Letters to the Editor
Q: I am a new reader of YMD, and I have a question that needs clarification. Why is Prophet Isa (a.s) called as Ruh’Allah? Is it because he is a part of the soul of Allah? If yes, then why do we Muslims object to him being called a Son of God by the Christians?
Syed Kasim Ali,
Maybe this question has occurred to you independently, uninfluenced by others. But we are aware that the Christians often use these verses to prove that Christ’s divinity is supported by the Qur’an. To you, we might point out here in short that in no part of the Qur’an ‘Isa (peace be upon him) has been referred to as “Ruhullah” (Allah’s spirit). But, perhaps because you do not know Arabic, you have misunderstood the verses that refer to him as a “Ruh” coming from Allah. For further details, please wait for the next month’s lead article which discusses this issue in greater detail.
Attending a Shi‘ah Marriage
Q: I am a regular reader of YMD and I read your Question & Answers column with great interest. I have one question that needs a clarification as soon as possible: Can a Sunni Muslim participate in the marriage ceremonies of Shias? Is it allowed for us to partake of their food that is served on such occasions?
B.T.M layout, Bangalore
Yes, you can participate in the marriage ceremonies of the Shi‘ah. Eating their food is also lawful. We wonder how such a doubt occurred to you at all? Are they not Muslims?
Q: I am a new subscriber to YMD and I am very much impressed by your Q & A Column. Please answer me, some of my questions. Is it permissible for a Muslim couple to delay the birth of a child by artificial means? It is said that people practiced coitus interruptus to delay the birth of children during the time of the Prophet (saws), and when this was brought to his notice, he kept silent on the issue. Please clarify? Is it not the same as family planning?
You have started innocently, and then given the question a twist (losing innocence at the turn). The differences between the two, temporary postponement of birth on the one hand and family planning on the other, should be obvious to anyone who dealt with the issue with some seriousness. ‘Azl (coitus interruptus) was, during the Prophetic period, a way to avoid pregnancy from fear of wrong motherhood. It was an exigent measure adopted for exigent circumstances. Further, the Prophet did not give it his wholesale approval. In fact, what is apparent from his reaction when told about it is that he did not like it at all although he did not declare it unlawful. On the other hand, family planning is not about delaying or avoiding pregnancies from fear of wrong parentage. Nor is it the name of postponing pregnancy for medical reasons. It is about controlling the population of the human race by coaxing every couple to have no more than one or two children (if any) out of the fear that the resources will outrun the demand. Postponing pregnancy for a good reason is allowed whereas adopting family planning measures by the individuals or such policies on the national scale is disallowed in Islam.
Q: Will the use of contraceptives have any effect on the health of the couple?
You need to consult medical men. But the disappearance of charm from such women’s faces who employ various methods to avoid pregnancy is an easily noticeable phenomenon. However, this could either be a physical effect, or, it could as well be spiritual. Every sin committed leaves its signature on the heart with a dark pen. And, the condition of the heart is reflected on the face.
Q: Is abortion permissible to save the life of a mother over that of a child under extraordinary circumstances? Is it permissible, if the mother is keeping ill-health and cannot carry out the full term of her pregnancy, without seriously endangering her health in the process? What should we do, if a doctor attending to her advises the couple to go in for an abortion? Please advise.
If the doctor is a God-fearing Muslim and he advises abortion for medical reasons, then his advice may be followed. Alternatively, he might consult for a second opinion, as non-Muslim doctors are likely to reach the decision on abortion faster than they.
Q: I recently heard a speaker in a mosque, addressing a congregation that if a Muslim wears a trouser or a pajama, below his ankles, he cannot hope for his salvation in the Hereafter. He will be denied a place in the Heaven. Is it true?
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
This is not true. Shut out from playing an active role in life, either by their governments, or because of their own inertia, the Muslim preachers now speak on anything less than issues involving their life and death as Muslims. Please see the answer to the main point below, as answered to Br. Tarique Siddiqui.
Q: I am a regular reader of YMD; it is an informative magazine on various Islamic topics. I like the Q & A column the best. In this letter, I wish to point out some discrepancies and contradictions in the answers given by you. In answer to Q.1, p. 6, Nov ’99 issue of YMD, about listening to songs without music, saying that it is allowed in Islam. This contradicts another answer given on the same subject, Q.6, p. 4, of the Dec ’99 issue.
