Letters to the Editor

SAYYID QUTB

Q: I have a doubt regarding the authenticity of ‘In the Shade of the Quran‘ by Sayyid Qutb. I find this Tafseer very interesting, but recently a friend forwarded a few articles on Sayyid Qutb, which cast doubts on his calibre as a scholar. Now I do not know if I should continue with his Tafseer. I see that you quote him in the Quranic commentary that you publish every month in your magazine. 

Safoora Hunaiza 

YMD:

From a certain angle, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb is one of the finest of commentaries ever written. What you will find therein, you will not elsewhere. Whereas, what you will find in other commentaries, you might also find in Fi Zilal al-Qur’an.

Now, the work runs into thousands of pages. Is it possible for any human to write so many pages and commit no error? Errors, therefore, are expected.

But, which commentary has no errors in it? Here is one which is recommended by some people as the most trustworthy. But it has so many weak reports and Israeli stories. Here is another, which is considered by some people as the most correct. But it is full of ambiguities. Here is a third, which is said by some to be the most precise. But it is too short and brief to be recommended as a commentary that answers most of the reader’s questions. Thus there is no commentary which is not, from some angle or another, without shortcomings. If one is very choosy, he will be left with none to study.

Yet, we may ask, is that how you judge commentaries? Is your criterion right? Is it possible that your own knowledge is so limited, the vision so narrow, and the field of activity so restricted, that no Tafsir work fits into them. Maybe, it is the scheme of your life, religion and philosophy that doesn’t leave room for development of thought. Maybe you are at cross-purposes with the Ummah: the great body of it; the earlier ones and the latter ones; the eastern ones and the western ones; the ones of this school and the ones of that school. They all made their own tiny efforts to bring out a certain aspect of truth and understanding to fore. They were all good of intentions, all broad-minded. But, yourself not being so, to the extent Islam itself would allow, you cannot accommodate anyone in your tiny boat. Perhaps you are afraid your boat captaincy will be lost. So you throw overboard this one, that one, and everyone. Ultimately you will be left alone, if you are not already alone, and the pages of history might not even give you a line as an aberration while the Ummah, one Ummah, the great multitudes, the Jama`ah, moves on.

Yet the errors remain. Maybe one over every hundred pages. But what sane mind will reject the whole for a few errors? Errors, that you need a microscope to spot: if your judgement be correct.

Mawlana Abul A`la Mawdudi, who wrote for the Urdu readers, and Sayyid Qutb for the Arabic readers, and now both for the English speaking readers through translations, have done for old Tafsir works what the traditional scholars failed to achieve. They invoked interest in the Qur’an, Qur’anic commentaries, and Qur’anic related knowledge. The earlier commentaries that were under neglect for a few generations, suddenly started selling well in the markets. There isn’t any doubt, after Allah had decided to enliven the hearts of some believers, that the credit for the renewed interest in old commentaries and their republications in our times, goes to these two writers. Those who will not say thanks to the people, will not say thanks to Allah.

In particular, Sayyid Qutb dealt with modern pagandom in Fi Zial al-Qur’an in the manner Imam Ghazali dealt with the base self’s evils in Ihya’. He takes up aspect after aspect of pagandom, uncovers it layer by layer, dissects it, and goes right into the heart of it to strip it completely of its layered deceptions and delusion, and expose the dark, filthy and stinking side of it, invisible and imperceptible to the ordinary minds and eyes. This is a good reason why the Western Orientalists, the priests of darkness, wouldn’t touch Fi Zilal, wouldn’t comment on it, and ignore it as if it was never written.

This is not all that Sayyid Qutb achieved in Fi Zilal. But, in our opinion, this is something that no writer has done in our time as successfully as he did. Hence our opening sentence.

A WRONG APPROACH

Q: While giving dawah to a non-Muslim friend I told him that human beings are created from dust and the first man was Adam (as). He had rejected it and was asking scientific proofs for it. 

Syed Muzammil
Warangal 

YMD:

Your non-Muslim friend was perhaps looking for a pretext to reject the Islamic call, and you provided him one by starting off with a contestable issue. If you do not wish to allow those you address gain pretexts, you must remain within non-controversial issues.

