Letters to the Editor
Q. I am a regular reader of YMD. I feel it is one of the best monthly magazine on Islam. Every section of this magazine is well placed and has something different to offer. I have following questions to ask you. Hope you will answer my questions. What does Qur’an say about modern science e.g. recycling, astronomy, zoology, botany, geology, and so on?
We wonder how could you spell out so many disciplines in one breath and seek an explanation. Or maybe we don’t understand what you mean. Do you seriously believe that we can address the issues named by you and do justice to them within the restrictions of this column, when each of them requires at least a whole chapter for proper coverage? In any case, there is another aspect that we would like you to look into. It has something to do with the legitimacy of the questions of this nature, repeatedly raised by young Muslims.
There are no less than a thousand verses in the Qur’an that speaks either directly or by implication of a variety of natural phenomena. Now since science deals with nature and its laws, we can say that these verses deal with scientific questions.
That, however, should not be taken to mean that the Qur’an is a Book of science. Or that one of its important themes is science, or yet, scientific facts are one of its concerns. None of that. The Qur’an is a revelation sent down for people’s guidance. All that this revelation needs is to be read once, for someone to convince oneself that a Book of this sort couldn’t be a writing of Muhammad (saws). Then, there are surrounding details, for e.g., the life of the Prophet, and his own words and acts, that prove beyond any doubt that he was an Envoy.
In simpler words, the whole has to be taken for evaluation, and not its parts. Those who do that, and then reject it, do not reject it because they don’t understand the Qur’an. They reject it because they understand its message. The message it carries is not acceptable to them. They will worship anything in the world, from stones, to images, to trees, to sun and the moon, to men, to snakes to phallus: just anything, but not One God. This then is the problem. Skepticism is not the problem. Rejection of that part of message which is well understood is the problem. Therefore, the piecemeal approach to the Qur’an, is all the less promising of results. Those who wish to judge the whole with a part – such as, scientific statements, which are not at all important – such people are bound to remain skeptic at heart, even if convinced with arguments.
All the same, nature is a creation of Allah (swt), and the Qur’anic revelation, are words of Allah (swt). Obviously, there can be no contradiction. That’s the point therefore, that is maintained by the scholars of Islam with reference to science and the Qur’an: there is nothing in the Qur’an that contradicts nature’s well-established facts.
This simple fact represents a major proof of the authenticity of the Prophet as a Messenger of Allah. How could he, at a time when mankind was just at the threshold of science, and, Arabs in particular extremely ignorant, even of the little scientific knowledge that the Greeks and others had…how could he make a thousand statements, dealing with a variety of scientific issues, and still not commit an error, or contradict any scientific fact?
The question gathers strength when we consider the statements of scientific nature made by the scholars of the Prophet’s era: Greeks, Indians and others. Those others also made several statements, but made several mistakes, some of them blundering ones. On the other hand, the Prophet did not – if we attribute the Qur’an to him, make a single error.
The matter acquires yet greater seriousness when we consider another aspect. Some of the Qur’anic statements are of the nature which were brought to light by the scientists only in recent times. That is, Qur’anic statements do not contradict any of the modern findings too. How could the Prophet predict science? These simple statements go to prove that the Prophet couldn’t have been speaking by himself, and that the Qur’an has to be a revelation.
That understood, it is now up to every student of the Qur’an to look into this Book to know what its primary message is. It will not remain hidden from him.
A single reading will more than certainly impress on him what its central message is, and that, it is simple, straightforward, without ambiguities, and those instructions easy to live by.
With that, he is left with no reason to deny: can he deny what his inner self admits as true? For e.g., Oneness of God. Can he deny it? He cannot. So he should announce it. But if he doesn’t, then he is dishonest. And a dishonest person cannot be guided by any other means.
However, if someone wishes to take up the Qur’anic portions that deal with scientific questions, as an arm-chair interest, he might. In such an event, he might compare the Qur’anic verses with the modern findings.
The verses are there for this specific purposes: study and reflection, leading to strengthening of the faith. Several scholars have undertaken the work and presented their findings. Dr. Maurice Bucaille is one. Dr. Keith Moore is another. There are others lesser known, such as, Dr. Zeghlul Najjar, and recently Gary Miller. Haroon Yahya of Turkey is yet another. Some of the works are available on the Internet. Others in print.
