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On failing to achieve something despite years of effort

Hi. There was something that I've been working very hard to achieve. In fact I've spent a few years of my life, sincerely working hard for it. When the time came, I didn't get that thing. In fact I keep getting hurt more and more and it seems as if all doors are closed. I feel like all my hard work went down the drain. Everytime I heal and try to make peace with my situation, I fall down again and again, like a never-ending cycle. (Continued...)

Hello,

I did not find the second part of your question, maybe it failed to submit. But to answer the question as it is: that is an experience that many of us have had. There is no help for it but to submit to God’s decree, knowing that He is in charge and that we are not in charge.

Always keep in mind that God is in charge and that He can give you the greatest success in an instant if He wanted. Ask yourself why He does not do that. The answer is that God has no need for us or our works. Whatever we hope to achieve, He can achieve it without our help. This teaches us that we should not be attached to achievements, but to God. We must re-orient ourselves toward Him, asking Him to help us have useful and productive lives, and accepting whatever happens to us as His decrees. We have not truly understood God until we are fully content with His decrees: rather than thinking we deserve better or that this should not be happening to us, we must learn to fully submit, knowing that God is in charge and that nothing escapes Him.

Once you realize that God is the source of all good things and all blessings, you will stop being attached to achievements, knowing that achievements are nothing but a gift from Him that He gives when He wants. It is God who should be first in our minds; we cannot achieve anything unless He allows it, and if He does not allow it, there is nothing in this world that can help us achieve it. So keep going back to God, stop rejecting your situation and instead accept it, knowing that God can end it and replace it with something better whenever He wants.

This does not mean that you should stop your efforts. We are God’s agents on Earth and we have work to do. But rather than being attached to results, we must be attached to God and let Him take care of the results. Whether we fail or succeed does not matter; what matters is for God to be pleased with us.

For more please see my essays below:

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

How to achieve khushoo in salah

How to do we get khushoo in our salah? Sometimes I feel like I'm not completely focused and I start thinking of things that aren't important.

I have found that my feeling of closeness to God outside the prayer is what matters most when it comes to whether I can focus on the prayer or not. And that closeness comes from performing an extra amount of worship every day. Staying close to God requires daily work. If last night I spent an hour reading or listening to the Quran, then today I can focus much better on the prayer and enjoy it more.

For more on performing extra worship see my essay: Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

Her abusive parents make her feel depressed

Assalamu aleikum, for several years i have been feeling like a burden and a problem to my parents. they never support or show love and admiration for anything me or my sisters do, they’re always scared that we’re going to ruin their reputations and have absolutely zero respect for us, the degrading things they’ve told us would take hours to count. lately this has been weighing on me and my mental health is at my lowest, i have dark suicidal thoughts but i know i’d never have the courage to-

-take my own life. i want to get professional help but feel like they would humiliate me for that too. do you have an advice for me? maybe i should pray more or something. i’m sorry if this is too dark but I've been feeling helpless for a long time

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Sorry to read about your difficult situation. It is natural for such difficult situations to make us wish that we did not exist. Unfortunately there may be no solution except to be patient. Maybe getting professional help will help even if your parents dislike it. When some people make our lives miserable other people can help us feel consoled.

In general we have two options when faced with such situations; either to give in to them and let them defeat us, or we can do our best to keep close to God and to think the best of Him despite feeling lonely, abandoned and unspiritual. This is how we can prove we are extraordinary; to keep our souls above our suffering, not letting it crush us and patiently waiting for God to ease our situation and replace it with something better.

The best people you meet in your life are those who suffered like you do, but who were able to defeat the suffering by keeping close to God and thinking the best of Him. And the some of the worst people you meet are those who suffered and who let their suffering make them dislike God so that they now hold a grudge against Him and reject Him and blame Him for having meaningless and empty lives.

Please check out my three essays below where I discuss how to find meaning in suffering and how to overcome it:

Islam and Depression: A Survival Guide

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

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

Best wishes.

