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Islam: A Scientific View of God's Message to Humanity

By Hassan El-Najjar

Table of Contents  

I. Introduction: Basic Information   

1. Islam: A Brief Introduction    

2. Three Levels of Faith: Islam, Eiman, and I'hsan    

3. The Scientific Evidence That God Exists and the Holy Qur'an Is His Message to Humanity    

4. Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an   

5. Humans, As God's Caliphs on Earth   

6. Adam's Contest With the Angels, and Getting Out of Paradise  

7. Worshippers By Choice Or Forced Slaves?    

8. The Relationship Between the Spiritual and the Physical Aspects of Islamic Teachings   

9. Mind, Self, Soul, Spirit, and Happiness from an Islamic Perspective  

10. Heart-Mind Relationship in the Holy Qur'an    

II. Islam: The Five Pillars of the Faith Structure  

1. Islamic Proclamation of Faith  

2. Performing Islamic Prayers  

3. Giving Zakat, Charity, The Third Islamic Duty  

4. Fasting and Ramadhan, Great Gifts from Allah to Muslims  

5. Haj, Pilgrimage, the Fifth Pillar of Islam       

III. Iman: Allah, His Angels, Messengers, Messages, Latter Day, and Qadar  

1. Allah, As He Described Himself in the Holy Quran    

2. Angels  

3. Noo'h, Noah, in the Holy Quran    

4. Ibrahim, Abraham, in the Holy Quran  

5. Moussa, Moses, in the Holy Quran  

6. 'Eissa, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Quran    

7. Muhammed in the Holy Quran  

8. Prophet Muhammed's Night Journey and Ascent to Heavens, Al-Issra Wal Mi'raj  

9. .The Last Day, The Hour, Resurrection, Reckoning, and Judgment

10. God's Precise Measurement and His Just Decree, Al-Qadar Wal Qadha

IV. I'hsan: Watching Allah in What We Say and What We Do  

1. Introduction to Islamic Law, Shari'a, Part I, Prohibition, Don't Do, and Do Commands in the Holy Quran

2. The La (No) Commands  

3. The Imperative Commands  

***

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Islam:

A Scientific View of God's Message to Humanity

 2

Three Levels of Faith:

Islam, Iman, and I'hsan

By Hassan El-Najjar

Updated on the 14th of Ramadhan, 1441, May 7, 2020

***

:

1441 2020

*** 

ٰ

I seek refuge with God from the Stoned Shaytan

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful 

 

Introduction 

One day, the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), peace be to him, appeared as a man to the Messenger of Allah, Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him (pbbuh), and his companions in the Medina mosque. The encounter became a very well-known 'Hadith (saying), narrated by the Second Caliph, Omar, may Allah be pleased with him.

Jibril asked the Messenger of Allah five questions about the meaning of Islam, Iman, I'hsan, the Hour, and the Hour signs. As he answered each question, Jibril complimented him saying that he told the truth. When Jibril left, the Messenger of Allah told his companion, who did not know the man, that he was Jibril who came to teach them their religion.

This 'Hadith not only summarized the major principles of Gods message of guidance to humanity, but it also attracted our attention to the three levels of faith: Islam, Iman, and I'hsan, which are the focus of this Chapter and the basis for organizing this book into its main parts.

Text of the Prophet's 'Hadith:

On the authority of Omar, who said: One day, while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black. No signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet, resting his knees against his (the Prophet's) and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said:

O Muhammed, tell me about Islam?

The Messenger of Allah said: Islam is to proclaim that there is no other god than Allah and Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the Zakat (charity), to fast (during the month of) Ramadhan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House (of God) if you are capable to do so.

He said: You have spoken rightly, and we were amazed at him asking him (the Prophet) and saying that he had spoken rightly (told the truth).

He said: Then, tell me about Iman?

He (the Prophet) said: It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in God's precise measurement and His just decrees on everything, including (what may be perceived as) good or bad.

He said: You have spoken rightly (told the truth).

(Jibril) said: Then, tell me about I'hsan?

He (the Prophet) said: It is to worship Allah as if you are seeing him, and while you do not see Him, He truly sees you.

He said: Then, tell me about the Hour?

He (the Prophet) said: The one questioned about it does not know more than the questioner.

He said: Then, tell me about its Signs? 

He (the Prophet) said: That the slave-woman will give birth to her mistress and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute sheep herdsmen constructing the highest buildings.

Then, (Jibril) left and I stayed for some time. Then he (the Prophet) said: O Omar, do you know who the questioner was? I said: Allah and His Messenger know better. He said: He was Jibril (Gabriel), who came to teach you your religion. [1] 

Islam: 

Thus, according to the above-mentioned Hadith, there are three levels of the faith structure, a person can reach. The first level is Islam, which was explained by Prophet Muhammed (pbbuh) as observing the five major ways of worship ('Ibadat).

