Answering the Qur’ân’s rhetorical questions

Question Title: 
Answering the Qur’ân’s rhetorical questions
Sheikh Name: 
Date: 
Sat, 04/07/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
What are we supposed to say after we recite verse 8 of Sûrah al-Tîn, verse 40 of Sûrah al-Qiyâmah, and other verses which contain rhetorical questions?
English Answer: 
Some commentators on the Qur’ân mention an answer to be read out loud after reciting the rhetorical question that is posed in the final verse of Sûrah al-Tîn. The verse reads: “Is not Allah the wisest of judges?” [Sûrah al-Tîn: 8]

The invocation they recommend is: “Indeed He is, and I am one of those who bear witness to it.” (Arabic: balâ, wa anâ `alâ dhâlika mi al-shâhidîn).

The evidence for this is a hadîth related from Abû Hurayrah that can be found in Sunan Abî Dâwûd (887) and Sunan al-Tirmidhî (3347).

However, this hadîth has a weak chain of transmission. Therefore, we do not recommend a person should to adhere to this wording, since it is not authentically established by the Sunnah. It is alright to do so on occasion, but is should not become a habitual practice.

The same can be said for the final verse of Sûrah al-Qiyâmah: “Is He not, then, able to give life to the dead?” [Sûrah al-Qiyâmah: 40]

It is narrated from one of the Companions used to say upon reading this verse: “Indeed, O Lord, indeed. Glory be to you. (Arabic: balâ, yâ Rabb, balâ, subhânak).

This can also be said on occasion, but should not be adhered to all the time.

And Allah knows best.

Hârût & Mârût teaching magic

Question Title: 
Hârût & Mârût teaching magic
Sheikh Name: 
Date: 
Wed, 04/19/2006
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
Can you clarify why the angels Harut and Marut taught people witchcraft and then tell people not to do it? And are these angels still living? If so, where?
English Answer: 
The story of Hârût and Mârût is mentioned in Sûrah al-Baqarah, verse 102:
They followed that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon did not disbelieve; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind magic and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Hârût and Mârût. Nor did they (the two angels) teach it to anyone till they had said: “Surely we are only a trial, so do not disbelieve (in Allah).” And people learned from these two that by which they could cause division between man and wife; but they could injure thereby no-one save by Allah’s leave. And they learned that which harms them and profits them not. And surely they knew that he who trafficked therein will have no share in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sold their souls, if they but knew.
The books of commentary mentioned their story in detail, but there is disagreement about their nature and what was sent to them.

[See Tafsîr al-Tabarî, Tafsîr al-Fakhar al-Râzî and Tafsîr al-Manâr by Muhammad Rashîd Ridâ]

The summary of what they say in the various commentaries is as follows:

One view is that Hârût and Mârût were two angels sent by Allah in the form of human beings to teach people sorcery and expose the secrets of the sorcery that was being practiced by the magicians. Allah wanted to expose the falseness of those magicians by way of these two angles.

Another saying tells that they were ordinary men who pretended to be pious in the city of Bâbil. They used to teach people sorcery. People thought they were angels descent from the Heavens because of the piousness they observed from them.

Their cunning was so clever that when they noticed what people thought about them of piety, they used to tell everyone who wants to learn from them: “Surely we are only a trial, so do not disbelieve (in Allah).” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 102]

They did that to show people that their knowledge is divinely inspired knowledge and that they only sought goodness, just as liars claim in every era.

They were called as angels because people called them that. In another mode of reading narrated by al-Hasan they were called “kings” (malikayn as opposed to malakayn). This saying is stronger than the one before.

There is a claim that Hârût and Mârût were deformed and expelled after falling into fornication and drinking liquor, after being angels. This is false story fabricated by the Jews. It has been deemed false by historical researchers.

The book that provides the best and clearest discussion of this issue and summarizes the saying of the commentators is Mahâsin al-Ta’wîl (215-207/2) by Jamâl al-Dîn al-Qâsimî (1332)

And Allah knows best.

Reward for planting trees & houseplants

Question Title: 
Reward for planting trees & houseplants
Date: 
Wed, 04/19/2006
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
It comes in a hadith that even if you sow a seed, you will get the reward. Do we get the reward of growing plants in a pot, like house plants. And if we take good care of them but they die, do we get the sin for that?
English Answer: 
The important hadîth for this question are as follows:

Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Never does a Muslim a plants a tree, but that he earns the reward of charity because what is eaten from it; and likewise what is stolen from it, what the wild beasts eat out of it, what the birds eat out of it, and what people take from it is charity for him.” [Sahîh Muslim (1552)]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Never does a Muslim a plant a tree or sow a crop and a bird, human being, or beast eats from it without earning the reward of charity.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (2320) and Sahîh Muslim (1553)]

Allah knows best about how this might apply to potted houseplants which are merely kept in the home for decoration and household purposes. Houseplants do not provide the types of general benefit mentioned in the hadith as being the reasons for the reward. The hadîth describes the reward for planting a tree to be that of charity. The hadîth goes on to describe the charity as being realized through the food the tree provides for humans and animals.

