“What you Think of me is None of my Business”

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Self-help guru Wayne Dyer said something very profound recently: “What you think of me is none of my business.” Islam taught us this way back.

You just started covering your head with a loose scarf. You are sitting with your friends and having a good time. All of a sudden, one of your friends, let’s call her Mona, starts talking about Hijab. She says something along the lines of “Hijab is only about being modest. I mean, the Quran doesn’t even say the word ‘hair’!” All of your other friends are nodding and looking at Mona like she’s some sort of saint. And then they look at you.

What to do? Speak up? Have them think of you as some preacher, or worse, an extremist? Or be quiet and not say anything? You decide to mumble something about “being pretty sure that wasn’t right”.

Of course, you say it just loud enough, I mean low enough, that they can’t hear you. But hey, at least you said it, right? Having done your duty, you relax and join in the “fun”. But when the scarf on your head slips down, you do not put it back on.

Now, picture another scene.

637 CE – Jerusalem offers a truce, provided that the Khalifah comes himself from Madinah to sign the treaty. Umar (rtam) sets out for Jerusalem with a slave and a camel. They take turns riding the camel. When they approach Jerusalem, it is Umar’s (rtam) turn to walk, so he enters Jerusalem holding the rope of his camel.

Abu Ubaidah (rtam), the commander-in-chief of the Muslim army, suggests that he change his clothes, so that the people of Jerusalem, accustomed to pomp and grandeur of kings and emperors, are not dissuaded from handing the keys over to him. Umar (rtam) hits him hard on the chest and reminds him that they had been a disgraced nation. Islam brought them honour; should they seek it from anything else, they would surely be humiliated again. “The only way for success is the way of the Prophet (sa),” he says.

What happened in the first scene? A Muslim began following Allah’s (swt) commandment – good intentions and all, faced peer pressure and caved under it.

And the second scenario? A strong Muslim, who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of him, and does what his teacher has taught, and knows that is the right thing to do.

For us, practising Muslim wannabes, to get from scene one to scene two will take some serious working out.

Firstly, understand this: peer pressure is not a recent phenomenon. It is as old as human beings! All the prophets of Allah (swt) faced all kinds of peer pressure. So, if you face some unpleasant stuff when you begin your journey on the straight path – surprise, surprise, it’s no surprise!

Secondly, our public conduct is influenced by what other people think, because, like it or not, social pressure is a powerful force. Even when we know we want to do the right thing, we pause out of sheer terror of being labelled an extremist, fanatic or Mullah.

Good news, we can overcome this fear by making a concerted effort. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves.” (Ar-Rad 11:13)

The strategy we find from the Sunnah can be summed up in a two-pronged approach:

Aimed Inwards – At You

  1. “Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death,” said a wise man.

This dependence on people’s opinion of us originates in weakness of faith – if our pride in Islam is not strong enough to provide the confidence we need to practice it, we get taken in easily by peer pressure. Work on your relationship with Allah (swt), plug into the sources of our Deen, the Quran and Sunnah, and, Insha’Allah, you will see a marked difference in your confidence.

  1. Understand your ‘identity’.

One major reason for falling into peer pressure is not having a secure Muslim identity. You can get that by going back to the roots. Arm yourself with the knowledge of Seerah and the lives of our predecessors for finding out who you are.

“Are those who know equal to those who know not?” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

  1. Get strength from the glad tidings for those who remain steadfast on Deen in the face of opposition and trials.

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Islam began strange, and it will become strange again just like it was at the beginning, so blessed are the strangers.” (Muslim) Hello, stranger! You are in great company. Such news will keep you motivated.

  1. Don’t be a cry-baby all the time.

The road to Paradise is not for the weak hearted. Build up your nerves and learn to be thick skinned. When you mull over an incident, avoid the urge to magnify the negative.

“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although there is good in each.” (Muslim)

  1. Hang out with ‘real’ friends.

If people around you give you grief for your beliefs: (a) it is their problem and (b) you need to bail out. Allah (swt) says: “And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord, morning and afternoon, seeking His Face.” (Al-Kahf 18:28)

  1. Beg Allah (swt) for help.

You can’t do this on your own for sure – without His assistance. So, get down in prostration and pray for Istiqamah (uprightness/steadfastness). This beautiful Dua of the Prophet (sa) is spot on: “O Turner of Hearts! Keep my heart steadfast upon your Deen.” (Tirmidhi)

Aimed Outwards – At Others

  1. Deflect criticism, mockery and rudeness.

Follow this Prophetic example and you will be on your way to the straight path:

Members of Quraysh poked fun at the Prophet (sa) by making reference to him as “Mudammam” (a play on Muhammad), which means ‘ugly’. Muhammad was a unique name in Makkah at that time and it means ‘the one who is praised’. The companions complained to the Prophet (sa) with tears in their eyes. His response was that they should ignore the mocking laughter associated with ‘Mudammam’ because his name was Muhammad and not Mudammam. He defused the irony, neutralized it and pulled the rug out from under it, with gentleness, wit and humility.

  1. Keep your cool.

When ugly situations arise and peer pressure kicks in to high gear, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that you will have to live with the choices you make. If you give in and do something that is contrary to your core value system, it will cause you distress later and you will feel regret.

Remember, peer pressure only works if you let it. If you refuse to let it intimidate you, it loses its power. The secret is to be assertive, without becoming preachy or self-righteous. Stand your ground, but refrain from standing on a soap box.

The Prophet (sa) and Us

Vol 5 - Issue 4 The Prophet sa & us

We live in a world desperately seeking heroes. Of skepticism: “He ‘looks’ so religious. Hmm, I wonder what the REAL story is!” Of mistrust: “Give me a break – teaching the Quran without an agenda? Not possible.” Of rituals we don’t understand and don’t bother to question. Of giant billboards but stunted role ‘models.’ Yes. Our world is ripe with sophisticated spin-doctors who could sell ice to Eskimos and sun glasses to a bat. And they are packaging and selling Islam to the Muslims with unparalleled bravado. Is it then any surprise that in the world we live in today, Prophet Muhammad (sa) hardly seems real or even possible?

He may well be the most influential man in history, but hey – what has he got to do with our contemporary, avant-garde, high-tech existence? They deliberate.

The spectrum of our connection with the Prophet (sa) is limited. For some, God’s gift to mankind is just that – a cliché. He seldom surfaces in their tête-à-tête. However, with an increased interest in religion within fashionable circles these days, the conversation does embark on ‘enlightened moderation.’ One may hear: “Have you read Karen Armstrong’s new book?” Or a trendy talk show on TV may present a flexible, ready-to-wear version of life in Madinah in the days of the Prophet (sa). Of course, there is also intellectual muscle flexing in some elite circles. But the point of reference is the Prophet (sa) as seen through the eyes of the Orientalist and is therefore purely academic. This almost mythical figure who lived some 1400 years ago in a land far away is a great conversational piece. He may well be the most influential man in history, but hey – what has he got to do with our contemporary, avant-garde, high-tech existence? They deliberate.

