SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Myanmar's president says his country needs to learn from the violence and instability that has wracked the country over the last two years if it is to overcome the challenge of democratising the nation.
Thein Sein spoke on Sunday to mark the start a day earlier of a traditional New Year holiday that is celebrated across Southeast Asia with friendly water fights.
"Our society has overcome many difficulties and challenges together so we can emerge as a society in which multiple races and religions coexist harmoniously, while still preserving our own customs and traditions," he said in a televised speech.
Sein, a former general, took office two years ago after Myanmar's long ruling junta stepped down.
He has led a transition towards democratic rule since then, but the country has been plagued by a war with ethnic Kachin rebels in the north, sectarian violence in western Rakhine state, and anti-Muslim clashes in central Myanmar last month.
Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead, mostly minority Muslim Rohingya.
The riots in March left 43 people dead, thousands displaced and saw homes and mosques destroyed.
Three people including a gold shop owner were last jailed for 14 years in connection with the riots that began in the town of Meiktila in central Myanmar on March 20.
Radical monks have been linked to the subsequent unrest, which observers said appeared to be well organised.
Rights groups have accused security forces of standing by while the attacks took place.
Myanmar's efforts at democratisation had been hampered by "black spots such as disunity, conflict and instability," Sein said.
Political changes should be targetted with "patience, tolerance and persistence", he urged citizens.
The situation has calmed since Thein Sein on March 28 vowed a tough response against those behind the violence.
Myanmar's New Year, known as the Thingyan, is a hugely popular mass celebration in which people throw water at each other to symbolise the washing away of the previous year's bad deeds.
Festivities, increasingly raucous as the country opens to the world, have been marred by bloodshed in the past, with a series of blasts in 2010 that left 10 people dead and about 170 wounded.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- 1. Pluralism is multiplicity. It has different meanings in the philosophy of religion, ethics, law, political science, etc. The common factor that is true for all of these is to acknowledge multiplicity and plurality as opposed to unity or exclusivism. Religious pluralism means that felicity is not exclusively reserved for a particular religion or religious sect.
2. Pluralism can conceivably be applied between various religions or between different sects of one religion.
3. From the point of view of Islam, religious pluralism is incorrect because we have clear proofs that Islam is the true religion and that the other religions cannot be on par with it. Also, the fact that the Noble Qur`an has not been tampered with and that Islam is the final and conclusive religion effectively amounts to the abrogation of the religions predating Islam.
4. The various interpretations of religion or “religious hermeneutics” is another branch of religious research. The followers of this school believe in the validity and effectiveness of all the presuppositions of every interpreter of religion when he attempts to understand a sacred text. In the various modern interpretations of religion there are numerous perspectives, the most important of which are held by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer.
5. Even though the discussion of religious hermeneutics is a modern discussion in the philosophy of religion and was taken from the West, the fact remains that in depth discussions on the interpretation of sacred texts has a long history in the Islamic sciences, especially in the field of Usul.
6. In the aforementioned schools and areas of research, not enough importance has been placed on the principles by which we can truthfully judge the validity of the different interpretations of religion. In reality, this leads to a form of relativism in understanding.
7. Religious hermeneutics and religious pluralism are properly two separate categories, but hermeneutics can be seen to be one of the instances of religious pluralism and hence the bridge which links the two topics. In other words, we can explain the multiplicity of religions because it is possible that we can understand one thing in many different ways
8. The objection that can be levied against this view is that one cannot judge every interpretation to be correct. It cannot be denied that the understanding of human beings follows the rules of speech and conversation. While attempting to understand a text there are principles that are to be used such as: paying attention to the meaning of the speaker or writer, the system of words he is using, the language that he speaks, his attitude while speaking, his seriousness or his joviality, and the fact that he has definitely intended certain meanings from his text.
Pluralism is multiplicity. It has different meanings in the philosophy of religion, ethics, law, political science, etc. The common factor that holds true for all of these is to acknowledge multiplicity or plurality in contrast to unity or exclusivism. Religious pluralism means that felicity is not exclusively reserved for a particular religion or religious sect. Truth and felicity not being limited to a specific religion in its turn means that all religions have a certain amount of truth to them. As a result, following the laws of any of them can be a means for man to reach felicity and to gain salvation. The Acceptance of this viewpoint means that the battle of truth and falsehood that exists between religions ceases to exist. The enmity and war that we find between religions gives way to peace and solidarity.
A brief history of religious pluralism
Religious Pluralism was first born in the Christian world and in the last ten years was presented and propagated by John Hick (1992).
Religious pluralism can be considered between various religions in the sense that we consider them all to be true, or at least to all contain some element of truth. Or within any particular religion, various sects can be considered to be valid. For example, the Shi’ite and Sunni sects are two sects within the fold of Islam—each claiming to be the pure Islam. But from the point of view of religious pluralism, both of these groups can be valid, or it can be said that both sects contain some truth to them. In other words religious pluralism can be divided into inter-religious and intra-religious pluralism.
The intellectual foundations of religious pluralism can be delineated as follows:
1. The differentiation between the kernel and the shell of religion—giving prominence to the kernel of religion, to the detriment of the shell. In this regards, the teachings, especially the mannerisms and the exoteric rituals, are usually considered to be the shell of religion.
2. This interpretation lays great emphasis on “revelatory” and religious experiences and, in principle, sums up religion as religious experience. Religious experience is naturally always different when it is being formally related or interpreted. This is because on the level of forms, various factors such as culture and intellectual perspectives come into play. In the end, the multiplicity of religions becomes a reflection of some common type of religious experience as it is seen through the mirror of various cultures.
