October 05, 2010

Self-Identification as a Muslim

I've had an odd conversation with someone on Daily Kos, the topic of which was one's self-identification with a particular religion, in this case, Islam. The original comment read, in part:

I don't think that any Muslims have authority to tell another Muslim that he's not a Muslim if he believes he is. I think each person has a right to determine his own religion.

My original response to this was the following:

Muslims can and do have the authority to tell another person that he or she is not a Muslim. Granted, this power should be used rarely, if at all. However, self-identification as a Muslim is not accepted within the Muslim community, and in some countries, such as Singapore, Muslim converts are tested as to their knowledge and practices of Islam before they are officially registered as a Muslim.

There are several reasons why self-identification is not allowed in Islam. One reason is because there are some groups, such as the Ahmadiyya, who are deviant offshoots of Islam who wish to be recognized as part of the greater Muslim community. The Ahmadiyya fail in this test because they have some beliefs regarding their founder that go against Muslim beliefs (specifically, against the Qur'an). Despite their wish to self-identify as Muslims, orthodox Muslims do not recognize the Ahmadiyya as part of the Islamic community.

A second reason is because some people wish to infiltrate the Muslim community by pretending to be Muslims. A recent case of this happened last year, when Chris Gaubatz [also see here] pretended to be a Muslim in order to obtain an internship at CAIR, where he stole thousands of pages of documents. (The most "damning" thing the documents spoke of was CAIR's goal of trying to get as many Muslims placed as Congressional interns as possible. The right tried to make hay of the story, but were ridiculed by virtually every group that has some sort of political interest, where they all agreed that they too had the same goal.)

Because of these and other concerns, Muslims don't accept self-identification. A person may self-identify as a Muslim, and they may truly be Muslim (only Allah (swt) actually knows what is in his or her heart), but that doesn't mean that we, the Muslim community, have to take their word for it. As with many other religious claims, we would tell that person, "Prove it!"

To which that person responded:

I don't care if self-identification isn't used among Muslims. Most Jews don't accept it. Some Christians don't accept it, but I see no other policy which is reasonable. As long as you don't accept group responsibility, which I don't, then self-identification is the the right approach to take. If someone claims they are an X, then they are that religion.

And I replied:

You may not care but that's not how it's going to be among Muslims. One person's opinion is not going to trump a consensus opinion among both Muslim scholars and non-scholars based upon 1400 years of experience. We have our reasons, as I mentioned above, and I believe them to be good reasons.

To be sure, as I also mentioned above, the naming of a person or group as a takfir (an apostate) is an act that is fraught with peril for the person who does so, as I wrote about on one of my blogs (Why Muslims Don't Pronounce "Takfir"). However, the minimum requirement to be accepted as a Muslim among Muslims is a public declaration of the shahadah in front of two Muslims. But even there, it is still possible for someone who does not have the proper intentions to deceive. Hence, our rejection of self-identification.

To which that person replied:

OK, I still don't care. If someone raised a Muslim decides he's an Atheist or a Christian or whatever, that's what he is. I think all of these regulations on who gets to count as a Jew, Muslim, Christian, etc... are offensive and illiberal.

My final comments are:

If someone raised a Muslim decides he's an Atheist or a Christian or whatever, that's what he is.

Which is fine by me. I'm not arguing this point.

I think all of these regulations on who gets to count as a Jew, Muslim, Christian, etc... are offensive and illiberal.

That's your opinion, and you're welcome to it. There's nothing to stop a person from self-identifying or becoming a Muslim, but that doesn't mean that the Muslim community must recognize that person as a Muslim. If that's "offensive and illiberal" so be it. The Muslim community expects certain standards to be met in terms of both beliefs and practices. Muslims themselves may fall into and out of a state of Islam throughout their lives (although we do, of course, hope to die in a state of Islam when that time comes, insha'allah). It's not terribly difficult to be recognized by other Muslims as a Muslim, but we do follow our rules, not the rules other people think we should follow.

August 28, 2010

One Day in Ramadan

Earlier this month, I had been asked to provide an insider's perspective on Ramadan. That person had written:

I would like to know more about Ramadan ... I mean I could look it up in Wikipedia ... However, I would like to know not only about the event itself, but the event and the event [sic] from a more personal view.

