Letters to the Editor
Q. While reading the Qur’an it is sometimes difficult to understand the meaning of certain words. Can you please tell us who are the Sabe’in referred to in surah al-Baqrah, verse 62?
M. M. Nasir,
You need to refer to a good commentary while studying the Qur’an. We recommend that you keep before you either Ishraq al-Ma‘ani, Tafsir of Abdul Majid Daryabadi or of Mawdudi.
As for Sabians, opinions vary over who the Sabians of Qur’anic reference were. Some scholars believed that the allusion was to anyone who does not follow any one of the well-known religions of the world. It is in this sense that the Quraysh used to refer to the Prophet (saws) as a Sabe’i: since he did not follow either of the known religions such Judaism, Christianity, or the Makkan pagan religion. However, some other scholars believed that those of the contemporaries of the Prophet (saws) are meant who inhabited the Southern Iraqi region. They followed the Zabur, prayed five times a day but worshipped angels.
A modern commentator has said: “The Sabians seem to have been a monotheistic religious group intermediate between Judaism and Christianity. Their name [probably derived from the Aramaic verb tsebha`, “he immersed himself (in water)”] would indicate that they were followers of John the Baptist – in which case they could be identified with the Mandaeans, a community which to this day is to be found in Iraq. They are not to be confused with the so-called “Sabians of Harran”, a gnostic sect which still existed in the early centuries of Islam, and which may have deliberately adopted the name of the true Sabians in order to obtain the advantages accorded by the Muslims to the followers of every monotheistic faith.”
Abdul Majid Daryabadi wrote about the southern Iraqi Sabians: “They `practiced the rite of baptism after birth, before marriage and on various other occasions. They inhabited the lower plains of Babylonia, and as a sect they go back to the first century after Christ … The community still survives to the number of five thousand in the swampy lands near al-Basrah.’
Iman Matters Most
Q. Before leaving for USA I was able to offer salah five times in jamaah, but after I arrived in USA I am not able to offer salah in jamaah. Further, after much difficulty I got a job in a gas station where there is lottery system. Now, I don’t know whether my earning is halal or haram. Can you please throw some light on this? And, if it is a sin, but we are not able to leave the job because of the difficult situation, then will istighfaar be enough?
If there is no mosque nearby, nor another Muslim with whom you could make a congregation, or if there are Muslims but not ready to join you, then you might pray alone without any sin on you, insha Allah. But, you might have the difficulty of even doing your Prayers on time because the system there does not permit a man’s absence even for a minute. In the American system, the customer is God, since, in their belief, he feeds the organization, and so, he cannot be displeased. At best you might make an arrangement with your colleagues to allow you to Pray while they look after your work.
As regards the lottery system, that is something you might not be able to avoid anywhere in the USA. Gambling and lottery are part and parcel of American economic system. Doctors in hospitals also gamble. So we do not see how you can work in any place where there are no gambling or lottery machines. At best you must try and work in such places where gambling is not the main business.
That’s the best you can do in USA. With time you will gain experience and find better jobs to save something and then move on to a Muslim area in the USA where you might practice Islam, at least marginally.
On the other hand, if you are technically well qualified, we suggest you either move to a Muslim country or back to your own country, for, in life, it is Imaan that matters most.
Knowledge of the Unseen
Q. Please clarify the following. Some people say that Prophet Muhammad had the knowledge of the unseen (ilm al-ghaib). Is that true?
No it is not. Our Prophet, nor any other Prophet or Messenger of the past had the knowledge of the Unseen. The Qur’an commanded our Prophet to inform his followers that he did not have the knowledge of the Unseen. He was told (H.Q. 6: 50), “Say: I do not say I possess Allah’s treasures, nor do I know the Unseen, nor do I say that I am an angel. I follow not but what is revealed to me.”
In another revelation, Allah commanded him to announce his ignorance of the Unseen, as well as state as evidence that if he knew the Unseen, he would have suffered no inconvenience in life. Allah said (H.Q 7: 188), “Say, I do not own benefit or harm to myself, except for what Allah will. And, had I known the Unseen, I would have gathered together of the good (things) and no evil would have touched me. I am not but a warner and a proclaimer of glad tiding unto a people who will believe.”
In fact, Allah denied the knowledge of the Unseen to anyone in the heavens and the earth by saying (27: 65), “Say, none in the heavens and the earth know the Unseen except Allah. And they do not know when they will be raised up.”
