IslamQA: When does religious belief become toxic?

In what condition does a religious belief becomes dogmatic and toxic to its follower?

When a person thinks that Islam is meant to replace their humanity. Below is an excerpt from my book An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims on this question.

George Orwell and George Eliot

George Orwell, in his Road to Wigan Pier, has relevant things to say about this discussion:

for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years onto the life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.1

In Orwell’s time, the food-crank was what the extremist vegan is today, someone picky about food and willing to inconvenience, insult and look down on those around them for the sake of their ideas about eating. His critique for the preference of ideology over common humanity among certain types of people extends to Catholics, in a passage that could equally apply to some Muslims today:

One of the analogies between Communism and Roman Catholicism is that only the ‘educated’ are completely orthodox. The most immediately striking thing about the English Roman Catholics – I don’t mean the real Catholics, I mean the converts: Ronald Knox, Arnold Lunn et hoc genus— is their intense self-consciousness. Apparently they never think, certainly they never write, about anything but the fact that they are Roman Catholics; this single fact and the self-praise resulting from it form the entire stock-in-trade of the Catholic literary man. But the really interesting thing about these people is the way in which they have worked out the supposed implications of orthodoxy until the tiniest details of life are involved. Even the liquids you drink, apparently, can be orthodox or heretical; hence the campaigns of Chesterton, ‘Beachcomber’, etc., against tea and in favour of beer. According to Chesterton, tea-drinking is ‘pagan’, while beer-drinking is ‘Christian’, and coffee is ‘the puritan’s opium’. It is unfortunate for this theory that Catholics abound in the ‘Temperance’ movement and the greatest tea-boozers in the world are the Catholic Irish; but what I am interested in here is the attitude of mind that can make even food and drink an occasion for religious intolerance. A working-class Catholic would never be so absurdly consistent as that. He does not spend his time in brooding on the fact that he is a Roman Catholic, and he is not particularly conscious of being different from his non-Catholic neighbours. Tell an Irish dock-labourer in the slums of Liverpool that his cup of tea is ‘pagan’, and he will call you a fool. And even in more serious matters he does not always grasp the implications of his faith. In the Roman Catholic homes of Lancashire you see the crucifix on the wall and the Daily Worker2 on the table. It is only the ‘educated’ man, especially the literary man, who knows how to be a bigot. And, mutatis mutandis, it is the same with Communism. The creed is never found in its pure form in a genuine proletarian.3

Many expect Muslims to act exactly like this minority of Catholics Orwell describes, seemingly eating religion for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Orwell contrasts this religion-obsessed mindset among certain Catholic intellectuals with the mindset of ordinary Catholics, who better represent real, embodied Catholicism.

For the average Catholic living in a Catholic society, religion is not something to bring into every discussion. It is, in fact, something that is very rarely talked about. Real Catholics embody Catholicism as humans, rather than ignoring common humanity, things like politeness and decency toward others, in the name of religion. A religion-obsessed Catholic, similar to a recent convert to an extremist form of Islam, tries to make their religion replace their humanity, making it explain everything and be everything to them. This causes them to join a class of bigots that are out of touch with the rest of society.

A Catholic like that, instead of enjoying the loving atmosphere of Christmas morning at a relative’s house, uses the occasion to lecture the family about how Christmas is really pagan. A Muslim extremist, too, if one makes the mistake of inviting her to a birthday party, will likely end up giving her friend a lecture on how a true Muslim should not celebrate such heathen practices. In this way, those who make religion replace their humanity insult many other people around them due to their belief that their being religious exempts them from common decency and make themselves a nuisance in society. This is not merely a problem of the religious; the same scenario is repeated whenever a person embraces any ideology strongly enough. A “true believer” in Marxism is going to be perfectly happy to offend everyone around them in the name of fighting capitalism.

