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

On “thighing” and semen on the Prophet’s clothes

I was wondering if you could shed some light on "thighing" and is it true Aisha used to wash the semen off Muhammad (pbuh) clothes before he went to pray? What was he doing for that to be all over his clothes.

Nothing in the Quran or authentic hadith narrations mentions “thighing” as far as I can find, but it is not forbidden. It is for a man to enjoy sexual intimacy with a woman without sexual intercourse by placing his sex organ between her thighs.

Regarding your other question, during that time it was common for people to keep their clothes mostly on during sexual intercourse, which meant that sometimes semen could get on clothes. The hadiths I have seen in Sahih al-Bukhari do not say that it was “all over” his clothes, just that that there was one spot that had to be washed.

The sunna prayer of dhuhr (ẓuhr) can be prayed in units of two or four

I'm fairly new to praying and was wondering how should the four sunnah rakats before zuhr be prayed? I've heard it can either be four or two by two with two tasleems. Which method is correct?

Both of them are considered acceptable by the majority of scholars, but praying them in units of two has stronger evidence behind it.1

The Saudi-educated scholar Bilāl al-Sālimī (born 1970) has performed a detailed study of this issue in his book al-Ḥāfil fi Fiqh al-Nawāfil (2003) and his conclusion is that the evidence is overwhelmingly in support of praying the ẓuhr sunna prayer in units of two rather than four.

There are billions of non-Muslims, so how can Islam be the one true path?

It’s hard for me to imagine that there are populations and populations who barely have clue what Islam is and yet it is the one true path. What will happen then to these people?

God’s purpose in building this universe was to make it possible for humans to exist who love Him and believe in Him without having hard evidence for His existence. That purpose could only be achieved if the universe was vast enough to hide its edges from us. And it could only be achieved if the world functioned according to reliable laws of nature. And that means that it should be possible for humans to think of themselves as abandoned in a vast universe without anyone caring about them, thinking that they have come into existence randomly and that there is no purpose for their existence.

These things are part of the setup of this universe. The universe should feel completely natural and should make almost perfect sense to an atheist, so that belief in God becomes a choice rather than being forced on us through too much evidence for His existence. God has designed the universe in a way that makes atheism possible. I discuss this in more detail in my essay on reconciling the Quran with evolution: Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template.

If a nation decides to abandon God, God will not intervene to save the day unless He wants to. He may allow things to take their course. The existence of non-believers is simply part of the background of the universe for us, similar to the existence of the trillions of other galaxies around us. It does not take away anything from God’s power to allow billions of humans to exist who do not believe in Him. They are all part of the story.

From God’s point of view, it is the story of His believers that is the main purpose of this universe. He wants them to believe in Him and follow Him in a world that is apparently controlled by secular powers. He wants to guide them through history and help them survive, grow and prosper regardless of the non-believers around them. The story of this world is the story of God’s believers, it is like a film directed by God, everyone else is part of the stage.

As for what happens to them, we have no certain knowledge about this. We know that God is kind and just and that He does not hold humans responsible except for that which they are able, therefore if a person’s circumstances make it impossible for them to believe in God (maybe they never learned religion properly), God will not blame them for that. He deals with each person individually, according to their own level of knowledge and responsibility. There is nothing preventing God from letting these billions of people all enter Paradise. God says:

And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous. (The Quran, verse 3:133)

When the Quran says “the heavens and the earth”, that is what we call “the universe”. If Paradise is as large as the universe, God could easily give the non-responsible non-Muslims (who neither believed nor disbelieved, because they never had chance to choose either way) a star system or galaxy of their own to enjoy life there as they wish. It does not take anything away from God’s power to do that, and if that is the fair and just thing to do, then we can be sure that God will do that since God is fair and just.

I should clarify here that we do not believe that it is only Muslims who are the believers. A believer is anyone who believes in God and does his or her best to serve Him to the best of their knowledge and ability. Islam is one tool, and the best tool, for accomplishing this purpose (of serving God), but it is not the only tool. There are deeply spiritual Jews and Christians who also believe in God and try to serve Him, and the Quran does not tell us that their worship will be rejected. The Quran says:

113. They are not alike. Among the People of the Scripture is a community that is upright; they recite God’s revelations throughout the night, and they prostrate themselves.

114. They believe in God and the Last Day, and advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and are quick to do good deeds. These are among the righteous.

115. Whatever good they do, they will not be denied it. God knows the righteous. (The Quran 3:113-115)

Many Muslim scholars have interpreted what the Quran says about God’s rewards for Jews and Christians as only applying to those who followed these religions before Islam in light of certain hadith narrations and the opinions of certain Companions of the Prophet . But the Quran’s evidence suggests otherwise; that God deals with each human according to what they really believe in their hearts. When it comes to a Christian who really believes Christianity to be true and tries to serve God as best as they can, then it is much closer to the thinking of the Quran to think that such a person will be rewarded by God.

