The 'day after' pill -- birth control or abortion?

Question Title: 
The 'day after' pill -- birth control or abortion?
Date: 
Sat, 11/03/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
There is a type of birth control pill that can be taken shortly after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It is often referred to as the "day after" pill. What is the Islamic ruling on using this type of birth control?
English Answer: 
Scholars agree that an abortion after 120 days is prohibited except for a serious medical necessity.

With respect to an abortion before 120 days, scholars differ widely about the matter.

In spite of the variety of opinions expressed on this matter, a general principle emerges. This general ruling is that the earlier it is in the pregnancy, the greater the leniency is for an abortion. The more advanced the pregnancy is, the more restricted the matter becomes.

What you describe – the day after pill – would take the greatest measure of leniency, and that would be the case even if, hypothetically, it were known for sure that the woman is pregnant.

Moreover, there is no way to know that the woman is indeed pregnant in the case of the day-after pill. The probability that she is not pregnant is, in fact, far greater than the probability that she is pregnant.

Therefore, we say there is considerable flexibility in the matter, and we regard the day-after pill as being permitted as a form of birth control if there is a need for it.

And Allah knows best.

Illegitimate child inheriting from father

Question Title: 
Illegitimate child inheriting from father
Date: 
Wed, 11/15/2006
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
Does an illegitimate child inherit from his deceased father's estate?
English Answer: 
If the fornicator refuses to acknowledge paternity of his child resulting from fornication and does not declare that child to be his son or daughter, then the child will not inherit from the fornicator. This is the ruling in this case, without there being any disagreement among the scholars in this matter.

Such a child resulting from fornication is not a child of the fornicator, does not inherit from him, and will not be attributed to him. However, the child will inherit from his or her mother.

The evidence that the child from fornication will not be attributed to the fornicator is the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The child is to be attributed to the one upon whose bed it is born, and for the adulterer there is stoning.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (2053) and Sahîh Muslim (1457)]

The meaning is that paternity of a child only comes about as the consequence of a legal marriage. The fornicator does not have such an attribution.

However, if the fornicator decides to attribute the child to himself, then it will be legally his child. Therefore, if the fornicator had declared himself to be the child's father, then the child will have the right to a child's share of the father's estate.

In case there is a dispute regarding a particular child's right to inheritance, then the burden of evidence will be upon the party who asserts the right of a child born of fornication to inherit from the biological father. The party who denies the existence of this right will not be requested to furnish evidence, since the absence of such a right is the default legal assumption.

And Allah knows best.

Autopsies & Islamic Law

Question Title: 
Autopsies & Islamic Law
Date: 
Mon, 09/03/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
I have heard from sheikhs in my country that Islam prohibits autopsies. Islam deems the human body sacred and does not allow it to be violated for any reason. They argue that the human body is Allah’s property and that we cannot do with it what we please, regardless of the justification that we have. Could you enlighten us about this, and what the four schools of thought say on the matter?
English Answer: 
The issue of autopsies – examining the body to determine the cause of death – is a modern issue. Therefore, the topic is not addressed by the traditional legal books of the four schools of Islamic Law. Nevertheless, many contemporary fatwâ councils and Islamic Law conferences have issued rulings that autopsies for medical and scientific purposes are permitted.

For instance, decrees to this effect were issued by the Fatwâ Councils of both Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

These rulings were given even though autopsies entail cutting open the body as part of a thorough examination.

The reason why scholars deem autopsies permissible is because examining the dead body to know the cause of death is carried out for reasons that outweigh the consideration of showing respect for the body of the deceased, especially since those considerations are of a forensic or medical nature.

We must appreciate the fact that autopsies can uncover cases of murder and lead to the apprehension of the murderer. They can also identify diseases and harmful environmental factors. In all of these cases, autopsies can help to save human life.

