IslamQA

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

Why is seeking knowledge important in Islam?

Why is seeking knowledge important in Islam and how does seeking knowledge not only religiously brings us closer to Allah swt?

The Quran says:

25. If they disbelieve you, those before them also disbelieved. Their messengers came to them with the clear proofs, with the Psalms, and with the Enlightening Scripture. 26. Then I seized those who disbelieved—so how was My rejection? 27. Have you not seen that God sends down water from the sky? With it We produce fruits of various colors. And in the mountains are streaks of white and red—varying in their hue—and pitch-black. 28. Likewise, human beings, animals, and livestock come in various colors. From among His servants, it is the learned who (truly) fear God. God is Almighty, Oft-Forgiving. 29. Those who recite the Book of God, and perform the prayer, and spend of what We have provided for them, secretly and publicly, expect a trade that will not fail.1

Exalted is God, the True King. Do not be hasty with the Quran before its inspiration to you is concluded, and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”2

In fact, it is clear signs in the hearts of those given knowledge. No one renounce Our signs except the unjust.3

And in another place it says, regarding the uneducated Bedouins:

The Desert-Arabs are the most steeped in disbelief and hypocrisy, and the most likely to ignore the limits that God revealed to His Messenger. God is Knowing and Wise.4

The Desert-Arabs say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not believed; but say, ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish any of your deeds. God is Forgiving and Merciful.”5

The picture that the Quran draws is that those who lack knowledge are more likely to fall into error and sinful behaviors, and that increased knowledge helps a person become better and more pious.

As for non-religious knowledge, it helps us appreciate the Creator’s greatness to know more about His creations.

190. In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, are signs for people of understanding. 191. Those who remember God while standing, and sitting, and on their sides; and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, You did not create this in vain, glory to You, so protect us from the punishment of the Fire.”6

Do they not consider that God, Who created the heavens and the earth, is Able to create the likes of them? He has assigned for them a term, in which there is no doubt. But the wrongdoers persist in denying the truth.7

In verse 21:30, the Quran refers to two facts of the physical world, one from physics, the other from biology:

Do the disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were one mass, and We tore them apart? And that We made from water every living thing? Will they then not believe?

For a person who believes in God, the above verse seems to refer to the Big Bang hypothesis, which is the accepted theory for how the universe started. The Quran even refers to the expansion of the universe that was discovered in the last century:

We constructed the universe with power, and We are expanding it.8

While these facts of physics, biology, etc. are not sufficient to constitute proof, they are sufficient to constitute āyāt (“signs”, “pointers”). They are not proofs of God’s existence and greatness, by the point to Him and His power, they suggest it, and for the person who humbles his or her heart to God, they act as strengtheners for their faith and their appreciation of God’s presence and greatness.

The Egyptian scholar Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-1996) says:

The Quran, in pointing to God's existence, is a universe that speaks, the same way that this universe is a silent Quran.

For those of us who have submitted to God and love Him, the more we learn about the universe the closer we feel to Him, because we know it is all His creation, and that He is in charge of it.

Secular knowledge helps us know God better and also helps improve our lives in various ways (you can read a scientific book about food and in this way make better diet choices). It is quite obvious that more knowledge is better than less knowledge.

And as for religious knowledge, it helps us avoid errors and know the best ways of pleasing God, which is the purpose of our lives.

For a discussion of Islam and science see my essay: God, Evolution and Abiogenesis: The Topological Theory for the Origin of Life and Species

Is it forbidden for a Muslim to fall in love with a Christian?

Is falling in love with a Christian is haram?

Falling in love is an involuntary thing and Islam has no rules regarding it. Muslim men are permitted to marry Christian women, while Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men. Therefore if a Muslim woman falls in love with a Christian man, the falling in love in itself is not a sin, but she is not permitted to marry the man if she wants to remain a pious Muslim. Her case would be similar to a man falling in love with a woman who is already married.

On sharing a room with a homosexual person of one’s own sex

I wanted to ask that, my friend (female) was in a hotel with her friend who is also a female, for a convention. my friend knew that the other is a bisexual and she asked me if it's OK for Muslim girls to share a room with homosexual girls. when i was in middle school i asked the same thing to my teachers and they said we cannot. also that friend of mine and her friend are both Muslims. thank you!

I expect that those teachers who said that it is prohibited considered the situation similar to one of sharing a room with a person of the opposite sex. But that is not an exact comparison because your friend herself is not a homosexual, so there is no likelihood of sexual desire by her toward the homosexual girl, even if the homosexual girl may plausibly have it or develop it toward her.

For that reason, while it would be a good thing to avoid such a situation, it is not exactly the same as a woman sharing a room with a man. Whether one should accept to be in such a situation or not depends on the homosexual person’s character. If they are well-known to the person and are known to be self-respecting and trustworthy, then there is little danger in the situation. But if they are known to be unreliable and flirtatious, or are strangers or little-known, then one should avoid sharing a room with them.

By living a homosexual lifestyle, a person has broken religious laws, but they may still follow various social protocols and customs that makes it harmless to interact with them. It is probably not correct to assume that all rules applying to the opposite sex would also automatically apply to homosexual people of one’s own sex. I am not a mufti and cannot find relevant opinions on this matter from respected scholars. The above is just my opinion.

On responding to criticisms of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad

What do I say to people who claim Muhammad commanded us in the Quran to kill?

I suppose you refer to claims about Islam being a violent religion. It depends on the type of person. There are two kinds of people who might say negative things about Islam or the Prophet . A small number of them are honest and decent people who really think what they say is true. You can respond to such people by referring them to a good biography of the Prophet Muhammad, such as Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong or In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan. Or, even better, you can educate yourself by reading many books so that you can intelligently discuss the issues those people bring up.