The Quran tells us that God accepts no religion other than Islam…except that it is talking about Muslims when it says that:

85. Whoever seeks other than Islam as a religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

86. How will God guide a people who disbelieved after having believed, and had witnessed that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the unjust people. (The Quran, verses 3:85-86)

Verse 85 above tells us that God will not accept any religion other than Islam. But verse 86 tells us that verse 85 is talking about Muslims, those who have “witnessed that the Messenger is true”. What the passage tells us is that even though God may accept the Christianity of Christians, Muslims are not allowed to convert to Christianity because they have already accepted the better religion that supersedes it. A Muslim who has accepted Islam but who converts to Christianity out of personal desire (maybe they are a politician in a Western country and think they are more likely to get elected if they are Christian), then such a person’s faith will not be accepted by God because they have knowingly rejected a better religion for a worse one out of personal desire.

Islam is not exactly the “one true path”, it is simply a re-statement of the religion of God’s previous prophets. God constantly sent prophets to different nations to call them to His way, in order to help humans attain the status of being God’s friends. It is not God’s purpose to make every human a believer. The Quran tells us in many places that God is capable of guiding all of humanity, but that it is not His wish to do that:

If you find their rejection hard to bear, then if you can, seek a tunnel into the earth, or a stairway into the heaven, and bring them a sign. Had God willed, He could have gathered them to guidance. So do not be of the ignorant. (Verse 6:35)

Had God willed, they would not have practiced idolatry. We did not appoint you as a guardian over them, and you are not a manager over them. (Verse 6:107)

Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Will you then compel people to become believers? (Verse 10:99)

We are free to ask if there wasn’t a better way of doing things. Why did the world have to be this way? We have no answer. We are thrown into this universe and have no choice but to play by God’s rules whether we like them or not. We have the choice of acting like Satan, telling God He is wrong that He made things in this way. There are some people who make this choice, they are angry at God, at society, at the universe, at the fact of their own existence. But that path only leads to our own destruction. We cannot harm God. Even if we do not understand why things have to be this way, we have no choice but submit to His decrees, knowing that He is infinitely wiser than ourselves, and that we cannot think a single thought that He Himself has not already thought. If we question God’s decisions, it means we think ourselves somehow superior to Him, as if the God who designed us somehow knows less than we know or is less wise or intelligent than ourselves.

So I agree that there are things we can wonder at, but since God is infinitely wiser and more intelligent than ourselves, we have believe that He knows what He is doing. If we dislike His choices for us, we are doing what Satan did in disliking His choice in preferring Adam over him. The wise thing to do, for which God will reward us, is to always seek to please God, to trust His wisdom and to admit that He can do whatever He wants, since He created all of this and no one has any power over Him.

On being in Paradise and not feeling negative emotions

Hi, i don't remember where i learned this from but as far as i know, when a believer enters jannah, all the bad and unpleasant wishes will be removed from them. Isn't that means we are not gonna be fully ourselves? Why we can't fulfill our wishes as who we are there? Why can't we simply be us, rather than fixed versions of us?

In Paradise you will become a better version of you. That does not mean you will stop being who you are. The same way that in Paradise your physical defects will be removed, your spiritual defects will also be removed.

If you think of the best memories of your life, then Paradise will be like those memories extended forever. It will be like this life with all of the negative things taken out and all the positives amplified. I doubt that once we enter Paradise we will complain about the fact that we no longer have negative emotions. We will probably be thankful for it. At least that is how I understand it.

It is similar to the way that you do not feel negative emotions toward anyone if you are having the best day of your life.

Muslim woman prays without hijab

Alsalam alykum, I need an advice to solve this problem, a friend of mine started to read a lot and I got no idea what type of books she reads, but I’ve noticed some changes in her way of thinking and behavior. She told me recently that she prays without hijab because she’s not sure why she has to be covered in front of god. I tried to tell her that this is wrong but she is sure she is right, and many other religious beliefs changed.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

According to the Egyptian professor of comparative Islamic law Saʿd al-Dīn al-Hilalī, there is a minority view within the Mālikī school that believes praying without hijab is acceptable, but I cannot find more information on this.

Regarding your friend, it is probably just a phase she is going through. When we are young we think it is clever to question everything and throw away traditions unless there are proofs for their correctness. But as we grow older and learn more, we start to realize that there is a great deal we do not know and that it is best to do as tradition says unless we have a very good reason to act otherwise.

How to know which Islamic scholars to follow

salaam alaykoum. I'm wondering which shaykh or scholar should I listen to? Because they differ and it's very confusing for me who's trying to understand islam . How did you do to find reliable scholars? How should one do to avoid extremists one, or the ones who don't have evidance for their claims etc. Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

A powerful criterion is to see which scholars are respected by the kind and decent people you meet. People with similar hearts are attracted to each other. You will never find a kind and sweet person following some crazy fringe scholar. This means that any Muslim you meet, if you find their behavior and thinking acceptable, can teach you about a number of scholars that might be worth listening to.

Muslim countries have their own “national” scholars that are respected by the majority of the mainstream Muslims of that country, for example Mohammed al-Ghazali (not to be confused with the more famous al-Ghazali) and Ali Gomaa in Egypt, Said Nursi in Turkey, Salman al-Ouda in Saudi Arabia, and so on. These scholars are all worth listening to. We also have globally respected classical scholars like Imam al-Ghazali that are worth reading.

You are not required to agree with everything some scholar says or to belong to their school. You should make your own way by taking in all the knowledge you are able.

