IslamQA

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

On fighting back against postmodernism and “social justice warriors”

Assalaamu 'Alaikum In the west now, postmodernist indoctrination is present not only in universities, but more alarmingly in the public school systems (kindergarten to grade 12). It seems as though their curriculums are meant to breed future sjws and postmodernists. I was curious about your thoughts on this matter and what precautions you'd take for your young children (or would-be young children). How can parents go about preventing that cancer from sprouting in them?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I used to worry about the postmodernist type of thinking (which teaches that there is no objective truth) spreading and corrupting everything. I have spent many years thinking about this problem and have read many books by writers who have tried to fight against it (especially the British philosopher Roger Scruton). My conclusion is that it is not actually a threat to faithful Muslims. The Quran can in fact be thought of as an anti-postmodern manifesto: God exists and one of His names is Truth. There is an objective truth “out there” that we can seek. This is like a wrench thrown into the postmodern machine that breaks it apart, because the whole basis of the postmodern worldview is that there is no objective truth “out there”. According to them we are all worthless bags of matter in a meaningless universe, and power is all that we seek in life. We are supposedly in desperate need of postmodernists to point these things out to us to “enlighten” us out of our ignorance; the supposed ignorance of believing in objective truth, in considering our fellow humans intrinsically worthy, of having an attitude of love and sympathy toward people rather than seeing them as machines controlled by selfish genes and having an all-dominating obsession for subjugating others.

A pious Muslim who believes in the Quran and has appreciated its beauty and has been uplifted by its morality could never bow down to postmodernism, because everything they call for always comes down to: disbelieve in God.

It is true that there are some Muslims who have to some degree adopted postmodern ways of thinking. The most unabashed postmodernists who call themselves Muslim are invariably extremely secular. There are also some faithful Muslim intellectuals who adopt some of the beneficial teachings of postmodernism (such as being extremely aware of systematic biases) without adopting its dystopian worldview. As long as they continue believing in the Quran and taking their inspiration from it, they will never adopt the really insane things inside postmodernism.

So my advice for countering postmodernism is simply for Muslims to be good Muslims who take their inspiration from the Quran. Most Muslim children will grow up believing in God and His Prophet and that in itself will easily counterbalance whatever indoctrination the schools will try on them. The exception will be Muslim children who are never taught Islam’s basics and grow up to be irreligious and secular, such people will have no defenses against such indoctrination. But the fault here is not with the indoctrination itself, but with the fact that children’s parents and relatives failed to pass on Islam to them.

Marxism, postmodernism and these various other isms that have come about in the past 200 years are nothing, in my view, but man-made mimicries of religions. Like religion, they claim to possess central truths unknown to others. They have their own messiahs and cults of personality. There is Marx and his disciples. Within Marxism questioning Marx is heresy and can result in the severest attacks by other Marxists. Within postmodernism the same dynamics are at work. A person either submits to the ideology and in this way is accepted into the cult, or they show too much skepticism and is in this way thrown out of the cult (their works and opinions end up being completely ignored by those inside the cult).

Regarding those people known as social justice warriors, from what I have seen they are following an incoherent mixture of the Marxist-postmodernist worldview that is promoted by radical leftist university professors in the United States. I believe that being a pious Muslim is all that is needed to prevent a person from adopting such a worldview. Some of those people known as social justice warriors, in the name of social justice and defending the rights of the poor and the oppressed, often dehumanize large groups of humans that they dislike. It is extremely easy for a pious Muslim to notice this contradiction, and once they do so, they will have no inclination to be associated with these people. The Marxist element inside the social justice movement teaches that we should have a murderous hatred for the “enemy” that supposedly gets in the way of progress. Islam teaches us to treat people fairly and according to universal standards of truth and justice, meaning that that Marxist hatred for large groups of humanity is quite foreign to Islam and does not fit in with it. Marxism teaches us to dehumanize a certain section of humanity (the “capitalists”, the middle class or bourgeoisie, white people, men). Islam teaches us to have open hearts and to respect the sanctity of human life. There is a fundamental conflict between the two worldviews: Marxism (and Wahhabism, by the way) tells me to dehumanize people except those defined as good by the ideology, Islam tells me to never dehumanize anyone, and to, like Prophet Ibrāhīm/Abraham, defend even the worst supposed sinners, have sympathy for them and protect them from harm.

