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Answers to questions on Islamic topics. Ask a Question.

Are the signs of end times (such as al-Mahdi) in Islam authentic?

Salam, If it's not too much of a bother to you, would you mind talking about the end of times and it's various signs? What are your interpretations of them and possible thoughts on its implications that are manifesting in our world already? Not all hadith is as authentic as it initially seems which is why I'm a little skeptical of descriptions made by some imams and scholars. I was curious to know what you have to say on this topic, being someone I respect intellectually and religiously.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I have always been skeptical of end days narratives that are not mentioned in the Quran. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi says that since the Mahdi is not mentioned in the Quran nor explicitly in the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, the concept should not be taken seriously. He says that this is a very important addition to Islam, but since the support for it does not come from Islam’s main sources, the addition should be rejected. There are many respected scholars who believe in it. But it is not a matter of consensus despite the claims of some. If a single highly respected and qualified scholar disagrees with the rest on something, this automatically breaks the consensus.

I have not done a detailed study of these matters since what the Quran says about Day of Judgment has always been sufficient for me. I see no benefit in concerning ourselves with epic narratives when the Quran constantly stresses the Day of Judgment itself rather than what takes place in the days and years before it. I do not say the whole literature is false, I will have to do a detailed study to find out what can be trusted and what cannot. If there are authentic narrations coming from multiple Companions (rather than a single Companion) and multiple chains that speak of something, then that is strong support for it. But if it comes to us from a single Companion then skepticism is required (there is much disagreement on this, but scholars of legal theory accept this, while scholars of hadith are often less skeptical).

Source for al-Qaradawi’s opinion (Arabic PDF)

Discussion of multiply-and-singularly transmitted narrations (Arabic PDF)

It is permissible for Sunni Muslims to marry Shia Muslims (with conditions)

Do you think Sunnis and Shias can get married?

According to the scholar sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as long as the couple can respect each other then they can marry since there is not sufficient evidence to prohibit it. From the Sunni point of view, there is only an issue if the Shia person is an extremist who believes in attacking the Prophet’s Companions who are respected by Sunnis (as an example). If they are a pluralist and respect Sunnis then there is no issue.

However, like all multi-cultural marriages there can be issues. Even if the couple themselves have no problem with each other, it is possible that their families might have problems. Even if the couple are pluralists, the families may contain some who dislike Shias/Sunnis and this will not lead to an ideal atmosphere. But if both sides are open-minded then these problems will likely be minor.

Source: Fatwa in Arabic

How to memorize long verses like Ayat al-Kursi

Salam, do you have any tips on how to memorise surahs? I'm currently trying to learn Ayatul kursi, but I'm finding it difficult as Arabic is not my first language.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The method I have used for myself is to split the material into logical units. For example this part from the beginning of Ayat al-Kursi can be memorized on its own:

اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ
God! There is no god except He, the Living, the Everlasting.

Once you memorize that, you can go on to memorize the next unit:

لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ
Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep.

Once you memorize three units, go back to the first and recite from there from memory. Once you have reached the fourth unit and memorized it, you do not have to go back to the first, you can recite from the second unit to the fourth.

So the way I do it is to memorize a unit/piece, go back to the unit before last and try to recite from there. Once I master that, I memorize a new unit, go back to the one before last and recite from there from memory.

In this way, it becomes easy to memorize since you only deal with small units of text, but since you always go back to recite previous units, they all become linked in your mind rather than remaining isolated. And when it comes to suras with shorter verses, each verse can be a unit.

There might be other good ways to memorize. That is how I have done it.

Overcoming doubts on becoming Muslim

‏السلامعليكم! I have been considering taking shahada for almost 10 years now, yet there’s always something that seems to be holding me back. My values and beliefs are inherently Islamic-influenced and I have read and understood the Qur’an multiple times as independent study. I’m just unsure of what’s holding me back and making me apprehensive. Any advice?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

In order to become Muslim you need to take a “leap” of faith. No amount of knowledge is sufficient to force faith upon a person. The act of becoming Muslim is an act of the heart, it is something you feel in your chest when you accept to stand face-to-face with God, open your heart to Him, and embrace His presence regardless of the risks and fears you feel.

The process is two steps; first you need to feel God’s presence. You have to come face-to-face with Him. But that is not enough. Once that presence is felt, one needs to embrace it, to “leap” into it.

As I discuss in my essay on beauty, the most beautiful things take us face-to-face with God. Therefore rather than looking for faith in books, when you experience beauty and feel it in your heart, know that it is God who is looking back at you. From there it is just a very small step to leap into His presence. Many people, when they experience such beauty that it brings tears to their eyes, know that the universe is offering them something, but they do not know what that is. I say that that is God who is offering you His hand. You just need to take it.