This diary tries to present a small glimpse into the Ramadan experience.

4:30 a.m. - The alarm goes off to wake my wife and I up to start the new day. We eat some breakfast, take our respective sets of pills, then brush our teeth. The break of dawn doesn't begin until 5:45, but we stop all eating and drinking ten minutes earlier to make sure that, by 5:45, any remaining food or liquid in our mouths will have been swallowed.

This is my eleventh Ramadan; the first time I fasted for Ramadan was back in 2000. I had reverted to Islam only a few months earlier so, when I approached some friends at the mosque and asked them how I should prepare for fasting, they correctly advised me, "You don't." There is no correct way to prepare for fasting; you just plunge ahead and do it. The first four days of my fast were excruciatingly painful. My stomach had never gone through a full day without any food. On the fifth day, my stomach started to understand that there was not going to be any meals until supper, so the hunger pains began to let up. However, I still dealt with the issue of thirst, especially for the next nine days or so, when I ultimately discovered that the best thing to do was to keep my mouth shut, literally. Talk as little as possible (not always possible for a teacher), and breathe primarily through my nose. After that, fasting became easier. That first year, I lost a lot of weight, forcing me to buy a new, smaller belt during the middle of the month.

Fasting is about depriving one's self of some of the basic physiological necessities of life. But when one doesn't feel any hunger pangs or thirstiness during Ramadan, as I rarely do anymore, other issues come to the forefront. In recent years, I have begun to notice "themes" during Ramadan, spiritual lessons regarding different subjects that have tied into Ramadan. Ramadan is a time when there is an emphasis on feeling empathy for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. In the last few years I had had some relatively minor health issues to deal with during Ramadan (severe head aches toward the end of the day, and sticky mucus at the back of my sinuses that gave me some difficulty in breathing early in the morning). These discomforts have reminded me of those people who have little or no access to health care, something that perhaps some people take for granted, but an issue that can become the focal point of other people's lives. This year's theme has centered around family, as I suspected it would. With the sudden passing of my father-in-law earlier this year, my wife's family has worked to give more emotional support to some of the family members who have taken the loss of "Abah" the hardest.

One aspect about Ramadan that many non-Muslims don't grasp is the close connection there is between fasting and zakat, the giving of charity, which is another pillar of Islam. The two are closely connected in that both are about purification. Fasting helps to purify the body, while zakat helps to purify one's wealth. In Islam, income and wealth need to be "pure," meaning that the source or manner in which the wealth and income has been obtained must be halal. Muslims often work through moral quandaries in deciding whether to take certain jobs: Can she work as a cashier when the grocery store sells pork and alcohol? Can he work in a hotel that is attached to a casino? Can she become a teller at a bank that relies upon interest for its primary source of revenue? To help purify that money, Muslims donate some of their personal wealth each year to help the poor.* In Singapore, it is not uncommon to see people or even businesses donating food to the poor as part of their effort to give charity. (The most common food given away here is rice porridge with chicken; however, one year, I walked through a shopping center where a business was about to give out fried chickens to a long queue of people who were waiting to take some home for their dinner that night. That was one of the few times recently where I grew hungry during the day - the smell of all that chicken was very strong.)

In many countries with significant Muslim populations, the month of Ramadan has become commercialized although, at least here in Singapore, that degree of commercialization is nowhere near the level of the American Christmas season. Some countries increase the number of cooking shows and "crazy soap operas" on television (as an Internet friend living in the UAE put it). In Singapore, the commercial side of Ramadan means shopping in the Malay Village section of Geylang and Sims Roads. The difference between the Christmas and Ramadan shopping seasons, though, is that Muslim shoppers aren't necessarily looking for gifts to give. In Singapore, at least, gifts are only given to children during the Eid festivities, and the gifts are almost always some money. (I was shocked when, last year, my wife's grandmother gave me a gift of money for Eid; money, if it is given to adults, is almost always for older relatives, like parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, who may be living on fixed incomes.) Instead, Muslim shoppers normally buy merchandise to prepare their families and their homes for Eid. Thus, apparel like color-coordinated Baju Melayus for men and Baju Kurungs for women, home furnishings (curtains, cushion covers, rugs, etc.), and all sorts of traditional cookies are some of the most popular items sold at the Ramadan markets.

But ultimately, Ramadan is a religious observance, in which mosques become a little more crowded for all of the prayers other than the Friday noon congregational prayer (which remains consistently full year-round). In Singapore, evening tarawih prayers are often conducted at housing block void decks because there is not enough space in the mosques to accommodate everyone who wishes to perform them. Religious talks are often given publicly, some of which are broadcast on television, as well as Qur'an recital competitions. The hope of every Muslim during Ramadan is that each of their daily fasts are accepted by Allah (swt), in addition to all of the good deeds that they may have performed.

7:12 p.m. - I had actually fallen asleep on the bed late in the afternoon when my wife rushed into the bedroom. "Wake up! The adhan is playing!" she said as she handed me a glass of Coke Zero (not the traditional drink to break one's fast with ;) ). I swallowed a little bit of the pop while giving a prayer of thanks for having made it through another day in Ramadan. A few minutes later, my wife and I ate our dinner for the evening.

* The percentage varies depending upon the type of asset that is "zakatable," but for most Muslims who live in cities, the percentage tends to be 2.5%. Also, various assets are subject to zakat, while others are not, such as family homes. The calculations to determine zakat can become rather complex, depending upon what the person owns. BTW, zakat is a wealth tax, not an income tax.

August 19, 2010

Mosques and Suraus

There has been some discussion on the Internet regarding the Park 51 community center (aka the "Ground Zero Mosque") as to whether the prayer space in the community center will be a mosque or not. This question has devolved into one even more basic: what is the difference between a mosque and a prayer space, such as one might find in a building that is not considered to be a mosque? This is my answer:

The distinction is somewhat hazy, but there is some distinction between mosques and other places in which we Muslims pray. Generally speaking, mosques are capable of holding more than 40 people (the minimum number of Muslims required for jumu'ah, the Friday congregational prayers), have a mihrab (the central niche that points the direction toward Makkah) and minbar (the pulpit from which the sermon is spoken from during jumu'ah), and normally performs all prayers with an imam present, including jumu'ah.

Here in SE Asia, we call a non-mosque facility a surau. A surau differs from a mosque in that it usually cannot fit 40 or more people in the facility*, may or may not have a mihrab, never has a minbar, and has no imams attached to the facility. They are used only for individual prayers and never for congregational prayers. (If two or more people happen to be at the surau at the same time, they may choose to pray together, but that's not considered congregational prayer.)

The Park51 facility may or may not be a mosque; it would at the very least be a surau. The key question from a Muslim perspective is, will jumu'ah be done there with the imam physically present? If yes, then it would be a mosque; if no, then it's only a surau.

* I've used several suraus over the years, the smallest of which was located in an Ikea store here in Singapore. That surau was big enough to fit in four people praying together at the absolute maximum.

June 18, 2010

On Shari'ah and American Politics

Recently, Oklahoma state senator Rex Duncan proposed "a ballot measure that would prohibit courts from considering international or sharia law when deciding cases. He says the measure is a 'preemptive strike' against 'liberal judges' who want to 'undermine those founding principles' of America." The proposition is a glaring example of wingnuttery at its worst but, to add fuel to the fire, another person asked the question, "What is 'liberal' about Sharia law?"

This is my response to that question.

Shari'ah is neither "liberal" nor "conservative." It is a codification of Islamic rules and regulations on topics that are both discussed in the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and on topics that are not discussed directly but are derived from fundamental principles (for example, much of Shari'ah law on Islamic finance is derived from principles such as the ban on usury (interest)). Whether Shari'ah matches up with American liberal or conservative political thought is not a concern to most Muslim jurists... or most Muslims for that matter. Muslims think of Islam as the middle path, a religion that tries to avoid the extremes. And while some positions within Shari'ah match up with what American conservatives believe in, other positions match up with what American liberals believe in.

If a liberal non-Muslim doesn't believe that Shari'ah takes "liberal" positions, they don't know Islam or Shari'ah that well. Islam believes in social justice. Islam believes in an equitable distribution of wealth within society. Islam believes in the equitable treatment of people and their human dignity. Islam believes in promoting a healthy society. Islam believes in preserving life. Islam believes in a healthy business environment ("Main Street") rather than a casino economy ("Wall Street"). Islam believes in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. (There are probably more "liberal" positions I could mention, but these seven will have to do for the moment...)

Trying to prevent Shari'ah from being used as a code of law is like trying to prevent water from doing what it does. Non-Muslims can try to channel Shari'ah away or dam it up, but Shari'ah finds its own way. Muslims use Shari'ah without the consent of non-Muslims as much of Shari'ah is simply the rules of conduct Muslims use between themselves in their day-to-day lives. It is largely only within certain issues (e.g., family issues, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance) that Muslims want to incorporate Shari'ah within the existing legal frameworks. That some non-Muslims want to prevent this from happening only speaks to their ignorance about Shari'ah and Islam.

May 12, 2010

When Giving Charity is the Right Thing to Do

Giving charity to the "wrong" person is still the right thing to do. Remember this hadith the next time you fear your saudaqah will be spent only on things like alcohol or cigarettes:

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: ‘A man expressed his intention to give charity, so he came out with charity and placed it in the hand of an adulteress. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to an adulteress last night.” He (the giver of Sadaqa) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise – to an adulteress.” He then again expressed his intention to give charity; so he went out with the charity and placed it in the hand of a rich person. In the morning the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to a rich person.” He (the giver of charity) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise – to a well-to-do person.” He then expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with charity and placed it in the hand of a thief. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to a thief.” So (one of the persons) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise (what a misfortune it is that charity has been given to) the adulteress, to a rich person, to a thief!” There came (the angel to him [the giver of charity]) and he was told: “Your charity has been accepted. As for the adulteress (the charity might become the means) whereby she might restrain herself from fornication. The rich man might perhaps learn a lesson and spend from what Allah has given him, and the thief might thereby refrain from committing theft.”’
-- Found in both Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

April 26, 2010

The Islamic Perspective on Oaths

This post is in response to Aunt Arctic's diary, Have you ever taken an oath or a vow, and what d(does)id it mean to you? The notion that the French Acadians in Canada would refuse to swear an oath of allegiance before God because of the strong possibility of breaking the oath in the future is actually a very commonplace attitude in Islam. Oaths are taken very seriously among Muslims, and so we tend to be more conservative in making the type of decision that results in some sort of oath, vow or contract. In other words, we try not to bite off more than we can chew. This is one of the reasons why Muslims (both individuals and businesses) try to avoid debt: not only because of the prohibition against interest, but also to avoid breaking a contract in case of financial distress.

The Qur'an has several verses that relate to the making of oaths. Some of the more important verses are:

And make not God's (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for God is One Who heareth and knoweth all things. (2:224)

God will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing. (2:225)

God will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn. But keep to your oaths. Thus doth God make clear to you His signs, that ye may be grateful. (5:92)

Fulfill the Covenant of God when ye have entered into it, and break not your oaths after ye have confirmed them; indeed ye have made God your surety; for God knoweth all that ye do. (16:91)

As you can see, in Islam, the breaking of oaths has strong consequences so the making of an oath is an important matter to think over. For example,

For those who take an oath for abstention from their wives, a waiting for four months is ordained; if then they return, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (2:226)

Deciding to separate from one's spouse automatically requires a four month period for both the cooling off of emotions and also to determine if the wife may have conceived a child.

The strong consequences also occur in any aspect where some sort of contract is drawn up, such as a business transaction, or in a legal proceeding:

But if it gets known that these two were guilty of the sin (of perjury), let two others stand forth in their places,- nearest in kin from among those who claim a lawful right: let them swear by God: "We affirm that our witness is truer than that of those two, and that we have not trespassed (beyond the truth): if we did, behold! the wrong be upon us!"

That is most suitable: that they may give the evidence in its true nature and shape, or else they would fear that other oaths would be taken after their oaths. But fear God, and listen (to His counsel): for God guideth not a rebellious people: (5:110-11)

Likewise, a dispute between husband and wife requires the strongest of oaths and a very terrible consequence if one of the two is lying against the other:

And for those who launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by God that they are solemnly telling the truth;

And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of God on themselves if they tell a lie.

But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By God, that (her husband) is telling a lie;

And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of God on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (24:6-9)

Finally, the following verse sums up very well both the consequences to breaking one's oath and the potential rewards, insha'allah, for keeping one. (This verse has an historical background to it, but the general application remains applicable.)

Verily those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to God: the Hand of God is over their hands: then any one who violates his oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and any one who fulfills what he has covenanted with God,- God will soon grant him a great Reward. (48:10)

Cross posted at Street Prophets.

March 11, 2010

On Envy

Reflection time
Photo source.
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Avoid envy, for envy devours good deeds just as fire devours fuel or (he said) grass.'"
(Sunan Abu Dawud)

Salim narrated on the authority of his father (Ibn 'Umar) that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "Envy is not justified but in case of two persons only: one who, having been given (knowledge of) the Qur'an by Allah, recites it during the night and day (and also acts upon it) and a man who, having been given wealth by God, spends it during the night and the day (for the welfare of others. seeking the pleasure of the Lord)."
(Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)

February 10, 2010

Cafeteria Muslim

This is the second post in a series on several questions asked by the husband of one of my readers. The first post was "Human-Made" Rules in Islam. This post will focus on the husband's next comment: "Some [rules in Islam] are not necessary in this modern world."

To which I would first say that much of the next-to-last paragraph in my previous post is just as applicable here as it was before:

All these men over the centuries - the scholars, jurists and imams - who created the rules that Muslims follow, the vast majority of them have significant credentials in terms of their ability to render a judgment. To which I would ask you, what are your qualifications? Why should I trust your judgment? What do you bring to the table?

Who are you to decide which rules in Islam are necessary today and which aren't? But rather than rehash previous arguments, let's move on to some other concerns. First, we cannot just pick and choose which parts of the Qur'an and of Islam we're willing to accept and which parts we want to reject. The Qur'an says in verse 3:7:

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

The Qur'an is an all-or-nothing proposition: take all of it or you might as well not take any of it. The whole of the Qur'an comes from Allah (swt); if a person is truly a Muslim, he or she will reject nothing of the Qur'an, not one verse, not one word! Muslims believe that the Qur'an is for all mankind and for all time. The human condition has not changed significantly enough to justify creating innovations (bid’ah) in Islam. In fact, bid’ah is to be avoided at all costs; the Prophet (pbuh) said,

So if anyone makes an innovation or accommodates an innovator, the curse of Allah, the angels, and all persons will fall upon him, and Allah will not accept any obligatory or supererogatory act as recompense from them. (Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abu Dawud)

The Qur'an strongly chastised the Arab polytheists who created their own religious innovations. The Arabs had declared some foods to be halal when they were haram, and other foods haram when they were halal (see verses 6:40, 6: 138-39, 6:142-44, and 10:59). (The Arab polytheists then compounded the error by attributing the innovations to Allah (swt); that, at least, does not seem to be the case here.) But when the Qur'an says, This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (5:4), how can any Muslim possibly justify the notion that "Some [rules in Islam] are not necessary in this modern world"? Our religion has been perfected; there is no need for superfluous changes.

Modern society may be very different from Arabian society at the time of Muhammad (pbuh), but that does not justify the rejection of various rules within Islam that may seem inconvenient to the lifestyle you want to live. The most important thing one must do, if one truly desires to be a Muslim, is to embrace Islam to the fullest extent possible:

O ye who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy. (2:208)

Whoever submits his whole self to God, and is a doer of good, has grasped indeed the most trustworthy hand-hold: and with God rests the End and Decision of (all) affairs. (31:22)

The best way to do that is to put aside egotistical wants and desires as much as possible and to strive to be a better Muslim. This is not easy, but it's the most important thing one can do for one's self. Remember, we all face the Day of Judgment.

To be continued, insha'allah.

Update: Several posts by other writers have come out recently that touch on the topic of this post, the false notion that "Some [rules in Islam] are not necessary in this modern world." Yursil in particular has written two very interesting posts about what he terms "Suburban Capitalist Islam," which is the notion that Islam is watered down through its use as a filter of Western culture:

The situation with Muslims today is that the West defines principles (inputs), and we get a culture out of it (western culture), and then Muslims attempt to filter the result through ‘Islam’. The problem with this approach is that Islam is not just a filter of culture. It contains within it the seeds of creating new culture. ... But if Islam remains a filter, that’s all we’ll ever get. A slightly adjusted version of a culture based on un-Islamic principles.

After reading Yursil's two posts (“Suburban Capitalist Islam” – List of Beliefs and “Suburban Capitalist Islam” – Islam is not a Filter of Western Culture) it seems to me that he and I are touching on a similar issue. In both of our posts, I think we are writing about the notion of Muslims modifying Islam to suit their secular lifestyle. Yursil's case seems to be less extreme than the situation I was presented with: in the American Islam he describes, the Muslims are not necessarily rejecting parts of the Qur'an or Islam, whereas the husband of my reader apparently is. Yursil's recommendation, to move away from Western (and Eastern) culture in favor of Islamic culture, is a step in the right direction.

I would also encourage my readers to check out Naeem's Scourge of Secular Capitalist Islam - Part 1, which was written as a response to Yursil's posts.

January 29, 2010

"Human-Made" Rules in Islam

Recently, one of my readers has asked me to answer some questions her husband has asked of her. Based on the questions she submitted and several other e-mails she has sent to me, her husband, a European convert to Islam, appears to be a lukewarm Muslim at best. (I do realize that I'm only hearing from one-half of this couple; in fact, this woman has asked me to meet her husband face-to-face, but my schedule in the evenings and on the weekends at this time makes such a meeting very difficult to arrange.) She has asked me, instead, if I would post my answers to her questions on my blog, so I'm going to address each question separately as time permits, insha'allah.

Here is her e-mail:

Here are among the questions my husband always ask me
1) He said some of the rules in Islam are actually human-made. Some are not necessary in this modern world. For instance: the hijab for ladies, abolution before prayers, prayers with the necessary standing rules.. (sometimes I adapt the prayer accordingly like when we were on traveling). Also the importance to eat halal food ( for him only pork is haram, but all others should be halal like chicken, meat eventho it is not slaughtered by muslim)

"He said some of the rules in Islam are actually human-made."

My answer: Of course; so what? My initial thought was, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) created a number of "rules" that we Muslims follow; he was a man, like us. Thus, yes, some of the rules in Islam were created by a man. "But," my wife says, "the Prophet (pbuh) was also guided directly by Allah (swt) and the angel Jibril; in that regard, he wasn't like other men." To which I most wholeheartedly agree. However, even if we set the Prophet (pbuh) aside as a special case (which, obviously, he was), many men - scholars, jurists, imams - over the centuries have defined and refined "the rules in Islam" (regardless of whether one classifies them under fiqh or shari'ah) that Muslims live under.

However, just because these rules are made by men doesn't invalidate them. There are several reasons for this. First, the vast majority of men who have created rules have done so based upon the guidance of the Qur'an and Sunnah. In order for any rule in Islam to be valid, there has to be justification for the rule; that justification almost always comes from the appropriate Qur'anic ayat and/or ahadith from the Prophet's (pbuh) Sunnah. Secondly, even though individual men may have different opinions regarding a specific issue, the rules Muslims follow are based upon a consensus (ijma) of opinions. Extreme opinions are noted but rejected in favor of the majority opinion; likewise, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "My community will never agree upon an error." So a human-made rule in Islam is not necessarily invalid simply because it came from a man or men.

Two other points I'd like to raise: All these men over the centuries - the scholars, jurists and imams - who created the rules that Muslims follow, the vast majority of them have significant credentials in terms of their ability to render a judgment. To which I would ask you, what are your qualifications? Why should I trust your judgment? What do you bring to the table?

And secondly, don't you see the hypocrisy inherent in your own statement? You apparently think that something is wrong if the rules in Islam are human-made, but then you go ahead and make up your own rules! Ridiculous!

To be continued, insha'allah.

January 08, 2010

The Thorn

Definition of atheism
Photo Source.
Whatever hardship a Muslim faces - even if it as minor as the prick of a thorn - Allah (swt) makes it an atonement for his sins. (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, and Malik's Muwatta)