Archive for the ‘Religious edicts’ 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.

Is friendship between a man and a woman allowed in Islam?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

This question is actually the second of three very related questions:

  1. Can a man talk to a woman whom he can legally marry (non-Mahram)?
  2. Can non-Mahram men and women be friends?
  3. Can a non-Mahram man and a non-Mahram woman be alone together?

The reason these three questions are related, and the reason this is an issue at all, is because of the intensity of the physical attraction between men and woman, which, if not controlled, almost certainly will lead to sex. Sex between men and women who are not married to each other is a major sin in Islam. The Quran calls it a debauchery and lists it as one of the very few offenses for which it has set a legal punishment.

To answer the third question above, the Prophet (PBUH) made it unambiguously clear that the answer is no. He said, as narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA), “Let not a man be alone with a woman, except if with them is a Mahram (a man whom she cannot marry)”, authenticated and reported by both Al-Bukhaari and Muslim.

Why is that? After all, if people are respectful of each other and are God-conscious, they can be trusted not to engage in sin, right?

Wrong! The best people sin, because they’re human and because Satan has taken upon himself to seduce them into sin with whatever means available to him. You will hear people say, in justification of falling into the sin of fornication, “We did not plan this. It just happened!” They did not plan it, but it did not just happen! It was what was sure to happen.

To illustrate this point further, think of this parable. You are going to walk down Baker Street to get to a grocery store. I know that there is a great deal of construction work being done on Baker Street and that there are no warning signs. I know that even if you were careful where you step, you are almost certainly going to fall into one of the many holes there. If you decide to ignore my advice and take Baker Street anyway, and then fall in one of its pits, whom would you blame?

Therefore, if you can say with complete confidence that being face-to-face friends with a woman will never result in the two of you having sex outside matrimony, then the answer to the second question is yes!

But can you? The odds are against you.

If the friendship is not face to face, then the odds improve considerably. That is because a man is visually stimulated.

Bear in mind too that human emotions, such as love and loneliness, and desires, such as lust, often develop in an irrational way.

Similarly, we can answer the first question: if talking one-on-one to a woman will never lead to the two of them having sex, then the answer to that question is yes. Many scholars have ruled against it though, because they fear the worst, do not trust human nature, or simply to be on the safe side.

So, in summary, you can be friends with a woman whom you legally can marry if you can fulfill all of the following conditions:

  • Neither of you will ever engage in a suggestive dialog,
  • Neither of you will ever make an advance at the other, and
  • The two of you will never be alone together anywhere.

That being said, knowing human nature, especially if you are a young man, and knowing the constant whispering of Satan, the above conditions practically rule it out.

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.

Is the word “Allah” exclusive to Muslims?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

A court in Malaysia ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word “Allah”,
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/14/us-malaysia-court-allah-idUSBRE99D01J20131014

Is this proper?

No. To begin with, one cannot censor the use of words that other people use unless the usage is defamatory, slanderous, libelous or profane.

Secondly, the word “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for God. God uses it in the Quran to refer to Himself because the Quran is revealed in the Arabic language, not because that is His name. God does not have a name. He does not need one. You and I have names because there are many creatures that are just like us, so a name is necessary to distinguish us from others. But there is only one God.

Arab Christians and Jews call God “Allah.”

It is true that many Islamophobes have been abusing the word “Allah”, but these folks do not realize that, by doing so, they are abusing the same God they believe in!

When God says in the holy Quran that He has beautiful “names” that we should use when we call upon Him (7:180), He is referring to His attributes, such as Ar-Rahmaan (The Beneficent), Al-Ghafoor (The Much-Forgiving), At-Tawwaab (The Oft Accepting of repentance). One of those attributes is Allah, which means The God.

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.

What is Sunna and what is not

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

An article I read suggests that a congregational supplication after a prayer is discouraged, because neither the Prophet (PBUH) nor the Sahaba (his fellows) have done it.

