Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Review of “The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century”

By Hunter Marston and Joshua Kurlantzick

Hunter Marston is a doctoral candidate at Australian National University.

In the run-up to Myanmar’s elections next year, there is little positive news to report about a country that seemed like a democratic success story less than five years ago. On Aung San Suu Kyi’s watch, over the past four years the country has seen a regression in press freedomexpanded usage of anti-defamation laws and a general crackdown on speech, and massive rights abuses in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Although over one million Rohingya have already fled Rakhine, and chaos is engulfing the state again, as the military battles the Buddhist, ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army; the fighting is spreading, as army units reportedly have been attacking civilians as well. Fighting has ramped up in other ethnic minority areas as well, in the north and northeast, and Suu Kyi’s government also has made little headway towards serious economic reform either. Her government has shown little ability to develop or implement economic policy, tourists are scared off by the country’s deteriorating international image, inbound investment is falling, and Suu Kyi reportedly remains focused on the shaky peace process with ethnic rebels, not paying enough attention to the country’s dire economic needs. (To be fair, in recent months the National League for Democracy (NLD) has appeared to take up some reformist ideas, calling for changes to Myanmar’s constitution that would dilute the power of the military and potentially foster democratic progress.)

The situation is unlikely to improve this year or next. Although army chief Min Aung Hlaing has embarked upon a goodwill tour of the country that apparently aims to polish his image and possibly prepare him to be nominated for the presidency, he already has been linked to attacks in Rakhine State for which a UN special fact finding panel has said top Myanmar military commanders should be prosecuted for genocide. If he were to be elected, the country’s international image will probably get worse (although Suu Kyi has done it no favors by minimizing rights abuses and defending crackdowns on freedom of speech), and it is hard to imagine Min Aung Hlaing resolving the conflicts in the north and northeast, or the spiraling battle between the military and the Arakan Army. Meanwhile, with the situation still miserable for Rohingya in Rakhine State, and for Rohingya in camps in Bangladesh, there is a greater possibility of a more organized, armed Rohingya group emerging as compared to the shadowy, seemingly small group that has already launched attacks.

When Suu Kyi’s party triumphed in 2015, in the first free national elections since 1990, Myanmar was expected to turn a corner. Building on five years of progress under a civilian government installed by the military, Suu Kyi’s government, which took power the next year, would pave the way toward democratic consolidation and attract foreign investment while taking steps to reduce deep poverty and inequality. With the goodwill she enjoyed, Suu Kyi would even possibly end some of Myanmar’s long-running civil wars. The Barack Obama administration, and many in Congress, believed that Myanmar was clearly on the right track and also was an example of successful diplomacy by the United States and other countries, which had pressured the country’s generals with years of sanctions but then slowly eased pressure as real political change emerged.

In reality, as Thant Myint-U acknowledges in his new book exploring Myanmar’s current crisis and its roots, the country was closer to a failed state when Suu Kyi took over than many outsiders would have imagined—and it veers even closer to a failed state today. Its infrastructure was destroyed, the central government faced ongoing insurgencies, the education system was in tatters, the military remained the dominant institution in society, and the history of Myanmar royal rule, British colonial rule, and junta rule had left the population extremely divided along ethnic and religious lines. These divisions would be exacerbated by social media, which flourished in Myanmar with few constraints, spreading dangerous conspiracies and fomenting hate against the Rohingya and other minorities.

Thant Myint-U, a former UN diplomat and advisor to Myanmar president Thein Sein, Suu Kyi’s predecessor as civilian leader, (Suu Kyi is not technically president but she clearly is Myanmar’s civilian leader) has become one of the ablest chroniclers of modern-day Myanmar and its multiple deep economic, religious, and ethnic fault lines. (He also, notably, has worked to preserve some of Yangon’s most important architectural legacies.) As a prominent advisor to Thein Sein and other military reformers who shepherded the country between 2011 and 2016, a period when most Western states ended their isolation of the country, he had a first-hand view of Myanmar’s challenges, and how they could have been addressed. In some cases, as he notes, because he was a prominent member of Myanmar society (his grandfather was former UN secretary general U Thant) and had enjoyed ties to both military reformists and the NLD, he served as an interlocutor between Myanmar leaders and top foreign leaders, including Barack Obama, during his time advising Thein Sein.

