IslamQA

Answers to questions received on my islamic-art-and-quotes tumblr blog.

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-owned 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, , 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.

Also see: How Islam Can Adapt to the Modern World: The Persian versus the Arabian Approach to Handling Complexity.

God has not abandoned you: Regaining your sense of purpose when life feels spiritually empty, lonely and 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, . 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, , 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 and Quran-reading

Perform tahajjud at night and read Quran between every two units. The Quran is the most important guide in our lives, because it is humanly impossible for us to remain mindful of all of our duties and concerns. Without the Quran, we end up focusing on one thing and ignoring other equally important things. We may think that being kind to our parents, or being charitable, or doing public service, or performing dhikr throughout the day, is the most important thing in life. We invariably edge toward one or a few things and lose our balance. Through daily Quran reading, we are made mindful of every possible mistake and are reminded of the dozens of things that we need to balance in life to be well-rounded and complete believers. There is no one clever maxim or teaching (“subdue the ego!”) that can replace the Quran, nothing can replace it because humans are complicated and life is complicated and to remain on track and to remain connected with God in the best way possible, we need its thousands of verses to help shape our characters and correct our errors.

For more tahajjud please see my essay: Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

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 that 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.

Also see:

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.

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 nikāḥ 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 nikāḥ ceremony.
  4. The nikāḥ 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 nikāḥ.

Within the Islamic system, people are discouraged to become intimate emotionally before the nikāḥ, 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 nikāḥ.

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 nikāḥ ceremony in front of witnesses, then publicly announcing their nikāḥ / engagement (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 nikāḥ they want to start living together as a husband and wife (without a wedding ceremony), they can do that too, making the nikāḥ the wedding too. In Iran too, sometimes the nikāḥ 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 nikāḥ, 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 nikāḥ, 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-nikāḥ 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 nikāḥ, 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 nikāḥ 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 nikāḥ 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 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 that 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 it 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.

Reader Questions

I thought nikkah was the wedding not the engagement because that’s how it’s done where I’m from. Is nikka interchangeable or ?

Legally once the nikāḥ is performed, the man and woman are married and there is nothing further to do Islamically. But some cultures treat the nikāḥ ceremony as an engagement ceremony and delay the wedding. This allows the couple and their families to know each other better and makes it easier to separate if they end up not liking each other. If the couple separate before the wedding (before the marriage is consummated), the man will have to pay only half the alimony they agreed upon, while the woman’s family are strongly encouraged not to accept any alimony (Quran 2:237).

Having the nikāḥ without a wedding is a great solution for young Muslims living in Western countries. It allows couples to date in a way that is ḥalāl and while enjoying the involvement and respect of their families and communities.

Other cultures perform the nikāḥ and the wedding on the same day. And in some cultures both practices are common, if the couple desire it they have their nikāḥ and wait for a while before they conduct the wedding ceremony, and if they desire it they do both on the same day.

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.

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 necessarily wrong with that. So it is quite true that a Muslim woman can be a feminist and make a contribution to society.

There is a big difference between the old humanist feminism of Wollstonecraft and Stanton and the new radical leftist feminism in vogue today. The old one worked to end social injustice against women by demanding equal rights and freedoms for them. This old feminism is in keeping with Islamic principles and can serve a useful function in Islamic societies, ensuring that women’s rights are not neglected and women’s freedoms not limited due to un-Islamic cultural biases that exist in many places.

The new feminism, which is the doctrine of today’s women’s studies departments at universities, has little to do with the old feminism. It teaches that men are inherently evil and worthless, that men’s thinking is invalid, that the world would be a better place if all men ceased to exist. It promotes hatred and anger against men and civilization, teaching women to feel no moral responsibility toward their societies and to see everything from the highly skewed lens of a mythical war between the sexes. This view is highly un-Islamic, because it does not believe in the transcendent value of human life. It teaches that men are sub-human, lesser creatures, almost worthless. It teaches that a woman’s rights and feelings must be of the utmost importance while considering men’s (and boys’) rights and feelings laughable and worthless.

Any feminist Islam, therefore, must be highly sensitive to the differences between these two types of feminism and reject the new one in favor of the old, humanist feminism that truly believed in equality, in giving back to society, in cooperation with men rather than hatred toward them.

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

Below are my preliminary thoughts on why Islam’s tolerance for slavery is not necessary unethical.

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, reflecting this kind of thinking, 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.

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.

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 the 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 sexual intercourse with their black slaves by the tens of thousands only to refuse to take care of the children born in this way and deny them their right to a family. 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 twenty 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, who at Islam’s darkest hour, when the Muslims were under attack by a large alliance of pagan Arabs during the Battle of the Trench, 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 those convicted of high treason), and their women and children were enslaved. Executing the enemy’s men was done for their treason, this wasn’t the standard Islamic practice against enemies. And it wasn’t the Prophet’s judgment. The Jews demanded that their judge should be a Muslim man from Medina that they liked and trusted, and the Prophet agreed to delegate the judgment to that man. And that was his judgment.

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, hoping to annihilate the Muslims on the one hand, and to take over their wealth, lands, women and children on the other. The risk they took 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.

The main reason for tolerating slavery could be 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)

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, they could have starved, since they had no men to take care of providing for it.

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 without getting anything in return. 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 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 turned into ghettos full of crime, as happens to all jobless and idle populations, and the meme that Irish Americans are dirty criminals lasted for over a century afterwards.

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 is practically guaranteed to cause marital discontent (it is quite difficult enough for a man to manage two wives living under separate roofs). Most men did not have a second home or the income to maintain one. So marrying these women 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. 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 them until it can put an end to slavery.

