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The Crucial Status of Fatwa in Islam and Its Impact – Habib Umar

Habib Umar bin Hafez recently addressed the Jordanian General Ifta’ Department on the status of fatwas in Islam and the grave responsibility of the scholars who issue them.

 

The Weight of Giving Religious Verdicts

The Habib began by reminding everyone of the tremendous role that the mufti plays in that he is standing before Allah and His slaves; he conveys to them what they need to do, and how they should view Allah and His commands; their reverence and fear and general attitude is dependent upon his; and their confusion, mistrust, carelessness, and disobedience ultimately comes back to the the mufti not taking his task seriously and not revering the religion as it deserves to be revered.

Extreme Precaution Regarding Accuracy

In light of this, the Habib mentioned various well-known accounts of the precaution taken by the early Muslims when giving fatwa, such as actually shaking while giving the answer for fear and awe, such as wishing that others would answer the question first, and passing the onus of answering until it came back to the same original mufti. And he reminded the attendees of the principle that the fastest person to answer a question is the fastest to enter the Hell-Fire.

Modern Abuses of Religious Verdicts

He then went on to mention the harm modern abuses of fatwa are having on the Muslim world. He mentioned that at the end of the day, extremist tendencies can only come from fatawa: there is a lot of hype and zeal, but people only practice extremist activity when fueled by some kind of knowledge-based authority. This is also the case with super-lenient or down-right incredulous fatwas that make a laughingstock of Allah’s religion.

Mutual Tolerance

The Habib emphasized the  fact that when different scholars do not tolerate one another, and when fatwas are used for political or other agendas, the masses see Islam as source of conflict and animosity, and not solution to their problems. These leads all too naturally to doubt about the very fundamentals of the religion and a serious look at atheism as a realistic alternative.

What the Youth Need

Returning to the role that the attitude and conduct of Muslim scholars has on the average Muslim, the Habib stressed the need for the youth to have something to look up to. He said that they don’t feel like the scholars are really concerned and worried about the the religion, so they either turn away from it, or turn to more military and political forms of Islam, that are not rooted in solid traditional scholarship.

Orthodoxy

The Four Madhhabs, the Habib mentioned, were the bastions of Islamic Law, their rules, and deeper, far-reaching principles being the way that Allah has preserved Sunni Islam. Although they are not the exclusive representations of Sunni praxis, no other traditions have been granted such time- and divinely-honored reception and development. Their sophistication is such that all modern issues, however seemingly complex they may be, and can be solved by returning to their legal principles and maxims.

From Spiritual to Societal Change

The current weakness of Islam, and the general lack of religiously, rests very much the shoulders of Muslim scholars. The Habib repeated the point that if scholars showed more concern, sincerity, and seriousness, Allah would return the religion to its strength. He quoted the words of the Qur’an, “And We made them leaders guidance by Our command because they showed fortitude,” (Sura al-Sajda 32: 24), reiterating the great responsibility that rests upon them that must be taken with all due seriousness.

Keeping Silent

Part of this seriousness is knowing what to say, when, and how. Not everything should be spoken about before everyone. The Habib gave the example of Umar ibn al-Khattab delaying certain discussions raised among the masses while he was on Hajj, to deal with them clearly in a controlled way back in Medina. There are no hidden secrets in Islam, but at the same time, not everyone can contextualize everything that they hear or read. This requires that the mufti gives his questioner what they need to know, and not what they do not need to know.

Taking One’s Time

In fulfilling his duty as a spokesman for Allah, the mufti must also be very careful that he is indeed giving the right answer. (Haste, as mentioned before, is not the way with matters of halal and haram.) Imam Abu Hanifa once said that were it not for fear of the religion being lost, he wouldn’t have answered a single question. Imam Malik was famous for frequently saying that he didn’t know the answer to a particular question, as were Sufyan ibn Uyayna and Imam Ahmad, despite the fact that they knew the answer very well. This was all out of fear of making mistakes, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

The Habib also mentioned that Umar ibn al-Khattab used to be very careful to seek the advice and insight of others, and not just say whatever he first thought of. Having fatwa councils discuss tricky issues in depth is one way this can be done. Another is to rely on authorities and living experts who truly understand the Sacred Law.