Spending money on expensive mosques rather than the needy

Assallamualeykum! Could you please share your opinion on spending a lot of money on building beautiful mosques instead of using that amount to help the people who are really in need?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

When Imam Ahmad was asked about a rich and powerful man who had spent 1000 dinars (a large sum of money at the time) on a decorated book of Quran, he said, “Let him, for this is the best way to spend his money.” He said this despite the fact that he considered it a religiously disliked thing for people to make or spend money highly decorated and expensive books of Quran. His point was that this rich man was going to waste his money anyway, so he might as well waste it on something that has a better value than other things.

My opinion on beautiful mosques is similar. Their beauty has a positive value, but spending money on helping the needy is better than spending money on expensive mosques. However, as Imam Ahmad recognized, the choice is not between helping the needy and wasting money on expensive religious items. The choice is between wasting money on religious items and wasting money on non-religious items. This means that if a rich person is going to waste his money anyway, he might as well waste it on building a beautiful mosque.

So while technically it is better to help the needy, realistically, there are many rich people who would spend money on an expensive mosque but who would never consider giving that money away to the poor. For such people, building an expensive mosque is the best use of their money. If they do not spend it on a mosque, they might spend it on a big palace.

We should therefore not judge the matter as if expensive mosques are created in a social vacuum. They are often created by rich and powerful people who already waste money on many other things. Once the mosque has been built, we should appreciate it even if we think the money could have been used better. We should thank God that this rich and powerful person was moved to build something beautiful and valuable when they could have spent their money on something that was useless or harmful to society.

The meaning of not taking Christians and Jews as allies in the Quran

Salam, you articulate your explanations very nicely MashAllah. My question is in Surah Ma'idah how can Verse 52 apply to modern day Muslims? A lot of the time I read a verse and get apprehensive about how it relates to me, then I read the tasfir and it makes sense in its context. But then I struggle to apply it to my own life.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Usually when the meaning of a verse of the Quran is unclear, another part of the Quran clarifies it. That verse should be understood in the context of other relevant verses. These verses are concerned with diplomatic relations between Muslim groups and Christian and Jewish groups. The passage says:

51. O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies; some of them are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is one of them. God does not guide the wrongdoing people.

52. You will see those in whose hearts is sickness racing towards them. They say, “We fear the wheel of fate may turn against us.” But perhaps God will bring about victory, or some event of His making; thereupon they will regret what they concealed within themselves. (The Quran, verses 5:51-52)

The chapter goes on to say:

O you who believe! Do not take as allies those who take your religion in mockery and as a sport, be they from among those who were given the Scripture before you, or the disbelievers. And obey God, if you are believers. (The Quran, verse 5:57)

In another chapter, it says:

138. Inform the hypocrites that they will have a painful punishment.

139. Those who ally themselves with the disbelievers instead of the believers. Do they seek glory in them? All glory belongs to God. (The Quran, verses 4:138-139)

In another chapter, the Quran says:

8. As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable.

9. But God prohibits you from taking as allies those who fought against you over your religion, and expelled you from your homes, and aided in your expulsion. Whoever takes them for friends—these are the wrongdoers. (The Quran, verses 60:8-9)

In these verses, what is translated as “taking as allies” are verbs from the W-L-Y root that refer to the concept of wilāya. This means to enter into a relationship where you are dependent on a person for your safety and protection. The verse you mentioned is referring to some of the hypocrites and other misguided Muslims who tried to enter into such a relationship with the Jews of Medina. They thought that in this way they would be safe in case the pagans of Mecca attacked the Muslims. The Quran is forbidding Muslims from putting their lives in the hands of Jews and Christians out of fear and in the seeking of safety, because such relationships always have strings attached. It is an unequal relationship that causes the Muslims to submissively accept the demands of the Jews and Christians. It also means putting one’s trust in people who may have agendas of their own and may betray the Muslims at some point, as the many examples of history show us.

Verse 60:8 tells us that we are not forbidden from dealing with non-Muslims justly and kindly. We can have equal relationships with them, what we cannot have are unequal relationships that make us submit to them spiritually and materially.

