Islamic Question and Answer

Book recommendations for a beginner to Islam

I was wondering if you could please recommend some Islamic books?

Listening to Music is Permissible in Islam

Is music really haram? I’m not talking about the Rihannas “Wild Thoughts” kind of music, more of peaceful piano, flute, violin, ancient music. The kind of music that doesn’t give off sexual vibe and stuff, but the music that adheres peace, you know?

Many Islamic scholars reject the idea that music is prohibited. The scholar Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE, creator of the “fifth” school of Islamic jurisprudence) considers every hadith that has been used to make music haram fabricated, and considers listening to music the same as taking joy from a nature walk.

The scholar al-Shashi (d. 976 CE) says that Imam Malik permitted music. Imam al-Shafi`i says that there is no clear evidence to prohibit music.

The scholar al-Mawardi (d. 1058 CE) says that Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik and al-Shafi`i did not prohibit music.

The respected theologians Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn Daqeeq, Izz al-Din ibn Abd al-Salam (famous Shafi`ite scholar, known as the Sultan of Scholars in his time, d. 1262 CE), Abdul Ghani al-Nablusi, Ibn Qutaybah, al-Maqdisi, al-Dhahabi, Abu Talib al-Makki, Ibn al-Arabi al-Maliki and Imam al-Shawkani consider music permissible.

Among modern scholars who reject the prohibition on music are the Azhar scholars Muhammad al-Ghazali and Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Hasan al-Attar, Muhammad Shaltoot, Ali al-Tantawi and Muhammad Rashid Radha.

The main issue here is the centuries-long feud between the scholars of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence, i.e. Islamic law) and the scholars of hadith. Scholars of hadith often ignore rationalism if they can find a collection of hadith to support their opinions, which is why you have Saudi scholars defending their ridiculous prohibition on women driving. The scholars of fiqh, on the other hand, are well aware of the unreliability of hadith, the duty of skepticism toward all hadith narrations, and the necessity of judging hadith by the Quran, which is why their thinking is far more moderate and easier to accept.

The fiqh scholar Ibn al-Jawzi says: “If you ever hear a hadith narration that goes against common sense and (well-known theological) principles, do not consider yourself bound to obey it.”

I will add to that and say: In general, whenever you hear people say something supposedly Islamic that insults your intelligence, if you do a little research you will find that 1. that thing is not in the Quran and 2. there are many highly respected scholars who reject it.

Whenever hadith narrations try to attach new things to Islam that are non-existent in the Quran, we have to be extremely skeptical toward them. The Quran is the criterion (a word the Quran uses to refer to itself) by which we judge everything else in Islam.

The Prophet himself, peace be upon him, says in two authentic narrations:

“What God makes permissible in His book (the Quran), then that is permissible, and what He makes prohibited, that is prohibited, and what He is silent about, that is out of His mercy, so accept His mercy, for God does not forget anything.”

“God has made certain things obligatory, so do not neglect those, and He has set certain bounds, so do not overstep those bounds, and He has remained silent on certain matters out of His mercy on you, not out of forgetfulness, so do not seek out those matters (i.e. do not argue about them and make a big deal of them).”

A prohibition on music is not in the Quran, which makes it one of the matters that God left out of the Quran intentionally, out of His mercy. Whenever something is not in the Quran, that’s a clear indication that it is not an important matter in God’s religion, and that people should make up their own minds about it, the same way they are allowed to make up their own minds about whether a PC or a Mac is a better computer.

The battle of rationalistic fiqh vs. hadith-centrism continues to be waged relentlessly in internet forum after internet forum, with much abuse of keyboards and caffeine. For a more detailed discussion of the fiqh vs. hadith matter and how it applies to the issue of terrorism and sexual crimes, you may find this essay on my blog helpful: Islamic Terrorism as a Genetic-Cultural Selective Pressure on Muslim Populations

Before people start replying with their arguments in favor of prohibiting music, please know that I am already aware of your arguments, and please see the following (Arabic) essay that has a detailed discussion of the relevant evidence on both sides of the debate:

https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=25

Certain types of music can be considered forbidden due to things associated with the music, but that is a different matter.

How to stop wasting time on social media

I recently made an attempt to stop wasting my time on social media and things like netflix. Issue is, even though i read often, i find that i’m unable to replace that which i gave up with useful substitutes. Do you have any suggestions?

The ability to intentionally choose to do something useful with your time, instead of doing what is pleasurable, is called executive function. One thing that greatly diminishes our executive function is loneliness. This is why someone who cannot be motivated to study by themselves can be highly motivated if there is a friend around they can study with.

To be more motivated to do useful things with your time, find ways of doing beneficial things socially, with other people, or around other people. If you cannot be motivated to read a book at home alone, go to a coffee shop, or to a friend or relative’s house, and try to read there. Having people around you, even strangers, can greatly help increase motivation. Instead of reading Quran at home, going to the mosque to do it can be far more satisfying and motivating.

Another way of achieving the same is to find good friends with whom you speak multiple times daily. Having meaningful social interactions with people on a daily basis is a great way of increasing motivation.

Once you have this taken care of, the usual common sense advice of writing down goals and making to-do lists can be helpful.

And if one’s executive function is diminished, either through loneliness, depression, iron overload, diabetes, or damage to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, common sense advice will rarely have a benefit.

Why must women pray behind men at the mosque?

Why must women pray behind men? Why is it that in Pakistan women have the worst place to pray when we need to pray in public and/or in the masjid? And also, why must men and women be separate in public? Isn’t that inconvenient? What is the wisdom behind all of this?

The wisdom in women praying behind men, which is the same as the wisdom in women wearing non-revealing clothes, is to take sexuality out of public interactions, so that people can get on with their lives and do what needs to be done without male-female sexual dynamics becoming a factor.

Men are designed to find women far more physically interesting than women are designed to find men. What this means is that having the women in front of the men at the mosque will cause more distraction, on the whole, than having the men in front of the women. Since the goal is to focus on God at the mosque, the logical thing to do is to not have the women in men’s sight. Since women do not find men particularly physically interesting, in general it doesn’t do any harm to have the men within the women’s sight.

Some will say it is men’s duty not to look at women lustfully, women shouldn’t have to dress a certain way or sit in a certain place just so that men wouldn’t be distracted by them. Islam deals with the issue on both ends, it asks both sexes not to look at one another lustfully, and it asks women to dress modestly so that if men do look, they do not see much to look at

At the mosque, it adds an extra degree of conscientiousness to have the women pray behind the men, to make lustful glances even less likely, so that proper respect for God is shown at His house.

We are all God’s servants and it behooves us to organize our public spaces in the way that is most likely to please Him. If having the women pray behind the men is more conducive to proper respect for God, and less distracting on the whole, than having the men pray behind the women, then it logically follows that it is best for the women to pray behind the men. The goal is not some power play or show of authority by the men, the goal is to show God proper respect, with both sexes being His lowly servants wanting to please Him.

As for why men and women can’t pray mixed like at church services, it is again because it adds an unnecessary gender dynamic to the act of praying at the mosque, which is unnecessary and not something God wants to be present in His house. Most of us are capable of praying alongside the opposite sex without any issue. But it is better not to mix, and since we want to please God, we do what is better. Amish Christians do the same, with the men and women sitting separately at church.

