Hajj: Exemptions and Misconceptions

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Hajj

“I am going for Hajj this year!” exclaims a family friend at a wedding. As she is engulfed in squeals of delight, warm prayers and congratulatory hugs from other Muslim sisters, she starts off providing details of her preparations for the short-but-sweet winter Hajj. As the days of Hajj in Dhul Hijjah fall in the winter months, more people are opting to perform Hajj while the weather is cool. Hajj in Islam is an obligation that comes with pre-conditions and pre-requisites. Therefore, it is important for Muslims to know all its aspects, in order to ensure that it will be accepted by Allah (swt), once they do perform it.
The first question that arises for a Muslim is: “Is Hajj obligatory upon me?” The answer to that depends upon the following conditions: A Muslim should be over puberty and physically able to make the journey.A Muslim should be able to afford the journey financially. A Muslim woman should be accompanied by a Mahram man (her husband or a male relative, whom she cannot marry). There are several other factors, depending upon the person’s personal circumstances, which determine whether or not they are obliged to go for Hajj. Listed below are the reasons behind exempting some Muslims from Hajj: 

The elderly, who is too weak 

Muslims, who are too old or weak to be able to perform Hajj, i.e., they cannot endure the physical hardships of the journey, are exempted from performing it. However, they may delegate another Muslim, who has already fulfilled their own obligation of Hajj, to perform it on their behalf. This is known as Hajj Badal. Narrated by Ibn Abbas (rta) from the Prophet (sa), who heard a man saying: “Here I am (O Allah), on behalf of Shubrumah.” He said: “Have you done Hajj for yourself?” He said: “No.” He said: “Do Hajj for yourself first; then, on behalf of Shubrumah.” (Abu Dawood)

The sick or physically incapacitated Muslim 

Someone could have broken a leg, undergone recent surgery, or be sick, with risk of his sickness worsening by travelling. If the doctor advises against travelling, Hajj is not obligatory upon such a Muslim, until his or her agility is restored. Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid states: “One of the conditions of Hajj being obligatory is that a person should be free of physical illness and disability that would prevent him from performing Hajj. If a person is suffering from a chronic illness, permanent disability, paralysis (that makes him unable to walk) or is very old and unable to move about, then there is no obligation to perform Hajj.”

The one, who doesn’t possess sufficient wealth/money to afford the journey 

The wealth needed for Hajj is of three types: (1) the fare needed to travel to Saudi Arabia, (2) the money needed for food, lodging, transport and other expenses during the entire Hajj journey and (3) the money needed by the pilgrim’s dependents during his absence. If a Muslim cannot provide for all these expenses, Hajj is not obligatory upon him.
Some Muslim parents assume that Hajj is not obligatory upon them, if they have one or more unmarried daughters, until all of them are married, i.e., they are no longer their financial responsibility. There is no basis for this belief in Islamic Shariah. Having to save for extravagant wedding-party expenses and such un-Islamic customs as dowry cannot be used as flimsy excuses for delaying Hajj. Many Muslims assume that if they cannot afford Hajj at all, they can take money from close relatives, borrow it from others, or win it in unlawful money-making schemes to perform it. For performing Hajj, a Muslim must not resort to asking others for money, taking a bank loan or using money won in a lottery or obtained as Riba. Rather, he should wait until Allah (swt) makes him self-sufficient in this regard, by conscientiously trying to save enough money over time. Hajj that is performed with unlawful wealth is not accepted. 

The one, who is in debt 

If a Muslim is in debt, he doesn’t have to perform Hajj until his debt has been paid off.
“If a person is in debt and can neither perform Hajj nor pay off the debt, then he should start by paying off the debt, and Hajj is not obligatory for him.” (Islam-QA.com) Most Western Muslims assume that since they have acquired houses on mortgage, they are exempt from Hajj for the loan payback period. Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, advises these Muslims:
“If your monthly mortgage payments are due and outstanding, then you are not allowed to perform Hajj, until they have been paid. If they are not outstanding, and you have made arrangements for payments to be made when they become due – should they become due during your absence – then you are eligible to go for Hajj. In other words, you don’t have to wait for your house to be fully paid to be eligible to perform Hajj. Having said this, however, I must add a reminder: one must strive earnestly and sincerely to get out of mortgage as quickly as possible. No Muslim, who is serious about his religion, should ever look at interest lightly.”