You could, for example, start off in the following manner: That man exists, nobody can deny. That nothing can come into existence by itself is another fact. Application of simple logic leads to the need for a creator. Call Him what you will, but since God is a convenient word of reference, we can use it.

Next, everything in nature seems to be working towards survival and growth of life, especially human life.
Everything that man needs for survival and growth is available in plenty, for everyone’s ease and comfort.

Next, everything works smoothly in nature. There is order all around. Every item of creation seems to have a purpose and a function, which it performs ceaselessly and efficiently. There is one exception. It is in the human world. It arises from the fact that the humans have the intellect to decide, and the power to choose, as against other creations that blindly follow laws of nature.

Consequently, in contrast to order in the rest of the world, there is wide spread confusion in the human world. They fail in their interactions, creating disorder, chaos and unhappiness. Some of them misuse the power of choice and lead lives worse than that of animals. After describing a horrible earthquake that shook parts of Roman empire’s foundations, (50,000 dead in Alexandria itself), Gibbon writes: “Without presuming to discuss the truth or propriety of these lofty speculations (that the Divine Will is behind such events), the historian may content himself with an observation which seems to be justified by experience: that man has much more to fear from the passions of his fellow-creatures than from the convulsions of the elements. The mischievous effects of an earthquake or deluge, a hurricane or the eruption of a volcano, bear a very inconsiderable proportion to the ordinary calamities of war…” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, [an Abridged Version], p. 511).
Clearly, they need guidance.

Surely, a Creator who created the human beings, gave them the power of intellect, made them superior to all other beings, provided everything in abundance, could not have neglected their greatest of needs: guidance in matters where they are not able to work out ways satisfactory to themselves.

How has the Creator done that? He did it through Messengers raised by Him. From Adam to Muhammad there have been many Messengers. They were all sent with messages. But the messages of all of the previous Messengers were either lost or were distorted. Muhammad’s has remained in tact, free of corruption and distortion.

This is how you proceed, logically, and in proper steps, obtaining agreement over statement after statement, leaving no room for the man to escape. Finally, after the whole truth has been laid down before him, and he finds no way to escape, he will either accept it or reject. If he rejects, he will produce an illogical, irrational reason. He will betray his intellectual dishonesty and cling to the beliefs of his forefathers, by arguing unreasonably. Or, to conceal his dishonesty he will say he is not interested in any religion at all, so he may be spared the discussion. (And he will continue to adhere to the religion of his forefathers). When that happens, leave him alone and try on another. A dishonest person, who is dishonest with himself, with his own mind, and with God, whom he accepts as his Sole Creator, can never be shown the way. And there are plenty of them. More than you ever thought there were. You can only guide one who will admit an error as error, and accept a true word wherever he finds it.

So, once it is ascertained as to which category he belongs – the illogical great majority – he may be left alone: at least for the moment. Later, when he faces some crisis, spiritual, mental, physical or material, you might touch on him again. Maybe he would have learnt something from the crisis. If he shows some inclination to an intellectual conversation, you might start up again. But if he betrays dishonesty once again, by dragging you to pointless talk, or air superiority by saying his spiritual system is better than any other, because it is the oldest, or stuff of that sort, once again leave him alone.

In short, discuss only non-controversial issues. When you speak of Islam, speak of verifiable issues such as, e.g., God’s Oneness, the Prophet’s Messengership, the Qur’an as a Revelation, the need for Hereafter, etc. In this way you will leave no choice but for the man to expose himself. Is he an intelligent person or not? Is he honest or not? For, when you say, “It is verifiable that the Qur’an is a revelation” then, either the man asks you to supply the proof, or does some research himself. In either case, he will one day conclude that the Qur’an couldn’t have been written by any human being, far from Muhammad, who was less qualified to write it. Or, if he makes some inquiry about who the Prophet was, he will end up discovering that he couldn’t have been a false Prophet.

Thus, these are rational methods that lead to truth. The important thing is not to confuse the person addressed with information that cannot be verified by him. Such as, for example, “The first man, Adam, was created out of dust.” How can anybody verify this? Even science has not been able to find an answer. You might tell someone that he has to believe in the statement because it is in the Qur’an. But the person doesn’t believe in the Qur’an. So, before anything else, he has to find out about the Qur’an: is it a revelation or is it not?

