IslamQA

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

On not feeling close to God

Salam I pray 5 times a day alhamdulilah but only the fard salah. The problem that I'm having is I feel no real connection which makes me so guilty. I want to be able to feel close to Allah but I fear my imaan is low and there are days when I don't even feel like praying. Is it a sin that I'm feeling this way?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

If you do not feel close to God, that is a sign that you are not spending enough time in His presence. I strongly recommend praying tahajjud (see here for details) to everyone who wishes to feel closer to God. It is impossible to continue feeling close to God if you do not work for it daily.

Islam does not hold you responsible for how you feel, but for what you do. God does not ask you to do more than you are capable. So it is up to you to decide whether you are neglecting your duties toward Him or whether this is the most you can do.

Best wishes.

Ruling on mistakes during sajda al-sahu

Assalmualaikum, I think I made a mistake in sajda sahw (i'm not sure if I prostated 2 or 3 times) should i regard this as wasawas, is it permissible to do sajda sahw again, or should pray salat again? Do you think you can answer this? Jazakallah khayr

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

According to the Mālikī and Shāfiʿī schools the sajda al-sahū is voluntary rather than obligatory, so whether you forget to do or not, or whether you make an error in it, the prayer is considered valid.

Imam al-Nawawī says that if you make three prostrations by mistake during sajda al-sahū, you do not need to repeat it. The Ḥanbalī scholar Muṣtafā al-Suyuṭī (d. 1827 CE) says that there is no need to do extra prostrations for any mistake made during sajda al-sahū. That is also the opinion of the Ḥanafī scholar al-Kāsānī (d. 1191 CE). Archived link to a fatwa that mentions these opinions.

Fixing mother’s relationship with her sister

Two years ago, I got badly hurt and I didn't get the support from my family which I needed that time and it made be rebellious. So that time knowingly but not intentionally, I created fight between my mother and her sister. I feel so bad about it now. I tried my best to solve the issue after that but nothing helped. I feel so bad and can't forgive myself for that act. But that all happened because I was hurt and it was for the first time ever, I was experiencing depression.

I am sorry to read that. Maybe confessing to them what you did would help things. If you do not think that would help, then what you could do is try to make them both feel more appreciated (by buying them gifts and being extra kind and considerate toward them). If they both start to like you more, that could give you many opportunities for improving things between them.

What you should also do is constantly ask for God’s support and guidance in fixing this problem (and every other problem). You can start praying tahajjud (see here for more information), which would make it more likely for your prayers to be answered inshaAllah.

Why the hijab is still obligatory (and why it is not only a vestige of 7th century Arabia)

Below is a response I wrote to someone who sent me a YouTube video in which the speaker argues that the hijab was necessary in ancient Arabia due to sexual harassment but that it is no longer necessary in the modern world

I will first speak of the problem with her way of thinking, then will cover the topic of hijab. What the  speaker is doing is what I refer to as historical localization, which is the belief that a particular verse of the Quran applied then but does not necessarily apply now, that times have changed. If the Quran was written by the Prophet , then that would make sense. He was only a human and could not foresee all eventualities. But we believe the Quran is from God, it is His unchanged Words, which means that we have to treat it like a book written by an infinitely wise person who could foresee the fact that humanity would continue for the next 100,000 years (or however long). If something was supposed to only apply to one circumstance and not to others, then God would have told us so. What we believe is that the Quran was written by the Creator to be applied for all time. Saying that God was so short-sighted that He gave a universal command in His book that does not apply any longer is a great insult against the Creator of the universe.

So the main question is about the status of the Quran. There are two ways of looking at the Quran:

  • It is by a God who is wise enough to realize that humanity would develop and change greatly over time, so that He only issues universal commands in His Book when they are meant to be applied by all people for all time (such as the commandment that we should not murder people). It does not matter whether you look at the Quran in 630 CE, in the year 2018, or in the year 50,000. God was intelligent and wise enough to give us a Book that could be applied for all time, that would stand the test of time.
  • It is by someone who issues universal commands but does not realize that circumstances will change, so that he issues commands that we can ignore today.