Thant Myint-U looks deeper into Myanmar’s history, beyond 2011, however, to explain why the country that seemed so hopeful really was always going to be tough to transform. His book is elegant and concise, cramming in Myanmar’s older and modern history, background on the country’s racial and ethnic divisions, stories of the run-up to the 2011-2015 reform period, his personal experiences, and his assessment of Myanmar’s long, complicated history with free market economic models. Although detailed, it could appeal not only to Myanmar experts and policymakers but also to a general audience of people simply interested in what happened to the country and its icon.

Thant Myint-U traces Myanmar’s history—from its ancient kingdoms to its period of British colonial rule to its early years of independence. He pays special attention to the deep and lasting divisions that the legacy of colonization left on the country. Among other efforts to divide Myanmar, the British brought with them thousands of Indian migrants from British-administered India, with whom they filled the ranks of colonial administration in the country, much to the detriment of Burmese civil service, education, and the development of Myanmar’s aspiring middle class. These divisive policies left indelible scars on society, casting a long shadow after independence, on government capacity (only a small minority of Myanmar citizens benefited from both the higher education and administrative training of their colonial rulers) and on the collective memory of many Myanmar citizens. A sour ethnic nationalism curdled among the majority Burmans, and during decades of military rule the Myanmar government forcibly ejected hundreds of thousands of ethnic Indians and launched multiple scorched earth operations against the Muslim Rohingya. This sour nationalism would have effects on many other minorities as well.

When Myanmar achieved national independence in 1948, the country’s numerous ethnic and religious divisions quickly posed a problem for the first Prime Minister U Nu. Civil war erupted across the country within the first year of Burmese independence. Ultimately, the army would wrest political control in 1958 with promises of a “caretaker government” that soon gave way to decades of brutal military rule, with the army faced off against communist and ethnic insurgencies. By the time the country began to shift away from military rule to civilian rule in the 2010s, it already had vast internal divides, a ruined economy, a legacy of vicious racial conflicts, and the ongoing effects of authoritarian rule.

Thant Myint-U, like many other scholars, argues that, given the deep, possibly unbridgeable divisions left by Myanmar’s history, in the modern era outsiders have seen the country in too binary a focus: A people oppressed by a ruthless military dictatorship. Furthermore, he argues, there has been little effort outside Myanmar to understand the complexities of Myanmar’s authoritarian history or its myriad ethnic conflicts. This myopia, he believes, has limited the international community’s ability to respond to many of Myanmar’s modern-day crises, like the ongoing battles between the military and ethnic armies.

But by mostly focusing on structural causes and the legacy of history, Thant Myint-U gives the impression that these factors are unchanging determinants of Myanmar’s present and future—that the country was ruined, potentially doomed. And this type of essentialism also allows the author to avoid placing responsibility for Myanmar’s problems on individual policymakers—both military and civilian. Thant Myint-U does discuss some of the pivotal players in Myanmar’s political transformation in the years leading up to and immediately after 2010-2011, but his discussion focuses on a quite narrow cast of actors, including the NGO leader Nay Win Maung of Myanmar Egress, Aung Min and Soe Thane (two former generals Thant labels as “reformers”), and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The book accords Nay Win Maung, Aung Min, and Soe Thane central roles in Myanmar’s moment of political reform. Nay Win Maung was a controversial figure in the country’s budding civil society movement between the years of 2006, when he founded Myanmar Egress, and early 2012, when he died of a heart attack. His NGO was frequently accused of sacrificing the principle of providing independent advice to the numerous advantages of working with the former junta as a self-described “third force.” Aung Min and Soe Thane were respectively minister of railways and minister of industry in the former administration of President Thein Sein, himself a former general and prime minister under the military junta of Senior General Than Shwe.

