Letters to the Editor
Q: I close my eyes during Salah. If I don’t do so, I lack concentration. So, is it correct to close your eyes during Salah? I asked many scholars of deen. They gave me different answers. Can YMD help me?
Mir Aamir Akbar,
YmD, too, cannot help you much except to remark that closing or not closing the eyes do not increase or decrease concentration, and that closing the eyes is not Mustahab (something desirable).
A further difficulty is that what you are attempting – concentration – is not a requirement of the Salah. You are required to attempt Khushu` and Khudu`. If you succeed, concentration is achieved.
The terms Khushu` and Khudu` are, for common people, synonyms. Suhrawardi wrote in his `Awariful Maa`rif that the difference between Khushu` and Khudu` is to be realized by the soul.
Khushu` in the Prayer is, according to some scholars Wajib so that, those who did not observe it, did not Pray. Shawkani explains Khushu` as comprising of four elements: calmness, humility, fear and self-effacement (before the Lord) – all observed at the heart-level.
Khudu` is to be defined as calmness of the physical body.
Thus, an acceptable Prayer requires to be present with the heart and mind.
A level higher than that is to be sure that you can see Allah. Alternatively, if you cannot do that, then, be aware that He is seeing you.
On the other hand, concentration requires a subject. You might be concentrating, but on what?
The scholars have suggested that it is Mustahab during the Prayers to keep the sight during the Qiyam at the place where one prostrates; during the Ruku` down at his feet, during the Sujud, at his nose, in tashahhud in his lap, and while saying the tasleem (salam) at his shoulders.
By closing the eyes, you have closed the eyes to three Mustabbaat. How can you prevent someone from crossing you with your hand, following the Prophet’s instruction, and sweep away an approaching cockroach, if you assume the posture of a bride?
Q: I want to understand Qur’an. What I need to do? How much time should I devote daily? I have a good collection of Islamic books mainly in Urdu, worth above one lakh. But I need guidance. I know a large part of Qur’an, but superficially. I have a good memory. Should I also memorize Qur’an?
If you remain truly of this resolve, it would be the best thing to have happened in your life.
Studying the Qur’an is in two ways: the right way which is entirely beneficial, and the wrong way, but which is not without some benefits.
The right way is to learn the Arabic language. The benefits start with the intention alone. The months and years devoted to learning the Arabic language could be considered as equal to studying the Qur’an itself, since that’s your intention.
The wrong way is to study the Qur’an through translations and commentaries. This is filled with pitfalls, and demands long study. It consists in reading a good translation of the meaning several times, e.g. translation of Abdul Majid Daryabadi or Yusuf Ali. Then attempt one authentic Tafsir, such as, e.g. translation of Ibn Kathir.
In the third stage, attempt a comparative study involving Tafhim al Qur’an, Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufit Shafi` Deobandi, Meaning and Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad, translation and Commentary of the Qur’an by Yusuf Ali, and, perhaps the best, commentary by Abdul Majid Daryabadi.
We call it the wrong way because a decade of dedication to the above will not teach you what the Qur’an will in two years if you studied it in its language of revelation.
Memorizing the Qur’an will help in understanding, but only after you do it after learning its language.
Q: I have been closely following in your pages few important discussions or comment-analysis about few topics especially the phenomena of rejecting the great imams and belittling their contributions and regarding them dispensable.
You have rightly pointed out the reasons as:
- superficial understanding of
- easy-going approach
- intellectual handicap
- fast-food consumerism-like mentality
- falling for slogans and wild claims.
This is not the specialty of the fallen victims of this anti-imam wave alone, but it is the general intellectual state of the whole Ummah. The reason for they quickly succumbing to this guile.
But I am sorry to see that your approach to them in terms of refutation or clarification is not at all suited to their level of understanding. In short, your prescription is not matching the illness.
Your approach is highly critical, philosophical and scholarly, but what is needed is simple explanations with proper references and how the Salaf approached Fiqh issues.