Further, it does not matter whether the first man was created out of dust or not. The important thing is, he becomes dust after death. Where does he go after that? Has he a Lord to whom He has to return or not. If yes, did he follow the wishes of his Lord during life? Where has the Lord expressed His wishes? Are those who claim they know His wishes, trustworthy? Thus, the circle of conversation closes around the man once again, exposing him. Is he honest? Does he really care for the truth, or is no better than the animals?

As for scientific proofs, only those scientists who are truly scientific in their approach, understand and accept scientific truths. They are aware of its limitations, know the true meaning and ramification of the statements that the scientists make. Non-scientists, no matter how highly educated, do not accept scientific truths because they do not know what science in truth is about, what scientific spirit is. They lack true scientific approach to problems of life. Their scientific knowledge is that supplied by newspapers and magazines, or some science they read in school or college: quite inadequate to give them a scientific spirit or convert them into logical beings.
Therefore, to start with scientific evidences to prove that the Qur’an is a true revelation, when dealing with common people, is a wrong move.

Finally, and most importantly, who is the caller? What are his qualifications? Does he truly know what he is talking about? Is his own faith free of doubts and errors? What is the depth of his knowledge? Has he done any preparatory work before beginning to argue with the people? He wishes to discuss two major disciplines: science and Islam. Does he know them enough? These are questions that everyone wishing to call people to Islam might ask himself before he bumps into a non-Muslim, who defeats him with a single sentence. Da`wah is a noble work and requires firm knowledge.

INTERNET SERVICE CENTER

Q: I have been reading your magazine for 2 years and I find it very informative and effective. I have a doubt regarding the money earned from an Internet center. I own the center and different customers come to it. Some of them do productive work but others browse pornographic sites. I have tried to restrict access to such sites but there are a number of sites which I cannot restrict access to. My doubt is: is the money earned from this business halal. What should I do to stop these activities? Please suggest a way out. 

Muhammad Nazeer 

YMD:

So long as your intentions are right, and the business is not predominantly pornographic, there is no blame on you for what the customers do, and your income is Islamically lawful.  In contrast, if someone intended to facilitate entry into pornographic sites, then his earning could become unlawful. He would be sinning even if his customers did not enter into such sites.

As we see, your business is not predominantly pornographic. While mostly it is a useful service and for constructive purposes, a few customers are using the facility for wrongful purposes. The income therefore remains lawful. However, if it should so happen that the useful and productive work becomes negligible, while most of the time nothing happens but visits to pornographic sites, then you might have to do something about it. Perhaps initially you may warn your customers through a note hung on the wall that visit to such sites is Islamically unlawful. If the customers do not pay heed, then you might have to look for an alternative business. In the meanwhile, your income will remain lawful so long as you are searching for an alternative, viable business. You may close down the business only if you can afford to do so. That is, if you feel assured that in the event of closing it down, you will not be deprived of the power to purchase your basic needs. But, if you think the step will ruin you economically, then don’t close down the business until you have found a satisfactory alternative.

MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION

Q: I face a problem every year during my exams. I take a book and study for around 15 minutes but begin to think of something else. When the exam comes I sit before my books and start crying. Please suggest an Islamic method that can help me concentrate on studies.
One of my lecturers suggested that if I want to remember for long period what I have studied, I should recite Durood-e-Ibrahimi, recite “sa nuqriuka fala tansa illa mashallahu innahu ya`lamu al-jahra wa ma yakhfa,” 11 times after every obligatory Prayers. Then, placing my right hand on my forehead recite “Yaa Qawiyyu,” 11 times.  Please suggest similar type of Islamic Du`a  (supplication) for improving my memory.
 

Nilofer Naaz,
Gulbarga 

YMD:

The method suggested for increasing memory power does not have a Hadith for its backing. So, we cannot say anything about it. Maybe someone tried it and it worked. But that it should work with everyone cannot be guaranteed. In fact, it is quite likely that it will not work. That is because, laws of nature cannot be got over so easily. They are the Sunnah of Allah that cannot be broken at will. If ever they are broken, it will be by Allah’s will. And Allah allows breaking of his Sunan, for very special persons, and for every special occasions. When that happens, we call the event a miracle.

