], vol. 1, p. 187.

[53] Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, vol. XII: The Battle of al-Qadisiyya and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Y. Friedmann (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985). p.191. The use of the word "Byzantines" here should not be conflated with "Christians". "Byzantines" refers to those people who were the administrators of Byzantine authority in the lands that were now conquered by the Muslims. The very fact that the word "Byzantines" is used, and not "Christians" is significant. This shows that it was not "Christianity" but rather the military and political opposition of Byzantium that was at issue. It was because of this opposition that the Byzantines needed to be expelled. Byzantine administrators and officials, like the "robbers" also mentioned in the quotation, were a possible source of social unrest and political chaos. Just as there cannot be two kings ruling a single kingdom, the Muslims needed to remove any vestiges of Byzantine political authority in the land they now controlled. This did not mean the removal of the vestiges of "Christianity" from those lands, for the quotation itself also mentions preserving the rights of Christians to practice their faith and maintain their churches, crosses, etc., under the new Islamic government.

[54] Ibid., pp. 191-192. Al-Tabarî indicates that similar letters were written to "all the provinces" around Jerusalem as well as to the "people of Lydda and all the people of Palestine."

[55] Al-Tabarî, Jâmi'al-bayân, vol. 3, pp. 24-25; Ibn Kathir, Tafsîr, vol 2, pp.457-458. This position has been generally agreed upon by most of the early scholars of Islamic law; see for instance, the comments of Ibn Rushd in his Bidâyat al-mujtahid, in Peters, Jihâd, p. 24.

[56] Balâdhurî, Origins, vol. 1, P. 314

[57] Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, trans. G. Rex Smith (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994) pp.36-38.

[58] Balâdhurî, Origins, vol 2, p.4.

[59] Ibid., p. 20.

[60] Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, p. 28.

[61] Ibid., p. 29

[62] Ibid., p. 33

[63] Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIII. The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, trans. G. H. A. Juynboll (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985), pp. 164-165

[64] Ibid., pp. 167-168

[65] The issue as to whether the Muslims may accept the jizya from the mushrikûn or polytheists, thereby granting them protected ( dhimmî ) status under the Islamic state, like the status of the People of the Book, has been debated by the scholars of Islamic law. For various opinions on this issue see Ibn Rushd, Bidâyat al-mujtahid, in Peters, Jihâd, p. 24-25.

 
 

Reviving the Love for Allah and His Messenger

Habib Umar: Reviving the Love for Allah and His Messenger

On the last Monday in Rabi Al-Awwal, a special mawlid was held in Dar Al-Mustafa in Tarim, Yemen. We were blessed to have Sidi Amjad Tarsin share with us the link to the live broadcast as well as his live translation of Habib Umar’s speech. All praises to Allah for allowing us to gather the pearls of wisdom, advice and knowledge from Habib Umar. We would like to share with you the notes we took. All mistakes are entirely from us, we are incapable of fully translating the tremendous wisdom of Habib Umar. Please be aware that these notes are for reference only. If you are plan on posting this elsewhere, kindly include the link to this post.

The first noble scholar to speak was Habib Mashhur, Habib Umar bin Hafidh’s oldest brother. Habib Mashhur is also the mufti of Tarim. The next to speak was Habib Abdullah bin Shihab. Soon after, Habib Salim Al-Shatiry, the Sultan of Scholars, began his speech. Habib Salim said that all these majalis (gatherings) were from the barakah of the martyrdom of Habib Umar’s beloved father.

After this, Habib Umar began by speaking about the blessings of these gatherings.

Praise is due to Allah with thanks, for the blessings that come down in succession. We praise Him in secret and openly, and in the mornings and evenings (part of an Imam Al-Haddad poem).

He sent upon the clouds of His mercy and made us of the Community of the best of His creation. And He allowed us to enjoy life - those who remember, remember and they turn to the Most Merciful, Mighty and Majestic is He. And He prepared for us those who remind us, and those who make us pay attention, and those who warns us, and those who guide us.

In this month of Rabi Al-Awwal, Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasalam was born, and he came into existence. Alhamdulilah for this blessing.

And how many people have attended this gathering? From all over the world, from within Hadramawt and from outside Hadramawt. All trying to implement the methodology our Prophet taught us, peace be upon him.

We came from different tribes, different places. Coming together to remember Allah. [On the day of judgment) there will be people on pedestals of light. The prophets and martyrs will have ghibt (halal jealousy) for these people on the pedestals of light. And the prophets and martyrs will ask: Who are these people? [They will be told:] they are the ones who love one another for the sake of Allah. May Allah make us from them!

We have heard the description of the Prophet peace and mercy be upon him. And remember the responsibilities upon us, [knowing and working for]:

  • the realities of islam
  • the realities of iman
  • the realities of ihsan

And these realities will not manifest within someone except that they are connected to this Prophet, peace and mercy be upon him. [Therefore,] follow this Prophet!

You have heard about the martyrdom of our father, Habib Muhammad Bin Salim Bin Hafidh Bin Shaykh Abu Bakr Bin Salim. And all the good that came from him [and his sacrifice]. His [courage and selflessness] could not have come except through the connection to the Prophet and [through] the Prophet’s teachings, peace and mercy be upon him.

We saw how the pious predecessors were concerned with Da’awah and their extreme level of mercy towards creation. As we just heard about the life of Habib Umar bin Abdullah Al Shatiry and how he was merciful to the young and old. Likewise with Habib Muhammad bin Shihab; how people used to weep in his gatherings.

All of these blessed occurrences was due to their connection to the Prophet and the mercy of the Prophet; [for he is] the door to God’s mercy. Our righteous predecessors saw before them the faces of those who manifested these realities, those who had the secrets of this message. Such as Habib Ali Al-Habshi and many others. These are the realities of the jewels of this valley (Hadramawt). The jewels of the Muslims in the East and West.

All of this was attainable through the connection to Al-Amin, peace be upon him. How many blessings have occurred through these moments of purity [with Allah]? In which the pious predecessors turned to their Lord and the light [He gave them] was spread to others through their sincerity.