It follows that to be a Muslim, a person has to proclaim that there is no other god but Allah (praise to Him) and that Muhammed (pbbuh) is His Messenger. The importance of this proclamation of faith is that a person acknowledges the existence of Allah (God), praise to Him, as the Creator of the Universe, and that Muhammed (pbbuh) is the Messenger of God. This means that a person accepts the message of God revealed to humanity through him, as expressed in the Word of God (the Holy Quran) and the Sunna (his sayings, actions, and what he approved of).

Once a person pronounces the Islamic proclamation, then he/she proceeds to observe the Islamic obligations, namely to perform the five daily prayers, pay the annual Zakat (charity), fast during the month of Ramadhan, and make the pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Makkah, if he/she is capable to do so physically and financially (These ways of worship were introduced in Chapter 1, Islam: A Brief Introduction but are addressed in more details in the second part of this book). 

It is important to note that these are ways of worshipping Allah ('Ibadat), as He wanted and commanded Muslims to do. He promised to reward those who worship Him and to punish those who don't do that on purpose.

In analyzing these Islamic ways of worshipping God, one discovers that all of them benefit the worshipper directly and his/her society in this life, then they are rewarded with Paradise in the hereafter (Such benefits are discussed in more details in Chapter 8, The Relationship between the Spiritual and the Physical Aspects of Islamic Teachings and in the second part of this book).

Before performing each one of the five prayers, a Muslim has to clean himself/herself through wudhu', by washing the mouth, nose, face hands, arms, ears, hair, and feet. Muslims also should take showers after sexual intercourse and keep their clothes clean. [2]

By praying five times a day at specific times, Muslims live in orderly fashion, budgeting their time, and literally exercising five times a day, doing certain movements that range between standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting down on the floor. These unique movements function as an exercise for various body organs, by stretching muscles, tendons, and backbone. Bowing and prostrating, in particular, push more blood to certain areas of the body, like the brain.

By paying the Zakat (charity) a Muslim assists the needy and contributes to the well-being of society. It is, at least, 2.5 percent of a persons wealth. When properly given, the poor and the needy will not be left alone and behind in society. It is a systematic expression of compassion and social solidarity. The Zakat does not replace government taxes. However, it contributes to the welfare and well-being of society in areas not covered by government-funded projects.

Fasting during the month of Ramadhan, by abstaining from food, drinks, and sexual activity from dawn to the sunset, has tremendous benefits for the body and the soul of a worshipper. Fasting strengthens the control of the self over the body desires. It allows the rich to feel the suffering of the hungry poor and prompts them to share food with them when they break the fast at the sunset. By eating moderately then, many people lose weight, get rid of some of the accumulated fats throughout the year. In addition, fasting gives a break to the digestive system, after eleven months of continuous hard work.

Finally, pilgrimage (Haj) to the House of Allah in Makkah, is the climax of being a Muslim. It is a personal journey for God first, but it also gives great satisfaction to the pilgrim (Haaj), as he/she leaves everything in this life behind. Moreover, the pilgrimage to Makkah is a worldwide conference of millions of Muslims, where they meet there representing all nations, racial groups, and ethnic divisions (49: 13), for just few days. Therefore, Allah, praise to Him, instructed them to be loving, caring, and tolerant of each other. They are also instructed to avoid arguments and instead to praise Him for His countless benefits and bounties they have been enjoying (2: 197). [3]

Iman: 

By being a Muslim, as explained above, a person is promised God's rewards in this lower life and in the hereafter. Properly practiced, the Islamic ways of worship (ibadat) are beneficial to Muslims as individuals and as communities. However, for those who are more ambitious to be closer to God, to gain a higher level of his rewards, and to enjoy more intellectual happiness, they need to reach a higher level of faith than Islam, which is Iman, as we are told by verse 49: 14 of the Holy Quran, which states:

  ٰ  ( 49: 14).

The A'arab (desert dwellers) said, "We have believed." Say: "You have not believed, but say 'We have submitted, for faith has not yet entered your hearts (Al-'Hujurat, 49: 14).  

In this Verse, the A'arab (desert dwellers) said, "We have believed." They meant to say: "We have reached the level of Iman." But Allah, praise to Him, told His Messenger to tell them that they still have not believed. That's why they instead should say: 'We have submitted (to Allah by becoming Muslims) because the second level of faith (Iman) has not yet entered their hearts. 