We also do not know of any words of supplication that can help increase memory. Yes, regular recitation of the Qur’an and understanding of its message does increase intelligence. This has been widely noticed. That means it would lead to increase in memory power also. But, as to some words of supplication, well, we do not know of any.

Nevertheless, the problem you have stated is quite common among girls of age 18 and above. They show extraordinary ability to learn up to that age, learning more than boys of the same age. In fact, in certain mental aspects they can match boys four or five years older than them. But, after 18, a decline in their capacity to learn is noticeable. They are prone to falling into deep, pointless thought, and cannot concentrate on anything that requires acute mental presence.

This is because by nature they have not been created for roles that today’s societies force on them. As to their true role, we cannot discuss at this point. Suffice it to say that all the efforts to push them to new roles have either failed or ended in distorting their personalities.

Yet, we cannot say for certainty that this is the reason behind your lack of concentration. Maybe this is a temporary phase and will go away. Maybe you need to change your subjects of study that may not be of interest to you. Or, maybe, you have too many things to think about and so when you sit down for studies, your mind is already tired. Or, there could be extra release of hormones because of some other factors. You see, there can be so many reasons.

However, if you have checked on all the above possible reasons, and taken suitable actions, if you found one or more true, but still face the difficulty, then, the best we can say is you break up your studies into several sessions, each not lasting more than an hour.

In other words, try to study in full concentration for a full hour and then take your mind off for something else. Again, allot the hours when you are fresh to difficult subjects. Also try drinking tea in small quantities as you study. In free hours, avoid watching the TV. It has a devastating effect on the mind. An hour’s watching can destroy many other things sitting safely in the mind. Rather than the TV, engage yourself in a conversation, or read some light material, such as short stories, or comic books, before taking up the studies again.

Finally, pray to Allah that He award you what is best for you.

YMD CONTENTS

Q: I am a regular reader & subscriber of YMD for the last 2 years. Please refer to YMD, May 2001. In children’s column the articles are different on page no. 23 & 24. Articles ‘Women Behind Bars in Saudi Arabia‘ page 32 & 27, A for Afghanistan page 35 are missing. What a pity for a Muslim digest? 

YMD:

We have to work under the limitations imposed by an Ummah that does not believe in spending on Islamic literature. 

Q: Translation & Commentary on Qur’anic verses and Hadith articles are not necessary to be published in a magazine. Plenty of translation work on Hadith books are available. 

YMD:

It is not the translation which is the main objective of these columns. It is the notes and comments. We will be glad to know if you need more than one finger to count English magazines that offer notes and commentaries on Qur’an and Hadith. 

Q: Articles on ‘Butterflies & moths‘ are not good articles for an Islamic magazine. 

YMD:

For what reasons? 

Q: ‘Wonders of Human body‘ is not worth publishing in an Islamic magazine. 

YMD:

If wonders of Allah’s creation are not worth publishing, what do you think is? 

Q: What is the use of identifying the picture & DTR = Car?  Such type of articles are fillers. 

YMD:

If we do not look at the children’s column with a child’s mind, we might end up making criticism impertinent to them. Children like these kind of exercises. 

Q: As if there is no good articles coming to you for print. Nowadays Q & A section is also boring. I had sent many questions to you but you avoided answering them. 

YMD:

Were your questions interesting? Nevertheless, we never avoid answering any question. Maybe the postal department fell in love with your previous letters. 

Q: Please do not just fill the 50 pages of magazine. The standard of your magazine is worsening day by day. 

YMD:

But this is a monthly magazine. How can the standard worsen day by day? In fact, we hear some people say that year by year its quality is getting better. But, of course, you might be right from another angle. 

Q: Please don’t just fill the 50 pages by inserting Cartoons, Drawings etc. 

YMD:

Today, illustrations and cartoons are an integral part of the printed work. Even scientific magazines carry cartoons. 

Q: All articles should be thought provoking. 

YMD:

Indeed, that is our objective: to provoke people to think. But what if our readers refuse to think? Further, people read magazines as pastime, not as mental exercises. If we carried serious articles alone, many readers would drop off. 

Q: Suggestion: May Allah help you in filling 50 pages of your magazine in a decent way. 

Name withheld   

YMD: 

Ameen. Yet, since none of the regular column has won your approval, we do not understand how you define “decent way.”