We on our part have also been presenting some material. See for e.g., article on Fig (YMD, Sept. 2000) which is perhaps not available elsewhere. We continue on this line, but cannot devote ourselves to the topic, exclusive of all else, nor do we see the need.
So, time and again articles should be appearing in this magazine, by Allah’s grace. But to offer an answer concerning all the disciplines that you have mentioned, is beyond the scope of this column.
Q. In a lecture I heard a scholar saying that we can also drink water from a standing position. He supported his statement with a Hadith. Was he right?
Name and address withheld
There are a few ahadith that allow for water to be drunk from the standing position. However, since there are clear ahadith prohibiting it, most scholars wish to avoid doing it, although they declare drinking from standing position lawful.
Q. Are the Qur’an and Bible inter-related? What does Bible say about Muhammad (saws)?
The Qur’an and the Bible are not inter-related. At best, they are books of the same genre. Originally, Bible was a revealed work, as the Qur’an is. However, with the passage of time, additions, deletions and corrections were made to the Bible, and, therefore, today, no portion can be said to be authentically belonging to the original except if it can pass an external test. That external test is the Qur’an, which Allah (swt) called as the Muhaymin or the Guardian, and which has remained uncorrupted since its revelation.
What conforms with a statement of the Qur’an, is an authentic revelational material in the Bible. What contradicts with the Qur’an is a later introduction or corruption and is to be rejected. What does not contradict, nor conforms with the Qur’an, is to be treated with respect, although that does not accord it authenticity.
Q. What does the holy Qur’an say about Jesus (pbuh)?
Farah Razi & Reena,
The Qur’an says about Jesus Christ that he was a Messenger of Allah, born of Virgin Mary. Being the final Messenger unto the Israelites, after whom Messenger ship was taken away from the Israelites and given away to the Isma‘ilites. He was given irrefutable miracles such as, quickening the dead, blowing spirit into birds of clay, healing the terminally sick or disabled, etc.
Such powerful miracles were given to him in order that the Jews, habitual rejecters of Prophets and Messengers and their murderers, should be left with no excuse for rejecting their last Prophet. But they stoutly rejected him and questioned the virginity of Virgin Mary.
Therefore, after Jesus, Messenger ship was shifted from the Israelites to the Isma‘ilites, because, if they rejected a great Prophet like Jesus, one of their own men, who came with irrefutable signs and miracles, performed openly under public eye, then there was no chance they would accept another Prophet, not of their race, who, on the other hand, was destined to be the final Prophet before the end of the world. If he was sent among Jews, and they rejected him, the world would be in complete loss without his guidance.
Q. I appreciate YMD for spreading the right knowledge of Islam. I have some doubts to be clarified. Firstly, does life exists on other planets?
So far there is no confirmation of any kind of life anywhere in the solar system or outside it.
Q. NASA claims that there is extra-terrestrial life far away from us.
In our knowledge, NASA never made such a claim.
Q. Also, they have begun a project called SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).
Why are they searching when they have already found it?
In any case, NASA has not begun the SETI program, rather, it has ended it, long time back. After working on the program, involving hundreds of scientists, over a long period, costing millions of dollars, no sign of life or intelligence was discovered anywhere in the universe, and so, the project was shelved.
Q. Please explain the following questions. What is the difference between ‘Interest’ and ‘Commission’ in Islam?
Interest is to give out a loan on condition that when it is returned, an extra pre-fixed amount will be added up to the original, no matter what happened to the debtor. That is, whether the debtor (an individual or a Bank) makes profits or incurs loss, is immaterial to the creditor. He is assured of the principal, as well as the additional amount whenever he wants the amount returned. This is illegal in Islam.
In contrast, a deal in which the amount varies, or in which one may lose part of the principal, or whole, is allowed in Islam. In short, the creditor accepts the risks of profit and loss.
Commission is fixed on services, not on loans. They are a kind of wages. For e.g., an Islamic bank keeps your money and returns when you ask. It charges you some amount as commission, for safe-keeping the money.
Another example: a bank stands guarantee to a trader that if his goods are shipped to a third party, the trader will receive full payment, and if he doesn’t, the bank will pay it off.
