Explaining the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Can you please tell me the Islamic point of view on early Muslims attacking caravans? I get this a lot from non-Muslims and I wish to give them a proper response. Unfortunately, militants also use this reasoning as an excuse to do their militant attacks.

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

The question of caravan raids by early Muslim and their justifications is an important question with serious modern implications. This is why sound Islamic knowledge, both the letter and spirit of the law, is so important to attain.

The caravan raids that took place during the early Migration period can never be used [and abused] to justify modern terrorist attacks on civilians, or cowardly assaults on one’s own countrymen Muslim or non-Muslim, or rebellion against one’s own governments whether Muslims or non-Muslims, or to conduct vigilante operations to fulfill one’s ambitions of bloodlust and revenge.

The Reason Why the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims Took Place

The early Believers of Makkah were mercilessly persecuted for their faith, in their own hometown, by their own kinsmen and countrymen who could not tolerate their call to fix the injustices in their society, which spanned from the spiritual to societal. For thirteen years while the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived in Mecca, he was forbidden by God Most High to do so much as lift a finger in self-defense against his persecutors.

The early Muslims were powerless, outnumbered and boycotted. Still, they did not resort to guerrilla tactics, coup d’etats, terrorist methods nor assassinations, when all of that could have easily been attempted. The command on them from God Most High to keep the peace and order within their society and respect its laws, even uphold the trusts and contracts they had, is telling for how Muslims who perceive themselves in similar situations today should behave. Their only response was to increase themselves in devotion to Allah, and pray for ease. This attracted even more people to the message of Islam.

After the order by God to migrate to Madina, the Muslims had their own state, but the Makkans still sought to vanquish them. Thus, the raids were in self-defense, fully conducted within the laws of Islam which forbade the killing of innocent civilians or even the harming of people with whom you have covenants of peace. Even if the early raids were pre-emptive, the trade being conducted by the hostile Makkans was the selling, at times, of the stolen properties of the exiled Muslims, in order to amass materials and weapons to exterminate the nascent Muslim community of Madina in a looming war they were planning.

What took place after the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Madina with regards to the caravan raids were actions between two independent states with rulers and laws, not guerrilla leaders, militias or vigilante terrorists. They did not occur on any one state’s land- rather, on the no-man’s-land of the vast Arabian desert. There were no international laws, no government relations, no treaties of peace and diplomatic ties, nor accepted rules of engagement like there are today in our times. There were no covenants of citizenship, but even then, there was the concept that a visitor from a hostile that entered the city legally was never to be harmed.

There was also no “khiyana”, or treacherous deception, even though the migrants were Makkans and looked just like their aggressing countrymen [even being from the same families], yet they clearly declared the renunciation of their citizenship, identified themselves openly and separated before they defended themselves, and never harmed civilians or acted as an “enemy from within” in Makkah. They were never a fifth column in their countries, nor attempted assassinations, overthrows, or terrorist attacks to force Makkan to accept their demands when it was possible to do so, even under the worst persecution.

It is clear from this that the terrorists of today do not have a moral [therefore Islamic legal] leg to stand on.

History is Not the Same as Islamic Sacred Law

Historical events in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are not Islamic legal rulings. One cannot pick up a book of Prophetic biography by themselves and come to conclusions on how to deal with complex modern-day issues of international gravity. Rather one returns to the mainstream scholars, both for guidance on how to view past and new incidents in an Islamic light, and for rulings on how to behave in contemporary contexts.

When a Muslim is supposed to return to mainstream scholars on minute issues of personal law rather than go into the primary texts to find their own whimsical solutions, isn’t it more obvious that people should return to them for clarity on major issues which hold innocent life and millions of people’s safety in the balance?

Likewise for those outside of Islam looking in, they should know that any wars and violent resistance in the prophetic biography should be seen in the same light as any mention of war in the holy books of other world religions, such as the Battle of Jericho and those fought by Moses, David and Solomon in the Old Testament, or the wars between the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Hindu Gita, or stories of self-defense which are the cornerstone of Sikh history.

While all of these religions’ stories of struggle have been twisted by extremists to justify expedient political ends and even terrorism, the main purpose of remembering those events should be to teach good values and condemn oppression, not to justify terrorism.

This space is too short to get into the nitty-gritty legal details of how and why senseless violence, terrorism and traitorous vigilante attacks are impermissible and completely against the spirit of Islam. If one is interested, a 600-page fatwa by a scholar named Shaykh Tahir al Qadri can be read which elucidates more or less what the position of the mainstream scholarship is. It is clear from that that the caravan raids of Islamic history can never justify the terrorist attacks that take place today.