An important criterion for distinguishing between scholars is the Quran. Read it many times to learn the worldview behind it, then use what you have learned to judge what others say about Islam. We call the Quran a “guide” because it is designed to help you find the way, it is designed to help you make sense of all the conflicting information you receive so that you can find the middle road between them.  A person that says something that clearly clashes with the Quran’s teachings is clearly taking a narrow and extreme position. The Quran tells us that Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim) argued with God’s angels to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah from punishment, despite their being great sinners. Someone who takes pleasure in the idea of sinners being punished has clearly failed to take Islam’s teachings to heart.

What should be the Muslim attitude toward the Bible?

Salam Alaykum. By reading books and listening to informative lectures, I’ve come across quiet many bible verses. There are a few verses like the story about the tower of Babel & Noah’s Ark that are used for general research, which can be useful. There are also stories I’ve never heard of as a muslim. So, how should a muslim really react to biblical studies, and know which verses is to believe?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

We can read the Bible as an interesting historical artifact, but we cannot take any religious guidance from it unless it is strongly confirmed by the Quran. Our attitude is that while the Bible contains many important truths, 1. we can never be sure which parts are really true and which parts are later additions, and 2. the Quran contains everything beneficial that is contained in the Bible, so a person who only relies on the Quran is not missing out on anything they need.

Islam’s view is that the Quran is the “Final Testament”. Similar to the way a new version of a software program replaces an older version, the Quran replaces the Bible. The Bible, in the Islamic view, holds the corrupted version of God’s religion. The Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) were given to the Jews as God’s guidance to them. Many prophets were sent afterwards to correct their errors and guide them back to God’s path, the sayings of some of these prophets make up some of the other books of the Old Testament, such the Book of Isaiah by the Prophet Isaiah who lived in the 8th century BC.

Jesus was the final Jewish Prophet who came to reform Judaism and ease some of their religion’s difficult laws.

47. She said, “My Lord, how can I have a child, when no man has touched me?” He said, “It will be so. God creates whatever He wills. To have anything done, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.”

48. And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel.

49. A messenger to the Children of Israel: “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you out of clay the figure of a bird; then I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind and the leprous, and I revive the dead, by God’s leave. And I inform you concerning what you eat, and what you store in your homes. In that is a sign for you, if you are believers.”

50. “And verifying what lies before me of the Torah, and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so fear God, and obey me.”

51. “God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.”

52. When Jesus sensed disbelief on their part, he said, “Who are my allies towards God?” The disciples said, “We are God’s allies; we have believed in God, and bear witness that we submit.”

53. “Our Lord, we have believed in what You have revealed, and we have followed the Messenger, so count us among the witnesses.”

54. They planned, and God planned; but God is the Best of planners.

55. God said, “O Jesus, I am terminating your life, and raising you to Me, and clearing you of those who disbelieve. And I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve, until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return; then I will judge between you regarding what you were disputing. (The Quran, verses 3:47-55)

According to the Islamic view, Jesus was meant as a reformer of Judaism rather than the founder of a new religion. The Christians were meant to follow Jewish law as reformed by Jesus, and there are theories that the early Christians did follow Jewish law until Paul’s anti-law attitude (antinomianism) took over. There was a Jewish sect known as the Essenes which may have been the remnants of Jesus’s original followers. In the Dead Sea Scrolls we have documentation of this group’s beliefs; they continued to follow parts of Jewish law and continually referred to a false teacher who was corrupting Christianity (probably Paul).

While Jesus was a Jewish Prophet sent specifically to the Jews, Prophet Muhammad was a gentile (non-Jew) sent to all of humanity as God’s final prophet. Muhammad is descended from Abraham just like the Jews, but while the Jews are descendants of Isaac son of Abraham, Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael son of Abraham (in Jewish literature Muslims are sometimes called Ishmaelites for this reason).

Just like Jesus, Muhammad was not meant to found a new religion exactly, he was meant as a reformer who brings back God’s true teachings as taught originally to Abraham:

67. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a Monotheist, a “Muslim” (”one who submits”). And he was not of the Polytheists.

68. The people most deserving to be associated with Abraham are those who followed him, and this prophet [Muhammad], and those who believe. God is the Guardian of the believers. (The Quran, verses 3:67-68)

In chapter, after narrating the stories of the Biblical prophets, the Quran tells us that we Muslims and those prophets are all part of the same community:

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.

91. And she who guarded her virginity. We breathed into her of Our spirit, and made her and her son a sign to the world.

92. This community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me. (The Quran, verses 21:87-92)

According to the Quran, all of the prophets are part of the same story, and the coming of Prophet Muhammad was not something out of the ordinary, it was an answer to a prayer by Abraham and his son made 2600 years before (around 2000 BC):

127. As Abraham raises the foundations of the House [the Kaaba in Mecca], 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 2:127-129)

Some verses after the above, the Quran tells us that the Prophet was the answer to that prayer by using the same words to describe Prophet Muhammad that Abraham and Ishamel used in verse 129 in their prayer for a prophet:

151. Just as We sent to you a messenger from among you, who recites Our revelations to you, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know.