The Muslim woman, whose Mahrams refuse to accompany her, despite her insistence 

If a Muslim woman has enough money to perform Hajj, but none of her Mahram relatives agrees to accompany her, then Hajj is not obligatory upon her. Having a Mahram companion for Hajj is an obligatory condition for a Muslim woman. The Saudi Government doesn’t allow a woman to perform Hajj unless she states someone as a Mahram for the trip, i.e., provides a name of a person who is travelling with her, along with the type of Mahram relationship she has with him (i.e. brother, father, husband, son etc.). In that case, it becomes wrong to forge a stranger’s identity as a Mahram to perform Hajj, because it’s a lie.

As for the Islamic ruling, the wives of the Prophet (sa) did Hajj together after his demise without a Mahram; someone was appointed as a Mahram for them. So, Islamically, it’ll be alright to go without a Mahram, in a ladies-only group, as long as proper arrangements for a woman’s safety have been made.

However, it is better to go with a Mahram, since the wives of the Prophet were mothers of the Muslims and hence everyone thought of them as such. Women today might be more vulnerable to fraud etc. on the way if they do not have a Mahram with them. Finally, Muslims should strive to seek authentic knowledge about Hajj and hasten to perform it out of sincere devotion to Allah (swt), if they are among the ones on whom it has become obligatory. The Prophet (sa) said (on authority of Ibn Abbas (rta)): “He, who intends to perform Hajj, should hasten to do so.” (Abu Dawood)

A Chicken Affair

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Eating HealthyBy Naheed Ansari 

Chicken with Basil

What you need

  • Boneless chicken (cut in small pieces) – 1 kg
  • Garlic (chopped) – 2 tbsp
  • Mushrooms (cut) – 4
  • Green chillies – 3
  • Basil leaves – 1 cup
  • Spring onions (chopped) – 1 cup
  • Oyster sauce – 3 tbsp
  • Soya sauce – 1 tbsp
  • Onions (medium sized / chopped) – 2

What you do

1)      Heat 1 tbsp oil; add onions and garlic.

2)      Fry a little, add chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes.

3)      Add green chillies and mushrooms.

4)      Then add oyster sauce and soya sauce.

5)      Further, add basil and spring onions.

6)      Your chicken is now ready to serve.

Chicken with Lime Spices

What you need:

  • Chicken (fillets / cut in strips) – 4
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Lime (green / marinated) – 1
  • Coriander (ground / pounded) – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric (ground) – ½ tsp
  • Cumin (ground) – 1 tsp
  • Mint (fresh / finely chopped) – 1 tbsp
  • Pita bread (large) – 1

What you do:

1)      Marinate the chicken with lime, coriander, turmeric, cumin and mint.

2)      Fry in a griddle pan with olive oil.

3)      Serve with pita bread and salad.

Stillbirth: A Tragic Reality

Vol 6 - Issue 3 StillbirthBy Ruhie Jamshaid 

Statistics show that approximately three per cent of all births in Pakistan are stillbirths. This is a relatively astounding figure; yet, much mystery surrounds the phenomenon of stillbirth. In a third of all the stillbirths, the causes are unidentified. Since some cases might not be reported, the occurrence of stillbirths might be higher in reality. Stillbirth is technically defined as the death of a foetus during the last trimester of pregnancy, specifically in the twentieth week or later. Only fourteen per cent of stillbirths occur during delivery, whereas the majority occur before. The death of a foetus at such a late stage may prove to be far more devastating for the mother and family than a miscarriage, as the baby is almost fully developed. Since by the last trimester the mother has also felt the movements of the child, the bond between her and the child is greater, as compared to a miscarriage. 

Causes 

There are several known causes of stillbirth:

Placental abruption: This is the most common cause of stillbirth, which occurs when the placenta strips away from the uterine wall resulting in the lack of oxygen for the foetus.

Chromosomal abnormalities: This is the main cause of early miscarriages. However, death of the foetus can occur at any time during the pregnancy due to chromosomal abnormalities.

Protein-S deficiency: Protein-S is a protein required to avoid blood clots. In a small percentage of pregnant women, the level of protein-S can suddenly drop during pregnancy, resulting in the clotting of blood in the umbilical cord. This can block oxygen transfer to the foetus.

