Tuesday, April 10, 2007

[kanoshia] Fwd: My Daughter Is a Muslim

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My Daughter Is A Muslim

By  Eva Vergaelen  - Freelance Writer


Bridge over Oslofjorden - Norway. Picture © Microsoft.com

Nele Godts grew up with her two brothers in a typical Belgian family. Her parents gave their children all the possibilities to develop their personalities. At the age of 17, Nele converted to Islam and changed her name to Nawal. Now, nine years later, Nawal is married to an Egyptian and teaches Qur'an to her neighbors. This is an interview with Tine and her daughter Nele, or Nawal, to others.

Mother Tine

"My daughter has two names: Nele, the name chosen by me and her father, and Nawal, the name chosen by herself when she entered Islam. Her husband and friends call her Nawal, which means 'gift.' For me she is and remains my Nele. And yes, she is a true gift.

When Nele was 17, she converted to Islam. For me, it all happened all of a sudden. I did not realize that she was interested in Islam, so it came a bit as a shock. It would have been easier for me if I would have been more involved, so as to share with her in her new way of life.

The first time we went out together while she was wearing a veil, I did not feel at ease. People were staring at her. Actually, the problems that we faced in our relation were mainly stirred by external factors. I often play the role of mediator when friends or family criticizes my daughter's religious choice. Although I don't entirely understand her choice, I respect it and defend her rights. I don't see her in the first place as a Muslim, but as a young woman with a beautiful heart.

Nele does not visit her relatives during festivities, because she knows that alcohol will be served.
What bothers me is that sometimes there are certain Islamic practices, like gender division and wearing a veil. My generation had to fight for independence against the suppressing influence of the church. We symbolized our struggle through 'liberal' clothes and gender-mixed activities.

Christian traditions such as fasting, praying, or meditating belonged to the past. Now, I am confronted again with such religious rules, which is not easy. However, I admire the way Nele lives her religion. It really is a way of living, not just some practices. In our hectic lifestyle, we should reconsider the beauty of meditation - be it religiously inspired or otherwise.

Communicating in respect is the key for people of different cultures or religions to living together. Nele does not want to be near people who drink alcohol; however, alcohol in our culture is widely used. No one questions the fact that a birthday dinner goes with a bottle of wine.

Nele does not visit her relatives during festivities, because she knows that alcohol will be served. This is sometimes difficult for others to understand. I respect this, but many others don't. They start focusing on the things that differentiate us instead of on those that bring us together. As such, social isolation is developed and communication fades away.

I was worried that Nele would be isolated from our society, especially because she wears 'non-Western' clothes and a veil, which are associated with foreigners. When she got married to an Egyptian and moved to Cairo, it felt in a way that she was going 'home,' to a place where she is considered to be part of. It is amazing the way their life is centered around religion. Our Western lifestyle is centered around time; we live according to our watch.

Nele was an emancipated and critical girl. Entering Islam seemed for me a contradicting choice. However, if I look beneath her veil and long clothes, she still is my strong girl and I am proud of her. Yes, my Nele is called Nawal, and yes, she is Muslim, but she will always remain my daughter whose personal development I support."

Daughter Nele

"I was merely 17 when I woke up one morning and asked myself whether I believed in God and whether Muhammad was His Prophet and Messenger. I answered 'yes,' got up out of bed, and went to the mosque in Brussels.
Although my family does not understand my religious choice, they give me all the opportunities to develop myself in an Islamic way of life.
After a long process of seeking the true message of God, I read the story of Prophet Salih. Prophet Salih was sent by God to the people of Thamud [1]. They asked him to prove the existence of God. God sent a pregnant camel, made of rocks, and brought it to life.   

While reading this story, I wondered to myself what proof I needed to believe in God. Was I really just seeking excuses not to believe in Him? I opened my heart and was blessed with His love.

I did not have to change my name, but I felt that I was in need of a new identity. My new name was a symbol of a new start. I changed as a person, not in my way of dealing with others, but of looking at life. I have different identities, such as daughter, wife, friend, and sister. I feel home within all these identities.

I am home among Muslims who try to live according to Islam. I am home with my parents and brothers, who love me and whom I love despite our religious differences. Although my family does not understand my religious choice, they give me all the opportunities to develop myself in an Islamic way of life.
It has been nine years since I converted to Islam and, al-hamdu lillah, every day I am more convinced of the choice I made. I try to learn as much as possible about my religion and apply it to my daily life, in order to become a good person and a good Muslim. I share my knowledge with other girls who are interested in Islam and together we grow in our belief. I find it important to be critical towards myself and my belief.

The Qur'an is the word of God, but we are merely people with our own interpretation. We can only try to study Allah's message and come as close as possible to Him. In the Western context, it is not easy to be a critical Muslim, since Islam is being blamed as the source of all evil. As a Muslim, you tend to defend your religion by isolating yourself as a community. However, as true Muslims, we should always be open for a dialogue.

