IslamQA: Learning martial arts in mixed-sex company

Assalamu'alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. Hello, I'm a South East Asian Muslim women. I have a question, and hopefully you'd answer. Is it okay for me to learn martial arts? If so, then would it be permitted for a male teacher to teach me (side note: we learn it in group, not private one-on-one), while martial arts is a full physical thing and, one thing for sure, that we will come in contact with non-mahrams? Also, I have contacted a sunna-based martial arts teacher (Aikido, with Islamic principle of male and female not able to train or spar due to avoid physical contact with the opposite sexes), but they replied that the female teacher is currently not available. It is rare to have a female martial arts teacher. Due to such matter, can I just choose whatever martial arts dojo (place for training) regardless of the principle? The general manner of the people in my country is welcoming and caring, both men and women, so my personal opinion is that I'm safe enough to learn from male teachers. but I'm still unsure. What do you reckon? Pardon the long explanation and thank you very much for taking your time and I respect whatever opinion you have to offer regarding this.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There are no strict rules in Islam regarding the mixing of the sexes in public spaces. If the atmosphere of the dojo is respectful and dignified, then there is no reason why you cannot join it as a woman provided that this is something socially acceptable in your culture and approved by your parents and relatives.

Regarding touching between the sexes during lessons, this should be avoided.

IslamQA: Using the name “Niam” for boys

Hi, I would like to know if the name Niam can also be used for boys. On your website it says it's a girls name, but on other websites I see it's a boys name. What determines if a name is for a boy or girl? Kind regards


It is only social and cultural customs that determine whether a name is for boys or girls. In some places for example a name is mostly used for boys while in others the same name is used mostly for girls. There is no religious ruling about this; it is your own choice based on where you live. I searched online and it looks like Niam is used for boys in Indonesia.

IslamQA: The morality and immorality of sexual fantasies

Sexual fantasies is not the same thing as having a "wet dream" where you are literally asleep and can't control your dreams. To fantasise means your are leading your thoughts to imagine and visualise and thus stimulate yourself. To entertain such thinking is not moral and thus not normal or healthy. Instead of answering hormones as if they are moral we should understand what sex really is and that only via romantic love does it ever serve a moral purpose. Train the libido, do not pander to it.

Also, by that reasoming, hormonal state excuses what we think or do. I am sorry but that is grossly irresponsible a thought. God made us capable of choosing what we say or do irregardles of how we may feel or how our hormones behave. What about bipolar? A hypomanic episode doesn't mean they lose their mind and no longer understand right from wrong. Your libido kicking up does not excuse what you CHOOSE TO DO. Our hormones are a part of God testing us, not excusing us doing something immoral.

Having sexual fantasies is not normal or healthy. And further more they are not necessary.Our hormones may act out but that doesn't mean you need to reply to them with the wrong answer.Your libido raising up doesn't mean you have to answer it. That is like saying a woman has to eat chocolate because their hormones are making them crave something fatty. I have that "emotion" and I ignore it because eating a ton load of chocolate isn't healthy, and it isn't what I really want.

When my libido raises I just ignore it and it goes away. Don't obsess over it. Ignoring it is not hard when you truly understands it has no value without a truly loved and wanted significant other. Entertaining a fantasy is just as bad as if one had done it. The imagination is a powerful thing, what God gave us is no joke. Any sexual act outside of us being with the person we romantically love and are willingly engaging with is not necessary. Do something good to get rid of that energy.

We sadly live in a world where sex is constantly given a value and role it does not deserve. Partly because people do not actually understand sex. It truly isn't the biggest way to express love or to feel good. Beauty shouldn't be the ignition to want intimacy, love should be, love born from knowing someone for who they are. People raised by other flawed people to think love is sex and beauty equals sex, instead of being taught love is so much more than the extra of sex….

..God granted us to enjoy with our significant other. People are raised to think sex is everything and thus people behave like it is, and it absolutely isn't. Raised to act on every feeling they have "do what ever you feel like doing, do not challenge yourself or master your body and mind". God tests us in so many ways, our bodies are one way. We are supposed to deny the impulse to do wrong, just because one has a hormonal spike such as this does not excuse one, we aren't animals.