A large majority has erected impenetrable barriers of reverence between themselves and the Prophet (sa). Utter his name, and thumb and fingers will be kissed and put to the eyes at once. Question the validity of Eid Milad un Nabi, and they will lynch you in public. Their love for their Prophet (sa) has taught them to loot, plunder and burn other people’s property when his cartoons are published in a foreign newspaper. They will keep entire neighborhoods awake with hackneyed Naats sung on filmi tunes on loudspeakers after Fajr prayers. Ask them to emulate the ways of the Prophet (sa), and after many Astaghfurallahs, the retort shall inevitably be: “Us mere mortals? How can we even be the dust of the feet of the Prophet (sa)?”

A large majority has erected impenetrable barriers of reverence between themselves and the Prophet (sa). 

There is also a darker, more sinister shade on this spectrum – lurking behind well-trimmed beards, impressive vernacular and scholarly logic. These are the Munkar-e-Ahadeeth (deniers of Ahadeeth), who talk about the Prophet’s (sa) person and mission with deference, yet sow the seeds of doubts about the authenticity of traditions handed down to us through the generations. Their convincing and subtle deconstruction of Islamic practice based on the treasury of Ahadeeth gnaws at the very fabric of Islam itself.

If we interpret the Quran in isolation from the Prophet’s (sa) Ahadeeth and Sunnah, then whose ‘lens’ will be reliable? If Allah (swt) intended us to understand and interpret the Quran in a don’t-worry-be-happy-do-as-you-want-with-my-text kind of way, then what is the role of the Prophet (sa) in Islam?

That role has been clearly identified by Allah (swt) Himself in the Quran:

“O Prophet (Muhammad (sa))! Verily, We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner. And as one who invites to Allah [Islamic Monotheism, i.e. to worship none but Allah (Alone)] by His Leave, and as a lamp spreading light (through your instructions from the Quran and the Sunnah – the legal ways of the Prophet (sa)).” (Al-Ahzab 33:45-46)

What our relationship with the Prophet (sa) should be has also been defined in the Quran and also by the Prophet (sa):

Allah (swt) says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad (sa)) you have a good example to follow, for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Abu Hurairah (ratm) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “All my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse. They said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Who will refuse?’ He said: ‘Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise and whoever disobeys me is the one who refuses (to enter it).’” (Bukhari)

In the present ‘let us talk Islam’ climate, why then are some people hell bent on reinventing the wheel?

That is why picking up a pen (or a word processor) and writing about the Prophet (sa) is a serious and scary venture. Serious, because we dare not be flippant about the man who is Allah’s (swt) last Messenger till the end of this world. Scary, because of the following Ahadeeth: Anas (ratm) has narrated: “The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Ahadeeth to you is that the Prophet (sa) said: ‘Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.’” (Bukhari)

His greatest strength lies in his humanness and the way he elevated it to perfection. Contrary to popular belief, intimate proximity with the Divine did not make the Prophet (sa) ethereal; rather, it made him more human. 

Alhamdulillah, there is a wealth of information available to us on every aspect of the Prophet’s (sa) life. His status and our role in reference to him, has been laid out. What we can safely do is sift through his life and Sunnah with the intention of building a personal relationship of trust, love, understanding and, above all, of finding our hero. This would then be a process of discovery, NOT invention. Taking the cue from the Companions of the Prophet (sa) will certainly be an advantage on this road.

One most remarkable and striking aspect of the Prophet (sa) was his ability to command respect in situations where anyone else would border on undignified. It takes a big man to sit on a mule and be commander-in-chief of an army. Look at the Battle of Hunain – the Prophet (sa) sat on his white mule and Burrah Ibn Azab (rta) narrated: “By Allah! Whenever the battle got intense, we would save ourselves through the Prophet (sa), i.e., we would hide behind him and the brave amongst us was that person who would stand beside the Prophet (sa).” (Muslim)

His greatest strength lies in his humanness and the way he elevated it to perfection. Contrary to popular belief, intimate proximity with the Divine did not make the Prophet (sa) ethereal; rather, it made him more human. We then have a hero with not some out-of-this-world super powers but with a dazzling human factor. It is this very factor that impressed friends and foes in his lifetime and still holds its own amidst venomous attempts to dent his Sunnah. He was ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’. His unpretentious, modest simplicity did not waver with changing circumstances.

Alas! It is this same human factor that is so lacking in us today.

Hafsa Bint Umar (rta)

Slide3

Name: Hafsa

Father: Umar Ibn al Khattab

Mother: Zainab Bint Maizun

Tribe: Banu Adi

Clan: Qurtafish

Hafsa (rta) was her father’s daughter. Aisha (rta) said: “Constancy was Umar’s over whelming characteristic, and the same was true about Hafsa.” She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and she did so with knowledge and conviction, not merely for the sake of being heard.

Once, the Prophet (sa) said about the Companions of Badar and Hudaybiya: “I can hope, God willing, they will not enter Hell.” Hafsa (rta) retorted: “But they might, Ya Rasool Allah,” and she quoted from the Quran, “There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell): this is with your Lord; a Decree which must be accomplished.” (Maryam 19:71) The Prophet (sa) could not help smiling and was pleased at her sharp intellect. He replied with the verse: “Then We shall save those who used to fear Allah and were dutiful to Him. And We shall leave the Zalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers) therein (humbled) to their knees (in Hell).” (Maryam 19:72) (Ahmad)

Hafsa (rta) was first married to Khunais Ibn Hudhaifah, but was widowed at only eighteen. Umar (rta) asked both Abu Bakr (rta) and Uthman (rta) to marry her, but they both declined. When Umar (rta) went to the Prophet (sa) to complain about their behaviour, the Prophet (sa) smiled and said: “Hafsa will marry one better than Uthman and Uthman will marry one better than Hafsa.” Umar (rta) was delighted, when he realized that the Prophet (sa) was asking for her hand in marriage! (Bukhari)

Hafsa (rta) became the Prophet’s (sa) fourth wife. Sawda (rta) welcomed her with open arms, but Aisha (rta) was jealous at first. Like herself, Hafsa (rta) was an intelligent, educated and beautiful woman, who eagerly learned from the Prophet (sa). In the course of time, however, Hafsa (rta) and Aisha (rta) became close friends.