Actually, we did not need the revelation to tell us that no one knows the Unseen except Allah. The use of common sense makes it apparent that no one but Allah can know the Unseen. This world is immensely large. No one knows it boundaries. In fact, modern science tells us that we will never be able to know how large our universe is. There are billions and billions of galaxies within the known universe. No one knows, nor anyone can ever know, what is there in these galaxies. How do you expect any single individual to know all that there is in an unknown and unknowable universe?
Further, the universe is in a flux. Every new second it is different from what it was the previous second. What it will be like the next second is for only him to predict who knows all its elements, and who controls all the forces of nature. More. He should have control over the will of all the living beings anywhere in the universe, to know how they will choose to act or react the next moment. If he doesn’t, he cannot control the universe, which will run into a chaos if it is left to itself just for a micro-second. That someone is Allah, the All-knowing.
This is something so overwhelming that many unbelievers deny that even God can know it. They therefore reject Qada’ and Qadr or pre-determination. They think that no one has either such immense knowledge, or such control over the universe that he could either predict, or guide the universe to a goal. But Allah is capable of what they deny. He has power over everything. So, if someone believes that our Prophet knew the Unseen (the ghayb) then, without realizing he is giving him the knowledge and power that are only Allah’s.
We also have thousands of instances from the life of the Prophet that tell us that he did not know what was to happen the next day, or even next moment. At Badr for instance, he did not know whether the news that were reaching him were about the caravan of Abu Sufyan or the Makkan army advancing on him. He had to send scouts to ascertain the facts. After the defeat of Uhud, the Prophet did not know whether the triumphant Quraysh army was going back to Makkah or would attack Madinah. He had to send ‘Ali to follow them secretly and inform him of their intention. When he started for ‘Umrah in the 6th year after Hijrah, he did not know that the Quraysh will be stopping him at Hudaybiyyah alone, and will not allow him to enter into Makkah. Ultimately, he had to make peace and return without performing an ‘Umrah. Even in personal matters he did not know the Unseen. For example, when ‘A’isha (ra) was slandered, he did not know the truth and had to, despite all the embarrassment such things cause, consult ‘Ali and others. A maid had to tell the Prophet for his comfort that the allegation was complete nonsense. Instances can be multiplied.
Q. It is also said that the Prophet was made of noor (light). Is that true? Please don’t mention my name and id.
M. W. K.,
We do not know in what sense it is said that he was made of noor. For, if you can photograph a human being with special cameras, you will discover that he is surrounded by a hallow of light, although dim. It is not clear what this hallow is. If the reference is to this, then, yes, the Prophet too would have possessed this hallow. But, if it is some other noor that is meant, then that noor will have to be defined.
Another possibility is that since the Prophetic body was made of the same elements as any human being, those elements can ultimately be reduced to energy (following the famous equation e=mc2).
At the extreme, if it is meant that he was not physical at all, but made of light, then, of course that is wrong. He possessed a fully physical body, felt pain and pleasure, was injured and healed just like any other body. He used to emphasize his human-ness quite often.
Q. My mother died in 2000. After that for the sake of his welfare and for someone to look after him for the rest of his life, and, after obtaining the consent of three sons and one daughter, my father married another woman. But within two month of marriage problems started. The woman is a nominal Muslim, or, put in realistic terms, she is a non-Muslim. She has looted everything we had and has now filed a case in the court after she had to be divorced. I would like to know how far we can fight to prove in the court that her case is false and that she cannot claim a single pie.
We can understand the trauma that your family could be facing, but there is little we can suggest except that it would be better to consult the elders of the woman’s family and settle the disputes outside court.
Q. Please clarify: we got married in the court. Should we have to go through the Nikah ceremony?
If the court marriage was not conducted according to the Nikah requirements then, Islamically you and the woman are not husband and wife.
Q. Can we ask any imam for our Nikah in the absence of our parents by informing him that we are already married through Register.
How can you ask someone to marry you off, when, as you think, you are already married? In any case, an Imam or a religious person is not necessary to conduct Nikah. Just anybody apart from you two can do it. You need two witnesses, and the girl’s father or guardian’s consent, (or his representative) and agreement over an amount of mahr.
Q. Is it necessary for the parents to be present at the time of Nikah? They are not agreeable to this marriage. Please do not show my name below.
