Letters to the Editor
Q. I have read a few copies of your magazine. I have a few problems which leave me perplexed. My mother’s relatives organize a ceremony once in a year called Aasar-e-Shareef. They display a hair of Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. I don’t know the authenticity of this ceremony. Those who support this ceremony do not object to anything that is un-Islamic. Please let me know whether it is Bid’ah or lawful.
We do not know what they do during the ceremonial display. Is it only the display of the hair, or, they follow some other practices? If it is mere display, there is no harm, so long as a specific day and time are not fixed for it. That is, the hair is available for display to anyone, any time.
As regards accompanying ceremonies, such as, just from our imagination, people are asked to make an ablution before presenting themselves, or they change their clothes for the occasion, or the Qur’an is read out before or after, etc. – all such practices would be termed Bid`ah.
It is another thing that the authenticity of the “hair” is extremely doubtful. Every tenth house seems to have one. When you ask them for its origin, they are unable to explain. Some have stuck them on wax enclosed in a glass bulb, and claim that the hair grows, which of course is fictitious.
As you have remarked, people who have faith in these kinds of things, and indulge in such ceremonies, normally have no repulsion for un-Islamic practices. Islam is the name of faith and practice. Neither interests them. It is only ceremonies that are close to pagan spirit and practices that interest them. If you have power over the household, stop it. You will incur no sin, even if the hair happens to be authentic and even if the accompanying practices are not innovatory; because, it is fertile ground for the birth of innovations.
Q. Videography is undoubtedly forbidden. But it is used in marriage ceremonies. I try to keep away from the camera but it looks very odd when I run away the moment camera arrives. Moreover, all the women (except very few of them) move about bare headed and many of their male-relatives keep coming in now and then. I refuse to face the camera though my hair is covered but I am eventually forced to go for family photographs. Please let me know whether I am sinful when I get myself photographed. If I stubbornly refuse it will look as if I’m creating a big fuss over nothing.
When you are avoiding sins, you are not creating a big fuss over nothing. In any case, we realize your dilemma. The only way you can avoid being photographed is not to go to such places. Some people we know inquire before accepting an invitation if there is going to be filming of the marriage ceremony. When told yes, they beg excuse and stay away. But that might not be easy for you. So, alternatively, cover your face well enough, leaving uncovered maybe only the eyes. When others inquire, point out at the camera.
Q. Thirdly, there is a very strange custom called Mehendi. I don’t know whether you are aware of this or not. Let me give a brief idea. The bride’s sister sits in front of the groom and applies henna on his hand while the groom’s male or sometimes even female relatives joke around and tease bride’s sister and other relations. Please do advice me since I have an elder sister which means one day I’ll be asked to do the same thing.
The practice as you describe is unacceptable. A sister-in-law is not allowed to hold a brother-in-law by hand. Sex-hungry people, deprived long in their lives, because of their self-made rules preventing quick marriages, and refusal to work hard in life, have devised the practice seeking satisfaction for urges that they miss out for long.
As regards your own turn, announce from now that you are not available for it, whenever the occasion arrives. Keep reminding the family members, so that they know your resolve. If they insist, and force you into it, do it with a rubber glove on your hands.
Q. I have read in a fatwa book which says that prayers like Salat-ul-Hajah are unfounded. Please tell me whether it is permissible for me to perform these prayers.
We do not know the exact wordings of the “Fatwa” that you have quoted. However, if what is meant is that the ahadith concerning Salatul-Haajah are not trustworthy, then the jurist is right. But if it is said that Salatul-Haajah is itself un-Islamic, or not advisable, or, ill founded as in practice, then that is incorrect. For, the very fact that Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah have chapter headings called “Salatul-Haajah,” and Hakim and Haythami both have reports concerning this topic, leads us to believe that there was some such thing among the early Muslims known as Salatul-Haajah. If there was no such practice among them, then, where did the chapter headings come from? It is another thing that the hadith they have brought is rated weak by Hadith scholars. But, the prevalence of the practice of the early Muslims, or some of them, cannot be denied.
As for the weakness of the hadith, Tirmidhi himself rated it weak. But Hafiz al-Mundhiri, the famous hadith expert said, “Although Faayed (one of the narrators) is not admissible, trustworthy people narrated (hadith) from him. (That is, although later scholars didn’t trust him his next line narrators accepted him as worthy to transmit from). Finally, Ibn ‘Adiyy, another Hadith scholar, said about Faayed: “He is a weak narrator, yet his narratives might be recorded. (I.e., he might not be entirely rejected). Thus we see that the haidth is not worthy of outright rejection, the reason why Tirmidhi and others chose to record it. (Those who are quick at saying “weak” to many narrations that the Ummah accepted, need to, apart from other things, look into the reasons why these narrations have found entry in the Sihah Sittah documents).
