Archive for the ‘Quran’ Category

Teaching as a profession has some definite perks. Meeting new people being one of them. Last week, a group of young German tourists visited the our Azam Campus. They were unique tourists; they didn’t just want the Taj and all. They wanted to see the real India as much. Grassroot level. With the poor and the rural. And of course to study other spheres of the Indian experience: the education system, the status of women and the status of Muslim women. It was a group of around fifteen, mostly women, one Irish lady amongst them. They struck me as bright, well informed, articulate and affable. They wanted to meet some educated Muslim women I presume, and that is why Azam Campus for perhaps chosen.

A meeting was thus scheduled. And over tea and snacks we talked for about an hour and an a half on a million and a half issues. Here is a rough excerpt of what went between. The ‘questions’ were mostly from our guests and the answers from our group- lecturers of Abeda Inamdar Senior College.  I am not quoting anything verbatim of course, just an impressionistic account of what my memory delivers:

Question: How is it like being a Muslim woman in India?

Answer: Nothing particularly different. I wear the head scarf, I interact with non Muslims and they interact with us in just the way two normal human beings would perhaps interact! In short, it’s pretty nice and cordial, at least in urban India (and particularly in Azam Campus 🙂 )

Question: Why do some of you don the Hijab and some of you don’t? Do you represent different ‘sects’?

Answer: Not really. The headscarf is more like a choice, no one forces you to wear it, you don it as and when you are ready for it, and we have Muslim women wearing all sorts of dresses and still being very much Muslim. (Personally, I differ on this issue a bit. Of course, there is no “compulsion in religion”. i.e. no one should really forcibly ‘impose’ a hijab, but that still does not mean that it is optional per se. The Quran states that women need to be modestly covered up, in something very much like the modern hijab)

Question: I see some women with even their faces covered up. I am sorry, but isn’t it insulting to the women’s body- to ask her to cover up only because there maybe some vulgar, hungry male passions evoked somewhere?

Answer: Islam has firm principles of modesty and chastity. The covering of the face is mostly viewed as optional by many jurists, meaning, you can decide if you want that to be covered or not, but if some one wants to willingly adopt that lifestyle, we cannot and should not come in their way. It’s difficult to understand this way of life, yes; it may even sound severely austere to you, but this is not your culture and it is understandable if you are baffled by it. However, you need to understand that we are comfortable in this culture, this is what we identify with. You may be offended if someone asks you to cover up, I would be deeply offended if someone asked me to ‘uncover’ up! You need to appreciate the other person’s perspective too.

Question: In Germany, the headscarf would be viewed with suspicion. Maybe not in India, but there it almost represents a fanatic attitude and there is a lot of debate whether it should be allowed in universities there.

Answer: My headscarf is like second skin to me. Telling me to take it off before going to college is akin to asking you to take off your clothes in the same situation! (Of course there might always be a human failing in each of us when we are lax or negligent at times about the covering of the head and all, but that’s another matter altogether!)

Question: What does the Quran say about the Hijab? Is it not compulsory? And do all girls take it voluntarily?

Answer: The Quran clearly states that the Hijab is compulsory. Not necessarily in the traditional Arab abaya form. It can be any loose outer covering. A Muslim woman in the West perhaps would wear just a loose shirt, or a coat; it can also be of varied subtle hues, not just black. And no, not all girls take it voluntarily. In some families it is highly recommended, in some there is emotional pressure and some are downright firm on it being worn by the women of the house. Sometimes there is a backfire. Girls leave their homes wearing the hijab and take it off when they come to college. But you have to remember-these parents who take such an autocratic attitude, would do so in just about any other matter as well-whether it is on the choice of career chosen by their children, the choice of person that marry, etc. It’s not simply religious enforcement.

Question: In Germany, women are paid far lesser than their male counterparts for the same job/career. It’s worse for women with young children and they have to make a choice between career or kids. How is it in India?

Answer: (Kind of surprised) We always thought you guys are way ahead of us in women’s liberation. In India, thankfully, no such discrimination exists. Not on paper at least! 🙂 As for that choice, it’s quite similar even here. However, the easy availability of domestic help takes off an immense pressure off working moms’ shoulders.