Violent Interpretations Must Be Refuted and Marginalized, By All Sides

This seems obvious when it comes to terrorists and extremists justifying their hideous actions through distorting religious teachings.

However, the misconceptions of some people who fanatically criticize and negatively portray prophetic history are the other side to the same coin that bears the warped understandings of modern day terrorists and militants

Both groups actually employ the same misunderstandings of the same past events and push it on one another to fuel each other, except that the terrorists claim to be believers and use these misinterpretations to justify their heinous actions today, and the Islamophobes do not believe, and use their misinterpretations to justify fear-mongering and demonization of the Muslim communities in their countries, which are by-and-large peaceful, moderate, loyal and law-abiding. No doubt, the side of the terrorists is inexcusable however, while the Islamophobes still have a right to their opinions.

Both sides blame the other for their own existence and need to struggle; furthering violent misinterpretations of Islamic history on either side then, only leads to “self-fulfilling prophecies” which convince misguided and uneducated Muslim youth that these Islamophobes represent the majority of the “other” and rather than refute their misinterpretations logically through the religion, they accept them and actually make them their own while being rebelliously proud of it. While the chicken-or-egg blame-game continues (was it terrorism or aggression?), its consequences distract the mainstream good people of both sides from reaching lasting solutions for peace.

Hence, we as those who call ourselves Muslims and claim to follow the highest moral example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) need to speak up first, to break this vicious cycle, and clarify the truth for ourselves and instruct our own people in it before anything else, and trust that good people of all walks of life will notice, listen and thus marginalize those who propagate misinterpretations from their side.

How Muslims Should Deal with These Types of Historical Incidents

Although an event-by-event exercise in apologetics has its place, if you are looking to answer these types of questions it will never end because the heart of the matter is not being discussed – the greater context. It is easier to adopt a general approach unless you, or the questioner, have time to delve deeply into history and fair sources.

One must look at the over-arching teachings through source texts, in this case Qur’an and prophetic narrations, which will clearly show the sacredness of life and the importance of respecting covenants and legal systems. Also, the prophetic biography, taken as a whole with Makkan and Madinan periods considered, will show us this. This should teach us the spirit of the law. Then, for the law itself, we must return to the mainstream scholars, who follow the way of the majority, preferably those from the same land as the questioner so language and mentalities are clearly understood and communicated, all of whom would condemn the types of modern-day militant attacks you are asking about.

One cannot compare between a prophet who is directly instructed by God on what to do, and modern-day followers who claim to draw lessons from that prophet, while completely violating known and set-down principles of the sacredness of life in their religious teachings taught explicitly by that prophet. Today, we have limited knowledge of exactly what took place and how in religious history. Thus, we accept that because God sanctioned these events, they fully took place within the context of the broader moral teachings of respect for life and justice, though we may not understand. This applies in the life stories of Moses, David, Krishna, and Muhammad (peace be upon him), to name a few across various traditions. Then, we return to the greater teachings that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself laid down for our own actions, and emphasize historical events in a positive light that reflects the lessons of those greater teachings.

Patience, being peaceful and just, and taking the higher road has always been hardest to take, but this cannot be explained to those who follow what suits them or their situation, because they did not imbibe the compassionate teachings in their own faith before acting in its name.

In any case, it is obvious that people who violate Islam’s teachings on the sacredness of life will never win their struggle. While they continue with their misguidance however, it is the duty of Muslims before any other people to stop them, through force of arms and education and prayers for guidance, because the way to help your oppressive brother is to stop his hand from committing oppression, regardless of whether he feels oppressed.

Wasalam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Marrying a Potential Convert: Supplication, the Prayer of Guidance, and Following Allah’s Guidance

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: I was working with a Catholic man and he has expressed an interest in becoming a Muslim, and wanting to marry me. He used to go to the mosque and was very close to becoming Muslim but his strict Catholic family didnt allow him to. Even when he said he accepted all the Islamic tenets, he couldnt deny Jesus dying on the cross. The last few months he again expressed an interest in becoming a Muslim and marrying me. I made a lot of supplication and prayed istikhara many times as I feel he would make an excellent Muslim and husband.  He is very pious, chaste, and charitable, and unfortunately I have allowed myself to form an attachment to this man. He has now moved abroad for a new job. To me this seems like a clear sign from Allah in answer to my istikhara that this man wasn’t for me. But how does one really know for sure if there istikhara has been answered?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope this message reaches you in the best of states inshaAllah. May Allah reward you for being concerned and seeking understanding in these matters of your life and may He guide you to that which is best for you in your religion, life, and hereafter.

