Islam & Spirituality

What’s a good modern biography of Prophet Muhammad?

Can you recommend a good bibliography of the prophet Muhammad pbuh. I’ve read one so far but I didn’t like it. The style of the author was too heavy.

I just read Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet and it is extremely good. I think it should be required reading for every Muslim. It focuses on the personality and spiritual teachings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, rather than focusing on unnecessary technical details.

Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time is also good.

(I assumed you meant biography)

What to recite next after finishing salah

After finishing salah what should be reciting next? and are you meant to do dhikr after each fard prayer?

You can do various forms of dhikr or dua. The most common dhikr, which is done after every prayer, is to say subhanAllah 33 times, alhamdulillah 33 times, and allahu akbar 33 times, mentioned in Sahih Bukhari. You can also shorten these to ten each, aslo mentioned in Sahih Bukhari.

You can also recite any other dhikr words you know if you choose.

After that, you can perform dua, or stand up to pray the voluntary salah, if there is a voluntary salah associated with the obligatory one.

Can a person perform the ritual washing of a dead spouse’s body?

Regarding the ruling of washing a dead body; can a man or woman wash the body of their spouse? In my East Asian culture the scholars say that the nikah is ended when one of the spouse dies, and therefore it’s haraam to wash their body. I tried on islamqa, but their not giving a definite answer.

The Saudi scholar Ibn Baaz says there is nothing wrong with washing a spouse’s body. He mentions that Asmaa’ bin Umais (the wife of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him and her) washed Abu Bakr’s body when he died, and that Fatima (daughter of the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family) washed Ali’s body.

Dealing with parents who disrespect and fight each other

I would like to ask about my family problem. My parents have been fighting for years. My father no longer talks to my mother although he tried to make amends once. My mother constantly talk bad about my father to me and my siblings. She is always full of hatred and anger towards my father. I’m afraid with time I’ll begin to hate my father as well. What is the view in Islam about parents talking bad about their partner to their kids? Where should I stand in this? Thank you.

What your parents are doing is against Islamic teachings. What you should do is stay neutral and respectful toward both of them. If one parent does something unjust toward the other parent or toward one of the children, if you can help prevent it without causing greater harm, then you should try, without belittling or offending either parent.

In your situation, one thing you can do is encourage your siblings to think the best of your father so that they are not unjustly biased against him by your mother’s words. Since your father is not speaking to her and allowing the situation to continue as it is, it appears that both parents are responsible for the bad situation, therefore it is best to not take sides but try to be fair toward both.

If there was anything you could to improve their relationship, then that would be a good thing to do, although it is unlikely. Anything you try could do greater harm than good, since they are older than you and know much more about each other than you do.

Please also see my answer On Islamic Manners Toward Parents.

On Islamic Manners Toward Parents

What to do if you cannot find interesting and like-minded Muslims to befriend

I have experienced bad things in Muslim communities for so many years that it led me to giving up religion and I went astray. After going through many hardships in life alhamdulillah I came back to the Deen to take shelter. However I’m afraid of mixing with Muslims again. They are shallow at their thinking, even non Muslims understand me better and try to help. I’m tired of being judged yet I want to belong to a community or at least have Muslim friends so I’m not alone. How can I find balance?

Your experience of not finding mixing with other Muslims uplifting, although disheartening, is common. The Medieval scholar Ibn al-Jawzi mentions the same thing, and one of the primary pieces of advice he offers in his book of advice Sayd al-Khatir is that one shouldn’t mix too much with others, because most people are not very spiritual and will harm rather than benefit your faith.

When it comes to most Muslims, Islam is just a small add-on on top of their personalities and characters, so that if their personalities and characters are not compatible with yours, Islam will do little to change things. The exceptions are those who have taken Islamic spirituality to heart and try to follow Quranic manners in everything, but such people are rare, and you will be lucky to meet one among a hundred Muslims you meet.

There are different sections of society, each section having its own interests, character and manners. What Islam means for one section can be very different to what it means for another, therefore if you try to engage the wrong section, you will may not get anything satisfactory out of it.

I love reading, but the majority of people, including the majority of Muslims, do not. The people I like to befriend are those who enjoy reading and learning, and such people are few. This means that most people I meet are not going to be the type I can enjoy spending time with, even if they are good people and I like them.

Your experience might be the same. This is also the experience of many genetically European converts to Islam, who want to find fellow Muslims who are interested in intellectual topics, who care about the long-term good of the community and want to plan things and solve problems, but who discover that most people in the community do not care very much about these things. Perhaps this is what you meant when you said you find most Muslims shallow.

The type of people you like might be rare and perhaps not present in your local community. The internet can be a great help in overcoming this issue. You can find like-minded Muslims from around the world and follow them and perhaps befriend them. The people I keep in contact with over the internet are far higher in quality as friends compared to anyone I know at my local community.

Feeling lonely is a common experience if you are different from the people around you. You must first accept this reality, knowing that this is how things will always be unless God grants you the deep friendship of someone. In the end, it is only God who can cure our loneliness. He can arrange things for us, plan for us and facilitate things for us so that we are no longer lonely, if He wishes, if the time is right and if we deserve it. For this reason this is a thing that must be sought through God more than through any other means.

Islam’s theory of free will versus physical determinism: Why humans are responsible for their actions even though God operates the universe

Emission Nebula

In your essay “God, Evolution and Abiogenesis,” you said an atom has no power to move on its own. It is God who has to move every single thing that moves in this world. Given that, does that mean we don’t have free will? On the atomic level, it is due to the chemical reactions and the firing of neurons in our brains that we think and make decisions. So, since God is responsible for everything that’s in motion (including atoms), then isn’t God to blame for all my immoral actions?

Your soul is “plugged into” this universe without being part of it. When you desire to lift up your hand, the desire is yours, therefore you are responsible for this action, but it is God who actually has to move the atoms (and everything else) for your hand to actually move.

When you play a video game, you can issue a command for your game character to lift its hand. You personally have no power to lift the character’s hand, it is the video game engine that actually has to carry your command out, and if the video game engine malfunctions, no matter how many times you issue the command for your character to do something, it may not do it.

When your soul, which is independent from this universe, issues a command, it is fully responsible for this command. But this command is nothing but a feeble wish, it has zero power to change the universe. It is God who has to communicate the soul’s commands to your body, and it is God who has to carry the command out by moving the universe, since nothing in this universe has the power or ability to move or change by itself.

So your soul is free, it is not part of the functioning of this universe. This universe can be thought of as a simulation that is entirely upheld and operated by God. Your soul has no power except to wish for things, and God can transfer these wishes to the body that is temporarily under a human’s control inside our universe. When a person dies, the soul is simply “unplugged” from the universe, and when the person is resurrected, the soul is plugged back into a new body in a different universe, or an outer universe inside of which our universe is contained.

Since He wants us to have the choice of disbelieving in Him, He always reliably operates this universe for us, making us think that we have control over our brains and bodies, and making us think that this universe would function by itself even if there was no God. This is a necessary part of the design of the universe, to make faith in God a choice.

Imagine yourself as sitting in a room outside of this universe, holding a remote control that enables you to send commands to your brain and body which are inside the universe. You are responsible for the commands you issue, but you do not have any power or authority to cause a change within the universe. God (or some mechanism laid down by Him) changes the universe so that the command is carried out. He does this so reliably for us that we are tricked into thinking that we have power over this universe.

In reality, the view of the universe we arrive at from the Quran is that it is a simulation-like thing upon which humans have zero power. The human soul is temporarily given the illusion of control over a body, and as the soul issues commands, God moves the body in response, as part of everything else He does in operating this universe.

Saying the soul is independent of this universe does not mean that it is not affected by it. By being plugged into this universe, it experiences it and responds to it. When a human is presented with a temptation, the physical body (and I include the brain in this), which belongs to this universe, responds to it and desires it. The soul, however, maintains final judgment on whether the human succumbs to the temptation or not. The stronger the temptation is, the less room there is for the soul to exert control over the physical body, and the weaker the temptation, the more control the soul has over the body. For this reason we are not always, perhaps never, entirely responsible for the bad deeds we do, the environment affects us and pushes us toward some things. The mistake is in thinking that the environment completely controls us, which is what some atheists say. The Quran says that while the environment affects us, our soul maintains its independence, being able to go against the environment if it wants.

God could prevent all evil from happening, since all that He has to do is stop carrying out an evil person’s intentions, or cause slight changes so that a terrible accident does not happen. I explain why He does not prevent evil things from taking place in my essay Why God Allows Evil to Exist, and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Humans would have had no responsibility for their actions if they were merely brains and bodies, similar to other animals. If things were so, they would be parts of this universe, and everything they do would be a consequence of the motion of particles and forces within the universe, similar to the actions of bacteria in a pond. But when a soul is plugged into the body, the soul “rides” the body, taking charge of it, directing it, and being responsible for it.

At times, the physical body is out of control, such as when under the influence of a drug, or due to mental illness, or due to witnessing some horrible crime. When this happens, when the soul loses control over the brain and body, it is no longer responsible for what the brain and body do until it regains control.

Our responsibility for a sinful act increases as the involvement of the soul increases. If there is no terrible temptation making us partially lose control over the human body that we control, if our sin is done in cold blood while having full control over the earthly body, then this is a far greater sin than a sin done out of overwhelming desire.

This concept also applies to good deeds. A person who forces their unwilling earthly body to do a good deed is going to deserve higher rewards than a person who only does good deeds that make them feel good. It is for this reason that Umar ibn Abdul Aziz says:

The best good deeds are those that one has to force the ego to perform.

When your ego wants to do evil and your soul overcomes it and prevents it from doing it, or your ego dislikes to do a good deed but your soul overcomes it and forces it to do it, in both of these cases you deserve reward, you used your free will to go against the environment, against the ego your soul is plugged into.

The ego is the earthly body’s sense of self. Even if humans had no free will, if they were merely animals, they would still have an ego. This ego makes them seek what they desire and avoid what they do not desire. The soul is an add-on over the ego, able to override it or go along with it. The ego is arrogant, loves pleasures and dislikes work. The soul can submit to it and do as the ego pleases. It can also receive guidance, submit to God and go against the ego when the ego desires something harmful.

You will meet some humans who mostly live inside their egos. The soul has nearly fully relinquished all control, letting the ego make nearly all of their decisions for them. These people are greedy, power-hungry and love pleasures, they are kind and loving toward their own families (since it is an animal instinct to be this way toward one’s own family), but have no empathy or understanding for others. If their child unjustly beats up someone else’s child, they will continue to defend their own child without caring about right or wrong, since they judge things based on the ego, and the ego wants what is good for the human animal’s interests and does not care about justice.

An easy way to find out if someone lives in their ego is to ask yourself, “Will this person help me if helping me required them to do something that gave them some inconvenience and discomfort?” People who live in their egos will generally only help others if helping others is easy and costs them nothing. If there is any cost involved, they immediately ignore the person who is asking for help, treating them as an annoyance to be gotten rid of. But if helping others will bring them fame and praise, they will do it.

The concepts mentioned in this answer are not meant to be used in scientific discussions with atheists, they help explain the Quranic view on these matters for people who have already accepted the truth of the Quran. The concepts in this essay are also useful in discussions with atheists like Sam Harris who falsely claim that the theory of physical determinism proves free will wrong. If the universe was physically determinate, there would be no free will. But there is no proof for this, as I will explain. What they say is similar to saying “If God did not exist, then there would be no God.” In reality, we can have a perfectly scientific universe that appears physically determinate, while also having free will that operates in parallel to it, and which to a scientist appears either as randomness or as a chaotic and emergent behavior

There is no proof that free will exists, the same way there is no proof that God exists. All that we have is soft evidence (rather than hard evidence) that the Quran is true, and once we have accepted the Quran as true, we accept that both God and free will exist.

Should Muslims boycott the Hajj because of Saudi repression and war crimes?

I’ve read that when we do hajj we are financially supporting the Saudi government to oppress people in it’s country and also to kill people in Yemen. Is it true that they use hajj revenue for bad stuff?

I doubt there is a major country in the world that does not kill innocent people whenever it suits its political goals. Doing business with them or buying products from them always in some way supports them in doing this.

The United States is responsible for the murder of somewhere between 500,000 and 2 million innocent Afghans through staging the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980′s. It is also responsible the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians through its regime change and war-mongering operations. This means that doing any business with the US in some way supports them in doing these things.

And yet there are millions of Muslims living in the US, paying taxes, and in this way supporting the US government.

A government is not a single beast. It is made up of various groups, often conflicting, each working for its own interests. Parts of it does much good, for example the US government and thousands of American charities have saved millions of lives around the world. Technologies developed in the US have helped save millions more lives through making farming more efficient and in this way bringing down the price of food.

We cannot, therefore, treat a government like an individual and make a final judgment on it when it is something very complex and made up of millions of individuals with varying degrees of morality. When American Muslims pay taxes, while supporting the US military, they also support it in taking care of millions of poor people, in doing scientific research and in carrying out various projects for the benefit of humanity.

In return for paying taxes, American Muslims get to enjoy the freedom to practice their religion in a peaceful and prosperous country. This is a great privilege that takes priority over the US government’s immoral actions. While we criticize the government and try to stop its immoral and unethical deeds, we recognize that good that it does, and recognize that living the US and paying taxes is preferable to living in a war zone or in a tyrannical country. There is no such thing as an all-good government, therefore we must operate within the limits of what is possible, enjoining good and forbidding wrong wherever we can.

The same applies to the Saudi government. By going to the Hajj, we carry out an important religious duty, we support the Saudi government in taking care of Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and we support it in providing welfare for millions of its citizens, while also supporting its oppressive government and its murder of Yemenis.

The Saudi government is also partially responsible for all of America’s wars, because through its petrodollar agreement with the US, it ensures that the US dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and this enables the US to print trillions of dollars and use it to wage wars without fearing poverty. The Saudi’s have enabled the US to have a free source of cash wherever they need it, and in return they get US weapons and support.

It is a question of whether the good of performing the hajj outweighs the evils of supporting the Saudi government. Most people think that the good outweighs the bad, meaning that performing the Hajj is justifiable even if it in some way supports the Saudi government.

Whenever you do business with anyone who does not have good morals, you support them in doing any immorality they do. But Islam does not prohibit us from doing business with them, because the facts of reality are complicated, and we must do what circumstances require, rather than closing ourselves off and expecting perfection from the world. Tumblr, Facebook and Google are all Jewish companies and all of them support Israel to some degree. Yet we use their services, because we (rightly or wrongly) think that the good of using their services outweighs the vague evil of their support for Israel. Ideally, we’d have alternatives to these services, owned and operated by better people. But realistically, since there are no such services, we cannot give up their services, because the loss we suffer from avoiding these services is greater than any good we do by avoiding their services.

Avoiding these sites is somewhat similar to cutting your house’s electricity because the electricity company’s owner is supports Israel. Will you do so, or will you decide that the good of having electricity outweighs the bad of supporting a company owned by a such a person? Most people will choose to continue to have electricity until there is a better alternative.

Even if you went back 500 or 1000 years, you could still find evil deeds that the rulers of Arabia did that would make you question whether doing the Hajj is justifiable. This is not a new problem.

Muslims are free to boycott the Hajj to shame the Saudi government into behaving better, and perhaps if there was a worldwide boycotting movement, it would do good. But this would require the support of many religious leaders, who at the moment are unlikely to support a boycott, since they believe that performing the obligation of Hajj takes priority over reforming the Saudi government. Maybe if things get much worse they will support a boycott. But at the moment there is little political will to do this.

You are free to try to educate Muslims about the mass murder of Yemenis by the Saudi government (which is largely ignored by the West’s media, since it is done with the full support of the US) and to encourage them to boycott the Hajj. But don’t be surprised if most people prefer to do the Hajj despite Saudi’s actions.

Most of the Saudi government’s revenue is from oil, not Hajj. If your country imports oil from Saudi, like most countries do, and you drive a car or pay to use a taxi, then you are in reality sending money to the Saudi government. If someone is really serious about boycotting Saudi, they should also boycott their oil.

Most people don’t like boycotts because they make life difficult. In Islam, the choice is yours. You can boycott the entities you dislike, or you can continue to do business with them if you have to, while working to make the world a better place in whatever way you can, through enjoining good and forbidding, exposing and criticizing wrong.

What to do if strict/intolerant Muslims make you dislike Islam

I’m now making slowly process to turn to Islam (as a Muslim) after years of no Iman. However sometimes I can come across really blogs here that post Islamic posts that are really strict and even dark in someway. I feel like I can’t keep it up if Islam requires me to hate other religions and groups so I end up not performing my prayers etc. because I don’t feel peaceful at my heart. It feels as if I’ve come to the wrong religion.

Generally whenever you stray away from the Quran and put your focus on anything else, you will lose your understanding of God and get an inaccurate and even depressing view of Him and His religion. This is true even if you read books by inspiring writers like Ibn al-Qayyim, who focus too much on certain of God’s characteristics and less on others. Only the Quran is perfectly balanced, all other sources will contain some imbalance that can upset or mislead you.

It is the Quran that defines your mission in life, your principles, your philosophy, your ideals. When people say something that goes against anything in the Quran, reject it and go on with your life.

There is no such thing as an “Islam” that is independent of the Quran. Islam is nothing more or less than the Quran applied to the real world. Read the Quran and you will see that it will not tell you to hate other religions. Read In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan and you will see that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was an example of love and tolerance toward non-Muslims.

You should not allow others to define Islam for you. Do your own reading and learning, and if anyone says something that insults your intelligence or goes against your sense of justice, research it and ask others about it, and you will find out that there is always a sensible answer. Instead of giving in to others when they present a version of Islam that you find unacceptable, find your own tolerant and beautiful version of Islam and use it to challenge theirs.

Many of the “strict” Muslims you see are Salafis who believe that the best way to please God is to follow the authority of hadith as an equal to the Quran, while the school of Islamic thought that I follow is Quran-focused Islam, which considers the Quran the center of Islam. These two different approaches lead to very different types of Islam. Salafism is “strict” and thinks virtue is in strictness, which often leads to an intolerant and judgmental form of Islam, while Quran-focused Islam is tolerant and respects your dignity and individuality.

I describe the problems with Salafism and its alternative in my essay Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism.

God has not abandoned you: Regaining your sense of purpose when life feels spiritually empty, lonely or meaningless

Flowering Azaleas by Marie Egner (c. 1895)

I would appreciate some advice. I pray all my prayers on time and I read Quran daily, along with other forms of worship, but I feel so numb & empty. I feel like I have no purpose in this life, like if I died it won’t even matter. I don’t affect this Ummah in any way. I just work full-time, I’m single, I don’t have friends, my family and relatives are not on good terms, and I have social anxiety so I hate interacting with others. I feel so useless, is there a point to my worship?

It is human nature to want to be productive and achieve things for the sake of any cause you believe in, such as Islam. But ideally, your Islam should not be in any way attached to results.

Even if you were the only remaining human on earth, you can still perfectly apply Islam in your life, achieving your mission in life and a great success in the afterlife.

Your mission is the same as the Prophet’s mission, peace be upon him. It is to read the Quran and apply it wherever you can in your life, living by its manners, principles and philosophy.

When speaking of placing humans on Earth, God said to the angels, “I am placing a steward on Earth.” What is a steward? It is someone who takes care of something, for example a farm, for the sake of its owner, until the owner comes back.

We Muslims (and faithful Christians and others) are stewards on Earth. Our job is to take care of it for the sake of its Master. And this is achieved by following God’s Straight Path. The Straight Path is a program designed to ensure two things: humanity’s long-term survival (by placing various mechanisms to ensure that humanity doesn’t die out), and humanity’s short-term moral integrity (never justifying evil in the name of the greater good, never saying “the end justifies the means”).

We stewards are God’s representatives on Earth, and an important part of our stewardship is to keep God’s remembrance alive:

“And I have chosen you so listen to what is being revealed.
“Indeed, I am God, there is no god except Me, so worship Me and establish the prayer for My remembrance. (The Quran, verses 20:13-14)

Regardless of your situation, you are always able to fully live your life as a Muslim. You do not need anyone else’s involvement, this is something between you and God.

I have lived alone twice in my life, once when I was 18 and another time when I was 27, and both are some of the worst experiences of my life. I understand the difficulty of your situation, and how purposeless and meaningless it feels.

These are the times when your faith in God is tested. Will you think bad thoughts about Him, consider Him incapable of helping you, or consider Him unkind so that He wants you to suffer?

If we are fair-weather friends of God, then we will worship Him and love Him when things are easy, and once things get truly difficult, once our patience is tested, we fail the test and prove that we are unworthy of being honored by Him.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, suffered many hardships during his career that must have seemed purposeless and needless, since God had the power to protect him at all times and to ensure the very best for him. For 13 years he and his followers had to suffer under the hands of the pagans of Mecca. Couldn’t have God made this only one year, so that the Prophet and his followers used their time more productively? Couldn’t they have used all these years of suffering better if God had enabled Islam to spread faster? What was the point of the Prophet losing his wife and his main protector in Mecca, his uncle Abu Talib, at a crucial place in his career, greatly weakening him?

What the Prophet was taught with all of these difficulties is that God is a King, and He does as He wishes with His servants. If we have truly submitted, we will accept His decrees, thinking the best of Him and continuing to love Him, praise Him and worship Him, even as we suffer knowing that He can end our suffering.

Know that God has no need of you. You cannot do God any favors. No matter how talented or capable you are, God can always create someone with exactly your talents and abilities in little time. Everything we do for God’s sake is actually a gift from Him, because it is He who taught us, guided us, and sustained us throughout all of these years so that we could do this thing in His name and claim credit for it.

Any good deed you do for God is actually a favor from Him. If you want to be productive, to serve Islam, Muslims and humanity, what you are actually asking is for God to give you the favor of being useful in His cause.

You are asking God for a great favor. Ask yourself if you deserve it. Ibn al-Qayyim says:

Whoever, among the workers, wishes to know his status in the eye of the King, let him look at what jobs He gives him and with what He busies him.

If you want the King to give you a great job the ensures you rewards in this life and the afterlife, then you must know that this job is given to those He wishes, and not to everyone. You must purify yourself, rededicate yourself to God, give up all sinful behaviors, and constantly seek His guidance and forgiveness, while remaining patient and thinking the best of Him, and in this way you will be guided to Him step by step, month after month, until you reach a place where He decides to give you a better task in life.

There are no shortcuts if you want to be a sincere and useful servant of God. You must turn yourself into the type of person who deserves God’s honor and favors, and He will give these to you.

God can change your situation in an instant, solving all of your problems, giving you immense knowledge and placing you somewhere where you can be a great and highly admired leader. God will not do this for you, because God does not perform miracles for us. If God did miracles for us, yet we sinned afterwards, this would cause us to deserve the utmost punishment from Him, as happened to Jesus’s apostles:

112. “And when the disciples said, ‘O Jesus son of Mary, is your Lord able to bring down for us a feast from heaven?’ He said, ‘Fear God, if you are believers.’“

113. They said, “We wish to eat from it, so that our hearts may be reassured, and know that you have told us the truth, and be among those who witness it.”

114. Jesus son of Mary said, “O God, our Lord, send down for us a table from heaven, to be a festival for us, for the first of us, and the last of us, and a sign from You; and provide for us; You are the Best of providers.”

115. God said, “I will send it down to you. But whoever among you disbelieves thereafter, I will punish him with a punishment the like of which I never punish any other being.” (The Quran, verses 5:112-115)

They demanded a miracle from God, and God answered their prayer. But to maintain justice, it is necessary for God to hold these people who see the miracle to extremely stringent standards afterwards. Disobeying God after seeing physical evidence with your own eyes of His power is a far greater sin than disobeying God while He feels hidden from you.

