Tag Archives: Islam

Dealing with sexist hadith narrations as a woman

There are endless of hadiths that ridicules us woman. That says that we aren’t rational, intellectual etc. Many of them are of sahih. For instance the hadith in which asmaa bint Yazid was talking to the prophet sws and he and his companions were amazed that a woman could express herself as she did (which means that they normally doubt woman’s intellect). Then you got the straightforward ones that says woman are stupid, inferior etc…

Our conceptualization of Islam comes from the Quran. The Quran is our program and our guide in life, and it doesn’t contain any of the things you describe.

As for hadith, hadith exists on a second tier, it is there to provide us with an example of the Prophet’s efforts to follow the Quran. Everything in hadith is considered z̧anni, meaning of doubtful certitude. Imam Malik and Abu Hanifa recommend skepticism toward hadith, including authentic ones, whenever they deviate from the Quran or from well-established practices of the Sunna. Therefore, for example, Imam Malik refuses to act by various hadith narrations even though they were considered authentic, because the narrations go against the well-established practices of the people of Medina (see The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan Amal by Yasin Dutton).

Imam al-Bukhari himself rejects an authentic hadith because it contains a prophesy that does not come true (the Prophet peace be upon him says this thing will happen, but 200 years have passed and it has not happened, so al-Bukhari concludes the hadith is false). For more examples of scholars rejecting authentic narrations see the (freely available) paper How We Know Early Ḥadīth Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find by Jonathan Brown.

There is an authentic narration (in Sahih Muslim) that says if a woman, black dog or donkey passes in front of a person praying, their prayer is invalidated. In a different narration, also in Sahih Muslim, it is recorded that when Aisha (wife of the Prophet peace be upon him), may God have mercy on her, hears this hadith (this is after the Prophet’s death), she angrily retorts “You have compared us to dogs!” Instead of sitting quietly and accepting the hadith, she challenges it because she finds it ridiculous and insulting.

You can do the same. Instead of submitting to other people’s visions about what Islam should be, do your own research and build your own vision of Islam based on a wide variety of sources. If someone uses some random hadith to belittle you, challenge them using the Quran’s principles, or research the hadith and you will usually find that there are other hadith narrations that contradict it.

It is permissible to celebrate Mawlid of the Prophet ﷺ

Neither rasool Allah pbuh, nor the companions, nooooor the predecessors congratulated for Mawlid ! Bidaaaaah bro, bidaah

What you are saying is based on the idea (mostly propounded by Wahhabis) that any type of worship or Islamic celebration that was not performed by the early Muslims is automatically an evil and forbidden thing. People who disagree with the Wahhabis and believe that celebrating the Mawlid is acceptable include: Yusuf al-Qaradawi (al-Azhar scholar), Imam al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, al-Suyuti, Muhammad al-Hadhrami (Shafi`i jurist), Sadr al-Din al-Jazari (Shafi`i jurist).

I don’t celebrate the Prophet’s birthday myself ﷺ, but since some people enjoy it and get something out of it, I have no problem with them doing it. They have a desire to feel close to the Prophet and the mawlid celebrations fulfill that desire for them, and as the above list of scholars should show, there is no consensus on forbidding such celebrations. You are free to not celebrate it yourself, but you have no right to ruin it for others. If someone says mawlid mubarak, it is politeness to reply to them in the same kind.

House husbands in Islam

/ No Comments on House husbands in Islam

Your thoughts on House Husbands? I read that it is Haraam, unless the husband faces health difficulties, but then Islam is a religion that emphasized on “niaat”, so what if they both agree to let the wife to be the breadwinner, and it wasn’t a decision made because the husband is simply lazy?

I do not know of any clear Islamic principle that would forbid that. For example the wife may get a very good job while the husband stays at home to work on some project that does not earn him any immediate income, such as writing or scholarly research.

I guess those who oppose such arrangements fear that society will come crumbling down if every single husband decided to stay at home. But in reality the vast majority of men will not be content to stay at home, they will want to work regardless of religious considerations, so I don’t consider their critique valid, since it is based on an invalid slippery slope argument. Not all slippery slope arguments are invalid, but this one is, because it ignores the very important fact that men are genetically programmed to seek to gain wealth and status, and for most men this means they have a strong desire to work. So allowing men to be house husbands will not affect the fact that the majority of men will not want such a lifestyle.

How to pray on an airplane when you do not know the qibla

How do we actually perform our salah in the airplane without knowing the qibla?

You can pray in your seat facing directly ahead, since it is often difficult and inconvenient to pray out of the seat. And if it is possible and convenient, you can face in the direction of the qibla if you can determine where you are on the globe (some airplanes have a screen that shows your current location). If you know where you are, you’d face in the general direction of Mecca from that location.

Source: Ibn Baaz, fatwa 6293.

 

Should Islam and politics mix or not?

I am a Muslim but my personal opinion is that politics and Islam shouldn’t mix. The living examples of this are Muslim countries. I am not saying by any means that democracy is better, God knows how many people have died in the name of secular democracy. Although I know that the original intention and purpose were to stop corruption but this has bred more corruption and ignorance and hate etc. I am not a modernist that think we need to re-interpret what Allah perfected for us nor am I putting(1)

myself in a position in which I think I know better than Allah SWT. I’m just saying that clerics are getting enormous money in KSA to issue their own made up fatwas that cause corruption,that they are following weak hadith on purpose and that they try to deprive certain people of their rights in society. The shia sunni conflict has been going on for centuries and arab-arab &muslim-muslim & government-civilian Muslim war still hasn’t ceased because of disagreement. (2)

(3) muslims still want a Muslim government, and so much blood has been spilt over this and no one uses their minds nor can they think critically. Whoever speaks up against this gets called an apostate. I don’t know really if apostaty is a muslim thing or not because( some muslim intellectuals have opposed this but scholars are pro- apostasy law) but it sounds like a political tool to keep the government still operating and under control. (3)

myself in a position in which I think I know better than Allah SWT. I’m just saying that clerics are getting enormous money in KSA to issue their own made up fatwas that cause corruption,that they are following weak hadith on purpose and that they try to deprive certain people of their rights in society. The shia sunni conflict has been going on for centuries and arab-arab &muslim-muslim & government-civilian Muslim war still hasn’t ceased because of disagreement. (2)

(3) muslims still want a Muslim government, and so much blood has been spilt over this and no one uses their minds nor can they think critically. Whoever speaks up against this gets called an apostate. I don’t know really if apostaty is a muslim thing or not because( some muslim intellectuals have opposed this but scholars are pro- apostasy law) but it sounds like a political tool to keep the government still operating and under control. (3)

I am against seeking power in the name of Islam the way Islamist political parties do. I explain the problems with political Islam in my essay The Last Mufti of Iranian Kurdistan (And a Critique of Political Islam).

A government is just a tool for ensuring the good of the people and the Quran does not provide any clear indications for what type of government is best or most “Islamic”. The most “Islamic” government is the one that best reflects the Quranic ideals of justice and mercy regardless of its structure (whether it is a good king in charge or a parliament).

This does not mean that Islam should have no role in government. Islam will always have a role, since its teachings will affect the thinking and behavior of Muslims who are involved with politics and law-making. The secular “morality” of American diplomacy allows the United States to spy on its closest allies and stab them in the back wherever it fits its interests. If more Muslims become involved with American politics, then their morality will affect American politics so that the government may start to act less like a barbarian savage and more like a civilized human who respects other humans.

In my view there is no conflict between Islam and democracy. If the majority of the people of the country are Muslim, they can democratically vote for the inclusion of more Islamic ideas into their politics and laws. This is what the Quran teaches, that the state of the government reflects the state of the people; if the people are greedy and selfish, their government will be like that too, and if the people are good and honorable, their government will be too. A large government like that of the United States needs the help of millions of its citizens to function. It is through the involvement of millions of ordinary Americans that the United States government gets away with destroying and bombing country after country. If these Americans had the moral courage of their ancestors, they would have refused to support their government and their politicians in these acts. But they would rather keep their comfortable jobs rather than take risks with their finances and lives. And in this way everyone’s moral cowardice is reflected in their government.

Now, since so many people hunger for power, there are Muslims who think that the best way to manage a country is for them to gain power in the name of Islam and force their ideas on everyone else. This is never going to work, Islam is not meant to be forced on people. These people think that “we will seize power then do good with it” while what Islam teaches is to do good right now and leave power to God. The Prophet ﷺ did not seize power, he was invited by the people of Medina to become their ruler and law-maker. He was very much democratically elected to become the ruler and he lived up to this role by managing and defending his new country.

I am not saying that Muslims should be docile sheep who let their governments do whatever they want. I fully support political activism by Muslims, such as through critiquing their governments and politicians. What I am against is seeking power in the name of Islam. One can do all kinds of political activism without seeking power. I am also not against individual Muslims being involved with politics, that’s their own personal business. What I am against is Muslims banding together to gain power in the name of Islam, this always leads to more evil than good, as I describe in the essay linked above.

The proper way to approach hadith with its many contradictory and pseudo-scientific claims

I hope you are doing well. I have a question regarding hadith. When it comes to Quran we know the verse is true however there might be a different interpretation, this is difficult to know the most true interpretation. When it comes to hadith it’s even harder. The majority says go for sahih but even with sahih you find contradictions and pseudo-scientific claims. How should we do to read hadiths?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

When dealing with hadith you have to take what is known as epistemological grading into account. All hadith narrations are dhanni al-dalalah, meaning that they are of doubtful reliability when it comes to establishing any fact of law or ritual in Islam. It is only when you combine authentic narrations from various sources that you reach something that approaches certainty.

What this means is that when it comes to the vast majority of (authentic) hadith, it is the practice of scholars to not treat them as established fact, but as probable pointers to the truth. When you hear a hadith that sounds ridiculous and unreasonable, you are not required to believe in it, you can withhold judgment and study the matter more deeply and you will often find other hadith narrations that go against it.

My solution to this confusion of sources and opinions is what I call Quran-focused Islam. For any topic under discussion, we build a Quran model for it (a view of the topic that solely derived from the Quran), then we build a hadith model (a view of the topic derived from hadith), then we compare the two, and in cases of conflict and contradiction, we give preference to the Quran’s opinion over the opinion of hadith.

The above process effortlessly solves almost everything that is wrong with Islamic thinking today. Some hadith narrations seem to recommend killing people who leave Islam, while the Quran guarantees religious freedom. So we give preference to the Quran. Hadith narrations support slavery, but the Quran is neutral on the matter and gives us the freedom to ban it, so we do so. Hadith narrations consider Christians and Jews “infidels” who will go to Hell, but the Quran says they will go to Paradise, therefore we give preference to the Quran’s view. I explain these issues in detail in my essay Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism.

And if a hadith says something that is clearly against science, feel free to reject that hadith. An important issue with the science of hadith is that the criteria used for judging the authenticity of hadtih narrations are very strict for legal hadith narrations (hadiths that have something to do with the practice of Islamic law), while they are lax when dealing with non-legal narrations. This means that a law-related “authentic” narration is generally far more “authentic” than a non-legal “authentic” hadith narration.

For more details on these issues please see Jonathan Brown’s book Misquoting Muhammad.  And if you have the time and energy to read it, his other book The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim explains in detail how at the beginning it was common to question the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim until the collections were slowly canonized so that skepticism toward them was made politically incorrect.

Another interesting read is professor Yasin Dutton’s The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta and Madinan Amal where he explains in detail how Imam Malik reserved the right to question and even reject authentic hadith narrations in his legal reasoning. An even better read is Shaykh Umar Faruq Abdullah’s Malik and Medina if you have $269 to spend on a book.

What to do if you cannot read the Quran very well

I want to read the Qur’an to get hasanat but my Arabic is bad and I might read wrong and I don’t understand most of what I’m reading. What can I do?

You can listen to it from beginning to end many times, in this way you will get used to its proper reading. Afterwards you can start reading along while listening to it, and in this way you reading may improve.

Some people (including many jurists) say that listening to it does not bring the same rewards as reading, but there is no clear evidence for this opinion. Personally I prefer to listen to it with the voice of Mishary al-Afasi. I use an audiobook listening android app (Listen Audiobook Player) that keeps track of my place. It also allows me to speed up the recitation, I generally listen to it at 2.5x speed since this is the most comfortable for me.

As for improving your Arabic comprehension, that requires hundreds of hours of practice. One way you could do it is by using a book of Quran that has the Arabic and the English side by side, in that way you could read one Arabic sentence, then reading the English translation, then read the next sentence. In this way your brain will pick up the meanings of the words even if you do not formally try to memorize the meanings.

Who goes to hell in Islam?

First of all I want to thank you for all the effort you make on this blog clearing up misconceptions etc. May Allah SWT reward you. I’m wondering whether it’s true that all non-muslims count as kafir. Many Muslims have told me this but it sounds like a logical fallacy to me. If they don’t know that Islam is the true religion then why should they be punished.

The most logical explanation I’ve heard so far is from NAK. He said that kafir were people who got Islam in it’s pure form, knew it made sense , had prophets coming to them, knew the scriptures, and knew it was part of their fitrah yet chose to not follow it. This explanation makes much more sense than that Muslims will get paradise and non-muslims hell. However many are criticising this view and saying that it goes against the scholar consensus. Could you explain the issue better.

Please see the section “A Clarification on Kufr (Disbelief / Infidelity) and God’s Justice” in my essay God, Evolution and Abiogenesis. I also deal with this question in my essay Quran-Focused Islam.

In short, the Quranic view is that kufr refers to rejecting God while having the capacity to believe in Him. In other words, committing kufr is an act against one’s own conscience. The person believes in God and in the truth of the religion that has been presented to them, but they reject it out of greed, hatred, selfishness and other motivations. I haven’t studied NAK’s view but from what you described it appears that he has the same view as the one I described.

The purpose of hijab in Islam

So recently, I found out about the Quran being vague about the hijab. This person was saying many scholars argue that it’s left vague so that it can fit into any culture. But I heard many sheikhs say that it’s haram to not wear the hijab, even if it’s uncommon in your society.I don’t have any problems with my hijab, but my parents more or less force me to wear maxi skirts and dresses, which makes me sad because I end up being a cast out at school

I’m an extremely shy person and I don’t wish to be so ‘different’ that I end up on the foreground. I don’t want to wear any skinny jeans or anything but I wish I could wear loose trousers because almost all hijabis at my school do that. And sometimes, I get the question why I always wear skirts and I don’t know what to answer since it’s something from my parents. Personally, I think it’s something cultural because it’s worn a lot in my home country. Could you tell me more about this?

(Part 2)I’m an extremely shy person and I don’t wish to be so ‘different’ that I end up on the foreground. I don’t want to wear any skinny jeans or anything but I wish I could wear loose trousers because almost all hijabis at my school do that. And sometimes, I get the question why I always wear skirts and I don’t know what to answer since it’s something from my parents. Personally, I think it’s something cultural because it’s worn a lot in my home country. Could you tell me more about this?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There are many differing ways of interpreting the Islamic texts (Quran, hadith and post-Prophetic reports) on the issue of hijab. The two verses on hijab in the Quran are:

And say to the female believers to lower their gaze, and preserve their private parts, and not display their adornment except such as is outward, and let them fix closely their head-coverings over their bosoms… (The Quran, verse 24:31)

O you Prophet, say to your spouses and your daughters and the women of believers, that they draw their outer garments closer to them; that will (make) it likelier that they will be recognized and so will not be hurt. And Allah has been Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful. (The Quran, verse 33:59)

These two verses define the hijab the way it is worn throughout the Islamic world. The first one mentions a “head-covering”, therefore we know from that that hijab involves covering the head, and it also mentions that the head-covering should cover the chest, therefore the image of hijab that we get is a head-covering that is large enough to be wrapped in a way that also covers the neck and chest. The part that says “not display their adornment except such as is outward” provides a great room for maneuvering, allowing women to wear various styles of dress as long as it includes hijab and it is considered modest and appropriate by the Muslim society around them.

The second verse provides the rationale behind the Islamic dress code. According to Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s commentary on the Quran, where it says “that will (make) it likelier that they will be recognized”, it means that women dressed as such will be likely to be recognized as modest, i.e. as women who are not interested in flirtation and being admired by men.

If you look at the way nuns dress, the meaning of this verse becomes very clear. When men see nuns, they immediately know that these are women who should not be approached or admired as sex objects. Even the most rude and lecherous men often become quiet and respectful when faced with a nun. Hijab is meant to do the same for Muslim women, signalling to such men that these are women who are not interesting in being sexually admired or flirted with.

Some say that it is “unfair” that Islam puts the burden on women to dress modestly instead of asking men to stop looking. That’s a typically simple-minded understanding of Islam. Islam does ask men to “lower their graze”, and looking at the context of the second verse above, you see that the hijab is not intended for the benefit of devout Muslim men, but for the benefit of irreligious and lecherous men who are found in all societies. The verse after 33:59 says:

If the hypocrites, the sick at heart, and those who spread lies in the city do not desist, We shall rouse you [Prophet] against them, and then they will only be your neighbours in this city for a short while. (33:60)

It was these “hypocrites, the sick at heart” who were sexually harassing Muslim women. As it is mentioned in hadith narrations, some Muslim women did not use to wear hijab (this included some of the Prophet’s wives), and the Muslim men had no problem with this nor did they harass them. But once the irreligious hypocrites in Medina started the harassment, these verses came down to deal with them, telling the Muslim women to dress in a way that would cause such men to ignore them.

As for wearing loose trousers, there is no issue with it as long as it is part of a modest costume that does not hug your body tightly. The point is to dress in such a way that does not attract admiring glances from men.

While some Muslims are very harsh and strict about hijab, the Quran only dedicates two verses to it and never mentions any punishment or threats toward women who do not wear hijab. The command to wear hijab is softened by other verses like:

And fear God to the best of your ability… (The Quran, verse 64:16)

While it is very easy for some women to wear hijab, for others it can be very difficult. The Quran contains many commandments that many Muslims do not follow fully, such as the command to provide income for one’s close relatives. Hijab is obligatory, but we are not meant to force religion on people, and people should be free to choose to wear it if and when they are ready for it, they way they are free to choose to start taking care of their close relatives.

Most people judge things by appearances, so it will always be a fact that many Muslims will not consider a woman really Muslim until she wears hijab. Similarly it is seen that in democratic countries people vote for the politicians that belong to their own race without caring about the politician’s principles. It is only more intelligent and better educated people who can go beyond appearances.

The Indo-Europeanization of the Abbasid Caliphate

It is easy to think that the Abbasid caliphate was an “Arab” empire. The emperors themselves were proud to trace their lineage back to Abbas, uncle of Prophet Muhammad. Yet within 150 years of its founding, Arab genes made up less than 1% of the genetic makeup of the emperors, and this remained so until the very end.

The first significant emperor with Indo-European genes was the half-Persian al-Ma’mun, who had his capital at the Persian city of Merv in Central Asia for ten years before moving to Baghdad. During his reign a trend started for preferring Greek and Persian concubines for producing the next generation of emperors, so that the amount of Arab genes declined to insignificant amounts. Al-Muqtadir, who reigned from 908 – 929 CE was 99.38% Indo-European.

It can be seen from the table below that the Abbasid caliphate was an Arab empire at its beginning, transformed into an Indo-European empire (with four successive emperors having 97%+ Indo-European genes!) during its Golden Age, then started to increasingly mix with Turkic genes during its decline.

Reign Name Father Mother Race Indo-European Percentage*
750 – 754 Al-Saffah Muhammad (Arab) Raita (Arab) 100% Arab 0%
754 – 775 Al-Mansur Muhammad b. Ali (Arab) Sallamah (Berber slave) 50% Arab, 50% Berber 0%
775 – 785 Al-Mahdi Al-Mansur Arwi (Yemeni Arab) 75% Arab, 25% Berber 0%
786 – 809 Harun al-Rashid Al-Mahdi Al-Khayzuran (Arab slave) 87.5% Arab, 12.5 Berber 0%
813 – 833 Al-Ma’mun Harun al-Rashid Marajil (Persian slave) 50% Persian, 43.75% Arab, 6.25% Berber 50%
833 – 842 Al-Mu’tasim Harun al-Rashid Marida (Turkic slave) 50% Turkic, 25% Persian,  21.875% Arab, 3.125 Berber 25%
842 – 847 Al-Wathiq Al-Mu’tasim Qaratis (Byzantine Greek slave) 50% Greek, 12.5% Persian, 10.9375% Arab, 1.5625% Berber 62.5%
847 – 861 Al-Mutawakkil Al-Mu’tasim Shuja (Persian slave) 56.25% Persian, 25% Greek, 5.46875% Arab, 0.78125% Berber 81.25%
870 – 892 Al-Mu’tamid Al-Mutawakkil Fityan (Persian slave) 78.125% Persian, 12.5 Greek, 2.734375% Arab, 0.390625% Berber 90.625%
892 – 902 Al-Mu’tadid al-Muwaffaq, son of Al-Mutawakkil and Umm Ishaq, a Greek slave. Race: 56.25% Greek, 39.0625% Persian, 1.3671875% Arab, 0.1953125% Berber) Dirar (Greek slave) 78.125 Greek, 19.53125% Persian, 0.68359375% Arab, 0.09765625% Berber 97.655%
902-908 Al-Muktafi Al-Mu’tadid Jijak (Greek slave) 89% Greek, 9.7% Persian, 0.34% Arab, 0.04% Berber 98%
908 – 929 Al-Muqtadir Al-Mu’tadid Shaghab (Greek slave) 94.5% Greek, 4.88% Persian, 0.17% Arab, 0.02% Berber 98%
946 – 974 Al-Muti Al-Muqtadir Slavic slave 50% Slavic, 47.26% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab, 0.01% Berber 98%
974 – 991 Al-Ta’i Al-Muti’ Unknown 50% Unknown, 25% Slavic, 23.6% Greek, 1.22% Persian 49.82%
991 – 1031 Al-Qadir Al-Muttaqi, son of al-Muqtadir. Race: 50% Unknown, 47.2% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab Slave of uknown origin 75% Unknown, 23.6% Greek, 1.2% Persian (Al-Qadir is described as being “white” in history books, therefore it is likely that his mother was Greek or Persian) 24.8%
1031 – 1075 Al-Qa’im Al-Qadir Badr al-Daji (Armenian slave) 50% Armenian, 37.5% Unknown, 11.8% Greek, 0.6% Persian 62.4%
1075 – 1094 Al-Muqtadi Al-Qa’im Urjuman (Armenian slave) 75% Armenian, 18.75% Unknown, 5.9% Greek 80.9%
1094 – 1118 Al-Mustazhir Al-Muqtadi Altun Khatun (Turkic woman, prob. Seljuk princess) 50% Turkic, 37.5 Armenian, 9% Unknown, 2.95% Greek 40.45%
1118 – 1135 Al-Mustarshid Al-Mustazhir Kumush Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess) 75% Turkic, 18.75% Armenian, 4.8% Unknown, 1.47% Greek 20.22%
1136 – 1159 Al-Muqtafi Al-Mustazhir Fatima Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess) 87.5% Turkic, 9.375% Armenian, 2.34% Unknown, 0.73% Greek 10.1%
1160 – 1170 Al-Mustanjid Al-Muqtafi Tawus (“Thawus”) al-Karaji, slave (Most likely Persian, al-Karaji refers to the city of Karaj in Iran in Medieval last names) 50.019% Persian, 43.75% Turkic, 4.68% Armenian, 1.1% Unknown, 0.3% Greek 55%
1170 – 1180 Al-Mustadi Al-Mustanjid Ghaddah (Armenian slave) 52.3% Armenian, 25% Persian, 21.8% Turkic 77.3%
1180 – 1225 Al-Nasir Al-Mustadi Zumurrud (Turkic slave) 60.9% Turkic, 26.1% Armenian, 12.5% Persian 38.6%
1226 – 1242 Al-Mustansir Az-Zahir, son of al-Nasir and unknown mother. Race: 50.14% Unknown, 30.4% Turkic, 13.08% Armenian, 6.25% Persian) Turk Khatun (Turkic slave) 65.2% Turkic, 25% Unknown, 6.5% Armenian, 3.1% Persian 9.6%
1242 – 1258 Al-Mustansir Al-Mustansir Concubine of unknown origin 62.5% Unknown, 32.6% Turkic, 3.2% Armenian, 1.5% Persian 4.7%

Sources: Wikipedia, The Slave Girls of Baghdad by F. Matthew Caswell, Islam in History by Bernard Lewis, Islamic Culture, Volume 2 (1928), various Arabic-language sources.

