IslamQA

Answers to questions on Islamic topics. Ask a Question.

How is isha start time calculated?

How do you work out when isha salah should be prayed?

It is prayed when the red evening twilight disappears, which is around 75 minutes after sunset in many parts of the world. There are certain complexities involved for some locations, you should look at your local mosque’s timings to know the correct time. For more details on how isha is calculated see this article.

 

 

Determining start of fajr prayer in the UK

I've recently started to pray but I'm having difficulties with fajr and the timing. I'm from the uk and at my local mosque fajr start time is 3.05am but dawn is at 4.07am will my prayer be accepted or have I been praying too early

There are multiple definitions of “dawn”. You have probably looked at the beginning of the “civil” morning twilight, which is after 4 AM. The correct twilight to use for the UK appears to be the nautical twilight. See here for more details on the multiple twilights as they apply to London, you can enter your particular city in the search box if you live in another part of the UK:

https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/uk/london

And here is a discussion of fajr and isha times in Britain:

Fajr and Esha time in Britain

Generally the mosques know what they are doing. You could try visiting the websites of multiple mosques in your area, their sites usually show the prayer times. Here is a random London mosque site that lists the fajr prayer time as 3:04 AM (see the top right):

http://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk/

I'm from the uk and rely on a timetable for salah, but I was wondering is it better to determine when fajr starts by looking at the sky? for example fajr starts at 5.38am here but it's still completely dark, and I'm worried I'm praying fajr too early. I've read that the Nautical Twilight should be considered as the beginning of the subh prayer time.

The topography of your location determines how light or dark it will be regardless of the actual fajr time, therefore it is better to rely on the Nautical Twilight rather than relying on the color of the sky. Look up the website of a mosque in your city and they usually have a table of the prayer times. You can rely on that.

Cosmetic surgery is permissible in Islam (with conditions)

What is the Islamic verdict on cosmetic surgery?

There are many differing opinions on cosmetic surgery. Many jurists permit reconstructive surgery (for example cosmetic surgery that removes a blemish caused by injury) but forbid surgery done for enhancement. The reason for the generally negative view of Islamic jurists on cosmetic surgery is a saying of Satan quoted in the Quran:

“And I will mislead them, and I will entice them, and I will prompt them to slit the ears of cattle, and I will prompt them to alter the creation of God.” Whoever takes Satan as a lord, instead of God, has surely suffered a profound loss. (Verse 4:119)

Since according to them cosmetic surgery alters God’s creation, it is a form of obeying Satan to perform such surgery unless it is done for correction, not enhancement.

But the Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi (one of the most respected in the world) has a more nuanced view.1 He believes that the natural state of humans is to be beautiful, therefore cosmetic surgery that enhances a person’s looks is permissible with the following conditions:

  1. The surgery should not give a person an unnatural appearance (thus lip injections that create an unnatural pouting appearance are not permissible). Surgery done by old women to appear much younger or more sexually attractive (such as breast injections) are also forbidden.
  2. The surgery should not be an act of isrāf (wasteful extravagance), where a person who is already good-looking gets surgery done to become even better-looking.

Al-Qaradawi’s view is therefore that it is permissible for a woman to enhance her looks through surgery if the result is tasteful, elegant and not absurd, and if it is done to correct for a natural shortcoming of her looks rather than out of an extravagant desire to have extra good looks.

So there are no hard and fast rules on cosmetic surgery. If a person has doubts about whether their surgery is justifiable, it is best for them to consult their relatives and perhaps a religious authority.

The Meaning of Altering God’s Creation in the Quran

The negative view of cosmetic surgery of many scholars comes from a specific interpretation of altering God’s creation in verse 4:119. To them this refers to any change that is not completely forced by necessity. For this reason they approve of various forms of altering God’s creation while disapproving of cosmetic surgery. Commonly practiced forms of altering God’s creation are as follows:

  • Male circumcision
  • The neutering of male animals, such as oxen, on farms. Farms would be unmanageable without practicing this alteration of God’s creation.
  • Grafting: A tree is altered to bear fruits from other types of trees. This is a widespread practice in farming.

The Islamic approval of the above practices shows that altering God’s creation is permissible if it is done for a good purpose. We can actually construct a new understanding of 4:119 based on this: Satan is only referring to the superstitious and senseless altering of God’s creation, as in when an animal’s ear is slit for no proven benefit–it is done merely out of a superstitious belief that it brings benefit.

So the problem is not with the alteration itself. The problem is with altering God’s creation out of superstitious and senseless beliefs that are presumably inspired by Satan.

Since cosmetic surgery is not done for superstitious reasons but done for real benefits, it could be argued that verse 4:119 does not apply to it. It would only apply if someone performs cosmetic surgery for a superstitious or senseless reason (such as if they were to slit their ear or tongue in order to “enhance” some spiritual quality, or if they were to have cosmetic surgery to make themselves look like what they assume a vampire would look like). Ordinary cosmetic surgery that is done for reconstruction or enhancement is therefore not the type of the altering of God’s creation that 4:119 is speaking of.

However, other parts of Islamic law still apply to cosmetic surgery, as Yusuf al-Qaradawi asserts. Extravagance and self-mutilation are forbidden in Islam, so the type of cosmetic surgery that is permitted is surgery that fits social acceptability and common sense.