The extreme liberal Muslims who say the Quran’s command to wear the hijab is outdated have the second view of the Quran. They believe God was not intelligent enough to realize that circumstances would change so much that the hijab would become unnecessary. But mainstream Muslims believe that since the Quran is from an infinitely wise Creator, we should treat it as if it was revealed today, whether we ourselves live in 2018 or in the year 50,000. We can use our knowledge of the circumstances of revelation to help us understand the Quran better and to discover its meaning and intent. But once we have the meaning, that meaning applies everywhere always. When the Quran says robbery is prohibited, then it is never a valid argument to say that that command only applied then and not now.

To put it another way, overwhelming evidence is needed to show that there is any command in the Quran that can be ignored, because our default assumption toward the Quran is that it is written in a timeless way that would make it stand the test of time regardless of what year or age of the universe it is.

The extreme liberals say that they themselves can work out whether the Quran is being general or specific using their own reasoning, since to them the Quran is not from an infinitely wise Creator, but from someone who is incapable of seeing beyond the circumstances of 7th century Arabia. Their way of looking at the Quran would make perfect sense if it was written by a human, or if it was thoroughly corrupted by humans. But since we believe in the Quran as coming from our eternal Creator, then we cannot support their way of thinking. We believe God is intelligent enough to only give universal commands when they are meant to be universal. We cannot say that when God tells us to avoid murder or usury that He was stuck in the mindset of 7th century Arabia and could not foresee that we modern humans have great needs for murder and usury.

The type of thinking that tries to defuse the Quran’s meaning, saying this or that no longer applies, without providing overwhelming evidence, really originates from a lack of belief in the Quran. These are often the same people who say the miracles that are mentioned in the Quran are actually referring to metaphors rather than actual events, and that the physical Paradise mentioned in the Quran is actually a metaphor for something spiritual. They find it embarrassing to express belief in miracles in this age of science and rationality. They think that we are now past that, that we have to make a choice between either being modern and rational people or people who really take the Quran as seriously as mainstream Muslims do. This comes from misunderstanding both the nature of science and the nature of religion. As I explain in my essay Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template, a Muslim can be just as much a rationalist as any scientist or atheist while also believing in the Quran absolutely and completely. There is no conflict between the two once we can think “outside the box” of this universe as al-Ghazali did. Al-Ghazali solved the problem of the supposed conflict between science and religion 900 years ago, it is just that some people have yet to catch up to his time.

Onto the topic of the hijab, the Quran commands women to use their khimārs to cover their chests:

And tell the believing women to restrain their looks, and to guard their privates, and not display their beauty except what is apparent thereof, and to draw their khimārs over their chests, and not expose their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, what their right hands possess, their male attendants who have no sexual desires, or children who are not yet aware of the nakedness of women. And they should not strike their feet to draw attention to their hidden beauty. And repent to God, all of you believers, so that you may succeed.1

In the above verse, it is assumed that Muslim women will be wearing khimār, otherwise the command to use their khimārs to cover their chests would not make sense. The issue therefore hinges on the definition of khimār. The khimār is described as a “head-covering” in the respected dictionaries of the Arabic language (Lisān al-ʿArab, The Mughrib, al-Qāmūs al-Muḥīṭ, Tāj al-ʿArūs, al-Miṣbāḥ). It is what in English is called the hijab, a head-covering that is wrapped in a way that also covers the neck and chest.

The verse mentioned above is not in a context that deals with sexual harassment, therefore it was not revealed solely to solve the problem of sexual harassment as some say. The verse before it commands that we lower the gaze. And before that it talks about the rules regarding how to enter someone’s home in the proper way. And the verses after it talk about some rules regarding marriage. We have no hint anywhere in the passage that this verse is talking about a special circumstance. We have no choice but to consider it a general command meant to be followed for all time. A person who thinks it is not so, as I said, is saying that God is so unwise that He made general commands that would stop making sense eventually.

