IslamQA: Is it wrong in Islam to feel jealous?

Salam, this guy i know is probably the one person i met who is genuinely kind-hearted and different to me. But, sometimes i have doubts about crushes and i just think about how im always thinking about the person i like rather than Allah SWT. I was afraid of how Allah might take him away cause ive put Him aside. Is it wrong if i get jealous if he starts to like my friend secretly? Ive let go of the people i like for the past few years for my friends but how i wished it could work out for me too.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It is best to give priority to your relationship with God, but God does not expect us to be super-human. He knows that we have human desires and weaknesses and does not expect us to give up our humanity or the sake of religion, but He does present us with a higher ideal that we should all strive toward to the best of our ability.

Feeling jealous is not “wrong” since it is a natural reaction to certain circumstances. What is wrong is if this jealously causes you to do mean things toward people or to think negative and ungrateful thoughts toward God. Suppressing your jealously is a virtuous act and you will be rewarded for it. Virtue is in going against your human nature for the sake of God, as in giving away something you love, or suppressing anger or jealousy, or giving up part of the time you could be using for entertainment so that you instead do worship in it.

For more on romantic love and dealing with the possibility of not getting the person you desire please see the page romantic love in Islam on my site.

IslamQA: Her husband forbids her from going to the gym

Hi. I wanted to ask regarding women going to a public gym - gyms have a ladies only section. My husband doesnt allow me to attend even though it has a dedicated ladies area. I havet ried to make him understand but he still doesnt allow it. I wanted to go for my own health & wellbeing &keep active. I have tried working out at home but it is hard as i live with the inlaws & sometimes dont feel comfortable & its harder to stay more motivated. Any tips or help to make him understand?

It is possible that he dislikes your going to the gym because he thinks you may still run into many men who may get a chance to admire you. Since he cannot be completely sure what goes on in the gym and what kinds of people there are in there, he may think it the safest option for you not to go. You could encourage him to come with you to the gym so that both of you work out there, if he becomes familiar with the place, and if it is a good place, then he may end up having a more favorable opinion of you working out there.

Another thing to do would be to go with fellow Muslim women (maybe try to connect with some using your local mosque’s sisters group), if he thinks you are in good company at the gym that may convince him to not be opposed to it.

IslamQA: Her friend is too involved with her male colleagues

Assalamualaikum, please I need your help! My best friend has too many male friends from her college, she talks to them and sometimes goes out with them. She knows it's wrong, but whenever I speak to her regard this she tells me "we work on the same college projects together", but she talks to them as friends, not just as her team members! I don't know what to do with her. Any advice, please?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It appears from your description that she is simply not religious enough to care, and if that is so, then her behavior is just the expression of a deeper ignorance or impiety, meaning that the problem you mentioned may be part of a bigger problem with her understanding or loyalty to her faith.

The thing that could help her most would be to involve her in beneficial activities, for example encouraging her to go with you to a sisters’ halaqa at a mosque. Trying to change a specific behavior does not usually work. But helping her become more involved with Islam through meetings, lectures and so on can affect every part of her life.

My advice is to never make someone your “project” where you try to improve them, that is not a proper attitude to have toward a fellow human. People like to freely reach their own conclusions about how they should behave. At the end of the day nothing you can do will change her unless she decides to change by herself.

IslamQA: Is it permissible to pray tahajjud after performing witr?

Assalam alaikum, Is there any norm or restrictions in praying tahajjud after you have prayed your Isha and ended with witr prayers. Is tahajjud valid after praying witr. Please clarify. JazakAllah khair

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Witr is supposed to be the last prayer of the night before the dawn (fajr) prayer. But if you perform it then desire to pray more tahajjud afterwards, this is permissible. Archived link to a fatwa stating this view from Egypt’s fatwa authority, which generally represents the views of the scholars of al-Azhar University. The fatwa also says that if you desire to wake up in the night to perform tahajjud but are not sure whether you will be able to wake up or not, you can pray witr before going to bed.

IslamQA: Can babies see angels?

Salaam brother! My father always used to tell us that little babies can see angels and I heard the same thing about mentally disabled people (those incapable of going through the test of this dunya). I recently dealt with such mentally ill children and looking at their behaviour ("talking" to the air, laughing at random) I can see where the idea is coming from, but is there any truth to that in Islam, or is that just some folklore-kind of thing?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran mentions a few rare instances where humans see angels, as in the case of Mary, mother of Jesus (peace be upon them), who speaks to an angel who appears to her like a man. There is also the story of Abraham and the angels who visit him and his wife, giving him and his wife the news that they are about to have a son (Isaac). But those are rare, miraculous instances that do not necessarily have any bearing on our day-to-day lives. For more about the interaction between the Seen and the Unseen world please see my essay Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template.