As for Islam, it is merely a tool to help you know the manners of interacting with God and people. The point of Islam is God, so it is God who comes first. When you have experienced Him and embraced His presence, then embracing Islam, if you have understood it, is the logical next step (for some Christianity works in the same way), since Islam offers a beautiful and logical system that teaches one the best way to interact with God and with humanity.

Best wishes.

Why is God not helping me?

im going thru something hard in life and hope you will make dua for me. I understand everything happenes by the decree of Allah swt, but I don’t understand why this is happening to me, astagfiruallah, but it doesn’t seem “fair”, I have very hard time understanding and accepting why. I first become closer to Allah and make dua and have patience. but nothing has happened and nothing helped me yet. so I feel unmotivated to stay close, astagfiruAllah. please any advice and dua. asselamalaikum

Sorry to read that. I know what you mean by hardship not feeling fair. I discuss this in detail in my essay on depression. Please check out that essay in which I discuss how to find meaning when suffering feels meaningless.

Best wishes inshaAllah.

Is it permissible to have hobbies in Islam?

Assalamu Aleikum, I always wondered if it is dangerous to have passions/hobbies? For instance I love movies, I spend a lot of time watching films and learning about cinema, it’s become part of my personnality really, but I never ever felt that it distracts me from my religion. Are passions and hobbies like music, where we are specifically told that it’s haram because of the harm and distraction it causes to our faith?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

As long as they do not get in the way of your religious practice then they are neutral and can even have a positive value. We know that Prophet Sulayman asked God to give him the world’s greatest kingdom and that he liked fine horses. These interests were worldly interests as far as we can see, but God did not condemn them.

The Quran says:

31. O Children of Adam! Dress finely at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but do not be excessive. He does not love the excessive.

32. Say, “Who forbade God’s finery which He has produced for His servants, and the delights of livelihood?” Say, “They are for those who believe, in this present world, but exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus detail the revelations for people who know. (The Quran, verses 7:31-32)

These verses seem to support the idea that it is fine to enjoy the good things in life as long as it is not taken to excess.

A good way to ensure that the things you enjoy do not have a negative influence on you is to dedicate an hour or so of every day to extra worship that involves reading Quran (as I discuss in my essay on tahajjud). If you do this then you will be protected from sinful things and the good things you enjoy in life will not take you away from God.

Best wishes.

On Muslim migrant criminal and uncivilized behavior in the West

Why are Muslim migrants so destructive to whatever nation harbors them? They actually use their faith to justify their criminal behaviour, leeching off the welfare state, and anti-western sentiments. Catholic South America is just as bad but those who do the same don't justify it with their faith; there's no crusade mentallity against 'infidels' when they migrate. Though majority of Muslims aren't terrorist, vast majority (in South Asia and parts of Africa) hold wahabi-like backwards views.

The problem is not Islam. There are millions of Iranian immigrants in California that no one hears about because they are just like ordinary, middle class American. The same applies to most of the Muslims in Canada.

The problem is letting in immigrants who have a high rate of criminality in their home countries, and this changes from country to country. If the migrants in Germany had all been Malaysian there would have been then 95% of the current problems would not have existed.

Similarly, if any Muslim population you look at has a high rate of criminality, then neighboring non-Muslims who are genetically and culturally similar will be just like them in criminality. A good case is Indian Muslims versus Indian Hindus. Indian Hindus are in no shape or form superior to Indian Muslims. Whatever problems Indian Muslims have, Indian Hindus have them too. If Indian Muslim immigrants are more criminal than the native population in a country like Germany, then Indian Hindus too would be more criminal than the native population.

My point is that the socio-economic status of a Muslim population tells us everything we need to know about their rate of criminality; Islam is irrelevant here. In fact Islam has a positive contribution; a country like Egypt is doing far better in criminality and scientific output, for example, compared to Christian countries of similar socio-economic status (mostly in Latin America). The same applies to Iran compared to Armenia (which has a higher IQ and is Christian). Iran has a lower homicide rate and produces far more scientific research per citizen compared to this neighboring Christian country.

We can also compare Senegal (Muslim majority African country) to neighboring Christian countries. Senegal is doing far better than them, the rate of rape for example is an order of magnitude lower than a Christian African country of similar socio-economic status I compared it to some time back.

I know people like to blame Islam for the problems they see among Muslims. This is what I call amateur sociology; it is done by people who are completely ignorant about standard scientific practices like controls and comparing like for like.

To put it another way, problematic Muslim populations would be even worse if we take away Islam from them. Do you think the criminals among these migrants are devout Muslims? The criminal underclass of the Middle East is only Muslim in name, and it fits the propaganda purposes of anti-Muslim sources to contribute their criminality to Islam when we can actually make the argument that their criminality is due to their lack of Islam; due to the fact that they have never taken Islam to heart, never pray and never read the Quran.

