IslamQA

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IslamQA: The point of the Islamic acts of worship

A question received on tumblr:

What are the importances of acts of worship Prayer, zakat and fasting etc

At the most basic level these acts reaffirm God’s important in our lives. We Muslims cannot ignore God, saying “we have faith” and then go for days without thinking about God. The prayers interrupt our lives five times a day. Fasting interrupts a whole month of the year.

As for zakat, it provides basic income to the poor. If the people of the United States paid zakat, it could amount to $100 to $500 billion dollars a year, meaning that within a few years there wouldn’t be a single homeless or poor person in the country, and every poor person (belonging to the bottom 50% of society) would get a monthly income of $1000 or more from zakat.

As far as I know no Muslim country properly applies the zakat system, which is why there is so much widespread poverty in countries like Egypt. Zakat has to be taken, it is not a voluntary act. Most rich people are not generous and would rather not pay 2.5% of their uninvested wealth to the poor every year, they would rather do as the Jews and Christians of America do, lending their wealth to the poor and charging them 5% or more interest.

In the zakat system, the poor charge interest on rich people’s uninvested wealth, the money they hoard in their bank accounts. In America’s usurious system, the rich charge interest on the poor, to the tune of more than a trillion dollars per year. American taxpayers paid upwards of $200 billion on money borrowed from usurers to pay for government expenditures, which is why the rich and powerful of America constantly want to increase the size of the military and to instigate new wars, such as with Iran and Russia. War requires spending, and the money for it has to be borrowed from the rich, and the interest on that money has to be paid by the average taxpayer.

For the rich, war always means money. Islam breaks this cycle of evil and destruction by prohibiting usury (all charging of interest) and enforcing zakat.

As for other acts of worship, they all have some wisdom if you look into them.

IslamQA: What to do when your spouse is less religious than you

A question I received recently:

I am in my early twenties and have married a woman who comes from a Muslim family. After marrying her, I have found that religion is not very important to her. I had wished to marry a woman who was my equal in faith, so that we could create a faithful family together. I feel like I have made a mistake in marrying her, and I don't know where to go from here. Why did God allow me to marry her?

My answer:

It is normal to start having doubts after marriage when you have no previous experience with it. Many ideas and assumptions about the other sex will be proven false or inaccurate once you are living the reality of marriage.

Women are generally more liberal than men and laxer when it comes to religion. I come from a conservative Muslim family but I’ve had trouble convincing close female relatives to stop engaging in negative gossip about people (i.e. backbiting, ghaibah). I know a woman who is a civil engineer (so she is educated and intelligent enough to know better), and even though she went to an Islamic boarding school where they recited Quran every night and sometimes stayed up all night for prayer, she continues to think it is her every right to gossip about people.

When dealing with women, always remember Imam al-Shafi`i’s saying: “Be harsh on yourself, easy on others.” You shouldn’t hold your wife to the same standards as yourself, and if she does the minimum that is requested of her by religion, you should be thankful for that.

I grew up knowing many great men in my extended family, highly religious, kind and observant men. But almost none of these men had wives who could match them in faith, and some had wives who only did the minimum and didn’t care about religion at all. This hasn’t stopped them from bringing up good religious families.

In a household, men and women are not equal when it comes to authority. The Quran gives men a degree of authority over women (Quran 2:228, 4:34), and perhaps part of the reason for that is that men are, in general, more observant and more conservative, though a minority of women can be found who are like this too. It is a man’s duty to keep standards high in his household, preventing lax behaviors like not praying, not fasting or eating what is not halal, though he must do this with love and kindness, not with authoritarianism:

"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with them in the best possible manner."1

If your wife does the obligatory deeds (praying, fasting, etc.) and avoids haram (alcohol, interest, etc.), then this is the most you can expect of her, and leave it to her as a free-willed human being to make up her mind to do more if she wants. If she doesn’t do the obligatory deeds or engages in haram, then you have a clear right to give her an ultimatum, for her to come back to the Straight Path and do the minimum of what’s requested of her in Islam. If she doesn’t, then in effect she is refusing to do what the Quran asks of her, meaning that she is denying its truth, and in a way she is a non-believer. There is no obligation for you to stay married to her in such a case.