Orwell contrasts the self-conscious, recently converted Catholic intellectuals with the millions of Catholics who have been practicing this religion for centuries. The first is a tiny minority that has a total view of religion as a replacement for common decency and culture. The second group forms the actual representative group of Catholicism, which very much respects common decency and culture. The first group is radical and wants to abolish everything in the name of religion. The second group is conservative and is happy enough to enjoy life as it is. The first group thinks mankind is raw material that can be remade. The second group understands that humans by and large remain the way they are no matter what one tries to make out of them.

The majority of Muslim men and women are like that Catholic majority. Tell any educated Muslim that their love for science fiction films makes them less “Muslim” and they will either be insulted or laugh at the foolishness of the statement.

Many Western writers about Islam are unfortunately often incapable of conceiving of a faithful Muslim who is as intelligent and independent-minded as themselves, believing that a proper Muslim is one who is a nuisance in polite society just like an extremist vegan. It is inconceivable that a man or woman of their own caliber could enter into a covenant with God to abide by His commandments and ethics, acting as His steward while maintaining a fierce individuality and independence of mind. To them, being a devout Muslim is always associated with some sort of sickness of the mind; the most devout is the most stupid because he or she is going to be the one who is best at acting like a scripture-controlled robot. They think that the only reason a Muslim can be intelligent and independent-minded is if they abandon parts of Islam.

Thus in books like Lost Enlightenment by S. Frederick Starr4, the writer does his best to stretch the evidence so that all Muslims who accomplished some great work are dismissed as actually freethinkers who did not take their faith seriously, while also having a rather snarky attitude toward great Muslim thinkers like al-Ghāzalī who were clearly orthodox. A Muslim must supposedly first give up the stupidity-promoting total religion that is Islam in order to become partly human and achieve something of human worth. Al-Ghāzalī, despite his great achievements, is worthless because he made the unforgivable sin of defending orthodoxy, which to Starr is proof that he was subhuman and twisted, since no proper human could ever be fully religious in his view.

1 George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958, 136.

2 A popular communist publication at the time.

3 Ibid., 209-210.

4 See S. Frederick Starr, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press2013. See Frank Griffel’s devastating review in Die Welt des Islams 56, no. 2 (2016): 272-278.

IslamQA: Are selfies sinful or haram for women?

Salam, people say posting selfies is a sin (they tend to focus this exclusively on females tho) is this accurate? And is it a sin for the person who liked the picture? Thank you jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is nothing inherently sinful about that. Women are allowed to show their faces and hands in public, whether in pictures, videos or real life. If there is anything wrong with selfies then it fully applies to men too.

IslamQA: Listening to the Quran as a replacement for music

Is it allowed if I listen to Quran as a replacement of music? Listening to it while playing games or doing homework etc…

The Quran commands us to be attentive when the Quran is recited, so it doesn’t seem proper to me to play it when you cannot give it full attention.

When the Quran is recited, listen to it, and pay attention, so that you may experience mercy. (The Quran, verse 7:204)

Follow up question:

salaam, in regards to the anon who asked if it’s ok to listen to the Quran while doing h/w. isn’t it better for us to have the Quran than music? Scientifically even what we listen to has an overall effect on us and it is said that a Quran is a healing. Just further wondering? Jazak khair Allah

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I understand your point, but the Quran is not like music. It has its own requirements as the verse I quoted said. If you do something like gardening where you can focus on the recitation, then there is no issue. But if you cannot give it attention then it seems improper to me, and the many fatwas I have looked at all agree with my opinion.

You can of course listen to nasheeds, they are great for remembering God while you are busy.

IslamQA: Is it sinful to wear the hijab only sometimes?

I've often been told that either I wear hijab or I don't. I long for wearing it, but because of my family I've not yet taken the step. How ever I have had times when I've been able to without them knowing. Is there anything wrong in only wearing it once in a while when my circumstances allow me to ?

Wearing the hijab is like any other act of piety. You can do as much of it as you can, and you can ease yourself into it by wearing it when it is comfortable for you to do so. You can also start by wearing modest dresses and a hat that covers most of your hair.

Covering the hair is obligatory for women, so it’s never perfectly O.K. to show it. But God is understanding and forgiving, and the hijab is just one part of piety.