152. So remember Me, and I will remember you. And thank Me, and do not be ungrateful.

On dealing with anti-Muslim parents and siblings as a convert

I’m a convert and my relationship with my Mother and her husband has been horrible lately. When we meet they only talk about how Islam is evil and I’m in the wrong path. They openly look for anything bad to say, especially about my husband. Recently my younger sister even went through my phone when I was using the restroom. They do not want any good for us and say bad things that happen are God’s punishment in us. It’s very stressful. Is it ok to cut off contact at this point? It’s been years.

Regarding parents that try to turn us away from Islam, the Quran says:

But if they strive to have you associate with Me something of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. But keep them company in this life, in kindness, and follow the path of him who turns to Me. Then to Me is your return; and I will inform you of what you used to do. (Verse 31:15)

Our default attitude toward our parents and relatives should be one of kindness and forgiveness. However, this does not mean that we should put up with their behavior regardless of how it is. The Quran says in another place:

O you who believe! Do not ally yourselves in close friendship with your parents and your siblings if they prefer disbelief to belief. Whoever of you allies himself with them—these are the wrongdoers. (Verse 9:23)

What I recommend is try to keep up polite relations with them, and if one of them is in need or is sick you should try to be there for them. But you can also tell them that they are not allowed to talk about religion or your husband to you and that if they do that you will cut contact with them until they change their behavior. If they agree to be civilized, then you can continue keeping up with them. And if they break the rule and, for example, email you an article by an Islamophobe, try to forgive and ignore it. But if they break the rule in a major way, inviting you to a dinner with the intent of lecturing you about Islam, you can respond to it as you would respond to any other insult, for example leaving the scene immediately, telling them they should apologize, and avoiding them unless they promise to be well-behaved next time.

But if you avoid them for their misbehavior, you should be willing to make an exception if one of them is in need or ill, if they genuinely need you then it is best to be there for them to the best of your ability.

Best wishes.

Why Islam does not have a specific punishment for rape

Why does God frown upon consensual sex before marriage more than rape? I've done some research and haven't found anything about rape. Many don't even validate rape and equates it to normal sex . The only hadith I stumbled on about a woman who had been raped (in this case it was referred as forced zina). The man got stoned and she was told by Rasulallah that she is forgiven. This arise another question which is why would he say that she's forgiven? Had she sinned by being victim to such a horrible thing in the first place? I just feel the issue of rape and molesting is not addressed in the Muslim communities. I've even heard Muslims refering to raped people as unclean. It's very sad. Many woman are being raped and the worst part is that they are being asked about their hijab when rape is not about clothes always. I even personally know a girl who went through that and she wears abayah. I just don't understand why it's more important for Muslims what a woman is wearing. I come from a culture in which raped woman are actually blamed for being raped and to keep modesty they must marry their rapist so its a heavy burden on me to talk about this issue. The Islamic communities I know in the west aren't at this stage but they're definitely not progressive

In Islam, rape is a category of zinā (adultery and fornication), so it is incorrect to say that Islam frowns upon sex before marriage more than rape, it does not. At best they are equal. Islam’s law against “people who spread corruption” allows society to deal with a rapist in whatever way they think is fair, including banishment, amputating their limbs or execution. We have an example of five men (if I remember the number correctly) who raped a boy in Ottoman times and who were executed for their crime (mentioned in Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law by Rudolph Peters).

In the hadith you mentioned, and in similar hadiths, it is almost always guaranteed that we are not getting the full story about what took place. Hadith narrators only transmit what they consider to be the most important features of an event, often neglecting to transmit details that would make the story make more sense to us modern people. You should never take any single hadith too seriously but always relate it to the rest of the literature. The majority of authentic narrations have probabilistic, rather than absolute, authenticity. As books of legal theory (uṣūl) tell us, only a minority of hadith narrations can be considered to yield certain knowledge (ʿilm al-yaqīn).

The hadith you mentioned has its madār (common link) at Samāk (?) bin Ḥarb. The hadith scholar Shuʿba bin al-Ḥajjāj (d. 776 CE) considered him ḍaʿīf (untrustworthy), while Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 855 CE) considered him muḍtarib (one who is not fully reliable). There are others who consider him reliable. Due to the uncertainty surrounding this person, the hadith should not be used as the basis for any argument and should be considered at least as likely to be false as it is likely to be authentic. Therefore we can forget about this hadith, it has no significance in the discussion.

Islamic law only gives us a general framework that each civilization can build upon. It allows each society to deal with rape in its own way. One would be right to wonder why Islam did not fully spell out the way to deal with rape. I believe it is because rape is a very context-sensitive crime unlike crimes like murder. A man who rapes random women on the street can be dealt with in the harshest way, he can even get executed in the worst cases. But what about the case of a woman who is in love with a man and wishes to marry him, but during some interaction the man ends up forcing himself on her despite her protestations? That too is rape, but it is different. In such cases some women may become traumatized and lose their respect for the man so that they may want him punished, while others may continue to wish to marry him. A sensible society should therefore take the context into account and find out if and how traumatized the woman is, and what her relationship is with the man. The worse cases of rape can lead to execution, while some cases may lead to the judge forcing the man to marry the woman, as in the case of a rich man forcing himself on a servant girl he is in love with but who he is unwilling to marry due to her low social status. If the servant girl is asked her opinion and she say she wishes to marry him, then they can be made to marry and that can be the end of it.