And how many groups of people became Muslim, without a sword, without wars, but through the sincerity of these men. The people of Allah worship Allah through dhikr (remembrance), through ritual prayer, and through salawat upon the Prophet. And there is no way to draw closer to Allah through one of his creation than through remembering the Prophet Muhammad, sala Allahu alayhi wasalam. There is no invoking blessings upon anyone like invoking blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu alayhi wasalam! May Allah build up our hearts through remembering this Prophet. As our beloved Prophet told us: “None of you truly believes until I become more beloved than his parents and his children and all people.”

If we remember his birth, his migration, the wars he fought in, and the tears he wept… O you whose eyes rarely weep out of love and out of fear of Allah! How many a tear did your Prophet shed? We ask Allah that He shows mercy to us.

Whose Ummah is this? He is this Ummah’s example, he is this Ummah’s light. He is the one who will show them mercy [when interceding for them before Allah] and he is the one who has the most right to their love. Before anyone [in rank], before any human or jinn, there is Muhammad, sal Allahu alayhi wasalam. The Sahaba always used to think of him in their seclusion and they used to cry remembering him.

Habib Jafar bin Muhammad Al-Aydarus wrote: “My young heart has become torn asunder out of love for the best of creation.”

We have to revive these meanings [and realities]! We have to have Allah and His Messenger be more beloved to us than anything. May Allah revive all the good qualities that were in the gatherings of the pious predecessors. You would see their gatherings full of tranquility. And of fear of Allah. If anyone came in [to their gatherings] with a heart full of worldly worries, they would leave them with their heart freed of those worries. If they came in in darkness, they would leave illuminated. He is the One who your heart is in His hands. He is the One whose hand lies your husn al khatima (a good ending). He is the Hayy Al-Qayyum (the Living, the Self-Sustaining)! May Allah bring back upon us what our righteous predecessors had of His grace. And may Allah increase us from His grace, rectify this valley, rectify all the Muslims, rectify them from the barriers that veil them from Your Greatness. And allow us to taste the sweetness of faith. wa Alhamdulilah rabb al alameen.

 

On living with non-Muslims

Habib Umar on living with non-Muslims

 Much has been written on this critical issue by contemporary writers, ranging from long-winded works to brief renderings. Recently, however, I chanced upon a related speech that was highly enlightening and sufficiently comprehensive. It seemed to encapsulate relevant essentials found elsewhere, but was more insightful and specifically elaborative as far as the Qur‘an and Sunnah were concerned. It seemed appropriate that I transcribed and condensed the speech to make it more accessible and conveyable, especially at a time when many of the Islamic precepts and prescriptions are being portrayed so negatively.

This speech of the respected and erudite scholar, Shaykh ’Umar ‘ibn Mohammed ‘ibn Salim ‘ibn Hafiz, has been entitled,

 

Living With The Other – A Historical Reality And A Real Necessity.’

The honourable Shaykh believes that:

Mutual acquaintance is the primary purpose behind the diversity and multiplicity of the human race. ‘Allah addresses mankind thus: ‘O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.’ [Qur‘an 49:13]

By reminding them of their singular origin a psychological path has been paved for social affinity and convergence, elimination of mutual hostility and eradication of any sense of individual excellence.

The essential foundation for coexistence, however, is the adoption of patience. ‘Allah states: ‘We have made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience?’ [Qur‘an 25:20]

The following are the ten principles enshrined within the Shari’ah, which should clarify the concept of coexistence.

 

Rules For Coexistence

1. No coercion in winning converts to the faith

‘Allah mentions: ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error.’ [Qur‘an 2:256]

It should be noted, however, that propagating of religion and recounting its advantages will not fall under coercion, for it is the latter that is prohibited, whilst the former, i.e., preaching of the faith, is an obligation on, and among the prominent missions of, the Muslim community.

There is a clear difference between applying force to convert and repelling the aggression of those who cause hindrance in conveying the Message and prevent elucidation of it via substantiated arguments. For the latter shall be confronted militarily as commanded by the Qur‘an: ‘And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for ‘Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers.’ [Qur‘an 2:193]

The prescription of the enactment of penalty against those exhibiting scandalous behaviour does not in any way contradict the previous verse [‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’].

2. Protection of the blood, property and honour of all citizens

‘Allah states: ‘On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.’ [Qur‘an 5:32]

It is reported by ‘Imam Bukhari on the authority of ’Abdullah ‘ibn ’Umar that the Prophet (upon whom be peace) said:

‘One who kills a mu’ahad [one guaranteed with protection, normally referring to a non-Muslim in a Muslim country] will not [even] smell the fragrance of Paradise, even though its scent is perceptible from a distance of forty years [of journeying].’

Hence on the basis of the protection of life, property and honour, it is imperative that relationships are created among all groups of people and communities.

3. Administration of justice and fairness in governance between all communities

Emotional attachment or personal hate should not be allowed to prejudice a verdict; neither to affirm a wrong nor to invalidate a right.

‘Allah states: ‘‘Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For ‘Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things.’ [Qur‘an 4:58]

It is also mentioned: ‘O ye who believe! stand out firmly for ‘Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear ‘Allah. For ‘Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.’ [Qur‘an 5:8]

The glorious history of Islam recounts the story of the horse race between the son of ’Amr ‘ibn ‘al-’Aas and an ordinary Egyptian. Having been defeated, ‘ibn ’Amr [whose father was the governor of the city], out of anger, physically struck the Egyptian, who then went to ’Umar ‘ibn ‘al-Khattab and complained. ’Umar, the then caliph, summoned both the father and the son and asked the Egyptian to retaliate in equal fashion. Further, admonishing the two, he said, “Since when have you begun to own people who were born free in this world?”

This account is a true reflection of the Islamic principle of justice and equality.

4. Love and loyalty vis-à-vis charity, justice and kindness

Whereas love and allegiance cannot be shown to one who does not believe in ‘Allah and His messenger (upon whom be peace), the values of charity, justice and kindness to all have been prescribed by Islam and are from the legacy of the Prophet (upon whom be peace).

A beautiful explanation of this is found in the following verse: ‘‘Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for ‘Allah loveth those who are just.’ [Qur‘an 60:8]

The prohibition in this verse is restricted to a specific category of people; those who have mobilized their forces with the intent of aggression, oppression and prevention from the path of ‘Allah, as stressed in the subsequent verse: ‘‘Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.’ [Qur‘an 60:9]

When seen collectively and within context it becomes evident that verses such as, ‘O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell – an evil refuge indeed.’ [Qur‘an 9:73] allude to a specific group of people who have amassed forces for the object of persecution, confiscation of freedoms and propagation of corruption.