IslamQA: What is the root of all evil?

What do you think is the root of all evil?

The existence of free will. Evil is simply what comes about when humans go against God’s wishes. If humans didn’t have free will, they would have followed God’s plan perfectly and they would have committed no evil. Evil is like darkness. God is light and the further you stray away from Him the more you end up in darkness. So God is not directly responsible for evil because evil is what happens when we turn away from Him. But He is responsible for creating a system in which evil can take place.

You may be interested in my essay: Why God Allows Evil to Exist, and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

IslamQA: Dealing with hurtful comments

Assalamualaikum & Hello, lately I heard bad comments about me and people judging me for no reason. I’ve never spoken to these people before therefore I am saddened by the fact that they would say such things about me. All this time I have been nice to everyone I meet and I try to not repeat any mistakes I’ve done in the past. These comments have been bothering me for weeks now and it is affecting my mental health and self confidence. What should I do to not let these petty comments affect me? 😞

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Sorry to read that. Feeling pain at such occurrences is a natural part of being human. Even the Prophets (peace be upon them) felt fear or cried when something hurt them. The best course of action may be to first accept that the pain is going to be there. Then maybe read the Quran daily to strengthen your relationship with God. Once you feel really close to Him then the ordinary pains of living lose some of their power and relevance.

Best wishes.

IslamQA: Meaning of “they deem every shout to be against them” in the Quran

Assalamualaikum, in the Quran 63:4 what does it mean by "they deem every shout to be against them"? I tried to read some tafsir it said it means they think every incident or frightening thing is headed their way but that meaning doesn't seem match the translation to me? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

According to my favorite tafsir scholar the Persian Imam al-Wahidi (d. 1075 CE), it refers to the fear and cowardice of the hypocrites. Whenever they hear someone call out some news in the marketplace, they immediately fear it might be about them giving away their hypocrisy. He says it may also refer to their feeling fear whenever they see someone talk to the Prophet PBUH, because they fear the talk may be about them and their hypocrisy.

IslamQA: Is it wrong to reject low-quality hadiths in case they are authentic?

Assalamualaikum, I have apprehension in judging the veracity of hadith, (e.g the probability calculator) after reading verse 4:65: "But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission" because what if a hadith was accurate although poorly transmitted and I chose not to follow it because in my limited understanding the alternative seemed better?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The problem is that it can be a matter of life and death. For example, by relying on low-quality hadiths, scholars ignored the text of the Quran and concluded that stoning adulterers was the punishment recommended by the Prophet PBUH, as I discuss here. We also have contradictory hadiths, such as an “authentic” one that says only bad people listen to music, and another “authentic” one where we see the Prophet PBUH listening to music and approving of it. We need a way to judge which of these authentic ones is superior. As it happens, the one approving of music is five times more authentic, as I discuss here.

So our goal in having high standards for which hadiths we accept is that we want to follow the real Prophet PBUH and to avoid following teachings falsely attributed to him, including many teachings that make him look like a bad or cruel person (as in the stoning of adulterers). A person who truly loves the Prophet PBUH will hate to see anything immoral or illogical attributed to him.

In general we have two kinds of scholars, hadith scholars who love to increase the number of authentic hadiths as much as they can (as al-Albani, may God have mercy on him) without too much concern for how these hadiths would affect our understanding and practice of Islam. Then we have fiqh scholars, scholars of Islamic law or jurisprudence, who have the difficult task of making sense of all the contradictory hadiths and finding how they will affect our understanding and practice of Islam. Scholars of fiqh have much higher standards for the hadiths they accept and in their books of legal theory (usul al-fiqh) they have very lengthy discussions on probability theory; the number of chains a hadith needs for a hadith to be considered authentic beyond doubt. Some scholars require four authentic chains (something that’s extremely rare), others say there is no set number of necessary chains, we just have to use our own hunches until our heart is content that a hadith is truly authentic.