The bank charges an amount (commission) on the first or the third party, or both, for the service. Another situation: a man sells your goods or property on condition that he receives either a percentage of sale price, or a lump sum on successful completion of sale. This is also commission, and allowed in Islam.
Q. If a person offers five times prayers daily and also performs other obligations of Islam like Fasting, Hajj, and sacrifice, but earns Haram, then the question is, whether Allah (swt) will accept his Salah, Fasting, Hajj and sacrifice?
If yes (as most of us say that Prayers purify him), and if no, then it means that Haram and Halal are the most important pillars of Islam. Is that correct?
Mohammed Shamsuddin Butt,
Kerala Muslim Association, Calcutta-13
In general, you are right, but your sentence needs some modifications. Earning lawfully is not a pillar of Islam. The five pillars are well-known and so is their importance. If somebody, for e.g., does not believe in the oneness of Allah (swt), he is not a Muslim. It doesn’t matter if his earnings are lawful or not. He will enter into Hellfire, without reckoning, and will abide therein forever.
In contrast, someone believes in the oneness of Allah (swt) and Prays but his earnings are unlawful. His Prayers are rejected. But he remains a Muslim. He will undergo punishment for unlawful earnings and for not having prayed, since his prayers are not counted. But, ultimately, even after trillions of years, he will come out of Hellfire and enter Paradise, for having been a believer in Allah’s Oneness, and in the Prophet’s Messengership.
In simpler words, one who believes in Allah (swt), but opts for unlawful earnings, has rebelled against Allah’s laws. In contrast, one who does not believe and acknowledge Allah (swt) as one God, has rebelled not against Allah’s laws, but against Allah (swt) Himself. Hence the difference in punishments.
Further, prayers do not purify from all sins. A Sahih Hadith says, “There isn’t a Muslim who when faced with an obligatory Prayer, makes ablution, bows down, prostrates himself, and remembers Allah (swt) much, doing everything in a goodly manner, but it serves as an expiation for sins of the past, so long as he does not commit major sins.” And partaking the haram is one of the great sins of the major sins.
Q. It is necessary for a Muslim to obey the commands of prophet (saws). But is it also necessary to agree to whatever opinion on any subject expressed by the Prophet (saws)? To what extent is it allowable to differ in opinion with him?
KDH – Delhi.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of Prophetic statements: one pertaining to religion, the other to worldly affairs. Now when it comes to the former – religious matters – there can be no two opinion about it. His opinion is final. But, as regards the second kind, his followers are free to take or leave.
For instance, he recommended that we drink cow’s milk because he noticed that it eats from every kind of grass and green leaves. He concluded, perhaps, although he didn’t say so, that an animal that ate from a variety of pasture, would yield a richer milk than another that didn’t.
Now, his followers are free to drink cow’s milk or any other of their choice. There is no sin upon them if they chose not to drink cow’s milk – especially today when it is fed only one kind of feed. If they drank, then there are two situations: either they drank it simply because he recommended, or because of other reasons.
If they drink simply for the reason that he has recommended, they would be rewarded for the intention but not for the act. That is because drinking cow milk is not a virtuous act. If they drank for other reasons, then neither they will be rewarded nor punished.
Of course, there are several acts that seem to fall in between: the religious and the worldly. Sometimes a part of an act is religious, while a part is not. In such cases the person involved should himself assess to the religiosity or otherwise of the deed.
Now, taking up the religious part of the Prophetic statements or his examples in deeds, we have said above that there can be no two opinions over them. He is always right, without the least possibility of another opinion opposed to it being correct.
Whoever held an opinion other than the Prophet’s in religious matters is wrong, and, if he expressed it, will be questioned about it on the Day of Judgement. One might, however, note carefully that it is the opinion that we are talking about.
As regards actions in accordance with the Prophetic statements of the religious kind or deeds (the Sunnah) in accordance with his, the following is a further explanation. Religious acts are divided into several kinds. A rough division would render them as: the obligatory and the non-obligatory ones.
The Sunnah also gets divided into these two kinds: those that necessarily, obligatorily demand action, and those that don’t. If one acts according to the latter kind, he gets rewarded, if he doesn’t, he will not be questioned about them.