Islamic Law – the Law that Allah has provided for us – clearly looks toward safeguarding and promoting human welfare. Safeguarding life is one of the five objectives that Islamic Law exists to realize. Therefore, any interpretation of Islamic Law that needlessly works against human welfare – especially if based on mere abstract reasoning – should be evaluated very carefully.

The Hanbalî jurist Ibn al-Qayyim says the following in I`lâm al-Muwaqqi`în (3/11):
The injunctions of Islamic Law are all based upon considerations of human well-being in this world and in the Hereafter and they are always just, merciful, and wise. Any injunction that is oppressive instead of just, or that departs from the meaning of mercy, or that runs contrary to the general welfare, or that is nearer to foolishness than to wisdom is an injunction that has nothing to do with Islamic Law, even if some interpretations would present it as part thereof. Islamic Law is Allah’s justice for His servants. It is His mercy to His creatures. It is the comforting shade that He affords to the Earth. It is His wisdom which is a testament to His existence and to the truthfulness of His Messenger (peace be upon him).
And Allah knows best.

‘20,000 embrace Islam at Ahmad b. Hanbal’s funeral’ – Is this for real?

Question Title: 
‘20,000 embrace Islam at Ahmad b. Hanbal’s funeral’ – Is this for real?
Date: 
Mon, 09/03/2007
Question in English : 
I heard that at Ahmad b. Hanbal's funeral a large number of non-Muslim's embraced Islam. Can you tell me more about it?
English Answer: 
Ibn al-Jawzî relates in Manâqib al-Imâm Ahmad (420) that al-Warkânî – supposedly his neighbor – said: “On the day he died, twenty thousand Jews, Christians, and Magians embraced Islam.” Ibn al-Jawzî then mentions that in the narration of al-Warkânî’s claim that comes to us by way of Ibn Nu`aym, the number given is 10,000. Al-Dhahabî, in Mizân al-I`tidal, denies the veracity of this claim. He writes:
This al-Warkânî, his identity is unknown. Moreover, no one else ever came with a corroborating claim. If such a thing had happened, it would have been a major event and a lot of people would have narrated it. As for (the possibility of that narrator being) Muhammad b. Ja`far al-Warkânî – the teacher of al-Baghawî – he was an honest narrator. However, he had died some time before Ahmad.
Therefore, what we have here is a far-fetched and unsubstantiated claim about a mass conversion that, if true, would have been of historic proportions. And Allah knows best.

Unlawful Corporate Earnings & Their Implications for Muslim Shareholders

Date: 
Mon, 09/03/2007
Short Content: 
Virtually every public company derives a small percentage of its earnings from unlawful sources, regardless of its actual line of business.
Body: 
In principle, trading in corporate shares is lawful. A person who purchases shares in a company is merely purchasing a part of a company. When that person sells his shares, he is selling a part of the company. The purpose of trade – whether it be in retail goods or in corporate shares – is to make a profit. This requires selling at a price higher than the purchase price, which is what the purchaser of the shares hopes to do.

A shareholder may also receive a share of the corporate profits commensurate with his ownership of the company in the form of dividends. All of this is lawful provided that the company’s essential business is lawful. A Muslim should not purchase shares in a brewery, for instance, or in an interest-based bank.

The Problem of Unlawful Corporate Earnings

The problem arises in the fact that the vast majority of companies in the world do not adhere to Islamic Law in their financial transactions. Some of a company’s investment portfolio may be in bonds or in other Islamically unlawful financial instruments. Some interest will be earned by the company unintentionally through its necessary banking transactions. Unless the company is Islamic (and certainly, Muslim investors should go out of their way to support and develop Islamic companies) these earnings will not be disposed of by the company itself. What this means for the Muslim investor is that for virtually every public company, a small percentage of corporate earnings will inevitably derive from unlawful sources, regardless of the company’s actual line of business.

What must a Muslim shareholder do about these earnings? The answer is that when the Muslim investor receives dividends, he must dispose of the percentage that equals the percentage of the company’s income which is unlawful.

Determining what this percentage is quite simple for the investor. It can easily be known from the company’s income statement.