The larger group of people who mention negative facts about Islam are those who for whatever reason have a deep dislike and prejudice against Muslims and Islam and who like to mention falsehoods and half-truths in order to propagandize against Islam. It is generally useless to talk to such people. Even if you refute everything they say and defeat them in argument, the next day you will find them repeating the exact same falsehoods again. They cannot be educated or swayed by reasoned argument. It is their hatred that drives them, the criticisms they mention are merely tools they use for propaganda purposes.

The only reason one may respond to anti-Islam propagandists is if there are honest and fair-minded people present who may be swayed by the propaganda. In such a case you should politely point out the falsehoods without expecting to convince the propagandists themselves. The aim of the propagandists is to show Islam and Muslims in a negative light, and if you lose your temper and behave rudely toward them that will only help them prove their point.

When you see someone criticize Islam, your first thought should be to ask yourself whether this person is being honest or whether they are merely expressing hatred and prejudice. If they are honest and decent people, you can talk to them. But most of those who criticize Islam are in the second category and are not worth bothering about, they should be ignored as the Quran recommends in various places:

So turn away from them, and wait. They too are waiting.1

So avoid him who has turned away from Our remembrance, and desires nothing but the present life.2

Be tolerant, and command decency, and turn away from the ignorant.3

It is a sign of the lack of knowledge and immaturity when a Muslim loses his or her temper with someone who criticizes Islam. Leave Islam’s detractors alone and do something productive with your time.

On praying (making dua) during salah and whether one can do it in English

What is the correct way to make dua during salah? For example if I wanted to make dua for someone or ask Allah for something how and when would i do that? I've been told saying it in English invalidates salah

There isn’t sufficient evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah to make a conclusive judgment about the issue of making dua in a non-Arabic language during salah.1 It doesn’t seem to me that there would be any harm in it. This only applies to additional duas a person adds to the salah, the salah’s required parts should be conducted in Arabic.

As for when to make dua during salah, it can be done during prostrations (rukūʿ and sujūd) after saying the required words. For example, when you are making sujūd, say the required part (subḥāna rabbī al-aʿlā or any variant you have been taught) then make any dua you want before getting up. You can also do it when get up after the first sujūd and before the second one. You can also do it after getting up from rukūʿ and saying samiʿa llāhu li-man ḥamida but before going down to sujūd. Another time is before saying the salām at the very end of the prayer.

Balancing materialism and fatalism

Do we as Muslims count on what is written/ decreed by Allah for us, and not worry about anything? Or do we ourselves need to take action due to the free will granted to us by Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala, even if that might involve risk? My question is, to what extent do we take matters in our own hands or leave it to Allah in order for them to happen? What if you've waited a long time for something to happen and it didn't? Is it because it wasn't decreed or because we didn't take action?

Many have blamed Islam for being fatalistic, meaning that Muslims are supposedly made intellectually lazy and inactive due to their belief that whatever happens happens because of God. This is generally said by people who take a few verses of the Quran out of context and do not take the trouble of appreciating the message of the book as a whole. It is true that many Muslim cultures until the past few centuries were fatalistic, but that was a cultural belief that was given an Islamic justification. As the beliefs and practices of modern cosmopolitan Muslim societies shows, fatalism has nothing to do with the realities of Muslim life and thought today.

Islam teaches us a balanced creed between fatalism and materialism (self-reliance). The Quran, for example, says:

Then after the setback, He sent down security upon you. Slumber overcame some of you, while others cared only for themselves, thinking of God thoughts that were untrue—thoughts of ignorance—saying, “Is anything up to us?” Say, “Everything is up to God.” They conceal within themselves what they do not reveal to you. And they say, “If it was up to us, none of us would have been killed here.” Say, “Even if you Had stayed in your homes, those destined to be killed would have marched into their death beds.” God thus tests what is in your minds, and purifies what is in your hearts. God knows what the hearts contain.1

This verse sounds completely fatalistic; it says that life and death is in the hands of God and that regardless of human actions, those destined to die at a certain hour will die in that hour.

Yet the Quran also says things like this:

The Hajj is during specific months. Whoever decides to perform the Hajj—there shall be no sexual relations, nor misconduct, nor quarreling during the Hajj. And whatever good you do, God knows it. And take provisions, but the best provision is righteousness. And be mindful of Me, O people of understanding.2

In the above verse, the Quran asks Muslims to “take provisions” when going on the Hajj, instead of saying “everything is in the hands of God, so even if you take no provisions God will provide for you.”

It also says:

And do not keep your hand tied to your neck, nor spread it out fully, lest you end up liable and regretful.3

The Quran, instead of saying “give away all your wealth, God will replace it”, tells us not to give away too much wealth and bring poverty on ourselves. The Quran teaches us to be sensible and pragmatic on the one hand, and to keep in mind that God is always in charge and has complete power over everything.

The reason for these two seemingly contradictory teachings is what I call the Principle of Plausible Deniability. God does not want His existence to be proven beyond doubt, because that would make faith needless. The Quran says:

Are they waiting for God Himself to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels, and thus the matter is settled? All things are returned to God.4

If God showed Himself to us, “the matter” would be settled, meaning there would be no purpose for the existence of this universe anymore. The purpose of the universe is to be a testing ground of faith, in which humans, without being given physical proof of God’s existence, obey Him faithfully and deserve great rewards in the process.

