Vol 4- Issue 2 Sinsational copyWhile discussing the trials of a lewd sight, our teacher once questioned the class: “Do you know of any animal that invites other animals of its kind to group and watch the love making of a couple?” Crimson red, most of us shook our heads. “Well, I know,” she continued, “it’s us, human beings. How many of you have not watched pornography on TV, in movies or magazines deliberately alone or with friends?”

Feeling very uneasy, the class remained silent. Then, she recited from the Quran: “Verily, We created man in the best stature (mould). Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low. Save those who believe and do righteous deeds…” (At-Tin 95:4-6)

Truly, only human beings can stoop so low. Having said that sexual desire has been implanted by Allah (swt) in mankind for pleasure and pro-creation. Although natural, just like other desires it needs to be disciplined, too. Uwaymir Anjum, a writer, states the reasons: “Mainly because this is the greatest power of all other human instincts to sabotage and undermine the very purpose of human creation: the worship of Allah, profound realization of His presence, cultivation of His love and moral conduct on its basis.”

Some argue that we are merely viewers. How do we compare to those directly involved in the moral degeneration or the business of promoting it? They are the merchants of obscenity. Allah (swt) will surely question them! But it is consumer trends that create demand. If buyers of vulgarity boycott all these products (lewd websites, immoral books and magazines, porn movies and TV shows), there will be no market to float such products or services. The buyer is as guilty as the seller.

Even if you do muster the courage to stop viewing, buying or sponsoring lewdness, will it disappear? Unfortunately, it won’t. We live in a world, where soft porn is almost universal. It’s in your newspaper, e-mail account, the supermarket you shop at, on the billboard you drive by, etc. You just can’t escape it! So what do you do? Ask the expert – follow the Quran and stick to the Sunnah.

Is there really a means to restrain ones sexual desires? Yes, there is. Those, who strive to preserve their modesty, obey Allah (swt): “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah (swt) is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts)…And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur 24:30-31)

Kimberly Ben, another writer, calls lowering the gaze as dodging the Satan’s arrow. She explains: “The concept of lowering the gaze is a very important characteristic of Islam. It represents discipline and restraint. It is an effective method of halting the stirrings of certain urges and desires that may manifest into even more sinful acts. As human beings, we are visual by nature. Certain sights can evoke very powerful emotions.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “And the eyes commit Zina (adultery). Their Zina is gazing.” (Bukhari)

Now, when we are told to lower our gaze, it does not mean that we go around keeping our eyes glued to the ground. What it actually entails is that upon viewing any explicit scene or image, whether in person, on TV, on a website, in print or on any other media outlet, we should consciously turn our faces away. We underestimate the power of a simple glance. The Prophet (sa) has stated in another Hadeeth: “…the adultery of the eyes is looking at (that), which is not allowed…” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Along with lowering our gaze, we must learn to condition our heart and mind. Following are a few practical tips that can help to guard our purity:

Take a detour

There are some places, where you are expected to run into questionable images, such as music shops, video shops, lingerie outlets (opened up most recently), magazine racks, TV (both on shows and advertisements) and while surfing the web (porn website are flashed before you). Be selective to avoid sexual imagery. Allah’s (swt) advice is to stay as far away as possible from Fawahish (sexual indecency) and if encountered, to turn away right then and there.

Pray earnestly

In times of great difficulty, seek Allah’s (swt) refuge. You will be amazed, how He protects you. But you need to initiate that process. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me, [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism) and as Me of anything] I will respond to your (invocation).’” (Ghafir 40:60) But remember – your prayers can only make a difference, if you truly resent obscenity and wish to keep yourself chaste.

Don’t give up

Determination is the key word. You will be pushed by peer pressure, enticed when the latest movie of your favourite actor is released, tempted to flip through beauty and fashion magazines. Just remember, what the Prophet (sa) said: “Who ever seeks to be chaste, Allah will make him chaste, and who ever seeks to be independent of means, Allah will make him independent of means, and who ever strives to be patient, Allah will make him patient.” (Bukhari)

Consider marriage

Kimberly Ben puts it nicely: “Many frown on the idea of couples marrying too young in our society. You are expected to live an independent life full of adventures, before finally settling down.” Addressing the assembly of youth, the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and in guarding one’s chastity. And whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Know that Allah (swt) is watching

