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 piece meal 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 these 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. I am a new reader of your magazine. I found it very interesting especially the question-answer column. I have following questions to ask. Why are there so many restrictions regarding Pardah in Islam? How is it possible for a girl studying in a co-education college to observe hijab?
We do not know how you understand Islam. If you consider it as a religion, like any other religion, then, obviously, you should be very surprised with its various rulings. But Islam is not any other religion. It is the name of restrictions, and rules and regulations that you follow to win a peaceful, honorable, contented life on this earth, and Paradise in the Hereafter.
Instead of answering your why on hijab, by now a stale subject, we present herewith a short debate that took place over the internet between a few students and staff of a university in USA on the question of hijab. It might give you some food for thought. We reproduce only a few exchange of communications and not all. The following was the article which started the debate. It was perhaps a chair-person’s speech.
Liberation by the Veil
By Sehmina Jaffer Chopra
Modesty and chastity, very important ideologies with Islam, are achieved by prescribing standards on behavior and the dress of a Muslim. A woman who adheres to the tenements of Islam is required to follow the dress code called Hijab, other synonyms are Veil, Purdah, or Men and women though equal are not identical, and each compliments the other in the different roles and functions that they are responsible to. From an Islamic perspective, to view a woman as a sex symbol is to denigrate her. Islam believes that a woman is to be judged by her [virtuous] character and actions rather than by her looks or physical features.
In the article, “My Body Is My Own Business”, Ms. Naheed Mustafa, a young Canadian born and raised, a university educated Muslim woman writes, “The Qur’an teaches us that men and women are equal, that individuals should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth or privilege. The only thing that makes one person better than another is his or her character.” She goes on to say, “In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it’s neither. It is simply a woman’s assertion that judgement of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction.”
Muslims believe that God gave beauty to all women, but that her beauty is not to be seen by the world, as if the women are meat on the shelf to be picked and looked over. When she covers herself she puts herself on a higher level and men will look at her with respect and she is noticed for her intellect, faith, and personality, not for her beauty. In many societies, especially in the West, women are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness and are compelled to follow the male standards of beauty and abstract notions of what is attractive, half-realizing that such pursuit is futile and often humiliating.
Chastity, modesty, and piety are promoted by the institution of veiling. “The hijab, in no way, prevents a woman from playing her role as an important individual in a society nor does it make her inferior.”
A Muslim woman may wear whatever she pleases in the presence of her husband and family or among women friends. But when she goes out or when men other than her husband or close family are present she is expected to wear a dress which will cover [her hair and] all parts of her body, and not reveal her figure. What a contrast with Western fashions which every year concentrate quite intentionally on exposing yet another erogenous zone to the public gaze! The intention of Western dress is to reveal the figure, while the intention of Muslim dress is to conceal [and cover] it, at least in public.
The Muslim woman does not feel the pressures to be beautiful or attractive, which is so apparent in the Western and Eastern cultures. She does not have to live up to expectations of what is desirable and what is not. Superficial beauty is not the Muslim woman’s concern, her main goal is inner spiritual beauty. She does not have to use her body and charms to get recognition or acceptance in society. It is very different from the cruel methods that other societies subject women, in that their worth is always judged by their physical appearance. There are numerous examples of discrimination at the workplace where women are either accepted or rejected, because of their attractiveness and sex appeal.
Another benefit of adorning the veil is that it is a protection for women. Muslims believe that when women display their beauty to everybody, they degrade themselves by becoming objects of sexual desire and become vulnerable to men, who look at them as “gratification for the sexual urge.” The Hijab makes them out as women belonging to the class of modest chaste women, so that transgressors and sensual men may recognize them as such and dare not tease them out of mischief. Hijab solves the problem of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances, which is so demeaning for women, when men get mixed signals and believe that women want their advances by the way they reveal their bodies.
The western ideology of, ‘if you have it, you should flash it!’ is quite opposite to the Islamic principle, where the purpose is not to bring attention to one’s self, but to be modest. Women in so many societies are just treated as sex symbols and nothing more than just a body who “display themselves to get attention”. A good example is in advertising, where a woman’s body is used to sell products. Women are constantly degraded, and subjected to reveal more and more of themselves.
