Why I Celebrate Hanukkah as a Follower of the Quran

happy-hanukkah-1

Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and this has not been much of a topic of conversation until this year as our oldest daughter started preschool where she was exposed for the first time to the excitement other kids felt for all the festivities leading up to December 25th.

For background, the reason we don’t celebrate Christmas is for two reasons.

The first reason is because as followers of the Quran we are not to make distinctions between any of God’s messengers and therefore it is prohibited to celebrate the birth of one of God’s messengers, Jesus, at the exclusion of all the others.

Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.” – Quran 2:136

The second reason is that the Christmas holiday was founded on paganism which is also prohibited in the Quran. This may be controversial to some, but rather than taking my word for it I’ll defer to someone with more credibility amongst the Christian community, Pat Robertson.

Pat Robertson & Christmas

So what were we to do? In one hand, we would be defying the commandments of the Quran if we celebrated Christmas, and in the other hand we would be alienating our child for not being able to experience the excitement that her peers were having.

Therefore, we settled for a third option. We decided that as a family we would celebrate Hanukkah. While Hanukkah is traditionally only celebrated by people of Jewish decent its origins comes from the principle of freedom of religion.

The Story of Hanukkah

In summary, Hanukkah was founded to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees, who were fighting on the side of religious freedom to worship God freely, against Antiochus IV, who wanted to force people to worship his gods. This is a principle anyone can stand for despite the name of their faith, and is a truth that is heavily advocated in the Quran.

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient. – Quran 2:256 

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. Do you want to force the people to become believers? – Quran 10:99

O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant. – Quran 49:13

To most people it may seem strange to follow the Quran and celebrate Hanukkah, but do you know which people are addressed the most frequently in the Quran? It is the Children of Israel. In fact, the Quran is replete with the history of the Jewish people.

O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I blessed you more than any other people. – Quran 2:47, 2:122

What unites us as believers is the devotion to God alone, and as believers we should put aside our prejudices and cherish the victories that grant us the freedom to worship God freely by the believers who came before us, irrespective of the name of their faith. 

Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. – Quran 2:62 & 5:69

Culture is not something we are born with it is something we adopt. We can’t choose the land we are born, who are parents are, or what we look like, but what we can choose are the decisions we make and the principles we stand by. Hanukkah is founded on a beautiful premise that promotes monotheism and the freedom of religion, and as a follower of the Quran is something that I whole-heartedly adopt as a celebration to have with my family this year and for years to come, God willing.

Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD’s revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny—all of you—then He will inform you of everything you had disputed. – Quran 5:48

May we all be appreciative of the freedoms we have. 

– Salãmun ‘Alaykum (Peace be upon you) & Happy Hanukkah 

Joseph Keeps His Brother (12:70 – 12:81)

Joseph Keeps His Brother

[12:70] When he provided them with their provisions, he placed the drinking cup in his brother’s bag, then an announcer announced: “The owners of this caravan are thieves.”
[12:71] They said, as they came towards them, “What did you lose?”
[12:72] They said, “We lost the king’s cup. Anyone who returns it will receive an extra camel-load; I personally guarantee this.”
[12:73] They said, “By GOD, you know full well that we did not come here to commit evil, nor are we thieves.”
[12:74] They said, “What is the punishment for the thief, if you are liars?”
[12:75] They said, “The punishment, if it is found in his bag, is that the thief belongs to you. We thus punish the guilty.
[12:76] He then started by inspecting their containers, before getting to his brother’s container, and he extracted it out of his brother’s container. We thus perfected the scheme for Joseph; he could not have kept his brother if he applied the king’s law. But that was the will of GOD. We exalt whomever we choose to higher ranks. Above every knowledgeable one, there is one who is even more knowledgeable.
[12:77] They said, “If he stole, so did a brother of his in the past.” Joseph concealed his feelings in himself, and did not give them any clue. He said (to himself), “You are really bad. GOD is fully aware of your accusations.”
[12:78] They said, “O you noble one, he has a father who is elderly; would you take one of us in his place? We see that you are a kind man.”
[12:79] He said, “GOD forbid that we should take other than the one in whose possession we found our goods. Otherwise, we would be unjust.”
[12:80] When they despaired of changing his mind, they conferred together. Their eldest said, “Do you realize that your father has taken a solemn pledge from you before GOD? In the past you lost Joseph. I am not leaving this place until my father gives me permission, or until GOD judges for me; He is the best Judge.
[12:81] “Go back to your father and tell him…

Was Joseph wrong or lying when he placed the king cups in his brother’s bag?