Hafsa (rta) liked to discuss religious issues with her husband, who allowed her to say what she thought. One day, while speaking to Hafsa’s mother, Umar (rta) said: “I think I shall do so and so.” She replied: “But it would be better, if you did such and such.” “Are you arguing with me, woman?” said Umar (rta), who did not expect his wives to talk back to him. “Why not?” she answered. “Your daughter keeps arguing with the Messenger of Allah.” Umar (rta) immediately put on his cloak and went to his daughter’s house. “Is it true that you argue with the Messenger of Allah?” he asked. “Indeed, I do,” she replied. Umar (rta) was just about to chastise her for what he considered were bad manners, when the Prophet (sa) came into the room and would not allow it.

Hafsa’s (rta) sharp tongue never stooped down to being insolent with her husband. On one occasion, when she did not quite control herself and told the Prophet’s (sa) private matter to Aisha (rta), a direct reprimand came from Allah (swt) in the Quran – known as the incidence of Tehreem. Such was the responsibility on her shoulders, and she fulfilled it in spite of her quick temperament.

We tend to think that the Ummahat Al-Mumineen were other than human or docile little women, who had no will or mind of their own. Hafsa’s (rta) personality comes across as very wilful and strong. Yet, we see, how she took a grip of herself and controlled her innate nature, in order to please Allah (swt) and her husband. A valuable lesson for all women and, indeed, men as well – if Hafsa (rta), Umar’s (rta) daughter, could tame her ego and temper just like her father did, why can’t we?

Hafsa (rta) memorized the entire Quran by heart. She prayed at night and fasted during day. This piety must have helped her in her Tazkiya (purification of the heart) and brought out the best in her.

Hafsa (rta) lived with the Prophet (sa) in Madinah for eight years and lived on for another thirty four years after his death. She witnessed with joy the victories and expansion of Islam under her father’s guidance, and with sorrow the troubles that beset the Muslim community after the murder of Uthman (rta). She died at the age of sixty-three.

Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta)

Ummul-MumineenName: Zaynab Bint Jahash

Kunniyat: Ummul-Hakam

Father: Jahash Bin Raab

Mother: Umayma Bint Abdul-Muttalib

Clan: Banu Hashim

Family: Asad Bin Khuzaymah

Tribe: Quraish

Birth: 590 CE

Death: 20 AH – 643 CE

If any woman has had to face controversy, scandal, slander and all manners of finger pointing, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman has emerged from it all not only unscathed but with flying colours, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). And if any woman was chosen by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) to be an agent of change in eradicating deep rooted customs of Jahiliyah and launching an Islamic social fabric, it is Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta).

Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta) was the Prophet’s (sa) first cousin, her mother Umayma being the daughter of Abdul-Muttalib. She came from one of the noblest families of the Quraish, and everyone expected her eventually to marry a man with the same high social status. However, the Prophet (sa) himself arranged her marriage to Zaid Bin Harith (rta), whose background was very different from Zaynab (rta).

Zaid (rta) was taken prisoner as a child during an inter-tribal war before Islam. He was sold as a slave to a nephew of Khadijah (rta), who gave Zaid (rta) to her as a gift. In turn, Khadijah (rta) gave him to the Prophet (sa), who later granted Zaid (rta) his freedom and adopted him as his own son.

When the Prophet (sa) asked for her hand on behalf of Zaid (rta), Zaynab (rta) and her family were shocked at the idea of her marrying a man, who for them was only a freed slave. The Prophet (sa) thought they would make a good couple, and that their marriage would demonstrate that it was not their ancestors but their standing in the sight of Allah (swt) that mattered.

A lesson we seem to have forgotten. Today, we are as socially stratified as the Arabs were in the days of Jahiliyah. Cross-social and cross-cultural marriages are frowned upon and just not acceptable. How often do we hear of a Sindhi marrying a Pathan?

Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) got married when this Ayah was revealed in the Quran: “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error.” (Al-Ahzab 33:36)

The marriage, however, was not a success. Although both Zaynab (rta) and Zaid (rta) were the best of people, who loved Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa), they were very different and could not overcome their incompatibility.

Then Allah (swt) ordained His Messenger (sa) the task of eradicating a deep rooted social tradition – the adoption of children. An adopted child was considered exactly like a real son or daughter in rights and sanctities. This tradition affronts the basic principles of Islam; especially those concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance and some other cases.

“Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just with Allah.” (Al-Ahzab 33:5)

“Muhammad (sa) is not the father of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets.” (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

Allah (swt) bid the Prophet (sa) to marry his cousin Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta), who was an ex-wife to Zaid (rta) – his adopted son.

“So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them).” (Al-Ahzab 33:37)

So he married the divorcee of his ‘adopted’ son to show that adoption does not really make the adopted child a real son and also to show that divorcees have a right to remarry. Tongues of the Kuffar to this day are dipped in venom, when they slander the Prophet (sa) regarding his marriage to Zaynab (rta). They stoop to the basest level of accusations. So we can well imagine how the hypocrites must have spread false propaganda at that time.

The marriage of Zaynab (rta) and the Prophet (sa) not only withstood all the hoopla but flourished in spite of it. Zaynab (rta) was fond of pointing out that her marriage had been arranged by Allah (swt) Himself!

But that did not mean she thought she was a ‘chosen one’ and became complacent about Allah (swt) or her actions. She was constantly immersed in worship.

It is related by Anas Ibn Malik (rta) that once the Prophet (sa) entered the mosque and found a rope hanging between two pillars, and so he said: “What is this?” He was told: “It is for Zaynab (rta). She prays, and when she loses concentration or feels tired, she holds onto it.” At this time, the Prophet said: “Untie it. Pray as long as you feel fresh, but when you lose concentration or become tired, you should stop.”

She was a giving woman. The Prophet (sa) said of her to his other wives: “She is the most generous among you.” It has been related by Aisha (rta) that the Prophet (sa) once said to his wives: “The one who has the longest hands among you will meet me again the soonest.” Aisha (rta) added: “They used to measure each other’s hands to see whose was longest, and it was the hand of Zaynab (rta) that was the longest, because she used to work by hand (tanning leather) and give away (what she earned) in charity.”

Zaynab (rta) was with the Prophet (sa) for six years, and lived for another nine years after his death, thus fulfilling the Prophet’s (sa) indication that she would be the first of his wives to die after him.

If ever a woman gave Ayesha (rta) cause for insecurity, it was Zaynab Bint Jahash (rta). There was a healthy rivalry between Zaynab (rta) and Ayesha (rta). However, Ayesha (rta) said of Zaynab (rta): “I have never seen a woman so pure as Zaynab, so God-fearing, so truthful, so attentive to family ties, so generous, so self-sacrificing in everyday life, so charitable and thus so close to Allah, the Exalted.”

