Archive for the ‘Hadeeth’ Category

Dear Hubby asked me to read this article on Time.com about a new revolution that seems to be sweeping the Muslim world. I think modern Muslims should definitely give the article a go-through at least. Personally, I found it quite encouraging that Muslims are turning back to the Islam to find the answers to the questions that have recently beleaguered the community.

The Muslim youth it seems, is finally waking up, Alhamdulilah. And by waking up I do not mean the dumping of one’s roots, as has so often been associated with the term ‘moderate Muslim’. The new Muslim is proud to be a Muslim, not ashamed of his beard or embarrassed by her head scarf. And yes, the new Muslim does not care two hoots for the wanton killing that has recently been (inappropriatedly) awarded the title of ‘Jehad’.

The new Muslim asks hard questions- to his leaders, to the blind practice of social customs not authenticated by Islam, to the apathy of his own community and to himself; no one is spared. 

The new Muslim apparently also values knowledge. And that is why both he and she are taking their education seriously- and are returning to the scriptures- The Quran and subsequently the Hadeeth- to understand the demands of their faith. And having thus satisfied themselves of the truth, are feeling even more inclined towards God. 

What is Islam, they ask themselves. They begin their quest and realize that the meaning of Islam lies in the total submission to Allah- an exclusive God with no partners what so ever. Incidentally, they realize that it is also in peace. It is in the feeding of the beggar, in the supporting of the orphan, in the holding on to the truth, in the obedience to parents, in chastity, in the care for the neighbor and in the saving of an innocent life. I would like to emphasize this last object. For the Quran says:

 “Say: ‘Come, I will rehearse what Allah hath (really) prohibited you from”: Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want;- We provide sustenance for you and for them;- come not nigh to shameful deeds. Whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.’ ” (Chapter 6 (Al-Anaam): Verse 151)

And elsewhere:

Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (Chapter 17(Al-Isra): Verse 33)

And also:

“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” (Chapter 5 (Al – Maida): Verse 32)

The last verse should clarify all doubts on the value placed on human life by Allah. The analogy ensures that it is not taken lightly. One life = The whole of humanity. The math is simple.

My conclusion? Don’t judge Islam just by the individual performance of some wayward Muslims. The best way to understand Islam is to read about Islam itself (look for authentic sources, please!) and if you must judge it by its followers, kindly look for ‘followers’ who are actually ‘following’ Islam. A Muslim name alone does not qualify you as a Muslim. 

So there. Here’s to the gen-next of Muslims.


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Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why DO bad things happen to good people, really now? I mean it all seems pretty illogical sometimes, no? There are these folks who are so righteous and pious and generous and all, and they still don’t seem to have all they should. And then again, we have another type of folks-the bad and the ugly. Think corrupt politicians, terrorizing mafia dons and most of the rest of the world. They all seem to be very cosily set in life. Mirth, moolah, muck- they’ve got it all. So has God been unfair after all? For some people, that seems like a valid question. For others, there seems to be a valid answer-somewhere.

The above mentioned question had been playing on my mind for sometime now. God couldn’t possibly unfair, that much I knew, Alhamdulilah. But I still wanted an answer. It’s such a universally ubiquitous question. ‘Why does God behave the way he does?’ I recalled Milton with some sympathy. The scene must’ve been pretty bleak even back then. The poor chap wrote 9 books of Paradise Lost only to “justify the ways of God to men.” Man, the skeptic. Sigh.

So why do bad things happen to good people then? I pondered again. How do you define ‘bad’? Accidents? Penury? Sickness? Loss? Of loved ones, prized possessions, oppurtunities? Life’s tough, some say. And tougher for the ‘goody-goody’ folks. Hmmm. Perhaps.

May I be allowed to draw a little analogy here? Every nation requires a well maintained army. It’s crucial to national security, even when you are not in war. It’s a matter of being prepared. Being a soldier for the nation’s defense is a challenging job, but also one with great amount of honor and prestige attached. Yet, all the soldiers, especially the ones in training, have to lead an arduous lifestyle. I am not sure what kind of regimen they follow exactly, but I am sure of one thing-it’s tough. Tough as hell. In fact, quite a few army regimens across the globe have been categorized as “brutal”. Why? These young soldiers are apparently all good people; law abiding, patriotic citizens who are ready to give up their lives for the cause of the country. And yet bad things happen to them too. At least tough ones do. ‘That’s because the army heads want to test their endurance and toughen them up’, you may reason. Well, I take the same reason when it comes to God’s role in our hardships. Easier said than done, you say; and I agree with you wholly. There never comes a calamity in which we don’t exhibit at least some amount of despair. And that includes me. Objectivity is always the first casualty then. The bigger picture doesn’t matter, it’s just my overwhelmingly big problem that does. Oh well, that’s what makes us humans, doesn’t it?