In other place the Quran says:

Are they waiting for anything but for the angels to come to them, or for your Lord to arrive, or for some of your Lord’s signs to come? On the Day when some of your Lord’s signs come, no soul will benefit from its faith unless it had believed previously, or had earned goodness through its faith. Say, “Wait, we too are waiting.”5

Atheists may say that they will wait for physical proof for God’s existence before believing in Him. The Quran tells them “then keep waiting, the faithful will wait too.” If God performed miracles for our benefit, that would be physical proof of God’s existence and it would change the nature of our relationship with Him. This is what happens to the Disciples of Jesus when they request that God send down a feast from heaven:

112. “And when the disciples said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, is your Lord able to bring down for us a feast from heaven?' He said, 'Fear God, if you are believers.'“

113. They said, “We wish to eat from it, so that our hearts may be reassured, and know that you have told us the truth, and be among those who witness it.”

114. Jesus son of Mary said, “O God, our Lord, send down for us a table from heaven, to be a festival for us, for the first of us, and the last of us, and a sign from You; and provide for us; You are the Best of providers.”

115. God said, “I will send it down to you. But whoever among you disbelieves thereafter, I will punish him with a punishment the like of which I never punish any other being."6

God agrees to show them a miracle, a physical proof that He exists, but in return He says that anyone who disbelieves after that will be punished in a way so horrible that no other being will be punished.

If a Muslim goes on top of a mountain and throws himself off it, saying God will save them, God will not reveal Himself for the sake of that person and perform a miracle to save them. He will instead let them plunge to their death. While the Quran teaches us that God has the power to do anything, it also teaches us not to try to force God’s hand. We should never put ourselves in a situation where a miracle would be needed to save us. God has made it a rule of this universe that His existence should be hidden; asking Him to do a miracle is asking Him to break His own rule.

There is no virtue in obeying God if He and His power was visible to us. We would be forced to obey Him. What God wants from us is to obey Him out of our own free will, without seeing Him or having physical proof of His existence. That is the whole point of this universe, producing true believers in God, worthy people who love Him and serve Him although they cannot physically affirm His existence.

As Muslims, we should do our best but know that God is ultimately in charge. If you are in charge of a business, you should be as shrewd and practical as an atheist in managing it, while keeping in mind that your success or failure is in God’s hands; He can inspire you to do something you would have never thought of otherwise that make you very successful. Or He may protect you from various calamities that other businesses suffer from.

Our relationship with God is dynamic. We make decisions and we act, and God makes decisions and He acts. He is totally in charge of our world, but He gives us the freedom to act and watches what we will do, then He may respond to our actions by decreeing good or bad things for us and watching us what we will do next. We are like actors in film that is directed by God. As actors we are free what we do, but the Director is in charge and can do anything He wants to us or those around us.

It is also like being in a ship. Inside it, we are free what we do. But the ship itself and the ocean in which it sails are both controlled by God. We may do everything in our power to get something we want, but God may decree something else for us. Others may do everything they can to prevent us from getting something we want, but if God decrees that we should get it, no one can get in the way of His decree.

The Quran teaches us to neither be proud of our accomplishments nor sad about our failures:

22. No calamity occurs on earth, or in your souls, but it is in a Book, even before We make it happen. That is easy for God.

23. That you may not sorrow over what eludes you, nor exult over what He has given you. God does not love the proud.7

Anything good we accomplish was accomplished through God’s support, and any calamity we suffer, God had complete power to prevent it but did not. The Quran wants us to reach a state of true submission to God’s decrees. While we act intelligently and pragmatically, our hearts rely on God and submit to His decrees, knowing that it is He who is really in charge. We are not attached to the worldly life like materialists are, who are so eager for success that some of them start to almost worship money and power. We are attached to God, knowing that all good things come from Him and that if He protects us no one can harm us. But we do not ask Him to do miracles for us; we respect His decree that He should be hidden from us until the Day of Judgment.

For more on this topic please see: Islam’s theory of free will versus physical determinism: Why humans are responsible for their actions even though God operates the universe

Wanting to get married as a Muslim woman but having no suitors

I'm referring to the article on your personal website about the most desirable women for marriage -- well, as it happens, I am in my early twenties, a follower of Islam, fairly intelligent, and decent-looking, but I don't have Muslim men asking for my hand in marriage.. I mean, I am interested in marriage, but how do I go about finding potential suitors?

Setting up a marriage is something that each culture does in its own way. In most Muslim societies each family has hundreds of relatives and acquaintances. Marriages are set up through networking between mothers, sisters and friends (a woman may have a friend who wants to get married and know just the right man for them and try to set things up for them).

Due to the spread of university education in Muslim countries there is today also an increase in marriages between classmates whose families do not know each other. In such cases each family may do things its own way. A man and woman may come to know each other relatively well through being in the same class or working in the same place, and at some point the man may politely mention to the woman his interest in marriage, and she may tell her family, and in this way they may set up an appointment for the man to visit the family. Once their families visit one another multiple times and find that they are comfortable with their son/daughter marrying into the other family, the engagement ceremony may take place.

For Muslim immigrants, the networks that make marriage possible in the home country are often no longer be available to them, and I expect this is how it is in your case. To make up for this, you can build your own networks in the new country, for example by being involved in the mosque/halaqa/charity scene in your town so that you get to know other people. The more people you know the more likely it is that you will find the right person or that someone may refer someone to you.

Getting married is similar to setting up a successful business. A thousand books can be written on it. For some people everything works out for them with little effort, while for others it can be extremely difficult and can take many years. A devout Muslim should do what they can to have a successful marriage then leave the matter to God, knowing that He can do anything He wants and that nothing is impossible with Him. If this year your prospects of marriage seem very low, next year things may completely change.

Solution for a person who due to illness cannot make up missed fasts

I’m girl and I started fasting in 2010. The problem is, i’m not a healthy problem i have been dealing with too many issues and couldn’t fast the days where i ate during Ramadan (period time) We re in 2017 now and i have a debt of 50 days What should i do ?