As for babies having special powers to see angels, there is no evidence in Islam for that (archived link to a fatwa on this), it seems to be a Middle Eastern superstition.

IslamQA: Can angels read and understand the Quran or not?

Is it true that Allah didn't grant the angels the wisdom to read and understand the Quran? Why? Is it the same with the shaytans?

The few opinions I found say that it is a baseless speculation to say whether the angels can or cannot read the Quran since we have no conclusive evidence either way.

As for the jinn (shaytans are considered a type of jinn), the Quran mentions them listening to and understanding the Quran:

29. Recall when We dispatched towards you a number of jinn, to listen to the Quran. When they came in its presence, they said, “Pay attention!” Then, when it was concluded, they rushed to their people, warning them.

30. They said, “O our people, we have heard a Scripture, sent down after Moses, confirming what came before it. It guides to the truth, and to a straight path.

31. O our people! Answer the caller to God, and believe in Him; and He will forgive you your sins, and will save you from a painful punishment.” (Verses 46:20-31)

Sura 72 gives more details.

IslamQA: In Islam, are we fated to marry a specific person?

Asalamualaikum. are we have a fate to met and married someone?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There are many differing views on how fate works in Islam and each view has its own evidence and adherents. The fact is that the nature of fate is never fully explained in the Quran, but the Quran suggests that fate might at least be variable, meaning that you can change your fate based on what you do and what you pray for, even though God is always in charge. For more on this please see this answer:

Can prayer change your fate and destiny in Islam?

So it is possible that, based on the kind of person you are right now, God may have a particular person in mind for you. But if you change the kind of person you are, if you become much better or much worse, that might change the fate God has in store for you.

What we know without doubt is that fate is in God’s hands. What we do not know for certain is how it really works. Some people say that everything you say, think or do in your life is already “written” somewhere before you are born, but this is only one theory among many others, and it has its own problems.

IslamQA: Are sexual and homosexual fantasies forbidden in Islam?

Is it haram to think about sexual things without acting upon them? What about homosexual thoughts?

The Prophet, peace be upon him, says:

God has pardoned for my community what comes to their mind, so long as they do not act or pronounce words to that effect. (Sunan Abi Dawud 2209, various forms of this hadith are also present al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)

However, as Muslims we should always aim high and try to do what is most admirable. Your goal should be to try to understand God and to work to become the type of person that is most pleasing to Him. From this perspective you can then judge for yourself what thoughts are good and what thoughts are not.

IslamQA: The appropriate way to approach and propose to a Muslim woman

Salam, A man with good intentions and a clean heart, finds a young lady attractive and has heard very pleasant things about her. Mashallah, she is gorgeous and after getting to know her, he is very sure about the decision of inshallah making her his wife. Pure intentions, clean heart, no ill means wallah. However, the man is still early in life, needs to finish college in order to be able to provide for his loved ones. What should he do? (He is me haha)

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

To understand the proper way to approach her and why it has to be so, you have to understand the way marriage is meant to work in Islam. As I discuss in detail in my essay The Point of Marriage in Islam (and the Problem with Romantic Relationships Outside of Marriage), in Islam (and  Victorian Christianity), marriage is not only about the fulfillment of two individuals, it is about integrating their relationship into society in a safe and functional way. This means that the families of both the man and the woman have to be involved in the process, it is not something the man and the woman can set up entirely on their own. The same way that you have a right to be loved and taken care of by your parents, your parents have a right to have a say in your marriage.

The proper way to approach her is therefore through her family. You have to present yourself to her family and they have to cast their votes, whether in your favor or against it. In some families the woman herself has most of the vote and the family will respect her choice, while in other families the parents and siblings expect to have more of a say.

First, you should mention the matter to your own family. Even if you think they will like her and approve of the relationship, the respectful thing to do is to get them involved. If they are not Muslim and they expect you to manage your own relationships, then that makes their involvement less important.

