Friday, December 24, 2010

Jesus (AS) in the Holy Quran

Our religious leaders have taught us to resort to the Holy Quran in difficult times. The Quran is a gauge and a compass in times of distress and loss. Its universal message talks to every human in a context relevant to the inner and social challenges they face. The Quran is a revelation to Prophet Mohammad but it is also a witness to the history of Revelation and Prophethood. The narrations of the Prophets, beginning  from Adam and Eve, are an integral part of the Quran and the Quranic version is in many cases similar to the Torah and  to the Bible. There are however differences which are noteworthy may reveal many points. The Quran also points to the distortions appearing later in Holy Scripture including the Torah and Bible and clarifies the ambiguities in many cases. The Quran has devoted much to the birth and life of Jesus the Son of Mary and Mary herself. Concerning the birth of Eisa or Jesus the Quran has beautiful verses in several chapters including the chapter Maryam.
"And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east.
And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man
She said, "Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah."
He said, "I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy."
She said, "How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?"
He said, "Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, 'It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.' 
So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten."
But he called her from below her, "Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.
And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.
So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, 'Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.' 
Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, "O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.
O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste."
So she pointed to him. They said, "How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?"
[Jesus] said, "Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.
And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.....
That is Jesus, the son of Mary - the word of truth about which they are in dispute."

 There is much beauty in the Quranic version of the birth of Jesus(AS) and much emphasis on the human nature of Jesus and his first miracle, speaking upon birth. The most important notion given is that the Holy Quran is so strong and confident of its message that it devotes a major part of its discourse to a narration of other Prophets and events related to their lives.  The Quran conveys the message of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and many other Prophets to emphasize on the continuity of Revelation and the evident Truth behind it.
Jesus has come as a great tiding to humanity for worship of God and denial of oppression and deceit. According to Islamic tradition , Jesus (AS) will return with the awaited Mahdi to bring peace and love back to a war stricken and depressed world. 

So eat an

So eat and drink and be contented. And    

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Universal Concept of Ashura

Now that the major ceremonies of Ashura are over I have found the opportunity to write about the event. The fact that certain personalities and events dating centuries back still influence human thought and society and play a strong inspirational role marks the importance of understanding the event and the philosophy behind it. Ashura has been mourned for hundreds of years in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait,  Southern Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh in addition to other countries. Imam Hussein and the philosophy of the Ashura uprising has been studied, praised and retold by both Muslims and non Muslims throughout the world. In reality, the essence of the message of Ashura is so close to human nature  that it is understood and appreciated by all those who cherish human values irregardless of creed or race. The universal concept that Imam Hussein pursues is to fight  injustice in any form. Imam Hussein fights the oppressive system of Bani Ommayeh who rules in the name of Islam and and claims to follow the Sharia. Omar Saad  and  Ibne Ziad and their followers pray and fast like Muslims, but also lie, and betray and break promises. These are those who use any means to reach their objectives, including lies, crimes and deceit. Imam Hussein says I have risen to correct the deviations in the religion of my grandfather the Prophet of Islam. Hussein stands against the ruling system to prove that the struggle for justice is a precondition for the dignity and freedom of humans. His message still echoes strong in history in every land and every society .

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Air Pollution and Mismanagement

Air quality has been poor in Tehran and some other cities in Iran for the past weeks. This has resulted in extra holidays last week and restrictions on passenger car traffic in the inner city limits. In addition, as of last week passenger cars can enter the streets only on the basis of their license numbers on odd or even days  of the week. This has to some respect diminished the numbers on the streets but the air pollution crisis continued. Experts believe  that the low wind speed (between 4-5 Knots) and lack of control and regulation of vehicle emissions are the main reasons.
In 1999 , the Department of Environment , during my tenure, studied and prepared a comprehensive plan to combat air pollution in Tehran. The Plan was prepared on the basis of three national surveys and studies and ultimately adopted by the Government of President Khatami, a year later. The Plan was implemented during the ensuing years and resulted in environmental control over the automotive industry, out phasing of leaded gasoline, promotion and expansion of public transportation systems, promotion of standard and cleaner fuels such as CNG, and public awareness and participation programs. The plan had an efficient management chart and division of work on that basis, between 15 relevant sectors. After the change of government in 2005, the plan faced serious impediments and was practically abandoned. Experts and environmentalists, even Parliamentarians warned officials of the consequences of abandoning environmental programs but Mr. Ahamadinejad had other priorities and the environment was not even in his list.
In order to make up for some of the delays in the plan, after I was elected to the City Council we continued to follow the plan in the Tehran City Council, Environment Committee. We adopted regulations for the Technical Inspection centers, adopted new standards, and recently enacted a revision of the Comprehensive Plan to Combat Air Pollution. In the  revised edition, we emphasized on planning  to control pollutants and on the volatile organic compounds. According to a recent survey, these VOCs have exceeded  standard levels in ambient air in Tehran.
The Government has resorted to publicity stunts like sprinkling  water with small planes and claiming to filter the air using 1000 filtration devices. This announcement has raised widespread criticism, questioning the scientific basis of such declarations. " They have mistaken a 700 square kilometer megacity with their home or their backyard" a municipality official noted. Ghalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran dismissed the issue as a "joke".  I made the point clear in the Council session last week and in an article published in Shargh and in my Persian blog that the only solution is to proceed with the revised plan and strict regulation and control on emissions.
Any false propaganda and theater will only serve to further alienate citizens who should not be suffering from the consequences of government  mismanagement.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Medals for Iranian Women

Iran has pioneered a campaign for the promotion of Muslim women's sports activities at the national and global levels.  During the early years after the Islamic Revolution there were many obstacles created for women's sports. Conservative religious circles insisted that sports were not appropriate for women, particularly in the public sphere. Religious leaders however, like Imam Khomeini were not all against the involvement of women in sport competitions, particularly if the symbols of modesty in dress were applied. During the first decade, sport activities at the popular level were promoted for women in Iran, but very little was reflected in the media and practically nothing was done at the championship level. During the second decade and through the efforts of women like Faezeh Hashemi, who became a Parliamentarian later and who led a major nationwide campaign for women's rights to sport activities, women's sports new gradually found way into the local media and championship activities also began . She also spearheaded a campaign for sports  for Muslim women worldwide.
 Iranian women took this new opportunity for granted and following the efforts made during all these years they took great strides in the recent Asian Games in China. Iranian women represented 25% of Iran’s 373 member national team for the Asian games and these woman Athletes won close to 25% of Iran’s medal count.
Iranian women received 19 medals in Wushu, Shooting, Taekwondo, Kabaddi, Karate, and Rowing.

The real number one spot for the games goes to Chinese women who represented 47.5% of the China’s 960 member team for the Asian games and these women won close to 56% (or 221) of China’s medal count, more medals than any national team from any country.

Promoting modesty and the Islamic covering, Iranian women may ,have set an example for other Muslim countries. At the national level however many believe that Iranian women could have done much better if they were given more chances and if conservatives and extremists had not imposed their distorted version of the Religion, in many dimensions of contemporary life in Iran.