Exercising Freedom of Speech

The addresses being in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — a country that enjoys moderate leadership and freedom of religion — the Habib encouraged the muftis to work with might and main to teach the religion as it is, by way of thanking Allah for the blessing of freedom of speech, a blessing that many other Muslim countries do not enjoy, and many of his own teachers did not enjoy. Sincerity and effort is what they needed, and this is what is required to bring about a change.

 

 


This article is a summary of a talk given by Habib Umar bin Hafez on 16 January 2019/ 10 Jumada al-Ula 1440, in the Jordanian General Ifta’ Department. The notes were written by Ustadh Farid Dingle.


 

The Pros and Cons of Breast Implants

Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan addresses a sister’s concerns about rulings on breast implants.

I pray that you and your family are very well. May Allah reward you all and keep you firm on the path of serving, striving, and emulating the Beloved, blessings and peace be upon him.

I recently read this SeekersHub reply on breast implants. The answer displays what one consistently sees in fatawa, and two conditions are clearly listed at the end as is often clarified. Readers respect our esteemed teachers, may Allah be pleased with you all, and hold such guidance sources such as your respected contributions and that of SeekersHub to an exceptional degree masha’Allah.

Hence, the potential repercussions for a person seeking such an answer or skimming through fatawa excerpts appears very troubling. We know people take bits of information while leaving other parts, especially while they may be (possibly subconsciously) unaware of their sway towards a certain course of action. Indeed, obtaining breast implants is not a quick uncomplicated task. However, I fear for some, the answer may seem to be an endorsed authorization and permission, even if it was not explicitly stated. The person taking action is of course responsible but their confidence and desire could I think lead things the wrong way, saying: “Well, Mawlana and SeekersHub said it was okay,” even though limitations were stated. Unfortunately, they could likely find doctors who say the conditions are met, while other practitioners would be in horrified disagreement. 

From the question, the purpose of the procedure is for a significant personal feeling of insecurity and the possible concern of a potential husband who is not even in the picture. Putting aside the larger concerns for a minute, it is disgusting for society to continue to tolerate such superficial and destructive attitudes. I acknowledge that the concern may be more of the wife’s than the husband’s. That identity of womanhood should not be minimized. Still, for a man to be oblivious and outweigh his physical expectation over deeper health consequences and repercussions seems very ignorant, irresponsible, and immature for a husband, who is supposed to be the caretaker and protector of his family.

People may intend well, while not really aiming to be inconsiderate of the ramifications. Similar scenarios could happen in families with breast cancer survivors. Intimate discussions of options are needed for such women, but I fear some people could use such an answer as a blanket prescription to an excuse for implants, even to the degree of trying to persuade a woman who is uninterested in the procedure, perhaps where she even becomes uncomfortable with an already emotional situation. One would like to believe that that feeling of near-shaming would not exist. The same could apply to unwarranted pressure from other females in the family, etc. 

Now, the sister has valid concerns but should refer to capable medical professionals who could look at her condition on a more personal level. Psycho-social support would be part of this. While genetically she may be closer to a certain body type, her nutritional and hormonal health should be assessed, including underlying health conditions, her medical history, effects from medications or other things in her environment, lack of balance within the body, certain behaviors, excessive exercising, possible disorders, etc. She should note that all practitioners may not be qualified to help her, just as all surgeons may not fully explain the possible risks and consequences of breast implant procedures. May Allah help her, giving her strength and tawfiq in her search. 