For example, if the company has interest earnings equaling 5% of its total earnings and you receive an annual dividend from those earnings of $100,000, then you should give away $5000 to the poor or to public works.

This money must be given away with the express intention of ridding yourself of your share of the company’s unlawful earnings. The money must not be paid with the intention of giving in charity.

This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah is pure and accepts nothing but what is pure.” [Sahîh Muslim]

A Muslim who rids himself of unlawful wealth can still look forward to a reward from Allah for doing so, since he is doing so out of obedience to Allah. However, it will not be for charitable spending.

Interest Paid by the Company is Not Corporate Income

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah curses the one who consumes interest, the one who pays it, the one who draws up the contract, and the witnesses to the contract, then he said they are same (in sinfulness) ” [Sahîh Muslim]

This hadîth shows us that it is unlawful in Islamic Law to receive interest and to pay it.

However, there is an extremely important distinction between paying interest and receiving it. This distinction is that unlawful wealth is only acquired by the party that receives interest. The one who pays the interest shares equally in the sin of the transaction, but he is not stuck with unlawful wealth as a consequence of it.

When a company borrows money on interest, it is not receiving unlawful income, though it is engaging in an unlawful transaction.

The borrower who takes out an interest loan does not receive any unlawful money, since receiving a loan in and of itself is lawful. What is unlawful and sinful is his agreeing to the unlawful condition of paying back the loan with interest.

When the company pays the interest, the recipient of the interest receives unlawful money. The parties who pay the interest (the decision-makers in the company in this case) share in the sin for it, but they do not bring unlawful income to the company as a consequence of their decision.

This means that a Muslim shareholder does not have anything to deduct from his dividends due to the company borrowing money on interest. He only needs to make deductions from his dividends based on the company’s interest earnings.

[Of course, if a Muslim shareholder owns enough shares in a company to get him onto the company’s board of directors, he will be responsible to vote in matters of corporate policy in accordance with Islamic teachings. If he votes contrary to Islamic teachings, he shares in the sin for adopting that unlawful decision. If he promotes lawful policies and votes according to Islamic teachings but is overridden by the other directors, then the sin is on them and not on him.]

These Earnings Do Not Affect Profits from the Sale of the Shares

The requirement of deducting the percentage of the company’s unlawful earnings applies only to dividends earned by the shareholder. It does not apply to the profits received from the shareholder selling his shares on the stock market.

The increase in the price of the shares is directly related to the market value of the company. It is not directly related to the company’s income. Many factors come into play regarding the company’s value, even some things like market volatility that are entirely independent of the company’s performance.

Your ownership in the company is represented by the shares that you bought and that you would hope to resell at a higher price. This is no different than buying an item and reselling it later. You therefore have nothing to deduct from your profits.

Dividends, by contrast, are paid from the company’s income and your share of the company’s income is based on the dividends per share that you receive. Therefore, you should cleanse your share of the company’s income of its percentage of any of the company’s unlawful earnings. You do this by giving away that percentage in charity with the intention of ridding yourself of unlawful wealth.

And Allah knows best.

Givng charity on behalf of others

Question Title: 
Givng charity on behalf of others
Date: 
Tue, 07/03/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
I would like to know, when I spend charity, how can I make sure that the blessings from Allah will be not be for me alone, but also for all of my family? I mean, if I spend a certain amount, how can it be as if the rest of my family gave a portion of that amount? Is there any procedure for this?
English Answer: 
You have the right to grant the reward of your almsgiving to anyone you please. You may intend the reward for an individual or for a group of people.

Sa`d said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): “My mother died, and I think that if she had spoken, she would have given charity. Will she have a reward if I give charity on her behalf?”

He said: “Yes.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

If you give alms separately on behalf of yourself, then your father, then your mother, that will be fine.

Likewise, you can opt to gather everyone together in your intention and offer a single charitable donation. This will also be correct, by the will of Allah.