You can steal a quick peek or a lingering glance at the opposite gender. Nobody might even notice it, but can you hide anything from Allah (swt)? The Creator states: “Allah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal.” (Ghafir 40:19)

A sage once said that looking is the start of sinning – the source of all evil. However, looking for the first time – the unintentional first look – can be forgiven; repeating it evokes rebuke. The Prophet (sa) stated: “The first gaze is forgiven, but the second is counted against you.” (Baihaqi)

On another occasion, he said: “Looking is one of Satan’s poisonous arrows. He, who abandons it out of fear of Allah, Allah will grant him faith, the sweetness of which he finds in his own heart.” (Tabarani)

Lastly, all those are dear to Allah (swt), who fight the whispers of Satan. He states: “Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah) and (indeed) they then see (aright).” (Al-Araf 7:201)

The question is – do you have the guts to do it?

From the Pen of a Woman on the Other Side

closeup of fountain ink pen over white pages spiral notebookSome of you may be surprised by the kind of comments you get to hear, when people find out you’ve worked for television.

I’ve been working for television for about ten years. My first programme was when I was in class six, in which I recited a group of riddles in a children’s programme that aired on Pakistan Television. Back then it meant something to me, my friends and every child viewer. Maybe it was because there was no Nickelodeon, nor was there the overwhelming number of TV channels bamboozling the poor child. Or simply because watching TV was as much of a novelty then, as the latest version of play station is today.

I worked with Geo, ARY and FM 100 at a time, when debates about television being the greatest tool of Satan surfaced. Wars erupted among family, friends and teachers regarding the pros and cons. Those ‘pro-television’ thought nothing wrong with it whatsoever and saw it as a new feat of technology. People couldn’t travel on camels in today’s world now, could they? The ones against it argued from the stand point that pictures were prohibited in Islam, and that the West was using television as a medium to brainwash Muslims against the true and honest principles of Islam.

It was too much to bear at eighteen, when I was suffering from acute identity crises, worrying about what headgear would do to my permanent image and about brainwashing debates based on classical Aristotelian logic. But I did as much as I could. I turned down offers for music videos, dramas and soaps. I refused to let male make-up artists apply makeup before I went on-air. I refused to work with people, who did not have purely academic or knowledgeable programmes. Perhaps that is why I have somewhat stereotyped myself as a woman, who covers her head, and can only appear on Independence Day or Ramadan programmes, even though I have done a series on psychology (in which I am a post graduate student).

After watching constructive efforts of many authentic Islamic scholars, especially such as Dr. Zakir Naik, I have become confident. I have resolved the debate of right or wrong by coming to terms with a plain and simple logic of keeping it simple. Nudity, obscenity, profanity and useless programmes were out. Shows that spread awareness, appreciate

Islam and its wisdom, celebrate peace and good will, promote good and forbid all that is evil in the eyes of Islam, propagate a message that needs to spread faster in the world today than any other time, are agreed upon.

I have been stereotyped negatively so many times, in spite of the headgear and my strict policy on no-commercialism and no-pop-culture. It often makes me wonder, why we still have not resolved this issue, even though we all welcomed the famous singer, who gave up his pop career to recite Hamds and Duroods and appeared for Dawah on television channels.

Somehow I still find Pakistani society trapped in the question of what is good and what is bad. Once we grow out of this harassingly old dispute, may be we can move on to what is important and needed. It is not compromise; we cannot call science or media evil. It is what is inside that makes us Muslims.

So what do you think?

Is media good or bad?

The question is wrong altogether. Rather, we should say: “Media. What’s good in it? What’s not?”

Suhayb Ar-Rumi (rta)

Vol 4- Issue 2 Suhayb Ar-Rumi raAbout twenty years before the start of the Prophet’s (sa) mission, around the middle of the sixth century CE, an Arab named Sinan Ibn Malik governed the city of Al-Uballah on behalf of the Persian emperor. The city, now part of Al-Basrah, lay on the banks of the Euphrates River. Sinan lived in a luxurious palace on the banks of the river. He had several children and was particularly fond of one, who was then barely five years old. His name was Suhayb Ibn Sinan. He was blond and fair-complexioned. He was active and alert and gave much pleasure to his father.

One day Suhayb’s (rta) mother took him and some members of her household to a village called Ath-Thani for a picnic. There a raiding party of Byzantine soldiers attacked the village. The guards accompanying the picnic party were overwhelmed and killed. All possessions were seized and a large number of persons were taken as prisoners. Among these was Suhayb Ibn Sinan (rta).