For those wondering, the Quran is not our only evidence for the hijab being obligatory. In Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim it is mentioned that Umar kept asking the Prophet to tell his wives to cover their hair when going out, then the verse was revealed that made the hijab obligatory (al-Bukhari 147, Muslim 2170). Additionally, Imam Mālik says that it is not permissible in Islam for a woman to uncover her hair and chest to strangers, but that strangers can look at her face. Imam Mālik’s teachings were derived from what is known as ʿamal ahl al-madīna (“Medinan praxis”). This refers to the way the descendants of the Companions of the Prophet practiced Islam. These are Islamic customs that were passed down from generation to generation without necessarily being recorded in books of hadith (such as the way to say the call to prayer). Imam Mālik was taught by the Successors, who were taught by the Prophet’s Companions . One of his teachers was Nāfiʿ, a servant of the Companion Ibn ʿUmar. When Mālik says something, he is telling us the common view of the people of Medina. When he says a woman should wear the hijab, he is telling us that the people of Medina and its scholars, who were descended from thousands of the Prophet’s Companions, had the opinion that women should wear the hijab as a religious duty. So besides the Quran and a few narrations, we also have Medinan praxis supporting the hijab: the thousands of the descendants of the Companions who lived in Medina in Mālik’s time all believed that the hijab was an Islamic duty.

If, like the extreme liberals, we were to say that verse 24:31 only applied to 7th century Arabia or medieval Arabia, we would be giving ourselves the right to nullify any verse of the Quran we want. The Quran forbids usury, but a person today could say that the verses only applied to 7th century Arabia and in this more enlightened times we have modern finance which cannot function without interest. The Quran forbids homosexuality, forced marriages, murder, stealing, and insulting one’s parents, but using historical localization,  anyone can make a case for any of these things no longer applying in our modern, enlightened age.

We mainstream Muslims reject their way of treating the Quran not out of ignorance, but out of appreciation for the status of the Quran. Either the Quran is what it says it is (an unchanged and divinely protected book from an all-wise Creator), or it is false and should not be believed in. There is no middle ground here, as the majority of Muslims realize. Any error or mistake in the Quran proves either that God made an error, or that God could not protect His Book, both of which would prove that He is not all-powerful and all-knowing.

Through historical localization, you can start with any prejudices you have, throw out the verses that get in your way by saying they no longer apply, and turn Islam into anything you want. We will be perfectly happy to abandon anything in Islam if it is conclusively proven that it wasn’t meant to be applied for all time. But in the absence of such evidence, the proper assumption upon which all of Islam is built is that the Quran is universal through time and space, the way that God is universal through time and space. If the meaning of anything in the Quran could “expire” as extreme liberals think it could, that would mean the book is not timeless.

The majority of Muslims who have read the Quran, including converts, have come to the mainstream conclusion that the Quran is universal through time and space. This is not a conclusion coming out of ignorance, it is a conclusion reached from taking the book as seriously as it asks to be taken and analyzing and critiquing everything it says. This is a conclusion reached by people with deepest knowledge of historical criticism and other Western scholarly theories, so it is entirely false to claim that anyone with the right amount of knowledge would reach the extreme liberal conclusion.

The extreme liberals have the right to interpret the Quran the way they want, but it is dishonest and deceitful if they suggest that anyone with a great deal of modern knowledge would come to their conclusion that things like the hijab can be abandoned. We have extremely well-educated scholars of Islam who are familiar both with classical Islam and with Western knowledge, people like Hamza Yusuf, Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and Jonathan Brown, all of whom believe in the obligatoriness of the hijab.

It is perfectly fine to examine the question of whether the hijab was only meant for the Prophet’s time or whether it is universal. There is always the possibility that something that applied in the 7th century would not apply now. But in order to properly carry out this examination, we need to agree on standards of evidence; which piece of evidence weighs more or less than another piece? The mainstream Islamic standard of evidence is that since the Quran is timeless and unchanged, when it declares a universal commandment without any hint of restrictions, then that commandment is meant to be timeless and universal. If we have a very good sociological theory about how the hijab could have applied then without applying now, that theory has to compete with our standard for judging Quranic evidence. And the Quran comes out ahead, due to having far greater weight. So we do not say that the sociological theory is nonsensical or foolish, just that it requires overwhelming evidence, sufficient evidence to overrule the Quran and the known sunna of the Prophet . And since there is no such evidence, we cannot in good conscience follow the sociological theory. So if an extreme liberal wishes to prove that their theory is correct, then they need to prove to us that the Quran is not universal through time and space. This is really the main question, the issue of the hijab is only a subsidiary of this question. The extreme liberal attitude is that God couldn’t possibly be wise and powerful enough to give us a scripture that is universal through time and space, while we believe that He is.