We might extend the meaning of the hadîth by analogy to other benefits that plants provide to people, animals and the environment. For instance, trees provide shade along the road and contribute to the beauty of the urban environment. These are important benefits that are enjoyed by the general public. Likewise, trees provide habitation and shelter for birds and many other animals.

However, similar benefits to the public that can be likened to charity are not really seen in the houseplants a person keeps at home for beatification, fresh air, and other purely personal reasons. Therefore, we cannot easily extend the hadîth’s meaning to such plants.

However, we cannot rule out a reward for taking care of such plants.

If the houseplant dies through no fault or negligence of the owner, then there is, of course, no sin upon the owner for its death.

And Allah knows best.

Divorcing wife at parents’ behest

Question Title: 
Divorcing wife at parents’ behest
Date: 
Thu, 03/31/2005
Sender Name: 
none
Question in English : 
I married my cousin who is a divorcee and older than me by four years. I married her for her good religious character. She has nothing of worldly possessions that anyone could covet. My father and mother are very angry with me and refuse to allow me to see them or to even enter their home. They say that they will never condone what I have done, on account of my marrying a woman who is older than me and a divorcee. Am I sinful and am I a disobedient son by refusing to divorce her?
English Answer: 
If you had asked this question before marrying the woman, then we would have told you to rather abstain from marrying this woman and comply with your parents’ wishes. However, since you are already married and did so for the sake of her religion, then you do not have to divorce her, since your parents have no valid reason to demand from you that you do so.

They mention no fault in her religion or her character. They only fault her that she is not a virgin and that she is older than you by four years. These are not faults and they do not warrant divorce.

It is not part of a man’s honoring his parents that he divorces his wife without an Islamically justifiable reason.

As for the hadîth of Ibn `Umar when his father demanded that he divorce his wife, we need to understand it.

Ibn `Umar relates: I was married to a woman whom I loved. However, my father disliked her and ordered me to divorce her. I refused and mentioned the matter to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said: “O `Abd Allah b. `Umar, divorce your wife.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (1189), Sunan Abî Dâwûd (5138), Sunan Ibn Mâjah (2088) and Musnad Ahmad (4991)]

Ibn Muflih writes in al-Adâb al-Shar`iyyah (1/503):
It is not obligatory on a man to divorce his wife out of obedience to his parents. If his father orders him to divorce his wife, he does not have to do so. This has been mentioned by most of the senior students (of Ahmad).

Al-Sindî relates that a man told Ahmad: “My father orders me to divorce my wife.”

Ahmad relied: “Do not divorce her.” – meaning: “Do not divorce her on account of your father’s orders until your father becomes like `Umar in ascertaining what is true and just and in not merely following his personal inclinations in such matters.”

…Whoever is ordered by his mother to divorce his wife is not allowed to do so. Indeed, he must honor his mother, but divorcing his wife is not part of honoring his mother.
Al-Bahûtî writes in Kashhâf al-Qunnâ` (5/233):
A man does not have to divorce his wife if his father orders him to do so. He is not required to obey his father when it comes to divorce, since he is being ordered to do something that is not in agreement with Islamic dictates.
And Allah knows best.

Cutting down a lotus tree

Question Title: 
Cutting down a lotus tree
Sheikh Name: 
Date: 
Thu, 03/31/2005
Sender Name: 
no
Question in English : 
In our yard, there is a lotus tree that has grown to the extent that it is crowding us out. We wish to have it cut down. However, our family is upset about it. They say that it is a tree that should not be cut. Is this true? Does the lotus tree have such significance?
English Answer: 
It is disliked in Islam to unnecessarily cut down a lotus tree that benefits people by providing shade, leaves, and fruit.

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever cuts down a lotus tree, Allah will cast him headlong into the Fire.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (5239) and Sunan al-Nasâ’î al-Kubrâ (8611) and authenticated by al-Albânî]

If the lotus tree is growing in a place that people need for other purposes like for agriculture or to build a house or to lay a road, then it is permissible to cut it down. Likewise, it is permitted to cut down a lotus tree if its wood is needed – both its trunk and its stems – to build something like a door, a beehive, or a roof. The same can be said if the people of the household are injured by its thorns or similarly inconvenienced.

