No experience enriches the mind and soul the way travel does, especially when one has lived among different cultures and spoken their tongues. As 'Citizens of the World', we know that our differences are superficial, and that our unbiased interaction is not only the most rewarding, but also the most needed for a happy, healthy existence.

Welcome, Dear friends!  

FAQ's

1. What tools are employed in your Qur'an Blog and how do you arrive at an understanding of Qur’an and some of your new meanings?
  • “What I seek is an understanding of the ‘original intent’ of the 1,400 year old Arabic Qur’an… therefore, rather than being considered ‘new,’ the understanding I am looking for is actually as ‘old’ and ‘authentic’ as possible. Finding these original definitions is possible thanks to the efforts of countless scholars and researchers who have compiled Arabic Lexicons more than 1,000 years ago, and to those who have preserved their work and published it. But I do realize that any original definition might be seen as ‘new’ today, simply because it is reappearing to people who didn’t know of its existence!

    But before all that, Intellect is our innate tool by which we process information according to the six components of ‘iqra.’ We also study and compare traditional explanations and translations, always bearing in mind that any conclusion must be validated within the context of the Qur’an itself.

    The ‘tools’ employed are therefore Intellect, Qur’anic context, old Arabic lexicons, and of course: research, research, research.”
2. What/Whom are we Humans accountable to?
  • We are accountable to God and to our Parents, to Relatives, to the Destitute, to Wayfarers and Refugees, to the Environment, to our children, to preserving the Family, to preserving Human Life in general, to caring for orphans, to giving due measure and weight, to minding our own business, and to treading the Earth gently. We are accountable to the commandments presented in the Qur'an, which are similar to what has been presented throughout time, in God's Compilation.
3. What do you mean by 'Peace-building', and isn't it the same as 'Peace-making'?
  • The way I see it, Peace-building begins at the foundations and throughout its construction, until 'Peace' is established where it can resist violent conflict, as a structure that can last.

    To effectively build Peace we must be guided at an early age to see and treat others as mirror-images of ourselves, to think more systemically, and to see everything as circular in nature. When we realize that every issue is multi-causal and multi-determined, it becomes difficult for us to lay full blame on any single party. Responsibility for the problem -and also the solution – is shared amongst all, and the balance of our 'building' is maintained.

    Peace-making on the other hand, seeks to end violent conflict after it has already taken place, with the 'peace-maker' ideally maintaining neutrality and helping the parties settle their differences through negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. Peace-makers will fail to broker peace whenever they lean to one side of the conflict or focus on their own self-interest. As for a 'lasting' peace, that higher achievement would necessitate Peace-makers to start at the ground, ie: at Peace-building.

    This is why a Peace-builder would make an excellent Peace-maker, and not the other way around.
4. How does the Qur'an relate to building Peace?
  • “Today humanity lives in an area we can span in nano-seconds. The Qur'an is the 'Holy Book' of almost one fourth of today's world population, and how it is understood shall necessarily impact us all in varied, yet increasing measure.

    Such impact is quite obvious today in the Arab Awakening, where many feel that it is time that their suppressed voices get heard, while others are uneasy that democracy might catapult ‘Islamic’ governments into power. If people understood the Qur’an, the term ‘Islamic’ would be an aspiration, and no group would be so labeled because Islam is not about ‘religion’ (the man-made concept which divides us) but about the attempt to maintain the flawless standard of Accountability which unites us: Accountability to God on the private, personal level (where we answer to Him Alone) AND Accountability to each other on the public, social level (where we answer to everyone).

