Letters to the Editor
Q. Why is it that when a nun covers her head she is called modest and when a Muslim woman practices hijab she needs to be liberated?
Obair Hasan Khan,
That is because they are aware that the nuns have no influence whatsoever over their women. No non-Christian ever became a Christian impressed by the modesty of the nuns. They treat them as “out of the world” substance. But, in contrast, a Muslim woman wearing hijab is an icon of piety and modesty. She immediately impresses men and women around her, including the nuns, and make them yearn for the respect that hijab invokes. Some are so impressed that they look up in the stalls for a book on Islam. That leads to their conversion. So, a Muslimah in hijab is a silent preacher, and hence they hate her very sight.
Q: I have read your magazine. It is a good asset for those Muslims or non-Muslims who don’t know the Arabic language and their source of Islamic literature is English.
In your ‘Letters to the Editor’ section and other articles you present some Qur’anic verses and hadith. You give the reference of Qur’anic verses (which is not much required as there is no controversy about it) but hadith is stated without any reference. Give the reference of whether it is Bukhari, Muslim, Muwatta’ Imam Malik or whatever.
We give Qur’anic references because it is easy for a Muslim to locate the verse, and also, if possible look into one or two commentary works to find out the interpretation offered by the scholars. On the contrary, we do not always give hadith references because hadith books are normally not in everyone’s possession. In fact, there could hardly be half a dozen homes in Hyderabad where they would have the six canonical works (sihah sittah). So, it doesn’t serve any function to give references. All we do is to see that we quote Sahih ahadith alone. Authenticity check up is done before a hadith is printed. As regards ahadith in the “Hadith Explains” column, they are taken from known works, and, double-checked for authenticity.
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 const-raints 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. Please answer my questions: Which is the profession which women should prefer?
The best profession for a woman is to be a housewife. But if she needs to work, then the answer about the best profession will vary from person to person, community to community, and region to region. Innate abilities are also an important element to assess before deciding on a course of studies. Many women, in the prime of youth, are a different personality by the time they are in their twenties. Interests and inclinations change.
Nevertheless, teaching is one of the best professions both for men as well as women. In higher courses, such as medicine, Gynaecology is the best branch for women. In fact there is a great shortage of female Gynaecologists all over the world.
Trading is in fact preferable to jobs. They can open a shop for women within their own homes and do good trading. This is practiced with success in the Middle East.
Q. At what age should a boy marry?
Well, a boy should not marry at all. He should wait for puberty, when he becomes a man. And a man should marry when he is capable of supporting his wife and the children expected thereafter. If poverty prolongs, let him move away from a city to a town, or from a town to a village, to cut down living costs, and then marry.
Q: I used to photocopy articles from your magazine and distribute them among my friends without your permission. Am I allowed to do it?
Mushtaq Ahmed Jan,
This being a religious magazine, it does not retain any copyrights for its materials. Anybody is free to copy or reproduce from it. Permission may only be sought if several articles are to be reprinted in a book form.
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.
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 knowled-ge 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 re-publications 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 Zilal 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.
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.
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.
Q: I want to ask you a question concerning Ibrahim, peace be upon him. In the Noble Qur’an, Muhammad Muhsin Khan has (under Chapter 21: Verse 63) mentioned in his commentry a hadith of Bukhari (Vol. 4, # 578), in which it is said that Ibrahim spoke lies thrice in his life. Whereas against the same verse Mawlana Mawdudi says that a Prophet never lies. Please explain.
You will notice that rejection of the hadith in Bukhari is tantamount to rejecting a Qur’anic verse. (Few people realize how well the Qur’an and Hadith are tied up). For, the first of mentioned lie in the hadith is in the Qur’an itself. It is in the verse you have quoted which says (along with the pervious verse) in reply to the question whether he (Ibrahim) had broken the idols, “They asked, ‘Are you the one who did this with our gods, O Ibrahim?’ He replied, ‘Rather, it is this – the chief one – who did it. Ask them if they can speak.’”
In any case, scholars have pointed out concerning the hadith dealing with Ibrahim’s lies, that it has not been understood properly by the people, and hence some of them – the rationalists – tend to reject it for the reason that lies cannot be attributed to Prophets. They point out that although the hadith uses the word “lie” it does not state anything that we ordinarily consider as lies. Can any of Ibrahim’s three lies be treated as lies? Aren’t they all of allegorical nature? When Ibrahim said that the chief idol broke the rest of the other idols, did he think they would buy that from him? Was he doing anymore than demonstrating the powerlessness of their hand carved idols? When he said he was unwell, (when invited to attend pagan festivities), as second lie in the hadith, was he perfectly hale and hearty? Is not the word “saqeem” that he used, used for feelings of depression, distress, anxiety and sadness as well? Or, when he said to the oppressive King that Sarah was his sister, (the third lie of the hadith) was he absolutely wrong? Isn’t it reported that she was his cousin? Don’t the people even today refer to an uncle’s daughter as “my cousin-sister?”
What then is the meaning of the term “lies” as used in the hadith? Well, we must recall that great men enjoy high status with Allah. And high status demands moral rectitude of the supreme order. A minor error coming from such men is major in the sight of Allah, although no error in the sight of men. Didn’t Allah reproach our Prophet in very strong terms for his minor errors? Hasn’t Adam’s minor error been referred to in the Qur’an as “‘Asa” and “Ghawa?” In short, although the three statements of Prophet Ibrahim were no lies at all, the term “lies” was used because of the high status he held in the sight of his Lord.
Further, it might be pointed out that rejection of the hadith that speaks of Ibrahim’s lies leads up to another dilemma. There is another report, which confirms its trustworthiness. It is found in all major works and is none other than the famous Hadith al-Shafa’ah which speaks of mankind going from one Prophet to another on the Day of Judgment seeking their intercession with Allah on behalf of mankind to start off the Reckoning. They will all refuse on grounds of their errors of the past life. Ibrahim will cite his lies as the reason why he would not be able to help. Now, this is a mutawatir report. And mutawatir is a report, which is narrated by so many that their consensus to lie could not have been achieved. In matters of belief a mutawatir report has the same status as a Qur’anic statement.
Finally, scholars have also pointed out that although Allah or His Messenger have used strong words for Prophets, such as, in this case “kadhib” (lies), Muslims are not allowed the use of similar terms in reference to the Prophets of Allah. They might directly quote a Qur’anic verse or hadith but never accuse them of any such thing themselves. For, from our human point of view, they were above allegations of the nature we could attribute. In fact, we should not even imagine those qualities for Prophets. It’s like a king saying about his vizier, “He is lazy,” because the vizier was late by a minute. But the king’s statement does reflect the truth, nor does it give license to others in the court to refer to the vizier as lazy. Neither should they imagine he is lazy, basing their understanding on the king’s statement.
The above then makes it clear that “kadhib” in this case, means one thing to us, but another to Allah and His Messenger. There is no need to reject the hadith of kadhib on “our” ground, because our ground was not considered.