They may not have done it, but the Prophet (PBUH) never said we couldn’t do it. There is a difference between “not practiced” and “forbidden.”

The problem with issues like that one is that the people who rule in such a way, do so out of concern that something which is not Sunna becomes a regular part of Islam in the minds of the masses. That would establish a Bid`a (novelty) in religion, which the Prophet (PBUH) warned us not to do. The solution to this problem, IMHO, is not to forbid what is not forbidden, but to ensure that it doesn’t become a novelty, by deliberately not doing it on a consistent basis.

Scholars have differed on what constitutes a Sunna (Practice of the Prophet). That’s because following the Sunna is a requirement of Islam. Therefore, knowing what is Sunna and what is not becomes of religious essence.

The Sunna is not simply everything that the Prophet (PBUH) said or did or approved or did not disapprove, but rather what he consistently said and did and encouraged us to follow him on. The scholars have attempted to differentiate between the two by classifying the latter as Sunna Mu’akkada (Emphasized practice). That’s fine. Then, what we are required to follow is the emphasized Sunna.

As usual you gave me the words to clarify the issue. Not practiced and forbidden. A world apart. It opens a new universe.

You may already know this hadeeth, but it illustrates the point very clearly. One day, Khaalid ibn Al-Waleed (RA) invited the Prophet (PBUH) and others to dinner. His aunt, Maymoona, had prepared for them a grilled porcupine! Everyone stretched their hands to grab a bite of it, except the Prophet. Khalid’s face paled like he saw a ghost. He said to the Prophet (PBUH), “Is it forbidden, O Messenger of God?” He answered, “No, but I find myself not agreeing with it!” Narrated by Khaalid and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

So, just because the Prophet didn’t do something is no reason for us not to do it. Only if he told us “don’t do it!”, then we will have to stay away from it. It seems obvious, but in these days of massive confusion and disinformation, the obvious needs to be stated!

That is why the world always needs teachers. They are know to excel in one thing: to repeat and repeat and repeat.

We have so much confusion. Our faith is ripe not with bida but cultural and nationalistic nonsense. Yet, the hadeeth of the simple woman who kept repeating her question to the embarrassment of the Prophet (swas) helps us. She wanted an answer, although it was intimate, she would not give up until she gained knowledge.

We need to simplify Islam. We have so much on the agenda. Let’s forget trying to save the universe and remember how to make salat.

On a personal note: Eid Mubarak. May Allah reward you immensely for your kindness to me. I have been given a trial which in turn seems to be a blessing. It has made me reach deep into my being. Kinda sorta letting go of a lot of pretenses in life, too. I heard a sheik relate a hadeeth about the Prophet (swas) telling some Sahaba (ra) sometimes our deen is like a hot coal in our hands. (I have always been the princess who felt the pea at the bottom of ten mattresses). Your kindness is akin to the cool of the fire for Prophet Ibrahim.

A blessed and happy Eid to you and your loved ones.

Thank you for your kind words.

How do you simplify something which both God and His Messenger have repeatedly said was already simple? By removing the fluff and pork that accumulated on it over the centuries. My blog is my humble way of doing that.

Brother,

All I can respond is to write “Blog on baby blog on!” It takes wisdom to understand simplicity. When endeavoring to resolve a complex problem the walls are everywhere. Once we have the solution it is so simple.

Likewise, our faith has been mingled with politics and men of various ambitions. The simple laity is lazy. We want the ends and care little about the means. For those of us who are foolish, we seek the means. It makes for a lonely road. (Cf. Zen/Sufism).

Your blog serves the purpose of giving the readers solutions without having to do all the homework. Blog on baby blog on.

(Trust me, I do take advantage of your wisdom…I am all over the universe in my thoughts and it helps to have some notion of being grounded).

There is no problem in taking a voyage in a hot-air balloon, as long as you can always land safely on earth 🙂

I guess I have a license, then, to keep blogging? LOL.