The question referred to asked, “Why can’t Muslims play or listen to music?” and the answer then given explained why they shouldn’t. We can’t see the contradiction. You might need to read our answer again.
Q: You have spoken of the quality of songs sans music, sung by Talat Mehmood, Mannaday, etc. Most of the songs sung by them have lyrics to entice feelings of love of females, and some of the songs praise the physical assets possessed by the heroines of the films, in the hyperbole. Do you suggest that we filter out those songs, while listening to them? Then, there are those Bhajans sung by many of these singers of the former times, which contain words of Shirk and are full of praise of deities and idols worshiped by the pagans as gods. Then there are those songs, which do not benefit a person materially or spiritually, and are full of mindless lyrics.
You seem to have been a sumptuous listener.
Q: Do you not think it would have been better, if you had advised your readers to engage in such activities such as Dhikr, recitation of the Qur’an and other acts of a constructive nature that will enhance their earnings in a Halal way, and benefit them spiritually also?
The questioner didn’t ask about how to convert pleasure to Prayers.
Q: Please enlighten us whether Prophet (saws) wore any of his clothes below ankle level? If no, then is it not a Sunnah worthy to be emulated and followed by Muslims in general?
Of course it is a Sunnah worthy of practice. However, the following maybe kept in mind: clothe-dragging was a fashion of the rich and the aristocrats of the Prophet’s time. If nothing, it was a sign of pride. And pride is intolerable in Islam. Further, Muslims fought in the clothes they normally wore. Could they successfully fight with their lower garments, sometimes a piece of cloth woven around the waist, trailing behind them by a foot? Hence, most scholars have suggested that the ban on trousers below the ankle applies when it is out of pride. Interestingly, when they say trousers, the Muslims mean pyjamas, lungis, and other eastern attires. Somehow, these clothes have stuck in their minds as associated with the prohibition. So that, many of them (including the most religious) who wear dresses other than eastern, such as pantaloons, or night pyjamas, tend to forget the commandment as they understand and preach.
Q: Maulana Maududi, in his Tafheemul Qur’an and other works has made quite a lot of mistakes in his interpretation of religious texts. Some of them can be considered as blunders of a monumental nature, not be-fitting a person of his learning and stature. If necessary, I can send you those books and literature with the mistakes highlighted.
Please do that. It will help us know what those ideas of Mawdudi are those that trouble the people. Nonetheless, we might point out that to err is written in the fate of the humans. Scholars also commit errors. There is none of the past or present who has not. So did Mawlana Mawdudi. And so have you. To say that Mawlana Mawdudi committed “lots of mistakes” is a mistake. And to say that he committed “monumental errors” is a monumental error by itself.
Q: Do you advise Muslims to read his works and literature? Is it not possible that reading his interpretations may mislead many?
Yes, we advise Muslims to read his works. That advice, indeed, has now assumed greater emphasis. For, new writers of his class are not around and his message – in essence an enlightening, inspiring and a bold one – seems already suffering negligence and sliding towards oblivion. What we discourage is a blind following of anyone: whoever it might be after the Prophet. Blind following narrows down the mind and leads to a rigidity disfavoured in Islam. Blind following, unless it be in Law which is highly complicated for one to work out by himself, also creates a dormant mind incapable of moving forward on its own. That is a chronic disease today in much of the Islamic world. Most callers of Islam today, even those who favour the abandonment of the four schools of Fiqh are, in actual fact, callers to blind following. They only wish to remove some and replace them with others that might be blindly followed. This is the reason why this Ummah is intellectually stuck in the sands today. That is what happened to some of those who read no other author but Mawlana Mawdudi. They hung on fast to the rope he threw down for them from the top of the mountain. They caught it, but didn’t climb. And that is what we warn against, and not against his writings whose electrifying nature is indisputable.
Q: Please advise us as to how we should separate the chaff from the grain, if a Muslim wishes to go ahead and still wants to read his literature?
Falak Numa, Hyderabad
Since removal of the chaff from the grain cannot be done following a simple advice, what you are asking us to do becomes a difficult proposition. How can “you” read, and, as “you” read on, “we” separate out the chaff from the grain?! Nevertheless, the difficulty should not be a discouraging factor. What you can do is to read all his books, and, side by side by others such as, for e.g., those of Manazir Ahsan Geelani, Shibli No`mani, Syed Sulayman Nadwi, Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, and others of that class. You will notice some differences. Most of them you might be able to reconcile yourself as you keep on studying. It is only a few unresolved questions that you will be left with in the end. To resolve them you will require discussions with the scholars or a searching study of the religious texts. But, given the nature of differences, one need not throw away the grain from the fear of unnoticeable chaff.
