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Is the Qur’an a Miracle from God?

The Qur’an (recitation) is considered a miracle by Muslims because it was revealed in perfect classical Arabic (fusha t-turath) to an illiterate (ummi) Arabic man, Muhammad ibn Abdallah, in 610 A.D.  The Qur’an itself challenges disbelievers to create something similar in Surah 17:88: “Say: ‘If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another’” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 365).

The Qur’an is so miraculous it proves to Muslims that Muhammad was a messenger (rasul) of Allah (God). The Qur’an discusses revelations given to prophets from Adam to Muhammad, and Muhammad is, therefore, considered the last Prophet of God (the Seal of the Prophets). The Qur’an is also viewed as a superior example of classical Arabic literature and the first Arabic book (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and). According to Egyptian Arabic teacher Hussein Moussa, “Quranic Arabic is a more eloquent form of fusha (classical Arabic). The equivalent in English is Shakespearean English . . .” (https://www.quora.com/How-different-is-Quranic-Arabic-from-modern-Arabic-language-Which-one-should-I-learn).

The Qur’an is inseparable from Arabic in the same way that Muhammad is inseparable from the Qur’an. All the daily prayers are uttered in classical Arabic. A Muslim’s entire life revolves around the Arabic roots of the Qur’an, no matter which language he or she speaks. In fact, it has been said that the only true words of Allah are found in the Arabic Qur’an.

“Arabic is a delicate language where even the slightest mispronunciation can drastically alter the meaning of a word” (https://www.arabacademy.com/islamic-arabic). Therefore, translating the Qur’an into other languages can alter its meaning entirely. All Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic in order to discover the true meaning of the Qur’an.

The Arab tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia were devoted to reciting poetry and passing down oral traditions. In fact, “pre-Islamic Arabs took great pride in their language and in articulate and accurate speech, the latter being one of the main requisites for social prominence”) (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and).

Muhammad’s oral revelations would have seemed astounding to the people of Mecca. And when the Angel Gabriel ordered him to “Recite” in Surah 96 (Al-Hilali and Khan, 779), Muhammad was following a long-standing tradition of the Arab tribes. The language of the Qur’an is considered so beautiful and unique that “no human speech can match the Quran and its content and form” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran).

Tajwid is the “art of Quran recitation” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2317). Tajwid determines how each syllable of the Qur’an is pronounced in Arabic; how long and short pauses are placed; whether letters are sounded together or separate; how consonants and vowels are pronounced; and the art of recitation using musical and poetic expression. Diacritical markings (tashkil) on the Arabic letters indicate where and when to use these rules. Tajwid is to recited Arabic what elocution is to classical singers.

Early in his prophethood, Muhammad captivated listeners with the beauty and power of Qur’anic language. “Many were converted [to Islam] on the spot, believing that God alone could account for the extraordinary beauty of the language” (Armstrong 145). Converts who memorized and recited the Qur’an were “interiorizing the inner rhythms, sound patterns, and textual dynamics – taking it to heart in the deepest manner” (Sells 11).

The Qur’an’s message, above all else, is the supremacy and oneness (tawhid) of God (Allah). All humans are dependent on the will of Allah. It was Allah’s will to create humans, and it will be Allah’s will to determine when humans die and resurrect.

The second most important message in the Qur’an is the coming Day of Judgment, when all humans will be judged according to their actions. The earth will be thrown into upheaval and chaos. A spiritual battle will ensue between Satan and God, and Jesus and the Mahdi will re-appear (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e513).

Muhammad’s role as Prophet was to be Allah’s messenger and the interpreter of Allah’s revelations (http://www.al-islam.org). Over 23 years, Muhammad revealed important guidelines about daily life, social justice and law, and reverence for God. He laid the foundation for the basic tenets of Islam—the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Pillars of Faith—which were later formalized in the Hadith of Gabriel (Esposito 77-88). His revelations continually reminded people (dhikr) to do the things loved by Allah. After his death, the teachings of the Qur’an and the way of life exemplified by Muhammad and his Companions came to be known as the sunna. Later on, these were supplemented by verified sayings and events of the Prophet remembered by others (hadith). Altogether, these three components formed the basis of Islamic law (sharia) (http://www.oxfordbibliographies,com/view/document/obo-9780195390155/0b0-9780195390155-9983.xml).