About separation in other public places, the point again is for public interactions to be civilized and free from lust. Islam has no issue with men and women interacting in public, it only wants to give the best shape to these interactions by removing potentially harmful dynamics. Each Islamic culture has its own way of trying to achieve this. Some cultures take the separation of men and women too far, and others have sensible policies that do not lead to inconvenience. Much of it is cultural tradition, there are no rules regarding separation of men and women in public in the Quran, for example.

I am sorry to hear that women do not have good places to pray in public in Pakistan. This could be a carryover from the past, where women venturing outside was far less common than now, so that there wasn’t much demand for better accommodations for women. Hopefully this will get better with time. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, the malls have large and well-maintained spaces for women to pray.

Patriarchy in the Quran

Stick to posting Islamic art and quotes. Otherwise, go learn about the patriarchy and power imbalances before flaunting your misogyny everywhere. May Allah guide you.

Islam is a patriarchal religion, where men get a degree of authority over their women in their households, and with that authority comes the burden of having to provide financially for all of their female relatives, so that in a devout Muslim society no woman will ever have to work, though they can if they want to.

That authority is balanced by the fact that a woman can get a divorce any time she wants, and she is protected by all of her male relatives against any abuses by her husband, so that if her husband abuses his authority in any way, she can always leave him to find a better man. The Quran calls on men to fear God, to be kind, to be just, and to defend the weak (which includes the women and children among them) but it also gives them authority in their households.

So while in Islam we believe in the equal worth of men and women, and in equal opportunities for both, the fact that God has given men a rank over women in their households is in the Quran, and ignoring this and pretending it doesn’t exist is throwing part of the Quran away because it disagrees with your preconceived notions, because you think your inane feminist-inspired moralizing is better than God’s guidance.

The Quran, 2:85: “Is it that you believe in part of the Scripture, and disbelieve in part? What is the reward for those among you who do that but humiliation in this life? And on the Day of Resurrection, they will be assigned to the most severe torment. God is not unaware of what you do.”

The Quran, 2:228: “And women have rights similar to their obligations, according to what is fair. But men have a degree [of authority] over them. “

The Quran, 4:34: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women [qawwamoon, literally “people of authority who watch over and maintain standards…”], as God has given some of them an advantage [in rank] over others, and because they spend out of their wealth.”

If you have a problem with a patriarchal society, you are in the wrong religion.

I encourage you to learn Arabic and read the Quran to discover the wonders of a society where men are not considered worthless and disposable like in the West, but where they are respected as figures of authority, and where a woman enjoys the peace of mind that comes with having multiple God-fearing men dedicated to her welfare, knowing that she could never, ever be homeless or wanting of food and income while a devout Muslim male relative remains to her, knowing that she can marry and divorce whoever she wants, start a business, or do whatever she wants with her life as long as it doesn’t go against God’s commandments, enjoying a peaceful life among men who like her and respect her and will not let anyone abuse her.

You are free to leave patriarchy, which means all sustainable civilized societies (all societies that have an above-replacement fertility rate, i.e. that are not on the path to extinction like Japan and Western Europe), to enjoy life among some Stone Age tribe where matriarchy is the order of the day, or in the ghettos and trailer parks of America where men belong to their mothers and do not know their fathers, where non-existent fathers make a patriarchy a practical impossibility, since patriarchy means rule of the fathers.

 

/ 1 Comment on Patriarchy in the Quran

Feelings, censorship and gender in science: Is it unfair to say that women backbite more than men?

This is a follow-up discussion in regards to what I wrote in Dealing with a porn addiction.

Brother I understand that you answered that question as best you could, no one should be shaming you because you are offering advice that you could have easily ignored. However I would just say that to just mention how women may backbite was insensitive and unnecessary. Imagine all the stigma us sisters face on a daily basis, everyday we have certain brothers telling us what we should and should not be doing whilst they engage in haram activities. (1)

So imagine when someone asks you about porn addiction that has nothing to do with women backbiting, and even then we are bought into it, I’m sure as an understanding brother you can see. Tomorrow if someone has a problem yet I say “Don’t worry it’s less of a sin as millions of Muslims especially men, don’t grow their beards to the proper length, you are no worse than them”, look how insensitive that seems. I hope I have not offended you brother, it is our duty to guide with kindness and openess

Thank you for your kindly phrased message. I understand what you are saying, and I’m sure you are right when you say you have suffered unjust criticism.

I have never considered women a class, like feminists imagine, separate from men. I consider them humans, my equals, and hold them to the same standards. I don’t walk on eggshells when I discuss men’s problems, and I will not start walking on eggshells when discussing women’s problem’s.

I consider you my equal, and that means we both should be free to speak our minds. You shouldn’t be silenced if you have a truth to speak just because it may hurt some men’s feelings, and I shouldn’t be silenced if I have a truth to speak just because it may hurt some women’s feelings.

It is certainly good manners to not bring up negative facts about someone in ordinary daily interactions. You do not call an overweight person fat even if it is true.

But if I’m trying to solve a technical problem, I expect people to put their feelings aside, to sit down like adults and to discuss the problem rationally, and that is what I was doing in my answer.

If I’m doing a scientific study on finding ways to reduce backbiting among women, would you call it insensitive? I’m sure many would, that it is somehow oppressive and unjust to focus on females, that if I discover a method that works well in preventing females from backbiting, I should shove it under the carpet in case some woman’s feelings is hurt, even if it will do them good in the long-term.

We cannot have progress if we are not allowed to speak our minds freely, if we have random no-go zones where we are not allowed to analyse things in case it hurts this group’s feelings, or that group’s, or that group’s. That’s censorship and regression, that’s not progress.

It is like saying I should not talk about the unhealthy effects of being obese because it will hurt obese people’s feelings. Should we just throw out all obesity-related research in case some obese person comes across it and has their feelings hurt?

I was helping put a mostly-male problem into perspective using a mostly-female problem, as an intellectual exercise. I consider women equals, not superiors and not inferiors, but equals, humans to be treated with the same standards, not to be treated like children, but treated equally, like I would treat any man, and I certainly never worry about hurting men’s feelings when I bring up facts that reflect negatively on them.

If men are unjustly criticizing you, I fully support your right to fire back at them and put them in their place. I defend your right to speak your mind. And I defend my right to speak my mind. We are not enemies, and we are not different species. We are both humans, and we can treat each other as such.

We do not achieve equality by enforcing double-standards where a male speaker is not allowed to say certain things in case it hurts women’s feelings. We achieve equality when no one thinks about their own sexual parts but can consider the problem and its solution rationally, like adults. The speaker says men have a problem with ignoring their wives? Fine, I will try to be a better husband. The speaker says that women have a problem with ignoring their husbands? Instead of getting offended that a person of the opposite sex is pointing out a fault, women can choose to benefit from it, “Fine, I will try to be a better wife.”

This is equality, where I am not forced to treat you like a “woman”, but like a human, and where I do not patronize and belittle you by censoring my speech in case it hurts your fragile feelings, but where I can treat you like I treat any man, expecting you to be intelligent and confident enough to accept it and roll with it.