So, what is that second level of faith (Iman)?

Iman is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, as we read in verse 4: 136 of the Holy Quran:

ٰ   ( 4: 136).

O You who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger, (in) the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray (Al-Nissa, 4: 136).

Iman is also the belief in God's precise measurement and His just decrees on everything, as we learn from the 'Hadith of the Messenger of Allah, pbbuh, which has been mentioned.

This means that the second level of faith (Iman) is more of an intellectual nature than the first level (Islam), where a person is saved by worshipping Allah (God) through actions, that is, through performing the five obligations mentioned above. So, Iman comes by thinking about that which Allah told us about in the Holy Quran, including the many scientific statements, which were unknown at the time of revelation and until the 19th Century. Such thinking provides ample evidence that the Holy Quran is the Word of Allah, and that no human being can produce a book like it, or even a chapter, like any of its chapters. [4]

In other words, reaching the second level of faith (Iman), requires higher and deeper degrees of knowledge and acknowledgement. This includes a belief in the existence of Allah (God) and His angels, as well as in His Books, Messengers, the Last Day, and in His precise measurement and just decrees. So, Iman can be attained through the realization of the unseen, such as the existence of God, through the pieces of evidence He provided us with, such as the Holy Quran. However, many people believe in God, as unseen, without the need for physical or intellectual evidence, that is by intuition. Moreover, philosophers can reach the second level of faith by logic. They postulate that the existence of the creation must be the evidence for the existence of the Creator, Allah, praise to Him. [5]

Thus, a person reaching Iman (a Mumen) believes that not only Allah (God) exists but He, praise to Him, can do anything He wants. A Mumen believes in everything God told in the Holy Quran. He or she also believes that there are other intelligent creations of God than human beings, particularly angels. Among these are Jibril (Gabriel, the medium between God and His human Messengers), Mika-il (Michael, the angel of sustenance), Ezra-il (angel of death), Israfil (angel of the Trumpet), Radhwan (custodian of Paradise), and Malik (custodian of the Hellfire). In addition, there are many other categories of angels who perform tasks related to humans. Among these are Raqeeb and 'Ateed (the angels who keep records for our good deeds and bad deeds), Nakker, and Nakeer (the angels who question a human being briefly after death), and Sa-iq and Shaheed (the angels who organize people in groups and lead them during the events of the Last Day). A Mumen is a person who believes that these angels exist, and that we are affected by them. [6]

A Mumen also believes that God revealed His guidance to humanity in other Books, before the Holy Quran. These included the Suhuf (Papers) of Ibrahim (Abraham), the Torah (in the Old Testament), which was revealed to Moussa (Moses), the Zaboor (the Psalms), which was revealed to Prophet Dawood (David), and the Engel (the New Testament), the teachings of the Messiah, Eissa Bin Mariam (Jesus Christ, the son of Mary), peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them. These Books included the same message of guidance to humanity summarized in the Holy Quran. A Mumen, further, has the same and equal respect and love for all messengers of God, and does not consider one of them as better than the others.

A Mumen believes that this life is a test, in which all our deeds and activities are recorded by angels. We will be held accountable for the entire test when we meet our Creator on the Day of Reckoning. So, the belief in the Last Day is an acknowledgement of the inevitability of accountability and reckoning. It is an incentive for people to do good in this life in order to be rewarded by an everlasting life in Paradise, and a warning against doing bad in order to avoid punishment in the Hellfire. For more discussion about the four main events of the Last Day, see Chapter 24 of this book.  

Further, a Mumen believes in Gods precise measurement and His just decrees (Al-Qadar wal Qadha). People are free in what they say and do, in the matters which they control or have authority over. However, there are other matters, which may not be understood by people, because these are beyond their control. Some of these matters are perceived as good, such as unexpected successes or fortunes. A Mumins response in this case is thanking Allah for receiving them. Other matters may be perceived as bad, despite the fact that these may turn to be good results later on, such as the actions of Al-Khadrs actions, Moussa (Moses) perceived as evil, before knowing the rationale behind doing them (See verses18: 65-82). 

Sometimes, some matters may result in outright bad consequences, such as death and destruction during war as well as natural and environmental disasters. In these cases, the bad consequences are the result of decisions made by people, whether by going to war to settle differences, or not taking the appropriate measures to avoid natural and environmental disasters. Allah, praise to Him, warned humanity to avoid such possible consequences, as both innocent people and their oppressors will be affected alike (8: 25).  

