Thursday, June 05, 2008

A new American miracle! Termites know how to spell "Muhammad"

Planet Earth, 2008.

"Insects might cut lines in wood to spell the word Muhammad...
They don't know Arabic. To eat the inside of the branch and make that writing, it's guidance from God, of course," said Busool, who assumed the insects were termites. (Local experts said the markings were more likely made by wood borers.) "The termites were worshiping God".

Something about the sound of the tree bark hitting the ground caught Assad Busool's attention, compelling the Islamic scholar to pluck the wood fragment from the pavement in front of his Skokie home. What he found written on it has caused a minor stir among some members of his Muslim community, who view the engraving as a divine reminder of the existence of God. The word "Muhammad"—or rather the Arabic for the Islamic prophet's name—had been carved into the bark by insects. "I was astonished," said Busool, 69. "I said, 'What is the meaning of this?' I have a holy tree in my yard."

Like Catholics who claim to have seen images of the Virgin Mary, some Muslims in Busool's community are interpreting the markings on the 14-inch-long bark chip as a sign from heaven, even though, like visages of Mary, it is mixed with other markings that open it to other interpretations. "It's crystal clear, it says Muhammad," said Andala Mbengue, a cabdriver from Senegal who saw the wood after Friday prayers at the American Islamic College on Irving Park Road in Chicago. "Allah is always putting himself out there. Sometimes people ignore it, but he's always showing us signs."

Sani Umar, a professor of religion at Northwestern University, said some sects within Islam would treat such findings with great skepticism. Other Muslim societies might be more accepting of the phenomena, he said. The most conservative sects would dismiss the sightings. Not everyone greeted news of the bark chip with Busool's level of enthusiasm.

Dr. Muhammad Sahloul, a physician and president of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, said mainstream Muslims "don't tend to overestimate the significance of these things." And a colleague of Busool's at the Islamic college said he didn't see the word Muhammad the first time he looked at the bark. "I guess it depends on how you look at it," said Ghulam Haider Aasi, chair of the Islamic Studies Department. While the Virgin Mary has allegedly appeared in towns such as Lourdes, France, and more recently as an image on the Fullerton Street underpass of the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, apparitions in Islam are typically in Arabic script, not human form, which is forbidden by Islam, scholars said. What such sightings mean depends on a person's religion, experts said.Catholics, for example, might interpret a manifestation of Mary as a rebuke of the modern world or an expression of sorrow at the state of the church, said Robert Orsi, a religion professor at Northwestern. But scholars of Islam said some Muslims would view such apparitions as mystical reminders that God is everywhere in nature, in the setting sun, in the clouds, in a blade of grass. "Nature is a scripture that has to be read," said Ali Asani, a professor of Indo-Muslim languages and cultures at Harvard University. "So you find these phenomena in different Muslim societies, of people finding the name of God written on things." In Kenya, Muslim farmers noticed splotches on a newborn calf spelled "Allah," the Arabic word for God, Asani said. In Australia, Muslims found a tree inscribed with the same word. In Senegal, a Frenchman caught a fish with markings that said "Muhammad" and another fish was found in Liverpool, England, marked with "Allah." "The idea behind this is that God manifests himself in nature, and thus these phenomena are taken as objective proofs of his existence—and, by extension, the veracity of the religion of Islam," said Ruediger Seesemann, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern. Busool, a Sunni Muslim and Islamic judge who rules on family matters, cites a verse in the Quran, Islam's holy book, to explain why insects might cut lines in wood to spell the word Muhammad. The verse teaches that every living being on Earth sings the praises of God in languages human beings can't understand, he said. "They don't know Arabic. To eat the inside of the branch and make that writing, it's guidance from God, of course," said Busool, who assumed the insects were termites. (Local experts said the markings were more likely made by wood borers.) "The termites were worshiping God," Busool said. Busool sees the hand of God in much of the tree's story. Last year, he considered chopping the tree down but held off after a Skokie employee determined it was healthy. Then, a few days before Memorial Day, he was watching squirrels run up the tree when he heard the bark fall with a loud crack—as though God were trying to get his attention, he said. His wife, Ann, a Christian who doesn't read Arabic, said she hoped the bark chip might portend good fortune. "Either we have some very intelligent termites out there or something else is going on—some kind of omen or wish," she said. For now, Busool has placed the bark in a plastic bag and enclosed it in a red felt box given to him by a friend. He bought a glass case for it, but still carries the wood in his briefcase wherever he goes, his wife said. So far, he has shown it to a couple dozen people at the Muslim Community Center on Elston Avenue, where he sits on the board. Last week, he showed it to about 50 worshipers who had come to Friday prayers at the Islamic College, where he teaches religion and Arabic. The men gathered around the bark after prayers had ended."It's unbelievable," said Abdul Arbil. "I've seen stuff like this but online, not up close. "Walid Guerfal, 30, said the writing had left him in awe. "It's like a miracle from God." (ChicagoTribune)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home