3. This interpretation is a humanistic one. It holds that religions should stick to down to earth realities that are common instead of laying stress on matters of sublime doctrine; they should keep the latter for themselves.
4. All religions have one message and with a little analysis, the differences between them disappear. In reality, the differences between religions arise from the differences of interpretations and languages, and are not real.
5. This phenomenon is based on the difference between the “truth in itself” and the “truth as it appears to us.” In reality, there is an objective truth, but we do not have a perfect understanding of it. Yet the “truth as it appears to us” is a manifestation of this objective reality. The coming into contact of this [non-delimited] divine reality with [limited] man has meant that it has taken on different forms depending upon the differing conditions of man through the ages and in various cultures. Aside from this, Allah (awj) has, in order to create an effective relationship, made his message to conform to the inner workings of every culture and era. It should not be forgotten that many serious objections could be levied against the aforementioned view, even though some of them (like the first) can beinterpreted in such a way as to make it correct. For a more in depth and fuller explanation of the above, we suggest referring to the relevant books.
6. This explanation is a hermeneutical one. It is based on the belief that the presuppositions of every interpreter have a pivotal effect on his attempts to understand a sacred text. According to this viewpoint, the writer and the speaker are just like the interpreter–after the writer finishes the composition of a text he gives up his status as writer. This view says that the text in itself does not have any meaning; rather it is the interpreter that gives meaning to the text by means of his presuppositions and his knowledge. To put it differently, the meaning that resides in any text is muchlike wax from which the mind of the interpreter forms different shapes according to his predisposition and mental acumen. So, the texts are not pregnant with meanings, rather they are, so to speak, hungry for meaning. It is the interpreters and the listeners that give meaning to texts.
The sixth viewpoint is the common denominator between religious pluralism and the hermeneutics of religious texts. It has some valid objections that we will now refer to.
The system of man’s understanding follows the laws of discourse and conversation. All sane people of the world follow those principles when conversing with one another. The following are principles of conversation: paying attention to the meaning of the speaker or writer, the system of words he is using, the language that he is speaking, his attitude while speaking, his seriousness or his joviality, and the fact that he has definitely intended certain meanings from his text. They are all principles thatrational people use when speaking. Even people who hold to the “interpretation” hypothesis outlined above cannot deny using these principles themselves. Of course when a text gives news of something, one must, according to the clues and the meanings of the words, strive to understand it. Also, because religious texts have abrogated laws, general and particular statements, unconditional and conditional sentences, etc. we must carefully examine the beginnings and the ends of each and every text before coming to a conclusion. Therefore, in attempting to understand a text, certain presuppositions exist, like knowing the language of the speaker and the context, but there are also some presuppositions that prevent the listener from understanding it and one must stay away from those if one wants to understand the text.
A review of religious pluralism
Aside from all the objections that can be raised against religious pluralism, one must not forget that according to us Muslims there are various sound proofs for the validity and truthfulness of Islam. With these proofs one cannot claim that all religions are equal. Some of these proofs areas follows: the reasonable nature of the teachings of Islam, the fact that Islamic texts are backed up by references, the un-tampered nature of the Noble Book of Muslims, the miraculous nature of the Qur`an, the comprehensiveness of the laws and their positive and practical nature.
Aside from these proofs a point that must not be lost sight of is the fact that Islam conclusively followsall previous religions. This is tantamount to the abrogation of the preceding religions.
The various interpretations of religion
The various interpretations of religion or “religious hermeneutics” is another branch of religious research. The followers of this school believe in the validity and effectiveness of all the presuppositions of every interpreter of religion when he attempts to understand a sacred text. In the various modern interpretations of religion there are numerous perspectives, the most important of which will be briefly outlined below:
1. The view of Friedrich Schleiermacher: Hermeneutics is a method for interpreting religious texts and helps avoiding misunderstandings that may arise from the time separating the interpreter and the text itself.
2. The view of Wilhelm Dilthey: Hermeneutics is a theory used in the human sciences in contrast to the natural sciences. He believes that history interferes in the interpretation of an interpreter.
3. The view of Martin Heidegger: Hermeneutics makes clear the essence and nature of understanding and its conditions. He changed hermeneutics from a method to a philosophy (or the knowledge of being). Based on a theory relating to existence, he took hermeneutics to be the exposition of the quiddity and essence of understanding and its conditions.
4. The view of Hans-Georg Gadamer: Hermeneutics is the [study of the] confluence of different levels and perspectives. He presented the ontology of Heidegger as an epistemology and thereby established an “ontology of understanding.” The hermeneutics of Gadamer is for the most part an exposition of the process of the realization of understanding and has no concern with the correctness or incorrectness of understanding.
According to him, the mind of the interpreter is filled with beliefs and information that define his perspective. This perspective always moves along with the interpreter and changes or reaches an equilibrium as he continues to refer to the world and the things in it. The act of interpretation is the confluence of various perspectives and horizons of knowledge within the interpreter; it is the connection of these “horizons” and perspectives with one another. The job of hermeneutics is to unite these perspectives and horizons and to create a dialogue between the interpreter and the text. What causes differences between various interpretations is the emphasis that is put upon certain presuppositions and horizons of thought over others. According to Gadamer, there is no one absolute viewpoint that could comprehend and embrace all possible perspectives. Rather every act of interpretation is a specific perspective in itself. Therefore an unbiased and objective interpretation is not possible and an all-inclusive, definitive interpretation just does not exist. In reality, according to Gadamer, it is not important to discover the “real” intentions of the writer, because in the end, we cannot know the text to be a true representation of the mind of the writer.
A review of Gadamer
We will now briefly allude to some objections that can be raised against Gadamer, seeing as his views have had more of an effect and have been used in theological and philosophical discussions quite often in recent years, and are therefore more important.