And Allah knows best.

Giving charity from unlawfully earned wealth

Question Title: 
Giving charity from unlawfully earned wealth
Date: 
Tue, 07/03/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
There is a Muslim who has intersest earnings from his bank account, and he wants to give these earnings regularly in charity. Is there any reward for him from the charity that he gives? Is that money o.k. for the charity to accept, knowing that it has come from interest earnings?
English Answer: 
One should expect to receive no reward or blessing for the giving charity one gives from one’s unlawful earnings.

Abû Hurayrah relates the following hadîth which is found in Sahîh Muslim:
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Allah is good and accepts nothing but what is good. Indeed, Allah commands the believers with the same command that He enjoins upon His Messengers, and He says:

“ ‘O Messengers! Eat of the things good and pure and work righteous deeds.’ [Sûrah al-Mu’minûn: 51]

“And says: ‘O you who believe! Eat of the things good and pure that We have provided for you.’ [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 172]”

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned a man who had traveled on a long journey, his hair disheveled and discolored with dust. “He will raise his hands to the sky saying ‘O Lord! O Lord!’ but his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, and his clothing is unlawful. How then can he be answered?”
It is permissible for the charitable organization to accept the money that it knows the donor received through interest earnings. Unlawfully earned money is forbidden for the person who earned it, not for people who later receive that money from him through lawful means.

Indeed, it is the duty of someone who has come into unlawful wealth to rid himself of it by spending it on the needy and in public works. However, he must do so with the intention of ridding himself of unlawful wealth and not with the intention of charity.

And Allah knows best.

Qiyas in Islamic Law – A Brief Introduction

Date: 
Tue, 07/03/2007
Short Content: 
What is the ruling when the guardian of the orphan’s estate burns all the orphan’s property? - The answer can be deduced by qiyas.
Body: 
Qiyâs is a method that uses analogy – comparison – to derive Islamic legal rulings for new developments.

Qiyâs can be defined as taking an established ruling from Islamic Law and applying it to a new case, in virtue of the fact that the new case shares the same essential reason for which the original ruling was applied.

Qiyâs, therefore, is a method that Muslim jurists use to derive a ruling for new situations that are not addressed by the Qur’ân and Sunnah, like many new developments of our age and like the customs of people not encountered in Arabia during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). By way of qiyâs, these issues can be referred back to those that are explicitly mentioned in the sacred texts.

When we know the reason why something in Islamic Law is obligatory, preferred, permitted, disliked, or forbidden, then if something else shares the same reason, it can be given the same legal ruling.

Categories of Qiyâs:

There are two major categories of qiyâs with respect to its strength as evidence: overt and obscure.

A. Obvious Comparison (qiyâs jaliyy):

This is where the new situation being investigated is clearly no different in its essentials from a matter that Islamic Law has a clear and established ruling for.

This is especially the case where the sacred texts clearly spell out the reason for the original ruling or where there is unanimous agreement among Muslims as to what that reason is.

In such cases, there is no need for the jurist to try to deduce a quality in the new situation that he can use to make a comparison with some precedent in Islamic Law. Everything is clear and up-front.

Consider the following examples:

1. What is the ruling when the guardian of the orphan’s estate burns all the orphan’s property?

Though there is no direct textual evidence that discusses burning the orphan’s property, the ruling is patently clear. It takes the same ruling as when the guardian squanders the orphan’s wealth on himself.

Allah says: “Lo! Those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 10]

It is prohibited for the guardian of the orphan’s estate to wrongfully spend the orphan’s wealth on himself. The reason for this ruling is obvious – it brings loss to the orphan’s property.

This is precisely what would happen if the guardian burns the orphan’s property. The orphan will suffer the loss. There is no material difference between the two cases. Since the two cases share the reason for the ruling, they share the same ruling. It is unquestionably prohibited for the guardian to burn or otherwise vandalize the orphan’s property.