So the issue is rather complicated, and personally I have a fiqhi approach to hadith. I see all hadiths as probabilities, not certainties, and I use probability theory to find out which ones are the most authentic.

Also note that great scholars like Imam Malik were happy to reject authentic hadiths when they had additional evidence from non-hadith sources (the opinion of the scholars of Medina, which they had inherited from the Companions without hadiths). Imam al-Shafi`i preferred an authentic hadith on how the athan should be said, which Imam Malik considered ridiculous since the athan had been said differently in Medina since the time of the Prophet PBUH. Imam al-Bukhari himself rejected perfectly authentic hadiths when he considered their contents to be ridiculous, as in a hadith that claimed something would happen within 200 years that never happened. See Dr. Jonathan Brown’s study (PDF): How We Know Early Ḥadīth Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find.

IslamQA: Are skincare products with animal ingredients haram?

Salam, Is it haram to use make up or skincare with animal derived ingredients? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Some scholars consider it forbidden regardless of what animal it comes from if the animal has not been slaughtered in the Islamic way. Others say that the ingredient, if it has been purified and transformed chemically, then it would be halal, even if it is taken from haram animals like pigs.

Personally I prefer to consider it forbidden.

Also note that anything that is certified kosher (permissible to practicing Jews) is also automatically halal except alcohol. So if the product has a kosher symbol on it then you can use it. Most products sold in the US by large companies have kosher certification. Below are some of the most commonly seen kosher symbols.

IslamQA: Do Muslims have to stick to one madhhab?

Assalamu'alaikum what do you think of the statement "it does not matter which madhab you follow, what matters is that you choose one and follow it 100% rather than picking and choosing what you like from each one" I agree you shouldn't pick & choose, but I don't understand why you have to follow one school of thought and cannot digress in your understanding of its rules. why are we meant to seek knowledge if all the answers are preset by the schools of thought? And why do Muslims encourage that

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That statement is actually completely ridiculous. We should always follow the opinion that seems to be most just and logical and most in agreement with the text and spirit of the Quran and Sunna, regardless of where it comes from. Please see my article: On deciding which madhhab to follow and the multi-madhhab approach

IslamQA: Struggling to leave Christianity for Islam

Assalamualaikum I've been studying Islam for the last year or so. I feel the pull and I'm grateful for the hidaya that Allah (SAW) has given me. However I struggle to part from christianity. Any advice on what to do? Or is it my own journey to make?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I recommend that you read the Quran many times from beginning to end and see if that settles your heart. I especially recommend reading Surat al-Kahf at least once a week (personally I listen to it every day), I fall in love with God and Islam all over again every time I listen to the recitation by al-Minshawi.

If your struggle is an intellectual struggle, then learning more about Islam is the solution. You can start by reading my essays. But if your struggle is due to an uncertainty in your heart, then reading the Quran may be the best solution.

Best wishes.

IslamQA: Donating to charity while being in debt in Islam

Assalamualaikum, is it valid to donate money from loans? E.G student loans? And can you donate to charity from your own earnings whilst in debt (provided you are paying off the debt incrementally with the same earnings?) jazak Allah khairun

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Unfortunately I cannot find any fatwas on the permissibility of donating from interest-bearing loans. As for donating to charity while you are in debt, some scholars, such as al-Bukhari and al-Nawawi, consider it forbidden, since creditors have the greater right to the money, while others consider it permissible but disliked.

IslamQA: The Islamic stance on writing novels

[1] Salam, don't know if this is the best place to ask, but I feel you give perceptive answers that make a lot of sense, & you have answered questions relating to writing poetry etc aswell as reviewed a contemporary romantic novel Ayesha At Last on your blog. Personally I hope to one day write young adult novels, except my story ideas are more supernatural like Harry Potter, however I have inner conflict as to how following a career like this will support me in my akhirah

[2] and if it would rather just be a fanciful waste of time. And I’m concerned about writing non Muslim characters (due to my fantastical setting). Sorry if this question is out of place I’ve done a lot of online searching to little avail. Thank you brother.