1. Why should we not pay attention to the intent of the writer? Should not the interpreter strive to differentiate between the predispositions of his own understanding and that of the writer?
2. Gadamer’s perspective leads to a sort of relativism, blurring or removing the distinction between correct and incorrect understanding. This is a kind of relativism that resembles that of Kant.
3. We can question the universality of Gadamer’s view and we can go on to hold that it is possible to avoid the effects of certain presuppositions and prejudgments.
4. If every understanding needs certain presuppositions, then in their turn those presuppositions are not exceptions to this rule; and this leads logically to an infinite or circular regress of presuppositions.
Some points worth mentioning regarding the different interpretations of religion
Until now we have explained hermeneutics and the different interpretations of religion, and we have also touched upon the different views regarding it. We have especially covered the viewpoints of Gadamer, mainly due to the fact that they had a far-reaching effect on his contemporaries. In order to complete the discussion we will remind our readers of certain important points:
First, although the subject of different interpretations of religion has largely been taken from modern philosophical hermeneutics, it should be noted that the discussion on the interpretation and understanding of religion has a long history in the Islamic sciences. This is especially the case in the fields of usul, Qur`anic commentary, and theoretical mysticism. Hence, the different kinds of intellectual, textual, symbolic, and mystical commentaries of the Qur`an, the commentary of the Qur`an by the Qur`an, the commentary by one’s own opinion, semantics, and the method of obtaining the apparent meaning of the words of a text, all serve to show the presence of this perspective in traditional Islamic scholarship.
Secondly, since the religious texts played an important part in shaping the culture of Muslims and in the formation of the different Islamic sciences, it is possible to say that investigations into the method of interpreting religious texts play a pivotal role in theological discussions. It is largely due to this that the arguments surrounding the different interpretations of religion have provoked much debate in this area. Most of the views that have been put forward by Arab and non-Arab intellectuals in recent years have been for the most part borrowed from the hermeneutic philosophy of Gadamer. These intellectuals have tried to use the hermeneutic philosophy and methodology in the interpretation of the Noble Qur`an and the traditions, and in trying to understand religion in general. Some of their views in this regard can be summed up as follows:
1. Religion and the religious texts are quiet and do not speak to us.
2. The presuppositions of interpreters have an effect in their interpretations of the texts.
3. No interpreter can grasp the essence of any religion.
4. There is no one pure perspective. Rather we all use interpretations that are mixtures of truth and falsehood.
The third point is this: In the view of many of the thinkers mentioned above, no importance should be given to principles by which we can judge the various interpretations of religion. No effort is exerted towards separating the incorrect readings from the correct ones. In other words, according to this stance, all the different understandings are equal. On the contrary and in line with the religious principles and viewpoints that are still prevalent in the traditional world, any interpreter must strive to separate the predispositions of his thought from that of the author of the text. He must strive to correct his line of thought and achieve a concordance with the intentions of the writer by using certain principles. If he does not do this, his views will lead not only to the relativity of the understanding of religion but also to the relativity of the methodology of understanding.
According to the views of Islamic scholars, the different understandings of religious statements are an unavoidable phenomena but this difference of understanding is a matter that is regulated by certain principles and laws, many of which have been clearly enunciated by the religious tradition itself.
The fourth and final point: According to what we have just said, the thought of the followers of religious hermeneutic philosophy and the different interpretations of religion revolves around the interpreter and sees him to be central. While on the other hand, the view of Islamic scholars revolves around the author and they attempt to find his original intentions (in the case of religion, the author is either Allah or one whom He sends). In this approach, the interpreter looks through the text—the Qur`an or the traditions—to the intentions of the author, allowing it to be called a “text centred” approach. It aims at revealing the intentions of the author or speaker as correctly as possible and uses all the means that can possibly assist him in this regard.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says signs of decadence are clearly evident in the fabric of the Western civilization.
The Western civilization and various stages of its establishment, climax and finally the emergence of signs of decay at the present juncture, provide an objective example for the study of flaws and shortcomings of a civilization, Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with a group of scholars and academic elite on Monday.
“The Western civilization has its roots in humanism with a view to political power and then a capital-based perspective, and after its heyday, the signs of decay and decadence have currently come to the surface,” the Leader added.
Ayatollah Khamenei noted that sexual decadence and prevalence of moral and sexual depravity are the most important signs of the collapse of the Western civilization.
The Leader also mentioned high frequency of destructive wars in Europe over the past centuries as a major problem with the Western civilization.
“The emergence of [so many] problems and decadence in the Western civilization is due to the absence of spirituality [in the Western society],” the Leader pointed out.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Benedict XVI's reign as pope has come to an end amid the ringing of church bells in Vatican City.
The Swiss Guards went off duty on Thursday at 19:00 GMT after closing the high doors to the papal palace.
From his temporary quarters in Italy's Castel Gandolfo, Benedict thanked the tens of thousands of people gathered there on Thursday for "surrounding him with warmth".
"I am simply a pilgrim who is ending his path on this earth," he said. "Let's go forward in prayer with Christ. "Thank you and good night."
And in a final message from his own Twitter account, Benedict said: "Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."
Benedict, who was elected as pope on April 19, 2005, earlier met cardinals from around the world in his final hours as leader of 1.1 billion Catholics, and promised "unconditional reverence and obedience'' to his successor.
He urged his cardinals to work in unity so that the College of Cardinals is "like an orchestra'' where "agreement and harmony'' can be reached - a clear message to the conclave that will pick the next pope.
He said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days and weeks as they choose his successor.