Q. Please give us detailed information about the Mahdi Ma`ood?
Mohammed Ali Khan,
The Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah are unanimous over the appearance of the Mahdi. However, there is no consensus of opinion over his identification.
The Prophet (saws) has spoken about the Mahdi in several narrations coming down from him. One of them says that he will be of his family, bearing the same name as his, that is, Muhammad. Another report has it that he will be running away along with a few others, chased by forces sent from Syria. He will seek refuge in Makkah, and the forces chasing him will be sunk into the earth. Thereafter, he will be pressed into accepting the allegiance of the believers, i.e., accept their Imamate.
Yet another hadith says he will appear between Rukn and Muqam (of Ibrahim) where people will offer him their allegiance.
As regards when he will appear, there is no clear report about that, although it looks like it will be close to the second appearance of Jesus (asws). Some believe he will be leading the Prayers in Syria when Jesus (asws) will descend. So also, there is no definite report about where the Mahdi will be originally from.
Q. I had written an answer to you regarding the words ‘Salawatu was Salamualaika YaaRasulallah,’ about which you had written that it was a bid`ah.
To add those words would not be such a sin as to insist on them.
Q. I had also written some excerpts taken from the books of the founders of Tableeghi Jama’ath which are un-Islamic.
The Tablighee Jama`at founder – Mawlana Ilyas, may Allah bestow peace on him – wrote no book.
Q. I also wanted to know what do you think of those people who have written such things in their books as: “It is worse to concentrate on the person of the Prophet (saws) in one’s Prayers than to think of a bull or a donkey.” (Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, p.18, Maulvi Ismail Dehlavi)
The context under discussion from which the above sentence has been picked up is, “Could one concentrate on the person of our Prophet (saws), instead of Allah (swt)?” And the answer by Ismail Shaheed of Delhi is as stated by you.
He explains further in his book that if someone thought of, say, donkeys and bulls during his Prayers, then, what is most likely to happen is that his nature will act with revulsion against the thought and reject it. But, if someone thought of the Prophet (saws) – instead of remembering Allah (swt) – then, it is likely that (because of his love and regard for the Prophet), his inner self will not revolt against such a thought and he will continue to think of him.
But Prayers have not been designed for the remembrance of the Prophet. They have been designed for the remembrance of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) said, “And establish the Prayers for My remembrance.” Hence, thinking of donkeys and bulls in the Prayers is better, because their thought is revulsive and so not likely to remain in the mind for long, rather than the thoughts of the Prophet, love for whom would allow the thought to linger, damaging the purpose of Prayers.
Q. “Or, the Prophet was also a human being and had been created by Allah (swt); he was our elder brother.”(Taqwiat-ul-Iman, p.48, Maulvi Ismail Dehlvi)
There isn’t a second opinion over the Prophet being a human being. The Qur’an told the Prophet to announce: “Say, ‘I am but a human being.’ (18: 110 and 41: 6)
What Ismail Shaheed of Delhi meant is that being a son of Adam (asws), the Prophet (saws) was our brother in humanity. He did not say that the Prophet may be referred to as one, although the Prophet (saws) himself addressed some of his followers as “Ya Akhiyy” meaning, “O my brother.” He also referred to his followers of the coming generations as “Ikwanuna,” i.e., “Our brothers.”
Q. “To make speeches on the martyrdom of Imam Husain, to offer Sherbat to the people, to subscribe for the Sherbator to offer milk on that occasion, are all forbidden.”(Fataawa-e-Rashidiyya, p.114, Maulvi Rashid Ahmed Gangohi)
Although we could not locate the above quoted words, only something similar to them could be found in the said book. The statement itself is defendable. To explain, to deliver speeches on the life of Imam Hussain, or to offer Sherbet to the people are not forbidden acts. But when a day – that of martyrdom – is appointed for the speeches and the offering of the Sherbet, then, surely, that is unlawful.
Q. Do you have any answers for these? I think you have no answers for these writings. That is why you have not written to me.
We have answered to all of them. As for replying to you by post, if that is what you mean, then, firstly, we do not send personal answers unless the need is pressing; secondly, you have withheld your address.
Q. There is still time for you to start afresh on the path of our master Sayyedina Mowlana Muhammad Mustafa (saws) and his Companions.
