Archive for the ‘Tradition and Culture’ Category

Is Islamic inheritance law unfair?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The British newspaper The Telegraph published today an article with the heading “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs”. The author, John Bingham, alleges in the article that British lawyers will now for the first time be able to write wills for their clients that “deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.”

Is that true? Have testators never been able to exclude from their wills heirs they resented, or wished to penalize, and given some heirs more than others and even given people who were totally unrelated to them a large portion of their estate? I doubt that, since the English law, as far as I know, regards the testator as the sole owner of his or her estate and therefore the only one who has a say in how the estate is to be distributed. Probate courts only interfere when a litigator contests the will as being contrary to common standards of fairness.

One article I found, written by a lawyers group, spells out how a testator can disinherit some heirs. I’m sure you can find many other.

However, is Bingham’s Islamophobic allegation true about Islamic law? Does Islamic law of inheritance deny women an equal share of inheritance and exclude unbelievers altogether?

Not quite as stated. The reason women inherit half of what men inherit is because Islamic law requires men to financially support women! If this requirement is not found in a Muslim community, then the division becomes invalid. I hope that the legal guidance the article refers to has taken into consideration that important proviso. Bingham really should have asked about it before he published his article.

And what about non-Muslims, can they possibly inherit from a Muslim? While some schools of thought do not allow it, there really is nothing in the Quranic verses that makes that ruling. A Muslim testator certainly can specify a bequest in his will, not to exceed one third of the estate, to be given to any one person or group who is not a regular heir.

The questions and answers page of this software may answer more of the readers questions about Islamic law of inheritance. God says in the holy Quran “Verily, God does not wrong even the weight of a speck.” (4:40) Don’t let Islamophobic writers give you the wrong impression about God.

Bingham also reports in the article that the legal guidance documents will exclude out-of-wedlock children and adopted children from inheriting. Is this true? Apart from the fact that any British testator can probably do that already under British law, Islamic law does not deprive out-of-wedlock children. The Quran does not say they are excluded! As for adopted children, they are not regular heirs for the reasons we explained in previous posts, but they can inherit by way of a bequest.

Next Islamophobic allegation in the article is the exclusion of people married in a church or in City Hall! Where is that written exactly in the Quran? If the reader can point to the verse, I’d appreciate it.

Is that guidance document “the first step on the road to a parallel legal system” for British Muslims, as the article quotes some campaigners? My humble answer to this question is that it can be, but never has to be. It all depends on how Islamic law is defined. If the definition is made by a school of thought, or some influential person, then the fears expressed in the article are legitimate. But that does not qualify as Islamic law. Islamic law is the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth, properly interpreted according to universally recognized logic, called in Islamic disciplines Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction). Anything else is somebody’s opinion.

This whole issue of fear of “Sharia”, which resulted in several American states banning Sharia altogether, mixes two things which are not always related: Islam and Muslims! What Islam teaches is not necessarily followed by Muslims, and what Muslims do is not necessarily taught by Islam. To ban unfair laws is a good thing regardless of who wrote those laws. But to ban something based on misunderstanding it, or on mixing it with something else, is unwarranted.

If I were to advise the Law Society of Britain, I would only say that what they are told is Sharia may not be. It could simply be a tradition, or somebody’s refutable interpretation, and therefore should not overrule British law. They and the detractors and even many Muslims may be surprised to learn that much of British law has always been Sharia-compliant. In fact, the beginnings of the English Common Law were much influenced by Islamic law.

How can I become an Islamic scholar?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Salam, there is something that I’ve wanted to know but couldn’t really find any defined information on.
1- What is an Islamic Scholar? 2- How does one become an Islamic Scholar? 3- How many years does it take to become one? (how long) 4- What are the necessary college classes/courses and degrees necessary to be qualified as one? (i.e., PhD?) 5-Are there different types of Islamic Scholars(specializations)? If there are, what are they?

Becoming an Islamic Scholar is something that I am really interested in in the near future. I hope this is not a lot, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

An Islamic scholar is one who can study an Islamic text, determine its credibility and then deduce intent from it. Like any other field of scholarship, this requires acquiring knowledge as well as skills of logical analysis and critical thinking honed by discipline and methodology.

Such scientific approach is crucial for weeding out whimsical opinions! If you have listened to some fatwas (religious edicts) issued by unknown, self-appointed Muslim scholars on satellite TV and YouTube, you know what I’m talking about.