If you do not know the woman’s family, you can politely approach the woman and tell her of your desire to request her hand in marriage from her family, she would then tell her family about you and a day will be arranged for you to meet her family. It depends on a woman’s culture and education how she will respond to being approached. Some may consider it a natural and acceptable thing, others may be seriously offended and may consider it very inappropriate. Some cultures, like in Iran or Malaysia, are accepting toward strangers approaching their daughters for marriage due to the spread of university education and their cosmopolitan lifestyles, while others, such as that of Afghanistan, will in general find the idea of a stranger approaching their daughter an utterly unacceptable thing.

If you cannot take care of a family now but expect to be able to once you finish college, her family may approve of your engagement but ask to delay the wedding until after you finish college. This is commonly done in countries like Iran and Malaysia. But some families may refuse such an arrangement and ask you to come back once you have a job. Some families may simply refuse to meet you and ask to meet your parents first, or only approve a meeting once you have finished college. And if the woman has other eligible suitors, that will further complicate the picture.

So the way to approach her is to ask to be introduced to her family. If the woman says she is not interested, then you have to leave it at that. And if she mentions you to her family but they refuse to meet you, then you have to find out the reason. If the reason is something that can be changed (maybe they expect you to have a job), then you have to wait patiently and try again in the future.

If the family approves of the relationship but does not want you to get married just yet, you can perform a quiet engagement ceremony (nikāḥ) to make your engagement official religiously. After that the two of you can stay in contact and date like any Western couple until you get married. This is how some Muslim cultures do it, while others may find it strange to perform a nikāḥ without performing the wedding.

What you should absolutely not do is try to start a romantic relationship with her in disregard to her family. Islam is not opposed to your happiness, but it wants your relationship to be conducted in a way that will work out for everyone in the long-term, rather than enjoying a few months of bliss followed by years of disappointment and suffering. Even if she seems interested in such a relationship and wants to keep in close contact, you should keep things formal and professional and keep in mind that she may end up marrying someone else. If she is someone you meet daily (you attend the same classes or work at the same place), then your behavior toward her should be in a way that if her family was watching, they should not disapprove of it. It is impossible to stay within the appropriate boundaries if you keep in contact with her in private (such as through chatting on social media). Both of you will strongly desire to keep pushing the boundaries, this is natural and will invariably lead to both of you starting to act more like lovers. Therefore I strongly recommend that you do not keep up regular private contact with her.

It can be very difficult to act with perfect religious composure when you strongly desire to be with someone and especially when they too desire to be with you. But that is the polite and civilized way to behave, and it is designed that way for your own good and her good, so that you can both remain pious and get married with the blessing and approval of both of your families. If her family discovers that you tried to bypass them by keeping a secret romantic relationship with their daughter, they may never forgive you for it, and even if the marriage takes place, this mistake can negatively color your relationship with them for the rest of your life.

Sometimes her family may say the marriage is impossible for one reason or another, but they may change their opinion eventually. If she is from an immigrant family, her parents may expect her to marry someone from their own culture, for this reason if you belong to a different culture, they may simply refuse to even consider you. Books can be written about all of the complexities and nuances of getting married in Islam, so I cannot cover everything in this answer.

The best thing to do is to be patient and respectful, and to keep in mind that we do not always get what we want in life. I recommend spending an extra hour every night in worship (as I describe here), this will make it much easier to be patient and to remain on your best behavior in your interactions with women.

IslamQA: Being Muslim and a fangirl/fanboy of a fictional world

Assalamualaikum brother, as you in Tumblr platform I think you've heard things called as 'fangirl/fanboy' or any person that loves some fictional works so much. How Islam treat people like them (actually I'm also one of them)? Honestly I have lots of question about this topic but I haven't found any 'Islamic specialist' in this field, although I came from muslim-majority country.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings books, the Harry Potter books, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and Frank Herbert’s Dune books. The majority of mainstream scholars will have no issue with reading fiction and being a fan of fictional worlds as long as it does not lead to neglecting one’s religious duties (archived link to a fatwa by the popular Saudi scholar Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, who says that reading fiction is permissible but that it depends on a person’s knowledge and maturity whether this may have harms for them or not).


IslamQA: Is it permissible to write down prayer words when learning how to pray (salah)?

hey, I'm struggling with myself. I want to start praying , but i don't know how to pronounce the things. And the other thing is if I can't remember the sayings can I write it down and read it or is it not focusing on Allah and the praying then and when do I have to say sws?