On the unreliability of the hadith on Muslims being fated to establish a Prophetic caliphate

Salam. A post in your website titled "The Muslim Plan for Western Civilization" talks about how Muslims should not seek power, and I do found that there is no explicit verse in The Quran that says for Muslim to establish an Islamic State. Back in my times being in a halaqa, there is a hadith that narrates about The 5 Periods of Era (The Prophetic Era of Muhammad, Caliphate, Mulkan Jabriyan, Mulkan 'Adhan, and Caliphate based on Prophethood). I hope you would explain it to me. Jazakallah.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no verse in the Quran that clearly and unequivocally asks Muslims to establish an Islamic state. It also never asks Muslims to seek power. Everything the Quran says about governance is vague and can be interpreted in many ways. Mainstream Muslim thinkers believe that this means that the Quran leaves it to each Muslim community to decide its own governance matters according to whatever works best in their particular time and place. I will be happy to discuss any particular verse you have in mind.

As for the hadith you mentioned, the final part that says “then a caliphate will be established according to the methodology of Prophethood” is narrated by only one person (Ibrāhīm al-Wāsiṭī) whose narrations are matrūk (”abandoned”) meaning they are so unreliable as to be unworthy of being cited. Please see the study (Arabic PDF) on this by the hadith scholar Dr. Salah al-Din al-Idlibi.

So there is no authentic narration (as far as I have heard) that talks about the establishment of a utopian caliphate in the future.

There is a serious problem with hadith narrations where there is a short authentic version and a longer version that someone modified according to their own imagination. For example there is a famous hadith that says Muslims will be divided into 73 sects. This is authentic. But then someone added this to its end: “And all of them will enter the Hellfire except one.” And that completely changed its meaning and turned it into a tool for intolerant groups to claim to possess the truth and claim everyone who disagrees with them will go to Hell (see my article on this hadith).

On Islam’s view of psychology and scientific reductionism

What do you think of theory of psychology like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? Is it worth it to study it to understand human personality or is it just a mere fun and entertainment? Also, how does Islam view the majority of theory of psychology which was born in Western? Thank you. I love your blog!

Islamic theology embraces science because it considers this universe a simulation-like thing that is designed to work according to scientific principles (as I explain in my essay Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template – PDF file). So whatever is established by science will also be automatically confirmed by Islamic theology.

Psychology is like any other science. Whatever objective and verifiable results it discovers will be accepted by Islam. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not firmly established (see the criticisms section on Wikipedia), so Islam’s view of it will have to take these criticisms into account.

Psychology has what is called a “replication crisis” where studies conducted to verify previous studies often come to different results. For this reason psychology is not as respectable as the other sciences and its results should always be treated with skepticism unless some result is validated by many studies.

There is, however, the issue of scientific reductionism which is likely what led to your question. Science tends to treat humans as if they were nothing more than “clever apes”, animals who happen to be intelligent and use language. This view operates under the belief that science can work out everything there is to know about humans through scientific studies.

Islam is opposed to that view. It will accept all empirical and verifiable results of the sciences, but similar to Christian philosophy it views humans as “embodied spirits” not clever apes. We all have an “inner ape” that can be studied by science; this refers to the parts of our biology and psychology that are under the control of physical factors like genes. Islam fully accepts this.

But Islam and Christianity both go a step beyond that: Humans also have uniquely human part that is layered on top of the ape part and that controls it. The uniquely human part has self-consciousness, free will and inviolable dignity.  There is nothing wrong with the biological and evolutionary study of humans, but there is something wrong with suggesting that that is all there is to humans. We believe that humans can transcend their physical limits and overcome the inner ape’s instincts in order to do what is better, more just and more admirable.

The view of Islam and Christianity is that humans have inner apes and potential inner saints. The perfect human in both Islam and Christianity is the one who strives always to embody the divine attributes that are fit for a human to have (generosity, fairness, mercy, compassion, empathy). We believe that all humans have been given a nature (what Islam calls a fiṭra and which is also mentioned by Christians like Thomas Aquinas) that seeks to transcend itself by communion with God and the embodiment of His attributes. This, needless to say, is a far more beautiful and humane worldview than what scientific reductionism believes about humans.

If someone uses psychology or other fields of science to build a theory that reduces humans to nothing more than clever animals, then that is rejected by both Islam and Christianity. But that is not science anyway; there is no proof that humans are merely animals. It is just an unproven conjecture that some people like. As for the respectable, non-conjectural parts of science that are supported by studies, they are accepted by modern Islamic theology and the Christian theology of thinkers like Alister McGrath.

Is it sinful in Islam to not love your parent?

Assalamu Aleikum, i have a question on which i always get mixed answers, is it haram for a person not to have love towards a parent as long as we dont disrespect them? I don’t have a relationship with my father at all and although it used to make me sad it doesn’t anymore because i’ve grown and accepted it. I’m mature enough to ignore his hateful behavior and ideas, he’s a difficult man for many reasons, is it bad that I don’t want him involed in my life without completely cutting him off?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The reason you get different answers is that people have different underlying assumptions. Those who have had great fathers find it unimaginable that one should not love their father, so they think of it as a character flaw.