Yet Thant Myint U’s account mostly ignores the contributions of countless other individuals to the reform process and glosses over the murky pasts of some of the key figures discussed. By only hearing the perspectives of these few elites, a casual reader may infer from the retelling of the reform years that Myanmar lacks a diverse and talented pool of grassroots civil society actors, and that the reform process did not stem from a broader societal push. This narrative also verges on whitewashing the records of former generals such as Aung Min, Soe Thane (formerly commander in chief of the navy), and Thein Sein, who worked within a junta that regularly violated its peoples’ human rights, for instance by employing forced laborenlisting child combatants, and using rape as a weapon of war.

Thant’s account also doesn’t tell the reader much about where or why Aung San Suu Kyi and the current ruling party, the NLD, may have failed to achieve greater political liberalization, progress toward peace with ethnic armies, and any solution to the human rights crisis in Rakhine State.

In the end, Thant Myint-U lays the blame for Myanmar’s stalled democratization and continued polarization on (unnamed) opportunistic actors playing on the fears of foreign influence amidst rapid change and “a failure of the imagination” to challenge Myanmar’s insular nationalism. The book leaves the reader with little hope. He also hints at a future in which the NLD and military’s shared vision of ethnic nationalism and managed market reforms may lead the two former adversaries to a brokered political trajectory that allows each side to benefit: the military would maintain its traditional prestige as guardian of national unity, and Suu Kyi and the NLD would be able to actually implement policies, on issues ranging from economic reform to even potentially some modest military reforms, without the military negating the NLD’s decision-making. But given the military’s and the NLD’s record so far—both sides’ unwillingness to compromise and also the NLD’s failures to develop coherent policies on almost every issue—this brokered transition is hard to imagine.

Yet if Myanmar is to escape its past divisions and overcome the constraints of its colonial legacy, its leaders will have to find a way to enshrine pluralism and tolerance in the national imagination. Thant Myint-U suggests that overcoming economic and social inequalities will be essential to that transformation. But he advances few tangible policy visions for a more equitable society. With the NLD unable to stimulate foreign direct investment and kickstart economic growth, such challenges may be insurmountable for decades to come.

However, Thant Myint-U makes a compelling case for the urgent need for creative thinking—creative thinking that could result in new and effective policy responses to the multiple crises unfolding in Myanmar. In so doing—and by rooting his new book deeply in Myanmar's historical context—he offers a valuable contribution, and one accessible to a broad array of readers.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Uighurs - the victims of Hanification

By Habib Siddiqui

Chairman Mao tried to sell the Marxist-Leninist thought to solve the ethnic problem in his multi-ethnic country (PRC). Not only did the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) fail but Mao’s social engineering proved to be highly destructive. It led to the widespread discrimination and segregation of the non-Han minorities prevalent today based on their distinct religion, habitus, physiognomy, language, culture and socioeconomic status. After the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, the CCP began to relax its policies towards Muslims in 1978. But its policy of Hanification of the non-Han communities via the all-too-familiar colonial-style settlements and acculturation or a forced assimilation to the dominant Han culture did not ebb an iota.

The most vivid example of this experiment is Xinjiang (formerly East Turkestan) where the Han Communists developed it as a penal colony, as a nuclear testing ground and dumping ground for radioactive wastes (that is responsible for unusually high birth defects and mortality rate amongst the inhabitants) and as a buffer zone against invasion, and as a supplier of raw materials and living space for an overpopulated country. [Note: In this respect, Hanification has some resemblance to the Soviet experiment in the Muslim-majority Central Asia.]

Determined to end the push and pull of centuries, Mao’s successors resorted to Hanification of Xinjiang, which is primarily carried out in two folds: settlements and language or culture. They have had changed the demography of the region by settling the Han Chinese from other parts of the PRC and conducted forced abortion on Uighur women. Arienne M. Dwyer notes in an article - The Xinjiang Conflict: Uyghur Identity, Language Policy, and Political Discourse - the Han population “increased from nearly 300,000 in 1953 to nearly 6 million in 1990, in addition to more than one-half million demobilized soldiers in the Production and Construction Corps.” This increase in Xinjiang was made possible “as a result of state-sponsored population transfers from other parts of China.”