Abû Dâwûd states after relating this hadîth in his Sunan: “This hadîth is abridged. Its full meaning is that whoever cuts down a lotus tree in open country where a traveler or an animal might seek its shade, and does so for no good reason, oppressively and unjustly, then Allah will cast him headlong into the Fire.”

Why We Need More Women as Islamic Preachers

Date: 
Wed, 03/07/2007
Short Content: 
The obligation to preach Islam is the same for men and women. The Qur’ân discusses men and women together in this respect, when it says: “The believers, men and the women, are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil..."
Body: 
IslamToday correspondent Mîrhân Muhsin speaks to Dr. Aminah Nasîr, a professor of Islamic Doctrine at al-Azhar University, about the participation of women in preaching Islam.

Dr. Aminah Nasîr is recognized as one of the foremost scholars in the field of Islamic Work, and one who is able to reach the hearts of the masses. She has well-respected views and opinions on most of the major problems and issues facing Muslim society today. She offers a distinct perspective on many Islamic issues that come into general discussion in the Muslim world from time to time. Among these are the role of women in preaching Islam, both to Muslims and non-Muslims.

IslamToday: How successful have women been in the field of Islamic work?

Frankly, women have been making slow progress in the field of Islamic work. Islamic work is something that appears like something new for women in today’s society. However, it was not something strange in the past. Women used to work for the spread of Islam. They had been doing so since the time when Prophet’s wives were active in teaching and spreading Islam among women. Women have been preaching Islam for ages. If we look back at our history, we find that in the past there were many women who were jurists, hadîth scholars, and preachers.

In spite of the fact that every year thousands of women graduate from al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Islamic Law, we find that the number of active women preachers in Egypt can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is an unhealthy situation. We need to ask: Have we failed so miserably in graduating suitably qualified Muslim women preachers who can go out in society and engage in the dissemination of Islam?

At the same time, we feel that there are women preachers out there, but regrettably there are also people out there who do not wish to let the way be open for them.

IslamToday: Please explain the need for Muslim women preachers and tell us what is required of them.

The obligation to preach Islam is the same for men and women. The Qur’ân discusses men and women together in this respect, when it says: “The believers, men and the women, are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil, keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Messenger; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 71]

No Muslim can be barred from calling others to Islam. Allah says: “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in the best of manners.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 125]

When a woman preaches Islam to other women like herself, she is able to empathize with them and understand their problems more clearly. She is able to be more persuasive and influential, especially in matters that women cannot freely discuss with men. When the woman preacher has a good understanding of people and is firmly grounded in Islamic knowledge, she can have an influence on women in all walks of life. A Muslim preacher needs to have the proper background and the ability to work with others. A woman in this field can bring together her special skills, her cultural understanding, her experience, and her knowledge of Islamic Law. In this way, she can benefit herself and bring benefit to others.

A woman can accomplish so much in this way. She can speak to the mothers who are the very heart of the family and of society, since they are the ones who are raising and preparing the next generation. She can provide guidance to the women who attend her lessons, counseling them in how to relate to their husbands. She can explain to them how they are responsible for those in their care, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for those in your care.”

Every woman who works in the field of Islamic work must fulfill the following conditions: She must have sufficient knowledge about the things she teaches others, so that she does not give them misinformation. She must have insight into what she is calling them to. She must have a perceptive understanding of the Prophet’s life and knowledge of the Qur’ân and its sciences. She must be a role model for other women through her good morals and manners.

IslamToday: Some people look upon Muslim women preachers with suspicion. Is there any justification for this?

This is true. The reason for it is the general ignorance in society about Islam, especially since the times that people generally became far away from their religion. This is not only true for women, but for men as well. During the centuries of colonial occupation, the Muslim edifice was weakened. As a result, traditions and customs took over in determining how women were regarded in society. Women took many steps backward because of this. They lost what they had formerly achieved of progress and development in Muslim society, and as a consequence, they became religiously illiterate.

At the same time, it became so that anyone would speak about Islam, regardless of their knowledge and aptitude.