Question: How do the male students respond to having a female Muslim teacher? (How do they react to this hierarchy of roles?)

Answer: Quite positively in fact. There are scores of male lectures working under our female vice principal and the equation has been nothing short of respect. Additionally, there are often instances of male students choosing a Muslim woman Professor as their research guide. The criteria is seldom of gender or religion but of the quality of work produced by the individual.

Question: Why aren’t Muslim women allowed to visit mosques?

Answer: That’s a misnomer actually. It’s basically only in India and Pakistan that such a sad reality exists. Even in the US (or in the Arab world) there is generally a separate provision made for female prayer areas. Maybe it is because of the large population and limited space allotted to mosques that the preference has been given to building male prayer areas. (Muslims have segregated praying areas) However, that is changing with mosques around the nation trying to make accommodation for women too. Besides, in the Holy mosques of Makkah and Madinah, both males and females pray in congregation.

Hmmmmm. The discussion went on and on and on and no one was really tiring of it. It was interesting,  intellectually stimulating and was a wonderful instance of culture exchange. Our guests were very sensitive (to the point of being even a little embarassed in asking their questions sometimes :)) Obviosly, the head scarf issue is quite a taboo subject there. They were glad there were people to talk things out and we on part were glad there were so many willing ears who would listen. (A sign of building inter-religious tolerance?)

They talked of a range of other issues too. Like gender equations in general, the way the education system worked and University procedures amongst others.  It all ended on a very satisfying (not to mention jovial note) and a little exchange of gifts. One of our guests was kind enough to give us picturesque hand made calendars with  pictures of the German town Wursberg that he had clicked himself. And of course, the quintessential German motif- a CD of Beethoven. On our part, we gifted them hampers of copies of three Islamic books- ‘Understanding Islam’, ‘Fundamentals of Islam’ and the ‘Sweetness of Hijab’- all of which were recieved with enthusiasm. Alhamdulilah. I thank Allah for such an enriching experience. I hope to hear from our German guests again soon, Inshalah. 🙂


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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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Life, again

Ah, the monsoons. How can you not love ’em? Especially if they are the Pune monsoons. The ‘not-sticky, not-relentlessly-rainy, not-hot-humid’ monsoons. Very unlike Mumbai, my former home town. In short, it’s heavenly. How else can you describe it? Cool breeze to caress your face. Fresh greens that dance lushly all over. Water that quenches the summer charred earth. Bulbuous clouds pregnant with soothing benedictions. Ah, it inspires poetry, all of it.

After an oppressive summer come glad tidings. What would we do if it weren’t for these cottony white messengers? Their beauty is alluring enough, but collocate them with a summer that threatens to dry up every water molecule in your body and you begin to appreciate Allah’s gifts even better. 🙂 Sub-hanallah.

Here, a few verses of the Quran that talk about the rain; the first one in particular made me smile, I so identified: 🙂

  • It is Allah Who sends the Winds, and they raise the Clouds: then does He spread them in the sky as He wills, and break them into fragments, until thou seest rain-drops issue from the midst thereof: then when He has made them reach such of his servants as He wills behold, they do rejoice!- Surah ar-Room(The Roman Empire), Chapter 30: Verse 48
  • And He it is Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His mercy, and We send down pure water from the sky,- That with it We may give life to a dead land, and slake the thirst of things We have created,- cattle and men in great numbers. – Surah al-Furqan (The Criterion), Chapter 25: Verses 48- 49
  • And We send down from the sky rain charted with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and Grain for harvests – Surah Qaf, Chapter 50: Verse 9
  • (He) That sends down (from time to time) rain from the sky in due measure;- and We raise to life therewith a land that is dead; even so will ye be raised (from the dead) – Surah az-Zukhruf (Oranaments of Gold, Luxury) Chapter 43: Verse 11)

Ah, the monsoons. How can you not love ’em?