Kite Runner Quote – Theft is the ultimate sin
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0419887/quotes
“Baba: There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” 

Was this similar to Abraham destroying the idols?

Joseph is strategizing by thinking levels deep

Game Theory – Guess 2/3 of the Average 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guess_2/3_of_the_average
In game theory, “guess 2/3 of the average” is a game where several people guess what 2/3 of the average of their guesses will be, and where the numbers are restricted to the real numbers between 0 and 100, inclusive. The winner is the one closest to the 2/3 average.

Equilibrium analysis In this game there is no strictly dominant strategy. However, there is a unique pure strategy Nash equilibrium. This equilibrium can be found by iterated elimination of weakly dominated strategies. Guessing any number that lies above 66 2/3 is weakly dominated for every player since it cannot possibly be 2/3 of the average of any guess. These can be eliminated. Once these strategies are eliminated for every player, any guess above 44 4/9 is weakly dominated for every player since no player will guess above 66 2/3, and 2/3 of 66 2/3 is 44 4/9. This process will continue until all numbers above 0 have been eliminated.

Game 1: Pick Up Sticks
In this 2-player game, we start with 27 sticks.  The players take turns picking up sticks.  On each turn, a player must pick up 1, 2, or 3 sticks.  The player who picks up the last stick loses.

Usually after playing the game a few times, my students quickly see that forcing the other player to choose from 5 sticks is a winning strategy.  Then, a game or two later, they see that forcing the other player to choose from 9 sticks is a winning strategy.  From there, they quickly back out a winning strategy overall.
http://blogs.britannica.com/2007/05/math-and-winning-strategies/

60 Minutes – Lost
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/lost
http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

Jacob Senses Joseph (12:68)

Jacob Senses Joseph

[12:68] When they went (to Joseph), they entered in accordance with their father’s instructions. Although this could not change anything decreed by GOD, Jacob had a private reason for asking them to do this. For he possessed certain knowledge that we taught him, but most people do not know.

Why did Jacob ask them to enter through separate doors?

Maybe because if it is a trap they will be looking for a group of eleven, but if they enter through separate doors they can get in under the radar.

God tells us that Jacob had a private reason for asking this so we shouldn’t extrapolate to make assumptions

[3:66] You have argued about things you knew; why do you argue about things you do not know? GOD knows, while you do not know.

Joseph Attains Prominence (12:54 – 12:67)

Joseph Attains Prominence

[12:54] The king said, “Bring him to me, so I can hire him to work for me.” When he talked with him, he said, “Today, you have a prominent position with us.”
[12:55] He said, “Make me the treasurer, for I am experienced in this area and knowledgeable.”
[12:56] We thus established Joseph on earth, ruling as he wished. We shower our mercy upon whomever we will, and we never fail to recompense the righteous.
[12:57] Additionally, the reward in the Hereafter is even better for those who believe and lead a righteous life.
 
[12:58] Joseph’s brothers came; when they entered, he recognized them, while they did not recognize him.
[12:59] After he provided them with their provisions, he said, “Next time, bring with you your half-brother. Do you not see that I give full measure, and treat you generously?
[12:60] “If you fail to bring him to me, you will get no share from me; you will not even come close.”
[12:61] They said, “We will negotiate with his father about him. We will surely do this.”
[12:62] He then instructed his assistants: “Put their goods back in their bags. When they find them upon their return to their family, they may come back sooner.”
 
[12:63] When they returned to their father, they said, “Our father, we can no longer get any provisions, unless you send our brother with us. We will take good care of him.”
[12:64] He said, “Shall I trust you with him, as I trusted you with his brother before that? GOD is the best Protector, and, of all the merciful ones, He is the Most Merciful.”
[12:65] When they opened their bags, they found their goods returned to them. They said, “Our father, what more can we ask for? Here are our goods returned to us. We can thus provide for our family, protect our brother, and receive one more camel-load. This is certainly a profitable deal.”
[12:66] He said, “I will not send him with you, unless you give me a solemn pledge before GOD that you will bring him back, unless you are utterly overwhelmed.” When they gave him their solemn pledge, he said, “GOD is witnessing everything we say.”
[12:67] And he said, “O my sons, do not enter from one door; enter through separate doors. However, I cannot save you from anything that is predetermined by GOD. To GOD belongs all judgments. I trust in Him, and in Him shall all the trusters put their trust.”

12:21 and 12:56 God establishes Joseph – once when he was sold into slavery and then when we was made treasurer.

[12:21] The one who bought him in Egypt said to his wife, “Take good care of him. Maybe he can help us, or maybe we can adopt him.” We thus established Joseph on earth, and we taught him the interpretation of dreams. GOD’s command is always done, but most people do not know.

