Letters to the Editor

What is Death?

Gibran Chowdhury, via email

I have few questions. Please answer them in the light of the Qur’an and Hadith.

What is death? Does there occur any disorder or is it randomness that rules the death?


No one ever knows what death is. Science has failed to discover the mystery of life, and, therefore, its antithesis, death, also remains a mystery. What mystifies the scientists and non-scientists is that every living being wishes to extend its life. This is a mystery because, after all, all life forms are made of atoms. Atoms have no life of themselves and do not seem to have any desire to replicate, grow and flourish. They remain in their static condition for ever. If at all, they deteriorate. But when they are put together in various combinations to become, for example, a living body, then these very chemical combinations start to replicate. Why? Furthermore, they do not wish to die and be simple atoms that they originally were. So that, when somebody’s body turns into lifeless atoms that they were before life was blown into it, every body is sad. Why?

Majority of scientists are one-eyed. They can see physical truths with one eye, but are blind of the other eye to see spiritual truths, and therefore, they are left to wander in darknesses.

As regards death’s cause, again, no one knows why it comes when it comes. External causes can be assigned, but, given the strong wish to live, there is no reason why anyone should die at all. Heart-attack, cancer, stroke, injuries, none explain why a person should die when we know that there are worms that can have their bodies severed right at the middle or even more, but can re-grow to full size. So, the external causes do not justify death. Millions of disorders of the body are self-repaired. So, why should anyone die of any disease is a mystery too. For example, what prevents a living body to stop making cells more than necessary is not known. As we know, manufacturing cells more than necessary, known in common language as cancer, leads to death.

External causes do seem to play their role, but do not justify death. The Qur’an tells us that it is Allah who gives life and deals death.

What is destiny (taqdeer)? If every thing is pre-planned by Allah for every human, then where is the need for hard work? Why should people burn their midnight oil to achieve their goals? Is it Allah who writes the destiny, or it is man who makes destiny? Please explain.


Right from the start we have been taught by Islam that destiny is, like other unknown things (heaven and hell, life and death, angels and devils, Allah’s Being, etc.), another unfathomable reality.

Yet it concerns us all. In fact, it concerns every thing in existence. For example, science tells us that the sun is destined to burn out its hydrogen fuel, and will begin to burn its helium in another four billion years. When it does that, it will grow massive in size. The huge ball of fire will engulf even Jupiter. That is, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter, will be within the expanded gas-on-fire ball called Sun. The earth will be scorched to ashes. This is the Sun’s destiny, and, the destiny of the earth. Thus, theoretically, and scientifically, the Sun’s destiny is known. When Bertrand Russell came to know of this scientific finding, he is said to have felt depressed. This destiny of life depresses many materialists. Yet, there is no escape from the destiny of the Sun.

Coming down to our everyday lives, we are all bound by our destiny. For example, we are destined to get old. There is no escape; and then die, there is no escape too. Considering less depressing facts, we are all destined to face the winter and wear warm clothes, however much we may wish to wear casual clothes. We have no choice. If we neglect to wear warm clothes, but rather eat ice-cream, we are bound to catch cold. So, we seem to have not much choice but to follow the dictates of our destinies.

In short, we are deeply bound to our destiny except that we do not know to what extent. After all, we all have the freedom to choose to wear warm clothes or not in winter. If we choose not to wear warm clothes, and bear out the cold, come what may, then, that is our destiny of choice. Similarly, if we choose to sit back when unemployed, we will not find a job. So, it is in our power to choose to find a job or not to find one. To take a better clarifying example, we have the choice to drive at 80 km/hr or 200 km/hr. If we drive at 200 km/hr., and met with an accident, no one will blame the destiny. Everyone will say, “The man was crazy. He drove at 200 and, not surprisingly, met with the accident.”

Admittedly then, the extent of being bound or free is unknown. We have been bound by Allah, but given the freedom to choose. How exactly the two combine and work, nobody knows. Therefore, belief in destiny and predetermination has been made an article of faith.

It is because of the failure of the best human minds, believers and unbelievers alike, to unravel this mystery that it has been declared an article of belief. That is, something whose true nature is not known, and not knowable, and hence to believed in as from Allah.

The above rule of blind belief, after a rational belief in Allah’s existence, on the command of Allah, is the most rational thing to do. Renowned Muslim scholars of all times have not discussed this issue in their works and treatises. The question about the need for midnight oil, therefore, is unwarranted. Midnight oil always sheds light during the day. To say, instead, what use if the destiny has been laid down, is like saying, ‘Since the scientists cannot explain the behavior of matter at the sub-atomic level, why should we believe in them at all?’ Or, ‘should we not ignore a missile fired at us, because we do not understand the behavior of sub-atomic particles, of which the missile is made?’