It is out of His mercy that He does not do miracles for us. If He did miracles, this would be a burden that many of us couldn’t carry. On the one hand, it would cheapen our good deeds, because now we’d be doing them while having some proof of God’s existence. On the other hand, it would greatly increase our sinfulness if we disobeyed Him in anything, because we’d be committing sins while having had direct experience of Him.

What God wants, instead, is for us to go through the boring, difficult, numbing experiences of life, so that the good we do can be fully attributed to us, and so that we can be rewarded for our faith and patience. If God intervened directly in our lives, showing Himself and performing miracles, all of these things possibilities would be destroyed.

Accept your situation, knowing that God is fully capable of changing it in an instant. He wants you to be responsible for the change, so that He can reward you for it, instead of He Himself causing the change directly and taking away the chance for you to prove yourself.

Nothing you achieve in this life is going to be of any worth except the record of your deeds. Even if you build the world’s greatest mosque in His name, when the world ends, it will be destroyed and turned into nothing, as if it never existed. If you want to work for Him, then know that results only come through Him, and not through your own efforts. If He allows you to achieve any success in His name, then know that this is a favor from Him, not a favor from you to Him.

This is not to say that nothing we do for Him is of value, saying that He can accomplish anything He wants Himself. It is, rather, to realize that there are two worlds, the world of the seen and the world of the unseen. The unseen world is that which has priority. Nothing you do in the seen world is of value if the unseen part of your world is corrupt. And nothing you do in the unseen world is worthless regardless of your results in the seen world.

Becoming a chosen servant of God

If you want to become the type of servant that God favors by making him or her productive in His cause, then these are the steps you can follow to accomplish this.

1. Clean your slate

Chronic sins in your life will block God’s blessings. You cannot hope to be honored by God if part of your life is in direct contradiction to His teachings. For example, if you have usurious debt (debt upon which you pay interest, such as mortgage, car or credit card debt), then this is going to be a blocker of God’s blessings in your life. If you have cut off your relationship with a family member despite the fact that God commands love and kindness and tolerance toward them, then this will block God’s blessings.

Think of your life and find anything that could be considered a chronic sin, and fix it as soon as you can, doing your utmost to do so. God will not believe you to be sincere in wishing for His forgiveness and love if your life contains sinful parts that are insults toward Him.

The next thing to do is to ask God for His forgiveness for every great and small sin you have ever committed. Do this with every prostration of every one of your formal prayers, and do it after every formal prayer.

Equally important is to not add new sins to your record. Your goal should be to have a pristine record, clear of all sins. You cannot hope to have God’s favors if you are carrying a great burden of sins on your back.

2. Reestablish your connection with God through worship

Your question suggests that you are already doing this, that is good. Perform tahajjud at night (8 extra units performed after the isha prayer) and the duha prayer in the morning (8 rakat performed anywhere between 15 minutes after sunrise to 15 minutes before the dhuhr athan). Sit down for a few minutes after every formal prayer, supplicating to God for everything you desire. Do this with all of your five prayers.

3. Be patient and do not expect results

Even if you do not see results for months, detach yourself from expecting results, knowing that God is a King, and a King does what He wills with His servants. Submit to His decree. Do your part of worship, seeking forgiveness and avoiding sins, knowing that God will do His part. If you repent, worship Him ardently and constantly pray for His help, yet see no results for a week or two, what do you know, perhaps if you are patient, results will come in a few months, when you are ready for it.

If you feel numb, uncared for and abandoned, then realize that all of us have felt like that at some point in our lives, even the Prophet, who after revealing the first few revelations, stopped receiving revelation for a period of six months to two years, after which these verses were revealed:

1. By the morning light.

2. And the night as it settles.

3. Your Lord did not abandon you, nor did He forget.

4. The Hereafter is better for you than the First.

5. And your Lord will give you, and you will be satisfied.

6. Did He not find you orphaned, and sheltered you?

7. And found you wandering, and guided you?

8. And found you in need, and enriched you?

9. Therefore, do not mistreat the orphan.

10. Nor rebuff the seeker.

11. But proclaim the blessings of your Lord. (The Quran, verses 93:1-8)

4. Read

An important help toward being patient, thinking the best of God and understanding His decrees is to read. Read Ibn al-Jawzi‘s and Ibn al-Qayyim‘s sayings. If you do not speak Arabic, read multiple translations of the Quran, especially Muhammad Abdel-Haleem’s. Read Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet if you haven’t. Read every good Islamic book you can find, especially by modern, mainstream writers.

5. Put your hopes in the afterlife

This world will never live up to your expectations, and nothing you achieve in it will last forever. It is a central spiritual teaching of the Quran to focus more on the hereafter than on the present life, as verse 4 above teaches.

Think of this world as nothing more than a waiting room. You are here for a while, waiting for the door to be opened, behind which there is a beautiful and thriving city where you can finally have peace and freedom from all stress and worry. Arriving at this city must be your goal, you must never be deluded by the cheap counterfeit goods of the worldly life, which almost always cause as much pain as the pleasure they bring.

If you at this moment feel depressed and unable to do anything for the afterlife, then wait patiently, and this in itself is worship. Imagine yourself waiting in that waiting room. Just wait, if you cannot do anything more. Wait, knowing that eventually the door will open. You do not need to do anything more than waiting, God does not burden you with more than you are able.

6. Be easy on yourself

A mistake many of us make is to rededicate ourselves to God for a short period of time, such a during Ramadan, only to burn out, feeling that we can never be the perfect saint that we hope to be.

Never push yourself beyond what you are able to carry at this moment. Continue to enjoy what you enjoy, reading novels, browsing your favorite sites, playing video games, doing whatever (non-sinful) thing you enjoy doing.

Islam does not ask you to give up the pleasures of this world, or to turn yourself into a God-worshiping robot. It asks you reform your life, to remain close to God as much as you are able, and to continue living a normal human life. God does not blame you for enjoying yourself, for taking the time off to go to the park, to listen to music, to do anything you find enjoyable and uplifting.

Be gentle with yourself and increase what you do for God only when you are able. If today you are tired and cannot perform an extra good deed that you performed yesterday, then do not do it.

Pushing yourself too hard can cause your ego to rebel, because it will feel like Islam is an enemy that wants to prevent it from enjoying life. Children and teenagers also feel this way when their parents try to push them too hard to be pious and religious.

Instead, be a gentle and kind master with yourself, respecting your own dignity and giving yourself time to do what you enjoy.

7. Rely on His guidance

Another mistake that people make is losing hope in God’s ability to guide them. They lose hope and think that they are permanently lost, thinking as if God is incapable of reaching into their lives and purifying it again. The truth that Quran teaches us is that God is with us every hour of every day, teaching us, educating us, helping us overcome challenges and grow into better humans.

Some Muslims, especially strict ones, mistakenly think that for a person to acquire guidance, a thousand things have to go exactly perfectly for them. In reality, once a person accepts the Quran as their guide, and sincerely prays to God for guidance, then their guidance is assured. God will take care of arranging for them everything necessary to help them grow and improve. The Quran speaks much of guidance (al-huda), and there would be little point in mentioning this if it was all about a human’s own efforts toward learning about God and Islam. Rather, guidance is largely about God bestowing His favor upon humans, inspiring them and helping them along the way:

God chooses to Himself whom He wills, and He guides to Himself whoever repents. (The Quran, 42:13)

He said, “I am going towards my Lord, and He will guide me.” (The Quran, verse 37:99)

No matter how lost you feel, pray to God for guidance, and He will guide you, in ways you do not expect. He will arrange for you to go through the right experiences, to hear, read and see the right things, to be able to learn and grow and mature. What you must do, above all, is repent and be sincere.

On social anxiety and loneliness

I too do not enjoy social interactions except with people I know really well. This is perfectly normal. It is not a character flaw, it is due to your genes. If you get only four hours of sleep one night, the next day nearly all of your social anxiety will be gone, because the parts of your brain the cause you social anxiety will stop doing their usual thing.

Consider social anxiety just one of life’s annoyances, similar to a person who has an accident and has to limp for the rest of their lives. It is probably never going away completely, although many things can significantly reduce it (such as gaining wealth and status). Accept social anxiety as a part of life and move on. There are people who are blind, be thankful that your problem is not as serious. It will still get in the way of enjoying a life that people would call normal, but it is not more than you can bear.

When you are in a situation where your social anxiety becomes a factor, it is like a person who has a limp being expected to move fast or run. It is not enjoyable and you’d much rather avoid it, but if you think of it as just another physical disability, then you will be able to handle it with few negative emotions. If people constantly expect you to be outgoing and comfortable socially, then the blame is on them for expecting you to act in a way you are not designed to act. Instead of trying to live up to their expectations, trying to act the way their genes make them act, instead of acting the way your genes make you act, be comfortable with yourself, accepting your limitations, finding social enjoyment in the ways you can (instead of in the ways people expect), and having hope that as you grow older, you will learn better ways of dealing with the issue.

If you feel lonely and wish for meaningful social interactions, for example with a loving spouse, then you can pray for this and let God decide when and how you will have it. Loneliness is just one of the many tests of life, and the happiness we desire from ending our loneliness is only something that God can give to us:

42. And that to your Lord is the finality.

43. And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.

44. And that it is He who gives death and life.

45. And that it is He who created the two kinds—the male and the female.

46. From a sperm drop, when emitted.

47. And that upon Him is the next existence.

48. And that it is He who enriches and impoverishes. (The Quran 53:42-48)

It is best not place your hopes of fulfillment in this life, as already mentioned, and this includes hoping for an end to loneliness. It is better to put our ultimate hope in the afterlife and to serve God as best as we can, expecting favors and blessings only from Him, whenever He decrees these for us.

This is about the spiritual side of things. As for the material side of things, you are free to seek fulfillment, for example by trying to get married. If you take care of the spiritual side, God will give you His help and guidance as you use your intelligence and planning ability to improve your material situation.

Spiritually, seek fulfillment only through God. Wealth, a spouse, family and friends will not bring you fulfillment unless He allows it and makes it possible. In the worldly life, act like any intelligent human, spiritually, act like His servant, knowing that He is the King above all kings.

When to stand up during the iqamah, at the beginning, a specific point or at the end?

In our part of the world, I have noticed a few people standing up for the salah when the caller pronounces the words “Haiya as Salah” during the iqamat and most stand up from the beginning of the iqamat. Which is correct?

There is no specific evidence on the right time to stand up once the iqamah starts, and this is what Ibn Uthaymeen says. The various schools have used different arguments to justify different times for standing up. But since there is no strong evidence on any of these opinions, you are free to stand whenever it suits you. There is a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari in which the Prophet says not to stand up until the crowd sees him stand up, therefore if there is a specific person who is meant to lead the prayer, then the rest should wait for that person to stand up before standing up themselves.

The Hanafi opinion is to stand up when the athan reaches “hayya alas salat”.

The Shafiee opinino is to stand up once the athan is finished.

The Maliki opinion is that you can stand any time, at the beginning, middle or end of it.

The Hanbali opinion is to follow what the imam does. The imam is supposed to stand up once the athan reaches “qad qamatis salat”. But if the imam takes longer to stand up, then the rest will wait until the imam stands up.

However, if there is a specific imam who is meant to lead the prayer, and the imam is late, and the iqama is said, the rest should wait for the imam to arrive before standing up.

Muslims may use “God” instead of “Allah”, and why most converts to Islam should keep their pre-Islam names

They say in our doctrine that the word “God” is way different than “Allah”, and shouldn’t be said as long as the Kuffar use it. We as Muslims differ from what they came with.. Similar to what happened when Adan was first confirmed. What’s your take on that?

The Saudi scholar Ibn Uthaymeen says there is no issue with using foreign words to refer to God if the meaning of the word is commonly known and well-understood and not confusable with pagan deities.

I try to use the word “God” wherever I can if I am speaking or writing in English, because it sounds more natural than using “Allah”. My wife is a native English speaker and we always say “God” when we speak.

I come from a Kurdish culture and we always use Khwa and Khoda when we speak about God. It sounds highly unusual if someone says Allah in the wrong context, it is like saying “thou” and “thee” in English to refer to someone.

You will find some Arab-centric opinions on the internet that say to use “Allah” instead of other words, acting as if the cultural choices of hundreds of millions of non-Arab Muslims around the world are of no importance.

Using the word God in English is recommendable because it shows non-Muslim English speakers that we are not speaking of some foreign deity like some of them mistakenly think. It shows that we are speaking of the same God that they know of, the God of Abraham and Jesus, peace be upon them.For similar reasons I recommend that converts to Islam keep their pre-Islam names. A convert to Islam named Christopher is going to have a far easier time befriending and approaching non-Muslims, putting them at their ease and showing them that Muslims are just like themselves. If he chooses some foreign-sounding name, this will always act as a barrier.

Ultimately it comes down to personal choice whether a convert chooses to change their name or not. But it is a big mistake to tell them this should be one of the first things they should do after converting. This should be one of the last things they do, by choosing a foreign name they separate themselves from their local community and make it far more difficult on themselves to get their conversion to Islam accepted by others on the one hand, and to get others to have a friendly view of Islam on the other.

Additionally, converts to Islam who have children have the right to continue using local names, as long as these names do not have a meaning conflicting with Islam. Irish Muslims can continue using common Irish names, the way that Kurdish Muslims use Kurdish names, and Turkish Muslims use Turkish names.

Strategies for forgiving others

I’m having a bad past and it was not easy to forgive and forget. I’ve already tried my best to forgive people, but I still can’t find the inner peace. I still can’t find what I should be. Why it is so hard to forgive people? And why it is hard for me to forget the past. What should I do?

You are a human living in a human body. It is a natural part of you to find it difficult to forgive people who have injured you, since the subconscious part of the mind keeps track of every harm others have done us and in this way controls our emotions toward them. This is done for our own good, it is an automatic response meant to help us stay away from people who may harm us.

It is sufficient for you to consciously forgive people (to decide in your mind to not try to harm them or take revenge on them), as for your subconscious mind, it will continue to have its negative emotional response toward these people until a long time passes and you either start to see these people in a new light based on positive interactions, or so much time passes that you forget most of the injuries they have done you.

If you can consciously forgive people, and you can control your actions toward them, then there is no need to worry about the rest. Your focus should instead be on maintaining a heightened state of spirituality (through daily Quran reading, listening to lectures, and other acts of worship), increasing your knowledge, and always going closer toward God. As you improve in these regards, the worldly things that trouble you will feel less important.

Your subconscious (the emotions you feel toward people) is not under your direct control. The only way you can affect it is indirectly, by focusing on things that can rewire its priorities so that it stops worrying about people. And this is done, as I said, through days, months and years of spiritual practice.

There were people in my life who were extremely unkind to me years ago. Instead of trying to forgive them, I moved on with my life. I read hundreds of books, traveled, suffered many hardships and many good things, and in this way the negative things I felt toward these people became irrelevant, so that today I can interact with them without feeling anything negative toward them.

This is similar to how we do not feel strong emotions toward people who were mean to us in kindergarten or elementary school. It is not that we actively forgave them, it is that we grew up, we changed, so that they no longer feel relevant to us, to our emotions and our sense of self-worth.

In the same way, to forgive someone, a person can go to a different country, spend 5 years there and become a completely different person, and coming back to their home country, they may discover that they have forgiven the person even though they almost never thought about them.

To forgive, grow into a new person, move to a new position in life where those people’s negative actions toward you no longer feel important or interesting, so that you do not even bother to think about them anymore.

Besides Islamic worship, another thing you can do is to read 100 books. Read 100 good novels (classics written before 1965) and I guarantee that you will feel like a very different person once you are done, your view of yourself and the world around you will expand and you will start to see the world differently, so that your past stops having the power to hurt you.

Evolutionary psychology

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What got you interested in evolutionary psychology?

I have always been interested in science, in finding out how the world works, and I have read hundreds of books on all kinds of topics. I discovered that the ordinary field of psychology is full of irrationalism and principles derived not from reality, but from political ideologies. Psychology is one of the “woolly sciences”, as I call them, along with sociology, anthropology and many other fields of the social sciences. More than half of the findings of psychology research cannot be “replicated”, meaning that what psychologists say about something is generally far more derived from their own personal opinions, biases and ideologies rather than reality and an honest desire to find out how things really work.

In such a context, there comes evolutionary psychology, which rejects political correctness and treats humans like science treats any other creature, not bringing moral judgments into its research, but simply finding out how humans really are, which is a breathe of fresh air from the stuffy atmosphere of the West’s woolly science academia and the hundreds of thousands of rent-seeking scientists and researchers who have attached themselves to these fields.

Evolutionary psychology is just one of my interests, among many others, and I have no attachment to it. At the moment it offers the best explanations for human behavior, and I recently published a book based on ideas taken from it (Sex and Purpose). If anything it says is proven false, then it is the truth that takes priority.

What to do if the Quran (in English) does not touch your heart

I have an issue I feel bad about. Whenever I read the Qur’an i can’t connect to it. At worst I haven’t even had a clear feeling it’s from God. Idk why. Maybe because I don’t know Arabic. But whenever I watch a religious video explaining the religion i feel very connected.

You could try different translations of the Quran, some of them have a very technical style that is hard to connect to. Many people like The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics) which is not available for free online. You can also try Irving’s translation, which is free.

And if that doesn’t work, but you continue to enjoy lectures, then that is fine too. Once you have understood the religion and follow it, you are free to worship God and seek spirituality in the way that works best for you.

My favorite way to feel spiritual other than listening to the Quran is to read my collection of Ibn al-Jawzi’s sayings, which I have published as a book and which you can read here for free.

What is “sabr”?

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What is sabr actually? Is it to learn to be stoic?

Sabr means “patience”, its literal meaning is “to withhold”. To have sabr means to be able to withhold yourself from doing anything that displeases God. In times of hardship, sabr means not to complain, not to think negative thoughts about God, and not to give up worshiping Him and seek refuge in other things.

In times of ease, sabr means to withhold yourself from using God’s blessings to disobey Him. It also means to continue worshiping Him as ardently as during times of hardship, instead letting times of ease make you complacent and lazy toward worship.

To have sabr means to be steadfast. Regardless of what life throws at you, if you have sabr, you continue to obey and worship God, withholding yourself from doing things that displease Him.

Dating and Relationships in Islam: What is Allowed and What is Not

Is dating and having relationships totally forbidden in Islam?

I will start with a description of an example scenario of the way dating and relationships work in Islam, then will clarify the Islamic stance. If a woman works somewhere, and there is a man there that she likes and who likes her, and both of them want to enjoy a relationship with each other, Islam asks them to get their families involved and work toward getting married.

The time between knowing someone and marrying them could be years. When two people are interested in each other, Islam does not strictly prescribe how they should behave with one another. The two people are expected to get their families involved, and to have a polite and formal relationship with one another, until the marriage takes place.

Depending on the culture, the couple may be allowed to see each other often; for example the man may visit the woman’s family and see her there once or twice a week. This is how dating works among conservative Iranian families. Once the nikah takes place (the official engagement ceremony), but before the wedding, they are allowed to spend time alone outside, going to cafes and restaurants for example, and it is accepted of them to be in constant contact with each other, such as through their phones. But they are not expected to be sexually intimate until after the wedding.

Therefore the Islamic way of dating is as follows. This is the Iranian solution (which is perfectly acceptable in Sunni Islam as well) which allows for dating before the wedding. Note that this is not a loophole, this is perfectly in accordance with Islamic manners:

  1. The man and woman know each other, either as family friends, coworkers or classmates, and both show interest in marrying the other (or the man is interested in marrying her).
  2. The man approaches the woman’s family in an official proposal ceremony. If the man doesn’t know the woman’s family at all, he may get her family’s contact information and set up an official meeting with them. The woman will tell her family about it, and in this way it is set up. The man visits the woman’s family accompanied by some of his own family, and in this way the two families get to know one another.
  3. If everything goes well, the man and woman maintain a formal and polite relationship, although it is not expected to be as formal as that between strangers. The man may visit the woman’s family occasionally. The two families work toward setting up a nikah ceremony.
  4. The nikah takes place. The relationship between the man and the woman becomes religiously officiated by a cleric. They are not married yet culturally. They are allowed to date and to be in contact, similar to a Western-style relationship (without sexual intimacy).
  5. The wedding takes place, after which they are a married couple.

There are all kinds of subtleties involved with this process, and Islam does not strictly prescribe the exact way it is carried out, as long as there is no intimacy before the nikah.

Within the Islamic system, people are discouraged to become intimate emotionally before the nikah, although there is no punishment for this within Islam, so it is not considered a crime, it is considered a breach of good manners and etiquette that could have harmful consequences, so that a person who truly fears God would avoid it.

Lovers in a Garden by Marcus C Stone (c. early 20th century)

For someone living in a different society, what they do could be different. Islam strictly prohibits physical intimacy between people before marriage, leaving emotional intimacy in a gray zone. If a young man and woman fall in love and become emotionally intimate before getting their families involved, their behavior may be considered sinful, or approaching sinfulness, but they have not committed a punishable crime. They are instead strongly encouraged to get their families involved and to maintain a formal relationship until after the nikah.

For two Muslim converts in the West who get to know each other and who want to start dating, performing the nikah is as simple as getting the permission of the woman’s guardian (a male family member, such as a father, brother or other blood relative if they are Muslim, if not, some respect Muslim man from the community), performing a 10-minute nikah ceremony in front of witnesses, then publicly announcing their nikahengagement (for example on Facebook). This can be done months before the wedding. Once this ceremony has been performed, they can start dating like any couple (if they want to date but not marry). In this ceremony the woman’s dowry is set. If they decide to separate before physical intimacy, the women receives half of her dowry, rather than the full dowry, she can also forgo the dowry if she wants.

And, if after the nikah they want to start living together as a husband and wife (without a wedding ceremony), they can do that too, making the nikah the wedding too. In Iran too, sometimes the nikah and the wedding are on the same day, other times they are separated by long periods of time.

So, in Islam it is considered bad manners and a weakness in one’s faith if one tries to have an intimate emotional relationship (for example over the internet) with a member of the opposite sex before the nikah, because this can lead to various sinful behaviors, as there can at times be an immense desire for the couple to take the relationship further, “sexting” and exchanging inappropriate photos. A couple who want to follow Islam’s guidance fully would avoid such a relationship. If they want to know each other better before the nikah, they would get their families involved, or at least the woman’s family (meaning her guardian) should be involved.

Different Muslim cultures have differing practices. Islam does not expect people to act like robots, it acknowledges their humanity, which is why it leaves the pre-nikah relationship in a gray zone, acknowledging that different circumstances require different policies. It is ultimately a matter of conscience between you and God. It is very easy for us to find excuses for our sinful desires and to say that our case is different. So we must be aware of our ego’s desire to always take a relationship with a person of the opposite sex further until it becomes sinful.

By having a relationship with someone before nikah, you constantly create opportunities for you and the other person to act in ways that would be considered sinful by others and by God. Therefore you must do your best to keep your ego’s desires in check, and you must do your best to get your families involved at the first possible opportunity.

If you want to date before marriage, then have your nikah ceremony, then start dating. In this way you can have a relationship, and if you end up not wanting to get married, you have the option of ending the relationship. If it is the woman who wants to end it, then she will get no dowry. If it is the man who wishes to end it, he must give her half the dowry, unless she says she does not want it.

