IslamQA

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

Why can’t I pray tahajjud anymore?

I am a high school student, my teacher told me that she wasn't a good student in her old times,but because she prayed tahajud,her results were magnificent.4 years back, at 3 30 am sharp I would wake up,almost every single day of the year,but now,i would just wake up on a usual daily basis,(6 am) ,what have I gone wrong? I see people that don't even pray have success in their life,but I don't want to be that way,what advice could you give,for me to wake up and pray tahajud?

The most important advice I can give you is to sincerely ask God for His help in performing tahajjud.

If over the years your closeness to God has decreased, then you must work on this. Many of the great early Muslims have said that sins cause God to forbid us from doing extra acts of worship, since these acts of worship are an honor that He grants.

Beyond that, your sleep schedule matters. If you try to get up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle, it can be very difficult to get up. Each person’s sleep cycle is different. If getting up four hours after you fall asleep is very difficult, you can try getting up four and a half hours or five hours after you fall asleep, or three and a half hours.

If you are not getting enough sleep, then it can be very difficult to interrupt your sleep to get up to pray. Try to get eight hours of sleep, for example by getting up four hours after sleeping, praying for 30 minutes or however long, then sleeping another four hours. Another way is to nap 7-8 hours after waking up in the morning (in the midday) so that the amount of total sleep you get in 24 hours is close to 8 hours (perhaps 7.5 hours at night and 30 minutes in the afternoon).

And if none of this works, you can pray tahajjud before going to bed, which is what I do, since interrupting my sleep makes it extremely difficult for me to work the next day (I do programming work, which is mentally demanding).

 

“How to avoid sexual desires?”

How to avoid sexual desires? (i'm a girl)

We all have sexual desires and there is no way to completely stop them. There is nothing wrong with sexual desire as long as it does not cause you to sin. If your sexual desire is difficult to manage, you can weaken it with fasting or dieting. You can also google “how to reduce libido” to find more suggestions.

From an Islamic perspective, the closer you are to God, the easier it is to avoid sins and obey Him. For advice on making it easier to avoid sins, please see my answers Islamic Strategies for Escaping a Sinful Life and God has not abandoned you.

“He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him…”

He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him. I was a good girl, i prayed 5 times a day and i sinned. When I couldn't do more he left. I feel so heavy, my heart aches so much and i see no forgiveness for me. I left my Lord for someone i loved and now i feel nothing but grief.

Your sin is not greater than God, and the greatest sin of all would be to lose hope in His mercy and forgiveness and to delay repentance thinking that He is incapable of forgiving you. Go back to God, knowing that there is no safety except by His side, and even if you sin a thousand times, know that He is always ready to forgive, if you sincerely seek His forgiveness and work to improve yourself.

“I am tired of fighting and tired of trying…”

how could life fight me so hard while i didn’t do anything to deserve this hurt ,, I am tired of fighting and tired of trying, i don’t need this life I don’t want it, i can’t hold on, life is not for me i think i came here wrong i don’t belong here i don’t know where i even belong but it’s not here,, you should give it to someone else a dying baby whose parents are crying for his life or maybe a dying old father who has children crying for another day with him,, u should give it to them not me

Life’s difficulties are training for what comes afterwards, in a year or two. No difficulty lasts forever. Instead of succumbing to your difficulty and listening to Satan’s whispers when he tells you your life is purposeless and meaningless, patiently wait until God changes things for you.

If you lose hope in God in times of extreme difficulty, it means you will also lose your dedication to Him in times of ease. There is no such thing as a true friend of God who is close to Him and worships Him when things are going easy and who then turns his back on Him when hardship befalls them.

God teaches us to think the best of Him at all times. Satan  tells us to think the worst of Him, to lose hope in His mercy and question His wisdom. Which voice do you choose to listen to?

When you can, follow the steps I describe in my answer God has not abandoned you.

If you cannot find the motivation to do anything to get closer to God, trust in His saying “with hardship comes ease” and do your best to survive until things change.

“Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?”

Can you please tell me what is the correct way to recite surah fatihah? Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?

The Arabic letters say “bism Allah al-rahman al-raheem”, but when you read in Arabic, you say bismillahir rahmanir raheem. The way you pronounce certain words changes based on the context, so the reading is usually slightly different from what it appears to someone who doesn’t know Arabic very well.

To learn the correct way to recite Surat al-Fatihah, just listen to its recitation many times until you memorize it. Here is my favorite recitation of the surah.

“This world has always been so cruel to me…”

This world has always been so cruel to me. I have given up on life. Now, I'm planning to leave my home and live my rest of the life in orphanage/Housing home. So that my parents/siblings won't get upset by seeing me in such state all the time. Is this step right islamically?

Sorry to read that. I cannot give you any specific advice without knowing more about your age and situation, but what you are suggesting (of leaving home) sounds like almost certainly the wrong thing to do. If you do not like your present situation, think of the possible solutions then consult with your family and relatives and maybe a solution will be found. Since your decision affects your family, this is not something you can decide all by yourself.