Finally, and leaving alone who practiced in the past and who not, how can anything be wrong with someone in need turning to Allah, offering some prayers, and then supplicating? Didn’t the Prophet spend the night previous to the Battle of Badr in Prayers? Imam Ibn Hajr `Asqalani has written the following. He is commenting on a hadith in the chapter on “Fasts” in Bukhari, which reports the Prophet as Praying in Umm Sulaym’s house and then supplicating for her: “This hadith tells us about … the legality of supplication after Prayers, and that of first Praying before presenting one’s needs to his Lord….”
What better confirmation of Salatul Haajah than this? Yes, the ahadith specifically noted under Salatul-Haajah could be weak, (with the possibility of being true), but not the practice. It is proven of the Prophet himself. Therefore, we recommend that when you have a need, turn to Allah, before resorting to material means. Pray to Him, and then supplicate and present your needs. The Prophet has said, in effect, “If you need a shoe-string, ask your Lord.”
Q. Is it allowed to do Fatiha on food? I know it’s disallowed but some elders who possess vast knowledge support this. How can I (a fifteen years old girl) make them understand that it’s bid’ah.
Reciting out Fatiha on foodstuff is an innovation.
As for the elders with vast knowledge, this is a test for them. If they say it is allowed, they have no knowledge, not to speak of vast knowledge. Probably, they know a lot about Islam, but possess no knowledge (‘ilm). Abu Jahl and his class of men knew a lot about Islam. But they had no knowledge. So, they failed to perceive the truth.
As regards yourself, do not underestimate yourself because of your age or sex. ‘A’ishah was already an authority on Islam by your age.
An advice: A small advice from me to young men and women is that they stand up and follow Islam and be true Muslims. Stick to Allah’s worship, follow the Prophet – peace be upon him – and reject all that is haraam.
May Allah give them and us all, the same resolve.
Q. I have received the attached photograph by e-mail. It is of the Hira cave and clearly shows a Jinn/ Shaytan. What’s your opinion?
Shatyan is of the Jinn and the Jinn have been created from fire. Therefore, they cannot be photographed. They can only be photographed if they assume a human or animal form. But in that case, you will see them and photograph them as humans or animals not as Jinns. In this case, what you see in the photograph is, perhaps, computer art-work.
Q. I am a regular reader of your magazine and, in fact, very religious too. But I am in such circumstances that I cannot explain to you. I am more than 26 years of age but still unmarried. Our scholars sermonize so loudly and with much power but there is no one to understand the problems of youth. We boast ourselves as the best community, but I will tell you that marriage has become difficult and adultery easy. This is not only the condition of boys but girls also face the same problem, either it is because of dowry or some other reasons. I request you kindly write about this in your magazine.
We can understand the agony of the youth. But, what is there that the scholars can do about it? Marriage is an entirely personal affair. Scholars cannot go about marrying off men and women they come across in the streets. The most they can do is to urge early marriages. But, what effects the urging can have on a society that is constrained by internal and external problems? Their own daughters suffer late marriages. It is you, in fact, as youths, who can revolt against the un-Islamic practice and show a way out.
That said, turning to your case, you have not written what prevents you from getting married. Or, precisely speaking, why are you delaying your marriage?
If you have been good at your studies, obtained a respectable degree, work hard morning and evening, earn your own livelihood and have the ability to run a house of your own independently, then, of course you are qualified to get married. You should propose that to your parents, and forcefully break the rules and constraints that have been preventing your marriage. The scholars will cooperate with you both by backing your demand for marriage, and, when granted, performing the Nikah ceremony most graciously!
Q. I am a regular reader of your question and answer column and find it interesting. I have some doubts that I hope you will clear. I have read a hadith few months ago which says that the names of Allah are “holy,” and so we must not take His name in an unclean place and also we must not call His name while committing a sin. I would like to know what type of sins are included. E.g., a person wearing trousers below his ankles is committing a sin while another without a beard is in continuous sin. Should they not take the name of God at any time?
Perhaps you did not understand what you heard. What you might have been told is that you should not “invoke” Allah’s name while committing a sin. That is, a Muslim is required to invoke Allah’s name before every act, such as, putting on his shirt, or stepping out of the house, etc. However, he is prohibited from invoking Allah’s name before starting a sinful or undesirable act. E.g., he should not invoke His name while lightening a cigarette, or say “Bismillah” when receiving a bribe.
Q. A child is born into a Muslim family while another into a non-Muslim family. Ultimately, there is a great chance of the former taking the right path, but not the latter. Does it mean it all depends on luck?