Since social justice warriors are concerned with the rights and interests of Muslims as part of their ideology, some Muslims (especially “secular” ones who have never read the Quran in their lives) will likely be attracted to them. But these are going to be a minority. The moderate majority of Muslims are going to want to have nothing to do with them the same way that the majority of Muslims have never been attracted to the Marxist (or Wahhabi) worldview.

On reducing unnecessary physical contact with the opposite sex

Salam. I have a question to ask. I have a friend at school, who is a boy. We have been friends for 3 years, and our friendship has always been respectful and decent, but lately we’ve been having physical touch. For example, his hair was growing out a little, so he asked me if I could help him try tying his hair. I had to touch his hair plus a little bit of his forehead. He’s also held my hand during the cold recently to give me warmth. What should I do? Thank you.

You could politely inform him that you do not wish for any further contact because of your religious views. The things you mentioned are innocent enough. The problem is that as young persons, both of you will probably have a strong desire to keep increasing your physical contact and intimacy, until, like so many others, you end up getting in a situation that you deeply regret later.

Repenting from ghayba (backbiting): You do not need to tell the person

my grandmother always chats a lot and gossips. I am working on my nafs to avoid talking a lot of things that wont benefit me and to not talk in other peoples absence but I am failing at this. I share room with her and because that she is old I respect her and can't tell her to stop. I don't want to get sins because of backbiting. How can I fix this? Is it true that you have to go to the person who you backbit about to seek forgiveness? thats impossible for me.

Regarding repenting from backbiting, according to the early Islamic scholar and ascetic ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Mubārak (d. 797 CE), one should not ask for forgiveness from the person because this would only hurt them a second time. He says the way to get kafāra (to get the sin forgiven) for backbiting is to pray for forgiveness for the person. This is also the opinion of the Shāfiʿī scholar Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d. 1245 CE).1

Since it is your grandmother who is initiating the backbiting, you will not be blamed for hearing what she says if there is no easy way of avoiding it. You can try to gently discourage her. If this is the most you can do, then this is all that you are responsible for. One strategy for discouraging her might be to mention good things about the person she is backbiting. If she says so and so did that bad thing, you could say, as part of the conversation (not in an argumentative manner), “And remember that time when she did that nice thing for you?” That could make her feel abashed for a while. If you keep doing this she may get tired of it and reduce how much she tries to involve you in her backbiting.

Is marriage compulsory in Islam?

In islam is marriage compulsory or is it a sin if one chooses not to get married. I'm a female and I feel like marriage is not meant for me nor do I think it'll bring me any happiness. I'm always been told marriage completes half of our deen so therefore it's a must in our religion.

Marriage is not compulsory. Please see these two previous answers for more details:

Are Muslims allowed to never marry?

Marriage is not necessarily “half our religion”

What to do when feeling far away from God

I’m far away from Allah, I don’t pray anymore and I say everyday I will start tomorrow, I don’t read quraan or even islamic post or videos and I feel nothing spiritual.. and every time I try to get closer i fell like I’m pushed away. What should I do?

I would say speak sincerely to God. Tell Him you do not feel spiritual and that you do not know what to do to get closer to Him. Keep asking Him every day to guide you and make things easy for you. If there is nothing you can do, you can at least speak to Him. I do not think there is such a thing as a person asking God for guidance and not being guided. You will be guided, it will just take time. Keep asking for His help and guidance and He will bring about the conditions for you to be guided. This can take months or years. Never despair in His ability to fix your life and make it happy and meaningful. He can do that, but sometimes we have to go through periods of suffering that teach us important lessons and make us better people down the road.