When it comes to art and literature, you only have to ask: Will the world be better off with this work existing? If it comes to a novel, ask, “Will readers be better off after reading this novel?”

It doesn’t matter at all what your novel is about, as long as you offer something that will help people in some way, whether it is giving them knowledge and insights, or hope, or consolation, or companionship. I have listened to the Harry Potter books from beginning to end possibly over 40 times (I listen to them with headphones when I’m trying to fall asleep), I love the Hogwarts atmosphere and it is one of the greatest blessings in the world, and one of the greatest good deeds, that J. K. Rowling has created a work that can give so much comfort and consolation.

I’m writing novels myself actually. I just finished an Islamic sci-fi romance novel, and I also finished my second novel which is about a young non-Muslim misogynistic guy who converts to Islam for the sake of a girl, has a terrible relationship life, discovers “true” artificial intelligence and becomes the richest person in the world because of that. I know spending time on novels is morally right and praiseworthy because I know people will glean many insights from them, find hope, and have a good time reading them.

Writing novels is like sitting down with someone and entertaining them and making them feel better, while also giving them knowledge. It’s a good deed and a great service to humanity as long the novel is life-affirming rather than nihilistic.

Followup Question:

Assalamu'alaikum, my question is related to the question that was asked about writing supernatural novels, is it okay to write about non Muslim characters? I'm uncertain about presenting a non Muslim culture yet know that is the only option when writing sci fi or fantasy. Many thanks

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no issue with that. Like I said in the previous answer, the only question you need to ask is whether people will be better off after reading your novel. A novel can provide companionship, or help a person understand social or technical issues, or motivate them to be better. As long as the likelihood of your novel being a positive influence is greater than the likelihood of it being a negative influence, then it is acceptable to write and publish it. It makes no difference whether your novel is about Muslims or non-Muslims, and whether it is about the real world or imaginary ones.

IslamQA: Why did Abu Bakr RA say musical instruments are Satan’s?

Assalamualaikum I've read all of your articles on the permissibility of music. But I am confused about one thing. In one of your articles a Hadith is mention which has a line that says '"Abu Bakr said protestingly, "Musical instruments of Satan in the house of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) !". If musical instruments were permissible, then why would Anyone Bakar(R.A) call them 'musical instruments of Satan' ?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Abu Bakr RA was simply stating his own personal opinion. Since in his mind, and in the minds of perhaps all Arabs of that time, music was always associated with dancing, alcohol and debauchery, it was natural for them to consider it evil and gross. This is the reason, I believe, that so many early scholars had such a negative opinion about music. But when Islam spread and Persians started to enter it, things changed quickly, because Arabs were exposed to the beauty of Persian music. So Persian scholars like al-Ghazali had a very positive view of music, since they often experienced the spiritual kind of music that was performed, for example, by Sufi dervishes.

IslamQA: On avoiding anger and dislike when arguing with people about religion

As-salaamu 'alaykum. May Allaah bless you. I benefited greatly from two of your books: "The Sayings of Ibn al-Jawzi," and "The Sayings of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah." ….. ….. One of the sayings by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy on him, stood out for me. He said that, as we increase in knowledge, we must also increase in humility. One of my character flaws, which I have also seen in many other people, is the tendency to "jump at another person's throat" as soon as they disagree with us. Perhaps that is what the Shaytaan wants us to do. I have noticed that it is very easy to attack someone's thinking; and I have noticed that is easy, and tempting, to become angry when discussing things with other people. ….. ….. Could you talk about these dynamics in more detail? How we are actually supposed to become more humble, rather than seeking to dominate others with our knowledge? May Allaah reward you.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I believe the source of that anger is our ego’s desire for power and control. Our ego likes to overpower and subdue people, because this gives us a sense of power. So the root of the issue is the seeking of power over people. And the solution is to become a non-power-seeker, to believe that God is already in charge of the universe so that all power belongs to Him.