A second massive Hanification in the form of systematic colonization took place in the 1990s soon after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Mindful of the emergence of the Central Asian republics (that are culturally, mostly Turkish), the CCP offered an attractive economic incentive program called the “Big Development of the Northwest” to the poor Han-Chinese to transfer them from the underdeveloped areas of the country to the Muslim-majority territories.  The CCP’s calculated attempts brought success. It brought between one and two million new Han-Chinese settlers to Xinjiang alone. Today, the Han–Chinese population makes up more than 40 percent of Xinjiang’s total population of 22 million, from what was only 6 percent in the early 1950s.

As part of its acculturation strategy, the Han supremacists curtailed the Xinjiang’s millennium-plus-years old rich Muslim culture and are practicing widespread religious repression against the ethnic Uighurs  (also spelled Uyghur). They have closed down Qur’anic and Uighur language schools to cut down their Islamic and cultural ties with other Muslims. Because of the Mandarin-based educational policy of the state, the Uighurs can’t pass and find jobs in their own land. The party-state has institutionalized discrimination based on Uighur’s distinct religion, habitus, physiognomy, language culture and socioeconomic status. In so doing, they have only widened the gap between the settlers and the indigenous inhabitants. 

Since the 1950s, successive Chinese political leaderships have systematically formulated policies and carefully implemented action plans to ensure the total de-empowerment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang: politically, socially and economically. [Interested readers may like to read the article: China’s Hanification of Xinjiang is Failing By Habib Siddiqui and A.R.M. Imtiyaz]

In January 2019, Beijing passed a new Draconian law that seeks to "Sinicize" Islam. The campaign to “Sinicize religion” – the third form of Hanification – actually began in 2015 when President Xi Jinping passed a policy to bring religions in line with Chinese culture and the CCP. The law criminalized any expression of dissent or religious belief on behalf of Uyghurs alongside with branding  their cultural traditions as signs of radicalization and terrorism. In October 2016, the government declared that all Xinjiang residents need to submit their documents for review to the Public Security Bureau (PSB), with the intention of limiting their travel outside the country. As a result of that, many students who pursued education abroad were forcefully returned and disappeared upon arrival at the Chinese border since their loyalty to the People’s Party was questioned. In addition to that, throughout the province, smartphone owners found their phones inspected for suspicious content or undesirable social media applications, as a result of which many of them reportedly got installed bug- and tracking devices or spyware. Surveillance cameras were also updated with face recognition software, which facilitated the identification of individuals at crowded places. In South-eastern Xinjiang, authorities have ordered all vehicles to have compulsory GPS trackers installed, for what they call a ‘comprehensive supervision’. These and various other stringent security measures established the legislative foundation for the State’s repressive policies in the following years.

While Islam is one of the five officially recognized religions in China, the Han Chinese leadership began to show its unease toward Islam as well as Christianity soon after 9/11. The latest phase of taking down Arabic script and Islamic symbols, including those from halal restaurants and food stalls, represents an escalation in the Sinicization of Islam, especially in major cities like Beijing with high Hui Muslim population.

The new law, symbolizing Han anti-Muslim supremacist assaults, has led to painful experience for tens of millions of Chinese Muslims, especially the Uighur and Hui Muslims. Hundreds of Muslim intellectuals have either been executed or simply disappeared in the Chinese Gulag. One of those academics is Tashpolat Tiyip, a Uighur Muslim. Until 2017 he was a model academic, head of Xinjiang University, globally connected, and with an honorary degree from a prestigious Paris university. But that year, without warning, he disappeared, with no word from officials. His friends believe that after a secret trial, Prof Tiyip was convicted of separatism and sentenced to death.

As I noted in an earlier article, Professor Tiyip is not the only academic to disappear in the Chinese Gulag. Among the first high profile arrests was economist Ilham Tohti, another Uighur Muslim, who was convicted of separatism and sentenced to life in prison in 2014. Last month (Sept. 2019), he was awarded the Council of Europe's Vaclaw Havel Prize for human rights. Another example is anthropologist Rahile Dawut, also of Xinjiang University. She disappeared in late 2017 and has not been heard of since.