For someone who cannot make up missed fasts due to health issues and does not expect to one day get better, it is sufficient for them to pay the fidya, which the Fiqh Council of North America calculated at $10 per day1 for each missed day of fasting. There is no need for such a person to make up the fasts if the illness continues to prevent them.23 This is the Mālikī, Shāfiʿī and Ḥanafī opinion.4 According to this latter source, if a person misses the fast due to chronic illness and cannot make it up and pays the fidya, then that is sufficient, and even if later they are cured and are able to fast again, they will not have to redo the fasts for which they paid the fidya, this being the Ḥanbalī opinion. But if they are cured before they have paid the fidya, they will have to make up the fasts and also pay the fidya.

Not feeling at ease when reading the Quran

Whenever I read the Quran I don't feel ease at all. Especially the verses about punishment , war etc

The Quran is written to help the faithful deal with all of this life and the afterlife’s primary issues, which includes war in this life and God’s punishments in the afterlife. Certain chapters of the Quran, such as chapter 9 (al-Tawbah) are designed to be grim because they are dealing with certain extremely difficult situations that the Muslims faced.

What you can do is find which chapters you find inspiring and enjoyable and read those. Some chapters, like Maryam/Mary, are heart-touching without being grim.

Hope for someone desiring suicide

I want to KILL myself But im not cuz its haram But idk what to do help me Give me hope

Think back to the past and remember all the difficulties that you once suffered from and that have disappeared from your life. Sooner or later, your present difficulty will also be part of the past and will stop influencing you. No matter how difficult the day or week is, it will pass. To kill yourself is to say that you do not believe that God can put a stop to your situation. Do you think God is that powerless? Ask God for help and He can help you in ways you never expected.

Please see these two articles I wrote a while ago:

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

God has not abandoned you: Regaining your sense of purpose when life feels spiritually empty, lonely and meaningless

On the evil eye

/ No Comments on On the evil eye

Salaam 'alaykom. I reblog a lot of photography, but a lot of times i forget to say Ma Sha Allah. Can I cause evil eye on the person on the photos because of this? I'm sorry if this sounds ridiculous.

My way of practicing Islam is to judge a thing’s importance by the amount of attention that the Quran dedicates to it. Since the evil eye is never mentioned in the Quran, I consider it of negligible importance. There are a number of authentic narrations in al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Muwatta and others that state that the evil eye is a real thing. To answer your question, if you look at a photo and you admire something in it (a person’s clothing, etc.), then it is recommended that you make a prayer for the benefit of the person. Whether your merely looking at a photo can have a negative influence is not something we can determine with any degree of certainty.

Getting engaged Islamically without marriage

I have met this non-muslim guy who is willing to change his religion for me and always puts my happiness over his own. Now we both love each other but want to accomplish our personal goals such as uni first before we can marry and live together which would be in almost 8 years. My concern is that we won’t be able to not have sex until then.

In that case you should perform the nikah/engagement ceremony now but put off the wedding. This would make your relationship formal and halal, it would allow you to be intimate without it being sinful, while also allowing you to continue living as you do now. This is done in countries like Iran where culturally the religious engagement ceremony (the nikah) and the wedding are considered two different things that can happen years apart.

I’ve messaged you already because of this non-muslim guy couple days ago and I agree a nikah would make sense. The problem is that in my culture you have a nikah the same day you marry. Therefore my parents wouldn’t agree.

This is a matter between you and God. It is up to you to decide whether God’s pleasure is more important or your desires and parents’ opinion. This world is a testing hall. God asks you to do certain things, but lets you have the freedom to act according to your desires and watches to see what you will do. If you do what you want regardless of His wishes, you fail the test like millions of others do daily.

If you want a blessed life under His protection, you have to put His desires before your own. And if you want to live according to your own desires, God will take His blessings out of your life and your life will become a long string of meaningless inconveniences and failures.

It is in the nature of this world to present us with temptations that go against God’s wishes. This is something everyone experiences almost daily, the point in them is to allow us to prove whether we are loyal to God or to our own desires.

This is your life and it is up to you what you make of it. No one else will be held responsible for your sins.

Good luck and I hope things will turn out well for you inshaAllah.

The Quran guarantees religious freedom, so why don’t Muslim scholars believe in it?

I would be very thankful if you could answer me on my following question. In Quran is written: "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing."

But also on other places is talked about punishing or killing people who do things like for example: stopping being Muslim, having sex before marriage, being gay and so on. With punishing I mean punishing on this world, and not when we die. If we have freedom to be Muslims or not, why there is no freedom of doing some things that are against religion but don't hurt other people. I am really confused and i hope you can clear this topic for me. Thank you in advance.

Regarding the issue of religious freedom, you are right that the Quran guarantees it. The scholars, however, had to also reconcile various hadith narrations in which the Prophet Muhammad is mentioned as putting limitations on religious freedom. Another case is that of Abu Bakr in the Riddah wars; when some Arabian tribes wanted to leave Islam and stop paying the zakat, Abu Bakr did not let them but fought them until they were one again part of the Islamic state.

Out of these historical anecdotes, the scholars tried to come up with an interpretation of the religious freedom mentioned in the Quran. The interpretation they came up with was that Islam should not be forced on others, but that a Muslim should not be allowed to leave Islam. From their position of power and authority, it seemed only natural that this should be the case. Islam is God’s chosen religion, so people should be prevented from leaving it for their own good if not for anyone else’s.