The path of our Prophet (saws) goes through the Qur’an. The hadith throws further light on it. Then come other literatures: be they of the earlier scholars or latter scholars. If you have not read the Qur’an and go straight to other books, such as the ones you have quoted, and, especially, seeking to find fault in them, then you will end up hopelessly misguided. You better change your route.
Q: Your article “The Old and the New Century (Part‑1)” in January 2000 issue was very good, but I feel that you have made your article incomplete by ignoring the name of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. You have also mentioned that, “for every twenty Israeli research papers the whole of the Arab world produces one paper for world class scientific magazines.” That means that the Muslims are at the bottom line of the scientific research.
The same is the case with the Muslims of the Indian sub‑continent. It was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who thought about this a century ago and decided to take some steps regarding this problem. He spent his whole life in making the Muslim community aware of this fact and in trying to motivate them to participate in resolving this problem. Almighty Allah helped him in turning his dreams into reality & the best example of his success in his endeavours is the Aligarh Muslim University. I’m a regular reader of your magazine and must say that it is a good one for the young Muslim community.
Islam and Muslims are two separate entities. In the scheme of things, Islam comes first and then come the Muslims. That is, first Islam has to be established among a people. Then will come the question of their earthly needs, hopes, aspirations and contributions. What would be the point if Muslims were hoisted up on the pyramid of worldly success, making massive scientific contributions, but, not as Muslims, rather as any other nation on earth – having lost their religious identity during the process of material development? Would a movement be praised that took care of the Muslims but was indifferent to their religion?
The emphasis in our article was, therefore, primarily on those who served Islam in some way. Any service to Islam directly affects the Muslims. On the other hand any direct service to the Muslims might or might not (indirectly or remotely) serve Islam. Any service to Islam takes the Muslims closer to Allah, closer to His approval, and hence, more fruitful with reference to the Hereafter: their true abode.
As for this world, once they win their Lord’s approval, without which the Muslims will never be able to make any contribution to this world that would win them respect … once they win His approval, the material world will be made easier for them to handle. In contrast, if their Lord is angry with them, all their efforts at material development will go awry, and they will end up bringing humiliation upon themselves rather than the ‘izzah (respect) promised by their Lord.
The example of several Muslim nations is before us in our contemporary world whose governments are in the service of Muslims but not in the service of Islam. They are still at the bottom of the world, where they are likely to remain, unless Allah (swt) Himself wills otherwise.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s ostensible objectives were to serve the Muslim Ummah. That is, the people, rather than their religion. It might be asked, can that not be termed as indirect service to Islam? Yes, it can be so termed provided the service helps Muslims practice Islam better. Did that happen in case of the institution Sir Syed set up? Was that, in fact, his objective? Did the men and women who entered the institution become better practicing Muslims? Or, was it that the education merely helped them find jobs or qualify for higher studies in the Western world? I suppose we all know the answer. It might be said: “Look at the number of Presidents and important men that Aligarh has produced.” But, we might again remind that we are talking of service to Islam and not to Muslims.
Could somebody count on his fingers the number of great Islamic scholars that the institute produced? Can the institution be counted as one that helped establish Islam among the nations of the world? Did it in any other way promote the cause of Islam?
Indeed, it might be interesting, and even hurtful, for the Aligarhians to hear from us that the experience of those engaged in social or educational services to Islam is that they find the least help and contribution coming from them as a group. They are readily available for parties, Ghazal evenings, Musha‘iras, ‘Sir Syed’ Days, etc., rather than some real good service to the Muslim Ummah. It might be hurtful to hear of this observation, but it is our duty to speak out the truth. Yes, the Aligarhians have equally participated in religious movements, but, that is not specific to Aligarhians. Young men from all sorts of institutions have participated in religious movements.
Not only that the institution’s role in producing role-model Muslims needs to be looked into, it did not even produce men and women who made contribution to science and technology, if that was supposed to be its objective, (although we don’t believe that was the objective). How many Nobel Prizes did the institution help win? How many world-class scientists did it produce? How many discoveries, inventions were made by its sons? How many research papers were written and are being written now? Perhaps we all know the answer.
We repeat once again that efforts to prop up the Muslims in the leading position by educationally or materially developing them, while their religion is ignored, will end up in failure. That is the “Annual Report” of the major Universities over the Muslim-world, many of which are about to celebrate a hundred-years of “successful contributions” to the development of the Muslims. Aligarh Muslim University is not unique.