To entertain sexual fantasies really is dirtying oneself, it is no better than masturbation.What should be a beautiful and intimate act meant to happen, if it is meant to happen, with your loving spouse, is turned to just another act of self indulgence and blind lust. The imagination is so SO powerful, it is very real. God gave it as a gift for good, not this.Raise people to be strong not weak. This is not a place to say that God only gives us what we can bear,

God does not make us fantasise. Us fantasising is us choosing to fantasise. We take something normal like a libido and we feed it with our chosen thoughts. If we simply ignore the libido the libido is not a burden but a mere passing hormonal occurrence. It is part of the normal hormonal cycle yes, but it does not need to be met like thirsting for water is needing to be met.

With how we perceive things we lower our libido's activity, if one constantly answer their libido with fantasies the libidos activity is prolonged. If one thinks a woman/man is a walking talking reminder of sex, their libido is constantly awakened. When the libido is not pandered to it goes away quickly. If one has problem with the libido passing they can find healthy ways to make it pass like exercising.

If the libido is very high, then it may speak of hormonal imbalance, even mental health issues such as bipolar, one should be directed to consult a doctor and receive help. The libido or our hormones in general shouldn't be treated as an force that we must surrender to and let choose for us above free will. The body has hormonal responses both independent and soul bound (example, hormonal imbalance caused feeling of unhappiness vs. unhappy event+understanding said event= feeling truly unhappy).

Example, an aware bipolar patient recognises the manic episodes as completely not their own emotions and purely as "hormonal emotions", and the soul, the sentience, is feeling its own feelings, but the body is in mania and produces hormones of euforic happiness and even aggression. The patient still has a choice, knowing right from wrong, they refrain from the bad and steer towards the good. God has given the greatest aid besides the second aid of medication, Knowledge of Him, of what is Right.

By these I try to give examples of the soul triumphing over the test. One must want to do good for God and thus learn Right from wrong and act upon Right no matter what. To say no way but God's way will do, in every matter.When we know right, understand right, act upon it, we become better and can recognise far better what is truly us, who God made us to be, and what we shouldn't be doing. Ultimately we choose what we do, the sentient creation who follows Sentience Himself Who teaches us Right

Thank you for your time if you read all these asks, I felt compelled to say something on the matter. Salam.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I understand your position. To me it is about a cost-benefit analysis: I believe that teaching people to obsess about the wrongness of sexual fantasies is more harmful than teaching them it is a morally neutral thing.

Since we do not have any clear texts on the moral wrongness of sexual fantasies, and since the brain has a strong natural tendency to generate sexual fantasies during the right physiological state, the balanced position is tell people not to worry about it.

Every strict moral ruling we create adds to the cost of religion, until a point comes when a person feels the religion is too demanding, inhuman, and irrelevant to their own inner experience. So I believe telling young people to feel guilty about giving in to sexual fantasies does more harm than good. When it comes to something neutral like this, the path we take should be one of easing things rather than making things more difficult.

Note that I do not recommend religious laxity just to make religion sound more easy to people. As I discuss in my essay The Philosophy of Pornography and Masturbation, since we have good reasons to consider pornography and masturbation wrong, we can take a strict stance toward them. But as for sexual fantasies, I am not at all convinced that a strict stance would be helpful.

IslamQA: Islam and the manners of sleeping

esselamu alejkum I have a question regarding islamic way of "sleeping". I read one must sleep on right side some websites talk like left is bad evil ect. Is that true first of all and how can it be? I sleep on L and R and back side, sometimes my back hurts and left side just feels better to fall asleep. I have slept on my belly too when I had some issues? Why would GOD care about that I don't understand the logic behind it. Also body constantly shifts during sleep because if you sleep constantly on now side you would be in pain/discomfort. What do you know about that? Thank you for your answer.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Prophet PBUH preferred using the right side in most things, and from that the manners of things like sleeping is derived. This is just a recommendation. I know some Muslims make a big deal of it, but in my view, as someone who has read Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Muslim and other hadith sources, I can tell you that it is a very minor issue. Personally I sleep on whatever side I prefer. In fact I often sleep on my left side because the right side gives me stomach trouble.

