Archive for the ‘Alms and Charity’ Category

Facing up to a Pharaoh

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

I just discovered first hand that reading the Quran is a journey. Some of the passages are so powerful that I actually slept all day one day.

I know I am going through a tough time but this time reading the Quran has been a drastically different experience.

Musa (ra) (Moses) had a staff. He had his brother (ra)…What staff can I hold onto?

What did Hagar hold on to? Her husband, Abraham (PBUH), told her he’s been commanded by God to leave her and their only son, Ishmael, who was still a baby, in a desert in the middle of nowhere. Her reply was, “God ordered you? Then He will not abandon us.”

I know you may be thinking that Hagar, peace be upon her, was in a completely different league than the rest of us. True, but she reached that plateau only because of her faith. She was an ordinary woman, a maid, with no material means. Because of what she did next, God sprang the Zamzam Well and that arid, vacant desert became Mecca. Since her time, millions of people have echoed her footsteps every year (during the pilgrimage).

I sure hope that you do not have to face a pharaoh anytime soon. Also remember that Aaron was not always very helpful to his brother.

One of the ways the Prophet (PBUH) described the Quran was, “Its wonders never cease.” Indeed, if you read the Quran and you get the feeling that you’re reading it for the first time, then rejoice, for God is bringing you closer to Him by giving you new insight into His word.

Funny thing I just saw a video on Hagar. I have always admired her faith.

What I have also experienced are the immediacies of receiving blessings. I see that Allah subhana wa taala does not hold back. When we ask He gives.

I am always about the inner journey. And the section of the Path that I am walking upon demands that I spend time on the quest. In a sense I am learning that we are always exactly where He wants us to be, at any given moment. Maybe that realization is the fountain of youth. It takes the stressors and anxieties away.

I do not think I will meet a pharaoh anytime soon, Besides, it is not the meeting that is momentous. It is the gathering of the faith leading to the meeting. On a deeper level don’t we meet mini-pharoah’s every day. They may not be as powerful but the sheer arrogance of their personalities and their inability to prostrate to the Lord of the Universe and persistence in sinning ways.

(May Allah subhana wa taala reward you immensely. Your words are always a source of strength and comfort)

The journey is indeed inner more than it is outer. The outer journey is perhaps easier because it is aided by other people. We are encouraged by parents, teachers and preachers to pray, fast, be charitable, exercise good manners and say and do good. We see immediately the effect of the good we do to others and it makes us happy and fulfilled. The reward is felt right away.

But the inner journey we make alone. And it is an arduous journey. God says in the holy Quran, “O man, you are toiling toward your Lord then meeting Him!” (84:6) The journey is hard because Satan and our desire keep interfering with it.

Losing weight

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know three things: (a) That the way to do it is simple and well known, albeit easier said than done, (b) that it requires discipline and self control and (c) that when it succeeds, you feel unencumbered and happy. You know you’ve done the right thing for yourself. The same can be said about stopping any addiction, such as smoking or gambling. Even spring cleaning is the same way.

And so is soul cleaning. The Prophet (PBUH) commented one day on verse 83:14 of the holy Quran. The verse said, “Nay! Rather, what they have been earning [of sin] has formed a stain on their hearts.” (83:14). He said, “A person’s heart gets blotted every time he sins. If he repents, it is polished out. If he does it again, the blot gets bigger. Until his heart is blocked. That is the stain.”, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by At-Tirmizhi who rated it soundly authentic.

Cleaning of the heart is probably the hardest component of soul cleaning. It all starts with cleaning of the faith, such that no hint of “shirk” (associating others with God in worship) taints it. Then comes mind cleaning: cleaning of thoughts, such that you assume good until you see otherwise and when you do you forgive. Change negative thoughts to positive ones promptly and seek refuge in God from the whispers of Satan. Think twice before saying or doing things. Never act impulsively or on negative emotions. Stay away from negative people. Keep up prayer, supplication and charity. Read the Quran and reflect on it. Say good words and do good wherever you go and to whomever you meet. Clean your attitude, such that you deal with all with equal respect and courtesy.

When you boycott sin, it works for your soul like boycotting cigarettes works on your lungs and boycotting gambling works on your pocket book. The more you practice, and ask God to help and strengthen you, the easier it will get and the more likely it will be to succeed.

Fitna of confusion

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Given the political situations in Islamic countries..there is so much confusion. I do not have the means to understand the intricate workings of why people are killing each other…my question is simple..what is the fundamental action for a simple Muslim like me to do. I do not know who is right and why they are right; same goes for wrong. How do I reconcile myself to this in the correct Islamic manner?