The exoteric (outer – tafsir) literal meaning of the Qur’an is enhanced by an esoteric (inner – ta’wil) experience of the Qur’an. But this experience and interpretation must only be done by qualified individuals, according to Surah 3:7 in the Qur’an (Al-Hilali and Khan, 75). Sufism is the esoteric branch of Islam and relies heavily on mysticism and “the ancient wisdom of the heart” (https://goldensufis.org/a_meditation_of_heart.html). Early Sufis identified so completely with Allah that many were executed for blasphemy. A well-known Sufi was the poet Rumi, who incorporated ayahs (verses) from the Qur’an into his Persian poetry.

Internet Sources – incorporated into the body of the post

Al-Hilali, Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din, and Khan, Muhammad Muhsin. Interpretation of the    

       Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language, 15th ed. Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996.

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’an. Ashland: White Cloud Press, 2007.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 26, 2018; June 1, 2022

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


The Five Pillars of Islam

(The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during Hajj)

The heart of Islam is the Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam). These are the five obligations all Muslims must perform. Revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, these five obligations appear in the Qur’an and the hadith, and in particular, the Hadith of Gabriel (hadith jibril). 

Shahadah (or witness) “is the first and most important pillar in that it requires the individual to recognize and believe that there is no God but God and Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Before Muhammad received his revelations, the people of Mecca worshipped over 360 idols that were enshrined in the Kaaba. Besides these idols, the Arabs believed that “Allah was the invisible God, creator of the Universe, and above all the others.” Muhammad’s mission was to bring the Arabic people back to monotheism.

The believer who recites the shahadah makes a covenant with God based on four conditions. In the first condition, the believer affirms the Oneness of Allah (Tauhid-ar-Rububiyyah). In the second condition, the believer acknowledges that only Allah is worthy of worship (Tauhid-al-Uluhiyyah). In the third condition, the believer agrees that the names and qualities of Allah cannot be changed or attributed to others (Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat). In the fourth condition, the believer confirms that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.

Salah (the five daily prayers) are incumbent upon all Muslims after the onset of puberty. “The prayers . . .  are spread throughout the day as a reminder to Muslims of their true purpose in life, which is the obedience and worship of God.” In Muslim countries, a Muezzin calls the people to prayer from a minaret attached to the mosque. Since the five daily prayers are recited in Arabic, Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic.

Before prayer, believers ritually purify themselves with water or clean sand (wudu) or a full bath (ghusl). During prayers, Muslims face the direction of Mecca and the Great Mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram). The body positions required during prayer force believers to reaffirm their dependence on and obedience to God. “Prayer is . . . the quintessential act of submission to God and the main proof of Islam.”

Friday, right after noon, is the day when all Muslims gather for congregational prayer (juma) at the mosque. Men and women are segregated “so that there is no temptation that can interfere in the worship.” A strict dress code is observed by women, which requires them to cover their heads, arms, and legs.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (saum) is the third pillar of Islam. All Muslims who have reached puberty are obligated to perform this fast. The Ramadan fast commemorates “the day in which the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.” The fast was prescribed in the Qur’an, Surah 2:183: “O, you who believe! Observing As-saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”

Although the fast is difficult (believers must abstain from food, water, and sex from dawn to dusk), they honor it “as both a purifactory act of sacrifice and an affirmation of ethical awareness.” Suffering thirst and hunger during Ramadan reminds believers to remember the poor and needy when performing zakat (giving charitable alms). “The larger principle [however] is the total awareness and submission to God.”

Zakat (charitable alms) is the fourth pillar of Islam. Muslims believe that it is “the act of giving in charity that leads to the purification of . . . money, and this altruism of giving to others does not contribute to its diminution but to its increase.” In other words, sharing with others in remembrance of Allah increases the blessings received from Allah. Muslims are required annually to donate 1/40th of their excess wealth to charitable causes. Charitable acts which also qualify as zakat include kindness to others, preventing evil, and promoting the general good.

