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The divine revealed scriptures

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

When  writing this column I had expressed to readers that my personal acceptance and philosophy in life was that ‘I may say two plus two are four; on the other hand others will say three plus one is four, eight divided by two is four, or even the square root of sixteen is four or many other combinations; we may use different approaches, do things in a different manner and maybe interpret things differently but the bottom line is that we all come up with and have the ‘same’ answer.

Over the time span of writing for this column I have made frequent references to Qur’anic and Biblical verses that relay similar guidance and messages. However there are many of the actions, beliefs and practices in Islam that have a similarity with those in the Bible and other religious scriptures. Some readers may have been surprised at the parallels, yet on the other hand, there may be some who may have wondered if there is any real connection or linkages between them as I had alluded to.

These parallels and similarities exist because as Muslims we believe in the previous Scriptures revealed in their original form and text. These similarities signify that the Revealed Books have a common Divine source and the continuation of the basic message of a belief on one God.  Many people think of the Quran as a radically different book from the Bible. Moreover, according to this view, even though Muslims and Christians (and Jews) all believe in the same God, these religions are different in a way and have distinct traditions.

An argument can be made, however, that the similarities between the Bible and the Quran are actually much more intimate than one might think, and that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are closer to being different interpretations of a shared religious culture than totally distinct traditions. The fact is that Muslims and Christian all believe in one true God, and not the concept of Trinity.

The Quran says: ‘Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. Quran 112:1-4 â€¨‘And your God is One God. There is no God but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.’ Quran 2:163
The Bible says: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and the Lord your God is to be loved with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5

“Which law is the first of all?” Jesus said in answer, “The first is, Give ear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you are to have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:28-30
Many people may wonder what Muslims have to do with the Bible, given the view that the Bible is the Holy book of the Christians and Islam is a ‘different’ religion altogether. The truth however is that Muslims and Christians share a great deal in common and share many beliefs like; the belief in One God, His Messengers and Prophets, the Divine Revelations sent to them, the Day of Judgement, Heaven and hell and other beliefs.

Most of the teachings, guidance, events and stories bear the virtually the same basic message but at times there may be a slight difference in their emphasis and interpretation because these Divine Books were revealed in their original languages; the Torah in Hebrew, The Bible in Aramaic, and the Qur’an in Arabic; these languages share common roots of the different languages of the middle East.     

The four revelations from Allah mentioned in the Qur’an are: the Torah, the Law of Moses; the Zaboor, the Psalms of David; the Injeel , the Good News revealed to Jesus; and the final Message to humanity, as the seal of the revealed Divine scriptures, the Qur’an revealed to Prophet Muhammad, (May peace be upon them all). It is an article of faith for every Muslim to believe in all the Prophets of Allah / God and all the Revelations of sent down to us. The Qur’an confirms the revelation of these Scriptures in the following verses:

‘And before this was the Scripture of Moses as a guide and a mercy, And the Qur’an confirms it in the Arabic tongue, to warn wrongdoers and as a glad tiding to those who do good’. (Qur’an 46:12) ‘And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary….. we gave him the Injeel (the Gospel) therein was a guidance and a light and confirmation of what is in hand of the Taurat (Torah), a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah’. (Quran 5:46)

‘It is He who revealed to thee (Muhammad) the Scripture (the Qur’an). Confirming what went before it (of the Scriptures). And He revealed the Taurat and the Injeel before this as a guidance to mankind. And He revealed the Criterion (of judgement between what is right and wrong)’…(Quran 3: 3-4). As can be seen from these verses of the Qur’an confirming the Messages given to the various Prophets contain Allah’s guidance to mankind in the form of revealed books or scriptures that formed the basis of and for the teachings of the Great Prophets of Allah.

Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the final revelation that confirms and seals the Divine Message to all Humanity. ’O ye who Believe! Believe in Allah and His Apostle, and the Scripture which He has sent to His Apostle and the Scripture which He sent to those before him, and whoso denies Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Apostles and the Day of Judgement has gone far, far astray’ (Quran 4:136).Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the final Book and that there will be no new Divine revelations thereafter.

With this in mind it is therefore no surprise to find that in the Qur’an there are various teachings and incidents that have a significant resemblance to those contained in the Revealed Books as mentioned above. The teachings of the Prophets professed the same message; that all mankind must submit to the One and Only, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Hearing, All-Mighty Allah, God, Modimo or whatever people call their God in the language of choice. As a result we find that many of the Prophets mentioned in the Bible and the Torah are also mentioned in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an mentions twenty six such Biblical Prophets among them (in no particular order); Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Aaron, Elias, David, Solomon, Job, Jonah, John, and Jesus (May Peace and Blessings be upon them All). The Qur’an echoes many of their messages and also some of their trials and tribulations, including notable events like the parting of the sea (Moses), the flood (Noah), the events in the Garden of Eden (Adam and Eve), Jonah (and the whale), the trial of Abraham (when he was ready to sacrifice his son), Lot (and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah), the story of Joseph and many others (May peace and Blessings be upon them all).


Many readers may be surprised to learn that in the Qur’an contains verses on the miraculous birth of Jesus including the miracles performed by Jesus (PBUH). Today over two billion Muslims in the world, love, respect and revere this great Messenger of Allah. So it goes without saying that Muslims and Christians have the same set of beliefs but regrettably some of us tend to look at the slight differences rather than the similarities.

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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