Posts

An Ode to Our Elders & Teachers – By Shaan Mukhtar

In this Pre Khutba talk, Sidi Shaan Muktar reminds us of the importance of respecting our elders and teachers. Sidi Shaan also emphasizes the critical need of showing mercy, compassion and respect to the young. In order for a community to thrive there has to be a mutual respect and harmony between the elders and the young.

* This video was originally posted by Muslim Community Center (MCC East Bay) on the 12th of April 2019.

Adab 13: The Proprieties of Clothing and Dress

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of clothing and dress.

 

Allah Most High says, “The garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) True clothing is that which leaves a spiritual imprint in our hearts whereby we recognise the Lordship of our All-Seeing Lord, and strive to work righteous deeds, remain distant from wrong and busy the heart with remembrance so that it may be moulded into something that shields us instantly from the unlawful. Taqwa, linguistically speaking, is the central focus of garments, protecting and shielding us from the weather and from unwanted gazes, and it is metaphysical taqwa that we seek to adorn ourselves with so that we may be hopeful to find Allah Most High’s Aid and Divine Care in this life before the next. 

1. Defining Nakedness and the Duty to Cover

Allah Most High says, “…Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.22) And also, “O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) From these and other verses, the jurists derived the obligation to cover one’s nakedness. In the context of covering, what is sought is opaque clothing which actually covers the area without displaying whatever is underneath and its colour. In doing so, we intend to fulfil a religious obligation and to guard our private parts from the unlawful and sin because “Actions are but by intentions.” (Bukhari)

The nakedness (‘awra) of men is from just below the navel till the bottom of the knee. For women in front of the opposite gender, it includes their entire bodies except face, hands and feet. In front of an unmarriageable kin (mahram), it is from navel to knee, and also the stomach and back; and in front of other women, it is from the navel to knee alone. When in seclusion, however, both men and women should strive to keep their minimal nakedness — navel to knee — covered as an expression of their modesty and humility before their Lord, unless there is a need to uncover such as when using the restroom or the like. 

With respect to children, there is some detail and some of the specifics may differ depending on how big or small any particular child looks. Generally, a very young child up to the age of about three or four has no nakedness of religious consequence. Then from four to seven, their nakedness is their private parts. From seven till ten, it gradually increases from just the private parts up to the navel and down to the knee; and then at age ten, their nakedness is akin to that of an adult. Having said all of that, it is important for caregivers and parents to ensure that children remain covered, within reason, and are taught about their nakedness and that the only person who can touch or uncover them in those sensitive areas is their mother. We live in difficult times and we are duty-bound to protect our children from harm and trauma. 

 

2. The Central Sunna of Looseness and Modesty

One of the central sunnas related to clothing and dress is that of looseness which is a result of preferring modesty. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Modesty is from faith.” (Bukhari) Praiseworthy modesty is a character trait which drives one to uphold the limits of the Sacred Law (shari‘a) in one’s life. Clothing is supposed to cover one’s nakedness and when it is tight, it is effectively akin to showing whatever is beneath it. This is why we need to be careful to ensure that the clothing we choose to wear is indicative of our values, namely, that covering well and fully forms the basis of how we present ourselves before those who are not permitted to see our bodies. 

Accordingly, both men and women should avoid form-fitting tightness, or simply tightness which sufficiently defines the size or shape of a limb between the navel and knee. Ladies should additionally be careful to avoid clothing which hugs the body, particularly in the chest area, but also generally around the rest of her nakedness. As an aside, praying in form-fitting, tight clothing is considered to be valid, yet prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) and seriously reprehensible because it is not the kind of covering that was sought in the prayer. Tightness is of degrees and the degree of blameworthiness would be in accordance with its extent.

3. General Sunnas in Dressing

There are a number of sunnas to keep in mind when dressing oneself, or even undressing! Given that clothing is a favour and blessing from Allah Most High, it only befits us that we begin to wear it from the right, as the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to “prefer the right in everything.” (Muslim) Similarly, we undress with the left first, allowing the right side to remain clothed for a lengthier period of time as doing this would be a form of honouring it. The same would apply to footwear which, incidentally, should be worn whilst seated, if required, like all clothing worn beneath the navel. There are two wisdoms in this: (1) you will generally be more covered whilst seated, and (2) you are less likely to have an undignified fall! 

Another sunna to be aware of is supplication in undressing which Imam Nawawi records from Ibn al-Sunni, “In the Name of Allah, the one who there is no deity save He (bismi Llahi ‘lladhi la ilaha illa Hu).” In the same vein, whenever the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, wore something new, he would supplicate saying: “All praise belongs to God who clothed me in this and provided me with it without any power from me nor might (alhamdu li Llahi ‘lladhi kasani hadha wa razaqanihi min ghayri hawlin minni wa la quwwa).” (Abu Dawud) Moreover, he would often choose Fridays for wearing a new garment for the first time because Friday is a blessed occasion, the ‘Eid of the week, and deserving of being honoured. 