That way of thinking went unchallenged until the last century or so. The new reality that Muslims found themselves in (being in a position of weakness rather than strength) forced the scholars to re-examine their interpretation of the idea of religious freedom. In the 20th century there was also a new movement to take the Quran more seriously than before. In the past, the Quran was treated as just a piece of historical evidence that stood side-by-side with hadith. In the 20th century, various new thinkers (Mustafa Mahmud, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Sayyid Qutb, Said Nursi, Ahmad Moftizadeh) arose who rejected this way of thinking and considered the Quran’s teachings superior and more authoritative than hadith. And with this came a new interpretation of various issues within Islam.

Out of this atmosphere came people like Mahmud Shaltut (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from 1958 to 1963) ruled that apostates are only punished if they try to fight the Muslims and plot against them, that mere apostasy is not punishable, and more recently Ali Gomaa (Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003–2013), who also says that apostasy is not punishable in Islam unless the apostates try to make other Muslims leave Islam. While this is not perfect religious freedom and not perfect freedom of speech, it is an important step in the right direction. Many clerics have yet to update their thinking on this matter, but that might happen within the next 50 years.

Regarding the death penalty for things like adultery and homosexual sex, this too, like the issue of apostasy, went unchallenged until the 20th century. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra, one of the greatest scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, rejected execution of adulterers saying that the historical evidence could be interpreted in a different way. Abu Zahra is not a liberal modernist, he was one of the religious scholars (ulema), and his opinion is highly significant.

Ideally, there should be a constitutional law that all Muslims and non-Muslims follow (as in Malaysia, although the Malaysian system has serious issues). Islamic law would be something that all Muslims willingly choose to live under, and anyone who wants to leave Islam should have the right to do so, so that they stop being subject to Islamic law and will only be subject to constitutional law that Muslims and non-Muslims agree upon.

In summary, the things you mentioned (killing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals) are all issues that have already been solved by respected scholars. What remains is for the rest of the scholars and preachers to catch up.

Dealing with the aftermath of a husband’s cheating

Assalamu Alaykum. I feel so helpless right now. I don't know what to do. I have a husband, and we are married for almost 2 years. We don’t have a child yet. But my husband has a baby who was just born last month from other woman. They committed zina. The girl secretly hide her pregnancy until she gave birth and now he wants my husband to marry her but my husband said he don’t love her but he is willing to provide for the baby. My husband is receiving death threats. What I should I do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That situation will have to be resolved by discussion between your family, his family and perhaps that woman’s. There is no quick solution to such a situation. We have to be patient and trust God to take care of us in the end.

There is the danger of your husband maintaining a relationship with that woman in secret, since he doesn’t have sufficient self-control to not sleep with other women while married. Islam strictly forbids you from staying with a husband who commits adultery and does not repent (who plans to do it again). The Quran says about such people:

The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress shall marry none but an adulterer or an idolater. That has been prohibited for the believers.1

Therefore the situation must be resolved one way or another, whether it is through divorce or his promising to never see that woman again. And if he breaks his promise, then difficult as it will be, you will be required to divorce him. There is no toleration in Islam in any way for staying with a cheating spouse.

May God ease your situation and grant you patience and consolation.

Question from a reader

What does it mean that the adulterer should marry the adulteress or the idol worshiper. Aren't these things entirely different? And if a person strives to become better (if that's the main goal of Islam) then why marry someone who errs Just like you do? Aren't they by the hadd law supposed to have a death penalty so how can they have time to marry? I'm really confused about the answer.

Regarding the first part of your question, the verse is defining the boundaries between the believers and the non-believers. It is saying that marrying or staying married to an adulterer is not something a believer would do, it is only something a pagan or an adulterer would do. It is basically telling Muslims to stay away from known (unrepentant) adulterers in their societies. If they strive to be better (if they repent), then the verse does not apply to them.

As for the ḥadd punishment for adultery, this is a matter for the authorities (the police and the courts) to implement. The Quran does not assume that such an authority would exist. The Quran assumes that there will be unrepentant adulterers living in societies that Muslims also live in.

The great Egyptian scholar of Islamic law Muhammad Abu Zahra (1898 – 1974) rejected the death penalty for adultery. He based his reasoning on various arguments, such as the fact that we do not know at what point in the Prophet’s career the stonings recorded in  hadith took place; they may have taken place long before the verses on adultery in the Quran were revealed, meaning that they may be narrating events that took place at a time when the Prophet had no guidance except Jewish law. InshaAllah I will write an article to translate his full reasoning.

But even scholars who believe in the death penalty for adultery say that this is a matter for the government to carry out, so that someone who commits it may repent and go on with their lives.2 So the husband dealt with in this article, since his case did not go to court, may repent and stay married to his Muslim wife.

The issues surrounding the reliability of authentic narrations (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

I'm the one who asked for the explanation of how we should deal with hadiths. Thank you for your answer, it put things to perspective. Is there any book in which the author (scholar) himself has done the Quranic focused model of hadith as you described it, so I don't have to read directly from saheeh Muslim/bukhari. I read in a book that saheeh Muslim/bukhari have full isnad so how can any of them still be wrong?Also is there any book that can help me understand Qur'an better?

The science of hadith is an effort at historical reconstruction, which is an inherently subjective and error-prone effort. While hadith scholars considered the full isnād the “gold standard” of hadith reliability, early authorities like al-Hasan al-Basri are quoted saying that they did not mention full isnads for hadiths they had heard from multiple people, meaning that the hadiths they mentioned that lacked full isnāds (known as mursal hadiths) were actually more authentic because they had come down from multiple reliable sources.