If it is a long-distance relationship, it is sufficient to have a Skype session that involves the two of them, the woman’s guardian and two male witnesses. In this session, the woman’s guardian gives his agreement to the nikah and the dowry amount, and this would be it. They would be considered engaged in Islam, and they can publicly announce their engagement, and from then on they can have an intimate relationship like any non-Muslim Western couple. Depending on their culture, however, physical intimacy may be considered highly inappropriate until after the wedding, although technically it is allowed.

Why should your relationship life be anyone else’s business?

Why can’t young Muslims simply get into relationships without having to involve other people? They mean harm to no one, and they are old enough to think for themselves.

The reason is that in Islam, marriage is an extremely serious business, because the survival of humanity depends on it. Islam creates a system that ensures above-replacement fertility rates, meaning that sufficient children are born and taken care of so that the the population does not start shrinking and slowly going extinct.

Why should anyone care about that when one’s fulfillment is involved?

For the same reason that a factory owner has to worry about not releasing contaminated water into the environment. It may bring him or her great fulfillment to do this, since it reduces costs and increases profits, but for humanity’s greater good, their desire is curbed. What they do isn’t just their business, it is also society’s business.

In Islam, relationships and marriage are equally society’s business. It may seem really fun to spend one’s youth “hooking up” with a dozen different people, having a different sexual partner every few months. This can be highly enjoyable, there is no need to deny this. The problem is that this leads to a society that does not value its future, and that considers having and bringing up children a nuisance that gets in the way of personal fulfillment.

The result is that the number of people dying ends up being greater than the number of people being born, so that the population starts to shrink, like it is happening in Japan. A person may say, “So what? They have 120 million people, let it become 10 million instead.” But if a population it can go from 120 million to 10 million, it can go from 10 million to zero if the same trend continues.

You are free to think this is OK, that it is fine if humanity goes extinct by preferring personal fulfillment over the good of society and humanity’s survival. Islam says it is not OK. Islam wants humanity to survive, and it doesn’t make a difference in God’s eye whether it is a plague that may kill off humanity in a year, or an ideology of sexual freedom that does it in 2000 years. The result is the same; humanity dies out.

You could say that you personally shouldn’t have to sacrifice your fulfillment for the sake of some disaster that may happen thousands of years in the future. Islam says you must. It says you must not kill, you must not use legalized robbery (usury) to extract profit from society, you must not do injury to others, you must not abandon your children so that they starve. And you must not have casual sex, you must instead build families intended to survive for the long-term.

All of these commandments are there to ensure humanity’s long-term survival while also ensuring its short-term moral integrity, since one of Islam’s central teachings is that the end does not justify the means; you must never do evil for the sake of some good you wish to obtain. Even if you are made to testify, and your testimony harms those you love or harms the Muslim community, you must do it. You must give preference to truth and justice over worldly concerns. To a materialist this sounds like insanity, to prefer principles over one’s material good. But this is what we believe in, because we believe by following principles, God will ensure our material good.

When it comes to relationships, Islam asks you to not be selfish, but to engage in them in a way that benefits society and humanity’s survival, rather than harming it. You are part of humanity and you have a responsibility to leave in as good a state as you found it, and that, needless to say, means that you do not do what leads to its extinction, whether it is by releasing toxic waste into the water supply or by giving preference to your sexual desires over doing the hard work of building families and raising children.

Who tells the truth these days? A list of rationalist sources

In these times, it’s difficult to know what’s really going on and what to trust. As someone who lives in the west and would like to know about the reality of things going on here, I would like to ask you for various reliable book recommendations. Unadulterated books that inform the reader about western shenanigans (i.e. their real politics, hidden agendas, media monopolization, who are the people behind these and their motives etc.). Your help will be much appreciated.

The first thing to note is the following, from an article by Paul Craig Roberts, economist and former US government official:

The word “conspiracy theory” is very useful for shutting down criticism of the government and discrediting anyone who questions things, because they are immediately grouped with fringe groups that say things like “the world is under the control of aliens” and talk about mind-control and telepathy.

In this way, anyone who presents evidence for corruption or criminal activity by those in power is easily discredited and ignored merely by being called a “conspiracy theorist”.

The other thing to note is that the internet is full of false conspiracy theories, designed to attract people’s attention away from the world’s real problems. Thus you have people who talk about the Illuminati and various other made-up organizations that supposedly run this world. By busying these people with these false theories, they are made incapable of focusing on the actual problems.

Another thing to note is that almost the entirely of the West’s media is thoroughly corrupt. You will never read widespread coverage of the evidence that the US government funds various terrorist groups in the Middle East, for example. And you will not read widespread criticism of the US support for the oppressive Saudi government. And when the Saudi government murders hundreds of innocent Yemenis using American weapons in its war against Yemen, it is entirely ignored by the West’s media, because it would look the US government look bad.

So who tells the truth in this atmosphere? The only media organization I know of that does not shy away from telling the truth and has many trustworthy people writing for it is The Unz Review. You could spend a year reading this site, and you would probably learn more from it than any number of books. Not everyone who writes for it is trustworthy, some have agendas, but most are.

As for books to read:

Islam versus Feminism

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My professor told me that men and women have different purposes, so we can’t protest how men are more “free”. We can’t protest on how wives have to do what the husbands say as long as it’s right. My Mom also told me that if your husband says no, then you don’t do it. However, there are feminists that are rebelling against this, they say that it’s sexist, women rights, equality, etc. What do you think about this? And what do you think about feminism? Sorry if it’s hard to understand.

It is true that men and women have different evolutionary purposes. I describe this in detail in my two essays Man’s Masculine Role and Woman’s Feminine Role in Family and Civilization and Civilization versus Feminism.

There are many types of feminists. Some of them believe in equal rights for women and there is nothing wrong with this. Others believe in women’s moral superiority and think that all men are inherently worthless

“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” —Andrea Dworkin

“All men are rapists and that’s all they are” —Marilyn French, advisor to Al Gore’s presidential campaign.

“In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them” —Dr. Mary Jo Bane, feminist and assistant professor of education at Wellesley College, and associate director of the school’s Center for Research on Woman.

“The most merciful thing a large family can to do one of its infant members is to kill it.” —Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, in “Women and the New Race,” p. 67.

“We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton

These are feminism’s leaders and intellectuals. They have high-paying jobs as university professors and administrators, pundits and non-profit executives. These are not some crazy outsiders, they are at the center of feminism, and it is people like this who run most women’s studies departments at universities. It is for this reason that women taught at women’s studies departments generally have a visceral hatred toward men, believing that no evil done to them is too bad, and believing that a woman has zero moral responsibility toward men and society, because she is infinitely superior to all religious and societal values.

Feminism’s leaders are some of the most bloodthirsty and poisonous people on earth, utterly selfish and self-centered, having zero empathy toward 50% of humanity (males), and rejoicing at the thought of men suffering injustice and murder.

Since we Muslims follow a balanced religion that considers men and women equally worthy, we must naturally reject this type of feminism for the doctrine of hate that it is, and instead of considering these dangerously bloodthirsty women leaders of women (as some female Muslim intellectuals mistakenly think), we must consider them enemies of Islam and civilization, for what they want is to utterly destroy our values and ideals to replace them with their male-hating, marriage-hating, abortion-loving and homosexuality-promoting ideology.

As for women who believe in the equal worth of men and women and simply want to promote equal rights and opportunities for women, then there is nothing wrong with them, although it would be better if they did not call themselves feminists, because the above is what feminism’s leaders are like. They should create a new movement that stands against feminism, rejecting its doctrine of hate and replacing it with something that works for women’s rights without wanting to carry out genocide against half of the world’s population.

In Islam, a man has “a degree of authority” over women in his household, as I explain in my answer Patriarchy in the Quran. The woman should always have the right to divorce and to agencies that protect her against abuse, so that the man is prevented from abusing his authority. But the authority is there nonetheless, and it cannot be taken away without throwing away the Quran. This means that his wife cannot make significant decisions without his agreement. If she wants to, she is free to threaten divorce to get her way, but while she remains a wife to her husband, her husband has this authority over her.

A woman is not forced into marriage; she is the one who chooses what man deserves to be her husband. If she marries a man as cultured and intelligent as herself, then the question of authority may never come up, since the family functions comfortably, with both the man and the woman enslaved to the interests of the family, rather than their own personal interests. Neither of them seek power or privilege over the other; they both work for the same goal, the project in life.

So the man’s extra authority is something that only comes up if the woman wants to do something that goes against his wishes. In such a case, she can argue with him, she can ask for the support of her family and his family to convince him, and if the matter is important enough to her, she has the right to ask for divorce. So this authority is not absolute, like a short-sighted view would suggest; it is balanced by the woman’s right of divorce, and by the fact that in Islamic societies all women have universal income guaranteed by their male relatives, so that they are not reliant on their husbands in order to be fed, clothed and sheltered, if they leave the husband, the male relatives are required to do provide these for them.

Before marriage, a woman is free to ask her husband to give her equal authority, and he is free to either agree or not agree, since marriage is by the agreement of both sides. The Islamic view is that the system of giving men more authority in the household than women is beneficial to both of them, by giving them happy and stable families. When it comes to traditional marriages, some short-sighted people focus on the one unhappy and abusive marriage they find and ignore the 9 happy and peaceful marriages around them, and use this one example to “prove” that there is something wrong with the Islamic system.

Regardless of the system, there will always be unhappy and abusive marriages. The Islamic system claims to lead to better marriages, families and societies on average; having a lower rate of unhappy and broken marriages and families. If in Western societies the rate of unhappy marriages is 20%, in an Islamic society it might be 5%. And while all major Western societies have below-replacement fertility rates (their societies are slowly but surely going extinct), conservative Islamic societies all have above-replacement fertility rates, meaning that they continue to thrive, even in developed societies like Malaysia.

Another sign of the healthfulness of the Islamic system is the low suicide rates in peaceful Islamic countries. The suicide rate of the United States is four times greater than that of Indonesia and Egypt, for example.

Understanding Islam’s Sophisticated Approach to Slavery: Why Muslims Practiced Slavery in the Past, and Why They Reject it Today

It may sound like nothing but empty apologetics to defend Islam’s toleration of slavery and say that Islam’s goal was to abolish it, when Islam’s Prophet  and his companions all practiced it widely. And generally this is what much of the arguments defending Islam’s views on slavery sound like when they come from traditional scholars.

It is difficult to reconcile classical Islam with modern views on slavery because classical Islam calls for applying the Quran and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s traditions ﷺ as recorded in hadith collections) as equal authorities. Since the Prophet ﷺ practiced slavery, the implication is that anyone can practice it without it being an issue. Saying slavery is morally wrong today is like saying the Prophet ﷺ did something morally wrong, which naturally is considered unacceptable. The Saudi Salafi scholar Saleh al-Fawzan recently issued a fatwa (ruling) saying that terrorist groups operating in Iraq have the right to enslave women belonging to the non-Muslim Yazidi minority.

The root of the problem is the corruption of the Quran’s status and role within Islam. While Islam was originally a religion based on the Quran, with hadith acting as a helper, today the Quran has become overshadowed by hadith, so that the Quran is no longer considered the always-relevant, always-supreme authority within Islam that it is meant to be.

Within conservative Sunni Islam, there are two major schools of thought, one of which cannot explain Islam’s toleration of slavery in a satisfactory manner. This side includes classical scholars and Salafis. The other side is the Quran-focused school, which can provide a satisfactory explanation while also being fully in agreement with the modern world’s ban on slavery. For a detailed discussion of Quran-focused Islam and its differences from classical Islam, please see my essay Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism.

To start the discussion, I will quote the relevant part of the linked essay that deals with slavery:

When we modern folk consider slavery repulsive, when we believe in human rights and the dignity of every human being, and when we find that the Quran, while regulating slavery, never commands it, then we can reject slavery and ban it in our societies. Our living guide, the Quran, does not ask us to practice slavery. Our dead guide, hadith, mentions that the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his companions, widely practiced it, because that was the common practice in the world at the time, and it served various beneficial functions (it was far superior to the Jewish and Christian practice of killing all men, women and children of a defeated enemy, or leaving them to starve). It served a purpose at the time. And if 10,000 years from now, the world goes back to being undeveloped and slavery becomes commonplace, then the Quran is there to regulate it again and slowly eradicate it.

Classical scholars today are all against slavery to some degree, but they also have to “defend the Sunnah” by saying that it is a part of Islam and by finding various justifications for it. They are placed in the difficult position of having to say that there is nothing morally wrong with slavery (because the Prophet, peace be upon, practiced it), that the Prophet’s traditions are meant to be applied as an equal to the Quran today, and that slavery today is wrong and that Islam is against it. Quran-focused Islam doesn’t suffer from having to adopt these contradictory stances, because it believes the point of Islam is to follow the Quran, and that the Sunnah is merely a help toward this.

The Quran does not command slavery, therefore if there is no slavery in a society, then Muslims do not have to engage in it, and they are free to ban it. But, if Islam finds itself in a society that already practices it, then Islam can be adopted by it, in this way their practice of slavery is reformed and slowly eradicated (the Quran strongly encourages freeing slaves, and a child born to a slave and her master is considered a free person in Islamic law.)

[…]

So we can honestly say that slavery was a part of Islam then, but that it is no longer part of Islam today, and that one day in the far future it could again become part of Islam. Our religion is always updating itself. There is no such thing as a single Islam the entirety of whose practices and ways of life can be set in stone and followed for eternity, as Salafis think. Instead, Islam is always a self-renewing derivation of the Quran and life, guided by hadith and classical scholarship wherever needed. If people say slavery is wrong, we agree with them, and tell them that Islam wants to eradicate it. If they point out Islam’s historical practice of slavery, we say it tolerated it because it was a worldwide practice then, because it served practical purposes, because banning it could have had violent consequences, but now that the world is different, Islam, too, can be different, because the Quran is living among us, telling us how to respond to each new age of the world.

According to Abul A’la Maududi, the Prophet ﷺ freed 63 slaves by himself during his life. In his commentary on Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani’s Bulugh al-Maram, the historian Muhammad bin Isma`eel al-San`ani says that the Prophet ﷺ and his companions together freed over thirty-nine thousand slaves in their lives.

The question then is if Islam had to tolerate slavery for practical purposes, why did the Prophet ﷺ himself and his close companions have concubines? Couldn’t they have chosen to be morally better than the rest of the population?

I will focus on early Islamic history, since what Muslims did after that did not always reflect Islamic principles. If we find moral justification for the Prophet’s practices ﷺ, then this is sufficient. It is not necessary to find moral justification for Ottoman practices regarding slavery, since what they did regarding slavery and a thousand other things does not necessary reflect the teachings of Islam.

Islam’s critics may say that we modern Muslims are trying to back-rationalize Islam’s “savage” beginnings by reinterpreting the Prophet’s actions ﷺ as if he wasn’t a vicious and power-seeking warlord. But as will be shown below, his policies and reforms regarding slavery were so noble and ahead of their time that he puts Christians of a thousand years later to shame.

The Arabian System of Slavery

Slavery has been a part of life in most human societies. American Christians were having sex with their black slaves by the tens of thousands. Since Christianity has no framework for dealing with slavery, the slaves and the children born would be abandoned, rather than taken care of as Islam would require.

At Islam’s beginnings, it was common practice to take the defeated enemy’s women as slaves, this was done by the pagans too. It was an ordinary and accepted part of life. Before Islam, Arabs had 20 ways of acquiring slaves according to the scholar Muhammad Mutawalli Sha`rawi, such as people being made slaves due to debt, or a tribe offering one of their own as a slave as an offering to another tribe, or one tribe attacking another with the purpose of enslaving them. Islam reduces these ways to only one way: Enemy prisoners coming out of a just war, not an offensive war done for gain, but a war done against an aggressor.1 And if there are international treaties for dealing with prisoners of war, like there are today, then this way too would be closed.

So within the Islamic system, this is how slaves are created:

  1. During an age of the world where slavery is a worldwide practice, some group launches a war of aggression against Muslims. The Quran expects Muslims to sign treaties with their neighbors and commands them to not be aggressors, therefore a war would only be against an enemy that has broken treaties. Of course, many Muslim states throughout history have abused Islamic law to justify wars of aggression, but the actions of Muslims are one thing, and Islamic principles are another. You cannot hold Islam responsible when Muslims break its laws. All major religions, ideologies and constitutions have been used to justify wars of aggression.
  2. The enemy is offered peace but refuses to back down.
  3. The enemy is conquered.
  4. The enemy’s men, women and children are taken as captives and have the status of slaves, with a long list of rights ensured by Islam. Note that the enemy would have done the same to the Muslims if they had been the conquerors.

This is what happened to the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe, which at Islam’s darkest hour, when the Muslims were under attack by a large alliance of pagan Arabs during the Battle of the Trench, they broke their treaty with the Muslims and plotted with the attackers to help them destroy the Muslim state. Their men were executed for high treason (treason during a time of war, it is also the law in the United States to execute for high treason), and their women and children were enslaved. Executing the enemy’s men was done for their treason, this wasn’t the standard practice against enemies.

In Islam’s early history, this enslavement of an enemy was not done out of aggression. An enemy, instead, initiated the aggression, with full knowledge of its potential consequences. In the case of Banu Qurayza, it was a risk they took, and it did not pay off. Had they been successful, it would have been the Muslims who would have suffered execution and enslavement under the hands of the pagan Arabs and their Jewish accomplices.

Couldn’t God have asked the Muslims to do something morally superior to enslaving the women and children? He could have, but He didn’t. We can speculate regarding this, although we may not be able to find a conclusive answer.

One important reason for tolerating slavery may have been that at the time Islam arrived, Arabs may have found it impossible to accept the idea of not enslaving an enemy, because to them this was the standard practice around the world. They may have found it incredibly unjust and infuriating to not enslave an enemy that was going to enslave them if it had the chance. Abolishing this practice could been similar to trying to teach Arabs parliamentary democracy. They may have been unable to appreciate the reasoning behind it, and this could have created discontent and division. Therefore Islam humored them for a while, allowing them to continue existing as they already existed, while reforming their practice of slavery and placing mechanisms for eradicating it slowly.

So part of the reason could be the psychology of those times. It may not have been possible to help Islam continue on the one hand, and to ask its adherents to not take defeated enemies as slaves on the other.

One other reason for tolerating slavery is that slavery took care of providing for the women and children acquired through war. The Jewish solution to this problem in Biblical times was to also kill the women and children, as is recorded in the First Book of Samuel in the Bible and in other places:

…and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (Samuel I, 15:3)

The Jews who founded the modern State of Israel also seem to have had a similar mindset.

Christians did the same at times, for example:

Albert of Aachen, a chronicler of the First Crusade era, explicitly claims that the Arab soldiers capture and enslave virgins. (According to him, the Christians just kill everyone.)

[From a historian’s answer posted on Reddit]

Muslims, being more civilized, did not kill people needlessly, and especially not women and children. The killing of women and children in war is strictly prohibited by Islamic law.

New populations of slaves acquired during war would be mostly women and children (because the men were mostly dead, since the wars in those times were often “total wars”, where all the males fought). If this population of mostly women and children had been abandoned, it could have starved, since it had no men to take care of providing for it, and to avoid starving, the women may have resorted to prostitution, as Venezuelan women do today.

The Prophet ﷺ couldn’t have asked the Muslims to take care of these women and children without getting anything in return. Food, clothing and houses did not magically fall from the sky; it required much labor to provide these. Politically it could have been highly damaging to his cause to force the men to become practically slaves of the interests of this defeated population, building them new neighborhoods of homes in their towns and feeding and clothing them. Doing this would have also led to a great increase in prostitution and theft, because this new population of women and children would have had no major alternative ways for advancing in life. This is what happened in New York City in the 1850’s when a great number of unmarried Irish women and children were dumped into the city, escaping famine in Ireland. Their neighborhoods would have turned into ghettos full of crime, as happens to all jobless and idle populations, supported by the hard labor of the Muslims.

The Prophet ﷺ could have asked his followers to marry these women and take care of their children. This wouldn’t have worked because only a man who had two homes and the income to maintain both could have married a second woman. They couldn’t keep two wives under the same roof, because this has an immense likelihood of causing marital discontent and no sensible man would do this. Most men did not have a second home or the income to maintain one. So marrying them wouldn’t have been practical, a few of the women could been married, but not most.

As a reminder, I am describing the reasons why Islam tolerated slavery in the ancient world. As I will describe below, Islam today does not tolerate slavery and Muslims around the world have supported banning it, this is not because Islamic principles have been abandoned for modern principles, it is because the Quran supports us in doing what we know to be the just and kind thing, while also tolerating slavery in societies that already practice it. The Quran has an anti-slavery agenda, but its agenda requires that it should tolerate slavery if a society already practices it, ending it from the inside (more on this later). Societies that already practice slavery may be violently opposed to the thought of abandoning slavery, as the example of the American Civil War shows. Islam’s toleration for slavery enables it to spread in such societies and gently reform it and put an end to it.

So marriage was not a practical option. What was needed was a form of marriage that did not compete with the man’s existing marriage, that did not require a second home, and that did not require high income for a man to engage in it. The Arabian system of slavery provided all of these features by enabling the women to work as servants in the men’s homes, in this way not being competitors in status to their wives. By giving the men the right to have sex with their female slaves, it made the men willing to keep them as slaves, otherwise they wouldn’t have wanted them (as will be described further).

In this way the women were taken care of and fed as were their children, they were not killed like Jews and Christians would have done, and they were not left to starve. These women grew up thinking of slavery and concubinage as a normal part of life, and their own husbands had female slaves, and they saw nothing wrong with this as long as it was not happening to them. For them the difference between being a wife and a concubine was a difference in status, not a difference between a consensual sexual relationship and rape. This is evident to someone studying China and Japan’s ancient practice of concubinage. Concubines were neither wives nor mere sex toys. They had a specific social status, it was lower than that of a wife, but it is a highly naive view of history to think of such women as merely bodies that were abused and raped.

The Christians of Egypt gifted the Prophet ﷺ a Christian concubine named Maria. Were the Christians merely sending the Prophet ﷺ a sex toy as a gesture of good will?

Of course not. As any historian of ancient times will tell you, this was similar to a man offering his daughter in marriage to someone else, with her own opinion in the matter ignored, as has been standard practice among large sections of society in all of history, especially among the aristocracy. She did not have to be placed in chains and shipped off in a box. For her this was her job, and she had no problem with doing it, similar to the way today female actresses do not mind having a male actor’s sexual organ inside them for a movie sex scene, it is part of their job and they do it. The difference is that, in theory, concubinage was “forced”, while a modern actress is not “forced” to do that. But it all depends on the woman’s mindset. A concubine did not feel raped the way a modern woman forced into slavery would feel, she felt that she belonged to a lower-class caste of women, one of whose jobs was to have sex with their masters. She may have hoped for a better life, to one day be a full wife and not merely a concubine, but she had a respected social status and function, she thought of herself as an integral part of society, not as someone imprisoned and raped against her will like modern-day sex slaves are.

These things do not justify slavery, but provide part of the explanation for why Islam tolerated it. A modern woman may value her own dignity so much that she may consider murdering anyone who tries to enslave her, but at that time, the women thought of concubinage as a forced, low-status marriage that would be their fate if their men failed to protect them.

In Islam, the relationship between a slave woman and her master is an official relationship, it is similar to a marriage. She cannot be in a sexual relationship with anyone else during this relationship. If she is already pregnant when acquired, her master does not have the right of having sex with her until she gives birth. If she becomes pregnant by her master, her master no longer has the right to sell her, because she acquires that status of umm walad and cannot be sold as a slave. Her children that are born to her and her master will be free citizens and not slaves, and if her master dies, she becomes a free woman herself. If Islam was a barbaric religion that taught its adherents to enslave people, why would it have so many sophisticated mechanisms for eradicating it? What is the point of preventing a master from selling his slave once she is pregnant or has given birth? The Christian slave owners of America didn’t think there was any point in this, since they were not civilized enough to worry about the status and rights of the slave, while the Muslims of 630 AD found a point in this, because it enabled the woman to care for her children under the care and protection of her master, while also forcing the master to take full responsibility for the children, who were now free citizens. Americans just 160 years ago were barbaric savages in their dealing with slaves compared to the “barbaric” Arabs of 630 AD.

