Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Nisa 1

pearls4Before we begin today’s Pearls of Peace, there’s a challenge for everyone reading this. The brother reciting the Quran in the Taraweeh is visually impaired, yet he has memorized the entire Quran by listening to his father and CDs. You and I have been blessed with eyes. We can see the beautiful world of Allah (swt). We can read all that we want and whatever we want. What efforts have we made to read and memorize the Book of Allah (swt)?

We now start with Surah An-Nisa, the Surah named after the women. This is the status of women in Islam. There’s an entire Surah named after the women while there’s no chapter in the Quran called Ar-Rijal (the men). In this Surah, Allah (swt) draws our attention towards the rights of a woman and warns us against usurping them.

Man vs. woman

He begins the Surah by saying, “O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Hawwa (Eve)), and from them both He created many men and women.”

Allah (swt) describes the creation of mankind- from a single father and a single mother to make us feel compassionate about each other. Then, He says, “and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship).”

The mention of wombs is an indication that men and women are physically different and thus created for different purposes. Men cannot perform the roles of women and women cannot perform the roles of men. He ends the first verse by saying, “Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” meaning Allah (swt) is watching how we treat one another.

Dignity of a woman

In order to know how to treat someone, we first need to learn about their status. The woman needs to know where she stands in the Sight of her Creator. She needs to know how to carry herself without compromising on her values. She cannot give in to peer pressure and go against the commands of Allah (swt). She must live such a life that her living confirms that she is a gift from Allah (swt).

Rights of orphans

After honouring women, Allah (swt) talks about another stratum of the society which is weak, but its status before Allah (swt) is really high. These are the orphans. Allah (swt) chose for his Last Messenger to be an orphan, and throughout the Quran we find many verses that remind us to be kind to this weak stratum of society and give them their rights.

In our society, when the father passes away, others relatives come and take charge over the wealth of the orphan children. While they are to act as custodians until the children attain the age of maturity, the guardians do not return them their wealth or they cheat them by understating their property. Allah (swt) says, “Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, they eat up only a fire into their bellies, and they will be burnt in the blazing Fire!” (An-Nisa 4:10). The wealth of this world is not worth trading our peace and contentment for it. A person who cheats others cannot live a peaceful life.

Rights of women

There’s another type of cheating that is done at the time of marriage. Men don’t give their brides the bridal gift known as Mahr. Allah (swt) says, “And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart…” (An-Nisa 4:4).

Women are often too shy to demand for it themselves; therefore Allah (swt) has made it a duty of the husbands to gift it to them. In Islam, a woman is a queen. When she is small she is looked after by the father. As she grows up and is married off, it becomes the duty of the husband to look after her needs. In absence of a father and a husband, the closest Mahram relations look after her. Allah (swt) gives women rights so that she is not treated as a commodity; as it used to happen in the ignorant days. In the pagan days, the male relatives would inherit the woman along with all her wealth. Allah (swt) says what belongs to woman remains with her.

Islamic law of inheritance

In verses 11 and 12, Allah (swt) informs us about the exact proportions of inheritance to be distributed among heirs. Some people say in Islam women are oppressed, they get less of what men receive.

We must acknowledge that the system of Allah (swt) is based on justice, as He says, “These are the limits (set by) Allah (or ordainments as regards laws of inheritance), and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (as)) will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success..” (An-Nisa 4:13)

Consequences of defiance

One who follows the commands of Allah (swt) will attain peace in this life and the next. On the contrary, the one who finds flaws in Allah’s (swt) system can never live in peace in this life, and in the next he will face torment. This is what Allah (swt) talks about in the verse right after this, And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (as), and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.” (An-Nisa 4:14)

By warning us of the consequences, it is clear that Allah (swt) wants the best for us. Let’s understand this through an example. A mother tells her children to do something and at the same time tells the repercussions of not following her instructions. She tells them, “If you do this I will give you such-and-such gift, but if you don’t do this, then watch out.” The mother does not want to hurt her children; however, it is in their best interests that she warns  them beforehand. Allah (swt) wants the best for us. He does not want us to suffer in this life or the next; therefore He has explained us the repercussions of not following His commands beforehand. May He allow us to surrender to His commands. Ameen.

Share of a woman

To briefly touch up on the share a woman gets, let’s look at what Allah (swt) says, “…if (there are) only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is half.” (An-Nisa 4:11) No male takes this much percentage of wealth. Before we use our tongues to declare something ordained by Allah (swt), we must understand the Shariah. How can something that has been decided by Allah (swt) be wrong? The problem is that we value human opinions more than what Allah (swt) tells us. And this is the reason to why we have lost our peace.

Repentance – a peaceful move!