[12:56] We thus established Joseph on earth, ruling as he wished. We shower our mercy upon whomever we will, and we never fail to recompense the righteous. 

Who is your boss? Who do you work for? If it’s God then you know that God is the one who will promote you and provide you with provisions. So don’t work to impress your worldly boss, we should work to impress our heavily boss.

Joseph didn’t seek to undermine those who enslaved him. He actually helped them to prosper. This happened in the house of Potiphar as well as in prison. They, in turn, recognized his talents and blessings. If you don’t work hard through your adversity, others may never see your true abilities.

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780060849689/integrity

THE WAR OF ART BY STEVEN PRESSFIELD ANIMATED REVIEW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=186OzZvsAeA

God never fails to recompense the righteous

Submitters have to be the best employee

Is 12:59 a historic version of welfare or trade? 

12:63 shows that Joesph’s brothers do not realize who controls the provisions. They think it is coming from the treasurer of Egypt.

Where did Joseph get the experience to become treasurer?

Joseph gave him blessings to be a treasurer and also according to the Bible Joseph got experience of managing from working for the governor and when he was in prison

[12:37] He said, “If any food is provided to you, I can inform you about it before you receive it. This is some of the knowledge bestowed upon me by my Lord. I have forsaken the religion of people who do not believe in GOD, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are really disbelievers. 

[12:22] When he reached maturity, we endowed him with wisdom and knowledge. We thus reward the righteous.

Joseph Interprets the King’s Dream (12:46 – 12:53)

Joseph Interprets the King’s Dream

[12:46] “Joseph my friend, inform us about seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny cows, and seven green spikes, and others shriveled. I wish to go back with some information for the people.”
[12:47] He said, “What you cultivate during the next seven years, when the time of harvest comes, leave the grains in their spikes, except for what you eat.
[12:48] “After that, seven years of drought will come, which will consume most of what you stored for them.
[12:49] “After that, a year will come that brings relief for the people, and they will, once again, press juice.”
[12:50] The king said, “Bring him to me.” When the messenger came to him, he said, “Go back to your lord and ask him to investigate the women who cut their hands. My Lord is fully aware of their schemes.”
[12:51] (The king) said (to the women), “What do you know about the incident when you tried to seduce Joseph?” They said, “GOD forbid; we did not know of anything evil committed by him.” The wife of the governor said, “Now the truth has prevailed. I am the one who tried to seduce him, and he was the truthful one.
[12:52] “I hope that he will realize that I never betrayed him in his absence, for GOD does not bless the schemes of the betrayers.
[12:53] “I do not claim innocence for myself. The self is an advocate of vice, except for those who have attained mercy from my Lord. My Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful.”

Joseph probably interpreted a lot of dreams, but God chose to put these examples in the Quran.

The interpretation of the kings dream is a case for saving. 

What are the purpose of emphasizing dreams and their interpretation in the Quran? What are we to learn or understand from this?

Abraham had a satanic dream to sacrifice his son. 

[52:32] Is it their dreams that dictate their behavior, or are they naturally wicked? 

[8:43] GOD made them appear in your dream (O Muhammad) fewer in number. Had He made them appear more numerous, you would have failed, and you would have disputed among yourselves. But GOD saved the situation. He is Knower of the innermost thoughts.

Example of selfishness and ego..

[3:154] After the setb­ack, He sent down­ upon you peaceful slumber that pacified some of you. Others among you were selfishly concerned about themselves.

“It is hard to see when my eyes are on me”

Since Joseph didn’t try to use the information he had in regards to the interpretation of the king’s dream as a negotiating leverage to get out of jail shows that he understands that God is the one who decides when he leaves.

How do you balance between being selfless and being just to one’s self?

Are you trying to please God or please your ego? 

Discovery How Stuff Works : Wheat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4VoVLlyuS0

 

The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLt_yDvdeLQ

EGO IS THE ENEMY by RYAN HOLIDAY – ANIMATED BOOK REVIEW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbdbYrueyG8

THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY BY RYAN HOLIDAY – ANIMATED

The King’s Dream (12:43 – 12:45)

The King’s Dream

[12:43] The king said, “I saw seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny cows, and seven green spikes (of wheat), and others shriveled. O my elders, advise me regarding my dream, if you know how to interpret the dreams.”
[12:44] They said, “Nonsense dreams. When it comes to the interpretation of dreams, we are not knowledgeable.”
[12:45] The one who was saved (from the prison) said, now that he finally remembered, “I can tell you its interpretation, so send me (to Joseph).”