    Based on my research and what I have seen of the Qur'an's universality and its positive influence at raising our personal awareness and potential, I feel certain that a correct understanding of its concepts can help us mend the rifts which divide us and present us with the groundwork necessary for building peace.”
5. What do you mean by a 'correct understanding' of the Qur'an?
  • Today's understanding of many Arabic words has evolved from their original connotation at the time when the Qur'an was revealed. This is why, in certain verses, what the Qur'an is perceived as saying and what it actually says, are two different things. It is this misinterpretation which has created many of the social problems suffered by proponents of the Qur'an, as well as many of the conflicts between 'Muslims' and 'Non-Muslims.' Through researching the linguistic origin of words by way of a 1,000 year old Arabic lexicon, and by studying Qur'anic context and cross-reference, the fixed vision of 'us' versus 'them' and the 'holier than thou' stances which are so vividly and increasingly portrayed in our lives today (by adherents to any 'faith'), are proven to run contrary to the teachings of the Qur'an. The Qur'an is so much more universal than anyone has imagined.
6. What is your vision?
  • To gain perspective based on Qur'anic intent, rather than common interpretation and application. By revealing the original intent of the Qur'an, I envision a shared perspective where Humanity is one, God's Message has always been one, and our Future can become one we all look forward to.
7. How does 'awareness' (Taqwa) relate to our growth as human beings?
  • "As I understood from the Qur'an, heedful awareness (Taqwa) is at the root of our existence, the Primal Existence (when we acknowledged God before arriving to this world). It is the measure of how we ultimately construe this Immediate, Lesser Existence –Dunya, and is the catapult upon which we are launched to our Final Existence -Aakhira.

    As Cognizant Humans, our heedful awareness not only guides our growth in life, but each of us is literally marked out/ distinguished by our level of awareness and intention:

    Qur'an 2:282: ……...واتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّـهُ
    "….. be heedfully aware of God, and God shall indeed mark you out/distinguish you…"

    As recent scientific discoveries indicate, our awareness and intention actually change us on the genetic level; they change our DNA . I find that most interesting!

    If heedful Awareness relates directly to our growth as Cognizant Humans, and if by focusing we can actually make genetic changes in our physical makeup… what unimaginable heights can awareness help us reach, psychologically and spiritually?

    It is by being heedfully aware that we can achieve our potential. Taqwa/ Heedful Awareness’ is therefore directly related to our growth as human beings. It is our path to God.”
8. If there was ONE Qur’anic concept you’d like to share with the world, what would it be?
  • “That is a tough question… but in the verses (HQ 4:123-124) which address the ‘wishful thinking’ of ‘religious’ groups I see a ‘Divine rule’ which should be hung on the walls of every Mosque, Church, and Synagogue, and indeed in all our homes:

    Whoever commits a misdeed shall be repaid for it, and shall find no Protector or Helper, other than God. And whoever performs Goodness whilst being Faithful, such shall enter the Garden, and shall not be shortchanged even in the smallest of measures.

    Enough with each group seeing itself -and behaving- as superior to everyone else!

    We are all inherently equal.
    Every deed counts and is recompensed.
    None of us shall be wronged.
    God Alone is our Protector.

9. If prior generations of Moslems had understood the Qur’an and not read it with prejudice, wouldn’t they have reduced the chances that today's Moslems would indiscriminately be painted as 'terrorists'? Prejudice breeds prejudice.
  • “It certainly is true that prejudice breeds prejudice, but if each of us was to fulfill the definition of being a ‘cognizant human/ insaan,’ we would NOT be fostering or ‘breeding’ it! (‘Insaan’ in Arabic is someone who is active in finding and offering comfort and companionship, as opposed to ‘alienation.’) The Qur’an tells us that we were created males, females, communities, and tribes so as to ‘follow through and become familiar with each other…’ (HQ 49:13).
    So what happened to us, that we forsook the very definition of who we are and the purpose for our diversity? The Qur’an tells us that even as a specie (before developing into cognizant beings), we were ‘bashar,’ an Arabic word which denotes tidings of goodness and beauty. We therefore bear sole responsibility for the existence of prejudice, because 'prejudice' with all its ugliness does not grow of itself, but is something we learn. Indeed, Prejudice (Ddagheenah) is condemned in the Qur’an as an impairment of heart /mind.
    Prejudice makes people serve a narrow, man-made set of values. Feeling allegiance to their particular group or society, they usually posit noble goals as an excuse for their alienation from the rest of humanity, often invoking the name of God as a ‘raison d’être.’ By doing so, they prevent themselves from seeing any goodness in others, and feel antagonistic towards them. If we look back through history, we’ll find that ‘terrorists’ have always existed by other names, and have sprung mostly from such sectarian backgrounds.
    On the other hand, those who are free of prejudice are also free to give pure allegiance and reverence to the Creator of this existence and to embrace the values which He has laid out for Humanity. That universal set of values is not only well-known to us all, but it also holds us all to a single standard of accountability, AND is already agreed upon by most 'groups' on this earth! Known by different titles, with slight variation, it is for all intents and purposes one and the same: See the ten Qur'anic 'Inviolables' of the Straight Path in Qur’an 6:151-153, the Biblical ‘Ten Commandments,’ the ten Yamas and Niyamas of Hinduism, the and the Ten ‘Precepts’ of Buddhism. So to those who say that ‘such-and such’ a group ‘does not share our values’ I say: It is Prejudice and Greed which keep Humanity divided and attempt to pollute these beautiful values which could unite us!