It is not clear from your question whether the man has actually become Muslim or not. In either case, it is important to know that while you can make du`a that Allah guides him to Islam and brings you both together in marriage, you should not form an emotional attachment to him. Since this has unfortunately already happened, you need to realize that Allah does not want this of you and He only dislikes for His servants that which is harmful for them. Having conviction in this will help you to ease the pain in your heart and release your attachment to this man inshaAllah.

You should discontinue contact with the man in a polite manner suitable to the situation, since remaining in contact with him is not benefiting you. Please consider asking a Muslim male you trust, such as your brother or an Imam in the community, to keep contact with him in order that he has access to answers about Islam. Perhaps an Imam can explain to him the appropriate understanding of the Prophet Jesus (may Allah grant him peace) in Islam. Accepting that Jesus (may Allah grant him peace) did not die on the cross is something that is known by necessity to be a part of the religion. Allah says in unequivocal terms in the Qur’an:

“…and they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow. Of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Exalted in Power and Wise.” [Al-Nisā’, 156-157]

Since his embracing of Islam and its tenets is a prerequisite to him being a potential husband for you, and it not clear that he is Muslim, it would not be proper to pray istikhara regarding marrying him, as you cannot supplicate for or seek guidance in something that is unlawful. Give the situation some time in order to allow yourself to pull out of the situation, physically (by involving someone you trust to sort out the man’s beliefs) and emotionally. Continue during this time to ask Allah for what is good for you. Then reevaluate the situation and move from there.

Regarding istikhara: The istikhara is a prayer in which one seeks guidance and good from Allah in a particular matter. This guidance and good as unfold on the plane of worldly causes and effects, not merely dreams and feelings – meaning that Allah facilitates what is best for one if one genuinely supplicates for the good and strives to do what is best. As Shaykh Faraz Rabbani describes,

“the sunna regarding actions is two-fold: (a) one takes the best and most effective of means; and (b) one places one’s trust and reliance on Allah. The istikhara is primarily related to the latter. It in no way negates one’s duty to take the proper steps in choosing a marriage partner of finding out the relevant details related to their worldly and religious life, their character, conduct, and personality.”

The hadith that you mentioned contains the Prophetic guidance to not despair in Allah’s mercy and to have conviction in His wishing well for us and His ultimate wisdom. If the slave truly understands their slavehood to Allah, they will never abandon supplicating to Him, because it is a manifestation of the realization of their poverty-stricken state and Allah’s supreme Richness, Completeness and Generosity. Supplication is furthermore an answer to Allah’s request, “…and call upon Me, I will answer you…” [Surat Ghafir, 60]. However, one has to know that Allah’s answering of a prayer comes in different forms.  Likewise the answer of our istikhara can be in a form that we do not anticipate. Allah may respond to one’s supplications by giving one what was supplicated for, or by withholding it in order to store up good for them in the Hereafter, or by withholding evil from one in his life. In a similar hadith the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) says,

“There is not upon the face of this earth a Muslim who calls upon Allah with a supplication except that Allah gives it to them or withholds from him a harm commensurate in measure [the the good he was seeking], as long as does not ask for the sinful or severing of kinship.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

May Allah guide you and us to that in which His pleasure lies.

Wassalam,
Sulma Badrudduja

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Prophetic Supplications to Cure Illnesses

Answered by Sidi Tabraze Azam

Question: If one is afflicted with an illness, especially one  that could be life threatening,  what are specific supplications or acts of worships  that one and one’s loved ones can perform? Are some more desirable than others?

Answer: Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits insha’Allah.

In times of difficulty, follow the Qur’anic advice, “Seek help through patience and prayer” [2:45]. In such situations, it is a call and a reminder from Allah to turn back to Him, to be grateful for one’s blessings and to re-focus one’s heart on the Bestower of everything.

Anas reported that he said to Thabit, “May Allah have mercy on you, shall I give you the talisman of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “O Allah, Lord of people, remover of hardship, heal – for you are the Healer other than whom there is no healer – with a healing that does not leave illness behind.” [al-Bukhari]

((أَلَا ‏ ‏أَرْقِيكَ ‏ ‏بِرُقْيَةِ ‏ ‏رَسُولِ اللَّهِ قَالَ بَلَى قَالَ فَقَالَ‏ ‏اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ النَّاسِ مُذْهِبَ الْبَأْسِ اشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي لَا شَافِيَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ اشْفِهِ شِفَاءً لَا ‏ ‏يُغَادِرُ ‏ ‏سَقَمًا))

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who visits a sick person whose time has not yet come and says seven times in his presence, ‘I ask Allah the Immense, the Lord of the Immense Throne, to heal you,’ Allah will heal him of that illness.” [Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi]

((أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ رَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ أَنْ يَشْفِيَكَ))

One should make one’s supplications in a heartfelt manner, in need of Allah and with a living heart. Don’t feel obliged to make a supplication in Arabic, use any language you feel comfortable with and ask as He loves to be asked.