The table omits emperors who ruled for very short periods of time and/or who did not contribute to the genes of succeeding emperors.

* The values in this column are capped to 98%: Due to the fact that the Y-chromosome can only be inherited from one’s male relatives, and due to the fact that it makes up 2% of the genome, the Y-chromosome of the emperors would have been necessarily Arab, and therefore their percentage “Arab-ness” couldn’t have fallen below 2%, so that the most Indo-European that an Abbasid emperor could be would have been 98% realistically.

It is permissible for Muslims to say “Merry Christmas” to non-Muslims

Hi. So I was wondering if it’s okay for us as Moslems to say “Merry christmas” to our Christian friends. There’s a lot of people around me, including my parents, who told me to not say it because it’s haram. If it’s not okay, how do we explain it to our Christian friends without offending them?

It is perfectly fine to say “merry Christmas” to non-Muslims. The Quran does not forbid us from being kind and civil to non-Muslims, and there is no clear evidence in the Quran or the sunnah to forbid such greetings.

Source: European Council for Fatwa and Research (which includes the famous scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Abdullah bin Bayyah).

Answer from a reader:

“Congratulating (on Christmas) is worse of a sin than congratulating drinking alcohol, killing, zina etc.” Ibn al Qayyim| Al Ahkaam Ahl Al Dimmah (1/441)

We worship God, not Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyyah (who are the main inspiration for today’s Wahhabis). To Wahhabis, non-Muslims are not really humans, so all of our interactions with them should be done through the lens of power and politics. Any kindness shown to non-Muslims (and to Muslims who disagree with Wahhabism) is a way of “supporting the enemy”.

Thankfully only a tiny minority of Muslims follow that way of thinking. The way of thinking of ordinary Muslims, who number in the hundreds of millions, is that all humans are worthy, and that it is perfectly possible to have a close relationship with a non-Muslim. We are humans guided by Islam, we are not robots programmed to view everything through some dim-witted and hateful ideology that considers all humans enemies until proven otherwise.

Wishing a Christian a merry Christmas is a way of saying that despite our differences, we recognize worth in these people and wish that they have a good time. This is of course unacceptable to Wahhabis, since to them Christians are “infidels” who are worthless. Wahhabis, exactly like Marxists, neo-Marxists and radical feminists, do not believe in the transcendent worth of human life, to them if you disagree with them, you are a non-human who deserves to die. I explain this in detail in my essay The Psychology of Radical Leftists: GamerGate, SJWs and the War on Post-Modernism.

As for those of us with some common sense and conscience, we read the Quran and are guided by its ethics, and we see that it leaves the door wide open for us to act according to the intellect and conscience in most scenarios, so that we have a million choices in how we interact with non-Muslims as long as no evil is involved.

So the difference is not about whether we follow Islam or not. It is about whether we see the world through the lens of a rigid and inhuman ideology that has zero empathy for fellow humans, or through a Quran-guided humanism that is kind and understanding toward everyone. I do not go out of my way to say “merry Christmas”, but if a situation requires it, then I have no problem with saying it. It is a very small act of respect that barely matters in the big scheme of things–if you have an intelligent understanding of Islam.

As for a Wahhabi, being a normal human with common sense and conscience is unacceptable, since one is instead always required to follow the Wahhabi party line on everything (the same is expected of Marxists and neo-Marxists).

To me and many other Muslims the acceptability of saying “merry Christmas” when needed is so obvious as to not be worth talking about. If the Quran allows it, if there is no clear command of the Prophet ﷺ forbidding it, and if my intellect and conscience have no problem with it, then it is not your business or the business of any cleric to tell me I cannot say it.

Question from a reader:

is it fine if muslims give christmas presents to christian friends with the intention of giving them a little treat of kindness (not exchanging gifts)?

According to Dr. Abdul Sattar Fathullah Saeed (professor of tafseer and the Quranic sciences at al-Azhar University) it is acceptable to give presents when congratulating Christians on their holidays, since there is nothing in the Islamic texts to prohibit this.

What is prohibited is taking part in the celebrations as if you yourself are a Christian, such as attending church on Christmas Eve.

Source: Islamonline.net

Question from a reader:

I don’t want to come of as rude but wishing someone a merry Christmas while knowing its based on a pagan belief that has been bent to fit the Christian standards as a Muslim that knows that its illogical to say them to have a lot of fun sinning.If someone tells you happy holidays and you reply with you too or something is another thing. But in my opinion you shouldn’t start it. Not congratulating a celebration we don’t celebrate isn’t rude. Its not our religion,so we should act as every other day

It very much depends on context. A Muslim convert to Islam who still lives with his or her non-Muslim family can set a good tone on Christmas day by saying “merry Christmas” to his/her family. There are circumstances where a Muslim is moved by some feeling to say “merry Christmas” to a non-Muslim, Wahhabis will say that is a sin since to them the personal is always political, I am saying that it is not a sin and that it is a matter of personal choice.

If for you it would be strange to say “merry Christmas” because you do not live in such a context, then it is perfectly fine for you not to say it. The point is that instead of holding to a rigid “it is haram” line, a Muslim can instead use their own judgment to decide if it is appropriate to say it.

I agree with you that in most cases a Muslim can simply say “you too” and that would be the end of it.

Dealing with abusive parents in Islam

What has made my emaan weaker is that I became traumatisied from a bad childhood. My parents played part in this. Sometimes they used islam against me to manipullate me. Also I wasn’t allowed to get help, and my mom labelled my depression as kufr, which made me feel bad and try to suppress the despair . All scholars and everything I’ve read is about parental rights, and that it is a huge sin (akbar kabair) to cut family ties. I am not an adult and much better but I still want distance from them

Do not let other people’s mistakes affect your relationship with God. Read the Quran as if it was sent down to you personally, and follow its teachings and philosophy wherever you can in your life. If people misuse Islam to attack you, ignore it, knowing that God is better than them.

Regarding cutting family ties, that refers to treating family members as strangers, i.e. permanent estrangement where a child treats their disliked parent as if there is no relationship between them.

If your parents mistreat you, you have the right to keep your distance. What you do not have the right to do is cut off your relationship with them completely. Remain in their lives, help them where necessary, and be dutiful as much as you can, Islam doesn’t ask you to do more than this, it does not ask you to subject yourself to them if they constantly mistreat and humiliate you. Both you and your parents have your human rights, and if they neglect your human rights, they have sinned.

“Am I a fake Muslim if I feel guilty at what other Muslims are doing?”

I feel guilty sometimes because I feel because I’m muslim I am responsible for the bad acts of Muslims. Because a lot of muslims do sometimes bad stuff and justify them with Islam. Can I be a Muslim and not think or agree with them? I don’t want to be seen as someone who’s a fake Muslim because I don’t agree on all bad acts and geo-polical issues that are done in the name of Islam.

That’s understandable. It is similar to how some Americans feel guilt at the actions of other Americans or the US government, even though they themselves do not have anything to do with those actions.

The majority of Muslims have rejected the beliefs and actions of those Muslims not because we are fake Muslims, but because to us religion is about doing what is right and just and kind. If a religion asks you to do something that goes against your conscience, that religion is not worth following.

We read the Quran with our intellect and conscience, we build a vision of a way of life, of a moral philosophy, that always pushes us to be the best possible humans we can be, that teaches us to aim for the highest good of humanity.

That is the religion that the majority of Muslim thinkers and intellectuals follow throughout the world. You don’t have to be a fake Muslim to believe this, this is the most authentic Islam we have, that the majority of the world follows, coming from an unbroken tradition that goes back over 1000 years. So if a tiny minority of extremists do barbaric things in the name of Islam, instead of feeling guilty about their actions, we consider them criminals, outsiders, nobodies who have nothing to do with our religion.

Islamic terrorists are in the majority of cases funded and trained by different governments and intelligence agencies for their own political purposes, as I explain in my essay Why Most Terrorists are Muslim: An Introduction to the Origins of Modern Islamic Terrorism. It is not we who are guilty. it is those who fund them and train them.

Is Salafism the correct form of Islam since it is strict?

Are Salafism the correct islam? They are strict in their islam, but does that make them more true than others?

Salafism is an oversimplification of Islam that thinks the best way to be Muslim is to re-enact history. Mainstream Islam is superior because it is more focused on moral philosophy (following the Quranic ideals of truth and justice) rather than on secondary technicalities like dress code, etc.

For a version of Islam that is far superior to Salafism, please see my essay Quran-Focused Islam.

For a discussion of how Salafism oversimplifies Islam, please see my new essay How Islam Can Adapt to the Modern World: The Persian versus the Arabian Approach to Handling Complexity.

What is the Islamic way to treat cruel and repugnant relatives?

I have relatives (we’re all Muslims) who have mercilessly beaten the poor and vulnerable, mocked and treated the poor like they’re sub-human, and just overall have vile character. As a result, I have no respect for them. I can’t help but be filled with a degree of bitterness and scorn towards them. Is that considered a flaw in my character? Islamically, how are we expected to navigate such sentiments towards people like that? How far are Muslims obligated to take their compassion and humility?

When dealing with a complex issue like that, your best guide is the Quran. The Quran does not ask you to see such situations in black-and-white terms, forcing yourself to behave a certain way even if it goes against your nature. It tells you try to follow its moral philosophy in your life while continuing to use your intellect and conscience.

Therefore if you find their behavior repulsive, the Quran does not ask to continue treating them like they are close and beloved friends. It asks you to continue being nice and just toward everyone, even those who are mean and unjust toward you. But that is the limit of it. The Quran does not invalidate your thoughts and feelings, so you are free to think of them the way you described.

Umar ibn al-Khattab may God be pleased with him gave the job of governor to someone, and this person came to visit Umar the night before his departure to the area he was supposed to govern. He saw that Umar was playing with his children, who were riding him like a horse. He expressed wonder at how the ruler of the Islamic world allowed his children to do that to him. Umar asked him how he treated his own children, and the man said that when he goes home, his children all retreat to distant corners out of fear for him. Umar immediately sacks him, saying that a man who is not merciful toward his children cannot be merciful toward the people he governs.

So you see, Umar felt free to judge that man for his treatment of his children. His thinking wasn’t that he should love his fellow Muslim brother no matter what. If he sees someone being unkind, he feels free to criticize them and even takes action against them (by firing them from their job).

Life is complicated, so it is difficult to navigate certain situations. The best thing to do is to read the Quran constantly until its moral philosophy becomes second nature to you. In this way you will be able to use its teachings and your own intellect and conscience to come up with sophisticated solutions for each problem without oversimplifying things and without ignoring your own humanity and the humanity of those around you.

Do women make up the majority of people in Hell?

I read a hadith (that’s sahih) that says the majority of people in hell are woman. Is that true?

According to the scholar Qadi Iyad, “women are the majority of humanity” (not sure how he concluded this), so that they make up the majority in both Hell and Paradise.

There is another hadith narration in which the Prophet (pbuh) says that he looked into heaven and saw that the least of its inhabitants were women. Ibn Hajar says that it is likely that one of the narrators of this hadith had heard the other narration that the majority of those in Hell are women, so they messed up this one so that it says less women would be in Paradise, mistakenly thinking that if there are more women in Hell, there would be fewer in Paradise.

There is nothing in the Quran to suggest that women are less virtuous than men or that they are more likely to enter Hell, so this is the unshakable foundation upon which our beliefs are based.

Serving God when dependent on your parents

Does offering prayer, reciting Quran and being nice to people around me complete my deen? Because I don’t have opportunities to grow more than this, I’m totally dependent on my parents. So I cannot contribute any more to improve deen. JazakAllah!

Read the Quran and follow its principles and ideals in your life, that is all you have to do. Islam doesn’t ask you to do more than you are able, we are all required to do what we can with what we have, whether we are young or old, free or in prison.

Part of being Muslim is the seeking of knowledge, therefore if you are able, you should try to read or watch lectures, whether they are about Islamic topics or anything else that may benefit you. You should never sit content with how you are but always aim higher, always trying to become better than you are now.

“Why are Muslims so judgmental? Muslim men’s expectations of women are too high.”

Why are many Muslims so close minded and judgmental. I feel like I can’t keep it up. The expectations (especially from Muslim men) is way too high. Sometimes I feel like giving up . Especially the issue of modesty etc I don’t feel like we are being given the space and time and freedom to make our decisions. I’ve gotten many cruel comments and it’s hard.

Whether the Muslims around you are judgmental or open-minded depends very much on the society and culture in which you love. I grew up among my Hawrami relatives (a Western Iranian Sunni minority) and most of the people around me were extremely kind and open-minded.

Each race and culture has its own flavor of Islam, if you find a certain Muslim demographic not to your liking, try to connect with a different one if possible.

Many British converts do not find the cultures of their mosque communities satisfying and may end up mistakenly thinking that the problem is with born Muslims vs. converts or with Middle Eastern Muslims vs. converts. The problem in reality is that each race, culture, class and personality type practices Islam in the way that makes the most sense to it. You just have to find the right people to socialize with, as I mention in my answer What to do if you cannot find interesting and like-minded Muslims to befriend.

Regarding modesty, you are right, it is that way because people judge things by culture, not by lines of scripture. If you dress in a way that is culturally inappropriate, people may condemn you even if Islam does not condemn you, and in fact you will find that devout, spiritual Muslims are the least judgmental.

The Quran’s greatest focus is on spirituality, on developing the proper relationship with God, and on being kind and constructive when dealing with people. A person who is cruel toward you because of how you dress has not understood the first thing about the Quran’s teachings.

Read the Quran and develop your relationship with God. This is Islam’s first priority, and it has nothing to do with other Muslims. It is between you and God. Do not let other people define Islam for you or ruin your relationship with God.

As for dealing with other Muslims, you can act in a way that they find culturally appropriate to avoid their judgmentalism, many of them focus on appearances and do not care about what is in your heart. But if you wish to be able to make your own choices without being judged for it, then this unlikely, because most humans are judgmental and prefer cultural practices to spiritual ideals.

It is a choice between either fitting in and getting people’s approval, or being different and being judged for it. This applies to most things in life, not just dress code. If you wish things were different, that Muslim men saw you as a human and did not reduce you to how you dress, then such men exist, but they are more common in some places and cultures than in others.

If your idea about how Muslim men think comes from the internet (tumblr, Facebook, Islamic sites, etc.) and not real life, then that idea may not be accurate, since extremist Muslims are often a lot more active on the internet compared to moderates.

Dealing with an overly emotional mother

I know a mother who whenever there is a conflict between her boys (18,20,24 ages) she will exhaust her soul and torture it until she fells down just to make them stop fighting. Usually that will end the fight but it sends horror and complicates the situation. She uses the power of emotions this way because she doesn’t have any other way to stop the fights. Her children wish to know how to stop this. One time they even had to send her to a hospital because her mind stopped functioning right. I sometimes even get the feeling that she enjoys the pain. I know it’s weird and I apologize for disturbing anyone who is reading this. But she’s very religious and used to be much stronger and very wise. At some point in her life alot of shocking events kept happening which I think is the reason why she lost control over her problem solving abilities. Please help and thank you.

That seems like a problem for a psychologist to look into, perhaps what she needs is more love, attention and respect from the rest of the family, maybe in this way she can start to feel more balanced and at peace again. And her sons should do their best to avoid giving her cause to be distressed. Instead of saying that she is overreacting and that she is wrong to be like that, they should go out of their way to avoid doing anything that upsets her, even if this is a lot of work and even if she is being unreasonable. Mothers have to deal with unreasonable children all the time, so if the roles are reversed, if the mother is being unreasonable, the children should try to repay the favor.

What is a good prayer (dua) for fear?

I finally got a job hamdullah. But I finish late and I have to walk through some secluded places to go back home. Is there any dua i can say for protection?

Surat al-Falaq (chapter 113 of the Quran) is meant to be used as a prayer for God’s protection. That’s probably the best prayer you can recite. Prayers are not meant to be used like magic spells for achieving certain things (like some Muslims use them), they are simply conversations with God, so you can actually say whatever comes into your mind.

The best way to pray is to do it in a way that praises God and that acknowledges your reliance on Him, such as in Surat al-Fatihah, which starts with various praises of God, then acknowledges the human reliance on God, then goes on to pray for God’s guidance.

How Islam Can Adapt to the Modern World: The Persian versus the Arabian Approach to Handling Complexity

Review of Western Muslims and the Future of Islam by Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, written in 2003, is a visionary book on reconciling Islam with the West, advocating for a truly Western Islam that does not consider itself a stranger in the West, and that does not have an inferiority complex with regards to the Middle East’s Islam.

An important part of my review focuses on the way IQ affects the way Islam is interpreted, and how this goes on to lead to very different approaches to reform; a “Persian” approach the uses the intellect and conscience to renew Islam, and an “Arabian” (Salafi) approach that rejects the intellect and conscience because of its inability to handle complexity.

An adaptable Islam: The Persian versus the Arabian approach

A key effort within this book is to show that Islam must be a constantly updated derivation of the ancient texts and the modern context. Instead of trying to emulate the Prophet’s dress, we must emulate the choices that lead to him to dress that way (respecting decency, cleanliness, aesthetics and modesty).

The Shariah rests on three sources: The Quran, the Sunnah and the state of the world (the environmental context), and all three must be used as inputs to determine our practice of Islam.

Ramadan mentions that the Hanafi school acknowledges that a new consensus can be reached by jurists that cancels out an older consensus. This is something of a radical view, since it admits that our understanding and practice of Islam can improve with time. This was the view of the Hanafi jurist Abu al-Yusr al-Bazdawi in his book Usul al-Fiqh.

I have noticed that Abu Hanifah and al-Ghazali, being Persians, had a top-down approach to religion, deriving principles, then using them to reinterpret Islam. The approach of the Arabian scholars, however, has usually been to have a bottom-up approach (Salafism taking it to its logical extreme), where you gather a million individual facts about early Islam and try to follow them accurately all at the same time, even if this leads to clear philosophical contradictions.

These are different approaches to handling complexity, and I think it has a great deal to do with IQ. Persians, with their higher IQs, were comfortable with complexity and embraced it within their thinking, believing that following Islam in each age was about reviving the Islamic spirit through applying Islamic principles to new eras. The Persian approach is therefore:

The Islamic texts -> Principles derived from them -> The modern context, intellect and conscience -> Islam

The Arabian approach, however, is to avoid complexity by strictly sticking to the texts, thus their approach is (to simplify):

The Islamic texts -> Islam

Instead of dealing with complexity, it gathers individual facts from the texts and tries to apply them all, and that is Islam. If you think about, to someone who is desperate to stay true to God’s way, while being challenged from all sides by a harsh and unforgiving world, this approach makes complete sense, if you are unable to do anything more.

The Persian, multi-step approach to Islam (later adopted by Egyptians after Western colonization) requires a massive amount of intellectual work; one must first understand the literal meaning of the texts, then do pattern analysis on them to derive overarching principles, a “philosophy of Islam” that tries to find out what Islam’s mission and priorities are, and when this is achieved, this philosophy of Islam feeds back into the texts, qualifying one’s understanding of them and sometimes leading to completely new interpretations. This work is not for the faint of heart, and a lower IQ person is likely to reject it all and call it misguided, being unable to appreciate the rationale behind it.

Enabling the human intellect and conscience to have an active role in our understanding and application of Islam causes an explosion in complexity that the Arabian approach does not like and is incapable of handling. Salafism avoids this complexity by denying the intellect and conscience any role whatsoever. If Salafi Islam leads to an Islam that conflicts with one’s intellect or conscience, it is one’s intellect, or one’s conscience, that are at fault. For someone struggling to handle complexity, this allows them to live in a peaceful comfort zone; follow the texts no matter where they lead you, even if your intellect and conscience occasionally object, even if you notice glaring contradictions, it is all for the greater good, and you will be safe no matter what happens, since who can blame you for trying to strictly follow the Quran and the Prophetic traditions?

The Persian approach revolts at this way of thinking, because Persians are not desperate for a comfort zone, and they have a deep, Western-style (Indo-European?) appreciation for the human intellect and conscience. If Islam recommends something that seriously goes against one’s intellect and conscience, the Persian approach sees this as a sign for the existence of a problem within Islam; there has been a misinterpretation or a mistake made somewhere, and it must be corrected by building a better model.

The Persian approach comes from a genetic propensity (I believe) to have extremely high respect for the human intellect and conscience, and a very good ability among the elite to appreciate and handle complexity. Islam must fit the intellect and conscience, if it doesn’t, either it is a false religion that is not worth following, or there has been a mistake in our understanding (this latter conclusion being the choice of the scholars who follow the Persian approach).

The Arabian approach, in similar circumstances that challenge one’s intellect or conscience, is to retreat back to the texts and say that humans are fallible. If humans find something unacceptable, it is because they themselves are corrupt or misguided. The Arabian approach comes from a genetic propensity to try to manage complexity by cutting it into manageable parts. Each verse of the Quran and each hadith is its own little unit of Islam and the sum total of them make Islam. If your intellect and conscience revolt at something mentioned in a particular hadith narration, you are the problem, not the hadith narration. This approach must not be laughed at or belittled; it must be respected for what it is. It tries to solve a very difficult problem and comes up with a low-resolution solution that works well enough among many of those who practice it.

It is no surprise that the greatest advocates for orthodoxy have all been Arabs; Imam al-Shafi`i, Ibn al-Jawzi (he recommended that people not read books of Quranic exegesis written by the `ajam, i.e. Persians, probably considering their interpretations too unorthodox), Ibn Tamiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, Muhammad ibn Abdulwahhab (founder of “Wahhabism”), Ibn Uthaymeen, Ibn Baaz. To them relying on the texts and discarding the intellect and conscience makes complete sense, since this is necessary for keeping complexity manageable. By sticking to the texts as closely as possible, you ensure you are on the right path. If you do not stick to the texts, if you allow the intellect and conscience to take part in your interpretation of Islam, this immediately leads to an explosion in complexity that would quickly put you out of your depth (if you do not have the intellect to deal with it).