It is true that most Muslim societies have not had good policies against rape, similar to most other societies, and uneducated Muslims often put the blame on the woman in cases of female rape. These are cultural prejudices rather than concepts derived from Islam. There is nothing in Islam preventing us from being as harsh on rape as we think it deserves. Many Muslim societies are where Europe was in the 19th century. Social change often takes many generations, therefore hopefully things will get better over time.

We should also not forget that rape is not only a women’s rights issue, men and boys can be raped too. It is a human rights issue. As far as I am aware most Muslim societies are unaware that the rape of men and boys is a crime that should be taken seriously.

Differences in male and female responsibility for adultery in Islam

Why does Allah frown upon woman with consensual sex more than men?

It seems like you are asking why God blames men more than women in cases of adultery and fornication. Islamic law punishes men and women equally for such sins and does not hold one of them more accountable than the other. Even if a woman has greater responsibility (as some women believe, see below), this greater responsibility is not so much greater to justify a harsher treatment. Their responsibility is similar enough to justify the same legal treatment.

Most cultures around the world consider women to have more maturity and self-control than men in sexual matters. Even Western women blame “the other woman” more than their husbands in cases of cheating, as a Cardiff Metropolitan University study showed.1 These women believe that other women “should know better” because women are more mature and have better self-control in sexual matters than men. One could argue that it is because of deeply ingrained misogyny that women hold other women to higher standards than they hold men, but this argument is in itself highly misogynistic, by what right do we deny these women the right to have their opinions on this matter taken seriously? I personally support treating men and women exactly the same when it comes to the issues of adultery and fornication (as the Quran commands us), but ignoring the opinions of these women who have been cheated on just because we do not like what they say is just as discriminatory as ignoring women’s opinions on any other topic. Either we take women’s opinions seriously or we do not, we cannot hold them to double standards, as some feminists do, so that we only accept those female opinions that we like or that fit our ideology and dismiss those that we do not like. Feminists have attacked and demonized female scholars like Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers for speaking their minds too freely and daring to go against their ideology. A true feminist should be a humanist who does not demonize and belittle other women but respects their opinions regardless of where those opinions might lead.

At any rate, Christian societies until recently put almost the entirety of the blame on women in cases of out-of-wedlock births. It seems to have been common for Christians to cast out women who became pregnant outside of marriage, although perhaps Victorian works of fiction exaggerate how common this was. Casting out such women is expressly forbidden by Islam; her male relatives are forced by Islamic law to continue to shelter and feed her even if they do not want to.

Of course, after pregnancy, it appears that, at least in Islam’s early days, the rule was to follow the Jewish law of stoning adulterous men and women to death. One of the foremost scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra, argued that this punishment was abrogated by the Quran’s 24th chapter (see this article about him). If his view becomes the norm, then stoning would be relegated to history as many Muslims wish. Not even one out of a million Muslims has witnessed a stoning in his or her lifetime, since the extremely high requirements for evidence (four witnesses to the act of copulation) makes it close to impossible to prove, and since Islamic judges have always done everything in their power to avoid carrying out the punishment. But if Sheikh Abu Zahra’s views become the norm, then this issue will finally be settled and we can forget about it. It should also be mentioned that Islamic law is not meant to be forced on people; it is how the Muslim community organizes its own business. In a modern, cosmopolitan society, there would be a constitution that applies to Muslims and non-Muslims, while Islamic law would only apply to Muslims. And since people have the right to abandon Islam (as is the opinion of modern scholars such as Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s Grand Mufti from 2003 to 2013), people who have a problem with Islamic law can do that so that Islamic law would not apply to them any longer. We have no interest in forcing Islamic law on others. Islam is beautiful and meaningful enough to continue to attract great numbers of people who would voluntarily follow its laws.

The Quran provides only a small hint toward women being more responsible than men in cases of adultery, when it says:

The adulteress and the adulterer... (Verse 24:2)

It mentions “adulteress” first, while in the case of robbery it mentions the male robber first. Mentioning the adulteress before the adulterer is the only thing in the Quran that can be construed as putting more blame on women than men. But this apparent extra female responsibility is not used to justify unbalanced laws. The laws treat the man and the woman equally, which shows us that the extra female responsibility is not so great as to justify letting the man get a milder treatment than the woman.

Muslim cultures, however, like all cultures, are harder on women than men in these cases. It is very unfair to let men do whatever they like while putting all the blame and responsibility on women, as past Christian societies used to do and some Muslim societies today as well. The right thing to do is to treat them equally as the Quran commands. But we cannot wipe out human nature, so it will likely forever remain the case that people, including women, will hold women more responsible than men for their sexuality. This means that all Muslim societies, due to being human societies, will invariably edge toward putting more blame on women than men no matter how hard they try to resist this. The more pious these societies are, the fairer they will be toward women, because if they try to follow the Quran as much as possible, then they will try to have its attitude toward adultery and fornication, which is that the man and the woman are to be treated equally.

Converts to Islam do not need to get circumcised (but it is recommended)

I have a question: does a man who converts to islam at 20 have to get a circumcision

Circumcision is not obligatory although there is disagreement about it (see this previous answer). So they do not have to get a circumcision, but most people would expect him to do it at some point.