No doubt the aggressor has to be confronted, but there are guidelines that have been set down on how to deal with this too.

The following narrative will provide an overview of these:

Bayhaqi reports on the authority of ‘abu ’Imran ‘al-Jawni that ‘abu Bakr, may ‘Allah be pleased with him, [once] sent Yazid ‘ibn ‘Abi Sufyan to ‘al-Sham [modern-day Syria and neighbouring lands]. As he was seeing him off Yazid remarked, “I dislike the fact that I am riding whilst you are walking”. [Hearing this] ‘abu Bakr replied, “You have come out as a ghazi [one who fights for defence and truth] in the path of ‘Allah and so I expect reward for this walking of mine. He then advised him in the following words, “Do not kill a child, a woman, or an elderly person; neither strike a frail and sick person, nor kill a hermit. Ensure not to cut off fruit-bearing trees, nor seek to desolate populated areas. Do not kill camels or cattle but for food, and never sink date palms into the sea, or set them alight.”

If these were the ethics of the Prophet (upon whom be peace) in respect to aggressors and persecutors, one wonders what kind of character he would have shown to others?

5. Honouring of pacts and treaties and refraining from treachery and dishonesty

‘Allah states: ‘(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for ‘Allah loveth the righteous.’ [Qur‘an 9:4]

‘Ibn Hisham has recorded the following in his famous sirah:

‘When ‘abu Jandal came to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) following the Hudaybiyah treaty [to embrace Islam], the Prophet (upon whom be peace) said to him, “O ‘abu Jandal! Be patient and anticipate reward, for ‘Allah is going to create a way out for you and the other Muslims with you. We have signed a truce between ourselves and them, and we have promised not to violate this and they too have committed themselves to it in the Name of ‘Allah. Hence, we shall not breach this truce.”’

Long-term stability and confidence can only be expected when all parties commit to agreements. This in turn will create a sense of security and a sound atmosphere of coexistence, under which exchange of mutual interests can take place.

6. Identifying those with whom dealing is possible against pathological and notorious trouble-makers

The Prophet (upon whom be peace) had, as he left from Mecca with ‘Abu Bakr, hired a mushrik [polytheist] in whom he had confidence, as a guide.

Moreover, in the battle of Badr, the Prophet (upon whom be peace) is reported to have said to his companions upon encountering the enemy:

‘I know of many men from the clan of Banu Hashim, and others too, who have been forced to fight this battle. So if you happen to encounter any from the tribe of Banu Hashim, do not strike them; and the one who encounters ’Abbas ‘ibn ’Abd ‘al-Muttalib should not kill him either, as he [too] has been made to come against his wish.’

Furthermore, upon returning from Ta‘if, the Prophet [expecting potential harm from the Meccans following the demise of his uncle ‘abu Talib] entered the protection of Mut’im ‘ibn ’Adi whilst ‘abu Bakr sought protection in ‘ibn Dughunnah.

7. Making distinction between material sciences [manual professions, linguistics, engineering, sociology, mathematics, industrial sciences, etc.] and those which relate to Faith and Shari’ah

In relation to the above, whilst the former may be taken from anyone with grounding in that particular science, providing there is no omission of any obligation of Shari’ah, the latter can only be acquired from its authentic sources that have been qualified through rigorous checks of ‘isnad [lineage of narration]. If the same condition was applied to worldly sciences too, transfer of everyday knowledge would have been hampered substantially.

Hafiz ‘ibn Hajar states in his legendary Fath ‘al-Baari: “Ahmad and ‘ibn ‘abi ‘al-Bazzar report on the authority of Jabir that ’Umar – May ‘Allah be pleased with him – [once] came to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) with a book which he had acquired from some ‘ahle-kitaab [People of the Book]. When he read it out to the Prophet (upon whom be peace), he became angry and said, “I have brought to you that which is pure and white. So do not ask them of anything which they may respond to with truth and you belie it, or falsehood and you affirm it. By Him in Whose hand lies my soul, if Musa [Moses] had been alive he would have no choice but to follow me.”

‘Imam Muslim, in the introduction of his Sahih, relates ‘Imam Mohammed ‘ibn Sirin saying: “Undoubtedly this knowledge is the deen. So watch where you take your deen from.”

8. Responding kindness in like to those who show it and recompensing them for it

The Prophet (upon whom be peace), in respect of the prisoners of Badr, said: “Had ’Adi been alive and put in a good word for these offensive individuals, I surely would have released them for his sake.

And this was because he [’Adi] had vociferously opposed, and ultimately tore, the covenant that imposed the boycott on the Prophet’s tribe, leaving them to suffer in the valley of Banu Shi’b for a number of years, and had given protection to him on his return from Ta‘if, as already mentioned.

It should also be noted that abandoning all forms of racism and tribalism will significantly strengthen this attitude of kindness.

‘Abu Dawud reports on the authority of Jubair ‘ibn Mut’im that the Prophet (upon whom be peace) said: ‘He who calls towards ’asabiyyah [racism / nationalism] is not one of us; and he who fights on grounds of ’asabiyyah is not one of us; and he who dies on ’asabiyyah [defending it or preserving it] is not one of us.’

9. Refraining from unproductive debates and channelling them through paths that are most effective

Among the major factors which destabilize sound coexistence is embroilment in excessive debating, instigation of tumult and agitation among people and needless criticism. The Shari’ah has prohibited us from arguing except through ways exemplary and admirable.

‘Allah states: ‘And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best.’ [Qur‘an 29:46]

It is also mentioned: ‘Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.’ [Qur‘an 16:125]

What can also help keeping away from argumentation is the appreciation that the obligation is to convey the message with gentleness and charm, not aggressiveness and domination. We should also try not to impose ourselves on people, calling to account their spiritual matters and judging them for their actions. Such attitudes may be found in some of those who claim to speak for deen, assuming this to be jealousy for and assistance of Islam

10. Opening up space for researchers of truth and facilitating ways for them

‘Allah states: ‘And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of ‘Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.’ [Qur‘an 9:6]

Commenting on this verse, ‘ibn Kathir states: To paraphrase, ‘Allah says to His prophet (upon whom be peace): If those of the polytheists whose elimination has been deemed permissible [for their incitement and persecution] come to you to seek refuge, then give them refuge until they are able to listen to the Qur‘an. This will enable them to appreciate the truth of religion, justifying ‘Allah’s position. After this they can be returned to a place of security until such time that they are able to return to their hometowns. And ‘Allah says that such prescription has been revealed to ensure that they are afforded an opportunity to benefit from divine knowledge and that ‘Allah’s religion prevails.