The things in Islam permitted and prohibited when menstruating

It is permitted for a menstruating woman to do everything she normally does except for:

  • Performing acts of worship that require ṭahāra (ritual purity): the formal prayer (ṣalāh), fasting, circumambulating the Kaʿba and performing iʿtikāf (staying overnight at the mosque for worship).
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Touching books of Quran (but she can read Quran as mentioned below).

It is permitted for menstruating women to enter mosques, for example in order to attend lectures. For more details see this article.

Permitted acts of worship include supplication (duʿāʾ), remembrance (dhikr) and reading or listening to Quran. A menstruating woman is permitted to read Quran according to most modern scholars and the Mālikī school, while in the past there was disagreement on whether she is allowed to do so or not. However there is an issue with whether touching a book of Quran is permitted for her or not, and the Mālikī opinion is that she can touch it provided that there is something between her skin and the book (for example if she wears gloves). She can also use an electronic device (like a smartphone) to read the Quran. The UAE-based mufti Ahmed al Haddad mentions the Mālikī opinions mentioned above and the permissibility of using electronic devices to read Quran while menstruating (archived link to his fatwa). Archived link to a fatwa on IslamOnline (a website by the respected Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi) that mentions the permissibility of reading the Quran while menstruating (provided the Quran is not touched directly). The Saudi mufti Khaled Al Mosleh expresses the same opinions (archived link to his fatwa).

Reader Questions

Where does the rule "women on their period aren't allowed to touch the Quran" come from? I always found it weird, because there was no physical Quran during the Prophet's (pbuh) lifetime

The Quran tells us:

77. It is a noble Quran.

78. In a well-protected Book.

79. None can grasp it except the purified.

80. A revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. (Verses 56:77-80)

Verse 79 above could be interpreted in many different ways, but one is that one should not touch a book of Quran except in a state of a ṭahāra (ritual purity), which would mean that a person who is in a state of janāba (ritual impurity, for example during the time after sexual intercourse and before showering) or menstruation should not touch it. We cannot be entirely certain that verse 79 is referring to touching a physical book of Quran, but to be on the safe side, it is best to take this potential interpretation seriously.

An additional piece of evidence is the Prophet’s letter of advice to the people of Yemen, known as Ṣaḥīfat ʿAmr bin Ḥazm and included in Imam Mālik’s hadith collection al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, in which he tells them not to touch a book of Quran except in a state of ṭahāra, which would mean that a menstruating women should not touch it.

As for the existence of books of Quran during the Prophet’s lifetime , we know that there were scribes who would write down the Quran as it was revealed, and that people did possess written versions of certain chapters and sections of the Quran, so the reference is to these partial written collections of Quranic verses.

Is homosexuality more evil than rape in the Quran? Not exactly

I just read your answer on homosexuality and Lot's people and I must say that I am really shocked that consensual homosexual act is worse than rape. I've always thought that rape is a great evil thing. I know a couple of lesbian girls and a gay guy and they are kind people and I interact with them normally (although I don't agree what they do is right and I think its a sin), but I would never in a life time interact with a rapist. It doesn't sink in that rape is less evil than homosexuality

The Quran does not explicitly tell us that homosexual sexual intercourse is “worse” than rape. When Prophet Lot offers his daughters to the rapists in the place of his guests, his attitude appears to be: “If you are going to be raping people, then do not do it in a homosexual way, because that is doubly evil.” He is also concerned with his honor before his guests (he says “do not embarrass me before my guests”). In the Middle East, one principle of hospitality is that one’s guest is placed above one’s family. So Prophet Lot has two reasons for offering his daughters: Raping them would not be doubly evil, unlike raping the men, and it would help him avoid breaking the all-important hospitality rule that requires him to protect his guests and put their interests above his family’s.

So those scenes about the People of Lot do not tell us that rape is worse than homosexuality. What they do tell us is that Lot himself thought that the rape of his male guests would be worse than the rape of the female members of his family. Both acts are rape, and both are evil. But the rape of his family would be what we can call normal evil, while the rape of his male guests would include two extra evils: the fact of it being homosexual rape, and the fact of it being done to his guests, which in his culture should be placed above his family.