Men are also encouraged in the sunna to wear white. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Wear white clothes.” (Tirmidhi) The reason for the prophetic preference and encouragement to wear white was due to the fact that you can easily see any dirt or the like which has affected it, it is indicative of simplicity and humility, and it is also distant from particular types of ancient, natural dyes that were deemed problematic for men to wear. Despite this, the Blessed Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would often wear other than white to indicate either permissibility or due to the absence of white. But on the two ‘Eids, the recommendation is to wear one’s best clothes, even if they are other than white, which was also the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. 

4. Restrictions: Jewellery and Certain Forms of Dress

Jewellery is permitted for women, yet not for men. The only exception to this is a silver ring which may be worn occasionally, unless somebody has a need for wearing one. In our times, this could be understood in the context of a wedding band which serves a strong societal purpose and is customary in many places. Otherwise, it is only considered to be a sunna for a man to wear a ring on the days of ‘Eid because they are days of dressing up much more than usual. The specific reason for this is that jewellery is considered to be from adornment and beautification (zina), something that is considered particular to women. Men may seek to be presentable or well put-together (tajammul), yet not excessively so that it becomes beautification. 

Similarly, there are some types of dress which are interdicted for men. For instance, silk is only exclusively permitted for women. Generally, a pure silk blend item of clothing may not be worn by a man unless the quantity of silk therein is less than roughly fifty percent. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also interdicted the wearing yellow or saffron for men, either because they were deemed feminine or because of the dye and subsequent smell which omitted from them. However, given the lack of ancient methods of dyeing and a change in cultures, any item of clothing that isn’t exclusive to the opposite gender would be acceptable. Finally, clothing containing sizeable pictures of animate life is something that needs to be avoided.  

5. The Dress of Notoriety

It is reported that the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever wears a garment of fame in this life, Allah will clothe him in a garment of humiliation on the Final Day.” (Abu Dawud) The scholars point out to us that this includes many different types of impermissible clothing, such as silk for men, and clothing worn with ill intentions. Examples of the latter include wearing clothing with a desire to look down on others, to feel proud or conceited about the quality or worth of one’s clothes or even to wear that which is either very costly or too cheap, assuming that the quality indicates this. Of course, this is in relation to a particular segment of society, and not necessarily those of limited means, and it is also conditioned by social attitudes and standards. The hallmark is a believer is humility and the sign of sincerity is that one’s heart is the same before and after wearing the clothing in question. 

Another issue of note is dressing contrary to the customary clothing of the land. Many jurists extrapolated this from the aforementioned tradition (hadith) and affirmed its offensiveness (karaha) because of the shared meaning, namely, that it will be a cause for others to look and point at one and perhaps even lead them to slander. Perhaps in multicultural societies it can be less of an issue as most are used to seeing different styles of dress, but this isn’t universally applicable, especially if the dress isn’t representative of normative culture. Similarly, there are matters related to calling people to Allah (da‘wa) which need to be kept in mind as appearance can have an effect and perhaps even become a stumbling block to accepting the message; yet, undoubtedly, the opposite can also be true. So one has to exercise wisdom and act in accordance with what the other person may be drawn to. 

But it is also important not to make claims with one’s clothing, such as by wearing a large turban, especially when a person is not living up to such high standards. Otherwise it could be interpreted as a form of hypocrisy by professing love, but acting in clear contradiction to prophetic guidance. This is also perhaps the reason why previous societies had unspoken rules of dressing so that distinctions between classes of people were clear, namely, so and so can be clearly identified as a scholar, so and so is clearly from Ahl al-Bayt, and so on. Conformance in dress is praiseworthy out of an expression of love, but there are many religious duties that we may be unaware of, and correcting and giving attention to those deserves far more attention because Allah looks not to your bodies and wealth, but to “your hearts and actions.” (Muslim)

6. Imitating Disbelievers

An important issue which needs clarification is the idea of imitating the disbelievers. In a tradition reported by Imam Muslim, the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Whosoever imitates a people is from amongst them.” (Abu Dawud) What counts as imitation? Fortunately, the jurists clarified this for us, and the entirety of the discussion may be summarised in the following points. Firstly, the matter at hand must be a distinguishing characteristic of people of another faith tradition, of the faithless, of the opposite gender, or even of morally and religiously corrupt believers. What this means is that if we take the example of a particular type of hat, wearing it would be a signifier that “I’m with them.”