Environmental factors: Malnutrition of the mother, bacterial infections (for example, listeriosis), growth retardation, cord that is tied around the neck of the foetus and physical shock can all lead to foetal death. Despite some known reasons for stillbirth, there are cases, when the cause of stillbirth remains unknown, due to no obvious signs or indications.

Prevention 

Pregnant women can take some precautions to lessen the possibility of stillbirth, such as balanced nutrition during pregnancy. Iodine deficiency, for example, is a known cause of stillbirth. Healthy food and good rest go a long way in safeguarding the baby.

Going for regular prenatal check-ups is also essential, especially if it is a high-risk pregnancy. Careful monitoring of a high-risk pregnancy helps to avoid stillbirth.

Monitoring the foetal movement is perhaps the best way to ensure that the baby is doing fine. After the twenty-fifth week, the pregnant mother can count the number of kicks. If ten or less kicks are recorded in a single day, help from a healthcare provider should be sought immediately.

One way to monitor the baby’s health at home is to invest in a foetal heart monitor. This allows us to ensure the presence of a heartbeat at our convenience. 

Grieving 

Sometimes, even despite the best efforts and care, a stillbirth can still occur. In such cases, it is important to go through the grieving period. For Muslims, having a proper burial gives the family a sense of closure. The grave of the child can serve as physical means for remembering the child. Even naming the child before burial helps the grieving family and serves in appeasing them. The family can feel comforted in the fact that they have fulfilled all their duties towards the child. Reading Surah Al-Fathiha and other Surahs of the Quran are also beneficial to the entire grieving process.

For us, as Muslims, it is important to put our faith in Allah (swt) and understand that life and death are solely in His hands. Understanding this can help us psychologically. It is also possible to try for another child, if Allah (swt) wills so. Keeping a positive outlook and faith in Allah (swt) will give the family of the deceased child the necessary strength for going through the grieving process.

Eating Healthy

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Eating HealthyBy Madeeha Akhtar 

Today, obesity is a widespread problem that inflicts numerous people across the globe. After having struck the developed world, obesity is now making its way into the developing world.

People from middle and high income groups are steadily falling prey to this debilitating condition. The diets of adults and children have gradually changed to include more of fast, fatty and junk foods. Moreover, lives have become largely sedentary and that includes children. Islam lays great emphasis on moderation. Moderation in eating can keep an individual healthy and protect him from obesity, which can further lead to: high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cholesterol and diabetes.

Overeating is strongly discouraged in both the Quran and the Sunnah. The Quran says: “…eat of the Tayyibat (good lawful things) wherewith We have provided you, and commit no transgression or oppression therein.” (Ta-Ha, 20:81)

In addition to the Quran, many Hadeeths also encourage moderation. The Prophet (sa) said: “Man should fill one third (of his stomach) with food, one third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing.” (Ahmad)

To deal with obesity, slimming clinics and health clubs are springing up in various areas. They provide intensive diet plans and exercise schedules that promise as much as 12-15 lbs of weight loss per week. To speed up the weight loss even further, they also offer drugs. Such diet plans that encourage rapid weight loss are not only futile but hazardous. They often lead to such diseases as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and, to top it all, the weight lost through such programmes is often regained. Islam provides a solution to this problem.

Fasting in Ramadan leads to gradual weight loss of about 1-2 lbs per week. This steady and measured weight loss does not present any health risks. In addition to this, the Quran and Sunnah also recommend certain foods, such as honey, dates, figs, milk and olives, for their healing properties. Here are some tips that an individual can follow to build good eating habits, loose weight gradually and sustain it. 

Never Skip Breakfast 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Our body is deprived of food the whole night and breakfast kick starts our metabolism. We might think that skipping breakfast means skipping calories, but missing breakfast puts our body into a slow mode for the entire day. 

Eat Slowly

Eating slowly enables us to enjoy every bite of our meal and also makes us feel fuller. You should try to take around fifteen to twenty minutes to finish your meal. Take the time to sit and eat, rather than wolf down everything and rush off from the table.

More Meals; Smaller Portions 

Instead of having three big meals, take six smaller portions. Following this tip, you will always feel full. The body will never starve and, hence, there will be no desire to binge on unhealthy foods. 