Prior to modern times, Islamic scholars were not many and they all had to learn and be licensed (Ijaaza) by a recognized scholar. This approach carried over to modern times in the form of colleges and universities where Islamic disciplines are formally taught by teachers of high repute and earned licenses. If you want to be a formal Islamic scholar, this is the proper way to go about it. Such study takes about four years in reputable learning institutions such as Al-Azhar and Darul-Uloom universities in Egypt, for instance.

That said, one can attend these places of learning and graduate from them without actually becoming a scholar! Why? Because a student who simply memorized what he or she has been taught and echoes the rulings he or she has learned is a copy, not a scholar. Such a person cannot handle new, controversial or challenging issues. You will notice right away that they do not have what it takes and that they will end up giving their personal opinion, which is often based on their likes and dislikes.

God has honored scholars a number of times in the holy Quran. For instance,
“Verily, those who truly fear God out of all His worshipers are the scholars” (35:28) and
“But if they had referred the matter back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who can deduce from it would have known about it. And if not for the favor of God upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few.” (4:83)

Thus, true Islamic scholarship can save Muslims from falling prey to Satan. It can also sort out what is religion and what is tradition. So many people mix the two.

Finally, you asked about disciplines and specialties. Disciplines are many. There are disciplines centered on the Quran, such as its language and syntax, its interpretations, how to deduce rulings from it. There are disciplines centered on the Hadeeth, such as authenticating it, knowing the biographies and credibility of its narrators, how to deduce rulings from it, how it and the Sunna explain the Quran, etc. There is also the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh, which I personally think is near the top of disciplines, because it teaches the foundations of deduction. It disciplines the mind to be rational, logical and methodical. That way, the many pitfalls that some fall into can be systematically avoided.

There is also the discipline of law (Sharee`a), history, comparative religions and more. You can specialize in any of it. You can study with the aim of becoming a preacher, for instance, or a judge. Your academic advisor can help guide you in this endeavor. Best wishes.

Business and the work ethic in Islam

Monday, August 19th, 2013

I came across the following last week and thought to talk about it a bit today:

From unemployment to self employment:

A beggar from Medina came to the Prophet (PBUH) and asked him for money. The Prophet (PBUH) asked him, “Have you nothing in your house?” The man replied, “Only a cloth, part of which we wear and part we use for carpet. And a wooden bowl from which we drink water.” The Prophet (PBUH) told him to bring them to him. He did.

The Prophet (PBUH) held the items in his hand and started an auction, “Who will buy these?” One man bid a Dirham (a silver coin). Another bid two Dirhams and bought the two items.

The Prophet (PBUH) gave the two Dirhams to the beggar and told him, “With one Dirham, go buy food and clothes for your family. With the other Dirham, buy and axe, go out with it and chop wood and sell it in the market. I don’t want to see you again for fifteen days!”

Fifteen days later, the man came back to the Prophet (PBUH) and reported to him that he made ten Dirhams selling the firewood that he chopped!

This story is reported by Abu-Daawood from a narration by Anas ibn Maalik. He did not immediately rate it, but indicated later that its authenticity was sound. The tenor of the story is confirmed by a hadeeth, reported and authenticated by Muslim and narrated by Abu-Hurayra that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Carrying a bundle of firewood on your back and selling it is better for any of you than begging for money that he may or may not get.” Also reported by Al-Bukhaari from a narration by Az-Zubayr ibn Al-`Awwaam (RA).

Islam encourages business, trade and self employment. Did you expect that Islam and capitalism have something in common? This is one aspect of pre-Islamic era that Islam has approved and encouraged.

Why are they leaving Islam?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

An excellent article by Mathew Longacre,

I’d add that the spread of lies, half-truths, bad translations and scare tactics and confusing traditions or culture with religious tenets by Islamophobes, as well as the spread of misinterpretations, misconceptions and flawed fatwas (religious rulings) by fundamentalist Muslims as well as portraying terrorism, mass murder and suicide as Jihaad (!!), all leave the vulnerable and the gullible Muslims in confusion and doubt. It is the responsibility of parents, friends, preachers, scholars and media to rush to help those who have unanswered questions about Islam and answer them! We are all responsible for each other and will be questioned by God on the Day of Judgment if we have failed that responsibility. The Prophet (PBUH) made that quite clear when he said, “All of you are caretakers and all of you will be questioned about those you were to take care of!”, narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

Gestures of respect

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Assalamu Alaikum WR WB
What is the correct ruling of Islam, with regards to observing silence?