The Covering sanctifies her and forces society to hold her in high esteem. Far from humiliating the woman, Hijab actually grants the woman an aura of respect, and bestows upon her a separate and unique identity.
According to the Qu’ran, the same high standards of moral conduct are for men as it is for women. Modesty is essential in a man’s life, as well, whether it be in action, morals or speech. Islam also commands proper behavior and dress of men, in that they are not allowed to make a wanton show of their bodies to attract attention onto themselves, and they too must dress modestly. They have a special commandment to lower their eyes, and not to brazenly stare at women.
In Surah Nur of the Holy Qu’ran, it says, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them, and God is well acquainted with what they do”.
Many of the misconceptions of the Muslim woman in the West – particularly her veil – stems from Arab and Muslim countries that have deviated from the true doctrines of Islam, and have “mixed up Islamic principles with pre Islamic pagan traditions.”
In this present period of decline from Islam, many Muslim women are alienated, isolated from social life, and are oppressed by Muslim men and rulers who use the name of religion for their injustices. In this instance, the Hijab is used as a means of keeping many Muslim women away from society, with the misconception that it signifies isolation and weakness. But as many Muslim women come back into the fold of the untainted and true Islam, they are able to recognize the injustice of men who have for so long stripped them of their rights to be an integral part of society and “deserving the same dignity, honor, progress and prosperity as the men.”
Women regaining their true identity and role in society, are now wearing Hijab and embracing its concept of liberation for women, and are taking their rightful places that Islam had endowed upon them fourteen hundred years ago.
The following are two responses to the hijab article… One of the responses to the hijab article by one Donald:
“‘Women are recognized as individuals who are admired for their mind and personality, not for their beauty or lack of it and not as sex objects.’ It is just too bad that a culture cannot respect a woman except if they cover themselves so that the men will not think of the women as sex objects. That says awful things about Islamic men that they cannot overcome such base emotions and also about the women that accept men who think of them as sex objects and require hijab.” [Donald]
Answer to Donald by one Sarah Hussain:
“Countless cases around the world both west and east have shown the exploitation of woman sexually, to pretend the base emotions don’t exist is only denying human nature!!!
“’That says awful things about Islamic men that they cannot overcome such base emotions’: Are you telling me that non-Islamic men have overcome base emotions? Would you like answering why there is so much sexual harassment, so much rape, abuse and the use of woman to sell… or are these not the result of base emotion!
“’And also about the women that accept men who think of them as sex objects and require hijab’ : Muslim women wear hijab out of their choice and free will, every human being sends out a message by the way they act, behave and dress… you tell me is it likely for a girl in a mini-skirt to be harassed over a girl in a long skirt?”
“To me, men who like to have their women exposed to the world are treating them like objects, men who cannot appreciate a woman unless she exposes herself – frankly I don’t see why any man should be interested in the color of my hair or the shape of my body unless, of course, he would like to fancy his base emotions. Muslim men like their woman to cover so they will be safe, protected and respected for more important things, personally, if my husband wanted me to show my beauty off to the world, he probably wouldn’t be my husband, I demand respect and I am not out to sell my body.” [Sarah Husain]
A second response to the hijab article by one Kimball:
“I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. We also have a conservative belief in modesty of dress for women. It is certainly not a fashionable thing to stand up for publically, and I appreciate you doing so. I’ve gained a very strong personal belief in the value of modest dress in modern society. I agree with you 100% that it increases the dignity and respect of women. To me, modesty is unmistakable evidence of self respect and well grounded morals. Thanks for your posting, I found it insightful and uplifting.” [Kimball]
To the above debate, YMD would like to add that it is time for the Indian Muslims to re-think of their attitudes to Islam. If Muslims and non-Muslims alike think in the Western world that Hijab is an institution that offers women respect and protection, and hope in a pervert society, then, shouldn’t the Indian Muslims also look at it more positively?
Q. Are the Qur’an and Bible inter-related? What does Bible say about Muhammad (pbuh)?
Farah Razi and Reena,
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 (asws)?
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 Messengership 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, Messengership 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.