These were the words of my honourable and beloved Shaykh ‘Umar ‘ibn Hafiz, head of ‘Dar ‘al-Mustafa’ for Islamic Studies in the town of ‘Tarim’ in Hadhrmawt, Yemen.

May ‘Allah bless us with more occasions to benefit from his works.

I further like to state that if such is the command of ‘Allah in respect to those with whom we disagree on the basics of faith and religion, imagine what would be the importance of amity and good behaviour with those who share these fundamentals with us? If the, shedding of whose blood is no longer forbidden [due to evil actions necessitating it], has not been forgotten by ‘Allah for His message, with the possible hope of guidance, isn’t it all the more important to exhibit a similar attitude with [engaging in amicable discussion] with those with whom we agree for the most part?

Why is it that we cannot accommodate one another with respect to minor issues of deen? Why is it that when we are opposed in any aspect of deen we become enraged and begin making judgements on the character and beliefs of the critics, sometimes to the extent of excluding them from Islam itself

This is indeed a tragic and regrettable state of affairs.

I believe that if members of our community today were truly conversant with the above-mentioned principles of coexistence, they would be ashamed to mistreat any ordinary law-abiding non-Muslim citizen, let alone one who is a Muslim.

May ‘Allah grant us the ability to follow His path; and may He direct us towards that which brings His pleasure.

All praises be to ‘Allah, the Lord of the worlds!

Monday, 9th Jumad ‘al-‘Ula

 

 

UK Kharijis

UK Kharijis

(1) concerning the Muslim rulers: can So-and-so be called kâfir based on his non-implementation of shar`ia and his allowing of riba and other anti-Islamic laws.

Wa `alaykum as-Salam:

Yazid drank wine and killed dozens of sahaba; he was not called a disbeliever but dissolute and depraved, i.e. fasiq.

(2) "So-and-so's non-implementation of shar`ia goes to show that whilst he has the ability to implement this law, he is denying it by not implementing it in the holy lands of Hijaz." Is this a valid statement?

No, it is invalid both logically and legally.

(3) where do we stand with regards to voting in a government which is responsible for the bombing of Islamic nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and others. Does voting in itself constitute shirk or kufr for we are voting in a man-made system and kufr laws?

Voting in a man-made system and kufr laws no more constitutes shirk or kufr than obeying man-made traffic laws in the same system. More than that, if voting empowers one to promote the lesser of two evils than it is an obligatory act according to the Shari`a.

(4) where do we stand with regard to court hearings and arbitration and judgement 'according' to kufr law?

The same place we stand with regard to righteously and lawfully promoting right and truth everywhere inasmuch as we can.

(5)'Following the law of the land,' - to what extent do we obey such a statement?

To the extent countenanced by the Shari`a, which recognizes [1] the validity of non-Muslim laws, especially those which are based on heavenly Scriptures, and [2] the fact that "the law of the land" is motivated by the protection of populations from inequity and crime.

(6) Are we living in dar al-Harb?

Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti confirmed to me the view that at the present time there is nowhere on the face of the earth a declared state of war between any two respectively Muslim and non-Muslim states.

(7) The hadith, 'one who dies without pledging alliegence to the khaleef dies a death of ignorance,' is presented by these groups to show that the muslim masses are in a state of jahiliyya for they do not giving bayah to their khaleef. What is the tafsir on this from a scholarly perspective?

The meaning of this hadith according to the Salaf and the Ulema is "one who dies without recognizing the caliph to whom the Jama`a of the Muslims have pledged their loyalty" such as in the case of the Khulafa al-Rashidin, the Jama`a being defined as the Sawad al-A`zam i.e. the masses of the Muslims. There is neither such caliph nor such jama`a in our time.

These ideas, as extreme as they appear, have a significant hold on people. So much so that stealing from non-muslims has been declared as halal under the concept that the lands of UK and US are dar ul-Harb. Fraudulent transactions have been legalised under their law in the name of 'Islam.'

Such are thieves who are passible of the full brunt of the law, as well as depraved innovators if not kuffar for misrepresenting the haram as halal and vice-versa.

Somebody needs to stand up and defend the pure and pristine deen brought to us by sayyidina Muhammad (alahimus salam) but how is this possible with the lack of scholarship in these lands.

"Somebody"? Rather, every person of sound mind and belief. It is just another false notion that one needs to be a scholar to stand for what is right, while the rest scratch their heads before sheepishly joining the line that ends at the slaughtering-block.

Moreover, a Muslim in a non-Muslim state, in the eyes of the Shari`a, is never more than a guest even if he is a voting, tax-paying, and even a born citizen in the eyes of that state.

Since before the fall of the Ottoman Sultanate, politicized Muslims, accross the spectrum from modernists to purists, have consistently preferred to adopt unIslamic strategies of power politics rather than what the Shari`a commanded. Any call to a return to Khilafa by the very products of those philosophies is a masterpiece of hypocrisy.

Was-Salam,
gibril
[2006-05-30]

Zakat funds to build mosques

Someone came to me and asked me if we can use zakat money to build a mosque whether in Singapore or perhaps in a 3rd world country? Another would be can this zakat money from wealth be use for dakwah purposes? thanks .

This is a frequently asked question. The reply has always been, as far as I know, that it is impermissible to use zakat funds to build mosques. {The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise} (9:60).

The learned Ulema from the time of the Salaf to ours have reminded us that the act of zakat is, as its literal meaning implies, the _purification_ of one's wealth and hence what one gives away by way of zakat is the "filth of one's wealth," while mosques are the houses of Allah and must be built with the purest resources available.

Yet, many mosques have been built with zakat funds in the last two generations, particularly in Europe. Responsibility for this innovation goes to the Ikhwan al-Muslimun and Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who gave the decisive fatwa of permissibility in this regard on the unprecedented interpretive basis of the words {fi sabilillah} ("for the cause of Allah").