At any rate, your father’s rights upon you are all material, not emotional. You have no duty to love him, but you have a duty to be charitable toward him, to care about his welfare, to treat him with respect and to not treat him like a stranger. These are all material duties and can be carried out whether you feel love toward him or not. It is actually a greater act of virtue to carry out your duties toward a parent when their personality makes it difficult to love them. It means these acts are done purely out of a sense of moral duty. When you have to force yourself to be kind and generous toward someone that requires a greater effort and sacrifice and therefore comes with an equally great reward.

Bad parents are a test like everything else in life and they are an opportunity for you to prove your virtue to God by doing what is good and right and kind regardless of how you feel and regardless of whether they deserve it.

If you can avoid them without making them feel bad or making them feel excluded (perhaps they do not care anyway), then that is fine. But if excluding them from something is likely to make them feel bad (such as not inviting them to a party), then it is better to invite them and suffer their presence.

As a human you have as much dignity as your parents and you are not required to sacrifice yourself for them. But by sacrificing some of your comfort and happiness for their sake every now and then you will prove your virtue and gain God’s rewards. A person who sacrifices their comfort to care for a sick parent even though they dislike it will invariably have other parts of their lives made easy and blessed for them: God may make their business prosper so that they have all the money they need while they care for the parent.

As a rule, whenever you make part of your life difficult for God’s sake, God will make other parts of your life easy for you.

Making wudu with nail polish: Is it the same as masḥ (wiping over socks)?

With regards to the impermissibility of nail polish due to wudu, can't the concept of masah be applicable to wearing nail polish as well? Doesn't it have the same logic?

Legally ablution by wiping over socks (al-masḥ ʿala l-khuffayn) is a highly specific exception designed to help travelers avoid having to take off their socks. It can only be maintained for three days before having to take off the socks to make ordinary ablution. We can make use of analogy (qiyās) to say that wiping moist hands over nail polish is similar to wiping moist hands over socks if a person takes off the nail polish after three days. The problem is that this is a far-fetched analogy. The vast majority of devout Muslims would not be satisfied with it. The masḥ exception appears to be specific to that case and appears to not have been meant to be extended by analogy to other cases.

I respect minority opinions so if there is one mainstream scholar that says exceptions can be made for nail polish then I would respect their opinion and those who follow it, although personally I would continue to support the majority opinion. But I have looked and have not found anyone who disagrees with the opinion that nail polish nullifies ablution.

Hopefully one day someone will invent a type of nail polish that makes it possible to make ablution while wearing it. I should mention that what is currently marketed as “halal” nail polish is likely not halal (see: Is “halal” nail polish really halal?).

The Quran and the Shape of the Earth: Is It Round or Flat?

There is some propaganda on the Internet about the Quran suggesting the earth is flat. They do not mention that respected and highly orthodox Islamic scholars like Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim all believed the earth to be round. They also refer to a fatwa by Ibn Baaz (a follower of Wahhabism, a version of Islam probably followed by less than 1% of the world’s Muslims) who said that no Muslim has the right to say that the earth is round. To anti-Islam propagandists the opinion and thinking of 99% of Muslims can be dismissed in favor of the fringe 1% since it helps validate their prejudices against Islam when they can focus only on the most negative examples of Muslims they can find.

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi writes:

I was in a discussion yesterday with a young Muslim struggling with his faith. He mentioned that he had read from sources critical to Islam that the Quran clearly contradicts known facts and represents the world-view of its time (7th century CE). And of the most blatant examples, according to him, was that the Quran clearly preaches that the world is flat. Now, I have said and firmly believe that the genre of 'scientific miracles in the Quran' that we all grew up reading is in fact a dangerous genre, because it reads in 'facts' where no such facts exist, and because it posits one's faith on a purely scientific basis (so that when 'science', which is ever-evolving, might seem to contradict the Quran, this will lead to a weakness of faith). Nonetheless, to claim that the Quran preaches that the world is flat is an outrageous claim. In fact there is unanimous consensus amongst medieval Muslim scholars to the contrary.

Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE), wrote over a thousand years ago in his book al-Fisal, "I do not know of a single scholar worth the title of scholar who claims other than that the earth is round. Indeed the evidences in the Quran and Sunnah are numerous to this effect" [al-Fisal, v. 2 p. 78].

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328 CE), someone who is typically accused of literalism, wrote that there is unanimous consensus of all the scholars of Islam that the world is round, and that reality and perception also proves this, for, as he writes, it is well known that the Sun sets on different peoples at different times, and does not set on the whole world at the same time. In fact, writes Ibn Taymiyya, it is truly an ignorant person who claims that the earth is not round. [Majmu al-Fatawa, v. 6, p. 586]. And there are many others scholars, such as al-Razi, who wrote on this subject, and I do not know of any medieval scholar who held another view.

It is true that most of the Quranic verses on this issue are vague; there is no strong proof one way or another. There are verses like the following which could be referring to a flat earth or they may just be using literary language to speak of God’s active and highly thoughtful and considerate involvement in the design of the earth for the specific benefit of humans:

15:19 And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.

20:53 He Who has, made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky.” With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others.

43:10 (Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);

50:7 And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)

The Quran says:

"He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night." (Surah az-Zumar 5)

The word used for “wrap” is kawwara, which is used in Arabic to refer to wrapping something around a spherical thing, such as wrapping a turban around the head. The Arabic word for ball is kura, from the same root. In Arabic all words belonging to the same root have a similar theme to them; when the Quran says the night is wrapped around the day and uses kawwara, this creates the image of darkness overcoming a spherical thing in the mind. It is extremely silly to say there is no suggestion of the earth’s roundness in this verse.