In any case, we accept your criticism. But we might also remind you that with a fraction of the material means available to the producers of Islamic publications, as compared to what is available to worldly magazines, it is no easy task to remain alive. Moreover, apart from lack of means, we have several of those facilities taken away from us that help sell magazines. As if that is not enough, the facilities taken away are replaced with restrictions that further reduce the chances of making the magazine attractive to today’s readers. In such circumstances, to bring out an Islamic magazine – of any quality – requires monumental efforts.

We must never overlook the fact that what can be achieved with the necessary material means, cannot be achieved with any amount of physical efforts. Ours is a world of cause and effect and not of desire and effect.

A REVEALED RELIGION

Q: I am a regular reader of your magazine since 2 years and find it interesting. I know that you will give right answer to my questions. And the question is, why only ISLAM is right and correct compared to other religions?  I am in search of an answer since 2-3 years. Shaytan was weakening my Imaan by giving me wrong ideas about Islam. After I joined the SIM group and began to read the Qur’an and Sunnah I began to get some ideas about why only Islam is correct. But when I compare Islam with other religions which have had their own prophets and teachers, who guided their nation, then I don’t find a difference. Further, other religions also have ancient books like Gita in Hindus and other books in Budhhism, Christianity, Parsism, Judaism, etc. So, what’s the difference? 

YMD:

No doubt a study of the Qur’an and Sunnah leads to increase in faith of a Muslim. But, to know why Islam is the only true religion, one need not necessarily read the Qur’an and Sunnah. He need not even be a Muslim to find out why other religions are not trustworthy. Anyone, even a non-Muslim, can discover, with some inquiry, why Islam is, in contrast to every other religion, a trustworthy religion. This is something which a person cannot do by finding what the Qur’an and Sunnah are about, what their teachings are, etc. Yes, that is one route to the truth. But it is a difficult route, and requires lots of knowledge and understanding. It requires that one judge God’s words and commandments against those of the humans. But rather, to find out why Islam is the only true religion, one can take an easier path. It can be done by finding out where the Qur’an and Sunnah (Prophetic words) came from. What is their origin? Anyone who conducts the inquiry, is sincere, and honest to himself, will find out why Islam is the only religion that can be trusted as a revealed religion and that no other religion meets with the conditions that can be set for a religion to be true.

For further details please see the lead article of this issue. 

Q: Hindus say there have to be many gods to drive the whole universe. One Hindu asked me how your one God controls and drives the universe? It is impossible. 

Muhammad Rafiuddin,
Gulbarga 

YMD:

By saying that the universe requires several gods to run it, rather than one, your Hindu friend has given you the proof that the Scripture he believes in is not a revelation. For, his Scriptures, the Vedas, have several hundreds slokas which say God is One. On the other hand the Vedas also consists of thousands of slokas that say that gods are many. Now, only one of the statements is true and the other is an addition to the Scripture. Either God is one, or many. Both cannot be true. So, one of the statements is an insertion. That helps us make another point. Every religious Scripture has been doctored and hence cannot be relied on as the word of God.

As regards the main question, as to how a single God can control the universe, all alone, the doubt is so silly that no intelligent man will accept to discuss it any further. All the same, we might say a few sentences.

Firstly, if you use your common sense, you can see examples in every day life. A single head master controls thousands of students. A single managing director of a multinational organization controls tens of thousands of men and their day to day activities. How do they do it? By making laws and forcing everyone to follow the laws. The Lord, true One God of the universe has similarly created laws, known as laws of nature, that everyone is forced to follow. That is how He controls everyone and everything.

Secondly, if one knows a little bit of science (say of the primary school level) he will realize that there are examples in every day science. E.g., a single law controls the placement and movement of the entire universe with its hundreds of billions of moving massive bodies. It is the law of Gravity. It is this law which is responsible for keeping everything where it is. It controls every little imaginable thing: from the atom to planets, to stars, to galaxies to the whole universe. In fact, it is such an all-powerful, all-pervasive law that had the pagans of old known about it, they would have declared it the Supreme Deity. Why can’t a single God do it, especially, when He is All-capable?