A person who has a limited view of history may think that the best solution to slavery is to ban it and let whatever happens happen afterwards, and this was the idea of the North in mid-19th century America, which led to the American Civil War2, causing the death of about a million people (it was the bloodiest war in history up to that time). Since Islam was not invented by short-sighted humans, it respects the existing culture, enables an extremely undeveloped society to take care of the women and children who are victims of war (instead of killing them, allowing them to starve or encouraging them to become prostitutes and criminals by dumping them into cities), and provides various methods for slowly but surely eradicating slavery until it can be banned without any social unrest, the way almost all Muslim-majority countries today have banned slavery.

While these facts are, of course, not sufficient to justify slavery in the modern world, in the ancient world, given the political and economic circumstances of those times, it is understandable why Islam tolerated slavery.

It would be untrue to say that the Prophet tolerated slavery entirely out of charitable motivations. The Arabian system of enslaving war captives and distributing them was done as part of the distributing of war booty, the goods taken from a defeated prisoner. From Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet:

Seven days had elapsed since the surrender, and the Hawazin had not appeared to ask for their womcn and children back. Now thinking that they would not come, Muhammad decided to share out the captives between the Quraysh Muslims (who once again received a more important share) and the Ansar. He only just finished the distribution when a Hawazin delegation arrived. The Prophet explained to them that he had waited for them, but since they had not arrived he had already shared out the captives; he said that he would intercede for them and ask people to give back their prisoners if they wanted to. After some hesitation, all the fighters gave up their captives to the Hawazin delegation. (Pages 184 and 185)

The Muslim fighters wanted the captives as their slaves. The Prophet, however, wanted them to wait for the captives’ tribe to come and hopefully sign a peace treaty, after which they would be given back the captives. Since the Hawazin didn’t seem willing to come for a treaty, the Prophet assumed they still intended war, and for this reason allowed the Arabian system to take its course, giving his warriors what they were used to get.

But once the Hawazin finally appeared, the Prophet showed his noble character and the non-Arabian-ness of Islam by convincing his fighters to give the captives back. Instead of acting like an Arab warlord, rejoicing in defeating and enslaving an enemy that had gathered to destroy the Muslims, he let them go free once their representatives came to ask for peace.

This scene also illustrates the sensitivity of the Prophet’s political situation. He could not force his fighters to give up the captives. They were from different Arabian tribes with their own ideas about their rights and their status in relation to the Prophet. The Prophet was not in charge of a “horde” of mindless soldiers like so many detractors of Islam (especially various Jews in the West’s academia) wish to portray, he had to keep a sensitive political situation balanced, giving sufficient satisfaction to each section of his following so that they would not rebel against him.

He did not act like the largely Jewish Bolsheviks of Russia (led by the Jewish Vladimir Lenin), enforcing a new ideology on the entire population and giving everyone the option of either accepting it or dying. He humored the population, their pride, their culture and their various forms of social organization. He did not want to destroy society then rebuild it (like all Marxist and neo-Marxist ideologies wish to do), he peacefully gave his message to his society, giving them the option of either accepting it or leaving it, and never responding to the violence offered him and his followers. Only when he was elected the sovereign ruler of Medina by its main tribes did he start to act like a ruler, doing what was necessary to protect his state against aggressors.

And even then, he continued to respect the existing society and culture. Instead of acting like Lenin or Ayatollah Khomeini, using assassinations and purges to enslave the population to his interests in the name of the greater good, even though he was a prophet of God and had His authority behind him. He continued to respect them, consult them, while the Muslims continued to maintain the right to question and criticize his decisions. Even at the end of his life, when he had become the supreme ruler of Arabia, his companions severely criticized to his own face his choice of a 17-year-old as the leader of a Muslim army. Instead of thinking “God’s messenger says so, therefore no argument can be admitted”, they treated him like a human and felt free to disagree with him, so that he had to convince them of the sense and rationality of his decisions.

In his truly democratic form of governance, in allowing everyone to voice their opinions and take part in decision-making, treating him like any other human, rather than as a supreme leader, he was a far cry from the typical modern dictator who expects absolute obedience, or the typical modern democratic leader who considers democracy an annoying formality that gets in the way of their achieving their goals, paying lip service to it while betraying its principles on a daily basis. It is all the more strange that someone who had over 100,000 people under him, considering him truly a messenger from God, would never make use of his status as God’s messenger to get his way, instead allowing people to challenge him daily.

Compare him to Ayatollah Khomeini, who by the virtue of (supposedly) belonging to the Prophet’s descendants and being the main religious authority of his sect, while in his weakness he admitted to believing in democracy and spoke with non-Shia leaders like Ahmad Moftizadeh, once he achieved supremacy in Iran, he quickly went on to purge the government from his opposition, rushed the constitution he liked through the judiciary to the dismay of his opposition and his own friends, and used theological arguments to prove that his decisions could not be questioned.

Vaso di fiori sulla finestra di un harem (“The window of the Harem”) by Francesco Hayez (first half of 19th century)

The Prophet’s Concubines ﷺ

A person may acknowledge that politically and economically, it made some sense for Islam to tolerate slavery instead of banning it immediately. They may even acknowledge the fact that Islam in the modern world does not command slavery nor support it, since, in the Quran-focused school of thought, Islam is always a derivation of the Quran and the modern world, and since the Quran does not command slavery, and since we in the modern world dislike slavery and consider it repulsive, Islam gives us full rights to ban it.

But they may wonder why the Prophet ﷺ himself accepted to have slave women he had sex with (concubines). Couldn’t he himself, and his closest companions, have chosen the moral high ground of avoiding it?

We cannot find a conclusive answer for this, but we can speculate. Perhaps in God’s view, there was no good to be gained by prohibiting the Prophet ﷺ and his companions from keeping concubines when everyone else did. These women would have had masters anyway, so it wouldn’t have improved the lot of these women to prevent some Muslims from keeping them, it may have even worsened their lot, because many Muslims may have tried to follow the Prophet’s example ﷺ of not keeping concubines, creating large populations of female slaves that nobody wanted. And if the Prophet ﷺ had kept concubines without having sex with them, in this way practicing slavery without the sex part, other Muslims may have tried to follow his example, and by so doing, they may have avoided keeping female slaves at all, since an important reason, perhaps 90% of the reason, for their wanting to take care of these slave women was that they received the privilege of intimacy with them. So the result, again, could have been large populations of female slaves that no one wanted. The result would have been that the slaves would have been sold to non-Muslims (since Muslims didn’t want them), and this wouldn’t have been better for the women, but worse, since the non-Muslims may have had no laws for protecting the rights of these slaves or providing them with ways for themselves or their children to be freed. So there would have been no moral gain from these choices.

By keeping concubines the way the rest of the culture did, the Prophet ﷺ showed the rest of the Muslims that they too could do this. In this way the society of that time was able to absorb conquered populations and slowly free them.

In Islam, slaves also have the right of mukataba, which was for them to be given free time in which to work, so that they could buy themselves off of their masters. In this way many male slaves were able to buy their own freedom. America’s slave owners of 1850 CE and their official laws considered their slaves and everything the slave owned as properties of their masters. Imagine their infuriation if they were told their slaves should be allowed to work in their free time, or that what they earned was not a property of the master, but a property of the slave. They, including their religious clergy, would have considered this a dangerous attack against their God-given rights over their slaves.

The Prophet ﷺ himself could have kept no concubines, saying that God had commanded him not to keep any, while making it lawful for everyone else. This could have affected his status negatively in the eyes of his followers and allies, since the concubines belonging to a man’s household added to his prestige. The Prophet himself ﷺ was part of Arabian culture, considering slavery and concubines a normal part of life, like everyone else did. God could have taught him that one day humans will discover that it is morally wrong to enslave people, but He did not for His own reasons, perhaps it served the interests of everyone, including the slaves, for the Arabian system to continue functioning like usual, with a few crucial reforms added to it to significantly reduce the number of new slaves, and to provide various ways for slaves to be freed.

While today we can think of various things the Prophet ﷺ could have done at that time instead of practicing slavery and concubinage, we can never be sure that our solutions wouldn’t fail miserably in that ancient Arabian context. We can never be sure if Islam’s solution wasn’t the best possible solution for that time and place, enabling a society to slowly eradicate slavery without causing civil wars, and without the religion being abandoned for being too ahead of its time if it had outright banned slavery.

Therefore a fair-minded reading of the Quran and early Islamic history will see that there is not sufficient justification for calling Islam a false or unjust religion for tolerating slavery at that time. They will see that the Prophet ﷺ was already greatly ahead of his time and that he made some incredible reforms in various areas of life, including reforms regarding slavery. Therefore the only thing they can criticize him for is not being even more ahead of his time, which is a pretty weak criticism. Who is to say that he wasn’t already operating as much ahead of his time as it was possible to be without people abandoning his movement?

Is Islam Outdated?

A person could say that now that the world is sufficiently developed, Islam is an outdated religion, that since it contains many rules and regulations regarding slavery, the religion must have been meant for ancient times and not today.

The truth is that there is no guarantee that the world will continue to be developed. Perhaps a nuclear war will break out 10,000 years from now and there will be isolated areas of the world that would live in conditions as basic as those of 630 AD, and in that case, there may again be warring entities that practice sexual slavery, and Islam’s rulings regarding it would become relevant again.

Or humans could establish a colony on another planet where slavery is practiced. If some people among them convert to Islam while belonging to that culture that practices it, then Islam’s rulings regarding slavery would be relevant again.

Islam’s goal is to end slavery, as it is obvious to anyone reading the Quran. Muslims have not always worked toward this goal, but this is Islam’s goal, if Muslims misapply Islam, that is their fault, not Islam’s.

The Modern Islamic View

As I explained earlier regarding the Quran-focused school of Islamic thought, since Islam is always a derivation of the Quran and the modern world, and since we in the modern world reject slavery, and since the Quran does not command that we practice slavery, then it logically follows that we modern Muslims can reject slavery without issue, working to eradicate it completely, and not practicing it even when given the opportunity.

This is not a way of rejecting Islam’s old teachings. Islam is based on the Quran, and the Quran does not command slavery, therefore practicing slavery is a choice that may make sense for some Muslims in some time and place that already practices it (as in ancient Arabia or an isolated space colony), while it may not make sense in another time and place (as in the modern world today).

Islam does not force us to practice slavery. Since we Muslims believe in human rights, since we hate the idea of any woman getting raped, since we have empathy for people, we can reject slavery while remaining 100% true to the Quran and the Sunnah, practicing the full letter of the Quran in every part of our lives.

The Quran is always the same, but Islam is not. Islam changes with the times, because it is a derivation of the Quran and the time in which it exists. When the Quran is placed inside the modern world, it leads to an Islam that rejects slavery, while when the Quran is placed inside ancient Arabia, it leads to an Islam that tolerates it for a while. Think of the Quran as a computer program. The computer program is the same, but it acts differently depending on the environment in which it is placed. Here is how the program’s logic works:

If there are practical reasons for tolerating slavery, if the world practices it and banning it would do more harm than good then slavery is tolerated, otherwise it is banned.

And this program is exactly what the majority of the world’s Muslims follow today. Almost all of the world’s Muslim-majority countries have banned slavery.

Islam’s Historical Mistakes

It is true that various Islamic empires have acted aggressively and have sought to enslave not as a matter of practical necessity but for profit and pleasure. You cannot blame a modern Muslim for the deeds of these past Muslims because, as I said, Islam is a program derived from the Quran, a program that is updated daily, therefore if the Muslims of previous times, out of ignorance, lack of appreciation for human rights or sheer greed have done things that would be found morally reprehensible today, then those acts reflect the shortcomings of those Muslims and not Islam.

One could say that if Islam had forbad slavery, all of those evils would have been prevented. There is no way to know this for sure, because as explained, banning slavery may have been politically and economically unfeasible, and even if it had been banned, Muslims were still free to do a thousand other evil things, therefore slavery is nothing special. If Muslims hadn’t enslaved, Islam’s detractors would simply have found another historical deed of Muslims to criticize Islam for.

Therefore a fair-minded person will not criticize the deeds of Muslims, but the program they follow. Islam is the program, and its programming logic makes Muslims avoid and ban slavery, therefore there is nothing to criticize today’s Islam for regarding slavery. You can, however, make this criticism:

I dislike the fact that in some isolated space colony 1000 years from now if slavery is already practiced, and if some people embrace Islam, I dislike that they will not ban it immediately but instead take a generation or two doing it.

A final question could be; why believe in a religion that has parts which require so much justification, why not just abandon it and embrace the modern world instead? Because Islam has undeniable soft evidence of its truth in the Quran, therefore the issue of slavery is a very minor thing for someone who has accepted Islam based on this evidence. In my essay God, Evolution and Abiogenesis: The Topological Theory for the Origin of Life and Species, I discuss the reasons why I believe in Islam.

 

Conclusion

The best of Christians have also acted as the best of Muslims in fighting slavery, therefore what I mentioned above is about Christian history, not Christian ideals. Christians continue to use Islamic history against Islam, so there is no injustice in doing the same towards Christian history, so that it is known that Christian criticism of Islam is generally quite ignorant of the ugly sides of Christian history. As for Christian work against slavery, from Wikipedia:

Several early figures, while not openly advocating abolition, did make sacrifices to emancipate or free slaves seeing liberation of slaves as a worthy goal. These include Saint Patrick (415-493), Acacius of Amida (400-425), and Ambrose (337 – 397 AD). Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394) went even further and stated opposition to all slavery as a practice. Later Saint Eligius (588-650) used his vast wealth to purchase British and Saxon slaves in groups of 50 and 100 in order to set them free.

Today, if there is a war of conquest between a Muslim nation and a non-Muslim one, then there would be no question of slavery, the enemy’s women would be treated according to modern practices. Muslim states officially recognize and respect international treaties, and the majority of Muslims have no problems with this. It is only barbaric, CIA-trained-and-funded groups like ISIS and al-Nusra which want to bring back slavery.

So it is true that Islam does not forbid slavery, and it is against the Quran and the Sunnah to say that the religion forbids it. But it does not encourage it either. It has a sophisticated approach toward it that takes the facts on the ground into account, regulating it and ending it when the time is right, rather than doing it too soon when it might cause starvation or war.

The fact that a child born to a female slave and her master is considered a free citizen, and the fact that the Quran strongly encourages the freeing of slaves is sufficient evidence for the fact that Islam came to end slavery, not to encourage it. If the Muslims before us made the mistake of encouraging slavery at times instead of fighting against it, we the Muslims of today are not required to act like them, and in fact are fully justified in disavowing their actions as we follow the Quranic program in the modern world.

The Quranic and Prophetic Way to Treating Non-Muslims

My father says we must hate Buddhist and Hinduists because they are mushrikin. I don’t really hate them or see them as enemy. Is that normal?

There is no reason to hate them. Hatred often causes you to be blind to the good qualities in the person you hate and to only see the bad qualities in them.

We must instead treat them the way the Quran teaches us to treat people, and the way the Prophet ﷺ treated his pagan extended family and neighbors. The Prophet ﷺ did not gather his following by preaching hatred and intolerance toward others. He did it by preaching recognizing God’s Oneness and the importance of connecting with Him, and by preaching good manners and patience toward the insults and attacks of the pagans against the Muslims.

Here is an anecdote about the Prophet ﷺ and his treatment of his arch-enemy Ibn Ubayy in Al-Madinah:

The Prophet’s leniency toward this hypocrite continued until Ibn Ubayy died of natural causes. The Prophet accepted to have his (own) garment used as Ibn Ubayy’s burial shroud upon Ibn Ubayy’s son’s request.

The Quran says that God would not forgive the like of Ibn Ubayy even if the Prophet asked for forgiveness for them seventy times, so the Prophet said he would ask for his forgiveness more than seventy times. He accepted to pray at his funeral, after which verse 9:84 of the Quran was revealed which prohibited him from praying at the funerals of proven hypocrites. (From my book A Beautiful Path to God).

The Prophet ﷺ, instead of finding excuses to hate this man who spent most of his time plotting against the Muslims, continued to find excuses for him, and honored him after death by letting his own garment be used as his burial shroud.

Prophet Ibrahim peace be upon him was a similar person as is recorded in the Quran:

74. When Abraham’s fear subsided, and the good news had reached him, he started pleading with Us concerning the people of Lot.

75. Abraham was gentle, kind, penitent.

76. “O Abraham, refrain from this. The command of your Lord has come; they have incurred an irreversible punishment.” (The Quran, verses 11:74-76)

The angels had arrived to tell Prophet Ibrahim that they were about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, which were inhabited by a people who were homosexual rapists and robbers. Instead of rejoicing at the news of the destruction of these people, Prophet Ibrahim argues with the angels on their behalf, wanting to block the punishment.

And the Quran does not blame Prophet Ibrahim for trying to block the punishment, instead praises him for it in verse 75 above.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his ancestor Prophet Ibrahim are role models in kindness and tolerance toward others, including toward non-believers. It is the example of these two men that we must follow above all others.

If individual Buddhists or Hindus, or groups of them, commit a crime against Muslims then they should be dealt with as the case requires, the way the Prophet ﷺ dealt with the Jews, hypocrites and pagans who plotted to destroy the Muslims. But there is nothing in the Quran and the Prophet’s life ﷺ to teach us to have a blanket hatred toward people who mean us no harm just because they are not Muslim.

As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable. (The Quran, verse 60:8)

How is it fair that unattractive women have difficulty getting married? Why does God allow this?

I was reading your blog post and I keep wondering isn’t the system unfair? That the most attractive woman will get men and the unattractive not . As an unattractive female I can’t get married although I wish

First I will explain why the world is the way it is, then I will explain the Islamic way to think of these facts.

Of course it is unfair, because life is unfair. How is it fair that some people should have everything they need, and others have to struggle every day to stay alive and avoid starving?

As for relationships, it is equally unfair to men that fat, ugly, creepy and broke men are not considered attractive by women, regardless of how good his heart is. If this person had a million-dollar car, women’s interest in him would skyrocket, as the various “gold digger prank” videos show on YouTube.

It is unfair that a man should be judged by his wealth and success, which are things not outside his control. And in the same way, it is unfair that attractive women get more attention than less attractive women.

And it is unfair that innocent children are born poor.

This life is not meant to be fair. It is not meant to be Paradise. It is meant to have problems, imperfections and injustices, because this makes it an ideal testing ground for a person’s faith, patience and dedication to God. A person cannot be patient unless there is something they have to be patient about. And they cannot claim to be devoted to God unless they are able to overcome temptation.

So the system I described is part of the order of the natural world. It is in the benefit of humanity’s survival that men are attracted to good-looking and young women, and that women are attracted to successful men. This is called sexual selection, and it is not unique to humans. All sexually-reproducing animals have criteria they prefer in the opposite sex. This ensures that those individuals who have the highest genetic quality are most likely to successfully reproduce.

It is about “quality control”. In biology, there needs to be a way for a species to ensure that bad genes are not passed on to the next generation. A male bowerbird who has a broken leg will not be able to build a good nest, meaning that females will judge him inferior, since they judge him by the quality of his nest (among other things), they will reject him and prefer another male. This is unfair to the male bird, but it is in the benefit of the species. Because if the females did not care about the male’s abilities, birds of low ability would be able to reproduce, resulting in offspring that has a higher chance of dying (because the male bird cannot care for them properly), and if the male bird’s incapability is due to defective genes (due to mutations), then if this bird reproduces, those defective genes are passed on to the next generation. In this way, if those defective genes spread throughout the population, the species will suffer from the issues caused by these genes and may go extinct, as it becomes easier prey to predators, or less able to withstand environmental challenges.

The same concept applies in humans. A man who is incapable of holding down a job and being somewhat successful is naturally suffering from some genetic or environmental issue that is preventing him from being like other men who are successful. If a woman marries him and has children with him, first he will not be able to care properly for the children (because he is not good at providing for the family), and second, if his incapability is due to a genetic defect, that defect is passed on to his children, and in this way more incapable humans are created, harming the species as a whole.

So an important part of the female sex’s duty is quality control over males. They decide which males deserve to have children by rejecting some men and preferring others. This ensures that the highest-quality males reproduce the most, and the lowest-quality males reproduce the least, in this way the species as a whole maintains a high quality and capacity for survival. This applies whether we are talking about animals or humans, although humans, due to their advanced brains, are more able to ignore these instincts and act against them. But the instincts are always there underneath everything else.

So when a human is unattractive, whether they are male or female, that is the species deciding that others should be given preference over them. This is unfair to the individuals, but it is in the benefit of the survival of the species. The human species wants the most genetically fit people of both sexes to reproduce the most, which gives preference to some men and women over other men and women. This is not about religion, it is about the system of the natural world.

If you ask why God allows this, it is because He wants this world to appear to function perfectly without a need for Him, so that people have the choice of disbelieving in Him if they want. He does not want people to be forced to believe in Him, He want them to make the choice. And that requires that the survival of all species, including humanity, works along well-defined natural laws (such as that of natural and sexual selection). I explain this in detail in my essays God, Evolution and Abiogenesis: The Topological Theory for the Origin of Life and Species and Why God Allows Evil to Exist, and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Note that no matter how attractive or unattractive someone is, they are nothing but a point on the timeline of humanity’s evolution. A person who is unattractive today may be considered extremely attractive if they went back 50,000 years in time. And if they go forward 50,000 in time, they may see that everyone in the world is as attractive as the most attractive people today, and such people may actually be considered unattractive compared to new people who have come into existence.

From the religious perspective, being unattractive is one of those things in life that one has to deal with, similar to being born blind, or being born in an extremely poor village and spending one’s life there, not being able to go anywhere else. The point of existence is not this life, but the next one. If you have been assigned a life that is more difficult than the lives of others, and if you show patience (by not complaining, by thinking the best of God, and by worshiping Him ardently), then He will do for you what is in your best interest in this life and the next.

Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while being a believer, We will grant them a good life (in this world)—and We will reward them according to the best of what they used to do (in the hereafter). (The Quran, verse 16:97)

Treat your situation like other Muslims have treated their various hardships. Prophet Yusuf, despite his good looks, was oppressed by his siblings then spent years in prison. After years of patience, he was given his reward. If you feel oppressed by life and by the way society treats you, think of it as just another prison. If you endure patiently, you will have God’s rewards in this life and the next.

God will not let your life go to waste. This is a promise that the Quran repeats in many places. Good people are taken care of by God in this life and the next. God does not say that we will suffer and suffer in this life until we die, to be rewarded in the afterlife. He says that we will sometimes suffer, and other times will have highly enjoyable lives, and if we continue to serve God in both conditions, we will have an amazing afterlife.

I cannot say what kind of you life you will have, or how God will give you fulfillment in this life, but He is capable of all things. Satisfying a human being is the easiest thing for Him, therefore seek only from Him instead of looking at the world’s unfairness. He has full power and control over this world.

And whoever fears God—He will make a way out for him. And will provide for him from where he never expected. Whoever relies on God—He will suffice him. God will accomplish His purpose. (The Quran, from verses 65:2-3)

83. And Job, when he cried out to his Lord: “Great harm has afflicted me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”

84. So We answered him, lifted his suffering, and restored his family to him, and their like with them—a mercy from Us, and a reminder for the worshipers.