Suhayb (rta) was taken to one of the slave markets of the Byzantine Empire, the capital of which was Constantinople, where he was sold. Thereafter he passed from the hands of one slave master to another. His fate was no different from thousands of other slaves, who filled the houses, the palaces and castles of Byzantine rulers and aristocrats.

Suhayb (rta) spent his boyhood and his youth as a slave. For about twenty years he stayed in Byzantine lands. This gave him the opportunity to get a rare knowledge and understanding of the Byzantine Empire and society. In the palaces of the aristocracy, he saw with his own eyes the injustices and the corruption of Byzantine life. He detested that society and later would say: “A society like this can only be purified by a deluge.”

Suhayb (rta) grew up speaking Greek, the language of the Byzantine Empire. He practically forgot Arabic. But he never forgot that he was a son of the desert. He longed for the day, when he would be free again to join his people. At the first opportunity, Suhayb (rta) escaped from bondage and headed straight for Makkah, which was a place of refuge. There people called him Suhayb ‘ar-Rumi’ or ‘the Byzantine’ because of his peculiarly heavy speech and his blond hair. He became the assistant of one of the aristocrats of Makkah, Abdullah Ibn Judan. He engaged in trade and prospered.

One day returning to Makkah from one of his trading journeys, he was told that Muhammad (sa) the son of Abdullah had begun calling people to believe in Allah (swt) alone, commanding them to be just and prohibiting them from shameful and reprehensible deeds. He immediately enquired who Muhammad (sa) was and where he stayed.

Suhayb (rta) went cautiously to the house of Al-Arqam and listened to what Muhammad (sa) was saying. He was readily convinced of the truth of the message. The light of faith entered his heart. At this meeting, he pledged loyalty to the Prophet (sa), declaring that there is no God but Allah (swt) and Muhammad (sa) is the Messenger of Allah. He spent the entire day in the company of the noble Prophet (sa). At night, he happily left the house of Al-Arqam, with the light of faith in his heart.

Then, the familiar pattern of events followed. The idolatrous Quraish learnt about Suhayb’s (rta) acceptance of Islam and began harassing and persecuting him. The punishment was inhuman and severe but Suhayb (rta) bore it all with a patient and courageous heart, because he knew that the path to Jannah is paved with thorns and difficulties. The teachings of the noble Prophet (sa) had instilled in him and other companions a rare strength and courage.

When the Prophet (sa) eventually gave permission for his followers to migrate to Madinah, Suhayb (rta) resolved to go in the company of the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rta). The Quraish, however, found out about his intentions and foiled his plans. They placed guards over him to prevent him from leaving and taking with him the wealth, which he had acquired through trade.

After the departure of the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rta), Suhayb (rta) continued to bide his time, waiting for an opportunity to join them. He remained unsuccessful. The eyes of his guards were ever alert and watchful.

One cold night, Suhayb (rta) pretended to have stomach problems and went out repeatedly, as if responding to calls of nature. His captors became relaxed and sleep got the better of them. Suhayb (rta) quietly slipped out, armed himself, and headed in the direction of Madinah.

When his captors awoke, they realized that Suhayb (rta) was gone. They set out in hot pursuit and eventually caught up with him. Seeing them approach, Suhayb (rta) clambered up a hill. Ready with his bow and arrow, he shouted: “Men of Quraish! You know, by Allah, that I am one of the best archers and my aim is unerring. By Allah, if you come near me, with each arrow I have, I shall kill one of you. Then, I shall strike with my sword.” A Quraish spokesman responded: “By God, we shall not let you escape from us with your life and money. You came to Makkah weak and poor and you have acquired what you have acquired.” “What would you say, if I leave you my wealth?” interrupted Suhayb (rta). “Would you get out of my way?” “Yes,” they agreed.

Suhayb (rta) described the place in his house in Makkah, where he had left the money, and they allowed him to go.

He set off as quickly as he could for Madinah, cherishing the prospect of being with the Prophet (sa) and of having the freedom to worship God in peace. Whenever he felt tired, the thought of meeting the Prophet (sa) sustained him, and he proceeded with increased determination. When Suhayb (rta) reached Quba, just outside Madinah where the Prophet (sa) himself alighted after his Hijrah, the Prophet (sa) saw him approaching. He was over-joyed and greeted Suhayb (rta) with beaming smiles. “Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful.” He repeated this-three times.