These are my standards when it comes to public speech. In private one-to-one interactions, it is good manners to hide people’s faults, to not criticize, and to make them feel good about themselves. But in public, for example if I’m doing a scientific paper studying women’s psychology, I will not sugarcoat my findings just because it may hurt women’s feelings, in this case telling the truth takes precedence over being nice.

And as a nice person, I will never mock an obese person by calling them fat, and I will not let others do it if I can stop them. But I will happily continue researching the eugenics of obesity (how genes affect obesity, and how obesity affects future genes) like I currently do no matter how many obese people are offended by it.

In the same way, I will continue to be frank and straightforward when writing about women, since in my research writing, truth always takes precedence over being nice. But when dealing with women in my personal life, I will always be as kind, gracious and uncritical as is required by good manners, civility and Islam.

A reply from a reader

I feel you were wrong in saying that women do more backbiting. Not saying it is in itself true or false ( I really dont think they are any reliable studies) but I think it was completely unnecessary to say it the way you did. You could have said simply that many Muslim backbite it would have been enough. No need to drag women into it. Im not attacking you or anything just saying there might have been a better way to go at it.

If I were a woman and jokingly mentioned that fact, I don’t think anyone would be bothered. The only reason that it is “wrong” is that a male said it. And if I had mentioned a fact that reflected negatively on men, not women, I don’t think anyone would be bothered.

I have never bought into the Western nonsense of treating women like children to be pampered to. I like to treat them like my equals, which means that I speak my mind without bothering what type of sexual organs my listeners have. I consider you all the same, we are all humans.

So no, I don’t think I did anything wrong. Having a porn-watching problem is a mainly male problem, and having a backbiting problem is a mainly female problem. I have heard many women agree with both of these facts. Mentioning both problems together is a very useful intellectual exercise to help put the problem of porn-watching into context.

If I had mentioned a positive fact about women, you wouldn’t be upset. You are thinking like a politician, “he said something negative about my interest group without belonging to said group, which makes it automatically wrong.”

What you really want to enforce is that all men should be able to talk about women, as long as they stick to mentioning positive facts, as long as they maintain a parallel-reality of cotton candy and fluffy bunnies where no woman’s feelings can ever get hurt.

I prefer to speak my mind freely, and I prefer to treat women like adults. I never worry about hurting men’s feelings in my research writing / answers, and I will not start worrying about hurting women’s feelings.

If you disagree with this, that’s your right. I, however, will continue to be as I am, focusing on serving God, and having my allegiance only to truth. If people’s feelings get hurt when I mention a fact like how unhealthy obesity is or how Indians can never compete with the Chinese in innovation, at least not for the next 500 years or so, I’m sorry. I will never mock someone or say any truth that may hurt their feelings in private interactions. But on my blog, where I want to teach and guide people, I will speak the truth, and I will not self-censor my speech like a politician.

If this is unacceptable for you, if you’d like me to hire someone to review everything I say in case it may be considered discriminatory to one of a dozen interest groups, then you are in the wrong place. I have always been a free-speech and anti-Political Correctness activist.

You are right that I didn’t have to bring women into the discussion. It was a perfectly voluntary act on my part.

My mother and sister have a sense of humor and the last thing they would do would be to get upset over what I wrote. I think they have got things right. I treat all women like them, intelligent and confident in their femininity. And if I ever say something stupid or unjust, they will not let me get away with it but will correct my mistake, the way a man would do.

Of course, I won’t go around speaking negative things about women saying that they have to deal with it. That’s like calling overweight people fat, it is rude even if it is true. As I said, in private interactions, I do what good manners, civility and Islam require of me. And in my research writing or answers, I write frankly without bothering who gets offended.

I encourage you to open your heart, to see how an innocently made remark done in good faith and with the intention of helping someone should not be criticized just because a person of the wrong sex said it. Stop thinking like a Western politician and more like a fair-minded Muslim with a sense of humor.

You could say that context matters, that in that particular context it was wrong for me to mention women since I have many female followers whose feelings could get hurt. I disagree. It is my personality to be frank in my writing and to treat women the way I treat men, considering them really my equals instead of patronizing them by treating them like a protected minority.

Dealing with a porn addiction

Tumblr question:

How can I deal with porn addiction?

God will not burden you with more than you can bear. If you cannot stop it, then make up for it by asking for forgiveness, reading Quran, and praying tahajjud.

Always remember this verse of the Quran: “We have not placed any hardship for you in (this) religion.” (22:78).

There are no clear texts (Quran or hadith) that deal directly with watching porn. This is a matter of conscience between you and God. God is a kind and understanding master, and He knows you better than yourself. If you cannot stop, then continue returning to Him in repentance, He will see your sincerity and your efforts, and that is what matters.

Watching porn is less of a sin than backbiting (gossiping about people), yet hundreds of millions of Muslims, especially women, engage in backbiting all the time. So know that you aren’t any worse than them.

In ten years, when your hormones have calmed down, you will find it much easier to resist this sin.

People’s reactions to my answer, and my counter reactions

I literally am unfollowing you just for the way you answered this ask. “Especially women. Know that you’re no worse than them” wow……. 

I’ve lived 27 years in this world and know that backbiting is ten times worse among women than men. I imagine if I said a porn addiction is much more of a problem among men than women you wouldn’t complain :), but both of these are statistics. “No worse than them” meant no worse than all the Muslims who engage in backbiting, including men and women.

I know in the modern culture of what I call fashionable nonsense, calling attention to statistics that reflect negatively on a protected minority (women, racial minorities, etc.) is a big no-no. Personally, I think the truth is preferable to lies, and if there is a statistic that reflects negatively on women, and another statistic that reflects negatively on men, I have no qualms about admitting both.

As a Muslim, I will never, ever deny a truth just to keep up with fashions and political correctness. My allegiance is to the truth, not fashion.

What the?? It completely sounds like you’re belittling the sin and desensitising people to how horrendous it is! It’s like you’re saying “don’t worry about murdering people, did you know that killing someone is less of a sin than taking out bank loans with interest? One day you’ll learn to control your rage and it won’t be an issue for you.” I’m sorry but that’s definitely not the advice to give to someone who sincerely desires to stop. It’s almost like you’re encouraging it.

I disagree. I encourage people to deal with these matters as a matter of conscience, between themselves and God, to read the Quran, and to seek a solution instead of wallowing in guilt and despair. It is a fact that controlling one’s sex drive becomes much easier after the age of 30, there is no shame in admitting this.

One more thing you’re assuming that the person sending you that p*rn ask is a man?? I’m a woman who used to suffer from that anon’s same problem btw! Let’s see how you respond to this 🙂

You are right, I shouldn’t have assumed they are male.

Then doesn’t that mean that your whole argument about men’s sex drive is invalid??