2. What is the ruling on giving one’s parents a good smack?

We will not find any text in our scriptures that directly addresses this question. However, we are in no doubt that it is absolutely prohibited and sinful to do so.

We find in the Qur’ân that it is sinful to even mutter “ugh” or “uff” to our parents in exasperation when they ask us to do something for them.

Allah says: “And your Lord has commanded that you shall not worship any but Him, and that you show kindness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them so much as “ugh” nor chide them, but speak to them a generous word.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 23]

We are prohibited to say “ugh” to our parents, because it is abusive behavior. At the very least, it hurts their feelings. We can have no doubt that shoving them or smacking them is even more abusive and hurtful. Since the reason for prohibition is even more evident here, we can be certain that smacking our parents is unlawful and very sinful.

From these examples, there should be no question that qiyâs should be accepted as a legal means for establishing Islamic legislation whenever the comparison is overt and clear.

Some scholars do not consider these examples to even fall under the heading of qiyâs, due to how clear and obvious they are, but consider such rulings to constitute part of what the texts themselves communicate.

B. Obscure Comparison (qiyâs khafiyy):

This is where the new situation being investigated is not so overtly similar in its essentials to the established matter in Islamic Law that it is being compared to.

This is especially the case where the sacred texts do not spell out the reason for the original ruling or where there is disagreement among Muslims as to what that reason is.

Scholars cite as an example that the criminal liability for murder with a bludgeon is the same as that for murder with a knife, since in both cases there is “an intentional and hostile act of killing”.

The difference here to the examples above is that the shared reason for the ruling is one that has been deduced by the jurists from the ruling prohibiting murder. The formula “an intentional and hostile act of killing” is a legal construct developed by legal theorists to define when a killing is legally an act of murder. It is not something that is explicitly stated in the texts, but rather something that is deduced from them.

In such cases, there is a greater burden upon the jurist, who is required to extrapolate and explain the cause of the established ruling and then explain how that cause is also present in the new matter under investigation.

All scholars agree on calling this kind of reasoning by the name qiyâs.

Areas of Scholarly Agreement Regarding the Validity of Qiyâs as a Form of Reasoning:

Muslims are all agreed that qiyâs is a valid approach to reasoning in the following areas of inquiry:

1. Worldly matters: for instance, comparing one medicine to another or pricing one product on the basis of the price of similar products in the market.

2. Any qiyâs that was carried out by the Prophet (peace be upon him): since its consideration become certain on account of its taking place in a context of certainty.

The scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah are also in agreement that qiyâs cannot be applied to certain matters. It cannot be used to answer essential questions of belief or to investigate matters relating to Allah’s nature and attributes if it leads to comparing Allah to His creation. Qiyâs can only be validly applied in these matters to extent of demonstrating that Allah is superior and transcendent to created things. Otherwise, the use of qiyâs will lead to the mistake of considering both Creator and His creation equally under the aegis of more general concepts. It will also lead to considering Allah as being similar to created things.

Allah says: “To Allah applies the highest similitude: for He is the Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 60]

Allah says: “There is none like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” [Sûrah al-Shûrâ: 11]

As Muslims, we must believe that Allah is free from every deficiency that exists in created beings. By contrast, every aspect of perfection applies more to the Creator than it can to anything in creation.

These matters are agreed upon.

Areas of Scholarly Disagreement Regarding the Validity of Qiyâs:

Scholars disagree regarding the applicability of the second type of qiyâs (qiyâs khafiyy) in matters of Islamic Law. The discussion that follows will be dealing specifically with this second type.

All of the leading scholars from among the Prophet’s Companions, as well as the Islamic legal scholars from all the major schools of thought agree that qiyâs is a source of Islamic legislation. It can be used as evidence to establish Islamic legal rulings on matters that are not directly addressed by the sacred texts. Ahmad b. Hanbal said: “No one can entirely dispense with qiyâs.”