It is universally accepted that a person can read from a book of Quran during the prayer, so I see no issue with reading the other parts of the prayer from a piece of paper until you learn them (but I cannot find official opinions on this). There is no issue with having difficulty pronouncing the words as it takes time to learn them, the Prophet PBUH says in regards to reciting the Quran (but it can be applied to the rest of the prayer as well):

The one who is proficient in the recitation of the Quran will be with the honorable scribes (the Angels) and he who recites the Quran and finds great difficulty in reciting it, doing his best to recite it in the best way possible, will have a double reward. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 65, Hadith 4937)

IslamQA: She keeps dreaming of a particular man she likes

Salam. I’m in a difficulty. I dreamt about him for about 6 times and he’s the one that I dreamt the most compared to anyone that I know. We’re friends but we’re not close anymore. We don’t even talk anymore. But he still appears in my dream. Even when I don’t think about him on day time, he still appears in my dreams (not in a sexual way. More like he confessed to me that he like&love me). And that makes me miss him. But I strongly feels that he doesn’t been through this too.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I cannot say what your dreams may mean, but it is best not to assume them to be telling you something, they might just be a reflection of your own thoughts from the past. In my experience my dreams of people often involve people I interacted with or thought about a lot in the past but that I have not thought about recently. The dreams are like a reminder of people I have been neglecting to think about. As for people that I meet on a daily basis, I almost never dream about them.

My advice for being lovelorn is to attach your heart to God through daily spiritual work (I recommend performing tahajjud and Quran-reading together as described here), which makes all the concerns of this world lose their power to make us sad or stress out. Take care of your relationship with the Creator and He will take care of everything else for you in the best way possible. Our happiness and sadness can only come through Him, as the Quran says:

42. And that to your Lord is the finality.

43. And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.

44. And that it is He who gives death and life. (Verses 53:42-44)

It is part of our human nature to fall in love and to expect our happiness to come from other humans. But the wise and rational thing to do, when you recognize the nature of this world and the way everything and everyone we rely on invariably let us down, is to attach your heart first and foremost to God and leave it to God to manage your fate for you.

IslamQA: How can we know if our dua is delayed or rejected?

How can we know if our dua is delayed or rejected?

Every prayer you make is an act of worship, and in response to it God arranges things more favorably for you. There are no wasted prayers. But God’s response to our prayers is a matter of the Unseen world that is hidden away from us. When it comes to what He does in response to our prayers, most of the time we cannot be sure. God tells us in the Quran not to put our hopes in the worldly life and to not be attached to it, for this reason the proper attitude of a Muslim should be to pray for general things rather than specific things. You might pray to be the top student of your class, but another person might be praying just as hard for it, or God may have a plan for them that requires them to be the top student, so praying for something too specific often sets you up for disappointment.

A pious Muslim can pray for things they desire, but they should always acknowledge that God may have a different plan for them. We may desire to marry a specific person and pray for that, but God does not promise us that He will answer such prayers. He may if He wants, and He may not if He does not want. True submission to God means to submit to His decrees about us rather than making demands and telling Him how He should be managing our affairs for us. God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows what we best need, therefore we should not pray like masters making decrees to a servant to do things for us, we should instead pray with full knowledge that God always knows better. Ibn al-Jawzi writes:

The true servant of God is the one who accepts whatever the Creator decrees. If he asks of Him and He answers, he considers that a privilege granted by Him, and if he is denied, he considers that an act of the Master doing what He wills toward His subjects, so that there is no complaint in his heart toward his condition.

IslamQA: It is permissible for Muslims to celebrate birthdays

Is it okay to celebrate birthdays?

Egypt’s Dār al-Iftāʾ (the authority that issues fatwas for all Egyptians and is peopled by qualified scholars from al-Azhar University) has issued a fatwa that says it is permissible to celebrate birthdays as long as they do not involve anything forbidden by Islam.1 The popular Egyptian caller to Islam Amr Khaled has published this fatwa on his website.2

It is also the opinion of Dr. Ali Gomaa (Egypt’s chief mufti from 2003 to 2013) that celebrating birthdays is permissible, but he recommends that Islamic elements should be introduced into it to make it a spiritual occasion.3

Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most respected living scholars today, also supports celebrating birthdays and says Muslim can do it and turn it into a beneficial Islamic occasion. Dr. Amina Naseer, a professor at al-Azhar University, also has this opinion.4

In Arabic, a birthday is called “ʿīd al-mīlād” (literally “eid of birth”). Since it has the word “eid” in it, a minority of Muslims thinks it is a false innovation in religion since it is trying to instate a new eid in Islam. They also say that since all Muslims should replicate the way of life of the earliest Muslims, and since the earliest Muslims did not celebrate birthdays, we should not either.