Between Benedict's resignation and the election of the next pope, the cardinal, referred to as the "Chamberlain", Italy's Tarcisio Bertone, will run the day-to-day affairs of the church.
On Monday the Cardinals will meet and determine the date of the conclave that would choose the 266th pope.
An estimated 100 cardinals were present at the private meeting, Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reported from Rome.
The 85-year-old German-born pope is the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages.
Benedict stunned the world when he announced his momentous decision in a surprise speech in Latin on February 11, saying he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" to carry on in a fast-changing modern world.
"I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit," the pope told a cheering crowd of 150,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square in his final public farewell on Wednesday.
The theologian pope - a shy academic whose papacy has been overshadowed by infighting within the Roman Catholic Church and a sex-abuse scandal - said his eight-year pontificate had seen "sunny days" and "stormy waters" but added: "I never felt alone".
The Vatican has said that the moment the pope's powers officially expire at 19:00 GMT, or at 8pm, the ex-pontiff will officially be known by the new title of Roman Pontiff Emeritus although he will still be addressed as Your Holiness.
He will also keep his papal name of "Benedict XVI" and will not be referred to his original name Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Vatican analysts have suggested Benedict's sudden exit could set a precedent for ageing popes in the future, and many ordinary Catholics say a more youthful, pastoral figure could breathe new life into a Church struggling on many levels.
From Catholic reformers calling for women clergy and for an end to priestly celibacy, to growing secularism in the West and ongoing scandals over sexual abuses by paedophile priests going back decades, the next pope will have a tough agenda. -www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Every 12 years, the northern Indian city of Allahabad plays host to a vast gathering of Hindu pilgrims called the Maha Kumbh Mela. This year, Allahabad is expected to host an estimated 80 million pilgrims between January and March. (See Kumbh Mela: Pictures From the Hindu Holy Festival)
People come to Allahabad to wash away their sins in the sacred River Ganges. For many it's the realization of their life's goal, and they emerge feeling joyful and rejuvenated. But there is also a darker side to the world's largest religious gathering, as some take advantage of the swirling crowds to abandon elderly relatives.
"They wait for this Maha Kumbh because many people are there so nobody will know," said one human rights activist who has helped people in this predicament and who wished to remain anonymous. "Old people have become useless, they don't want to look after them, so they leave them and go."
Anshu Malviya, an Allahabad-based social worker, confirmed that both men and women have been abandoned during the religious event, though it has happened more often to elderly widows. Numbers are hard to come by, since many people genuinely become separated from their groups in the crowd, and those who have been abandoned may not admit it. But Malviya estimates that dozens of people are deliberately abandoned during a Maha Kumbh Mela, at a very rough guess.
To a foreigner, it seems puzzling that these people are not capable of finding their own way home. Malviya smiles. "If you were Indian," he said, "you wouldn't be puzzled. Often they have never left their homes. They are not educated, they don't work. A lot of the time they don't even know which district their village is in."
Once the crowd disperses and the volunteer-run lost-and-found camps that provide temporary respite have packed away their tents, the abandoned elderly may have the option of entering a government-run shelter. Conditions are notoriously bad in these homes, however, and many prefer to remain on the streets, begging. Some gravitate to other holy cities such as Varanasi or Vrindavan where, if they're lucky, they are taken in by temples or charity-funded shelters.
In these cities, they join a much larger population, predominantly women, whose families no longer wish to support them, and who have been brought there because, in the Hindu religion, to die in these holy cities is to achieve moksha or Nirvana. Mohini Giri, a Delhi-based campaigner for women's rights and former chair of India's National Commission for Women, estimates that there are 10,000 such women in Varanasi and 16,000 in Vrindavan.
But even these women are just the tip of the iceberg, says economist Jean Drèze of the University of Allahabad, who has campaigned on social issues in India since 1979. "For one woman who has been explicitly parked in Vrindavan or Varanasi, there are a thousand or ten thousand who are living next door to their sons and are as good as abandoned, literally kept on a starvation diet," he said.
According to the Hindu ideal, a woman should be looked after until the end of her life by her male relatives—with responsibility for her shifting from her father to her husband to her son. But Martha Chen, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University who published a study of widows in India in 2001, found that the reality was often very different.
Chen's survey of 562 widows of different ages revealed that about half of them were supporting themselves in households that did not include an adult male—either living alone, or with young children or other single women. Many of those who did live with their families reported harassment or even violence.
According to Drèze, the situation hasn't changed since Chen's study, despite the economic growth that has taken place in India, because widows remain vulnerable due to their lack of education and employment. In 2010, the World Bank reported that only 29 percent of the Indian workforce was female. Moreover, despite changes in the law designed to protect women's rights to property, in practice sons predominantly inherit from their parents—leaving women eternally dependent on men. In a country where 37 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line, elderly dependent relatives fall low on many people's lists of priorities.
This bleak picture is all too familiar to Devshran Singh, who oversees the Durga Kund old people's home in Varanasi. People don't pay toward the upkeep of their relatives, he said, and they rarely visit. In one case, a doctor brought an old woman to Durga Kund claiming she had been abandoned. After he had gone, the woman revealed that the doctor was her son. "In modern life," said Singh, "people don't have time for their elderly."
Drèze is currently campaigning for pensions for the elderly, including widows. Giri is working to make more women aware of their rights. And most experts agree that education, which is increasingly accessible to girls in India, will help improve women's plight. "Education is a big force of social change," said Drèze. "There's no doubt about that."-www.shfaqna.com/English
Shafaqna (Shia International News Association)
The Daughter of the Prophet
by Muhammad Saeed Bahmanpour
To remember and to remind the virtues of the Prophet - and his family is in itself regarded to be a type of worship. This is amply proved by the fact that we have been recommended to send salutations and greetings (salawat) to Prophet Muhammad - and his family during the best hours of the day and the best days of the year, and this act carries with it immense reward.
