Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

The Grace of gradual revelation

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

The style of the revelation of the Quran was gradual, over a period of 23 years. A command would initially be revealed in much general terms. This was done to ease Muslims into the new Divine regulations. When the initial command is absorbed by Muslims, God followed it with more details about it, such as how to implement it properly. Many scholars thought that subsequent commands were abrogation of the initial command! But that is incorrect, since abrogation means cancellation, and the initial command always remained in force.

A good example of that is the prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages. The first command God sent down on this issue was,
“And from the fruits of the palm trees and grapevines you take for yourselves intoxicant and good provision. Verily, in that is a sign for a folk who reason.” (16:67)
Here is a very subtle indication that intoxicants are not a good thing. God leaves the word without an adjective to describe it, but He follows the word “provision” with the adjective “good.” Those who got the hint, Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (RA) was one, understood that God is not pleased with alcoholic beverages.

A subsequent command was then revealed,
“They ask you about intoxicants and easy gain (gambling). Say: In them is major sin and benefits for people. But their sin is bigger than their benefit.” (2:219)
So, those who did not notice before are now left with no doubt that alcohol is bad. Notice that this verse does not abrogate 16:67, because not describing something as being good is tantamount to describing it as more bad than good!

Then, a third command was revealed,
“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying, ” (4:43)

Now the matter is getting serious; intoxication prevents a Muslim from even approaching a prayer! Still, many people thought that it was OK to drink outside prayer times! They still didn’t get the hint. You see why God is walking them those baby steps? It is very hard for a society used to drinking alcohol to quit that habit. They need training. That is what God was doing, out of His Grace, by the gradual revelation of these commands. Notice also that this verse does not abrogate either of the aforementioned verses, because not praying while drunk does not mean drinking is allowed.

Finally, the prohibition was revealed in no uncertain terms,
“O you who have believed! Verily, intoxicants, easy gain (gambling), [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that perhaps you may prosper.

Verily, Satan only wants to drop between you enmity and acrimony through intoxicants and easy gain (gambling) and to shun you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So, are you ceasing?” (5:90-91)

It is of particular interest to notice that Chapter 5 was one of the very last chapters of the Quran to be revealed. That means that the prohibition of alcohol took the entire period of revelation between Chapter 16 and Chapter 5, almost a decade!

That is just one example of why the Quran may not start off a command with the clear statement outright.

Drawing images of living beings

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Forgive my bad English (I’m from Spain).
I heard that Prophet Muhammad said that making a picture of a human or animal being is haram (prohibited) and in the Day of Judgement God will ask us to turn our pictures to life. Is it true? Can’t we paint this beings?
God bless you

Your English is just fine! Thanks for writing. And may God bless you too for doing the research and verifying what you hear. Too many people simply take for granted what they have been told, without ever attempting to ask themselves if it is true.

The hadeeth you refer to is authentic. It was narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA) and reported by Al-Bukhaari. Another version of it, also reported by him, was narrated by Ibn Umar (RA).

Those two hadeeths, and there are other, use the Arabic word صورة “Şoora”, which in today’s Arabic is often used to mean a picture, but it actually means “likeness” and that is how it was used by the Arabs of the Seventh Century. The word for picture is actually رقم “Raqm”, which in today’s Arabic has come to mean marking or engraving.

This distinction can be discerned from another authentic hadeeth, reported by Muslim and narrated by Abu-Talha, where the Prophet (PBUH) made an exception from the prohibition a raqm on a cloth. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the prohibition applies only to three-dimensional images, i.e., statues, figurines, embossed images, etc.

The ending of the two hadeeths of prohibition give away the reason for the prohibition. It’s what Americans call “playing God.” That is, the attempt by humans to do things that only God may do. Creation of living beings is God’s domain only.

This prohibition is not unique to Islam. The exact same thing is said in the Second Commandment, prohibiting making engraved images and bowing to statues.

This is the key to understanding the prohibition of sculpting images of living beings. It is God’s protection of us from Shirk (associating others with Him in worship).

One may think that shirk is far-fetched in today’s educated world. One, therefore, may think that this prohibition may have been called for in ancient times, when shirk was rampant, but not relevant in today’s sophisticated societies. But that is not actually the case! There are millions of people in today’s sophisticated world who pray to statues. Many even bow down to images on the wall. Many believe that a token or a figurine will bring them good fortune, heal them or stave evil away from them. All of that is shirk.

Why is shirk so dangerous? Because it creeps on people’s psyche, with enthusiastic help from Satan, until they are detached from God. That is the greatest loss.

Tawheed (the oneness of God) is the central teaching of Islam. It is also the subject of the First Commandment. God is teaching us to worship Him only and abandon any hint of worship of anyone or anything else – not because He needs it, but because we do. Human nature is such that we look for idols, literal or figurative. We keep aggrandizing the people we admire. Americans have coined a good term for that: hero worship. Shirk can be subtle.