Eight Glasses of Water Per Day 

You should start your day with a glass of water. The water will keep you hydrated and you will feel less hungry. Water also flushes out toxins from your body, and hence, you will feel less tired. Additional water intake will also be reflected in shiny, glowing skin. 

Cut Down on Sugar 

Avoid soft drinks, chocolates and other sweets. 

Be Physically Active 

Incorporate into your daily routine such small activities as taking the stairs instead of the lift and carrying a basket in the supermarket instead of pushing the trolley. We are living in an age of technology and fast food. So, while on the one hand, we are moving lesser, on the other hand, we are eating more. Being healthy in this scenario is all about controlling your diet and increasing your physical exercise. 

Some foods that help in loosing weight are: 

  • yoghurt,
  • green tea,
  • limes and grapefruits,
  • bitter gourd,
  • watermelon.

Dealing with Hyperactive Children

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Dealing with Hyperactive

Mrs. Salma Ali was extremely perturbed and a little confused as well. She simply couldn’t understand why it was that whenever she went to pick up her four-year-old son from his Montessori, he was fast asleep. And on the days when he wasn’t asleep, he seemed quite drowsy. After engaging in some futile inquiries with his teachers, she decided to investigate further. The result was horrifying. Apparently, her son was so hyper that he just would not let the teacher conduct the class properly. Hence, the teacher made him take some sleep-inducing medicine. This would put the child to sleep, and the class would be conducted peacefully. Mrs. Salma Ali immediately removed her son from that particular school.

This, unfortunately, is the state of affairs nowadays, where most of the people are all too willing to remove the problem instead of solving it. When it comes to hyperactive children, most of the parents and teachers look towards short-term solutions. Such ‘solutions’, unfortunately, will never make the hyperactive child any more educated. On the contrary, such children remain ignorant and are held back in the lower classes, simply because they are not up to standard. Dealing with hyperactive children on an academic level involves, first and foremost, the acceptance that this particular student is hyperactive and, hence, should be treated differently than the rest. The teacher will have to recognize the signs and symptoms characteristic to a hyperactive child and then deal with him/her accordingly.
So what are those signs and symptoms? A few common ones are as follows: 

On the move

There are many students, who will sit still for at least a certain period of time before they start to get restless. The hyper ones will rarely sit still. They squirm in their chair if they are not allowed to move. They like to move around, jump about and fidget with things.

Attention deficit

It’s true that there are many students, whose attention span barely lasts an entire class period. However, you cannot make a hyperactive child listen to you for even two minutes. His/her eyes will be constantly darting around, even as you speak. These children are unable to give their full attention to anything and have a very short attention span. 

High energy level

The teacher may get tired running after a hyperactive student, but that student will never get even remotely lethargic. Hyperactive students quickly move about from one thing or another, and never seem to run out of energy. Once the teacher has established that the child is hyperactive and will disrupt the classes, he/she can take some or all of the following measures to ensure that the child is dealt with in an effective manner, and most importantly, in a manner which will be mutually beneficial to both the teacher and the student. The teacher will have a peaceful class, and the student will learn something at the end of the day. Some of the more effective measures are as follows: 

Be firm and exercise self-control

There is nothing more ‘fulfilling’ for a hyperactive student than to see an elder, whether it’s a parent or teacher, lose self-control and vent out all anger at the student. He/she will simply feel accomplished and will probably get worse. At all times, don’t let your temper bring out the worst in you. Keep calm and composed, even if you are seething inside (yes, these children can be highly irritating but there’s no reason, why they should know it is working). 

Channel the energy

If the child is hyperactive and, hence, full of energy, you as a teacher can learn, how to channel that energy into more constructive activities. Instead of consistently telling the child to sit still, you can get him/her to do tasks which involve moving about. Ask them to pin something up on the notice board, fetch the chalk, clean the black board and distribute the exercise books. If they don’t succeed in finishing that task, don’t get impatient. If they drop the books, for instance, help them gather it up and encourage them to get on with the task. 

Sense of belonging

Ignoring hyperactive children can be extremely counter productive as they are usually calling out for attention. On the other hand, if you scold them, you will be playing into their hands – what they want from you is a reaction. Therefore, instead of whiling away your energy in screaming, shouting or scolding, you can make them feel more involved in the classroom through various means. Asking them to do easy yet engaging tasks around the class will make them feel more involved and, hopefully, keep them a little busy for a while. 