85. And Ishmael, and Enoch, and Ezekiel; each was one of the steadfast.

86. And We admitted them into Our mercy. They were among the righteous.

87. And Jonah, when he stormed out in fury, thinking We had no power over him. But then He cried out in the darkness, “There is no god but You! Glory to You! I was one of the wrongdoers!”

88. So We answered him, and saved him from the affliction. Thus We save the faithful.

89. And Zechariah, when he called out to his Lord, “My Lord, do not leave me alone, even though you are the Best of heirs.”

90. So We answered him, and gave him John. And We cured his wife for him. They used to vie in doing righteous deeds, and used to call on Us in love and awe, and they used to humble themselves to Us. (The Quran, verses 21:83-90)

Why do traditional societies care so much about a woman’s virginity?

Why reduce woman to her reputation and virginity. Why care so much if she’s a virgin or not?

If you are asking why things are so from a religious perspective (not from an evolutionary psychology perspective), then the reason is that when a woman has sex before marriage, this means one of two things: Either does not take the Quran seriously and thinks she has the right to disobey it, meaning that she is not worth marrying for a man who wants a devout woman, or that she is unable to control her urges, that she doesn’t have sufficient intelligence and upbringing to stop herself from engaging in that.

Both of these things make her undesirable as a wife, because if she has a casual attitude toward sex outside of marriage, or if she is unable to control her urges, then the man who marries her suffers being married to a woman who does not take religion seriously and breaks its commandments when she wants, or if she is unable to control her urges, it means she has a higher chance of cheating on him or abandoning him. After years of marriage, after the man has worked years to build the family and provide for it and raise it, she may fall in love with someone else and abandon him, or she may cheat on him and get pregnant by another man, so that he brings up another man’s child.

Therefore ideally, a religious man wants to marry a woman who takes Islam’s commandments very seriously, and just as importantly, has the ability to follow them. And needless to say, a woman who has sex outside of marriage fails at one or both of these.

The same way that women have criteria for deciding whether a man is “husband material”, men have criteria for deciding whether a woman is “wife material”.

For a man to be considered husband material, he must have a job, he must be reasonably successful, he must have sufficient social skills and masculinity to be an attractive male, and many women also require that he must be taller than themselves. This means that women discriminate against men who do not have a job, are unsuccessful, are without social skills or are short by preferring other men over them. Most women couldn’t care less how much of a nice and moral person a man is if he is extremely awkward (”creepy”), destitute and has no job or prospects. He may wish to be loved for who he is instead of being judged for factors that might be outside of his control, but his wishes do not matter, the majority of women will care about the above factors and will reject him for not having them.

Similarly, for a woman to be considered wife material, men use certain criteria to judge her, regardless of how nice of a person she is.

Both sexes look for those qualities in the other sex that increases the likelihood of having a successful marriage and bringing up healthy and successful children. Women look for husbands who are strong and successful men, because such men are good at taking care of them and their children. Men look for wives who are virgins and have a good reputation, because such women are good at following Islam and remaining loyal to the marriage.

If a woman has lost her hymen from some accident and she can prove this, then if she is still judged because of it, then that is really foolish, since she has done nothing wrong. The problem is that most people are not geniuses and jump to conclusions in all kinds of matters on a daily basis.

And a woman who has lost her hymen due to some accident but has no way of proving it, and she marries and her husband finds this out, then if he is a good man then he will judge her by what he knows of her reputation, and will not hold this fact against her, but will take her at her word.

So the important thing about virginity is not the piece of flesh (the hymen), the thing by itself doesn’t mean anything, it is just a piece of flesh and perhaps plastic surgeons will be able to reconstruct it, it is the implications of it that matter. A never-married woman who doesn’t have a hymen has either lost it due to some accident, or due to having sex outside of marriage, or due to using sex toys. Usually everyone assumes the worst (including all of the female relatives of the man), because marriage is an extremely serious business that determines a person’s fate for the rest of their lives, therefore they believe a woman who does not have a hymen when she is expected to has some explaining to do, the man’s family do not want him to marry someone who has sex outside of marriage.

So, in a traditional society, if society reduces a woman to her reputation and virginity when it comes to being considered for marriage, a man too is reduced to his success and prospects. Both are reduced to those qualities that are most crucial for a successful marriage. When a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, the first thing the woman’s family thinks about is his job. If he has a high-status job like being an architect, her family may exult at the fact, saying “Wow! An architect wants our daughter!” What kind of person he is deep inside is rarely given a thought, and if a poor man with zero prospects asks for their daughter’s hand in marriage, they will think, “What a loser! We will never give him our daughter!” even if he is a very good and kind man inside.

Meanwhile, the man’s family will not think in such terms, they have different criteria for judging whether the woman their son wants is worthy or not. They will talk about her attractiveness, her manners, and her history, especially her history. They will gossip about her history for days and months and make use of the Old Wives and Grandmas Intelligence Organization to find out everything they can about her, because they want to make sure their son does not marry someone who does not take religion seriously, or someone who finds it easy to be disloyal and have sex outside of marriage.

Many of these activities are extremely crude and an intelligent and sensitive person will be repulsed by them, but that is how most traditional societies function, and there is some logic to its origins; the woman’s family’s purpose is to ensure that the man can take care of their daughter, the man’s family’s purpose is to ensure that the woman can take care of their son’s children and new family and not abandon it or be disloyal toward it.

No woman enjoys being under the scrutiny of a man’s family, being considered guilty until proven innocent, but she will most likely do the same to a woman her own son or brother wants to marry. I have seen this countless times. And similarly, no man enjoys being under the scrutiny of a woman’s family and being judged by his job and success rather than his innate qualities, but he will do the same if his daughter or sister is about to get married, if he is wise, he will worry about whether the man is able to take care of his daughter or sister for the long term.

If you ask why a man is not scrutinized equally for his virginity, it goes back to evolutionary differences between men and women. A religious family will care very much about his virginity (if he has never married) and will not want their daughter to marry someone who has sex outside of marriage. But, ignoring religion, in traditional societies, it was a man who supported a woman and her children, his function was mostly economic. If he had sex with other women, this did not necessarily affect his economic function, he could continue to provide for his wife and children. For this reason among irreligious folk, there is generally a laxer attitude toward a man cheating than a woman cheating.

On the other hand, in a traditional society, if a woman cheated, that could be the end of the world for the marriage. She could get pregnant by another man and her husband forced to take care of the child born. A man wants to raise his own children, and the purpose of a marriage and family is for him to achieve this. If the wife gets pregnant by someone else, then that destroys the purpose of his marriage. He will be like a slave, not working for his own benefit, but for another man’s. For this reason attitudes toward female cheating or sleeping around have usually been much harsher.

Men have an animal instinct to prefer young and sexually inexperienced women, because this instinct ensures that they are more likely to marry a woman who will be loyal to them and their marriage. Women do not have this instinct, they instead have an animal instinct to prefer successful men. It is these two instincts that come out in the behaviors of traditional societies, which do not always fit religion and are sometimes directly opposed to it.

When it comes to well-educated and intelligent populations (rather than traditional ones), the human brain has more control over their thinking processes, so that they do not judge everything by instinct. Therefore men can be found who do not mind if their wife has sex with other men, and women can be found who do not mind taking care of their families while their husbands do not work and are not successful.

Devout Muslims coming from such populations are more likely to treat the issue of cheating equally between men and women, since that is what Islam demands, and they are more likely to take a woman at her word, giving her the benefit of the doubt if she is not a virgin, and even if she is known to have dated someone, if she says they never had sex, then she may be believed, while in a traditional society she wouldn’t be.

The less intelligent a population is, the more it will judge by its animal instincts, and the more intelligent it is, the more it will judge things by ideals, religious principles and logic. In a traditional population, a woman who admits to having had sex outside of marrying, saying she has now made repentance and wants to be a good and religious person, will probably never be forgiven or given a second chance, while in a better educated and more intelligent Muslim society she will be forgiven and accepted again.

There are many female converts to Islam in the West who admit to having had sex outside of marriage before Islam, but by the middle class Muslims of the West this is not held against them. But the same woman, if she talks to the lower classes of some Middle Eastern society and tells them this fact, they will immediately treat her like she is somehow diseased and gross.

The problem is not Islam but humanity’s animal instincts and the culture that has been derived from this (since culture is a result of genes). The best-educated and most devout Muslims are most likely to have a liberal and open-minded attitude toward a woman’s virginity and to give her second chances. But this does not mean that they should completely ignore her virginity or reputation, because these are indicators of her character, and a man wants to marry a woman of good character, the same way that a woman wants to marry a man of good character. In a traditional society if a woman admits to having lost her virginity due to a mistake she made in her youth, saying that she has repented now, this may never be accepted of her and her life might be ruined, while in a more educated and more devout society, she may be easily forgiven and given another chance.

If part of your question was regarding why a virgin is more attractive than a divorced woman, it goes back to the dynamics of pair-bonding, which means that a never-married woman is far more likely to have a successful marriage than a divorced woman (a first marriage in the US lasts about 25 years, while a second marriage lasts only 10 years). Since both sexes look for those characteristics in the other sex that are more likely to enable them to have a successful and long-lasting marriage, and since a woman’s lack of sexual experience / virginity means that her marriage is much more likely to succeed (as the statistics show), then you’d expect men to have a preference for this type of woman, and it is so. For more details on this please see these two previous answers of mine:

Why did God let His scriptures (the Torah and the Gospels) become corrupted?

Why did Allah allow other books beside Quran to be changed by man like the Torah, gospel and bible? It was his own sacred word too when they were revealed and they were still his words so why did he allow that to happen? Why they became secondary when at one point they were the most important books for mankind?

The answer is the same as why God allowed Adam to be tricked by Satan into leaving Paradise.

This universe is a story that God writes. He gives humans things and sees what they do with it, and based on that, He responds and gives them new things, in this way writing a story that is truly authentic and made up of the free choices of millions of people.

This instant, God could solve all of the world’s problems and turn it into Paradise. He does not, because the point of this world is the story, the process, not the destination. This process continually produces good, sincere and proven friends of God who die and spend eternity in closeness to Him. If these people had been brought up in Paradise instead, never suffering, they would have never had any chance to prove their sincerity, their patience, their courage, since all of these require hardship, temptation and the existence of evils.

God is the Master and Teacher of humanity. Humans used to be ignorant, Stone Age people. God gave the Hebrews the Torah, in this way teaching them, helping humanity grow, giving them new ideas and new ways of social organization.

He knew that they would eventually corrupt it, and He allowed it to happen, because this makes a good story. It creates the opportunity for sending new prophets and new revelations, in this way continuing the growth process of humanity, raising them the way you raise a child. A good teacher does not control everything the student can do, and does not prevent all possibilities for making mistakes.

God continued to send new prophets to the Jews for a thousand years, yet during all of this time they continued to persecute their prophets, reject them and at times stone them to death.

God then sent Jesus, peace be upon him, a Jewish prophet meant to be a witness against the Jews, and meant to be the starter of a world-wide movement that would forever change history.

To continue this story, God sent Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as an answer to a prayer that Prophet Ibrahim made 2500 years before Prophet Muhammad was born:

127. As Abraham raises the foundations of the House, together with Ishmael, “Our Lord, accept it from us, You are the Hearer, the Knower.

128. Our Lord, and make us submissive to You, and from our descendants a community submissive to You. And show us our rites, and accept our repentance. You are the Acceptor of Repentance, the Merciful.

129. Our Lord, and raise up among them a messenger, of themselves, who will recite to them Your revelations, and teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, the Wise.” (The Quran, verses 2:127-129)

The sending of Prophet Muhammad was an insult and punishment to the Jews by God, because while he is descended from Ibrahim (as the Jews were promised their final prophet would be), he was not a Jew. All Jews are descended from Ibrahim, so they thought their final prophet would be too. But God instead raised the final prophet from Ismail’s descendants (the Arabs of Hijaz), who, while being descended from Ibrahim as promised, was not Jewish.

87. We gave Moses the Scripture, and sent a succession of messengers after him. And We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear proofs, and We supported him with the Holy Spirit. Is it that whenever a messenger comes to you with anything your souls do not desire, you grew arrogant, calling some impostors, and killing others?

90. Miserable is what they sold their souls for—rejecting what God has revealed, out of resentment that God would send down His grace upon whomever He chooses from among His servants. Thus they incurred wrath upon wrath. And there is a demeaning punishment for the disbelievers.

93. And We made a covenant with you, and raised the Mount above you: “Take what We have given you firmly, and listen.” They said, “We hear and disobey.” And their hearts became filled with the love of the calf because of their disbelief. Say, “Wretched is what your faith commands you to do, if you are believers.”

94. Say, “If the Final Home with God is yours alone, to the exclusion of all other people, then wish for death if you are sincere.”

95. But they will never wish for it, because of what their hands have forwarded. God is aware of the evildoers. (The Quran, verses 2:87, 2:90, 2:93-95)

The reason why God allowed His scriptures to be corrupted is that it was useful in the raising of mankind, that it made a good lesson for those who came after, and that it was a test to those who did it. It could have served many other purposes that we will never know about. God decided to protect His final message from corruption because the corruption of scripture had already served its purpose, and God had a new purpose in the Quran.

We are like ants who are being managed from above, being turned this way and that, as God wishes, for His own purposes. But we are free-willed, we can disobey Him and rebel against Him. Regardless of whether we are good or evil, at the end of the day He continues to be All-Powerful above us all, so that we can never escape Him or corrupt the story, the plot line, He has devised for humanity. We can choose what role we play in His story, whether as good people or evil people, but the story is always His story.

God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. And if God wills any hardship for a people, there is no turning it back; and apart from Him they have no protector. (From verse 13:11 of the Quran)

As the above verse and many other verses of the Quran teaches, it is God Who manages world history. If we are good and kind, God will respond by changing our conditions for the better, and if we are not, He can send us hardships. We have zero power to ensure our own good, it is all from God. All that we can do is be good internally, and encourage others to be good, and use common sense in our dealing with the world, and the rest is up to God. No matter how hard we try to get something, if God does not want us to have it, we will never get it, which is why it is so important to not be attached to this world, but to God, knowing that all things come from Him, and that nothing can ensure our good other than His decree.

The complexity of this world, the corrupted scriptures, the various religious movements, the knowledge we have and the knowledge we lack, all of these provide an ideal testing ground for humans, separating the truly good and faithful from the average believers, and these from the lost and the evildoers.

Did God intend for Satan to not bow down to Adam? Why did He let it happen?

Since we are talking about evil and it’s origins, do you feel that God had intended iblis to not bow to adam? And did evil exist before happening of that event? And if god did intend him to not bow, why did he let it happen?

I believe that God set it all up knowing what was going to happen, as a way of bringing out Satan’s arrogance and showing His own greatness.

Satan had free will and was not forced to act the way he did. But God knew of his latent arrogance and pride, and knew that setting up that scene would bring it out. God does this to humans as well, a person who sins in private, for example, will suffer situations in public life that disgrace them and make people dislike them, as Ibn al-Jawzi points out many times. Humans have free will, but God can always set up situations where their true nature shows through.

We do not know what existed before that event. It is possible that there are billions of other universes, each with its own story and history, and that our universe and its story may be nothing more than a drop in the ocean of all existence.

Adam, peace be upon him, also had free will, and was given some knowledge by God. But God placed him in a situation where he could be tricked by Satan and did not prevent this from happening. Why? Because God wanted a story in which His qualities would show, and in which He would gain millions of true friends, friends who are tested and tempted all their lives yet continue to be sincere and devout toward Him.

If you think about it, there is no other way for God to have true friends. A true friend is the one who is not forced to believe in Him or obey Him, but that despite this, of his own choice, he seeks Him, loves Him and obeys Him until he dies, and with this he earns eternal closeness to Him as a true and proven friend.

We can wonder whether the way God set up everything was fair and just. But the truth is that we do not have sufficient knowledge to make a judgment in this regard, God is infinitely wiser and more knowledgeable about us and about everything else than we are. What matters is that the end result of this universe is the creation of millions or billions of pious, kind and good people who love God and want to be with Him, and who prove their sincerity throughout their lifetimes. The creation of these humans, in my opinion, is more than sufficient justification for everything that happened at the beginning of the human story.

What is Tawbah Nasoohah?

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Do you know what is “taubat nasuha” ?

The literal meaning is “sincere and pure repentance”. It means to repent from a sin with the sincere desire to abandon it, acknowledging that you have done wrong and sincerely planning in God’s presence to find ways of avoiding that sin in the future.

The opposite is to sin then ask for forgiveness knowing that you will probably do that sin again and not sincerely planning to find every possible way to avoid that sin, and to not re-apply oneself in worship, which is the biggest protection a believer has from sinning.

Islam and dealing with PTSD from sexual abuse

Salaam, greetings from Malaysia. I am 21yrs old. I need help. I just feel like i need to let this out before i go crazy and do something i might regret. Not many people know of this but im dealing with PTSD. I was assaulted by my uncles at the age of 5,13 and 16. It happened long time ago, but lately i’ve been getting flashbacks of what had happened and there are times i feel like im a dirty girl as i’ve been touched by men before.. and it sometimes make me wanna commit suicide.

Continuing from above, i really dont know what to do. As i know committing suicide is haram. I started reading Quran, after years… and i feel at peace. but the flashbacks wont stop and it scares me everytime. What should i do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

May God ease your condition. The best thing you could might be to seek medical help, it is possible that there are treatments that will work for you. The second thing to do is to read all of the books you can on PTSD. If you type PTSD on Amazon.com, many highly-rated books come up.

If you are looking for an Islamic solution, then it is to do sufficient worship so that you feel close to God, and so that the world stops feeling important to you. Pray the duha prayer (8 rakats done in the morning in units of 2, they can be done any time from 15 minutes after sunrise to 15 minutes before the duhr prayer) and also pray tahajjud (8 rakats done after isha and before fajr, in units of 2). It is good that you are reading Quran, you can start memorizing it and reciting what you memorize during your prayers. Spend 5-10 minutes after the duha and tahajjud prayers in supplication, asking for God’s help and guidance.

Do the above and everything else necessary to feel really close to God. You have a mission in life, similar to the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, had a mission. Your mission is to apply the Quran’s teachings as if the Quran was sent down specifically to you. Once you start to feel that you are an agent on a mission, then perhaps your PTSD will stop affecting you as severely as now. There were Muslims who were held in prison, suffering torture for years. Instead of losing hope, they used this as an opportunity to become closer to God.

Think of yourself as a prisoner and the PTSD as a form of torture. Instead of letting it control and own you, consider it a break in your day that will soon pass so that you can go back to your mission of living the Quran.

The above is of course easier said than done, and I do not know if they will help in your case, but it might be worth a try.

Living the Quran does not mean to dedicate every second to worship. It means to feel close to God and to feel that you are on a mission. You can still enjoy your hobbies and have fun, but you must do sufficient worship daily so that you never feel distant from God.

Reading Islamic books, such as biographies of great Muslims and other inspiring books may also help. It is not sufficient to worship, one must also always seek knowledge, through lectures or books. Maybe once you have learned much more about Islam you will be able to find a solution that works very well for you. There is no reason why you should let others know more about Islam than you do, seek knowledge until you have your own deep understanding of Islam.

Being a Muslim and a tomboy

Assalamualaikum! if you dont mind me say this, well im a female but since i was a little kid i was never into any girly thing. i dont like girl’s outfits, girl’s style and pretty much everything what a girl should be into. i have never had long hair too. i have always known as a tomboy in my big family. however, i have never hangout with boys or have a group of male friends, i always wear hijab and appropriate casual outfits(big hoodies,slacks,etc) and i never have a desire to become a trans man. i just dont like either? until now (i am reaching 20) i still dont feel any different. i cant get myself to be like the girls in my family, i dont want to be boys as well. but like i said, i cover up just fine though! people see me as a normal non-girly female on the outside. and i never leave my prayer. so im not sure if this is okay or not. my family is very religious too, they do try to help me find my way.

Human masculinity and femininity comes in a spectrum, and it does not always fit a person’s assigned gender, thus there are highly masculine women and highly feminine men. This is part of the natural variation that exists among humans and has to do with levels of estrogen, testosterone and the sensitivity of your cells to these two hormones, probably among other things. There is nothing wrong or sinful about being this way, as it comes from factors outside of your control, as long as it doesn’t cause one to do unlawful things.

As far as I know Islam does not offer any specific advice on this matter other than the usual advice of staying close to God through worship and seeking His support. You’d have to find your own way, like you said, and inshaAllah you will find success and fulfillment in this life and hereafter.

How do Muslims justify their Prophet supposedly marrying a 9-year-old girl?

So, I am someone who likes using logic and I have defended Islam and my Muslim-ness many times from criticisms, some well-founded, others not so much. How can I defend Mohammad’s marriage to a young girl? He was old at the time. I can’t imagine being a child and being given away to an older man. Why did he think that was okay? How do you defend that without sounding like a pedophile apologist? -It is an honest question. How do other Muslims deal with this and remain moral?

The current theory is that Aisha’s young age was invented to defend her against the claims of the hypocrites and some of the Shia that she was an adulteress or unworthy of the Prophet, peace be upon him. By saying she was 9, they wanted to exaggerate her quality as a virgin. From Wikipedia:

Some traditional sources disagree. Ibn Hisham wrote in his biography of Muhammad that she may have been ten years old at the consummation. Ibn Khallikan, as well as Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi citing Hisham ibn Urwah, record that she was nine years old at marriage, and twelve at consummation. Modern author and journalist Sadakat Kadri points out that the recording of Aisha’s age by Ibn Sa’d and Bukhari (though the hadith was Sahih) came a couple of centuries after the Prophet’s death. Child marriage was not uncommon in many places at the time, Arabia included. It often served political purposes, and Aisha’s marriage to Muhammad would have had a political connotation.

Muslim authors who calculate Aisha’s age based on the more detailed information available about her sister Asma estimate that she was over thirteen and perhaps between seventeen and nineteen at the time of her marriage. Muhammad Niknam Arabshahi, an Iranian Islamic scholar and historian, has considered six different approaches to determining Aisha’s age and concluded that she was engaged in her late teens. Using the age of Fatimah as a reference point, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement scholar Muhammad Ali has estimated that Aisha was over ten years old at the time of marriage and over fifteen at the time of its consummation.

From a historical perspective, it seems highly unlikely for Aisha to have consummated her marriage at the age of 9. Given the immense incentive for later Muslims to reduce her age at the time of marriage (to prove her virginity), the “9″ figure is extremely doubtful and almost certainly a fabrication.

While many Muslims live under the mistaken assumption that Sahih Bukhari is 100% reliable, recent research continues to poke holes into this view. Nothing in Sahih Bukhari is guaranteed to be 100% correct, only the Quran has this guarantee in our view. Everything in Sahih Bukhari (and other collections) must be judged by the Quran, by common sense and by our historical knowledge. Since what it says regarding Aisha’s age is highly questionable, we are fully entitled to doubt its statement on this regard and reject it.

Reply from a reader

Asalam Alakum, regarding Al- Bukhari a lot of Sunni scholars collectively agreed that his collection is the second most reliable source after the Quran.

I agree, and personally I love the Sunnah and try to follow it as much as I can. But the keyword is after the Quran. Traditional scholars have sometimes mistakenly assumed that this means that it is almost as good as the Quran, while it is more accurate to consider the Quran far more superior to it.