There is a hadeeth that rings very true especially these days, though it is rated week in authenticity. It is narrated by Abu-Umaama Al-Baahili and reported by Al-`Iraaqi in his book “Takhreej-ul-Ihyaa'”. In this hadeeth, the Prophet, peace be upon him, tells the Sahaaba (his fellows),
“How would you do when you view virtue as vice and vice as virtue?” The Sahaaba asked, “Is this happening, O Messenger of God?” He replied, “By Him in whose Hand is my soul: Yes, and worse.” They said, “What can be worse?” He said, “God will say, ‘By Me I swear I will set up for them a Fitna (test of faith) that leaves the forbearing among them confused.'”

When Muslims turn a blind eye to sin, tolerate tyranny and focus on the trivia, they turn the natural moral order upside down. As a result, God turns their honor to disgrace, their peace to conflict, their prosperity to austerity, their mutual love to hostility and their works to naught. It should not then come as a surprise what Muslims are going through these days.

What you write about is the Fitna that leaves the forbearing confused. To recover, hold fast to the discerning criterion, the Quran. Examine what somebody is doing or saying by what the Quran says about it. What does the Quran say about killing? It says,
“And whoever deliberately kills a believer, then his recompense is Hell, forever staying therein, and God will be angry with him, curse him, and prepare for him a great torment.” (4:93)

You’d think that after such as frightening list of threats, that no Muslim would even contemplate killing a believer. But many Muslims ignored this verse totally and continue to do so today.

Can you then be confused about the killing that is taking place? Can there be any doubt in your mind who is wrong?

You ask what can an ordinary person do in such a situation. You read the Quran, so that you won’t be confused. You supplicate to God that He help you discern right from wrong and keep you walking the Straight Path. You ask God to put an early end to injustice, punish the perpetrators and shelter the oppressed. You donate to charitable organizations that do good work relieving the suffering of victims. You call your political representatives and urge them to weigh in so that the unjust do not think they may get away with it. You network with others so they may do likewise.

Finally, you remind yourself that sooner or later the truth prevails as God says in the holy Quran, “Say: The truth has arrived and falsehood perished. Falsehood tends to perish.” (17:81)

Why do some people follow Quran but reject Hadith?

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

The following was asked on a discussion forum I follow. I need your help in answering it.

A few weeks ago, I joined a woman’s group and we post questions to get to know each other and answer questions, give advice, and so on. It was a mixed group with Muslims and non-Muslims with the majority being Muslim. Anyway, there were several debates in which some women would argue over why they reject hadith and only follow Quran. I’m wondering how can they be Muslim when they reject certain aspects of Islam?

Almighty Allah SWT says: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3)

Rejecting the Hadeeth altogether is irrational! Because it is the Hadeeth that tells us how many prayers we have to pray everyday, how to pray and what to say in a prayer, what proprotion of our money are we to take out for the Zakah (mandatory alms), among hundreds of other teachings without which the religion would not be complete.

More importantly, rejecting the Hadeeth is tantamount to disobeying God, who says, “Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed God” (4:80). How do we obey the Prophet (PBUH) if we don’t know what he said?!

Which brings me to the reason which is probably why these folks reject the Hadeeth. Namely, they do not trust that the prophet (PBUH) said what the Hadeeths say he said. I doubt that any Muslim would actually know that the Prophet ordered something and they consciously decide not to do it!

So, the issue actually is the authenticity of the Hadeeth. There is reason to be suspicious of the authenticity of the Hadeeth, but that’s no reason to reject it; it is reason to scrutinize it.

This is exactly why our righteous predecessors spent lifetimes collecting narrations, verifying the integrity and competence of each narrator and ensuring the continuity of the “chain of narrators”. May God have been pleased with their phenomenal efforts. They found out that 90% of all narrations going around were either weak or outright fabrications! They discovered that many narrators were not credible or were incompetent.

The good news is that they ended up with the creme of the crop: Men and women of impeccable reputation, remarkable memory, mastery of language, piety and knowledge. Those are the narrators of the Hadeeths rated authentic by the leading Hadeeth scholars, such as Al-Bukhaari and Muslim.

The disciplines of Hadeeth study are many and are sophisticated; you actually are taught them in specialized universities in the Muslim world! There is the Usool discipline (Foundations), the Takhreej discipline (scrutinization and rating of narrations), Ta’reekh discipline (biography of narrators), Al-Jarh wat-Ta`deel discipline (assessment of narrators), as well as the need to learn the vocabulary, customs, geography and society at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) until the Hadeeth books were authored three Centuries later.