Conversely, the proper categories of recipiency for zakat have been deprived in the same proportion if not more, because communities, as a result, have rested on this fluid understanding of "fi sabilillah" to reorient themselves more and more toward the funding of mosque buildings and all sorts of "Islamic projects" including "da`wah" at the exclusion, in practical terms, of supporting people the way Allah Most High commanded.

We belong to Allah and unto Him we shall return.

GF Haddad
[SP 2006-10-06]

Strangers in Our Homes TV and Our Children's Minds

Strangers in Our Homes TV and Our Children's Minds
Susan R. Johnson, M.D. 1999.

TV rots the senses in the head!
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
A fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
An excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,

By Roald Dahl, 1964

As a mother and a pediatrician who completed both a three-year residency in Pediatrics and a three-year subspecialty fellowship in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, I started to wonder: "What are we doing to our children's growth and learning potential by allowing them to watch television and videos as well as spend endless hours playing computer games?"
I practiced seven years as the Physician Consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco, performing comprehensive assessments on children, ages 4-12, who were having learning and behavioral difficulties in school. I saw hundreds of children who were having difficulties paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing fine and gross motor tasks. Many of these children had a poor self-image and problems relating to adults and peers. As a pediatrician, I had always discouraged television viewing, because of the often violent nature of its content (especially cartoons) and because of all the commercials aimed at children. However, it wasn't until the birth of my own child, 6 years ago, that I came face to face with the real impact of television. It wasn't just the content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It was the change in my child's behavior (his mood, his motor movements, his play) before, during and after watching TV that truly frightened me.
Before watching TV, he would be outside in nature, content to look at bugs, make things with sticks and rocks, and play in the water and sand. He seemed at peace with himself, his body, and his environment. When watching TV, he was so unresponsive to me and to what was happening around him, that he seemed glued to the television set. When I turned off the TV he became anxious, nervous, and irritable and usually cried (or screamed) for the TV to be turned back on. His play was erratic, his movements impulsive and uncoordinated. His play lacked his own imaginative input. Instead of creating his own play themes, he was simply re-enacting what he had just seen on TV in a very repetitive, uncreative and stilted way.
At age 3 1/2 years, our son went on a plane trip to visit his cousins near Boston, and on the plane, was shown the movie "Mission Impossible." The movie was right above our son's head making it difficult to block out. Earphones had not been purchased, so the impact was only visual, but what an impact it had on our son. He had nightmares and fears about fires, explosions, and bloody hands for the next 6 months, and his play was profoundly changed. One of my colleagues told me I just had an overly sensitive child, and because I had not taken him to see a movie or let him watch much TV, he was not "used to it" and that was why he was so disturbed by the pictures he saw. All I could think was thank heaven he was not "used to it".
Later that year, I assessed six different children from ages 8 - 11 years at the School Health Center who all had similar difficulties with reading. They couldn't make a mental picture of letters or words. If I showed them a series of letters and asked them to identify one particular letter, they could do it. If I gave them no visual input and just asked them to write a particular letter by memory, they couldn't do it. All of these children watched a lot of television and videos and played computer games. I wondered what happens to a developing child placed in front of a TV set if they are presented with visual and auditory stimuli at the same time. What is left for the brain to do? At least with reading a story or having a story read to them, the mind can create its own imaginative pictures.
A question arose and I immediately called up my colleague and asked: "Could television itself be causing attention problems and learning difficulties in children?" My colleague laughed and said just about everyone watches TV - even my child does - and she doesn't have Attention Deficit Disorder or a learning disability. I thought to myself: "Are we spending enough time with our children and looking deeply enough into their development and soul to notice the often subtle changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set"? Maybe some children are more vulnerable to the effects of television because of a genetic predisposition or poor nutrition or a more chaotic home environment. I wondered about the loss of potential in all our children, because they are exposed to so much television and so many videos and computers games. What are the capacities we are losing or not even developing because of this TV habit? I then started to read, attend lectures, and ask a lot more questions.
Television has been in existence for the past 80 years, though the broadcasting of entertainment shows didn't begin until the 1940's. In 1950, 10% of American households owned a TV set. By 1954, this percentage had increased to 50%, and by 1960, 80% of American households owned a television. Since 1970, more than 98% of American households own a TV and currently 66% of households own three or more TVs. Television is on almost 7 hours per day in an average American home. Children of all ages, from preschool through adolescence, watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day (excluding time spent watching videos or playing computer games). A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping, and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.
There have been numerous articles looking at the content of television and how commercials influence children's (and adults') desires for certain foods or material goods (e.g., toys), and how violence seen on television (even in cartoons) leads to more aggressive behavior in children (Fischer et. al. 1991, Singer 1989, Zuckerman 1985). Concerns have been raised about who is teaching our children and the developmental appropriateness of what is presented on TV to toddlers, children, and even adolescents. Miles Everett, Ph.D., in his book, How Television Poisons Children's Minds, points out that we don't allow our child to talk to strangers, yet through television we allow strangers into the minds and souls of our children everyday. These "strangers" (advertising agencies), whose motivations are often monetary, are creating the standards for what is "good" or developmentally appropriate for the developing brains of our children.
More importantly, several investigators (Healy 1990, Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998, Winn 1985) have drawn attention to the actual act of viewing television as even more insidious and potentially damaging to the brain of the developing child than the actual content of what's on TV. So what are we doing to our children's potential by allowing them to watch television?