Also, it would be pertinent to work on fulfilling any obligations that are due – either to Allah or other people – and make a firm resolve to complete them. Another thing one could do is to gather some people and do a complete recitation of the Qur’an together with the intention of granting recovery to the sick person. As Allah says, “Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God: for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction. [13:28]

The Purpose of Trials & Tests

In the end, we should remember that this life is a life of trial and tribulation. We are being tested because Allah knows that we can handle it, and He seekers to raise our ranks by means of these tests and to cleanse our hearts from the darkness of sin.So, for this, we should constantly thank Allah and see our states as indicative of His perfection.

Abu Sa’id and Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his mistakes by it.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]  Abu Hurayra also reported that the Messenger of Allah may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “When Allah desires good for someone, He afflicts him.” [al-Bukhari]

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalaam,
Tabraze

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Broken Relationships: Dealing With Feelings of Forsakenness

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I had a falling out with some of my friends. I feel very bad for what I did and have made constant repentance and supplication. Even though I tried to reconcile a number of times by messaging them, calling them, and talking to them online, there was no luck. The people I wronged only agreed to return my greetings when given, and that too after a long period of not talking. There are alot of details and back and forths to the whole scenario. Please advise what I should do. Is what they are doing to me considered forsaking someone?

Answer: Thank you for your question, Sister in Islam.

I will be brief in my response; not because I don’t want to take a detailed look at the issue, but because the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent with the ability to speak with the most comprehensive and concise speech to benefit the listener, and I am only trying to learn and emulate that. Also, the incidents in life are many, and complex; feelings are even more complex. But learning the guiding principles will help in all of those situations.

What your sisters are doing, according to your account, is not forsaking you the way the prophetic narratives prohibits. The impermissible forsaking is to not give salams at all or not acknowledge a person; it doesn’t mean that they have to go back to being on friendly terms as before. They can give you another chance if they want, but if it doesn’t happen, you can’t blame them, nor should you pressure or guilt-trip them.

Rolling back, I want to commend you for what is obviously your great concern for your own religion. Also, for the fact that you recognized that your initial outburst of anger was wrong and repented. A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands another Muslim (and in general, another human being) are safe. You also apologized and continue to greet the sisters with good character. You also forgave others in your heart for what you perceive to be their prolonged forsaking of you, and you are putting your trust in Allah Most High and making supplication for the situation.

It seems like nothing else is needed right?

The only thing that may be missing, and Allah knows best, is that your heart is attached to a certain outcome. Your “Self” (nafs) wants it, and if it can’t have it, it causes you to cry for lengthy periods and feel depressed. This is because we need to realize that these things are a test for us. Ultimately, we lose some things because they are good for us and they wake us up. This is only for a Believer.

We need to sometimes see these things as ways to improve. Also, friends and people in life come and go through various life stages. College is especially trying in this respect. Things are not over, insha Allah.

Don’t attach yourself to things or people. Attach yourself to Allah Most High.

People can always let you down.  Allah Ta’ala will never let you down.

Develop your relationship with Him stronger than any demand you can have for yourself, and don’t dive into your devotions in a manic or binging way (as Shaytan wants you to do this so you get fed up later on), but build your relationship slowly, surely and get independent again. This will hurt at first but the sweetness of faith that will come insha Allah cannot compare.  I say this to myself first.  And Allah knows best.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

p.s. Also, just practically speaking, people don’t like to keep the company of people if they feel that they are desperate, clingy or needy. They want to be with people they benefit from mutually and do not emotionally over-burden them; those who are confident and independent make the best friends. So be strong and still keep good character with them if you pass by them, but don’t push yourself forward with them in person or on MSN. If you happen to be in their area, be the first to give salam, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the person who does that is the better one, but let them make the next move indefinitely. Allah is in control of the hearts, and things could come around, but whether they do or don’t, fixate your own heart on the One after whom you need no other thing.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

The Soul After Death

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: What happens to the soul after death? Will it be in the grave along with the body? I read that souls are present at the grave on Thursday night until Saturday. If this is the case, where are the souls on other days of the week?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope this reaches you in the best of states.