As for sleeping on the stomach, please see this answer: Sleeping on the stomach is not clearly forbidden or disliked in Islam

IslamQA: The difference between sexual fantasies and reading erotic novels

Assalamualaikum, I read your answers for not reading any erotica in novels but how is this different from it being okay for young persons to have sexual fantasies as another question determined? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The difference is that sexual fantasies are a consequence of a natural hormonal state. Since God does not burden us with what we cannot bear, if a person’s physiological state makes them think sexual thoughts then we do not find anything morally wrong with that.

But when it comes to erotic novels the line of causation is in the opposite direction. The person uses it as a tool to stimulate themselves sexually (similar to using pornography), so it has to be dealt with separately from sexual fantasies.

As for why reading erotica is “wrong”, the reasoning is complicated and philosophical. Reading erotica is a form of voyeurism where a third-person perspective is introduced into a sexual act. For human sexuality to be non-obscene, it must always involve the union of two first-person perspectives. The third-person perspective is always obscene (as argued by Roger Scruton in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation).

But even if someone does not understand these arguments, we still have a natural instinct that allows us to tell the obscene from the non-obscene, which is why things like pornography and erotica are always associated with guilt and shame even among people who have had a completely non-religious upbringing.

A sexual fantasy can also be obscene if the person imagines themselves watching others having sex. It is just that due to the difficulty of controlling one’s mind when a person is naturally sexually aroused, we can excuse it. But a person who wishes to always live up to highest ideals will do their best to avoid obscene fantasies.

IslamQA: The name “Ahil Fasih”

What is the meaning of the complete name ahil fasih and also tell me it is right name or not?

The Arabic word Āhil means “inhabitant”, “native [of some place]”. It can also mean “domestic”, as in a domestic animal. Fasih may be the Arabic word Faṣīḥ, which means “eloquent”, “one who speaks according to the proper rules of grammar and expression.”

Since both names have good meanings, the full name is good and acceptable.

IslamQA: The name “Layyah”

I give my daughter name layyah binth thoufeek inspired by the name layyah binth yakoob , May I know this is true any bad meaning for layyah I am afraid because this name is calling in heaven too. Kindly advice mean I want to know exact meaning also . Some doc say she was the wife of yakoob peace up on him Please help me

Layyah is the Arabized form of the Old Testament name Leah, wife of Jacob (Prophet Yaqub [as]). From Wikipedia:

The name is likely to have Hebrew origins from Biblical times. It has the meaning of “wearied” or “grieved”. Many speculate that this meaning has to do with the circumstance of the most commonly know woman named Leah in the Old Testament. She was the first wife of Jacob and the older sister of Rachel, but because he was tricked into marrying her she was unloved her whole life despite the fact that she gave birth to 7 sons and a daughter for him. Leah was called one of the four arch-mothers of the country of Israel.

Since the name has a good meaning Muslims can use it.

I know of no hadith that mentions this name.

IslamQA: Name suggestion for parents named Tousif and Neha

My hubby name is Tousif and my name is Neha… Can u tell me a cute name combined by both of us… I want both boy and girl name in combination of me and my hubby name

The only name I can think of is Taneem (Tanʿīm) which means “blessedness”, “living in comfort and luxury” in Arabic.

IslamQA: The meaning of Anha

Anha name meaning

The meaning depends on the language and the pronunciation of the name.

Anhā (أَنْهَى) means “he/she completed it”, “he/she caused it to reach [something]”, “he/she ended or invalidated [a contract]”.

I cannot find any other meanings from other languages.

IslamQA: Waiting patiently for the end of hardship

Asalamaleikum.. I have gone thru hard time for almost a year. I try to stay high in faith and sabr but it’s very hard. I keep waiting for something good to happen, but nothing has happened yet.. feeling depressed. Is it actually true that if I am grateful I will get more? Because I’m waiting, but everything stays the same. Please remember me in your dua, I do not want to become ungrateful 🙁

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

In my own life I have noted that God’s solution to my problems do not come immediately. Some of them take years. But when they come, they come from the most unexpected directions. For the past 9 years I have been asking God to give my life meaning and purpose, and in the past year, when I finally decided to completely dedicate myself to God and to read the Quran for an hour every day for the rest of my life, everything has changed for me. I feel like I am in a spaceship directed by God. Nothing gets in the way and all problems vanish away.