According to Michael Caster, a researcher and author of The People's Republic of the Disappeared, "There are hundreds of Uighur academics and professionals swept up into this mass internment campaign." "This is targeting community, cultural, and intellectual leaders; it is tantamount to cultural genocide."

One of the latest strategies towards cementing Han supremacy is the building of detention camps, which are being branded as “re-education centres”, and undeniably further deteriorate the situation by disenfranchising the local population. The epithet, “re-education camps” has been given to internment camps, which have been operating secretly and unlawfully since 2016.

In 2018 a United Nations committee estimated that about 1 million Muslims  — mostly ethnic Uighurs but also other Muslim minorities — were being “held incommunicado” in Xinjiang without “being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.” Experts say the Turkic minorities are being subjected to intense political indoctrination, forced confessions and intimidation. Dr. Adrian Zenz, an academic, whose research focus is on China’s ethnic policy and public recruitment in Tibetan regions and Xinjiang, argues that these mass camps are indiscriminately subjecting Uyghur Muslims to extrajudicial inhumane, humiliating and brainwashing conditions, supposedly as an attempt of lecturing the detainees how to distinguish the so-called ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ religious practices, traditions and behavior.

Dr. Sean R. Roberts, Director of the International Development Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and expert on Central Asia and China, has characterized Beijing’s perception of the Uyghurs as a “biological threat to society, akin to a virus that must be eradicated, quarantined, or cleansed from those it infects”. He explains how such attitude generates an environment similar to Michael Foucault’s all-seeing Panopticon or George Orwell’s Surveillance Society, where every single move or word of the individual is being monitored, rendering a milieu where surveillance remains the norm, even if the person discontinues his/her actions.

In a recently published article - Ethnic Cleansing of Uyghur Identity by China – the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) notes, “China’s campaign of coercive social re-engineering, justified under the slogan of “war on terror”, clearly comes closer to “war on humankind”. Such violent repression inevitably appears counter-productive, since it evokes even more violent resistance on behalf of the Uyghurs, which eventually leads to more repressive security measures on behalf of Beijing. Therefore, such perpetual cycle of repression-violence-repression only contributes to the complete disintegration of relations between the Chinese and the Uyghurs, rendering their peaceful habitation practically impossible.”

The latest reports suggest that some 3 million Uighurs are being detained in China’s concentration camps, making them the largest group since Nazi Germany. They are facing what can surely be termed as ‘cultural genocide.’ Muslims cannot fast during Ramadan and are forced to eat pork, which is considered haram in Islam. In recent months, scores of mosques have also been razed to the ground at the behest of the PRC government. Among the sites completely destroyed was the Imam Asim shrine, which used to attract thousands of Uighur pilgrims each year. Its mosque and other buildings have been torn down and only the tomb remained, the Guardian reported.

Muslims caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion, face the threat of arrest. According to the Human Rights Watch, Beijing keeps a database of "DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans and blood types of all residents between the age of 12 and 16" in Xinjiang. Many Uighurs are now feared to have vanished – either killed or held in detention camps by the Chinese authorities.

Succinctly put, President Xi Jinping’s communist regime has proven to be anti-Muslim, supremacist, sadistic and brutally serious about Hanification of the entire country. Under his authoritarian rule, PRC has become a state of, for and by the Han Chinese via the all-too-obvious supremacist Hanification process.

Thus, the disappearance and detention of more than a million Uighurs in Xinjiang who are victims of one of the worst forms of persecution and face a socio-economic-cultural genocide today in their ancestral land with their rights robbed and mutilated are all part of a statist project to cementing Han racial supremacy, and colonizing, minoritizing and securitizing them by every possible means. The sad reality is with the Chinese veto power in the UN and its enormous economic muscle (second only to the USA), the likelihood of securing the level of international cooperation needed to either punish the Han supremacists or change their criminally repugnant policy remains very low.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A short lecture on Miracles of the Qur'an

 by Habib Siddiqui (Khutbah on 10/11/2019)

All the Prophets (AS) of Allah were outstanding examples of honesty and righteousness, known for their pure character even before being tasked with prophethood. Therefore, their claims about the unseen could be trusted due to their reputations as being the most truthful and trustworthy of men.