If she does the minimum required of her, then the Quran encourages you to be patient and to rely on God to steer your destiny for you. The Quran says in 4:128 that when a (devoutly Muslim) husband and wife are in disagreement, making peace is always the best option, and warns them to be wary of their ego’s greedy desire for better things.

One of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) didn’t like his wife. The Prophet told him to fear God and keep her, this advice of the Prophet to him is recorded in the Quran in verse 33:37. The companion (Zayd, the only companion mentioned by name in the Quran) ultimately decided to divorce her. So, while Islam teaches that a man should hold onto his wife, a man’s right of freedom of choice is respected.

A man’s role in life is to acquire worth, marry a woman, have children, take care of his family, and in this way continue Islamic civilization. For this to be successfully done, it is not necessary for the woman to be as religious as the man. Ideally, of course, that’s what we want, but in reality, the nature of men and the nature of women is different, and you will have a very hard time finding women who cares about religion as much as you do.

It is better to be practical. To be thankful for what God has given you and to try to make the best of it. Do your best to be kind, generous, patient and forgiving, rather than judgmental and demanding. Some men mistakenly try to force their women to become what they want, only to give up after years of futile effort. You must learn to trust God and leave it to Him to steer your destiny. If you do separate in the end, you should be able to say “I did my best to make things work, but it didn’t work out.”

I am not saying to be like a feather in the wind, going wherever life throws you. You must rather always face God, working to please Him. You must not face your wife constantly trying to change her. She is only a small part of the big picture. You are a servant of God and you were made to serve Him. He recommends that you try to make your marriage work even if you are not pleased with your wife. Since you are facing God and aiming to please Him, you will be kind, generous and non-judgmental toward your wife as long as she does the minimum that Islam asks of her. Whether you think she deserves this lenient treatment or not, you are not doing it for her, but for God, and you expect your reward from God.

Having an unsatisfactory wife is a difficult test since you might be thinking that maybe this is how things will be for the rest of your life. You do not want to be stuck with someone who doesn’t live up to your standards. You probably wish to get in charge of your destiny, get rid of her and get a far better woman in her place.

The problem with this is that 1. It is not your job to manage your destiny and 2. No matter how good the imaginary new woman is, assuming you can find her and marry her, you could run into new and unexpected problems that could make your life with her miserable, she may develop an illness, she may suffer an accident and go blind, she may have a bad family who constantly interfere with your life.

As a Muslim, you believe that God is the King of the universe, and that He has the power to do anything He wills. He had the power to prevent your marriage from taking place. He had the power to make you marry the perfect woman. But He didn’t. And today He has the power to swiftly end your marriage with little effort on your part, and He has the power to give you the type of woman you desire. But He doesn’t.

It is God who manages your destiny, taking you from one stage of life to another, testing you, helping you learn, helping you grow in wisdom, understanding and kindness. Your focus should be on God, He can take your life anywhere He wants, and He has the power to do it this instant if He wanted to. Since He is not doing it, that should tell you something. You must do your best in the current test you are in, you must follow His advice that trying to make your marriage work is better than separation, and the Prophet’s advice to fear God and hold onto your wife, and leave it to God to change your situation if and when He wants. You must expect only from God and ask only of Him.

You could of course ask, “What if this test is not intended for me? What if I will needlessly suffer for nothing?” If you put your focus on God, since you know that He has the power to take you out of any unwanted situation, then you will know that there is no such thing as needlessly suffering. If you keep your wife for the sake of God, God will reward you for it, both in this life and the next. And if He doesn’t want you to keep her, He will make it easy to separate.

If your marriage somehow naturally falls apart, with both of you, or at least you, trying your best to keep it together through non-judgmentalism, forgiveness and generosity, and you reach an agreement to separate without any negative emotions, without guilt and without fearing that you might be doing the wrong thing, then you can take that as a sign that God approves of the separation.