So I recommend patience and, most importantly, dedicating yourself to God. God will constantly test us with problems and hardships until we learn the lesson; the lesson being that we can never achieve any success or guidance unless it comes through Him. Please see the page Guides on Getting Closer to God on my site, apply their teachings, and leave it to God to take care of your fate.

Best wishes inshaAllah.

IslamQA: The Islamic stance toward Israel and its Jews

Assalamu alaikum! Brother, what do you think of Israel occupation of Palestine? Do you approve of the Israelite State standing on the land of the Palestinians?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Israel was established by injustice and oppression, based on a Jewish-supremacist ideology that believes all Palestinians should ideally be made to leave all the “Israeli” lands.

However, in order to solve such situations, I believe that we must focus on the situation as it is today, rather than focusing on historical injustices. But the fact is that the Jewish-supremacist ideology remains. Israelis are not interested in peace or co-existence, but in constantly taking over Palestinian lands until they remain so long on those lands that the land becomes theirs by law and custom.

I know some Muslims feel despair at the power of Israel. It has one tenth the population of Egypt yet it has an economy the size of Egypt’s economy. It is the most economically and technologically advanced Middle Eastern country and the only one with nuclear weapons in Western Asia.

As I have said elsewhere, I have a historian’s view of history, thinking in terms of generations and centuries. The State of Israel has not existed even for a single human lifetime (80 years). My view is that the Israelis are playing with fire. Israel is a poetic disaster waiting to happen, and every Israeli injustice, oppression and expansion only makes this more likely. We do not have to refer to the Quran for this; the Torah contains enough terrifying promises against the Jews:

If you despise my laws, and contemn my judgments so as not to do those things which are appointed by me, and to make void my covenant:

I also will do these things to you. I will quickly visit you with poverty, and burning heat, which shall waste your eyes, and consume your lives. You shall sow your seed in vain, which shall be devoured by your enemies.

I will set my face against you, and you shall fall down before your enemies: and shall be made subject to them that hate you. You shall flee when no man pursueth you.

But if you will not yet for all this obey me: I will chastise you seven times more for your sins.

And I will break the pride of your stubbornness: and I will make to you the heaven above as iron, and the earth as brass.

Your labour shall be spent in vain: the ground shall not bring forth her increase: nor the trees yield their fruit.

If you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring seven times more plagues upon you for your sins.

And I will send in upon you the beasts of the field, to destroy you and your cattle, and make you few in number: and that your highways may be desolate.

And if even so you will not amend, but will walk contrary to me:

I also will walk contrary to you, and will strike you seven times for your sins.

And I will bring in upon you the sword that shall avenge my covenant. And when you shall flee into the cities, I will send the pestilence in the midst of you. And you shall be delivered into the hands of your enemies,

After I shall have broken the staff of your bread: so that ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and give it out by weight: and you shall eat, and shall not be filled,

But if you will not for all this hearken to me, but will walk against me

I will also go against you with opposite fury: and I will chastise you with seven plagues for your sins,

So that you shall eat the flesh of your sons and of your daughters.

I will destroy your high places, and break your idols. You shall fall among the ruins of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

Insomuch that I will bring your cities to be a wilderness: and I will make your sanctuaries desolate: and will receive no more your sweet odours.

And I will destroy your land: and your enemies shall be astonished at it, when they shall be the inhabitants thereof.

And I will scatter you among the Gentiles: and I will draw out the sword after you. And your land shall be desert, and your cities destroyed.

Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths all the days of her desolation. When you shall be

In the enemy's land, she shall keep a sabbath, and rest in the sabbaths of her desolation: because she did not rest in your sabbaths, when you dwelt therein.

And as to them that shall remain of you I will send fear in their hearts in the countries of their enemies. The sound of a flying leaf shall terrify them: and they shall flee as it were from the sword. They shall fall, when no man pursueth them.