Yes, apparently, a person born into a Muslim family has a greater chance of taking the right path. That is Allah’s grace. He shows mercy to whom He will. But, we must note that this mercy is not at any other person’s cost. It is not something taken away from one and given to another. It is entirely from Allah’s bounty.
It is also true that in comparison a person who is born into a non-Muslim family, suffers a slight disadvantage over another born into a Muslim family, vis a vis, guidance to the right path. But this disadvantage is not a disadvantage by itself. It is a disadvantage only in comparison to another not in the same situation. To give you an example: you put two men on a racetrack and say, “Whoever reaches such and such a target will get a reward.” But one of them you place ahead of another by a few feet. So, what might happen at best is that the man put ahead by a few feet will arrive at the target slightly earlier. So, he enjoyed a slight initial advantage. But the other is not disadvantaged by the quicker arrival of the first one. That is because, you never said, “Whoever arrived earlier will get the reward.” You said, “Whoever arrived at such and such a target point will get the reward.” So, if the second one didn’t start at all, because, he was placed a few feet behind the other, then, he will never arrive at the target, and never win the reward. And it is entirely his fault. Why didn’t he start off? Conversely, if the first one, placed a few feet ahead of another did not start at all, he will also not win the reward. Placing him ahead of another proved to be of no advantage to him.
To give you a simpler example, you say to your two sons that each of them will get a reward if he passed his school exams. But to one of them you gave an additional non-textual book, which you didn’t give to the other, nor anyone else in the school has any such additional book. They all have their course books alone. Now, the son who has the additional book is at an advantage. But, it is at nobody’s cost. Nor, it means any disadvantage in real terms to the other son, since everybody is examined for the textual books, and, you have only asked that both pass the exams: grades being ignored.
So, someone born into a non-Muslim family might be said to be at a disadvantage when compared to one born into a Muslim family. But, this does not spell out any misfortune to him. True he was not shown mercy at birth. But no wrong was done to him. He is given the faculty of reason to judge. He is never asked to do any more than use his reason. Now, despite his own reason telling him that, for example, God is One, and can only be One, he remains worshipping idols, then, the responsibility for missing the guidance is entirely his. He might have suffered an initial disadvantage. But, what explanation has he for remaining deaf to the inner voice all his life? He had his entire life of sixty to seventy years at his disposal. From the time he began to understand things, say at 7 or 8, his own mind refused to believe that earthen idols rule the world. Why did he then remain true to them?
Now, looking back at someone born into a Muslim family, true he enjoys an initial advantage. But, all through his life, he has to remain true to his faith. If he does not, at any moment in his life, the advantage is lost. The Prophet has said, “One of you does the deeds of Paradise throughout his life, but when he is one step away from it, he performs the deeds of the people of the Fire, and so misses Paradise.” So, you see, if a man does not remain a Muslim, conscientiously, moment after moment, throughout his life, his initial advantage will prove of no use to him. In fact, this is what we see happening all around us. Millions are born into Muslim families. But how many draw the benefit of the initial advantage?
The matter goes further than that. Every non-Muslim is the responsibility of the Muslims around. If he fails to convey the message, then, it is possible that the non-Muslim will hold him responsible on the Day of Judgement for his own disbelief. He might drag him into Hellfire along with himself for the fact that although himself well guided, he did nothing for him. Thus, once again, the initial advantage can be easily nullified by the behavior in later life.
Q. I want to know if waxing is allowed in Islam. By the word waxing I mean waxing of hands and legs. In your previous edition you said that if eyebrows disfigure your face you can correct it. So if hair on hands looks ugly can I go for waxing?
First of all, we didn’t say, “if they look ugly.” We said, “if they disfigure you.” There is a vast difference between the two. The first is subjective. Hence there can be no agreement over what constitutes ugliness and what does not. Every individual will have his or her own opinion. In contrast, disfigurement is something over which a wide variety of people’s opinion will converge. A twisted hand from the birth, for example, is a disfigurement. If someone can get it corrected through an operation, it would be allowed. A twisted hand is biologically an abnormality as everybody comes with straight hands. In contrast, the hair on women’s hands is neither a disfigurement nor an abnormality. Most women have hair on hands and legs – less or more – because every female has some male genes in her body. There is no exception to this. Therefore, whatever appears as a result of those genes, is the “Nature” of Allah’s creation that cannot be altered. But there are no genes in everybody’s body for twisted hands. Therefore, this is not the “Nature” of Allah’s creation. It is an abnormality on a healthy body. And Islam has allowed treatment of diseases and abnormalities.
Q. The November issue of your magazine consists of an article, “Who is Mullah Omar?” I think the caption is not in good taste.
In the first look it does smack of disrespect. But, on the other hand, English language has its limitations. In any case our editors have made a note of this.