The lessons we learn from this remarkable woman and her life are particularly relevant in today’s soap opera culture and hunger for scandals. How can we deal with personal trials with poise? Look at Zaynab (rta). No need to get hysterical at every finger raised in your direction. How do we manage a divorce with dignity? Look at Zaynab (rta). We don’t have to accuse either party of some major fault and get in a mud slinging match. How do we adjust to a major lifestyle change? Look at Zaynab (rta). Know your direction and stay true to your faith. How do we not get on cloud nine when Allah the Supreme honours us with His Glorious Limelight? Look at Zaynab (rta). Stay humble before Allah (swt) and steadfast in your devotion to Him.

Ummul-Mumineen – Aisha (rta)

Slide2

Name: Aisha Bint Abi Bakr

Kunniyat: Umm Abdullah

Title: Siddiqa and Humaira

Father: Abdullah – Abi Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafa

Mother: Zainab – Umme Ruman Bint Aamer

Clan: Banu Tumaim

Tribe: Quraysh

Birth: 5th Shawwal AH – 615 CE

Death: 17th Ramadan, 58 AH – 681 CE

How does one begin to define the life and times of a daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rta) – the most eminent of Companions – and the wife of the most remarkable man of all times – the Messenger of Allah (sa)? Even among these stellar associations, she shines as an individual to reckon, which says volumes about her character and personality.

Even as a child, Aisha (rta) showed exceptional intelligence. She was about six years of age, when the Prophet (sa) saw her in her father’s house playing with some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet (sa) asked her: “Aisha, do horses ever have wings?” Instead of feeling shy in the presence of this great man, Aisha (rta) confidently replied: “Yes, King’s Solomon’s horse did.”

Aisha (rta) was at various times a judge, a political activist and, after the death of her husband, an indispensable source of knowledge about the life and teachings of the Prophet (sa). Even such senior Companions as Umar (rta) frequently consulted her about matters, in which they were doubtful. Even Tabi’in, the great scholars of Ahadeeth and Fiqh, learned from her. A part of what they learnt has come down to us in the form of numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.

She was strong-willed and fiercely feminist – but not a rebel without a cause. Hence, we see her defending women’s rights – even negating opinions of other Companions. On hearing some Companions narrate that if a woman, dog or donkey crosses in front of a person praying, the prayer gets disrupted, she got angry and said: “You did gross injustice in putting us together with dogs and donkeys. The Prophet (sa) would pray and I would lie in front of him; when he wanted to prostrate, I would gather my legs.”

When she felt some women deviating from the Islamic code of conduct, she said in no uncertain terms: “Had Allah’s Prophet (sa) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from attending the Mosque.” (Bukhari) Her brand of feminism was firmly entrenched in Islamic teachings. She had no ego issues about standing behind a man in congregation or a chip on the shoulder about remaining in Purdah.

Syed Sulaiman Nadwee says: “ The greatest favour that Aisha (rta) has done to women is to demonstrate that a Muslim woman, living in Purdah, can actively participate in literary, religious, social and political activities and can work for the betterment of the community.”

Aisha (rta) did not simply teach and preach Islam – she lived it. She led a truly Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice. The Prophet (sa) once gave her this advice: “Aisha, if you want to meet me (again in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler’s meal and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful, and do not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended.” (Ibn Sa’ad)

During the Caliphate of Umar (rta) and afterwards, wealth began to pour into the hands of Muslims. A due share of it came to Aisha (rta), but she gave away almost all she received. Once Abd Allah Bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of the same day, she had given it all away. Ibn Sa’ad reports Urwa as saying that on one occasion he saw her distribute 70,000 dirhams and then get up shaking the front of her dress, as if she were clearing it of dust. Aisha (rta) also often kept Nafl (supererogatory) fast and rarely missed Hajj.

This is but a glimpse of an inspiring life!

Some people like to focus only on: “How old was she, when she got married?” or “What about the Battle of the Camel (Jamal)?”

The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) marriage to Aisha (rta) was an exceptional one. Waheeda Carvello observes: “Here we have a man nearing the end of his life and a woman still near the beginning of hers. Aisha (rta) had a lively temperament and was quick to learn. She had a clear heart and an accurate memory.”

It is important, however, to dig deeper and to bring out the real significance of this union. The emphasis here is on education and the cultivation of the intellect, which every human is blessed with. We must remind ourselves that if knowledge is not related to and acquired through action, it cannot be used for reconstruction of society.

What we lack today is the application of knowledge. Most of us are educated – in some instances, very highly educated – but how well do we understand what we have learnt? And how many of us have the commitment and the strength to apply it? Let alone implement it? This is what made the marriage of Aisha (rta) to the Prophet (sa) so exceptional.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged intellectual growth and debate. Although Aisha (rta) was intelligent, she had a great deal to learn. The Prophet (sa) tutored her with love and understanding and enhanced her potential. Through this interaction with the Prophet (sa) and the other wives, she became very knowledgeable. Like any student, she would sometimes feel insecure regarding her progress, and the Prophet (sa) would always help her and assist her in improving herself. She was never short of words and was not afraid to question or debate in order to find out the truth. When she got older, she passed on the knowledge she had received from the Prophet (sa), and long after his death, she was a source of knowledge and wisdom for both women and men.

Aisha (rta) accompanied the Prophet (sa) on many expeditions. She participated with total courage and commitment in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq and learned through these experiences. Through this kind of training, and as an active participant, she developed into a mature eloquent woman, who could fully participate in the affairs of the first Islamic state and be a beacon for all times to come.

The Battle of the Camel was an incident that caused Aisha (rta) tremendous grief. On remembering it, she would say: “I wish I was a stone, I wish I was a tree.”

The focal point of Aisha’s (rta) remarkable life is her commitment to the cause of Islam under all circumstances, her unfaltering devotion and love for her husband and her submission of her will and intellect to the will of Allah (swt).

Hajj – A Personal Reflection

Vol 4-Issue 1 Hajj- A personal reflectionYou read about it, attend classes, talk to people who have been there, see it on TV, but nothing, nothing can prepare you for the first encounter with the Kabah.

Arriving at Jeddah airport, you are prepared for waiting at immigration, for the bus to take you to Makkah, for the traffic along the way. No problem. Your heart skips a beat, as you pass the sign on the road reading ‘Muslims only.’ You are now in the vicinity of the Haram. Did I say ‘Alhamdulillah’? I had heard this in Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s cassette and had resolved to say so.

Reciting the Talbiah is an energizer: “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik, Labbaika La Shareeka Laka Labbaik. Innal Hamda wan Naimata Laka Wal Mulk. La Shareeka Lak.” The men on the bus recite it out loud and you get goose bumps. “Here I am, Allah, here I am.” It gets surreal from here on.

It’s just after Isha. Our group organizer advises us to leave our luggage in the bus and walk to Masjid-e-Haram for Umrah. We get off amidst a multitude of people. Are these all Muslims? Wow! But focus is somewhere else right now. Where’s the Kabah? You waited patiently all this time, but now find yourself struggling with the temptation to push to go ahead quickly. Patience, patience. Pulse rate is rising, you are disoriented and totally overwhelmed by the pulsating crowds and atmosphere.