And they shall every one fall upon their brethren as fleeing from wars: none of you shall dare to resist your enemies.

You shall perish among the Gentiles: and an enemy's land shall consume you.

And if of them also some remain, they shall pine away in their iniquities, in the land of their enemies: and they shall be afflicted for the sins of their fathers, and their own.

Until they confess their iniquities, and the iniquities of their ancestors, whereby they have transgressed against me, and walked contrary unto me.

Therefore I also will walk against them, and bring them into their enemies' land until their uncircumcised mind be ashamed. Then shall they pray for their sins.

And I will remember my covenant, that I made with Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham. I will remember also the land:

Which when she shall be left by them, shall enjoy her sabbaths, being desolate for them. But they shall pray for their sins, because they rejected my judgments, and despised my laws.

And yet for all that when they were in the land of their enemies, I did not cast them off altogether. Neither did I so despise them that they should be quite consumed: and I should make void my covenant with them. For I am the Lord their God.

And I will remember my former covenant, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, in the sight of the Gentiles, to be their God. I am the Lord. These are the judgments, and precepts, and laws, which the Lord gave between him and the children of Israel, in mount Sinai, by the hand of Moses.

The Old Testament, Leviticus 26:15-45

The Quran repeats these promises and threats:

Moses said to his people, “Remember God’s blessings upon you, as He delivered you from the people of Pharaoh, who inflicted on you terrible suffering, slaughtering your sons while sparing your daughters. In that was a serious trial from your Lord.”

And when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.”

And Moses said, “Even if you are ungrateful, together with everyone on earth—God is in no need, Worthy of Praise.”

The Quran, verses 14:6-8.

The Quran also says:

And We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Scripture: You will commit evil on earth twice, and you will rise to a great height.

When the first of the two promises came true, We sent against you servants of Ours, possessing great might, and they ransacked your homes. It was a promise fulfilled.

Then We gave you back your turn against them, and supplied you with wealth and children, and made you more numerous.

If you work righteousness, you work righteousness for yourselves; and if you commit evil, you do so against yourselves. Then, when the second promise comes true, they will make your faces filled with sorrow, and enter the Temple as they entered it the first time, and utterly destroy all that falls into their power.

Perhaps your Lord will have mercy on you. But if you revert, We will revert. We have made Hell a prison for the disbelievers.

The Quran, verses 17:4-8.

So the Jews, whether they like it or not, are caught in a Biblical story. The State of Israel is simply the latest “chapter” of this story–and it is not the final chapter. And all the Biblical and Quranic signs are that a terrible fate awaits them.

Among the People of the Book is he, who, if you entrust him with a heap of gold, he will give it back to you. And among them is he, who, if you entrust him with a single coin, he will not give it back to you, unless you keep after him. That is because they say, “We are under no obligation towards the gentiles [non-Jews].” They tell lies about God, and they know it.

Indeed, whoever fulfills his commitments and maintains piety—God loves the pious.

Those who exchange the covenant of God, and their vows, for a small price, will have no share in the Hereafter, and God will not speak to them, nor will He look at them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. They will have a painful punishment.

The Quran, verses 3:75-77.

So while the suffering of the Palestinians is very real and is something that I worry about, from my historian’s perspective I consider Israel a house of cards; built on the most precarious foundations. Every injustice they do toward the Palestinians is yet another call to God/Yahweh/Allah to make His threats come true.

God is patient and He is not in a hurry:

Have they not journeyed in the land, and had minds to reason with, or ears to listen with? It is not the eyes that go blind, but it is the hearts, within the chests, that go blind.

And they ask you to hasten the punishment. But God never breaks His promise: and a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of your count.

How many a town have I reprieved, although it was unjust? Then I seized it. To Me is the destination.

The Quran, verses 22:46-48.

From God’s perspective, the State of Israel has only existed for about an hour and 42 minutes. God is waiting until the ideal moment for His poetic justice to be expressed.