Once your heart is content in that knowledge, then you will never desire changing another person or defeating them in argument, because you will leave it all to God. You will know that even if all the people agreed with you it would not add the slightest amount of power to you because all power already belongs to God.

So the solution is to detach yourself from seeking power, from seeking results. It is to feel God’s power all around you, and to know you can never make the slightest change to another person unless God wills it, and if God wills it, He can do it without your help. God can erase you from this world and create a thousand people just like you in an instant. God has no need for our work or favors. He can do anything He wants without our help.

But keep in mind that recognizing these things intellectually is not enough, because as soon as you forget them and get distracted you will just go back to behaving like before. The solution is to do something that constantly make these insights your felt reality. And that is done through never-ceasing, daily work. Your ego will always reset itself to normal unless you work every single day to defeat it. You need to dedicate half an hour (I recommend a whole hour) to extra worship that makes God’s power real to you and that creates humility and submission in you. I recommend spending an hour every day reading the Quran.

There is no way to permanently defeat the ego. The ego is a natural part of being human, and the ordinary happenings around us always make the ego respond in its own natural, instinctive ways, which is to seek power and control. So you have to resign yourself to having to spend an hour or so of every single remaining day of your life in some form of extra worship, because you have to maintain an unnatural state in your heart that’s foreign to the ego. This is how saints are made. They work daily to defeat their ego, so that they go about in the world never seeking power, always relying on God and always treating people with more love and kindness than they deserve.

Alhamdulillah through my practice of reading the Quran for an hour every day I am able to have arguments with people without getting angry and without in any way wanting to force them to agree with me. I just do what’s right and speak the truth as I see it, and I couldn’t care less whether they agree with me or disagree. I do my duty and leave the rest to God. God can always change them and help them see the truth later without my help.

Best wishes.

IslamQA: My opinion on the site

Assalamualaikum What is your opinion of the website

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah, represents a brand of Islam that’s not followed by the majority of Sunni Muslims in the world. It’s often called Wahhabism. It often has good answers when it comes to questions on the very basics of Islam, such as rulings on the prayer and fasting. But when it comes to issues such as dealing with non-Muslims or women’s status in Islam, then it often reflects the xenophobia and misogyny of Saudi culture.

I’m actually a big fan of the piety and kindness of many great “Wahhabi” scholars. I love Ibn Uthaymeen, al-Albani and Ibn Baz. But I also disagree with them on many things. I also love Ibn Taymiyya possibly more than I love any other scholar, when he is supposed to be the greatest inspiration behind Wahhabism. Ibn Taymiyya is far greater than many Wahhabis appreciate, and his thinking on many questions can be integrated into a mainstream and pluralistic Islam (for more on him see my article: Ibn Taymiyya and His Times). For example, while many Salafi-Wahhabis make a nuisance of themselves during the birthday celebrations for the Prophet PBUH, constantly talking about how it is a false innovation, Ibn Taymiyya actually says that those who celebrate the Prophet’s birthday PBUH, if they do it with sincerity and with good intentions, they can actually have a “great reward” from God.

The problem with Wahhabism is that it turns Islam into a tribalist ideology. It believes that Islam should be a replacement for our common humanity and for our cultures. And this leads to their extreme black-and-white thinking where non-Muslims are automatically treated like enemies and where Muslims who disagree with them are considered evil and misguided. Wahhabism is unable to appreciate the possibility that two equally pious and knowledgeable people can reach very different conclusions on the same question. They start by deciding if you agree with them before they decide whether you are a proper Muslim or an evil and misguided person. To them the only proper kind of human is a fellow Wahhabi. You have to be Wahhabized before they treat you with the kindness and empathy that I believe all of humanity deserves. To them it’s as if everyone is a non-human until they are humanized by Wahhabism. Note that this is exactly how radical Marxists, radical feminists, and many other followers of radical ideologies also think. You either agree with them and become a part of them, or you are treated as something less than human. It’s an extremely tribalist way of thinking where only those who belong to your “tribe” are considered real humans, and it is very interesting that the world’s greatest radicals have often been either Arabs coming from extremely tribalist areas, or Jews who are also extremely tribalist in their way of thinking (Marxism and radical feminism have both always been Jewish-led ideologies). In tribalist cultures, as that of the Bedouins (especially before Islam), non-tribe-members are considered non-human; they consider it perfectly right and justified for them to rob and kill strangers, because their whole way of thinking is based on the fact that to them the only real human society is that of the tribe, and all outsiders are subhuman objects that can be put to use just as animals are put to use. So they strongly believe in morality, loyalty and honor … as long as they are dealing with tribe members or allies. But, and this is a very important but, all of these concepts completely lose their relevance when they deal with strangers. It is an “us vs. them” mentality taken to the very extreme, to the point that “them” are not even considered human.