The king’s dream and Joseph’s dream about his brothers both consisted of numbers that represented numbers in real life. 11 planets = 11 brothers. 7 cows = 7 years.

God Protects the Believers from Sin (12:23 – 12:42)

God Protects the Believers From Sin

[12:23] The lady of the house where he lived tried to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “I am all yours.” He said, “May GOD protect me. He is my Lord, who gave me a good home.* The transgressors never succeed.”
*12:23 Joseph worded this statement in such a way that the governor’s wife thought that he was talking about her husband, when in fact he was talking about God. 
[12:24] She almost succumbed to him, and he almost succumbed to her, if it were not that he saw a proof from his Lord. We thus diverted evil and sin away from him, for he was one of our devoted servants.
[12:25] The two of them raced towards the door, and, in the process, she tore his garment from the back. They found her husband at the door. She said, “What should be the punishment for one who wanted to molest your wife, except imprisonment or a painful punishment?”
[12:26] He said, “She is the one who tried to seduce me.” A witness from her family suggested: “If his garment is torn from the front, then she is telling the truth and he is a liar.
[12:27] “And if his garment is torn from the back, then she lied, and he is telling the truth.”
[12:28] When her husband saw that his garment was torn from the back, he said, “This is a woman’s scheme. Indeed, your scheming is formidable.
[12:29] “Joseph, disregard this incident. As for you (my wife), you should seek forgiveness for your sin. You have committed an error.”
[12:30] Some women in the city gossiped: “The governor’s wife is trying to seduce her servant. She is deeply in love with him. We see that she has gone astray.”
[12:31] When she heard of their gossip, she invited them, prepared for them a comfortable place, and gave each of them a knife. She then said to him, “Enter their room.” When they saw him, they so admired him, that they cut their hands.* They said, “Glory be to GOD, this is not a human being; this is an honorable angel.”
*12:31 This is the same word used in 5:38 regarding the hand of the thief, and the sum of sura and verse numbers (12+31 and 5+38) are the same. Therefore, the thief ‘s hand should be marked, not severed as practiced by the corrupted Islam (see Footnote 5:38).

[12:32] She said, “This is the one you blamed me for falling in love with. I did indeed try to seduce him, and he refused. Unless he does what I command him to do, he will surely go to prison, and will be debased.”
[12:33] He said, “My Lord, the prison is better than giving in to them. Unless You divert their scheming from me, I may desire them and behave like the ignorant ones.”
[12:34] His Lord answered his prayer and diverted their scheming from him. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.
[12:35] Later, they saw to it, despite the clear proofs, that they should imprison him for awhile.
[12:36] Two young men were in the prison with him. One of them said, “I saw (in my dream) that I was making wine,” and the other said, “I saw myself carrying bread on my head, from which the birds were eating. Inform us of the interpretation of these dreams. We see that you are righteous.”
[12:37] He said, “If any food is provided to you, I can inform you about it before you receive it. This is some of the knowledge bestowed upon me by my Lord. I have forsaken the religion of people who do not believe in GOD, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are really disbelievers.
[12:38] “And I followed instead the religion of my ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We never set up any idols beside GOD. Such is the blessing from GOD upon us and upon the people, but most people are unappreciative.
[12:39] “O my prison mates, are several gods better, or GOD alone, the One, the Supreme?
[12:40] “You do not worship beside Him except innovations that you have made up, you and your parents. GOD has never authorized such idols. All ruling belongs to GOD, and He has ruled that you shall not worship except Him. This is the perfect religion, but most people do not know.
[12:41] “O my prison mates, one of you will be the wine butler for his lord, while the other will be crucified— the birds will eat from his head. This settles the matter about which you have inquired.”
[12:42] He then said to the one to be saved “Remember me at your lord.”* Thus, the devil caused him to forget his Lord, and, consequently, he remained in prison a few more years.
*12:42 When Joseph begged his companion to intercede with the king on his behalf, he exhibited dependence on other than God to be saved from the prison. This does not befit a true believer, and such a serious slip cost Joseph a few years in the prison. We learn from the Quran that only God can relieve any hardship that might befall us. A true believer trusts in God and depends totally on Him alone (1:5, 6:17, 8:17, 10:107).

In 12:26 we see that an archaic judgment went to Joseph’s favor, but when the governor’s wife was clearly lying it went against Joseph despite the circumstances.  

12:33 shows that Joseph thought it was better to go to prison rather than giving into sin. This to the rebels who took the choice to become animals during the great feud.  

It was because Joseph went to prison that he met the contact that got him the job with Pharaoh. Connections come from unexpected places.  