Some legal theorists of the Mu`tazilî persuasion denied the validity of qiyâs. The leading proponent of this line of thinking was al-Nazzâm, who was followed by Ja`far b. Harb, Ka`far b. Mubashshir, and Muhammad b. `Abd Allah al-Iskâfî.

This line of thinking was also adopted by some scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah, most notably Dâwûd al-Zâhirî.

These scholars, in turn, differed among themselves regarding the reasons why they dismissed qiyâs. Some of them argued that qiyâs is contrary to reason. One argument given in this light was that: “Delving into this method is intellectually repugnant in its own right”. Another argument was: “Islamic legal rulings are based on human well-being, and no one knows human well-being except the One who gave us the sacred law. Therefore, the only way we can know the sacred law is from the revelation.”

Other scholars said that qiyâs is not contrary to reason, but prohibited by the sacred law itself. There were two schools of though that propounded this general idea.

1. The first was that of Ibn Hazm, the most prominent scholar of the Zâhirî school of law. He argued that the Qur’ân and Sunnah came with everything that is needed, so there is no need for qiyâs.

2. A second school of thought considered it a sin to even acknowledge the validity of qiyâs.

The Hanafî jurist Abû Zayd al-Dâbûsî summarizes the opinions of those who reject qiyâs as follows:
Those who reject qiyâs are four groups. First, there are those who reject all rational evidence, and reject qiyâs because it is based on reason. Then there are those who hold that the only valid source of knowledge is that which is founded in rational necessity, and they argue that qiyâs is not founded on rational necessity.

Then there are those who do not regard qiyâs as a valid source of evidence for matters of Islamic Law.

Finally, there are those who argue that qiyâs would only a valid source of evidence for matters of Islamic Law in cases of necessity. However, there is never a need to resort to qiyâs, because in the absence of direct textual evidence, the default legal ruling is one of permissibility.
The truth is that qiyâs is a valid source of Islamic Law. The disagreements that developed regarding its validity came about after the Companions agreed unanimously that it is a valid approach, and after the Successors – the students of the Companions – applied qiyâs and endorsed it without hesitation.. This means that the disagreement came about after it had been a matter of consensus (ijmâ`).

General Rules for the Valid Application of Qiyâs:

There are a number of guidelines that must be observed for qiyâs to be correctly applied. We will mention these in a very brief and summarized form:

1. Qiyâs can never be used to establish a ruling that contravenes a ruling or legal principle established by direct scriptural evidence. This is because qiyâs is not to be resorted to in a matter where we have a text that gives a ruling.

2. The person who engages in deriving a ruling through qiyâs must have the qualifications to engage in independent juristic reasoning (ijtihâd).

3. The qiyâs itself must be reasoned through properly. It must comply with all of the considerations that Islamic legal theorists have discussed in the books of jurisprudence.

Otherwise, the qiyâs will not be valid. It will be of the type that the earliest scholars condemned. However, they did not ever categorically condemn qiyâs.

Al-Ghazâlî writes: “Whoever rejects qiyâs in principle is certainly mistaken in his thinking, and should be deemed as sinful.”

When Ignorance is an Excuse

Date: 
Thu, 06/15/2006
Short Content: 
The extent to which human ignorance can be regarded as excuse to exempt a person from sin and accountability in matters of Islamic Law is a matter that scholars have explored in depth. Some people make ignorance a valid excuse for anything. Others never accept ignorance as an excuse, regardless of the circumstances. The true and balanced approach, of course, lies somewhere in between. This is what we will seek to uncover in this article.
Body: 
The extent to which human ignorance can be regarded as excuse to exempt a person from sin and accountability in matters of Islamic Law is a matter that scholars have explored in depth. It is also matter about which they have expressed widely divergent opinions. Some people make ignorance a valid excuse for anything. Others never accept ignorance as an excuse, regardless of the circumstances. The true and balanced approach, of course, lies somewhere in between. This is what we will seek to uncover in this article.