The issue at hand is not art, creativity or expression, all of which are allowed in Islam. Rather, it is the kind of art, creativity or expression that is dangerous to our souls.

Moral atheists?

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

I would like to know, what is the Islamic response to those people (atheist, agnostics, etc.) who say that you can be moral without religion?

They say this because since they don’t believe in God or any religion for that matter that that you can be a good moral person without God or religion. In a way I kind of understand where they are coming from but then I kind of feel like something is wrong with their statements.

What is the Islamic response to people who say things like this?


Morality cannot be forced on people but it can be enforced by law. That is, a society can arrange itself such that certain values it considers paramount are upheld and others it considers harmful are stopped by force of law. But that is a different question altogether from people committing themselves willingly to certain moral values. We see all parents raising their children to certain moral values they believe in, but the children may not observe them when they grow up. And we also see the flip side: parents neglecting moral teaching of their children, yet the children acquire moral attitudes when they grow up!

Islam teaches us that non-Muslims can be moral and furthermore can do good. The Quran says, “And verily, among the people of the Book are those whom if you entrust with a Qintaar (a heap of money), he would deliver it to you” (3:75). God also tells us in the Quran that “whatever good they (non-Muslims) do, they will not be denied it” (3:115).

That is why, when non-Muslims do good to us, we are required to reciprocate with good. Asmaa’ bint Abi-Bakr had migrated to Medina, but her mother, Qateela bint `Abdil-`Uzza, remained in Mecca and remained polytheist. Then one day, Qateela traveled to Medina to see her daughter and brought her a gift. Asmaa’, however, wary that she must sever her relationships with polytheists, refused to let her in the house and would not accept her gift! The Prophet (PBUH) heard of this and told Asmaa’, “Accept her gift and be good to your mother.” Narrated by Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr (Asmaa’s son) and reported by Al-Haythami and has been rated well by Ibn Hubbaan.

So, if religion is not a pre-requisite to morality, then why is religion necessary? Religion’s purpose is not only to establish a moral code, but also to establish a bond between man and God, a bond man feels very strongly. A bond that atheists cannot explain away. That affinity is ingrained in all of us since before we were born. God says in the holy Quran, “And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their backbones – their offspring and had them testify of themselves, [saying to them], ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘But yes. We have testified.’ [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘We were of this unaware.'” (3:172)

Besides, moral values vary with people. What is immoral to some may not be to others. And what is moral to some may not be to others. God has given us in the Quran the true moral code to live by. And He had His Prophet (PBUH) teach it to us in the authentic Sunna.

The perils of the wrong mindset

Monday, July 8th, 2013


I understand that riba (usury) is wrong. I understand that riba is like gambling. I understand that there are many views on insurance.

But, I need to have a fundamental understanding of why speculation is wrong. I know we have to work for our money.

I need to have the sin explained to me. Trust me I have done my share of reading on the matter. Yet, I do not have the basic definition of the sin of riba and gambling and it seems that they share the same root.

Indeed they do, and the Quran calls it Al-Maysir. The word means tools for easy gain.

It is not the ease that is wrong though. It is the belief in it. The central point, IMHO, is what you alluded to when you said that we have to work for our money. The biggest problem with all games of chance, and speculation is one of them, is that they set the wrong mindset. They entice people to believe that there is a shortcut out there. That is contrary to the laws of God which state that means, not gimmicks, lead to results. Gimmicks may work sometimes, or else no one would have ever tried them. But they are short lived and cause more harm than good.

Even Wall Street knows that, or at least they used to. When you open a trading account, you have to sign forms that can fill a book. Forms to explain to you the risks involved, some may even exceed the value of the entire portfolio! When you open an investment account, on the other hand, there are far fewer forms to sign. That is because, even though investments too carry risk, they are natural risks, whereas speculative risks are random. The difference between the two is that investments involve an asset: property, product or service, while speculation is a bet on how such investment will do. In financial circles this is called a derivative. We all know from the global financial crisis of 2008, the extent of harm speculative derivatives can do.

That is the peril of the mindset that is convinced that there is a shortcut to riches that requires no work, no sweat, and no asset. There is no such thing, but speculators won’t accept that disappointing conclusion, just like a gambler keeps telling himself that the next time he will recoup all his losses.

Investments can be win-win affairs, while speculation is always a zero-sum game.

Usury fits that profile too. It stems from the wrong mindset that treats money as a commodity and thus finds what it thinks is a great business model: buy money cheap and sell it for more. That’s right; economists actually call interest the price of money! Money is price, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t have a price.

While you did not ask it, other readers may be wondering: how else can an economy run? How can banking be done without interest? How does an Islamic system finance start-up companies or real estate purchases, etc.?