The fifth pillar of Islam is the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). “Muslims are required to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are capable physically and financially of doing so.” According to the Qur’an (2:127-219), Abraham and his firstborn son, Ishmael, built the Kaaba. Allegedly, Allah taught Abraham the rituals of the Hajj and “required [mankind] to make the pilgrimage to that House.”

The rituals of the Hajj commemorate the story of Abraham, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael. When pilgrims run back and forth between the two hills (As-Safa and Al-Marawah), they are remembering Hagar’s search for water. When pilgrims throw three stones at the pillars of stone representing Satan, they are reminded of Satan’s attempts “to dissuade Abraham from sacrificing his son.” The sacrificing of a sheep or ram at the end of Hajj honors the Angel’s intervention in stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son, Ishmael, and the appearance of a sheep to take his place. Over a period of ten days, pilgrims “re-enact those traditions passed on from Abraham through subsequent generations and continued by Prophet Muhammad.”

Circumambulating the Kaaba is one of the most important traditions of the Hajj, for it “symbolizes the believer’s entry into the divine presence.” The entire purpose of the Hajj is to remind pilgrims of their submission to God.

The Five Pillars of Islam are the external rituals which set Islam apart from other religions. The rituals are meant to evoke a constant reminder of God (dhikr) and to affirm the Oneness of God.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2019; May 31, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.


What is the Role of the Prophet Muhammad in Islam?

It is impossible to separate the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an from Islamic culture, society, politics, and religion. In the Islamic world, the Prophet Muhammad exemplifies the model of the ideal human, and the Qur’an outlines the duties and responsibilities (the rules, so to speak) of Muslim believers.

In the Qur’an, all of life belongs to Allah; and all believers owe their allegiance to Allah above all else (including family, clan, and country). The Prophet Muhammad never claimed to be anything more than a human being and the messenger of Allah. This places all the emphasis on Allah and away from his human representatives on earth.

Over the centuries, the Prophet Muhammad has been mythologized in many ways. A good example of this is the 16th century book, The Path of Muhammad by Sufi mystic Imam Birgivi, which assigned magical and supernatural powers to the Prophet.

But this is a departure from Muhammad’s original intent. The Qur’an clearly states in Surah 9:18 that “the Mosques of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) [daily prayers], and give Zakat [charitable alms] and fear none but Allah. It is they who are on true guidance” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 241). Any believer, therefore, who is sincere in his beliefs and actions can be a religious leader in Islam. Nowadays, however, it is more common for religious scholars to manage mosques and act as imams (religious leaders).

The mosque in my community, for example, was built by a local physician who was also an imam in his native country of Pakistan. He hired a religious scholar from Pakistan to be the full-time manager and imam, but he retains total control over the mosque. His control moderates how far the imam can go in conveying orthodox/unorthodox beliefs to the community. When the imam announced one Friday that all Muslims who do not pray the five daily prayers should be killed (an announcement that shocked this westernized community), his fundamentalism was quickly squashed, and he returned to Pakistan a few months later. As a result of this shocking pronouncement, I suspended my visits to the mosque.

Political power has always been important in Islamic history to protect the Islamic community and spread Islamic beliefs (Esposito 60). Muhammad established the first Islamic political state in Yathrib, which was later called Medina. Many Arabs in the town were open to new ideas (Salahi 183-184) and converted to Islam. But the town was also split by internal disagreements and opposing groups. Eventually, a delegation from the town “invited [the Prophet] to come to Yathrib as arbiter of their disputes and de facto ruler of the town” (Esposito 8-9). Muslims from Mecca migrated to Medina, with Muhammad following them in 622.

The Quraysh in Mecca continued to oppose Muhammad and his followers, which led to more persecution and warfare between the two groups. It is during this time that Muhammad’s first revelations about jihad (holy war) appeared in Surah 2:190-191: “And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you . . . And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out . . . But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 47).

