Vol. 3    Issue 13   16-30 November 2008
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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
The Holy Quran A Pictorial Gallery
Muslim Minorities in Non-Islamic Milieus
Virtual Museum of Islamic Arts and Culture

Professor A. R. Momin

Exemplars of virtue and piety

Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin (d. 110 AH/729 AD) was a distinguished Follower (Tabiíi), who had the privilege of meeting and learning from scores of Companions of the Prophet. He belonged to the second generation of narrators of Hadith and narrated many Hadith from eminent Companions such as Abu Hurayrah and Anas ibn Malik. He lived in Basra and was a contemporary of the cityís celebrated scholar and sage, Hasan, and Imam Abu Hanifah. Imam Muhammad was widely respected and admired for his learning and erudition, for his exceptional honesty and generosity, for his affable temperament, and for his piety and devoutness.

Imam Muhammadís father was a wealthy businessman who left farmlands and a flourishing trade in grain and textiles. Imam Muhammad used to lease his farmland for the plantation of grapes. One day he was disturbed to learn that the people who had taken his farmland on lease were planning to use the crop of grapes for making wine. He sent for them and dissuaded them from their intention. He asked them why they could not sell the grapes as fruit, to which they replied that this would not be profitable for them. He then suggested that they could alternatively dry the grapes and sell them as such. They replied that the quality of grapes was not good enough for the purpose. Thereupon Imam Muhammad picked up a sickle and destroyed the entire crop of grapes.

God-fearing and devout Muslims like Imam Muhammad were exceptionally steadfast in their convictions and never allowed considerations of material gain to influence their judgements and actions. Their personal example inspired generations of Muslims around the world and continues to serve as a beacon of guidance and illumination for Muslims to this day.

Muslims and Assyrians in Iraq

The Assyrians are a Semitic people who have a long history dating back to biblical times. A powerful Assyrian Kingdom emerged in northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) around 1350 BC, which lasted for more than six centuries.

Assyrian writers and translators, who followed the Christian faith, were actively involved in the massive project of translation that was initiated by the Abbasid rulers in the 9th century. Thousands of books on science, medicine and philosophy written by Greek, Assyrian, Persian and Indian scholars were translated into Arabic. Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, an eminent Assyrian physician and translator, was closely associated with Bayt al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom), a monumental academy of translation and research established by the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun in 830 AD.

Nearly 800,000 Assyrians still live in Iraq with an additional half a million in Syria, USA and other countries. They are adherents of Syriac Christianity and still speak the ancient biblical language of Aramaic.

Many Assyrians in Iraq are engaged in their traditional occupation of distilling wine and follow the centuries-old method of making alcohol from grapes. Muslim farmers, aware that the Assyrians use grapes for making alcoholic drinks, refuse to sell grapes to them on grounds of their religious belief. This has adversely affected the prospects of Assyrian distilleries.

The example set by Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin and other illustrious forebears continues to inspire millions of Muslims around the world.

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