Then there is the issue of the Prophet’s career . A hadith may mention something from year 15 of his career that was superseded a year or two later by a Quranic verse or a different practice. The great Egyptian 20th-century scholar of Islamic law Abu Zahra used this argument (among others) to go against the consensus of the hadith scholars in his rejection of the punishment of stoning adulterers. Imam Malik, who is considered perhaps the most reliable authority on hadith transmission in all of Islamic history, being part of something known as the Golden Chain, rejected narrations that were known to be authentic because they clashed with the practice of the devout Muslims of the city of Medina, which Malik considered more authoritative than hadith narrations.1

The majority of hadith narrations, including authentic hadith narrations, belong to a category known as āḥād (“solitary”) hadiths, which according to the field of jurisprudence (fiqh) are inherently doubtful. Scholars of hadith consider any authenticated hadith authentic, while scholars of fiqh require multiply-transmitted narrations to establish authenticity.

The practice of judging a person in an isnād trustworthy or not is sometimes extremely subjective. Hadith scholars who disliked someone for disagreeing with them on some theological or legal issue would retaliate by declaring that person untrustworthy. Sometimes a scholar would throw away the entirety of another scholar’s narrated hadith narrations after a quarrel.2

For a beginner’s guide to the issues surrounding hadith authenticity, see Jonathan Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad.

As far as I know there hasn’t been an effort to create new collections of hadith based on considering the Quran more authoritative than hadith. Such a work cannot be done by one person or a dozen, it will likely require centuries of work. What can be done is studying all the narrations having to do with one particular issue that is under discussion, such as whether drawing living things should be permissible or not, or whether music is permissible or not (my opinion and that of many modern scholars is that they are permissible). Studying just a single issue can take years because you have to bring together hundreds of narrations from a dozen or more collections, then you have to study the opinions of a dozen or more hadith scholars on each of the hundreds of people involved in their transmission, then you have to study the opinions of a dozen or more scholars on the contents of the hadith narrations.

What is needed is what I call the empirical study of hadith which ignores questions of which sect or group or cult one belongs to and uses the scientific method used by historians to judge the evidence. And instead of using the simplistic authentic vs. non-authentic framework (which is not actually used by hadith scholars, who are aware of the shades of authenticity that separates different authentic narrations), we should use a framework that admits the various shades of reliability that separate narrations. One narration may be 99% likely to be true while another might be 95% likely. One “reliable” hadith transmitter can be far more reliable (having a better memory, better knowledge and understanding of the hadiths they transmitted) than another “reliable” transmitter, and these differences between different transmitters should be taken into account.

The Western Islamic studies tradition has made important progress in the empirical study of hadith, some of which can be seen in Harald Motzki’s Analysing Muslim Traditions: Studies in Legal, Exegetical and Maghazi Hadith. This is a completely new way of studying Islam that has the power to accomplish what I described above since the evidence is not judged according to who belongs to what camp but according to the actual historical evidence.

20th century Western scholars like Ignaz Goldziher, Joseph Schacht and Patricia Crone, despite their thorough scholarship, had a hyper-skeptical attitude toward hadith narrations, considering most of the literature potentially false and fabricated until proven otherwise. These views have been largely discredited today. Hadiths represent a true historical record rather than fabrication on an industrial scale.

As for what a Muslim should when dealing with such a complex issue, it is actually quite simple. Hold on to the Quran. The Quran contains sufficient guidance for 99% of a Muslim’s life. What remains are all side issues, such as the proper to say the aḏān and how many times one should raise their hands during the ṣalāh. In such matters, you can follow the well-established opinions of the scholars, except in cases where your reason or conscience make you think that some opinion might be false. In these rare cases, you can do research and find out the differing opinions on it and follow the one that seems most sensible. The Quran itself is usually a sufficient criterion for judging such issues. If a person says that Islam should be forced on others and has some hadith to back up this opinion, the Quran’s principle of religious freedom (in verse 2:256) should take precedence regardless of the hadith. This is a highly simplified example, but in general, the Quran’s ethics and morality should always be paramount and no hadith should be allowed to override and corrupt its teachings.

Regarding understanding the Quran better, Abdel Haleem’s translation is extremely helpful due to its large number of footnotes clarifying the verses.

How to be kinder and more polite to family members

I keep being rude to my mother. How do I stop this habit? She always says things that make me angry even though I know she’s right. I’ve apologised to her so many times and I ask God for help but nothing is changing.

It is natural to be rude and impatient with people close to us when they do not act in the way we expect or make us feel unworthy and unappreciated. What you are trying to do is go against the course of nature by being kind and polite even when she gives you cause to be angry. This is not a state that can be maintained without work, because it is not natural. What is natural is to act the way people act toward us.

The only way to maintain your kindness and politeness toward your mother is to maintain an unnatural state of open-heartedness and selflessness. This can be done through reading the Quran for 30 minutes every day, performing all the voluntary prayers and sincerely praying for God’s help and forgiveness during every sujūd (prostration).

It is the ego that causes us to be rude when its interests are threatened (such as when someone makes us feel unimportant and useless). The way to break this cycle is to take the ego out of the equation. The Quran helps with this because it constantly reminds us about the fact that this world is not important and will end soon, and the fact that we were created to worship God rather than worship ourselves. The Quran’s teachings and reminders soften the heart and weaken the ego’s hold on us so that we end up as calmer, more polite and less self-centered people. And maintaining this state requires dedication. It is not something we can achieve then take for granted. The ego will always reassert itself if we do not fight it.

The fate of atheists in Islam

Are all atheists going to hell?It seems unfair to me for anyone to spend an eternity of suffering because they didn't believe in God, specially if beside that they are nice people. Its been really hard for my iman. In the past it was draining. I spent pretty much all day thinking about the billion of people and all their suffering. I couldn't even watch movies to keep my mind occupied as i would start thinking how all these people were doomed.