The reason for this recommendation is clear; we have acquired our religion from Prophet Muhammad - and his family, we have recognised our Creator through them, and we have learned how to worship Him from them. If they had not taught us, we would not have known how to call to our Lord, how to beseech and supplicate at His door, by what worship to earn His pleasure, at what times to engage in intimate dialogue with Him, and how to avoid incurring His anger and wrath.
How many generations before us, who, due to their ignorance of these matters, strayed into error and engaged in the worshipping of djinns and angels, or wooden and stone idols. How many others began to worship the prophets of God and considered them to be the source of their sustenance. And how many others recognised One God, but did not know how to attribute him or how to worship Him and attain His proximity. Thus, Imam Ali C says in Nahj al-Balagha:
No one in the Muslim community can be considered at par with the progeny of Muhammad - (Al-i Muhammad). How can those who were under their obligation be compared to them. They are the foundation of the religion, and the pillar of conviction. The one who has run forward has to return to them, and the one who has lagged behind has to catch up with them.
However, he task of those who write and talk about Al-i Muhammad E, while being a noble and important one, is not without some risk. The one who undertakes this assignment walks a road which has precipices on either side. On the one side, the steep precipice of falling short of appreciating the true worth and status of these close servants (awliya) of God, and on the other side, the even steeper precipice of the blasphemous elevation of their status to Godhood. Each of these two extremes has its own causes and consequences.
The first is due to misplaced sentimentality and baseless ascriptions that cannot be applied to the true servants of God. It arises when one misunderstands their expressions of fear and hope, happiness and sorrow and expectation and desire; as a result, one tries to understand these matters in a manner that equates them to the normal pious ones (ashab al-yamin), not understanding their true status, which is of those who are intimate with God (al-muqarrabun). The fact is that the sadness and gladness, and the fear and hope of the pious are not the same as that of the intimate ones. The latter have drunk from the those fountains of spiritual reality that the pious ones are not even aware of.
The second extreme is when they are attributed with qualities that are reserved for the Divine Lord alone. Amongst these are:
The ability to do whatever He desires. 
The One whose actions cannot be questioned.
The forgiving of sins. 
The granting of sustenance. 
Having absolute knowledge of the unseen. 
These and similar matters, when ascribed to anyone except God, become blasphemy. However, if these special Divine qualities are excluded, every other virtue that can be attributed to man is first deserved by them, because Al-i Muhammad E are the foremost of all the close servants of God, and they are His noblest servants (‘ibadun mukramun). God has granted them a special proximity to Himself (al-muqarrabun), and they have a singular honour before Him (wajih).  They are the ones whom God has chosen for Himself (al-mukhlasun), the ones whose hearts He has purified from every trace of polytheism, doubt and hypocrisy (al-mutahharun) and the ones whom He has protected from error and sin in carrying out His commands (al-ma’sumun). Their hearts tremble with awe in the remembrance of God (al-mukhbitun), and God has selected them as exemplars for His religion (al-mustafun). [They are the repositories of God’s secrets. They are the protectors of His affair, the bearers of His wisdom and the authorities on His decree. They are the guardians of the Divine scriptures and the firm pillars of His religion. God strengthened and stabilised the religion through them.] 
By considering the matters discussed above, it is appropriate, even necessary, for an individual who wishes to mention these great personalities to make an effort to avoid the serious pitfalls of falling short in appreciating their true status or, conversely, to exaggerate and overstate their eminence. Their only choice is to study what is mentioned about these noble personalities in the Qur’an and the reliable traditions. They should avoid exaggerating the truth or to propagate information about them that is dubious or questionable, whether it is to make the people weep or to delight them, so that they do not run the risk of pleasing men while earning God’s displeasure. 
The purpose of this book is to collect all the details that are suitable and useful for one who wishes to extol the virtues of the Ahl al-Bait E, when they are addressing an audience about the status and life of Fatima Zahra I. In this book, an attempt has been made to bring together those traditions about her that are contained in the reliable books of traditions. Additionally, those accounts that do not possess sound chains of transmission, and mentioning of which would be tantamount to slandering the holy personality of Siddiqatu’l Tahira I - and which appear occasionally in this book - have been clearly identified and isolated.
Most of the traditions quoted in this book have been taken from the book, Musnad Fatima Zahra, written by the great scholar, Shaykh ‘Azizullah ‘Atarodi. Thanks be to God, due to the existence of this valuable work, the author was spared an exhaustive research into Shi’i and Sunni sources. Therefore, in the footnotes, the first reference is to the aforementioned book; and where the original sources are also mentioned, these too, have been quoted from the same book.
I am hopeful that this book will be the forerunner of similar works about the rest of the infallibles (al-ma’sumun), in the form of authentic narrations taken from reliable books. This will help individuals who want to speak about these noble personalities, and also help to eradicate the falsehoods and misconceptions that are spoken and heard about them.
And from God is all success, and to Him is all recourse.
Fatima I is The Veracious One – (Siddiqa) : Holy Prophet -
The Veracious One - Siddiqa - of Islam
In the Qur'an and the traditions, the veracious ones (al-siddiqun) have been mentioned as having exalted and elevated ranks. In chapter Nisa’, the believers have been promised that, if they obey God and the messenger, then on the day of Judgement they will be in the company of the prophets (al-anbiya), the veracious (al-siddiqun), the martyrs (al-shuhada) and the righteous (al-salihun) , and this is one of the great rewards promised by God to those who act righteously.
