June 2010

IBM develop ‘most realistic’ computerised voice

The voice is made even more convincing because it has been programmed to include verbal tics such as “ums”, “ers” and sighs….

So while IBM struggle to make the computer seem more human, humans in call centres are instructed to follow scripted conversations as closely as possible.

I’m wondering, will man race more quickly to be robot, or the robot to be the man?

We need to pay more attention to our heart and souls, the hyper-rational mind is favoured too much.

Imam alGhazali in his book The Revival Of the Religious Sciences إحياء علوم الدّين has a section on the manners of reading/reciting the Qur’aan – آداب تلاوة القرآن .

This is a very brief summary of the main points from the third chapter of that section, The Internal Actions during Recitation –  أعمال الباطن في تلاوة القرآن .

  1. فهم عظمة القرآن و علوّه و فضل الله – Understanding the greatness of the speech of Allah and the favour of Allah in sending the Qur’aan
  2. التعظيم للمتكلم – Appreciating the greatness of the speaker, Allah
    • Whenever we start reciting the Qur’aan we should first bring to mind the greatness of Allah and feel how we should be so careful of how we approach it. Just as not every hand can touch the Qur’aan (ie. without wudu’) so also not every tongue is fit to read the letters of the Qur’aan (sura alwaaqi`ah).
  3. حضور القلب و ترك حديث النفس – Presence of the heart and leaving the talking of the nafs (self)
  4. التدبّر – Contemplation
    • Only think about the Qur’aan and not the sound of the Qur’aan coming from yourself
    • Recite with tarteel so that you have time to concentrate on the meaning
    • Ali said:  لا خير في عبادة لا فقه فيها و لا في قراءة لا تدبّر فيها (there is no good in worship that has no understanding in it, and no good in reading (the Qur’aan) that has no contemplation in it)
    • If you can’t pay sufficient attention in the first reading then read the ayat again, unless you are praying behind an imam
  5. التفهّم – You should investigate the appropriate meanings of the ayats , the descriptions of Allah, the actions of Allah such as the creation, the descriptions of the prophets
  6. التخلّي عن موانع الفهم – Keeping away from the actions which prevent understanding such as
    • Concentrating on the correct recitation of the letters rather than the meaning of the ayas
  7. التخصيص – Understanding that the messages are aimed at yourself
    • Orders
    • Forbiddings
  8. التأثّر – Allow the heart to be affected with the results of his reading
    • Sadness
    • Fear
    • Hope

    Whatever level your understanding reaches, the overriding emotion should be خشية fear, apprehension. This is because largely when we see an ayat of forgiveness it is followed by conditions, for instance surat Taa Haa<<But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance.>>

  9. الترقّي – Progressing – ascend to the level of listening to the speech from Allah and not himself
    • Level 1 is when the slave judges himself to be reading to Allah from in front of Allah and Allah is looking towards him and listening to him. The slave has a state of questioning (سؤال), adulation (تملّق),  pleading (تضرّع) and praying humbly (ابتهال).
    • Level 2 is when the slave feels in his heart as if Allah sees him and he (Allah) is addressing him and saving him with his bounties and favours.
    • Level 3 is when the slave sees in the speech the speaker and in the words the descriptions so he does not look to himself or his recitation or even to the relation between the bounties and the giver of the bounties. Instead he restricts himself and his thoughts to deep concentration on the speaker  (Allah).
  10. التبري – Distancing yourself – when you recite ayats of praise for those who do goods you don’t account yourself amongst them but instead ask Allah to put you amongst them, and likewise when you recite ayats about wrongdoers you associate yourself with them and ask Allah to forgive you.

This is the content of a khutba about سورة العصر (the chapter in the Qur’aan called surat al`ASr).

  • students here are from the more intelligent of their generation
  • in 2010 the quran is the foundation of our deen
  • also fundamental to our deen is the 5 times salat during which we recite quran in arabic
  • the combination of the above puts an onus on us to understand as much as we can from what we recite
  • Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear. Each of you need to assess what level of understanding you should be aiming to achieve. <<But those who believe and work righteousness,- no burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear,- they will be Companions of the Garden, therein to dwell (for ever) >> surat ul a`raaf 7:42

With that in mind and with the encouragement of the Messenger of God Muhammad صلّى الله عليه و سلّم (peace and blessings be upon him) we should memorise what we can of the Qur’aan and try our best to understand it. The صحابة (companions of the prophet) used not to memorize further Qur’aan until they had put into action the last ten ayas that they had learnt. From that we can deduce that we should concentrate on memorising and understanding the short suras so as to make sure we are focusing on the most urgent elements of the message that Allah has sent to us. Today I am going to explain the meaning of a small sura to you and help you to focus on the key arabic words so that when you recite it in your prayers ( صلاة) you can be aware of and attend to its meaning.

