IslamQA: Is it better to delay salah until you are in the mood for it?

Which one is better: delaying salah until we do it in the mood or forcing ourselves to salah and feel compelled to do it? And why?

I would say doing it as soon as the time comes in is better because the Quran says:

The prayer is a timed obligation upon the believers.

The Quran, verse 4:103.

An important part of the prayer is to subdue the ego’s desires and break one’s routine for the sake of God. Doing this as soon as the time comes in is the best way to achieve it. As for how you feel about it, this is not as important; the point is to be able to force the ego to perform this act of worship regardless of what the ego wants. I believe this is the best way of proving to God one’s submission and eagerness to please Him.

IslamQA: The responsibility of the oldest child in Islam toward their family

Salaam. Brother, I want to ask you something. Does the eldest child have to be the backbone of the family? What if the eldest child is a girl and both her parents are still working, and her siblings are still students, what does Islam say regarding this and what are your personal opinion about women being the breadwinner? Thank you for your time.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no special legal obligation on the oldest child. A non-legal obligation may arise from their situation; for example the oldest child may be in a position to help the younger children and take care of them in some ways, this is a moral rather than legal obligation and would apply equally to both males and females and carrying it out would be an act of charity, while not doing it may or may not be sinful.

Children, however, have a legal obligation to financially take care of their elderly parents according to their ability and applies to both male and female children.

Additionally, males have a legal duty to financially take care of their needy sisters and other female relatives that they would inherit from in case of the female person’s death. But this is a matter of disagreement among the scholars.

Regarding women being breadwinners: if this is something that they arrange with their spouses/families then there is no issue with it. A woman’s earnings that go to her family would be considered charity since it is not her duty to earn money (while for a man it is a legal duty).


IslamQA: What should one think about during salah?

Assalamu alaikum! I know you are supposed to focus and have "khushoo" during prayer, but what exactly are you supposed to think about? Are you supposed to focus on reciting and performing the steps properly? Are you supposed to think about Allah? If so, what exactly are you supposed to think about regarding Allah? Sorry if this is a weird question, but I find my mind wandering during salah because I don't know a specific idea to focus on.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The ideal thing to do is to focus on the meaning of the words you utter. When reciting al-Fatiha, when you say “Guide us to the straight path”, you should create in your mind a state of supplication; this should be a desperate and sincere prayer for guidance. When you say allahu akbar during the movements, you should think of God’s greatness; sincerely saying in your heart “God is Great” and doing your best to believe it and create a state of awe in your heart.

The best way to avoid letting your mind wander is to speak the words in a whisper that you yourself can hear clearly. Some Muslims pray with their mouths shut; this makes it very easy for the mind to wander and also goes against the command of the Quran:

Say, “Call Him God, or call Him the Most Merciful. Whichever name you use, to Him belong the Best Names.” And be neither loud in your prayer, nor silent in it, but follow a course in between. (The Quran, verse 17:110)

Take the time to speak each word carefully and clearly. Hearing your own voice helps you focus on the meaning of what you are saying.

IslamQA: The ruling on drinking ejaculate during oral sex

During intercourse, when my wife ejaculates and squirts, am I allowed to drink/ingest it?

According to the imams Mālik, Abū Ḥanīfa and an opinion transmitted from Aḥmad, ejaculate (manī) is impure (najis) where from a man or a woman, and since ingesting impure things is forbidden, the ruling is that it is forbidden to ingest ejaculate. However, the Shāfiʿī school considers ejaculate pure, which would mean ingesting it is permissible. But Imām al-Nawawī, one of the greatest representatives of the Shāfiʿī school, prefers prohibiting ingesting it.

The matter is not clearly spelled out to us by the Quran or hadith. These are the opinions that the jurists have arrived at out of their own reasoning.

So while oral sex is permitted by most scholars as far as I am aware, drinking ejaculate is at least highly problematic.


IslamQA: A Muslim who wants to only follow the Quran due to the contradictions in Hadith

Selam I come from Sunni tradition. As I try to do more in relation to my faith I have tried to learn obout history of islam. I am becoming more interested in being Quaran only muslim. I have big problem with hadiths. So many contradictions to Quran. They almost complicate relationship with God. They almost undermine the beauty of Quran to me. So many doctrins Sunni shia and dozen others. They all claim to be the right path but to me they have only devided Uma. I have read that some Sunni rulings say I would not be considert muslim anymore by being only Quran muslim What do you think? Am I wrong. Thank you.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I understand your difficulty and I have been in a similar situation myself.

The first thing to understand is that religion is only a tool for knowing God better. Religion is not the point; God is the point. So the disagreements and infighting between the sects should not in any way affect your relationship with God; think of it as children bickering.