The majority of Muslims do not accept their thinking, whose view is that in Islam all celebrations are permitted unless there is a reason to prohibit them (for example if it is a celebration of a pagan deity, then that is clearly forbidden). Since a birthday celebration does not necessarily contain anything that is forbidden in Islam, the default ruling about it is that it is permitted.

IslamQA: What are the exact rulings on the hijab in the Quran?

Salam, brother. I have a question to ask. Does Islam has certain rulings on hijab? Because, in my country there seem to be different opinions among the Muslim groups and that they have different version of how women hijab is. This make me confused.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran states that the head and chest should be covered. It also states that a woman should not show her “adornments” except to close relatives like her father, which logically means that her dress code in public should be different from the one at home. By putting together everything the Quran says, the picture we get is that a Muslim woman should dress in such a way in public that makes it impossible for lecherous men to objectify her sexually. It is generally accepted that that means her clothing should not be tight or see-through and that everything except her face and hands should be covered in public. It does not matter what exactly she wears among all the options available to a Muslim woman.

Some hadith narrations explain in some detail what the early Muslim women wore. While a minority considers these explanations prescriptions applying to all Muslim women for all time, the majority of scholars have the common sense view that as long as the purpose is achieved, the details and make of a woman’s clothing do not matter.

For more on the evidence on the hijab, please see these two articles:

IslamQA: Why is it so difficult to stop repeating sins?

I have questions about repeating sins. I clearly know that being in a haram relationship is wrong and awful and I keep asking forgiveness from Allah swt and I pray for Him to protect me from the whispers of shaytaan. But why do I keep repeating the same sins over & over again. I am always sad whenever I do it but I feel like I fell deep down and He won’t forgive me. Please help me.

The reason is that avoiding sin requires feeling deep sense of loyalty toward God. It is not sufficient to merely acknowledge in your mind that God exists and that sins are wrong. You need to make His presence feel real to you, and that requires daily work.

Trying to avoid repeating sins is similar to trying to lose weight by eating less when your house is filled with delicious things like cake and ice cream. Today you might watch a very inspiring lecture or short film that motivates you to lose weight so that you avoid eating the foods you like. But tomorrow, your motivation will have evaporated, and unless you do the necessary work to feel motivated again, you will likely start eating those foods again.

It is in human nature to be attracted toward certain sinful things. Unless we work every day to keep our motivation for avoiding sins, our human nature reasserts itself so that we end up engaging in those sins. What I recommend is to perform at least an hour of tahajjud and Quran reading before bed (see here for the details). If you maintain that just for a week, you will likely be able to effortlessly avoid all sins because you will feel close to God and loyal to Him throughout your day so that it feels out of character to sin.

However, if you start doing that and it helps you avoid repeating sins, if stop doing it then you will again start sinning. If you are truly intent on avoiding sins, you have to make the decision to spend a certain amount of time every single day in extra worship for the rest of your life. There are no short-cuts, no permanent solutions. It is a daily challenge and we have to meet it every single day if we want to remain spiritual and pure of sin.

IslamQA: Did Abraham’s wife Sarah laugh at the destruction of Lot’s people?

Did Allah grant Isaac and Jacob to Sarah because she was happy that the People of Lut would be destroyed? Why did then prophet Ibrahim not react same way but Allah SWT still didn't say anything bad about his reaction when they are two opposite reactions?

The reason for Sarah’s laughter is not given in the Quran. It is a mystery that scholars have tried to solve in various ways. The Persian Quran commentator al-Rāzī mentions eight different opinions on the reason for her laughter, and only one of them is that she was happy at the destruction of Lot’s people, I will discuss the opinions on her laughter below. The best interpretation in my opinion, as I will discuss below, is that her laughter was a laughter of joy and relief at finding out that the men were actually angels.

The Quran, in the following passage, suggests that they found out about the destruction of Lot’s people after being given the good news of having a son:

27. He set it before them. He said, “Will you not eat?”

28. And he harbored fear of them. They said, “Do not fear,” and they announced to him the good news of a knowledgeable boy.