Deriving overarching principles from the Quran automatically leads to some supposedly “authentic” narrations being considered false or inapplicable. This cannot be handled by Salafism, since the entire corpus of “authentic” narrations are taken literally, since not doing so requires too much intellectual work, it gives the intellect and conscience some role, which is unacceptable. The Salafi solution is abrogation. If there is an “authentic” narration that contradicts the Quran (such as a narration recommending that atheists be killed, even though the Quran guarantees religious freedom), the hadith is given preference. The Salafi approach often has infinite scorn for the intellect and conscience and entirely relies on the texts as its only safe haven.

The hadith corpus is massive and highly specific, greatly limiting the role of the intellect and conscience, and in this way greatly reducing complexity, and therefore it is given preference by Salafis over the Quran.

The Quran, on the other hand, is often vague, makes very few rulings, and is far more concerned with moral philosophy than specific actions, therefore Salafism often ignores it, since following the Quran by itself requires much participation of the intellect and conscience, and to a Salafi this is always a hopelessly wishy-washy process that is bound to lead to dangerous corruptions. If Salafism is the Arabian approach taken to its logical conclusion, the Quran-focused school is the Persian approach taken to its logical conclusion. The Quran-focused school takes the Quran literally and uses all available tools to derive an accurate interpretation of it, then feeds back this understanding of the Quran into all of Islam. The Quran is the program, the intellect, conscience and hadith are helpers toward following the program.

The Salafi approach forces 10,000 pages of text on you, greatly limiting your ability to think and act for yourself, for your own good. The Quran-focused school asks you to follow the Quran’s 600 pages, much of which is made up of vague philosophical lessons, giving you vast freedom to think and act for yourself, and asks you to use hadith as a resource in helping you find the best thing to do in specific circumstances. These approaches are polar opposites. The Salafi approach is to use a massive text to remove your freedoms, enabling you to take the safe route instead of thinking and acting for yourself. The Quran-focused approach is to teach you a moral philosophy and respect your intellect and conscience as you try to follow it.

I doubt Salafism can ever become the majority religion in any country with an average IQ higher than a certain point (perhaps 90). It can take charge in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, since it offers great utility for managing complexity. But once a certain percentage of the population has an IQ above 120-130 (perhaps 1-2%), these intellectual elite will revolt at Salafism and discredit it, so that it becomes impossible for it to spread. Even if higher IQ Muslim cannot point out exactly why Salafism is wrong, they will consider it unrespectable. This is the attitude of most high IQ Muslims I have met.

Salafism is totalitarian, it wants to give the religious establishment great powers to manage one’s life. I doubt there is a single Salafi in the world with an IQ of 135 or higher. High IQ people like Yasir Qadhi who are taught in the Salafi school eventually grow out of it. Yasir Qadhi abandoned Salafism saying it was not “intellectually stimulating”, if I remember correctly, and this is a very apt description. Salafism is designed to be the opposite of intellectually stimulating. It is there to make the world manageable for lower IQ Muslims struggling to live in the modern world.

We must be thankful for the existence of Salafism. “Why is Salafism not the answer?” is one of the most challenging questions of our time, forcing us to rebuild the complexity-embracing version of Islam from scratch.

Tariq Ramadan tries to make mainstream Islam even more complexity-embracing than it is now by further decreasing its reliance on texts (since this is at the expense of the intellect and conscience), in this way pushing Islam further in the Persian direction, having a top-down approach to Islam that starts with intelligently driven principles and priorities.

He does not, however, clarify what is exactly wrong with the old structure of Islam; he tries to cure various ills, carving out paths of progress here and there without overhauling the structure. His newer book Radical Reform is meant to be something of an overhaul, so I will have to read that to understand his latest thinking on reform.

Zionist detractors of Islam like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes all focus on the non-mainstream Arabian approach (practiced by the Salafi minority), ignoring the mainstream Persian approach and saying that the Arabian approach is the one true version of Islam. The fact that the majority of Muslims disagree doesn’t matter to them. Somehow they think they are better fitted to tell us which version of Islam is better (the version the lowest IQ Muslims prefer).

What they do is start with a conclusion: Islam is non-adaptable to the modern world, then they go on to find a non-adaptable form of Islam practiced by a low-IQ minority (Salafism) that justifies their preconceived biases, then they say this is the one true version of Islam, and that all Muslims will one day want to follow this. The fact that the vast majority of Muslims are repulsed by Salafism, the fact that the Sunni world’s most prestigious authority (Al-Azhar University) has rejected it, and that Muslim intellectuals East and West reject it, means nothing to them, since these are inconvenient facts getting in the way of putting on a good show.

To them, any Muslim who does not accept Salafism has not truly understood Islam, even if they have followed Islam all of their lives and come from a tradition that started with some of Islam’s earliest authorities (Abu Hanifa). The minority version of Islam that helps the Zionist Jewish propaganda effort against Muslims is the only true version of Islam, and Westerners must be told this again and again until the lie is accepted as truth (dehumanizing Palestinian Muslims as brainless barbarians helps make the Israeli occupation and expansion more palatable to the Western mind).

This is very much like paying a few Muslim hacks in China to put all of their focus on fundamentalist Christians from West Virginia so that they can convince the Chinese public that Christianity is a horrible and intolerant religion. And when a few Christians complain that this is inaccurate and biased, these hacks have the audacity to say it is these Christian complainers who are wrong, that they have not truly understood their religion, and that the hacks themselves are the true authorities on Christianity who are there to enlighten the Chinese public on the great dangers of allowing Christianity into their country.

Against nihilism

He mentions that Islam rejects the nihilistic view, occasionally expressed in Western literature and media, that humans are lost and abandoned within a “tragedy of life”, that it is possible for someone to just suffer and suffer endlessly and meaninglessly for years until the day they die. Instead,

God always makes available to humankind tools and signs on the road that leads to recognizing Him.

God is present. He interacts with us. Those who seek guidance in sincerity will be guided by Him. He will not leave us alone and uncared for, controlled and thrown here and there by nature. This is not a naive optimism, it comes from accepting the Quran’s truth on its own virtues, then adopting its philosophy.

The Quran teaches that God will not abandon a person who calls out to Him. This is a very much anti-nihilistic, anti-post-modern worldview that can have world-moving consequences.

The Abodes of Islam and war

Ramadan argues that that the old juristic practice of separating the world into dar al-Islam (“Abode of Islam”) and dar al-harb (“Abode of War”) is no longer valid:

This reality has completely changed: it is becoming necessary today to go back to the Qur’an and the Sunna and, in the light of our environment, to deepen our analysis in order to develop a new vision appropriate to our new context in order to formulate suitable legal opinions. To reread, reconsider, and “revisit” our understanding of the teachings of Islam therefore appears to be a necessity.

For me, the necessity of going back to the Qur’an and the Sunnah in the light of a new environment is not something to do in exceptional circumstances, when we discover that part of our thinking is outmoded. It is something we must do as a matter of course on a daily basis. The fact that most scholars up to date have considered these concepts valid and binding is just another manifestation of the fossilization of thought that occurs as a result of the deep human desire for reducing complexity and defeating the chaos lurking everywhere.

Ramadan prefers dar al-dawa (“Abode of Calling People to God”) as a new designation to be used in Muslim-minority countries, suggested by Faysal al-Mawlawi. In my opinion even this appellation is too limiting and reactionary, because dawa suggests the calling of an “other” to Islam. I prefer the choice of certain Hanafi scholars, as mentioned by Ramadan himself, in using dar al-Islam to refer to every place where Muslims can live in safety. Muslims are not meant to be outsiders; they are meant to be full members of their societies.

Focusing on dawa turns me into a salesman that thinks of everyone as potential customers. Focusing on stewardship (embodying the Quran) turns me into a full citizen wherever I live, everyone I meet is a human, not a project to be worked on. If I carry out my stewardship properly, dawa will automatically take place. Ramadan says most of the same:

Once legitimately oversensitive and even hidden in the realms of the “abode of war” and the “abode of unbelief,” Muslims can now enter into the world of testimony, in the sense of undertaking an essential duty and a demanding responsibility—to contribute wherever they can to promoting goodness and justice in and through the human fraternity.

Ending the East-West divide

In answer to certain extremist groups that say that we Muslims cannot pay allegiance to a constitution that allows unlawful things like usury, Ramadan says that while these countries allow these things, they do not compel us to use them, therefore we can be part of such societies, respect their laws, while also following Islam.

While this is largely true, the reality is that these countries, and perhaps all countries on Earth, force Muslims to engage in certain unlawful things, therefore it is a matter of degrees, not absolutes. The taxes a Muslim pays in a country like the United States goes toward the government paying off the interest on its debt (over $200 billion USD per year in interest payments alone at the moment), therefore paying taxes does compel us to do something that goes against our conscience (paying interest).

The Salafi-style Muslim thinking deals with this matter like so many others by glossing over the complexity in order to reach a simplistic black-and-white decision. Either a Western government does not ask us to do something that is against our conscience, in which case allegiance to it is justified, or it asks us to do things that are against our conscience, and therefore allegiance to it is unjustified.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest usurers, as it invests much of its oil revenue in interest-bearing US bonds. This means that the millions of Saudi citizens who benefit from Saudi’s welfare state are to some degree eating the fruits of usury. Therefore the behavior of a Saudi cleric acting as if there is something special and un-Islamic about the Western context is one of the most naive things imaginable. Eastern, Muslim-majority countries are in many ways just as “evil” as their Western counterparts in similar and different ways, and the Western focus on common law (a commonly accepted ideal of justice) is far more Islamic than the governance systems of perhaps every Middle Eastern country in existence.

I would much rather be ruled by a humanist Christian than an autocratic Saudi prince who has the support of a hundred scholars but who does not understand, is incapable of understanding or appreciating, the right of an individual to express his or her mind freely.

As Muslims, every country on Earth will ask us to do certain things that go against our conscience, the most common (and least appreciated) of which is the worldwide practice of usury by governments in the East and West, North and South. Therefore instead of deluding ourselves into thinking that some utopian Islamic government is the only government that deserves allegiance, we instead give our allegiance to the social contract of every country we exist in, the country respects our right to live in safety and to practice our religion, and the good of this far outweighs the evils the government forces us to engage in.

We must respect contracts. Those who allow us into their countries do it because they think we are entering their societies in good faith, they think that by the act of entering their societies, we have made a binding promise to act toward them with kindness and a lack of malice. Therefore it is obligatory upon us to act according to these implied or explicit promises and contracts, and a Muslim who does not acknowledge is, is incapable of acknowledging it, has no right to be in the West.

The United States is no less “Islamic” than Saudi Arabia. The United States respects my right to practice my religion and express it freely, it respects my human dignity. Saudi Arabia, with all of its capital-of-Islam hankerings has close to zero respect for a human’s dignity when the interests of its ruling class are involved. I much prefer the Anglo-Saxon love and appreciation for common law to the lip service that Saudi Arabia gives to Islamic principles.

In general, any government that to some degree believes in rule by consent, allowing its citizens to partake in governance to some degree, is going to be more Islamic than an autocratic Muslim-majority government that dehumanizes its citizens, because this democratic government is similar to the form of governance of our Prophet ﷺ, while autocratic governments are not.

We Muslims must grow up. Instead of becoming the tools of everyone who pretends to serve Islam, we must judge every nation by its adherence to the Quranic principles; justice, truth, respect for human lives and dignity. The nation whose laws and practices fit these principles the most is the most Islamic. If a Muslim feels more at home, more respected and dignified, in Iceland than in Pakistan, then Iceland is a better home for Muslims than Pakistan, and their government deserves more love and allegiance than the Pakistani government.

My allegiance is not to people who call themselves “Muslim” but betray the principles of Islam. My allegiance is to truth and justice, and if a Christian or atheist represents these ideals better, then my allegiance is to them rather than the so-called Muslim.

The minority mindset

Ramadan speaks against the “minority mindset” that afflicts many Muslims, and I fully agree with his assessment. This was in 2003 and things have gotten somewhat better, except that the influence of radical leftist ideologies are now undoing the progress among some Muslims, making them think of themselves as a political interest group rather than as citizens morally bound to contribute to their societies.

Too few Western Muslims are able unself-consciously to take an intellectual position that, in the end, acknowledges that one is speaking from home, as it were, as an accepted member of a free society, and in full awareness of that—with causes and fundamental values that must be respected.

He describes the minority mindset as belonging to an intellectual ghetto, a beautiful way of describing it.

Islamic education

Ramadan criticizes the way Islamic education is conducted, saying:

The school puts forward a  way of life, a space, and a parallel reality that has practically no link with the society around it.

Modern education is hopelessly dysfunctional because shoving 7 or 8 topics down the throats of unwilling students, as if they are robots being programmed in an education factory, is never going to be effective.

Instead, students should be taught the basics of reading, writing and perhaps math at elementary schools for a few years, perhaps until the age of 9. After that, they should be allowed to choose what to study next. A child who wants to be a computer programmer can then go on to learn programming and everything that goes toward helping them be a better programmer (such as certain fields of mathematics). If at the age of 13 or 14 they decide to switch fields, they can do it, studying economics, or medicine, for example, or continuing toward advanced degrees in computer-related fields if they still like their field. By the age of 20, able students could easily put today’s computer science PhD’s to shame.

A benefit of this system is that it encourages advanced interdisciplinary studies. A child can be taught to be a really good computer programmer by the age of 14, only to go on to study biology, and bring his or her knowledge of programming into this new field. At the age of 20, they can then go on to study economics, and bring their advanced knowledge of these two fields into their new area of study.

Ideas about education have barely advanced beyond 300 BC in most of the world. Most educators foolishly think that force-feeding children 7 or 8 areas of study for 10 or 12 years is going to produce children who will have a very good selection of “general knowledge” embedded in their heads. In reality, the majority of students will hate everything to do with this education system and will relish the chance to forget everything they have learned once they pass the end of year exams.

Forcing children to go through this system is little short of child abuse. It has zero respect for the dignity and individuality of these children. Instead of letting a budding scientist who really loves physics actually dedicate himself or herself to physics starting from the age of 9 or 10, they are made to waste their most energetic years studying topics they have little interest in, until they can finally go to college, only to discover that they have to take yet more irrelevant nonsense designed by a bunch of short-sighted and pompous middle aged men and women.

The factory model of education is an utter failure. What is needed instead is a system of independent academies, each focusing on a specific area of study, with children going to the ones that are relevant to their areas of interest. A child who wants to major in psychology will go to their city’s Academy of Psychology at the age of 9, let’s say. The child can also go to a different academy at the same time, if they want to study another area (so that they major in two fields), or if their study of psychology requires knowledge of other fields.

Islamic education can follow the same pattern. Instead of teaching students a hodge-podge of Islamic history, hadith, the Quran and jurisprudence, students should first be given an advanced education in Arabic, in Islamic rituals, and in the manners of the Prophet (not from a book of history, but a book that focuses on his manners, such as Ramadan’s own In the Footsteps of the Prophet). Once they have learned sufficient Arabic, they can go on to learn the Quran. From then on students should be free what they study next, branching off into the various Islamic areas of study as they see fit.

As for today’s Quran schools, teaching children Quran without teaching them Arabic is little more than foolishness. I met two teenagers who could recite Surat Yaseen (chapter 36 of the Quran) from memory, but who had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. I feel that a teacher who inflicts this on children deserves to be flogged. How many hours did they have to sit and memorize random sounds that had no meaning for them whatsoever?

The system of allowing students to branch out at the age of 9 or so to go on to study at different academies would fix the problem of Islamic schools having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building facilities to teach things like physics, and would also solve the problem of Muslim children being isolated from the non-Muslims around them, a problem that Ramadan speaks of in detail, leading to a form of detachment from one’s wider society. A child who goes on to study Arabic or Islam at 9 will go to an Arabic Academy where non-Muslims study too. And if they want to take physics, they go to the city’s Physics Academy (or Science Academy), where Muslims and non-Muslims study together.

Islamic feminism

Ramadan expresses support for the concept of an Islamic feminism, saying that Muslim women can fight for their rights, follow Islam, and reject everything within Western thinking that is un-Islamic, in this way ensuring women’s rights within an Islamic framework.

 

There are different types of feminism ranging from constructive to genocidal, therefore any support for an Islamic feminism must be highly qualified. See my article Islam versus Feminism for more on this.

Social responsibility

Ramadan criticizes the way some Muslims in the West justify holding themselves to lower standards, saying:

One hears many voices in the United States, Britain, Germany, and France legitimizing this position by insisting on the fact that Muslims are “a minority,” “in a weak (political and financial) position,” “without great means” of influence on the society at large. The universal message of Islam that should move Muslims’ civic conscience to promote justice, right, and goodness everywhere is reduced to this: “since we are a feeble minority”—a defensive, self-pitying discourse, narrowly concerned with the protection of self and “the community.”

He recommends that citizens be given some form of education so that they become better voters and partakers in the society and civilization around them:

Calls and slogans and singing the praises of “the good fortune of being a citizen” will change nothing: understanding one’s society, its history, and its institutions, developing one’s intelligence, and building an independent spirit—these are the things that will teach us, and everyone should be given the means to undergo this training.

In my opinion, even forcing people to take multiple courses on civic education is going to only make them marginally better citizens. It will give them a false sense of education while they continue to make the exact same mistakes as before. In reality, a minimum IQ is needed to properly appreciate one’s context and partake in it effectively, and judging by the extreme naivete of American college students, that minimum IQ is probably higher than 115, meaning that among Muslims, only the top 10% in intelligence and/or socioeconomic status (which are closely linked, see The Bell Curve) will benefit from such a program. The rest will not, but they will benefit from this 10%’s education, in an intellectual trickle-down process describe by Sayyid Qutb in his idea of a Muslim “vanguard” that takes responsibility for the well-being of their societies (which I extend to include non-Muslims).

Ramadan goes on to make this comment regarding reform:

Perpetual criticism of political authority or of the police is futile and meaningless when, alongside it, we as citizens do nothing to change things. Posing always as victims is a kind of cowardice. To be up in arms at every police blunder when we have become passive observers of the breakdown of the social fabric and watch silently (without showing any inclination toward concrete involvement) when young people display unspeakable violence and steal and assault and insult adults in their communities (particularly the police) does not make much sense and is, above all, unworthy.

In today’s hysterical climate, some people can be very upset by such lucid thought. It is dangerously rationalist and not sufficiently leftist, and quite possibly fatally racist, as I’m sure many would be happy to point out. So it is good to see Ramadan writing something like this, although whether he could write something similar today, I do not know, since this is from 2003.

Appreciating Western Civilization

Ramadan writes:

It is said that it is necessary to develop a critical mind capable of taking account of things. The West is neither monolithic nor demonic, and its phenomenal achievements in terms of rights, knowledge, culture, and civilization are realities that it would be unreasonable to minimize or reject.

Again, Ramadan breaks from militant post-modernists to speak some sense.

The failure of the zakat system

Ramadan reiterates the Egyptian reformist idea that the Islamic zakat system is not merely about random acts of charity, it is about a way of life, a basic income system designed to eliminate poverty. The way the zakat system is implemented in the West to this day is quite a pathetic failure, as I explain in Islam, the Good Parts: A Basic Income System that Encourages Employment, Productive Investment and Automation.

He writes:

Moreover, the funds are very often used to finance  building projects (e.g., mosques, centers), rather than to provide direct support to people, who are then helped in a very perfunctory way, with no precise consideration and no purpose beyond alleviating a financial difficulty here and there. Ultimately, it is the social philosophy as a whole that leads to this way of acting and maintaining only the outward form of zakat, which is thus undermined and even betrayed.

I am far more radical in this regard. The “Muslim community” that so many imams talk about is little more than a feel-good myth when barely a single imam can be found who actually seeks out his constituents and talks to them to find out if they can pay rent, if they are in debt, if he can help find them better job opportunities. A community cares about you and takes care of you. Almost no “Muslim community” does that. Islamic centers provide a form of social insurance in allowing people to apply for zakat in exceptional circumstances. That is perhaps about 1% of what they should be doing.

Dialogue with non-Muslims

Ramadan thinks that dialogue with the non-Muslims around us is crucial. I am not convinced of the value of formal interfaith dialog “to get to know one another”. Individuals from the two communities can do this if they are interested. But when it comes to the actual foundations for unity and peace between people of different faiths, a meeting of hearts is far more important than a meeting of minds, and a meeting of hearts does not even require talking about religion, at all.

It is sufficient for one to have a good Muslim coworker to understand that the Islamic texts lead to this type of person, therefore not everything about these texts is necessarily evil. This Muslim’s behavior actually convinces this observer about the possibility of the existence of shared values between them and the Islamic texts, while a formal interfaith dialog will only convince a Christian observer that there are well-spoken Muslims who are good at being polite. This is a meeting of minds and I doubt lasting effects can come from it.

A meeting of hearts is what is needed, and this is done through a Muslim treating people with an open heart, looking for the goodness in other people’s hearts regardless of their religion. A kind-hearted priest and a kind-hearted imam belonging to the same geographical area can promote much goodness toward each other’s communities without ever discussing anything about theology with each other.

Discussions of theology should be done not as a way of beginning interfaith dialog, but as its final stage, when one side is curiously interested in the topic, rather than discussing it because it is on some list of topics to be talked about.

Conclusion

Ramadan writes:

Western Muslims need to free themselves of their double inferiority complex—in relation to the West (and the domination of its rationality and technology) on the one hand and in relation to the Muslim world (which alone seems to produce the great Arabic-speaking spirits of Islam who quote the texts with such ease) on the other. We shall have to liberate ourselves from these faults by developing a rich, positive, and participatory presence in the West that must contribute from within to debates about the universality of values, globalization, ethics, and the meaning of life in modern times.

A skeptical reader may see the above paragraph as feel-good babble not meaning much of anything, but the many concrete suggestions provided by Ramadan show that he is very serious about these things. For him this is not just talk, this is his program.

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam is an important contribution and a necessary stepping-stone to getting us where we need to be in the West. You do not have to agree with everything he says to appreciate the spirit of his message.

A Biography of Ahmad Moftizadeh

Kak Ahmadi Muftizada: Darwazayak bo Xabateki Nanasraw (کاک ئەحمەدی موفتیزادە: دەروازەیەک بۆ خەباتێکی نەناسراو, Ahmad Moftizadeh: A Gateway to an Unknown Struggle) is a 394-page Kurdish biography of the great Iranian Kurdish leader Ahmad Moftizadeh written by Sarwat Abdullah, apparently published in 2010.

I have been reading all available materials on Ahmad Moftizadeh, since he is one of the few modern leaders who have truly embodied the type of activist, Quran-centered and heart-centered Islam I believe in, and it would be a shame to not learn everything significant that his life can teach. In my view studying the lives (and mistakes) of the previous few generations coming right before us is crucial to making progress.

Origin

It is mentioned that his grandfather, Abdullah Dishi, “came from” the village of Disha (a Hawrami village), which would suggest that Moftizadeh’s family are Hawrami. According to The Last Mufti, Abdullah Dishi’s family were originally from the Kurdish areas and had settled in Disha, meaning that they weren’t originally from this village, and meaning that Moftizadeh’s family are not necessarily Hawrami.