Later, when pagan, Jewish, and Christian communities were conquered by Muhammad’s armies and refused to convert to Islam, more revelations about jihad appeared in Surah 9:29: “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizyah [protection tax levied by the Islamic state] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 243).

By the time of Muhammad’s death in 632, all of western Arabia was under his control (Esposito 10).

Muhammad’s death left a leadership vacuum which led to a major political schism in Islam that still persists today. Passages in the Qur’an can be vague and contradictory – open to many interpretations. And traditional reports of sayings and events attributed to the Prophet (hadith) are not always reliable. Such is the case concerning Muhammad’s successor.

“Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s close friend, was elected by the majority, but some believed that he would have wanted Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, to be his successor (kalipha)” (Armstrong 158). This belief was rooted in the events which reportedly happened at Ghadir Khumm on March 10, 632. While returning from Hajj, the Prophet Muhammad stopped his caravan at Ghadir Khumm and gave one of his last great speeches. He honored his son-in-law, Ali, by saying, “One who has me as his master has Ali as his master” (Tahir-ul-Qadri 17). Muhammad referred to his son-in-law as mawla, which has many meanings but generally translates as “friend” or “helper.” This is how Sunni (mainstream) Muslims interpreted what he meant. But the supporters of Ali interpreted this to mean that the Prophet was giving absolute authority to Ali. A permanent political split occurred between Sunnis and Shiites (supporters of Ali) which lasts to this day. Violent clashes and competition for territory and believers broke out, which resulted in the death of Ali’s grandson, Husayn ibn Ali, by the Ummayad Caliph Yazid in 680 in the territory that now comprises Iraq (Armstrong 158-159). Shiites still regard Husayn as a martyr and honor his death every year. Sunnis and Shiites still fight over political leadership and territory. Iran, a Shiite country, remains in conflict with Sunni Saudi Arabia. And the goal to spread Islam around the world is still alive and well.

The unifying power of Islam, however, is the concept of ummah (community). Every member of the community acts as one body to worship Allah and create a just and equal social order. There is no separation between Allah and the “tribe.” A Muslim’s duty is, therefore, both theological and social, as one evolves from the other.

____ Tahir-ul-Qadri. The Ghadir Declaration. Lahore: Minhaj-ul-Quran Publications, 2002.

Al-Hilali, Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din, and Khan, Muhammad Muhsin. Interpretation of the    

       Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language, 15th ed. Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996.

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.

Birgivi, Imam. The Path of Muhammad. Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2005.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Salahi, Adil. Muhammad: Man and Prophet. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

December, 2018

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Radical Writings: Political Corruption and Global Capitalism



One of the myths perpetuated by American business is that wealth is somehow created out of nothing. Wealth, under capitalism, is not “created,” it is merely transferred from one segment of the population to another.

This can easily be seen on a global scale. When Asia’s economy was booming, the American economy was lagging behind. Now that Asia is struggling to maintain itself, the American economy is “robust” (according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan) [1999].

The Middle East has been a key contributor to American [and European and Russian] prosperity at its own expense. Dr. Ilyas Bayunus, professor of sociology at SUNY Ithaca, explains it this way:

“When looked at from a Muslim and Third World viewpoint, we can see an . . . answer: that of neocolonialism, or the use of local proxies to exploit local resources for the former colonial master’s benefit. Muslim countries, regardless of their colonial past . . . are now submitting to neocolonialism . . . [which] seeks indirect rule through rationalizing, apologizing, seeking excuses for its actions. However, the option to intervene with force is always open. It is a form of remote-control colonial rule and is far more economical and cost effective in terms of men, machines, and time invested.

“In essence, colonialism and neocolonialism serve those multinational industries that are (or were) in the vanguard of creating western global hegemony. Both seek to ensure perpetually dependent ‘peripheries’ ruled by a technologically superior industrialized western global economic system. Hence, colonialism and neocolonialism use ‘undeveloped’ countries as reservoirs of cheap resources and dirt-cheap labor, and thus actually discourages any significant industrialization in the Third World . . . What this means is that western economics and industrial progress depends on the rest of the world remaining impoverished.

