August 26, 2005

The Five Necessities of Shariah

anonymous wrote: "The 5 necessities that Islamic Shariah (laws) has come to protect are life, intellect, offsprings, wealth (i.e. private, public, and natural wealth/resources), and religion itself..."

This is correct except for the order. Anonymous has listed it in order 2-3-4-5-1. Religion is first.

August 23, 2005

Muslim Inventions

In the past couple weeks, I had made the occasional comment on Yusuf Smith's Indigo Jo Blogs; however, yesterday, I noticed that one of my recent comments had been deleted. Why, I don't know. In my opinion, the comment was rather innocuous; however, I respect Brother Yusuf's right to censor comments made on his blog. I, of course, also reserve that right, which I've exercised several times in the past on my own blogs. Regardless, I've decided to post my comments to his blog here on my own blogs, where he cannot censor me for what appears to be arbitrary reasons.

The comment that was deleted was in response to the following question: "What have Muslims invented in the last 500 years?" The writer in question asserts that Muslims have done absolutely nothing inventive in the past 500 years, which, of course, is a rather stupid and easily refutable assertion. For example, I had posted in my deleted comment a link to the Granted Patents webpage at the General Directorate of Patents - King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology website. The page is in Arabic, however. Today, while "googling" for the KACST website, I also came across a US government webpage that categorizes by technology class all of the patents made in Saudi Arabia between 1999 and 2003.

My point in choosing Saudi Arabia for this refutation was merely to show one Muslim country's efforts in creating intellectual capital (in this case, in the form of patents). Obviously, this one country is not the entire Muslim world, but it is sufficient enough to disprove the writer's original assertion.

August 18, 2005


Over at Indigo Jo Blogs, there's the oft-repeated argument over Aishah's age when she was married to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Instead of replying there (because the following is so lengthy), I'm posting this response here, and will link the response over in the comments section of IJB's thread.

This particular response is not mine, but was written by a woman whose nick was Ruqaiyyah. The post was taken from Beliefnet (where I used to be a regular), and was originally written on 24 April 2001.<> I have edited her post slightly for grammar, punctuation, and spelling; otherwise, the words are hers:

Dear Cassian, AAWR. This will probably be one of the most difficult replies I have to write in this dialogue, because there is so much that needs to be said. You have done a great deal of research, and have pointed out various references, but at the same time, every single point you raise in my opinion you have gained the wrong interpretation.

But let us start at the beginning with the facts; yes, the Prophet (pbuh) was over 50 when he was engaged to Aishah, who was perhaps only 6 years old, their physical marriage commencing three years later when she was 9. My first comment is to let you know that the scholars do actually differ in the information given; all the hadiths claiming that she was only 6 are based on Urwah, and are not from Madinah, which to many Sunni scholars makes them suspect. That is not to say they are not true, but they are 'suspected'. Secondly, you need to know that the birth and death dates of many of the Prophet's (pbuh) companions, including his wives, are not known for certain, and there are several possible dates given for many of them. Most scholars accept that Aishah died at the age of 67, but they give the date of 672 CE/ 50 AH, after a widowhood of 40 years. Just to give you an idea of the complication of it all, I would like to tell you in detail that there are three main theories -

(1) The most widely accepted in the Muslim world, that Aishah was born in the 4th year of Prophethood, ie.614 CE, based on Ibn Sa'd's work. If true, she was 5 when Khadijah died, 6 at nikah, 9 at marriage, but these sources also suggest she was only 18 when Prophet died; this means she would only have been 58 in 672.

(2) If she were born 4 years before the Prophethood, she would have been 14/15 when Khadijah died, 15/16 at nikah, 19 at year of marriage, 27/28 when he died, and would indeed have been 67/68 in 672.

(3) Other hadiths say she was born five years after Fatimah, who was said to have been born 5 years before Prophethood, making Aishah's birth that year - 610. Then she would have been 9 when Khadijah died, 10 at nikah, 14 at marriage, 22 when he died, and 62 when she died. However, Fatimah's dates are also disputed.

My own conclusion is that she was born in 605-6, and that Ibn Sa'd was cursed by a glaring example of writer's slip that went unnoticed by those who used him as their primary source. The slip, I believe, was that he stated Aishah was born in the 4th year of the Prophethood, when what he actually meant was 4 years before it.

So, my first part of my answer is that the whole business of Aishah's age is debatable. I have a booklet on the subject, if you are interested, published by IPCI in Birmingham.

The second part of my answer is to consider the thorny issue of pedophilia. There is all the difference in the world by adult men committing indecent sexual acts on small children, and the issue of love (which might not even be a physical thing at all) between an adult and a child. The Prophet (pbuh) was well known for his great love for children, but certainly with no sexual content to it whatsoever. He had many children himself, the four girls surviving and two sons dying, at which he adopted his four-year old cousin Ali and brought him up and also adopted a 14-year-old slave-boy, Zayd, and brought him up too. In later life, when he married his other wives, they also brought with him all their children by their previous marriages - for example, Umm Salamah came with 3 (and one born just after their marriage); Sawdah came with 6, etc. There was never any suggestion of pedophilia.

At the same time, we have to realize that the culture was very different; the usual age for a girl's marriage was once she reached puberty and her periods commenced, thus making her technically 'adult'; it was the same for Jewish people - and we might observe how the Virgin Mary was presumably only 12 years old when she gave birth to Jesus, if the material about her upbringing and family background has any truth in it. Boys tended to marry for the first time round about the age of 15-16. In reality, many little girls of twelve or so have already experienced 'being in love', and boys tend to do so just a little later. It seems to be natural. Whether or not they should be having a sexual relationship at that age has varied in public opinion throughout the ages; in practice, many seem to do so, whether or not their families know about it. Certainly this seems to be the case in the UK. You are probably aware of the Muslim point of view that once a youngster shows signs of sexual urges that are becoming difficult to control, it is more sensible and kinder to get them married, (then they can have as much as they like, honorably), than let them risk all the consequences of sex outside marriage.