We do not use philosophy in answering questions. Islam does not give free approve to philosophy – because it is, by its own nature, factual. We only explain using reason and logic.
We can’t see how one can teach Psychoanalysis in simple, non-technical, non-philosophical language to children, or grownups with the same level of IQ as children. A big difference is that a child knows he is a child, and cannot understand many things, unless he grows and his intellectual capacity grows. The child intuitively realizes that, is told that, and accepts that, so as to do things as he is told – and talk not too much.
On the other hand, the grownups, of our “age of ignorance,” who perhaps hold a degree, who have zero knowledge except for the field in which they obtained a degree, fully realize that they will evoke a full blast laughter, if they ventured to give their opinion, in disciplines other than their own narrow and little field of study. They realize that, and normally hold their tongues tight between their jaws, and not becoming a buffoon by asking odd questions.
So, when it comes to psychiatry, anthropology, or the nature of statistical behavior of the physical laws, etc., he will wait for an excuse to slip out of the company of those discussing one of these issues, far from uttering a word. “That stuff is not for me, bob,” he utters to his friends when asked the reason for withdrawal.
But the same persons believe that they are fully equipped educationally, intellectually, morally, and spiritually to understand the Shari`ah, especially its Law. They do not think that they are being absurd when they are questioning authorities, or demanding explanations; just as they won’t be asking explanations of a psychiatrist when he says Prozac is recommended for a certain disorder, in such and such doses, for such and such period.
It is easier to educate an uneducated auto-rickshaw driver in how stock-exchange works, than to explain to an engineer about how principles of Islamic Law have been worked out, and so how, breaking a principle will lead to its collapse – just like moving out a single atom from a protein will lead to its collapse.
By the way, a lawyer will require a degree in chemistry to understand how removal of atom will lead to collapse of a protein. His legal knowledge will not take him any far.
And those who question the Islamic Law, are, most of the time, quite modestly educated. Some, not at all.
Q: You may say that this is a very highly scholarly, complicated and intricate issue.
We do say that, but never have we said that the intricacies are unsolvable. Just like psychoanalysis. It is intricate. But you can still get a post-graduate degree in it, if you devoted a couple of years. Apply that to Shari`ah laws.
But many, many, misguided Muslims will not apply that. Why? Because they are so hopelessly educated, in many senses of the term, that they can never, will never, realize that compared to the Shari`ah Laws, psychoanalysis is a child’s play.
Q: But here lies the expertise, utility and the very need of popular magazines.
Shari`ah Laws cannot be explained like issues that popular magazines deal with. Let alone the Shari`ah, popular magazine are sources of spread of ignorance even in matters of engineering, medicines, and many sciences. Serious people, intending to handle intellectual issues, in any scientific discipline or even in Arts and Literature, will do well to avoid reading them, but rather resort to the textual works, firsthand from specialists of the field of interest.
Popular magazines are for a class that has learned how to read but who cannot write. This is an easy way to find the difference between the educated and the non-educated.
Q: If you can explain Big Bang theory, economic theories, fetal embryology, then why can’t you do this?
Whoever said that Big Bang theory, economic theories, foetal embryology, can be explained to correctness… whoever said that belongs to the class which can read, but cannot write.
Take, for instance, the Big Bang Theory:
Ask any man who reads popular science books. Can he explain the nature of problems in Big-Bang Theory that led to the invention of Inflationary Theory? What are the problems of the Inflationary Theory? And why the face-saver String Theory has also failed? His answers, or no answers, will tell you the poor man has no idea at all of the Big-Bang Theory, except that at one point in time, there was an explosion.
Q: In a recent issue you had published a challenge to answer ten Fiqh issues solely by Hadith. I WhatsApped its photo to some of the victims. I was expecting that they will consult their scholars and come with some answers. But they didn’t do that.
They didn’t do that because they cannot do that.