Again, everything in the universe points to unity of laws. The scientists have discovered that the same set of laws operate everywhere in the universe: from those on this planet, to the solar system, to distant nebulas to black holes. It is the unified action of the laws that cause things to happen the way they happen and to be moving in the manner they are moving. It is their combined action that makes a tree grow and bring flowers and fruits in its season. It is the combined working of laws that keep the atom stable, otherwise its components (protons, electrons, neutrons, etc.) would break apart. And what is true at the micro level, is true at the macro level also. It is the combined action of the laws that keeps the Solar system in place. If a single law were to be made inoperative, or not acting in conjunction with others, the Solar system would break apart and its components would fly away. No matter how distant you look into the universe and consider its functioning, you discover that it is the same set of laws that operate it. This unity of laws points to the unity of the Creator, Sustainer and Controller.

In contrast, there would be total chaos if there were several god-lings controlling parts of universe. A school, a hospital, an industry, or a nation, are all examples of how a single person can alone run them in an organized fashion. Imagine what would happen to a school with two headmasters, each giving contradictory instructions, or each trying to assert himself, or each trying to act smarter than the other? If you had ten independent headmasters, the school will have to be shut down or one of them will have to be placed over the rest, and given the authority and power to overrule all others for a smooth functioning.

COKE BOTTLES

Q: I am a regular reader of ymd. It is a very interesting, informative and knowledgeable magazine. Please answer my questions. 

Whether a person can read YMD when Ghosul (bath) is wajib on him or wudhu is must because YMD contains Qur’anic Ayat and Ahadith. 

YMD:

To read our magazine, or any other which carries Arabic Qur’anic texts, does not require that one be in a state of ablution. As regards, the state of major purity, yes, if it contains the Arabic texts. However, if there is no Arabic Qur’anic texts, but, either translations, or contains Hadith texts, then, one does not need a Ghusl. One can read from a state of major impurity (Hadath Akbar), although, it is desirable. 

Q: I had stock of old magazines wherein copies of ymd were also mixed. Whether this is sin to sell ymd along with other magazines & papers as it contains Quranic Ayat etc. Please say what to do with very old copies of ymd. 

YMD:

We suggest you get them hard bound and donate them to a library which has English readers. 

Q: In gulf countries soft drinks like COCA COLA is declared as HARAM by some Ulama of that area because when coca cola is seen in mirror it seems like the words LA MAKKA LA MUHAMMAD. Whether the action of ulama is right. 

Muhammad Aejaz,
Gulbarga

YMD:

If what you state is true then a Muslim should not buy such bottles. The drink itself remains permissible.

YMD-QUALITY

Q: I feel highly obliged to have ymd issue of May 2001. With no reservation of any sort and with no exaggeration I appreciate very much the improvement in the presentation of ymd. The present issue bears some very new chapter of Islamic history, and scholars of repute in various fields of education such as article on Abu Al Walid, on Brazil, GK., and an article from New York Times. The most informative was on Human Body and an article on Al Baghawi. Although a page from Encyclopaedia of Islam about the giants, scholars and learned men who contributed to the growth of the society and world community shall serve the reader in general and to those who disown Islam. I and on behalf of LAC library readers, scholars and students pay thanks to the entire staff and head of ymd. May Allah grant you all a great reward in this world and blessing afterwards.

Shafiq Ahmad,
Law Academic Council of India
Meerut

CASTEISM

Q: I would like to suggest for your serious consideration the aspect of increasing trend of casteism in the Muslim society very much like the non-Muslim set up. This causes a great set-back on social, economical and political front including educational. Islam forbids division of human society on false ground like casteism, rather preaches brotherhood, co-operation and accepting bride/groom liberally among Muslim society. 

YMD:

Although it is true that there are now social differences among the Muslims, we do not think this is equivalent of the Caste system prevalent among the Hindus. This is an internal social grouping such as Sheikh, Siddique, Khan, Mayman, and so on. These are merely social groups based on lineage. They seem to have different cultures and therefore prefer to marry within their cultures. Apart from preferences at marriage, there seems to be nothing to distinguish one from the other. They do not follow professions specific to them. In contrast, Casteism is based on race, profession etc. Further, there is a vertical division, the lower being inferior to the upper to the extent that even a physical touch defiles the upper. No such thing exists among the Muslims who pray together side by side in the mosques and eat together from the same plate.