Do you pray the sunnah before the iqama or after when praying alone

Salaam, I just wanted to know when praying fajr at home do I pray the sunnah as soon as I hear the Adhan then the fard or do I have to preform the iqamah to pray the fard?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The mainstream view is that saying the athān and the iqāma are voluntary acts when praying alone rather than obligatory.1 Therefore when the time for prayer comes in, you can pray the sunna then the farḍ prayer without saying the iqāma. But if you wanted to say the iqāma, then you would follow the same pattern that is followed at the mosque: first pray the sunna (without saying the iqāma), then say the iqāma right before the farḍ.

On adoption, Aisha’s age and the Prophet’s dreams about her

I've got few questions, . I'm just deeply disturbed by the fact that in Islam a man can marry his adopted daughters as stated in Surat nisa. While I understand that they aren't biologically related,, but what if they were adopted when they were babies? . I'm also wondering is regarding your Tariq Ramadan's book review you wrote , on "in the footsteps of the prophet" I'm quite surprised you didn't mention about Aisha's age, that the prophet saw it in a dream twice. Do you agree with him?

I answered your question on adoption on its own page here: Why does Islam allow a man to marry his adopted daughter?

Regarding Aisha’s age, I had already dealt with it in a previous answer, so I did not repeat it there. Many liberal Muslims have often used weak and unconvincing arguments to support her being older than 9. Thankfully it appears that we are in a better position now. Please see this article: Did the Prophet marry a 9-year-old girl? (She may have actually been close to 18) As I mention in that answer, Dr. Salah al-Din al-Idlibi, a respected and traditionalist hadith expert, examines the evidence, including new evidence not examined by others, and finds that there is strong support for her having been born 4 years before the Revelation, which makes her close to 18 at the time of the consummation of her marriage to the Prophet in 622 CE.

Regarding seeing her in dreams, it is mentioned at least in al-Bukhari. Since it was common for prophets to receive commands in their dreams, I see no strong reason to doubt this. If she was approaching 15 at the time of the dreams, then that wouldn’t be so strange as her being 6 at the time.

Why does Islam allow a man to marry his adopted daughter?

I'm just deeply disturbed by the fact that in Islam a man can marry his adopted daughters as stated in Surat nisa. While I understand that they aren't biologically related,, but what if they were adopted when they were babies?

Imagine a rich man who has a very large house. Out of charity he “adopts” a number of young children and houses them in his home, hiring caretakers for them. He is a businessman who travels often, so that he ends up only seeing these children once or twice a year on special occasions. Many years pass and the man’s wife dies. One of the children is now a woman of 20 who wishes to get married, and she has liked the man who adopted her on those rare occasions she has seen him, so she talks to him and asks him to marry her.

Is there a good reason for society to prevent such a marriage? It would only reduce this woman’s chance of happiness in life.

I think your problem is with the idea of a man who adopts a very young girl, say an infant, sees her every day, maybe even changes her diaper occasionally, only to go on to marry her years later when she is still young and incapable of judging things for herself. I have never heard of such a thing happening in the Muslim societies I have known. But yes, technically it could happen. And that is where culture comes in. When God does not prohibit or encourage something, He leaves it to the culture to deal with it in its own way. If you look at the many Muslim cultures around the world, you will find extremely different cultural practices among them. Islam defines a small set of rules on the most important things in life, then leaves it to the culture to fill in the blanks as they see fit. So while a man could technically marry an infant girl he brings up, it would be extremely culturally inappropriate in most cultures; most people would find the idea revolting and therefore the man is strongly pressured by his culture not to do such a thing. Note that Western laws do not forbid marrying adopted children either, they too leave it to the judgment of the culture.