Q: Instead, they asked some down-to-earth, simple questions.
Which, you will admit, was not required of them. They were to answer the challenge and not take the escape route by raising some other questions.
Q: And one answer from one of my relatives is as follows: “Does it (your posing of such Fiqhi questions) validates to accept anything contradictory to Qur’an and Sahih Hadith if something is presented from a non-authentic source or from any school of thought?”
Having failed to answer our challenge, this person took another route for escape.
Our point in asking for ten issues to be answered with the help of hadith alone was, and is, that whoever will reject the Qur’an’s suggestion that law be made following four primary sources (which it names), will end up fallen, with his nose in the dust.
Q: What he meant to say is somebody is talking about very vital issues like Salaah and Iman with authentic references and very infectious style, and you are talking about non-issues.
The poor man who had raised the issue of Salaah and Iman, was utterly misguided. He was trying to escape from the four sources the Qur’an has mentioned. He should submit to the Qur’an, or face the end we have stated.
But we think his and that of the likes of him, is ignorance. They oppose the Qur’an without knowing it. They do not know that Salah and Iman are no easy issues. A collection of all that is there on Salah alone in Hadith literature will fill several volumes. They think a couple of Ahadith in Bukhari will settle the issue. Explaining Iman is no less complicated. Nawawi, Badruddin `Ayni, Mulla `Ali Qari and others have written chapters after chapters explaining it, but our man can read out the five Kalimah he was made to memorize, thinking that that is how Iman is to be defined.
They, and their likes, must choose one of the four Schools and learn to submit to authorities on Fiqh, remain adhering to one of the four, following not the ‘Mawlawis’ of the School of choice, but the Law works of that School.
Is there an alternative to escape from following one of the four Schools of Fiqh? Yes. Very much, yes. And it is the better way to be responding to the Islamic call. It is to study Fiqh. If medical studies require two decades of study, let them devote three to Fiqh Studies. If they do that, they will not fall in dust, face down, but – if their intention is pure – the fish in the sea will pray for them, and, the gates of Paradise will be opened for them.
Q: I think you relook into your approach.
Truth is bitter. We can see why they don’t like our answers.
Q: My suggestion is: Why not present, in a series, simple translation of books on this topic. Like, the following: Rafaul Malaam anil Aaimmatil Aalaam by Ibn Taymiyah, Ikhtilaaf-e-Ummah and Siraat-ul-Mustaqeem by Shah Waliullah, and Raah-e-Etidaal by Khalid Saifullah Rahmani.
You started in this letter fairly close to reasonableness, but by the end, you lost that trail. Of those who have done an eight-year Mawlawi course in a Madrasah, not all are familiar with the first two books of your mention. And you want the common people to read them, or their translations?
It is a fantastic suggestion, though it raises another question: If somebody who knows Arabic has read the books, then why shouldn’t he translate them himself? However, if you do not know Arabic, but have been given the title-names by someone, then that somebody was probably making fun of you.
The last book of your mention does not deal with the topic of “Whom to take your Shar`ee guidance from?” It deals with the problem of those who assume extreme stand over issues of peripheral importance, and create rancor among the people.
So, the third suggestion also falls.
Back to our suggestion then: start learning, or quietly follow.
Q: The title of the article published in your October 2014 issue on page 20 is wrong. The Chinese government has banned people with long beards from boarding buses and not all those who sport beards.
Did they specify the length? Hopefully it is more than a millimeter.
At all events, thank you for pointing the error.
Yet, another announcement has followed which prohibits everyone of a certain province from growing any kind of beard.
Q: The second thing which I desire to point out is that not a single Islamic country has made sporting of a beard by males a must. I have seen many Arab young men minus beards, in the Middle East. Pots should not call kettles black.
M. Pasha/ Vali Ahmed,
The number of non-Muslims sporting beard is greater than Muslims. So, who is the pot and who the kettle?