Hajj and ‘Umrah
Q: I have one question. I would like to know the difference between Hajj and Umrah, in detail.
Zafar Ahmed Manzoor,
You will have to learn Hajj from the books and with the help of scholars. As for ‘Umrah, it is a Sunnah, performed at any time of the year. It consists of entering into the state of consecration and putting on the ihram clothes at the Meeqat of entry. This is a condition for the ‘Umrah. To circumambulate the Ka‘bah seven times is a rukn, after which walking seven times between the hills Safa and Marwah and shaving the head (or shortening the hair) – both wajib – completes the ‘Umrah.
Q: Please answer some of my questions. What are the Mutashabihat verses of the Holy Qur’an and what is their number?
There is no consensus over their number or identity. According to some scholars there are many. But according to Shah Waliyullah, only seven or even less. It is difficult to list them, for, what is of the Mutashabihat for one could be Muhkam for another.
Again, a part of the verse can be of the Mutashabihat while the rest Muhkam. For instance, such words as “Hand” or “Saaq” of Allah are of the Mutashbihaat but the verse itself mentioning might not be so.
Q: Are the days 3 and 13, of every month inauspicious to start any good work? I write this because people regularly read and follow the astrological forecast column, which appears every week in all leading news dailies.
No number is inauspicious. A single hadith should suffice those who consult the astrological forecast columns. The Prophet said: “Whoever went to an astrologer disbelieved in me”. That is because the Qur’an states in unequivocal terms that none knows the Unseen but Allah. Therefore, whoever thought that someone knows or can forecast the future is a disbeliever in the Qur’an and a disbeliever in the Prophet: even if he prayed and fasted.
Q: Can we call out “Adhan” without performing an ablution?
An Open Letter
Q: This is an open letter to Brother Abdullah, of Moti Nagar, Bangalore. It refers to your question addressed to the Editor of YMD, which appeared in the Jan 2000 issue. The Editor has left your question unanswered with “no comments” – for whatever reason. I, however, in my individual capacity, belonging to the same Jamaat, (i.e., Ahle Sunnah wal Jama’ah) which you profess to belong to, refute all the charges made by you in the following manner.
Whatever, you have mentioned in the name of Ibadah (worship) would have been endorsed by one billion Muslims all around the globe as the principle essence of Islam, if you had only supported your views with a single verse from the Holy Qur’an, a tradition of the Holy Prophet (saws), or by Ijma’. The following verses of the Holy Qur’an together with the commentary of A. Yusuf Ali, may open your eyes,
“Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: Many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm would he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.” (The Holy Qur’an 3: 144)
The commentary on the above verse reads as follows:
“This verse primarily applies to the Battle of Uhud, in the course of which a cry was raised that the messenger was slain. He had, indeed, been severely wounded, but Talha, Abu Bakr, and Ali were at his side, and his own exemplary bravery saved the Muslims from a total rout. This verse was recalled again by Abu Bakr, when the Messenger actually died a natural death, eight years later; to remind people that Allah, whose Message he brought, lives forever, and we have need to remember this now and often for two reasons: (1) when we feel inclined to pay more than human honour to the one who was purest and the greatest and truest in a sense to compound for our forgetting the spirit of his teachings, and (2) when we feel depressed at the chances and changes of times and forget that Allah lives and watches over us and over all His creatures now and as in history, in the past and in the future.”
I hope the above helps you correct your opinions.
Q: I am a 16-year-old student studying in XII standard, I recently chanced upon your digest, and found it very informative. I request you to answer some of my questions and clear my doubts. People go to extraordinary extremes in venerating the dead as can be seen in many Dargahs. They kiss the floor near the tomb and they start crying over there. How can we educate these people about the sin they incur by following these sort of un-Islamic practices?