This can also help you understand how Israeli settlers treat Palestinians. Settler Jews are extremely moral, honorable, kind and loving as long as it comes to their tribe. It feels perfectly natural to them to rob and kill Palestinians because in their tribalist mentality, Palestinians are not even human. They are objects, parts of the landscape, they view them as exactly the same as the rest of the animals and plants of Palestine. The same also applies to most “Islamic” terrorist organizations, which almost always follow Wahhabism. The ideology teaches them that non-Wahhabis are not really human, that Islamic morality only applies when dealing with fellow Wahhabis, so nothing is evil as long as it is done to those outside the Wahhabi tribe.

Note that I’m not saying all “Wahhabi” scholars think that way. But the tribalist mentality is deeply integrated into Wahhabism. The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud (1875 – 1953 CE), said he was not ashamed of the 1801 CE Wahhabi slaughter of 5000 innocent Shia men, women and children in Karbala that was committed by his ancestors, because in his tribalist way of thinking non-Wahhabis are not really human. In fact he wrote that he would happily do it all over again if he had the chance.

So Muslims reading are going to be exposed to that kind of tribalist mentality. For this reason I do not recommend this site to anyone.

My approach is the complete opposite of Wahhabism. I start by finding out whether a person has a good heart, and I’m willing to forgive all their mistakes as long as I know it comes from a place of piety and humility. So I love scholars coming from various different traditions, including Wahhabi scholars who do not dehumanize other Muslims. As long as I know they have good hearts, our differences of opinion are of little importance. Even if they consider the type of Muslim I am to be misguided and evil, I’m still willing to see the good in them rather than treating them the way they treat me. For more on my version of Islam please see: Is Islam really pluralistic? An Islamic defense of pluralism

IslamQA: Why can’t Muslim women lead prayers?

Assalamu walaikum. I have a debt, I read here, that for important reasons a woman can lead prayers at home to her family members, but why can't she in mosques? Why aren't there women leading prayers inside mosques? (I know there are many men guiding prayer, but wanted to know about women on this spiritual side) jazak Allah

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Islamic social system is designed in such a way that men are the caretakers and protectors of women, so in things like prayer it is more natural for the men to be the leaders. For more on the Islamic social system regarding gender please see: A new approach to the Quran’s “Wife-Beating Verse” (al-Nisa 4:34)

As for the spiritual reason: Men and women have the same souls as far as we know. But they have different brains and genetic instincts, which requires the religion to treat them differently. This is why women have to cover their hair while men don’t have to. The way men experience their interactions with women is different from the way women experience their interactions with men.

As for the exact scientific reason why it’s better for men to lead prayers, I cannot say exactly what it is. To fully find out we’d need studies of communities where men lead the prayer and communities where women lead the prayer so that we can compare the results.

But since this is what the Prophet PBUH recommended, we are happy to go along with it. It is similar to accepting the ban on eating pork even though there are no detailed reasons for the ban in the Quran or hadith. If God commands us to do something, we obey, because we know He has our best interests at heart. We read the Quran and can see that it is really from God because of the intelligence and beauty in it. Once we are convinced that the Quran is really from God, then we don’t need proofs for everything in it (such as the ban on pork), we accept it based on the fact that we have agreed that the Quran is really from God and that God wants us to avoid pork.