In this scenario, the sister seems to be of a younger age. She may be encouraged at the reminder that a woman’s body develops and changes throughout the stages of her life. Hormonal shifts after marriage, pregnancy, and childbearing would probably lead nature to take course. Many are interested in having a family and alhamduliLlah even smaller women can be built as great mothers by Allah’s great design. On the other hand, I have witnessed firsthand how women who previously had breast surgeries struggle to establish breastfeeding their newborn – desperately trying whatever they can. Some moms are able to, to some extent, but some regret their inability due to the previous elective surgery. One need not look far to see the extensive benefits of breastfeeding that are still being realized, subhan Allah. What are the rights of one’s children? We must try to give our best for their best. May Allah improve how we fulfill our duties, and forgive our shortcomings.

While one may find other ways to feed and bond with a newborn, other effects of breast implants can be potentially life-threatening and are most disturbing. Research shows there are many risks and potentially devastating effects of having implants. The augmentation is definitely not guaranteed to be safe. Possible risks include chronic infection along with those systemic effects, rupture, the body breaking down the implants, leakage of foreign materials like silicone gel into the body tissue, possible increased risk of cancer, the need for removal or replacement and upkeep through their lifespan, potential muscle and spinal pain, and various other symptoms… In the US, cosmetic implants can be seen as elective, leading health insurance companies not to pay for subsequent complications or screenings. After the surgery, with suggested MRI checks and replacement operations, costs easily near 50,000 USD according to one estimate, not including care for complications. Women say they had little knowledge of the impact breast implants could actually have on health. Years later women realize the repercussions of the choice their younger self made. Thousands undergo reversal surgery in regret. 

Regarding the woman’s body image and confidence, some women say they feel worse after the augmentation (not to mention the possible emotional roller-coaster as they now face this through the rest of their life). As for men, and the contentment of a possible future husband, the questioner should know that some men also do not like implants, actually being turned off by them. Either way, the decision to have the surgery is hardly an inconsequential or simple passing, short-lived choice. Some, as mothers years later, would never want their daughter to feel the need to make such a decision, rather valuing self-acceptance over acceptance from others. A young woman should hear that any Muslim man not wanting to marry her solely for such a reason could be considered too immature for the duties of a husband or parent. 

Regarding ‘urf, some note cultural preferences for body shape change through history. A recent fascination with unnatural physical expectations and what may almost be considered as “fake” women and “fake” unnatural relationships should not be something encouraged or sought. Hopefully the trend towards balance and fitness with emphasis on natural health and care of the human body will continue to improve in a good direction. That “in” custom is currently happening even though society is also pushing for the fake woman model that we all know is plaguing the world today. May Allah protect us from being susceptible to such fallacies. Praise be to our Creator Who has fashioned us in the best manner and blessed us with the complete and perfect din. AlhamduliLlah

فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ

Please forgive me for my errors. Masha Allah, you have other matters to address, but the answer I read really concerned me and we do not want people to misuse or misconstrue the information. May Allah guide and safeguard us. Please make du’a for us. Barak Allah fikum. 

Allah knows best. Jazakum Allah khayr.

Jazak Allah khayr for your concern and comment.

The question regarding the pros and cons of breast implants is one that cannot be settled in this post. I am personally inclined to the suggestions presented by the respected sister and acknowledge that many a times while answering questions, we tend to almost simplify matters. To this end, I thank the sister for sharing her thoughts and criticisms in a positive and constructive manner.

Nonetheless, since it is not practical for a religious scholar to settle medical debates such as breast enhancement and whether it has a high success rate or whether it is predominantly safe (keeping in mind that many statistics regarding the failure of breast implants may have been in earlier times when implants were just introduced), and the fact that people are in need of religious guidance, the answer was given with the conditions mentioned.

The questioner thus has to be honest with herself in consulting reputable professionals that she has confidence in. We further would like to believe that she would have the integrity not to misuse the answer that was given. Also, in relation to another point you raised, the fact that some readers may be doing fatwa shopping, misreading, and consequently misusing answers found online, is something which is unfortunately unavoidable.

In short, your concerns have been noted and I have added an additional note to the original answer that was given.

May Allah bless and increase you.

Wassalam,

Abdurragmaan Khan

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.