Another aspect I would like you to consider is the very deep love that can exist between an older person and a tiny child. I cannot be the only grandma to whom a little grandson has seriously declared that he loves me, and will marry me when he grows up. I love him, too, more than any other human being. But you will have to take my word when I say there is no question of any pedophilia involved. You will also have to take my word when I tell you that when I was 12 I was deeply in love with our 45-year-old postmaster, at whose office I had a part-time job. I adored him - but again, no pedophilia whatsoever!! And at that time, I also had plenty of toys to play with.

So, I have to conclude that the love between the Prophet (pbuh) and his best friend's daughter - whom he knew from her birth - was not pedophilic at all, but a very sincere and deep mutual love. The fact that he may have engaged her at the age of 6 was not at all unusual - many children were engaged at birth. The physical marriage when she arrived at puberty (which for girls can vary, and is normal, between 9 and 18ish) was also normally accepted. Most of his companions had similar marriages, as did the Virgin Mary and Joseph. According to the Protevangelion (Gospel of James), Mary was 12 and Joseph around 80 - with an already existing grown-up family! He certainly died not long after the marriage, and there is no further Gospel mention of him.

The fact that the Prophet (pbuh) dreamed about Aishah is nothing suspicious - there was no suggestion whatsoever in the hadith that the dream was of a sexual nature, just that they were destined to marry. So, to get back to your opening paragraph, yes - it was all normal.

August 09, 2005

Overcoming the Islamic Fear Factor

The following article comes from the Wichita Eagle. I had originally thought about posting it to my regular blog, Dunner's, but I decided instead to post it here because I think it makes for a good Learn About Islam-type piece.

There is one paragraph that I have personally modified. The author made the suggestion that to contact a certain person at the Islamic Society of Wichita for more information on classes about Islam. However, in the interest of a wider audience, I have rewritten that paragraph. It begins with "Contact your local mosque..." and is in italics, so you shouldn't be able to miss it.

All it the fear factor: Muslims and terrorists. The two go together in many people's minds, and little if any distinction is made between fanaticism and faith.

Before you give in to fear, ask yourself: How much do I know about the religion of Islam? When I hear the word Muslim, do I immediately think only of terrorists?

Regardless of your preconceptions -- or misconceptions -- are you willing to learn more about the religion of more than 1 billion people?

First, take this six-question quiz to give yourself a baseline for learning:

1. True or false: Most Muslims are Arabs.

2. True or false: The ultimate meaning of worship for Muslims is observing the five pillars of Islam: profession of faith in Allah, performance of prayers five times a day, fasting, giving to charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.

3. Jihad means:
A. Struggle to live a perfect life
B. Struggle to defend Islam
C. Struggle to convey the message of Islam
D. All of the above

4. Only a government, through its Islamic leaders (caliph or imam), can call for a holy war. Which of the following rules for waging such a war does NOT apply:
A. Do not kill children or women.
B. If a fighter turns his back, do not kill him.
C. Take action against an enemy before he attacks.
D. Fight on behalf of religious freedom.

5. True or false: Marriage in Islam is a social contract that requires the consent of both parties.

6. True or false: Islam, Judaism and Christianity all believe in the coming of a Messiah.

Here are the answers, according to several authoritative sources:

1. Most Muslims are Arabs. False. Of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, about 20 percent are Arabs.

2. False. Worship is everything that a person does to submit to Allah. The five pillars are part of that broader and all-inclusive understanding of worship.

3. Jihad means: D. All of the meanings of struggle, including to live a perfect life, to defend Islam and to convey the message of Islam.

4. The following rule for waging a holy war does NOT apply: C. Take action against an enemy before he attacks. The Quran enjoins Muslims: "Fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. Allah does not love aggressors" (2:190).

5. True. Neither bride nor groom can be forced into a marriage.

6. True. Beliefs differ, but all three religions teach about a Messiah (or Mahdi in Islam).

If you got all six correct, you've made a good start in learning about Islam. But there's more to do.

Centuries of fear and suspicion -- between Jews, Christians and Muslims -- make the task daunting. And a post-9/11 world has only intensified those fears.

Moreover, it doesn't help that our interlocking histories (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have spawned intolerance and suspicion of one another. No religion is guiltless.

Fueling the greater angst among non-Muslims today is a belief that Islam is only a religion of violence. That's why it's important to learn about the religion. Here are some ways to begin:

• Read such books as What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam by John Esposito (Oxford University Press); Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam by Paul Findley (Amana Books); Terror and Suicide Attacks: An Islamic Perspective edited by Ergun Capan (Light Inc.).

• Attend classes that provide an overview of Islam. Contact your local mosque for more information. Many mosques frequently have classes about Islam for new converts and non-Muslims who are interested in the religion and the Muslim way of life. Look in your local Yellow Pages for the telephone number of the mosque nearest you.

• Raise the hard questions you have about Islam with Muslim leaders. All of us are challenged to explain, as best we can, the seeming inconsistencies, contradictions and mysteries of our faith. Don't be afraid to ask.

"Truth and love are one and the same," wrote then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. "This affirmation -- if we grasp its full import -- is the greatest guarantee of tolerance, of a relationship with the truth, whose only weapon is itself and thus is love."

Although differences will always remain among people who don't share the same faith, learning from one another can break down walls that separate.

And in the end, that can go a long way in reducing the fear factor and increasing mutual understanding and respect.

Reach Tom Schaefer at 268-6586 or by e-mail at