Question: How does a child's brain develop and how does a child learn?
Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, Evolution's End, sees a child's potential as a seed that needs to be nurtured and nourished in order to grow properly. If the environment doesn't provide the necessary nurturing (and protections from over-stimulation), then certain potentials and abilities cannot be realized. The infant is born with 10 billion nerve cells or neurons and spends the first three years of life adding billions of glial cells to support and nourish these neurons (Everett 1992). These neurons are then capable of forming thousands of interconnections with each other via spider-like projections called dendrites and longer projections called axons that extend to other regions of the brain.
It is important to realize that a six-year-old's brain is 2/3 the size of an adult's though it has 5 - 7 times more connections between neurons than does the brain of an 18-month-old or an adult (Pearce 1992). The brain of a 6 - 7 year old child appears to have a tremendous capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among neurons. This potential for development ends around age 10 - 11 when the child loses 80% of these neural connections (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). It appears that what we don't develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly myelinated pathways (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998).
In the developing child, there is a progression of brain development from the most primitive core (action) brain, to the limbic (feeling) brain, and finally to the most advanced neocortex, or thought brain. There are critical periods for brain development when the stimulus must be present for the capacity to evolve (for example, language). There is also plasticity in brain development so that even adults can make new dendritic connections, but they have to work harder to establish pathways which were more easily made in childhood.
[Figure (Pearce 1992) shows a brain cross-section with labels. 1. Thought: New Mammalian "Human" Brain 2. Feeling: Old Mammalian Limbic System 3. Action: Reptillian R-System]
The core (action) brain is dedicated to our physical survival and manages reflexes, controls our motor movements, monitors body functions, and processes information from our senses. Along with the limbic (feeling) brain, it is involved in the "flight or fight" response that our body has to a dangerous or threatening situation. Humans react physically and emotionally before the thought brain has had time to process the information (Buzzell 1998).
Our limbic (feeling) brain wraps around our core (action) brain and processes emotional information (e.g., our likes - dislikes, love - hate polarities). Our feeling brain gives meaning and value to our memories and what we learn. It influences behavior based on emotional feelings and has an intimate relationship to our immune system and capacity to heal. It is involved in the forming of our intimate relationships and emotional bonds (e.g., between mother and child) and is connected with our dreaming, subtle intuitive experiences and the daydreams and fantasies that originate from the thought brain (Healy 1990). This feeling brain connects the more highly evolved thought brain to the more primitive action brain. Our lower action brain can be made to follow the will of our thought brain or our higher thought brain can be "locked into" the service of the lower action-feeling brain during an emergency that is real or imagined (Pearce 1992). The action and feeling brains can't distinguish real from imaginary sensory input. It is a survival advantage to react first and think later.
Finally our thought brain, the neocortex, represents our highest and newest form of intellect. It receives extensive input from the core (action) brain and limbic (feeling) brain and has the potential of separating itself and being the most objective part of the brain. It connects us to our higher self. However, the neocortex needs more time to process the images from the action and feeling brains. It is also the part of the brain that has the most potential for the future, and it is the place where our perceptions (experiences), recollections, feelings, and thinking skills all combine to shape our ideas and actions (Everett 1997). The thinking brain is "5 times larger than the other brains combined and provides intellect, creative thinking, computing and, if developed, sympathy, empathy, compassion and love" (Pearce 1992).
There is a sequential development (a progressive myelination of nerve pathways) of the child's brain from the most primitive (action) brain to the limbic (feeling) brain and finally to the most highly evolved thought brain, or neocortex. Myelination involves covering the nerve axons and dendrites with a protective fatty-protein sheath. The more a pathway is used, the more myelin is added. The thicker the myelin sheath, the faster the nerve impulse or signal travels along the pathway. For these reasons, it is imperative that the growing child receives developmentally appropriate input from their environment in order to nourish each part of the brain's development and promote the myelination of new nerve pathways. For example, young children who are in the process of forming their motor-sensory pathways and sense organs (the action brain) need repetitive and rhythmical experiences in movement.
Children also need experiences that stimulate and integrate their senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Their senses need to be protected from over-stimulation, since young children are literally sponges. Children absorb all they see, hear, smell, taste and touch from their environment since they haven't developed the brain capacity to discriminate or filter out unpleasant or noxious sense experiences. The sense of touch is especially crucial since our culture and its hospital birth practices (including the high rate of C-sections) and, until recently, its discouragement of breast-feeding, deprive infants of critical multi-sensory experiences.
The stimulation and development of our sense organs is the precursor to the development of part of our lower brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the gateway through which our sense impressions coordinate with each other and then travel to the higher thought brain. The RAS is the area of the brain that allows us to attend and focus our attention. Impairments in motor-sensory pathways lead to impairments in children's attention span and ability to concentrate (Buzzell 1998). Over-stimulation and under-stimulation of our senses and poorly developed fine and gross motor movements may lead to impairments in attention.
By age 4, both the core (action) and limbic (feeling) brains are 80% myelinated. After age 6-7, the brain's attention is shifted to the neocortex (thought brain) with myelination beginning first on the right side or hemisphere and later joined by the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is the more intuitive side of the brain, and it particularly responds to visual images. It grasps wholes, shapes and patterns and focuses on the big picture rather than the details. It directs drawing and painting and monitors melodies and harmonies of music. It is especially responsive to novelty and color and is the dominant hemisphere when watching TV (Healy, 1990, Everett 1997).
The left hemisphere dominates when a child reads, writes and speaks. It specializes in analytical and sequential thinking and step-by-step logical reasoning. It analyzes the sound and meaning of language (e.g., phonic skills of matching sound to letters of the alphabet). It manages fine muscle skills and is concerned with order, routine and details. The ability to comprehend science, religion, math (especially geometry) and philosophy relies on abstract thinking characteristic of the left hemisphere.
Even though we emphasize which functions of learning are performed by which hemisphere, there is a crucial connection between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. It consists of a large bundle of nerve pathways that form a bridge between the left and right hemispheres. It is one of the brain's latest-maturing parts. The left and right sides of the body learn to coordinate with each other by this pathway. Gross motor activities like jumping rope, climbing, running, and circle games and fine motor activities like form drawing, knitting, pottery, origami, woodworking, embroidery, and bread-making are crucial to myelinating this pathway and lead to more flexible manipulation of ideas and a creative imagination. This pathway provides the interplay between analytic and intuitive thinking, and several neuropsychologists believe that poor development of this pathway affects the right and left hemispheres' effective communication with each other and may be a cause of attention and learning difficulties (Healy 1990).
We myelinate our pathways by using them. Movements of our bodies combine with experiences of our senses to build strong neural pathways and connections. For example, when a toddler listens to the sound of a ball bouncing on the floor, tastes and smells the ball or pushes, rolls and throws the ball, neurons are making dendritic connections with each other. When a toddler examines balls of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures, a field of thousands (and possibly millions) of interconnecting neurons can be created around the "word" ball (Pearce 1992). Repetition, movement, and multisensory stimulation are the foundations of the language development and higher level thinking. The toddler's repetitive experiences, with an object like a ball, create images or pictures in his/her brain. "The images of the core limbic brain form much of the elemental "food" for the remarkable and progressive abstracting abilities of the associative high cortex [neocortex]" (Buzzell 1998).