When I started my life as a Muslim, I was still a teenager. As all teenagers, I was not very open towards my parents. Actually, they suddenly discovered that I converted just when I started wearing the veil. For me, this was a normal step in my religious development; for my parents, it came as a shock.

My communication skills grew over the years. Now, I find it important to involve my parents in seeking solutions when my perception on something clashes with theirs. Although we don't always understand each other's choices, we respect each other. As Nawal, I am proud to be a Muslim; and as Nele, I hope that my mother is proud of me being a good person."

[1] [And to Thamud (We sent) their brother Salih. He said, O my people! Serve Allah, you have no god other than Him; clear proof indeed has come to you from your Lord; this is (as) Allah's she-camel for you - a sign, therefore leave her alone to pasture on Allah's earth, and do not touch her with any harm; otherwise, painful chastisement will overtake you. ] (Al-A`raf 7:73)

Eva Vergaelen lives in both Egypt and Belgium and works as a freelance journalist, with special interest in gender politics and identity. She wrote a book on female immigrants in Belgium. Eva studied African culture and obtained a master's in governance and development. She embraced Islam in 2004.

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There is an amazing number of things which the Christian reader of the New Testament misses even in the most thorough reading, because his frame of reference and his scrutiny are controlled carefully by official Church dogma. My own case is instructive. I was raised and baptized in the Baptist church and spent much of my youth seriously studying the Bible and religious discipline. At a still young age, I entered the Ministry. I thought I knew the Bible well. As paradoxical as it seems, I must admit that I never possessed as complete knowledge of the Bible as a Christian as I have gained since em bracing interpretation presents a puzzle with major parts missing, and those parts can be supplied only by Islam. The Christian sees the Bible as an end in itself, whereas in reality it is but an indicator pointing the way to something else which was then yet to come. Until this event occurred, the Bible was an incomplete, unfulfilled Book and many of its profound prophecies could not be grasped completely. Christian theologians and scholars, eager to impress their following, often erred in assigning premature "fulfillments" to those foregleams of the future. When the prophecies actually came true these erroneous conjectures had assumed the status of dogma, blinding Christian to the fruition of their own beliefs.

An exceptional example of the dangers of such hasty interpretation is the standard Christian exegesis of John 14:16 and 17, and 16:7-14. Giving Christian scholars the benefit of the doubt, we will assume that the accepted Greek text records in general the actual sayings of Jesus, peace be upon him. In these verses, Jesus highlights the brevity of his own mission, showing its intermediate status as a link between the prophetic past and the prophetic future. It is significant that Jesus never called himself the last prophet, or even a universal prophet, thought Christians later came to consider him as both. On the contrary, here, when read carefully with regard to the Greek text rather than the creeds of the Establishment Churches, Jesus points specifically to the coming of another prophet after him who would (1) be eminently truthful and trustworthy, (2) teach only what God revealed, and (3) honor Jesus by carrying the prophetic mission on to its logical conclusion.

A characteristic of what is termed biblical prophecy is that it merely gives outlines, which become perfectly distinct only upon the unfolding of reality. Thus, we have not instance here of Jesus saying, in the unreal fashion of the Italian "Gospel of Barnabas", 'After me there shall come the Last Prophet, Muhammad bin Abdullah.' But biblical prophecy does have certain safeguards which make the intended interpretation sure beyond all doubt. The New Testament records Jesus as saying:

"Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in god, believe also in me . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter (Greek parakleetos), that he may abide with you for ever: even the spirit of truth." (John 14:1, 16, 17)Jesus says that the prophet who would come after him would be a true messenger commissioned by God who, like Jesus, would possess a heavenly Revelation from God, teaching, not words of his own composition, but whatever God gave him to speak:

"But when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you in all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear (from God) that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine and shall show unto you." (John 16:13, 14)

Thus, additionally, this coming prophet would not spurn the mission of Jesus, but would recognize it and actually "glorify" Jesus by removing from association with him all the false doctrines with which others surrounded the name. Unlike the Jews in general, this prophet would not belie the mission of Jesus, but take the prophetic mission on to conclusion. Now, who would this be? Jesus calls him the "Paraclete". We cannot discount the opinion that what Jesus really said, in his own language of Aramaic, was nearer in meaning to the similar Greek word "Periclyte," "The Praised One," and that "John"?? an unknown writer in the second century of the Christian era?? Picked up "Paraclete" in error. However, until positive textual evidence is available, we shall continue to give the benefit of the doubt, because even in its admittedly defective condition, the light of truth shines forth in it with startling brilliance.