So marriage was not a practical option. What was needed was a form of marriage that did not strongly 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 probably had them in their own homes, 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’s hand in marriage to someone else as the Christian Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos did when he offered his daughter’s hand in marriage first to Hulagu then to Hulago’s enemies in his attempts to ally himself with the winning side. In such a marriage her own opinion in the matter was ignored, as has been standard practice among large sections of society in all of history, especially among the aristocracy. A concubine did not have to be placed in chains and shipped off in a box. For her this was her status in life, 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, and they perfectly approved of it as long as it was happening to their sisters.

In the modern world, a sex slave is an unperson; she is a non-human commodity used and discarded as an animal. In Islam’s system, a concubine was a person. She had rights, she could own property, her master could be punished for mistreating her and he did not have the right to sell her if he got her pregnant. A sex slave has no place in society, her status is lower than even a family’s dog, because a family dog fits within the family and is loved and is respected. It has a place. A sex slave has no place. She has been dehumanized into an object whose opinions, rights and free will no longer exist. It is as if she is dead and animated by some form of magic that keeps her flesh alive so that she can continue performing her sexual functions. This is a far cry from concubinage in Islam, in which, first and foremost, the concubine has a place in society. She is not an unperson, she continues to be treated like a human. A low class of human, certainly, but still a human; people would treat her the way they treat the extremely poor among them.

In Hegelian terms, the sexual relationship between a master and his concubine is a relationship between subjects, while the relationship between a kidnapper and his sex slave in the modern world is a relationship between a subject and an object. For more on the important differences between subject-subject and subject-object sexual relationships please see Sexual Desire by the British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.

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 (there are many stories of masters who would unscrupulously exploit their concubines and share them with other men, but that behavior is against Islamic teachings.). 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, becoming a semi-wife instead. 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 savages in their dealing with slaves compared to the 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. Muslim Tunisia banned slavery before the United States did.

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 distribution 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 to the tribe. 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 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 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 ideologues 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 him to his own face after he chose 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 professed 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 of 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 the Quran does not command the practice of 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 sexual intercourse 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 have free time in which to work, 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 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 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. 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 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 Islamic 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 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 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, , 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, , 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, , 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, , 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.

Did the Prophet marry a 9-year-old girl? (She may have actually been close to 18)

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 matter at issue with Aisha’s age is the validity of the hadith literature. An admission that Aisha’s age at marriage may have been different from 9 would shake the foundations of hadith science since it would imply that there are false statements in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, therefore the majority of traditionalist scholars are unwilling to go that route. From what I have seen, using traditional methodology, the evidence in support of Aisha being 9 stronger than the evidence against it. Unfortunately I cannot find any source that researches this issue in an unbiased manner; they are either angrily defending the “honor” of al-Bukhari and Muslim (the traditionalist sources), or they mix weak and strong arguments, bad research and a disrespectful attitude toward the scholarly community in supporting a different age.

A minority of prominent modern scholars, such as Ali Gomaa (Egypt’s Grand Mufti from 2003 to 2013) and Taha Jabir Alalwani (an Iraqi scholar who teaches in the United States) believe that Aisha was “in her late teens” at the time of the consummation of her marriage (mentioned in Misquoting Muhammad by Jonathan Brown). So the matter is not very cut-and-dry. The most prominent authority for Aisha’s age is Hisham bin Urwa (her nephew). But this same person is quoted in al-Dhahabi’s Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ as saying that Aisha died at the age of 67 in the year 672, which would logically mean she was born around the year 605. Since her marriage was consummated in or around 622, that would make her 17 at the time of consummation.

Before her marriage to the Prophet, there is mention in authentic sources of Abu Bakr having promised to marry off Aisha to a pagan man (Jubayr bin Mutam bin Adi). This promise must have been made before Islam, because it is highly unlikely that Abu Bakr would promise a pagan his daughter after he became Muslim himself. This means that, even if the promise was made when Aisha was an infant, it would have been made on or before 610 CE (the year of revelation), making her at least 12 in 622 CE when her marriage with the Prophet was consummated. 12 is not much “better” than 9, but the point is that this conflict with the official narrative is sufficient to throw doubt on the whole story. And if we assume she was bigger than an infant, perhaps 3, at the time of the promise, then that would make her 15 in 622 CE at the time of the consummation of her marriage with the Prophet .

The Syrian hadith scholar Dr. Salah al-Din al-Idlibi, he has taught as a professor at al-Qarawiyyin University in Morocco, Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai and al-Makkah al-Maftuha University in Jeddah.

Professor Salah al-Din al-Idlibi is the fairest-minded voice on this issue that I have found. He is a not a liberal Muslim who dismisses tradition, he is a hadith expert who works within the tradition and concludes in a 2018 paper that it is most likely Aisha was born about 4 years before the Revelation, making her close to 18 at the time of the consummation of her marriage near the end of the first year of the hijra.1 Maybe I will translate his paper one of these days, he has discovered three new clues apparently not examined by others.

Another aspect of Aisha’s age is that, due to the Hypocrites in Medina, and later some of Shia, claiming that she was unchaste, there was a strong incentive for Muslims to give preference to any evidence that suggested she was extremely young at the time of her marriage while dismissing evidence against it. They did not necessarily fabricate evidence, but it is possible that there were authentic hadith narrations that supported a different age but that were not written down by the hadith scholars in their hadith collections because they preferred the age of 9. We know that hadith scholars refused to write down narrations they considered “absurd”, even if their chain was authentic. (See Jonathan A.C. Brown, “The Rules of Matn Criticism: There Are No Rules.”)

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