Masturbation is not clearly forbidden or allowed in Islam

The generally accepted principle of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is that when it comes to enjoying sexual pleasure, everything is forbidden unless it is explicitly allowed. The Quran’s general teaching on sexuality is that Muslims should “guard their privates” except when taking pleasure in the context of a religiously sanctioned intimate relationship.

A strict interpretation of this verse is that all sexual pleasure is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse. A non-strict interpretation is that all sexual intercourse is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse, which means that masturbation is not included in the prohibition.

The Quran never mentions masturbation, so we cannot use it to reach a final judgment. As for hadith, there isn’t a single authentic narration that mentions masturbation1, therefore hadith cannot help us either in reaching a definitive judgment.

ʿAmr bin Dīnār, one of the Tabiʿīn (belonging to the generations that came after the Companions) and a hadith and fiqh scholar says, “I see no issue with masturbation.”2 Jābir bin Zayd, known by the nickname Abu l-Shaʿthā, student of the Companion Ibn ʿAbbās also says he sees no problem with it.3 Ibn ʿAbbās says that marriage is better than masturbation, and masturbation is better than fornication.4. Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, founder of the Ḥanbalī school of fiqh, says there is no issue with it.5

The most famous scholar to permit masturbation was al-Shawkānī (d. 1839 CE), a widely respected reformer and revivalist. While he ruled that masturbation is permitted in Islam without conditions (other scholars have said that there are conditions needed to make it permissible, but al-Shawkānī says no conditions are needed), he says:

There is no doubt that engaging in this act is a flaw (in one's character), a show of a lack of self-respect, and a show of abasement in manners and a lack of willpower.

He criticizes the act, but says there isn’t sufficient evidence to forbid it.

In the modern world, the Moroccan scholar Abdel-Bari Zamzami (d. 2016 CE) allowed masturbation for men and women, saying that since it helps one avoid illicit sexual acts, and since there is no clear evidence that it is forbidden, permitting it is more beneficial than forbidding it.

The Mālikī and Shāfiʿī schools say that masturbation is forbidden.

Making sense of the situation

What scholars have often done is try to take the vagueness out of the Islamic texts by enforcing their own interpretations, either saying masturbation is a sin, or saying that there is nothing wrong with it. Both of these approaches ignore an important teaching of the Prophet ﷺ in dealing with vagueness in religious matters, expressed in this hadith narration from Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim:

Allah's Messenger addressed us and said: O people, Allah has made Hajj obligatory for you; so perform Hajj. Thereupon a person said: Messenger of Allah, (is it to be performed) every year? He (the Holy Prophet) kept quiet, and he repeated (these words) thrice, whereupon Allah's Messenger said: If I were to say" Yes," it would become obligatory (for you to perform it every year) and you would not be able to do it. Then he said: Leave me with what I have left to you, for those who were before you were destroyed because of excessive questioning, and their opposition to their apostles. So when I command you to do anything, do it as much as it lies in your power and when I forbid you to do anything, then abandon it.6

The above narration can be considered support in favor of silence over the issue of masturbation.The Quran and the Sunnah do not explicitly prohibit it, and they do not explicitly allow it, leaving it in a gray area, therefore Muslims should neither condemn masturbation, nor should they promote it.

To a pious person who is eager to please God, the meaning of these things is as follows:

  1. It is not important enough to be explicitly forbidden or allowed by God and His Prophet .
  2. Every Muslim’s aim should be to avoid it if they can, since true love and fear of God means that a person should avoid everything that has even the slightest possibility of displeasing Him.
  3. If someone is overwhelmed by desire into doing it, or cannot control their impulses so that they habitually do it, they should not obsess about, they should repent and go on with their lives, knowing that what they have done is a small lapse in manners, rather than a crime.

The Issue of Corporealization

Humans have a built-in revulsion toward masturbation due to the fact that it is a corporealizing act; it places focus on the human body in its physicality; it reduces a human to a mere animal, making a human’s individuality irrelevant during the act. Masturbation has little to do with sexual intimacy between two humans who love one another and who continue to see each other as individuals (rather than mere bodies) throughout the sexual act. Masturbation is obscene, it can never be made respectable or acceptable in society. For more on obscenity please see this answer on the issue pornography and erotica. Those interested in this topic can read the important book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation by the British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.

It would be quite wrong to assume that Islamically ruling that masturbation is not prohibited would lead to an epidemic of masturbation throughout the Islamic world. It would probably not make the slightest difference in that regard (because humans are genetically inclined to feel disgust at masturbation and other corporealizing sexual acts); it would only reduce the feelings of guilt of those who already do it.

Masturbation, teenagers and scholarly humility

Teenagers, especially teenage boys, have heightened sexual desire while also having poor impulse control, since the brain’s prefrontal cortex does not finish developing until after the age of 25. These two factors (increased sexual desire, low ability to control urges) can make it very difficult for them to avoid masturbation. Making teenagers feel bad about masturbation is a short-sighted and destructive thing. It only serves to decrease these teenagers’ religious self-esteem, making them feel as if they will never be good Muslims, since they are supposedly committing a great sin and cannot stop themselves.

The result is that these teenagers start to think of Islam as an outdated and cruel religion that is asking them to do the impossible.

