Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

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.

Moral atheists?

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

As-Salaam-Alaikum,
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?

Thanks!

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.

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.

Wasting opportunities

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Today’s Khutba (sermon) was about opportunities that God periodically gives us to get abundant blessings, forgiveness and balance-tipping actions, but alas many of us miss them and some may not even be aware of them.

The Khateeb (preacher) mentioned a hadeeth of the Prophet (PBUH), narrated by Abu-Hurayra and rated between Hasan (sound) and Saheeh (authentic) by various scholars. The hadeeth tells of one time the Prophet (PBUH) was stepping up the three steps that led to his pulpit. As he made each step, he said aloud “Amen!” When he finished the sermon, a man asked him about that. He replied, “Jibreel (Archangel Gabriel) came to me and said, ‘Cast away is he who reached his parents and they did not cause him to go to heaven’. I said amen. Then he said to me, ‘Cast away is he in whose presence your name is mentioned and he did not pray for you!’. I said amen. Then he said to me, ‘Cast away is he who reaches Ramadhaan and is not forgiven’. I said amen.”

Happy, blessed and spiritually fulfilling Ramadhaan to all fellow Muslims. May you and I be able to fast its days, stand up in prayers its nights, be generous with our charities, good deeds and kind talk, be patient, enduring and forgiving, read the Quran a lot and understand what it says, and remember God often and remember His countless blessings and the many opportunities He keeps giving us to be better human beings worthy of His eternal abode of bliss, Janna.

This is a once-a-year opportunity. Let us not waste it on trivia.

Do Muslims have to take an afternoon nap?

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Verse 24:58 of the Quran defines three periods during which children and servants must knock before entering the bedrooms of adults. One of these periods is “when you have shed off your clothes at noon”. Does this mean that Muslims are required to take a siesta?

LOL. No. When the Quran describes what the Arabs used to do and does not praise it or criticize it, then it is using something they are familiar with to make a point. In Seventh Century Arabia, most houses did not have solid doors to rooms if at all. Children and servants used to go about the house freely all day long and if an adult was taking a nap and has not covered himself or herself, because it was hot, then parts of their bodies may have become exposed to the youngsters. God wants to protect the honor of people and the innocence of children. That is why He specified nap time as one of the three times children and servants must seek permission to enter a room in which an adult may be taking a nap.

The command in the verse is to seek permission. There is no command, nor prohibition, to take a nap! A Muslim is not in violation of this verse if he or she never takes an afternoon nap.

By the same token, when the Quran directs women to cover their bosoms, in verse 24:31, it says that they should use “their head covers” to do that. Does that imply that women are required to cover their heads? No. The Quran is again using a custom to make a point. The custom was that all women, and all men for that matter, covered their heads to protect them from the blazing sun and desert sand. And the point being that it is improper for women to show their bosoms in public, but because, at that time, dresses were customarily designed to show the bosom area, the Quran is suggesting a simple way for women to be modest without having to tailor new dresses. The command in this verse is to cover the bosom, not the head. A Muslim woman who wears a dress that does not show the bosom is already in compliance with this verse, whether or not she’s covering her head.

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?

Greetings between Muslims and non-Muslims

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Can you talk about greetings between Muslims and non-Muslims? Can Muslims initiate greetings to non-Muslims? Are they obligated to return their greetings? What do they say? What if the non-Muslim greeting was “Assalaamu Alaykum” (Peace be upon you), the traditional Islamic greeting?

Let’s start with returning a greeting from non-Muslims. The Quran makes it clear that we must return the greeting with a more beautiful one, or at least one like it,

“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with a more beautiful one than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, God is ever, over all things, an Accountant.” (4:86)

Notice how God ends this verse with His Attribute that emphasizes that He keeps count? Every time you fail to return a greeting, it is written down against you!

What do you say? Something more beautiful! Suppose a non-Muslim says to you, “Merry Christmas!” You can say back, “May you have a happy season!” If they say, “Assalaamu Alaykum”, you can say, “And may peace and guidance be with you!”

A beautiful person can think of many beautiful things to say.

Now, can a Muslim initiate greeting to a non-Muslim? You will read opinions out there that a Muslim shouldn’t. But that opinion does not square with the Quran, which tells us that Moses and Aaron were commanded by God to initiate greeting to Pharaoh! Read it, if you will in verse 20:47,

“So go (Moses and Aaron) to him (Pharaoh) and say, ‘Indeed, we are messengers of your Lord, so send with us the Children of Israel and do not torment them. We have come to you with a sign from your Lord. And peace is upon him who follows guidance.” (20:47)

If we can greet a sworn enemy, all the more reason we should greet friendly folks.

Finally, you may encounter a hadeeth, reported by Al-Bukhaari and narrated by `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, in which she tells an event when a group of Jews came calling on the Prophet (PBUH). When they met him, they said, “Assaamu Alaykum”. A phonetic distortion which means “Death be upon you!” It sounds a lot like “Assalaamu Alaykum, except that it is missing an L. `Aa’isha recognized the curse and said to them, “And may God’s curse be upon you!” What did the Prophet (PBUH) say? He said, “Wa Alaykum” (Likewise)!! He followed God’s orders of returning the “greeting”. It was really a curse disguised as a greeting, but even then, the Prophet (PBUH) gives us the lofty role model of being magnanimous even when insulted. He said to `Aa’isha, “God loves gentleness in everything.”

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.

Why don’t fellow Muslims greet me?

Friday, April 8th, 2011

For some reason I identify more with the American revert (as they do me). What happens to us, and specifically the non-white female, is we are ignored by most Muslims. And there are subtle clues in dress and mannerisms that identify us as American Muslims. There is that imperceptible cultural wall. And no-one gets past it.
What advise would you give to the American revert in terms of conducting themselves when meeting Muslims. How do we get past that cultural clutter to a sincere Assalaam walaikum.

As I mentioned in this related post, this problem is most likely cultural, not personal.

That said, many Muslims think that a greeting between men and women is improper as it opens the door to flirtation. The opinion of several scholars, such as Imaam Maalik, Ibn Hanbal and An-Nawawi is that initiating a greeting, which all agree is a Sunna, is permissible if Fitna (temptation) is not likely. That is why they ruled that a man may greet a group of women (which the Prophet (PBUH) did, as reported by Abu-Daawood and narrated by Asmaa’ bint Yazeed), or may greet an older woman, but not a young woman.

There is nothing explicit about this, however, in the Quran or the Sunna. It is merely an opinion based on analysis. It has merit. Certainly many men would use the greeting as a “line” to say to women, knowing that returning a greeting is mandatory in Islam. Ibn Hanbal went further and ruled that a woman is exempt from returning a greeting from a man.

Getting past the cultural clutter takes time, communication and initiative. It is a good investment for any Muslim, because culture tends to trump everything, including religion and logic.