29. His wife came forward crying out. She clasped her face, and said, “A barren old woman?”

30. They said, “Thus spoke your Lord. He is the Wise, the Knowing.”

31. He said, “What is your business, O envoys?”

32. They said, “We are sent to a people guilty of sin.” (The Quran, verses 51:27-32)

Another passage that retells the story is the following:

52. When they entered upon him, and said, “Peace.” He said, “We are wary of you.”

53. They said, “Do not fear; we bring you good news of a boy endowed with knowledge.”

54. He said, “Do you bring me good news, when old age has overtaken me? What good news do you bring?”

55. They said, “We bring you good news in truth, so do not despair.”

56. He said, “And who despairs of his Lord’s mercy but the lost?”

57. He said, “So what is your business, O envoys?”

58. They said, “We were sent to a sinful people.” (The Quran, verses 15:52-58)

Another passage compresses the story into the following two verses:

31. And when Our envoys brought Abraham the good news, they said, “We are going to destroy the people of this town; its people are wrongdoers.”

32. He said, “Yet Lot is in it.” They said, “We are well aware of who is in it. We will save him, and his family, except for his wife, who will remain behind.” (The Quran, verses 29:31-32)

In the following passage, which is the one you referred to, she is mentioned as laughing immediately after the people of Lot are mentioned:

70. But when he saw their hands not reaching towards it, he became suspicious of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said, “Do not fear, we were sent to the people of Lot.”

71. His wife was standing by, so she laughed. And We gave her good news of Isaac; and after Isaac, Jacob.

72. She said, “Alas for me. Shall I give birth, when I am an old woman, and this, my husband, is an old man? This is truly a strange thing.”

73. They said, “Do you marvel at the decree of God? The mercy and blessings of God are upon you, O people of the house. He is Praiseworthy and Glorious.”

74. When Abraham's fear subsided, and the good news had reached him, he started pleading with Us concerning the people of Lot. (The Quran, verses 11:70-74)

It appears that the Arab Quran commentator Ibn Kathir like the opinion that Sarah’s laughter was because of her happiness that the people of Lot would be destroyed. The Egyptian Arab scholar al-Suyuti in his very short commentary Tafsīr al-Jalālayn also summarily mentions this opinion without mentioning any of the others. But the reality is that the majority of scholars reject this view. The Persian scholar al-Wāḥidī mentions in his Quran commentary al-Basīṭ that Ibn ʿAbbās and Wahb ibn Munabbih had the opinion that her laughter was due to the strangeness of the news of having a son at her old age (this is also the reason for her laughter mentioned in the Torah in Genesis 18:11-14). Even though in verse 11:71 her laughter is mentioned before she is given the news of having a son, in Arabic literary writing something that is mentioned after another thing could have actually happened before it (known as al-taqdīm wa-l-taʾkhīr).

According to Muqatil (an early Persian scholar of tafsir), she may have been laughing or sneering at Abraham’s fear (peace be upon him) (because he was a tribal chief and it was out of place for him to act fearful of anyone), while according to the Persian scholar al-Farrāʾ (one of the great authorities on the Arabic language and on the interpretation of the Quran) her laughter was a laughter of relief. She had been afraid the angels were men planning to do violence to them, so when they said they were from God, she laughed with joy. The Persian Quran commentator Al-Ṭabarī mentions the various opinions on the matter but he himself sides with the opinion that she was laughing because she marveled at the way they people of Lot were going to be destroyed while they were unaware (she wasn’t happy at their destruction, she was being philosophical about it).

There also an entirely different line of interpretation, mentioned by most scholars, that interprets the word that is translated in English as “she laughed” to mean “she [started] menstruating”, because the word is used in Arabic poetry both to mean laughter and to mean menstruation depending on the context. This interpretation is rejected by scholars like al-Farrāʾ, but it is actually plausible because of the context. Sarah is a very old woman and probably has not menstruated in many years. But now she is about to be given the news that she will bear a son, and it is fitting if she starts menstruating at that time as a sign that her reproductive system is starting to function like a younger woman’s again.

Among all of these possibilities, the strongest one appears to be al-Farrāʾ’s, that Sarah was laughing with joy and relief at finding out that these men were angels. One line of argument that strengthens this interpretation, which I have not seen mentioned in any of the Quran commentaries I looked at, is that by merging all of the above passages together we can create the following chronology:

  1. The angles appear to Abraham and his wife looking like men
  2. The become fearful of them.
  3. The angels tell them not to fear and say that they have been “sent” to the people of Lot, but without actually explaining their purpose
  4. The angels give them the tidings about Isaac and Jacob
  5. When Abraham calms down, he asks the angels what their business is regarding Lot’s people
  6. The angels explain
  7. Abraham argues with them and tries to save Lot’s people.