Question: What is so harmful to the mind about watching television?
Watching television has been characterized as multi-leveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of our children's brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20-30% if a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing, colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense organs (Poplawski 1998).
To begin with, a child's visual acuity and full binocular (three-dimensional) vision are not fully developed until 4 years of age, and the picture produced on the television screen is an unfocused (made up of dots of light), two-dimensional image that restricts our field of vision to the TV screen itself. Images on TV are produced by a cathode ray gun that shoots electrons at phosphors (fluorescent substances) on the TV screen. The phosphors glow and this artificially produced pulsed light projects directly into our eyes and beyond affecting the secretions of our neuro-endocrine system (Mander 1978). The actual image produced by dots of light is fuzzy and unfocused so that our eyes, and the eyes of our children, have to strain to make the image clear. Television, like any electrical appliance and like power lines, produces invisible waves of electromagnetism. Last June, a panel convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences decided there was enough evidence to consider these invisible waves (called electromagnetic fields or EMFs) as possible human carcinogens. In the article it was recommended that children sit at least 4 feet from TV and 18 inches from the computer screen (Gross 1999).
Our visual system, "the ability to search out, scan, focus, and identify whatever comes in the visual field" (Buzzell 1998), is impaired by watching TV. These visual skills are also the ones that need to be developed for effective reading. Children watching TV do not dilate their pupils, show little to no movement of their eyes (i.e., stare at the screen), and lack the normal saccadic movements of the eyes (a jumping from one point to the next) that is critical for reading. The lack of eye movement when watching television is a problem because reading requires the eyes to continually move from left to right across the page. The weakening of eye muscles from lack of use can't help but negatively impact the ability and effort required to read. In addition, our ability to focus and pay attention relies on this visual system. Pupil dilation, tracking and following are all part of the reticular activating system. The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines what we pay attention to and is related to the child's ability to concentrate and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television. A poorly integrated lower brain can't properly access the higher brain.
In addition, the rapid-fire change of television images, which occurs every 5 to 6 seconds in many programs and 2 to 3 seconds in commercials (even less on MTV), does not give the higher thought brain a chance to even process the image. It reportedly takes the neocortex anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to engage after a stimulus (Scheidler 1994). The neocortex is our higher brain, but also needs a greater processing time to become involved.
All the color combinations produced on the television screen result from the activation of only three types of phosphors: red, blue and green. The wavelengths of visible light produced by the activation of these phosphors represents an extremely limited spectrum compared to the wavelengths of light we receive when viewing objects outdoors in the full spectrum of reflected rays from the sun. Another problem with color television is that the color from it is almost exclusively processed by the right hemisphere so that left hemisphere functioning is diminished and the corpus callosum (the pathway of communication between the brain's hemispheres) is poorly utilized (i.e., poorly myelinated).
Reading a book, walking in nature, or having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television -- and computer games -- are replacing these invaluable experiences of human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing "pretend" (using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).

Question: Well, what about watching Sesame Street, isn't it educational for our children? Doesn't it teach them how to read?
Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered Minds, wrote an entire chapter entitled "Sesame Street and the Death of Reading". In addition to the concerns already mentioned about watching television, Sesame Street and the majority of children's programming seems to put the left hemisphere and parts of the right hemisphere into slow waves of inactivity (alpha waves). Television anesthetizes our higher brain functions and disrupts the balance and interaction between the left and right hemispheres.
Brain waves can be measured by an EEG, and variations in recorded brain waves correspond to different states of activity in the brain. In general, reading produces active, fast beta waves while television watching leads to an increase in slow alpha waves in the left hemisphere and at times even in the right hemisphere (Buzzell 1998). Once again, the left hemisphere is the critical center for reading, writing and speaking. It is the place where abstract symbols (e.g., the letters of the alphabet) are connected to sounds (phonic skills). The pulsating fluorescent light source of television may have something to do with promoting slow wave activity. Our brain "wakes up" to novelty and falls asleep or habituates to repetitive, "boring" stimuli. Advertising agencies and many children's shows (including Sesame Street) have had to counter children's tendency to habituate to television by increasing the frequency of new images, using flashing colors, close-ups, and startling, often loud, sounds. These distracters get our attention momentarily but keep us operating in our lower core and limbic brains.
The lower brain can't discern between images that are real or created on TV, because discernment is the function of the neocortex. Therefore, when the TV presents sudden close-ups, flashing lights, etc. as stimuli, the core-limbic brain immediately goes into a "fight or flight" response with the release of hormones and chemicals throughout the body. Heart rate and blood pressure are increased and blood flow to limb muscles is increased to prepare for this apparent emergency. Because this all happens in our body without the corresponding movement of our limbs, certain TV programs actually put us in a state of chronic stress or anxiety. Studies have shown atrophy of the left hemisphere in adults who are chronically stressed and only functioning from their core-limbic brain. Even as adults, what we don't use, we lose.
Finally, when our brain is simultaneously presented with visual (images on the screen) and auditory (sound) stimuli, we preferentially attend to the visual. A dramatic example of this phenomenon was illustrated when a group of young children (6-7 years old) were shown a video show where the sound track did not match the visual action and the children, when questioned, did not appear to notice the discrepancy. Therefore, even in Sesame Street, studies have shown that children are not absorbing the content of the show (Healy 1990).
Maybe the most critical argument against watching television is that it affects the three characteristics that distinguish us as human beings. In the first 3 years of life, a child learns to walk, to talk and to think. Television keeps us sitting, leaves little room for meaningful conversations and seriously impairs our ability to think.