Similarly, if we cannot understand the nature of destiny, we should not say, ‘Why should I make any effort in life?’ If anyone assumes that he is sincere and rational in asking, ‘Why the midnight oil when destiny is written,’ then, he should be saying, ‘why should I drink any water when destiny has been inscribed. I’ll only die, if I am destined to die.’ The fact that people do not say this, indicates that deep down their minds and hearts they realize that the world has been constructed in a way that if you do not drink water, you will die. They should, in the next higher step, realize that the question, ‘Why the midnight oil,’ is irrational, and from Shaytan, who uses this ploy to loosen our muscles, weaken our resolve, prevent hard work, deprive us of the will to defend ourselves, so that we end up in the slums, Kafirs.


Naznin Ibrahim, via email

Is it wrong to write SALAMZ in emails and SMS?


Do you mean to say Salams? If so, we do not see any harm.

A characteristic of our age is emphasis on the trivial while ignoring the principal and so, you will notice eyebrows raised for the minutest of variation.

Once Mutarrif was in the company of a few Qurayshis when they spotted someone doing Prayers. The man seemed to be unmindful of when to sit in Qa`idah. He kept on doing his Raka`aat without sitting after two Raka`ah. Somebody remarked, “The man does not seem to know how to perform Prayers.” They suggested that I should go and teach him. So, I went up to him and said, “Allah’s slave! You do not seem to know whether you are doing 2 Raka`ahs or 3 Raka`ahs.” He replied, “But Allah knows how many I am doing. I heard the Prophet say, ‘Whoever did a Sajdah for Allah (alone), will have Allah write a good deed in his favor, erase an evil deed, and raise him by a rank.” I asked him, “Who are you?” He answered, “Abu Dharr.” I went back to my companions and said, “You are an evil company. You sent me across to teach a Companion of the Prophet.”

We hope you can see the point we have tried to make.

I recently did my Warli painting exhibition in Ahmedabad… Can I continue with it as my profession…? I did not make eyes in my painting…


Without a sample painting before us done by you, it is difficult for us to say yes or no. Making an eye or not can matter only if a painting is large. On the other hand, if the figures are miniature (as in the sample presented by us below), then, the eye is invisible, and so, it will not matter since, after all, the full human silhouette is visible which crosses the Islamic bounds.

In any case, we do not see why you should limit your artistic skills to Warli paintings, since the field of art is quite wide, and several other art forms are popularly appreciated while Warli art, though occasionally visible at the international level, is better appreciated at the local and tribal level to which it originally belonged.

There are two other arts at which you may try your hand: Islamic art, which is dominated by curves (which you can call ‘Nature’s forms’ and which is the primary artistic element of the living world), and abstract art which exploits the beauty expressed in the inanimate objects.

Can I put up my Warli paintings in my house?


The answer remains what it is for the art. Whether you display it at home or in public is immaterial. Human or animal figures must be avoided. While those classes of art that rely on human or animal figures, take the form, appealing to the carnal soul, the Islamic and abstract art work with a theme and thus appeal to the mind and soul.

Not Synonyms

There have been letters on the topic of Qiyam-ul-Lail in your magazine. There are different names for this night prayer like: ‘Qiyam-ul-Lai’l, ‘Qiyqmu ramadhan’, ‘Taraweeh’, ‘witr’ and ‘Tahajjud‘.

The first, ‘Qiyam-ul-Lail‘ (night prayer) is a common term, since the prayer is to be performed at night only. The second, ‘Qiyam-ur-Ramadhan‘ (Ramadhan prayer) are offered in ‘Ramadhan’, in congregation and more enthusiastically. The third, ‘Taraweeh‘ is so called so, because people were taking a little rest after every two or four units (rak’as).’ Taraweeh‘ means: taking rest. The fourth, ‘witr‘, which means odd, shows that the prayer should end as odds. The last, ‘Thahajjud‘ shows, by its very meaning that it is prayed at night after some sleep.

What can be deduced is that all these prayers are the same, and they are named differently looking into the time, month, number and nature of the prayer.

Prof. K. A. Muhammed Ali, via email


To set the record straight, Qiyam al-Layl and Tahajjud are synonymous and refer to Prayers offered after midnight on any day, any time during the year; whereas Qiaymu Ramadan refers to the same prayers but offered during Ramadan alone. On the other hand Taraweeh is offered in Ramadan along with `Isha Prayers. As regards Witr, it is the last prayer of the day, in 3 cycles, throughout the year.

Signs of Decay

Muslim girls in our office are adopting non-Islamic culture like smoking, drinking and making relation with non-Muslims. Kindly advise through your esteemed magazine.

S. M. Danish, via email


The phenomenon is not a product of office culture. The training for it starts at home. Muslim girls are taught by their parents to imitate film stars, sports persons and other celebrities. This is done through TV shows organized by the parents at home, and watched with a devotion that was once reserved for their holy Book, the Qur’an. Trained by the parents on these new lines, when their daughters come out for studies or employment, they follow their parents’ instructions, education and training, and behave just as the non-Muslims behave. No one should be surprised, nor should anyone lay the blame on the Muslim girls. They have been given ideals and idols by the family which raises them up. How can they be taught something, and then, objected to when they live by what they were taught?