Ahmad Moftizadeh came from Iranian Kurdistan’s religious elite. His grandfather had been given the status of mufti (chief religious law-maker) of all of Iranian Kurdistan, and this title had been passed down to his son (Moftizadeh’s father), and Ahmad Moftizadeh was in line to receive the title himself. Moftizadeh’s father lectured at Tehran University on Shafii jurisprudence, and Ahmad Moftizadeh would go on to lecture there himself later on.

Dreams and childhood

It is mentioned that multiple people around him had dreams about him in his childhood in which they saw him as having a high status. This includes a very old and pious aunt of his when he was 4-5 years old. When he is 8 or 9 a friend of his mother has a dream in which she sees a great army in the city of Sanandaj and she is told that that is Ahmad’s army. She asks if they mean the little boy Aha Rash (a nickname for Ahmad Moftizadeh), and she is answered yes.

Moftizadeh had many dreams of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, in which the Prophet taught him things. Seeing the Prophet ﷺ in dreams is something highly prized by Sufis, whose influence on the area made the population look out for such dreams as well.

At the age of 13 a great officer in the army is invited to his home, so that his family cooks five types of rise and five types of meat. He is disgusted by this, considering it wasteful and thinking of all the poor people who have little to eat, and he decides not to eat anything of it. The aristocratic atmosphere of his home apparently makes him eager to leave it, so that he goes to Iraq to study.

Prison and repentance

After coming back from his studies, he goes to Tehran and is involved in some Kurdish nationalist activity, attracting the attention of the Shah’s secret police (SAVAK).

When Moftizadeh is imprisoned by the SAVAK 1964 for his Kurdish political activism, it is mentioned that he is taken to Evin prison, when in reality he was taken to Qezelqaleh prison as mentioned The Last Mufti. Evin prison comes at a later stage in his life, after the revolution. Later on, on page 53, the book contradicts itself, correctly saying that Moftizadeh was actually at Qezelqaleh.

In prison, in solitary confinement, with death feeling close at hand, he starts to feel guilty about his government job. He worked at a government office where part of his job was to assess and receive taxes from people. While he did his job with conscientiousness, not taking bribes and not cheating people (like other government employees would do), he has the realization that his salary from that job was partially impure, since it was from a government’s unjust taxes on the people.

At first he is too shy to seek repentance from God, feeling that with death so close at hand, the time of repentance is past. He eventually repents, and says to himself, “Even if my (infant) son Jiyan is about to starve to death, I will not use impure money to buy him powdered milk.”

Later in his life, one night his son Jiyan is extremely sick and the only open pharmacy in town is one that is Jewish-owned. He refuses to buy from them, thinking that his money would be used to “buy bullets” for Israel’s terror against Palestinians.

While somewhat extremist (Islam allows one to make exceptions in times of need), his method of thinking of ordinary daily decisions in activist terms is very important and relevant, and quite similar to Sayyid Qutb’s thinking. The spiritual world takes precedence over the material world. He refuses a material good (the feeding of his son, or his son’s health) to maintain a spiritual good (remaining true to God, refusing to be party to any form of injustice, even if it is merely by buying a drug from an entity that might possibly support injustice).

In mainstream Islamic practice, the culture and the clerics come in between the Quran and population. The job of making moral choices was outsourced to the religious establishment, so that morality was not something on the minds of ordinary people. If the mullahs allowed something, it was OK. If they didn’t, it wasn’t. Moftizadeh and Sayyid Qutb’s approach was to take the religious establishment out of the equation; one reads the Quran, understands its moral philosophy to the best of his or her ability, then follows it to the best of his or her ability in everything in their lives.

This is far more difficult, since there are many difficult moral choices the responsibility for which must be carried by each individual, instead of throwing the responsibility on the shoulders of the establishment without giving it a thought.

More dreams

In prison, he has a dream in which he is about 13 years of age and the Prophet ﷺ is teaching him from the Quran. His elbows are resting on the Prophet’s left shoulder, with him looking on as the Prophet passes his right index finger over a book of Quran that he is reciting from. He mentions that this dream put him in a state of joy and ecstasy that lasted for many days, considering it such a great honor from God.

The start of his Quran-focused Islam

So far in his life, Ahmad Moftizadeh had been a classical Shafii jurist, having had a classical education under his father and other scholars in Iran and Iraq.

He has a dream in which he is standing on the rooftop of his childhood home in Sanandaj, when he sees two persons coming toward him from a distance. The persons do not take steps but appear to glide. They stand about a meter and a half from him and ask him to interpret Sura ad-Duha and Sura ash-Sharh (chapters 93 and 94 of the Quran). Instead of trying to interpret these chapters as an intellectual exercise, he starts speaking effortlessly, saying things he had never even thought of before.

He says that as he spoke, he saw the Prophet ﷺ and his followers during what is known as the Meccan Boycott of the Hashemites, in which the he and his followers suffered extreme difficulty. He saw the relevance of the verses he was interpreting to these conditions, as if they were all part of the same story that he himself had lived. He also sees the Prophet ﷺ praying ardently for Umar ibn al-Khattab to be guided to Islam. He says the things he said in his interpretation of these chapters were as obvious and clear to him as 2+2 = 4. When he wakes up, he is completely thunderstruck by the dream, since none of the things he had said had ever before seemed obvious to him.

This dream causes him to completely change his approach to the Quran. Before this, he had the classical approach, what I call considering the Quran a “historical artifact” or a “dead book”. He says:

Before that, when I would look at the Quran, I would look at its meaning as mere Arabic words and sentences. After that, when I looked at the Quran I saw it as a living thing. The way I looked at life, that way I also looked at the Quran.

Strangely, this appears to also have been the approach of Said Nursi and Sayyid Qutb, both of whom also suffered through prison, and both of whom went on to be great revivalists.

Moftizadeh considers this discovery his re-birth, and afterwards would go on to speak of “the old Ahmad’ and “the new Ahmad”, similar to Said Nursi’s “old Said” and “new Said”.

He says that without his discovery of the Quran’s nature, his life would have been empty, and that a hundred thousand lifetimes were nothing compared to that single moment where he discovered the Quran.

Training the vanguard

After being released from prison, SAVAK offers him a professorship at Tehran University in return for softening his rhetoric against the Shah’s regime, which he refuses. He goes back to Sanandaj with his wife and child. He appears to conclude that the best way to spread Islam’s message is to train activists, a vanguard who embody the Quran’s teachings and go on to create change within their own social circles. This was also Sayyid Qutb’s idea.

His non-classical (Quran-focused) approach quickly garners him fame and people start to flock to his house to learn his reformist-activist approach on various issues, such as women’s rights.

He invites a number of faqih‘s (mullahs-in-training) to come to Sanandaj to learn and work on his project, and works hard to buy them a house. He has a highly valuable rug in his own house that he gives away and places in the new house. When asked why, he says, “This was the last artifact I had of my jahili (pre-enlightenment) life, and you are the cause of freeing me from it.”

He starts giving lectures at Sanandaj’s mosques, until he attracts a fellowship of 60-70 people. SAVAK issues a threat against his followers, so that most of the followers leave and only 15-20 people remain. SAVAK approaches him and offers him wealth and protection, and not just for himself but for his followers too, in return for a. not working with political parties and b. softening his stance against the Shah. His extreme poverty and the pressure his extended family puts on him to make him accept this offer slowly makes him start considering it. He wasn’t going to be involved with political parties, so this wasn’t an issue. And what harm did it do to accept not to speak against the Shah?

He says this was the most difficult moral dilemma of his life, since the things offered him were so attractive, and the things required of him so seemingly unimportant. During this, he has a dream that involves the Prophet ﷺ and Umar ibn al-Khattab. The Prophet is about to tell Umar something, starting by “O Umar…”, but Moftizadeh wakes up before hearing it. This greatly upsets him and he starts to look in the books of hadith to find narrations in which the Prophet speaks to Umar in such a manner. Despairing of his search, he goes to the Quran and tries to find guidance in it for his situation, and he finds that in verse 13:17:

He sends down water from the sky, and riverbeds flow according to their capacity. The current carries swelling froth. And from what they heat in fire of ornaments or utensils comes a similar froth. Thus God exemplifies truth and falsehood. As for the froth, it is swept away, but what benefits the people remains in the ground. Thus God presents the analogies.

He sees the Shah and his apparatus as the ephemeral “froth” that is covering truth and justice for a time, but that will surely be swept away by the forces of time. This makes him decide that truth and justice are timeless principles that deserve his full and never-ceasing allegiance, while any request from the Shah and SAVAK for his allegiance should be automatically rejected, since they are the froth who want to cover up what benefits the people. They are nobodies who will be swept away by history, while truth and justice will remain supreme. He goes on to live by this learning for the rest of his life, even after the Shah falls and the “Islamic” Republic is established.

Maktab Quran

Moftizadeh garnered fame in Iranian Kurdistan by his famous speeches, such as the one he gave at the funeral of the poet Suwaray Ilkhanizada. His fearless criticism of the Shah (sometimes comparing him to the Pharaoh of the time of Moses) gave people hope, since the rest of the Islamic establishment was thoroughly hand-in-hand with the Shah’s regime. A Muslim scholar speaking against the Shah was something unknown and highly attractive.

Maktab Quran (“school of Quran”) is the name of the movement/organization he and his friends created, first in the city of Mariwan and later in Sanandaj. The word maktab refers more to a “school of thought” than a physical entity (as pointed out by Ali Ezzatyar in The Last Mufti), a reference to his use of the Quran as a source for a reformist-activist Islam. He did, however, create schools in multiple cities where the Quran and related topics were taught, so Maktab Quran was a physical entity as well.

Revolution (1978)

Moftizadeh’s fame and opposition to the Shah made him a natural leader of Iranian Sunnis at the time of the Iranian revolution. The revolution worried him because he considered it untimely, and was aware of the great possibility for the rise of a new anti-Kurdish tyranny in Tehran (which is what happened).

He believes that if his movement had been given 10-15 years without the Iran Revolution happening, the movement would have been able to bring Kurds to a state where they were ready to be the leaders of revolutionary change, since his goal was to teach people to insist on truth and justice and refuse to (intellectually) submit to tyrants.

SHAMS

After the Iranian revolution, Moftizadeh worked with other Sunni leaders (such as the scholar Abdulaziz Malazadeh from Sistan-Balochistan) to create a unified front for interacting with the Shia-majority revolutionary government, accepting Khomeini’s promises of respecting democracy and pluralism. This unified front was called SHAMS (which means “sun” in Arabic, and was an acronym for shurayeh markaziyeh sunnat, meaning “central council of the Sunnis”). A meeting was held in Tehran in public in which the creation of SHAMS was announced and its details agreed upon by Sunni religious leaders from various areas of Iran.

Naturally, Khoemini and his friends considered this union of the Sunnis a dangerous attack on their establishment, and the Iranian propaganda press went into overdrive over the few days following the meeting, associating the meeting with foreign influence, treason and all the other buzzwords that governments use to describe those who make them feel uncomfortable. Khomeini even gave a speech denouncing SHAMS.

Prison again

Khomeini’s extremist grip on power continued to increase as a number of convenient assassinations removed his more balanced Shia friends from Earth (such as Ayatollah Beheshti). This purging of the moderate Shias cleared the field for him to let his totalitarian tendencies run wild.

A year after SHAMS, the Iranian government cracked down on those associated with Moftizadeh’s Maktab Quran movement throughout Iranian Kurdistan and imprisoned many of them, including Moftizadeh himself.

They held him for ten years in solitary confinement, never allowing a single visitation by his family and friends.

Keeping Kurdistan together

During the revolution (between 1978 and 1981), Moftizadeh worked constantly to bring the Kurds together and have them reach a peaceable agreement with the new government to ensure the rights of the Kurds. The people he was interacting with, the leftist Kurdish parties on the one hand, and the Shia government on the other, were both equally power-hungry, duplicitous and unreliable, so that his efforts were seemingly entirely futile.

Moftizadeh continued to try to work with everyone else in good faith, expecting the best of them, signing agreements with Kurdish party leaders who would go on to change the agreement the next day, adding their own clauses to it that had not actually been agreed upon, or agreeing on one thing then acting another way.

Moftizadeh tried his best fulfill his role as “the leader of Iran’s Kurds” as he was widely considered, but to no good. Would it have been better if he had refused, seeing as the Kurds and the Shias were both totally and utterly incapable of working in good faith together? What is the point of trying to make things work when everyone you are dealing with is corrupt and selfish?

While his political work has generally been considered a failure, his appeals for peace and avoidance of blood-shed may have saved Iranian Kurdistan from having the same fate as Iraqi Kurdistan, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost in a war with the government. It is quite possible that hundreds of thousands of Kurds living in Iran today owe their lives to some degree to his political work.

His fight with the sheikhs and mullahs

I wonder at the people of this town. They have so many mullahs, yet they have managed to remain religious and pious and they have not lost the way of Islam. —Ahmad Moftizadeh

Ahmad Moftizadeh, despite being a classically trained religious scholar and being the son of the chief religious authority of Iranian Kurdistan (and being offered this position himself later on), was a strong critic of the Islamic establishment of his time. The Sufi sheikhs and mullahs had created a comfortable religious aristocracy where the population was made to serve their interests, finding clever ways of extracting money from the poor, such as making farmers take large portions of their harvests to the nearest Sufi establishment where a fat and corrupt Sufi sheikh usually presided.

The mullahs (clerics and preachers who worked at the mosques) weren’t much better, fleecing the population through things like “repairing” divorces, without actually working to solve the roots of society’s issues.

Islam had become a ceremonial religion devoid of its activist message. Moftizadeh considered the religious establishment cowardly and complicit with the Shah’s regime. Not a single leader could be found who dared to speak a word of truth against the Shah’s injustice. Moftizadeh made many enemies by opposing this system, so that some mullahs and sheikhs labelled him a “hypocrite” and scared people away from his circles. Eventually, with his radical honesty and fearless criticism of the Shah despite the dangers to his own life, he became the unchallenged leader of Iran’s Kurdish Sunni Muslims (and perhaps forever broke the hold of the religious establishment on Islam).

In Shia Islam, the clerical establishment claims to have secret powers to interpret Islam properly, powers granted to them as descendants of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is highly convenient, since it gives the Shia clerical establishment monopoly power over the way Islam is interpreted and practiced.

Sunni Islam rejects this, saying there is nothing too special about being descended from the Prophet ﷺ. In practice, however, the Sunni establishment acts somewhat similar to the Shia establishment, requiring someone to be part of the establishment before considering their opinions valid. For many Sunni clerics, ordinary Muslims do not have the right to refute a ruling from an establishment scholar. The content of the refutation does not matter; if you haven’t gone through the establishment and do not have their stamp of approval, you do not have the right to speak your mind.

Ahmad Moftizadeh’s teachings took Islam away from the establishment and gave it to each Muslim capable of reading and understanding the Quran.

Moftizadeh’s Kurdish identity

Moftizadeh in Kurdish pants.

Moftizadeh insisted on wearing Kurdish pants, as a way of encouraging other Kurds to not be ashamed of their cultural practices. This was considered unfashionable in his time by other Kurds. They would tell him “You are not a lower-class laborer, so why do you wear that?” He says he replied to such a statement once by saying, “I am a human, and laborers are humans.”

In Sanandaj, the nicknames of kaka (“big brother”), khalo (“uncle”) and mamo (also meaning “uncle”) were used as a way of addressing lower-class people. Moftizadeh came to be called kaka, and he asked his followers to continue calling him this, rejecting honorific titles.

He strongly opposed titles like “sayyid”, “sheikh”, “mala”, “haji”, all of which were used as honorifics for people supposedly religiously or socially superior to others, and all o which could be used to describe himself if I remember correctly. He says these are used to separate one section of society from another, the holier from the less holy, and this makes them un-Islamic and sinful.

Ahmad Moftizadeh considers the Medes the ancestors of Kurds, and the Persians their usurpers. He considers the Persian Empire a permanent force of oppression against Kurds since its inception. He considers Nawroz (the Iranian new year celebration) an imperial and anti-Kurd invention that celebrates the Persian usurpation of Kurdish power.

I have my doubts about this theory, and believe that considering all the Iranian races (Kurds, Lurs, Persians, Pashtos) one race that slowly branched out a far better foundation for building a constructive identity. Kurdish victimhood identity is extremely dangerous, as like all victimhood identities (Zionism, communism, feminism, Shiism) it reduces empathy and the sense of moral responsibility. A victim has the right to more privileges and is held to lower moral standards, and acts as such.

In Moftizadeh’s view, Kurds have been oppressed for 2500 years. In my view, the oppression of the Kurds might very well be a 20th century invention, as Turkish, Arab and Persian nationalism grew as responses to colonialism. Before that, the Kurds were just another subject nation of the Ottomans and the Safavids, and often enjoyed great autonomy, and their noblemen were accepted in the courts of these empires as men of power and status.

Having a single, global humanist identity is so much more beautiful and productive (I should note that I am strongly opposed to globalism, but that is another matter). Western Muslim intellectuals are ahead in this regard, in shunning racial and nationalist identities. But Moftizadeh was a product of his time, and at that time, the issue of Kurdish identity was a matter of top priority, since Persians by and large considered Kurds a backwater nation that should be Persianized for their own good. Moftizadeh’s response was to fight for Kurdish identity, saying that Kurds had as much right to exist and exercise their language and culture as Persians.

The Umayyads

Moftizadeh considers the Umayyads the root cause for the loss of the original “true” Islamic caliphate, and says things mirroring the Shia view on them; that Abu Sufyan’s conversion to Islam was not true and that Muawiyah was on the whole an evil ruler. Since he brought back the old aristocratic system, threw out the shura system of democratic rule, established a dynastic monarchy, and built a palace in which he lived in luxury, for Moftizadeh this is sufficient evidence to consider him evil and corrupt.

Personally, I doubt there is sufficient evidence to conclusively rule that Abu Sufyan or Muawiyah weren’t truly good people. They may have liked wealth and power and worked for it, but so do many other Muslims. They weren’t perfect, but this does not mean that they weren’t on the whole reasonably good people.

Moftizadeh’s anti-Umayyad stance comes from his extreme anti-aristocratic views and his dislike for the Sunni-Shia divide for which he holds the Umayyads responsible.

I believe a more balanced and sophisticated approach is needed when it comes to the historical facts of the matter. As for the religious division issue, focusing on history is not going help matters. The Shia establishment will continue promoting the Shia vicitmhood narrative, since this is important for maintaining power and relevance.

Equality and Marxism

Moftizadeh says “An Islamic society is one in which there are no (social) strata,” advocating for a radical equality among the population, from the ruler to the lowliest laborer (using the example of the Rashidun caliphs to explain what he meant). Some mullahs said that he was becoming a communist with his calls for equality. In response, he instead make a powerful critique of communism, recognizing its feudal nature. He says that communism is actually aristocracy taken to its most obscene extreme, where the central government becomes the unquestioned lord and the entirety of the population its lowly servants.

He strongly disliked the undue respect that government officials received. In one Islamic gathering he sees that a section of the best seats have been reserved for officials. He goes and sits there, to set the example that officials should not be treated specially. When officials visit his home, he is harsh and unfriendly with them. On the other hand, he treats the lower classes with the utmost love and respect.

Regarding the problem of nepotism, ever-present in the Middle East, he says:

Anyone who in his or her dealing with a government official gets preferential treatment because of family ties or other things, and he or she accepts this treatment, they have done injustice.

And on respecting the lower classes:

How miserable is the person who works in the name of leading a religious movement and dislikes meeting the poor, while exulting at meeting the rich and powerful.

His manners

Some of his followers suggested that he should get bodyguards, since they feared for his safety with his great fame and high status. He rejected this, saying that he is no better than the Rashidun caliphs Ali and Umar, who never had bodyguards. He says that one must go among the people, like the prophets used to, that separating himself from the people would automatically make him a failure.

When out, his friends suggest using a taxi to go somewhere (considered a luxury form of transport at the time), he refuses, saying “Why can’t we go like the rest of the people?”

After his release from prison (and close to his death), he was extremely sick from cancer and his body broken by the torture he had received under the Iranians. At one point he was receiving visitors, with everyone sitting on the floor as it is customary in Iran, and as he himself tried to sit, he suffered extreme pain since he couldn’t sit comfortably on the floor. Some offered to bring him a soft cushion to sit on, but he refused, saying, “A sick person can relax as needed when resting, but when among the people, he must behave like the people.” His meaning was that his sickness did not give him the privilege of acting differently and being catered to. This was part of his extreme insistence on equality and “not separating from the people”.

At one point, one of his followers opens a car door for him as a show of respect. He tells them to close it, to go sit themselves, and says, “Do you think I don’t know how to open car doors?”

He sees that someone refers to him as “dear kak Ahmad” in writing, and tells the person not to attach any title to him, even if it is merely “dear”.

One of his followers, who goes on to be killed by the Iranian government, explains that the reason why Moftizadeh attracted such a devoted following was that he truly embodied the three points mentioned in this verse of the Quran:

And who is better in speech than someone who calls to God, and carries out wholesome deeds, and says, “I am of the Muslims”? (The Quran, verse 41:33)

  • Moftizadeh called toward God, toward submission to Him and freedom from submission to all other authorities and powers. He never worked for political power or for recognition, he never called for some group of his own.
  • Moftizadeh worked to do good deeds day and night. He was a leader in applying the Quran in his own life, and this could be seen everywhere in his manners and actions.
  • His stance always was “I am of the Muslims”, which this student of Moftizadeh interprets as meaning that the person does not separate himself from the Muslims using titles and status symbols. While the typical religious leader was happy to use his status as a bargaining tool for dealing with others in power, and while such a leader usually had a highly stratified organization around him, Mofizadeh not only rejected all of this, but turned the tables; he would treat the supposedly lowliest Muslims with the utmost respect and honor, while dealing harshly with the figures of authority in his town (knowing they were corrupt and hand-in-hand with the regime).

Relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood

Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood have mistakenly claimed that Moftizadeh was a member of their organization. While he had very close relationships with some Brothers, he did not do this out of allegiance to the Brotherhood, but out of his heart-centered approach; he would collaborate and help anyone who appeared like a good person.

He was, near the end of his life, against political work, and he is quoted in The Last Mufti as saying that one who engages in political work is very likely to lose the way of guidance.

Comparison with The Last Mufti

The last 100 pages or so of the book is dedicated to translations of articles and interviews with him published in various Iranian publications in the early years of the Iranian Revolution.

The Last Mufti does a far better job of describing the cultural context of Moftizadeh’s time and the origins of his family, likely due to the fact that The Last Mufti relied on far more many sources than this book does. However, it does contain many interesting details and anecdotes not mentioned in The Last Mufti, so both are well worth reading.

Heroes

Moftizadeh’s (and Sayyid Qutb’s) life shows that people need heroes. Moftizadeh was not the founder of a new school of fiqh and one cannot point to any major work of his. A scholarly skeptic, proud of his own works and education, may look at Moftizadeh’s followers and think “What is wrong with all of these people who glorify this nobody?”