Do away with lectures

Create a classroom atmosphere, which involves hyperactive students doing something rather than listening to you. Listening to a monotone voice gets unbearable, even for the average students. You can ask all your students to stand up and stretch; act out the poems they are reciting; act out the stories they are reading. The possibilities are endless and are only limited by your imagination.

Schedule your classes sensibly

If your school does not have a strict timetable, and you are allowed to set your own schedule, then make one which is conducive for the students. Don’t put mathematics and English consecutively. Separate them with art or a recess. Similarly, the attention of students is the most lax in the period before the recess, so you might like to have a lighter lesson scheduled. Keep your schedules flexible, so you can alter them according to the response and attentiveness of your students. 

The above were just some of the possibilities, which can be exercised to keep the hyperactive student in control and direct his/her energy to more constructive activities. The truth is that every child is different. What works for one might not work for another. Therefore, if there are two or more hyperactive children in one class, it might become a teacher’s worst trial. However, these children can be dealt with – it only requires some time, effort and skill. At the end of the day, if a teacher is really willing to work with these children and ensure that they graduate after having learnt something, he/she can definitely do wonders with his/her students.

Dying and Living for Allah (swt)

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Dying living for AllahBy Ayesha Nasir 

Written by: Khurram Murad

Pages: 80

Publisher: “The Islamic Foundation”

Available at: “Darussalam Publishers and Distributors,” Tariq Road, Karachi

In times of grief, you usually turn to a good book. But, the book we are talking about here is not just any book. It’s the last will of Khurram Murad, which is also known as “Dying and Living for Allah (swt)”. This beautifully written book has been translated by Syed Abu Ahmad Akif and deals well with the topic of death – a matter many are afraid to think about.

Khurram Murad was the Director General of the Islamic Foundation in United Kingdom from 1978 to 1986. He had also worked as a chief consulting engineer in Karachi, Dhaka, Riyadh and Tehran. In 1991, he became the editor of the monthly journal, Tarjuman-ul-Quran.

This book is none other than a ‘Nasihah’ as described by Professor Khurshid Ahmed who wrote the Foreword. Khurram Murad has left behind some good and potentially life-changing advice, not only for his family, but for the whole Ummah. As Mr. Ahmed mentions, this compilation is more than advice. It is a gift in the form of a will that deals with what Khurram Murad wishes to tell his people- the knowledge and truth he gained from his sixty-four years which were dedicated to the cause of the Islamic Movement and to fulfilling his duty of being a true servant of Allah (swt).

This publication has four major parts. The ‘Introduction’ deals with the importance of writing a will, and its significance in Islam. He addresses the will to his family at first, but mentions that he would not mind a public circulation of it.

The author also mentions some of the Duas he would recite before going to bed which are: “O Allah (swt), if You seize my soul, then be merciful to it”.

The first part of the book is called “Death and Sabr”. It deals with the pain and grief that comes with a person’s death upon the person’s relatives, friends and colleagues. Being a prominent individual in the Muslim community, Khurram Murad talks about how people should react when he departs this world. He suggests some steps to control the emotional and mental states while facing death of a near one.

He also talks about different levels of Sabr (patience), and how one pleases Allah (swt) by being patient in times of utmost despair. He points out that prayer is the only way to combat emotions of apprehension, anguish and sorrow.

The next chapter is called “Message for Successful Living”. Most of us have read motivational literature on how to make the best use of life, but none of us has ever written a concise document on the best way to live life to its maximum. That is exactly what Khurram Murad has done. This chapter features what Muslims should strive for: Allah’s (swt) pleasure, Jannah, following the Prophet’s (sa) way and so forth. Hence, the author tells us, how we should implement our desires into actions. Even though most of the points seem as the most basic of human virtues, many of us have forgotten, how exactly it feels to do good deeds wholeheartedly and solely for Allah’s (swt) pleasure.

The book ends with a personal message by Khurram Murad called “Journey to Fear and Hope”. When everything has been done, only one thing remains – looking forward to being brought before Allah (swt).

People die each day, and almost all of them forgotten. After their funerals, their wills are referred to because that is what they ‘legally’ leave behind for others. Khurram Murad left behind more than any family or any Ummah could ask for.

The main question that this book puts in front of us is, “Are you ready to face Him (swt)?”