When it comes to individual Muslims, these concerns are usually not relevant since befriending a Christian or Jew does not automatically place you in a relationship of wilāya with them. An example of a Muslim who enters into a relationship of wilāya with Jews and Christians is a Muslim politician who builds his or her entire career around pleasing Jewish and Christian allies, relies on them for success, and does his or her best to live up to their expectations. We see such examples among British Muslim Members of Parliament. In their desire to fit in and to gain Christian and Jewish support they largely abandon their Muslim identity. That is what these verses forbid us from doing.

As for a Muslim politician who keeps friendly relations with Jews and Christians but does not submit to them or rely on them for success and protection, then such a Muslim is not doing anything wrong in this regard.

In summary, Muslims can befriend non-Muslims if the friendship is on equal, non-submissive terms. But they are forbidden from selling their Muslim identities to enter into relationships of spiritual and material submission with non-Muslims out of the desire for protection and gain.

Why are we supposed to control our sexual desires in Islam?

Why do we have to suppress our sexual desires in Islam? I'm unmarried and always have sexual thoughts, but in Islam we're told masturbation is haram and that we should fast to control our desires. It just doesn't seem fair to those who are struggling to find someone.

Masturbation is not clearly forbidden as I explain here. And sexual fantasies are not sinful as I explain here.

The reason we have to control our sexual desires is so that we can satisfy them in civilized, rather than destructive, ways. We do not want our societies to descend into being like jungles where everyone has sex with everyone else. Even though some may imagine a sexual utopia where everyone is free to do whatever they want with their sexuality, that does not lead to happiness. It actually creates a hellish world that is devoid of love and the warmth of human interactions. The British philosopher Roger Scruton speaks of this in detail in his important 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation.

If you are interested in reading more about this please check out the chapter “Women and Sexuality in Islam” from my new book An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims (you can download the book for free here).

Her friend is said to suffer from “jinn possession”

Salaam, I have a friend who is suffering from jinn possession. Someone did black magic to her in order to destroy her and her marriage. She's now severely depressed, what can be done to help her?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

As I explain in my answer Can jinns possess objects or show themselves? we must be extremely skeptical toward claims regarding jinns. Unless your friend has undeniable proofs that her depression is caused by jinns, we should assume it is just a medical condition.

This world is not a playground for jinns doing whatever they want to humans as some superstitiously believe. Their only power it seems is to inspire thoughts in humans, and even then their power is strongly limited by God’s protection of His believers. The Quran says:

30. Surely, those who say: “Our Lord is God,” and then remain steadfast, the angels will descend upon them: “Do not fear, and do not grieve, but rejoice in the news of the Garden which you were promised.

31. We are your allies and protectors in this life and in the Hereafter, wherein you will have whatever your souls desire, and you will have therein whatever you call for.” (The Quran, verses 41:30-31)

The Quran also says:

There are succeeding ones assigned to him; before him and behind him, protecting him by God’s command. God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. And if God wills any hardship for a people, there is no turning it back; and apart from Him they have no protector. (The Quran, verse 13:11)

Imam Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. 722 CE) says in his interpretation of this verse:

There is not a servant of God except that he has an angel protecting him in his sleep and wakefulness from jinns, humans and natural dangers [hawām, literally meaning deadly and disease-causing animals and insects]...

Since the believers enjoy God’s protection and since jinns have so little power, we should always be extremely skeptical about claims of jinns doing things to humans. Such things are not impossible as far as we know, but they are extremely unlikely.

My recommendation therefore is for your friend to seek medical help for her depression. She can also read the Quran and do extra worship to be closer to God and enjoy His protection more, and maybe this will help reduce her fears of being possessed by jinns.

Does being a Muslim make us better humans than non-Muslims?

Does being a Muslim make us better humans than disbelievers?

First, note that the word “disbeliever” as it is used in Quran translations does not refer to all non-Muslims as explained here. It only refers to someone who believes in God but knowingly disobeys Him and denies His blessings and scriptures.