The superiority of the Quran over hadith is like the superiority of the Prophet, peace be upon him, over his companions. Hadith can never be taken as a guide by itself, and it must always be judged in the context of the Quran:

There will be after me narrators of hadith. Expose their narrations to the Quran; any of them that agree with the Quran, then follow those, and those that do not agree with it, then do not follow them. —The Prophet, peace be upon him, in an authentic narration.

The Prophet of God does not defy the Book of God, and whoever defies the Book of God cannot be a Prophet of God. Refuting any man who mentions a narration of the Prophet peace be upon him which goes against the Quran is not a refutation of the Prophet peace be upon him, and is not an act of calling him [the Prophet] a liar, rather, it is a refutation of someone who speaks falsehood regarding the Prophet peace be upon him, and the accusation [of speaking falsehood] is against that man and not the Prophet peace be upon him. —Abu Hanifah

Any hadith that you can recognize as going against reason or contradicting [well-established Islamic] principles, then know that it is a fabrication, therefore do not consider yourself compelled to act by it. —Ibn al-Jawzi

The Most Desirable Women for Marriage are in their Early Twenties and Sexually Inexperienced

In reply to my article Will a young Muslim woman miss out on marriage by not dating and having relationships? someone wrote:

No offense but that ask about marriage with 0 dating experience has so many things wrong with it, i don’t even know where to start (& there aren’t enough chars to cover everything). – “Peak of attractiveness” technically is around 30s – That “wife material” part was quite sexist – Getting a random guy u barely know to ur family bc he says “he’s into u” is just unrealistic. I know what Islam says, but that’s unrealistic. How will u get to know the guy even? He’s marrying YOU, not your family.

Regarding peak attractiveness, here is a chart from the dating site OkCupid, which has a large database of statistics regarding dating and relationships. You can say it is unfair, but this is life. In fact according to them the peak is at 21, not even 25:

The wife material part is certainly sexist, if by that you mean treating women differently compared with men, acknowledging the evolutionary differences between them. It is not sexist if by that you mean there is something morally wrong with it. Men have an evolutionary instinct to prefer young, sexually inexperienced women. You are free to dislike this preference of men, but disliking it is not going to change men’s genetic code so that they start to prefer older or sexually experienced women. In the same way, a man may dislike the fact that many women find successful men attractive, while they find romantic men who have no degrees, no jobs, no money and live in their parents’ basement highly unattractive. A man can dislike these things and say it is discrimination against men, why should they be judged by their success instead of their innate qualities? A woman too, can say it is discrimination that she should be judged by her beauty and youth instead of her innate qualities. But in both cases, it is our evolutionary instincts telling us to prefer members of the opposite sex who are most likely to give us successful relationships, families and offspring.

Politics and morality have nothing to do with it. Unless we find a way to perform DNA surgery on men so that they start finding older and sexually experienced women more attractive, they will continue to prefer younger and less experienced women. And unless we perform DNA surgery on women, they will continue to care about a man’s success, or potential for success, before they decide whether they should marry him.

Unlike men, women are not attracted to young and inexperienced men, in a man shyness is weakness, not an attractive thing, and men, when they decide whether they should marry a woman, rarely care about her success or chances of success, because each sex wants different things in the other, thanks to evolutionary specialization.

Since humans are not animals, they can use their brains and free will to overcome their genetic instincts and make choices that go against them. But these genetic instincts will always be present underneath everything else. A woman always wants her husband to be more successful, and this would make her feel more attracted to him (while a man’s attraction for his wife has nothing to do with her career success), despite her religious and ideological beliefs.

One could say that we should change society so that these differences in sexual preferences between the sexes should go away. You, as a free-willed human, are free to do that in your own life. But since these facts have biological drives behind them, they cannot be stamped out. Apart from physical appearance, women are sexually attracted to success, men are sexually attracted to youth, not vice-versa. Trying to erase these facts is similar to communism’s efforts to erase the human desire for private ownership. The law, secret police and the gulag can be used to impose an unnatural arrangement on the population, but once this political force is removed, biological reality will reassert itself. All communist states revert to quasi-capitalist states, and all societies that have gender equality imposed upon them will eventually revert to biological sexual specialization.

Islam and biology both treat the sexes differently, giving each sex different duties and responsibilities (while as Muslims and civilized people we never forget that both are humans and capable of all human things). Modern politics wants to treat the sexes as if they are exactly the same, and as if any mention of differences between the sexes is blasphemy. I prefer Islam and science and couldn’t care less about politics and ideology.

I saw a train that was carrying knowledge and so torrentially it went.
I saw a train that was carrying politics (and so emptily it went.)

~ Sohrab Sepehri (Persian free verse poet)

I did not say she should introduce a random guy she barely knows to her family. The assumption was that she grew up knowing dozens of men, and through college and work, she could know dozens more. If one of these men she already knows well approach her, then instead of engaging in a potentially harmful relationship, she should direct them to her family.

As for someone she barely knows, then there is nothing wrong with getting to know him. From an Islamic point of view, the problem is with trying to enjoy a relationship with someone without marrying them. If the point is knowing a person, then there isn’t an issue with that as long as both sides observe custom and religious boundaries.

Next reply:

Those are OkCupid stats, they show which age range ppl are looking for, to date/meet. Has absolutely nothing to do w peak attractiveness. By sexist, I meant how a hymen is a criteria in marriage. You have every right to prefer islam rather than ideologies. But then again, Khadija (RAA) was neither inexperienced, nor young. The prophet (SAAWS) clearly didn’t follow any of what u said in ur arguments. And he is human, a man, with a dna, hormones and all. It IS VERY important to point out that Islam has asked BOTH men and women to stay virgin til marriage. So the “ unlike men, inexperienced women are biologically more attractive” argument clearly has NOTHING to do with Islam’s teachings. As much as I disagree, you have your opinions and preferences, that I accept. But please, don’t claim they’re what Islam says. Islam didn’t say that you’re less worthy as husbands or wives if you’re not virgin.

You are right that Islam requires both men and women to stay virgin, this goes without saying.

As for young and sexually inexperienced women being more attractive, I did not say this has anything to do with Islam. It has to do with biology. In my answers, I always take the facts of real life into account, and if I can give someone common sense advice along with mentioning related Islamic concepts, then I will do so, as I have done in most of my answers. This is how I would answer a question a friend asks me, and this is how I answer questions here.

I think the OkCupid data is highly relevant, it shows the female age that men find most desirable. Here is another chart from a BusinessInsider article that says the age is 23, sourced from different data:

I pointed to the rest of what you said in my previous answer. Humans have free will and are able to choose differently than their biological drives. For religious reasons, you could choose a less attractive and less wealthy man as a husband who is very religious, rather than less religious but more attractive man.

I have no problem with marrying a 40-year-old woman if she is a good person and we are fit for each other in other ways. But this does not prove biology false.

Humans love the taste of meat, but there are vegetarians who avoid it. Vegetarians will be wrong to say that there is no such thing as a human preference for meat. The preference exists, and the population as a whole follows the preference, but individual humans can go against it.

In the same way, men prefer young and inexperienced women, this is a biological preference. But they can overrule it with other concerns, moral, religious, intellectual, whatever they may be. When you look at the population as a whole, the preference will show up clearly, as the data shows.

Given the choice between three equally religious, intelligent and pretty women, one who is 22, one who is 32 and one who is 42, the majority of men would prefer the one who is 22.

In the same way, given the choice between three equally religious, intelligent and physically attractive men, one who is greatly successful, one who has moderate success, and one who has zero success and zero prospects, the majority of women will choose the most successful man.

Another way to illustrate this is if a man’s wife is 40, and she finds a magic potion to turn her back to 22, then the husband would love her to use it, no matter how much he loves her already.

And if a woman’s husband finds a magic potion that makes him much more successful than he is currently, she would love him to use it.

If there are always exceptions, what is the point of mentioning the general rules? The point is that these rules have significant effects on our lives whether we want them to or not. A woman will find it much easier to get married at 25 than at 45, because most men are not the Prophet, peace be upon him; most men will judge her by their own instincts, not be her spiritual qualities.

In the same way, a man will find it much easier to marry if he is successful, therefore he must try to be successful, doing what makes it more likely for him to marry, instead of saying that he will wait for the right woman who will marry him despite the fact that he has no job or degree.

The rule is that women are attracted to success, therefore a man should make use of this rule and seek to be successful. It is foolishness if he says that the right woman will not care about material things like success.

In the same way, the rule is that men are attracted to youth, therefore a woman should make use of this rule, realizing that it will be easier to get married when she is younger than when she is older. It is foolishness if she waits until she is 40 and says the right man will not care about material things like age.

Personally if I was given the choice of marrying either a 30-year-old or a 22-year-old, if both were equally pretty and religious, I may choose the older just because I would feel guilty to use her age against her, and would worry about her chances of marrying. I would be cognizant of the fact that most men would pass her up, so I wouldn’t.

But, and this is an important but, most men don’t think like that. You cannot rely on men’s kindness, saying they shouldn’t care about age, and you cannot rely on women’s kindness, saying they shouldn’t care about success.

If I were giving advice to a young woman regarding marriage, it is essential that I mention the importance of age. A 50-year-old woman will find it extremely difficult to marry, there will probably be little controversy about this. A 35-year-old woman still has a chance of marrying an attractive and successful man, but nowhere close to the chances of a 22-year-old.

And if I were giving advice to a young man regarding marriage, I would tell him to seek to be successful, because this is essential for him to be considered “marriage material” by women. He can call this sexist and say that he doesn’t care about a woman’s success, why should she care about his success? She does because she is designed to do so, because the survival of the species relies on her choosing someone who can take care of her and her children, and his material success is a very good indicator of his ability toward this (that he has the social skills, intelligence and stamina to take care of a family and ensure its long-term good). If he doesn’t work to be successful, then he has no right to complain if women reject his proposals.

Also note that I am not saying that older women cannot get married. Women of most ages can marry, but the older they get, the pool of men they can choose from gets smaller. A 22-year-old woman has the largest pool of men available to her, wanting to marry her, because she is at the peak of her desirability. At the age of 32, she can still marry, but she will have to settle for less attractive men. At 42 she can still marry, but she will have to settle for even less attractive men, unless a man like the Prophet, peace be upon him, appears and marries her. But most women cannot rely on this happening to them.

If you do not believe these, ask any single 40-year-old woman who wants to get married. The internet is full of stories of such women, who were deluded into delaying marriage until their late 30′s to work on their career, only to find out that almost no man finds them interesting anymore, even though in their 20′s they had dozens of men willing to marry them. It is nothing short of evil to cause this to happen to women, to delude them into letting their most attractive years pass them by just because it is fashionable politically, so that once they do start to want to get married, they run into disappointment after disappointment.

Women should instead be informed that marriage is much easier when you are young. An unmarried 40-year-old woman will not derive much consolation from calling these facts sexist and unfair and calling men “sexist pigs”.

Regardless of how much a man calls women sexist and materialist and says they should love him for who he is instead of loving him for his wallet, they will continue to care about his success, because it is their instinct to care. And regardless of how much a woman calls men sexist and materialist and says they should love her for who she is and not for her beauty and age, they will continue to care, because it is their instinct to care.

Exceptions can be found where people find fulfilling relationships that do not follow these patterns. But these rules exist, and they affect most of us to some degree. There is nothing wrong with mentioning them and taking them into consideration.

Will a young Muslim woman miss out on marriage by not dating and having relationships?

I am afraid, I am not like normal girls of my generation, I don’t like dating boys and getting into relationships, but I really want a serious relationship later. The thing is that I am afraid, how can i be sure that later there is someone for me, I am afraid that the people who were dating and getting in relationships will get married while i will not, i know this is stupid but this is a big fear (not the biggest, we all know what the biggest is) but it’s a big one

I assume that you are aware that sex outside of marriage is a major sin, and that relationships outside of marriage are considered a gateway to that.

As for your question, a woman continues to be near the peak of her attractiveness until the age of 25, it should be relatively easy for a woman to get married until then. A wise woman will do her best to get married around this time or earlier, this is the age where she can get the interest of the best men available to her. After this age, she may have to settle for lesser men if she wants to get married. If she values her education and career, she can get married and continue with these and delay pregnancy, or have children and resume her career later, whatever works for her.

Some people mention the idea that experience with relationships helps a person have better relationships eventually. This is wrong. In the US, for example, a first marriage generally lasts more than 25 years, while a second marriage lasts about 10 years, and a third marriage 5 years. Instead of increasing the likelihood of marital success, having had a divorce greatly increases the chance of getting a second divorce.

Men consider some women “wife material” and others not. A woman who has a cynical attitude toward relationships and has had sexual experience with many men may still get much interest from men if she is attractive, but this interest will be mostly from men who want to have sex with her, rather than men who want to marry her and take care of her for life. A woman who is known to easily get into and out of relationships is not going to be considered attractive wife material. I don’t mean that she will never get married, but that she will be considered less attractive for that than women who do not have such a reputation.

A worthy man is not going to go for the most attractive women, he will try to marry a woman who has a good reputation and who is preferably a virgin, or at least has had very few partners. Such a woman is more likely to be loyal to their marriage, to not abandon him and to not fall in love with others, because such women still have their emotional bonding ability (as the divorce statistics show).

A woman who has had many partners has less of this ability, because she feels it puts her in a very vulnerable position, and she feels no man may deserve this type of dedication after the losses she has suffered. This makes it easy for her to abandon her later relationships. I discuss this matter and many related ones in my new book Sex and Purpose. It is neither sex’s fault that things are this way. We are designed to seek the type of partner who is most likely to give us a successful relationship and healthy children, and among the things men look for in a wife is her “innocence” (or whatever they may call it), her not having so much sexual experience that she cannot feel emotionally attached to a man anymore.

Developing a reputation for having had many partners is not going to do a young religious woman any favors, it will cause the worthy men she wishes to marry to consider her less attractive. If you want to have a successful marriage with a worthy and religious man, then avoiding relationships might be more likely to give you success in this regard than engaging in them.

It is difficult to avoid relationships when other girls your age talk about it and engage in it all the time. Your solace can be the Quran and worship. By making the concerns of the afterlife feel important in your heart, the concerns of this life start to feel unimportant and become much easier to bear. Keeping a heightened state of spirituality requires daily work, as I often say. It is not something that can be achieved then put on the shelf, one’s spirituality decreases every day, and one must work to increase it again every day.

From an Islamic perspective, it is God who manages your destiny for you. You are not in charge, God is. It is only God, and no one else on Earth, who can ensure a good marriage for you. If you carry out your duty of keeping God’s remembrance alive in your heart, of avoiding all sins and gathering good deeds, then you can leave it to Him to take care of your marital success for you. This is known as tawakkul, placing one’s reliance on God. If you have a close relationship with God, if you carry out your duties and pray to Him to give you success in this life and the hereafter, then He will give it to you in the way He chooses, at the time He chooses.

Engaging in a potentially sinful relationship out of the fear of being left behind is similar to a man engaging in a questionable type of business out of the fear of poverty. This is not an admirable thing, it shows a lack of trust in God. If God is the All-Powerful King of this universe, if He can do anything, if He takes care of His servants, then how can anyone justify disobeying Him to ensure their own good?

Engaging in a potentially sinful relationship may actually cause one to be punished by God by ending up in an unwholesome marriage where neither spouse likes the other much, and where both of them continue wishing to find a better match for themselves so that they are never content with their current relationship.

So it is true that it feels risky to pass up relationships for years in the hope that you will eventually be approached by the right man. But this is what Islam demands, that we avoid engaging in things that promise us rewards and profit if they are questionable.

If you are old enough to be in relationships, you are old enough to marry. Islam wholeheartedly rejects the hookup culture of the West where people “date” and have sex for years before “taking the jump” and marrying. If a man wants to enjoy being with you, then he must publicly promise to take care of you and accept full responsibility for the relationship.

Most men would rather not do that. They would rather enjoy having sex with women without being responsible for the relationship, and if you get emotionally attached to him (as you are biologically designed to do) and ask for marriage, he will act as if there is something wrong with you and call you “clingy”, and he may try to break off the relationship. Once this happens to a woman multiple times, she becomes cynical toward relationships and loses her ability to become emotionally attached to men, and men will treat her like she is broken. She may still be interesting to have sex with, but to them she is no longer worth marrying if there are younger, less sexually experienced women available.

Islam prevents these things from happening by requiring all sexual relationships to be official, men are not allowed to use you then abandon you.

It can be beneficial to delay marriage, for example so that the person gets more experience, but this has to be balanced by the concern that a person prevented from marriage may be tempted to seek a relationship outside of it. If a family prevents their daughter from marrying, saying she should wait for the perfect man to come along, and she ends up in a sinful relationship, then it is the family that is at fault.

Islam has no concept of relationships outside of marriage. It sounds like you are not eager for a relationship, you are only worried what may happen down the road. The only thing to do is to be patient until God makes a way for you, and to remember that in the view of most men, fair or unfair, for a woman the more sexual relationships she has had, the less attractive she is as a wife (even if she continues to attract men’s sexual interest).

Assuming you are 18 or older, if you are eager for a relationship, then you can let your family know this. If an eligible man approaches you, you can direct him to your family so that he asks for your hand in marriage, if he is in love with you he should have no trouble with the idea of marrying you. Islam does not let men stay children until they are 40, saying they are too immature to marry, it asks them to marry and grow up from the experience. If your family says you are too young and that you should wait 7 or 8 more years, tell them it is not easy to wait when so many people around you are in relationships.

There is no perfect solution to this dilemma. It is one of the challenges of life that require patience and reliance on God, similar to a person’s desire to earn an income in the West while not engaging in anything forbidden, which can be difficult at times. A person may be offered the perfect degree or the perfect career, but it may require engaging in unlawful things to acquire these, and for this reason they have to pass them up, taking a loss for God’s sake and trusting that His rewards are better than what this world offers. Similarly, to not engage in the dating and relationship scene may feel like a loss, but a devout woman will do it to please God.

Islamic Strategies for Escaping a Sinful Life

19 year old boy here. It’s a serious issue but I’ll keep it short. I was exposed to pornography at a very young age and I still haven’t been able to get over it. And then came the time when I could mingle with the opposite sex and actually do things and since then I haven’t been able to stop myself from committing zina. I’ve barely started to learn Islam but my imaan was a little stable in a few days and I did not do it in a long time. But it ate me from inside. Please help me

Continuing from above, I fear Allah swt but it does not remain constant to me. I’m very helpless and I do not know what to do. I keep doing it. My sexual desire overcomes it and I feel guilty then as usual. I know I’m doing a very horrible sin but I’m really in a position of a porn addict. And if I haven’t asked you the previous thing anonymously then please don’t answer to that? I’m in deep trouble and want my sins to be discreet obviously. Please help me. Jazakallahu khair

I cannot look at myself in the mirror. I desired to be a very influential Muslim and truth in my heart but this major sin inside me is eating me. I’m very frustrated and unable to do anything and I feel horribly ashamed to offer my namaz. Please help me. I’ve asked you around three questions cuz there was a word limit and I hope I get help from Allah swt through you!

No matter how great your sins are, God’s mercy is greater. The greatest sin of all is to lose hope in His mercy and to stop offering the obligatory prayers and performing other obligatory deeds. Regardless of how you feel, this is a duty you cannot ignore. Continue asking for His forgiveness. Even if you fail ten thousand times, He has the power to forgive you more times than that.

At the age of 19 your brain development is not complete. It only completes after the age of 25. What this means is that you have poor impulse control, because of no fault of your own, because the prefrontal cortex of the brain has not completed developing, which is the part of the brain that enables us to control our emotions and impulses.

Trying to make yourself stop engaging in those sins while they are easily available, and while your brain development has not completed, might be asking the impossible. It is like putting a child in a room full of candy and asking them not to eat any. It is an unfair test, because they haven’t developed the ability to control their impulses yet. The same may apply to you.

Think of your desires as an enemy. You cannot defeat it directly, because you do not have the power yet. You must defeat it indirectly. Instead of putting yourself in a test that you are unable to pass, you must avoid the test altogether. This is done by making it impossible to engage in those sins. If you live somewhere where you have easy access to women to sleep with, move somewhere else. Move to a different country if you have to.

If you are sincere in wanting to win this battle, you must do what it takes, even if it requires much work and hardship. Consider it your hijrah. You do not yet have full control over your desires, therefore you must not put your hopes in learning a magical way of overcoming them. You must instead use your intelligence and planning ability to find ways of making it impossible to engage in those sins. Since I do not know your exact situation, I cannot tell you what the best plan for you is. Any plan that requires you to have significant control over your impulses will most likely fail. The plan must take impulse out of the equation by making the sins impossible. For example, if you could join an Islamic educational establishment in a faraway country or area that does not have internet or cell phone coverage, then in that situation avoiding sinning would probably become very easy for you, and you would be able to focus on worshiping God and getting yourself educated about Islam.

Part of the solution could be to get married, even if your family think you are too young, since avoiding major sins is more important. Ibn Masud (companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him) says that even if he had ten days to live in this world, if he was afraid his sexual desire would cause him to sin, he would do his best to get married. You may be able to find a woman who understands your problem and helps you find ways of overcoming it.

You could also go to a pious person at a local mosque, perhaps the imam, and share with them your problem. Maybe they will be able to help you by getting you involved in certain activities, or helping you move somewhere where you can fight your desires more easily. Sharing your problem with others is difficult, since it will go against your pride and self-respect. But you must give more value to avoiding your sinful life, even if this requires that you expose yourself to highly uncomfortable situations.

If you are unable to find a successful plan for making it impossible for yourself to sin, then know that as you grow older your ability to control your impulses will grow. After 25 it will become much easier for you to avoid sins related to sexual desire. Therefore this should be your back-up plan; if everything else fails, hold on to your faith until it becomes easier to resist your sins. Continue to read as much Quran as you can, try to memorize it, perform all the voluntary prayers including tahajjud, constantly read Islamic books, and if you sin, repent, purify yourself and go back to worship as soon as you can, thinking of it as a temporary interruption in your life of worship, until God helps you completely avoid it.

Continue planning against your desires and praying day and night for God’s help, until He gives you a solution sooner or later. If you sincerely ask of Him and seek Him with everything you have, then He will forgive you and answer you.

Satan will constantly tell you that you are worthless and that you should give up hope. You must fight his whispers and know that there is no solution for you in this world except to seek God, regardless of how sinful and worthless you feel. It is only He who forgives sins.

There is no safety from [God’s punishment] except through taking refuge in Him. (The Quran, verse 9:118)

God knows you better than yourself, and He understands what you go through. If you are sincere in seeking a solution, then He will reward your sincerity and forgive you your past and future sins as you continue to seek His pleasure.

You must consider it your duty to perform sufficient worship and Quran-reading on a daily basis that the afterlife starts to feel as important as the present life to you. This seems to require about an hour of extra voluntary deeds a day, whether it is Quran-reading, supplication, praying at the mosque or performing extra prayers. Once you achieve this state and maintain it for weeks and months, it becomes far easier to resist sins.

You already believe in God and the afterlife. This is only an intellectual belief. Through worship, you can turn it into an emotional belief as well, so that God and the afterlife feel real to you. Once your faith is not just an intellectual belief, but an emotional state, then this will have a powerful effect on your state of mind and on your actions. This is the state that every Muslim must seek to achieve, and it is the state of the prophets and the greatest believers.

The best help I have found toward maintaining such an emotional state has been to perform every prayer at the mosque, to perform dhikr and supplication after every one of them, and to perform all the related voluntary prayers. If there is a mosque near you, then this should be one of the first things you try. Even if it is 10 or 15 minutes away, consider it part of your war against your sins to go there, and God will reward you for your time and effort.

Personally I do not generally enjoy going to the mosque, but I do it anyway.

