IslamQA

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

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”?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islam’s critics may say that we modern Muslims are trying to back-rationalize Islam’s “savage” beginnings by reinterpreting the Prophet’s actions ﷺ as if he wasn’t a vicious and power-seeking warlord. But as will be shown below, his policies and reforms regarding slavery were so noble and ahead of their time that he puts 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 sex 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 20 ways of acquiring slaves according to the scholar Muhammad Mutawalli Sha`rawi, such as people being made slaves due to debt, or a tribe offering one of their own as a slave as an offering to another tribe, or one tribe attacking another with the purpose of enslaving them. Islam reduces these ways to only one way: Enemy prisoners coming out of a just war, not an offensive war done for gain, but a war done against an aggressor.1 And if there are international treaties for dealing with prisoners of war, like there are today, then this way too would be closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christians did the same at times, for example:

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

[From a historian’s answer posted on Reddit]

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

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

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

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

As a reminder, I am describing the reasons why Islam tolerated slavery in the ancient world. As I will describe below, Islam today does not tolerate slavery and Muslims around the world have supported banning it, this is not because Islamic principles have been abandoned for modern principles, it is because the Quran supports us in doing what we know to be the just and kind thing, while also tolerating slavery in societies that already practice it. The Quran has an anti-slavery agenda, but its agenda requires that it should tolerate slavery if a society already practices it, ending it from the inside. 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 compete with the man’s existing marriage, that did not require a second home, and that did not require high income for a man to engage in it. The Arabian system of slavery provided all of these features by enabling the women to work as servants in the men’s homes, in this way not being competitors in status to their wives. By giving the men the right to have sex with their female slaves, it made the men willing to keep them as slaves, otherwise they wouldn’t have wanted them (as will be described further).

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

The Christians of Egypt gifted the Prophet ﷺ a Christian concubine named Maria. Were the Christians merely sending the Prophet ﷺ a sex toy as a gesture of good will? Of course not. As any historian of ancient times will tell you, this was similar to a man offering his daughter’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, then to Hulago’s enemies), with her own opinion in the matter ignored, as has been standard practice among large sections of society in all of history, especially among the aristocracy. She did not have to be placed in chains and shipped off in a box. For her this was her 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 women they did not like.

In Islam, the relationship between a slave woman and her master is an official relationship, it is similar to a marriage. She cannot be in a sexual relationship with anyone else during this relationship. If she is already pregnant when acquired, her master does not have the right of having sex with her until she gives birth. If she becomes pregnant by her master, her master no longer has the right to sell her, because she acquires that status of umm walad and cannot be sold as a slave, 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 (especially various Jews in the West’s academia) wish to portray, he had to keep a sensitive political situation balanced, giving sufficient satisfaction to each section of his following so that they would not rebel against him.

He did not act like the largely 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, in the Quran-focused school of thought, Islam is always a derivation of the Quran and the modern world, and since the Quran does not command slavery, and since we in the modern world dislike slavery and consider it repulsive, Islam gives us full rights to ban it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Islam Outdated?

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

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

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

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

The Modern Islamic View

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islam’s Historical Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

The Quranic and Prophetic Way to Treating Non-Muslims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prophet Ibrahim 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.

Page 13 of 18
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18