In universities and many public places, when the administration / government asks us to observe the silence for few minutes as a tribute to the expired people, or any other past incidence such as natural disasters etc, as a Muslim, am I permitted to do undergo with this command? To stand up and keep quite for few minutes??

And, what is the correct ruling on standing up when the chief guest arrives for a meeting, or when we see elders, teachers, etc….

Some say that the companions of Prophet (PBUH) did never stand up, when they saw the Prophet, so we are not supposed to stand up for the chief guests to show the respect …

But on the other hand, I know of a Hadeeth, where Prophet (PBUH) stood up to show his respect to a Jewish funeral parade. Am I correct? (I am not sure about the authenticity of this Hadeeth)

I am quite confused with these two issues. Please do help me as usual Insha Allah

May Allah Azzawajal bless you always
Fee Amanillah

The related prohibition in the Quran is of participation in Zoor (falshood). The verse is (25:72), identifying “the worshipers of the Beneficent”: “And [they are] those who do not witness falsehood, and when they pass by frivolity, they pass dignified.”

Observing a moment of silence out of respect for a deceased person does not come under the criterion of Zoor. No words are uttered by definition, so there is no risk of being involved in blasphemy. It would be different if a clergyman was leading the audience and started to say words that are blasphemous.

As for standing up when some VIP enters the room, there is a hadeeth about it, narrated by Mu`aawiya ibn Abi-Sufyaan, and rated authentic by Al-Albaani, in which Mu`aawiya tells of when he came into a room where Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr (RA) and Abdullah ibn `Aamir were sitting. Ibn Az-Zubayr stayed seated but Ibn Aamir stood up. Mu`aawiya told Ibn `Aamir to sit down because the Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘Whoever is pleased when people stand up for him, let him pick his seat in Hell!'”

You will notice that the prohibition in this hadeeth is against being pleased when people stand up to greet you. It does not prohibit people from doing it.

The hadeeth you mentioned is specific about funerals. It was reported by Abu-Daawood who did not rate it, and narrated by Jaabir ibn Abdillah, Abu-Hurayra and others and rated Hasan (Sound) by Al-Albaani. In it, the Prophet (PBUH) says, “When you see a funeral procession, stand up for it.”

Gestures of respect have been expressed by all communities throughout the ages. There is no harm in them unless they degrade the person or resemble acts reserved for worship. For instance, kneeling before the Queen to be knighted, or prostrating to people to apologize to them.

All those honorary titles

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Assalamu Alaikum WR WB.

I need the clarifications on passing different types of Islamic titles on different individuals / group.

We say Alaihissalam to All the prophets, and angels.. and Mahdi too………

We say Radiyallahu Anhu, to Sahabas…

Some say Raheemahullah to living scholars, and the expired as well…

I wanna know, the root of these titles, why we say this?

More over, I met some one and she said, Prophet (PBUH) commanded us to say Salawat upon his family, and we must say Alaihissalaam to Ali(Ral). And when I said its from shia analogies, she replied back saying that Imam Bukhari has approved this !!!!

Please do throw light on this issue Insha Allah..
Fee Amanillah

That is a good convention created by as-Salaf as-Saalih (the righteous predecessors) after the death of the Prophet (PBUH).

In the Quran, God tells us that He “prays” for the Prophet (PBUH) and so do the angels and asks us to do likewise and send our greetings to him (33:56). Therefore, it is highly recommended that we say Salla Allaahu Alayhi wa Sallam (May God bless and greet him), which is commonly abbreviated PBUH (peace be upon him), whenever Muhammad’s name is mentioned.

As for other prophets, for the angels and for some distinguished people, such as Mary, we are encouraged to say “Alaihi As-Salaam” (peace be upon him), or in the case of Mary “Alayha as-Salaam” (peace be upon her), because the Prophet (PBUH) did so.

BTW, God “praying” for somebody means He graces them.

In the Quran, God tells us that He “is pleased with” the Sahaaba (companions of the Prophet, PBUH), who pledged allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH) (48:18). That is the origin of the phrase Radhiya Allaahu `Anhu (May God have been pleased with him), commonly abbreviated RA, in reference to the Sahaaba.

For all subsequent Muslims, the convention has been to say Rahimahu Allaah (May God have mercy on him), in reference to a deceased Muslim.