The Quran also uses daḥāhā (”he threw it in a rolling motion”) in verse 79:30  to refer to God creating earth in space. The Meccan children used to play a game with stones similar to marbles that they called al-madāḥi (from the same root as daḥāhā). The root of this word brings up the image of a stone rolling, which is again in consonance with a round earth.

In another place, 41:11, it speaks of interstellar dust gathering to form the earth. It also speaks of the expansion of the universe:

We constructed the universe through power, and We are expanding it. (Verse 51:47)

A fair-minded reader of the Quran will find in it some incredibly suggestive hints toward its truth (such as the strange mention of the expansion of the universe) while not finding anything in it that clearly and unequivocally says the earth is flat. A person who starts out by thinking the earth is flat can certainly re-interpret everything in the Quran to make it support their theory. But such a person’s opinion stands against the opinion of the vast majority of scholars, who also studied the Quran and found it to support a round earth theory.

The flat earth issue in Islam is therefore made up of a fringe group of Islamic scholars, atheists and anti-Islam propagandists saying the earth is flat, and 99% of the world’s Muslims since the Middle Ages saying the earth is round.

What is there to do if you suffer because someone you love is far away from God?

Assalamualaikum... what should I do if I care so much about someone’s relationship with Allah ‪ﷻ‬ that it brings me depression because that someone is too far away from Him? I’m trying to help but I can’t, and I can’t bear this sadness either. Should I keep trying or should I take a step back? I can try again because that someone means a lot to me, but it affects my whole mood... i don’t know what to do. Jazakum Allah khairan

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That is a difficult situation to be in and sadly there is no solution besides being patient. The Prophet sometimes strongly desired for someone to become a believer, but the Quran always reminded him that guidance was up to God:

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided. (The Quran, verse 28:56)

Perhaps you may destroy yourself with grief, chasing after them, if they do not believe in this information. (The Quran, verse 18:6)

3. Perhaps you will destroy yourself with grief, because they do not become believers.4. If We will it, We can send down upon them a sign from heaven, at which their necks will stay bent in humility. (The Quran, verse 26:4)

Being attached to the idea of a person becoming a better believer is like any other worldly attachment. It is only through remembering God and attaching ourselves to Him that our attachment to the worldly life is weakened. So when it comes to anything that gives you suffering in this life, even if it is the desire for someone to become a better Muslim, the way to reduce this suffering is to get closer to God. The closer you feel to Him, the easier it is to deal with life’s difficulties because they lose their power over us. I recommend spend an extra hour every night in tahajjud to everyone who wishes to feel constantly close to God. Check out my essay Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice.

Doing things with the specific purpose of causing someone to become a better Muslim can actually backfire. It will likely be considered insulting by the person, because they want freely choose their own course in life. They do not want someone else to force them to have a specific course. For this reason I recommend that you focus on your own faith and do not pressure them at all to change. The best way to influence others to become better is to be an extraordinary example yourself. If people see in you extraordinary kindness, generosity, selflessness and acceptance toward others, and if they also see that you are dedicated to your faith and perform much extra worship, then these can strongly encourage them to emulate you.

Ideally, it is best not to attach our hearts to anyone becoming better, because there is no guarantee that it will ever happen. It is much better to attach our hearts to God and leave it to God to guide people if and when He wants.

Is it permissible for a man to marry if he needs his wife’s and relatives’ financial help?

Assalaamu 'Alaikum, In cities and towns with ridiculously high rent and living costs, young Muslim men are doomed. Apparently they're not allowed to marry if they cannot fully financially support the wife? If that's true, then how would one reconcile him now being exposed to immense fitnah (since they may have a women they love for marriage but dont financially qualify for nikah)? What if the couples' parents are willing to support the couple until the man can move out and provide for his wife?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The requirement that you should be able to support a wife means that legally she is entitled to sue you in court if you do not provide for her. But this does not mean that you cannot reach alternative arrangements with her as long as it is consensual. If she is willing to work to contribute financially to the marriage of her own free will temporarily until you can get a better job or a promotion, then she can do that and Islam does not prohibit it. In such a case her contributions would be legally considered charity from her to you, since it is not her legal obligation. But realistically since she is contributing to the good of both of you, in order to attain something both of you desire, it is not mere charity. But the law requires to define things , so according to the law it is charity. She can also give the money as a loan to you that you write down and pay back later in life, some men may prefer an arrangement like this. And in some cultures it is very common and natural for a woman to work and contribute to family finances without considering it an act of charity or a loan, and that is fine. If she is happy with such an arrangement then that satisfies Islamic law.

And if you need your parents’ help to make ends meet, then that is fine too as long as this is agreed upon by everyone involved.

When it comes to marriage, Islamic law only defines what you can sue your spouse for in court. It does not prohibit you from using your common sense and conscience to do what works better for the two of you as long as no duplicity or force or oppression is involved.

A woman’s prayer is still valid if part of her hair is unintentionally uncovered

The prayer is still valid and does not have to be redone.