Secondly, the matter at hand cannot be something of universal benefit, such as new computers, vehicles, medication or the like. Finally, the person must deliberately intend to do the thing in question because he wishes to be like the disbelievers. In fact, this is actually the crux of the matter. Just as the inward manifests on the outer body, the outer can have an impact on the inward, and when something is a manifest sign of those of other faiths and a person is doing it, there is a fear for their faith. For something to be religiously impermissible, then, based on the above, we are looking for a fulfilment of these three conditions. Otherwise, it may be blameworthy and wrong, yet not outright prohibited.

We ask Allah Most High to clothe us in godfearingness, to make us recognise the great blessings in our lives of clothing and covering, by His Generosity and Mercy, and to keep us on the path of the righteous, ever-grateful, until we breathe our last.  

And Allah alone gives success.


 

Husn Dhann and Social Media – Saad Razi Shaikh

How a Prophetic virtue can allow us to have a more positive internet experience.

During one of the GRE Verbal Classes, the tutor threw an interesting question at the students. “Say, you enter my living room, and see the fish bowl smashed, the goldfish not in sight, and the fat cat relaxing on the couch, happily licking its paws. Picture this scenario. What can you infer from it?” The overwhelming response was that the cat ate the fish. The tutor said no. What if actually one of my friends had come, taken the fish to a larger tank, and had thrown some cookies for the cat? Did you consider that scenario? Do we have any evidence the cat ate the fish? No. Do we have any evidence the fish is dead? No. All that we know for sure is that the fish is not in its bowl.

The tutor then gave us some sound advice. Don’t assume anything that you don’t see. Don’t add up stuff. Don’t use your imagination. Take what’s in front of you at face value.

Even for non-GRE folks, this is sound advice. Here, allow me to repeat an example Shaykh Walead Mosaad used in one of his talks. Say, you see a religious scholar walking down the street. At the local pub, he stops and walks in. He then emerges a little while later, walking funnily. Do we assume that our scholar got drunk at the pub, and consider the worst about him? Or do we count for the possibility of something else? For example, he could have walked into the pub as he wished to use a restroom. A few Islamophobic guys, seeing him in, may have attacked him. Injured and shaken, he walked out, with his bruises, although hidden from view, painful enough for him to stumble. Did we consider this possibility?

Psychology points towards an interesting observation. If the uncharitable behavior belongs to others, we tend to explain it in terms of their personality, their choices. If however, it belongs to us, we tend to explain it in terms of the situation. We look for the nuances, the missing details that will somehow excuse us. A friend with whom I discussed this denied this, saying truth is truth. I then dug out two pieces of information about him, and asked him if they were true. The first was a time during university, when he was passing by the gates of the mosque. A brother called him to prayers, he however didn’t go inside, but kept walking ahead. I asked him, was this true? He said yes. Another incident happened during university, when he walked into the girls hostel, even as the watchman tried to stop him. I asked him, if I introduced you to everyone using these two incidents, would it be okay? He protested, saying that while what I said was true, it was not complete.

He didn’t stop at the mosque because he had already prayed at another mosque where prayers were held earlier. He had walked into the girl’s hostel as a university function was happening at the common hall there, where he was appointed a volunteer, a fact the watchman didn’t know. This was the complete picture.

If this is the state of the ‘real’ world, how does the virtual one fare? Not any better, and in all probability, much worse. Non-verbal communication constitutes as much as sixty-five percent of our communication, it includes our facial expressions, our body language, our cues and gestures. In the virtual world, it is well, virtually lost. And so with little facts in hand but much clutter in our heads, it is easy to fall for the wrong picture.

It’s necessary then, that we realize that communication via the internet is even more imperfect than the one in real life. Huss Dhann allow us to remedy this. What is Husn Dhann? It is having a good opinion of others. It’s a simple command, yet one we’re most prone to overlook. Measure the chatter in your head for an entire day, and you’ll see husn dhann being traded for su dhann (ill opinion of others) all too often.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), one of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Husn Dhann works at three levels. The first is having a good opinion of  ourselves, to not self-flagellate, to not have waswasa over our actions. The second works at the level of others, how we judge and measure the actions of others. The third works at the level of our relationship with Allah. Do we have a good opinion of our Creator? Do we accept the truth that we know little and worry much, and often fall into despair? Husn Dhann allows us to correct this.

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”[Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Here’s one way to understand this. Say, you’re given glasses you normally don’t wear. You are then asked to read what’s in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to. Does that mean the text in front of you is blurry? Or is it the case that you have put the wrong glasses on? We need to be honest and accept when the latter is the case, as it often is. As wondrous the world of the social media is, it is a makeshift reality. It is not a complete picture, and we should not assume it to be.