So for me as a Muslim, Israel is nothing to worry about it. God is in charge of history and He has a plan for it. What is cause for worry for me actually is the fate of the Jews of Israel; a very real tragedy is waiting to happen to them because of their own deeds and choices. I do not like to see any human suffer, and the suffering they inflict on the Palestinians will be returned to the Jews in a most horrible way some time in the future.

I wish that the Jews would follow the Torah and humbly submit to God and fear His promises. If they did this, they would start to treat the Palestinians as their equals and fellow humans rather than as animals to be scared away.

My view is that not a single Palestinian’s right will be lost; every child’s sorrow at a tree cut down, every old woman’s sorrow at the loss of her sons and daughters to Israeli injustice, will be written down and repaid.

To me the Israelis are like children playing with fire and challenging their God to do His worst to them. All we need to do is wait and see what God does. Our task is to be patient and to not let Israeli injustices make us unjust as they are; we must conduct ourselves with the best manners.

And let not the hatred of people who barred you from the Sacred Mosque incite you to aggression. And cooperate with one another in virtuous conduct and conscience, and do not cooperate with one another in sin and hostility. And fear God. God is severe in punishment.

The Quran, from verse 5:2.

While some Muslims believe that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is Muslim “unity” and political and military might, I reject this Islamist ideology. Our task is to do the best with whatever God has given us. We can support things like the BDS movement, we can work to expose Israeli crimes, and Muslim individuals in the West can work to become politicians so that they can defend the rights of the Palestinians just as Jewish politicians in the West do their utmost to defend the rights and interests of the Israelis. But the final solution will not come from some Islamist leader. It will come organically from God.

We are not powerless. In fact we have all the power we need because to God belongs all power, and God is our Lord and the Lord of the Jews. The power that will solve the problem will be God’s power and we can never predict how this power will show itself. Our task, and the task of the Palestinians, is to prove to God that we live according to the ideals of morality and that we are more deserving of His help and support than the Israelis are. And then, waiting patiently, we will see His judgment one of these days.

The Israeli-Palestinian problem will not be solved with violence, domination, schemes and hurried political plans. It will solve itself naturally, through God’s management of history.

IslamQA: Islam and freedom of speech

What is your opinion or view regarding freedom of speech and how does it affect humanity so far? Is there any good point to hold on to this principle? In my humble perception so far, it does harm more than good. It may be a good thing to point out things in an honest and straightforward way, but when it got brutal and offend and potentially break certain individual or group of people's hearts or mocks on their beliefs, I think it's when it gets too far.

Of course there are types of speech that are better left unsaid. But the problem is not there. The problem is with how we control speech. Who can we trust to control speech? Do we put it in the hands of clumsy and short-sighted politicians who will ban books, documentaries and films left and right according to their own ideas?

That is what happens whenever a country tries to control speech. So the solution, within our imperfect world, I believe is to defend the freedom of speech to the utmost. It is simply impossible within our human limitations to create a fair, just and ideal censorship system that only restricts harmful speech because such a system will always involve thousands of humans with their own ideas, agendas and shortcomings.

Rather than leaving it to the government to decide what books I can or cannot read, I want to decide for myself. If a book contains vile speech, then I will not read it. I do not want someone else to make this decision for me.

For these reasons I believe freedom of speech should be defended as one of the essential principles of any civilized system of government. If you try to restrict speech against a certain group because you consider their speech harmful, another group can easily do the same to you. A country for example may ban the Quran because it contains speech against homosexuality. The country may rule that the speech is offensive and harmful to the well-being of homosexuals so that it should be banned.

IslamQA: Can a Muslim-majority country be run by a non-Muslim?

Assalamu'alaykum wa rahmatullah. Brother, can a Muslim majority country be run by a non-Muslim? Do the Quran have any specific verse that applies to the prohibition of the non-Muslim to lead them or do the Quran allows them to? (Be it as a President of the whole republic, or as a governor/mayor of the regional area.)

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

My view is that running a country is similar to running a family, a business or a village’s affairs. Nothing in Islam forces upon us a single form of government. Government, in my view, is just a tool for ensuring peace and prosperity, and whatever works best can be implemented. So there is nothing wrong with a non-Muslim president if he/she is the best that can be had. Rather than working for a fairy tale kingdom of caliphate ruled by a perfect person, I believe in each population doing what works best for them within the limits of their situation. Sometimes a non-Muslim leader can be better than all the Muslim alternatives. I would choose a kind, philosophical and pluralist non-Muslim over a radical and intolerant Muslim any day.