I came across this verse in the Quran, in chapter 3, The Family of Imran (Surah Al-Imran, Verse 26):

Say: “O Allah. Lord of Power (And Rule), Thou givest power to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou strippest off power from whom Thou pleasest: Thou enduest with honour whom Thou pleasest, and Thou bringest low whom Thou pleasest: In Thy hand is all good. Verily, over all things Thou hast power.”

As one established commentator says, prosperity alone is not the criterion of honor. Allah has supreme authority over all things, and that includes wealth, wisdom, etc. The dispensation of these are his prerogative. The believer shouldn’t get flustered by the apparent disparity in their distribution.

The Hadeeth (traditions/sayings of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH) has much to console the striving soul too. Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) Allah’s Apostle said, “No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.” – Sahih Bukhari: Volume 7, Book 70, Number 544

Abu Yahya Suhaib bin Sinan (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is good for him” (Sahih Muslim).

Seriously now, do I need to say anymore?

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Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One who treats

badly those under his authority will not enter Paradise.”

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 3358 Narrated by AbuBakr as-Siddiq

There is a lot of talk about Islam and the way it treats its women. If I began on the unprecedented rights that Islam gave to women, I would need a lot more than just a post to do that justice. However, the focus here and in a lot of other places these days is on the declaration of a German judge who recently acquitted a Muslim man for beating his wife, citing verses of the Quran in his defense. Expectedly, there has been quite a furore about this.

Does the Quran really condone wife beating? It has become more of a norm to judge things without their context. “Lame” you may say. But I say, context is everything. Having been a student of Pragmatics, I know.

I would like to quote a very revealing email I received from a member from a google group that I subscribe to. A debate was struck in the group and Brother Mubeen more than quelled it with a very accurate, very logical and authentic explanation to the whole issue.

Here’s an excerpt:

…”Beat your wife” is a phrase that doesn’t go down too well with me either (and you can check with my wife on that).

But then, yes, there is (only) a (single) reference to beating one’s wife in the Qur’an, and males have conveniently abused it by twisting it out of context to justify their actions that have no place in Islam.

Let us read the ayat where it appears. The translation is by Yusuf Ali, and I quote…

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).” Surah Nisa, Chapter 4, Verse 34.

Let us read it carefully. The only reference to beating your wife comes in this verse, and the reasons are clearly defined – disloyalty and ill-conduct. Not for half-cooked food, or for speaking her mind, or for falling prey to his incomprehensible suspicions. And certainly not for demanding a humane treatment in marriage for the rest of her life… Only for disloyalty and ill-conduct, period.

And the routes to use are also made absolutely clear – first, admonish them; then refuse to share a bed, and then if that does not help, then beat them lightly. Please dwell on a key word – lightly.

Many scholars have written a lot about this. And the clear instructions from them are –

1. A man has no liberty to hit his wife for any small reason.

2. Beating your wife is permissible only in the most extreme circumstances (disloyalty and ill-conduct), and only after all other possible means are exhausted. This could include staying away from them, explaining to them, getting one elder from each side of the family to intermediate, admonishing them etc.etc.

3. And even on beating, I refer back to the key word – lightly. Scholars have interpreted this to mean that a man cannot hit his wife on her face – no stinging slaps. He cannot hit her with any instrument that would cause her extreme pain, nor can he hit her so hard that it leaves marks behind. So there! It implies that all that a man can do – after all other means are exhausted – is a light beating that would cause embarrassment to make her change her ways. He is definitely not allowed to take out his frustrations on the human punching punching bag conveniently available to him, and then justify his actions by pointing to religion. By doing this, we men are just opening up the doors of Hell for ourselves.

In this context, let me also mention that while there is only one reference here about ‘beating your wife’, this ayat starts by saying “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…”

And there are numerous other verses in various ayats about the rights of women in Islam, their ownership of property being their own, and the way they ought to be treated, the respect that men must give them et al. To quote just one ayat, again from the same chapter…

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” Surah Nisa, Chapter 4, Verse 34.

How many men read this line, and live it…“on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity”. Please note the “On the Contrary”.

The last line is also particularly of importance, If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”, which tells a man that he is not at freedom to divorce his wife giving the excuse that he does not like her.

I would recommend reading Chapter 4 (Surah Nisa – meaning Woman in Arabic) in detail with translation to all who want to understand the rights and duties of women in Islam…”

And if that was not enough, spare a moment to what the Prophet (PBUH) told us in his hadeeth:**

  • “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work, and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of Allah’s laws.”

  • “A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good.”

  • “The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is.”

What triggered this post was in fact a New York Times article that I read. It was about Ms. Laleh Bakhtiar, 68, an Iranian-American, who is a doctorate in educational psychology and is now working on the translation of the Quran “because she found the existing version inaccessible for Westerners.” Now this again could be a cause of much contention. The Quran is one holy scripture that stands true to the tests of time, in terms of untampered authenticity. ‘Not a single change since it was revealed’, you may argue, ‘what does she mean by “existing version”‘?