Reaching the gates of Masjid-e-Haram, you remind yourself not to forget the Dua. Shoes off – “Assalatu wassalamu a’la Rasool Allah, Allahummaftahlee abwaba rahmatik” – you enter and inch your way to the centre. Feet firm on the cold marble floor, but the heart racing ahead. The arches of the mosque restrict the view of the Kabah; you strain your neck in desperation. And then the moment comes – finally, face to face with your Qibla: “Here I am, Allah, here I am.”

There’s something about that simple cube draped in a black cloth that makes the surrounding grand mosque with its towering minarets and the thousands of people in it just melt away. Your ‘I’ stumbles to ground zero in awe, your eyes water with the sheer honor of being there, with fear of blowing what might be your only chance of redemption, with feelings too deep and too personal to describe in mere words or to share with anyone other than The One.

8th of Zil Hajj plunges you head on into Hajj.

You become part of something infinitely bigger than your puny little self. Your heart swells with emotion to see the ‘us’ – Muslims of all colors and races. We may not know each other’s language elsewhere, but walking from Muzdalifah to Mina, everyone understands each other, when saying the Talbiah out loud. When ‘we’ speak the language of our Lord, ‘we’ are no longer ’them.’

Hajj seems a microcosm of life. The challenge is to find your centre and plug it in the source, while fumbling with the logistics of getting from Mina to Arafat, then Muzdalifah and back to Mina and Makkah. The key is to stick to the Sunnah of Ibrahim (as) and Rasoolullah (sa) and not to lose your cool or focus.

In our day to day life, Tauheed and Kufr are so woven together that often our senses get blurred. In the Harmain – Masjid-e-Haraam and Nabwee – because Allah’s (swt) presence is so vivid and tangible, in contrast, the presence of Shaitan is starkly visible. Step out of the mosque in Makkah and a glittering shopping mall is in your face. In Medina, the gold shops don’t shut even at Tahajjud! The devil is at Allah’s (swt) doorsteps. It is a chilling reminder – his promise to Allah (swt) was not in vain. Are we taking heed of the warnings of our Book and the Prophet (sa)?

Magic and its Reality

Vol 3- Issue 4 Magic and It's reality

The mere mention of magic opens a Pandora’s Box of superstitions and hocus-pocus of all shapes and sizes. Because we do not understand the phenomenon, we apply our wildest imagination in an effort to comprehend it. Horror flicks, images of witches on broomsticks, and tales of Malang Babas further warp reality and feed a deviant human craving for the spooky.

Our ignorance has resulted in the establishment of a flourishing industry of unscrupulous profiteers, claiming to rid us of Kala Jadoo, Siflee Amals, evil spirits – you name it, they have it covered. For a hefty price, of course! They take advantage of hapless people, who are or think they are under the influence of magic, and are desperate, because they do not know how to deal with it. This business is lucrative. No wonder that we see professor so-and-so’s or Amil so-and-so’s ‘shops’ in most localities, ads in newspapers, and business cards distributed at traffic signals, claiming Roohani Ilaaj (spiritual healing). Seriously misguided people use magic to harm others, not caring for the consequences.

But we cannot conveniently act as victims. The reason this vicious cycle of fake exorcists, Taweez, Ganday, and other Shirk exists is because we allow it to. The rational way is to understand what magic is and how we can deal with it, without compromising our Iman.

Oxford dictionary defines magic as “the supposed art influencing the course of events by the occult control of nature or of spirits.”

The Quran and the Sunnah give us certain facts.

Fact: Al-Baqarah 2:102

They followed what Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaiman (Solomon). Sulaiman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they said: “We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).” And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not.

Fact: Al-Baqarah 2:255 (Ayat Al-Kursi)

Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what happens to them (His creatures) in this world, and what will happen to them in the Hereafter. And they will never encompass anything of His knowledge except that which He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

Fact: The Prophet (sa) was also afflicted with black magic. It has been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Baihaqi, Tabarani, Hakim, and others on the authority of Aisha (rta), Zaid bin Arqam (rta) and Abdullah bin Abbas (rta).

When we analyze these facts together and consider them in the light of the Prophet’s (sa) experience and teachings, we can see a comprehensible picture.

Ayat Al-Kursi makes it clear that Allah (swt) is the Creator of all cosmos. Al-Khaliq. Each of His creations has particular characteristics. For example, fire burns; however, what we need to realize is that it burns, when Allah (swt) wills it so. Al-Qahhar. When Ibrahim (as) was thrown in it, Allah (swt) seized fire’s ability to burn.

Similarly, amongst Allah’s (swt) creation are human beings, animals, Jinns, and Shayatin. He has chosen to give different faculties and capabilities to each of them, and their power is relative to each other. An elephant is stronger than us, a snake bite can be fatal for us, and tiny bacteria can cause havoc in our bodies. Since there is a scientific rationale for these, we are not threatened and stay firmly on top of the food chain.

On the other hand, Jinns and Shayatin are not from our dimension, and Allah (swt) has given them abilities that seem supernatural to us. For example, some of them can transcend the time and space we are familiar with. The Shayatin take advantage of their peculiar powers to misguide some people into practices of total Shirk and the occult. When we are oblivious to the light and guidance of the Quran, the vacuum gets filled by Shaitan. That is what we call magic, Sihr in Arabic. It is not an autonomous force or a power beyond Allah’s (swt) Supreme authority. Read Ayat Al-Kursi again.

Magic is a psychological phenomenon, which can affect the body through the mind just as physical things affect the mind through the body. Fear, for instance, is a psychological phenomenon, but it affects the body: the hair stands up and the body shudders. Magic does not change reality, but under its influence our mind and senses feel, as if reality has changed. The staffs and cords thrown by the magicians at Moses (as) did not actually become snakes – the eyes of people and Moses (as) were so bewitched that they felt, as if they were snakes. (Al-Araf 7:116)

There is nothing spiritual or religious about it either. It is a practice used to harm and exploit and nothing else. The distinction between ‘black magic’ and ‘white magic a la Harry Potter’ is simply fiction. A dangerous one, in fact, because it glamorizes a great sin. It is clear from Al-Baqarah 2:102 that practicing magic is strongly condemned and is called Kufr (disbelief).

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “Avoid the seven most grievous sins.” (The hearers) asked: “What are they?” He replied: “Shirk, magic, killing without just cause, consuming the property of an orphan, devouring usury, fleeing on the day of fighting, and slandering chaste believing women.” (Muslim)

Magic exists. However, we should be wary of quickly jumping to the conclusion that all misfortunes happening to us are connected with magic. Scholars and many Muslim experts in the field of exorcism believe that in over 95 % of cases, where magic is suspected, there is no such problem. It is mostly suspicion or some other physical or psychological problem that is attributed to magic. Having said that, we should remember the age old thumb rule – prevention is better than cure. Our Prophet (sa) has prescribed several defenses against magic and all other evils that may harm us.