This new phenomenon is also because the new generation Muslim youth is devoid of a forceful personality. He is a thousandth photocopy of Eastern or Western celebrities. He has no personality of his own. You know what happens when you make a thousand photocopies from a photocopying machine. The print is blurred. So, is the Muslim young man of today. He has a blurred personality. It is not attractive at all. This leads young Muslim women to look upon other than Muslims as those worthy of company. Those other than Muslims, are better trained by their parents, who allow them limited hour of the TV and warn them that the rules of life and principles of success are different from the false shows presented on the screen. They stress on them to build their personalities and be not swept by the currents of time. Thus, they grow with some personality of their own. They can be more attractive than a Muslim youth, who is normally less qualified, less cultured, and less disciplined. Therefore, in order to please them, and be acceptable to them, Muslim girls must adopt their culture and their lifestyle.

Akbar Ilaha-abadi said in one of his poetical pieces that the veil that the Muslim women have removed from their faces, has fallen on the eyes of their male counterparts. We hope you understand what we are trying to say. We have to be downright realistic in identifying the source of a problem before we can think of a solution.

Tyranny of the West

I am a 25 years-old girl, unmarried, a post graduate and, alhamdulillah, have been a class-topper. Despite this, I am jobless and I even had a failure in love when I was 16 years. For the past nine years, I never met him nor talked with him, but I am unable to forget him till now. All this led to a depression, and some evil thoughts about s… are coming to my mind, many times. I even thought of committing suicide… Please help me… Please don’t mention my name: it’s my humble request.

M. S., via email


It is definitely saddening to learn of your pain and suffering. The thoughts of a dim prospect are equally depressing to us. In today’s world there are hundreds of millions of women who are facing the same dilemma as yours.

This is one of the most devastating gifts that liberalism has bestowed upon modern man. But women get a greater share of the curse. They were liberated with tall promises, but have been left to face the tyranny of lonely lives.

Frowned Upon

Can you please tell me whether mas…tion is allowed in Islam? Please explain in simple words.

Muhammad Furkaan, via email


In simplest of words, Islam looks at it with a frown.

Midnight Oil

Hope this mail of mine will find you and all your working body in best of your health. May Allah give you long and happy life. I am a student of BE (Computer Engg.) in the final year of my course. I’ve been a regular reader of the magazine since three years… I must say that you are doing excellent job! The question & answer, editorial and perspective pages of the magazine are absolutely great. May Allah give you reward for this here and in the hereafter.

I have few suggestions about the magazine. Hopefully, you’ll think on it: include one page of translated poetry of Sufi poets (like Rumi, Jami, Mansur, Bulleha Shah), one page on great Muslim personalities who contributed in the world of science, mathematics, geography, literature, etc., and one page on Muslim disputes all over the world like Palestine issue, Kashmir, Taliban and United States.

Anonymous, via email


We have been mooting these regular columns ourselves for some time, and have been preparing the material. They should soon be serialized as regular columns, Allah willing. With this issue we are presenting the History of Islam in series. Other class of articles should follow, Allah willing.

Paper Quality

I am a regular reader of YMD, I would like to bring to your notice about the low quality of paper and the print, though the color print is welcome, but this issue (Vol. 30, issue 8, Ramadan 1429/Sep. 2008) was almost unreadable.

Maqsood, via email


Pl. always send a post card demanding another copy.

We realize the irritation our readers experience at the ugly sight of our poor print quality and poorer paper; but all we can say after years of efforts that there is nothing we can do about it. Any magazine can only run either on regular dosage of donations, or raise its running cost through advertisements. There are two problems with advertisements: one, the rates depend on the number of circulations; the higher the circulation, the higher per square inch cost of advertisement. Some internet site’s main page advertisements can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Advertisement in one of the leading newspapers in India can cost up to a crore of Rupees. Secondly, advertisements have to be made eye-catching. That is normally achieved with the help of nudity. But a religious magazine like ours cannot accept any human figure, far from nude illustrations. Therefore, advertisements are ruled out. With regard to donations, Muslims do not believe in spending on literature. If at all they expend, it is marked for Masjid or Madrasah.

We have presented this problem to lots of people around us, without evoking least interest. On our part the best we could do at slightly raised level of cost is to adopt a slightly different process of print that promises less smudging of the ink. But, by and large, we are afraid the quality will remain.


Is Ghusl mandatory for both husband and wife, after every intercourse…? Please clarify my doubt… and, if possible, quote some books or hadith on this issue…

Shanur, via email


Ghusl is mandatory on both, not after every time, but before they perform Prayers or recite the Qur’an.

Women's 'Awrah

In your June 2007 issue, as I was reading your answer to a question pertaining to Hijab, the reply is that in front of ghayr mahram, the woman’s Satr is covering all except hands, face, ankles, feet, and hair is mentioned. Hair exposure is not allowed even for old women as mentioned in the book compiled by Abdul Aziz Addwesh. Please shed light on this. Even face being a debatable issue with most hadith; (he says) it is better to be veiled.

Zahid Ahmed, via email


You have been probably in haste to have read that we have allowed exposure of a woman’s hair to non-mahram. Kindly check back, we have made no such statement.

As regards covering of the face, you have stated the correct position.

About YMD

Past Issues