What the Hadeeth scholars have done is a showcase of scientific discipline. Yet, they were human still and as human they could err despite their best efforts. Therefore, it is conceivable that a hadeeth could be rated authentic but has fundamental problems with it. This is a sensitive issue, because strict Muslims, such as the Salafis (blind followers of ancestors) reject the notion that the Salaf (ancestors) could have made mistakes. Other Muslims are puzzled by the apparent discrepancy, even contradiction, of what some hadeeths say and what the Quran says. Whenever such situation happens, Muslims typically have one of four reactions: (a) Pretend that there is no discrepancy, (b) Attempt to reconcile the two texts, (c) Favor the Quran over the Hadeeth, or, believe it or not, (d) Favor the Hadeeth over the Quran!

I humbly suggest that everybody should do (b)! And if they can’t, then at least (c). The other approaches to the problem are irrational, because a true hadeeth cannot possibly conflict with the Quran.

The women in your friend’s group have taken the cop-out position, which, IMHO, is just as bad as pretending there’s no problem.

Verse 5:3, which you cited, and the subsequent two verses were the last verses revealed of the Quran. The Prophet (PBUH) knew that his mission is complete and that perhaps his time was up. He said on his “farewell sermon” which immediately followed the revelation of 5:3-5, “Listen to me and understand what I’m saying, perhaps I will not see you again after this year of ours!” He died three months later. Thus, the “completion verse” meant that not only was the Quran complete, but the Hadeeth too. Their conveyor, peace be upon him, would shortly die.

So, to answer your main question: Those people don’t know how to handle hadeeths that seem to contradict the Quran, so they don’t bother with the Hadeeth at all. It’s a radical reaction, kind of like being diagnosed differently by different doctors then deciding that you won’t treat yourself at all! The right thing to do is to scrutinize the hadeeth. By doing so, and provided the hadeeth is authentic, one gains knowledge of what the hadeeth actually means and can see that no conflict exists between it and the Quran. That is a task that is understandably beyond the capacity of most Muslims. It is an obligation, IMHO, upon Muslim scholars to do this and ease people’s minds.

Do Muslims have a covenant with God?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The Jews believe that they have a covenant with God. Do Muslims believe they have a covenant with God? What does Islam say about God’s covenant?

God’s covenant with people has been the same since He created Adam. It is that we believe in Him alone, do not associate anything or anybody with Him in worship, uphold His laws, follow His Messengers, and honor His scriptures. That is Al-Amaana (the Trust) which God speaks about in this key verse,

“We offered the Trust to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains. They declined to carry it and were apprehensive of it. But man carried it; he is ever unjust and ignorant.” (33:72)

We volunteered for the job, but we haven’t done it too well!

The first obligation of the covenant is made clear in this verse:

“When your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (7:172)

The belief in the One God is in our DNA!

Whenever God sent a Messenger to a people, He had them testify that they would uphold the Covenant. That is why many scriptures are called Testaments. There are many verses in the Quran which speak about that, for instance:

“And [recall] when God took the covenant of the prophets, [saying,] “Surely whatever I give you of the Book and wisdom and then comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you, that you [will] indeed believe in him and support him.” [God] said, “Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My commitment?” They said, “We have acknowledged.” He said, “Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” (3:81)

Thus, the Covenant was taken by all prophets and part of it was that all future prophets must be followed.

“And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except God; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give alms.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, with refusal.” (2:83)

The covenant included God’s moral teachings as well as theological fundamentals. The Children of Israel were one of the earliest people who did not uphold the Covenant.

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when God took a covenant from those who were given the Book, [saying], “You must make it clear to the people and not conceal it.” But they banished it behind their backs and exchanged it for a small price. Then how wretched is what they purchased!” (3:187)

The covenant included spreading the word of God to all, but people have hidden it, or worse, altered it.

What do people get when they stick to their end of the Covenant? God explains clearly in this verse,

“And God had already taken a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We delegated from among them twelve leaders. And God said, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give alms and believe in My messengers and support them and loan God a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow. But whoever of you disbelieves after that has certainly strayed from the level road” (5:12)

We get the company of God! We get expiation of our sins. We get the ultimate reward in the Hereafter. May God enable us to uphold His Covenant and not deviate from the level road.

In case you’re wondering whether Christians were exempted from the Covenant, I invite you to read Mathew 5:17-20, in which Jesus (PBUH) is reported to have said that any talk about him abolishing the law is nonsense, that the law stands as long as the heavens and the earth stand, and that those who do not uphold the law will not enter the Kingdom of God. The law of God has been, and always will be the same, and it applies to all people without exceptions. Upholding it is the covenant we made with God.

God reminds Muslims in the holy Quran of their covenant with God. He says,
“And remember the favor of God upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, ‘We hear and we obey’; and watch out for God. Indeed, God is much Knowing of that within the bosoms.” (5:7)

Is paying Jizya a sign of disgrace?