Some of us may have committed something wrong in our lives. We might not have given others their rights, mistreated orphans or spoken bad words about Allah’s (swt) laws. This brings us to repentance. Repentance is accepted only for those who do wrong in ignorance and then repent soon after. Allah (swt) says, “And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: “Now I repent;” nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful torment.” (An-Nisa 4:18)

Our dilemma is that we like to delay things till the last minute. Look at how do we treat our prayers. When the Muezzin gives a call for prayer, and that is when we get up for ablution. By then, we are left with little time to reach the Masjid and stand in the first row. Some of us delay our prayers to the point when only a few minutes are left for it to expire and that is when we get up for prayer. Will such a prayer be accepted? Likewise, a person who has been delaying repentance until the time he meets the angel of death, will his repentance be accepted? All of us want the best in this life, then why do we offer Allah (swt) a very poor quality of deeds? May Allah (swt) protect us and help us realize our mistakes. Ameen.


The Veil

perlinshellEvery time I board an international flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, I see the very same spectacle that amazes me just about as much as it intrigues me. Muslim women, clad in the abaya taken as models of piety and chastity, continue to act as reminders of the fact that Allah (swt) loves the people of Haya. This display of piety with God is a familiar and bemusing sight for anyone travelling abroad from a heartland of Islam but it continues to disturb much of our modernized Muslims and the secular west. It begs much larger questions, such as, the role the state should play in enforcing and dictating religious law and whether ‘secularism’ championed by the West is really the best way to move forward in the modern world.

The need to spatially situate ourselves back in time before analyzing religious literature is necessary to be able to answer these questions. However, the modernists and reformists of today feel that the customs of the Hejaz of 600 CE are nothing comparable to anything in our present world. However, what they fail to realize is that although history does play a part in shaping any religion, the message of Allah (swt) is eternal and the teachings are to be followed by the entire humanity irrespective of time and place.

Arabia, before Islam, was going through what is generally agreed upon as Jahiliyah, a time of social and moral ignorance and despondence. Tribal customs prevailed and law of force was the primary law of the land. In a place where the strong dominated the weak, it should hardly be surprising that the societal setup was extremely patriarchal in nature and women were oppressed. Not only did women enjoy few or no basic rights such as those of inheritance and freedom, they could even be inherited from one generation to another, like any other commodity. Concubines, wife-lending and marriage by exchange, all practices prevalent at that time, point to the same fact that women clearly experienced a markedly inferior status in pre-Islamic Arabia. The contention here is not whether Islam came at a time when such order prevailed but rather that it was through the teachings of Islam that the society was reformed.

Many reformists feel that the problem for any male messiah or prophet born in such a society becomes easy to visualize. Despite any divine orders to ensure equality of rights between the two genders, the Prophet (sa) would constantly be surrounded by elements, his male companions, who would resist any move that would change this status quo but there is no evidence to support the claim. The Sahabah were the truest of Muslims and they totally submitted their lives for the sake of Islam. For them the message of Allah (swt) was final and they could not even think about deviating from the commandments of the Quran and Hadeeth. The effect of Muhammad’s revelations was gradual, as the society was slowly being prepared for the new teachings of Islam. Despite all the odds, the Arab society was completely revolutionalized in two to three decades.

No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time

The Quran requires women to cover their entire bodies from head to toe in decent clothing.  The bosoms should be covered and the women should not show themselves off. In the modern world where people feel that there is a need for identification, I fail to see why we cannot have women in Hijab who perform all the core duties that they deem they are fit for. The Hijab is in no way a hindrance to their freedom; rather, it gives them a sense of security and dignity. However, reformists refuse to budge on the Hijab question, and demand for it to be removed from the teachings of Islam and merely be declared as optional. They use the classical line, “Islam is a personal affair between God and the believer, and nobody should have the right to enforce his or her own interpretations of religious literature upon anyone.” They feel that Hijab must remain an open and viable choice for anyone who wants to wear it. It would certainly be naïve to suggest that the stagnation of views on just the Hijab question stems in part from the sexist bigotry which seems to have permeated most Muslim societies and has become deep rooted in the vast majority of Islamic literature.

Having said all that, when I look at my surroundings and consider myself as an educated, young man belonging to a time where the youth has been caught up in the delusion of enlightened moderation and a reformed and liberal Islam, I feel proud to admit that I would like to marry a woman who not only is a practicing Muslim in terms of her actions but also in terms of her outer Sunnah i.e. wears Hijab and covers herself modestly. No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time and there is no way of reforming the word of Allah (swt). Historians have known throughout time that whenever mankind has chosen to leave the word of God, they have shifted from being Ashraf al Makhlooqat to worse than animals. The choice for the Muslim woman of today might be: veil or no veil; but the Quranic stance on it remains the same. Thus what most of us might consider as conservative, is essentially not only protecting a women’s modesty, it is also a symbol of dignity and a notion of why we are the most superior form of creation. The implications of the teachings of Quran and Sunnah are beyond just the apparent aspects. They are the word of God and His Messenger (sa), and carry in them benefit for us that is beyond our intellectual capacity.