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Sub-hanallah. Here’s something I found in the question and answer section of Readingislam.com.  I say, it was quite a revealing piece. What is that Muslims and Christians differ on? And deep down, after all the man-made distinctions have been removed, are we, in fact, quite the same? I think both the ‘questioner’ as well as the ‘answerer’ deserve commendation. It requires a lot of patience and tolerance to have meaningful inter-faith dialogs like these, don’t you think? Considering the way things are today, internationally, with intolerance reigning supreme everywhere, elucidations like these must surely be of some help:


Dear Muslim friends, I am a Christian man and have lived in the United States my entire life. I have always been fascinated with the subject of religion and have taken the time to study the Islamic faith somewhat.

As I write this, it is September 13, 2007, which is the first day of Ramadan this year. I pray that you have a blessed time of fasting and prayer unto God (Allah).

I have a question in regard to your position on salvation and the afterlife. Here is some background so that you will understand where I am coming from.

I personally believe in the Torah and the Gospels as do other Christians, but I do *not* in any fashion believe that there are “three gods” or anything of the sort. The Bible itself teaches that there is only *One God* and the belief in “three” is from sources other than the Bible. “One” by no means implies that there are really “three.” To this day, I still can’t really figure out where Christians have come up with the concept of “three in one.” There is only One God. And, like Muslims, I do not ascribe any “partners” with God – no humans, animals, etc. And neither do I worship his prophets or messengers as being equal with God, though I do acknowledge that they are sent from Him.

Of course, because I am a Christian, I do feel that Jesus -may peace be upon him – was the “Messiah,” just like other Christians believe (that he died on the cross, etc.) My question in regard to Islam, pertained to the fact that Muslims (as I understand them) deny the crucifixion of Christ, and accept the prophethood of Muhammad.

Although I am not a “Muslim,” I do most certainly worship only One God, Who I believe is the same as “Allah,” whom the Muslims worship. But because I am a Christian, I do not hold the same views as do Muslims in regard to the prophethood of Muhammad and the crucifixion of Jesus.

My question to you is: is it considered necessary in Islam for a man like myself to convert to Islam in order to go to Paradise (Heaven), even though I ascribe worship to only One God now as Christian? Is it acceptable to still be a “Christian” in the eyes of Allah, and go to Heaven?

I’m just curious, and perhaps the answer is not as cut and dry as I make it. I ask with an open mind and heart. Please get back to me when you can. And may Allah richly bless you for your work in spreading the glorious truth that He is One – and there is none before or after Him. Have a blessed Ramadan. – Jonathan



Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for your Ramadan greetings and prayers, they were deeply appreciated. We pray that God graces you with the best of health and guidance in this special month and, indeed, every day in your life.

Regarding your question, like you said, there really are no cut and dry answers. Would it surprise you if I told you that in Islam, even Muslims can never be sure whether they will be going to heaven or hell?

Judging in the Place of God

We believe that the judgment lies in the hands of God, as He is the Most Just and even more important, He is the Most Loving and Most Merciful and Compassionate. It is never for us to judge in His place.

In fact, it is prohibited in Islam to specify Hell for any human being, no matter what his or her beliefs appear to be.

Muslim scholars have also taught that one shouldn’t hold any human being in contempt because he or she might be closer to God than oneself.     

Being our Creator, only God knows what is in our hearts, our intentions, our actions, our speech. He knows whether we have harmed people or whether we have sought for peace and understanding among His creation.

Mercy and Compassion, Not Justice

As Muslims, we believe that everyone will be held accountable for their deeds and speech, and we live in hope that God will judge us not according to His justice, but according to His Infinite Mercy and Compassion.

There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that basically means that everyone who believes in his or her heart that there is no god but the One True God (Allah in Arabic, and El in Hebrew) will ultimately dwell in Paradise.

In addition, in the Qur’an, which as you may know, is what Muslims believe to be the revelation of God’s words to the Prophet Muhammad, God says:

*{Verily, those who believe (in that which is revealed to you, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans – whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – surely their reward is with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them neither shall they grieve.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:62)

Now, the translation here mentions “Christians”. Technically, the term in the Qur’an is “Nasara“. In Arabic, and in the Muslim understanding of the life of Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him), his followers were called the “Nasara“, or the “followers and supporters”.