The answer is quite simple: partnerships. A financier may decide to finance a project in return for a percentage of its equity and profits. But that also means sharing the risk. That is a natural mechanism in the law of God that makes a financier scrutinize the project like his networth depends on it. The result is that frivolous projects won’t find financing, but quality ones will. Mortgage lenders would never lend money to home buyers whom they are almost sure cannot repay the loan, which is what caused the foreclosure crisis of 2008. On the flip side, rich people will still put their money in worthwhile and promising projects, which by their nature benefit a lot more people than the stakeholders.

That, in a nutshell, is Islamic finance. It brings wealth to investors and far reaching benefits to society, advancement of the economy and, most important of all, the right perception of money and finance. It is not a game for clever quants to play, it’s life enhancement for millions of people.

I apologize for not having a MBA. Your response was detailed, as usual. However, I need to go to a simpler and deeper understanding.

My question thus becomes this: How does interest oppress those who are the meek and poor. How is usury a tool of the oppressor.

In other words how is this haraam (forbidden). On a grand scale I see the consequences of poor decision making, giving loans to those who do not have the means of paying back thus leading to bankruptcy. But break it down for me.

For example the issue of adultery is simple to understand as it does destroy the fabric of the family.

I am not trying to be stubborn or argumentative. I need to be able to place my finger on the essence of the sin of interest.

Many people question why adultery is a sin. If the reason is, as you stated, that it breaks up families, then divorce should also be a sin, because it too breaks up families. But it isn’t. It is only strongly discouraged.

Many scholars, past and modern, have attempted to find material reasons why adultery is a sin. Some postulated that it results in paternity uncertainty. If that’s the reason, then modern science can solve this problem with a DNA test. Would that make adultery OK? Of course not.

Some suggest that the reason is unwanted pregnancies. If that’s the reason, then foster homes can solve this problem. Does that make adultery OK. Of course not.

Some guess that the reason is sexually transmitted diseases. If that’s the reason, then immunizations and other protections can take care of this risk. Would that make adultery OK? Of course not.

The interesting thing is that God already told us why adultery is a sin. He says in the holy Quran, “And do not approach fornication; it is a debauchery and a wretched path.” (17:32). It sets a wrong mindset. It makes people view sex, women and marriage differently from God’s moral law. That is what makes it a sin. Sin is violation of God’s law. God designed His laws for maximum benefit to mankind. When man breaks God’s law, it is an objection to God. Adultery sets the sinner on an evil path because he is deviated from the Straight Path and is distanced from God and becomes an easy prey to Satan.

You will observe the same about other sins prohibited in the Quran. Intoxication and unearned gain are prohibited in 5:90. God explains why in the next verse, “Satan only wants to sew between you enmity and hatred with intoxicants and unearned gain, shun you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. Are you ceasing?” (5:91)

God doesn’t say that intoxication can ruin your liver, or that it may endanger other people when you drive drunk. God doesn’t say that gambling can wipe out one’s life savings. God doesn’t mention that both are addictions that are very hard to be free from. God’s reasons are moral. Other material reasons may apply, but they are not why something is a forbidden sin. Intoxication sets a wrong mindset. It makes a person “drink to forget” his problems, instead of heading them on and solving them, gaining strength of character and wisdom in the process. Unearned gain sets the wrong mindset. It makes a person view others as “marks”, to borrow from con artists vocabulary. The right mindset that Islam encourages is that others are fellow human beings, dignified, worthy of respect and care, and having full capacity to be good and contribute to positive human progress.

The sin of interest is that it sets the perception and belief that you can have your money work for you instead of you working for your money. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “None of you would eat better food than food he earned by the work of his hands. God’s prophet David, upon him be peace, did.”, narrated by Al-Miqdaam ibn Ma`dikarib and reported and rated authentic by Al-Bukhaari.

I find it fascinating that God quotes people who have argued that usury is like trading. He does not refute their argument! Instead, He states unequivocally that He made trading lawful and usury unlawful (2:275). God doesn’t want us to be distracted by arguments why something He forbade is bad for us.

I beg you to help me with this. Where do trust funds find themselves. And what is the difference in Islam between a trust fund and inheritance?

Trusts are called Waqf in Islam. The word means holding an asset from being sold or donated and dedicating its income and facilities to designated people or purpose.

Waqf has two types: (1) Waqf Khayri (charitable trust/endowment) and (2) Waqf Ahli (familial trust). The first type is very highly praised in Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) has famously said, “All the work of a child of Adam ceases with his death, except three: an ongoing charity, a knowledge that benefits and a righteous child who prays for him.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported and rated authentic by Muslim. This has motivated multitudes of Muslims throughout the ages to found thousands of charitable projects and endowments. The result was that nearly all needs of society were taken care of without the government having to do any of it! A stranded traveler knew that he can find a hostel where he could stay the night, warm and safe, at no cost. Orphans and widows didn’t have to be scared or hungry. Desert travelers knew there would be plenty of water wells they could drink from.