Forgiving society’s shortcomings and wrongs as a Muslim

At first, I became a Muslim willingly, yes, my surroundings and family had a great role in it, but you see I had a choice, and I made it myself. Now that I grew up I realized that it was a false one. I was never really given the choice. Deep down I know it's not Islam's fault but the society. Didn't Islam say that everyone' free to follow what they want? I started to lose my faith living in a society that denies you and make your decisions for you. It no longer feels real.

We all go through phases where we question the tradition we grew up in. As children we accept everything we are given by our societies since we do not know better. At some point, usually in the teenage years, we start to question things and start to wonder if our culture and religion is the best one, since there seem to be many alternatives.

At that point, some people start to rebel against their families and societies, while others keep quiet until they learn more. They read and ask questions and slowly realize that their tradition is actually a good thing (even if their own family’s version of it is not so great). And if they dislike the Islam that is practiced by their family or society, they might discover that there are far better ways of practicing Islam offered by other societies.

The reason your society does not treat you with the respect and honor that you deserve is not Islam, it is culture. If Indian Muslims have a controlling and authoritarian attitude toward their children, you will find that Indian Hindus are the same way. And if Swedish Christians or secular people are very kind and respectful toward their children, you will find Swedish converts to Islam to be the same way. Islam does not turn these kind Europeans into mean people, they remain just as kind as before and become even kinder and more spiritual.

If your society treated you the way Islam teaches, they would have given you the respect and honor that any human deserves. You can be a reformer who improves the way they practice Islam by treating the people around you better than they treat you, as is the example of the Prophet . If we are more spiritual and more enlightened than those around us, this should cause us be more loving and forgiving toward them. If we rebel against our societies and treat them with hatred because they were mean to us, that does not make the world a better place, it just continues the same cycle.

Along with that, Islam is first and foremost something between you and God. People’s actions should not come between you and God. Whether you are the only person living on Earth or whether you are surrounded by people should not fundamentally change the way you relate to God. Your relationship with God is very serious business and determines your fate for eternity, you should not let anyone ruin it for you. So read the Quran and use it to relate to God, and forgive your society’s wrongs the way every prophet forgave his society’s wrongs.

Kafara for wrongful abortion and manslaughter for one who cannot fast 60 days

If someone has had an abortion and they can't fast for 60 days, will Allah forgive them if they constantly ask for forgiveness?

There are two opinions on that. According to the Palestinian scholar Dr. Hisam al-Din Afana if a person cannot fast in that scenario, there is nothing else they have to do, they can go on with their lives as Muslims (but of course praying for forgiveness is always a good thing).

A second opinion, mentioned by Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, is that the person will have to feed sixty people in the place of the sixty days of fasting. A fatwa on the Egyptian scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s IslamOnline website recommends this second opinion. (Here is an archived PDF link to the Arabic article on IslamOnline that mentions these opinions)

The second opinion seems more likely to achieve the intent of the law, which is to make the person feel the gravity of their sin and, just as importantly, to give them a sense of closure, so that once they have finished making their offering they can go on with their lives instead of continuing to feel guilt and uncertainty. Some Muslim charities like IslamicRelief offer a “kafara service” where you donate money specifically for the purpose of the expiation of sins and they will find sixty people to feed on your behalf.

If a person cannot afford that, they should wait and have the intention of doing it if and when they can.

Explanation of the “kill them where you find them” verse of the Quran

How do I defend the ”kill them where you find them verse” in the Quran?

In that verse the Quran is laying out the laws of warfare. That verse tells us that during warfare a Muslim army is allowed to fight in cities and in the countryside, on land, sea, in the air and in outer space. Some use this verse to imply that Islam is a violent religion. They ignore the verse that comes right before it, commanding us not to be aggressors:

And fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression; God does not love aggressors. (Verse 2:190)

Those who use such verses to imply that Islam is violent are doing exactly what terrorists do, which is to cut out a few verses and ignore the rest of the book’s teachings to make a deranged religion out of it. No respectable scholar of Islam acts this way, whether they are a Muslim or non-Muslim. We relate every verse of the Quran to the rest of it to make a holistic system out of it. When one verse says “kill them where you find them” and another verse says “do not be aggressors”, the obvious conclusion (unless we assume the writer of the book was insane) is that we are not supposed to commit aggression, but if we are forced into a defensive war, then the general rule of warfare is that fighting can take place wherever necessary.

Making sense of all the different versions of Islam as a convert

Is it ok if I don't worry about the shariah issue. All I want to focus on is my rituals and improving my character. All this confusion of difference in opinion , that people who are for or against khalifah, which madahib, etc is just tiring and I find myself more confused. Many people say "salaf" is the truth or this is the truth. Some say we should reject ahadith while others say that it's equal to Qur'an etc. For someone who has just turned to the Deen I feel drained from all this turmoil

Imam al-Ghazali, who defined mainstream Islam for most Muslims, said that our focus should be on developing our relationship with God, everything else is merely a tool toward accomplishing that. Most born Muslims grow up with this view. They do not feel overwhelmed by all the disputes and arguments because they grow up in a balanced culture that tells them what is important and what is not, and when it comes to the majority of disputes, they leave it to the scholars to argue about and go on with their own lives, following the scholars they like and respect.