Ignorance, as a term, can be defined as a person being devoid of knowledge. More precisely, it is to be lacking knowledge that one is supposed to be acquainted with. People, naturally, start out life in a state of ignorance. In fact, at the beginning of any pursuit, the person will be in a state of ignorance concerning it and will have to do what is necessary to dispel that ignorance.

Allah says: “And Allah brings you fourth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 78]

Once a man gave to the Prophet (peace be upon him) a flask of wine as a gift. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the man: “Do you know that Allah has prohibited this?” The man replied that he did not know of its prohibition. [Sahîh Muslim (1579)]

The man had not yet come to know that wine had been prohibited, so he was not blamed or rebuked. This hadîth shows us that a person who really does not know something is exempted from sin.

Allah says: “And we would not punish a people until after we had sent to them a Messenger.” [Surah al-Isrâ’: 15]

However, this is the case for someone who has truly not received knowledge. Someone who is able to learn and simply neglects to do so is accountable for the ignorance that he has on account of his negligence. This is stated as a general axiom of Islamic Law: “A legally accountable person can not use ignorance as a defense if he had been able to overcome his ignorance.”

This is because Allah has sent his Messengers to us and has required all of us to learn the Message and then to act upon it. Allah obligates us to know what is required of us and to act accordingly.

On this basis, a new convert who has just embraced Islam will be excused for not knowing that prayer is enjoined upon him or for thinking that drinking wine is alright. He will not be considered an unbeliever on account of it. However, if that person is properly presented the evidence for these matters and still insists that prayer is not obligatory or that wine is lawful, then the consensus of the Muslims is that he becomes an unbeliever.

Ibn Taymiyah says:
There are some people who are ignorant of these rulings and have an excuse to be ignorant. Therefore, no one should be declared an unbeliever until the proof is established to him by way of conveying the message to Him, since Allah says: “…Messengers who gave glad tidings and warnings, sothat humanity will have an argument against Allah after the Messengers.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 165]

Therefore, if a person accepts Islam and does not know that prayer is incumbent upon him or does not know that wine is prohibited, then he will not fall into unbelief on either account. Likewise, he ill not be punishable for it until after the scriptural evidence has reached him…
Possibly the clearest proof that ignorance can be a legal excuse is the following hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (7506) and Sahîh Muslim (2756):
A man who had never done any good deed before instructed his family to burn him when he dies and to scatter his ashes half on the land and half in the sea. He said: “If Allah gets hold of me, He will punish me as he has never punished anyone else before.”

When the man died (and his instructions were carried out), Allah ordered the land and sea to collect his remains together. Then Allah asked him: “Why did you do that?”

The man said: “Out of your fear O Lord!”

So Allah forgave him.
Ibn Taymiyah comments on this hadîth, saying:
This man was ignorant of Allah’s ability to bring him back together, He had hoped that Allah would not resurrect him because he was ignorant of what had been revealed regarding the resurrection. Nevertheless, since he believed in Allah, His commands and prohibitions, and His promises and warnings, and since he feared His punishment, and since his ignorance was in a matter about which the proof that would have made him an unbeliever had never reached him, Allah forgave him.
Today, we live in an age where the means to disseminate the message of Islam throughout the word are so varied and so advanced as to make the world as if it were a single country. Nevertheless, there are still many cases of ignorance where that ignorance is excusable. This is because there is a scarcity of knowledgeable people who put their knowledge into practice, while at the same time there are numerous people who are calling what is wrong, who are experts at making falsehood and unbelief appealing to the masses and are equally expert at disseminating misinformation.

Indeed, Ibn Taymiyah lamented a similar state of affairs centuries ago. In spite of the factthat many of the people were engaged in all sorts of heresies and false beliefs, he did not declare them to be unbelievers, but pardoned them on account of their ignorance:
Such people are plentiful today, and this is because of the scarcity of those who disseminate knowledge and call people to faith. There is an absence of the Islamic Message in most countries. Most of the people do not have with them enough of the Message – and of the Prophet’s legacy – to realize their guidance. It has not even reached many of them. In such times when the Message is absent, a man benefits from whatever little faith he has. Allah pardons for someone who has not had the proof established against him what he does not pardon for someone who has.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A time will come when the people will not know prayer, fasting , or either pilgrimage, except for some old man or woman among them. They will say: ‘We had known our fathers to say ‘There is no God except Allah’.”