Consider going to the mosque part of your job, as if you earn an hourly wage for it. It is just another job, perform it, and you will get its rewards.

Planning against your sins and doing the work necessary to avoid and overcome them is not going to be easy. It is going to require difficult and perhaps boring and repetitive work. But for this you will be greatly rewarded.

If you want to have a successful career in this life and the next, if you want to be a leader like you said, then do the daily work needed for this. A career requires work, your work is to do worship and to go to the mosque. No matter how unrewarding you find this work, if you do it, you will get its fruits. Worshiping and obeying God is not meant to be fun. It is work, sometimes hard work, sometimes boring work, we do it because we want His rewards. If you do not get any uplifting feeling from your worship or mosque attendance at first, continue doing it for weeks and months, and you will eventually feel it inshaAllah.

When we try to seek God and renew our allegiance to Him, He may withhold His help until we prove our sincerity. If we try to worship Him ardently for a week, then give up hope when nothing happens and we feel no difference, it shows that we do not truly have faith in Him, that we are not sincere in our servitude. We prove our sincerity by constantly working toward Him whether we feel good or bad, whether we feel appreciated or abandoned. This is true worship of God, that we love Him regardless of what He decrees for us. Everything else is mostly self-worship.

 

Dealing with an eating disorder (and other mental conditions) as a Muslim

i wanted to bring this topic up since its not really spoken that much in the Muslim community. I’ve had an eating disorder for a year now and its honestly changed me as a person. I’ve prayed many times but i still feel regret after eating and it doesn’t help with a family who don’t understand. They have this view that whenever you have a mental problem its because you’ve ‘strayed from god’. i kinda want some religious help because i feel so lost and numb.

Unfortunately it is common for people, and not just Muslims, to treat mental disorders as a weakness of the person’s character instead of a real condition.

The Islamic way to think of your disorder is to think of it as any other illness, such as type I diabetes. There are many devout Muslims who have this condition, and they are dependent on injections and drugs for the rest of their lives. There is no guarantee in Islam that prayer will take the condition away.

And a Muslim born without legs due to a genetic issue is most likely not going to grow new legs regardless of their prayers and worship. But God can turn their condition into a blessing for them in various ways. For example they could receive a good income from the government that enables them to dedicate themselves to studying what they like instead of having to waste their time working to earn a living.

The first step to defeating your condition is to accept it, the way the people mentioned above accept their conditions. God does not promise us perfect lives, and He does not promise that we will be free from suffering the various illnesses and conditions that befall all humans. If we are among the “unlucky” few to suffer a condition, we must accept it and realize that God had complete power to prevent us from getting that condition, and that He has complete power to perform a miracle to cure us. Yet He allowed us to get the condition, and He has not decided to cure it.

There is an important lesson in this. Your condition is not meaningless. God, with all of His power and watchfulness, has allowed you to have it. It is His decision. He is the one in charge, you are not in charge. If He wants, He can take it away at any moment. But while you have it, you must accept it, knowing that it is by His decree and permission. When you suffer, this is a chance to practice patience and earn its rewards. One cannot earn the rewards of patience unless one has something to be patient about.

Most of the hardships we suffer in life are sent to bring us closer to God, as they force us to see our weakness and fragility and our dependence on Him. We must stay close to God at all times, we must keep His remembrance alive, and we must always ensure that He and the afterlife always feel as important to us as the present life. Once we achieve that state, and we prove our loyalty to Him by maintaining that state instead of abandoning it after a few days or weeks, He either removes the hardship, or turns it into a blessing, or gives us something else that makes up for it, so that even though we continue to suffer from the hardship (a chronic condition, for example), we are given sources of happiness and joy that more than make up for it.

Forgive your family for not understanding, do sufficient Quran-reading, prayers and supplication to feel close to God every single day, then patiently wait for His judgment. He will either bring about a cure eventually (months from now He may lead you into reading an article that mentions some treatment strategy that works for you), or He will do something else that makes up for it one way or another.

Think of your condition as any other medical condition, such as diabetes. Your part is to seek closeness to God and seek help through research and medical professionals, in this way taking care of both your spiritual duty and your material duty. What happens next is up to God. He may give you a cure or He may not. What matters is that you do your part, stay patient and do not lose hope, knowing that He will do what is kind and just toward you when He wants, and what He will do may be something you never expected.

God does not ask you to do more than you are able. Sometimes we are in so much pain, physically or mentally, that the most we can do is prevent ourselves from complaining or thinking unthankful thoughts. If this is the most we can do, then God will understand and will not ask more of us. If people speak of God as if He is harsh, unjust or demanding, then know that what they say is false. God is kinder than we can imagine, and He will never hurt us just to hurt us, or demand more from us than we are able to give.

53. [The angels] said, “Do not fear; we bring you good news of a boy endowed with knowledge.”

54. [Prophet Ibrahim] said, “Do you bring me good news, when old age has overtaken me [when I am too old to have children]? What good news do you bring?”

55. They said, “We bring you good news in truth, so do not despair.”

56. He said, “And who despairs of his Lord’s mercy but those who are lost?” (The Quran, verses 15:53-56)

It is permissible for Muslim women to pluck their eyebrows (with conditions)

Is it permissible for a woman to pluck her eyebrows? Being a woman with unsymmetrical and thick eyebrows I always feel the need to clean them up so they look normal and symmetrical. But as far as I know the prophet sallalahu alaihi wasalim said, woman who pluck their own or other womens eyebrows are cursed. Does that still apply to today or was that meant in a different context? Thank you.

Imam Abu Dawood says that what is meant by the forbidden type of plucking is when a woman distorts its shape by making it very thin, like some women do, meaning that other forms of plucking that do not make the eyebrows look unnatural are not forbidden.

The opinion of the Hanbali school is that plucking the eyebrows is allowed after agreement with the woman’s husband, if it is not overdone, and done for correction rather than for creating a new appearance.

The Maliki scholar Shaykh al-Nafrawi and the Hanafi scholar Ibn Abidain al-Hanafi also agree with the above.

Dr. Ali Jum`ah of Al-Azhar University and former chief Islamic jurist of Egypt says that what the Prophet, peace be upon him, meant by plucking the eyebrows is removing the whole of them then using makeup to draw them. He says that there is no issue with a woman correcting and beautifying the shape of the eyebrows if it is not overdone.

As for Salafi scholars like Ibn Baaz, Ibn Uthaymeen al-Albani, they all say it is forbidden, some Salafis make an exception for correcting a clear and obvious issue that severely reduces a woman’s beauty.

Most of the Muslim world follows the Azhari opinion, which is that correcting and beautifying the eyebrows is allowed if it is not overdone.

On the Rohingya Muslims

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Would you like to share about your opinion of Rohingya Muslim genocide in Myanmar?

Different Muslim races and nations have suffered similar fates throughout history, and this will continue.

We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops. But give good news to the steadfast. Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, “To God we belong, and to Him we will return.” (The Quran, verse 2:155-156)

If a wound afflicts you, a similar wound has afflicted the others. Such days We alternate between the people, that God may know those who believe, and take martyrs from among you. God does not love the evildoers. (The Quran, verse 3:140)

The Quran teaches us that suffering is a part of life, although it also teaches that suffering will not continue indefinitely. All Muslim nations have gone through periods of intense suffering followed by periods of ease and prosperity, followed by periods of suffering.

Those who stay close to God will gather the rewards of good deeds during times of ease and the rewards of patience during times of suffering, so that regardless of which phase their nation is going through, they continue to gain God’s rewards.

Regarding the Rohingya, we can continue to spread awareness and support charities like CAIR which are trying to gather support in the US to encourage US politicians to put pressure on the Myanmar government to put an end to the crisis.

Keeping your Islamic faith when going to a Christian school

Salam. I have a question. I am in 8th grade, and I also live in America. The school I go to is a private school, and we have religion class there. Do you have any advice on how to stick to Islam, even though my head is being filled with Christianity teachings??

If you do sufficient work to maintain closeness to God, such as supplication, worship and Quran reading (30 minutes a day or more), then those Christian teachings will be a minor influence.

I recommend that you get Yasmin Mogahed and Tariq Ramadan’s books and read them occasionally, this will help you maintain your Islamic identity.

The Islamic way to getting over a breakup

I have issues regarding relationship. Well I broke up with my boyfriend few months ago. Usually when this happened lovers will not contact each other. Unfortunately, we have the same group of friends. I am trying so hard not to feel mad or sad every time I see him yet I still cant control my expressions. Do you have any advice on this?. I still want to keep our relationship as good friends. What should I do?

The Islamic view of watching anime and reading manga

Salaam. I am a Muslim and I like watching anime and reading manga. I usually watch action, adventure types and block tags that contain mature content. I wanted to ask if I am allowed to do so? Another question I have is about drawing. What has been said about drawing cartoons and such? Jazakullah Khair.

There is nothing wrong with anime and manga inherently. It is however against Islamic manners to seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage, therefore if those “mature” blocks you describe are there for the reader’s sexual enjoyment, then it is not acceptable for you to peruse them. You can skip those pages and scenes that are designed to be sexually suggestive and enjoy the rest.

Since we can never be sure if God will be pleased with us if we seek sexual enjoyment outside of marriage in any form, no one who truly loves and fears God will risk disrespecting and angering Him through such things, even if it is in a seemingly unimportant matter.

The Azhari scholars (from al-Azhar University in Cairo) Gad al-Haq Ali and Yusuf al-Qaradhawi and the Saudi Islamic studies professor Khalid bin Abdullah al-Qasim say that drawing (including drawing living things) is permissible. You will find others who will say that drawing living things is not permissible. The people of Egypt and most of the Muslim world follow the Azhari opinion.

The Islamic Way to Getting Wealthy: Worship God Until You Feel Needless

This is a note I wrote for myself, I am publishing it here and expanding it in case others benefit from it.

Wealth begins when you already feel wealthy without having wealth, through your reliance and trust in God. Asking for wealth is a way of wanting to decrease your reliance on God, to be a god yourself.

Instead, rely on God, knowing that the treasury is already with Him, and He gives it to you as He sees fit. Do all of the prayers (including tahajjud and duha), in this way the feeling of wealth (needlessness) is created in you, regardless of your material condition. From there, God may choose to give you all the wealth you want, once you feel wealthy regardless of wealth.

If you feel poor, this shows a lack of piety, a weakness in your faith, a lack in your worship and reliance on God, a distance from God, and wealth will not cure this feeling, it will only replace it with something equally harmful for you, arrogance, pride, a sense of being safe from God and needless of Him.

If you feel poor when you don’t have money (instead of feeling rich by the virtue of being the servant of the Rich), then wealth will not cure you.

Your feeling of poverty is a weakness within you. Wealth will bandage it, but the weakness will manifest itself in other ways. Feeling poor shows a distance from God. Receiving wealth will not bring you closer to Him, it may in fact cause you to be distanced further from Him. You may continue praying and doing the usual good deeds and feeling good, but you may give up supplicating to Him as ardently as now, you may give up small and big good deeds, giving only a little and withholding much, giving what is easy and not doing anything difficult for the sake of God, which is the state of most wealthy Muslims, who live a life of luxury and contentment and only do good deeds that make them feel good.

If God wants good for you, He will keep you poor until your suffering creates the spiritual depth in you, the knowledge of God and closeness to Him, to feel wealthy without having any wealth. Once this feeling is achieved, He may give you wealth, because now it is safe for you to have it.

You must develop the lifestyle of worship and the knowledge and depth necessary to feel wealthy without wealth, if you want God to give you wealth.

Of course, once you have achieved this state, you will stop asking for wealth, realizing that you already have all the wealth you want, because you are an agent of a wealthy God who feeds and clothes you and takes care of your life for you. An agent (a spy who works for a foreign government) does not worry about making money when he is on a mission in a strange land. He knows he is provided for by a powerful entity that can give him more money than most people achieve in a lifetime if it helps him achieve his mission. When there is a need, he can always go to his spy agency’s secret bank and gets all the money he needs.

A true servant of God, too, feels needless of wealth, knowing that he has direct access to God’s bank, and that He will give to him as needed and manage everything for him. Ideally, a spy does not worry about anything except his mission, it is his agency who provides for him a car, a house, money, partners and accomplices. In the same way, we who love and fear God work for God’s agency, it is His agency that takes care of everything for us, our purpose is to carry out our mission.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, was poor for most of his career, because God did not consider it necessary for the success of his mission to have wealth. But he did not feel poor, because he knew he was the agent of a wealthy Master, Who would give him everything he needed whenever he needed it. The Master is wise, instead of giving him immense wealth, which could have harmed him spiritually, and harmed his followers and his movement, gave him only exactly what he needed, not letting him starve or beg of others, enabling him to always have enough to continue his mission perfectly. Wealth was never an obstacle to the Prophet, because the Master always provided for him as he needed it, as if he had an infinite credit line.

Your wealth, your credit line, your bank account, is with God. Asking him to stop managing it for you and to give it all to you shows a lack of appreciation for His wisdom, a lack of appreciation for the fact that you are His agent on a mission in life, and it shows that you have an arrogance that causes you to think you know better than Him what is good for you.

When you ask for wealth, you are asking God, “Please stop managing my millions of dollars for me. I want to manage it myself, because I know better than You what to do with it.” God, if He loves you, will not answer your prayer, instead teaching you lesson after lesson until you reach the point where you can appreciate that all wealth is with God, and that your sustenance comes from God, and that He knows better than you what is good for you, and that it is far wiser to let God manage your wealth and give you exactly what you need, than asking Him to give it all to you when you can never, ever be sure if it is safe for you spiritually to have wealth. These realizations require submission and humility, which we all lack to some degree.

If you feel poor, realize immediately that this is a disease in your heart, a disease in your reliance on God. Cure it immediately with continuous worship and prayer. Pray tahajjud, witr and the duha prayers. Read the Quran. Repeat this work and continue it, no matter how repetitive and boring your ego finds it, until you start to feel wealthy in your heart. And never stop seeking knowledge. And once you feel wealthy, you will no longer ask for wealth, the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, did not ask for it. You will ask God to guide you, to provide for you and to take care of you, and you will leave it to Him to decide how much wealth you should have in your hands.

You will already feel wealthy, knowing that your wealth is with Him, and it will feel irrelevant to you whether wealth is with God or with you. Both are the same thing.  An agent does not care if they have $100 in the pocket and millions in the agency’s secret bank, or whether they have millions with themselves. The two are the same, and in fact that latter situation is less desirable, because the wealth is a burden and a danger to the agent.

In the same way, as an agent of God, since you have access to His limitless wealth, it does not matter how much you have with you. Whether it is with God or in your hands, it is the same thing, and the latter (having much wealth in your hands) can be a burden and a danger to you. It is better to leave it to God to take care of the matter of wealth, its management and protection, so that you can focus on your mission instead.

It is for these reasons that the Prophet, peace be upon him, lost sleep over the fact that there was a lump of gold in his house that had been given to him somehow. Since he was a man on a mission, he felt that this gold was an obstacle to him, a burden and a danger, so that his heart did not settle until he found a poor person to give it away to the next day.

A spy, too, would hate to have too much wealth with him, because it attracts attention and danger, and gets in the way of his mission. A person who is truly close to God will think the same way about wealth, considering it irrelevant to their life, a tool that can be provided by God as needed for their mission and nothing more. Their focus is on completing their mission, and they leave it to God to provide them with the necessary tools and equipment.

This does not mean that one should not seek wealth. One should want sufficient wealth to be needless of others, and they should use the opportunities God provides to acquire it. But one should realize that any wages they earn, any profits they make, are all ultimately from God, because if God does not enable us and support us, we have no power to gain these things. The wages you earn are as much from God as money falling from the sky. A thousand things could go wrong in your life so that you lose the ability to earn, or so that what you earn goes to waste (such as various illnesses and accidents).

We work, as the Prophet’s companions worked, peace be upon him and his companions, because this is part of our mission in life. But we do not work to cure a sense of poverty or to become wealthy. We already feel wealthy, but we work because it is part of the functioning of the world that we should work, the same way that it is part of the functioning of the world that we should procreate in order for humanity to continue, and the same way that we eat to survive. Not working and saying that God will provide is like not eating and saying that God will put food in our stomachs directly.

We Muslims are not monks or Sufi hermits. We partake in the game of life fully, enjoying food, drink and sex, working and not throwing away wealth. But we understand that everything we enjoy or acquire is ultimately from God. And part of this understanding is that we do not seek to be wealthy or pray for it. Our job is to take part in the game of life while also staying on the Straight Path.

Regardless of how hard we work to earn money, it is God who will decide how much wealth we will have. There are those who spend all of their time thinking of wealth and scheming for it, yet many of them live in poverty and die poor. There are others who do the same and acquire it and die wealthy. Life and God both teach us that getting wealthy is not guaranteed, no matter how hard we try. We could have the most successful business in the town, only for a fire to destroy it and put us in debt.

We work, but it is God who provides. Realizing this, we do not seek wealth, knowing that all wealth is with God; our task is to carry out our mission, it is God Who provides for us.

We are like agents who have been told to work as part of our mission, so that we do not stand out, even though we are told the agency can give us millions of dollars if it wants. We work because it is part of the mission, but we do not want to be wealthy, because there is no point in it. It is ridiculous for a spy to get attached to his fake job trying to make a few thousand dollars when he knows that if he completes his mission, the agency promises him millions of dollars.

It is utter foolishness to complain that God’s agency is not giving us sufficient wealth to carry out our mission, it is an insult against God’s greatness. A spy can complain that the agency’s planning and resources are deficient, but we cannot, because we do not work for a human agency, but for a divine one.

If you feel poor, or you feel that you could do so many good deeds if only God gave you a few billion dollars, then you have misunderstood your mission and the One who assigned this mission to you. He knows exactly what you need and when you need it, therefore stop trying to tell Him to correct how much He gives you. Learn to respect Him and to respect your mission. Stop fighting against your mission, asking it to be changed, telling God His planning isn’t good enough.

Your mission is to live the Quran. You can do this whether you are wealthy or poor. Wealth has nothing to do with it. If you are poor, your job is to work hard enough in worship so that you do not feel poor. You have not truly accepted your status as God’s agent except when you feel extremely wealthy regardless of how much wealth you have, when you know that wealth does not matter for your mission because you work for an immensely wealthy agency that provides everything needed.

It is more likely for God to give you wealth once you have stopped feeling that you need it, because then you can have it safely. That is what the title of this essay says. But as has been clarified, when you reach this state, you will stop caring about getting wealthy anyway. Therefor what I said above probably works, it can can increase your likelihood of getting wealthy, but for this to work, you must paradoxically first achieve a state of not wanting to get wealthy. As long as you desire wealth and feel poverty, you have not understood your mission, and there is a deficiency in your faith and understanding of God that needs to be corrected.

You must stop desiring wealth, only then you have achieved the status of a true agent of God. Satan will try to trick you into losing this status by telling you that you could serve God better if He gave you more wealth. By making you doubt the wisdom in God’s decrees and His management of your life, he causes you to forget your mission and causes you to think negative thoughts about Him. You must resist these thoughts and always remind yourself that true reliance on God means that you trust Him to give you what is needed when it is needed, and that you mission in life, which is to live the Quran, does not require you to be wealthy, and in fact requires you to stop desiring it.

Feeling wealthy regardless of wealth cannot be achieved by wishful thinking. It requires daily work, it requires you to do more prayers and more Quran-reading than most of the people you know. And if you ever stop, the feeling of poverty will come back, because it is the natural state of humans to feel in need and to desire wealth.

If you do not find the above satisfactory, if you still want wealth, then this shows that you do not understand your purpose in life, or that you understand it but want to reject it because your comfort and desires are more dear to you.

What to do if all the negative coverage of Islam and online Islam-bashing affects you

I’m from India and I see a lot of negativity towards Islam and it saddens me very much. Filthy comments made about Islam and people who practice Islam. I usually do not indulge in such arguments/comments because there is no point but it effects me. Please help Jazakallah khair

That is a promise of the Quran come true:

You will be tested through your possessions and your persons; and you will hear from those who received the Scripture before you, and from those who do not acknowledge the oneness of God, much abuse. But if you persevere and lead a righteous life—that indeed is a mark of great determination. (The Quran, verse 3:186)

The best thing to do is go on with your life like normal. It is not our job to guide people, and especially not those who say nasty things about Islam. Our job is to practice Islam, which means to stay close to God, to obey His commandments, to be kind and generous.

The Quran’s command regarding dealing with such people is to ignore them (instead of engaging them and trying to change their minds),

So turn away from them, and wait. They too are waiting. (Verse 32:30)

So avoid him who has turned away from Our remembrance, and desires nothing but the present life. That is the extent of their knowledge. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who has accepted guidance. (Verses 53:29-30)

The servants of the Merciful are those who walk the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace.” (Verse 25:63)

When you encounter those who mockingly gossip about Our revelations, turn away from them, until they engage in another topic. (Verse 6:68)

So leave alone those who take their religion for play and pastime, and whom the worldly life has deceived. (Verse 6:70)

While some of what we hear and read can be very upsetting, this is nothing new. All of the prophets have suffered similar treatment. This is not a problem that can be solved, it is a fact of life, like bad weather. We have to accept that it exists and move on with your lives. Our focus, when dealing with non-Muslims, should be that the good and open-hearted among them should have an accurate view of Islam. As for those who dislike us, it is not our business to change them, they have already made up their minds.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, used to wish to have miraculous powers to be able to guide more people to Islam. The Quran’s answer was this:

Even if there were a Quran by which mountains could be set in motion, or by which the earth could be shattered, or by which the dead could be made to speak… In fact, every decision rests with God. Did the believers not give up and realize that had God willed, He would have guided all humanity? Disasters will continue to strike those who disbelieve, because of their deeds, or they fall near their homes, until God’s promise comes true. God never breaks a promise. (Verse 13:31)

The Quran teaches us that it is God who guides people. Even the Prophet could not guide people unless God willed it:

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided.

For these reasons, we must not think it our duty to guide people. Our duty is to practice Islam, and to present an accurate view of Islam. What people do in response is their business, we cannot control their thinking, and we cannot force them to be guided.

Is the Deathly Hallows sign related to the “Illuminati”?

Is the Deathly Hallows sign illuminati or a sinful sign?? I know that the peace sign and all is signs of the devil, but is the deathly hollows simbol illuminati or the devils sign??

The Illuminati and other conspiracy theories are promoted on the internet so that people like you are distracted from the real problems that face this world, such as: Why do the banks have so much control over the world’s economy? Why does the US force every country in the world to use the US dollar in trade and bomb every country that tries to break away from the US financial system (Iraq, Libya, Syria)? Why does the Israeli lobby have such immense control over the US congress so that every politician must bow down to them to be elected? Why do Jews support Muslim immigration to the US and Europe while also supporting the Israel ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Palestine? Why do they support Mexican immigration to the US yet fight against African immigration to Israel?

Difference Between Sunnah Muakkadah and Ghair Muakkadah

Salaam could you please explain what is sunnah mu’akkadah and sunnah ghair mu’akkadah?

Sunnah mu’akkadah refers to any voluntary act of worship (such as the Eid prayer, or the two rakat after the maghrib prayer) which the Prophet peace be upon him continuously performed and almost never abandoned. These are not obligatory, but a person who abandons them is considered blameworthy.

As for the ghair mu’akkadah ones, they are those which the Prophet peace be upon him sometimes performed and sometimes abandoned, such as two rakat before the Isha prayer.

The different schools of thought have different terminology and rulings regarding the precise nature of these acts of worship.

