Pearls of Peace: An extract from Surah Nur

Photo credit: ঘাস ফড়িং / iW / CC BY

Photo credit: ঘাস ফড়িং / iW / CC BY

Surah An-Nur

We now begin Surah An-Nur – the Surah that deals with adultery.

Say ‘no’ to false accusations

Sometimes we forward text messages and share posts without verifying their truthfulness. Allah (swt) warns, “And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever, they indeed are the Fasiqun (liars, rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” (An-Nur 24:4)

About accusations it has been said it takes a dirty mind to think dirty. We overhear or see something and weave our own stories. What we have concluded might be far from truth. May Allah (swt) cleanse our hearts. False accusations lead to loss of peace, “Verily, those who accuse chaste women, who never even think of anything touching their chastity and are good believers, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter, and for them will be a great torment.” (An-Nur 24:23) Indulgence in rumours and gossips is taken very lightly, not realising the curse that we are inviting upon ourselves.

Reminder for good

While there is warning for those who accuse chaste people, Allah (swt) offers comfort to the accused. He says, “Verily! Those who brought forth the slander (against Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) the wife of the Prophet (sa)) are a group among you. Consider it not a bad thing for you. Nay, it is good for you. Unto every man among them will be paid that which he had earned of the sin, and as for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be a great torment.” (An-Nur 24:11) Here is also a reminder to not indulge in such acts due to which on the Day of Judgement people will come and claim their share from our good deeds.

Minding your own business

Let us concern ourselves with “our” lives and not the lives of others. Let us not be of those who take pleasure in gossips and spread it.

Allah (swt) says, “Verily, those who like that (the crime of) illegal sexual intercourse should be propagated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you know not.” (An-Nur 24:19)

The owners and employees of media houses should reflect on what they are promoting. What kinds of shows are on air? Today, families cannot sit together and watch television because family entertainment has been taken over by vulgarity and indecency. Once what used to be censored, is now openly shown on television. As a consequence, we see an increase in crime rate, illicit relations and immoral behaviour.

Quran gives us repetitive reminders of how our choices determine our end. Let us rectify what is wrong within us, and not earn Allah (swt)’s painful punishment in both the worlds.

With the coming of smart phones, we are quick to share small details about ourselves. But when it comes to visiting someone, somehow we are reluctant to inform them of our arrival beforehand. The etiquettes we follow determine whether we will have a pleasant stay or will feel uninvited.

Pay dignified visits

In Surah An-Nur, Allah (swt) gives us instructions on visiting someone’s house, “O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and greeted those in them that is better for you, in order that you may remember. And if you find no one therein, still, enter not until permission has been given. And if you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you, and Allah is All-Knower of what you do.” (An-Nur 24:27-28)

There is nothing insulting in being refused admittance. Perhaps, the family is engaged in some kind of conflict resolution and they do not want an outsider to sense their house troubles. Understand other’s situation. And when you are welcomed inside, do not prolong your visit. Keep your visits short and sweet; making hosts look forward to your next visit.

Surrender to Allah’s (swt) law

Talking about conflict resolution, some people are not really interested in a compromise or a settlement. Their only concern is what they gain from it. In doing so, they swing between Shariah and manmade laws; whichever offers more gain, they pick it. The word of Allah (swt) (the Quran) and the Messenger (sa) (the Sunnah) are enough to settle disputes. Allah (swt) asks, “Is there a disease in their hearts? Or do they doubt or fear lest Allah and His Messenger (sa) should wrong them in judgment. Nay, it is they themselves who are the Zalimun” (An-Nur 24:50)

The truth is no one loses anything if he surrenders to Allah’s (swt) laws. In fact, that is a means for attaining peace and tranquillity. If not here, then at least we know in the Hereafter such a person will be at peace. The one who does not follow Prophet’s (sa) path has been warned of painful punishment. (refer An-Nur 24:63)

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Maidah

pearls7Learning the Quran – a better trade!

Many people do not study Quran or learn the basics of their religion, because they measure it along worldly benefits. People say, “What will I get by studying the Quran? It cannot pay my bills.” When people put the Shariah behind their backs, it is then that they lose peace from their lives. Surrender to Allah (swt), His commands and the teachings of His Prophet (sa) and you will attain peace Insha’Allah. You will see the benefits right away and eventually you will see it was a better trade. May Allah (swt) gives us the ability to surrender to Him and His commands. Ameen.

Then, there are people who conduct debates on Quranic verses. They adopt a pick-and-choose policy in Islam. Sometimes, they would negate the Prophetic narrations and even challenge them. Look at what Allah (swt) says, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above-mentioned meats), then surely, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Maidah 5:3)

This was one of the last verses to be revealed. The Jews present at the time of its revelation commented; if this verse was revealed to them, they would have rejoiced and celebrated that day. What is our attitude in contrast? We challenge the Quran and conduct debates on it? Nothing can be added or deleted from what the Prophet (sa) conveyed to us. The creditability of Shariah is valid till the last moment of this world.