In that previous answer (which I have now updated) I was suggesting the Prophet Lot was making a choice between homosexuality and rape in offering his daughters to the rapists, but in reading the verses again I have realized that his attitude is more nuanced than that.

Now, you might be asking why God destroyed Lot’s people for being homosexuals instead of destroying them for being rapists. This is not because homosexuality is worse than rape. It is because homosexuality was their lifestyle, while rape was something they committed on the unlucky visitor who came into their town without a tribe’s protection. This may have been extremely rare, so it was not worth destroying the whole town for, while their homosexual acts were an everyday thing for nearly all of the males in that society. In that ancient tribal society, people would have been extremely careful about what towns they enter, since at the time there was no rule of law and it was only tribal alliances that protected people’s lives inside a city (as was also the case in Arabia during Prophet Muhammad’s time ). So just because God destroyed Lot’s people for homosexuality does not mean that He wouldn’t have destroyed a different society for being rapists. It is just that the historical circumstances of that time (tribal societies) meant that rape was very rare since one couldn’t do it without facing severe repercussions from the raped person’s tribe, so there were no societies where rape was a lifestyle (even if they approved of rape, they couldn’t do it because everyone around them was protected by tribal alliances). So we do not have examples of societies that were destroyed by God for being rapists, not because God thought rape is less bad than homosexuality, but because circumstances made it impossible for a society to engage in daily raping of people.

Meanwhile, historical circumstances did make it possible for societies to engage in daily consensual homosexual intercourse, as was the case with Lot’s people, and so God did respond to that. But we have no examples of God punishing a rape-centered society because there were no such societies to begin with.

Rape and homosexuality are not directly comparable and the Quran does not compare them. Whether one is more evil than the other may completely depend on the circumstances and intentions behind them. So no, the Quran does not ask you to consider rape less evil than homosexuality.

Rape and homosexuality are different categories of crimes and it seems invalid to compare them. Asking whether rape is more evil than homosexual intercourse is probably similar to asking whether rape is more evil than Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden fruit. Rape is a crime of lust and greed against a fellow human, homosexual intercourse is a premeditated crime against God (for those who believe in God and believe He forbids homosexual intercourse yet they engage in it) that may harm no human (similar to eating the forbidden fruit, or eating pork, or defacing a book of Quran, or defacing a mosque). As for those who do not believe in God or who truly believe in their hearts that God does not forbid homosexual relationships, God may be forgiving toward them, since He only holds us responsible for what our intellects and consciences know to be true. God is not unjust, so when someone says “All homosexuals are going to hell!” they are falsely speaking in God’s name. God deals with each human exactly according to that human’s knowledge, beliefs and abilities. A person who believes in God and His Scriptures yet engages in homosexual intercourse out of desire is going to get a very different treatment by God from someone who has never been convinced of the truth of any religion and who finds nothing wrong with homosexuality.

When someone speaks of God as if He is an unjust and petty micro-manager who is completely out of touch with the realities of human existence, this is entirely a reflection of the speaker’s ignorance and immaturity and has nothing to do with God Himself as know Him through the Quran and His Prophet .

On the different origins of Kurds, Hawramis and Zaza People

Regarding the Hawramani people – are they not Kurds? How come you write: “Like the Kurds around them, the Hawrami people are largely Sunni Muslims.” ? Do you consider yourself as Hawramani and not as a Hawramani-Kurd?

The cultural and linguistic evidence suggests that Hawramis are descended from the people of Gilan, who themselves are a mix of South Caucasians (Georgians, Armenians, etc.) and Persians. Hawramis are closely related to the Zaza people of Turkey, who are also descended from the people of that area. On the other hand, Kurds are a separate race who inhabited the borderlands between Persia, Turkey and Arabia and who probably came from South East Persia.

While Hawramis live among Kurds, they are a different race. Kurds may themselves be anciently descended from the Persians of Fars province then mixed with Turks and Arabs. Hawramis are descended from the people of the Caspian sea area, who might be a mix of Persians, Armenians and other Caucasian races (such as Circassians) who inhabited the Tabarstan area.

Below is a representation of the migration of the original “Kurds” out of Fars province in Iran, perhaps between 600 and 1000 CE. They settled in that oval area and mixed with Arabs and other original inhabitants.