IslamQA: Feeling disdain for other Muslims

Salam. How do I get rid of the disdainful feeling when someone talks about Islam? I have been let down in the past by Muslims who I expect would act kindly towards me. My reality and view of Islam has changed since I met them. And how to I mend my defiant manner towards Islam?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I cannot be sure what the exact cause of your feelings are until I know more about it. But I believe that walking the spiritual path of Islam would solve your problem; read the Quran daily and struggle with it until you fully submit to God and achieve an open heart. The Quran helps uncover all the flaws in your character so that you can face them and focus on fixing them, and it will be your guide in that fixing. And once your heart is open, it will be very easy to face everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim, with an open heart, without disdain or dislike. This is a long-term process that will take months and years, so do not expect immediate results.

IslamQA: The Discovery of Paradise in Islam by Christian Lange

A review of Christian Lange’s inaugural lecture “The Discovery of Paradise in Islam” at the University of Utrecht.1

In his lecture, Lange refers to four unique aspects of the Quranic treatment of Paradise:

  • Paradise is not created at the end of time. It already exists.
  • Paradise is not in a separate realm or dimension; it is co-extensive with our world.
  • The nature of Paradise overlaps with the nature of our world (its architecture and material qualities). Rather than this being a result of a primitive Bedouin’s imagination, Lange argues that this is a deliberate strategy meant to stress the overlap between this world and the hereafter.
  • The Quran intentionally blurs the division between this world and Paradise, preferring to speak of it as if it is something here and now, within reach.

During the apocalypse, the Quran suggests that Paradise and Hell collapse into our world. It is not a merging of two realities. It is just a reshuffling of space. Paradise is already there, waiting until the time it is brought near by God. We do not have to be flown into a different reality to enter Paradise; our world, as it exists, will simply open up and merge with Paradise and Hell.

The Quran’s sensual Paradise has been criticized for its apparent celebration of base human desires; food and sensual pleasure appear to be the most important things in it. Lange says:

The sensuality of the Qurʾānic paradise does not result, in other words, from a bedouin’s vision of a decadent life filled with wine, women and poetry. Rather, it evokes an ideal, a perfectly structured and ideally harmonious world, a world that humans, in the happiest moments of their life, can already see before them.

The Quran, therefore, does not try to suggest a separation between our physical realm and the spiritual realm. They co-exist side by side, within the same reality and the same universe. The pleasures of this life are a taste of Paradise:

Say, “Who forbade God’s finery which He has produced for His servants, and the delights of livelihood?” Say, “They are for those who believe, in this present world, but exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus detail the revelations for people who know.

The Quran, verse 7:32.

The Quran tells us that since all humans wish for a continuation of the best pleasures they enjoy in this world, it is only wise and rational for them to work toward Paradise. A day will come when the sky will open up and Paradise and Hell will crash in around us. On that day, those who took the wise choice will walk from the bliss of this world into a similar, but better, bliss–continuous and everlasting.

The Quran’s structure has been criticized for its apparent disorganization. Western critics see this as a result of the clumsy process of authorship and collation that took place during after the death of the Prophet PBUH. But Christian Lange disagrees, preferring to see the organization of the Quran as a unique literary accomplishment. He quotes Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who says:

The text of the Qurʾān reveals human language crushed by the power of the Divine Word… as if human language were scattered into a thousand fragments like a wave scattered into drops against the rocks at sea.

He goes on to quote Norman O. Brown (d. 2002), the American scholar of literature:

In consequence, what the recipient of the Qurʾānic experiences is a “totum simul, simultaneous totality: the whole in every part.”

Brown says that the Quran, like Jame Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, is

dumbfounding. Leaving us wonderstruck as a thunder, yunder. Well, all be dumbed! The destruction or the deconstruction of human language. It’s the Qur’an, it’s Joycean defiant exultation and incomprehensibility.