According to Ibn Taymīya the prayer is only nullified if two conditions are true: if a highly inappropriate amount of the ʿawra (the part of the body that must be kept covered during prayer) is shown, and if that goes on for a long time (for the duration of the prayer or for most of it). Since a little hair is not a highly inappropriate amount, the first condition is not satisfied, so the prayer is still valid.

According to the Jordanian fatwa authority (representing the Shāfiʿī school, which is very strict in such matters), if the uncovered area is not immediately covered, the prayer is nullified.

According to the Egyptian fatwa authority (generally representing the opinions of the scholars of Al-Azhar University) the prayer is still valid as long as the area shown is not too much and as long as it is not out of gross negligence.

A fatwa on IslamWeb (managed by Qatar’s fatwa authority) dealing specifically with the issue of a woman unintentionally having some of her hair out during the prayer rules that it does not nullify the prayer even if it goes on for “a long time”, meaning for the duration of the whole prayer.

References (all in Arabic): Ibn Taymīya’s opinion | The Jordanian fatwa | The Egyptian fatwa | The Qatari fatwa

Can faith in God help you succeed in your studies even if you do not study enough?

Assalamualaikum,is it possible if someone has studied hard but probably not enough,but has full faith towards Allah to be a successful person?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Even if you do all the right things to be successful, “chance” or God’s decree (qadar) can make you unsuccessful. And even if you get everything wrong, God can still give you success. This is known as fatalism, the belief that nothing you do matters because you are not in charge anyway.

Islam’s view is not fatalism but what might be called dynamism. All of life is a conversation between you and God. You do something, God responds with something. You exert your sincere effort, God adds His own power and facilitation to it so that you end up being successful even though your effort wasn’t exactly enough. God is your rabb (master and mentor) who does not merely lord it over you asking you to do things for Him. He mentors you by constantly offering you choices and seeing what you do. If you live up to the highest ideals that He teaches you, He will reward you by raising your station in life and giving you a blessed and meaningful life.

So you are required to do your best while relying on God to help you whenever you fall short.

Dealing with missing someone after a breakup

Assalamualaikum,what do we do when we miss someone so dearly,It just literally kills us on the inside,I wanted him to make me halal but he rejected me in a kind way

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Tragic life events such as breaking up with someone we love will invariably cause us to suffer. There is no way to avoid this suffering. It is a fact of human life that what brings us joy can also bring us great suffering. As believers, when faced with any hardship in life, we seek cures through spiritual or through material means. The best way is to try to combine both. Spiritually, by staying close to God and putting your focus on Him, the concerns of the worldly life will start to feel less important. I recommend dedicating an extra hour every day to worship to those who wish to always stay close to God. Closeness to God is something that requires daily work. Every day the life of this world takes us away from God and every day we must work to go back to Him through our worship. See my essay Mysticism without Sufism on the type of extra worship I recommend.

As for the material side, the best way to get over a breakup (assuming reconciliation is not possible) is to be in a new relationship. Of course this can be very difficult to consider when you are still in love with that person. All of us have an empty place in our hearts that is filled with the person we love, and when that person is taken away from us, we will continue to suffer feelings of loss until that empty place is filled again with something or someone else. A small number of people are able to use their loss to elevate them spiritually so that God starts to fill that place for them. But the majority of people are not able to achieve that and require the love of a new person to fill that place for them.

For that reason, difficult as it may be to consider, I recommend that you seriously consider a new relationship. Humans are designed to fall in love with any reasonably kind and attractive person of the opposite sex that they happen to interact with a lot, so if there are any decent men interested in marrying you then you should consider them. If you are both spiritual and kind to each other then it will be extremely difficult not to fall in love with each other sooner or later. This is what I have seen everywhere in the Middle East. Couples of the older generation often had their marriages arranged for them, yet the spiritual among them are almost all deeply in love with their spouses. And I don’t see how it can be otherwise. Men and women who have open hearts find it very easy to fall in love since their hearts are not blocked by hatred, selfishness or egotism. The purity of their souls makes them assume the best about their spouses and makes them love them for who they are rather than loving them only for how they make them feel, and in this way the constantly fall in love with each over and over again.

To summarize, the spiritual solution is get closer to God, and the material solution is to find someone new to love. If you remain single then it will be very difficult to get over that person. It will not be impossible, but it will require that you exert immense efforts at filling up that empty place with love for God and with focus on other things (such as your family). But a new relationship can make things very easy for you provided that you and the new person are both spiritual and do not set overly high expectations of each other.

Best wishes inshaAllah.

It is permissible for menstruating women to enter mosques and to stay there for lectures

A fatwa from the Palestinian scholar Dr. Husam al-Din Afana, professor at Jerusalem University [view Arabic original]

Question: Is it permissible for a menstruating woman to enter a mosque to attend a lecture?

According to most jurists it is impermissible for a menstruating woman to enter mosques and their main evidence against it is the hadith from Aisha that the Prophet said: “The mosque is not halal for a menstruating woman or for a ritually impure [junub] person.” (Narrated by Abu Dawud and Ibn Maja). There has been much debate about this hadith’s chain of narrators, as will be explained.

Some jurists also used the following verse as evidence against allowing menstruating women to enter mosques:

O you who believe! Do not approach the prayer while you are drunk, so that you know what you say; nor in a state of ritual impurity—unless you are travelling... (The Quran, verse 4:43).

Despite the fact that this verse does not specifically mention menstruation, they related it to ritual impurity.