The attributes that make some humans better than others are mercy, compassion, submission to God and fear of Him, generosity and other attributes that God teaches us to try to have. Any human who has more of these attributes is superior to those who have less of them.

It is quite possible for a non-Muslim to be more kind than a particular Muslim. In that case they are superior to the Muslim when it comes to kindness, but they may be inferior when it comes to submission to God (maybe they believe in God but knowingly reject following Him).

Some people believe that merely entering the fold of Islam automatically makes one a superior species of human compared to everyone else. But the Quran seems to reject that view. The Quran says:

13. O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing, Well-Experienced.

14. The Desert-Arabs say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not believed; but say, ‘We have submitted,’ [i.e. we have entered Islam] 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.”

15. The believers are those who believe in God and His Messenger, and then have not doubted, and strive for God’s cause with their wealth and their persons. These are the sincere.

16. Say, “Are you going to teach God about your religion, when God knows everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is aware of all things?”

17. They regarded it a favor to you that they have submitted. Say, “Do not consider your submission a favor to me; it is God who has done you a favor by guiding you to the faith, if you are sincere.” (The Quran, verses 49:14-17)

These verses criticize the Bedouins for claiming to have faith when they do not. They accepted Islam but they have only done so out of political and material considerations–they have not become believers yet. ﻹhe verses imply that their being merely “Muslim” has little value if they do not believe and strive in the way of God.

That teaches us that being Muslim is not automatically a ticket to being superior to others. A Christian who better embodies the attributes of submission, piety, fear of God and kindness seems to me a superior human in the Quranic view compared to a cruel and evil-doing Muslim. The Quran says:

146. Those to whom We have given the Book [Jews, Christians and followers of other Abrahamic religions] recognize it as they recognize their own children. But some of them conceal the truth while they know.

147. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be a skeptic.

148. To every community is a direction towards which it turns. Therefore, race towards goodness. Wherever you may be, God will bring you all together. God is capable of everything. (The Quran, verses 2:146-148)

Verse 148 above says “race towards goodness”. The call may be directed towards Muslims, telling them to race with one another in goodness, or it could be a call to Muslims, Jews and Christians to race each other. This second interpretation follows more logically from the context, since in 148 it says “Therefore, race towards goodness” right after it means “every community” (meaning Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc.). Now, if there is to be a race towards goodness between Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others, that means it is possible that some Jews and Christians may win the race and some Muslims may lose the race. If Muslims were supposed to always win just by the virtue of being Muslim, then there would be no point in a race. The race would be won by default every time before it even begins.

So the concept that Muslims, Jews and Christians can race one another in goodness suggests that it is goodness that matters, not the mere fact of being Muslim.

Of course, merely being Muslim comes with its own virtues, but it is only one attribute among other equally important attributes.

In summary, being Muslim does not necessarily make every Muslim automatically superior to every non-Muslim.

Is it permitted to study astrology out of curiosity alone?

assalamu aleikum, is astrology still haram if we read it not to know our traits or future but out of pure curiosity?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The problem with astrology is that it attributes mystical powers to things other than God. If it is studied purely out of curiosity without adopting its teachings then that is a different matter. It may be similar to studying Buddhism out of curiosity; this is permitted since to merely study something does not mean that one adopts its beliefs.

Still, I doubt that a person who reads a lot of astrology and is interested in it can be immune from taking it seriously. So it is up to you to decide whether it is competing with your belief in God or not. If you find yourself thinking that the fate of humans are affected by astrological factors then that shows astrology is negatively affecting your belief in God.