Question: What's wrong with using television as just entertainment? I enjoyed watching Disney films like Snow White.
Television seems to have a profound effect on our feeling life and therefore, one could argue, on our soul. As human beings, we become detached from the real world by watching television. We sit in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, with plenty to eat and watch a show about people who are homeless, cold and hungry. Our hearts go out to them, but we do nothing. One could argue that reading a book could promote the same sense of unreality without action. The phrases "turn off the TV" or "get your nose out of your book" and "go do something" have meaning. Nevertheless, while reading a book (that doesn't have a lot of pictures) the child's mind creates its own pictures and has time to think about them. These thoughts could actually lead to ideas that inspire a child or adult to action. TV does not give time for this higher level of thinking that inspires deeds.
Television projects images that go directly into our emotional brain. It is said that the words we hear go into knowledge while the images we see go into our soul. Pictures that elicit emotion are processed by the limbic system and the right hemisphere of the neocortex. If no time is given to think about these emotional pictures, then the left hemisphere is not involved. Once again, watching television often eliminates the part of our brain that can make sense of, analyze and rationalize what we are seeing.
We don't forget what we see. The limbic brain is connected to our memory, and the pictures we see on TV are remembered -- either consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously. For example, it is almost impossible to create your own pictures of Snow White from reading a story if you have seen the movie. It is also true that often one is disappointed when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much richer than what can be shown on a screen.
The problem with television is that children get used to not using their imaginative thinking at all, and they don't exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex) that creates the pictures. Children are not reading enough, and we aren't reading or telling them enough stories to help their minds create pictures. Creating pictures is not just entertaining, but the foundation of our dreams and higher thoughts (intuitions, inspirations and imaginations). We dream, think and imagine possibilities of the future in pictures.
Finally, the heart is now seen as an organ of perception that can respond to a stimulus and release a hormone-like substance that influences brain activity. This phenomenon is referred to as our heart intelligence (Pearce 1992). Interacting with human beings is essential for the development of this intelligence. When we stand face to face and look into another person's eyes, we meet soul to soul and we get a sense of who they really are (Soesman). We get a sense of whether they mean what they say - in other words, whether they are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject. We experience their non-verbal language such as how they move, the tone of their voice, and whether their gaze shifts around when they talk. This is how we learn to discern consistency between verbal and non-verbal cues and, therefore, truth.
Television can't give us this intelligence of the heart. It can shock our emotions and we can cry, laugh or get angry, but these emotions are just reactions. When human beings speak on TV, children are often doing homework, playing games, and talking to friends while watching TV. These activities help save their visual system from the effects of TV, but the underlying message is that you don't need to listen when another person speaks or comfort anyone if you hear crying. If the heart, like the brain and probably the rest of our body, gives off electromagnetic waves (Pearce 1992, Tiller 1999), then there is a form of subtle energy that only can be experienced between human beings by relating to each other in the same physical space. This subtle energy can't be experienced by watching human beings on television. Just as we must use all our senses to construct higher level thoughts or pictures of an object, empathy and love for others does not develop from seeing human beings as objects on TV, but by actively relating, face to face, with each other.

Question: What can we do to help our children's brain develop?
1.    Keep the television turned off as much as possible. One author recommended avoiding television as much as possible for the first 12 years of your child's life and then encourage your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie. It helps to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet. Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind (Large 1997). Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can't really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it - that will eventually lead to power struggles.
When the television is on, then try to neutralize its damage. Select the programs carefully and watch TV with your child so you can talk about what you see. Keep a light on when the TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at least 4 feet from the television and 18 inches from the computer screen. Plan to go outside (to the park, woods, or beach) after viewing television.
2.    Read a lot of books to your children (especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots of stories. Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to stimulate their internal picture making capabilities.
3.    Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation. The colors are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV (Poplawski 1998). We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.
4.    Pay close attention to your senses and those of your child. Our environment is noisy and over-stimulating to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is extremely important to his or her development. We need to surround our children with what is beautiful, what is good and what is true. How a child experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives the world as a teenager and adult.
5.    Have children use their hands, feet and whole body performing purposeful activities. All the outdoor activities of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump-rope help develop our children's gross motor skills and myelinate pathways in the higher brain. Performing household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, origami, string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and coloring help develop fine motor skills and also myelinate pathways in the higher brain.

Finally, the future of our children and our society is in the protection and development of our children's minds, hearts and limbs. What we are aiming for in the thoughts of our children is best summarized in this fine verse from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
Susan R. Johnson, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, UCSF /Stanford Health Care and Graduate of San Francisco Waldorf Teacher Training Program of Rudolf Steiner College.
This paper was presented at the Waldorf School of San Francisco on 5/1/99 as part of a senior project.
It may be freely xeroxed and distributed!

Bibliography
•    Buzzell, Keith. The Children of Cyclops: The Influence of Television Viewing on the Developing Human Brain. 1998 California: AWSNA.
•    Everett, Miles. How Television Poisons Children's Minds. 1997 California: Miles Publishing.
•    Fischer, Paul. "Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years: Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel". JAMA Vol. 266, No. 22, December 11, 1991.
•    Gross, Liza. "Current Risks: Experts finally link Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer," SIERRA, May/June 1999, p.30.
•    Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It. 1990 New York: Simon and Schuster.
•    Large, Martin. Who's Bringing Them Up? How to Break the TV Habit. 1997, 3rd ed. England: Hawthorn Press.
•    Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. 1978 New York: William Morrow and Co.
•    Pearce, Joseph Chilton. Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence. 1992 California: Harper San Francisco.
•    Poplawski, Thomas. "Losing Our Senses". Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall 1998.
•    Scheidler, Thomas. "Television, Video Games and the LD Child". 1995 Pamphlet: Greenwood Institute.
•    Singer, Dorothy. "Caution: Television May Be Hazardous to a Child's Mental Health". Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 10, No. 5, October 1989.
•    Soesman, Albert. The Twelve Senses: Wellsprings of the Soul. 1998 England: Hawthorn Press.
•    Tiller, William. "Robust Manifestations of Subtle Energies in Physical Reality and Its Implications for Future Medicine". Lecture, Stanford University, April 28th, 1999.
•    Winn, Marie. The Plug-in Drug. 1985 New York: Penguin Books.
•    Zuckerman, Diana M. and Barry S. Zuckerman. "Television's Impact on Children". Pediatrics, Vol. 75, No. 2, February 1985.
Acknowledgements:
To Cindy Blain for her dedicated and inspirational work in preparing this paper and creating the title.

To Jacques Lusseyran whose book, And There was Light, literally opened my eyes to the more subtle senses of human beings.

[Converted for the Web and made available at sooth.com/a/johnson.html or via email at <fetch-a/johnson.html@sooth.com> by Michael Hirohama.]
   

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