Below is a representation of the origins of the Hawrami and Zaza people. They came out of the south-western coast of the Caspian Sea and settled in Hawraman and Dersim as a separate race from the Kurds. I know that most Kurds, Hawramis and Zaza are unaware of these facts so that they think the label “Kurd” applies to them. The origins of the Hawrami and Zaza people were only worked out by scholars in the past 100 years. Vladimir Minorsky spoke of his theory of Hawramis coming out of Gilan, and another scholar whose name I cannot remember worked out the relationship between the Zaza language of Turkey and the Daylam area of Iran. The extreme similarity between the Zaza and the Hawrami languages, their similarity to the Caspian languages (Gilaki, Mazandarani), and their extreme difference from Kurdish, all made Western scholars realize that they are in reality non-Kurdish languages coming out of the Western Caspian.

I am aware that today in this era of Kurdish nationalism it is rather politically incorrect to suggest that the Hawramis are not Kurds. But that is what the facts suggest.

While many younger Hawramis have been convinced by Kurdish nationalist propaganda that they are really Kurds, the older generation of Hawramis are very clear about not being Kurds. They use “Kurd” literally to mean “non-Hawrami”. My grandmother would be highly insulted if someone called her a Kurd. I have seen a similar attitude among other old Hawrami people. They see the people around them as either Hawramis, Kurds, Arabs or Persians. Kurds are a separate category in their minds.

Another clue for the different origins of Hawramis and Kurds is that while Arab-like features are very common among Kurds (darker skin, thick black hair, short stature), they are rare among Hawramis. Tall stature, very pale skin, soft colored hair and colored eyes are very common among Hawramis while they are less common among Kurds.

For the Zaza people, the word they use for themselves is a clue: Dimli is an alternative pronunciation of Dilmi, which is a localized pronunciation of Daylami, which means “from Daylam” (the area by the Caspian Sea in Iran).

Questioning the Concept of “Kurd”

In his important paper “Prolegomena to the Study of the Kurds” (you can view it here for free), the respected Armenian scholar Garnik Asatrian suggests that the word “Kurd” was not used to refer to a race, but to any of the various differing transhumant (migratory) tribes inhabiting the lands between Persia, Arabia and Anatolia. They were likely originally came out of Fars in Iran, moved northwards and mixed with various other races. They originally spoke a version of Persian that slowly changed over the centuries into what we now call Kurdish.

The nationalistic Kurdish idea that the Kurds were an original race (like Persians or Arabs) of the area is inaccurate historically for the simple reason that Kurds speak an Iranian language, rather than an independent language like Armenians do. Kurdish is similar to Pashto (the language of Afghanistan’s Pashtun people). Both of them originated from Iran and slowly developed in new directions. So while among Kurdish nationalists there is a desire to make Kurds into their own independent race, the reality is that they are just another Iranian group similar to the Luri, Fayli, Bakhtyari, Pashtun and Baluchi people but likely more mixed. All of them were probably originally one Persian race that slowly developed in different directions and mixed with surrounding peoples (similar to the way Norwegians, the Swedish, the Danes, the Dutch and the English were all originally Germans).

Personally I have no nationalistic feelings, so to me the historical reality is more interesting than nationalist ideas. I consider the Kurds my brothers and sisters, and my own family has married into Kurdish families.

On fighting back against postmodernism and “social justice warriors”

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

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On reducing unnecessary physical contact with the opposite sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is marriage compulsory in Islam?

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

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

Are Muslims allowed to never marry?

Marriage is not necessarily “half our religion”

What to do when feeling far away from God

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

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

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

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

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similar question by another reader: I have difficulty accepting that adopted children can marry their adoptive parents. It feels wrong. Because being adopted as a baby to parents builds a family bond over the time (this is also true to non-believers parents and their adoptive children). Also there are power dynamics that exists eg father- adoptive daughter. So how can the Qur'an allow this ? I'm really confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On having empathy toward non-Muslims

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

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

Having short hair as a Muslim woman

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

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

Wiping over socks to avoid frostbite from ablution

Brother, I get frost bite on my toes in winters so I have not been washing my feet while performing ablution since grade 9 (Only In winters). Is my act right or wrong? Also I miss prayers cux of cold weather nowadays so tell me how can I get motivation to offer prayer regularly in winters.