Father wants to prevent them from going back to school

assalamu aleikum, my situation is a little difficult, i dropped out of school a few years back because of my immaturity and ignorance and now finally after a difficult year i have a chance to go back but my father seems reluctant, he always dismisses me when i mention it and i fear that he will try to stop me. there is no point trying to discuss with him, he’s stubborn and always thinks his way is the right way (like a lot of controlling fathers) i am trying hard not lose hope but im going down-

-the vicious spiral of sadness and despair i went through last year because of it, i don’t know what to do because i’m supposed to go back soon and he is unpredictable. do you have an advice for me? thank you

Sorry to read about your difficult situation. I cannot think of any easy solution for it. You just have to be patient. Maybe find out if your relatives (such as your mother, aunts and uncles) can help in persuading him to let you go back to school. And if you are not able to attend school this season because of his refusal, things may change in a few months and you may be able to attend next season, or next year. Try to make the best use of your time regardless of whether you end up going to school or not, such as by reading a lot of books. If you have a desired field you want to get a university degree in, you can start studying for it now. Some universities allow people to get a master’s degree without having a bachelor’s degree if they can show that they are extremely well-read in their field. You can start studying as if you are studying for a master’s degree, collect books in your field, and read studies in open-access academic journals.

Best wishes.

How to make sure wealth does not make you distant from God

Assalamualaikum, Allah swt tests one with what he has given him, Allah swt has given me a lot. How can I make sure I'm not failing my tests? Despite doing whats Obligatory I always feel like I'm failing. Perhaps because of my frivolous worldly interests outside of Islam. Any advice?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

My recommendation for those who want to be extraordinary believers is to try to perform an extra hour of worship every day, especially reading the Quran. One should read it with the aim of understanding it and embodying its teachings in one’s life. If you an achieve this hour of daily worship and do your best to embody the Quran’s teachings, then I would say this is guaranteed to keep you in a great spiritual place constantly. There is no way to remain spiritual without constant, daily work. The life of this world always takes us away from God on a daily basis and we need to exert daily effort to constantly go back to Him.

For more on the extra hour of worship please see my essay Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

He had sex with another man’s wife, the husband wants to kill him now

Asalam aliekum,I had a sexual relation with a married woman and now her husband wants to kill me or asks for huge amount of money which i can't never get to pay him for the crime i did. Please tell me what should i do.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I doubt you can fix that situation by yourself. You should get other people involved, such as your family, his family, your local imam, people in your extended family who have a high social standing and who may be taken seriously by that man, and maybe the police if you fear for your life. That man has no right to take the law into his own hands, both according to Islamic law and secular law. If there is to be a legal solution, it will have to be decided by a judge, imam, or other members of society who can perform this job.

You may also want to check out this previous answer: How to repent from zina (sex outside of marriage)

Best wishes.

Why do so many people in the West wish for death?

Assallamualeykum! Nowadays, people (especially young adults) have a strong desire to die. They hate this world, and those people are not always muslims. What could be the reason for their wish to die when they don't even know what expects them after death? they have absolutely no ambition. I can't say that they are in a high spiritual level either. however, some of them seem to be pretty self-sufficient. how can a person be self-sufficient possessing a hatred inside himself at the same time?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

What you are describing is depression, and can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. A depressed person may be unable to think positive thoughts and to take joy in life, so they can become indifferent whether they live or die. People who are blessed with never having suffered depression can mistakenly think that it is negative thoughts that lead to depression. The reality is that it is the depression that causes the negative thoughts, and if the depression is cured, the negative thoughts will go away automatically.

For more on depression and its causes please see my essay Islam and Depression: A Survival Guide.

 

Is forgetting the Quran a curse from God?

Assalamo Alaikum..So I have been worrying about some thing for quite some time now and I am really afraid.. I was talking with a friend the other day and told him that as child I used to remember lot of verses from the Qur'an but now in my early 20s I have forgotten most of those verses..My friend told me that it is an Adhab(curse) from Allah and I'm really worried about it..What should I do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It is a common belief of the scholars that God rewards the pious by enabling them to spend more time in worship, acquiring knowledge and studying the Quran. The idea is that the closer you are to God, the more knowledge of Him and His religion you will have, and the more distant you are, the less knowledge you will have and the knowledge you used to have will disappear or have no benefit. From this perspective, forgetting verses you had memorized can be considered a punishment for being distant from God, that is what the “curse” means.