Looking at the Quranic passages, the angels only explain what they are planning to do regarding Lot’s people only after giving them the tidings about Isaac. Before giving them the tidings they may have made a casual mention of Lot’s people (as in 11:70) without giving the details. This by itself does not prove much, but it adds a some extra support to interpretations (like al-Farrāʾ’s) that disassociate Sarah’s laughter from the destruction of Lot’s people.

In summary, there is no compelling evidence that Sarah’s laughter was at the destruction of Lot’s people. It is only one possibility among many, and the best interpretation (in my opinion) is that her laughter was a laughter of relief.

IslamQA: Does the Quran blame Lot’s people for “desiring” men when desire is outside human control?

Salaam. Why does it say it say in the Quran (I'm reading saheeh translation)"do you desire men instead of woman" about people of Lut.Desire is not something you can control but action is? If the desire is a test then it shouldn't be acted on. Also why did Lut give his daughters? The daughters are innocent and homisexuals can't be fixed by having intercourse with woman ?

The actual phrase the Quran uses is “approach men with desire”, which is an euphemism for sexual intercourse.  For more on the Quran and homosexuality please see: Did God destroy the People of Lot for rape instead of homosexuality?

As for Lot offering his daughters, please see: Is homosexuality more evil than rape in the Quran? Not exactly

IslamQA: Why is Islam opposed to homosexuality?

In answer to questions asking about the real, material reasons why Islam is opposed to homosexuality.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Please see the updated answer here: The Philosophical Reason why Homosexual Relationships are Wrong

Old answer:

It is possible that a person in a homosexual relationship will have a happy and fulfilling life. But Islam is not only concerned with the happiness of individuals. It wants to create thriving and sustainable civilizations. So Islam’s opposition to homosexual relationships is not because it is opposed to the happiness of homosexuals, it is because homosexual relationships (and other forms of sexual freedom) go against Islam’s long-term goals (there are likely other reasons, but I will focus on this one in this answer). To understand this, you have to be able to think in terms of generations and centuries.

Many people do not care what happens 100 years from now. Islam cares. Islam is a very-long-term survival strategy for God’s believers. It is a strategy that has been followed since the time of God’s earliest Prophets, and that strategy requires avoiding anything that can cause the believers to go extinct. Look around you in the world today and you will not find a single society where there is widespread sexual freedom and where fertility rates are above replacement. Every society that celebrates homosexuality has below-replacement fertility, meaning that it is slowly going extinct. Each generation is going to be slightly smaller than the one before it. You may rightly ask what an individual’s relationship happiness has to do with fertility rates.

A modern society that celebrates homosexuality also invariably celebrates other forms of sexual freedom. There is no way to take things like the prohibition on sex before marriage seriously when homosexuality is celebrated in a society. If you are a straight woman, there is no way you could accept to have your sexual freedom limited if your brother is in a happy homosexual relationship with another man.

Once sexual freedom becomes the norm, casual sexual relationships become the norm in that society and marriage starts to go out of fashion. In 1960, only 8% of American women had never married. In 2012 17% had never married. Never-married men went from 10% to 23%. When marriage goes out of fashion and becomes something of a formality rather than a solemn undertaking, people start to identify more with themselves as individuals rather than identifying with a family that they are dedicated to supporting and protecting.

That, in turn, leads to collapsing fertility rates. Many people lose their interest in having children because children are thought of in economic terms, rather than in spiritual terms. It is too costly and time-consuming to raise children, and raise them for whose sake? They will grow to be adults then leave the home to live as they want.

Islam wants to create the type of society you see in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Most Muslim societies, of course, fail to live to up to that ideal, but nonetheless the ideal exists. Please see the following essay for a discussion of what I mean by that type of society: The Point of Marriage in Islam (and the Problem with Romantic Relationships Outside of Marriage)

It is impossible for such a society to exist if it celebrates sexual freedom. A person may think that they can create a magical utopia of love, respect and sexual freedom if society allowed them, but every such experiment has been a disaster. Many people will happily destroy the foundations that made their societies and civilizations possible because, in their ignorance, they think they can do better. People who play around with human sexuality, thinking they can do something better than the traditional gender roles, are breaking a tradition that has been maintained for thousands of years because they think they are too modern, enlightened and sophisticated to continue to follow it. And the results are everywhere for us to see in the West where traditional morality has been abandoned for the sake of sexual freedom: depression, loneliness, people hating their families, people selfishly hoarding wealth without caring about the situation of those around them, people refusing to have children because they think of children as economic burdens rather than as humans to be cherished, millions of Americans happily working for defense contractors that are involved in the mass-murder of thousands of innocent people every month because for them having high-paying jobs is what matters even if it involves the killing of innocent people. For every ten Americans who refuse to do an unethical job there are a hundred who will gladly do it.