I try to read the quran but then i get to the part where they describe hell in details and i just cant finish reading. The only way to stop feeling the stress and anxiety was to read them in a meta a terrifying reality? Sorry for the long askphorical sense but im not sure if its permissible. If atheist are indeed all going to hell in your opinion, how to deal which such

The truth is that we do not for certain. One theory says that all humans have the power to know God and believe in Him. According to this theory, anyone who does not believe in God is automatically punishable by God.

Another theory is that God will only hold people responsible for going against their conscience, and that the only type of disbelief in God is the one where the person has acquired all of the knowledge necessary to believe in God and believes in God in his heart, but who rejects this belief and lives in a state of denial. The kufr (“disbelief”) literally means “to deny (a blessing)” or “to cover up (a truth)”. According to this latter theory, atheists are only punished if they actually believe in God but wish to deny Him for one reason or another (for example because they dislike submitting to a higher power). This means that an atheist who honestly believes that God does not exist and that religion is a human invention will not be punished for this.

What we know for certain is that God is just, and that:

God never burdens a soul beyond what He has given it.1

From the above verse we can conclude that there will be no unjust punishment of humans. God will only hold humans responsible for the knowledge and powers He has given them. A person who grows up in a secular family and who never learns much about religion may not be punishable by God.

God is the inventor of the concepts of fairness and justice. So it is extremely misguided to think that God can be unjust, that we humans can come up with a fairer system than God has created. God is kinder and more just than any human, therefore it is a falsehood to think that He can punish anyone unjustly. While we do not know the exact fate of atheists, what we do know is that their fate will be fair and just, because it is God who is in charge of them.

The people that we know for certain deserve the Hellfire are those who believe in God, who know right from wrong, yet who engage in the worst evil out of their desire for gain. An example is a rich person who pays a killer to go kill a good man because by killing him his own wealth and power will increase. The world is full of such people, and they deserve God’s punishment.

If you fear that good and innocent people will end up in the Hellfire, then you misunderstand God. God invented your brain; do you think He is incapable of understanding issues that you can understand? Read the Quran and you will never hear about an innocent person being punished (hadith narrations are a different story). If God says He will punish kāfirs, the meaning of the word is not exactly defined for us; it could mean someone who believes in God and His Scriptures but who does evil regardless of their belief. In the past it was common to think that all non-Muslims are kāfirs, but this is not at all what the Quran says. The Quran, for example, refers to “the kāfirs among Jews and Christians”, which logically means that there are Jews and Christians who are kāfirs, and there are Jews and Christians who are not kāfirs. The Quran says, when speaking of Jews and Christians:

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

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

115. Whatever good they do, they will not be denied it. God knows the righteous.2

I recommend that you continue to read the Quran so that you get a better understanding of God and His thinking. God is not unjust, so if for some reason you imagine Him being unjust or someone mentions something about Him that implies He is unjust, you should think the best of Him and tell yourself that you or someone has misunderstood Him.

On which scholar’s opinions to follow and scholarly consensus (ijmāʿ)

I don't mean to offend you in any way but I just want to know (because I find other Islamic sources different from your answers sometimes). But I'm wondering when people ask you a certain thing on your blog , do you go after the scholars who give the fatwas/explanations that sounds most logic or do you go after the consensus of the scholars (إجماع) ? Example of this is the issue of apostasy which you disagreed with. Also that kuffar isn't just non-muslims. Could you please clear this up. Thanks.

There is no consensus among the scholars about the concept of ijmāʿ (“consensus”), making it little more than a rhetorical tool used to make one’s own opinion appear stronger despite the existence of disagreement from other scholars. According to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the only true ijmāʿ is consensus among the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad on some matter as recorded in the books of hadith. While I do not belong to Ibn Hanbal’s school, this is perhaps the best opinion on this matter. If all of the Companions of the Prophet agreed that the prayer should be done a certain way, then we have to follow their opinion (in reality, there was also great disagreement among the Companions regarding various issues within Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad).1

There is no such thing as consensus among the Muslims on most things unless you intentionally cut out those who disagree. When it comes to most matters, the general opinion of the ʿulemāʾ is good enough to follow, since we cannot research every single issue within Islam to find out the best opinions about it. The ʿulemāʾ have done this hard work for us and if they think something should be a certain way, then what they is generally safe to follow.

However, there is nothing in Islam that asks us to shut down our critical thinking ability. The Quran constantly asks us to use our reasoning ability, to question things, to find out things for ourselves. Islam is not supposed to have a priesthood who do the religious thinking for everyone else (although this is what some of the ʿulemāʾ claim to be their place in Islamic societies). We Muslims are one community and there are no class distinctions between us. The ʿulemāʾ help the community as repositories of knowledge, but they are not rulers, politically or intellectually, who tell everyone else what to think. The Quran never denies a person’s right to think for themselves and to use their reasoning ability. There is nothing in the Quran to give a small number of Muslims (the self-elected ʿulemāʾ) to become the brains of everyone else by claiming to agree with another.

If the ʿulemāʾ say there is agreement on a subject, all it takes is to find one single disagreeing scholar to prove what they say false; that there is no agreement. In the early Islamic period, in the era of Imam Malik (711 – 795 CE), scholars, instead of shutting down discussion by claiming consensus, acted the exact opposite way; a single disagreeing voice was considered sufficient to establish an equally valid opinion on a matter (see Shaykh Umar Abd-Allah’s Mālik and Medina). So if most of the ʿulemāʾ agree on some thing, but there are a few good and honorable ʿulemāʾ  who have a different opinion, their alternative opinion, according to the thinkers of early Islam, is just as valid as the majority opinion. The early Islamic scholars followed the principle of riʿāyat al-ikhtilāf (“mindfulness of dissent”). Instead of attacking those who disagreed with the majority, they wrote down their opinions (in books like al-Muwaṭṭaʾ and al-Mudawwanah) as forming valid alternatives.