No, it just shifts the time bracket. For men, the most challenging time is their teens and early twenties. For women, it is their mid-thirties. However, female libido is quite lower than male libido, so the most challenging time point for women is actually the same point on the graph when libido becomes manageable for males, meaning that the majority of women will never experience the immense pull that porn has on men:

From: http://geniusbeauty.com

To the anon suffering from p*rn addiction : use a website blocker extension from google&block the websites (or search words) to stop yourself from accessing it(set a long password that you’re not likely to remember then delete the document with that password or ask someone to set it for u)also avoid spending time on your own+stop using earphones&try to find a hobby to keep yourself busy+ make lots of duaa&Thikr whenever you get the urge to watch- it’s hard but making duaa for you- Hang in there

I have been receiving questions about porn addiction for the past 10 years. I have read the opinions of many respected scholars, I have read stories of many people suffering from the problem, I have even gone so far as to read a book on curing it: The Porn Trap.

And what I’ve learned is that that type of common sense advice rarely, if ever, does sufferers any good. It doesn’t matter that it makes sense, what matters is that once it is applied by a real-life sufferer, it doesn’t work.

The solution is to keep one’s faith as best as one can, continue seeking a solution until God gives them one (which could be very different for different people), instead of despairing. And all the while acknowledging that biology plays a key role in this issue. There are almost no 60-year-old Muslim men suffering from a porn addiction, because the sex drive becomes easily manageable for most men after the age of 30. This is a very important fact and it must be integrated into any solution idea we come up with.

Same anon as before this time Im addressing op : I think you handled the ask very badly, it’s a good thing to remind someone of Allah’s mercy and that it’s never too late to repent but you shouldn’t belittle watching p*rn- it’s a HUGE sin not to mention how harmful the p*rn culture& industry and supporting it is, also you’re not the one who decides which sin is worse than other and you’re in no position to judge or compare genders’ sinning in that matter. I must say I’m disappointed, man.

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi says watching porn is a minor sin, and I agree with him. Saying watching porn is less of a sin than backbiting is not belittling it, it is putting it in proper perspective.

Making a huge deal of porn will neither solve the problem nor help sufferers who are doing everything they can to avoid it.

To a Muslim, all sins are great, because they are all betrayals of God’s trust and respect for us. Knowing this is sufficient to make any fair-minded, open-hearted Muslim seek to avoid porn as best as they can.

I have every right to speak my opinion on this matter, and if you know better, you are free to present your evidence.

Islam is not a bureaucratic religion like many people think, where scholars form a priesthood that decides and thinks for everyone else. I can read the texts myself and make up my own mind. That’s Islam for me.

I will never, ever let another person do my thinking for me if I can help it. All authorities, scholars and texts must be questioned to ensure that logic, fairness and truth are respected and that no one gets more power than they need to do their job in serving the community.

 

Managing stress and loneliness

Salam alaykum how may I manage stress and focus on myself, sometimes I feel lonely-no one contacts me I’m ok with it I really need to put myself first

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There are hundreds of books dedicated to those topics, everyone is different so no one solution that works for everyone.

You say you feel lonely. That might be the root issue. According to Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by the renowned scientist John T. Cacioppo, loneliness is a disease. It increases inflammation in the body, slowly blocks arteries, causes diabetes, and leads to depression, and there is no cure for it other than to stop being lonely.

Being lonely means to lack meaningful social connection with others. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely. You can have many people around you and still feel lonely.

An easy way to start solving this problem is to use your tumblr to find people to interact with on a daily basis. To cure loneliness, we need to feel that we matter, that people care about what we do and say. And on tumblr, if you have many followers, as you interact with them, as they read your posts and reply to them, that can give you some of that feeling and in this way reduce your loneliness.

Doing anything that makes you feel cared about, that makes you feel like you matter to someone, will reduce your loneliness. You can do it online, or do it in real life by finding ways of connecting with people.

As for managing stress, one thing that helps is to read the Quran. If you dedicate an hour a day to reading the Quran, slowly the afterlife will start to appear more important to you than the life of this world, and this will make all of your worldly problems appear small and unimportant, which will take the stress out of daily life.

What to do if you have intentionally missed many days of prayers

Asalam alaykum I have not competed two days worth of prayers how do I seek forgiveness/ good deeds and rewards I’m fearful of the punishment I felt lazy them two days that I was staying at a friends house Am I able to make up for it 🙁 May Allah reward you

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Ask for forgiveness and redo as much of the prayers as you can as soon as you can.

Think of God as a kind teacher who wants you to do what is best for yourself. He will not abandon you just because you’ve made a mistake or did wrong toward yourself. He is always ready to forgive you, as long as you do not rebel against Him, as long as you do not make sinning and disobedience a habit that encircles your life.

You will sin many more times throughout your life. What matters is to always return to God, instead of living in sin perpetually, risking the possibility that you may die without repenting.

53. Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves: do not despair of God’s mercy, for God forgives all sins. He is indeed the Forgiver, the Clement.”

54. And turn to your Lord, and submit to Him, before the retribution comes upon you. Then you will not be helped.

55. And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord, before the punishment comes upon you suddenly, while you are unaware.

56. So that a soul may not say, “How sorry I am, for having neglected my duty to God, and for having been of the scoffers.”

57. Or say, “Had God guided me; I would have been of the pious.”

58. Or say, when it sees the penalty, “If only I had another chance, I would be of the virtuous.”

59. Yes indeed! My Verses did come to you, but you called them lies, turned arrogant, and were of the faithless.

[The Quran, verses 39:53-59]

Back to the question of not completing the 2 days worth of prayers am I able to pray now If so do I start with fajr and end at isha or start at isha then finish at fajr? May Allah reward you

There is difference among scholars on what is best to do in your case, since you intentionally stopped praying. As far as I know, there is no clear text (Quran or hadith) that deals with your specific case. Many scholars say the prayers should be redone, with the important exception of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Hazm and some of Imam al-Shafi`i’s followers, who say that when the prayer is abandoned intentionally, there is no need to redo them, that one should only repent and start praying again from that point on.

Personally I would redo the prayers, since it is only 2 days worth of prayers, just to be on the safe side. I would start from the earliest missed prayer to the latest.

If it had been many months worth of prayers, I wouldn’t redo them, I would do the sunnah prayers and pray tahajjud every night for months to make up for it.

The point of the Islamic acts of worship

A question received on tumblr:

What are the importances of acts of worship Prayer, zakat and fasting etc

At the most basic level these acts reaffirm God’s important in our lives. We Muslims cannot ignore God, saying “we have faith” and then go for days without thinking about God. The prayers interrupt our lives five times a day. Fasting interrupts a whole month of the year.

As for zakat, it provides basic income to the poor. If the people of the United States paid zakat, it could amount to $100 to $500 billion dollars a year, meaning that within a few years there wouldn’t be a single homeless or poor person in the country, and every poor person (belonging to the bottom 50% of society) would get a monthly income of $1000 or more from zakat.

As far as I know no Muslim country properly applies the zakat system, which is why there is so much widespread poverty in countries like Egypt. Zakat has to be taken, it is not a voluntary act. Most rich people are not generous and would rather not pay 2.5% of their uninvested wealth to the poor every year, they would rather do as the Jews and Christians of America do, lending their wealth to the poor and charging them 5% or more interest.