Waqf Ahli, on the other hand, has been controversial for a good part of a century now. It is banned by many Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Syria and Egypt. The reason is that they saw much abuse of it. They saw it as a way to concentrate wealth in a family, instead of letting it into the economy. Many people used it as a way to circumvent inheritance law. With familial trusts, they could favor some relatives over others, whereas inheritance law fixes heir eligibility and distribution amounts of an estate.

IMHO, abuse of a system is no reason to ban it, but rather is reason to regulate it. Waqf Ahli has been allowed, even suggested, by the Prophet (PBUH) when one has needy relatives, as has been reported about Abu-Talha dedicating his best garden to his poor relatives after he heard this verse, “You shall not attain godliness until you spend from what you love” (3:92). It is a good way to take care of one’s poor relatives while one is still alive, as well as after he, the trustee, dies. That is the difference between trusts and inheritance. The other difference is what I mentioned above about allotment of shares and designation of beneficiaries.

Nobody ever owns the asset under Waqf and the trustee’s heirs are supposed to carry on the upkeep of the trust. Perhaps that’s why many Waqf assets were neglected to the point of deterioration. That was another reason governments moved to ban them. It would’ve been better IMHO if governments took over the maintenance.

About bullying

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

What does the Quran and Sunnah say about bullying? This is a big issue in schools lately with kids killing themselves for many reasons. What does Islam say about this, because I care alot alot about trying to pervent bullying. Thanks!

Bullying is strictly prohibited by the Quran and the Sunna. God says in the holy Quran,

“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other [offensive] names. How wretched an attribute is deviance after faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
O you who have believed, avoid much of [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother dead? You would detest it. And watch for God; verily, God is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (49:11-12)

In those verses, God calls a believer who engages in bullying and the other obnoxious acts mentioned in the verse, God calls such a believer a deviant! And he calls him or her to repent at once, or count themselves among the wrongdoers!

If any believer entertains the thought that bullying is cool, or will give them importance they badly crave, or that it demonstrates his or her virility, those verses ought to scare the daylights out of them.

The Prophet (PBUH) said in an authentic hadeeth, “A Muslim is the brother of every other Muslim; he does not wrong him, he does not fail him and he does not demean him… It is enough evil for anyone that he demeans his Muslim brother…The whole of a Muslim is forbidden to another Muslim: his blood, his property and his honor.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim.

Did you notice the words, “It is enough evil for anyone?” Make no mistake about it; bullying is evil and as such must be fought by authorities, from teachers and principals to law enforcement. It is also something that must be repelled by the bullied, in self defense. Words can hurt as badly as weapons, or worse, since their effect can last a lifetime. It is truly a sad state of affairs that in the West, especially in the US, bullying is tolerated, considered masculine or assumed to be normal as in “boys will be boys.” Educators who believe that, put up with it or turn a blind eye to it are derelict in their primary obligation: Raising well adjusted, productive citizens.

Bullies will also see the consequences of their bullying in the Hereafter, when it will be too late to mend their ways. God says in the holy Quran,

“Indeed, those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed.
And when they passed by them, they would exchange derisive glances.
And when they returned to their people, they would return jesting.
And when they saw them, they would say, “Indeed, those are truly lost.”
But they had not been sent as guardians over them!
So Today, those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers,
On adorned couches, observing.
Have the disbelievers been “rewarded” for what they used to do?” (83:29-36)

Notice how God first calls them criminals (in this life) then disbelievers (in the Hereafter)? And He mocks them by saying that they will be “rewarded” for their bullying in the Hereafter, just like they mocked others in this life?

Why can’t I get married?

Monday, July 18th, 2011

My friend told me I should email you. She believes I need you. Below is a summary of my current state of mind. What do I do next? Where can I find answers?

Welcome to the blog. Thanks for posting your question. I’ll sure try to be of some help.

I’ve been trying to get married, and it hasn’t happened. In fact, my mother told me there is no one she knows who can help me get married, including imams (she asked), friends, relatives, etc. I actually told my mother to ask more learned people in the community and she said no, there is no point.

You’ve been trying to do the right thing. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Marriage is my way (Sunna). Whoever desires other than my way does not belong to me!” Narrated by Anas ibn Maalik and reported by Al-Bukhaari who rated it authentic.

Do not despair, nor should your mother. Recall the story of Jacob, after he lost his dearest son, Joseph, peace be upon them. His other children kept telling him to give up his hope of ever seeing Joseph alive again, even as they knew he was alive! And what was the old man reply? He said,

“He said, ‘I only bemoan my anguish and grief to God, and I know from God what you do not know.‘ ” (12:86)

That is the essence of faith in God. The certain knowledge that He has your best interest at heart, so to speak. You don’t know what God knows. You could have been saved from some horrible husbands. You may have been spared some ingrate children. Your very faith may have been protected from coming apart.

I find myself questioning Allah SWT. I have prayed a great deal for marriage but it never happened. My parents did not help, either. I live in a non-muslim country; in fact, I was born here. I wonder, if there is no leeway for a muslim girl to marry a non-muslim man.