    It is true that certain mis-explanations of Qur’anic verses, coupled with people’s prejudices (‘Muslim’ and ‘anti-Muslim’) has helped paint us so negatively today. But although that is indeed unfortunate, our goal should not focus on helping ‘repaint’ this picture. Our goal should be about helping to generate awareness of who we are in relationship to creation and Creator, highlighting the fact that Awareness on the personal level -plus Peace on the communal level- are essential for Humanity to thrive and achieve Potential.”
10. How does our ‘freedom of choice’ reconcile with ‘eternal hell’ as punishment for Deniers?
  • “The concept of ‘eternal hell’ and what we understand as ‘punishment’ are more related to our perception than to what the Arabic Qur’an says.
    Indeed, we are free to choose, but let us first agree that, in any society, ‘freedom to do what we choose’ is limited by the equal rights of others (as in the saying ‘Your freedom ends where mine begins’). Also, freedom is curtailed by circumstances, whether related to environment, upbringing, individual character traits or psychological make-up. That is why each of our actions earns us specific consequences and each of us is judged individually, by what we are truly responsible for (HQ 19:95).

    People who deny Accountability will naturally be those who commit the most wrongs in this immediate life, and (after having remained non-repentant) it is only fair that they suffer the consequences they’ve earned for hurting others and becoming liable to them. The Qur’an does not speak of ‘punishment’ but rather shows us how each misdeed earns its perpetrator a certain ‘Consequence,’ ‘Recompense,’ or ‘Return’ (عقب/جزي/عود), which is none other than a Product of his/ her own doing.
    The words we use in Arabic- ‘aaqibah/ iqaab-عاقبة/عقاب - literally mean ‘what follows on one’s heel’ (although some may have mistranslated these words as ‘punishment’).
    So, if we were to wonder ‘when’ such non-repentant persons shall endure the consequences of their own actions, the answer would be that although they are likely to begin suffering the consequences in this immediate life, the full measure shall be delivered to them in the Afterlife. But we cannot know ‘for how much/ how far/ how long’ that would be simply because ‘time’ is relative to our present existence. All we know is that it would be as God wills it (HQ 6:128), sometimes ‘for the duration’ of the existence of the Exalted Expanses (‘skies’) and the Earth (HQ 11:107).
    There are two words we need to define here: The word ‘khalid’ which we mistakenly understand as ‘eternal,’ and the word ‘jahannam’ which we take to mean ‘hell.’
    According to our1000 year old Lexicon:
    • 'Khaalid' means 'inclined to something,' 'stuck fast' in it so that it fits, like a 'khuld' – خلد-or a mole snug in the ground.
    • ‘Jahannam,’ quite specifically, is the bottom of an abyss.
    Therefore, we can understand from these definitions that such persons shall endure the consequences of their negative actions while being stuck fast at the bottom of an abyss. So, one consequence of ‘Denial’ in this life is the ‘Deniers’ finding themselves, as the Qur’an tells us (HQ 95:5), in the ‘lowest of the low’ أسفل سافلين…
    What a difference between that state, and those who are enjoying quite a different ‘consequence’ … those whose sense of Accountability and Trust in God had kept them ‘foremost’ in performing good deeds, and then elevated them to fulfilling Potential!
    So yes, generally speaking: We are free to choose our way in Life within our circumstances, without encroaching upon the rights of others, each of us being judged individually by what we are truly responsible for, earning the consequence for our actions.”
11. You say that you took up painting in adulthood. How did you begin, and in what medium?
  • It all started one day when I rushed to rescue a beautiful cake I had just iced and decorated, keeping all hands away from it until I had enthusiastically photographed it. Art is art, I was told after the accolades had died out and the treat was safely tucked into. Why don’t I showcase my fine talent, and dip my eager knife into a palette of inedible cream, swirling flowers onto a canvas rather than a cake? No one will eat that, I was assured, and I can gaze upon it to exhaustion. And that’s how it was. My first ever painting is that of the bouquet of red and blue flowers in a Chinese vase. It is in oils, painted with a palette knife. Yummy!
12. What mediums have you tried painting in, and which do you prefer?
  • I’ve tried them all, and found that water-color requires discipline which I don’t like being bound to. Acrylics offer the same free-flowing freedom, and my most recent chosen medium was acrylics (see the mother and child painting). Most of my landscape paintings are in oil-colours, which I love mixing and overlapping, while my portraits tend to be in pastels. I really enjoy pastels, perhaps because of the connection I feel as I literally touch, stroke, and blow upon every inch of my subject. Pastels to me are much like finger painting to kids: it’s fun!
13. How was it that you started writing poetry in English, at nine years of age, and what about Arabic?
  • My diplomat parents were stationed in Germany, and I was going to school at the American School on the Rhine, in Bonn. I had a fantastic teacher in third grade, Miss Auchmuty, who noticed my keenness and encouraged me to write, eventually naming me ‘the class poet.’ I wrote my first poem expressing my joy at getting my first camera, which was a big thing for a child in the sixties.
    My Arabic back then was only First Grade level, as I was being tutored at home by my parents. I did not write in Arabic until adulthood, after I’d gained a good background at school and taken the time to back it up with study related to the Arabic Qur’an.
14. What happened to your earlier beautiful website, the one in both English and Arabic, which began with the Damascus arch changing scenes to 'oud' music?
  • I am mortified to say that it went suddenly off the air because I was not paying attention, being totally immersed in my Qur’an Blog. When I contacted the hosts, they said they had emailed me reminders to pay for the next five years… but they truly hadn’t. After a few months they just deleted it. Totally gone.
    It has taken me much effort to put this one up, and I plan to put up an Arabic version sometime later, God-willing.
15. How willing are you to travel to speak about your work, and can we invite you to one of our meetings?
  • I love speaking about my work, and would be glad to travel for a good cause. We would have to work out the logistics together, and see how your plans and mine convene.
16. Some of your explanations with regard to words in the Qur’an seem quite controversial. Have you faced resistance from people who do not accept your explanations?
  • Certainly. But I do not argue with them; that is not for me to do unless they truly want to know or to help me, then we have a discussion not an argument, and we learn from each other.