The siddiqun have a rank close to that of the prophets, and in fact, the ranks of some of them are even higher and more exalted, because in a tradition narrated from Imam Mahdi C, who himself is counted amongst the greatest of the siddiqun, we learn that Prophet ‘Isa C will pray behind him in congregation. In fact, every prophet is siddiq, although every siddiq is not a prophet. However, it is possible for a siddiq to be closer in proximity to God than some of the prophets, despite the fact that he has not reached the level of prophet-hood due to some necessary or special circumstance.
Siddiq is the superlative form of sadiq, and sadiq denotes one who speaks the truth. However, truthfulness has different aspects and manifestations. Sometimes it is seen in speech, other times it is evident in conduct also, and occasionally it is present in intention as well. Siddiq refers to an individual who is not only truthful in speech, but his actions reveal his inner sincerity as well, and in every action his intent is pure and unsullied, and his character reflects all this. His speech and actions are not based on caprice or conjecture, rather, he always acts with conviction. If an individual displays all the qualities of truthfulness within himself, he is known as sadiq, and if he progresses to a state where even the smallest dishonesty is not found in him, as in the stages described above, then he becomes siddiq.
In a tradition we read, “If a person is always truthful, and if he strives for honesty in all matters, he will be counted as siddiq before God.”  Of course, this is a difficult state to achieve, and requires a lot of vigilance. In the Qur’an, God describes the basis of truthfulness thus:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the forbearing in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts; These are they who are truthful and these are they who guard (against evil).[HQ 2/177]
Even though all the prophets were siddiq, God has singled out some of them for this special title. For instance, in chapter Maryam, He states:
And mention Idris in the Book; surely he was a siddiq, a prophet. [19:56]
Similarly, the Qur’an refers to some noble personalities who are regarded according to traditions to have been siddiq, and who possessed honourable ranks, even though they were not prophets; for example, the believer from the kinsmen of Fir’awn (Mu’min Al-Fir’awn); or Habib Najjar, who corroborated the mission of the envoys of Prophet ‘Isa C to Antioch; or Dhu’l Qarnayn. If one studies the arguments put forth by Mu’min Al-Fir’awn in the chapter Mu’min, which describes his defence of Prophet Musa C in the presence of Fir’awn and his courtiers, one can begin to appreciate the exalted rank of the siddiqin. Of course, in the course of history, the siddiqin are not confined to a few only, rather, a large number of siddiqin have worshipped their Creator in this world and have sincerely pursued His cause. However, just as there are different statuses and ranks amongst the prophets, and some prophets are exalted over others, siddiqin too, have different ranks. One of the titles of the Commander of the Faithful C is siddiq al-akbar (the foremost veracious one), which was rightfully awarded to him by the Prophet -, because no siddiq had reached his level of honesty; not Dhu’l Qarnayn or Mu’min Al-Fir’awn or anybody else.
It must be noted, however, that this status is not reserved for men only; in the course of history women have also reached the level of siddiqa. From amongst them, one is Asiya (the wife of Fir’awn) whom God has praised in the Qur’an. Another is Khadija, the wife of the Prophet -, whom he never forgot; whenever her name was mentioned, his blessed eyes would fill with tears. And more exalted then them was Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran, whose birth and life is mentioned by God in some detail in two chapters of the Qur’an , and who has been praised in several other verses. Certainly, the siddiqat were not just confined to these ladies and in the course of history, many women have worshipped their Creator at the level of sidq. However, the leader of all of them in veracity was Fatima Zahra I, who had the title Siddiqatu’l kubra (the most veracious woman). Just as her husband was the greatest siddiq, she too had no peer amongst women in this regard.
To understand what rank the siddiqin and siddiqat can reach, it will be helpful to mention some of the details of the life of Maryam, the siddiqa, which have been recounted in the Qur’an. In this way, we can better appreciate the elevated status of Fatima Zahra I.
Maryam was the daughter of the prophet ‘Imran. ‘Imran bid farewell to this mortal world before Maryam was born, but before his death, he informed his wife that the child that she was carrying was the promised bearer of enlightenment for the Banu Isra’il. His wife, under the assumption that she was carrying the Messiah, pledged (made nadhr) to ordain the child into the service of God, that is, to send it in childhood to serve and worship in the holy temple. However, she gave birth to a girl. She now understood that ‘Imran’s prophecy would be realised through the child of her daughter. Therefore, she asked the prophets and elders of the Banu Isra’il to accept her daughter into the service of the temple, so that she may fulfil her own pledge to God.
Maryam was accepted into the temple, where from her childhood, she engaged in the worship of God. After a while, Zakariya, who was appointed as her guardian, realised that Maryam was receiving food other than the food of the temple. When he questioned her about it, she replied that it came from God, Who gives sustenance without measure to whomever He chooses. At this time, Zakariya asked God for a son, pure like Maryam, and God granted him Yahya. After some time, angels visited Maryam at her place of worship, and informed her that God had chosen her, and purified her, and had preferred her over all women, for His purpose, and was now directing her to worship and prostrate in a prescribed manner. Maryam obeyed the command of her Lord, until a day when Jibra’il descended to her and told her that God wished to grant her a son. He would be the Messiah, and would be honoured in this world and the next, and would be one of the closest servants of God (muqarrabun). Maryam asked Jibra’il how she could bear a child, when no man had ever approached her, and Jibra’il replied that this would be achieved by God’s power, and God can do whatever He wills. Maryam became pregnant by God’s will, but fearful of the accusations of her people, she left the city and gave birth to ‘Isa in the wilderness, under the trunk of a withered date-palm. At this time she was hungry and thirsty, and Jibra’il appeared to her once more, and informed her that her Lord had created a spring of water for her and had caused freshly ripened dates to form on the withered date-palm. He told her that she should eat and drink, and rejoice at the birth of her son, and that the Lord wanted her to return to the city. Maryam was afraid to take ‘Isa back to the city, because her people were unwise and quick to level accusations. However, Jibra’il advised her not to converse with anybody, and to inform anyone that she met that she had vowed a fast of silence for her Lord. When she returned, her people surrounded her, accusing her of being guilty of immoral behaviour. In reply, she indicated that they should direct their queries to her son, by pointing to him. By the power of God, ‘Isa began to speak from his cradle, and informed them that he was the very same promised Messiah and that God has appointed him as a prophet and given him a book.