The presence of your parents – if you are a male – is not an essential requirement of Nikah. It will be valid without them – only treacherous.
But the girl’s custodian (normally the father) has to be present, or send his consent through a representative.
Q. This is regarding an article published in your Magazine in the month of August 2000. The article was about a cult called Deendar-e-Anjuman by Mr. Muneer Ahmed of Tumkur (Karnataka). I would like to know about it completely as one of its members is my close relative and he is a very smart and intelligent person, he challenges anybody to prove that they are wrong. I request you to provide the information with strong proof.
Before we attempt to prove that anyone is wrong, we should know what is it that we want to prove as wrong. It would be better therefore if you asked him to state to you his beliefs and what you think as powerful evidences – preferably the whole thing in writing – and then forward them to us for our comments from the Islamic perspective.
Q. With reference to the Q/A June 2003 regarding S.A.M’s (Belgaum) views about Tableeg Jamat, I would like to know why these Deobandis always tell us that they want their deeds to be like it is stated in the Faza’il A`maal? They tell us that this book has Hadiths, but the thing is this book holds teachings of Moulana Ilyas.
It seems you are unclear about the Tableeghi Jamat, their work, and the book they use. You need to get closer to them to get a better idea. E.g., you equate Tableeghis with Deobandis whereas there are many Deobandees who do not work for the Tableegh, while there are Tableeghis who do not subscribe to the Deobandi views. In fact, all sorts of people participate in Tableeghi work, including some of the Ahl al-Hadith and occasionally, a Shi‘ah or Bohri. Again, the Fazaa’il-e-A‘maal does not hold the teachings of Maulana Ilays, may he rest in peace.
So, we advise that you spend some time with the movement, maybe forty days. That will give you an inner view of what goes on there, and place you in a better position to judge them and the movement.
Marriage and Divorce
Q. Please let me know whether a man should go ahead to marry someone he loves, despite the father’s threat that if he did so, the father will divorce his wife, that is, the son’s mother. Will the curse of divorce be on the son and his wife?
There is no such thing as “curse of divorce” to descend upon the new pair, who marry despite their parent’s disapproval. Curse can only descend from Allah which happens when someone commits a major sin and is unrepentant.
However, if your father actually divorces your mother, because of your marriage (perhaps he thinks your mother is a participant), then you two will bear part of the responsibility and will be questioned for the suffering that your mother will undergo after divorce.
In your case, it is not only the divorce of your mother that you have to fear, but also the ill effects of a marriage which leaves the rest of the family in an imbroglio. Any couple who ignore their parents, are, to say the least, very unprincipled in life. And unprincipled people will never be happy. They are bound to be at odds with all those they deal with. Those who betrayed their parents are not going to be faithful to others, or even to each other. That is a thing of common sense.
Parents have their legitimate rights. They have age on their side, experience and knowledge about the two which the two may not have. If a father is stubbornly opposed to a marriage, there has to be something seriously wrong with the choice. Only in one situation can the parents be ignored: they oppose a religious spouse. Otherwise, ignoring them spells disaster, even if the father does not divorce your mother.
Life is not lived between a husband and a wife. The family is extremely important. It is the family which not only adds to the joy, but, removes grief when misunderstandings set in between husband and wife: a phenomenon as common as unescapable. If you study divorce cases you will discover that in most cases it is the absence of parents on either or both sides, or their refusal to interfere, or the couple’s refusal to seek their help, that leads to an easy breakup.
One husband is as good or as bad as another husband. Similarly, a wife is as good or bad as another wife. But, there is no replacement for parents. So, everything must be done to obtain their approval. Unless they are opposed to a religious person, there is barakah in following their advice.
Q. Is it possible to run an Islamic banking system in our age? Can you inform us about one?
Islamic systems are meant for all ages, ancient or modern. It is non-Islamic systems that cannot be followed in all ages. For example, the Western system was not fit for the ancient times, or the Middle Ages, nor can it be enforced in any part of the world, without causing social disaster.
We do not know of any Islamic bank in India. You may ask why? It is because everyone wants service but no one wants to serve. To set up an Islamic bank is not the job of the ‘Ulama. It is the job of the elites, the intellectual and the educated class. But this class of Muslims does not believe in service. It wants to be served.
Q. Can we observe Rajab?
Naveed Fida Shahapuri,
We do not know what you mean by Rajab, and we are not aware of any practices in Islam meant for the month of Rajab.