"Paraclete" as "the Comforter," though that is not precisely what "paraclete" means. Even so, "Comforter" would be an acceptable title for the one who is the Mercy for all creatures. What "Paraclete" means, though, is an advocate, one who pleads the cause of another, one who counsels or advises. The word points to one who would be an advocate for and counselor to mankind, who, as the Qur'an puts it, would be harisun alaikum, "solicitous for your welfare" (Likewise, in English "solicitor" is synonymous with "advocate" in the legal sense.) Another indication which acts as a safeguard for the true meaning of these verses is that the "Paraclete" is also given the title "Spirit of Truth" (Greek to pneuma tees aleetheais). This is clear when one realizes that in New Testament Greek, pneuma can mean "possessor of a spiritual communication", i.e., an inspired person, as well as a "spirit" per se. (A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament, by the Rev. Thomas S. Green). Thus, to pneuma tees alletheasis. "The inspired truthful one," means that the "paraclete" would be so truthful and trustworthy in discharging his responsibilities to the Divine Revelation that "the Truth" or "the Trustworthy" would be identifying titles for him. The Greek Allethees corresponds exactly with the Arabic Amin, and "Al-Amin", "the Trustworthy", was an early title of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Some hasty editor was not satisfied with the expression "spirit of truth", or did not understand it, and assumed that this must be the same as the "Holy Spirit." The words at John 14:26 which identify the "Paraclete" as the Holy Spirit are the result of this. Such words are found nowhere else and are obviously an addition to the text. Yet, this premature interpretation, unsound textually, is the one generally accepted by the Church for explaining who the "Paraclete" is! But Jesus has spoken of someone who would dwell physically with mankind, advising and counseling them, in effect, "pleading their case" with God and showing them to sure way of return, by adherence to the truth, to the Divine Judge. He was not someone who was already present, but someone yet to come. As for the Holy Spirit, the angel of revelation, his presence was already manifest. David knew him, and asked God, "Take not Thy holy spirit from." (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit was present already during the ministry of Jesus, a fact which the New Testament acknowledges abundantly (f. Matthew 3:16, 17; 12:27-33, etc.) It would have been ridiculous and redundant for Jesus to speak of the future coming (He shall/will give you...") of what presently existed.

Jesus points to a fundamental distinction between the "Paraclete" and all other prophets: "that he may abide with you for ever." This is the same as saying: "the Last Prophet whose mission has permanence, voiding the need for any additional prophets," In plain English, Jesus is saying: "Look, I must go away soon, my mission among you having been completed. But I will ask our Lord to send for all of you another counselor the prophet who will stand as your guide until the end of time."

To prove conclusively that "John" understood the "Paraclete" to be a flesh and blood person, not a disembodied spirit or an angel, in another New Testament book attributed to him (1 John 2:1) he used the same term with reference to Jesus: "We have an advocate (Greek parakleetos, same word rendered "Comforter" earlier) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Jesus, as God's messenger, was considered to be a "Paraclete"; the term was thus not understood by early Christians to mean someone supernatural. The fact is that "Paraclete" or "Counselor" or "Advocate" refers to a human being, an inspired person?? Which is a legitimate meaning of pneuma?? Not a "spirit" per se. In practical terms, the meaning of "Paraclete" is nearly synonymous with "prophet", with emphasis on the teaching and counseling aspects of prophethood. If Jesus said "another Paraclete" at John 14:16, the significance is "another prophet, out-standing for his teaching and counseling." Furthermore, Jesus qualifies this "Paraclete" by terming him the one to "abide ... for ever," the last or permanent one. There is yet another possibility for the serious researcher. There are numerous instances in the history of biblical textual transmission wherein words have been added inadvertently to the He brew and Greek texts; likewise, there are instances wherein words, indeed, complete sentences, have been omitted inadvertently from those texts by copyists, especially where the letters of the omitted word were similar to another word which preceded or followed it. In the ancient texts, the letters were all run together, without spacing, so that Jesus' words at John 14:16 would have looked like this in the Greek text:



Later, words were spaced so that we have:



ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete.")

The point is that the received Greek text's "Paraclete" may not be a corruption of "periclyte". The original text might well have contained both words, but one became omitted in later copying because of being so close in position and in spelling to the other. Only further research can resolve the matter, but it is quite possible that what Jesus said originally was along these lines:

"I will request our Lord, and He will send you another Counselor, the Praised One, who will be permanent for you until the end of time."

This is not entirely hypothetical; it has actually happened with other words and sentences of the Greek New Testament.

Nevertheless, there is no one else in all of history that John 14:16 et seq. could refer to but Muhammad bin Abdullah, peace be upon him. Christians admit that these verses do not refer to Jesus himself, and the premature identification of the "Paraclete" with the Holy Spirit is untenable in view of other verses of the Bible. Further, no one else has come as a prophet giving due recognition to the mission of Jesus ("He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine . . .") (John 16:14). No one else has led mankind into "all truth" (John 16:13). Only one man has received God's Revelation since the time of Jesus, and only one man stands as Counselor and Advocate ("Paraclete") for mankind for all the ages to come, Praised ("Periclyte") by God and some 1000 millions of the human family.


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