    It is very difficult for people to accept the fact that they were seeing something -for their entire life- from the perspective handed down to them, rather than as it truly is. I understand completely, as it was very difficult for me too. After uncovering a few mis-explained words I spent an entire summer not knowing how to go proceed; whether I had better stop there and ‘defend my faith’ from the unknown (as some advised) or dive right into it, come what may. I kept seeking help in the Qur’an, which clinched it for me.

    My ‘explanation’ is never my final word on the subject. Arabic is a rich language which I do not pretend to know the intricacies of, although I can safely say that my Arabic has become better than the Arabic of the majority of Arabs, thanks to the Qur’an. I always need help from linguists, and I seek it. The responsibility of explaining what I know is God’s Message makes me pray to stand corrected whenever I am wrong. That is why a Blog is so handy; I can always go back and revise what I’ve said earlier, bringing the explanation closer to the truth. But what I feel comfortable about is that, even if any of my ‘controversial’ explanations is not yet 100 percent correct, it is more valid than the existing explanation which is often based on imitation and conjecture rather than Qur’anic context and linguistic intent.

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17. When did you start writing stories?
  • I wrote my first story at the age of 12 or 13, and it was modeled after the ‘Nancy Drew’ series. I lost that text during our travels. My red diary of poetry on the other hand, is still with me today, with the actual date of every poem I ever wrote. This leads me to think that maybe I did not think much of my story at the time!
18. What happened that made you almost grind to a halt at iqrathechallenge.blogspot.com? You were doing so well, and could have finished your project in a little more than a year.
  • I had overestimated my ability. I was spending an average of 10-13 hours daily researching and writing until my body complained and needed urgent care. Work had to be put aside for a while. Then came the problems in Syria, and our entire family had to make new plans, and my responsibilities skyrocketed.

    Also, this website (randahamwi.com) needed time to finalize. So, no. It was humanly impossible to finish researching and explaining and translating and writing up comments for 604 pages of Qur’an in little over a year. That was wishful thinking.

    Now, with God’s help, I hope to continue at a reasonable, healthy pace.

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