But it is different for converts since they are overwhelmed with raw information coming from all directions and do not know who to trust and what to prioritize. Your lifeline in this turmoil is to hold onto the Quran and read it constantly. Never let anyone define Islam or God for you when you have the Quran to tell you about these things.

You can then listen to the opinions of respected mainstream scholars who do not creep you out by their extreme or immature views, people like Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb and Umar Faruq Abd-Allah. You can rely on their opinions on most issues, except when you are not satisfied with their opinion in which case you research the matter for yourself.

As time passes, you will develop an intuitive sense of the shape of the Islamic intellectual landscape so that it will become easy for you to know which things are important and which things are just splitting hairs, and which opinions are respectable and which ones are not.

The Islamic prayer for healing from the Quran

Salam. Do you know which dua we should recite for shifa? As in, I’ve a horrible wart on my hand and I’ve seen a lot of doctors but they all said it’ll take time. Is there any dua I should recite for healing ?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

My view is that it is not the words that matter, but your sincerity. If you have a good relationship with God then you can say anything you want in any way you want and He will answer you.

I do like to repeat some of the prayer words mentioned in the Quran, but not because I believe they necessarily have any magical qualities, but because they tell us the right things we should pray for and state them beautifully:

And say, “My Lord, forgive and have mercy, for You are the Best of the merciful.” (Verse 23:118)

and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.” (Verse 17:24)

“Lord, enable me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to act with righteousness, pleasing You. And help my children improve. I have sincerely repented to You, and I am of those who have surrendered.” (Verse 46:15)

and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (Verse 20:114)

Regarding praying for healing, we have the example of the prayer of Prophet Ayyub (known as Job in the Bible):

And Job, when he cried out to his Lord: “Great harm has afflicted me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Verse 21:83)

That is a beautiful prayer that shows why Ayyub was known for his patience. He does not blame God, he does not even ask Him to do anything for Him. He merely tells God what is wrong then praises His mercy, leaving it up to God to do what He wants regarding his suffering. The next verse tells us what happened next:

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. (Verse 21:84)

Even though he did not directly ask for anything, God still answered him.

Below is his prayer in Arabic (transliterated) if you are interested in repeating it:

annī massanī al-ḍurrū wa anta arḥam al-rāḥimīn

Responding to atheist arguments against Islam

What can you recommend when dealing with Atheists? Youtube recently recommended me a video about debunking 5 quranic miracles and I got really upset about the recommendation itself, but also about the video, as such things always upset me. (and anger really messes with my mental health which is why I avoid it at all costs) I didnt watch it but that makes me feel like I'm hiding from them, without wanting to seek knowledge. Is it our duty to learn from other groups and what they say about us? 1/2

2/2 I am actually really curious about what 5 quranic miracles this video is talking about. If it talks about the miracles described, than whats the point of “debunking” them? That’s the point of a miracle afterall, that you can’t explain them with science. Or are they talking about miracles we attribute with thw Quran itself? Either way, I know I’ll get angry should I watch it and I don’t like getting near doubtful thoughts in the first place, again, it makes me feel like I run away from them.

What you should do with respect to atheists and critics of Islam is ignore them unless they are respected scholars who have something intelligent to say. There is no point in listening to someone who attacks what you hold valuable unless they really have an important (and new) point to make. As it happens, almost anything you see against Islam on YouTube has been answered over and over again by hundreds of scholars over the past centuries, so nothing they say is new or shocking as they might claim.

Since you are unable to study the matter for yourself, it should be sufficient for you to know that many well-educated and widely-read Westerners have embraced Islam and remained Muslims, such as the University of Kansas math professor Jeffrey Lang, the German diplomat Murad Wilfred Hoffman, Hamza Yusuf, the Georgetown University professor Jonathan Brown, Umar Wymann-Landgraf, the Shakespeare scholar Martin Lings, and Timothy Winter. It would be highly irrational to assume that all of these people failed to learn about the arguments against Islam by atheists and others. Quite the opposite is true, many of these people studied Islam and all the arguments against it very deeply before they embraced it.

One common attack against religion by atheists is that science “has shown” that the world is mechanical and that there is no place for free will or responsibility, we are all controlled by selfish genes and laws of nature, therefore religion is false. They are merely repeating theories that were fashionable in Greece in 350 BC and that were debunked by al-Ghazali in the 11th century (see my essay on this). If we think of the universe as a simulation as Imam al-Ghazali did, then the views of religion make scientific sense and cannot be proven false (even if they cannot be proven true).

Islam and abortion

/ No Comments on Islam and abortion

The issue of abortion is highly controversial in Islam. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in his essay “When Does a Human Fetus Become Human?”1, says that Imam al-Ghazali considered abortion prohibited but said that the severity of the crime increased with the fetus’s development. Hamza Yusuf considers the Mālikī school’s view to be the soundest, which is that an embryo is becomes a proper human at conception, rather than at any later date. Is someone assaults a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry, then the Mālikī view is that this should be treated as manslaughter (unintentional killing of a human) by the law.

The Egyptian scholar Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, representing the more common mainstream view (which Hamza Yusuf says is mistaken), says that there is something of a consensus among scholars that abortion is forbidden once the fetus is considered to have a soul, but that the disagreement is on when this happens.2 Once the fetus has a soul, killing it is forbidden unless the mother’s life is in danger and an abortion is needed to save her life.