In addition, Allah granted them (AS) miracles or Mu‘jizah to remove any doubts that they were sent by Allah. This is quite evident from a hadith that is narrated by Abu Hurayrah (RA): The Prophet (S) said, “There was no Prophet among the Prophets but was given miracles because of which people had belief, but what I have been given is the Divine Revelation [i.e., Qur’an] which Allah has revealed on me. So, I hope that my followers will be more than those of any other Prophet on the Day of Resurrection.” [Bukhari]

A key point in understanding the concept of miracles in Islam is that they all are a result of Allah’s power and permission, and not that of human beings. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S) performed more than a thousand miracles. These miracles were clearly impossible for any human being to perform without divine intervention; these were gifts of Allah (SWT) to Muhammad (S) so that the doubts about his Prophethood are removed and faith in his noble Prophetic mission solidified.

A. Miraculous incident before the birth of the Prophet (S) 

Abraha, the Governor of Yamen decided to destroy Ka’bah, the Baitullah. He proceeded with 60,000 fierce soldiers and 13 elephants. Allah sent down flocks of Ababil birds, flocks after flocks, raiding the army with small stones from the air. So, they perished with a total destruction! Abraha fled away while his flesh was bursting into pieces until he died on the way back to Yemen.

The best of Muhammad’s (S) miracles is the Qur’an. The Quraysh of Arabia who prided in their literary excellence, and who were known for their mastery in rhetoric and eloquence, and rightly described as the ‘warriors of words’, could not match the Qur’an.

Truly, the Qur’an will remain the greatest Miracle. It challenged the Arabs of Prophet’s (S) time with the finest composition of its words, its articulacy, its eloquence, its succinctness, its many meanings and all of the evidences which it contains. Its articulacy overcame them, and its eloquence overwhelmed their minds, in spite of their convincing speaking abilities and their fame as the masters of this field.

This challenge is first given in the following verses: "Or do they say, 'He [Muhammad] fabricated the Message'? Nay, they have no faith! Let them then produce a recital like unto it - If it be they speak the Truth" (Al Tur 52:33-34).

i)                    Some of the unique features of the Qur’an include:

(1)   The language in which Qur'an is revealed presents its highest and most perfect form of Arabic literature.

(2)    Qur’an is the only book that has had and still carries an unparalleled effect on human thought, ethics, morality, civilization, and mode of living. It first affected a group of people and as they rose built a polity and affected others, brought them uniquely together into an Ummah and set a golden era in the history of humankind. No other book has rendered a comparable revolution. Thus, the Qur’an did not just advance a unique theory, but its every word was actually put into practice by changing the mode of thinking of people that created a lasting world civilization.

(3)    Qur’an’s subject matter is vast and comprehensive – encompassing the entirety of existence from initial stages into its future. It discusses the reality of universe, its beginning and end. It tells us who is its Creator; what are His attributes; and why did He create this universe. It enunciates the position of man in this world and defines the correct human conduct. In addition, it discusses in detail the consequences that follow the right versus the wrong human conduct in the life of this world – and into another world after this life ends. 

(4)   The Qur’an did not come all at one time, but it started with a reformation movement among the people it initially addressed and with very forceful instructions. And as this movement continued for 23 years it passed through various stages and its leader addressed them according to their needs and requirements.

(5)    The leader who delivered the Qur’anic messages was well known to its people – from its beginning until its end. He would not go into hiding somewhere and come out from time to time with a marvelous message. They knew the way and manner of his own speech and could clearly see the difference in style between a hadith and Qur’anic revelation.

(6)   The extent of subject matter covered by the Qur’an is exhaustive.

(7)    The Qur’an provides guidance for the entire humankind despite contingent reality of its revelation to the Arabs in Arabia. This is remarkable, because in contrast to this, other revelations coming much earlier were by their very nature limited to a particular tribe or geographic locality.