For someone who has received some modern education, it shouldn’t be hard to educate others. You can tell them, “Look, either Allah is able to answer your needs on His own, without intercession, without an agent, or He is not. If He is not, then it is better to abandon such a God. Further, if He is dependent on those in the grave for answering the needs of the humans, then, the question is, how can He answer the needs of His non-human creations? After all, He has more non-human creations than humans. How does He answer the needs of the animals, for example? They sing His praises morning and evening. And, they have their own needs. So, does One whose praises they sing, answers their needs or does He not? If He does, which He definitely does, on this earth and elsewhere in this universe, without the intercession of those in the graves, then why should He depend on the rotten bones for answering the needs of the humans?” Indeed, if God needs the intercession of the bones in the graves, for answering the needs of the Indian Muslims, then, the question is what about the German Muslims, seeing that there are no Dargahs (tombs) in Germany? If Allah is responding to the new Muslims in Germany, who know nothing about the bones in the Indian graves, and have no Dargahs of their own, (in fact, they don’t even have a Muslim grave-yard of their own), then why does He become in need of those in the graves in a place like India?
If they argue with you further, leave them alone with the last word that they (the Dargah-goers) are truly an unlucky people: both materially as well as spiritually. They are unsuccessful in this world and so will be in the next. Materially, the Dargah-goers are unlucky because Germans have achieved a high degree of material development than them. Spiritually too the Dargah-goers are worse than the German Muslims in that while they are stuck with the dead, bowing to them and prostrating, the German Muslims worships the Lord of the World, direct, and so, have an spiritual outreach greater than those of the grave-goers.
We have given the example of the German Muslims not for any special reason. France, Britain, Holland, USA, any country could be cited as example. In fact, Dargah-goers are unlucky in several senses. One is as follows. They go to the Dargahs and seek the help of the dead to further their causes with God. Now, first of all there is no one there, nothing but bones and insects, to forward their supplications to God. Even if it is granted that there is someone in the grave, then, the question is, who knows if the fellow ever forwarded the supplicant’s requests? Again, in his lifetime the man could not listen to more than one man at a time. How can he now hear thousands that are falling upon each other at any time to win his attention? So, by his own logic, the Dargah-goer is the loser in the end. This is the situation about which the Qur’an said (22: 11): “Loss of this and the next world. That is the true loss.”
Q: Is it allowed for women to visit graveyards? Is there a clear Hadith on this? Some are of the opinion that it is allowed for them to visit graveyards, whereas others say it is prohibited. Please elaborate on this issue.
While discussing the issue of Dargahs, the question of permissibility of women visiting the graveyards is not important. Visiting the Dargahs for the purposes of seeking the intercession of the buried, or merely for reasons of veneration, is disallowed even for men. So, why should women be going there?
Q: While offering my Salah, my mind tends to wander a lot, as a result, I forget how many Rak’ahs I have prayed and how many are left. What should I do, in order to offer my Salah with full concentration?
This is a big question, and a problem that is very common. There is no easy formula that will solve this problem. At the root of the problem of concentration in prayers, lies another serious disease of the heart. It is belief in this world and its love. A man’s mind is where his heart is. If someone is in love with this world, how can he be thinking of the other world? In fact, of anything else? And, if someone is in love with the Hereafter, how can he be thinking of the affairs of this world, and that too in his Prayers? The love of this world then, is the root cause of lack of concentration in Prayers. And love of this world cannot be rooted out with the help of a formula. It is not something that can be got rid off fast and easy either, especially in our times when to think of death or of affairs related to the Hereafter is considered a madness. Even in religious circles, unless you speak of nine sentences pertaining to this world, the people around you are not ready to listen to a single sentence about the next. And, if you spoke two sentences on the Hereafter out of ten, you will be reminded with the Qur’anic verse, “Rabbana aatina fiddunya” (‘Our Lord, give us the good things of this life,’ 2: 201) And, in most cases, it is only the first part of the verse that is quoted.
Concentration in the Prayers, is one of the casualties of such an attitude. Therefore, any attempt to concentrate in the Prayers will have to start with checking one’s faiths and beliefs. Is the situation with oneself the same as described by the Qur’an in words (87: 16): “Rather, you prefer the life of this world”? Or is it (17: 19): “Whoever aimed at the Hereafter and worked for it in the manner it should be worked for, and he is a believer, then such of them, their efforts will be well appreciated?” Without a fundamental change made in one’s approach to this problem, we do not see any change in the problem that offshoots. And that fundamental change requires a long process of study and application. Islam, the whole of it, has to be studied and lived by. Only that gives a chance to change in faiths and beliefs. It might mean a big and long struggle involving perhaps the entire lifetime. But, there is no easier way out.