Q. You claim that yours is an authentic Islamic magazine. But is your answer to Salatul Witr, supported by any authentic hadith?
Habeeb Ahmed Jamalulail,
What we mean when we say that ours is an authentic Islamic magazine, is that it presents authentic statements from the Qur’an, hadith, Fiqh and practices of the Salaf and renowned scholars of the past. That is, whatever is presented is from trustworthy sources, hence reliable, and not from unscholarly works, disputable writings or opinions of scholars whom the Ummah as a whole did not accept as one whose opinions mattered.
We do not, and cannot claim to present the backing of a hadith to every sentence that we write, nor to every fiqh rule that we state. The fiqh rules for example, that we state can be found in such books as are considered authentic reference works by the followers of the Maslak in question. We do not claim to back up fiqh rules with ahadith. Perhaps you are not aware of how fiqh rules are formulated. They do not have Hadith alone as their source or evidence.
Q. I would like to know whether the money earned from the following business is lawful: I allow international calls at lower rates to my customers. But what they will pay me will not be paid to the respective phone connection company.
We cannot understand how you can manage this, unless what you mean is that you will allow your customers to call through internet on your computer for which you do not have to pay to anyone, except for the internet connection charges. If this is so, it should be allowable.
But, if there is some other way, we must know it in detail before we can offer our opinion.
Q. What are the advantages in following one of the great Sunan i.e. “Grow your beards” in this world as well as in the next?
We do not know of any particular this-worldly advantage in growing beards – apart from the manly looks it gives to a person. The main advantage is that of the Hereafter, where the rewards will be multiplied several fold – depending on the intention and the sacrifices it meant to observe the Sunnah.
Q. It is really a peculiar problem that I intend to discuss with you. The problem is I don’t know whether the dilemma is psychological or actual. And it is this: certain concepts which are absolutely unambiguous and totally clear (in Islam) and certainly accepted by myself, yet leave a feeling of uneasiness. The first is pertaining to the term ‘idol-worship’. For some weird reason my inner self keeps telling me that the mushrikeen worship the deity and not the idol and therefore it’s not idol worship.
There are several ways to clear this doubt. Firstly, worship is the Creator’s right. And it is He who decides the mode of worship and devotion, and not His creations. To give an example, when the flag of a country is raised, and the national anthem is sung, every citizen is required to remain standing respectfully, in silence. Anyone who does otherwise is punishable, whatever his intention. Someone cannot, for instance, go into a trance, start whistling at the time the flag is raised and the anthem is sung. He will be arrested for disrespect. He might argue that according to him this is the best way of demonstrating respect for the flag and the anthem. But his argument will be rejected.
Similarly, it is the Creator Himself who will set up the norms, methods, postures and contents of devotional acts to Him. His creations cannot be allowed to decide the manner of their devotion. If they choose to act on their own, it will amount not to devotion, but sacrilege and will be punishable instead of rewardable. Thus, instead of finding out whether the Creator has sent them any instruction about how to worship Him, if people begin to dance, whistle and sing music, they cannot be rewarded for such acts of devotion.
Secondly, what we do is regarded as what we have done. If we punch a wall, then we have punched the wall. We might explain the good reasons for punching the wall, or demonstrate the act philosophically as absolutely rational and so on. But explanations and rationalizations will not change the facts. The fact remains that we punched a wall. And, no matter what our explanations, consequences must follow, e.g.,(1) the hand is injured, (2) the wall is dirtied, (3) the onlookers conclude that there is something wrong with us to be punching a wall.
Similarly, to mould an idol, give it a particular form, paint it up, place it on a pedestal, and then fold your hands before it, might be acts that you might explain as rational, or reconcilable with good sense. But the explanations might be satisfactory to you alone, none else. Others would look at it differently.
Look at it from another angle. You are a government officer asked to erect a monument for those who died for the country in the last war. So you get a tall pedestal erected, topped by a cycle in concrete. People ask you, “What have you done? What’s this cycle doing at the top?” You say, “Well, don’t worry about the cycle. Read the plaque. It talks about the feats of those who died for the country. The cycle in any case represents the wheel of time.” When they protest you say, “Look, it is the intention that matters and not the figure.” How many people will accept your rationale?