Well, I agree, divine scriptures cannot be changed or re-interpreted to suit their audience’s cultural schemas. They would no longer be divine then. But wait a bit- Ms. Bakhtiar spent months on the the word ‘daraba’ that comes in the aforementioned verse. The word, cites the NYT, has been interpreted in nearly 20 different ways, ranging from the moderate ‘ pet, tap, chastise’ to the more severe ‘ beat, hit, strike, flog’, etc. Ms. Bakhtiar, however, minutely (and repeatedly) pored over the Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane and found “among the six pages of definitions for “‘daraba” was “to go away”‘.

Ms. Bakhtiar was very pleased with her finding. While her interpretation of the “exact” meaning may still be debatable, it nevertheless encompasses the tone of the entire verse. And oh yes, like Ms. Bakhtiar, I haven’t come across any tradition that ever cites the Prophet ever beating any of his wives. Forgive me if I am mistaken on this count, however, the Prophet’s life has ben recorded to the most miniscule detail.

Ah yes, the debate never ends that easily. There are issues and some more issues, like what is Islam’s take on feminism and gender equality and then some more. I have battled these demons on a personal front too. And it would take more than just a post to do justice to that. But I have realized one thing: like it or not, it’s a man’s world out there; even in the most adamant face of feminism. And yes, “…because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other…” (Surah Nisa, Chapter 4, Verse 34.) And it would be vain to argue over who has more physical prowess. That is why perhaps Islam concentrates on “gender equity” rather than “gender equality”. One’s duty is to maintain. The other’s is to look after. Well, it might not be always as reductive as that. However, basically I guess it’s just a division of responsibilities rather than a ‘demeaning’ of them. 🙂

For more on that I recommend this.

**Though I do believe in the authenticity of these hadeeth, having sourced them from the University of South California’s site on the Compendium of Muslim Texts, I do not have the reference right now. Would be very much obliged if someone could help me with that. Jazakallah.

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I am not much of a politics person but I just happened to come across a recent article by Thomas Friedman. I usually avoid reading him-for several reasons. I find him blatantly biased against the Islamic world and well, he has a certain talent with the written word that makes even his ludicrous neo-imperialist ideology seem fair seeming to a naive outsider. But there’s something that we might learn from him. When he laughs at the growing divide amongst Muslims themselves, it’s time to sit up and take notice. Not because he’s saying so. But because our Prophet (PBUH) never meant us to be like this. We have Hadeeth quoting Muhammed (PBUH) that the whole Ummat should be like one single body-so that even if a finger is in pain, the whole of the body should agonize over it. It makes sense even if you are not much a believer of the Hadeeth tradition, doesn’t it?
Why are we are silent over the rising sectarian violence that’s raging in Iraq then? The problem is that we have divided ourselves-we have forgotten the Book and grabbed false messiahs for our salvation. Why the Sunni-Muslim divide in the first place? Both the sects believe in Muhammed (PBUH) and his Prophethood, but both fail to realize that he neither went by the name of either ‘Shia’ or ‘Sunni’. These are inventions of generations that came much later.
Why must we fall on innovative interpretations of Islam when it’s all so clear in the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet?
The question is: why are we searching for alternate identities when all they are serving is growing sectarianism? Is it serving any purpose? Why are we so skeptical about just following the Quran and the Prophet? Why do we need the ‘add-ons’ so much when Allah Himself proclaims in the Quran: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed MY favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (5:4) Why the thirst for ‘improvisations’ in the divine message, when they can only imperfect at their best, because they are so human?
It’s sad how we divide ourselves over something as small as who was the Prophet’s successor AFTER his death-a time when Islam was already a complete entity, as we see from the verse from the Quran. While that may be a serious issue indeed, is it serious enough to demand a re-interpretation of our entire religion? Is it serious enough for us to be divided like this for centuries on end? Is it serious enough to give us the right to kill our own brethren? How can we allow the killing of either sect by members of another when Allah condemns the unjust killing of any life:
” For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”
and elsewhere:
“…And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath command you, in order that ye may discern.” (6:151)
and yet again:
“And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped.” (17:33)
We say we kill in the name of Islam when Islam requires us to have a VERY just cause to kill; we say we take the Quran to be the word of Allah and yet we flout it in the name of religiosity.
I admit these are tough times, but that shouldn’t be reason enough to forget the divine word, no? In fact this is just the time to bond even more firmly, to Allah and to all our brothers in faith. If Islam means ‘peace’ let us not violate it, except for a cause justified by Allah-for instance when one has to punished for murder or other such sin-and killing another because you don’t like him or his leader cannot in any way be defined as justice.
And may better sense prevail. And may Allah unify this broken Ummat again towards Him. Ameen.

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