I agree that many, especially in Pakistan, hold Wahhabi-like views. This is thanks to a Saudi-US-Pakistani program to spread Wahhabism in that country for geopolitical reasons (see Professor Andrew J. Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History). A recent study I read said that there were over 100 Saudi-funded madrasas in a single Pakistani state. The people of Pakistan have been used like chess pieces by American war planners who wanted to weaken the Soviet Union by creating an army of intolerant jihadists. And the Saudis like to extend their power all over the Islamic world by producing Wahhabi ideologues submissive to their commands. And the Taliban, which literally means “the Students”, were the products of this Saudi-US-Pakistani project.

Winston Churchill was giving Ibn Saud (the founder of modern Saudi Arabia) an annual sum of 100,000 British pounds to help him succeed in his war on the rest of the Muslims of Arabia even as he, Churchill, acknowledged in the British Parliament that his fighters were bloodthirsty and utterly intolerant (see Professor Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam) . And more recently it has been American support that has been keeping them in power. Blaming Muslims for Wahhabism is a perfect case of blaming the victim. This ideology has been a tool of power for different states wishing to gain power and manipulate Muslim populations. A primary reason it was adopted by the Saudis originally in the 18th century was that it gave them the right to attack and enslave fellow Muslim tribes, something that mainstream Islam prohibited. It helped free them from all the limitations of Islamic law by defining all Muslims who disagreed with them as worse than animals. Ibn Saud considered the Karbala massacre of 1802, in which thousands of innocent men, women and children were slaughtered by Wahhabis, a great success.

The majority of people in whatever Muslim country you look at are not Wahhabis, not even in Saudi Arabia. Wahhbabism can only exist when there is a power forcing it on people from above (or paying people to adopt it, as in Pakistan). Most Muslims just want to get along and are not obsessed with religion. Generally the media gives all of its attention to the 0.01% of extremist and intolerant Muslims and ignores the 99.99% who are just ordinary people.

I do not know if any statistics exist, but I would be highly skeptical of any claim that more than a few percent of people in Pakistan actually follow Wahhabism or similar versions of Islam. There may be many wannabe Wahhabis; many in Pakistan probably mistakenly think it is a “pure and authentic” version of Islam (not realizing that the people of Mecca and Medina strongly disliked the Wahhabis when they took over in the 1920′s and had no respect for them. Ibn Saud had to import clerics from Egypt because the people of the Hijaz would not listen to Wahhabi clerics). But even among those who mistakenly think Wahhabism is pure and authentic Islam, only a small number of them will be willing to actually learn about it and follow it. Most of them will continue to listen to music, watch cartoons, and do whatever else their cultural common sense tells them regardless of what the Wahhabis say.

It is my belief that if the Saudi funding for Wahhabism is cut off, it will immediately collapse wherever it is because Wahhabism has never spread anywhere in the world organically. It has always had a political power behind it, and when that political power is removed (as happened in the 1840′s in the town of Dawmat al-Jandal in Arabia), people automatically revert back to a more sensible and tolerant version of Islam that fits their culture (Wahhabism wants to wipe out culture so that everyone may become a Homo Wahhabicus with nothing in their brains except Wahhabism, while mainstream Islam respects culture and does not expect people to stop being human in order to be Muslim).

Sexual fantasies in Islam

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What is your advice for young people struggling with sexual daydreams?

The Prophet, , says:

God has pardoned for my community what comes to their mind, so long as they do not act or pronounce words to that effect. (Sunan Abi Dawud 2209, various forms of this hadith are also present al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)

Sexual fantasies are a natural consequence of having high levels of sex hormones. They are not sinful in themselves, but they can lead to sinful behavior. If they become a nuisance then fasting or reducing calorie intake is said to help. You can also search for “how to lower sex drive” and many articles will come up on dealing with an overactive sex drive.

And if they are causing you to do sinful things then this answer may help: What is the best way to avoid habitual sins?

Best wishes.

Which sura must be recited after al-Fatiha? What to do in prayer if you haven’t memorized much Quran?

Is there certain surahs we must recite in salah? I usually just recite surah Al-Kafirun and surah ikhlas because I do not know any other off by heart.

You can recite anything you wish after al-Fatiha; it can be a whole sura or a verse or two (such as the Throne Verse by itself).

Assalaamu 'Alaikum, I'm confused about what you're allowed to recite after Fatiha during salah. I've been told you need to recite entire surahs after. there's also the fact that the longer the surahs you use the more blessings from God. This is disheartening for me because so far I only know of few short surah since memory isn't my strong suit at all. I yearn to pray tahajjud but I don't know enough to surahs to recite off the top of my head. I feel my prayers hold less value to God due to this.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

You can recite anything you wish. In the Shāfiʿī, Ḥanbalī and Mālikī schools whatever you recite after al-Fātiḥa is considered voluntary rather than obligatory (so you can simply recite al-Fātiḥa). The Ḥanafī school considers it wājib, which is a degree lower than farḍ (obligatory) but close to it.