You were correct when you told your friend that special treatment of Ali (RA) tends to occur with our Shee`i colleagues. I’m not aware of anything that Al-Bukhaari has said that is different.

All those honorary phrases are literally prayers for those wonderful people. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever prays for his brother in absentia, the angels reply, ‘Amen, and the same to you!'”, narrated by Abud-Dardaa’ and reported by Muslim who rated it authentic.

It is not appropriate to say Rahimahullah about living people, even though literally it is valid. The reason is the convention that it refers to deceased people.

Can I travel alone?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Asalamu alaikum, brother! So good to finally get in contact with you alhamdulela. I left the forum that you used to post on after you. I couldn’t find anything worth reading so I’m here on your blog now. 🙂

I have a question. My parents have a great issue with me traveling on my own. I am now 21 years old and have not been anywhere on my own for more than a day. Now that I’m graduating inshaa Allah and would like to continue my studies perhaps abroad, I’m finding it very hard convincing them to let me go on a leisure trip let alone to another country! In my opinion and although they say it is because I’m without a mahram, I think this is more culture than Islamically. So I need to prove that I don’t need a mahram so they would have no excuse inshaa Allah!

JazakAllah khairan! 🙂

Welcome to the blog, sister. It’s good to hear from you again. I enjoyed reading your posts on that forum.

The issue of women traveling alone is more than culture or tradition. Many of the hadeeths that forbid it are authentic, narrated by Ibn Umar, Abu-Sa`eed Al-Khudri and Ibn Abbaas and reported by Al-Bukhaari. These hadeeths all say that a woman may not travel by herself, only with a mahram (chaperon) if the trip will take two or more days of walking.

Why is that? To answer this question, one needs to picture Arabia in the Seventh Century. Traveling between any two points was hazardous even for men, but at least men carried their swords and could defend themselves from thieves and thugs along the uncharted roads. How could any woman by herself?

That is the contingency of the hadeeths. If there are no risks to a woman’s dignity or property while traveling by herself, then the hadeeths do not apply.

Can such assurance be made today? While there will always be some risk, because there are always thugs and rapists out there, one has to admit that the risk has become much less than it was in Seventh Century Arabia. Airports and airplanes are packed with security. There are police officers in every town. Roads are well lit.

And nowadays, there are many ways a woman can defend herself. I always recommend to whomever asks me that a woman carries in her handbag defensive weapons, such as mace, pepper spray or “shriek alarms” and learn martial arts techniques.

If you are going to travel abroad, learn all you can about the crime rate where you will be living and seriously take precautions, passive and active. Passive precautions are things like not going out at night, always closing doors and windows after dark, etc.

Your parents will be constantly worried about you while you’re abroad, so stay in touch with them. Modern technologies and communications make this easy. Get them cell phones with webcams if they don’t have them already and call them daily so that they can see and hear you and know that you’re doing well and are safe.

Mingling of the sexes

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Lets have a discussion on the mingling of sexes. There is so much confusion within the American Muslim world. Some communities have free mixing; some are segregated. I do not see evidence of the prohibition of mixing with the opposite sex. This prohibition really dehumanizes females. We are turned into sexual objects. The Prophet never limited the role of women.

Like you said, there is no evidence from the Quran or the authentic Hadeeth that the two sexes cannot be together, provided they are in a public place (otherwise it would be the forbidden Khulwa) and provided both sexes are dressed modestly and act properly. The extreme segregation applied to the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) only. We know that because the Quran made that clear,

“O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you watch out [for God], then do not submit in speech, lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.
And abide in your homes and do not expose yourselves as [was] the exposition of the former [era] of ignorance. And establish prayer and give alms and obey God and His Messenger. God only wants to displace from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet’s] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification.” (33:32-33)

Extending that to all Muslim women is a matter of tradition, not Sunna. Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, was once invited to dinner with the Prophet (PBUH). The two of them sat at the table with `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her. No segregation here. As they were eating from the same plate, Umar and `Aa’isha reached out to the the plate at the same moment and their hands touched. Umar was very upset but the Prophet (PBUH) was not! He saw that it was accidental.