Nevertheless, the immediate problem of lack of concentration in Prayers cannot be left unattended. What you can do is to start off with the intention that you will not allow the mind to wander. And, then keep checking on it every now and then during the Prayers. Whenever you find that it has wandered, you bring it back to what you are engaged in at that moment. It doesn’t matter how many times that happens. Keep bringing the mind back, every time it slips off. So long as you are engaged in that struggle, you might be counted as one whose mind is present.
Another method could be to solve the problem in stages. So that, as you start off, make up your mind that you will not lose concentration in at least say during the recitation of Surah al-Fateha. Work on this so much that finally, you never lose concentration at least in this part. When you are satisfied over this part, then try to bring Ruku’ into control. And then move on to the Sujud. And so on. When you have succeeded with the first Raka‘ah, it means you have 25% of the problem under control. Don’t let this get out of control and move on to work on the second Raka‘ah. And so on.
Q: I am engaged to a boy. My parents are waiting for both of us to complete our studies and come of age before we are married off to each other. We see a lot of each other, at times we hold hands, talk endlessly, go out together on a scooter, but there is nothing beyond this. Is this a sin, considering the fact that we are betrothed to one another?
Yes, it is a sin to be seeing and touching each other, even if you are engaged. Until you are married to him, you should observe hijab with him. Further, it is a highly risky thing to be close to each other from now. He might discover something that he doesn’t like and he will walk away from you. Or, the mere fact that he knows you for so long and from so close, could wear him off: one of the commonest things that happen to males, in which case also he might call off the engagement. The less he knows of you before marriage, the better for you in that the longer the romance after marriage will last. Initially, until several children come, and separation becomes difficult, the sex charm is a necessary glue. The glue has its expiry period.
Q: My fiancé and I celebrate our birthdays every year. Is it a sin in our religion? If yes, can you support your answers with the religious texts or rulings on this subject? We would like to stop this practice, if there is a sin involved.
It is not exactly a sin but, being imitation of non-Muslim, an undesirable practice. The Prophet has strongly warned us against imitating other communities. The seemingly harmless cultural practices ultimately lead to adopting the way of life of other communities resulting in the abandonment of Islamic practices which evokes Allah’s curse. The first step to such an ultimate end must, therefore, be strongly criticized.
Q: What is meant by a non-Maharam?
Someone a woman can never marry in her life, such as a father, a brother, an uncle, a son-in-law, etc.
Q: Is watching television allowed purely to keep us updated on news and current events? Some of the programmes that are seen in National Geographic and Discovery channels are highly educative. These programmes show us a lot of places and different animals, we never knew existed. All the information that is got from there educates us audio-visually and also keeps our mind engaged. But this is not done merely by reading a book, for some of the information is registered by our brain and most of it is lost and it requires repeated readings to remember all that is found in books. Please elaborate.
First of all, you have shifted quickly in your question from news and current events to educational shows. Secondly, you have reversed the effects of TV and book-reading. As for news and current events, today it has become impossible to watch them with the family members around because of the nudity that accompanies it, either by way of advertisement or in other ways. For the decent people, it is better to stay away from them. In contrast, there are still plenty of newspapers and magazines that do not use pornography to market their publications. As regards educational films, we have never held two opinions about them. Some of them are good and educative in a certain sense, not in all the senses in which education is understood.
However, TV educational films are not better educational tools than books. Firstly, the matter that an average-sized book contains, say running into 300 pages, cannot be stuffed into one hour long film. The presentation of the whole will require, rather, a 10-hour programme. Therefore, the knowledge in the book has to be much truncated to arrive at a one-hour programme on the TV. That is a big loss. Secondly, most educationists agree that since the images flash too fast during the running of a film, it is hard for the mind to store them in memory. At best, from an hour’s program the mind might retain maybe a dozen images in its memory box; that is roughly 0.20% of the 6000 images that the screen will flash in about one hour. Thus, the educational value of a book when presented in a film is reduced by a thousand times.
Further, in contrast to a film, whose storage and replays are difficult, requiring state-of-the-art, expensive and delicate electronic equipments, a book is much easier to buy, read, and store. It is handier to refer again and again any parts of the book, at any time, whether at home, or in a bus, or on the railway platform, than a film. Therefore, a book is a better source of knowledge and information. In fact, ignorance among Muslims is generally up on the rise everywhere, in proportion to the hours they spend before the silver screen. Today, among nations, Muslims all over the world are the most ignorant and uneducated people because they are the most passionate watchers of the TV.