When the Prophet (sa) felt the effects of magic, Allah (swt) revealed to him the Mu’awwidhatayn (Al-Falaq and  an-Nas), in which refuge with Allah (swt) has been sought from all evil. A Jew, Labid ibn Asim, took a hair of the Prophet (sa), made eleven knots, and placed it under a rock in a well. The effect of this was that it created uncertainty in the mind of the Prophet (sa), as to whether or not he had done something. This was confined to his person. No change occurred in the performance of his duties as a Prophet (sa). There is no tradition indicating that he forgot verses of the Quran in those days, or a change occurred in his counsels or sermons, or he presented a discourse as a revelation, which may not have been revealed to him, or he missed a prayer and thought that he had performed it.

Jibrail (as) informed the Prophet (sa) about what had happened and came down with the Muawwidhatayn (Al-Falaq and an-Nas), in which refuge with Allah (swt) has been sought from all evil. The Prophet (sa) went to the well with his Companions, retrieved the knotted hair, and untied the knots, while reciting each verse. At the eleventh knot, the effects of this magic were gone.

Every night at the time of going to bed (especially during illness), the Prophet (sa) used to recite the Muawwidhatayn (or according to another Hadeeth, the Muawwidhat, i.e.,  Ikhlas and the Muawwidhatayn) thrice, blow in his hands, and rub them on his body from head to foot, as far as his hands could reach.

Other authentic Ahadeeth recommend the recitation of Al-Fatiha, Ayat Al-Kursi, and last two verses of Al-Baqarah. The Prophet (sa) said that Al-Fatiha has a cure for all illnesses.

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), when one recites Ayat Al-Kursi before sleeping, Allah (swt) sends an angel to protect that person till dawn, and Shaitan does not come near him. (Bukhari) Another tradition says – he, who recites Ayat Al-Kursi in the morning, is protected till evening, and he, who recites it in the evening, is protected till morning from the evil of Jinns. (Hakim) For the one, who recites the last two Ayats of Al-Baqarah at night, they will suffice him. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The morning and evening invocations of the Prophet (sa) include recitation of the above Surahs and comprehensive Duas, seeking Allah’s (swt) protection from evil and His help for getting through the day and night. We must try to form the habit of reciting them after Fajr prayers and in the evening. It doesn’t take much time or effort, and the result is tremendous – the protection of Al-Hafiz.

Ultimately, we must remember the Prophet’s (sa) advice: “If you are mindful about Allah, He will be mindful of you, and if you are mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. When you ask for anything, ask it from Allah, and if you seek help, seek in Allah. Know that if the people were to unite to do you some benefit, they could benefit you only with what Allah had recorded for you, and that if they were to unite to do you some injury, they could injure you only with what Allah had recorded for you. The pens are withdrawn, and the pages are dry.” (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

Permitted and Prohibited Methods of Contraception in Islam – Part II

which_method-HUBIn the last issue, we looked at the permissibility of birth control in Islam as well as the process of fertilization. The thumb rule is: any method that prevents fertilization of a mother’s egg and father’s sperm is allowed, whereas a method that destroys a fertilized Zygote (Nutfah) or is an irreversible process is not permitted.

With this perspective, let us now analyze the options available to us.

Common Methods of Contraception

1) Natural methods

Rhythm method

An egg can be fertilized only during the day or so after ovulation. Sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to 6 days. So intercourse that takes place more than 5 days before or 2 days after ovulation is unlikely to lead to pregnancy. Abstinence during this period is called the rhythm method. Women need to know exactly, when they ovulate, by measuring their body temperature and/or levels of hormones by a urine test.

Withdrawal method (Azl)

The husband withdraws from the wife’s vagina before the release of sperm. This method was practiced during the time of the Prophet (sa).

2) Chemical methods

They are also known as spermicidal chemicals. Chemicals such as nonoxynol 9 are inserted in the vagina – these are all acidic and inactivate the alkaline sperm. They are usually available in the form of soaps, foams or jellies.

3) Mechanical barriers

These prevent husband’s sperm from entering the wife’s vagina.

Condom

This is a sheath of thin flexible material (such as latex) worn by the husband. They are highly effective and are the most commonly used form of contraception in Pakistan.

Diaphragm

This is a rubber dome placed at the upper end of the vagina. They may be used alongside spermicidal chemicals.

Cervical cap

This is an impermeable cap fitted over the wife’s cervix. It may be left in place until menstruation.

4) Hormonal methods

Oral combined pill

This is also called an oral contraceptive pill (OCP). It contains a combination of two synthetic hormones: estrogen and progestin. The estrogen works in the ovaries to prevent ovulation (release of egg) by giving negative feedback. The two most commonly prescribed OCPs in Pakistan are Nordette (by Wyeth) and Marvelon (by Organon).

Oral progesterone only pill (POP pill)

This is also known as the mini pill. It contains a very low dosage of the hormone progestin. It does not inhibit ovulation but creates local changes, which interfere in either fertilization or implantation of the fertilized zygote. This type of pill is not currently available in Pakistan.

5) Intrauterine devices (IUD)

For centuries camel drivers in northern Africa inserted a stone in the uterus of their female camels before starting on a long trek. This prevented the animal from becoming pregnant on the journey.

The intrauterine device (IUD) accomplishes the same purpose. It must be inserted by a physician. A variety of materials (usually containing some copper) and shapes are used.  Coils (Cu 7 & CuT) and Lippes Loop are commonly used. Research indicates that it is the presence of a foreign body within the uterus that makes conditions unfavorable for implantation of the fertilized zygote.

IUDs have caused such bad side effects (e.g., infections of the uterus and fallopian tubes) that only two types remain on the U.S. market! They are used in Pakistan as well. One is Mirena® – it releases a progestin and can be left in place for up to 5 years.

6) Sterilization:

These are irreversible processes.

Tubal ligation

A woman’s fallopian tubes (both of them!) are cut and tied, so that no egg can be fertilized. It requires incision(s) and must be done under anesthesia.

Vasectomy

A man’s reproductive tubules in the testes are cut near the top of the scrotum. It can be done in the doctor’s office with a local anesthetic in 30-40 minutes.

We need to educate ourselves and spread awareness about the various types of contraception options. Otherwise, there are chances of getting pressurized by family planning workers or ‘well-meaning’ gynecologists to use a particular method increases, if we have no idea how it works. It is mostly lack of awareness that leads women and families to make unwise birth control choices or none at all. Sterilization and IUDs are recommended by doctors, who themselves are most probably not aware of their consequences.