Once you take that to heart, you can approach hadith with the eye and heart of one who loves God and His Messenger PBUH and wishes to reach the highest ideal of character and morality.

Hadith should never be a cause for you to feel burdened or conflicted. Hadith is meant to be your helper. The Prophet PBUH says:

If you hear hadith from me and your heart knows it, and your feelings and good cheer lean toward it, and you consider it close to you, then I am closer to it than you. And if you hear hadith from me hadith that your hearts do not know, and your feelings and good cheer are repulsed by it, and you consider it distant from you, then I am more distant from it than you.

Musnad Aḥmad 15808, a very similar version is considered hasan by al-Albānī

So make this your approach to Hadith. Take from it what is good and beneficial. And whatever troubles you, you can research it further or safely ignore it. Hadith was never meant to be a competitor to the Quran. Companions like Umar ibn al-Khattab [ra] refused to write down hadiths because they feared it would compete with the Quran in people’s hearts and minds.

So the Hadith literature we have is a very imperfect representation of the Prophet’s manners and teachings PBUH. Whatever good you find in it, take it and appreciate it. And whatever troubles you, seek its interpretation from those who are knowledgeable. And if nothing they say satisfies you, you can safely ignore the hadith.

Realize that God could have given us a 10,000 page Quran. He could also have asked the Companions to write down everything the Prophet PBUH said and did. This would have greatly simplified our lives. So why didn’t God choose to do that?

Because religion is both a blessing and test. God does not want to take out all possibility of disagreement among Muslims. He wants us to open our hearts and perfect our characters within the imperfect world that we live.

Choosing to only follow the Quran is not a valid option; it is an extreme response that means you failed the test of God. God wants you to do what is moderate and open-hearted. And that means to do your honest best to make sense of the conflicting scripture that we have. Trying oversimplify the world for yourself by rejecting all hadith narrations means that you abandon the Muslim community and choose comfort over sincerity.

Accept the Hadith literature in its imperfect form and use it to enhance your Islam.

I too used to feel strongly tempted to reject all hadith narrations in favor of the Quran. But as my knowledge greatly increased and as I rededicated myself to following God as sincerely and honestly as I could, I realized that that is the cowardly option to choose. The pious and admirable option is love. To love hadith, to love the scholars and their sincere attempts to make sense of our imperfect world, and to love the Muslim community, to love the fact that God did not make it too simple or easy.

So do not let your intellect overpower your heart. Learn to love the Quran and the Sunna the way they are. I do not say that this will take all of your trouble away, but it will give you a path to follow. And if you constantly and sincerely seek God’s guidance, He will guide you through this troubled path.

IslamQA: What is the meaning of Sheenam?

Assalamu alikum, My daughter name is Sheenam. I was told that it is a persian name meaning Light. Sheen is mentioned in Quran also. Can you confirm it?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The meaning of that name depends on the way it is formed. There is no standard Persian word that sounds like Sheenam. But in the Māzandarānī dialect of Persian shī means “morning dew”, while in standard Persian shabnam means “morning dew”. It is possible that shīnam is a dialect word that combines shī and shabnam. If that is true, then Sheenam means “morning dew”.

Also, shī in the Māzandarānī dialect also means “soft, gentle rain”, while nam means “raindrop”. So shīnam can also mean “raindrop that falls from a soft, gentle rain.”

Also, in the Māzandarānī shī also means “spouse”, while nam means “name”. Therefore shīnam can also mean “spouse-name”.

There is no word in the Quran that sounds like shīn.

IslamQA: Is the truth relative or absolute?

Is the truth relative or absolute? Which kind of truth should I go for?

Truth is absolute. In God’s perspective, for example, humans have no right to deny His existence and His signs. God’s view is that all rational and open-hearted humans will believe in Him; it is only arrogance that prevents this belief, as discussed here: A Quranic Phenomenology of Atheism.

However, while truth in itself is absolute (Truth is one of the names of God), our own knowledge and understanding of truth in most cases is only approximate and probabilistic. According to Abū Ḥanīfa faith (imān) is absolute. When a person attains faith, their faith in God is just as “perfect” as an angel’s faith in God. If we accept this, then everything other than faith is approximate. For example our understanding of God’s revelations can only by probabilistic; it continues to improve as way study His words and discusses them and debate about them with others.

Naturally, whenever something can be improved, this suggested that it is not perfect or absolute.

As for what kind of truth you should “go for”, if I understood you correctly, then you should go for God. There is no guidance possible without God. Even if you spend years seeking truth from other sources, even if you read hundreds of great books, you can never attain guidance without God’s help. But if you seek it sincerely and humbly through God, He can give it to you better than anyone else can. So seek God, rely on Him, and realize that there is no truth higher than Him or independent from Him. He created this universe, He created our brains and our rationality. We can never be superior to Him or reach beyond Him.