The narrator of the hadîth, Hudhayfah, was asked: “What good will saying ‘There is no God except Allah’ be to them?”

Hudhayfah replied: “It will save them from Hell.” [Sunan Ibn Mâjah and Mustadrak al-Hâkim. It is authenticated by al-Albânî in al-Silsilah al-Sahîhah (78)]

Though we maintain that ignorance is an excuse in matters of faith and disbelief, this does not mean that it is accepted from everyone who cites ignorance as a defense. The eminent jurist, al-Shâfi`î said: “There are some things that no sane adult can possibly be ignorant of – like the five prayers, and that the fast of Ramadan is due to Allah, and that the Pilgrimage is obligatory upon one who is able to do so, and that the Zakâh tax is due on their wealth, and that fornication, murder, theft, and wine are unlawful, and other such matters.”

There are various factor to consider when considering the excitability of someone’s ignorance. One of these is the nature of the matter that the person is ignorant about – is it something obscure or generally well known? The person’s state must also be taken into consideration. Is he new to Islam? Did he live his life in some remote area? The social circumstances must also be considered to determine whether or not someone in his environment would be likely to know the matter in question.

With respect to the essential tenets of faith, they are set forth in the Qur’ân, so anyone who has access to the Qur’ân and who can read and understand it would not be excused for ignorance in those matters.

May Allah give us success and bless us with beneficial knowledge.

The height of the mosque’s pulpit

Question Title: 
The height of the mosque’s pulpit
Date: 
Thu, 05/03/2007
Sender Name: 
n
Question in English : 
In our mosque, the imâm delivers his sermon from a pulpit that stands two meters high. Some people have objected to this, saying that the pulpit should be no higher than 60 centimeters. Is this true?
English Answer: 
I know of no evidence to support the claim that the pulpit upon which the imâm stands to deliver his sermon should not be higher than 60 centimeters.

All that we find in the Sunnah is a description of the pulpit that was built for the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was simply a short staircase with three steps. This description is found in a number of hadîth.

Ubayy b. Ka`b relates the following in Musnad Ahmad (5/137):
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) used to stand by a tree stump – the mosque was very simply constructed back then – and deliver his sermons.

One of the Companions said: “O Messenger of Allah! Should we make something for you to stand upon on Fridays so the people can see you and so you can make them hear your sermon?”

He replied in the affirmative, and a structure of three steps was made for him as a pulpit.
There is no way to deduce a height-limit from these hadîth that simply describe the pulpit in the Prophet’s mosque. There is nothing in those hadîth to prohibit the building of a pulpit heir than three steps, and more than there is a prohibition against constructing a pulpit of fewer than three steps.

Indeed, it is established in the Sunnah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivered sermons on occasion from the back a camel. For instance, he did so on his farewell pilgrimage, as related in Mustadrak al-Hâkim (1/646). The back of a camel is certainly more than two meters off the ground.

We can see in the hadîth that the express purpose for building the pulpit in the Prophet’s Mosque was to make the sermon-giver more visible to the congregation and to make his voice more easily heard. It was not simply to provide height for its own sake. Therefore, the pulpit should be high enough to achieve these ends. Any height that is required to assist in visibility and in the sermon being heard is a suitable height.

The ideal height really depends on the mosque. For example, two meters might be sufficient for some mosques and too short for others. Consider a mosque with two tiers. A higher pulpit might be required to ensure that the people seated on the second tier can properly hear the sermon, especially in the absence of an audio system. Even if such a system is in place, there is no guarantee that the microphone might not sometimes be cut off due to technical problems.

And Allah knows best.