Having said the above, we might also point out that as an educational institution, perhaps Aligarh Muslim University has been one of the most successful in the Indian sub-continent. Wherever they are: in USA or the Middle East, its former students occupy important positions. They are serious, efficient, productive, and possess a good knack of management. Further, in their civil life they are outstandingly cultured, both in manners, upkeep, as well as behaviour and social habits. They have a good taste of the fine arts too.
In fact, in this regard, Aligarh Muslim University has made tremendous contributions in India the like of which another example does not exist. While other universities hardly know what culture is and how a good cultural crop can be produced, (in fact, many universities in India produce law-breakers, if not goondas, receiving training right in the campus), Aligarh Muslim University produces well-polished men, responsible, sober citizens. The credit for these things go, of course, to the founder, who set the ball rolling, may Allah (swt) forgive him his sins, rest his soul in peace, and reward him for the services to the Ummah. Service to the Ummah has its own reward. Further, the institution did educationally and economically strengthen the Muslims, and continues to do so, which can be counted as an indirect service to Islam.
Q: In view of YMD’s authentic message, I have a request. Please take steps to circulate YMD in remote interiors and villages of India.
Apart from other difficulties, one problem that we encounter is that people do not know the English language in the remote areas.
The message then has to be taken to the people in the remote areas in person, by the readers of this magazine.
Q: It has been my observation, that Bid’ah practices are more prevalent in those areas, where even the most educated people, like doctors and some businessmen, enthusiastically practice reading of Fateha over food, celebrate Shabe’ Merajand Shabe’ Bara’at with great festivity, death anniversaries etc. Please enlighten your readers about the exact rituals and Islamic behaviour that needs to be followed on these occasions.
Being educated on secular lines says nothing about one’s education in Islam. In fact, in today’s university environment, the more a man is educated, the less he knows about his religion. Further, being educated does not mean being very intelligent either. All educational courses are designed for the average. It is hard work that gets one through the courses and not intelligence. Finally, being educated does not often mean being educated in the overall sense. Today’s educated person knows and understands little else beyond his own field of specialisation. The above three factors make an educated man no better or worse than one not educated when it comes to dealing with the finer aspects of existence. In many fields of life and its activities, the behavioural pattern of the two is by and large similar. The educated (on modern lines) can be as illogical and unreasonable in fields other than their own, including the religious field, as the uneducated. That is the reason why we see the educated class making the same mistakes as the uneducated: visiting the Dargahs, bowing down before the Peers, conducting Fatehah, Chehlum, etc. These are not practices confined to the uneducated. It has been revealed during the past couple of years that past Presidents and Prime Ministers of France regularly consulted the Palmists and astrologers. Their being well-educated and politically highly-placed did not prevent them from committing illogical acts in the realm involving the Unseen and the Unknown.
Islam is not the only religion, but also the only system of thought, that insists on the use of reason and logic in every field of activity, including religion.
As regards those who are not trained in the use of reason and logic, it helps them by providing such clear-cut directions that even if they had blind faith in Islam, and acted blindly, they would be saved from unreasonable behavioural patterns whether involving faiths, beliefs or religious practices.
It says for instance that “whoever went to an astrologer disbelieved in Islam.” Or, the Qur’an says, “Do not prostrate yourselves to the Sun or the moon, rather, prostrate yourselves before Allah who created them.” If those people who have not been trained in the use of reason and logic simply followed the Islamic persuasions and injunctions, they would remain free of foolish practices. All they have to do is to have some basic knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The rest is taken care of by the two.
The Qur’an and Sunnah then, need to be popularised. No amount of education, other than the direct study of the Qur’an and Sunnah will save people from falling into religious pitfalls. Also, the Bid‘ah practices are so many, so wide and varied, that the fight against them requires unlimited energy, time and resources. The short cut is the popularisation of the Qur’an and Sunnah studies which function as the overseers, admonishers, and reformers from within each individual’s self, reducing the role of the external agencies of reform to a minimum.
Q: Please increase the articles written in the Children’s Column.
Yes, that is one area in which several of our staffs are working. However, since we believe in high-quality work, it will be some time before their efforts bear fruit.