I respectfully disagree that segregation is tantamount to dehumanizing either sex; it is acknowledging the potential harm and taking precautions against it. Would you live in a drug infested neighborhood if you don’t have to? Admitting that men are lustful does not dehumanize them; it is simply acknowledging a fact of life. Admitting that women are extremely attractive to men and that their effect on them can preempt their better judgement, is an admission to a widely known fact. We may resent that fact, but that doesn’t change it. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking and ignoring the elephant in the room. You can see that in today’s world a lot. Both men and women keep telling themselves that what they are wearing or the way they are conducting themselves should not lead to adultery; that grownups can control themselves. Is that what actually happens? Hardly.

The example set by the Prophet (PBUH) and followed by the Sahaaba after him, in the congregational prayer in the mosque, best illustrates Islam’s view on segregation. Women and men pray together in the mosque, a public place, both dressed properly and behave decently, and all the women pray behind all the men. Doing otherwise would open the door to distractions and ugly attempts from men to touch the women or watch their bodies. Segregation in this manner protects both sexes. Outside the mosque, the same awareness should be present, i.e., women and men can work together and socialize but only if they act like ladies and gentlemen and dress properly. This is not a novel concept. Corporations have had dress codes and codes of conduct all employees must agree to.

Table manners in Islam

Monday, April 18th, 2011

I’m not a Muslim, but I was invited to dinner by a group of local Muslims. I accepted as I was curious to see what table etiquette Muslims observed. We sat on the floor. Everybody said some short prayer. I learned later that it is a simple “in the Name of God.” Then everybody ate with their right hand, no utensils, from the same plate, from the side of the plate that was in front of them. It was a delicious, spicy meal and I was full.

Is that pretty much the way Muslims are supposed to eat? I felt awkward to ask questions of my hosts.

Glad you had a good time. What you saw is a mixture of culture and Sunna (practice of the Prophet, PBUH). Sitting on the floor is cultural. Eating with the right hand is Sunna, unless one simply can’t. There is one authentic hadeeth about that in Muslim’s compilation of Hadeeth, narrated by Salama ibn Al-Akwa`, where a man ate with his left hand and the Prophet (PBUH) ordered him to eat with his right hand. The man said he couldn’t. The Prophet (PBUH) replied that he is only saying that out of ego. Thus, we conclude that if one can eat with his right hand, one should.

Not using utensils is also cultural. Eating from what’s next to you is Sunna. And the Basmala before eating is emphasized Sunna. The Quran makes it clear that the Name of God must be mentioned on food before a Muslim can eat it (6:121).

Eating from the same plate is cultural. Some Muslims may misunderstand a hadeeth, narrated by Wahshi ibn Harb and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Sound, in which a man said to the Prophet (PBUH) that he eats but does not get full. The Prophet (PBUH) advised him to gather with others when eating, mention God’s name before eating and then eat together. There is a blessing in eating together which will cause everybody to feel full. The misunderstanding that some Muslims may have here is that they may think that the plate must be one. The hadeeth is talking about eating together, but not necessarily from the same plate.

I did have a good time, and I was rather surprised to be invited, because I thought, wrongly, that Muslims are not supposed to have non-Muslims eat their food.

There is a narration, narrated by Abu-Sa`eed Al-Khudri and reported by At-Tirmizhi and Abu-Daawood and rated Sound, which suggests that. It is not clear if it is an advise from Abu-Sa`eed or something that the Prophet (PBUH) said. But the Quran makes it clear that people of the Book can eat Muslim food,
“And the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you and your food is lawful to them” (5:5), provided of course that it was not dedicated to other than God.

Do all Muslim households look alike?

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

In my readings, I have come across many references to Muslim households. We do have some guidelines. The direction we sleep. We all have an area dedicated to prayer in our homes. We have rules for halal (what is allowed). I was reading articles on gardening and I found a request for information on Islamic gardens. We are all gardeners in Islam. There are rules of etiquette we follow that transcend culture. We as a people have areas that are dedicated as private and those for our guests. I call this the “Feng Shui of Islam”! I bring it up because I want to help reverts understand there is a simple method to practicing Islam. We do not seek perfection in our households. Unlike many other peoples we can have a picture hanging a little lopsided and not be concerned as it reminds us of our limitations and imperfections. I always think of Alhambra with the crooked door.

I love the expression “Feng Shui of Islam.”

A Christian gentleman once asked me, “Why do all Muslims have the same culture?” It is not exactly culture, but rather Sunna, guidelines of the Prophet (PBUH). In fact, culture is what each country has that is NOT taught by the Quran or the Sunna.

I’m not sure about the lopsided picture hanging on the wall though. I wouldn’t tolerate it myself, LOL.