Imam al-Qurtubī mentions in his exhaustive work regarding what happens after death, al-Tadhkira fī Ahwāl al-Mawtā wa Umūr al-Ākhira, that the souls (arwāh) of Believers will meet one other in the skies (tatalāqā fil-samā’). This is similar to what Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya mentions in Kitab al-Rūh about the souls of the deceased meeting one another, visiting one another, and making dhikr with one another. He mentions that this is specific to the souls of the believers because they are in a state of blessing, free to roam (muna`ama, mursala), as opposed to the souls of the disbelievers, who are tormented and restricted (mu`adhdhaba, mahbūsa). Imam Ibn al-Qayyim continues,

“Each soul will be with its companions who are at the same [level of] good deeds, and the soul of our Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is with the Highest Companion [Allah, Most High]. Allah says, ‘Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are amongst those whom Allah has blessed, of the Prophets, those of great faith, the martyrs, and the righteous. What excellent companions are they!’ [Quran 4:69] The togetherness [mentioned in this verse] holds for this abode, the Intermediary Realm (barzakh), and the Abode of Recompense [i.e. the afterlife]. A person is with whom he loves in all three of these abodes.”

A rank unique to martyrs is that their souls will enjoy the gardens of Paradise even before the Day of Resurrection. Evidence for this is the hadith narrated by Muslim:

“Indeed the souls of the martyrs are in the hearts of green birds, and they have lanterns hanging from the throne of Allah. They roam around in Paradise wherever they wish and then they return to their lanterns. Their Lord casts a glance at them and asks, “Do you desire anything?” They say, “What can we desire for when we roam around in Paradise wherever we wish?” He asks them this three times. When they realize that they will not cease to be questioned, they say, “O Lord! We wish that You return our souls to our bodies in order that we be killed in Your Path again.” When it is realized that they have no want, they will be left [to their joy].”

Though some scholars have said that the souls of believers other than martyrs may enjoy the same blessing of being in Paradise, Imam al-Qurtubī held that this is not the stronger position, as indicated by the specific mention of martyrs in the previous hadith. The generality of the following hadith also indicates that believers who are not martyrs will not enjoy this unique blessing:

“When one of you dies, his resting place is shown to him morning and evening, if he is from the people of Paradise, then [his place will be] from the people of Paradise, and if he is from the people of the Fire, then [his place will be] from the people of Fire, and it will be said, ‘this is your resting place until Allah resurrects you on the Day of Judgment.’” [al-Bukhārī, Muslim].

Imam al-Qurtubī mentions as a weak opinion that the souls visit their graves on every Friday, and that is why visiting graves on the eve of Friday and on Friday is recommended. It is mentioned in the commentary of `Umdat al-Sālik that the sprit’s connection with the grave is never severed, and it is stronger from `Asr on Thursday until sunrise on Saturday, which is why people often visit graves on Thursday afternoon and Friday. [Shaykh Nuh Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

Allah knows best, and we pray to Him to save our bodies and souls from the torment of the grave and to grant us the company of the Prophets and righteous believers.

Wassalam,
Sulma

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

I Like a Girl: Controlling One’s Interactions & Feelings

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: I go to this Catholic school and there’s this non-Muslim girl. I don’t date or go to dances but I started having these weird crush feelings for her. I tried to be her friend. I would give her advice and be nice to her. Sometimes she would talk to me an di added her on Facebook, and other times she would ignore me like I don’t even exist. For some time I cut contact with her due to specific reasons. Then we started interacting like normal friends but then she starting ignoring me again. Now, I feel sad and lonely. I sometimes feel like this entire scenario is impermissible and that I’m just some stupid teenage sinner. What should I do?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Brother,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

First, you are not a teenage sinner. You are a normal teenager. I am not surprised you have a crush on this girl. It is natural for males and females to be attracted to each other and you go to a co-ed school.

Second, while you can’t control how you feel about this girl, you most certainly can control what you do with your feelings. Adding her as your Facebook friend was a mistake and you shouldn’t be trying to add her again. You did the right thing by going to school administrators when she threatened suicide. She obviously has some personal issues to sort through and there’s not much you can do to help her without getting sucked into a lot of drama you don’t need.

Third, don’t worry if she ignores you. Pursuing a relationship with her is not good for you. You have your whole life ahead of you, insha’Allah, and when the time is right you can pursue a relationship with someone suitable in a halal manner. Be proud of the fact that you tried to help her but didn’t get caught up in any drama. Draw on the inner peace that you have as a believing Muslim and be the best example you can for your classmates.

Finally, pray a special sunnah prayer called Salat al-Hajah and ask Allah to calm your heart and focus your attention on what is truly beneficial for you.