On kind-hearted non-Muslims being better than evil Muslims

Is it wrong that I think that a kind hearted non-muslims is better than an evil Muslim? It’s more logical to be that a good soul is better than a guided soul who choose evil.

That is correct. Satan, too, believed in God and worshiped Him, like any Muslim does, yet despite his knowledge of the truth, he decided to disobey God. A Muslim who knowingly does evil, not out of overwhelming desire but out rebelliousness, arrogance and greed, is doing something similar.

Dealing with auto-Islamophobia

I need help with not fearing being exposed to Islam. I’ve been too much exposed to very toxic parts of Islam (I don’t know if they are authentic or not) but it was very very discouraging. Even made it hard for me to pray etc.

Read the Quran from beginning to end many times, that is 99% of Islam. Anything that goes against its message, anything that goes even against a single verse of it, is not part of Islam.

You can also go through this blog1 and read the quotes to get an idea of what Islam is like as it is practiced by its most devout followers. If you can, read Yasmin Mogahed and Tariq Ramadan’s books.

Can Muslims keep dogs as pets?

Is it okay for a Muslim to have a dog as a pet? Not just as a guard dog, but as a companion. Bring them inside the house, play with them, take a walk, etc. I’ve read somewhere that if there’s a dog in the house, angels will not come inside our house. Is it true? Thank you

This is a highly controversial topic among the scholars. The opinion of the Maliki school is that dogs are pure (i.e. not ritually unclean), and that it is permissible to touch them and play with them as long as they are not diseased. This is also the opinion of al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Zuhari, Sufyan al-Thawri, Imam al-Shawkani, Ibn Munzir al-Shafi`i and Ibn Hazm from what I can find out.

The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Shaltut (1893 – 1963 CE), who was Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar (Egypt’s highest authority on Sunni Islam), ruled that keeping a dog as a pet and letting it in the house is permissible as long as it is not diseased. However, he says that if the dog eats or drinks from a utensil, it must be washed thoroughly before it is used by a human.

The rest of the scholars, the Hanafis, Shafi`is and Hanbalis say that a dog is either unclean or that it is forbidden to keep it as a pet, that it must only be kept if it is a hunting, shepherding or guard dog.

So there is sufficient support within the Islamic scholarship community for a person to keep a dog as a pet. But the majority of scholars are against it, and so are the majority of Muslim cultures.

If an American who already has a dog converts to Islam, there is sufficient sufficient evidence within Islam for them to continue keeping it as a pet. But they shouldn’t be surprised if the Muslims around them strongly frown upon their doing this.

It should also be noted that the majority opinion is that it is forbidden to listen to music, but most Muslims reject this and follow the common sense minority opinion (the Maliki / Zahiri / Shawkani opinion) that say that listening to music is permissible. The issue of forbidding music and forbidding the keeping of dogs as a pets are similar and the same scholars either forbid both or permit both.

Personally I cannot say whether it is permissible or not to keep a dog as a pet, this matter is not something I have studied sufficiently to have a firm opinion about it.

The Islamic View of Sex Education and Adolescent Exposure to Sexual Scenes in Novels and Films

My child loves to read books. Some of the books she wants to read mention sex. She is 13 years old and I don’t know when to allow her to read those books or even when to tell her about sex. I need help with this. Thank you!

When a child reaches puberty (and I assume your daughter has), in Islam they are considered mukallaf (responsible for their actions, i.e. legally adults). This means that parents should start to treat them like adult humans, respecting their intelligence and freedom of choice as humans. Parents should no longer treat them like children whose lives they control and dictate.

At that age, they have the right to demand honest answers from their parents regarding sex, and they have the right to be educated about the Islamic rules and etiquette regarding sex and marriage. In Islam there is no difference between the rights and responsibilities of an adolescent 13-year-old and a 25-year-old, legally they have the same status, although developmentally they are not exactly the same.

It is natural to be wary of letting an adolescent learn about sex because of the vague potential for harm that we perceive, but we should also take into account the even greater potential for harm that comes from belittling them and restricting them for no obvious reason. There is no Islamic or scientific reason to prevent an adolescent from learning about sex, and the great scholars of the past, such as Ibn al-Jawzi, would have memorized thousands of hadith narrations, some of them explicitly dealing with sex, before the age of 10.

If she has reached puberty, then it is your duty to teach her all of the Islamic rules that surround menstruation, such as by getting her a book on this matter. You do not have to give it to her specifically if this would be too embarrassing, it can be somewhere in your house where she can look at it when she wants. It will be largely your failing if she prays in a way that is invalid because no one told her any better.

You probably know much about sex, but your appreciation for Islamic principles enables you to stay devout and to put sex in its proper context. An adolescent can do the same if the parents have done their duty of giving them an Islamic upbringing, and if inside the home they maintain Islamic manners and standards. Trying to control a child’s knowledge about sex is a futile effort, especially today when they can easily find out everything they want on the internet. There is no way you can take away all possible opportunities for them to learn about it. The logical thing to do is to be moderate, letting them learn about sex and read books that you yourself would read, while not letting them have unmonitored access to the internet and not letting them read erotic books that you yourself wouldn’t read.

There is No Conflict Between Islam and Sex Education

Is a 13-year-old who knows much about sex from books less likely to be religious and devout than a 13-year-old who has been forbidden to learn anything about it?

I would hazard a guess that the one whose intelligence and dignity has been respected to the degree that he or she is allowed to read books on sex is going to be more religious and devout, because they are not made to feel that Islam is against human nature, that there is something wrong with them when they think about sex or want to learn about it.

Devoutness has nothing to do with how much a person knows about sex. Regardless of whether an adolescent knows nearly everything or nearly nothing about sex, they will have the same level of desire for the opposite sex. This desire is not about knowledge, it is about hormones and the human brain. To be able to resist this desire, what is needed is an understanding of Islamic principles and internalization of Islamic values, so that the adolescent knows that there is a good reason why they should resist their sexual desire, instead of feeling like they are being prevented from sexual pleasure for no good reason (like some adolescents brought up in extremely strict Muslim and Christian homes feel).

For an adolescent, learning about sex is like learning about any other topic, such as physics. There mere knowledge of sex is not going to push them into sinful behaviors, the same way that a divorced 30-year-old is not going to be more likely to sin just because they know very much about sex. Their knowledge of sex and their knowledge of Islam are two separate things.

Once a child reaches puberty, their sex hormones make it certain that they will have highly detailed and explicit daydreams and nighttime dreams about sex, and that sex will be on their minds often. Muslim adolescents generally spend ten years thinking about sex, whether they want to or not, before they get married, and reading or hearing a story or anecdote about sex, whether in an Islamic book or non-Islamic book, is going to be little more than a drop in the ocean of sexual thoughts that is in their heads.

As for books that are designed to be read for sexual pleasure (erotic and explicit romance books), then neither you nor your child should reach such books, because it is against Islamic manners to seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage, and no one who reads such books can honestly claim to be reading them without sexual intent.

The Developmental Concern

The one serious concern regarding exposing an adolescent to information about sexuality is that with their as-of-yet undeveloped minds, and their heightened sexual desire, they may be more likely to fall into sinful behaviors.

Isn’t it better to let them grow some more, garner more experiences, before they are exposed to such things?

It is true that the human is not fully developed until the late twenties, that is when a person’s impulse control matures. It is for this reason that insurance companies charge higher rates to people under the age of 25, because such people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and cause accidents.

The problem is that, their lack of wisdom and development also means that will be unable to understand why information about sex is being kept from them, and their impulsiveness means that they will be extremely unlikely to be content when a parent says they are too young. They will probably jump on any chance to learn about sex from friends, from the internet, from libraries, from anywhere they can.

Preventing an adolescent from learning about sex is in fact telling them, “You are too impulsive and not enough of an adult to learn about sex, but you must act like an adult and control your impulses when you desire to learn about it.” It is placing a contradictory demand on them. If they are too impulsive to safely read about sex, they are too impulsive to be prevented from reading about sex out of your sight.

Therefore the argument that they are too young to learn about sex is false. If they are treated like they are too immature and foolish to be allowed to learn about sex from proper sources, they will only be right to act immature and foolish by seeking information from harmful sources, they are acting exactly the way we say they will act, and they are likely to do it just out of spite. If we belittle them and make them feel they are not proper members of society, they will naturally feel like outcasts, and they will be right to act like outcasts, ignoring customs and people’s expectations. If they are not allowed to enjoy the privileges of being full members of society, why should they suffer its restrictions?

It is best to treat them the Islamic way, to acknowledge their status as full members of society, while also acknowledging the fact that they are not fully developed yet. This is the best way to prepare them for adulthood; by treating them like adults. Treating them like children is not going to do any good, they are going to resent it.

Once an adolescent is given the freedoms and privileges of an adult, they will stop thinking of themselves as children who selfishly think of their own needs the whole time, and will instead start to think of themselves as respected members of their families and societies. This is very important for their growth. By being treated like a growing adult, being given both rights and responsibilities, they will try to live up to this expectation.

If a parent is too strict, this can cause the child to feel oppressed and controlled, and this can cause them to dislike the parent and the religious motivations for the parent’s choices. It is better to give the child sufficient freedom to not feel oppressed, but not so much freedom that they can do whatever they want in private. Since they live under your roof, you can set standards of behavior and etiquette that must be observed by them and any other adult living with you.

I have rarely seen children brought up in strict families grow into sincerely devout adults. They generally consider Islam a burden that’s placed on them, rather than something they love and follow by choice. They sometimes have a child’s mentality, thinking that their families and societies are against them, that what is good and fulfilling in life is one thing and society’s expectations another thing, because they do not feel like full members of Islamic society.

The Islamic Way of Bringing Up Devout Children: Balancing Conservativeness and Liberality

The best Muslims I have known in my life have been brought up in families that mixed conservativeness and liberality, conservative in the most important things, liberal in the rest. This means that the children are taught to carry out all their obligatory duties like prayer and fasting. It is not accepted of them to abandon these like some misguided liberal Muslim families allow. They are taught the Quran and encouraged to read beneficial Islamic books, most importantly the life of the Prophet peace be upon him and the lives of his companions. If the child is female, she should have access to at least 10 books dedicated to famous Muslim women in history and encouraged to read them (but not forced).

What are Islam’s priorities? It is to believe in God and the Day of Judgment and the rest of the Islamic items of faith (aqeedah). The entire family must act and live by these beliefs. The next priorities are the obligatory deeds, the entire family must carry them out (except for children who cannot), it should be an unspoken assumption in the family that abandoning the Islamic obligatory acts of worship is entirely unacceptable.

The next thing after the above is abandoning sinful behaviors. It should be unacceptable for anyone in the family to engage in anything clearly sinful, such as drinking alcohol. It is the job of the parents to ensure that Islamic standards are maintained in the family, that no one engages in anything sinful.

The above is the core of Islam. A child brought up in a loving family to believe in the Islamic items of faith, to carry out the obligatory deeds and to follow Islamic manners is guaranteed to grow into a devout Muslim, unless at some point they make a conscious choice to abandon Islam. Humans have free will, which means that regardless of their upbringing, they will forever have the choice to abandon Islam, this ability cannot be taken away from them.

A family that focuses on the above and gets it right can then be liberal in everything else. This liberality is very important. Islam must feel small and simple to a child, it must not feel like something that controls and burdens them. This means that filling one’s home entirely with Islamic books, always having Islamic channels on TV, allowing the children to visit the mosque and no other venue, forcing them to go to Quran schools instead of learning about other things they are interested in, are all exactly the correct way to make a child hate Islam. There is only so much religion a person can take. Religion is a tool to help us develop a spiritual connection with God and to guide our manners as we go about in the world living our lives. Once a person has the correct aqeedah, performs the obligatory deeds, loves the Quran and fears God’s punishment, religion’s goal has been accomplished in them. Religion is not there to dominate them and take their humanity away from them, it is to guide them to be better humans, as they continue to be humans, doing and enjoying human things.

This means that once the core of Islam has been actualized in a family’s life, from then on everyone should be free what they do with their time. Islam does not forbid children from playing video games, women from enjoying shopping or men from playing soccer, even if none of these things serve a productive purpose. The clearest proof of this is that in Islam it is acknowledged that people have sex for pleasure, unlike among some Christians who think that sex must always be done with the intention of procreation. Sex that is done for pleasure does not serve an obvious productive purpose, except for the fact that it improves the relationship between the husband and wife and makes them have a more positive view of life.

And the above reason is also why many other enjoyable acts that strict Muslims may scoff at are actually lawful and even encouraged. A child who is allowed to play the video games he or she likes, while also being expected to follow Islamic manners and carry out their Islamic duties, is going to grow up knowing that Islam is not against human nature and the enjoyment of life, that Islam is there to help them live better lives that they define themselves, instead of being there to force them to live a narrowed down life defined by ancient texts and society.

On Books that Mention Sex

As for your original question, there is no clear Islamic text that deals with her reading books that mention sex, but if you yourself would read that book and think that it is permissible for you, then she too can read it.

Since Islam is vague on this topic, one should act based on maslahah (“what is in the best interest of the person, family and society”) with regards to it. Allowing her to read a book she likes is a good thing, because it reaffirms her dignity and freedom, and reaffirms the fact that she can enjoy what she likes while also being a devout Muslim, that Islam is not her enemy like some teenagers mistakenly think. If the book contains casual mentions of sex but is not dedicated to arousing sexual desire in the reader like erotic books are, then I see little harm in it. Adolescents are perfectly capable of imagining sexual scenes in their heads, reading about one more sexual scene is not going to be anything significant.

Philosophically, there is no difference between an Islamic book that describes a sexual act and a random non-Islamic book that does the same, since in both cases, the reader is made to imagine a sexual scene in their heads. If reading about a sexual scene is sinful, then this means reading many hadith narrations and Quranic commentaries is sinful, since they too describe sexual scenes.

Your child has the right to read the Quran, books of interpretation of the Quran (tafseer), and books of hadith, and you should encourage her to do so, and if she does, then there is no avoiding the topic of sex, since the Quran, its interpretations and books of hadith cover various sexual topics in detail. Some scholars, in fact, consider it highly recommended that the child should be taught all of these things, meaning that to them sex education is part and parcel of Islam.

A person may say that the sexual acts described in a novel might be sinful acts (they might be between unmarried people), and that this makes it forbidden to read them. But this is logically a false argument. The Quran describes various sinful acts of previous nations, if reading the description of a sinful act is sinful, then reading the Quran would be sinful. And if reading the description of a sinful sexual act is sinful, then reading various books of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) would be sinful, since they are full of mentions sinful sexual acts. The reader is expected to understand that it is sinful, and to have their core of Islamic belief prevent them from engaging in similar acts.

A person may go on to say that novels would describe sinful sexual acts in a context that approves of them, while Islamic books do not. This too is an invalid argument. The Quran mentions in detail the arguments of Islam’s detractors, arguments which support disbelief if they are read out of context:

But the notables of his people, who disbelieved, said, “This is nothing but a human like you, who wants to gain superiority over you. Had God willed, He would have sent down angels. We never heard of this from our forefathers of old. He is nothing but a man possessed. Just ignore him for a while.” (The Quran, verses 23:24-25)

If you obey a human being like yourselves, then you will be losers. Does he promise you that when you have died and become dust and bones, you will be brought out? Farfetched, farfetched is what you are promised. There is nothing but our life in this world. We die, and we live, and we are not resurrected. He is nothing but a man, making up lies about God. We have no faith in him.” (The Quran, verses 23:34-38)

Since the person is reading the Quran, we assume that they will also know about counter-arguments the Quran offers. There is nothing sinful in relating a sinful behavior as long as the person is educated sufficiently to put it in context. The above verses relate the sin of shirk (denying God’s oneness), which is a far greater sin than any sexual crime, because it is the one sin that God says He will not forgive.

Someone who reads about a sinful sexual act is not going to be led into sin by it when they also read the Quran constantly, when they have had an Islamic upbringing and have internalized Islam’s values. Any novel a devout Muslim reads is already in proper context, because the context is their own minds, which is already firm on the belief in God and the Islamic principles. Reading a random sexual scene in a novel is only the feeblest challenge to someone’s faith.

I do not recommend letting adolescents read just about everything they want. Reading a book that is designed to be read for sexual pleasure is going to be an insult to the maintenance of Islamic manners in your home, and this should not be allowed. But as for the average Western-written novel, whether you let your daughter read it should rely on what you consider to be in her best interest. Preventing her from reading a book or a category of books she likes is going to harm her faith, because her freedom is restricted in something that is not clearly harmful, and her own interpretation of Islam is discounted and your interpretation imposed upon her, which always has a psychological cost on her and on her relationship with you.

We all want to bring up devout children, and our policies toward them should be geared toward this. If being strict in the Islamic matters of priority mentioned above while being liberal in everything else enables us to bring up children who are more devout and more likely to love Islam, then that is what we should do.

In general, arbitrarily forbidding children things because of a vague potential for harm is going to do more harm than good. I know someone who started to steal from his relatives in his childhood in order to be able to go to an arcade to play video games, because his strict father refused to buy him a video game console to play with at home, since according to him it was harmful. The child was forced to engage in a clearly sinful behavior due to the father’s misguided apprehension of the possible harms of video games.

Whenever you think of forbidding your child something that you consider potentially harmful, always keep in mind that the act of forbidding itself is also always potentially harmful. You must balance between these two concerns. Being too strict is always harmful, and being too lax is also always harmful. One must find a balance. The best balance I have seen is for the parents to focus on the core Islamic principles, manners and acts of worship, then be liberal in most other things, respecting their children’s right to make their own choices even if we are not always perfectly comfortable with their choice. It is in their best interest to feel free and to be treated like respected adults whose choices are respected, it is also in their best interest to follow Islam devoutly. These two interests must be balanced, neither of them should be neglected.

I would never forbid an adolescent from reading a book I would read myself, because there is no Islamic basis for creating such a rule, and it is disrespectful and belittling toward them, and they can probably find ways of reading it out of my sight.

If your child has not read the Quran, books of tafseer, books of hadith and Islamic biographies, then this should be corrected as soon as possible. They should have sufficient appreciation for Islam to follow it in public and in private of their own desire, and if they read or hear anything that challenges their Islamic belief, they should be able to counter it themselves.

If you worry about the influence of the non-Islamic books she reads, you can ask her to read one Islamic book for every few non-Islamic books she reads, or find some other arrangement.

I would have a library in my house filled with all kinds of books, and I would give the adolescent the right to read what they want. As long as they have had a proper Islamic upbringing, as long as they have been encouraged to read the Quran, hadith, Islamic biographies and other beneficial books, then there is no danger in this. I would never forbid my daughters from reading any of the hundreds of books I have in my house even though I may have the authority to do this. What right do I have to decide for her what she can and cannot read? If I give myself the right to read something, it feels highly hypocritical to me to forbid others from reading it.

Saying that she shouldn’t read a book she wants to read will make her feel insulted and belittled. I want to treat her like an adult, like a dignified and respected human, doing that will show her that I am not really honest in that treatment, that I still consider her a child even if I say otherwise.

Is it worth it to do this? Does it improve our relationship and her love for Islam or does it harm it?

My philosophy is that influences should be countered by influences. It is true that most of the West’s media and publishing contain harmful influences.The right way to counter this is to expose my children to good influences, such as from Islamic books and TV shows like the beautiful series The Companions of the Cave, instead of following the futile strategy of forbidding them from all potentially harmful influences, which would cause them to feel restricted and belittled, and which would reduce their love for their family and for Islam. As long as my children practice the core of Islam with understanding, this by itself is a strong influence helping them counter bad influences. And this understanding can only come from being educated in Islam, learning about the purposes of the acts of worship, the meanings of the verses of the Quran they recite, and biographies of the great Muslims of history.

Out of the fear of God, if a reader starts to feel sexually aroused by a sexual scene in a book, they can skip it. What is sinful is intentionally seeking sexual pleasure outside of marriage, and a person can use an Islamic book or non-Islamic book for this purpose if they want, and they can do it even without a book using their imagination. This is a small matter between a person and God, and it is not sufficient justification for forbidding someone from reading a book.

Films are a different matter, because it is impossible to watch a sex scene without becoming aroused by it, especially when the watcher is a young and healthy person. Since a person who fears God can never be sure that God approves of this, they will not engage in it. Parents should make sure that no one under their roof, child or adult, watches sex scenes under their roof, as a matter of maintaining Islamic standards. They, however, should not make a big deal out of this, keeping an authoritarian watch over everyone’s activities. They should put it in its proper context, which is that compared to the important matters of Islamic belief and practice, it is a relatively unimportant matter and no one should be condemned and harassed for it, the same way that if a man sees his son admiring an attractive woman on the street, instead of beating him up or shouting at him, he should gently tell him it is not polite to do that, and that should be the end of it, he should immediately go back to treating him like normal, with love and kindness. The son is treated like an equal, with dignity and respect, not like a piece of property to be beaten into shape.

Summary

In summary, what we allow our children to engage in should be decided based on their best interests. An important part of their interests is to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be given freedom instead of being made to feel oppressed and controlled. Another part of their interests is to ensure that they are not given so much freedom that they develop sinful habits and engage in them without restriction. Good Muslim parents will find a balance between these two concerns, neither being too strict nor too lax, but being strict in the Islamic matters of priority and liberal in everything else, while also ensuring that many good influences are available to counter bad influences, including Islamic books and TV shows.

Adolescents have the right to sex education. There is no conflict between Islam and learning about sex. And just because a book contains mentions of sex is not sufficient reason to forbid adolescents from reading it. Any book we think we can read ourselves, they too should be allowed to read. We should not approve of their reading erotic books or watching sex scenes in films. But we should also not turn these into a great matter of concern. We should instead treat it the same way we treat a son admiring an attractive woman, with politeness and gentleness, without condemnation, respecting them as our friends and equals.

Adolescents have poor impulse control due to a not-fully-developed prefrontal cortex. This means that even if they love Islam and want to follow it, they are more likely to fall into sinful behaviors without parental guidance. They should not be allowed to spend long periods of time in privacy, and they should not be allowed to have private access to the internet or television. They should be treated like good friends who are more likely to engage in minor sins if they are not watched, they should not be held to the same standards as older adults, and if they make mistakes, they should be quickly forgiven and not condemned, acknowledging that they are good people who do not have very good impulse control at the moment, but who will one day have it.

Follow-up Question

So if the child reads a book and the book contains just one scene of sex and there is some love triangles in the book, she can read it, right?

The general rule is that anything you can read, she can read too. As long as her life is filled with good influences, one book is a minor influence and of little concern. It will become a cause for concern if someone constantly seeks that type of book to the exclusion of other books. But if a person reads such books because they are famous or classics, then there is no issue with it.

It is about intentions. A person can peruse a medical textbook with the intention of learning. Another person can peruse it for the pictures of naked people it contains. Since adolescents have low impulse control, you cannot just let them read every romance novel they want, since it can become a habit like it becomes in some people in the West, who use romantic novels as a more refined alternative to pornography. The sexual arousal that comes from reading such books can make a person want to seek more of it.

But if I have a large library and some of the novels are romance novels, and the child likes to read every type of novel, then I will not prevent them from reading what they like. The context and the child’s reading habits matter.

The most important point is that, as a matter of maintaining Islamic manners, no one in the household should make it a habit to seek sexual arousal and pleasure in a non-marriage context. Your son should not be allowed to watch erotic music videos and your daughter should not be allowed to read books designed to be read for their erotic content. But a parent who harasses them by trying to control everything they can see and read is going to do more harm than good.

For the child’s own spiritual good, they should be given enough freedom of choice and privacy not to feel oppressed and controlled, but not so much that they develop sinful habits.

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