While your dismay is natural, it is not healthy for your faith. The name of our religion means the willing surrender to God’s will. Our ambition is to please God, not to have God please us. The irony is that when we do please God, we become so pleased ourselves, nothing else seems important!

Why does Islam prohibit Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men? This is based on the influence Islam assumes that the man has in the family. If he is not Muslim, the odds are high that the children won’t be either, and there’s a good chance the wife may leave Islam too, if her husband pressures her to.

The flip-side can also be true! A Muslim man who is highly influenced by his non-Muslim wife, may leave Islam for her sake. That is why many of the Salaf have opined that Muslim men, though allowed to, should not marry non-Muslim women. I personally agree with them.

Why did my parents immigrate to this country and have children, only to tell me that getting married is not possible? I don’t think that is fair.

I’m sure your parents did not do that on purpose! I’m sure there are parents like them whose daughter is now married. Find out about those and learn how they did it!

I read a lot of dua, but lately when I am speaking to God during my dua, I feel like in my heart it will not come true. After all, I’ve been reading the dua for over 15 years. In my dua, I ask Allah to please make 2011 more joyous than 2010 (I was briefly happy in 2010 because of someone I met, and had some hope then but it fell sharply). It is now July 2011, and I am still so sad. When I make this dua, I feel like I am “testing” God, because I know that He has not answered that prayer for me. When I ask my elders about getting married, they say to do dua because there is no other way. Am I being sinful for questioning my dua? Its been so many years that I have been praying, and I also do Istikhara and Salaat ul Hajaat. To me, it appears that God has given me His answer for now. Is it sinful to think that way?

Thoughts do not become sins until they are translated into words or action, so don’t worry.

How about thinking instead, “What wonderful things God has in store for me, if He has not written for me marriage?”, “Have I been missing the forest for the trees?”, “Did I meet the right man, but didn’t even notice him?”

Try to escape the box you’re in. Think outside it and inspiration will dawn on you.

I have also been experiencing “resentment” towards Islam lately. I had to question myself – if I want to get married, but the muslim community does not help me nor do my parents, will God nevertheless send me to Hell because I had no other options?

As much as marriage is an emphasized Sunna, it’s not a sin to fail to get married. There will be a few bachelors in Paradise 🙂

Will God punish the muslim community for failing to create marriage opportunities for muslim women like myself?

That may be true only if they stand in the way of a good marriage opportunity. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “If a man comes to you [asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage], and you approve of his religion and character, then accept his marriage proposal.” He then recited, “If you do not, tumult will be in the land and much mischief.” (8:73)

That hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Hasan (sound), makes clear what the primary criteria are for a good Muslim marriage: commitment to Islam and good conduct. Other factors, which most families hold higher in importance, are less important and should not stop the marriage from taking place. Things like wealth, social status, family name, career, looks, etc.

The same principle was emphasized by the Prophet (PBUH) for the suiter’s side. He said, “Women are married for four reasons: their beauty, their wealth, their lineage and their religion. Win the one with the religion, or else you will be miserable!” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Abu-Daawood who rated it acceptable.

I just feel so guilty for harboring these thoughts. To be honest, I feel a bit like I want to “take a break” from all this dua and begging God, as it has left me emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Is that sinful?

No, but it’s not healthy. Your attitude toward dua (supplication) can use some refinement. A Muslim calls upon God for something, because God is the source of all things. But a Muslim also accepts what God grants him or her. A Muslim lets God answer his or her dua the way He sees best. Your dua may have already been answered, but you’re wearing blinders, so you can’t see it.

Will God have mercy on me because I am undergoing a test in life,

Certainly. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “No harm that hits a believer, even a pin on the road that stings him, but God will expiate by it of his sins!” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari who rated it authentic.

I have prayed for a family of my own but those prayers have not come true and I now have to face a life alone? I must be honest that I am angry about that…angry because I did everythign right, I was obedient to my parents, relied on them for everything, and they did not take this aspect of my life seriously. Will God punish me for being angry?

Not unless the anger translates into words or actions that displease Him.

When we work hard for a goal and it never happens, it could be because we didn’t go about it correctly, even if we thought we did. It could be because it was not meant for us, for a wisdom that only God knows. It could be that the goal was achieved in another format and we are yet to recognize it.

I’ll end with these poems by Rumi,

“How could we know what an open field of sunlight is? Don’t insist on going where you think you want to go.”

“Give up to grace. The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.”

“You miss the garden, because you want a small fig from a random tree.”

Is Sharia law cruel? Does it still apply today?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I just heard the news that a 14 year old girl in Bangladesh was whipped until she died because she was accused of having a relationship with a married man. Of course that’s a bad sin, but shouldn’t the punishment be between her and Allah SWT? It’s not only in this case but many others who punished people under the name of Islam. These kinds of things really put my faith into a depression. Should Sharia really be practiced in todays world? Yes I do know the teachings are from the Quran but isn’t it true some teachings in the Holy Book were only meant for the Arabs back then?