Why are they leaving Islam?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

An excellent article by Mathew Longacre,
http://www.suhaibwebb.com/society/dawah/why-are-they-leaving-islam/

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.

Specificities meant for generalities

Monday, August 13th, 2012

In a previous post, you mentioned the hadeeth which instructs us to make up for missed prayers by praying them later. Most scholars who read this hadeeth agreed that it is specific for unintentional missing of prayers, such as due to sleep or forgetfulness, and that it does not include intentional missing. That is why they have ruled that prayers intentionally missed cannot be compensated, but that the repenting Muslim should offer a lot of nawafil (extra) prayers and hope that God will forgive him. Isn’t it true that the hadeeth is specific?

Scholars of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction) have noticed many examples in the Quran and the Hadeeth of statements using a specificity but whose coverage is clearly general. They coined this style خاص أريد به العموم (a specificity meant for generality). This Arabic style is an alternative way of quoting examples to illustrate a point which is general.

Let me give you an example. In verse 6:151, God says, “…and do not kill your children because of poverty; We provide for you and them.” Here God cites a specificity, namely, poverty, as the reason some people killed their children. Does that mean that killing one’s children for other reasons is OK? Obviously not. The reason given was only an example to illustrate the point that there is no cause for one to kill one’s children, as God is in control and provides.

One simple way to figure out if a specificity is meant for a generality is absence of the generality! And that is why the prayer expiation hadeeth was meant for generality, because we do not have any statement in the Quran or the Hadeeth that tells us what do with a person who purposely missed his prayers. It is that lack of direct evidence that forced scholars to conjure up an expiation. Some scholars even said that there is no expiation and that a man purposely neglecting his prayers is an apostate and must be killed! An opinion that is totally without merit.

On hijab, niqab, beards and faith healing

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

The dean of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar university, Egypt, made announcements that are bound to get criticism. Dr. Aamina Nusayr said that Niqab (face veil) is a Jewish tradition and not part of Islam, while Hijab (head scarf) is. She criticized Salafis who let their beard grow to look like a “radish bundle” as she put it, and finally she said that healing with the Quran is hocus pocus; that the Quran heals the soul, not the body.

What do you think?

There is no evidence from the Quran that the Niqaab is required for Muslim women. The only evidence comes from hadeeths that state that the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) wore it. Some scholars view that as a mandate on all Muslim women, but the majority see it as a special status for the Prophet’s wives only. Other women may elect to wear it, but they are not required to. That view best matches the evidence. Whether the Niqaab is a Jewish tradition is something that Jewish readers and historians are better qualified to confirm or refute.

Dr. Nusayr said that 13 exegetes have interpreted the so-called Hijaab verse (24:31) to mean the head and neck, not the face. I agree that it does not address the face, but I respectfully disagree that it orders covering of the hair. The verse clearly orders covering the upper chest, using whatever the woman is wearing on her head. The assumption that the woman is wearing a head cover is what prompted most scholars to say that a head cover is required. But the verse never said it was!

So, why does the Quran make this assumption? It’s because everybody at that time covered their heads – women and men. In fact, that was the custom of all people, not just the Arabs, throughout the centuries. Only in the Twentieth Century did people start to go out with exposed hair.

The Hijaab verse requires women to cover their decollete area, that’s all. The reason is that many dresses at that time were tailored with an open decollete area, and Islam makes it clear that this area is a charm that can incite lust and therefore should be covered. A dress that does not have such design already complies with the Hijaab verse, whether the woman is covering her head or not.

Interestingly enough, the verse mentions one more thing that women of the time used to wear: ankle bracelets! Should we then conclude that ankle bracelets too are required?! I’m not aware of any scholar who suggested that. Ankle bracelets are neither required nor forbidden. They are simply allowed, just like head covers are. What is forbidden about ankle bracelets is banging the feet so that they chime, thus drawing attention to the woman’s legs though they are hidden. You can see the fallacy of the conclusion that because God mentions a head cover it must be required.