Suhayb’s (rta) face was filled with happiness, as he said: “By Allah, no one has come before me to you, Messenger of Allah (sa), and only Jibril could have told you about this.”

Yes indeed! Suhayb’s (rta) transaction was fruitful. Revelation affirmed the truth of this: “And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of Kindness to (His) slaves.” (Al-Baqarah 2:207)

The Prophet (sa) loved Suhayb (rta) a great deal. He was commended by the Prophet and described as preceding the Byzantines to Islam. In addition to his piety and sobriety, Suhayb (rta) was also light-hearted at times and had a good sense of humour.

One day the Prophet (sa) saw him eating dates. He noticed that Suhayb (rta) had an infection in one eye. The Prophet (sa) said to him laughingly: Do you eat ripe dates while you have an infection in one eye?” “What’s wrong?” replied Suhayb (rta), “I am eating it with the other eye.”

Suhayb (rta) was also known for his generosity. In the period of the caliphate, he used to give his entire stipend from the public treasury to help the poor and distressed. He was so generous that Umar (rta) once remarked: “I have seen you giving out so much food that you appear to be too extravagant.” Suhayb (rta) replied: “I have heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) say: ‘The best of you is the one, who gives out food.’”

Suhayb’s (rta) piety and his standing among Muslims was so high that he was selected by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) to lead the Muslims in the period between his death and the choosing of his successor.

Suhayb (rta) was undoubtedly among the shining stars, who contributed immensely in the infancy of Islam and earned a respectable status for his love of Allah (swt) and the Messenger (sa).

Dear Haadia

Are Muslims permitted to chat on the Internet with the opposite gender?

Answer: Unlike medieval Christianity, Islam has never been opposed to technology and modern inventions – in fact, it encourages the study of ‘natural’ phenomena for the purpose of subjugating the forces of the universe to benefit the mankind. Inventions and technology are deemed beneficial, as long as they enhance the purpose of man’s creation on earth. If, however, they obstruct and distract from this purpose, then Islam does not take a favourable view of such inventions.

The use of the Internet may be evaluated on the basis of the above principle. If it proves to be beneficial for its user, its use is permissible and in some instances meritorious, especially for Dawah and educational purposes. But if it distracts its user from the purpose of his creation, i.e., “Who has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deed” (Al-Mulk 67:2), then not only is its use frowned upon but may even be deemed unlawful in certain instances.

Early Muslims used to say that “this world is a harvest for the hereafter,” taking this from the words of Allah (swt), the Most High: “Whoever desires (by his deeds) the reward of the Hereafter, We give him increase in his reward and whosoever desires the reward of this world (by his deeds), We give him thereof (what is decreed for him), and he has no portion in the Hereafter.” (Ash-Shura 42:20)

Hence, a person must use his time beneficially in this world for the sake of the hereafter and take account of himself every day. Each moment spent in useless activities is time away from the remembrance of Allah (swt) and other beneficial work.

The scholars have clear rulings regarding useless talk and gossip. Many Ahadeeth have been related in this regard. The Prophet (sa) said: “It is from the excellence of a man’s Islam to leave that which does not concern him.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Furthermore, the limits of interaction between the sexes have been laid down by the scholars. The same limits and rules also apply to the informal exchange of letters between members of the opposite sex, as well as through the systems of MSN and Yahoo Messengers, which has made it supposedly ‘safer and more permissible’ to converse with people, while sitting in the safety of one’s home. People feel safer in chatting this way than on the phone, since there is usually no physical sound being transferred and the whole issue of Fitnah from the opposite sex does not seem to arise.

However, as research shows, addiction to chat rooms and cyber friendships is on the increase. Many people become besotted with the person on the other end, without even seeing them. It is also known that a lot of inappropriate and often completely impermissible conversations take place amongst people through such online systems. It is impermissible to have an informal conversation over the Messenger services or through email for that matter, just at it would be over the phone or in person.

Lastly, we all need to remember that everyone will die, but what a person has written will remain after him. Keeping all of the above in mind, each person must judge his individual intention for chatting, whether it really is a useful tool, a waste of time, or an alley to Fitnah and Allah’s (swt) displeasure.

We need to pray to Allah (swt) to guide us towards those deeds, which please Him.

Allah (swt) knows best.

Note: The above information has been derived from articles by Abdurrahman Ibn Yusuf and Mufti Zubair Bhayyat.