Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

March 2008
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Our Dialogue

Trading in Shares

Q. I trade in shares and this means that at times I keep shares for a long while, and I may sell them on the same day I buy them. Is this permissible? Can I invest in all stocks?

A. To start with, buying and selling shares for profit is permissible. The shares thus bought and sold should be treated in the same way as other merchandise. Therefore, on the day when the holder pays his zakah, he should include the value of all the shares he is holding, whether he has retained them for a long while or just bought them, as part of his assets and must pay zakah on them according to their value on the day. The rate of zakah on such assets is 2.5 percent of the total value. Here we distinguish such a person from one who buys shares in a particular company and retains them as he feels the company is trading well. He is looking to receive dividends for his investment. Such a person pays zakah on the dividends he receives at the rate of 10 percent. His zakah is due on the day he receives the dividends.

As for the type of shares one can buy and sell, the important point to clarify is the position of a person so trading in shares for the duration between buying and selling them. Is this person an owner of a portion of the company whose shares he holds, or simply a co-traveller for part of the way, or indeed neither? Equally important is to consider whether by buying and selling these shares he is promoting its business. If he is an owner of part of the business, even though it is a tiny part, he must not hold shares in any business that Islam forbids. Thus, he cannot be a shareholder in wine brewing or selling companies, or in usurious financial institutions, or entertainment companies that rely on practices which Islam forbids. It is indeed far more preferable to avoid dealing in such shares whatever his position is.

Paying Zakah in Money or Kind

Q. Is it acceptable to pay Zakah –ul- Fitr in cash and to pay the normal zakah in kind or in a mixture of cash and kind?

A. Some scholars insist that Zakah ul—Fitr, which is paid at the end of Ramadan, before the Eid prayer, must be paid in kind, i.e. in flour, corn, barley, rice, dates etc. This view has good supporting evidence, but does not look at the changing conditions of societies and the needs of the poor who live in towns. Such people may often find that zakah given to them in such method to be a burden. They often resort to selling what they receive at a price that is below its cost in order to use this price to buy what they need.

The purpose of this zakah is not to provide the poor with such types of commodities, but it is, as the Prophet says, to make them self-sufficient on the day of the Eid, which is a festive occasion. It is often the case that the poor will be much better off receiving money than receiving such items.

If you give flour to a poor person living in a city, he may not be able to use it to bake bread for his family, while if you pay him in cash, he will easily buy bread. Giving him money will buy him more bread than twice the amount given to him in flour. Likewise, it is perfectly permissible to pay ordinary zakah, due on different types of money, in either cash or kind, or in a mixture of both. We should always look at the interests of the recipients of zakah and what suits them best.

The Significance of the Black Stone in Kaabah

Q. What is the significance of the Black Stone at the Kaaba?
Why do people kiss it? Is it true that it descended from heaven?

A. The Black Stone is an easily distinguished stone, placed a little below shoulder level at one corner of the Kaaba. The act of worship which is particularly associated with the Kaaba, and never stops except when congregational prayer is held, is tawaf, which means walking round the Kaaba seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. Tawaf is one of the duties of Islamic pilgrimage and Umrah (mini-pilgrimage). It is also a recommended act of worship at all times. Moreover, it is the way to offer greeting to the Kaaba. It is said that when Abraham completed the building of the Kaaba, with the help of his son, Ishmael, God commanded him to do the tawaf. He was not able to keep a correct count of the rounds he made. He felt that other worshippers would be similarly confused. He prayed God to give him a sign to be used for counting rounds. The Angel Gabriel brought him the Black Stone. When one starts tawaf, and at the completion of each round, one should kiss the Black Stone or touch it with one’s hand, if it is possible, or signal to it from a distance, if the place is too crowded. As one does so, one should repeat this declaration: “There is no deity save God, God is supreme.” The significance of this particular action is best expressed by Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second greatest figure among the companions of Prophet Muhammad and his second successor as ruler of the Islamic state, and a distinguished scholar. He addressed the Black Stone in these words: “I know that you are a stone which can cause no harm or benefit. Had it not been for the fact that I saw God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) kissing you, I would not have kissed you.”

Gifting the Rerward of Qur'anic Recitation to the Deceased

Q. Can we read the Qur’an and request that the reward of such reading be given to our dead relatives?

A. If you want to gift the reward of your Qur’anic recitation to your parents or someone else who is deceased, you should make this intention at the time of your reading. You request God to credit this reward to them. You do not need to say that you gift it first to the Prophet and then to your parents. It should be to your parents directly. The Prophet receives this reward for all the good deeds Muslims do, because he taught them to do these deeds.

Engagement and Interaction

Q. When a couple are formally engaged to be married, with the agreement of both families, are they allowed to meet and talk, or to speak on the telephone?

A. What we are talking about here is a formal engagement, with both parties agreed and in the full knowledge and consent of the woman’s family. No formal marriage contract has been done yet. It is all an agreement with good intention. Both parties are keen to complete the relation by marriage. They will certainly need to get to know each other better. This can only be done through meetings, visits and discussions. From the Islamic point of view, this is perfectly reasonable. Islam allows the development of this relation in this way, within its own moral standards. What Islam does not allow is that the couple should be alone in an enclosed environment where they are in complete privacy. This is not allowed between man and woman, who are unrelated to each other, in any situation. Since an engagement is not a formal relation, the prohibition on such meetings applies. Therefore, when an engaged couple want to meet or go out, they should be accompanied by a reliable and trustworthy relative of the wife. Thus, her fiancé can visit her at home, but they sit where they are not in isolation. One of her parents or siblings should be present. If they talk on the telephone, there is nothing wrong with that. However, they should observe Islamic standards of propriety. As you see, it is all within what is reasonable.