As the Qur’anic verse points out, the reward of all the people mentioned in the verse is with their Lord. More importantly, they have nothing to fear or grieve, and can only hope for Paradise through leading a pious and peaceful life, doing good deeds and helping their fellow creatures, all the while worshipping none but the One God.

Furthermore, the Qur’an explicitly states that *{We never punish until we have sent a messenger.}* (Al-Israa 17:15)

People who lived before the Prophet Muhammad, or even those who lived after him but did not have enough knowledge about him in order to accept that he is a prophet of God like other prophets, are called “ahl al-fitrah“. In Islam, these people are forgiven by God because the message did not reach them.

However, Jonathan, if you don’t know enough about Muhammad, you might be interested to read up on him from original sources. The Qur’an says:

*{And thou wilt surely find that, of all people, those who say, “Behold, we are Christians”, come closest to feeling affection for those who believe in this divine writ. This is so because there are priests and monks among them, and because they are not given to arrogance.

For, when they come to understand what has been bestowed from on high upon this Apostle (Muhammad), thou canst see their eyes overflow with tears, because they recognize something of its truth; and they say: “O our Sustainer! We do believe; make us one, then, with all who bear witness to the truth.”}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:82-83)

                                            Muslims Are… Also Believers in Christ

On another note, you interestingly ask, “Is it acceptable to still be a “Christian” in the eyes of Allah, and go to Heaven?”, placing the word Christian between quote marks.

If you meant to say “follower of Jesus Christ”, rather than “believer in Christ’s divinity”, would it surprise you if I told you that Muslims are “Christian” in the sense that they are also followers of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)?

We also believe that he is the Messiah, and that is how he is mentioned in the Qur’an.

You can read the verse that says:

*{And remember when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near unto Allah.}* (Aal `Imran 3:45)

There are many other verses that mention Jesus as the Messiah, but I will only quote a few:

*{O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! it is better for you! – Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.}* (An-Nisaa’ 4:171)

And again:

*{The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food…}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:75)

The verses about Jesus Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary are beautiful in the Qur’an. It might interest you to read a translation of those verses.

Jesus’s mother, Mary, is even considered a prophet, and not just a saint, according to some strong opinions of Muslim scholars because she received revelation from God through the angel. This actually makes Islam the only religion in the world who has female prophets. In fact, there is a whole chapter in the Quran named after her.

Original Innocence, Not Sin

You are right when you say that Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Christ. We believe he is the Messiah, but this word means in Arabic “the one whom God has wiped clean of any sins”, among other things.

Other scholars of Islam say that the name “Messiah” also refers, in the context of Jesus as the Messiah, to the fact that when Jesus wiped his hands over any sick person, that person would be miraculously healed by God.

For Muslims his being the Messiah does not mean that he died on the cross. I hope that I am not offending you when I say this, but this is what we believe.

The verse in the Qur’an that mentions this says:

*{And their saying, “We killed the Messiah, `Isa son of Maryam, Messenger of Allah.” They did not kill him and they did not crucify him but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. Allah raised him up to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.}* (An-Nisaa’ 4:157)

So, because we believe that the Qur’an is the word of God and that God is the All-Knowing, we believe that He, in His Mercy and Wisdom, “raised” Jesus up to himself. We do not believe that he was crucified simply because we do not believe that he needed to be crucified as expiation for the sins of mankind.

The reason for this is that Muslims do not accept the idea of original sin, but in contrast, accept as true the idea of “original innocence”, if one can term it that. Actually, we consider that although Adam and Eve did sin, they repented, and because God is the Most Merciful, He forgave them.

And even if they had not been forgiven, we believe that it would still have never affected us because according to Islam, each human is responsible for his or her own deeds only.

This is why Muslims believe that everyone is born free of any sin, and that everyone will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment only for the sins he or she committed.

Following Muhammad… Following Christ

After saying all this, it probably sounds strange when I say that Muslims are also followers of Christ, doesn’t it? However, we maintain that by following Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we are actually following all the prophets of God that were sent before him.