By pondering over this story, which has been beautifully narrated in the Qur’an, we realise that the siddiqun and siddiqat, and amongst them Maryam, have a great and extraordinary status. Angels conversed with Maryam, Jibra’il descended to her and relayed God’s messages to her. She received God’s special nurturing and He nourished her with food from His unseen treasures. If the status of the siddiqa of the Banu Isra’il is so high, what about the siddiqa of Islam, whom the Prophet - declared to be greater than Maryam? What will be the status of Fatima I, about whom the Prophet - said that, while Maryam had been the foremost of the women of her time, Fatima I was the foremost of the women of all times, and their leader in heaven? Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if we hear that, just as Jibra’il would come to Maryam, after the Prophet’s - death, he also visited Fatima Zahra I and consoled her with the news of the next world. Or when we hear that the Prophet - called her a part of his own body and declared that God became wrathful at one who incurred her anger and was pleased with one who earned her pleasure. Or by the hundreds of merits that she possesses, some of which will be discussed in the following chapters. How good it would be if the Muslims recognised the worth of their siddiqa, and accorded her the status that God Himself has designated for her, and not assigning her just to the level of the normal pious ones; indeed, the difference between the status of the salihun and salihat and that of the siddiqun and siddiqat is so vast that only God can know it.
 Subhi Salih, Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 2.
 The Qur'an addresses the Prophet - saying, ولاَ تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَلِكَ غَدًا - And do not say of anything: Surely I will do it
tomorrow (HQ 18/23).
 لاَ يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ - He cannot be questioned concerning what He does and they shall be questioned. (HQ 21/23).
 وَمَن يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلاَّ اللّهُ - And who forgives the sins except God… (HQ 3/135).
 قُلْ مَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ قُلِ اللَّهُ - Say: Who gives you the sustenance from the heavens and the earth? Say: Allah. (HQ 34/24).
 وَعِندَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لاَ يَعْلَمُهَا إِلاَّ هُوَ - And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures-- none knows them but He; HQ 6/59)
قُل لَّا يَعْلَمُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ - Say: No one in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen except Allah
 God says about Prophet ‘Isa C, وَجِيهًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ - worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of
those who are made near (HQ 3/45).
 (Arabic Text) Subhi Salih, Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon 3.
 Such people have been rebuked in many traditions.
 Musnad, p. 293, trad. 1.
 HQ 4/69. It must be remembered that those who obey will be in the company of these four groups, and not from them.
In other words, it is correct to believe that they will be in the proximity of these groups and enjoy their company and
friendship, but they will not have the same status and rank.
 (Arabic Text) Muhammad Muhammadi Rai Shahri, Mizan al-Hikma, vol. 5, p. 292.
 تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ 2:253
 Chapters Al-i Imran and Maryam.
 This event is taken from chapters Al-e Imran and Maryam.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A university professor in Turkey has prohibited a female teacher from entering an exam hall, where she was a proctor, for wearing a headscarf.
The proctor, identified as Ilham Duran, arrived at a school in the city of Kayseri, situated some 265 kilometers (164 miles) east of the capital, Ankara, on Sunday morning, and was prevented by Halit Yetisir, a professor who was overseeing the examinations, from entering the hall, Turkey’s newspaperToday’s Zaman reported.
Yetisir cited Duran’s headscarf as the reason for his decision, and also said he would write a report against the veiled Muslim teacher and send it to the Open Education Faculty (AOF) center in the city of Eskisehir.
There was no apparent dress code for teachers at the educational center in Kayseri.
The Turkish government’s controversial ban on hijab has outraged Muslim people who constitute over 97 percent of the country’s population.
The move has sparked anger among Turkish citizens, who believe the majority of the population is not allowed to exercise their religious freedoms.
Turkey’s government has also issued an order banning headscarves for schoolgirls. Parents are allowed to pick their children up while wearing hijab, but children may not wear it unless they are in private religious schools.
Only about 200,000 girls study at religious schools in Turkey, meaning that the new law forces some seven million girls across the country not to wear hijab at school.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Mujtahid is someone who has the power of deriving and understanding the rules from the original sources such as: the intellect, Quran and narrations. One must learn the following sciences to obtain this ability: Arabic literature, acquaintance with commentary on the Quran, derayeh science (understanding the meaning of traditions), Rijal (recognition of the narrators of traditions), the principles of jurisprudence (the way rulings are derived), mastery of jurisprudence, etc. The result of the necessity of these preliminaries is of a long study and continuous attempts until the person, himself or herself, feels he has reached this ability. But for someone to become popular in ijtihad, first their scientific rank is approved of by great mujtahids and second he or she himself or herself wants to declare his or her ijtihad in scientific and non scientific communities. Of course, one must note that ijtihad is different from Marja’iat Taqlid. Every marja’e taqlid is mujtahid but every mujtahid isn’t marja’e taqlid.