IslamQA: A born Muslim who does not want to follow any religion

Salaam. I'm in a state where I'm a born Muslim, but thinks that I don't want to commit to Islam or a certain religion. What do you call this? And what should I do? I feel wrong, but somehow it is liberating to imagine if I were to bound by no religion. Does only believing the existence of God suffice?

I understand the desire to want to be part of a “larger” truth instead of restricting yourself to one religion. Unfortunately this does not work for the simple reason that God does not approve of it. As a Muslim, you have inherited the legacy of Islam and God accepts no religion other than Islam from you. The Quran says:

Whoever [among the Muslims] seeks other than Islam as a religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

How will God guide a people who disbelieved after having believed, and had witnessed that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the unjust people.

Those—their penalty is that upon them falls the curse of God, and of the angels, and of all mankind.

Remaining in it eternally, without their punishment being eased from them, and without being reprieved.

The Quran, verses 3:85-88.

From God’s perspective Islam is a truth that no Muslim has a right to deny. Breaking away from Islam means breaking away from the truth, and this is a sin that God does not forgive.

There is no higher moral law in our universe to justify your leaving Islam for the sake of believing in God without religion. If you believe in God, you must be willing to seek Him out and seek out His revelations and sincerely ask Him for guidance. You cannot just say that you believe in God and expect this to suffice you. God has plans for you and makes demands on you. You either humbly submit to this or you arrogantly think that you are above God’s wishes.

For more on understanding God’s perspective, please see my essay A Quranic Phenomenology of Atheism. I know that you do not wish to be an atheist, but the topics discussed in there are relevant.

IslamQA: Is witr like maghrib or not?

I have read somewhere that Witr salah has to differ from the Maghrib Salah. So can I pray two rakhat and do Salam and after that do one more separate rakhat.

There are different opinions among the schools on how witr should be done. You can pray it like maghrib, or like maghrib but without sitting in the second rak`a for tashahhud, or you can pray two rak`at, say salam, then pray a single rak`a. 

All of the above are acceptable ways of doing it unless you wish to strictly follow a particular school.


IslamQA: What is the meaning of the name “Arafat”?

Arafat (transliteration: ʿArafāt) is the name of a mountain 12 miles from Mecca where the pilgrims stand in supplication during the pilgrimage. ʿArafāt is the plural of ʿarafa which means “well-known”, “recognized” according to Ibn Sīda al-Mursī’s dictionary Al-Muḥkam wa-l-Muḥīṭ al-Aʿẓam (d. 1066 CE).

According to Habib Anthony Salmone’s An Advanced Learner’s Arabic-English Dictionary (1889) ʿarafa also means “patient”.

IslamQA: Is it permissible to use the name “Wahhab” without “Abdul”?

Asalamalaikum It is permissible to use Wahab/Wahhab name without Abdul or a similar prefix.

According to a fatwa by the website IslamOnline (which is overseen by the respected scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi), using the name Wahhab without “Abdul” is not permissible because it is specific to God.

The fatwa refers to the opinion of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah that names that are specific to God’s greatness should not be used without “Abdul”.


IslamQA: Does God forgive sins if you keep repeating them?

Saalam Aleyckum, does Allah forgive everytime i make sins ? Even if i repeat thousand times the same ? And do you know how can we know that Allah loves us ? I feel like i don't deserve Allah mercy.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no limit to God’s forgiveness. If you are able to to sincerely ask for forgiveness, then that in itself means that God is willing to forgive you. When God decides that a person no longer deserves forgiveness then they become the type of person who never ask for forgiveness. This is what the Quran means by “sealing” the hearts of those who sin so much and do so many evil deeds that God decides to seal their fate and prevent them from seeking His forgiveness (as in the case of the Pharaoh in the story of Prophet Moses PBUH).

If you feel inspired to ask for forgiveness, if you are not happy with yourself and wish to be better, then that means God loves you and is there to help you. When God does not love someone He lets them become happy in their own state so that they never feel inspired to seek guidance or forgiveness and in this way their life goes to waste while thinking they are doing really well.

IslamQA: How to stop feeling jealousy and envy

I don't know if you received this or not, but I asked if there were any surahs which stop making you jealous, or any dikhr. Thanks.

Sorry I don’t think I received it. I don’t know of any surahs or dhikrs to do for jealously. This is a character problem that would require commitment to changing yourself. Please see the articles on the page Guides on Getting Closer to God for guidance on bettering yourself. If you dedicate yourself to reading the Quran for an hour a day then I am pretty sure that will solve your problem.