I should mention that I have no negative feelings for people in homosexual relationships. They are not necessarily responsible for where Western society is today, they are mostly a symptom of the West’s abandonment of Christianity, a process that has been going on for centuries. And if there was a city filled with people in homosexual relationships and if they were threatened, the right attitude would be that of Prophet Ibrahim (Biblical Abraham), who tried to save Lot’s people by arguing with God’s command rather than celebrating their destruction.

If a religiously conservative society suddenly decided to embrace homosexuality, the results would be as I described. But when it comes to today’s homosexuals in Western societies, we cannot point the finger of blame at them, telling them they are responsible for society’s decline, that decline happened without their help and will continue without their help.

I am aware that an irreligious person will likely not be convinced by these arguments. It is similar to the problem of usury. The evil effects of a homosexual or usurious lifestyle are subtle and long-term. Most humans are too short-sighted to give up their present satisfaction, whether it is to do with sexual gratification or easy money, for the sake of some vague long-term purpose. The truth is that without strong religious belief, every human society is practically bound to embrace sexual freedom and usury because of the short-term pleasures and gains these things promise.

Therefore I do not expect to convince anyone through argument to avoid homosexuality or usury. Only religious belief can convince humans to avoid these things, and once religion is taken away from them (as in the West), they fall very easy prey to these things.

IslamQA: Balancing worship with productive work

Salam Alaykum. Do you have any guide for one to be consistent to his routine, of practising night prayers & reading the quran, while still working hard on improving themselves (worldly skills like writing & other craftsmanship)? I find night prayers really pleasuring, but I also want to balance it with my studies and self-improvement like those great scholars. Thank you in advance.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That is a very good question and I spent many years wondering about it. The answer I have settled on is that we should do sufficient extra worship that even the smallest sin becomes unthinkable for us because of the sense of loyalty and closeness to God that develops from it. An hour or so of tahajjud and Quran reading every night seems sufficient to create such a state that lasts throughout the next day. This might be the baseline level of worship that every ambitious believer should aim for. If during the day you engage in anything that you later have to repent from, even something like being slightly rude to someone, then you know that you are not performing the necessary amount of worship.

Once that state of closeness to God has been achieved, it seems to me that we are free to spend the rest of our time doing whatever productive thing we want to do (we can also do things we enjoy doing, such as socialization, playing sports or games, Islam is not against enjoying ourselves as long as it is not taken to an extreme). God wants us to be His stewards on the earth that take care of it for His sake (a steward is someone who takes care of a farm or business in the absence of the owner). God does not want us to spend time in worship when there is other work that needs to be done, for this reason many scholars have severely criticized a minority of Sufis who used to stay at mosques to worship and who refused to work, so that they became beggars who relied on people to provide for them.

Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1200 CE), a hadith scholar and historian, has an opinion that is similar to what I said. He says that the remembrance of God should not be done to such an amount that it prevents one from getting work done.

There is, however, a dangerous temptation in focusing on work and ignoring worship by telling ourselves that our work is meant for God anyway since we are His servants. Therefore the “sin test” is my criterion for balancing worship and work; we must perform sufficient worship to enable us to spend our days and nights completely free of sins and heedlessness (or as free as is humanly possible), then we can use whatever time remains in the ways we prefer. Of the 24 hours we have, if we spend 8 hours in sleep and one hour in extra worship, then that leaves 15 hours free for whatever we have to do throughout the day and night.

As for the question of whether it is a good thing to go beyond the baseline and for example do two hours of extra worship every day instead of one, I believe this is a matter of personal choice and depends on a person’s circumstances. If we achieve the baseline, then everything else we do can also be considered worship, so there is no clear evidence that spending 30 minutes in prayer is superior to spending 30 minutes in learning something beneficial, helping someone who needs help or doing other useful things.

So our first priority should be achieving the baseline. The amount of extra worship necessary for achieving this may differ from a person to person and from one stage of life to another. I mentioned “one hour” as an example, doing an hour and a half may be better.