I don’t like to question. But when I hear such scary things, happening under the name of Allah SWT, the Holy Prophet, and Islam I have no choice but to question. I honestly don’t know what to believe. I’m sure if Allah SWT were to reveal the Quran in todays world, it would be very different. I believe that Allah revealed the Quran to fit with the Arab culture of the time. Do you guys believe that these people that are following the Shariah are really following the Shariah or they’re just abusing it? Or that the Shariah shouldn’t be practiced in today’s world because some of the teachings were only meant for Arabs at the time?

Sharia law is meant for all Muslims at all times. It is designed by God to achieve a good society. The Quran was revealed for all times.

That said, Sharia has plenty of preconditions and pre-requisites. It cannot be applied until after a lot of foundations have been in place and all conditions are met. The Prophet (PBUH) spent 13 years in Mecca teaching faith and theology. Not even prayer, fasting and Zakah were clearly defined yet. After migrating to Medina and establishing a state, Sharia was gradually implemented. In fact, the penalties for adultery and theft were not specified until year 7 and later.

A Muslim society needs to establish the entirety of Islam before Sharia may be applied. For instance, you cannot enforce the theft penalty when citizens are poor and cannot find work and Zakah is not collected or properly distributed. That is why Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, suspended the theft penalty during the year of famine (`Aam-ur-Ramaada).

By the same token, the penalty of adultery cannot be enforced when people are unable to marry and when pornography is allowed and easily available.

The Islamic state has the duty to teach Islam to its citizens, to protect them from sin and to provide them with an environment where sin is a luxury, not a necessity. If they choose sin after all that, then the punishment in Sharia is applied to them for discipline and as a deterrent. When you understand this, you understand why Sharia is not cruel though it may seem that way.

When Sharia punishes a crime, it is protecting all others from it. If adultery is left unpunished, for instance, all will be in fear that their spouses may cheat on them. Some spouses will cheat no matter what, but if the adultery penalty is enforced, the probability of cheating is significantly reduced.

Sharia law applies to all Muslims. No one is above the law. So, a state which claims to be Islamic, but will not penalize its elite is NOT Islamic. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “What destroyed those who came before you was that when their nobles stole, they let them go, but when their weak stole, they penalized them! By Him in whose Hand is my soul, if Faatima bint Muhammad (his daughter) stole, I would cut her hand!” (Narrated by `Aa’isha, Urwa ibn Az-Zubayr and Jaabir and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and At-Tirmizhi).

The above is not my opinion only, it is also the ruling of Dr. Yoosuf Al-Qaradhaawi, President of the International Union of Islamic Scholars. See this interview with him (in Arabic).

I have a few questions for you:

  • The girl was a minor. Minors do not suffer the same penalty as grownups. How come her sentence was not reduced?
  • Was the married man whipped too?
  • Were there four eye witnesses to the adultery act? I doubt it very much. Accusation is not enough. In fact, accusation without supporting witnesses is punishable by eighty floggings! And the accuser is permanently discredited, his testimony is never accepted and he is labeled a Faasiq (deviant). That’s in the Sharia law too, so why is it that not applied?

Update: According to this CNN News article, the girl’s dying words to her mother were that she was innocent! If that’s true, then those who whipped her must be tried for negligent homicide (ضرب أفضى إلى موت). That’s in the Sharia too.

Is health (and life) insurance allowed in Islam?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I asked several prominent scholars and they all told me that insurance is allowed in Islam. The rationale is that insurance is a social co-sponsorship contract (Takaaful); everybody pitches in so that the ones who eventually need coverage can be helped.

I had reservations about the allowance for life insurance, but I’ve been told by several Islamic scholars that the same concept of Takaaful applies to life insurance too, because the proceeds go to cover funeral and probate expenses, etc.

Early Muslim women fully participated in society

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I thought you’ll like this article which details many of the contributions of women in early Muslim society. They were farmers, traders, surgeons, politicians, scholars, jurists and even soldiers!

The Prophet (PBUH) always listened to women with consideration and compassion as he valued their views and opinions not only about affairs that specifically concerned them, but also about matters of wider significance.

It was because the Prophet gave such encouragement to women that there were well-known instances in early Muslim history of some of them freely speaking out for their rights.

Following the injunctions in the Qur’an, the Prophet gave women the right to education and freedom in matters related to marriage, divorce, and property rights.

He taught his followers that it is God’s commandment to treat women with gentleness and affection because, he said, “Women are your mothers, daughters, aunts.”

The Prophet described women as “the twin halves of men,” which emphasized the idea that their role in society is complementary to that of men. He declared that “the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous woman.”

