Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

November 2008
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Our Dialogue

Moon Sighting Problems
By Adil Salahi
Q. Sighting of the new moon to determine the start of lunar months, particularly Ramadan and Shawwal, is a problem in the countries of the Indian sub-continent. This problem often results in the start of Ramadan or the Eid day being declared on two or even three different days. Please comment.


A.
I have been asked this question more times than I can count. It is raised every year because the reality of what takes place as a result of such confusion is too disturbing to many people. They are right. It should not be the case. Yet this is merely a symptom of the miserable state of affairs in the world Muslim community of today. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution, because those who can provide the solution are either unwilling to undertake the initiative, or choose to turn their back on the solution. Yet a solution is easy and it should be put into practice without delay. The solution is to rely on astronomical data, which give us the exact time of the birth of the new moon and its time and place of visibility. Should we resort to such a method, the difference will not be more than one day, which is acceptable from the Islamic point of view.
Hadith and Original Anthologies
Q. Some scholars produced Hadith collections such as Riyadh Al-Saliheen, Mishkat Al-Masabeeh, Kanz Al-Ummal. These include Hadiths from the anthologies of Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others. However, they attribute these new collections to themselves. Nowadays, when people quote a Hadith from these later collections, they do not mention the original anthologies. Thus, the reward will be granted to the authors of the new collections, but not to the original ones. Please comment.


A.
When we speak of God’s reward, we must not apply our own measures. God rewards people according to His knowledge of their efforts, intentions, sincerity and indeed all factors that are at play in their work. Thus, suppose that you have written a piece of commendable work that serves the Islamic cause or helps Muslims, but you could not publish it. Someone else sees it and publishes it under his own name without your permission. Does this mean that he will get all the reward for it? For certain, your effort will not be wasted. God says in the Qur’an: “Whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it then, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it then also.” (99: 7-8)

Not only so, but when a person does something and it is used by many to advantage, that person will get a reward for every time his work was used by anyone, because it was through his action that such people made advantage. What those scholars did was to produce Hadith anthologies on specific subjects, or related to a general theme. They used the original anthologies and others, according to their own selection criteria.

These works have been widely used, making the Prophet’s Hadiths better known to a much wider audience. They receive rich reward from God, as will everyone that made it possible for them to produce their anthologies. Thus, nothing of the reward of the earlier scholars will be wasted. On the contrary, it will be increased, God willing.
E-mailed Photos
Q. Some people circulate through e-mail some photos which they say support the truth of Islam. Recently I received a photo of the moon which shows a clear line in the middle. It is said to confirm the Qur’anic statement that the moon was split during the lifetime of the Prophet. Do these photos prove anything of the truth of Islam? Should we circulate them to all people, particularly non-Muslims as a proof of the truth of Islam?


A.
God gave prophets and messengers He sent prior to the message of Islam different miracles as signs they showed to their people in support of what they preached. He gave Moses nine of these signs, such as the way his stick was turned into a quick moving snake which swallowed the objects of sorcery used by Pharaoh’s sorcerers. He gave Jesus the ability to cure the blind and the albino and to bring the dead back to life. He, however, did not associate the message of Islam with any such miracle or sign. The proof of Islam as a message from God is there within the message. It only needs to be studied and carefully examined for its truth to be clearly seen by all. The Qur’an is there for all people to read. It is a book of truth that admits no falsehood. Human progress and increased knowledge always show the truth of every Qur’anic statement. Besides, it lays down a code of living that can be easily adapted to any society, community and generation, bringing out the best in all people.

There were numerous signs and ‘miraculous’ events that took place during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and by his actions, such as a small amount of food being served to an army of people, each eating his fill with the food left at the end being more than it was at the start; a small quantity of water turning into a spring at which a large army replenishes its full stock; a man whose eye was dislocated by an enemy shows it to the Prophet who puts it back in place; and many similar events. However, none of these is taken as an ultimate proof of the message of Islam. We say that they serve to confirm that the Prophet was certainly God’s messenger, but he never suggested that these were his proofs. The real proof is in the message itself; in the Qur’an. We need no other proof.

Those people who circulate this photo showing a line in the middle of the moon claim that it supports the Qur’anic statement that the moon was split during the Prophet’s lifetime. To start with, the photo does not prove anything. Nowadays, it is very easy to produce any photo one wishes, using some computer software like Photoshop. If you have a fine picture of the moon, like the ones captured by spacecraft, you can easily introduce a line in it or superimpose something else to prove what you wish. So, if you hold such a photo to a non-Muslim and tell him that it proves the Qur’anic statement in the first verse of Surah 54, he only needs to look at other photos of the moon that do not show that line to realize that it was superimposed. He will then think that you are resorting to deception. This does not serve Islam.

Some years back, a photo was circulated showing two lines of trees, claimed to be in the middle of a forest in Germany, with the inscription of the first article of the Islamic faith clearly seen on them. People celebrated this as if it was all that was needed to convince the world population of the truth of Islam. However, they realized that this was not the case. Sometime later, it transpired that it was all fake. The question that escaped almost all people was that why would such trees in a German forest bear an inscription in Arabic, when few Arabs would see it, if it was meant to deliver a message to the German people or to the world at large. God says in the Qur’an: “Never have We sent a messenger otherwise than speaking the language of his own people, so that he might make (the truth) clear to them.” (14: 4) Would it not have served a better purpose if the inscription on those trees was in German, so that every passerby would read and understand it? Similar photos of vegetables, fish and animals were circulated bearing a similar message. They are all fake and serve no purpose. The way to preach Islam is to abide by its truth and explain it to people clearly, in the way they understand. We do not need to resort to deception because it will certainly harm our cause.
Verse about Adulterer
Q. The third verse of Surah 24 says that an adulterer must not marry anyone other than an adulteress or an unbeliever. How can they search for someone of the same type of behavior, telling them of their own conduct?


A.
The verse in question may be translated as follows: “The adulterer couples with none other than an adulteress or an idolatress; and with the adulteress couples none other than an adulterer or an idolater. This is forbidden to the believers.” (24: 3) The verse does not give an order to adulterers concerning what marriage partners they should seek. Rather, it shows the repugnant nature of their action and makes it clear that marrying such people is not allowed for believers. It is not permissible to marry a habitual adulterer unless that person sincerely repents first and declares his or her intention to lead a clean and virtuous life, in accordance with Islamic teachings.