I hope this is helpful.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
May 18, 2010/Jumada al-Thani 5, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Differences of Opinion & Determining Sound Scholarship

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: If we do whatever Allah asks us to do without questioning, why do different scholars have different opinions about different aspects of our religion? The permissible and impermissible is not clear and there are many different ways of interpreting something. Some scholars say watching Hollywood movies is impermissible, some say it is not. Some say music can be permissible or impermissible and different Islamic deeds have different levels of priority. Why didn’t Allah make his religion clear-cut to us so that we do exactly what He tells us to do? I know of some female Islamic scholars like Laleh Bakhtiar, Leila Ahmed and Amina Wadud who are very different in their opinions regarding many Islamic issues. They are also highly educated and against wearing hijab. Now, I am really confused about the image of Islam. Who should I consider to be trustworthy or a reliable scholar?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

Your questions are hugely important and I’m not sure I can do them justice in a brief response.

I disagree with your contention that Allah Ta’ala has not made this deen clear. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

One important lesson from this hadith is that one can safeguard her religion by avoiding what is doubtful. Much of popular entertainment falls into this category, while much of it is clearly unlawful. You bring up music and movies.  Most scholars concur that music, in its current form, is unlawful. However, they might also point to alternatives, such as traditional Islamic nasheeds, qasa’id, na’at, and mawlids. Similarly, with movies. I cannot think of too many qualified scholars who would encourage Muslims to watch movies, although there might be some exceptions. The bigger point here is that our scholars are in agreement on the essentials of our faith. But they might disagree on cultural issues and this disagreement can be healthy. Indeed, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said that the disagreement of the scholars is a mercy for our community.

Last but not least, you need to be very careful about your exposure to media. The internet has given everyone a platform and not all who speak for Islam are the most qualified. Qualified scholars have a chain of transmission, or isnad, going all the way back to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. They do not contravene the generational consensus of the knowledgeable men and women of this deen. They are not swayed by pop culture trends. And they direct their students to that which is beneficial.

At the end of the day, which time is better spent? That listening to music and watching movies, or that spent seeking and spreading knowledge which is truly beneficial to ourselves, our families, and our communities?

I highly recommend you look into classes at SeekersGuidance and SunniPath. These classes are taught by highly qualified, God-fearing, balanced men and women. I can say this because I have worked with these people and can vouch for the way they present Islam.

May Allah Ta’ala bless you with beneficial knowledge,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
May 18, 2010/Jumada al-Thani 5, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Disobeying Parents to Maintain Family Ties

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: There has been a conflict between my parents and my older sister, and my parents have made it clear that my sister (if she chooses a path they disagree with) is to no longer be a part of our family.  If my parents forbid me from communicating with my sister, is it permissible for me to go behind their backs to help her when she is abandoned by everyone?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

Islamically, your parents are making a grave mistake by cutting off your sister. While they certainly do not have to condone unlawful actions (I don’t know the particulars of what your sister has done), they also need to maintain family ties. This is a commandment of Allah.

You have a right to communicate with your sister. But do not antagonize or disrespect your parents. Set a good example for your sister, let her know you are there for her, and encourage her to rethink her choices and come back to the deen.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
May 18, 2010/Jumada al-Thani 5, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Worship in Ramadan For a Menstruating Woman

Originally published on: Aug 29, 2010

Answered by Ustadha Umm Ihsan

Question: If a sister is unable to fast the last 10 days of Ramadan, what are somethings she is permissible to do since those last ten 10 are sacred?

Answer: Assalamu alaykum

Ramadan Mubarak.

AlhamduLlilah, it’s very inspiring to hear that sisters are concerned about continuing acts of worship during their menstrual cycles.

Menstruation Is Not A Punishment

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said about menstruation, “Verily this is a matter Allah has written upon the girls of Prophet Adam (Allah bless him)…” [Bukhari]

Those who claim that menstruation is like a punishment because one cannot perform acts of worship are severely mistaken. On the contrary, there are many forms of worship that a woman can do while menstruating aside from what is legally prohibited.

Allah says in the Quran, “He who obeyeth Allah and His messenger, and feareth Allah, and keepeth duty (unto Him): such indeed are the victorious.” [Nur: 52]

Allah Most High has commanded menstruating women and women in a state of lochia (post-natal bleeding) to refrain from the ritual prayer and ritual fasting. Thus, if a menstruating woman fulfills this command with the intention to submit to Allah’s order, she is actually worshipping Allah the entire time that she refrains from the ritual prayer and ritual fasting. As one of my teachers in Damascus said, “Her praying while pure is worship (ibada) and her refraining from prayer while menstruating is worship. All of it is worship”

Therefore, there’s nothing dreadful or awful about menstruation or lochia (post-natal bleeding), rather it is a person’s attitude towards it.