Another group of jurists has the opinion that it is permissible for for a menstruating woman to enter mosques. This was the opinion of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal according to a saying of him narrated by al-Muzani, the companion of Imam al-Shafi`i. Imam Dawud and Ibn Hazm, both of whom belong to the Zahiri school of thought, also share this opinion.

Sheikh Husam al-Din Afana (center)

Imam Ahmad says in a different narration that it is permissible for a menstruating woman to enter a mosque if she performs ablution and is sure that she will not have any accidents. See the Insaf, volume 1, p. 347.

The hadith scholar Sheikh Nasir al-Din al-Albani preferred this opinion as mentioned in his Tamam al-Minna, p. 119. I find this view the most satisfactory, therefore my view is that it is permissible for a menstruating woman to enter a mosque to attend lectures.

The evidence for this view is as follows:

1. Original purity: The basic principle is that entering mosques is forbidden to no one. There is no clear and explicit piece of evidence that prohibits menstruating women from entering mosques. Imam al-Nawawi says: “The best that this school of thought directs one to is that the basic principle is non-prohibition. A person who says it is forbidden does not have a clear and explicit piece of evidence.” (Al-Majmu`, vol 2, p. 160)

Sheikh al-Albani says: “Our view on this question is the same as on the issue of touching the Quran in a state of ritual impurity; which is to assume purity by default, and to recognize that there is no evidence to prohibit it, as Imam Ahmad and others have said.” (Tamam al-Minna, p. 119).

2. There is a great deal of disagreement on the hadith that the majority has used as evidence, which says “The mosque is not halal for a menstruating woman or for a ritually impure [junub] person.” That is because its narrator is Aflat bin Khalifa from Jasra (?) bint Dujaja, both of whom are considered unreliable [da`eef] by many hadith scholars, such as al-Khattabi, al-Bayhaqi, Abd al-Haq al-Ishbili and Ibn Hazm. It is also related from Imam Ahmad that he considered them unreliable.

Imam al-Baghawi says: “Imam Ahmad and al-Muzani considered it permissible to stay in there [i.e. at a mosque] and Ahmad considered the hadith unsound [da`eef] because its narrator, who is Aflat bin Khalifa, is unknown [majhul] and he interpreted the verse [4:43] as referring to travelers who need to make dry ablution [tayammum] in order to pray, as has been narrated from Ibn Abbas.” (Sharh al-Sunna, vol 2., p. 46).

Imam al-Albani mentions that

Al-Bayhaqi says it is not a strong [narration]."

Abd al-Haq al-Ishbili says [regarding the hadith]: "It is not proven [to be sound]." Ibn Hazm goes to an extreme, saying: "It is baseless."

The hadith has two supporting narrations [shawahid] that do not increase its soundness because their chains contain wholly unreliable narrators. (Tamam al-Minna, p. 119)

Al-Albani also mentions it as unsound in Irwaa’ al-Ghalil vol. 1, p. 162.

Imam al-Nawawi considers the hadith unsound in his book Khulasat al-Ahkam, where he includes this narration among the unsound narrations that relate to the issue of ritual impurity and menstruation. (Khulasat al-Ahkam, vol. 1, p. 206-210).

Ibn Hajar says regarding Aflat bin Khalifa that he is of unknown reliability. (al-Talkhis al-Habir, vol. 1, p. 140).

Al-Khattabi says: “They [referring to previous hadith scholars] considered this hadith unsound and said that its narrator Aflat is unknown, therefore the hadith is not fit to be used in evidence.” (Ma`aalim al-Sunna, vol. 1, p. 67.)

He also considered the hadith, as it is narrated in Ibn Maja’s collection, to be unsound, saying: “Its chain of narrators is unsound because Makhduj’s reliability is not verified, and Abu al-Khattab is unknown.” (Sunan Ibn Maja, vol. 1, p. 212)

Imam al-Bukhari mentions in his al-Majmu` (vol. 2, p. 160) that “Jasara has some strange narrations,” a statement that has been considered by many scholars as a judgment of unsoundness about this hadith.

Ibn Hazm considered the hadith unsound in all of its narrations, saying [regarding the narrators]: “All of this is baseless, for Aflat has little fame and his reliability is unknown,  while Makhduj’s hadiths are to be abandoned since he narrates riddles from Jasara. And Abu l-Khattab al-Hijri is unknown, while Ataa’ bin a-Khaffat is Ataa’ bin Muslim whose hadiths are munkar [questionable]. Isma`il is unknown and Muhammad bin al-Hasan has been called a liar and Kathir bin Zayd likewise. Therefore everything in this hadith is fasle.” (Al-Muhallaa, vol. 1, p. 401)

It should however be mentioned that many scholars considered this hadith hasan [not reaching the level of soundness, but considered to be worth narrating]. See Nasb al-Raaya, vol. 1, p. 194.

3. What strengthens the opinion on permitting menstruating women to enter mosques is the general meaning of the Prophet’s saying : “Muslims never become najis [ritually polluted].” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

4. Another fact that supports permissibility is that the scholars permit non-believers to enter mosques whether male or female. A Muslim should be given preference even if ritually impure, and a Muslim woman, even if menstruating, over non-believers.

5. Another fact that supports permissibility is what al-Bukhari and Muslim narrate in the story of the black woman who used to live in a tent inside the mosque of the Prophet .