The balanced approach is to tell teenagers that it is best if they avoid it since it is in a gray area, while also telling them that it is not clearly forbidden, therefore if they cannot help themselves and end up doing it, they should not obsess about it, but repent and go on with their lives.

Rather than making baseless statements about masturbation, saying it is allowed or saying it is forbidden, we must acknowledge the vagueness of the Islamic texts on this issue, while also respecting the wisdom of the scholars and human nature in their dislike for it.

Conclusion

Different stages of growth and different life circumstances affect a person’s desire for masturbation. Depression, loneliness and a lack of social interaction, for example, makes it more likely that a person will want to masturbate, and not just among humans. I have seen many articles mention that monkeys in captivity masturbate, but those who live in the wild do not.

Most of our scholars consider masturbation an undignified act that a self-respecting person would not do. While they are right about this when it comes to themselves, they should have empathy for younger people living in very different circumstances and subject to far stronger sexual desires and a lower ability to control their impulses due to the fact that their brain development is not complete. Instead of asking the impossible of young people, of having perfect control over their desires like the scholars themselves, they should treat them with kindness and forgiveness, telling them that there is a consensus among Muslims that masturbation is not a dignified thing to do, but that Islam does not clearly forbid it, and that as people age, it becomes easier to avoid it.

The niqab is neither obligatory nor sunna

In answer to questions about whether the niqab is obligatory for Muslim women:

The respected Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi has done a detailed study of the evidence regarding the niqab, published as al-Niqāb Bayna Farḍīyatih wa Bidʿīyatih1, and his conclusion is that the niqab is neither a duty, nor is it a bidʿa (false innovation) to be condemned, it is rather a tool, an item of clothing, that a woman chooses to wear if and when she wants. If a woman sees that it is beneficial for her to wear it in her particular time and place, then she can do it. And if other women elsewhere decide not to wear it, like the majority of Muslim women have decided, then that’s their choice. There is nothing wrong with a woman veiling her face at a certain occasion, the way Victorian women used to, if she decides that she is more comfortable that way and expects benefits from it.

Dr. Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003 to 2013, has the same opinion.2 Egypt’s present Grand Mufti Dr. Shawki Allam says the same.3 This is also the opinion of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University.4 He says the the niqab is not a sunna and that there is no special virtue in wearing it.

The Syrian scholar Dr. ʿAli al-Shaʿʿāl says it is not obligatory.5

Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also has the opinion that the niqab is not obligatory.6

The above are just some examples of the opinions of mainstream Islamic scholars. They represent the opinions of the majority of Muslims. There is also no strong evidence that the niqab is a sunna either, something that Muslim women should supposedly hope to one day wear. Neither the Quran nor any hadith recommend that women should wear it. The niqab, like sandals and water containers made of goat skin, is something that was present in medieval Arabia, it was part of their culture and had a useful function at the time, which was to help women avoid the attention of uncouth men who would make them uncomfortable through ogling. As someone who has traveled a bit, I have met such men in some Middle Eastern countries. If even a slightly attractive woman comes into their field of view, they will stare at her, and stare, and stare, as if watching a TV program. That objectifying gaze is extremely uncomfortable and demeaning for a woman, so if she lives in a society where she is unlucky enough to face such men often, then it would be beneficial for her to have a niqab handy.

But in a civilized, middle class society where the men do not act like that, there is little point to the niqab. Whether one should wear niqab or not should be judged according to its potential benefits and harms and one’s own present time and culture. Just because we have reports of the people of that time doing some thing does not automatically mean it is recommended for us to do it. Thinking the niqab is recommended just because some women in medieval Arabia wore it is probably similar to thinking that hanging water containers made of goatskin in the living room, as the Prophet did, is somehow virtuous. A sunna, or virtuous act taught by the Prophet , can only be established when we have clear and multiply-verified evidence that the Prophet recommended that act. But we have no such evidence. As al-Qaradawi mentions, we have numerous authentic hadiths in which Muslim women are mentioned as showing their faces in public, and we have no convincing evidence that that Prophet would have liked them to hide their faces, even as a voluntary act of piety.

A woman who wishes to hide her face as a personal act of piety can certainly be rewarded for it, but it would be wrong if she said it is a sunna. Not every good deed is a sunna. For example if you choose to donate 5% of your income to charity, we have no evidence that the Prophet did the same or recommend that we do this, but you can do it with a good intention and get rewarded for it.

Those who say the niqab is obligatory are often converts or people who know little about Islam and who are now trying to be good Muslims. They sometimes come under the influence of Saudi-funded websites like IslamQA.info and due to their lack of knowledge end up thinking that these websites represent some true or authentic version of Islam. And due to the way that these websites teach their followers to think of themselves as the only true Muslims, they end up looking down on everyone else and try to force their opinions on them. Usually after a few years of crusading against mainstream Muslims they either abandon Islam (since they can no longer live with themselves) or they become moderate as their knowledge increases.

For more about Saudi-funded sites see my article about IslamQA.info.

What’s a good modern biography of Prophet Muhammad?

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

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

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

(I assumed you meant biography)

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