The main focus of preaching Islam is supposed to be to disseminate the message to the non-Muslims. However, today, most efforts are spent trying to better the Islamic understanding of the Muslims.
Author: 

“…to say what you do not do” – Our Deeds as a Measure of Character

from Varse: 
2
Date: 
Wed, 03/07/2007
Image: 
Short Content: 
Allah says: “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah for you to say what you do not do.”
Body: 

Rarely do people live up to everything that they say. It is part of our human condition. Some of us almost always follow through with what we say, so that there is almost never a discrepancy between our words and deeds. Some of us act before we speak. Some of us speak readily, then drag our feet when getting around to doing what we say we are going to do – but ultimately get it done. There are those of us who mean what they say, sincerely, but never get around to doing it. Then there are those who nobody should bother waiting for them to do anything, because they never seriously mean to do what they say.

This is a logical breakdown of people with respect to their doing what they say. Some people might consider it too obvious to need mentioning. However, more astute minds would have started pondering on this topic from the moment they read read the title. By the time they finished reading the introductory paragraph, they would feel some personal distress. This is what I intended. As the old saying goes: “When a person takes himself to task, only then he becomes worthy of esteem.”

We often say and do things without thinking. Then, worse still, we fail to evaluate our words and deeds. We never look at ourselves critically. We might fall into the trap of heedlessness on one occasion. We might succumb to difficult circumstances on another. We might even fall into sin. Allah says: It is most hateful to Allah for you to say what you do not do.” [Sûrah al-Saff: 2-3]

People generally look positively on those who practice what they preach. This is why it is a compliment to call someone “a man of his word”. We look upon a doer differently than we do upon a mere “sayer”. A doer is respected and trusted, someone you can do business with. The glib talker, on the other hand, is looked down upon, distrusted, and his words are laughed at. We know there is no substance to what he says.

A person who works is at the threshold of true satisfaction. If he makes work his habit, he will achieve it. Philosophers have contemplated the meaning of Earthly happiness, but I have not found anything better or truer than: “Happiness is in achievement.” This definition of happiness approaches the concept from the angle of activity and productive work. We should most certainly plan out our efforts, but we should not waste all of our time in aimless planning. I have seen so many cases where precious time is spent in holding consultations, mapping out objectives, and articulating dreams – but without any productive work ever coming of it.

Our ability to speak is no light matter. Indeed, a defining aspect of what makes us human is the ability to speak and to reason. Classical philosophers defined the human being as a “rational animal.” Without getting into the merits and demerits of this controversial and somewhat provocative definition, we can suffice it to say that if we focus on the human ability to speak without its connection to human activity, we will fall short in how we understand of our own humanity.

Those who people take as role models – and those who set themselves up to be role models – are individuals whose lives are their deeds. If their deeds disgrace them, then they are truly disgraced – in their own eyes, in the eyes of society, and maybe even in the eyes of God.

People are more comfortable with someone who is true to his word, even when that person makes a decision that is contrary to their interests. This is because they know where they stand with him, and they respect that.

A doer is someone driven by high-mindedness. A high-minded person always feels concern. This is because he has a positive attitude. He is not satisfied with less than what he can give. He does not allow himself to demand from others what he will not do himself, nor deny others what he will not deny himself.

Allah tells us that the Prophet Shu`ayb (peace be upon him) said to his people: “I wish not, in opposition to you, to do that which I forbid you to do. I only desire (your) betterment to the best of my power; and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look.” [Sûrah Hûd: 88]

A person might stumble when he walks, but he is still better than someone sitting still. A person might fall when he runs, but he is still faster than someone who walks. A ship at sea is in danger of sinking, but the ship was not made to stay in the harbor forever.
Verse Contnet: 

Allah says: “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah for you to say what you do not do.” [Sûrah al-Saff: 2-3]

Islamic studies curriculum for advanced teenagers

Question Title: 
Islamic studies curriculum for advanced teenagers
Sheikh Name: 
Date: 
Wed, 02/07/2007
Sender Name: 
none
Question in English : 
Could you suggest a good second-level Islamic Studies program for us to establish for our youth – a group of children between the age of 14 and 17? We will be giving classes for a few hours on a daily basis. These children already know the basics of how to pray and fast. We already use the English translations of Fiqh al-Sunnah for Islamic Law, Riyâd al-Sâlihîn for hadith, and they have a good grounding in `Aqîdah. What else do they need to get a strong grounding in sound Islamic methodology?
English Answer: 
I suggest that an Islamic Studies program for these teenagers should include the following:

1. 1. Qur’an Study: This should employ a standard, reliable commentary like Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr.

2. Islamic Legal Theory (Usûl al-Fiqh): They should be taught a basic primer on this subject. The teacher could use al-Juwaynî’s Waraqât for instance. It is brief enough to be easily translated by the teacher if need be.

3. Hadith methodology: They should be taught a brief, basic primer on this subject. A good example would be Nukhbah al-Fikr by Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî.