In the zakat system, the poor charge interest on rich people’s uninvested wealth, the money they hoard in their bank accounts. In America’s usurious system, the rich charge interest on the poor, to the tune of more than a trillion dollars per year. American taxpayers paid upwards of $200 billion on money borrowed from usurers to pay for government expenditures, which is why the rich and powerful of America constantly want to increase the size of the military and to instigate new wars, such as with Iran and Russia. War requires spending, and the money for it has to be borrowed from the rich, and the interest on that money has to be paid by the average taxpayer.

For the rich, war always means money. Islam breaks this cycle of evil and destruction by prohibiting usury (all charging of interest) and enforcing zakat.

As for other acts of worship, they all have some wisdom if you look into them.

What to do when your spouse is less religious than you

A question I received recently:

I am in my early twenties and have married a woman who comes from a Muslim family. After marrying her, I have found that religion is not very important to her. I had wished to marry a woman who was my equal in faith, so that we could create a faithful family together. I feel like I have made a mistake in marrying her, and I don’t know where to go from here. Why did God allow me to marry her?

My answer:

It is normal to start having doubts after marriage when you have no previous experience with it. Many ideas and assumptions about the other sex will be proven false or inaccurate once you are living the reality of marriage.

Women are generally more liberal than men and laxer when it comes to religion. I come from a conservative Muslim family but I’ve had trouble convincing close female relatives to stop engaging in negative gossip about people (i.e. backbiting, ghaibah). I know a woman who is a civil engineer (so she is educated and intelligent enough to know better), and even though she went to an Islamic boarding school where they recited Quran every night and sometimes stayed up all night for prayer, she continues to think it is her every right to gossip about people.

When dealing with women, always remember Imam al-Shafi`i’s saying: “Be harsh on yourself, easy on others.” You shouldn’t hold your wife to the same standards as yourself, and if she does the minimum that is requested of her by religion, you should be thankful for that.

I grew up knowing many great men in my extended family, highly religious, kind and observant men. But almost none of these men had wives who could match them in faith, and some had wives who only did the minimum and didn’t care about religion at all. This hasn’t stopped them from bringing up good religious families.

In a household, men and women are not equal when it comes to authority. The Quran gives men a degree of authority over women (Quran 2:228, 4:34), and perhaps part of the reason for that is that men are, in general, more observant and more conservative, though a minority of women can be found who are like this too. It is a man’s duty to keep standards high in his household, preventing lax behaviors like not praying, not fasting or eating what is not halal, though he must do this with love and kindness, not with authoritarianism:

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with them in the best possible manner.”1

If your wife does the obligatory deeds (praying, fasting, etc.) and avoids haram (alcohol, interest, etc.), then this is the most you can expect of her, and leave it to her as a free-willed human being to make up her mind to do more if she wants. If she doesn’t do the obligatory deeds or engages in haram, then you have a clear right to give her an ultimatum, for her to come back to the Straight Path and do the minimum of what’s requested of her in Islam. If she doesn’t, then in effect she is refusing to do what the Quran asks of her, meaning that she is denying its truth, and in a way she is a non-believer. There is no obligation for you to stay married to her in such a case.

If she does the minimum required of her, then the Quran encourages you to be patient and to rely on God to steer your destiny for you. The Quran says in 4:128 that when a (devoutly Muslim) husband and wife are in disagreement, making peace is always the best option, and warns them to be wary of their ego’s greedy desire for better things.

One of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) didn’t like his wife. The Prophet told him to fear God and keep her, this advice of the Prophet to him is recorded in the Quran in verse 33:37. The companion (Zayd, the only companion mentioned by name in the Quran) ultimately decided to divorce her. So, while Islam teaches that a man should hold onto his wife, a man’s right of freedom of choice is respected.

A man’s role in life is to acquire worth, marry a woman, have children, take care of his family, and in this way continue Islamic civilization. For this to be successfully done, it is not necessary for the woman to be as religious as the man. Ideally, of course, that’s what we want, but in reality, the nature of men and the nature of women is different, and you will have a very hard time finding women who cares about religion as much as you do.

It is better to be practical. To be thankful for what God has given you and to try to make the best of it. Do your best to be kind, generous, patient and forgiving, rather than judgmental and demanding. Some men mistakenly try to force their women to become what they want, only to give up after years of futile effort. You must learn to trust God and leave it to Him to steer your destiny. If you do separate in the end, you should be able to say “I did my best to make things work, but it didn’t work out.”

I am not saying to be like a feather in the wind, going wherever life throws you. You must rather always face God, working to please Him. You must not face your wife constantly trying to change her. She is only a small part of the big picture. You are a servant of God and you were made to serve Him. He recommends that you try to make your marriage work even if you are not pleased with your wife. Since you are facing God and aiming to please Him, you will be kind, generous and non-judgmental toward your wife as long as she does the minimum that Islam asks of her. Whether you think she deserves this lenient treatment or not, you are not doing it for her, but for God, and you expect your reward from God.

Having an unsatisfactory wife is a difficult test since you might be thinking that maybe this is how things will be for the rest of your life. You do not want to be stuck with someone who doesn’t live up to your standards. You probably wish to get in charge of your destiny, get rid of her and get a far better woman in her place.

The problem with this is that 1. It is not your job to manage your destiny and 2. No matter how good the imaginary new woman is, assuming you can find her and marry her, you could run into new and unexpected problems that could make your life with her miserable, she may develop an illness, she may suffer an accident and go blind, she may have a bad family who constantly interfere with your life.

As a Muslim, you believe that God is the King of the universe, and that He has the power to do anything He wills. He had the power to prevent your marriage from taking place. He had the power to make you marry the perfect woman. But He didn’t. And today He has the power to swiftly end your marriage with little effort on your part, and He has the power to give you the type of woman you desire. But He doesn’t.

It is God who manages your destiny, taking you from one stage of life to another, testing you, helping you learn, helping you grow in wisdom, understanding and kindness. Your focus should be on God, He can take your life anywhere He wants, and He has the power to do it this instant if He wanted to. Since He is not doing it, that should tell you something. You must do your best in the current test you are in, you must follow His advice that trying to make your marriage work is better than separation, and the Prophet’s advice to fear God and hold onto your wife, and leave it to God to change your situation if and when He wants. You must expect only from God and ask only of Him.

You could of course ask, “What if this test is not intended for me? What if I will needlessly suffer for nothing?” If you put your focus on God, since you know that He has the power to take you out of any unwanted situation, then you will know that there is no such thing as needlessly suffering. If you keep your wife for the sake of God, God will reward you for it, both in this life and the next. And if He doesn’t want you to keep her, He will make it easy to separate.

If your marriage somehow naturally falls apart, with both of you, or at least you, trying your best to keep it together through non-judgmentalism, forgiveness and generosity, and you reach an agreement to separate without any negative emotions, without guilt and without fearing that you might be doing the wrong thing, then you can take that as a sign that God approves of the separation.

But if things go along normally, if things are good enough, if the thought of separation contains tremendous amounts of uncertainty, guilt and fear, then that is your sign that it is not time to separate, that if you were to work toward separation, you’d be going against the flow of the destiny God has chosen for you. You can do it, like Zayd did, since God respects your freedom. But it is better for you to accept it and do your best, constantly asking God for forgiveness and betterment. If you reject this test, God will give you an equally demanding test, because God will never stop testing you.