You see, in Islam, we do not think that Prophet Muhammad appeared with some new religion that is different from that of Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham Joseph, Jacob, or Jesus. We believe in all of these prophets, and that they were all saying the same thing: “Believe in One God and worship only Him.” That’s it – nothing more, nothing less.

So technically, we are Mosaic, Christian, Abrahamic, Jacobian, Ishmaelite, and Muhammadans, and so on, because we believe in all of the messages of all those prophets. In the Qur’an it is mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad is only the final prophet in a long line of prophets.

In his sayings, the Prophet Muhammad calls all the other prophets “my brothers”, because he is very aware of the heritage and long tradition of prophethood that he belonged to.

In addition, in the Qur’an, God tells us:

*{Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.}* (Al-Baqarah 2: 136)

That means we believe in the message that Jesus (peace be upon him) received just as we believe in the message that Muhammad (peace be upon him) received.

We do not see Islam as the religion of Muhammad, but rather, it is the religion of God, and it is the same message that all the prophets of God received throughout history.

By the way, it might be prudent here to explain that the word “Islam” should not be offensive when I use it in the sentence above because the meaning of the word in Arabic comes from the lexical root s-l-m, from which the Arabic words meaning “peace”, “purity” and “submission” are derived.

Therefore, the technical meaning of “Islam” is peaceful submission, and a Muslim is “someone who submits peacefully to his Creator”.

And submitting to the Creator means believing in all His prophets and messengers, and not picking or choosing some of them alone. In other words, it was the duty of every follower of Moses to believe in Jesus Christ as a messenger of God. The same would apply for the followers of Jesus to believe in Muhammad as a messenger of God. And, of course, as I mentioned before, for every follower of Muhammad to believe in all the prophets who came before him (peace be upon them all).

There are still so many issues I would have liked to discuss with you, Jonathan, but I have written so much already, so I will leave it at that for now. I hope you continue to visit our website and provide us with your comments and feedback.

Once again, I would like to express our thanks for your kind words. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at any time. May God bless you with health, happiness, and inner peace.  


Name of Counselor: Marwa Elnaggar

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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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Yep. That’s me again, Alhamdulilah. Atleast two people must have said that to me today; “Nice to hear you laugh like that again.” Oh well. C’est La Vie. And of course there is solace in prayers.

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I respond to the du’a (prayer) of every suppliant when they call on Me” – Quran 2:186

How true. Here are some more prayers from the Holy Quran which I am sure will provide succor to whoever seeks it from the Almighty:

Our Lord! Bestow on us endurance and make our foothold sure and give us help against those who reject faith. (2:250)

Our Lord! Take us not to task if we forget or fall into error. (2:286)

Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear, grant us forgiveness and have mercy on us. You are our Protector. Help us against those who deny the truth. (2:286)

Our Lord! Lay not upon us such a burden as You did lay upon those before us. (2:286)

Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate from the truth after You have guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Your grace. Verily You are the Giver of bounties without measure. (3:8)

Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and the lack of moderation in our doings, and make firm our steps and succour us against those who deny the truth. (3:147)

Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and efface our bad deeds and take our souls in the company of the righteous. (3:193)

Our Lord! We have sinned against ourselves, and unless You grant us forgiveness and bestow Your mercy upon us, we shall most certainly be lost! (7:23)

Our Lord! Pour out on us patience and constancy, and make us die as those who have surrendered themselves unto You. (7:126)

Our Lord! You truly know all that we may hide [in our hearts] as well as all that we bring into the open, for nothing whatever, be it on earth or in heaven, remains hidden from Allah (14:38)

Our Lord! In You we have placed our trust, and to You do we turn in repentance, for unto You is the end of all journeys. (60:4)

Our Lord! Perfect our light for us and forgive us our sins, for verily You have power over all things. (66:8)

And finally….

Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief. (65:07)

On the occassion of Hajj, here’s wishing everyone a very blessed pilgrimage and may Allah grant us all enough wisdom to put implicit trust in him. For Allah says again;

“And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.” (65:03)

Ameen to these wonderful verses…and may we never despair in times of test and in times of peace, and may we always have enough grace to submit ourselves to the caretaker of the Universe.

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