Suggested Acts of Worship During Menstruation in Ramadan

These suggestions are not specific to the last ten nights of Ramadan but to the month in general. Furthermore, they also apply to women in a state of lochia (post-natal bleeding).

1. Listen to the Quran

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong).” [Baqara: 185]

She should listen to the Quran as much as possible, while simultaneously pondering about its deep meanings. She should cry when she hears about the eternal punishment, hoping that Allah will save her from its blazing flames. She should feel happiness and joy when hearing about the bounties of Paradise and desire that Allah will make her of those that will be honored to experience its bliss. If she cannot cry, then she should force herself to cry, allowing her entire soul to express its complete pleasure of being from those who follow the truth and are rightly guided.

In the Hanafi madhhab, it is prohibited to actually touch the mushaf (bound Arabic Quran), including its insides, its page margins and its cover (if it is attached to the mushaf). It is also prohibited to recite the Quran, which means to move one’s lips while producing sound. [ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar] It is sinful to touch a translation or a tafsir of the Quran while menstruating.

It is permissible to read the Arabic script or its translation with her eyes, such as on a computer screen or other electronic devices. [ibn Abidin, Manhal al-Waridin] She can also read the Quran in her heart.

2. Make Much Remembrance (Dhikr) of Allah

“…and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” [The Confederates: 35]

She should use every free moment to exalt the Lord of the Worlds. There are many related dhikrs that a woman can recite. She should buy a supplication (dua) book and recite its invocations as it will strengthen her relationship with her Lord and draw her nearer to Him with each word uttered.

If the invocations include Quranic verses that contain the meanings of supplication, praise, remembrance, or protection, it is permissible to say these during a state of menstruation upon the condition that it is read with this intention. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Tahtawi, Hashiyyat al-Tahtawi] Some examples are reading Surat al-Ikhlas, Surat al-Falaq, Surat al-Nas, Surat al-Fatiha, and Ayat al-Kursi with the intention of supplication, not reciting the Quran.

In the Hanafi madhhab, it is an overall recommendation that a menstruating woman make ablution (wudu) for each prayer time, sit in her usual place of worship, and make dhikr for the time it takes for her to normally pray so that she does not lose her habit of worship while in this state. [ibn Abidin, Manhal al-Waridin]

3. Send Blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)

Allah says in the Quran, “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” [The Confederates: 56]

She seeks the tremendous benefit of sending blessings and praise (salawat) upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) because it is an act that increases her love for him (Allah bless him and give him peace). She reflects upon his nature and expresses her gratitude to Allah for sending mankind such a wonderful example of mercy and piety. She longs to meet him and to drink from his pond (hawd) on the Day of Judgment. She intends to follow him and emulate his character (Allah bless him and give him peace).

4. Give Generously In Charity

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best charity is that given in Ramadan.” [al-Tirmidhi]

She should reach into her pocket and give whatever she can without hesitation. She longs to give to those in need, and she thanks Allah for bestowing upon her the financial ability to help others. She refrains from praising herself for the charity she offers but rather, she donates her wealth out of pure submission to the Divine.

5. Be Kind to Others, Including Spouses & Family Members

The Companion Salman al-Farasi related that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said about Ramadan in a sermon given on the last day of Sha’ban, “…It is a month of patience and the reward of patience is Paradise…” [Sahih ibn Khuzayma; Sayuti, al-Jami’ al-Kabir; Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman]

She uses this time to rebuild and mend any broken relationships. She showers her loved ones with words and acts of gentleness, compassion, consideration, patience, and love. She doesn’t use her menstruation as an ‘excuse’ to wrong others and resort to bad temper. She forgives those that have mistreated or offended her. She prays that Allah will forgive her if she wronged others. She keeps the company of the righteous and those who will increase her in piety.

6. Make Dua for the Ummah

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said about Ramadan, “Verily, Allah frees people (from the Hellfire) in every day and every night and for each Muslim among them is a supplication which will be answered.” [Ahmad]

She supplicates for the entire ummah—praying for their forgiveness, their well-being, and Allah’s mercy upon them. She can say a dua related by the scholar al-Khurkhi:

Allahumma Aslih Ummat Muhammad. Allahumma Farrij ‘an Ummat Muhammad. Allahumma Irham Ummat Muhammad

“O Allah, improve the community of Muhammad. O Allah, relieve the community of Muhammad. O Allah, have mercy on the community of Muhammad.”