Yet the service that Moftizadeh did Islam has been immense and worthier than the works of perhaps a hundred scholars. By embodying his radical message, he became the message. It is sufficient to mention “Moftizadeh” to any of thousands of Iranian Sunnis to renew their motivation, their hope, their trust in God, their insistence on truth and justice, their bravery.

So while many people belonging to the Islamic establishment will be able to call Qutb and Moftizadeh “nobodies”, it is sufficient to see the effects of these men on their respective audiences to realize that these men did tremendously important things, that they were greater than the thousands of religious clerics who failed to do the same, who preferred silence and comfort to telling the truth and putting their lives at risk.

This is an important realization for me; that Islam cannot revive hearts and cannot cause social change unless it is embodied in certain people, no matter how few. For true, dynamic, activist Islam to exist in a community, that community needs to have its own Qutbs and Moftizadehs who are ready to be crucified for its sake, who tell the truth and stand for justice despite the danger to their own careers and lives.

Without such people, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized will look at the religious establishment and think, “Look at those pompous idiots who think they are here to bring us salvation while they do nothing to protect our lives and dignity.” This was the attitude of people in Iran, Iraq and Egypt toward the religious establishment until people like Moftizadeh and Qutb appeared, and this is probably the attitude of many Saudi people toward their cowardly and well-fed Salafi scholars who turn a blind eye to the abuses of the Saudi family.

This is also the attitude of many Westerners toward the churches. Churchgoers who are not eager to give up large portions of their wealth to feed the poor and the oppressed in their communities have little right to pretend to be followers of Christ, and fully deserve to be considered out-of-touch and pompous hypocrites who do not really believe in their message.

If you do not embody Islam or Christianity’s radically activist message, don’t be surprised if no one takes you seriously.

Conclusion

Moftizadeh’s manners and story is similar to that of Jesus in the New Testament. He fearlessly embodied his message of radical honesty, of respecting all humans, of working against injustice and tyranny, acting like a wrench thrown into the comfortable decay of the Shah’s Kurdistan.

Moftizadeh was the worst nightmare of every corrupt politician, cleric and faux revolutionary, never accepting to limit his speech against them, never seeking material gain (thus he was unbribable), and treating his followers with far more respect and honor than the figures of authority of his society, whether secular or religious, in this way creating a new power structure that discredited the existing ones and empowered ordinary people to feel as if they had the freedom to question things.

Just like it happened with Jesus, many people started calling for his blood, including the religious establishment he was a part of. His criticism of the Shah’s regime helped topple it, but instead of acting the expected way toward his new Shia masters, silently acceding to them, he continued just like before, speaking his mind, discrediting them, not taking them seriously and focusing on truth and justice above all else.

Moftizadeh represents the ideal Muslim citizen; a good and kind friend of every good and kind person, a peaceful activist who did his utmost to prevent violence, a nightmare to every greedy and power-hungry politician, cleric and aristocrat.

Moftizadeh is a very difficult ideal to emulate. People either choose to be power-seeking revolutionaries who risk some but get a lot in return, or quietist mystics who risk nothing and enjoy a comfortable living. Moftizadeh brings together the difficult parts of both lifestyles and throws away the parts palatable to the human ego; you must be a revolutionary who does not seek power, and a mystic who risks everything. Most humans can either live up to the revolutionary ideal or the mystic ideal, very few can unite the two, because not only is there no personal gain in doing this, there is much chance of personal loss. Moftizadeh did that and suffered horribly for it, but renewed the world with his suffering.

Are Muslims allowed to never marry?

Aslamu Alaikum! Brother I’m suffering from social anxiety (or with some other phychological disease). As I can’t afford therapy because I’m not financially well. So i don’t wAnt to get married because I don’t want to intentionally ruin someone’s life. So, is this a valid reason for not getting married ? What Islam guides us about this?

InshaAllah things will get better for you. Marriage is not obligatory, therefore you always have the choice of not marrying. Regarding your situation, you can wait and things may change a great deal for you in a year or two. There is no problem with delaying marriage for now, but there is no need to say that you will never get married, since you never know what the future may bring. You may one day meet someone who doesn’t mind your social anxiety and who can take care of you financially.

Do what you can with what you have, and always try to increase your knowledge through lectures and books, and inshaAllah you will be able to change yourself and your life for the better.

Also see: Marriage is not necessarily “half our religion”

 

Breaking up with a friend of the same sex who is sexually attracted to you

I’m a muslim girl and I’m attracted to girls. I’ve fallen in love with girls but I have never done anything (like kissing or more) because I know that would be fornication. Other than that, I pray, I fast, and I’m really religious. I know my attraction to girls is just a test Allah has made for me to pass. The thing is, I’m currently in love with a girl and she’s not religious. I’ve told her that I love her but that nothing would ever happen between us.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing since Allah hasn’t forbidden us from loving someone, but it’s tiring and I know that eventually this “relationship” will come to an end. I don’t want to hurt her or stop answering to her texts but I want to take my distance so I can focus on other things like my faith. What do you think I should do? Thanks in advance, peace be upon you!

Breaking up with someone you love is rarely easy. The best advice I can give you is to read the Quran daily and try to make its priorities your priorities, and this book can give you the best and most relevant guidance for each situation in your life. Read it and after a few pages you will see your own situation (or something very similar to it) mentioned in it, and that will always help you find your way.

The Quran teaches us to be kind, forgiving, good-mannered and empathic toward people. It also teaches us to stay away from people who call us toward actions that displease God. These different and conflicting concerns must be balanced when dealing with people.

Each person’s psychology is different, so I cannot give specific advice on your situation. Read the Quran (just 20 minutes per day if you cannot do more) and you will inshaAllah find guidance in it.

Honor killings and execution of adulterers in Islam

Salam. I grew up in Europe so I didn’t study Islam in a Muslim country so I haven’t been provided with the full version. However my cousin did in my motherland (Arab) and when we discuss islam with eachother it’s is so different, her views are more cruel in a way. For instance she said that honour killing is part of the deen because a woman’s wali has the right to kill her if she brings shame but I didn’t learn Islam that way. I was taught a more peaceful version. I wonder which one is true?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no such thing as honor killings in Islam. In Islamic law, an honor killing is murder and the person who does it is a murderer. A person can only be punished for a sexual crime only after trial.

It is true that many Muslim clerics have been complicit in honor killings, since they do not speak strongly against it and even tolerate it.

It is also true that many Muslims believe that a married person convicted of adultery should be executed, although in practice this has almost never been performed by Shariah courts, since the requirements for proving adultery are extremely stringent (four witnesses must have seen the sexual act taking place). Jonathan Brown mentions in his book Misquoting Muhammad that scholars have at times preferred to be exiled instead of signing the order for executing (stoning) adulterers.

The issue of advocating for executing adulterers is caused by most scholars preferring the less reliable evidence of hadith over the principles of the Quran, and the issue is not limited to executing adulterers. As an example, the Quran says that “There is no compulsion in religion” (The Quran, verse 2:256), yet most scholars support punishing people who leave Islam (sometimes by execution!), which as anyone with a tiny bit of common sense can see, is utterly hypocritical. Forcing people to stay Muslim is as much compulsion as forcing them to become Muslim. The Quran is clear on this matter, there must not be compulsion in religion, people must be free what religion they practice. Scholars, however, ignore this clear principle of the Quran and give preference to hadith, in this way justifying forcing people to stay Muslim.

Any Muslim who says Islam believes in religious freedom, but does not admit that the Quran’s principles are superior to hadith, probably does not know what they are talking about. The classical (and Salafi) Islamic view does not guarantee religious freedom, it forces people to stay Muslim against their own will.

Regarding adultery, using the evidence of the Quran and Islamic history, the great Egyptian Islamic scholar Abu Zahra, who was an expert on Islamic law, concluded that adulterers are not executed in Islam and presented his evidence at an Islamic conference in 1972, which immediately caused an uproar among the scholars, since he dared to give preference to the Quran over hadith. Salafis and classical scholars cannot accept Abu Zahra’s view because they refuse to acknowledge the superiority of the Quran over hadith. For a discussion of this serious problem within Islam and its solution see my essay Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism.

Marriage is not necessarily “half our religion”

You said marriage is not obligated but we’re told it’s half of the deen

The “half our deen” saying comes from a group of hadith narrations all of which are of questionable authenticity. One of them comes from al-Bayhaqi’s collection and the chain of narrators includes يزيد الرقاشي, who is untrustworthy according to al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Hajar. Another version comes from al-Hakim’s collection, and the chain contains عبد الرحمن بن زيد, who is untrustworthy.

There is another famous saying “a woman completes part of a man’s faith”, this is not from the Prophet, but from Tawus ibn Kaysan, it is just a scholar speaking his personal opinion.

The hadith scholar al-Albani does a detailed study and considers all of the narrations untrustworthy except one that says “A woman supports a man in part of his deed, so let him worry about the second part.” This hadith is not authentic due to its chain containing at least one person whose is known to be of arbitrary reliability (he sometimes speaks the truth, sometimes says something completely wrong). al-Albani concludes that the hadith has a status of “hasan”, meaning that it is not authentic (”saheeh”), but that the content and the chain of narrations is good enough that one cannot say with certainty that it is fabricated (”dha`eef” or “maudhoo`”).

In conclusion, therefore, this “half our deen” concept is not certain and cannot be used as a basis for deriving principles. Since it sounds good, most people, including clerics and scholars, have accepted it without questioning. It sounds nice, and you can’t question nice things, otherwise that makes you a mean person.

I rarely hear a Friday sermon in which the preacher does not mention some cringe-worthy false narration. It is for the greater good, so even if they know the hadith is fabricated, the preacher believes that the end justifies the means. Even if it is a lie, it sounds good and is supposedly beneficial, so they repeat it.

One commonly repeated false saying that non-Muslims have used for the past century to poke fun at Islam is that a martyr is given 72 virgins in Paradise, and this is repeated by some Muslims to this day. This is from a set of weak hadith narrations whose chains of narrators cannot warrant a higher status than dhaeef (”weak”, i.e. unauthentic) (see Apppendix IV of Jonathan Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad)God, of course, has the power to reward people however He wants, but since these narrations are false, they are false, therefore Muslims must stop repeating them even if they are considered useful. A lie is a lie regardless of how useful someone thinks it is.

What are the manners and rules of performing wudu and prayer?

What are the manners and rules of performing wudu and prayer (for a female)?

Learning how to perform ablution and pray properly requires a lot of detail and I cannot give it in an answer or two. Please check out Asad Tarsin’s book Being Muslim: A Practical Guide, which mentions all the details of praying and other Islamic acts of worship, and inshaAllah you will find it highly useful.

Is getting agitated when someone walks in on you praying something to be concerned about?

Is getting agitated when someone walks in on you praying something to be concerned about? In general, I strongly dislike when my family members see me do worship.

It is normal to dislike being looked at when you feel others might be judging you regardless of the activity you are performing. Even if you love your family and they love you, if for example they are non-Muslim or non-practicing Muslims and find the prayer funny, you will not like to do it in their presence, similar to the way you wouldn’t want to work on a painting in the presence of someone who thinks painting is a foolish activity.

On intentionally delaying the isha prayer

I’ve read that it’s best to delay isha namaz I was wondering exactly how long should it be delayed for?

“You’ve described many scholars as corrupt in your blog…”

You’ve described many scholars as corrupt in your blog. Many of them are classical and accridited scholars from Al-Azhar. How come they are wrong after all? Like you seem to not agree on things there’s a consensus on eg apostaty, obligation on marriage, etc

I haven’t called any of them corrupt, I consider them good people doing their best to follow Islam. The view of Islam I present is actually a mix of the views of some of al-Azhar’s greatest scholars (Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida, Mahmud Shaltut, Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Muhammad al-Ghazali).

Regarding apostasy, Mahmud Shaltut (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from 1958 to 1963) says that apostates are only punished if they try to fight the Muslims and plot against them, that mere apostasy is not punishable.

Marriage is not obligatory. Imam al-Nawawi says in his commentary on Sahih Muslim that those who have the means to marry and are psychologically ready and willing for it (تاقت إليه نفسه) should marry, otherwise they are free not to, and he himself never married.

Regarding other matters, I follow Muhammad al-Ghazali’s view (an al-Azhar scholar) and the views of Sayyid Qutb, Ahmad Moftizadeh and Nasir Subhani that the Quran’s principles take precedence over hadith, so that a hadith narration that contradicts the Quran can be doubted or reinterpreted even if its chain of narrators is considered authentic by hadith scholars. If the Quran says people should have religious freedom, but there is a hadith that says people should not have religious freedom, the Quran takes precedence. We use the Quran to re-interpret everything else within Islam. For the details of this method see my essay Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism.

How to repent from zina (sex outside of marriage)

How does one repent for zina? What if the man is someone who I’m planning to marry anyway since we are close to being engaged? Will the punishment be as severe, especially since we both feel guilt?

If you both truly repent (meaning that you ask for God’s forgiveness and intend to not repeat the sin), then it is the consensus view that the two of you can marry without issue according to the Egyptian scholar Khalid bin al-Mun`im al-Rifa`i (fatwa #43035 on islamway.net)

Before marrying (before nikah) you must wait one menstrual cycle to ensure that you are not pregnant. If you are, according to the Hanafi and Shafii schools, you two can still marry, while according to the Maliki and Hanbali schools you cannot marry until you give birth. The Hanafi and Shafii opinions are preferable since this is better for the two of you, the child and for the rest of society (to marry now rather than later if you have became pregnant). If you have your period like normal, then you can marry according to all the schools.

There is no punishment, that is only something relevant if the issue reaches an Islamic court (if people saw you during the act then went on to report on you in a country that follows Islamic law). Since what you mention appears to have been done in private, then it is sufficient for both of you to repent, and that is the end of it. This is the opinion of the Saudi fatwa council, mentioned in fatwa #47834 on Islamicqa.info.

In short, both of you should repent, then you can marry like normal (taking into account the complications mentioned above) and go on with your lives. Both of you should do extra fasts and worship to prove to yourselves and to God that your repentance is true.

Can you pray after eating pork by mistake?

I’m a new revert and today my mother made me a meal and it had some Chorizo in it. It was one slice and I was so engrossed in conversation that I ate it without realising. It wasn’t until 5 minutes later that the penny dropped. What happens now? Is my Salah invalid? Do I repent? I’m confused.

There is no repentance necessary since it was a mistake (according to the Saudi scholar Ibn Baaz, http://www.binbaz.org.sa/noor/3155)

According to the Shafii jurist Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, if one eats something unlawful by mistake, one should try to throw it up if this is possible for them, otherwise they do not have to do anything other than rinsing their mouth. (Islamweb, fatwa 94019)

As for whether a person can pray, the only relevant opinion I can find is of the 19th century Maliki jurist Muhammad al-Desouki who says that as long as the pork is in the person’s stomach and they are able to throw it up, their prayer will not be accepted. This means that if one eats pork by mistake, they should try to throw it up unless there is a health reason that prevents them before they pray. But if one is not able to throw it up, or the food has passed beyond the stomach, then one can pray like normal. (Islamweb, fatwa 283165).

In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan

Get it on Amazon.com

In the Footsteps of the Prophet is a long-needed biography of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that focuses on his character, manners and experience, rather than narrating meaningless dates and facts.

Many classical Islamic books are somewhat out-of-touch to modern readers, so that while they may have been satisfactory to their original (often Middle Eastern) readers, when translated into English they end up being unapproachable, enigmatic and highly inadequate, often leading to more questions than answers. In the Footsteps of the Prophet, having been written by someone who lives and breathes the Western worldview, lacks these shortcomings, so that I can refer Europeans to it without having to make apologies for it.

On embracing faith

Ramadan writes:

From the outset, the Quran presents itself as the mirror of the universe. The term that the first Western translators rendered as “verse”-referring to biblical vocabulary-literally means, in Arabic, “sign” (ayah). Thus, the revealed Book, the written text, is made up of signs (ayat) just as the uni­verse, like a text spread out before our eyes, is teeming with signs. When the heart’s intelligence, and not only analytical intelligence, reads the Quran and the world, then the two texts address and echo each other, and each of them speaks of the other and of the One. The signs remind us of what it means to be born, to live, to think, to feel, and to die.

His writing style creates vague clouds of meanings and feelings, and it is often left as an exercise to the reader to make out anything concrete from what he says. This is very much unlike my own style, but perhaps there is a demographic that finds better meaning in his. What he is saying above is that the Quran provides various pointers (rather than conclusive proofs) of the Creator’s existence and presence, and the universe around us also provides its own pointers (rather than conclusive proofs). When you bring together the total of the Quran’s pointers and the universe’s pointers, your conscience (what he refers to as your heart’s intelligence) is offered the very difficult choice of accepting faith or rejecting it.

When you run into sufficient ayat in yourself, in the world around you, and in the Quran, you reach a point where non-submission to the Creator becomes a sin against your conscience. This is the sin of kufr (disbelief), of denying God’s signs and/or favors.

Throughout your life, your conscience is like a jury watching a trial that tries to decide whether God exists or not. Sign after sign is presented to your conscience, never sufficient to conclusively prove to your rational brain that God exists, but never so little that you can deny those signs in good conscience. Once you have seen sufficient signs, you will feel guilty to deny God, because you have done something that goes against your conscience. Even if you can rationally justify your rejection of God, the guilt may never leave.

As for someone who has never seen sufficient signs, that is a different matter.

The super-humanity or not of the Prophet ﷺ

Ramadan embraces the idea that there was something special (super-human) about the Prophet ﷺ, narrating a few stories like the angels visiting him when he was a child and performing surgery on him to remove a black piece of flesh from his heart, in this way purifying him from something bad that other human hearts supposedly contain. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad al-Ghazali in his Fiqh al-Seerah rejects this story, saying that good and evil are a matter of the spirit, not the flesh.

The story is problematic because it suggests there is some inherent evil within humans, embedded right in their flesh, reminiscent of the Christian idea of original sin. This story is just one example of the myriad stories in books of seerah (biographies of the Prophet ﷺ) suggesting that the Prophet ﷺ was special, something more than human. The Christians turned Jesus into God, and Muslims would probably have done the same, out of love and a desire for a human divinity that wasn’t so terrifying as God, if the Quran wasn’t so insistent that God has no associates and wasn’t so critical of the idea of Jesus as a Son of God.

In the Footsteps of the Prophet contains only a few such stories, which makes it greatly superior to other books of seerah. And while we may not be able to conclusively say that there is was nothing specially super-human about the Prophet ﷺ, a truly human Prophet is far more admirable than a super-human Prophet in reality. What’s so special about bearing a burden if you are given super-powers by God to bear it? And resisting evil while desiring it is a greater accomplishment than resisting it after God sends angels to perform surgery on you to make you a better person.

The beautiful story the Quran tells us is that the Prophet was a human just like any of us, and that he was given a terribly difficult mission that terrified him. He had to bear this burden with all of his fears and weaknesses, he had to face humiliation after humiliation among his relatives and tribe, and he had to face death on numerous occasions, not as a super-man who couldn’t be harmed, but as a fragile human who could suffer, who could fear, who could desire, who could be impatient, who could make terrible mistakes.

Say, “I am nothing more than a human being like you, being inspired that your god is One God. Whoever hopes to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and never associate anyone with the service of his Lord.” (The Quran 18:110)

God did not tell the Prophet to say, “All humans are equal, but I am more equal than you.” He is told to say “I am nothing more than a human being”. That’s it. There is no need to turn him into a super-man and in this way take away from his achievements.

Activist Islam

Throughout the book, he advocates for the spiritual/activist Islam that I advocate for, but he does not, at least not in this book, provide the crucial algorithms for reaching this form of Islam; preferring the Quran’s authority over hadith, teaching everyone to treat the Quran as if it was revealed to them personally.

This type of Islam, which I call Quran-focused Islam, is almost exactly Tariq Ramadan’s kind of Islam. In this book, at least, he shows what this Islam looks like, without showing how it is arrived at and why it is so different from classical Islam. Perhaps he himself does not see his Islam as the result of a small set of algorithms but rather the result of a lifelong search for meaning. This is also the case with many other admirable personas within contemporary Islamic history, who call for a modern and extremely civilized form of Islam without clearly stating the crucial differences between their Islam and classical Islam. They show the results of a lifelong process they have arrived it, they do not, or are unable to, explain the process itself, explaining the algorithm that if applied by anyone of sufficient intelligence and knowledge always leads to their type of Islam.

This makes them easy prey to Salafis who always come with their highly simple and elegant-sounding algorithms, in this way in a statement or two appearing to demolish all of Tariq Ramadan’s thinking. The Salafi algorithm is that one must follow the Quran and the Sunnah as  accurately as possible, and who can argue with that? Tariq Ramadan, at least in this book and in his Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, does not offer a clear alternative algorithm that leads to his type of Islam and shows why the Salafis are wrong.

That alternative algorithm is that one must use all available tools to reach as accurate an understanding of the Quran as possible, and once that is reached, this understanding of the Quran is taken as a program that must lived and breathed by every person, with hadith acting as a helper. This alternative algorithm’s biggest proof of superiority is in its intellectual conclusions (solving the problem of slavery, stoning adulterers, punishing apostasy, the free will paradox) and in the lives of its greatest followers (Sayyid Qutb, Ahmad Moftizadeh).

Aisha

Sufficient evidence is not presented to show why the relationship between Aisha and the Prophet was special and exemplary, a claim that the book makes in multiple places. The issue of Aisha’s age is not addressed, and for someone who has this in mind while reading the relevant passages, nothing presented sufficiently justifies things. He mentions that the Prophet ﷺ “stayed away” from Aisha for a month after she was accused of adultery, then mentions that this event “reinforced their love and trust”. But this claim is not convincing when no evidence is presented for it, and in fact evidence is provided that it harmed their relationship.

The very important spiritual side of this matter is not mentioned. This was an intensely difficult lesson for the Prophet ﷺ, for he had not received guidance on what to do in the case of someone being accused without evidence being presented. Since the person accused was his own wife, and since he had no specific guidance on the matter, he could do nothing but suffer. He did not dare interact with his wife, not knowing whether her status as his wife was valid anymore.

Mentioning these facts would have shown that his abandoning her for a month was not an act of him throwing away his wife until she was proven innocent, as it would appear to a critical reader. Both in this book and Karen Armstrong’s  Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, the focus on the Prophet’s persona and his sociopolitical status sometimes causes the fact of his utter servitude toward God to be neglected. In the issue of Aisha’s accusation, he was a helpless servant of God, not knowing what to do to please Him.

Later it is mentioned that Aisha remained upset with the fact that the Prophet had doubted her chastity. Her mother asks her to thank the Prophet ﷺ for forgiving her and taking her back, but she says she will only thank God, since the Prophet ﷺ had doubted her. This, while seemingly a negative fact, is a good illustration of the fact that she maintained her independence of will and did not act as an intellectual slave to her husband, but considered him a human that could be challenged. This proves Islam’s detractors wrong in considering Muslim women the toys of their men, and it also proves Salafis wrong in considering women the toys of men.

Sufficient justification for the war on Khaybar is not mentioned: the fact that it continuously sought to pay Arab tribes to go to war with the Muslims, hoping to remain the supreme Jewish power over the gentiles of Arabia, the way Israel today hopes to remain the supreme Jewish power over the gentiles of the Middle East, and using one group of gentiles to do their dirty work for them against another group while they themselves remained safe in their fortresses, the way today they get Christians to fund and fight Israel’s wars for them.