It is for you to judge whether you are more distant from God than you used to be. If that is really the case, then you can easily correct matters by re-dedicating yourself to Him. My essay God has not abandoned you has a plan for achieving this. Apart from these considerations I wouldn’t worry about any supposed curse.

Her intended is being forced by his family to marry someone else

Assalamu Alaikum. The brother who wanted to marry me had issues with his parents accepting me as they wanted him to marry his cousin. We remained patient and kept making dua asking Allah for help. Those parents have now forced him into a marriage with his cousin. Although there is no Nikah they are now “engaged”, even though he did not attend. He does not want to marry her but he is afraid he will lose his family over it so he accepted it. I feel devastated. Is this Allah’s decree? Can it change

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Sorry to read about your difficult situation. May Allah make it easier.

Everything in life is God’s decree. God is in charge and He can prevent anything from happening if He wishes. Whenever something bad happens in our life, it is always with God’s awareness. There is a deep lesson in this; God allows bad things to happen to us in order to shape our character. We could not prove our faith, patience and dedication toward Him if nothing bad ever happened in our lives.

Anything can change. Just because something bad seems to be about to happen does not mean that it will happen. And whether it happens or not, it is always God’s decree because nothing escapes Him. There is really no solution to your situation. Some things in life make us suffer greatly and there is no escape from the suffering. We just have to accept it, wait patiently and see what happens. Submit to God, knowing that He is in charge, and leave it to Him to take care of the things in your life that you have no power over. You never know what may happen a few years from now. What causes us great suffering now may be the beginning of a process that eventually gives us great happiness down the road. God can always arrange for you to marry a better person at some point if and when He wishes.

Please check out the following essay in which I discuss in more detail how to deal with such situations:

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

Best wishes.

Her family prevents her from practicing Islam

Salam, my family claim to be Muslim but unfortunately have a bad lifestyle and mindset (no religious practices whatsoever) however I am not like that and if I choose to cover my awrah, my mother seems to get very upset at this situation, she says if I were to put on the hijab, she would disown me. So I hide all my thoughts, I hide praying, I hide going to the mosque, I hide how much I am into my religion because she is the opposite and always argues with me about this. Would you advise me please.

That is a a difficult situation to be in and I hope things will get easier for you. One thing you could try is to gradually increase your practicing of Islam so that she has time to adjust to it. Maybe you could start praying without trying too hard to hide it. She may get used to the fact that you pray regularly and may stop complaining about it.

Just because she says she will disown you if you wear the hijab does not mean that she is really prepared to do that. You could do your best to dress modestly, and perhaps wear a cap outside that hides most of your hair.

If necessary, you can wait until marriage to start practicing Islam fully. God does not ask you to bear more than you are able. Try to seek a balance between practicing as much of Islam as you can while keeping conflict with your family at a bearable level.

Best wishes.

Is it forbidden to call a woman a goddess as a compliment?

Is it haram to call a woman a goddess as a compliment?

Since it does not mean that she literally is a goddess, it is not exactly blasphemy. But it is still not a good thing to say since it borrows pagan imagery, which is not pleasing to God. Rather than thinking of things in terms of halal versus haram, think of whether they are pleasing to God or not. The things that are haram are clearly defined and most people know them. But there are many more things that are technically halal but not pleasing to God.

Some can argue it is haram since it contains a pagan meaning. While others will argue it is halal since the intention is not a pagan intention, and the Prophet says, “Acts are [to be judged] by their intentions.” (From Sahih al-Bukhari Book 1, Hadith 1; Sahih Muslim, Book 33, Hadith 222)

How to be compassionate, and on acting compassionate without feeling it

Assallamualeykum! Could you please explain how the human compassion works? How does a person gain it and how he loses it? What could be the factors? How to recognize it? Thanx in advance! I trust your point of view which is always interesting and wise.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Part of human compassion is built-in genetically. We are naturally predisposed to be kind toward those who belong to our family and tribe. There is also compassion that is not built-in but that comes from the soul. For example when we see someone who has wronged us in the past suffer and ask us for help, our human psyche can take pleasure in their suffering (we think they deserve it) and we may dislike to help them. But a person with a good soul can override all of these human instincts and act kindly and compassionately toward them even though the person does not deserve it.