Again, the rationale that it is the deity that is worshipped and not the idols, is offered by those who know that there is objection to it from certain quarters. For example, the objection to idol-worship comes from several Hindu quarters. They say Hindu Scriptures carry no such direction. Others, the common people, who do not face any criticism, offer no such rationale. When asked what they worship, they point to the idols and do not point their fingers to the heavens. Perhaps the common people are more reasonable and know that if they pointed their finger to the heavens, the questioner might point his finger in askance at the idols, for which the honest commoners will have no answer. In short, what we mean is that the wisdom in idol-worship is only offered when objected to, by the apologists. The common people accept no such reasons and are pretty sure they are worshipping idols.
Moreover, idol worshippers definitely do not address One God through those idols. They mold their deities in different but specific shapes. By tradition those shapes are related to specific deities. Every deity has a shape assigned to it that other deities do not share. If you presented to one of them say a statue of the ancient Incas, or of Buddha, and said, “Here, this is the god who will give you rains,” – the devotees of rain-god will refuse to accept. Why? If the ultimate objective is One God, what difference does it make what is kept before them: either an Inca deity, or Buddha’s statue? But you will discover that to the devotees it matters. This shows that the idols kept before have a special significance. They are not there for nothing.
Finally, you will notice that there are several kinds of idols. There is a fairly large list of them Why so many? That is because the devotees believe in several deities. Each of these deities has a function. E.g., someone is the preserver of the universe, another is the god of atmosphere, rain and battle, a third is the goddess of beauty and fortune, a fourth is for destruction and procreation, and so on. They are thought to act free of other gods, have the power to benefit or harm, and hence are worshipped for those reasons. If the belief of those devoted to their worship is that there is one Lord of the Universe, One single God, besides whom there is no other god, who alone has the power to benefit or harm, then where is the need of these?
It is argued by some people that these deities are manifestations of One God. But this is not reasonable. For, the simple question is, why worship God’s manifestation, why not Him? After all, God is different from His manifestations. He has an Existence and an identity of His own. His manifestations have existence and identities of their own. God’s manifestations are not gods. He is the God. He is manifest in everything that exists. These things are not He, nor equivalent of Him. Since He creates, He can remove these manifestations. For example, He is manifest in the clouds, in the sense that without His Power and Planning, cloud formation could not take place. But for this reason clouds cannot be worshipped. For, He might remove the clouds forever and institute another method of recycling water on the earth. Or he could make the cloud incapable of sending down rains, as there are clouds around some other planets in our Solar system that do not rain anything. Should He not then be worshipped in place of clouds, or in place of a supposed deity who controls the clouds?
To illustrate with a simple example: you have the sun and you have its light as its manifestation. The sun is the reality, not its manifestation. During eclipse, its manifestation disappears. But the sun remains. It is the real thing. The sun’s light could totally disappear: when its fuel is completely burnt out. But, even after the sun’s light has disappeared, the sun will remain: only its manifestation would be gone. So, sun is the real thing, and not its manifestation. If somebody worshipped the sun’s manifestations, they will be at a loss when eclipse occurs or when its light is permanently gone. Tribes living in forests of Africa and other places actually start beating drums to scare away the devil that they think covers the sun during eclipse. Also, the sun has many manifestations, light is only one of them. But the sun is one. Similarly it is one God alone who is the reality. He alone should be worshipped and not His several manifestations.
Finally, Allah has given freedom to people to worship what they wish. We have no objections to how the people utilize this freedom. But, when they give reasons for what they do, then we would like to say where we disagree, since, it implies that those who do not worship say idols, but One God alone, are committing a wrong. We must then, defend our position.
Q. When I read in the Qur’an that the disbelievers are going to be in Hellfire forever, my mind tells me, no, no, that can’t be. Why should they burn forever?
Name and address withheld
Although a common doubt, it comes from generosity at Allah’s cost. To explain, when people are wronged, they seek revenge. When one American was killed in Saudi Arabia, in retaliation, the Americans bombed Fallujah in Iraq indiscriminately for two days killing 50 men, women and children and injuring scores. They didn’t say to themselves, “why not forgive?” (It is another thing that the residents of Fallujah had nothing to do with the killing of the American except that the killers said they were revenging for American murder of Fallujah civilians). In any case, forgiveness, part or whole, did not figure.
But when it comes to a crime against Allah, the creator of these very transgressors, then, Samaritans stand up and say, “Why not forgive them, partly or wholly?”
In any case, please see this month’s editorial for the removal of your doubts.