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 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 ), 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

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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. 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.

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.

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 the hijab. The two verses on the 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 the hijab involves covering the head, and it also mentions that the head-covering should cover the chest, therefore the image of the 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 the 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. The hijab is meant to do the same for Muslim women, signalling to such men that these are women who are not interested 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. 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 is mentioned in hadith narrations, some Muslim women did not use to wear the 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 harsh and strict about the hijab, the Quran only dedicates two verses to it and never mentions any punishment or threats toward women who do not wear the hijab. The command to wear the 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 the hijab, for others it can be 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. The 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, the way they are free to choose to start taking care of their close relatives.

Most people judge things by appearances, it will always be a fact that many Muslims will not consider a woman really Muslim until she wears the hijab. Similarly it is seen that in democratic countries people vote for the politicians that belong to their own race or culture 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 2% 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 nearly 98% 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-Mustasim 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.

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.

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”

 

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