Honouring commitments

Once again, we study the obligation of honouring our commitments, “O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations.” (Al-Maidah 5:1) We barely reach on the time that we commit for an appointment. So let’s not talk about our very important  official contracts, as it would lead to nothing but shame.

Then Allah (swt) guides us regarding how we should live with one another in a society, “Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression.” (Al-Maidah 5:2) A person who plots evil plans cannot live in peace. Likewise, a person, who helps the evil person accomplish his evil plans, earns the burden of the sin as the person who initiated it. Why would someone want to waste his time and energy for something that can never be beneficial for him? Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” (Al-Maidah 5:8) Even if you have to stand against your own father or your son in justice do not back away. A Muslim cannot love anyone more than he loves Allah (swt). Therefore, nothing should stop him from abiding by what Allah (swt) has commanded.

Salah – the cleansing gift

Many of us treat Salah as a burden; forgetting that it was actually given as a gift to the Prophet (sa). And because we consider it as a burden, our attitude towards Salah is that of laziness. We delay it to the last possible time, and when we get up, we are least particular about our clothes or purity. Standing in Salah is equivalent to standing before Allah (swt). If one knows he is going to have a meeting with Allah (swt), how should his dress be like and what should be his state of cleanliness? Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! When you intend to offer As-Salat (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles.” (Al-Maidah 5:6)

The Prophet (sa) informed us that every time a person performs ablution, his sins are wiped off. If we consciously remember this statement each time we perform Wudhu, would we rush through it? Bilal’s (ra) footsteps were heard in Paradise because he used to perform fresh ablution for each Salah, and also offer two Rakats of ablution before the Salah.

Not only does a person who performs his ablution correctly, feels contentment and cleanliness; but Shaytan too stays away from a person who is in a state of purity. May Allah (swt) help us understand how high the level of ablution is in His Sight. Ameen.

What happens when we hear the word ‘Shariah’?

Images of one eye and amputated arms cross our minds. Subhan’Allah! It is Allah’s (swt) law that we are talking about. Allah (swt) says, “Cut off (from the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Al-Maidah 5:38)

Anywhere in the world, where you see the crime rate high, know that their justice system is weak or probably it is almost non-existent. The reason Allah (swt) has decided for harsh punishment for the criminals, is to deter them and others from repeating the crime. One has to set the example. If the law of Allah (swt) was being followed in its actual sense, would the crime rate and the number of rapes be as high as they are today? May Allah (swt) protect our men, women and children. Ameen.

Halal consumption

Allah (swt) then tells us what we should consume, “And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and fear Allah in Whom you believe.” (Al-Maidah 5:88) The Halal and Tayyab means no begging, no stealing and no eyeing what your neighbors are eating. Do not put anything and everything that you come across in your mouth. Find out the source and know what you are eating. Some people live on packaged food and do not give much value to fresh vegetables and fruits. Many of us do not even know where our food comes from. If it is a command from Allah (swt) to be particular about what we are eating, shouldn’t we find the source? Secondly, some people consider it piety to consume stale and rotten food. They would not throw if the food has gone bad, but rather eat it and end up with food poisoning. Allah (swt) has not made Haram upon His slaves to eat good food. What matters is that what you are eating is permissible; it is bought with Halal income, and there is no extravagance in your consumption.

Society blues!

He then talks about some of the prevalent ills of the society, “O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaytan’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.” (Al-Maidah 5:90)

The problem of drug addiction has gone out of our hands. Little children are drug addicts. Dad is not home because he is busy drinking with his friends. Some people say, “I am only a social drinker.” as if that is something acceptable. Some say, “Well, the entire world is drinking,” Allah (swt) says, “Say (O Muhammad ): Not equal are Al-Khabith (all that is evil and bad as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.) and At-Tayyab (all that is good as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.), even though the abundance of Al-Khabith (evil) may please you.” (Al-Maidah 5:100)

Accidents and divorces are taking place due to drug addiction and drinking problem. Homes are breaking and families are tearing apart. Quit this evil habit today and attain peace in your life.

If the entire world is following what is sinful and forbidden; neither should we follow them nor be fearful of their reaction, Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves, [do righteous deeds, fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)]. If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right (Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbid what is wrong (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden) no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allah, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do.” (Al-Maidah 5:105)

Allah (swt) is the only Being Who we should really revere and be fearful of. Nothing and no one else can destruct us except Him. If we are doing what Allah (swt) commanded us to do, and if we have surrendered to Him, He will protect us and look after our well-being. Insha’Allah.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

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.