By this explanation, it is possible that many women reached this rank but they aren’t known just as there are a lot of male mujtahids who aren’t famous and can't be recognized. Most of the mujtahids who are well-known have reached the level of being a marja’e taqlid. An because one of the conditions to be a marja’e taqlid is to be man, female mujtahids are known of much less than male ones in the societ.
One of the most famous women who reached the rank of ijtihad was Mujtahideh Amin Isfahani who passed in 1403 h. She was one of the greatest clerics who had permission of Ijtihad.
Of course, other female Mujtahids who presently teach at the women’s seminary called Jame’at Zahra can be found but they do not want their names announced.
 In order to get more information about her life, refer to following links:
1- The end of Sha’ban 1403, anniversary of ascent of Alavieh Mujtahide of Islam world, Lady Nusrat Amin Isfahani.
2- Review of the life of mujtahide lady Amin Isfahani.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – One of Malaysia’s leading religious authorities, PAS Syura Council, decided to ban non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” when describing “God” in their religious publications, a local website reported Monday.
While the word “Allah” was universal and had been used by pre-Islamic Arabs, PAS Syura Council ruled that it could not be translated in non-Muslim publications to denote for the word “God.”
“Therefore, translating ‘God’ or ‘Lord’ from any non-Muslim religious book into the word ‘Allah’ is forbidden because it is wrong in terms of meaning and use, does not fulfill the actual requirement and can bring confusion,” The Star website reported the council saying in a statement signed by PAS spiritual adviser, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, and his deputy, Datuk Haron Din.
“Therefore, it must be prevented,” the statement confirmed.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, PAS, has responded to a re-ignited debate surrounding the use of the Arabic word for God, ‘’Allah’’, as Christian groups claim the right to use the term in their own religious scripts.
The Islamist political party has defended its exclusive right to use the word “Allah.”
They suggest that non-Islamic minority groups could use the Malay word for God “Tuhan” in their Malay-language Bible, PAS newspaper Harakahdaily reported late December.
PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said: “There are sensitive elements such as the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) and Allah, which must be used in the correct context, otherwise there could be unease in a multi-religious society in view of the present situation”.
Referring to the various editions of Bible, Tuan Man said that manuscripts referred to a ‘God’ or ‘Lord’. He added that the Christians in West do not refer to God as ‘Allah’ in their religious texts.
The debate was revived after the Malaysian Multi-Racial Democratic Action Party’s secretary general, Lim Guan Eng, broadcast a Christmas message urging the Federal government to permit Malay-Language Bibles to publish the word ‘Allah’.
Malaysian Catholics and the ongoing debate
In early May 2008 Malaysian Catholics secured the right to initiate a legal battle against the government ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in their Herald Malaysia Catholic news publication, AFP reported.
In 2007 the Muslim-dominated government declared that ‘Allah’ could only be used by Muslims and threatened to close down The Herald newspaper if it defied the prohibition.
January 2008 saw the Herald Malaysia battle to keep its publishing license .
The Newspaper won out as High Court judge Lau Bee Lan overruled government objections, saying they were “without merit and therefore dismissed”.
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, welcomed the decision which paves the way for a judicial review of the government ban.
“I am very pleased that we can now proceed. We will see what will happen at the next stage”, he said.
The argument is being conducted in an environment of increased inter-ethnic tensions.
Malaysia is dominated by Muslim Malays, many minority ethnic Chinese and Indians have become concerned over the growing “Islamization” of the country.
In recent months there have been controversies over a ban on the construction of a Taoist statue on Borneo Island and the destruction of Hindu temples by local authorities.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Turkey has lifted a ban on female students wearing headscarves in schools providing religious education, in a move drawing criticism from secularists who see it as fresh evidence of the government pushing an Islamic agenda.
Education has been one of the main battlegrounds between religious conservatives, who form the bedrock of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, and secular opponents who accuse him of imposing Islamic values by stealth.
Those secularist fears were fuelled this year when Erdogan said his goal was to raise a “religious youth” and the AK Party, in power for the past decade, pushed through a reform of the education system which boosted the role of religious schools.
Under the latest regulation, announced on Tuesday and going into effect from the 2013-2014 academic year, pupils at regular schools will also be able to wear headscarves in Koran lessons.
Erdogan said the reform, which also ends a requirement for pupils to wear uniform, was taken in response to public demand.
“Let’s allow everyone to dress their child as they wish, according to their means,” he said at a news conference in Madrid on Tuesday.
“These are all steps taken as a result of a demand.”
Rivalry between religious and secular elites is one of the major fault lines in Turkish public life.
Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party has tamed the influence of the military - the self-appointed guardians of secularism since the modern republic was founded in 1923 - over the past decade, but he denies an Islamist agenda.
Last month the military top brass attended a reception in the presidential palace alongside the headscarved wives of the president and prime minister, something that until recently would have been unthinkable.
The secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet said the latest reform was a step towards the Islamization of education.
“This will end with chadors,” a headline in the paper said.
The latest reform followed a law approved in March allowing “imam hatip” schools specializing in religious education combined with a modern curriculum to take children from the age of 11 instead of 15.
The Egitim-Sen education sector union was critical of the move on school uniforms and the headscarf.
“The changes in the clothing regulations are important in enabling us to see the intense degree to which the education system is being made religious,” the union said in a statement.
“Religious symbols which spread a religious lifestyle in schools and which will have a negative impact on the psychology of developing children should definitely not be used,” it said.
But others voiced support for the reform.
Gurkan Avcı, head of the Democratic Educators’ Union (DES), said it had removed a legacy of the September 12, 1980 military coup by changing the dress code.
“We will not be able to rescue the education system from the perverse consequences of the oppression, rituals, dogma and thinking of the ‘cold war’ period until teachers and pupils are liberated,” he said.- www.shfaqna.com/English