The Prophet’s manners

As mentioned, the book approaches the Prophet ﷺ as a human to be understood and emulated, and many examples are shown of his immense kindness, tolerance and civility toward both his followers and his sworn enemies. While on the whole the image of the Prophet ﷺ presented by the book is believable, there are also passages like the following which appear to attach too much of the author’s own reading to the Prophet ﷺ:

The Messenger, moreover, drew from children his sense of play and innocence; from them he learned to look at people and the world around him with wonder. From watching children experience beauty he also more fully developed his sense of aesthetics: in front of beauty, he wept, he was moved, he sometimes sobbed, and he was often filled with well-being by the poetic musicality of a phrase or by the spiritual call of a verse offered by the Most Generous, the Infinitely Beautiful.

It would have helped if these characteristics were backed by concrete examples.

Conclusion

In the Footsteps of the Prophet is a book I would recommend to anyone wishing to get something of an accurate view of Islam’s founder, a view that is neither harshly critical or fawningly uncritical piece of marketing. It shows the Prophet ﷺ as those who know the most about him see him, and I cannot give it a higher praise than this.

A non-Muslim may naturally be skeptical of a book, written by a Muslim, that offers such a seemingly charitable glimpse of the Prophet. Muslims have everything to gain if non-Muslims see the founder of their religion in a more friendly light. To that I will say that this is the Prophet ﷺ as Muslims see him. There are no dark secrets. If someone says he said or did something horrible, we reject it. The Prophet’s character, as his wife Aisha said, “was the Quran”. We think of the Prophet as a follower of the Quran, someone who did his utmost to embody its teachings, and if someone makes a claim about the Prophet that is highly out of character for him as a person who lived and breathed the Quran, then we reject that claim regardless of where it comes from.

Our only entirely reliable source about the Prophet is the Quran, therefore the Quranic worldview and its view of the Prophet takes priority over everything else (including hadith narrations), the Quran is the criterion by which we judge all other claims about the Prophet. As Abu Hanifah says, the Prophet of God cannot do anything that goes against the Book of God, therefore if someone says the Prophet did something that is out of character for him as bearer of the Quran, then that is automatically rejected.

Therefore if someone tells you the Prophet did this horrible thing, and that horrible thing is not mentioned in the Quran and goes against the Quran’s principles, then the rational thing to do is to distrust that saying. Saying the Prophet broke a Quranic principle is an extraordinary claim and requires extraordinary evidence.

Skeptics of Islam who say this book gives an overly friendly view of the Prophet have misunderstood Islam. The view of the Prophet ﷺ presented in this book is the most Quranic view of him that we have, and therefore by definition it is the most accurate and believable for Muslims, and thus it should also be considered the most accurate and believable view by non-Muslims.

As rational humans, we believe in Islam because we have read the Quran and consider the likelihood of it being from God greater than the likelihood of it being a forgery, its evidence has overwhelmed us and we have gone with our conscience, which is to accept it. Different people, of course, arrive at Islam via different roads, but the place of the Quran is central. If it wasn’t a miraculous text that could prove its own truth, it wouldn’t be worth believing in. Our Islam starts with the Quran, not with the Prophet. To a Muslim, the Quran has center stage, and once you have accepted the truth of the Quran using your rational brain, what people say about the Prophet ﷺ is only of secondary importance. To you, the Prophet ﷺ is merely the Quran’s messenger, and therefore you judge him as a messenger. If someone mentions that he did something unfitting of the Quran, that is automatically rejected, since the Quran is your living, day-to-day guide, who cares what is written in some ancient history book that has no guarantee of being 100% true, even if it is generally reliable?

A skeptic who finds random narrations mentioning horrible things about the Prophet, thinking this somehow proves him to not be a very nice person, has totally misunderstood Islam. We judge the Prophet not by those narrations, but by the Quran, and if those narrations go against the Quran’s principles or the fact that the Prophet’s mission was to embody this book, then those narrations are automatically highly suspect and not worth talking about to a Muslim.

The Quran gives us a specific view of the Prophet ﷺ, and this is the unquestionable, unchallenged view. This is the canonical Prophet ﷺ that we love and follow. If you find something in an authentic hadith collection that goes against this canonical Prophet ﷺ, then say that the canonical Prophet is inaccurate, that this hadith takes precedence, then you are simply showing that you have not understood Islam. Our only 100% reliable source of evidence regarding the Prophet ﷺ is the Quran, therefore this is the canonical view. Everything else is less reliable by definition, and therefore should be judged according to the Quran’s canonical view.

This is a simple matter of giving weight to more reliable evidence (the Quran) over less reliable evidence (hadith). If the more reliable evidence gives you one view of the Prophet, and the less reliable evidence gives you another one, if you are a rational human, you will prefer the view arrived at through the more reliable evidence, and this is what we Muslims do, and this is what In the Footsteps of the Prophet does. Those who have an ax to grind against Islam ignore the reliable evidence and waste their time building an alternate-reality version of the Prophet ﷺ based on less reliable evidence, a version of the Prophet that goes entirely against the Quranic view. What they say about the Prophet, therefore, is automatically rejected, since they intentionally ignore the most important evidence (the Quran) and instead focus on secondary evidence that confirm their preconceived biases.

A fair-minded person should therefore see that what In the Footsteps of the Prophet does is exactly what we Muslims do in trying to arrive at an accurate understanding of the Prophet ﷺ; we use the canonical, Quranic view to make sense of a world of secondary evidence of varying authenticity to reach a good enough understanding of the Prophet’s mind and career.

Why Islam forbids extramarital touching and kissing even if no sex is involved

I have read one or two of your articles on your website. It’s really insightful, jazakumullah ahsanul jaza. I have a question similar yet specific about homosexuality. How does Islam view if there is two friends of the same sex who love each other in a platonic-romantic way, and have strong desire to express their love with kissing or even making out, yet no intention of leading it to eventually having sex? Thank you.

The generally accepted principle of fiqh (Islamic law and jurisprudence) is that seeking sexual gratification with another person is only allowed in the context of an officially sanctioned relationship (i.e. marriage). From this principle, kissing someone you desire, whether they are of the same sex or the opposite sex, is considered forbidden, since it is in the wrong context.

Therefore if sexual desire and gratification is involved when you kiss someone of the same sex, then that is in the non-permissible zone.

While what you describe may appear harmless, in moral philosophy acts are considered not in isolation, but in the context of such acts becoming commonplace. If everyone started making out with people they desired, saying they did not intend to have sex, what would be the result?

Some unmarried Christians use oral sex as a loophole for enjoying sexual gratification, thinking that this preserves Christian sexual morality. This shows a lack of understanding for sexual morality. Sexual morality exists to channel sexual desires in ways that do not harm the persons involved and the rest of society. If everyone started having oral sex with people they desired, the result is a general laxness of attitudes toward sexual morality. It will seem quite foolish and arbitrary to most people that one form of sexual gratification with another person is allowed but another form is not.

The issue of making out is less dramatic than that of oral sex, but permitting it comes with the same consequences. Christians, again, provide a good case study. While 1000 years ago they were far more insistent on limiting contact between the sexes, the standards were slowly lowered, so that it became commonly accepted for unmarried people to enjoy some sexual gratification with each other, starting with the toleration of intense dances that greatly increased contact to letting unmarried couples spend hours of alone time together. That led to today’s Christian culture, where sex outside of marriage is the norm rather than the exception. Open-minded Christians have difficulty accepting the prohibition on extramarital sex because their religious authorities tolerate some extramarital sexual gratification.

Islam’s solution to this is to prohibit all forms of sexual gratification with another person outside of marriage, even if it is merely holding hands, because once any form of extramarital sexual gratification becomes commonplace, the door is opened for it to be extended slightly. Each generation lowers standards until a point is reached where sex outside of marriage becomes commonplace. This has happened in all Christian countries, and it is slowly happening in the non-devout sections of Muslim countries too.

One may go on to ask what the point of sexual morality is. What is so bad about sex outside of marriage? What is bad is that it reduces society’s fitness, causing it to slowly disintegrate. Look at the world’s civilizations and you will see that wherever sexual freedom is tolerated, that civilization is slowly going extinct due to below-replacement fertility rates. The people have lost their hope in the future and do not consider themselves worthy of having children, or they selfishly prefer their freedom and pleasure over bringing up children, and the result of these trends is that the number of old people dying is greater than the number of children being born every year, so that their society slowly goes extinct and is replaced by other societies that do not tolerate sexual freedom.

One of Islam’s primary goals is the long-term survival of humanity. Islam believes that there is a positive value in the existence and continuation of humanity and its practices are geared toward this goal. Usury, which enables the wealthy to drain the wealth of society, is forbidden, one reason being that it makes it unaffordable for people to have children. Many people in the West are enslaved to hundreds of thousands of dollars of student, car and mortgage debt, having to pay $2000 or more monthly in interest to the super rich, so how can they afford to have children?

Islam forbids all things that are destructive to humanity’s long-term survival; it thinks in terms of generations and centuries, and it forbids short-term gratification if it brings with it long-term harm.

So regarding your specific question of doing those acts with a member of the same sex, Islamic morality forbids it. Since (or if) sexual attraction is involved, then the case is similar to the case of an unmarried man and woman. This is a matter of conscience between you and God. Islam forbids that you eat bacon, even though eating it will not be the end of the world, you avoid it as a matter of respect for God’s laws, even if the thing seems relatively quite harmless. The same applies to drinking a can of beer.

God forbids certain things and requires that we carry out other things, all of which are there to enforce upon us a highly specific way of life. Telling one lie, making out with someone you are not married to, stealing $50 dollars when it seems like it wouldn’t harm anyone, and drinking a can of beer are all forbidden although they may all seem relatively harmless at the time, because all of these go against the enforcement of God’s structure. God wants us to act a certain way for humanity’s long-term good, even if occasionally breaking His laws does not seem to be harmful to anyone. Giving yourself the right to break any of His laws causes a degradation within your soul and makes it easier for you to break another law. For this reason, for your own good, it is best to avoid all things that your conscience is not comfortable with or that seem to go against His laws, no matter how seemingly unimportant.

Why is sexual harassment of women common in Muslim countries? IQ and development, not religion

What I have noticed is that in Muslim countries in which there are more modest woman I get more catcalls, harassment, men following me, staring at my body parts etc. I’m not saying I’m for zina, but it feels unfair that they take out their sexual frustration on us. Maybe you’re not able to relate to this, but every day I feel dirty. Even covered. Imagine people saying filthy stuff about your private parts, touching your etc. In countries where sex is more normal I haven’t encountered this

Sorry to read that, and I hope it gets better for you. I am actually very familiar with this problem, having spent my teenage years in a large Middle Eastern city (Sulaimaniyyah, Iraq).

This appears to be a matter of intelligence and culture and not religion or sexual frustration. In the United States, catcalls and harassment are common in ghettos and trailer parks, where the lower class lives, even though they have as much sex as anyone else and probably more than the middle class.

Lower class people often think catcalls and harassment are fine, this has been my experience with the lower class whether in Iraq or in the United States. By “lower class” I do not mean poor, I mean those who are unintelligent, rude and uneducated and proud of the way they are. They are generally poor and live ghettos and slums, but their being lower class is not due to their poverty, it is due to low IQ and a lack of devotion to any belief system.

In a country like the US the lower class is very well separated from the middle class. The middle class live in certain neighborhoods, the lower class live miles away in a different part of town. In this way the two classes rarely run into each other. The middle class can go shopping, get their errands done, go to work, do everything they want and go home without having to run into the lower class, in this way they can avoid the bad manners of the lower class.

In the Middle East, the classes are not very well separated in general. There are market districts where everyone goes, so that the classes constantly run into each other, and this is why it is hard for someone like you to avoid the type of man you are referring to. As these countries develop, the separation of the middle class and the lower class should increase, and with it the ability to avoid lower class men.

If you want to know whether the problem is Islam or something else, compare the country you are in with a non-Muslim country that has similar average intelligence (IQ) and similar levels of development. Egypt has an average IQ of about 83, similar to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. I doubt women will fair much better in these two countries compared to Egypt when it comes to harassment.

The people in Egypt (and in the USA) who harass and catcall are not doctors and engineers, they are uneducated. And if you look at the middle class of the USA or Egypt, they are both equally good-mannered in general. I went to one of the top schools of my country in Iraq for high school, where boys and girls were mixed. Since everyone was middle class or upper class, everyone was perfectly good-mannered, not because we had Western-style sexual freedom (we did not), but because we all came from an intelligent and good-mannered section of society.

Instead of Islam being a cause for sexual harassment, it might be acting as a great limiter on it. If these societies abandoned Islam, the problem might get much worse. In the non-Muslim African country of Botswana (70% Christian), in 2010, 92 out of 100,000 women had been raped. In the Muslim African country of Senegal, that rate was 5.6 out of 100,000 women in 2010, 16 times lower. These two countries are not exactly comparable, due to different IQs and levels of development, but this should give people, especially Christian Westerners, pause when they try to blame Islam for the Middle East’s problems. A woman in non-Muslim Botswana is 16 times more likely to get raped than in Muslim Senegal, so it logically follows that Islam might possibly be having a beneficial effect in reducing rape.

I have never met a devout Muslim male who thinks it is acceptable to harass women. One could in fact say that the problem of these Muslim countries is that they have large non-Muslim underclasses, people who are Muslim by name but do not follow it in any manner in their lives (except when it comes to arranging weddings and funerals). A devout Muslim, no matter how sexually frustrated, would never catcall a woman, because they have sufficient self-respect and empathy to know that it is against good manners and civility to do that.

If a practicing Muslim is 100 times less likely to harass women compared to a non-practicing Muslim who knows nearly nothing about Islam and does not follow it, it is only logical to conclude that practicing Islam helps reduce sexual harassment, and that abandoning Islam will almost certainly make the problem much worse. It is the underclass that has abandoned Islam in all but name in the Middle East that is largely responsible for the harassment problem.

What you could possibly do is try to avoid such people, such as by shopping at malls instead of at shopping districts. If you can get a car and stick to the middle class areas of town, then you may run into them less often.

A certain level of intelligence is necessary for a man to have sufficient empathy for women to realize that harassing them is a really nasty thing to do. For this reason in well-developed high IQ countries like Japan (non-Muslim) and Malaysia (Muslim), women are far safer from harassment compared to undeveloped low IQ countries, whether non-Muslim or Muslim, where the men, due to their lack of intellectual capacity and empathy, are more likely to act according to their animal instincts without caring about their social responsibility or the psychological trauma they inflict on women.

Below is a table that lists countries from the highest IQ (Hong Kong) to lowest. You will notice that the highest IQ countries (those on the left) are generally the countries where women enjoy the most respect.

This table does not show the IQ of everyone in each country. It shows the average IQ, meaning the average person you meet will have this IQ, but there will be many people with higher and lower IQs. Countries with higher average IQs will have larger middle class populations, for example in the Netherlands, 50% or more of the population will have “middle class” values and manners. In India, where the average IQ is 81, the percentage of the population that will have middle class values and manners might be 15% of the population. This means that in India it is far more likely to run into men who think harassing women is OK than you would be if you were in the Netherlands.

Malaysia, with its average IQ of 92, is somewhere in the middle. Women will not be as free from harassment as they would be in the Netherlands, but they would fair much better than they would if they were in Egypt or India.

IQ might be the most significant factor, but it is not the only factor that affects these things. Testosterone levels may also play an important role, and perhaps more important than all of these is cultural and religious values. A truly devout Muslim (or Christian) man is not going to harass women even if they have a low IQ and a strong desire to do so, because their religious values will help them override their animal desires.

A Collection of Quotations of Ahmad Moftizadeh

I read this book as part of my reading of all available material on Ahmad Moftizadeh. It is a short book of a little over 100 pages. Below I will mention some of the ideas and quotations I found interesting.

Regarding education, he says that the best way to raise Muslim children is for the parents to be good, spiritual Muslims, meaning that teaching them technical things about Islam is of secondary importance. Sending your child off to Quran school while they are treated with disrespect and abuse at home is not going to turn them into good Muslims. Their main idea about Islam will come from their parents and the rest of the people they see around them who are supposedly Muslim.

O God, if possible, place all the troubles of this world on my shoulders so that no on else may suffer.

The above is an expression of his love for humanity and his willingness to suffer and die for people’s sake. His unconditionally loving attitude toward people was perhaps the greatest reason why he attracted so many devoted followers.

Changing society is secondary and is a consequence of changing individuals. it is individuals that must first be changed.

The purest state of humanity is childhood. The purest human is a child. It is children who most deserve to be served and taken care of.

I am not sold on this idea, because an adult is just a child into whom decades of effort have been poured. When the time comes to decide between allocating resources to children versus adults, who should be given preference? Moftizadeh suggests it is the child, but I don’t see this as a clear choice. Serving an adult so that they can become productive members of society can make it more likely that children will be served.

Taking faith away from people is like taking instincts away from animals.

Meaning that without faith, humans will be as lost as animals would be without their instincts.

The Quran, for a person’s spiritual livelihood is similar to the earth for a person’s material livelihood.

Meaning that the same way that the earth sustains us materially, the Quran sustains us spiritually.

I swear to God, in all honesty and frankness, that true faith in God cannot exist in the heart of someone until that heart loves the poor.

The first pillar of religious activism is the love of the poor.

When a Muslim person’s past is not burdened by sins and disobedience of God, his or her eyes do not become veiled by delusion and knows that God loves him or her.

Meaning that when hardship strikes, a person who is close to God will not think badly of God and think that He dislikes them and enjoys punishing them.

Feeling more spiritual with friends, less spiritual when alone

I could be a very different person with my friends( a good one that i always remind them of islam) but when I am not with them,i am not that way,how do I prevent it

That’s natural. Abu Bakr and another companion (may God be pleased with them) complained to the Prophet ﷺ that they felt very spiritual in his presence, but when they were away from him, they started to feel unspiritual and concerned with the worldly life rather than the afterlife. The Prophet ﷺ said this is the natural state of humans.

What you can do is read beneficial books in your alone time, listen to beneficial lectures, read the Quran and worship. You can also spend your time doing things you enjoy, such as a hobby, since Islam does not require you to spend all of your time in worship.

Once you can avoid sins small and great and are able to perform all of the recommended voluntary prayers, then you have reached the proper state of faith and spirituality, and from there on you can spend some of your time seeking knowledge and the rest of it doing things you enjoy.

Why can’t I pray tahajjud anymore?

I am a high school student, my teacher told me that she wasn’t a good student in her old times,but because she prayed tahajud,her results were magnificent.4 years back, at 3 30 am sharp I would wake up,almost every single day of the year,but now,i would just wake up on a usual daily basis,(6 am) ,what have I gone wrong? I see people that don’t even pray have success in their life,but I don’t want to be that way,what advice could you give,for me to wake up and pray tahajud?

The most important advice I can give you is to sincerely ask God for His help in performing tahajjud.

If over the years your closeness to God has decreased, then you must work on this. Many of the great early Muslims have said that sins cause God to forbid us from doing extra acts of worship, since these acts of worship are an honor that He grants.

Beyond that, your sleep schedule matters. If you try to get up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle, it can be very difficult to get up. Each person’s sleep cycle is different. If getting up four hours after you fall asleep is very difficult, you can try getting up four and a half hours or five hours after you fall asleep, or three and a half hours.

If you are not getting enough sleep, then it can be very difficult to interrupt your sleep to get up to pray. Try to get eight hours of sleep, for example by getting up four hours after sleeping, praying for 30 minutes or however long, then sleeping another four hours. Another way is to nap 7-8 hours after waking up in the morning (in the midday) so that the amount of total sleep you get in 24 hours is close to 8 hours (perhaps 7.5 hours at night and 30 minutes in the afternoon).

And if none of this works, you can pray tahajjud before going to bed, which is what I do, since interrupting my sleep makes it extremely difficult for me to work the next day (I do programming work, which is mentally demanding).

 

“How to avoid sexual desires?”

How to avoid sexual desires? (i’m a girl)

We all have sexual desires and there is no way to completely stop them. There is nothing wrong with sexual desire as long as it does not cause you to sin. If your sexual desire is difficult to manage, you can weaken it with fasting or dieting. You can also google “how to reduce libido” to find more suggestions.

From an Islamic perspective, the closer you are to God, the easier it is to avoid sins and obey Him. For advice on making it easier to avoid sins, please see my answers Islamic Strategies for Escaping a Sinful Life and God has not abandoned you.

“He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him…”

He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him. I was a good girl, i prayed 5 times a day and i sinned. When I couldn’t do more he left. I feel so heavy, my heart aches so much and i see no forgiveness for me. I left my Lord for someone i loved and now i feel nothing but grief.

Your sin is not greater than God, and the greatest sin of all would be to lose hope in His mercy and forgiveness and to delay repentance thinking that He is incapable of forgiving you. Go back to God, knowing that there is no safety except by His side, and even if you sin a thousand times, know that He is always ready to forgive, if you sincerely seek His forgiveness and work to improve yourself.

“I am tired of fighting and tired of trying…”

how could life fight me so hard while i didn’t do anything to deserve this hurt ,, I am tired of fighting and tired of trying, i don’t need this life I don’t want it, i can’t hold on, life is not for me i think i came here wrong i don’t belong here i don’t know where i even belong but it’s not here,, you should give it to someone else a dying baby whose parents are crying for his life or maybe a dying old father who has children crying for another day with him,, u should give it to them not me

Life’s difficulties are training for what comes afterwards, in a year or two. No difficulty lasts forever. Instead of succumbing to your difficulty and listening to Satan’s whispers when he tells you your life is purposeless and meaningless, patiently wait until God changes things for you.

If you lose hope in God in times of extreme difficulty, it means you will also lose your dedication to Him in times of ease. There is no such thing as a true friend of God who is close to Him and worships Him when things are going easy and who then turns his back on Him when hardship befalls them.

God teaches us to think the best of Him at all times. Satan  tells us to think the worst of Him, to lose hope in His mercy and question His wisdom. Which voice do you choose to listen to?

When you can, follow the steps I describe in my answer God has not abandoned you.

If you cannot find the motivation to do anything to get closer to God, trust in His saying “with hardship comes ease” and do your best to survive until things change.

“Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?”

Can you please tell me what is the correct way to recite surah fatihah? Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?

The Arabic letters say “bism Allah al-rahman al-raheem”, but when you read in Arabic, you say bismillahir rahmanir raheem. The way you pronounce certain words changes based on the context, so the reading is usually slightly different from what it appears to someone who doesn’t know Arabic very well.

To learn the correct way to recite Surat al-Fatihah, just listen to its recitation many times until you memorize it. Here is my favorite recitation of the surah.

“This world has always been so cruel to me…”

This world has always been so cruel to me. I have given up on life. Now, I’m planning to leave my home and live my rest of the life in orphanage/Housing home. So that my parents/siblings won’t get upset by seeing me in such state all the time. Is this step right islamically?