But if things go along normally, if things are good enough, if the thought of separation contains tremendous amounts of uncertainty, guilt and fear, then that is your sign that it is not time to separate, that if you were to work toward separation, you’d be going against the flow of the destiny God has chosen for you. You can do it, like Zayd did, since God respects your freedom. But it is better for you to accept it and do your best, constantly asking God for forgiveness and betterment. If you reject this test, God will give you an equally demanding test, because God will never stop testing you.

Until the day you die, if God loves you, He will constantly give you new opportunities to prove your patience, your generosity, your worth. If He gave you the perfect life, you’d have no opportunity to prove these things.

What I would do in your situation is this: I would do my best to improve myself as a Muslim, reading as much Quran as I can, praying tahajjud and constantly asking for God’s forgiveness. I would do my best to be kind and forgiving toward my wife no matter how distasteful I find her behavior. I would do more than what is strictly necessary to make the marriage work, for God’s sake, even if it displeases me to do this. I would always try to be the bigger person. I would put my focus on God, recognizing His power to change my wife and my life in any way He wishes, recognizing that all good things come from Him, not from my own efforts.

And if after all of this, I receive a clear sign that my marriage should end (she decides she wants divorce and is intent upon it), then I would do what is necessary in that situation. Maybe you will stay married to her for the next ten years, and after that separate to enjoy the type of life you desire. Or maybe in some years she will change into someone with as much faith as yourself, and then you may be glad that you stayed with her.

So my advice is the Prophet’s advice, peace be upon him: Fear God and keep her.

And leave it to God to take care of your destiny. Trying to steer your destiny is a heavy and exhausting burden. Free yourself from that burden. Enjoy the life that God has given you, do your best, constantly ask for God’s forgiveness, and know that God can put you in a better place anytime He decides. If you want to speed this process up, you can do it through worship, asking for forgiveness, and avoidance of sin.

To improve your situation in life, raise your status in God’s eye, and He will do it for you better than you ever could. Trying to improve your situation in life through your own efforts, rather than through God, will always lead to new situations that are as equally difficult as the one you left.

Patience means to go against your desire for the sake of God. If you patiently keep your wife despite your wishes, you will be rewarded for your patience. Patience might possibly the greatest virtue of a believer. The angels commend the believers on their patience when they are about to enter Paradise, as the Quran describes in Surat al-Ra`d:

22. And those who patiently seek the presence of their Lord, and pray regularly, and spend from Our provisions to them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good. These will have the Ultimate Home.

23. Everlasting Gardens, which they will enter, along with the righteous among their parents, and their spouses, and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate.

24. “Peace be upon you, because you endured patiently. How excellent is the Final Home.”

And do not try to push your wife to change for the better, or to buy her Islamic books, forward her Islamic articles or make her go to lectures hoping she will be better guided. Calling people to Islam should never be inflicted on people. They must seek Islam themselves.

It is God Who guides people, it is not people who guide people. Therefore no matter how hard we try or wish that someone was guided, our efforts and wishes may never come true.

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided.2

God will not leave all the tests to you and neglect your wife. He will continue testing her too to help her grow and to guide her, but the stage she is in could be very different than yours, and the types of lessons she needs could be nothing like you imagine.

Leave it to God to guide her, He will do it in the best way possible.

IslamQA: Why there are so few Christian terrorists

Color me curious. Raised Protestant, joined American Navy and saw the world, the Dome of the Rock is a supremely beautiful building. Such beauty, why NO COMPASSION! by radicals? I don't understand the mindset. .. Beauty and hate

The issue is not religion, but politics. Radical Muslims are no different from radical communists. They believe their countries are being controlled and oppressed by evil capitalist tyrants, and that superpowers like the US are supporting the most evil governments on earth (such as in Saudi and Egypt), and that the US is against freedom and democracy if tyrants fit its needs better, all of which are true. For example, the US orchestrated a coup that ended democracy in Iran in the 50′s.

Religion just happens to be a useful tool for these groups, as it gives their followers the courage to die for their cause.