Having identified the permissible methods available to us, the choice of method of contraception is ultimately a personal one. We must consult a medical practitioner to determine that it is a safe way.

Permissible Birth Control Methods

Method Why permissible?Intervention before fertilization
Rhythm No artificial intervention
Withdrawal No artificial intervention
Combined pill No egg release
Condom No sperm entry
Diaphragm No sperm entry
Cervical cap No sperm entry
Spermicidal chemicals Inactivates sperm

Non-Permissible Birth Control Methods

Method Why not permissible?Intervention after fertilization or irreversible process
Intra Uterine Devices (IUDs) e.g. coil Egg and sperm present – kills zygote
Progestin only pill: POP pill Egg and sperm present – kills zygote
Vasectomy (male sterilization) Irreversible process
Tubal ligation (female sterilization) Irreversible process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intimate Issues

Vol 3-Issue 2 Intimate isuuesAllah (swt) created sexuality not just for procreation but as a means to attain physical and emotional fulfillment. Sexuality must be expressed and sexual well-being must be an integral part of healthy human development. Islam, being a comprehensive way of life, guides us with the Quran and the Sunnah in this important area of our lives. Let us look at:

  • Expression of sexuality;
  • Perceptions about our bodies;
  • Sexual health education.

In Islam, sexuality is a part of our identity as human beings. Allah (swt) has distinguished us from animals by giving us reason and will – we can control behaviour that in other species is governed solely by instinct.

Although sexual relations can result in reproduction, which ensures the survival of the human race, our capacity for self-control allows us to regulate this behaviour. Also, the fact that human beings are the only creatures engaging in sexual relations beyond the physical capacity for reproduction is what sets us apart from all other species.

Concept of Marriage

The Prophet (sa) said: “Marriage is my tradition. He, who rejects my tradition, is not of me.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam encourages marriage as a socially responsible way for sexual expression and as a shield from casual relationships. The disastrous effects of non-committal intimacy on the health and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society as a whole can be seen not just in the West but across the spectrum of the Muslim Ummah. Marriage provides space for safe intimacy “that will keep one free from diseases, infections, and dysfunctions.”

The marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and legal living arrangement. The goal is to create tenderness between two individuals and satisfy the basic human need for companionship, intimacy, physical and emotional fulfillment.

Allah (swt) says: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum 30:21)

“They are your garments, and you are their garments.” (Al-Baqara 2:187)

The Prophet (sa) himself, while not divulging all aspects of his own intimate life, was known for his nature of a loving husband, who was sensitive and physically demonstrative. In several Hadeeths, he speaks about the importance of foreplay and speaking in loving terms during intimacy moments. One Hadeeth advises husbands to let their wife achieve fulfillment of her desires first. Sexual dissatisfaction is considered legitimate grounds for divorce on the part of either wife or husband.

Intimacy Outside of Marriage

Allah (swt) says: “And let those, who find not the financial means for marriage, to keep themselves chaste, until Allah (swt) enriches them of His Bounty.” (An-Nur 24:33)

Extra- and pre-marital intimacy is not allowed in Islam. Allah (swt) does not simply forbid or allow behaviour whimsically – He does so considering our best interests: guiding us away from potentially destructive behaviour towards a path that allows us to achieve our utmost potential.

Allah (swt) says: “Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and courteous (to His slaves), All-Aware (of everything).” (Al-Mulk 67:14)

Modesty and Perceptions about our Bodies

The Prophet (sa) said: “Haya and Iman are two companions that go together. If one of them is lifted, the other is also lifted.” (Hakim)

Islamic perspective on sexuality, body image, and self-awareness is based on the concept of Haya, which loosely translates to modesty. Haya is usually misunderstood and regarded as a one-dimensional concept meaning shyness or bashfulness. Media rhetoric has further narrowed the vision of Muslims and non-Muslims alike into believing that Haya is a sign of backwardness or lack of confidence. When the popular slogan is, “if you have it – flaunt it,” it is inconceivable that a person would choose to be modest.

Haya is actually an inner spiritual protective device that makes a person avoid transgression and behaviour that may lead to it.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Every religion has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (Haya).” (Abu Dawood)

And: “From the words of the previous prophets that people still find are: ‘If you feel no Haya, then do as you wish.'” (Bukhari)

Pertaining to sexuality, the manifestation of Haya is an attitude that reflects a Muslim identity – men and women, who are confident about their bodies but choose to exercise control over their sexuality in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah.

Islam encourages men and women to dress and behave modestly, in order to minimize unwarranted display of sexuality. This is not just for curbing extra-marital relations or suppressing women’s sexuality. The Chaddar and Chahardiwaree concept of women’s repression is totally alien to Islam.

Display of sexuality has a deep impact on the way we perceive our bodies and our sense of self. An excerpt from an article by a 17-year-old high school student from Toronto, Canada, eloquently illustrates a contemporary Islamic interpretation of modesty in dress and self image.

“The concept of the Hijab, contrary to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female empowerment. When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. Compare this to life in today’s society — we are constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewellery, hair, and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this?
Yes, I have a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or to use in advertisements. It is a myth that women in today’s society are liberated. What kind of freedom can there be, when a woman cannot walk down the street without every aspect of her physical self being checked out?
When I wear Hijab, I feel safe from all of this. I am first and foremost a human being, equal to any man, and not vulnerable because of my sexuality.”

Sexual Identity and Homosexuality

Dostoevsky said: “Without God, everything is possible.”

Human beings are capable of many forms of sexual expression, orientation, and identification. However, to date, no researcher has claimed that genes can determine sexual orientation. At best, researchers believe that there may be a genetic component. Sexuality, like every other behaviour, is undoubtedly influenced by both biological and societal factors.

The potential for behaviour, such as homosexuality, does not mean that its practice is acceptable in the eyes of Allah (swt). We also have the potential for deviant and violent sexual behaviours, such as pedophilia and rape. However, responsible human beings do not act upon all their dormant impulses.

The argument that consenting adults can do what they please is contrary to the very essence of Islam. Submission to the will of Allah (swt) is what it means to be a Muslim. Even consenting adults need Allah’s (swt) consent in all matters. Homosexuality and other forms of sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage are prohibited in Islam.

The story of Prophet Lot (as) in the Quran categorically condemns homosexuality.