That open-minded scholarly culture of early Islam is the correct and proper way to practice Islam, as opposed to the scholarly culture of groupthink of the past few centuries where dissenters were attacked instead of being respected.

At this point the criticism can be mentioned that if we follow minority opinions this can cause a breakdown in Muslim societies where everyone follows random opinions. That would only be true if we were robot-like creatures whose brains had to be programmed by the scholars. In reality, humans who in good conscience try to find out the truth about things and who listen to the scholars and follow the best opinions they hear are bound to be rightly guided. If we believe in the Quran’s teachings and try to follow them in good faith, then that is most of Islam. It would be extremely unjust to call a Muslim evil and misguided despite the fact that they read the Quran and do their best to follow it just because they differ from us in some opinions.

The reality of Muslim societies today is sufficient to support my opinion. Talk to any devout Muslim and you will find that they have various personal opinions that disagree with the commonly accepted ones. They continue to be faithful and devout and continue to belong to the Muslim community. This was also the experience of Imam Malik’s community; there was strong disagreement on most issues inside Medina and outside it. Instead of this leading to hatred and division, people continued to respect each other and the community was united around the core teachings of Islam without using the side issues as causes for division. This is how unity is achieved: by agreeing on a small number of things (the core teachings of Islam) and respecting people’s right to disagree on everything else.

There is no such thing as kind-hearted and well-intentioned people who read the Quran and the Sunnah and follow the best opinions they hear from the scholars and who are evil and misguided (as takfīrī Wahhabis think there are). This type of thinking assumes that God does not exist; that He is happy to watch humans go to ruin even though they believe in Him, worship Him, pray to Him and read His Book. This, of course, is pure fantasy; it is an invention of those who wish to imply that only they are the truly guided ones. This gives them the moral right to attack, defame and even murder those who disagree with them.

At this point I should mention a hadith much abused by takfīrīs in which it is mentioned that the Muslims will separate into 73 sects and that all of them will enter the Hellfire except one. It is generally accepted that the part that says “all of them will be thrown into Hell save one” is a fabrication added to the hadith later on.

On fighting desires when alone

How do you fight desires when you're alone?

There is no guaranteed way to control desires if the desire is strong and one has the privacy to engage in it without suffering material consequences. A person who wants to lose weight will almost certainly not be successful if they have a freezer full of ice cream. Regardless of their will power, when the desire is strong enough and the desired thing is easy enough to get, people succumb sooner or later.

What one should do is rearrange their life so that engaging in that desired thing becomes more difficult. A person who seriously desires something can come up with all kinds of creative ways to get over obstacles to get what they desire. You have to do the same thing but in the opposite direction, coming up with creative ways of making it more difficult to get the desired thing.

For more on planning against desires see the following answer, it suggestions can be generalized to any kind of desire: Dealing with an addiction to pornography

Dealing with an addiction to pornography

Assalamu'alaikum. I'm a girl and I'm struggling with my porn addiction. Most of my friends assume that I'm such a religious person just bc i graduated from Islamic boarding school. They just don't know the fact that I'm addicted to porn:( I feel guilty for everytime i watched it, ask for His forgiveness then stupidly watch it again and again. I just can't handle the pleasure that i got from watching it. I pray 5 times a day too, recite the Holy Qur'an and practiced some small examples of Ruqyah Syar'iyyah to protect my self from that vicious circle. But i keep doing it:( I can't stop myself from it.... how to get rid of those addiction? I know it's written in the Qur'an "and those who keep their private parts...." But i still can't stop myself:( I keep asking for His guidance to guide me to the right path but my inner desire always won

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

If you are younger than 25, then your brain has not completed its development. As we mature, our ability to control our urges increases. Therefore if you have difficulty controlling yourself now, each year that passes will likely make you more capable of it. Do not lose hope but do good deeds to make up for it, such as reading the Quran or reading books about Islam in order to increase your knowledge.

For an addict, controlling an urge is impossible if the thing they are addicted to is easy to obtain. What you should do is make it more difficult for you to engage in it, for example by spending less time alone (find hobbies, join clubs and societies, volunteer at charities around you, etc.).

Trying to control your urges is likely going to be hopeless (the way it is for an obese person who wants to lose weight and who has ice cream in the freezer, even if they resist the urge for hours, they will likely still fail many times a week). Instead of thinking of controlling yourself, you should plan against your addiction. Come up with ways of making it difficult or impossible for you to engage in it, such as by spending less time alone as mentioned. If there is a time of day when you have the strongest urges, make it a habit to go out to a coffee shop, library or park for a few hours during this time.

Developing the right plan is going to be the most important part. Reading more Quran and praying more (such as performing the voluntary prayers) is going to also help. And if despite all of these things you continue to fail occasionally, instead of fretting about it just get back on track and know that as time passes things will get easier.

Perhaps everyone’s life contains an ‘unsolvable’ problem. It can be having a disabled child that requires much time and energy to take care of, it can be having a demanding elderly parent who lives in one’s house, it can be extreme poverty or a mean and cruel boss that one is forced to work for for years on end. Your unsolvable problem might be your addiction to pornography. It is a test of your faith and patience to suffer from a problem you cannot fix. Instead of giving up and thinking that God has abandoned you (which is what Satan wants you to think), continue to do as much worship and as much prayer as you can, always seeking God’s forgiveness and trying to think the best of Him.

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