In short, it is permitted for menstruating women to enter mosques seeking knowledge if they are sure not to cause the mosque to become dirty, since women have a crucial need for knowledge and learning about religion.

This is a shortened and paraphrased translation.

Why are Muslim men so judgmental about what a woman wears?

This is a topic that really gets on my nerves but I need an insight from a males perspective. Why is it Muslim men are the first ones to criticise Muslim women? Whether it be about how's she's dressed or how her hijaab is worn. I just feel that the majority of men do it as a control thing.

That is not really about religion but about good manners. You will never find a devout middle class Iranian or Egyptian man or middle class European convert to Islam who has a disrespectful attitude toward women. Their families have brought them up to have good manners.

But when it comes to Muslim men who have never learned good manners, for them religion often becomes an arena for what we might call “virtue signalling”, where outward appearances of faith make up most of what matters to them. To such men it is “obvious” that there is something wrong with a woman who fails to engage in the virtue signalling that they think is so important, and so they criticize her.

And it is not just a problem with men. I have often heard Muslim women criticize other women in a similar manner. Generally if a man is the type of person to do that, the women in his family will also do it. The problem is with the entire family’s manners.

Your low iman may actually be depression

assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh brother I hope you are well in sha Allah. I have recently been experiencing very low imaan, to the point where I no longer feel like praying. I don't know why but my salah feels empty, there's been a couple of times where I've purposely missed my prayers. I don't even make dua anymore either and this worries me. What can I do to fix this? I'm scared of displeasing Allah but at the same time I don't want to pray I just have to force myself.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

In my experience when Muslims speak of “low iman” it is not actually a problem with their faith, it is just that they are depressed and their depression makes them feel abandoned and unspiritual.

If you think you are depressed, then remind yourself that it is your psychology that has changed, not your relationship with God. Even if you get no satisfaction out of the acts of worship, continue to perform them as a proof of your faith in God. It is good to worship God when it makes you feel good. But it is even better to worship Him when you have to force yourself to do it, because remaining steadfast despite difficulties and turmoil is what distinguishes the best believers from the average ones.

If you feel as if God dislikes you and has turned away from you then realize that this is just your depression making you think these thoughts. Always think of God the way He describes Himself (the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful), regardless of how you feel. A saint is just someone who has reached a state where nothing that God does to them will reduce their love for Him. Even though they know that God is fully in charge of the universe, when they suffer they do not blame God for it and they never think negative thoughts about Him. They keep facing Him and striving toward Him regardless of what storms He sends their way, knowing that He is only giving them opportunities to prove their love for Him.

For more on getting back on the right track when you feel that your faith is low please see my essay: God has not abandoned you

You may also be interested in my essay:  Islam and Depression: A Survival Guide

The morality of sharing music on social media

Assalamualaikum, I saw a thread on twitter that said things like sharing music for example is a sin that will accumulate even after you die? Because people will still listen or share it once you're gone and you're responsible for that. Atm I follow the consensus that listening to music as long as it's not excessive or dirty is fine. But what is your thoughts on this? What hadiths are there about sins which carry on after you die? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran says:

So let them carry their loads complete on the Day of Resurrection, and some of the loads of those they misguided without knowledge. Evil is what they carry.

The Prophet repeats the same message in this hadith:

He who called (people) to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who called (people) to error, he shall have to carry (the burden) of its sin, like those who committed it, without their sins being diminished in any respect. (Sahih Muslim 2674)

As far as I can find there are no explicit hadiths that deal with the issue of sins that continue to harm a person after death. But from the above, and from narrations that talk about good deeds that continue to benefit a person’s record after death, scholars conclude that bad deeds that continue to exert their efforts after one’s death will continue to harm that person’s record too.

Music is merely a set of ordered sounds, similar to speech (and similar to the songs of birds). And similar to speech, it is neither good nor bad by itself. It is only once we examine its purposes, effects and uses that we can decide whether it is a good thing or bad thing. Sharing music on social media is therefore similar to sharing anything else, such as a speech, picture or quotation.

Music that is beautiful (such as some classical Western or Middle Eastern music) carries a positive value according to Islamic aesthetics, meaning that it is not just morally neutral, it is morally good and beneficial. (See my essay Beauty as Pointer: An Islamic Theory of Aesthetics). There is also music that is neutral or negative in its value. Most pop music combines both music and poetry of negative value to create a message that positively goes against a pious and God-fearing state of mind.

There are also types of music that serve a utilitarian purpose, such as upbeat music for exercising. There is nothing wrong with that.

For more on music please see my article: Listening to Music is Permissible in Islam

What is the best way to avoid habitual sins?

Assalamu’alaykum, I wanna ask how to find myself and get back on the right path back? Im lost. Like so lost. Ive been feeling so tired with life and everything but i still keep on sinning. Like why is it so hard for me to understand that this life is temporary. Im sorry im emotional. I just needed to let this thing out. Can you please make dua for me. I just want to be a good servant of Allah ((you dont have to reply)) thank you. May Allah bless you.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

You cannot stop sinning just by wishing for it or by trying to use your willpower. That never works. You must instead try to become the type of person who needs no effort to avoid sins. And this can only be achieved by setting aside an hour or so every day for extra worship (Quran-reading and praying).