So when Our Commandment came, We turned (the towns of Sodom in Palestine) upside down, and rained on them stones of baked clay, in a well-arranged manner one after another; marked from your Lord; and they are not ever far from the Zalimun (polytheists, evil-doers).” (Hud 11:82-83)

Masturbation

This method of self-gratification does not correspond with the ethos of Islamic teachings.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And those, who guard their chastity except from their wives or (the slaves) their right hand possesses – for then, they are free from blame; but whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors.” (Al-Mu’minun 23:5-7)

A Hadeeth indicates that those, who seek sexual gratification from other than their legal partners, are transgressing set limits. Scholars interpret that this refers not only to adultery but also to masturbation. Another Hadeeth reads: “We were with the Prophet (sa), while we were young, and had no wealth whatsoever. The Prophet (sa) said: ‘O assembly of youths; whoever among you possesses the physical and financial resources to marry should do so, because it helps him guard his modesty, and whoever is unable to marry should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.'” (Muslim)

If masturbation was permissible, the Prophet (sa) would have named this as a remedy.

Sexual Health Education

In Islam, education about sexual health is not just recommended but mandatory.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Say: are those who know equal to those who know not?” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

In reading Hadeeths, one is impressed about the Prophet (sa)’s ability to discuss all issues, including those dealing with intimate matters. He was not embarrassed by such inquiries but strove to guide the Muslims who asked.

Umme Sulaim asked the Prophet (sa): “Oh Messenger of Allah (swt), Allah (swt) does not shy away from the truth. Does a woman have to make Ghusl (bath), if she has a wet dream?” The Prophet (sa) stated: “Yes, if she sees liquid.” (Bukhari)

The concept of Taharat is so comprehensive in Islam that its equivalent is not found in any other religion or culture. It loosely translates to physical and spiritual cleanliness. We cannot achieve the state of Taharat without understanding our body, its physical functions, and changes that occur at different stages of maturity. Issues relating to our psychological and emotional development alongside the physical changes are equally important to understand.

It is the responsibility of parents to prepare and educate their children about all aspects of their lives, including the intimate matters. Other responsible adults in a child’s, pre-teen’s or teenager’s life can also be involved in this learning process. Educators must keep in mind the Islamic position on issues relating to sexuality and provide age appropriate information to children at their discretion.

Permitted and Prohibited Methods of Contraception in Islam – Part I

which_method-HUBBirth control or contraception, is any method used to prevent pregnancy. It is an often taboo; and controversial topic. Myths related to all ‘gynea’ issues are perpetuated among women! What the gynecologist doesn’t tell us, we seldom ask.

There are two positions regarding birth control in our society. One is completely or partially ignorant about related issues; the other is involved in predominantly western-inspired debates about women’s fertility rights. One considers mere mention of birth control as sacrilege and Haram; the other propagates campaigns driven by population control theories usually promoted by international NGOs. The result is a mostly blurred picture.

Our Deen asks for a rational middle direction. Contraception is not prohibited in Islam. It is permissible as long as it is reversible and doesn’t involve termination of pregnancy.

During the Prophet’s (sa) time the withdrawal method (known as Azl) was used, as is evident in several Hadiths.

Jabir Ibn Abd Allah (rta), the notable companion of the Prophet (sa) relates: “We used to engage in `Azl’ while the Quran was being revealed. Had it been something that was interdicted, the Quran would have forbidden it.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Prophet’s (sa) basic response, regarding the lawfulness of the practice was that individuals may do as they will, but if Allah (swt) intends for a child to be born she/he will be.

By correlation general acceptance of the Azl can be expanded to include most modern forms of birth control.

Imam Ghazali in his “Ihya’ Ulum al-Din” lists a number of legitimate reasons for practicing contraception: financial difficulty; emotional or psychological hardship of having many children; and even the preservation of beauty and health.

Faraz Rabbani (Sunnipath.com) sums up: “Contemporary Fuqaha state that contraception is permitted, if the husband and wife agree, as there is nothing in the Quran or Sunnah to prohibit it; rather, the Hadiths and practice of the companions of the Prophet (sa) indicate permissibility. This is said by jurists across the schools of Islamic law. Even jurists, who stated that it is disliked, mentioned that if there is a sound reason or benefit to engage in contraception, then it is not disliked. In our times, this would include reasons, such as having a manageable family size, when one does not have the support of extended families in raising the children; the desire to give the children the attention, education, and support they need in difficult times; genuine (physical or emotional) health reasons, and so on.”

The permissibility of contraception does not in any way contradict the Quran’s and Sunnah’s encouragement for procreation. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Marry and multiply.” (Abu Dawood and Nasai)

Keeping the ethos of Islam in mind, it is clear what contraception is not meant for. Easing ‘safe-sex’ outside of marriage. Population control. Blurring the lines between preventing pregnancy and abortion.

Islam believes that every individual’s right to life is a basic human right. Hence, the life of a fetus is sacred. Abortion is allowed only under extreme circumstances, such as when the mother’s life is endangered.

Are the birth control methods available to us today preventing pregnancy or taking a human life? We must analyze them. First, how is a human being made? Only then can we fully comprehend why certain methods of birth control are prohibited in Islam.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Thereafter We made him (offspring of Adam) as a Nutfah (and lodged it) in a safe lodging (womb). Then We made the Nutfah into a clot, then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allah (swt), the Best of Creators.” (Al Muminun 23:13-14) (See also Al Hajj 22:5)

1400 years after Allah (swt) revealed to us His process of creation, science sheds light on it.

A woman’s ovary releases an egg every month, a process called ovulation. During this time, if a father’s sperm (released from his testes during intercourse) finds this egg in the fallopian tube of the mother, they fuse. This is called fertilization – the formation of a Nutfah.

After fertilization, the Nutfah burrows into the lining of the uterus: its safe lodging. This is implantation. Allah’s (swt) wonder is such that after ovulation hormones prepare the lining of the uterus to receive and nourish the egg, if fertilized and implanted.

Securely implanted, the outer cells of the Nutfah start connecting with the mother’s blood vessels to form the placenta. Then with Allah’s (swt) will, the process of creation continues till the baby is ready to be born after nine months.

When exactly does this mother’s egg and father’s sperm become another human being?

Dr Diane N. Irving, a Canadian human embryologist, gives scientific evidence for when life begins. “Before fertilization, the egg and sperm each have only 23 chromosomes. They possess ‘human life,’ since they are parts of a living human being; but they are not each whole living human beings themselves. They do not have 46 chromosomes -the number necessary and characteristic for a single individual member of the human species. The fusion of the sperm (with 23 chromosomes) and the egg (with 23 chromosomes) at fertilization results in a live human being, a single-cell human zygote with 46 chromosomes.”

She rejects the claims that “the product of fertilization is simply a ‘blob,’ a ‘bunch of cells’, a ‘piece of the mother’s tissues, etc.’

The commonly used term, ‘fertilized egg,’ is especially misleading, since there no longer is an egg, once fertilization has begun. What is being called a ‘fertilized egg’ is not an egg but a human being.

Any method of birth control that destroys the Nutfah at any stage of its development is prohibited in Islam, because it is akin to taking a human life.

Insha’Allah, in the next issue we shall analyze contraception options available today and their permissibility for Muslims.