I agree with Lange that the Quran is not as incomprehensible as Brown seems to suggest. But the comparison with Jame Joyce is extremely helpful for Western readers wishing to understand the Quran.

To use a programming metaphor from Paul Graham, the Quran is not written in Arabic, it is written into Arabic. It is as if it is written by someone who knows all there is to know about Arabic, and about other languages, and who then feels free to do whatever he likes to Arabic, considering it a mere tool for expressing himself, rather than a defining framework for expression. The Arabic language is turned into a plaything. Rather than living up to our expectations of what Arabic prose should like, it constantly defies it and does its own thing.

I would say a good clue to the nature of the Quran is its name al-qurʾān, which means “the recitation”. The Quran is meant to be experienced. Like a symphony, every part of it is designed to create a certain state in the listener, while always reminding that listener, through its thematic background, that they are listening to this specific symphony. The Quran is not a history or an informational text, it is a carrier of an experience that is meant to shatter the listener’s understanding and experience of reality to reorder it and color it with the pigment of God.

If they believe in the same as you have believed in, then they have been guided. But if they turn away, then they are in schism. God will protect you against them; for He is the Hearer, the Knower.

The pigment of God. And who gives a better pigment than God? “And we are devoted to Him.”

The Quran, verses 2:137-138.

The Quran is a divine intervention in a world that shows us the smallness of our perspectives and understanding. And by taking us into a new realm of experience that no human could have created, it calls us to admit its divine origin and to humbly submit to its demands.

God has sent down the best of speech: A Scripture consistent and paired. The skins of those who reverence their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and their hearts soften up to the remembrance of God. Such is God’s guidance; He guides with it whomever He wills. But whomever God leaves astray, for him there is no guide.

The Quran, verse 39:23.

In conclusion, Lange displays a wonderfully sophisticated understanding of the Quran. He shows us how far Western Islamic studies has come.

IslamQA: Being a night person as a Muslim

Salamu alaikum. Brother, is there a thing such as a "nocturnal person"? What do you think of such person who is wide awake at night and sleeping during the day? Is it mentioned in the Quran whether it is prohibited or not?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That is often caused by having caffeine late in the day. As for the Islamic view, I know of no Quranic verses or hadiths that apply directly to it.

During Ramadan I often stay up the whole night until fajr because I am unable to work (programming and writing) when I am fasting, and to avoid spending an entire month unproductively, I switch my schedule so that I stay up at night and sleep during the day. I know some preachers speak against this, but since there is no clear evidence against it, and since my intention is not to avoid the difficulties of fasting but to be able to work, I believe it is fine.

IslamQA: The ruling on working for non-Muslims

Assalamu alaikum. What is the ruling for a Muslim working for non-Muslims?

There is no issue with working for non-Muslims or being partners in business with them. The Prophet PBUH and his Companions used to be involved in all kinds of businesses with non-Muslims; trade, rent and hiring.


IslamQA: On the Arab Spring

This might not be relevant anymore, but I just want to know what are your thoughts and opinion about the Arab Spring?

Personally I have a historian’s view of history; I look at society in terms of generations and centuries. So to me revolutions are never something to celebrate; they are just a violent expression of changes that would happen with or without them. As an example, if the American Revolution had never happened, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved and the United States would still have acquired its independence sooner or later.

The Arab Spring is just an expression of changes happening in the Middle East especially due to the spread of university education and Internet usage. Western powers love revolutions and use their intelligence agencies to support them and take them in the direction they want since it means they can install new governments that are more friendly to their interests. So for a nation, revolution is a plunge in the dark that makes the nation extremely vulnerable to foreign powers.

Revolution or upheaval never leads to some magical new government that solves the problems of the past. It leads to a reshuffling of the elite while the old problems remain just as before. Things slowly change as society changes with or without revolution.

So for me the Arab Spring is nothing to celebrate. It is just fireworks that represents the slow process of change that has been taking place decade by decade. While some are disheartened by the “failure” of the Arab Spring, personally I have no such feelings toward it. I am optimistic about the future of the Middle East since change is taking place. I don’t care about the fireworks, but about the structural changes taking place deep within society.