The soul of a very spiritual person tries to embody the attributes that God teaches us to embody, the attributes of mercy, compassion, generosity and selflessness. These attributes come from God and the soul can mirror them. In this way it harmonizes itself with God regardless of worldly desires and impulses. What is called a saint is someone who reaches a stage of near-perfect harmony with God, so that their actions and manners come from a different world, the world of the soul, rather than material world. When others are cruel, he or she can be kind even if they feel the impulse of cruelty. When others are selfish they remain generous. Their actions come from a soul that is in harmony with God, rather than coming from their instincts and desires.

Reply from the questioner:

Regarding the question I asked before (about the compassion) , is a person considered compassionate, if the person tries to act with a mercy towards people even if the person doesn't feel so? I'm asking this because I think that actions should always be sincere and from heart. But then, I don't feel any compassion neither to my family nor to people. But force myself to act so. Does this make a person compassionate?

Being compassionate when you feel like it is good, being compassionate when you don’t feel like it is even better, because it means your soul is transcending your instincts out of a sense of duty toward God and humanity. ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (the “fifth” Rashidun caliph) says:

The best good deeds are the ones that one has to force the ego to perform.

If you are choosing to be compassionate, then that is sincere even if you do not feel compassionate. It is only insincere if you act compassionate in order to appear compassionate to others. If you are compassionate out of a sense of duty then that is perfectly sincere whether you feel it or not.

As for feeling more compassionate, part of it has to do with your brain chemistry. A person who is severely depressed will feel emotionally numb and unable to feel compassionate emotions toward others without any fault of their own. Another part may have to do with having an open heart, which can be achieved through having a close connection with God (such as by performing an extra hour of worship every day as I explain here).

In Islam how are we meant to deal with death of a loved one?

In Islam how are we meant to deal with death of a loved one?

The death of a loved one is one of life’s “unsolvable” problems and can either lead to spiritual maturity or immaturity depending on how we deal with it. I have an essay on dealing with such situations: The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

Best wishes.

Are there misogynistic stories in the Quran?

assalamu alaykum, I do respect the Quran very very much! Lately though, I've found my heart a little disturbed by the notice that in most valuable stories, the women are usually the targets for the men to start sinning.. I know it is the devil's wrongdoings which makes the man kill, steal, cheat etc. - it just happens to be that the woman is the leading cause in most stories. How can I deal with this knowledge? Aren't women worth more than to teach a lesson? Peace be upon you!

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I have seen no such pattern in the Quran. In fact I cannot think of a single story that fits that description except the story of Joseph. If that story makes women look bad, it is counterbalanced by the story of Mary some chapters later; the whole chapter is named “Mary” in her honor.

If you will mention specifics then I will be happy to answer.

Reply:

Hey, so I wanted to name some specifics regarding the display of women in the Quran. One story would be about Qabil & Habil (sons of Adam) and the beautiful versus ugly sister. Another would be of Marut & Harut, the angels sent to eart who were good judges but started sinning after seeing a beautiful woman. Another would be of Barsisa, where the monk should take care of the little sister but starts to have sinful thoughts... to name few, but thanks for your answer!

The Quranic version of the Qabil and Habil and Harut and Marut stories have no mention of women. The Barṣīṣā story is one of the Isrāʾīlīyāt, stories transmitted from ancient non-Muslim sources that are inherently unreliable.

So the things you refer to are not in the Quran. They are in commentaries and hadith narrations that are associated with the Quranic stories and that are inherently unreliable unless they are marfūʿ (directly transmitted from the Prophet ) and multiply-transmitted (heard by three or more Companions). Almost nothing in these stories matches such a standard.

If you keep to the Quranic versions of these stories then you will find none of the misogynistic themes that you referred to earlier. As for the non-Quranic additions to the stories, skepticism toward them is always necessary unless they match the highest standards of hadith transmission (which they almost never do).

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