Until the day you die, if God loves you, He will constantly give you new opportunities to prove your patience, your generosity, your worth. If He gave you the perfect life, you’d have no opportunity to prove these things.

What I would do in your situation is this: I would do my best to improve myself as a Muslim, reading as much Quran as I can, praying tahajjud and constantly asking for God’s forgiveness. I would do my best to be kind and forgiving toward my wife no matter how distasteful I find her behavior. I would do more than what is strictly necessary to make the marriage work, for God’s sake, even if it displeases me to do this. I would always try to be the bigger person. I would put my focus on God, recognizing His power to change my wife and my life in any way He wishes, recognizing that all good things come from Him, not from my own efforts.

And if after all of this, I receive a clear sign that my marriage should end (she decides she wants divorce and is intent upon it), then I would do what is necessary in that situation. Maybe you will stay married to her for the next ten years, and after that separate to enjoy the type of life you desire. Or maybe in some years she will change into someone with as much faith as yourself, and then you may be glad that you stayed with her.

So my advice is the Prophet’s advice, peace be upon him: Fear God and keep her.

And leave it to God to take care of your destiny. Trying to steer your destiny is a heavy and exhausting burden. Free yourself from that burden. Enjoy the life that God has given you, do your best, constantly ask for God’s forgiveness, and know that God can put you in a better place anytime He decides. If you want to speed this process up, you can do it through worship, asking for forgiveness, and avoidance of sin.

To improve your situation in life, raise your status in God’s eye, and He will do it for you better than you ever could. Trying to improve your situation in life through your own efforts, rather than through God, will always lead to new situations that are as equally difficult as the one you left.

Patience means to go against your desire for the sake of God. If you patiently keep your wife despite your wishes, you will be rewarded for your patience. Patience might possibly the greatest virtue of a believer. The angels commend the believers on their patience when they are about to enter Paradise, as the Quran describes in Surat al-Ra`d:

22. And those who patiently seek the presence of their Lord, and pray regularly, and spend from Our provisions to them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good. These will have the Ultimate Home.

23. Everlasting Gardens, which they will enter, along with the righteous among their parents, and their spouses, and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate.

24. “Peace be upon you, because you endured patiently. How excellent is the Final Home.”

And do not try to push your wife to change for the better, or to buy her Islamic books, forward her Islamic articles or make her go to lectures hoping she will be better guided. Calling people to Islam should never be inflicted on people. They must seek Islam themselves.

It is God Who guides people, it is not people who guide people. Therefore no matter how hard we try or wish that someone was guided, our efforts and wishes may never come true.

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided.2

God will not leave all the tests to you and neglect your wife. He will continue testing her too to help her grow and to guide her, but the stage she is in could be very different than yours, and the types of lessons she needs could be nothing like you imagine.

Leave it to God to guide her, He will do it in the best way possible.

Why there are so few Christian terrorists

Color me curious. Raised Protestant, joined American Navy and saw the world, the Dome of the Rock is a supremely beautiful building. Such beauty, why NO COMPASSION! by radicals? I don’t understand the mindset. .. Beauty and hate

The issue is not religion, but politics. Radical Muslims are no different from radical communists. They believe their countries are being controlled and oppressed by evil capitalist tyrants, and that superpowers like the US are supporting the most evil governments on earth (such as in Saudi and Egypt), and that the US is against freedom and democracy if tyrants fit its needs better, all of which are true. For example, the US orchestrated a coup that ended democracy in Iran in the 50′s.

Religion just happens to be a useful tool for these groups, as it gives their followers the courage to die for their cause.

You should also not forget that many terrorist groups are funded by intelligence agencies, both Western and otherwise. If you are an intelligence agency looking to create havoc anywhere in the world, Islamism provides a great tool for this, since Islamist soldiers are brave and do not require the payments needed for hiring non-religious mercenaries.

Many in the Middle East consider ISIS a US-Israeli creation made to perpetuate war in the Middle East and prevent any Muslim country in the area from getting too strong or stable. For all we know, this might be true.

Radical Muslims could just as easily have been Radical Christians. It just so happens that the political situation in the world today has made Muslims the underdogs controlled and stepped on by mostly Christian superpowers. Christians too have a long history of justifying mass violence and murder for their own ends, but since Christians acquired supremacy over the earth after the Middle Ages, and as Christian belief weakened, Christianity stopped being an effective tool for carrying out political goals. A hot-headed Muslim is easy to convince that he is being oppressed, while it is a lot more difficult to convince a Christian, since he knows Christians rule most of the world.

Terrorism is not common among Muslims. A few in 100,000 might condone violence. But everyone ignores the remaining 99999. Why aren’t they terrorists also? Because terrorism is based on political ideas that most Muslims do not support.

Christianity can just as easily be used to create terrorism. But since modern Islamic terrorism was created by Christians (such as in Afghanistan in the 80′s) to accomplish the goals of Christian countries like those of the US in the Middle East, it is Muslims who die for it and Muslims who are mostly killed by it.

Muslim countries do not have the intelligence capacities to organize and support Christian terrorist groups in Christian countries to weaken such countries and create markets for their defense and intelligence industries. It is extremely easy to use Christianity to create terror groups, it just so happens that there is not enough money and power to be gained by the world’s superpowers through Christian terrorism, therefore they are instead spending their billions organizing and supporting Muslim terrorist groups.

And if Islamic belief weakens in the Middle East and stops being an effective terrorist-recruitment tool, the superpowers will simply switch to another ideology, such as communism or a modern incarnation of it. They would then create and organize communist terror groups to perpetuate war inside the countries they want, and Fox News will start talking about the dangerous communists next door who hate you because of your freedom.

Horoscopes and Islam

A Muslim should believe or read horoscopes or not? Because I saw a post that says the person who believes in horoscopes is a disbeliever.

Horoscopes go under the category of superstition, since there is no basis in science or religion for them. Therefore a well educated and intelligent Muslim should take them for what they are: Fancy-sounding nonsense that impress the gullible.

However, we should not be judgmental toward those who believe in horoscopes. Even though this is an obvious flaw in their faith, we ourselves may have greater flaws that are not so apparent. Those who take pleasure in attacking the obvious flaws of others almost certainly have similar or greater flaws themselves.

We shouldn’t be quick to say who is a believer and who is a disbeliever. We can say a person who is not thankful toward God is a disbeliever; but we all show unthankfulness toward God every now and then; therefore are we to say that we are all disbelievers? We should not pass final judgment on people, that is God’s job, not ours. A person who has a part of disbelief in him or her may also have many parts of belief and goodness that outweigh the disbelief.

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Should I be a Muslim? Some answers for doubtful people

Below is a question I received on tumblr, I decided to answer it in the article below.

Can you tell me how you know islam is true? I’m considering converting. But I don’t know if I should

To begin, there are two main ideas about how the universe works. The atheist idea is that the universe is a closed system, like a closed cardboard box. Inside it everything happens and nothing that happens inside is caused by anything outside of it. This theory has very important consequences. For example it nullifies the ideas of free will, responsibility, and the existence of a soul. If everything inside the box is caused by particle interactions inside the box, then everything that a human does, or everything that a human thinks, is simply caused by particle interactions, atoms and photons colliding and interacting with each other. When you decide to be kind to someone, it is not because of a choice you made, but because the universe at that moment (your memories, your way of thinking, the environment you are in) lead you to do that act.