4. Ethics: There should be a class in the etiquettes and manners of seeking knowledge, and the ethics of scholarship.

5. Case studies: The students should be given classes to develop their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

6. Bigraphy: They should study the lives of the scholars, past and present, especially the four imams – Abû Hanîfah, Mâlik, al-Shâfi`î, and Ahmad.

7. Debate: They should have debate classes where they learn to discuss matters in an academic manner. It is important that they learn the manners and etiquettes of how to disagree.

8. Islamic preaching: They should learn, for instance, public speaking, how to deliver sermons, offer speeches, and how to improve their writing skills.

Inheritance for Divorced Woman

Question Title: 
Inheritance for Divorced Woman
Date: 
Mon, 01/31/2005
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
If a woman is divorced by her husband and her husband dies during or after the completion of her waiting period,will she inherit from his property? If so, how much will she inherit?
English Answer: 
Ibn Taymiyah was asked a similar question so he replied [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (31/368)] by saying:
As far as the divorce itself is concerned, it will take place as long as the husband is in full possession of his mental faculties and acts of his own choice. However, the woman will inherit from his estate, according to the opinion of the majority of the leading scholars of Islam. This is school of thought of Mâlik, Ahmad, and Abû Hanîfah, and it is the older opinion of al-Shâfi`î.

This was also the verdict implemented by the Caliph `Uthmân for the wife of `Abd al-Rahmân b. `Awf. `Abd al-Rahmân b. `Awf had divorced her in his death illness, but `Uthmân affirmed her share of his estate.

The woman has to observe the longest of the two waiting periods, whether it be the waiting period for divorce or death. However, if the husband had lost possession of his mental faculties, then his divorce is invalid from the outset.
Ibn Taymiyah was also asked about a man who, during his death illness, divorced his wife with a single pronouncement of divorce before consummation of the marriage. He was asked if it would be construed as a divorce to prevent her from her share of inheritance, legally necessitating that the opposite of his intentions be carried out and that she be granted her share of his estate and her full dowry. Or will she receive no share of the estate and only half of the dowry?

He replied [Majmû’ al-Fatâwâ (32/369)]:


There are two opinions among the scholars regarding the woman who is divorced before her marriage is consummated. The most correct one is that she is also entitled to inherit. This is the opinion of the school of thought of Mâlik and Ahmad – according to the well-known saying related from him – and that of al-Shâfi`î. This is because it was related that `Uthmân gave such a woman her share of the estate after her waiting period elapsed.

Such a woman only inherits on account of her right connected with the estate when the husband suffers from his death illness and consequently has his right to dispose of his property curtailed so that he may not transfer any of his wealth to those who are his inheritors not grant to non-inheritors more than a third of his estate, in the same way that he has no right to do so after his death. Since his right to dispose of his property during his death illness with respect to his inheritors is the same as it is after death, he consequently has no authority to prevent her from her share after falling ill. This is what the scholars call a divorce of avoidance.
This is the correct opinion that I also adopt.

And Allah knows best.

The soul & the difference between the nafs and the rûh

Question Title: 
The soul & the difference between the nafs and the rûh
Sheikh Name: 
Date: 
Mon, 01/31/2005
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
With respect to the human soul, can you please help me to undertand the difference between the nafs and the rûh?
English Answer: 
The difference between the rûh and the nafs – both which can be translated as “soul” or “spirit” – is a question whose full answer depends upon having knowledge of the soul, which is something that is beyond the power of human knowledge.

Allah says: “They ask you concerning the soul (rûh). Say: ‘The soul is of the command of my Lord. Of knowledge, it is only a little that is communicated to you’.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 85]

We can see that the word nafs is used in the Qur’ân in various ways. It is used to refer to the human being as a body and a soul. This meaning is the one most frequently encountered in the Qur’ân.

Allah says: “So turn (in repentance) to your Maker and slay yourselves (the wrong-doers)” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 54]

Sometimes it refers to the soul and not the body.

Allah says: “Yield up your souls” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 93]

He says: “O contented soul (nafs)! Come back to your Lord, well pleased, and well-pleasing unto Him.” [Sûrah al-Fajr: 27-28].

As for the word rûh, it comes with the meaning of the divine infusion by which life takes place.

Allah says: “When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in obeisance unto him.” [Sûrah al-Hijr: 29]

By these texts, we can ascertain that the word nafs is more general in meaning than the word rûh, since the word nafs can be used to refer the human entity as a body and a soul or to the soul alone, while the word rûh is restricted in meaning to the divine infusion of life.

And Allah knows best.