Muslims do not live in social vacuums, they have to please both religion and their social norms. This ensures that by and large common sense and common morality prevail even when it comes to those things not strictly defined by religion. Islamic, instead of making adoption a matter of law, tells humans: use your common sense.

If you wish there was a law to prevent cases where a man who is a father figure to a woman is prohibited from marrying her, then you could make such a law in your own society. Islam does not prohibit making laws applying to things left blank by Islamic law. But what good would such a law do, unless we think the woman is somehow mentally deficient and incapable of judging for herself? Imagine if her adopted father is 50 is a professor at some university, while the woman is 25 and working on her own PhD degree. Is it any of our business to tell her whether it is right for her to marry her adopted father or not? Can’t we leave it to her own judgment and intelligence?

In Islam, forced marriages are prohibited and women are not property (there are of course many abuses in Muslim societies, but here I am speaking of a civilized and modern Muslim society, say a society where most women have a university degree). If we consider women proper humans, capable of intelligent thought and decision, then it is entirely their own business whether they want to marry an adopted father or not. It is only if we have a medieval attitude toward women, considering them mentally imbeciles, that the adoption question becomes a problem.

So I think the law that would clear away your worries would be a law the prohibits adopted fathers from marrying adopted girls who are still too young or who are mentally deficient. A Muslim society could implement such a law without issue if it wants to, and I am sure the majority of Muslims would support it. But why stop at adopted girls? We can have a general law that applies to all girls, prohibiting marriage if they are too young or mentally deficient. The reality is that in cosmopolitan Muslim societies this is already the practice; it is taboo to marry girls who are too young, and it would be considered rather unethical to marry a girl who cannot judge things for herself. But just to be extra sure that abuse is prevented, a Muslim society could make such a law.

On having empathy toward non-Muslims

My question might be weird to you but I hope you can at least understand my perspective. I'm an empath, the inclusion of the entire humanity is important for me. However I don't feel that I've found this in Islam and I feel isolated because of this problem. I feel as the Islamic community only sympathise and cares about other Muslims and in the mosque when we are making dua for Muslims , but disregard other lives because they fall into the category is disbeliever.

Muslims are a few generations behind on this issue, but I expect that is going to slowly change as more of them get educated. I wrote a new essay related to this topic, on how Islam teaches us to have respect and sympathy for non-Muslims, it might interest you: Consensual Communities and the Sanctity of Human Life: The Path to Moderate Islam between Pluralism, Authoritarianism, Conformity and Individualism

Having short hair as a Muslim woman

Before I ask I want to say that I am a 19 years old female, and I have never in my life ever had long hair. However I always take care of my hijab, prayers and everything else, the thing is that I am comfortable with short hair (I'm saying 2 inches kind of short). just this year my barber accidentally shaved my sides so I said its okay just shave it all, so since then I'm comfortable with tiny bristle hair. I dont have to overly take care of it with conditioner and all but my mother thinks its wrong for a girl to have a boy-ish look, and I understand! BUT nobody other than my parents/siblings and female relatives know that I have short hair cuz like i said, I take care of my hijab. and everyone knows i am a female, so I dont think having a shaved head is wrong. I am comfortable with this, I like the way I look, I dont have to worry about hair slipping out of my hijab or prayer cloth. so I just want to make sure if its okay for me to keep this hair length? tq!

There are a number of authentic hadith narrations in which the Prophet strongly admonishes against trying to look like the other sex. However, these narrations are speaking of a person who intentionally tries to look like the other sex without a valid reason. It is narrated in Sahih Muslim that some of the wives of the Prophet after his death used to cut their hairs so short that it did not extend beyond their ears. According to the Saudi scholar Shaykh Nasir al-Umar there are no strict regulations regarding how short a woman can cut her hair as long as the intent behind it is not to look like males.1 Since your intention is convenience then there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. However, if your parents and relatives dislike seeing your hair the way it is then out of respect for them it is best to make it at least long enough to stop them from complaining about it.

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