“Those scholars who study the role of women in Islam will notice that throughout the different periods of history, women were actively engaged in every field of endeavor, be it politics, government, or learning. Women were not confined, as some have assumed, to mothering and household occupations.” [Salah al-Din al-Munajjid]

Busra bint Uzwan (ra) was the sister of Utbah bin Uzwan al-Mazini, the famous companion, the governor of Basra (in Iraq). According to the author, Busra hired Abu Huraira (ra) and he was her employee during the time of the Prophet. Later she married him, after Marwan succeeded him [as administrator] over Madinah.
[Al Isaba fi Tamyiz al Sahaba, by Ibn Hajar al Asqalani]

Nafisa bint al-Hasan (d. 208/824) taught hadith to Imam ash-Shafi’i.

Ibn Hajar mentioned 12 women who were musnida (transmitters of collection of traditions). He studied with 53 women.

Ibn Asakir al-Dimashqi (499-571) took hadith from 1,300 male shaykh and 80-odd female shaykha.

The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities. Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers, for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.). Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning, dyeing, and embroidery.

Some specific examples (by no means a comprehensive list) of working women living at the time of the prophet follow.

Women Farmers

Sahl ibn Sa’d, a companion of the Prophet mentioned a woman who had her own farm. She used to cultivate beets and barley to feed the companions of the Prophet with it after Friday prayer.

The daughter of Abu Bakr, Asma’, mentioned that when she was married to Zubair, they did not have wealth. The Prophet gave them some land about two miles away from their home. She used to farm and transport the produce herself.

Asma’ bint Abu Bakr reported, “One day I was coming back with date stones on my head. Then I met the Prophet with some people from Madinah. He asked me to ride with him on his camel’s back.”
It was apparent that farming was independently done by women. Moreover, they transported farm produce. If they had modern trucks, trains, ships and planes, Asma’ and other women would have used them rather than carrying the goods on their heads.

Women Traders

Quite a few women companions of the Prophet were engaged in trading. Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife, is the most famous example. Other women such as Khaula, Lakhmia, Thaqafia, and Bint Makhramah traded perfumes.

A companion named Quila said to the Prophet, “I am a woman who buys and sells things.” Then she asked several questions about buying and selling.

Clearly, business was a legitimate activity of the women companions of the Prophet.

The wife of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud met her expenses by manufacturing and selling handicrafts.

Saudah, the Prophet’s wife, was an expert in tanning skins. She sold her tanned goods to trading caravans and local men throughout Medina.

Women Surgeons

Rufaidah Aslamiyyah was an expert in medicine and surgery. She used to tend to the sick and wounded in the battlefields. According to Ibn Sa’d, her tent was equipped with equipment for surgery and first aid. When Sa’d ibn Mu’adh was injured in the Battle of the Trenches, the Prophet transferred him to her tent for medical care.

Other women experts in medicine and surgery were Umm Muta’, Umm Kabashah, Hamnah bint Jahsh, Mu’adhah, Laila, Umaimah, Umm Zaid, Umm ‘Atiyyah, and Umm Sulaim.
Rubayyi’ bint Mu’awwaidh ibn ‘Afra was a great companion of the Prophet. She tended to the wounded and sick and supplied water to the thirsty soldiers in many battles. With other women, she transported the wounded and the dead in the war.

Women in Politics and Scholars

For example, the Prophet consulted with Umm Salamah when he negotiated the treaty of Hudaibiah. Many companions were angry at the weak terms of the treaty. It was Umm Salamah whose counsel helped ease the situation.

Fatima bin Qais was a very able and intelligent scholar. When ‘Umar died, the nomination committee consulted Qais on the selection of the next Caliph.

The prophet Muhammad appointed Shifa bint ‘Abdullah ibn Shams as the administrator and controller (accountant) of the Market of Madinah which was one of the largest markets in those days. ‘Umar reappointed her when he became Caliph. Hazrat Umar (RA) also appointed Hazrat Umm Hakim Baiza, who was the paternal aunt of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) a learned women, at the post of Khilafat.
According to ‘Allama ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Shifa bint ‘Abdullah was a very intelligent and scholarly woman. Umar often took the initiative of asking her opinion to other people.

Women not only gave their opinion on various problems but also criticized state matters and participated in the evaluation and reckoning of a ruler’s actions.
It is commonly believed that freedom of speech originated recently in the West. This is no more than myth. Islam introduced equal rights and freedom of expression for women fourteen hundred years ago. The incident about mahr (dowry) in the Caliphate of ‘Umar is well known. When he decided to fix the dowry money, an old woman protested that he had no right to decide about it, and he ceded to her protest.

Women Jurists

There are many female jurists in early Islamic history. In jurisprudence, ‘Aisha had few equals and Umm Salam also gave many legal rulings.

Others are Safiyyah, Hafsa, Umm Habiba, Juwayriyyah, Maymuna, Fatima, Zahra, Umm Sharik, Umm ‘Atya, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr, Haila bint Qanif, Khaula bint Tuwait, Umm al-Darda, Atika bint Zaid, Sahalah bint Suhail, Fatima bint Qais, Zaynabah bint Abu Salamah, Umm Ayman, and Umm Yusuf.
A noted medieval Muslim scholar, Imam Badr al-Din Kashani, explained the rationale for appointing a women Qadi judge): “Where there is ability to give testimony, there is also the ability of qada (ruling).” According to al-Tabari, a woman can be an absolute judge in every matter.