Best wishes.

IslamQA: Is “Mumtahina” a good Islamic name?

I named my niece Mumtahina but people say it is not good for the baby. Please guide us more if it is an appropriate name for the baby or not.

First, note that the sura of the Quran is named Mumtahana, not Mumtahina. Mumtahana means “the woman who was tested” while Mumtahina means “a woman who tests [others].”

If you knowingly chose Mumtahina, then the meaning of “one who tests”, “tester” is not a bad meaning. It means the person is wise and discerning.

But if you chose it thinking it was in the Quran, then this is wrong, since the Quranic name is Mumtahana. But you can still keep Mumtahina since it does not have a bad meaning.

IslamQA: Is it sinful to not have a beard or to do other makruh actions?

If a Muslim does a makruh action, like if they trim their beard short (according to the shafi school) is it haram that they enjoy the look of it or if someone copies their sheikh's style of beard (while knowing a longer beard is better and closer to the sunnah). What is the remedy for waswasa on fear of "being pleased with sin" / "approval of sin" or waswasa on"fear of istihlal". Any advice for someone who gets waswasa about intentions and obsessively thinks about permissibility and compulsively researches about matters.

The issues of makrūh (disliked) and mustaḥabb (recommended) are not commandments but things that are on an equal footing with a person’s cultural and personal context, meaning that if they have a reason to do otherwise, this is not a sin. It is left to their own logic and preferences to determine what to do. If these things were meant to be commands and prohibitions, they would have been expressed as such. But they are not.

The solution to your waswasa could be to dedicate yourself to the Quran and its commandments, making it the constitution of your life. As for the makrūh and mustaḥabb things, by considering them equals to your own choices and preferences (rather than considering them orders meant to control you), you can perhaps convince yourself not to be bothered by them. Of course there are different levels of makrūh, so I am not recommending just ignoring them all.

You should study each issue and decide what you should do about it. If you can accomplish a Quranic character in yourself then perhaps you will feel confident in your Islamic identity without being bothered by such issues as beards.

At least, that is my approach. I am dedicated to following every letter of the Quran and every proven command and prohibition of the Prophet PBUH. This is the constitution of my Islam and enables me to feel fully “Islamic” in my identity despite the fact that I do not have a long beard.

If the Prophet PBUH was among us, I would have done whatever he commanded. But since I consider him a gentle and friendly mentor, when he makes a recommendation (rather than command), I believe he would respect my own choices in the matter.

IslamQA: The Islamic ruling on donating corpses for scientific research

This is a matter of difference among scholars and some prohibit the use corposes for scientific research. But According to a fatwa by the Qatari Fatwa Authority, donating one’s body to be used for scientific research is permitted since it fulfills a good purpose and is not opposed to any of the fundamental precepts of the Sharia.

The scholar Gad al-Haq Ali (of al-Azhar University) permitted using the bodies of certain corpses (those who are found dead by government agencies and their identity cannot be established, and those whose identity is known but have no known relatives) for scientific research as it is practiced by some countries.

However, as mentioned here a different ruling prohibits donating the organs of dead people without their having expressed their consent while alive, therefore the person must have expressed their to consent to the use of their body in this way while alive.


IslamQA: The Islamic ruling on cremation

According to the Qatari Fatwa Authority, the human body possesses dignity even after death, therefore burning the body is not permitted. An authentic hadith tells us that breaking a corpse’s bones is similar to breaking a living person’s bones.

However, the Fatwa goes on to say that if burning human bodies is medically justified (for example when there is a large number of bodies and burying them is not an option, and the spread of disease may be feared because of the decaying bodies), then it is permitted.


IslamQA: Listening to the Quran

You mentioned that you listen to the Quran everyday, what website do you use to listen to the Quran?

I don’t use a website. I have the Quran recitation on my phone and use the Listen Audiobook Player app to play it.

IslamQA: Is celebrating 15 of Shaban (Barat) a bida?

What is your opinion on Shab e Barat? Some say it is bidah some say it's not

Regarding all supposedly bidʿa acts of worship I believe Ibn Taymiyyah has the most sensible opinion (unfortunately most of those who claim to follow him do not take the trouble to read him carefully). His opinion is this:

  1. Those who sincerely perform the act of worship, believing that they are doing a good deed, may be greatly rewarded by God for it.
  2. Those who are not convinced that the act of worship is legitimate should avoid it.

Personally I am in the second camp; I am not a fan of most of these forms of worship and avoid them. But I do not criticize those take pleasure and satisfaction in them. It is their business and God may reward them for their effort and sincerity.

For more on Ibn Taymiyya see my essay Ibn Taymiyya and His Times.