You can do what is known as al-masḥ ʿala al-khuffayn, which is to use your hands to wipe the top parts of your socks during ablution without taking them off. This, however, can only be done if you perform an ordinary ablution, then put on the socks. Afterwards, you can use the bathroom, then when performing ablution again, you can wash your face and hands like normal while keeping your socks on. Instead of taking the socks off, you may simply wipe your hands over the top part of your feet, starting with the toes.

This can only be done for 24 hours, after which the person has to take the socks off and perform an ordinary ablution for the next prayer. In this way, you can perform ablution at home, put your socks on, then keep the socks on all day and only wipe your hand over them when performing ablution.

Now there are differences of opinion on whether the above is permissible or not. According to Shaykh Yusur al-Qaradawi nine Companions of the Prophet said it is permissible, along with numerous Successors, therefore it is a safe option according to him.1

As for having motivation to pray, I recommend reading a regular amount of Quran everyday so that you may feel a closer connection with God. And the best way to do this is to read Quran during tahajjud, as I explain in this essay.

On becoming an Islamic scholar

I'm just wondering since you possess a lot of knowledge on Islam why can't you become an Islamic scholar?

There is no official authority determining who is a scholar (ʿālim) and who is not. You are a scholar when others, especially other scholars, think you are. For now I am a student of Islamic studies, and if I spend multiple hours every day studying Islam for the next ten to fifteen years, then some people may start to consider me a scholar.

In classical Islam, one had to write a taʿlīqa to be considered a true scholar, this was similar to a PhD dissertation. The person had to present in it the results of many years of independent research. According to the (non-Muslim) scholar of Islam George Makdisi, the origin of the PhD dissertation in medieval Western academia was Islam’s taʿlīqa system. Today it is becoming common for Islamic scholars to get PhD degrees, so that is one of the things I hope to be able to do.

Is Saudi Arabia an Islamic country?

Why do you call Islamic countries imaginary? KSA, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia (and many more) are ideal Islamic countries with Sharia court and all.

There are many reasons to doubt the extent to which Islam is followed in so-called Muslim countries. For example, in the Quran, God says that He is at war with usurers (those who charge interest on money). The Saudi government earns billions of dollars every year through usury by lending its oil earnings to the United States government and earning interest on this money. This is interest paid by American taxpayers to the Saudi government. This arrangement is known as the petrodollar system and it is one of the main reasons why the United States can spend trillions of dollars destroying Middle Eastern countries without facing any serious repercussions: the Saudis bankroll the United States’ military, and through only selling their oil for US dollars, they keep the price of the US dollar high, in this way enabling the US government to print hundreds of billions of dollars of money every year and forcing the rest of the world to accept it. (See the scholarly book The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets by David E. Spiro, published by Cornell University Press). Any country that has tried to escape the US-Saudi dollar system has been bombed and destroyed: Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan. Syria was to be next. Iran and Russia are the remaining two countries that are trying to escape the US-Saudi dollar system and if you read the news, you can see that they are high on the US agenda for countries that have to be bombed.

Saudi Arabia follows many of the commandments of the Quran (such as cutting the hands of thieves), while stealing money by the billions of dollars through usury (since usury is legalized stealing as any Islamic economist and classical Christian thinker will tell you).

Saudi Arabia enforces zakat (one of the most important parts of Islamic law) but allows usury (one of the most important prohibitions in Islamic law, banning it in name, allowing it through all kinds of loopholes, and as mentioned, the government itself is one of the world’s biggest usurers). This is like giving charity with one hand while stealing with another. Saudi Arabia is like the example of a rich man who prays at the mosque and gives charity but who is also completely corrupt in his private life. It is true that Saudi Arabia spends billions of dollars on beneficial Islamic projects to convince millions of shallow and uninformed Muslims inside and outside the country that it represents authentic, true Islam.

Yemen does not enforce zakat nor does it ban usury. Its legal system is a mixture of Islamic, Egyptian and Napoleonic.

In general, a country that does not ban usury but cuts the hands of thieves allows the biggest thieves to thrive while only going after the smallest ones. That’s the type of “Islamic government” we have today; it is largely a show designed to appease the uneducated masses.

The Malaysian and Indonesian governments might be the closest in following Islam, but I have not studied them deeply so I cannot speak about them.

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