Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

May 2006
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Our Dialogue

Best Things to do for Departed Parents
By Adil Salahi

Q. Could you please explain what are the best things that one may do to benefit one’s departed mother, or father, after their death? Is it true that the body of a dead person hears what we tell to that person until the body is buried? Are the souls of dead people kept in a particular place until the Day of Judgement? Do people meet after their death, so that a son would know his parents and be with them?

A. There are several things one may do to benefit a departed parent. The simplest thing that is available to everyone at all times is to pray for our parents and dead relatives. God tells us in the Qur’an that we should always pray for them saying: “Our Lord, have mercy on them as they have brought me up when I was young.” When God, with His infinite grace and limitless mercy, looks at people and weighs their deeds from the same angle, He forgives them all their sins. This is exactly what every one of us needs in order to be certain of a happy new life in heaven.

Perhaps the best thing that one may do on behalf of one’s deceased parents is to offer the pilgrimage or the Umrah on their behalf. It is well known that a goodly pilgrimage, which is free of sin and misbehaviour, is rewarded with the forgiveness of all past sins. So, when you offer the pilgrimage on behalf of your deceased mother, or father, God grants them forgiveness of all their sins. Needless to say, you need to offer the pilgrimage on behalf of one of them at a time. You cannot do it on behalf of both at the same time. You may also give money to charity, i.e. sadaqah, on their behalf. If this is of the continuing type, then you ensure a continuous reward for them. You may also read the Qur’an and request God to credit the reward of your recitation to your parents. All such actions ensure a better reward for one’s parents. The Prophet (Pbuh) mentions that a dead person may find that his position in heaven is upgraded. Such a person addresses a question to God Almighty asking him how come that his position is so improved, and the answer given to that person is: “This increase is due to your child’s prayer for you.”

When we die, we are unable to perform any action. No one may hear what the living are saying, or know what they are doing. God says to the Prophet: “You cannot make those already in the graves hear what you say.” (35: 22). Although the reader is asking about the time before burial, yet even then, the same applies.

After death, souls are in what is called “the life in the barzakh”, which is a status in between this life and the second life that begins on the Day of Judgement. We do not know the details of this life and how it is conducted, but it is a life where no actions are done, and no reward is administered. We only know that the people who have done well in this life, being devout and doing what God requires them to do will be in a happy state, while determined sinners will suffer what is termed as the “torment in the grave.” Whether people will be united with their loved ones after death, before the Day of Judgement, is unknown, but they certainly do so in heaven.

Purchase by Installments

Q.1. Here in the US, a person may have to use the facility of buying expensive items, such as a car or a house, or even less expensive items, on installments. This may involve the payment of interest. Is this acceptable from the Islamic point of view?

Q.2. Is stoning to death the Islamic punishment for adultery?

I could not find it in the Qur’an.

A.1. Much depends on the form that the purchase takes. If you go to a car dealer and say that you want to pay for your car over a period of time, and he says to you that the price will be so much for immediate payment, but a higher one for payment over a period of, say, two years, this is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, if the car dealer offers to make arrangements for you with a finance company so that you pay over the same period and at the same price he has quoted, this is strongly objectionable, and may be forbidden.

In this latter form, you are actually obtaining from the finance company a loan in the amount of the cash price of the car, which the company pays to the car dealer on your behalf. You then repay your loan with interest. In the first form, you are buying the car for a higher price because of the payment arrangements, while in the second you are borrowing money and repaying it with interest.

A.2. You are right when you say that the punishment of stoning is not mentioned in the Qur’an. It relies on a Hadith that defines the punishment for adultery. It should be said that according to the weightier opinion, this is not a mandatory or hadd punishment that cannot be waived. Rather, it is discretionary. Moreover, Islamic punishments are established mostly for deterrence. This applies to the punishment for adultery that requires either a free, unsolicited confession, or testimony by four qualified witnesses who state that they have personally seen the offense being committed.

Prophet Abraham's Footprints

Q. How can we be sure of the authenticity of Prophet Abraham’s footprints near the Kaaba, where we are recommended to pray? On a different note, may I mention that there are several websites that are very hostile to Islam. Action is needed to answer these. Please comment.

A. We are ordered in the Qur’an to make Maqam Ibraheem a place of worship. This is the meaning of the verse that says: “Make the place where Abraham stood as a place of prayer.” (2: 125) This does not mean the exact spot where he stood, because he did not always stand in the same spot, but it means the area where he stood, which is close to the Kaaba where he was comfortable. Nowadays with thousands of worshippers doing the tawaf at the same time, it is difficult to pray in this area. Since Islam always prefers what is easier for people, we can pray the Sunnah after tawaf anywhere in the Sacred Mosque, but preferably closer to where Abraham used to stand. As for the footprints preserved in the special glass structure, these are not real footprints. If you look at them you immediately conclude that they are not the prints of human feet. Nothing of this matters, because whether they are authentic or not, marks of feet or slippers, they have no religious value. The value is in following Abraham’s example and submitting oneself to God, praying to Him in complete devotion.

The war against Islam will continue for the rest of human life and will take different forms. An important aspect of this war is hostile propaganda and false presentation. This started in the very early days of Islam, when the Prophet began to advocate his message in Makkah. It will continue as long as people believe in the truth of the Islamic faith and present it to mankind for their guidance. It utilises the latest means of influencing people’s thinking. Nowadays when the Internet seems to be the fastest way of spreading ideas, it uses hostile websites. While it is important that websites be established to present the true image of Islam, we cannot stop others from using the same means. However, our means should be equal if not better in quality, form of presentation and accuracy, in addition to presenting the right image of Islam.

Greetings in Bathrooms

Q. Some people suggest that we should not greet each other with salam in bathrooms, and they also say that we should not take anything bearing God’s name into a bathroom. Please comment.