His view is that in the case of rape, it is permissible to abort the fetus within the first forty days or the first four months, the first forty days being preferable.

He says that if a fetus is aborted without due cause after the first 120 days, then the kafāra for it (what needs to be done to attain God’s forgiveness) is similar to that for manslaughter, which is to free a slave or fast for 60 days uninterrupted. The diya (blood money) must also be paid to the fetus’s legal inheritors, but this excludes those responsible for the abortion (so if it was the mother’s decision, she must pay the diya to the fetus’s inheritors but she herself cannot receive anything from it despite being an inheritor). However, if the abortion was done without due cause within the first 120 days, then only one tenth of the diya is to be paid.

It appears to me that piety requires Muslims to avoid abortion at any period of the pregnancy (as Hamza Yusuf) says. Therefore that should be a pious Muslim’s policy; to consider a fetus a human regardless of its age, because we do not have sufficient evidence to decide one way or another whether it really is a human or not, therefore we should err on the side of caution out of the fear that we might unknowingly kill what God considers to be a proper human.

However, due to the inconclusive nature of the evidence, we cannot condemn Muslims who get abortions within the first 120 days of pregnancy. There is sufficient scholarly support for their action, therefore if they truly believe that their action is sanctioned by Islam, then God will treat them according to that. But if they feel in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, but out of their extreme desire for it they still go on with it, then that is problematic and they risk God’s displeasure.

Muslims may write fantasy and romance novels (except for erotic ones)

Salam, I am an English literature major and I really want to write fictional novels one day. With any novels you would hope to speak about an important message, with fiction these ideas are offered like a reflection of reality and in a way that it will connect to a reader. Is it wrong to want to write in a fantasy genre? I also want to write romance within these stories. Is this wrong?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

A novel is just a developed form of telling a fictional story. There is nothing in Islam to forbid telling fictional stories, for entertainment for example, even if they contain no moral teachings. So there is no reason to justify them through arguing that they are educational or beneficial. Arabs continued composing poetry after Islam and no one argued that they should stop. Poetry might be justified on the grounds that it helps with the learning and retention of language. But we can make the same argument for good novels.

Besides that, a good novel, that is, one written from the heart by its author, gives us an honest picture of another human’s view of the world. That is extremely valuable, because it helps us see the world in new ways and helps us develop empathy for humans who differ from us.

There is no issue with fantasy or romance novels. Arab culture is full of romance stories that mainstream scholars have no problem with. The exception is erotic novels (as I explain here). Jane Austen’s novels are good examples of romance novels that do not contain anything obscene.

I once saw a fatwa on the Saudi-funded that said the Harry Potter books are forbidden to read for Muslims because they depict magic. Their view is rather narrow-minded because people can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The Wahhabi worldview is that cultural products (novels, poetry, architecture) have no worth, culture has to be wiped out and replaced by their ideology, hence their destruction of almost all of Arabia’s historical architecture. Thankfully that is not mainstream Islam’s view. Our view is that what humans value should be respected, so if a person really likes a poem or novel even though it has no strictly religious worth, then that is their business. Islam respects their humanity and does not try to stamp it out.

Islam and the legalization of recreational drugs

I really love your blog, keep up the amazing work! I have been researching about the dealings of the mafia in various countries, and came to the conclusion (after thorough research) that legalizing all kinds of drugs is the best way to eradicate a big part of the mafias (to remove one of their main sources of income and letting the govt take care of it). I really support legalization (I have nothing to do with drugs myself) but I was wondering, is my support considered haram?

Thank you! Regarding your question, if the data conclusively show that the societal harms of banning drugs are greater than the harms of legalizing them, then Muslims can support legalizing drugs as a way of choosing the lesser evil. Here we are talking about legalizing them when it come to law enforcement, meaning that the police will stop going after people who make, sell or use drugs. The religious position against the use of drugs will remain the same (that it is forbidden), but the society leaves it to people’s own choice to avoid it rather than trying to force it.

In Islam, when we are faced with two evils, we are required to choose the lesser one (see Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1995 book Fiqh al-Awlawīyāt [The Fiqh of Priorities]), so we have to compare the harms of banning them (which empowers drug gangs and leads to much murder and other serious crimes) with the harms of legalizing them (more people using them). Since I have not studied the matter deeply, I cannot state what is the right choice. I do not think this is something for one person or one expert to decide. If most of those who study the matter come to the conclusion that banning drugs does more harm than legalizing them, then Islamic law supports “legalization”, meaning that law-enforcement will stop involving themselves with the issue.

“Legalization”, however, is not an appropriate term when speaking of Islamic law’s stance, since it suggests that Islamic law will have a positive or neutral view of it, which is not the case. We can instead call it “non-enforcement”. Islamic law bans eating food during the daylight hours of Ramadan, but most Islamic societies do not have a police force that forces people to avoid food. Similarly, an Islamic society can refrain from using the police to fight drugs because the prohibition on drugs creates the extremely lucrative black market that attracts criminals (and many policemen too) and leads to widespread crime and corruption, while if the matter is left alone by the police most people will avoid it on their own.

So like I said, we have to compare the harms of enforcing a drug ban with not enforcing a drug ban and choose the lesser evil.

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