It is recommended that you recite a full sura. But reciting a single verse is also permissible. Imam Aḥmad (founder of the Ḥanbalī school) recommends that if you recite a few verses then they should be long ones.

It is also permissible to recite multiple suras after al-Fātiḥa if you feel like it. This is what some of the Companions used to do.

One way to pray tahajjud when you have not memorized much Quran is to perform two units, then take a break to read a few pages of Quran, then get up to pray some more.

You can also hold a book of Quran in your hand and read from it during prayer. Aḥmad says there is no issue with doing this in voluntary prayers, while al-Zuhrī,(an important early Medinan scholar) says “the best of us used to do that” (to read from a book of Quran during voluntary night prayers in Ramadan).

Sources for these opinions (all in Arabic): Fatwa 1 | Fatwa 2 | Fatwa 3 | Fatwa 4

Do the consequences of other people’s sins affect us?

Aselam Alaikum, hope your well in shaa Allah. In Islam does the consequences of another persons sin, affect oneself? My aunt, who has been very absent, rude and hating towards my family and I, and disowned us for years, has now fallen ill. And out of all, I have ended up being the one taking care of her. It has effected me badly since I can’t work or be with friends ect, since I’m home all day taking care of her, for months now. How may it be that the consequences of her sin affects my life

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Another person’s sin can certainly affect you materially. A person who steals something is sinning, but the sin also affects the victim who will now lack that thing. If your aunt has been bad toward your family and is now reliant upon you, that could be God’s way of repaying you by helping you earn the great rewards of taking care of someone who has hurt you in the past.  The Quran refers in this way to those who do good toward those who have done them harm in the past:

But none will attain [this virtue] except those who persevere, and none will attain it except the very fortunate. (The Quran, verse 41:35)

I know it can be tiring and dreary to have to take care of someone, even someone you love. But assuming you have no choice but to continue in this way, then the best thing to do is to make this an occasion for rising your status in God’s sight.

Every person’s life contains certain “unsolvable” problems; it might be a chronically ill child or parent, or an abusive spouse, or a bad job that a person can find no way to leave. There are two ways of dealing with such problems: one way leads to discontent and spiritual stagnation, and the other leads to growth and maturation. For more please see my essay below which is dedicated to this topic:

The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

Best wishes.

Is it sinful to cherry-pick which scholars you listen to?

Is it sinful for me to cherry-pick what kind of da'wah I want to hear and accept? I don't enjoy and accept some of the 'ulama here in my country for their way of speaking or delivering the speech, even if it's true. I kinda disappointed by the traditionalist point of view and I want to start to build my own perspective to perceive Islam the way I really want to see and feel about it. I dislike the feeling of extremism that emerges every time I try to accept them, and so I stopped listening.

Actually according to Imam al-Ghazali it is obligatory upon you to build your own Islam out of all the pieces you can gather rather than trying to follow the opinions of others. So what you are doing is perfectly fine. If you are not satisfied with what you hear, that means you are intelligent enough to seek knowledge on your own and to surpass them in understanding. Become a scholar yourself.

I recommend reading Western scholarly works about Islam’s great scholars and thinkers, such as Imam al-Ghazali, Rumi, al-Shafi`i, Imam Malik and others then reading the books they cite, and you will find a whole new world open up to you.

Check out these books if possible:

Al-Ghazali’s Philosophical Theology

Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy

Malik and Medina: Islamic Legal Reasoning in the Formative Period 

A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb

The First Islamic Reviver: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences

The Canonization of Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History 

The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism

What Is Islam?: The Importance of Being Islamic

The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology

How is the start of maghrib prayer determined?

I'm confused when exactly should maghrib be prayed, is it the start of sunset or when the sun has completely set? For example in England sunset is at 3.49pm and the Adhan is called at 3.54pm in my area.

Maghrib starts at sunset (when the sun completely falls below the horizon at sea level so that it can no longer be seen). I do not know why the sunset and maghrib times are different in England, maybe the sunset time you mentioned is not the sea-level sunset time, or maybe the mosque is simply choosing to call the adhan a bit later.

How is isha start time calculated?

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

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

 

 

Determining start of fajr prayer in the UK

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

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

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

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

Fajr and Esha time in Britain

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

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

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

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

Cosmetic surgery is permissible in Islam (with conditions)

What is the Islamic verdict on cosmetic surgery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meaning of Altering God’s Creation in the Quran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

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

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

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

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

On Islam’s view of psychology and scientific reductionism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it sinful in Islam to not love your parent?

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

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quran says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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