(8)   Unlike other religious books, the speaker throughout Qur’an is in the first person, that it is God addressing His creation… Therefore, an outstanding beauty of Qur'an is that, although it was revealed through Prophet Muhammad (S), it addresses him and every one of us.

ii) The most astounding example of its Miracles is that the Holy Qur’an is the only remaining attested Sign from among the many signs given to the Prophet (S) and it will remain so long as the world remains in existence. This is due to the preservation of it by Allah, the Most High, in fulfillment of His Words: “Verily, it is WE, Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e., the Qur’an) and surely WE will guard it (from corruption).” [Surah Al-Hijr 15:9]

From its first day of revelation to this very day, to retain its textual purity, the Qur’an was memorized by many Muslims. Today, there are millions of Muslims who memorized it.

iii) There has not been a single mistake in any word or sentence of the Holy Qur’an in the last 14 centuries since its first revelations to Muhammad (S).

iv) The Qur’an revealed many of the secrets of the unseen and matters relating to the future. Let us cite two examples. Allah, the Most High, says: Alif, Lam, Mim. The Romans have been defeated in ‘Adnal ard’; and they, after their defeat, will be victorious within ‘bid’i seeneen’. To Allah belonged the matter before and (to Him it belongs) thereafter. And on that day the believers will rejoice with Allah's help.” [Surah Ar-Rum 30:1-4]

These verses were revealed five years before the Prophet’s (S) migration when the Persians had defeated the Christian Byzantine (Roman) forces in a territory north of Arabia near the Dead Sea. The use of the Arabic phrase Adnal-Ard in the Qur’an is very interesting given that it means both ‘the nearest land’ and ‘the lowest land’ on earth. What is so amazing is that our knowledge of the Dead Sea being the lowest place on earth is a very recent one and was unknown during the time of the Prophet (S).

The word bid’i is a number between 3 and 9 (less than 10). Allah’s promise transpired into reality when the Byzantines defeated Persia in 624 C.E., and in the same year (second year of Hijri) Muslims, led by the Prophet (S), overthrew the flower of Arab chivalry upon the field of Badr.

The second example we want to share is about the precise terms used in the Qur’an about the monarchs of Egypt. In Surah Yusuf (12:43-54), the Qur’an uses the term Malik (Arabic for king) and not Fir’aun (Arabic for Pharaoh) to refer to the ruler of Egypt during Prophet Yusuf’s (Joseph) time. (Qur’an 12:54) The king said: "Bring him (Yusuf) to me. I will select him exclusively for my own service."

However, the Qur’an uses the term Fir’aun (Arabic for Pharaoh) while referring to the Egyptian monarch during Prophet Musa’s (Moses) time. (Qur’an 40:26) Pharaoh said, "Let me kill Musa (Moses), and let him appeal to his Lord. I fear he may change your religion or spread disorder in the land."

Why is this so relevant? Because, for centuries it was thought that all the Egyptian rulers of the ancient time were referred to as Pharaohs. As a matter of fact, the Christian Bible insists that Abraham and Joseph (AS) interacted with Pharaohs. However, modern discoveries show that this is not true.

The early monarchs of Egypt were not known as pharaohs but as kings. The honorific title of ‘pharaoh’ for a ruler did not appear until the period known as the New Kingdom (c.1570-c.1069 BCE). Monarchs of the dynasties before the New Kingdom were addressed as ‘your majesty’ by foreign dignitaries.

So, there were no Pharaohs at the time of Abraham or Joseph. They were just kings. As can be seen from the above discussion, the Qur’an didn't make this mistake. The Qur’an correctly addressed the ruler at the time of Joseph as King, and correctly addressed the ruler at the time of Moses as Pharaoh, thus, once again showing that it is from Allah, the All-knowing.

Using nuclear bomb is forbidden under Islam

DUBAI (Reuters) - Despite having nuclear technology, Iran has never pursued building or using nuclear weapons, which its religion forbids, the country’s highest political authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday.
“Building and stockpiling nuclear bombs is wrong and using it is haram (religiously forbidden) ... Although we have nuclear technology, Iran has firmly avoided it,” State TV quoted him as saying.
Iran has repeatedly denied ever having sought to build a nuclear bomb.