This sura is سورة العصر and there are six key words that we should memorise the meaning of:

  • عَصْر      (`ASr) Time
  • خُسْر      (khusr) Loss
  • ءامنوا    (aamanuu) Believed (from إيمان Eemaan, faith)
  • صالحات    (SaaliHaat) Good deeds
  • حَقّ     (Haqq) Truth, Right, Reality
  • صَبْر    (Sabr) Patience

<<By time>>

The word `ASr has multiple meanings amongst them:

  • time
  • epoch/ages
  • the declining day
  • the afternoon prayer which is called `ASr

Brothers and sisters we often hear talk of the scientific miracles of the Qur’aan but I think we overlook much greater miracles than these. I’ve already mentioned how the Qur’aan has emanated its light across the entire globe and 50 generations of people. We overlook the amazing miracle that anything exists at all! How is the universe sustained from nano-second to nano-second, and from aeon to aeon. How is it that we, our exact persons, came into existence? Why were our souls picked to live on this Earth out of the infinite possibilities? Surely the natural state in the absence of God is nothingness. Because everyone takes these phenomena for granted we overlook how extraordinary they are.

Time itself is amazing. Without time there would be no cause and effect. Without time the concept of knowing the past but not knowing the future would not exist. There would be no memories and no plans. The Qur’aan makes reference to the creation, the beginning of time, and the end of time. Also the creation of mankind on this Earth and yawm alqiyaama (يوم القيامة) the end of mankind on this Earth. Allah describes our own personal paths through time, from birth to death. Allah سبحانه و تعالى tells us that He is the not only the Creator (الخالق )but also the Beginning and the End (الأوّل و الأخر ).

Time acts as a veil (حجاب, Hijaab) between ourselves and our destinies. We often look to the heavens as a veil between us and Allah, but what about the subatomic world and its subatomic nature? These all act as veils between us and the reality of Allah, الحقّ alHaqq.

In this ayat Allah is swearing an oath as to the strength and verity of the message he is about to give us. He swears By Time, the message the follows is true and of utmost importance. So what is this message? There is a warning and also good news.

<<Indeed, mankind is in loss>>

Allah emphasises that in the absence of other actions man is at a loss. He is making a metaphor that on judgement day our good and bad deeds will be weighed up just as an accountant weighs up profit and loss. The key word to memorise here is khusr خُسْر meaning ‘loss’.

<<…… and those who reject the Signs of Allah,- it is they who will be in loss >>

Signs of Allah means here not just the verses of the Qur’aan but all those natural phenomena that we can witness and contemplate both in the universe around us and within ourselves. Allah commands us in the Qur’aan to think and to contemplate.

All will be at a loss except…

<<Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience>>

To make a profit for the last day we have to do good deeds and mutually encourage truth and patience. For our Salaat we should focus here on

  • ءامنوا they believe, from the root word إيمان belief. We should have faith which is complete, pure and sincere. It should be
    • declared with the tongue
    • felt with conviction in the heart
    • acted upon
  • صالحات  good deeds. We should do good deeds for the sake of Allah alone. Remember, deeds are accounted for according to our intentions. The companions of the prophet SAW used to run out into the road if they thought someone needed help outside, solely to gain reward with Allah.
  • حَقّ   has multiple meanings, amongst them truth, reality and right (as in one’s rights). It is also one of the names of Allah.We have to mutually encourage each other to the truth, to giving each other his rights/due.
  • صَبْر  patience. It is having patience that separates the men from the boys. We need patience in:
    • fulfilling our daily acts of worship (`ibaada, عبادة)
    • avoiding temptations
    • accepting hardship and afflictions
    • having gratitude for everything (shukr, شكر). The prophet said

How amazing is the affair of the believer. Everything is good for him – and that is for no one but the believer: If good times come his way he is thankful and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way he is patient and that is good for him.

We should also notice that as the ulema have pointed out to us, even the order of the words carries meaning. First we must believe, and then do good deeds with the good intention of the believer to act for Allah’s sake. We should uphold the truth and our brothers and sisters rights, and should have the patience to put up with the difficulties that standing against the flow and decay brings with it.

So brothers and sisters for those of you who don’t already know it, I strongly encourage you to learn the meanings of these six words and to contemplate their meaning whenever you recite this sura in your Salat. There are many resources available for you to go and learn this in your own time over the course of the next week or so.