Finally, Mumens thank Allah in all circumstances but they are also expected to use their time, knowledge, wealth, and energy with the best way possible, during their first life on Earth, because they are going to be questioned about all these qualities in the hereafter. This means that Mumens should not surrender to the upheavals, natural or environmental disasters, diseases, or any difficulties facing them. They should do their best to avoid them. Thus doing, they practice their free will, which does not contradict with Gods circumventing foreknowledge of their choices, as discussed in Chapter 25 of this book. [7] 

I'hsan: 

I'hsan is the highest of the three levels of faith and the closest to pleasing God. It is to worship Allah as if you see Him. While you do not really see Him, He truly sees you. Then, I'hsan means that a Mu'hsin (a person who practices Ihsan) is sure that Allah is seeing him/her in everything he/she says or does. Therefore, a Mu'hsin does his/her best to say and do only that which pleases Allah and conforms to His commands. This is the level of righteousness, perfection, as well as doing and saying the ultimate good for the sake of goodness, to the persons best knowledge and ability. 

The word "I'hsan" in Arabic is a derivative of the verb hassana and its other form "ahsana," which means doing things better. Thus, the literal linguistic meaning of I'hsan is saying the best, as expressed in verse 41: 33 of the Holy Quran. It is also doing the best, which is observing Gods commands (For more information about God's commands, see the first Chapter of the fourth part of this book, Islamic Law, Shari'a: Prohibition, Don't Do, and Do Commands).  

The noble meanings of Ihsan are expressed in many verses of the Holy Quran. Throughout His Book, Allah, praise to Him, commands believers to practice Ihsan in words and actions and in the treatment of parents. He announces His love for Muhsins, assures them that they should have neither fear nor sadness, and promises them with the best rewards in the hereafter. [8] 

Conclusion 

The objective of mentioning the three levels of faith is to motivate the human self to pursue the course of elevation from one level to the other. As humans struggle to be better in their words and actions, they not only gain the best physical and spiritual benefits in this life but they also get the contentment and mercy of their Creator, who promised them an everlasting life in His Paradise, in the hereafter.

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Notes:

[1] This Hadith is the 17th of "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" and the 60th in the paper version of Riyadh Al-Saliheen, by Imam Al-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, Dar Al-Arabiya, Beirut, Lebanon. Further, the Hadith was authenticated by Muslim: 8, Abu Dawood: 4695, Al-Tirmidhi: 2610, Al-Nissa-i: 4990, Ibn Maja: 63, Ahmed: 367, and Ibn Manda: 2.

The Hour starts with blowing the Trumpet. It is the first of the four main events of the Last Day, as detailed in Chapter 24 of this book.

The apostrophe used in 'Hadith, I'hsan, and Mu'hsen, refers to an Arabic glottal sound, which is not found in English.

The three Islamic terms of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan have a special religious significance. As such, any single rendering of each one of them would be inadequate. Therefore, the best way to understand them is by listing their meanings rather than giving just one word as a translation.

Thus, the terms Islam and Iman have a very specific meaning, as presented above. However, Ihsan is a term that includes all good deeds, right actions, goodness, charity, and sincerity. It can thus be translated as righteousness. Linguistically speaking, its infinitive verb (ahsana) means to master, do better, or be better (in words and deeds).

Here is the Arabic text of the Hadith:

: : :

. : . : .

: : . : .

: : .

: : .

: ǿ : .

: . : : .

: .

( : 8 : 4695 : 2610 : 4990 : 63 : 367 ѡ : 2). 

https://ar.wikisource.org/wiki/_/_

https://dorar.net/hadith

http://hadith.al-islam.com/Loader.aspx?pageid=194&BookID=25

[2] The five ways of worship (ibadat) are addressed in more details in the second Part of the book. The Holy Quran verse which mention wudu and purification is as follows:

ۚ ۚ ٰ ٰ ۚ ٰ ( 5: 6).

O you who have believed, when you rise to (perform) prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janabah (after sexual intercourse), then purify yourselves (by washing). But if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes from the restroom, or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it (tayamum). Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you, that you may be grateful (Al-Ma-ida, 6: 5).

A detailed description of how Muslims pray can be found in Chapter 12, "Performing Islamic Prayers." This includes wudu' (cleanliness), Adhan, Iqama, making Rak'as, reciting Al-Fati'ha, other excerpts from the Holy Quran, Tashahud, and Tasbeeh. See it on Video Here for education (See the Appendix to this note for actual prayer videos).  

[3] The two verses, which were mentioned in this section are as follows:

ٰ ۚ ۚ ( 49: 13).

O Humankind, We have created you from a male and a female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. The most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted (Al-Hujurat, 49: 13).

ۚ ۗ  ( 2: 197).