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

The Jizya verse, 9:29, says that the people of the Book have to be fought until they pay the Jizya in humility. Is paying Jizya a sign of disgrace?

That is not what the verse says. It says that citizens of a Muslim country, who are Jewish or Christian, must pay a defense tax called Jizya, and if they refuse, the authorities may fight them until they do. That is not a sign of disgrace, it’s a citizenship duty. That is the same law all countries use to collect mandatory taxes from their citizens. In the USA, for example, Federal Marshals are authorized by law to fight, with guns if necessary, any citizen who refuses to pay taxes.

That is simply being fair to the other citizens. Muslim citizens are not only required to join the army at time of war, but they also pay Zakah (mandatory alms). Non-Muslim citizens are exempt from military service and from Zakah. Jizya is what they have to pay in equivalence to Zakah.

The word God uses in 9:29 does not mean disgrace, it means humbled, as in surrendering to the authorities. The law of the land has to be followed by all citizens equally.

He died before paying Zakah

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

My father passed away and left us inheritance. He did not pay Zakah on his money for several years. Can we his children pay the Zakah for him? How much would that be? I assume if we do, we have to deduct it from the estate before it is distributed to heirs?

Another problem is that part of the inheritance is in certificates of deposit that pay interest. That is haraam (forbidden), isn’t it? What do we do with the interest portion of the inheritance?

Zakah is an obligation that must not be skipped. You certainly can pay it for him. A man came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said to him, “My sister vowed to perform the pilgrimage but she died before she could do it. Can I perform it for her?” The Prophet (PBUH) answered, “If she owed money, would you pay it for her?” He said, “Certainly.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Debt owed to God has more priority!” Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbaas (RA) and reported by Al-Bukhaari. Similar hadeeths have been reported by Muslim about making up for a deceased mother’s missed fasting. The analogy clearly applies to Zakah equally.

If your father, may God have mercy on him, kept financial records, you may be able to figure out what his networth was each of the years he did not pay the Zakah and deduct 2.5% of it. The financial records for the CDs are available from the issuing financial firm. You can deduct the interest and donate it, but keep the face value of the CDs.

If you cannot estimate his networth in those years, you can use the latest networth for your calculations.

Finally, and I’m sure you’re doing this already, pray to God to forgive your father for neglecting the Zakah and ask Him to accept your compensation for it. May God bless your family.

Some questions about Zakah

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Someone told my husband that he has to pay Zakah (mandatory alms) everyday on his earnings. He asked a Sheikh (Muslim scholar) and he told him that the Zakah is paid after one year has passed since the last time it was paid. Who is right?

The Sheikh is right. The only thing whose Zakah must be given out immediately is crop harvest, because God says in the holy Quran,

“And give its due the day of its harvest” (6:141)

Am I able to give some Zakah to my parents? They are on fixed income but most of it is going towards bills and they sometimes don’t have enough. This stresses my dad. I help them as much as I can but we are on a budget too. Can I give them from Zakah money?

Zakah is supposed to be collected and pooled so that its administrators can subsequently divide it up among the eight categories mentioned in 9:60. Zakah is due on the excess of your wealth after you take care of all your expenses, one of which is supporting your parents. So, why couldn’t you give them throughout the year? I don’t understand.

I meant that because we ourselves don’t have enough money

Say you paid Zakah of $600 the last time. That means you have money! You could have given your parents $50 a month each month last year. See?

Simply estimate what the Zakah will be. Past Zakah amounts can also help in the estimate. If the Zakah was $600, $500 and $1000 the last three years, then it averages $700. Use that as guiding estimate if you like.

How do we pay the Zakah on the business we own? How do we factor in the expenses, the debts, etc.?

If you were to sell the business tomorrow, how much would you get? Net after payment of all debts and obligations? That is the basis from which you calculate the Zakah.

You keep accounting books for your business in order to estimate taxes. Use the same books to figure out the networth of the business. That is you basis for Zakah. The Zakah is based on the networth, which is defined as assets minus liabilities. Debts go into the liability column. Expenses are spent already, so they are not assets. Also, the scholars have agreed that basic necessities, such as the house you live in, the car you drive, the food that you eat, etc., are not included in the Nisaab (basis).

To simplify the matter: add up the balances of your bank accounts, equities in your brokerage accounts (deduct 10% from IRA accounts, the early withdrawal penalty), the networth of the business and the market value of your gold and silver jewelry. That’s your basis for Zakah, assuming you don’t have agriculture land and oil fields and such.

Jewelry is part of your networth, whether you wear it or not. Take it to a jeweler and see how much he would pay for it. That is its market value and the basis for Zakah.