Sorry to read that. I cannot give you any specific advice without knowing more about your age and situation, but what you are suggesting (of leaving home) sounds like almost certainly the wrong thing to do. If you do not like your present situation, think of the possible solutions then consult with your family and relatives and maybe a solution will be found. Since your decision affects your family, this is not something you can decide all by yourself.

How and From Where Do We Begin? By Ahmad Moftizadeh

Chon u La Kwewa Dast Pe Bkain (“How and From Where Do We Begin?”) is a 170-page Kurdish book based on interviews with Ahmad Moftizadeh done after he was released from prison (and soon before his death) and perhaps some of his writings.

It provides an overview of his thinking processes regarding various matters, especially the proper form of conduct for those who want to emulate his way. The information is often scattered and no formal approach program or vision is presented. Moftizadeh’s approach has generally been like the Prophet’s ﷺ, offering guidance as situations presented themselves, rather than sitting down to build systems for people to follow.

On the question of political work, he offers some guidance on the issues that his own movement had, without doing a formal analysis, and saying that different people at different times and places can reach their own conclusions regarding the best modes of action when doing Islamic political work. He strongly criticizes the political partisanship practiced by so many Islamist groups. In his view (and mine, too) matters of the heart take precedence, so that a Muslim who uses partisan thinking to attack another Muslim has automatically lost the way of wisdom. He also mentions that a key source of corruption within Islamic movements is when individuals seek power within the movement.

My key discovery regarding political Islam has been that Islamic movements must never seek power. His ideas are close to this, and his movement (Maktab Quran) does not seek power, but he does not clearly state it. In his thinking, it is apparent that he hasn’t arrived at this conclusion, thinking that at certain times and places, once a certain stage of growth has been reached, groups of Muslim can engage in political partying and do more good than harm.

He mentions that one of the biggest proofs the truth of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood ﷺ is that his wife believed in him immediately. A wife knows her husband of many years better than most people. She knows his weaknesses and flaws. If she had known him to be untrustworthy, or known him to have significant flaws, she wouldn’t have supported him in bringing about a new ideology that totally opposed her culture.

And after her, his closest friends also believed in him quickly, even though he didn’t have any proof to offer them except a few verses of the Quran. Again, this shows the immense amount of trust these people had in him.

Sayyid Qutb

He is asked about his opinion on certain luminaries of the 20th century Islamic revival, such as Maududi and Qutb, and is asked why he does not refer to them often, and is asked whether he somehow disapproves of them or dislikes them like some people have suggested.

He says that loves Qutb’s message and considers him far greater than himself, and mentions a few lines of poetry he had written in which the word “Qutb” is used both metaphorically and as a reference to Sayyid Qutb.

He says that he does not have a very good memory for crediting ideas and sayings to their authors, so that he uses what he has learned from these men without saying it is from them. He also says that due to his business with social and political work throughout his active (pre-prison) life, that he did not have time to read too much, often taking ideas from other people.

Tazkiyah

A large part of the book is dedicated to clarifying the concept of tazkiyah (which could be translated as “spiritual cultivation”), which in Moftizadeh’s view takes precedence over instruction. Instruction is merely the the transfer of information from a person to another, while in Moftizadeh’s view, Islamic education should focus on tazkiyah, imparting on people a subconscious appreciation for Islamic manners and ways of thinking. Instruction is the transfer of information, tazkiyah is the transfer of character, and far more important.

He does his best to clarify what he has in mind regarding the difference between tazkiyah and mere instruction, using the example of Prophet Muhammad. To perform tazkiyah is to provide for people the subtle guidance and encouragement for them to become spiritually uplifted. To merely instruct people, the way it is done in various Islamic education systems, without focusing on imparting character, is going to do little good and has little affinity to the Prophet’s method of instruction.

Discrediting the madrasa

A large part of Moftizadeh’s thinking regarding Islamic education is to discredit the classical system that taught various technical topics without giving a thought to the cultivation of character, creating insincere clerics who did their Islamic work as a job without their hearts and souls being in it, and causing people to consider Islam something irrelevant to their daily lives, similar to government.

He is also equally critical of Sufis who cut themselves off from society and allowed Islam’s highly dynamic, highly activist message to be lost.

Moftizadeh and I agree on considering Islam an activist movement rather than just a religion, and I think he would agree with this principle of mine:

No Muslim’s faith is complete if he or she is not an anti-poverty activist.

To me any Muslim leader who is not seriously worrying about and planning against poverty is either a hypocrite or a highly ignorant person, and in both cases is not worth following (he may, of course, have useful technical knowledge.)

Love and dawa

One of Moftizadeh’s key teachings is that a crucial part of spiritually uplifting others (whether those others are religious or not) is to treat everyone with kindness (mehrabani) and love, and to joke with people and talk to them in a way that reaches them (one would call it “building rapport” today).

Talking about “reaching people” is quickly misinterpreted by many (Muslims and non-Muslims) as a way for advocating for clever manipulation tactics for converting people to Islam.

There are two types of dawa (“inviting people to Islam”). One of them spends time and money on increasing the number of Muslims, and creates semi-missionaries who encourage people to embrace Islam using various tactics. The other type of dawa is to embody Islam, to live the Quran.

To me religion is a very personal thing, and any effort to connect with the hearts of other people with an aim in mind (to make them Muslim) is automatically dishonest.

To me, and more or less to Sayyid Qutb, Moftizadeh, and Tariq Ramadan , our mission is to love and to be kind, to do good in this world, to help people find a better way when they are stuck one way or another, without ever having the goal of turning them into one thing or another, treating their dignity and privacy with the utmost respect.

Religion and spirituality is a very personal matter, and it is highly disrespectful (not to mention awkward, and futile) to barge into people’s lives and try to convert them.

Proper dawa is goal-less. You do not make someone your “project” and try to finish this project by converting them. You, instead, treat everyone with love, kindness and empathy, while also embodying the rest of Islam in your daily life. Our interactions with non-Muslims must never be on the basis of hopefully one day converting them to Islam, this always leads to short-term minded, power-seeking behavior. Any kindness and empathy we show them must be given freely, selflessly, without expecting anything in return, and this means without expecting any return of the favor, or any added friendliness from them toward us and our religion.

We practice Islam and in this way show people what it is. They can take it or leave it.

I also feel that any money spent on converting non-Muslims to Islam is far better spent on eliminating poverty and educating those who are already Muslim, and especially new converts. In my view anyone who converts to Islam should automatically be given a monthly zakat stipend by their local mosque (if they are not wealthy), to make them feel like they belong to a community that cares about their well-being.

 

Masturbation is not clearly forbidden or allowed in Islam

The generally accepted principle of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is that when it comes to enjoying sexual pleasure, everything is forbidden unless it is explicitly allowed. The Quran’s general teaching on sexuality is that Muslims should “guard their privates” except when taking pleasure in the context of a religiously sanctioned intimate relationship.

A strict interpretation of this verse is that all sexual pleasure is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse. A non-strict interpretation is that all sexual intercourse is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse, which means that masturbation is not included in the prohibition.

The Quran never mentions masturbation, so we cannot use it to reach a final judgment. As for hadith, there isn’t a single authentic narration that mentions masturbation (as stated by fatwa number 35889 from IslamWeb.net), therefore hadith cannot help us either in reaching a definitive judgment.

Ambr bin Dinar, one of the Tabieen (belonging to the generations that came soon after the Companions) and a hadith and fiqh scholar says, “I see no issue with masturbation.”1 Jabir bin Zaid, known by the nickname Abul Shaathaa, student of the companion Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) also says he sees no problem with it2. Ibn Abbas says that marriage is better than masturbation, and masturbation is better than fornication.3. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, founder of the Hanbali school of fiqh, says there is no issue with it.4

The most famous scholar to permit masturbation was Imam al-Shawkani (died 1839), a widely respected reformer and revivalist. While he ruled that masturbation is permitted in Islam without conditions (other scholars have said that there are conditions needed to make it permissible, but al-Shawkani says no conditions are needed), he says:

There is no doubt that engaging in this act is a flaw (in one’s character), a show of a lack of self-respect, and a show of abasement in manners and a lack of willpower.

So he criticizes the act, but says there isn’t sufficient evidence to forbid it.

In the modern world, the Moroccan scholar Abdel-Bari Zamzami (died 2016) allowed masturbation for men and women, saying that since it helps one avoid illicit sexual acts, and since there is no clear evidence that it is forbidden, permitting it is more beneficial than forbidding it.

The Maliki and Shafii schools say that masturbation is forbidden.

Making sense of the situation

What scholars have often done is try to take the vagueness out of the scripture by enforcing their own interpretations, either saying masturbation is a sin (some of them say it is a major sin and the person who does it is somehow cursed), or saying that there is nothing wrong with it, such as Imam al-Shawkani who permitted it. Both of these approaches ignore an important teaching of the Prophet ﷺ in dealing with vagueness in religious matters, expressed in the two following authentic narrations:

“What God makes permissible in His book (the Quran), then that is permissible, and what He makes prohibited, that is prohibited, and what He is silent about, that is out of His mercy, so accept His mercy, for God does not forget anything.”

“God has made certain things obligatory, so do not neglect those, and He has set certain bounds, so do not overstep those bounds, and He has remained silent on certain matters out of His mercy on you, not out of forgetfulness, so do not seek out those matters (i.e. do not make a big deal of them).”

When it comes to masturbation, the Quran and the Sunnah do not explicitly prohibit it, and they do not explicitly allow it, leaving it in a gray area.

To a pious person who is eager to please God, the meaning of these things is clear:

  1. It is not important enough to be explicitly forbidden or allowed by God and His Prophet ﷺ.
  2. Every Muslim’s aim should be to avoid it if they can, since true love and fear of God means that a person should avoid everything that has even the slightest possibility of displeasing Him.
  3. If someone is overwhelmed by desire into doing it, or cannot control their impulses so that they habitually do it, they should not obsess about, they should repent and go on with their lives, knowing that what they have done is a small lapse in manners, rather than a crime.

Masturbation, teenagers and scholarly humility

Teenagers, especially teenage boys, have heightened sexual desire, while also having poor impulse control, since the brain’s prefrontal cortext does not finish developing until after the age of 25. These two factors (increased sexual desire, low ability to control urges) can make it very difficult for them to avoid masturbation.

Making teenagers feel bad about masturbation is a short-sighted and destructive thing that many preachers misguidedly do, decreasing these teenagers’ religious self-esteem and making them feel as if they will never be good Muslims, since they are supposedly committing a great sin and cannot stop themselves.

The result is that these teenagers start to think of Islam as an outdated and cruel religion that is asking them to do the impossible.

The balanced approach is to tell teenagers that it is best if they avoid it since it is in a gray area, while also telling them that it is not clearly forbidden, therefore if they cannot help themselves and end up doing it, they should not obsess about it, but repent and go on with their lives.

Rather than making baseless statements about masturbation, saying it is allowed or saying it is forbidden, we must acknowledge the vagueness of the Islamic texts on this issue, while also respecting the wisdom of the scholars in their dislike for it.

 

Conclusion

Different stages of growth and different life circumstances affect a person’s desire for masturbation. Depression, loneliness and a lack of social interaction, for example, makes it more likely that a person will want to masturbate, and not just among humans. I have seen many articles mention that monkeys in captivity masturbate, but those who live in the wild do not.

Most of our scholars consider masturbation an undignified act that a self-respecting person would not do. While they are right about this when it comes to themselves, they should have empathy for younger people living in very different circumstances and subject to far stronger sexual desires and a lower ability to control their impulses due to the fact that their brain development is not complete. Instead of asking the impossible of young people, of having perfect control over their desires like the scholars themselves, they should treat them with kindness and forgiveness, telling them that there is a consensus among Muslims that masturbation is not a dignified thing to do, but that Islam does not clearly forbid it, and that as people age, it becomes easier to avoid it.

Niqab is not more “Islamic” than hijab, and why I do not recommend it

As Muslims, the program we follow is the Quran. Its priorities are our priorities. Those priorities are to be kind, generous, understanding, forgiving, to work to make this world a better place as God’s stewards (agents, khalaa’if in Arabic) on the earth.

Veiling your face is not one of the Quran’s priorities, it is not even mentioned in it, and it should be considered in the light of the Quran’s priorities. Does veiling your face help you more effectively embody the Quran and carry out its program?

The root of the question is the matter of the Quran versus hadith. The Salafi view, which is a minority view that has billions of dollars of Saudi funding behind it, says that what the early Muslims did, we too must do. If their women wore niqab, then our women must do it too, since they were “the best generation” of Muslims and the represent the ideal all Muslims most follow.

The alternative view, which is the mainstream view followed by hundreds of millions of Muslims, is to follow fiqh al-awlawiyyaat (the law of priorities), giving importance to things the Quran considers important, and not obsessing with things the Quran does not consider important.

While Salafi Muslims are often obsessed with things never even hinted at in the Quran, mainstream Muslims read the Quran and try to apply its message in the modern world.

These differences lead to two different types of Islam. Salafi Islam thinks niqab and various other things about dress code are important parts of Islam, because it refuses to distinguish between the Quran and other texts. It treats all of Islam’s early history as a binding program that must be followed, thinking that the best Islam is one that creates an accurate reenactment of 630 CE.

The mainstream view rejects this, saying we follow the Quran, we do not follow Islamic history as if it is a program in itself. If the Quran and the most authentic narrations (those known as mutawatir) do not command that women should wear niqab, then it is not a necessary part of Islam, it is a cultural practice of early Muslims that we are free to adopt or ignore as it fits our modern context.

Since I belong to the Quran-focused camp (rather than the Salafi camp), to me niqab isn’t just unimportant, it must be judged within the context of the Quran’s priorities, and if it is found that wearing niqab goes against those priorities, it is more advisable to avoid it rather than wear it.

For Muslims living in the West and various other areas, wearing niqab will nearly always get in the way of applying the Quranic program more than it helps one follow it. Muslims are meant to belong to the societies in which they live, reforming it, working as activists to eradicate poverty and injustice, to create alliances with good people around them, Muslim and non-Muslim, in order to improve the world (please see Tariq Ramadan’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam for detailed explanation of what I mean by these priorities.)

The Salafi view, exemplified in the fatwas of Salafi leaders like Ibn Baaz, is that a woman is a walking “bag of fitnah” that has to be cut off from society for her own good and the good of everyone else. Mainstream Islam considers this view inhumane and disrespectful toward a woman’s dignity, respecting her right to be an active member of society.

Wearing niqab will act as a barrier that turns people away from Islam on the one hand, while also reducing a woman’s ability to interact and connect with those around her. I respect a woman’s right to wear what she wants, but if you ask my opinion on it, then niqab is not something I recommend, I consider its potential harms to be greater than its potential benefits. This is, of course, something that every person should decide for themselves. But those who say that niqab is a “duty” or that it is “recommended” are voicing a minority view that is rejected by the majority of Muslims. Niqab is neither a duty nor is it recommended, it is a tool whose benefits and harms should be judged according to one’s culture and local context.

If a woman sees that it is more beneficial for her to wear it in her particular time and place, then she can do it. And if other women elsewhere decide not to wear it, like the majority of Muslim women have decided, then that’s their choice, and no one has the right to say that their faith is not complete or that they should “aim higher”, having the goal to one day wear niqab. There is nothing “higher” about niqab, it is a tool for separating women from society. If a woman prefers to separate herself in this way, then that is her choice, but this is not something the majority of Muslim women would choose.

The Salafi view is that niqab is more “Islamic” because there is evidence that some early Muslims wore it. The Quran-focused view is that niqab is not more “Islamic”, because it has little relation to the Quranic program. It is considered a tool that may or may not be beneficial depending on the time and place. The Salafi view is that Islam is about reenacting history. The Quran-focused view is that Islam is about following the Quran’s priorities.

Instead of thinking of niqab as a duty, it must be thought of rationally. As a woman, does it help you carry out your function (of being God’s agent for good on Earth) more effectively or less effectively? Which is more beneficial for you, separating yourself from society (and wearing something that many people find disconcerting), or engaging with society? Is it beneficial for your psychological health to feel separated from and potentially disliked by the people you interact with daily?

This way of thinking of niqab does not apply to hijab, since hijab is commanded by the Quran (although the Quran’s view on hijab is more moderate than the views of many Muslims, since the Quran recognizes that different cultures may choose to show less or more than others).

Niqab can help a person in avoiding unwanted male attention, and the separation it causes is beneficial toward applying the Quran’s teachings regarding modesty and lowering the gaze. But these benefits must be weighed against the potential harms it does.

There is nothing wrong with a woman veiling her face at a certain occasion, the way Victorian women used to, if she decides that she is more comfortable that way and expects benefits from it. This is the proper way to think of wearing niqab, not as a duty to be practiced no matter what, but as a tool that can be used if and when necessary.

The highly respected mainstream scholar Yusuf al-Qaradhawi has done a detailed study of the Islamic rulings regarding niqab, published as al-Niqab Baina Fardiyyatihi wa Bid`iyyatihi, and his conclusion is that niqab is neither a duty, nor is it a bid`ah (false innovation) to be condemned, it is rather a tool, an item of clothing, that can be beneficial to wear at times and harmful at others.

Conflicts of Fitness: Islam, America, and Evolutionary Psychology

Get it on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook or paperback.

Conflicts of Fitness: Islam, America, and Evolutionary Psychology by A.S. Amin is a highly original examination of the dynamics of gender and sexuality within Western societies on the one hand, and within Islamic societies on the other.

As someone who has been working on reconciling Islam and evolutionary theory and on developing a post-feminist theory of human sexual dynamics, I hardly expect most books to tell me anything I haven’t already heard or thought about, but this book manages it. It is a short and enjoyable read that sticks to the facts and does not try to force an interpretation on them, which will make it agreeable to people coming from differing backgrounds and ideological currents.

The author’s main thesis is that different societies have different reproductive climates designed to maximize reproductive success. In a short-term climate, like that of most of the United States, human evolutionary instincts drive men to do their best to have sex with as many women as possible while not caring very much about a woman’s virginity and past sexual experiences. As for women, the climate drives them to display sexual receptivity through makeup, dress and manners designed to encourage men to think of them in sexual terms.

On the other hand, in a very-long-term climate like Saudi Arabia, men maximize reproductive success not by trying to have as many short-term relationships as possible, but by maximizing paternity confidence. Saudi Arabian seek virginal women so that they can be assured their children are theirs, and they go to extremes to ensure this; marrying very young women and preventing women from leaving the house, getting an education or a career.

This way of looking at the problem of women’s status in extremely conservative Muslim societies is a breath of fresh air from all of the moralistic, emotional and melodramatic treatments the subject has so far received on the hands of ideologically-driven intellectuals and commentators. It is also good to find another Muslim who can think of these matters in scientific and largely apolitical terms. Almost all Muslim-written materials on gender and sexuality is stuffed with moralistic thinking. Either they are traditionalists and try to “fight off” the West, or they are modernists and embrace unscientific moralistic frameworks like modern gender philosophy, exchanging one highly biased framework for another, abandoning one that unfairly favors males and embracing one that unfairly favors females, and thinking they have gained something out of this.

Get it on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook or paperback.

The topic of this book is close to my heart, as it has been a focus of my research for close to a decade, having recently published a book on it, Sex and Purpose. There are significant differences between our works. Amin’s book aims to be a scientific analysis that examines the problem without offering solutions. Mine is a highly opinionated work that takes evolutionary psychology for granted without bothering to offer citations, and a large focus of the book is offering a solution that bypasses modern feminist/post-modern thinking.

And while Amin’s book delves into a deep examination of Islam and gender politics, mine does not at all, since my book is not meant to have anything to do with religion directly.

A reader of Conflicts of Fitness or Sex and Purpose may wonder how a Muslim can write from an evolutionary perspective when Muslims do not generally accept the theory of evolution. Amin does not offer an explanation for this, focusing on his research topic without delving into this issue, leaving it to the readers to work it out. In my essay God, Evolution and Abiogenesis I explain how the Quran is compatible not only with evolution, but with abiogenesis as well.

Explaining Islam’s policy toward polygamy

Before reading this book, I had often thought of polygyny as a privilege granted men in order to deal with certain exceptional circumstances (such as having an infertile wife). Conflicts of Fitness explains that there is more to it than this, and that women, rather than men, are potentially the primary beneficiaries of polygyny:

  • If you have ten men and ten women, by allowing the most successful man to marry the two women, nine men are left to compete for the remaining eight women. These men will be forced to offer stronger commitment to these women in order to secure their hands in marriage, in this way creating a society where most relationships are highly committed.
  • Successful middle-aged men often strongly desire to use their wealth and success to build new families and have more children. In a monogamous society, such men are forced to divorce their current wives, or worse, cheat on them. In an Islamic society, a safe outlet is provided for these men, enabling them to keep their current wives (who, if divorced, would most likely be unable to marry again due to their old age), while also enabling them to create new families. While this is not ideal for the current wives, most would prefer it over being divorced. This also increases the options of younger women, since married men would compete for their hands in marriage. Polygyny is not a zero-sum game for women, and the overall benefits to women is almost certainly greater than the harm it does.

Most Western women and men empathize with the underdog when thinking of hypothetical situations, therefore they are unlikely to accept the above explanation, since they empathize with the poor woman who will suffer having to share her husband with another woman. The fact that she chooses this over divorce is not given attention since it goes against the “Islam is misogynistic” narrative.

For a Muslim who already believes in the Quran, the explanation is a good vindication of the policy, and it should help restrain scholars overeager to place strict restrictions on polygyny. In a society where marriage is by consent and where people are free to divorce whenever they want, polygyny will be self-balancing. Men will have to balance the fear of losing their present wife with their desire for a second one, meaning that the majority of men will be unlikely to abuse this right. My experience of Kurdish and Persian society proves this correct.

Explaining makeup

In a short-term reproductive climate, women signal their receptivity to short-term-style sexual relationships in various ways, one of which is makeup. One thing that makeup does is simulate the effects of sexual arousal:

It turns out that when a woman becomes sexually aroused, certain physiologic changes take place. Among these changes are dilation of the pupils and the blood vessels in the cheeks and lips.

The author refers to this facet of makeup-as-a-signal-of-sexual-receptivity in many places in the book. However, while this is highly informative, it is not the complete picture. In Sex and Purpose I provide the other part of the picture, I explain that makeup serves as an important axis for enabling women to get ahead of themselves and other women. Makeup enables a woman to enhance her apparent quality as a worthy mate by making herself look younger and healthier. In a long-term or somewhat-long-term climate, makeup helps a woman appear as a better substance compared to her competitors. This, however, runs the danger of sending the wrong signal, of appearing to be receptive to sexual advances, for this reason in a long-term climate, a woman has to walk a fine line between enhancing her looks (which helps her get the interest of more suitors wanting to marry her) and signalling sexual receptivity (which garners the attention of the wrong audience).

While Conflicts of Fitness entirely focuses on the short-term aspect of makeup, Sex and Purpose entirely focuses on its long-term aspect. In this way neither book’s theory is complete, and together they provide what is closer to a full picture.

Along these same lines, I have always told women that I prefer makeup I cannot see, since I have always had a long-term, “Victorian” mindset toward women. I like women to look beautiful, and makeup can help toward this. But I also think of women as long-term lovers and despise short-term sexual relationships (since they are anti-civilization as I will explain below), therefore if I see a glaring amount of makeup on a woman’s face, what I see is what Amin describes, that she is signalling short-term sexual receptivity, which is not something I find attractive in a woman.