Pilgrimage (Haj) is in well-known months. So, whoever has made the pilgrimage obligatory upon himself therein, there should be no sexual activity, no disobedience, and no disputing during the pilgrimage (Al-Baqara, 2: 197).

[4] There are so many verses which include scientific evidence that the Holy Quran is the Word of God. Many of these are mentioned in various chapters of this book, particularly Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

[5] In proving the existence of God, philosopher Ibn Rushd of Cordova (Averroes) said in his book, Tahaful Al-Tahafut: All created things are ones. Each one is created by one above it, until you end up with one without a creator above it (That is Allah).

https://www.noorlib.ir/view/ar/book/bookview/text/13427/1/111

[6] Names of some angels were mentioned in various verses and Hadiths, as detailed in Chapter 17 of this book, Angels: The Honorable Worshippers of Allah.

[7] Verse 8: 25 is as follows:

ۖ ( 8: 25).

And avoid a trial (an ordeal), which when it strikes, it will not be limited to those who have wronged among you. And know that Allah is severe in penalty (Al-Anfal, 8: 25).

: " " ( : 2417 : 537 ѡ " ": 494).

Companion Abu Baraza Al-Aslami, mAbpwh, said that the Messenger of Allah, pbbuh, said: On the Day of Rising, a person will be asked about how he spent his life, what he did with his knowledge, how he earned his wealth and how he spent it, and how his body was torn out (Al-Tirmidhi: 2417, Al-Durami: 537, Al-Bayhaqi: 494).

The last sentence of this section (Thus doing, they practice their free will, which does not contradict with Gods circumventing foreknowledge of their choices) is based on a famous saying by the Sufi Islamic scholar, Abdul Qadir Al-Jilan: A Mumen pushes predestination by predestination, as discussed in Chapter 25 of this book.

[8] The noble meanings of Ihsan are expressed in many verses of the Holy Quran. Throughout His Book, Allah, praise to Him, commands believers to practice Ihsan (16: 90), in words and actions (41: 33), and in the treatment of parents (17: 23). He announces His love for Muhsins (2: 195), assures them that they should not have fear or be sad (2: 112), and promises them with the best rewards in the hereafter (5: 85), as in the following examples:

ٰ ٰ    ( 16: 90).

( 41: 33).

ٰ ( 17: 23).

   ( 2: 195).

ٰ ( 2: 112).

 ٰ ( 5: 85).  

Indeed, Allah commands justice, good conduct (I'hsan), and giving to relatives, (and He) forbids immorality, bad conduct, and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded (Al-Na'hl, 16: 90).

And who is better in speech than one who invites to (the path of) Allah, and does righteousness, and says, "Indeed, I am of the Muslims" (Fussilat, 41: 33).

And your Lord has decreed that you do not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment (Al-Issra, 17: 23)

And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good (Al-Baqara, 2: 195).

Yes, whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah, while being a doer of good, will have his reward with his Lord. And, no fear, will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve (Al-Baqara, 2: 112).

So, Allah rewarded them for what they said with gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. And that is the reward of doers of good (Al-Ma-ida, 5: 85).  

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Appendix to Note # 2:

Videos of Prayers at Islam's three holiest mosques:

Prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Al-Quds (Jerusalem):

https://www.facebook.com/QudsN/videos/944409028969332/

Prayer at the Prophets Mosque, in Madina:

https://archive.org/details/1435----2014-------video----traweeh--alharam----alnabawy--almadani_369

Prayer at the Prophets Mosque in Madinah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDvMx_tcKoA

Live streaming from the Prophets Mosque, in Madinah:

http://mecca.net/masjid-al-nabawi-in-madinah-live-prayers/

Live streaming from Al-Haram Mosque, in Makkah, with Quran recitation:

http://mecca.net/mecca-live-prayers/

Maghreb prayer by Al-Sudays, at Al-Haram Mosque, in Makkah:

https://vimeo.com/69877908

Prayer led by Saud Al-Shuraym, at Al-Haram Mosque, in Makkah, with English translation:

https://archive.org/details/1435-----thajjod---video------full---quran---mushaf---tahajod-----makah----alh 

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* The author of this book has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, in 1369 Hijriya (1950) but he has been living in the United States since 1986.
 
The authentic Quran Arabic text is used as a reference for the translation of the meanings of the Quran verses, particularly from www.tanzil.net.

The works of the three renowned Islamic scholars Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, and Ibn Katheer, have been used throughout the chapters of this book, as these are the most credited interpretations of the Holy Quran, for their use of 'Hadith, companions' interpretations, and their thorough knowledge of the Arabic language.  


 ( 61: 8).   

They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it (Al-Saff, 61: 8).  

 

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.

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