The second theory is that the universe is an open system, that the human soul resides outside of it, which means that even though a person is affected by their environment, the part of them that lies outside the universe can act independently for itself, meaning that the person has free will. If we assume this second theory is true, then we immediately need an explanation for why the universe is this way, how it is arranged and for what purpose.

The two theories (whether the universe is closed or open) are rival theories. Atheists believe in the first one, religious people believe in the second one. But the truth is that there is no scientific way (so far) to prove whether the universe is open or closed, therefore almost all arguments between atheists and religious people are futile, since neither side has a conclusive proof. It is also probable that there will never be a conclusive proof (until the world ends).

Assuming that it is impossible to scientifically prove whether the universe is closed or open, we look to other sources of knowledge regarding this matter, and the only source of knowledge available to us regarding the nature of the universe is scripture, which explains the nature of the universe, how it was made and for what purpose.

Atheists have no evidence that the universe is closed, but the religious have evidence (scripture) that the universe is open. Therefore the matter stands on whether we take this evidence seriously or reject it. Atheists reject scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their rejection of scripture is justified. And the religious accept scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their acceptance of scripture is justified.

Science and reasoning cannot help us to decide the matter (since everything depends on whether the universe is open or closed, which cannot be proven by science/reasoning). Therefore, when it concerns the individual, the matter fully depends on the act of acceptance or rejection of scripture.

I have made the conscious decision of accepting scripture, as it explains the reason for the existence of the world, and things like why good people suffer and bad people enjoy life (scripture says this life is a test and the true life is after death, therefore a person’s suffering in this world does not prove anything about God’s kindness or cruelty. A person can suffer for many years, but if they are rewarded with an infinitely long and pleasurable afterlife, we can say that God is very kind).

As for telling whether Islam is the best religion, it is for yourself to decide. I have read the Quran and parts of the Bible and I have read books on Christianity and Judaism. When you look at the most pious Muslims and Christians, you will see that they are extremely similar in their way of thought and behavior. For example the Lord of the Rings, which was written by a Christian writer and is full of Christian ideas of good and evil, could have been written by a Muslim.

Christianity is cumbered by the idea of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Islam simplifies the matter by saying that Jesus was a human being like any other, he belonged to a long line of prophets sent by God to inform and educate people. Therefore according to Islam Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all were sent by the same God to give people the same message (that there is one God and that there is a day of Judgment). Each message was specifically written for its recipients, thus according to Islam Jesus was a Jewish prophet sent to the Jews to correct their religion and remove the various corruptions that the rabbis had added to the Torah (such as legalizing usury).

Christianity too was eventually corrupted, and when the time was right God sent his final message, the Quran, which is the simplest and the most global. The Old and New Testaments are mostly concerned with the Jews, which makes sense since they were meant for the Jews.

The books of the Testaments were written and re-written by humans, thus for example we have various gospels covering the same topics, each written by a different person. This made it easy to introduce errors and corruptions into the text, accidentally or otherwise.

The Quran, however, is very different. It is meant to be the direct word of God communicated to the prophet, and the way it is written, and the language in which it is written, make it very hard to change or corrupt it. It is easy to memorize (since it is musical or poetry-like), and during the prophet’s lifetime many people memorized the entire text, and since then it has been passed down orally until the present day. After the prophet’s death the written Quran was collected and many ancient collections exist and can be read to verify the correctness of the oral tradition.

If we assume there is a God and that he acts logically and sensibly, then the Quran is a very good successor to the Bible, written in a manner that makes it nearly impossible to change. God did not make the other scriptures like this perhaps as a test, to see what humans did with God’s words, and perhaps also because God was constantly sending new prophets to correct and guide people. However, during the 7th century, it appears that God decided that the world had reached a sufficient level of development to only need one final prophet and one final text.

The Quran contains some tantalizing scientific statements that add strengths to its authenticity. For example it makes a reference to the Big Bang (“Do not those who deny the truth see that the heavens and the earth were joined together and that We then split them asunder?” 21:30), and to the stages of the growth of the human embryo (which were not known at that time). However, the Quran is not meant to fully stand on its scientific statements, otherwise God could have provided more. If the Quran contained so much science to make it impossible not to believe in it, then that would be like God showing himself to humanity. In such a situation there would be no more point in having faith; it would be like forcing faith upon humanity, which God does not want to do.

Thus the Quran provides a great amount of evidence for its truth and authenticity, but there is always a little room for doubt. We can never be perfectly sure that scripture is true, we always have to take some of it on faith. Only after death we can find out whether the scripture we believed in is true or false.

I prefer to believe in the Quran rather than the Bible since the Quran is clearly superior. The Old Testament contains many ridiculous things, such as Jacob wrestling with God, which seems to be taken right out of pagan mythology, and the idea of the Christian Trinity is too cumbersome and unnecessary. There is no good reason for God having a son, and this too seems too similar to pagan mythology.

The Quran provides elegant and logical solutions to the problems of the Bible. There is one God, who sent various prophets to guide various sections of humanity, ending with Muhammad as the last prophet and the first global one, meant to teach all of humanity. God does not show himself to us, and he has made it impossible to prove his existence, so that humans can have the choices of believing and disbelieving in him. The reason why God saw it necessary to create humans and this universe is not very clear to us, but if he is a God then he can do what he pleases, and he doesn’t have to explain himself to us. Therefore even though we do not know the perfect explanations for God’s actions, if we believe that the Quran is true, then the only logical thing to do is to follow it to gain a good afterlife. God says in the Quran that his plan for mankind is that they should spread on earth while acting according to God’s commands, and this is basically every Muslim’s program in life: to build a good family and make the world a better place through doing good and avoiding evil (which is very similar to the program also followed by many faithful Christians and Jews).

Muslims and their stance on terrorism and ISIS

I noticed a difference between how moderate Christians and Muslims discuss extremists. Christians will say that fundamentalists like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church are not “True Christians.” Muslims, from what I’ve seen, say that violent extremists are un-Islamic. I asked an Imam about this, and he said that the terrorists are still Muslims even though they are acting in a violent way. Would you agree with that statement? If they are Muslim, what can the community of Islam do to reach out to them?

Mainstream Islam is a very decentralized religion. There is no single authority that people follow, and the leaders of the mosques have no authority, they are simply people who serve the community, and ultimately people feel free to ignore them and think differently. Mosques are not centers of power, they are public service institutions very much like public libraries.

This decentralized nature of mainstream Islam is very important to take into consideration when thinking of anything that Muslims say or do. The various communities in an area all operate independently, and even the community that gathers inside the same mosque. There are no consensuses to be reached, no power plays or efforts to make one’s opinion or agenda supreme over others. Everyone is free to build their own community and to focus on the things they like and to fit the religion to the concerns of their time and culture. Thus the Muslims of Turkey may live and act very differently from those of Malaysia, and in a way every man and woman is his/her own sect and community, free to apply the religion in ways that make the most sense to them. Islam provides a skeleton or framework that anyone can flesh out in the way they like.