[al-Asbahani, Riyada al-Abdan]

7. Make Much Repentance

The Companion Salman al-Farasi related that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said about Ramadan in a sermon given on the last day of Sha’ban, “…It is a month (in which) the first of it is mercy, and the middle of it is forgiveness, and the last of it is pardon from the Fire…” [Sahih ibn Khuzayma; Sayuti, al-Jami’ al-Kabir; Bayhaqi, Shi’b al-Iman]

She asks Allah to pardon her, cover her sins, and save her from the Hell-fire. She begs for forgiveness and realizes her absolute neediness to His mercy. She wakes up in the middle of the night, even though she is menstruating, and repents in a time when Allah promises to forgive.

8. Feed Fasting People

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said in the aforementioned sermon, “…Whoever feeds a fasting person in (the month of Ramadan), for him is the forgiveness of his sins and freeing his neck from the Fire…” [Sahih ibn Khuzayma; Sayuti, al-Jami’ al-Kabir; Bayhaqi, Shi’b al-Iman]

She hosts her relatives, friends or community members for iftar. She tries to accommodate her guests in the best manner possible but avoids excessiveness. She realizes that feeding fasting people is an act of worship and it is not an opportunity to seek compliments for her cooking and hospitality.

9. Show Allah Goodness

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah.” [Tabarani]

She utilizes her free time to help and assist others with their needs. She is a means for them to achieve benefit in this great month. She wakes her family up to perform worship in the night and encourages them to do extra works of obedience. She sacrifices her own time to volunteer at her Islamic community center or local charities. She helps babysit a mother’s child so that the mother can attend tarawih.  She does whatever she can to aid the believers in completing the good with excellence.

She avoids looking at and listening to what is unlawful. Instead, she directs her eyes, ears, and spirit to that which is advantageous for her Hereafter. She attends classes, webinars, and lectures given by recognized scholars in an effort to surround herself with people of sound religion. She seeks beneficial knowledge and aims to implement what she’s learned in her own life. She actively pursues furthering her understanding of Islam and affirms her faith every time the wisdom of this great religion touches her heart.

10. Carry Out Any Righteous Deed

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained” [Bukhari, Muslim]

She realizes that now is the perfect time to carry out any act of good. The devils are chained and there is nothing to hold her back from committing herself to absolute slavehood to her Lord.

Barak Allah fikum

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Umm Ihsan is a female student of Islamic knowledge from the US. She studies with leading Hanafi scholars from Syria and elsewhere.

Returning from Umrah: A Feeling of Despair

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I’ve recently come back from performing Umrah. Alhamdulilah, it was absolutely amazing but now that I’m home I feel so restless and always upset and in a depressed-like state. Everything seems a lot harder, especially in my personal and family life. There seems to more problems financially as well. I know I shouldn’t despair and I should have complete faith and conviction in Allah but I do see that all the supplications I made for people coming true for them but mine haven’t. I don’t know how to change the feelings I have. I pray a lot more, I recite the Qu’ran as much as I can but I still feel the same. Is there any advice you can give me?

Answer: Wa alaikum salam,

Congrats on your Umrah; may Allah Most High accept it.

I am not sure if there are any physical reasons or mental factors for why you feel the way you do. However, its natural after such a religious experience, especially if it was a getaway from a difficult period in life, that when you return, you feel spiritual deprivation and that make you feel down or less spiritual. The Companions used to complain about that, so you are not alone.

Remember, you probably grew stronger in faith on your Umrah. Thus, tests may increase too as you grow in your faith. So finances may seem tighter, duas may seem longer to come, family may be giving problems… but Allah Most High only sends something your way because He knows you can handle it. Thus, its all about your mentality.

Just like at Umrah, in our daily lives we need to put ourselves in front of the Lord of the Ka’abah. We need to think back to our visitation to Mecca, and ask ourselves if we returned with a tidbit of the character and patience of the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Don’t be hasty in your supplications (du`as).  They can be answered in many ways, not just by you seeing the result you want. It could be that a calamity averted, or something better for you is given, especially in the Hereafter. Don’t compare with others’ supplications, or your supplications for for them, being answered – Allah is giving each person exactly what they need, not more or less at any time.

Don’t ask Allah because you want to get; ask Allah because He loves to be asked, because He deserves to be asked, and because you love Him. Servanthood is not an A + B = C relationship; its all about mercy – pure generosity and mercy. You can try to do a lot of outward worship to fix this issue, but until this pure love, humbled submission to His will and self-effacing servanthood takes hold of your heart and permeates your worship to Allah, the true peace that will solve your worries will not imbue your life.

I want to thank you for giving me this chance to address myself first and foremost. Words are words but realities- only Allah knows them.

Wasalam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani