September 26, 2005

The 114th Basmallah

I've been meaning to write about this. A few weeks ago, after taisir class, the ustazah pointed out to Milady and I a little gem in the Qur'an, an ayat that is hidden in plain sight. I was so excited at learning about this ayat that I could hardly go to sleep that night. Anyhoo...

As Muslims, we know that the Qur'an has 114 suwar (pl. of surah) and that there are 113 basmallah, the only surah not having a basmallah being the ninth (At-Taubah, Repentance). However, my ustazah asked, did you know that there is a 114th basmallah in the Qur'an? And there is:

"It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: (27:30)

I've been thinking about this verse since I heard about the connection (114 suwar, 114 basmallah). Obviously it could be "coincidence" that there is a 114th basmallah to make up for the one missing at the beginning of At-Taubah... But I've come not to believe in "coincidences" when it comes to the Qur'an. The Qur'an is far too subtle a work to be governed by mere coincidence. This to me is a sign (ayat) from Allah (swt) that shows once more the divine authorship of the Qur'an.


September 23, 2005

The problem isn't Islam, it's the extremist Muslims

Excerpts from a good article, touching on some of the topics that Lost Budgie and I were discussing earlier in the week. By Nancy El-Gindy.

"Why is it that Islam is always brought into question when a small minority of Muslims actually commits crimes of aggression? Why is it assumed that Islam itself is actually driving these murderers to such levels of hatred and ignorance? Islamic terrorism has no roots in the religion itself; rather it grows out of individuals' own interpretation of it, personal intolerance and hate, and in some cases, perhaps even insanity."


"If enough people read the teachings of Islam they would understand that it promotes tolerance, patience, kindness and understanding toward both Muslims and non-Muslims. The killing of innocents has been and always will be a major sin, as in any other religion or belief system. Some religious leaders, however, take liberties in interpreting certain verses of the Koran or sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, taking them out of context to suit their own political agendas, and sometimes managing to brainwash others with false promises of paradise in the afterlife. Islam itself does not sponsor or condone the terrorist acts of Muslims, and thus should not be held responsible for them.

"Islam is not uncivilized, outdated or intolerant; it is people who promote radical, unconventional beliefs and practices of Islam. Reforming Islam itself is not going to solve the problem of terrorism perpetrated by extremists, because no matter how much theology and doctrine change, people themselves probably will not. Reinterpreting holy texts would fail, first because of the widespread and strong opposition it would receive, and second because extremists will always manage to find something in the texts of Islam that they can twist to fit their agendas.

"Unfortunately, it seems that in all societies there exists a minority of narrow-minded fanatics. For example, Christianity is widely seen as a moderate religion which promotes peace, and is what it is today because of many periods of reformation, schism, and soul-searching. However, there are still groups of people all over the world who promote extreme views in its name, for instance the once powerful Ku Klux Klan, a self-proclaimed Christian organization. What changed was not the religion, nor interpretations of core religious texts; rather, popular support for the organization eroded as the hearts and minds of the population at large turned against bigotry and discrimination of all kinds, thanks in large part to the civil rights movement in the United States.

"Mindsets are the problem, not what is written in Islam's holy texts. Altering this state of mind should be the focus of intellectual efforts to end terrorism, not modifying or reforming Islam.

"What gives rise then, to this unfortunate and misplaced perception? Simple lack of knowledge about Islam. There is a vital need to raise the awareness in Western countries on some simple facts about Islam. The states of the Middle East and the Muslim world should do much more in terms of public diplomacy. Their current utter lack of the most basic public relations skills is one of the biggest reasons the teachings of Islam are hardly known, much less properly understood, in the West. Western journalists and analysts often know no more than their audiences, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to put events in the Middle East and acts of terrorism in their proper context.

"Credible intellectual and religious figures should also make more efforts to reach out to national and local media in the West. Scholars, sheikhs and other religious figures should swallow their pride and pay special attention to more conservative media outlets such as the Fox News Network, often criticized for its bias, to reach those sectors of the American population that tend to be unthinkingly anti-Islam. They will need to have a strong grounding in Western history and politics so they can help define for Western audiences the difference between Islamic principles on the one hand, and the actions of a few on the other, in terms they will understand. And they should not let Westerners forget that dangerous, extremist movements claiming to draw on religion have existed in the West as well."

Does Islam require 4 witnesses for rape victims?

MENJ has a nice, concise refutation of the assertion that Muslim women who were raped require four witnesses. Check it out.

September 19, 2005

Response to Steve regarding Sania Mirza

This is a response I made to "Steve" regarding my Sania Mirza post on my main blog. I've decided to post my response here, in addition to the main blog, as I thought my comments might be helpful for those who are interested in learning about Islam.

Steve wrote: "I think a reasonable person can debate what kind of clothing is acceptable under Islam. I know dozens of Muslims who ruitinely wear shorts and skirts, and at the same time affirm most of the basic principles of Islam."

Those shorts-and-skirts Muslims must be young. :) Yeah, I've heard of cases up in Malaysia where a young woman might go out in public wearing something skimpy but also wearing a hijab. Go figure. Still, there are clearly defined dress codes for both Muslim men and women. Those women who wear the shorts and skirts are not following the dress code. While they may "affirm most of the basic principles of Islam," Islam is not a "pick and choose," cafeteria-style religion. Muslims should (ideally) follow all aspects of Islam as much of the time as possible. As my wife would say, "We strive to be better Muslims."

"That being said, whats at issue is whether or not the actions of this tennis player is worthy of a 'fatwa.'"

A fatwa in and of itself is merely an opinion, and does not necessarily have to be obeyed. Most people who ask for a fatwa normally ask for themselves (i.e., they have a particular situation they would like resolved, and they are looking for guidance in the form of a fatwa). That someone asks, "What about the type of clothing a female tennis player wears in public, like Sania Mirza?" seems a little odd, but is still not out of the realm of the ordinary. In that regard, Ms. Sania is worthy of a fatwa, as is any other Muslim in the world.

"I completely agree that an Islamic council should be more worried about things like Wahhabism or the Mujahadeen than tennis attire."

In all honesty, the vast majority of fatawa that are issued deal with very mundane, daily life issues. There's nothing wrong with an Islamic council dealing with the bigger issues (many Muslims wish they would), but most of their work deals with very small issues.

"However, it is the position of some Islamic scholars that if the purpose of rules and regulations regarding attire is to not attract attention to ones self, then covering up in conditions such as western society and or tennis courts might actually defeat the intended purpose of such modesty..."

Possibly, but... The purpose of the dress code, of course, is for modesty; it's not necessarily to not attract attention to one's self. While a pro female tennis player might attract attention initially by, say, wearing a sweat suit instead of a skirt and blouse, don't you think the fuss might die down fairly quickly (within a year's time at the most)? Is women's beach volleyball popular because we value the women as athletes...or because they wear bikinis? Was Anna Kournikova as popular as she was because of her tennis skills (her having never won a Grand Slam tournament) or because of her looks?

September 16, 2005

Some more comments regarding apostasy...

This is more of a conversation I have had regarding the topic of apostasy. The Non-Muslim Lost Budgie appears to be the type of Christian who assumes that Muslims would convert in droves to Christianity if only they didn't fear being executed by other Muslims for apostasy. In fact, I believe Ann's comments (mentioned and linked at the very end of this post) are quite true.

Lost Budgie wrote: "Unfortunately, many Islamic scholars do not share your interpretation of Islamic scriptures and laws."

And many do. Read my last post [referring to what I have posted in my last entry on this blog].

"Whether apostates are killed by countries or individuals, the killings perfectly illustrate that this interpretation of Islam is held by many of the faith."

Many people of all faiths will have different interpretations regarding their religions. Some interpretations are held in ignorance; others are held as a result of correct study. Christians and Jews all supposedly follow the Ten Commandments, but that doesn't mean that they obey them (particularly the sixth).

"(For a tiny sample of what can be found on the web, click here for the photos and names of ten Iranian women who were all hung together for apostasy in 1983. Many since that time, of course. This was just a busy day.)"

Personally, I don't agree that these women were apostates; I believe they were murdered for following a different religion (their murders I condemn). If you want to argue that Baha'i's are Muslims (and thus apostates), then you're following a Shi'a perspective, which I don't think many people around the world (including Sunni Muslims) would agree with.

"References? Well, let’s start with Abul Ala Mawdudi and his book “The Punishment of the Apostate according to Islamic Law”. An English translation can be found here.

"Mr. Mawdudi was, of course, a founding father of Pakistan and has been described as 'the most widely read Muslim author of the 20th Century, contributing immensely to the contemporary resurgence of Islamic ideas, feelings and activity all over the world.'"

This is one person's view on the topic and, as such, doesn't carry much weight within the Islamic community. Even if Mawdudi's work is accepted within one of the madhab, that doesn't necessarily mean that any of the other madhahab would also accept it.

"Mr. Mawdudi also provided the introduction to A. Yusuf Ali’s 'The Holy Qur’an, Translation and Commentary'."

Not in any of the three volumes my wife and I have of Yusuf Ali's translation (including original version and revised). Not that, even if Mawdudi's introduction appears in some limited edition printings of Yusuf Ali's translation, would his work make a speck of difference.

"On the web today, you can find many Islamic websites that agree with the position that apostates should be killed. Try here or here to start."

You do know that you can't always trust what you read on the Internet, right? :) Why are you bringing up non-scholarly works?

"So JD…. you disagree with Mr. Mawdudi and others who hold the position that both the Koran and Hadith command (ie: COMMAND, not “recommend”) the execution of Muslim apostates."

You obviously didn't read my earlier post or the article I linked to. The Qur'an forbids the execution of apostates. The one hadith that supposedly forms the basis for the execution of apostates is, in fact, ignored for the imposition of a death penalty for apostates. As the article I linked to pointed out, "The Shari`ah has not fixed any punishment for apostasy." Just because other people may think differently doesn't mean that they're correct or that their thoughts supersede the Qur'an.

"Respectfully, I point out that the disagreement on this issue between Muslims of good faith well illustrates the problem confronting modern-moderate Muslims as they try to reconcile the foundations of Islam with contemporary living."

You crack me up. If you think that Muslims are struggling with some sort of "reconciliation" between Islam and contemporary life, then you obviously don't know Muslims very well. We live within the contemporary world very well, thank you very much.

In the meantime, this entire conversation about Muslim apostasy is largely moot for the most part. It rarely happens. As another Muslim on another blog recently wrote on this topic: "To be honest, this [contemporary apostasy] is not something that really comes up often. The missionaries would have you believe that this is because converts would be killed, as if masses of Muslims are yearning to be Christian, but they’re afraid. In fact, they have a very hard time converting Muslims, and when they occasionally do, it’s Muslims who are not very knowledgeable about Islam in the first place."

September 15, 2005


Safiyyah's got another comment from a non-Muslim visitor (the so-called "insta-expert," who thinks they understand Islam after reading what are undoubtedly anti-Muslim propoganda). Anyhoo... Today's comment was, “For instance… The Koran says that Muslims who convert to another religion must be killed. A modern-moderate Muslim has difficulty arguing against this, for to deny this is to deny the correctness of the Koran, or to admit that passages have, what, expired?”

The problem with this person's comment, of course, is that nowhere in the Qur'an is it said that apostates are to be killed. In fact, it's just the opposite. Allah (swt) tells us that we humans are to leave apostates alone, that not only shall Allah (swt) “punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter” (9:74), but that Allah (swt) alone will punish them.

“And leave Me (alone to deal with) those in possession of the good things of life, who (yet) deny the Truth; and bear with them for a little while. With Us are Fetters (to bind them), and a Fire (to burn them), And a Food that chokes, and a Penalty Grievous.” (73:11-3)

Muslims have no problem in arguing against the false notion that apostates must be killed. A number of Muslim scholars have argued thus:

“A number of Islamic scholars from past centuries, Ibrahim al-Naka’I, Sufyan al-Thawri, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi, Abul Walid al-Baji and Ibn Taymiyyah, have all held that apostasy is a serious sin, but not one that requires the death penalty. In modern times, Mahmud Shaltut, Sheikh of al-Azhar, and Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi have concurred.” (Source)

September 14, 2005

Separate Entrances

A non-Muslim visitor to Safiyyah's blog (SAFspace) questioned why mosques had separate entrances for men and women. The answer is simple, really. The women's entrance leads to the women's bathroom. Everyone, male and female, must wash themselves prior to prayer. (These are ritual ablutions, known as wudu.) The separate entrances not only allow both sexes the privacy they need; they also allow men and women not to come into contact with each other prior to prayer. In one Islamic school of thought, the Shafi'i, any man and woman who touch each other, even accidentally, after doing wudu but prior to prayer, must both do wudu again. So the separate entrances minimize any potential contact. Finally, having separate entrances to the prayer hall allows men and women to begin focusing on the activity at hand - prayer (salat) - instead of focusing on each other. For Muslims, salat is something Muslims take seriously. One's concentration must be on Allah (swt), not the opposite sex.

September 07, 2005

Islam and same-sex marriages

Someone has come to my blog looking for a response to the topic, "Islam and same-sex marriages." Not knowing what this person was looking for exactly, I assume he or she was wondering whether a same-sex marriage is allowable (halal) in Islam. The answer, of course, is "no." Homosexuality by itself is haram (forbidden) in Islam, so we would not condone a same-sex marriage either. This does not mean that two people of the same sex could not live together (e.g., such as roommates), but homosexual activity (whether male or female) would not be permitted between them (this being a major sin), and their marriage by civil authorities would not be recognized by the Muslim community.

Should the gay community feel that Muslims are treating gays harshly by not allowing homosexuality, they should also remember that for Muslim heterosexual couples, pre-marital sex is also not allowed within Islam (this being known as zina or adultery, with its own severe punishments), nor are couples allowed to live together prior to marriage.