Much of the acrimony and bad taste can be avoided if we pepper our usage with a little husn dhann. We’re not at the other end, we don’t know what’s it like, we don’t know what place the other person is coming from. We’re not yet adept at decoding the nuances of language over the internet. Worse, the rage from the everyday is pumped into the virtual world, where it only rebounds. We need to calm ourselves, before we enter a place where the accountability is little, but the consequences real. Both as an antidote to the misinformation of our times, and as a way to follow the Prophetic character, husn dhann is a virtue we need now more than ever.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

Do You Respect The Women Around You? – Habib Ali al-Jifri

Islam has done a favour for women; the oft-repeated rhetoric about the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabian society seems to suggest, but how true is this statement today? Habib Ali al-Jifri invites the male listener to reflect and ask timely questions regarding the role and status of women Islam.

Do you respect her? What is the relationship between you and the women in your life? Do you respect them? What examples do you have in building and maintaining your relationships?

Take Care Of Your Women

In his final sermon, the Messenger of God ﷺ, after the express call to hold fast to prayer, urged the community to take care of the women.  Habib Ali explores this statement along the central theme of worship; he invites us to explore the lives of the  female companions surrounding the Prophet ﷺ to guide us on our way.  What were their roles in society? What was their voice and what impact did they have at an individual and communal level? What was their relationships with the Prophetﷺ?

Call to Rabita

Rabita constitutes building a wholesome relationship with others; specifically women. The foundation is cultivating a relationship with Allah by becoming the true worshipful servant. A journey of body, heart and spirit that illuminates our external relationships.

We are grateful to Al-Madina Mosque Barking for this recording.

 

Resources for seekers

The Dangers of Judging People Based on Their Status Updates, by Ustadh Salman Younas

Do you find yourself painting a mental picture of someone based on their social media profile? Ustadh Salman Younas has valuable advice on how to keep a good opinion, especially if you disagree with them.

 

My personal rule is not to formulate judgments about people based purely on online interaction/information. This applies especially to those who I do not see eye-to-eye with on particular issues. There are exceptions to this rule but my personal experience demonstrates that perceptions formulated based on web-interactions are often highly deceptive and skewed. I’ll mention two examples here:

A Learned Scholar With Impeccable Character

My first experience was with Shaykh Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Ninowy: Prior to meeting him, I would read and hear a lot of things concerning him and his views. His connection to X group of scholars, his views on such and such theological matter, or this and that prophetic tradition, and so forth. When I first had a chance to meet and spend a few days with him nearly a decade ago, the person I saw was a learned scholar with impeccable character, attentive and caring to those around him, generous with his time, always smiling, and very positive.

I remember holding the door open for him one day and he kept telling me to enter first. Later, I asked him about the issue of disobeying the commands of elders and scholars when it was done out of adab as Ali (God be well-pleased with him) had done with the Prophet (blessings be upon him). He laughed, held my hand, and simply said, “I am not the Prophet, Salman, and I pray to God that you will be like Ali.”

Graves, Music, and Miracle Stories?

My other experience was with Shaykh Nuh Haa Meem Keller. I always thought Haa Meem was a rather odd middle name. Being a Sufi did not aid my initial perception of Shaykh Nuh either, nor did the hadra, and nor the fact that Sufis were associated with graves, music, miracle stories, and a host of other practices and beliefs that seemed extremely odd at the time. I eventually matured and settled in Amman where I lived for nearly half a decade. To this day, I have never seen anyone more actualized in his spiritual state than Shaykh Nuh, nor anyone more attached to the sunna of the Prophet (blessings be upon him). There was no grave “worship”, no music, no giving your money to the shaykh, no constant miracle stories. All I heard was one message: realize tawhid, worship Him, trust in Him, be people of good and benefit, etc. He is the one who demonstrated to me that the notion of al-insan al-kamil (‘the perfect man’) was in fact a reality and continues to be a reality realized by some.

These are two examples from among many where the portrayal of someone on social media and websites turned out to be utterly deceptive and false. We have a tendency to be quick in formulating judgments about others based on some website setup against that person, or some limited exposure to certain views, or the polemics of certain people and groups.

Small Screen Projects Resentment

Among our own fellow brothers and sisters whom we may discuss and disagree with publicly on the internet, we fall into the error of reading anger, resentment, hatred, and animosity into their comments and stances. This projection on our part is amplified manifold by the small screen that stands between us. I have found that meeting people humanizes them; it brings about a more respectful, civilized, and beneficial relationship. Some of my closest colleagues today are people who are in some ways my polar opposites and who disagree with me on fundamental issues. I was fortunate enough to have actually had the chance to sit with them and discuss things like real people are meant to.

Don’t let the internet damage your relationships with others. Don’t let it allow you to fall into the sin of ill-will towards people, arrogance, hatred for your fellow brothers/sisters, animosity, backbiting, and the like. Recognize the potential of this medium to distort your perception and take the means to make sure that does not happen. When discussing with another, refer to him/her respectfully, thank that person for sharing their thoughts, make a supplication, and do not say things you would not say to someone in person.

Follow Ustadh Salman Younas on Facebook.