God held Joseph in prison similar to Jonah stayed in the fish’s belly until he realized he needed to repent. Otherwise if God let them out too soon they would commit the same error and would have never learned their lesson. Like a cake that if taken out of the oven prematurely would not be complete.

[68:49] If it were not for his Lord’s grace, he would have been ejected into the desert as a sinner. 

12:37 is similar to the claim Jesus makes in 3:49

[3:49] As a messenger to the Children of Israel: “I come to you with a sign from your Lord—I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GOD’s leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GOD’s leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers.

[3:155] Surely, those among you who turned back the day the two armies clashed have been duped by the devil. This reflects some of the (evil) works they had committed. GOD has pardoned them. GOD is Forgiver, Clement.

[48:24] He is the One who withheld their hands of aggression against you, and withheld your hands of aggression against them in the valley of Mecca, after He had granted you victory over them. GOD is Seer of everything you do.

He implored God to save him, Mary also sought refuge in God; when we are in an uncertain we should seek refuge in God. 

[41:36] When the devil whispers an idea to you, you shall seek refuge in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.

Satan only has power over disbelievers, but if we forget something does this tell us that Satan has power over us? Is forgetting sign of disbeliever?

Joseph forgot that God is in control, the only power that Satan has is a whisper it is our choice to block it out or listen to it. Forgetting is a sign that it is not a priority. 

God uses the example of prophets to show that they make mistakes also, forgetting does not have to do with a disbeliever, it is an opportunity to ask God to bring us closer to Him if we forget or make mistakes. It is a means of recognizing our weakness and grow our soul to get closer to God. Do not despair of God’s grace, He is the source of forgiveness and mercy. 

To think anyone or anything can help or save us beside God it is idol worship – this slip had a serious and immediate consequence for Joseph. Nothing can happen for us unless our Lord wills it.

[18:63] He said, “Remember when we sat by the rock back there? I paid no attention to the fish. It was the devil who made me forget it, and it found its way back to the river, strangely.” 

If we forget with old age is that influenced by the devil?

Old age is as God says, we have wear and tear on the body and mind.

[19:4] He said, “My Lord, the bones have turned brittle in my body, and my hair is aflame with gray. As I implore You, my Lord, I never despair.

If we ask someone for help today is that the same as Joseph? For example if we say to a recruiter “I hope you will keep me in mind when filling this position.”

This is the natural language for recruiting and in a professional setting. Don’t think that this is forgetting God. As long as we are saying to ourselves that God is helping me thru this person – it is our innermost intentions that matter the most.

God is the one who controls our happiness and provisions 

[10:107] If GOD touches you with a hardship, none can relieve it except He. And when He blesses you, no force can prevent His grace. He bestows it upon whomever He chooses from among His servants. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful. 

[17:56] Say, “Implore whatever idols you have set up beside Him.” They have no power to relieve your afflictions, nor can they prevent them. 

Joseph is Taken to Egypt (12:19 – 12:22)

Joseph is Taken to Egypt

[12:19] A caravan passed by, and soon sent their waterer. He let down his bucket, then said, “How lucky! There is a boy here!” They took him along as merchandise, and GOD was fully aware of what they did.
[12:20] They sold him for a cheap price— a few Dirhams—for they did not have any need for him.
[12:21] The one who bought him in Egypt said to his wife, “Take good care of him. Maybe he can help us, or maybe we can adopt him.” We thus established Joseph on earth, and we taught him the interpretation of dreams. GOD’s command is always done, but most people do not know.
[12:22] When he reached maturity, we endowed him with wisdom and knowledge. We thus reward the righteous. 

[2:41] You shall believe in what I have revealed herein, confirming what you have; do not be the first to reject it. Do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price, and observe Me.

Inside the Lion’s Den

[28:9] Pharaoh’s wife said, “This can be a joyous find for me and you. Do not kill him, for he may be of some benefit for us, or we may adopt him to be our son.” They had no idea.

[12:56] We thus established Joseph on earth, ruling as he wished. We shower our mercy upon whomever we will, and we never fail to recompense the righteous.

[12:32] She said, “This is the one you blamed me for falling in love with. I did indeed try to seduce him, and he refused. Unless he does what I command him to do, he will surely go to prison, and will be debased.” 

12:22 – Wisdom and knowledge are the reward for the righteous  

[3:138] This is a proclamation for the people, and a guidance and enlightenment for the righteous.

Wisdom: A Great Treasure

[2:269] He bestows wisdom upon whomever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom, has attained a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

Mysteries of the Bible – Joseph: Master of Dreams
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGCBom0BxHc