It also follows that ankle bracelets that chime all the time are forbidden even if the woman wearing them never bangs her feet. It also follows that a woman wearing ankle bracelets that never chime may bang her feet as much as she likes! Get it? The scholars who have been fixated on the words “their head covers” totally miss the points of the Hijaab verse, namely: (a) Women should cover areas of their bodies that tend to arouse men’s lust, and (b) Women should not draw attention to those areas even if they are covered. That would defeat the purpose of covering them!

As for the unruly long beard, the evidence for it comes from a hadeeth where the Prophet (PBUH) says, “Let the beards grow, and trim the mustaches. Do the opposite of the Magi.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim who rated it authentic.

It is important to realize that imperatives in religious texts are two types: mandates or recommendations. Scholars of Foundations have devised a simple rule to be able to tell which is which. If the order is accompanied by explicit words that it is a mandate, then obviously it is. If the flip-side of the order is prohibited, then the order is a mandate. Otherwise, the order is a recommendation. The consequence of this distinction, as the scholars defined it, is that with a mandate you are rewarded when you do it and punished when you don’t. With a recommendation, on the other hand, you are rewarded when you do it, but not punished when you don’t. There is no evidence that shaving a beard is prohibited. Therefore, the order in the hadeeth is a recommendation.

The other point to consider is that the hadeeth clearly states a contingency, namely, that Muslims should look distinctly different from the Magi. A command revolves around its contingency, as the scholars have concluded, so the hadeeth only applies if today’s Magi all have the same distinct look and a Muslim imitates that look. I rather doubt that today’s Magi all wear their facial hair the same way.

Finally, healing with the Quran is not hocus pocus. God says in it, “And We send down of the Quran what is a healing and a mercy for the believers” (17:82). This verse does not say whether the healing is spiritual, physical or both. Since it doesn’t, we have to assume both unless other evidence suggests otherwise. Verses 10:57 and 41:44 also make the same statement. There is evidence from the Hadeeth for and against faith healing. Evidence for it comes from `Aa’isha and evidence against it comes from Ibn `Abbaas. `Aa’isha’s narration quotes the Prophet (PBUH) making a supplication for a sick person, but he did not recite any verses. Therefore, we can conclude that faith healing (Ruqya) is not recommended, while supplications are. Furthermore, to say that this is the only way to heal is a stretch, since neither God nor His Messenger have suggested that. God is the Healer whether the medicine is the Quran, a supplication or pharmaceutical.

God knows best.

Serious jobs

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Abu-Zharr Al-Ghafaari, may God have been pleased with him, noticed many of his fellows getting leadership jobs assigned to them by the Prophet (PBUH). So, he went to him and asked him if he would give him a similar job. The Prophet (PBUH) smiled kindly at him, patted him on the shoulder and said, “O Abu-Zharr, you are weak and it is a trust, and on the Day of Resurrection it will be a disgrace and a regret for all except those who get it with merit and fulfill its obligations!” Narrated by Abu-Zharr and reported by Muslim in his compilation book of authentic hadeeths

Folks who trip over themselves to get a leadership position do not realize that they are walking into a fire pit unless they know what they are doing and can do it.

Another serious job people clamour to get is the job of a scholar. Such prestige and reverence from people! And authority too! He says it’s OK, and it may not be, and people do it, possibly getting themselves into trouble. He says it’s forbidden, and it may not be, and people abstain from it, possibly deprived. On that, Ibn Al-Mubaarak, a highly regarded second generation scholar said, “A scholar enters between the worshiper and his Lord, so he had better find the exit!!”

The job of a judge has two strikes against it! The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Judges are three; two are in hell and one is in paradise. The two who are in hell are a judge who knows the truth and rules differently and a judge who rules without knowing the truth. The judge in paradise is the one who knows the truth and rules accordingly.” Narrated by Burayda Al-Aslami and reported by Abu-Daawood who rated it authentic.