A. This is correct. The Islamic greeting, Salam alaikum, uses one of God’s names, Salam, which means “peace”, and offers it to whomever we are greeting. We should always show profound respect to God and His attributes. A bathroom is not a place where people should indulge in conversation or discuss any matter. It is a place where people answer the call of nature and leave, or they take off their clothes to have a shower. Islamic manners make it clear that the less said in a bathroom the better.

Hence, we must not mention God’s name or the name of the Prophet Muhammad or any prophet there. We are better advised to do whatever we need to do and leave. There are plenty of spaces where we can have our conversation and discussion outside.

Ablution before Maghrib

Q. 1. Is it appropriate to perform ablution just before Maghrib, pray and have a meal, then pray Isha without performing a fresh ablution?

Q. 2. If a person cannot afford to go on pilgrimage, how can he compensate for missing out on this great Islamic duty?

A.1. Any person can offer as many prayers as he wishes with one ablution, provided he does not invalidate it by any of the ways that invalidate ablution. These are: 1) any discharge of liquid, solid or wind through one’s genital or rectum, 2) deep sleep, 3) loss of consciousness; and 4) touching one’s genital skin to skin. This means that a person may offer two, three, four or even five obligatory prayers with one ablution, provided that he does not invalidate it by any of the aforementioned ways.

A.2. The pilgrimage is a duty that must be fulfilled by every Muslim who is able to undertake it. The condition of ability is most important, because a person who is unable to do it does not have a duty to fulfill. The condition of ability is both physical and financial. Physical ability includes not only a degree of health that enables one to travel and perform all the strenuous tasks without too much strain, but also one’s own safety. The financial ability includes leaving his family enough money for their living expenses during his absence. A person who does not meet this condition of ability is not required to do the pilgrimage. He does not have to compensate in any way. Every Muslim is keen to do the pilgrimage, because it ensures forgiveness of all past sins. Forgiveness of past sins can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as repentance, doing different forms of voluntary worship, serving the community, helping a person in distress, etc.

Tiring Ourselves Deliberately

Q. Having read a Hadith in Al-Bukhari that a pilgrim will be rewarded in proportion to the amount of money he spends and the physical effort he undertakes, my rich friend plans to spend very generously on his pilgrimage and to cover the distance between the different places walking.

A. While God rewards us richly for doing what He has assigned to us as duties, He also takes into account the trouble we take in order to fulfill these duties. A person, who is in difficult circumstances, trying to save a little every month in order to pay for his journey to offer the pilgrimage, is rewarded for his persistence and determination to perform this duty. An old man who is physically weak and finds the tawaf and sa’ie very tiring, particularly when the area is overcrowded, earns more reward for the extra physical effort he makes. But this does not mean that we should try to tire ourselves out in order to earn more reward. There are plenty of other ways that ensure greater reward.

If we take the case of this rich man, he may decide to fly first class in order to increase his spending on his pilgrimage. But this is wrong. He may get more reward if he flies on a cheaper ticket and gives the difference as sadaqah or charity. Similarly, he gains little by walking from Makkah to Arafat, particularly if he is not used to walking. He could travel in a more comfortable way and, if he wants more reward, he may offer night worship after the pilgrimage is over. What is important to realise is that there is no virtue in deliberately tiring ourselves out. If we have to make a greater effort because of our circumstances, God gives us reward for that, but we do not need to cause ourselves discomfort for that.

The Prophet's Different Names

Q. Could you please clarify whether it is true that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has 99 names. To my knowledge, this is true of God only. Please comment.

A. The Prophet (Pbuh) is called by several names, but the name he was given at birth was Muhammad. His mother reports that she heard a voice telling her that she was carrying a boy who would be the best of mankind, and that she should call him Muhammad.

His grandfather wanted to call him Ahmad, which is his second name mentioned in the Qur’an. Both these names are derived from a root that signifies praise. Muhammad in particular means “one who is often praised.” From the same root a further name is derived, which is Mahmood. The Prophet is also called by other names, but these are mostly attributes or qualities that he is known to have had. An example of these is Mustafa, which means “chosen.” Furthermore, he is described in the Qur’an by certain qualities, and some people claim that these are also names of his. This is not true, because some of these are attributes of God, such as Ra’oof and Raheem, which mean kind and compassionate respectively. When these are used on their own, they refer to God, not to the Prophet.

To find 99 names and qualities by which to call the Prophet will require some arbitrary usage of such qualities. Besides, there is nothing to be gained by such an exercise. We know that the Prophet combined the best qualities that could be found in the best of people. To give him a name for each such quality is a totally unnecessary exercise. People, however, think that by doing so they demonstrate their great love of the Prophet. The fact is that such love is best demonstrated by following the Prophet’s example, not by singing his praises, much worthy of praise as he certainly is.

Change of Destiny

Q. Does a person’s destiny change through prayer and supplication? Suppose, for example, that a person is destined to have a severe illness. Could this be removed or amended, if he prays to God to spare him all illness?

A. Yes, prayer could change the course of future events when one prays to God with a genuine appeal. If God answers a woman’s prayers, He certainly grants her what she has prayed for. If she finds herself on the verge of a disaster and prays God to spare her that, He is certainly able to do so, allowing her to escape that disaster. This could be by what may appear to us as a miraculous intervention, but is, to God, a perfectly easy option. All this is consistent with our belief in God and His control over events and destiny. Besides, it is part of the essence of prayer. God says in the Qur’an: “Your Lord says, pray to Me, and I will answer you.” If what is already determined cannot be changed, then how would He answer us? Besides, God’s will is free of all restrictions. If we say that what is determined cannot be changed, then we imply that God’s will is not free. This is against the very basis of the Islamic concept of God.