Is It Necessary to Remarry After Embracing Islam?

Q. My wife and I were married under the civil law of our country, where Muslims are only a minority. At the time, my wife had not yet embraced Islam. Now she is a Muslim. Do we have to remarry under Islamic law?

A. No you do not have to remarry. Your marriage is valid under Islamic law. During the Prophet’s lifetime, there were many cases of husbands and wives embracing Islam at different times. Sometimes the woman accepted Islam before her husband and sometimes it was the husband who was the first to become a Muslim. The Prophet approved all their marriages. He did not ask any couple to revalidate their marriage under Islamic law. In the case of the Prophet’s own daughter, Zaynab, she embraced Islam many years before her husband. She became a Muslim in the early days of Islam, while he only became a Muslim in year 6 after the Hijrah, i.e. 19 years after the start of the prophet-hood of Muhammad (Pbuh). For four years before that, she lived with her father, the Prophet, in Madinah while her husband, Abu Al-Aas, lived in Makkah. Yet when he embraced Islam, they rejoined in marriage, without going through a new marriage contract.

A Problematic Property

Q. My father gave my mother a house in place of her dowry. He passed away more than 15 years ago. My mother lives in that house with her three married sons. She has seven daughters all married. She is thinking of selling the house and giving its price to her children. How should this be shared between them? Specifically, what share should a daughter receive in comparison with a son?

A. Your mother can stay in her house as it is her own property. No one has any claim against her. Since this was given to her by her husband as her dowry, she has full title to it and no one has any claim against it. She can live in it for the rest of her life, or she can rent it and use the rent as she pleases. When she dies, it is part of her estate which should be shared out between her children on the basis of one share for a daughter and two for a son.

If your mother wants to go ahead with her intention, selling the house and giving its price to her children, she should give her sons and daughters equal shares. Some people think that gifts to children should be on the same lines as their shares of inheritance. This is not so. During a parent’s lifetime, all children are entitled to equal treatment. When one of the Prophet’s companions asked him to witness a gift he has given to his son, the Prophet asked him whether he gave similar gifts to all his children. He did not differentiate between sons and daughters. The man said that he did not. The Prophet told him to find someone else to witness the gift, and told him that he does not witness injustice. He called such gifts to one child, without giving similar gifts to other children “injustice”. Needless to say, all injustice is forbidden in Islam.

Can we delay the Burial

Q. When a person dies, it is often the case that the body is kept for a day or two before burial, waiting for all relatives to come. Is this correct? Is it also proper to arrange to send the body of a deceased expatriate to his home country, even though this may result in a delay of burial for several days or a couple of weeks?

A. From the Islamic point of view, it is more honorable for the deceased to be buried as soon as possible. This is ingrained in the culture of all Muslim peoples. There is no need to wait for anyone. Waiting means giving the living relatives more consideration than the deceased. This should not be the case. No one should be waited for. Likewise, there is no need to send the body to a different country. People should be buried where they die. Many of the Prophet’s companions died in different countries, and they were buried in the cities where they died, even though these were foreign cities with non-Muslim populations. If sending the body will involve such long delay in burial, the wrong is compounded.

The Right Time for Performing Night Worship

Q. What is the proper time for performing night worship, or tahajjud? Should one go to sleep first? What about Lailatul Qadr?

A. Tahajjud, or night worship, may be offered at any time during the night, after one has prayed Isha. However, its best time is the portion of the night that precedes dawn, or Fajr prayer. This means it is more appropriate to have some sleep first. As for the night you mention, many people prefer to stay up all night. This is fine, but if you go to sleep for a few hours and spend a portion of the night in worship, you also do well. This is all voluntary, and when you volunteer worship, you choose what to offer.

Correct way of Ablution

Q. What is the correct way of ablution, or ghusl, for both husband and wife after intercourse?

A. What is required in grand ablution, or ghusl, is to wash one’s whole body, including one’s head, with water. This is required after sex, or after a wet dream or ejaculation for a man, and after completing her menstrual period and post-natal discharge for a woman. A woman does not need to undo her hair for this ablution. She can take water with her hand and wet her head with it, three times.

Men Wearing Gold

Q. Is the prohibition of wearing gold by men mentioned in the Qur’an?

A. The prohibition of wearing gold and silk for men is not mentioned in the Qur’an, but in an authentic Hadith. This means that the prohibition is no less valid because God commands us in the Qur’an to do whatever the Prophet bids us and to refrain from whatever he forbids us.

Maintaining Equality

Q. I have one son and one daughter. Every now and then I buy a piece of gold jewelry for my daughter. How do I maintain equality between them? The boy does not need jewelry. If I give him money instead, it is likely to depreciate while the gold appreciates in value.

A. The important point is to maintain equality at the time of giving the gift. The gifts do not have to be identical, but of the same value and use to the recipient.

You may give your son jewelry, which he may sell or give to his wife when he is older, or you may give him money which you invest in his name so that it will retain its value. You need to determine the best way for your son and seek to maintain fairness.

Investing Money in Life Insurance Acceptable

Q. Is investing money in the form of a life insurance acceptable, particularly if it reduces our income tax liability? Is it permissible to subscribe to health insurance or educational insurance?

A. Scholarly views on insurance differ. However, I find the view that insurance is permissible to be perfectly valid. It is supported by sound evidence. Moreover, it gives the insured good returns for the money invested, not least the peace of mind that is associated with the alleviation of risk. This applies to life insurance and health insurance. I am not clear what educational insurance means. If it means that a person takes an insurance policy to pay for the education of one’s children, then this is a form of saving for a particular purpose. There is no loss involved for anyone. Therefore, it is permissible, unless the money is invested in a usurious transaction, in which case it becomes unacceptable because of this investment.