Being unable to stop sinning is a sign that you are distant from God. The sinning is just a sign of a bigger problem. And the solution is to come closer to God. Once you achieve this, you will automatically avoid sinful things without having to think about it. Stop worrying about sins (God forgives all sins) and start worrying about your relationship with God.

For more details please see my essay God has not abandoned you

Best wishes.

Can one unknowingly associate partners with God?

Salam, I asked about the false idols. Sorry if you already explained this in the first answer, but I was reading commentary of Surah Baqarah v22 which mentions false idols. It says "Will you still resist and go after your false gods, the creation of your own fancy? The false gods may be idols, superstistions, self or even glorious things like Poetry, Art or Science. When set up as rivals to Allah" Does this mean as long as it doesnt interfere with religious duties you can still love such things?—and just to add on to the false idols questions how can you be sure you’re not setting up rivals to Allah swt unknowingly? Jazak Allah Khairun.

—and just to add on to the false idols questions how can you be sure you’re not setting up rivals to Allah swt unknowingly? Jazak Allah Khairun.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran says:

Be pious according to the best of your ability. (The Quran, verse 64:16)

The Quran never asks us to be super-human. It acknowledges our humanity while always asking us aim for a higher ideal.

Thinking in terms of whether you are setting up rivals to God or not, as if it is an either/or situation, is an incorrect way of thinking. You should think of the matters in terms of how close to God you are or how faraway you are from Him. It is not a black and white issue, it is a spectrum. The closer you are to God, the less important worldly concerns become, while the more distant you are from God, the more important the worldly life becomes until, at some point, one can honestly say that you are setting up rivals to God, for example by worshiping fame or money.

It is also important to keep in mind that God guides those who sincerely seek Him. Some people mistakenly think that since there are a million ways one could go wrong and only one “truth”, this must mean that being rightly guided is extremely difficult and unlikely. The reality is quite the opposite. God exists, He is present in our lives, and every day He presents us with dozens of opportunities to come closer to Him. At the beginning of every book of Quran we see this verse:

This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guide for the righteous. (The Quran, verse 2:2)

This verse makes it sound like you need to be righteous first before you can be guided by the Quran. Many verses make similar statements, for example:

and He guides to Himself whoever repents. (The Quran, verse 13:27)

The truth is that the more you try to be good, the more God increases you in guidance by causing you to run into exactly the right circumstances or individuals to help you come even closer to Him.

Setting up rivals to God is not like a well that you can fall into when you are not looking. If you are always trying to stay close to God and seek Him with all your heart, then you can be assured that He will not let you unknowingly fall into a gross error like worshiping something besides Him without realizing it. Every effort you make toward Him will by rewarded by Him with an increase in your knowledge and guidance. God is like a mentor who constantly teaches us and correct us, every hour of every day.

Best wishes.

The Muslim view of Orientalists

Brother, I've heard that orientalists are westerners studying Islam and their purpose is to cause distortion of knowledge among people about Islam. My question is, what orientalists really are and for what purpose do they study Islam? Thank you.

“Orientalist” is a word that was used to refer to Western scholars of Islam until the middle of the 20th century. It is true that some Orientalists had negative views of Muslims and this affected their research. But on the whole, Orientalists were like any group of Western academics (social scientists, historians), trying to objectively study Islam. The work of Orientalists was perhaps the greatest contribution to the field of Islamic studies in the 20th century. They helped solve various mysteries that Islamic scholars had not solved, for example the origins of the Islamic schools of thought (madhhabs).

Orientalists like Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) and Joseph Schacht (d. 1969) had a low opinion of Islamic scholars and they believed that the vast majority of authentic hadith narrations were fabricated by them. Their theories upset many Islamic scholars and made them think there was some sort of conspiracy against Islam (especially since Goldziher was Jewish). Regardless of their motivations, since they were working within a Western academic field, the field continued to develop and refine its theories, so that by 2000 the theory of widespread fabrication of hadith was disproven by other Orientalists (who are no longer called Orientalists), especially the scholar Harald Motzki.

Louis Massignon

The French Orientalist Louis Massignon (1883 – 1962), a Catholic priest, was one of the greatest servants of the Islamic scholarly tradition in the 20th century and worked hard to increase Western respect for Islam. His students include important Islamic scholars and thinkers like Muhammad Abdullah Draz and Ali Shariati, and important Western scholars like George Makdisi who continued his tradition of respecting Islam and Muslims.

So it is unjust to color all Orientalists with the same brush. They were humans with different motivations, but the majority were trying to be objective in their study of Islam.

Additionally, their Western method of study is extremely valuable because it helps encourage balanced and objective discussion of the issues. Their method of study is now being adopted by Islamic scholars throughout the world since it is so valuable. In the past scholars from one school would often refuse to study the works of other schools and would defend their own ideas even if there was evidence that contradicted them. But the Western method of study, which requires publishing one’s ideas in papers that are peer-reviewed by other scholars, makes it impossible to defend false ideas for very long.

In this way, today’s Western field of Islamic studies, which was established by the Orientalists, is helping make the life of Islamic scholars much easier because their research is so objective and high in quality. Examples are the works of Frank Griffel and Kenneth Garden on Imam al-Ghazali, which have helped completely change how we understand this important scholar (they show that he was not against philosophy, quite the opposite).

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