You should also not forget that many terrorist groups are funded by intelligence agencies, both Western and otherwise. If you are an intelligence agency looking to create havoc anywhere in the world, Islamism provides a great tool for this, since Islamist soldiers are brave and do not require the payments needed for hiring non-religious mercenaries.

Many in the Middle East consider ISIS a US-Israeli creation made to perpetuate war in the Middle East and prevent any Muslim country in the area from getting too strong or stable. For all we know, this might be true.

Radical Muslims could just as easily have been Radical Christians. It just so happens that the political situation in the world today has made Muslims the underdogs controlled and stepped on by mostly Christian superpowers. Christians too have a long history of justifying mass violence and murder for their own ends, but since Christians acquired supremacy over the earth after the Middle Ages, and as Christian belief weakened, Christianity stopped being an effective tool for carrying out political goals. A hot-headed Muslim is easy to convince that he is being oppressed, while it is a lot more difficult to convince a Christian, since he knows Christians rule most of the world.

Terrorism is not common among Muslims. A few in 100,000 might condone violence. But everyone ignores the remaining 99999. Why aren’t they terrorists also? Because terrorism is based on political ideas that most Muslims do not support.

Christianity can just as easily be used to create terrorism. But since modern Islamic terrorism was created by Christians (such as in Afghanistan in the 80′s) to accomplish the goals of Christian countries like those of the US in the Middle East, it is Muslims who die for it and Muslims who are mostly killed by it.

Muslim countries do not have the intelligence capacities to organize and support Christian terrorist groups in Christian countries to weaken such countries and create markets for their defense and intelligence industries. It is extremely easy to use Christianity to create terror groups, it just so happens that there is not enough money and power to be gained by the world’s superpowers through Christian terrorism, therefore they are instead spending their billions organizing and supporting Muslim terrorist groups.

And if Islamic belief weakens in the Middle East and stops being an effective terrorist-recruitment tool, the superpowers will simply switch to another ideology, such as communism or a modern incarnation of it. They would then create and organize communist terror groups to perpetuate war inside the countries they want, and Fox News will start talking about the dangerous communists next door who hate you because of your freedom.

Horoscopes and Islam

A Muslim should believe or read horoscopes or not? Because I saw a post that says the person who believes in horoscopes is a disbeliever.

Horoscopes go under the category of superstition, since there is no basis in science or religion for them. Therefore a well educated and intelligent Muslim should take them for what they are: Fancy-sounding nonsense that impress the gullible.

However, we should not be judgmental toward those who believe in horoscopes. Even though this is an obvious flaw in their faith, we ourselves may have greater flaws that are not so apparent. Those who take pleasure in attacking the obvious flaws of others almost certainly have similar or greater flaws themselves.

We shouldn’t be quick to say who is a believer and who is a disbeliever. We can say a person who is not thankful toward God is a disbeliever; but we all show unthankfulness toward God every now and then; therefore are we to say that we are all disbelievers? We should not pass final judgment on people, that is God’s job, not ours. A person who has a part of disbelief in him or her may also have many parts of belief and goodness that outweigh the disbelief.

Is reading the Quran better than listening to it?

The majority of scholars (such as Qatar’s Islamic Affairs Ministry, Ibn Baaz, and the UAE Islamic Affairs Ministry) do think that reading is better than listening, but they have no evidence for this except their own personal opinions and unauthentic sayings of the Prophet. To me reading a book or listening to it are the same thing. I listened to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books (instead of reading them with my eyes), does this mean that I somehow understood or “benefited” less from the books than if I had read them?

I suffer from dry eyes and late at night when I read Quran, if my eyes start to feel bad, I switch to listening. Does this mean that God automatically drops my rewards because I decided to receive God’s word through my ears instead of my eyes?

To me, Islam is a religion based on logic, not magic. No good deed is magically better than another, and whether I decide to receive the Quran through my eyes or ears my reward depends on my effort and sacrifice (how much attention I give to the meaning and how much time I dedicate to it), not on some random eyes-are-better-than-ears prejudice.