It is reported that Dawud ibn Husayn, a companion of the Prophet, used to take Qur’anic lessons from Umm Sa’d Jamilah bint As’ad Ansariyyah, daughter of As’ad ibn Rabi who fought in the Battle of Badr and achieved martyrdom in the Battle of Uhud. According to ibn Athir, Umm Sa’d had memorized the Qur’an and used to give regular lessons.

Khansa bint ‘Amr was a woman of great stature and a poetess of great fame. According to ibn Athir, all poets of fame unanimously agree that no poetess ever equaled Khansa, and the Prophet appreciated her verses.

Su’da, Safiyyah, ‘Atikah, Muridiyyah, Qunila Abduriyyah, Umm Ayman, Umm Ziad, and Kabsah bint Rafi were also well known poetesses at the time of the Prophet .

‘Amra bint ‘Abdu’r-Rahman was one of most prominent women of second generation. She was one of those who gave legal opinions in Madina after the Companions. Her opinion overrode the views of other authorities. She is the first authority for three legal issues dealing with the prohibition against digging up graves, the ban on selling unripe fruit, and the effect of crop damage on the sale of agricultural produce. In one case, she reversed the decision of her nephew to cut off the hand of a man who stole some iron rings. Her authority was accepted on matters such as business transactions and punishments (hudud). Imam Malik takes her as a legal precedent for details on the hajj.

Women Warriors

Many examples of women actively participating in war could be found at the time of the Prophet. One companion, Umm ‘Umarah, demonstrated courage and fearlessness in the battle of Uhud.

Umm Hakim, wife of Ikrimah ibn Aji Jahl participated in the war against the Romans.

When Muslims suffered defeat in the Battle of Uhud, there was some confusion in the Muslim camp. Then Safiyah bint ‘Abd al-Muttalib left Madinah armed with a spear and aroused a sense of shame among those who were returning from the battle. She angrily asked them, “Did you leave the Prophet behind?”

Asma’ bint Yazid fought and killed nine enemy soldiers in the battle of Uhud.
Umm Salaim, mother of Anas, went to battle with a dagger.


There were not many different kinds of jobs during the days of the Prophet.

Farming, trading, construction, tool making, tanning, bread making, teaching, transporting goods, nursing, health care and defense of the nation were the major economic activities in those days.

Female companions of the Prophet participated in all these activities WITH his approval.


Thank you so much for the detailed post.

God tells us in the holy Quran that the responsibility for a Muslim society is divided equally between men and women,

“And the believing men and believing women – each are allies to one another. They command what is recognized as good, forbid the objectionable, establish the prayer, give the alms and obey God and His Messenger. Those – God will be merciful with them. Verily, God is Mighty and Wise.” (9:71)

We are all here for each other.

Notice how God finishes the verse with two attributes of His that are pertinent to this verse? Mighty over those who want to organize society differently and Wise in His arrangement of society the way He arranged it.

Why didn’t Muhammad free all slaves at once?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Sahaaba (his companions) freed over 300,000 slaves in the Prophet’s time (PBUH). Remaining slaves were treated like family and it was one of the best deeds if you freed a slave (and not only free them, but also made sure they could live by themselves).

That was revolutionary and unheard of at the time. But why didn’t the Prophet (PBUH) free all the slaves at once?

The reason he did not, IMHO, is the same as the reason the prohibition of intoxication and usury was gradual: Breaking a bad, but strong habit cannot be done by a decree! How many people succeeded in quitting smoking cold-turkey?

After Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with a decree, tens of thousands of African Americans became jobless and homeless! And because their previous masters were forced to free them, they would not hire them. That’s the fault of Lincoln’s approach to the problem, however noble his intention was. Recall that after the emancipation proclamation, the bloodiest war in US history was launched and Lincoln was assassinated!

Compare that approach to this teaching of the Quran,
“Should he not then conquer the obstacle? And what may make you understand what the obstacle is? Untying of a neck! (freeing a slave)” (90:11-13)

To this day, black Americans suffer from discrimination, rooted in racism, that keeps many of them uneducated, unemployed and living in ghettos.

Had Lincoln followed the example of the Prophet (PBUH) instead, slaves would have been freed gradually, willingly and without bloodshed. The consequences of a hasty, from-the-top prohibition would have caused havoc and more pain whose main sufferers would have been the slaves themselves.

If Muslims had followed the Prophet (pbuh) in these teachings, slavery would’ve been abolished long before it was.

Another great point. Thanks for bringing it up. Muslims did NOT follow the example of the Prophet (PBUH) and the Sahaaba in freeing slaves, but they did treat them like family.