In Islam saying someone “is not a true Muslim” is like saying a professor “is not a true academic”. There is no hard definition, and no authority that gives and takes the “Muslim” label from people. Anyone that states the testimony of faith is a “Muslim”, and if they do something un-Islamic, they may always repent. If they break the law, it is job of law enforcement to deal with them.

No pious person will freely make statements about whether a certain person is a Muslim or not, or if their deed causes them to stop being Muslim. It is not our job to judge people, it is God’s job, and the mainstream Muslim community is rightfully suspicious and mistrustful toward Muslims who involve themselves with the job of judging people.

Whether someone is a Muslim or not is a matter of the heart, and we cannot see inside a person’s heart. A person who appears to be the best Muslim may actually not be Muslim at all and may be pretending to be so for his/her own personal benefit.

The common Muslim belief about terrorists is that they are usually foolish youth enamored by promises of glory and greatness. Their leaders or inciters are often or always people working for intelligence services, whether Western or Iranian or Saudi (etc.), using Islamic rhetoric to motivate these youth into carrying out their dirty work for them. Are these youth guilty or innocent, or a mixture of both? I cannot say. They often believe themselves to be the purest in faith and to be doing things that the average mainstream Muslims are too lazy or cowardly to do.

I expect some time in the 80’s or 90’s intelligence services realized that Muslim jihadists are perfect soldiers, as they do not require payment and are fearless, wishing for death. The US made use of them against Russia in Afghanistan, and somebody made use of them to carry out 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, to justify the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. War is very profitable for some people (especially lenders), and jihadists make great soldiers, I expect there are enough people around the world ready to make use of them for their own economic and political ends.

Terrorists are extremely rare, media hyperbole notwithstanding. Even if there currently are 100,000 Muslims in the world subscribing to terrorist ideas, that makes up 0.00006% of Muslims, or 6.6 out of 100,000 (while there are 354 Americans with AIDS out of 100,000). We can say that Muslims have been extremely successful at curbing terrorism. In the mainstream Muslim community terrorists are extremely rare and foreign beings. I have never met someone in my entire life who went on to join a terrorist group. We sometimes hear stories of the type “this person’s friend’s cousin knew a guy who went on to join a terrorist organization”, the stories are usually similar to stories of ghost sightings.

This is not to say that Islamic terrorism should be ignored. We Muslims have double the reason to dislike terrorists and wish for an end to them: their crimes, which cause suffering for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike (the vast majority of victims who have died because Islamic terrorism have been other Muslims), and secondly, the effect of their deeds on the way non-Muslims see us and treat us. While to a non-Muslim terrorism is a distant threat similar to hurricanes, a Muslim living in the West has to suffer daily persecution when he or she is looked upon as a potential terrorist by many.

How do more moderate Muslims attempt to change the minds of terrorists and the “foolish youth” that follow them? Is there an effort to use Islamic doctrine to convince them that violent acts are not acceptable in Islam?

The issue is complicated, therefore many speakers and scholars are silent on the extremist doctrines, except when those who subscribe to such doctrines carry out actual terrorist acts, in which case there is usually widespread denouncement of the act. The main issue is that if someone speaks out against ISIS, for example, he can be easily misconstrued to be supporting the Iraqi or Syrian governments, which are equally evil. Therefore they often see the safe route as simply not speaking on it, or only speaking of particular acts instead of attacking the doctrine.

Another issue is that of jihad, when is the use of violence justified? There are various opinions on this, and many speakers/scholars are afraid to come up with anything new as it makes them easy targets for personal attacks and character assassination (i.e. “this new scholar seemingly disagrees with this respected ancient scholar, therefore the new scholar must have strayed from the right path”).

Scholars are increasingly under pressure to clarify and modernize jihad doctrines to make them fit the modern context. The correct and sensible doctrine is that jihad is simply a matter of states. If the US comes under attack, jihad would be to join the US army and defend the country. During the time of the Prophet when the Muslims did not have a state of their own, there was no fighting, no violence, even when their antagonists did violence toward them. Eventually the Prophet was democratically elected to be the leader of the city-state of Medina, and thus, like any state, it had to engage in wars to defend itself, and thus the Quranic verse (22:39) was sent down that permitted the Muslims to engage in fighting against another state.

Modern jihadists ignore these facts, aided by ambiguous texts on jihad, and say that jihad means to engage in violence against any oppressor, at any time. Luckily the vast majority of Muslims consider this false and corrupt, and thus we see that Muslims around the world follow the law and go about their daily lives. Eventually the texts of jihad are going to be properly codified to outlaw terrorism, but it is a slow process, as scholars do not want to be seen to be breaking away from tradition.

As for how we “convince” people that terrorism is wrong, there is no standard practice. As said earlier, there might be 6.6 militant individuals per 100,000 Muslims. There are 15.5 would-be murderers among a population of 100,000 blacks. We do not ask blacks how the “moderate” among them try to convince their fellow blacks not to commit murder, and we do not ask parents how they convince their children not to have incestuous sex with each other. The question is wrong because it implies categorical guilt and responsibility upon the people we are questioning, for something extremely rare and exceptional. A father is not responsible for convincing his son to not have sex with his daughter, and a Muslim father is not responsible for convincing his son not to be a terrorist, because in both cases it is assumed that the son has learned, throughout his entire life, that incest/terrorism is wrong.

Muslims do not have to teach that terrorism is wrong, any more than they need to teach that the sky is blue. Non-violence is the assumption that governs all our interactions with each other. The overwhelming majority of Muslims never come in contact with a militant person, and so they do not have any experience in convincing people not to be terrorists, the same way that most people do not have any experience in trying to convince a man with a very rare mental illness that he is not a duck.

Muslim children are raised to be productive members of society, to be doctors, engineers and firefighters. They do not have to be taught not to be terrorists, any more than black children need to be taught not to be murderers. The entire fabric of the Muslim community is based on the assumption of peace and prosperity, and children grow up wanting a peaceful and productive life.

Therefore Muslims do not have anti-terrorism strategies the same way parents generally do not have anti-incest strategies. If a person shows militant tendencies, similar to a person showing pedophilic tendencies, family and relatives may seek help from community leaders or therapists. If that fails, if they think there may be a danger to the public from said individual, they may alert the authorities, like Muslims have done on a number of occasions in the US in cases of terrorism.

I hope this answers your question. There is no need for an “effort” to convince people that terrorism is wrong, the same way there is no need for an effort to convince people that incest or pedophilia are wrong. It is taught everywhere in society, every day. We cannot blame society for a pedophile’s crime, saying he did not get the memo that it is wrong. It is the same with Muslim society and terrorism. Pedophiles and terrorists are deviants, and an effort to convince them that what they do is wrong is completely ridiculous, since their entire lives they have been learning that what they do is wrong and unacceptable.

Still, due to the collective blame that Muslims receive, most Muslim writers, journalists, speakers and bloggers have spoken out against terrorism. But they are simply repeating what the general Muslim population says; at dinner tables, classrooms and mosques, and their writings and speeches are less for the benefit of the Muslim community than they are for the benefit of non-Muslims who may be wondering what Muslims think about the issue of terrorism.