Therefore to me, the ideal woman will care about her looks and will be able to enhance them, but without appearing to have done so. If she wears lipstick, it will be a color and texture that makes her lips look young and healthy without making any obvious modification to it.

Some Muslim women, confused by various differing influences, wear hijab on the one hand, while also wearing very heavy makeup on the other. This is such a glaring contradiction that it makes my eyes hurt. Her dress signals the fact that she is not sexually receptive, while her makeup is designed to signal sexual receptivity. It is, at its root, a very good indicator of the identity crisis that so many Muslims suffer from.

Of course, a woman is free what she wears and what she puts on her face. And people are free to respond to seeing her according to what their instincts tell them. You cannot send a signal on the one hand, and enforce a specific interpretation of that signal on people on the other hand. From an evolutionary perspective, heavy makeup signals sexual receptivity (that the woman is approachable). From a radical feminist perspective, this fact does not matter, what matters is whatever is going on inside the woman’s head. Not only does she have the right to wear whatever she wants, she also has the right to dictate how people interpret what she is wearing. She can expose most of her breasts while berating any man who dares to look at them. She can wear heavy makeup and complain if people, following their evolutionary instincts, interpret her makeup as meaning anything.

A large part of Sex and Purpose is dedicated to discrediting these and various other forms of irrationalist thinking present in radical feminist ideology. If a feminist is free in the interpretation she gives to people’s behaviors (which is a right that is always 100% reserved by feminists), then if equality is to be achieved, people, too, should be free in the interpretations they give to her behaviors.

If a man acts a certain way, feminists reserve the right to judge him for his behavior. Yet if she acts a certain way and a man reserves the right to judge her for her behavior, she considers this misogynistic. It is for this reason that many have called radical feminist ideology female solipsism, it is the belief that the female mind (or more likely, the feminist mind) is all that can issue valid judgments about reality, it is a woman’s nannying instinct taken to its most horrible extreme; mother always knows best, and every man is just a foolish little boy (and a potential rapist) to be told what to think and do for his own good.

The generational gap in reproductive strategies

The author mentions that an important reason for the strife that so often exists between teenage girls and their parents regarding dress and makeup is a generational gap in reproductive strategies. The parents grew up in a climate that was more long-term oriented than the present climate, and they want to enforce the mores of their outdated climate on their children, not realizing that the climate has changed, and that by preventing their daughter from dressing more skimpily or wearing more makeup or dating more freely, they are causing her to fall behind her peers.

Immigrants, especially Muslims, bringing up children in the West suffer a similar conflict. What should be done to handle this problem? The author does not say.

The fact that a highly leftist-oriented and activist mainstream media continuously pushes society toward a shorter-term reproductive climate, consequences be what they may, is not mentioned.

Should Muslims submit to the new climate, admitting that laxer standards are needed for their children, or should they fight off the West and try to keep isolated?

My creed, Quran-focused Islam, inspired by Sayyid Qutb and Ahmad Moftizadeh, offers the way to the solution. Islam should always be an application of the Quran over the modern world. Muslims living in the West, instead of trying to recreate their own mini-Arabia in Nashville, should go back to the Quran daily and ask its opinion on how they should live. This constant “going back to the Quran” leads to an Islam that can embrace or reject cultural practices as needed, responding to the environment and updating itself daily. Unlike Salafism, which tries to apply all Islamic texts to the modern world (trying to create the mini-Arabia mentioned), Quran-focused Islam only tries to apply the Quran, which is a highly simple and “lean” program, using the rest of the texts as helpers toward the Quran, rather than as goals in themselves.

This seemingly simple change in mindset changes everything, enabling Muslims to create a “Western” Islam that is truly and authentically Western. A Muslim Westerner, guided by the Quran, works daily to implement its priorities while remaining fully a citizen of the West, avoiding its evils and embracing its good (which, of course, is easier said than done).

The Muslim Westerner’s mindset toward the West’s short-term reproductive climate is not reactionary, the way the Salafi reaction always is, it is instead  constructive. It does not seek to reject, it seeks to use it to build something new. Muslim men and women, following the Quranic program, live and marry and construct their own Western society that proudly rejects everything it considers inferior and happily embraces everything it considers beneficial. Instead of trying to live in an “intellectual ghetto”, as Tariq Ramadan calls it, they live in the center of the Western intellectual tradition, reforming it, critiquing its weaknesses, calling for betterment, and freely defining new ways of life, exactly the way the intellectual elite throughout the ages have always done, defining new ways of life for themselves often at odds with the wider society.

Parents, instead of trying to restrict their “out of control” daughters, share the program with their daughters, and let the daughters themselves be evangelists of the program. I have seen this phenomenon in many Quran-focused families around me. Unlike in Saudi, where a daughter has to be held in a physical and intellectual cage for her own good, in such families the daughter is given the program and is expected to love it and follow it of her own free will. She becomes an activist social critic, rather than fearful and victim-minded minority.

Teenagers are by nature selfish and short-term minded (I used to be one myself), therefore parental management is still necessary. If Muslim adults don’t attend Western-style parties, neither should their children. The topic of bringing up children in a discordant climate would require its own book, and it is not something I have focused on so far. Perhaps this would the subject of some future work of mine.

Approaching Muslim women

I have seen some Western non-Muslim men wonder how you go about approaching a Muslim woman (i.e. “hitting on her” to see if she is interested in a relationship), since the way they dress often signals unapprochability. The answer is that you don’t approach Muslim women (at least not the vast majority). The author gives an evolutionary explanation for this. Muslim women seek long-term partners, which requires deep knowledge of the man before any contact is made. It is for this reason that parents, relatives and friends are often heavily involved in planning and executing marriages.

Approaching a Muslim woman, telling her she is beautiful and that you find her really interesting will most likely upset and offend her, since you are offering her exactly what she does not want; a relationship based on a short-term sexual attraction, and because being seen talking to a random man can harm her reputation.

Westerners, and some liberal Muslims, think these facts show that Muslims are out of touch or backward, and that they must be “better-educated”, “liberated”, “integrated”, “assimilated” and a whole lot of other euphemisms referring to the belief that Muslims should stop being Muslims and act more like non-Muslims for their own good.

The Quran requires that Muslims implement long-term reproductive strategies in their lives, meaning that for Muslims to remain Muslims, short-term reproductive behaviors can never be normalized. A Muslim woman who has a PhD and is attending a conference is not going to respond positively to some non-Muslim man’s pick-up line no matter how well-educated and liberated she is, if she is a devout Muslim. This is because in effect the man is calling her to abandon her chosen way of life. For her, sexual relationships are long-term matters that require the critique and approval of her family, relatives and friends, since Islam teaches her to think of herself as a member of a community, and to respect the opinions of her relatives and the authority of her parents.

If a man is interested in her, instead of approaching her directly, he does it in a manner that shows his respect for the Muslim community and her family, and that shows his long-term interest in her, by having a friend or relative approach a friend or relative of hers.

Of course, this is not always an option, sometimes a direct approach is the only one possible, for example for a Muslim man and woman studying at the same college but knowing nothing else about one another, and having no one to mediate for them. This is one of the many scenarios that shows the superiority of Quran-focused Islam, since it teaches that instead of trying to implement traditions as if they are binding commandments, it teaches them to follow the Quranic principles (which say very little about courtship), leaving it to the man and woman’s conscience to intelligently follow it.

Islam, women, careers and divorce

The book analyzes the significant relationship between reproductive climates and attitudes toward women having careers. In a short-term climate, men cannot be relied on as providers, since they are interested in independence and short-term sexual relationships. In a long-term climate, men can be relied on, since men have no option but to be providers, in order to be able to attract the love interest of females.

This means that in a short-term climate, a career can be essential to a woman’s survival, while in a long-term climate, it can be largely irrelevant. Western women may look down on or feel sorry for Muslim women for not having careers, while Muslim women may look down on or feel sorry for Western women for being forced to have careers in order to survive.

Men who like to follow a short-term sexual strategy (having sex with widely available women) will promote women’s “liberation” and will hate the idea of women being “locked away” within their families, inaccessible to them. For such men, it can be extremely frustrating to live in a society that limits the availability of women, and they will do everything in their power to bring about change, to “free” these women, to discredit the “backward” patriarchs, to get these women out of society’s protection and into their own hands.

This conflict between different sections of Muslim societies is analysed in detail, and it proves informative in explaining the conflicts existing in these societies between modernists and traditionalists.

In his analysis of Islamic thought as it applies to the topic, the author’s methods and ways of thought are close to mine, which was a pleasant surprise. He refers to some of my favorite scholars while also maintaining a critical eye toward their opinions. He makes many references to the UCLA professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, someone largely unknown to me until reading this book, an unknown treasure whose books I now plan to read.

Reviewing many of the Qur’ānic verses used to justify women’s restricted access to divorce, he concludes that the full implications of these verses have not been fully considered and intimates his opinion that Islam gives women the same access to divorce as it does to men. However, Abou El Fadl seems somewhat troubled that his opinion is in disagreement with the majority of Muslim jurists throughout Islamic history. The question becomes, is the majority opinion the result of the unequivocal evidence found in the sources of Islamic law, or a manifestation of the reproductive climates in which those opinions were formulated?

For me, as someone belonging to the Quran-focused school, the matter of divorce rights for women is a long-solved problem. A woman should have full rights to divorce, because ethically, this is almost certainly crucial for ensuring the fairness of the marriage system. A man is given a degree of authority over his wife in his household. To ensure that this authority does not lead to abuse and tyranny, a woman must always retain the right to leave. Preventing her from leaving is going to greatly reduce her bargaining power in the relationship.

I also support the opinions of the Salafi scholars al-Albani and Ibn Baaz in requiring a formal procedure for a man to divorce his wife, requiring him to stay with her for one menstrual cycle without having sex before the divorce is considered official. I believe that allowing a man to perform a permanent triple divorce by uttering a sentence is a highly damaging and anti-social and defeats the purposes of Islamic law.

The desire to make it difficult for a woman to leave a marriage is an instance of the same patronizing and nanny-ing behavior that scholars show in wanting to make it difficult for Muslims to leave Islam, and both policies are equally counterproductive in my opinion.

If jurists say that letting a woman leave will cause all kinds of social ills, instead of taking their hypothesis for granted, we must question it and ask them for statistical evidence. Are there devout Muslim societies where women can easily get a divorce? Are such societies more likely to accomplish the aims of Islamic law in spreading justice and preventing tyranny, or more likely to accomplish the opposite?

Instead of blindly following tradition, the Quran-focused school teaches that we must boldly question all traditions, and if a scholar ever recommends anything that we find irrational or unjust, we must demand from them extraordinary evidence, because they are making an extraordinary claim; that the Quran supports something irrational or unjust.

Reproductive climates and the practice of fiqh

Fiqh refers to Islamic jurisprudence, the field of discovering the best possible practical applications for the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s traditions ﷺ). One of the main theses of the book is that the reproductive climate affects the way men interpret Islamic principles.

According to Amin, in very-long-term climates like Saudi Arabia, paternity confidence is one of the prime directives in the minds of the scholars, so that they support nearly everything that can in some way restrict a woman from cheating on her husband and make her a better reproductive object.

Egyptians have a less long-term climate, so that their scholars are willing to make concessions to women’s freedom even if they acknowledge that in certain circumstances these granted privileges may lead to less paternity confidence.

Amin’s thesis is that reproductive climates affect the derivation of fiqh, leading to differing rulings (fatwas). This is one of the main conclusions of the book, that Muslim men prefer different interpretations of Islam based on their reproductive climates. To Saudi Muslim men, it is “obvious” that women should be restricted for everyone’s good, while to (cosmopolitan) Egyptian Muslim men, it is “obvious” that women should have more freedoms. A man’s reproductive strategy affects his values and makes him prioritize certain things over others, leading to a type of Islam that fits his own reproductive goals.

This scientific analysis of the derivation of fiqh is important and very much needed in order to separate what is truly Islamic from what is merely cultural within the rulings of the scholars. A new field can be launched, the (evolutionary) sociology of fiqh, that studies these matters.

The limitation of his evolutionary psychology approach is that it treats humans as genetic creatures, so that he studies how manifestations of genetically-driven instincts affect psychological behavior. To me this is only half of evolutionary psychology, although I know that many evolutionary psychologists limit themselves to this.

Humans are not genetic creatures, but genetic-cultural creatures, genes affect culture and culture affects genes. This adds a layer of complexity to human psychology that, if ignored, leads to incomplete theories. Thus the Egyptian toleration for less paternity confidence is not necessarily a consequence of the reproductive climate, it might be a cause of it. Perhaps the cultural appreciation of Egyptians for human rights led to a toleration for a shorter-term reproductive climate, so that this ideal was given priority over the concern for paternity confidence.

A piece of evidence in support of it being culture that affects scholarly opinion toward paternity confidence is that higher IQ Muslim nations (Egyptians, Iranians, Turks, Malaysians) have higher appreciation for our modern romantic ideals than lower IQ nations like Saudi.

IQ is largely genetic (i.e. not cultural), but its consequence is a culture that appreciates various intangible ideals, whose consequence, in turn, is a re-interpretation of religion that tolerates a laxer reproductive climate, since this is more likely to achieve those ideals.

Having a high IQ does not mean that a person will be a nice, idealistic person. Rather, a high IQ population, after accepting certain teachings (Western/Christian philosophy, the Quran, Sufism), ends up becoming something of a humanist.

A low IQ population, given the same teachings, will mostly focus on its form and ignore its content (ideals). Thus low IQ Muslims and Christians are often obsessed with appearances, socialization and ritual, while it is the high IQ Muslims and Christians who bother to read deeply into the texts and reach sweeping conclusions from them.

It is, therefore, my hypothesis that when Islam is given to a high IQ population, the result is a humanist Islam, as is so well seen in modern Egypt. While when Islam is given to a low IQ population (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan), the result is a focus on texts (naql, its extreme example being Wahhabism) and negligence toward the Quran’s humanist teachings.

While the author’s focus on reproductive concerns within the practice of fiqh is useful and enlightening, it is an incomplete view of the system. Genetics can lead to certain cultural (by “cultural”, I mean everything that’s not genetic) behaviors, which can then come back and influence reproductive behaviors, leading to highly complex feedback loops.

Dress codes for slave women

Amin mentions the fact that jurists have tolerated laxer dress codes for slave women compared to free women. According to his theory, this is a sign of the fact that since a slave woman is a short-term mate (more of an object of desire than reproduction), a short-term mindset toward her was tolerated, some jurists going as far as allowing her to show her breasts in public. Since paternity confidence was not a concern, the amount of skin a slave woman showed was not much of a concern.

This behavior is also seen in Arab and Indo-Pakistani men living in the West who have sexual relationships with Western women without caring much about the woman’s past sexual experience or the way she dresses, but once they go on to seek a wife, they look for women who offer maximal paternity confidence by being virgins who dress modestly.

In both of the above situations, a double standard is maintained depending on the purpose of the woman in question. While the dress codes of slave women have no practical relevance to the modern practice of Islam, from a sociology of fiqh perspective, the matter provides a useful insight into the thinking processes of jurists, showing how personal biases and reproductive goals affect the way Islamic sexual morality is interpreted.

It should, however, be noted that part of the justification for this double standard for the dress codes of free vs. slave women is verse 33:59 of the Quran:

O Prophet! Tell your wives, and your daughters, and the women of the believers, to lengthen their garments. That is more proper, so they will be recognized and not harassed. God is Forgiving and Merciful.

A common interpretation of “so they will be recognized” is that so that it will be known that they are free women and not slaves (as mentioned in al-Tabari’s tafseer). This clearly provides justification for tolerating different dress codes for different classes of women.

Another Persian scholar, al-Razi, interprets this verse as saying that virtuous women should dress more conservatively if there is a chance they will run into uncouth strangers, so that those strangers may recognize them as virtuous women and not women open to flirtation. This interpretation is far more satisfactory in my opinion and prevents the use of the verse as justification for having double standards regarding different classes of women.

Short-term reproductive climates versus civilization

The most significant missing topic in Conflicts of Fitness is an analysis of the long-term consequences of short-term climates, which perhaps cannot be done without bringing politics and morality into the discussion, and therefore perhaps this is why the author avoided it. It is my belief, expressed in detail in Sex and Purpose, that short-term reproductive climates are inherently anti-civilization.

A man needs to feel integrated into his society, to feel as a part of its rises and falls, in order to be invested in its long-term welfare. Short-term climates turn men into societal satellites who dip into it when it benefits them, but who are ultimately free to move on and leave it for somewhere else where the grass is greener. Men no longer think of building a better world for their grandchildren, but of earning enough money to attract the most sexually desirable mates as quickly as possible, to have no-strings-attached sex as often as they can, and to continue to maintain a fulfilling life that maximizes pleasures and minimizes burdens.

In such a climate, the economy is “financialized”, everything is about short-term returns, and anyone who invests his money expecting returns 20 years from now on is considered hopelessly old-fashioned. The entire economy starts to function on the short-term sexual mindset; take as much pleasure as you can, give as little back as you can. Men financially rape and plunder, women worship power and privilege and offer themselves up for sale to the highest bidder.

What would be the fate of the country in 2100? Who cares? Maximize money and orgasms.

Individuals can talk about sustainability, anti-consumerism and charity. But expecting such things to be taken seriously in a short-term reproductive climate is like expecting a tree to grow on Mars, and therefore all movements that promote these things are going to be largely incapable of doing anything against the general flow of history toward ever more short-term decisions that damage and destroy civilization’s foundations. This process is slow and subtle, and therefore goes widely unnoticed.

The ideals of civilization are all long-term; a respect for truth, fairness and sustainability. A short-term climate will always act as an incentive to abandon these ideals in favor of short-term interests (personal power and profit). It is for this reason that today very few scientists are willing to state politically incorrect scientific facts. In this short-term climate, the scientists and intellectuals that rise to the top are not those that are best at unbiased factual analysis or contributing to civilization, but those who are best at being fashionable through doublespeak, cherry picking of facts and avoidance of sensitive topics.

In short-term climates, the parasites raise to the top. The lender class (the bankers and their friends, nearly every member of the super-rich), who through interest extract profit from the economy at the expense of everyone else, end up owning most of the country’s economy, real estate, publishing and media, and use their immense wealth and power to continually push society toward reflecting their short-term-oriented rape-and-plunder mindset, and part of this is the promotion of sexual freedom. They do not necessarily do this out of malice, it could just be the human desire for short-term gain.

On the one hand, there is civilization and what it needs to stay alive; a thriving population that respects its long-term ideals. On the other hand, there is the short-term climate and its love for the wide availability of other people’s money and daughters. A Manhattan billionaire would absolutely hate to be forced to sit in his office without having easy access to attractive and sexually receptive women, therefore it is a central aim of the billionaire mindset to promote sexual freedom. 99 out of a 100 billionaires probably feel a strong revulsion for anything that threatens their supply of sexually available young women, the way they feel a strong revulsion for anything that threatens the profits they extract from society.

I admit that an objective analysis of these phenomena would be needed to show beyond reasonable doubt that short-term climates are inherently anti-civilization. For now, it is a general conclusion that I have reached over the years, and the facts of the modern world and history both seem to strongly support this theory. The only place where a short-term climate can sustain civilization is the minds of science fiction writers.

What does Islam select for?

All societies select for something. —Greg Cochran
All policy is eugenics.1 —Ikram Hawramani

Another relevant and highly interesting topic that is not covered by the book is the effects of reproductive climates on genes. For example, in a society that practices polygyny for long enough, the sex ratio will likely correct itself so that slightly more women than men will be born.

As I explain in my essay The Gene-Culture, any study of humans that entirely focuses on genes, or entirely focuses on culture, is going to be incomplete, because it focuses on one force while ignoring its equally important companion force.

A study of religious policies toward gender as entirely reproductive strategies, while highly informative, is incomplete. Thinking in terms of centuries and millennia, rather than in terms of individual generations and societies, will bring into focus the importance of religion as a gene-modifying force; Islamic culture will rewrite genes by selecting for certain characteristics and against others, the same way that genes (and reproductive strategies) affect our practice and interpretation of Islam, causing us to focus on certain aspects of Islam (and ignore others at times).

Islam rewards and promotes self-restraint, which is strongly associated with IQ, therefore high IQ people will get a favorable treatment under Islam compared to lower IQ people who have difficulty with self-restraint. A woman who has a reputation for being “wild” is going to be passed up by men in favor of women who have a reputation for restraint. A man who does not have the long-term planning capacity to get a degree and a good career is going to be passed up by women in favor of men who have such capabilities.

Short-term climates create winner-take-all realities where a few attractive men get to have sex with a great number of women, as Conflicts of Fitness studies in detail, while the less sexually attractive and shy “nerdy” men are going to find it very difficult to have sex.

The Islamic system prevents this reality from existing. It punishes the womanizing “alpha males” by forcing them into long-term relationships where they have to make do with one, two or at most four women. And since many of these “alpha males” will not have the money to take care of too many women at the same time, they will often be forced to make do with just one or two women. This means that the rest of the women will not have access to these men, so that they are forced to settle for less attractive men.

In an Islamic society, similar to Japanese society 100 years ago, the majority of men will be able to marry, including shy and nerdy ones who are totally incapable of using charisma to attract women. This fact of Islamic societies may be a significant contributor to the high fertility rates that devout Muslim societies enjoy.

The system may slowly increase IQ by enabling nerdy men to pass on their genes, instead of turning nerdy-ness into an evolutionary dead-end. The explosion of European innovation over 1000 years ago may have been partly caused by Christianity’s spread, enabling nerds to marry and reproduce, while before that, it is possible that they had a winner-take-all system where men who fitted the warrior archetype left the most offspring, and those who did not were less likely to survive and pass on their genes. This, however, is a big speculation.

As for today, throughout all sexually open societies (Western Europe, South Korea, Japan), nerdy men seem to feel isolated, purposeless and shunned by their societies, since short-term sexual climates always reward the alpha male archetype. This may cause a long-term dysgenic effect that decreases IQ, along with decreasing fertility rates in general.

Conclusion

Conflicts of Fitness is a worthy contribution in the best tradition of Western civilization, an effort to arrive at the truth without concern for political considerations. Many Islamic books quickly become tiresome as the author tries to signal their virtue and belonging to the Islamic establishment, and many Western books suffer from exactly the same thing; authors virtue-signalling and using doublespeak and the cherry-picking of facts to please crowds at the expense of the truth.

Conflicts of Fitness avoids these ills and provides much food for thought that will hopefully help in the goal of reforming Islam while avoiding infecting it with new Western diseases. The book should also contribute toward the equally important goal of rescuing the Western tradition from the clutches of irrationalism.

What’s a good modern biography of Prophet Muhammad?

Can you recommend a good bibliography of the prophet Muhammad pbuh. I’ve read one so far but I didn’t like it. The style of the author was too heavy.

I just read Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet and it is extremely good. I think it should be required reading for every Muslim. It focuses on the personality and spiritual teachings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, rather than focusing on unnecessary technical details.

Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time is also good.

(I assumed you meant biography)

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