“In this respect, the west lures, intimidates, bribes, and props up insecure and archaic monarchs, undereducated but arrogant military rulers, and opportunist pseudodemocrats. This is especially so in the Muslim world, where the West sometimes even handpicks ‘yes men’ to rule on its behalf . . .

“Americans [and Europeans and Russians] are the inventors as well as the greatest beneficiaries of neocolonialism . . . As the economic interests of American multinationals expanded, American power also expanded. In the Middle East, this was especially true after WW II. Those who resisted and continue to resist this policy of neocolonialism were called ‘fundamentalists’ and other names, ostracized internationally, and branded as practitioners of ‘state-sponsored terrorism.’ Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Syria are cases in point.

“American multinationals are the dynamos behind and the main beneficiaries of American neocolonialism. Some of the major American multinationals are legends: Exxon, General Electric, General Dynamics, Union Carbide, General Motors, Bank of America, and IT&T. Today, there are new players, such as IBM, Microsoft, CNN, Texas Instruments, Smith Corona, McDonalds, CocaCola, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We now speak of the “McDonaldization,” “Colaization,” or Marlboroization” of the world.

“If highly developed western businesses expand in the Third World, they invest in poor countries and provide jobs. In this transaction, however, Third World countries become partially or totally dependent upon the investing business, which entails negative consequences . . . In general, the multinationals’ influence is seen in their contribution in terms of investments, taxes, bonuses, and other charitable contributions if and when it suits them. They invariably try to bribe or intimidate host officials to create monopolies, even though this means tampering with the host country’s power apparatus both economically and politically. Whoever challenges their hegemony faces great personal risk: President Allende of Chile, a highly reform-minded and elected leader was overthrown and murdered by his military, which was believed to have been carrying out the orders of IT&T [ which was recently indicted for corrupt business practices] . . . [1999]

“Even if a Third World worker finds a job paying subsistence wages, he or she remains vulnerable, because of job insecurity, to employer blackmail. Economic investment in the Third World, however sizable, remains under the auspices of these multinationals and does not constitute progressive development [in spite of the claims put forth by the U.S. government and its involvement with GATT and NAFTA] . . . It creates serious wage stratification and differentials and, especially in smaller host economies, engenders inflation to such a degree that those who are unemployed or have low-paying jobs have to resort to illegal means to survive. Whenever or wherever these multinationals have been given a free hand, they create monopolies [illegal in the U.S.], pay the lowest possible wages [why we have a set minimum wage in the U.S.], fix prices [also illegal in the U.S.], and take excessive profits [considered immoral by many people]. Obviously, none of this benefits the host economy [except the politicians who accept the bribes and perks offered.] And so most of the Third World remains Third World, even almost fifty [or more] years after de Gaulle coined the term.” (Islamic Horizons, September/October 1996)

The turbulence in the Middle East will not end until America — the bully, the “Great Satan” — removes its presence and stops interfering in Middle Eastern culture, religion, politics, and economics.

Dawn Pisturino


Published in Discussion Bulletin, March-April 1999. Featured on the Committee for Direct Democracy website and in the Committee for Direct Democracy Information Packet, 1998-2000.

2019 Response:

The world is a different place than 1999. Globalization, which propped up other countries and exploded corporate profits, hurt American workers. No matter how much Americans complained, no one listened. President Barack Obama told the American people that the jobs were not coming back and we should just get over it. Radical Islamists in the Middle East, who did not want Islam subsumed by secularism, turned to anti-American rhetoric and violence to make their message heard. We saw the rise of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the 9/11 attacks on American soil. The country went through a recession which seemed like it would never end. Donald Trump came along with his “Make America Great Again” message and won the 2016 election. Since then, he has been harassed and persecuted by the very same people and organizations who supported the global economy and ignored American workers. President Trump is making sure that the wealth is flowing TO America and American workers and not AWAY from America and American workers. Competition is the heart of capitalism. But competition has to benefit AMERICA and not just the other party. This is at the core of President Trump’s message.

Dawn Pisturino, June 3, 2019

Copyright 1999-2019 DawnPisturino. All Rights reserved.


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