Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Jamadiul-Awwal / Jamadiul-Akhir 1423 H
August 2002
Volume 15-08 No:188

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Our Dialogue


Education in non-Muslim Schools
Marital Relations
Adoption of Islam
Islam and peaceful co-existence
Hell: Temporary or everlasting?


By Adil Salahi

Education in non-Muslim Schools

Q. 1. In India, most schools and colleges are run by non-Muslims. Education is generally good but certain parts of the syllabus are contrary to Islam. Is it permissible for Muslim school children to enroll in such schools, considering that Muslim schools are practically much lower in their educational standards?

Q. 2. Why do we refer to God in the masculine, although He has no gender?


A. 1 A Muslim community should always be fully aware of its needs and try to meet them in the best possible way. Of course, a Muslim community needs good schools so that its children may receive proper instruction in the various areas of education, as well as in Islamic teachings. No successful Muslim community could afford to neglect such a need, because of the serious adverse effects such negligence is bound to have on its future generations.

Therefore, if the Muslim schools in your community are of low standard, then the community must consider the ways and means necessary to redress this situation.

When good Muslim schools are available, then it is not permissible to send one's children to other schools that teach something contrary to the Islamic faith, unless this is necessitated by some unavoidable factors. But when there are no Muslim schools to provide proper education of reasonable standards, then it is permissible to send one's children to non-Muslim schools, but it is necessary to do two things: The first is that additional arrangements should be made in order to teach those children some Islamic education to make up for the deficiency in their learning, and to rectify the questions that are taught in a way contrary to the Islamic faith.

The second important matter is that the Muslim community should work hard to end this unhealthy situation and establish Muslim schools of good standard to enable parents to provide their children with the necessary education in an Islamic environment.

A. 2. Human language knows only two forms of nouns: mascuine and feminine. It does not provide for anything other than these when it speaks of animate objects. Therefore, when we talk about any living being, we have to use either the masculine or the feminine form. Generally speaking, human language attaches, even implicitly, a higher status to the masculine. Hence, all human languages tend to refer to God in the masculine gender. Not only so, but you will find that in languages like Arabic, where masculine and feminine have different forms, God's name and attributes generally take the masculine form.

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Marital Relations

Q. After 5 years of marriage and being blessed with a 3-year-old son, I feel unhappy in my relationship with my wife. For one thing, we live apart most of the time, because of my work in another country. She is very much under the influence of her parents who interfere much in our lives. They do not express their opinions to me directly, but only through my wife. I am trying to build a house for us, but she wants one which is beyond my means, and here she simply defers to her parents' opinions. Although I have repeatedly asked her to leave her job so that she takes better care of our child, she insists on working. Could you please give me advice on what to do.


A. The points the husband has raised are more of an ordinary disagreement between man and wife. He may not like the way things are going, but then if he looks at the situation carefully, he will not find much of it that is seriously wrong. He says in his letter that his wife loves him so much, but he complains that she is under the influence of her parents. Is this not natural when the couple are not living together most of the year, and the wife is staying with her parents? They are the ones whom she sees every day, and whom she is certain that they care only for her happiness with her husband.

He says that his wife's parents try to interfere with his marital life, but they do not speak to him directly. Has he considered that this may be out of respect to him. It may be that his father-in-law feels that my reader could be sensitive if he talked to him directly. Therefore, he leaves it to his daughter to express the view which he sees to be right. There is nothing wrong with that, except it may create an element of touchiness, particularly if the wife is not diplomatic about the way she expresses that view. If she always tells her husband, "you should do like my father says," then she is not helping the situation. On the other hand, she could state the same view as her own and her husband would not feel anything wrong. It is the approach that makes all the difference in such cases.

The reader finds his wife's job a point of irritation. To start with, may I commend his attitude of not interfering with his wife's income. That income is hers and she has the right to use it as she pleases. She must not forget, however, that her earnings are only possible because her husband allows her the time to go out and work. Therefore, some accommodation should be reached about a reasonable contribution to family finances. For example, if the wife in this situation is looking after her own needs, then that may be all that can be expected of her. She is entitled to be supported by her husband, even if she has an income bigger than his. So if she is looking after herself, that is fine.

In all this, I find the real problem is one of communication. The reader does not seem to put his point of view clearly to his wife and in-laws. They, on the other hand, find it difficult to talk to him directly. My advice to him is to have a very frank, polite and clear discussion with his wife and her parents to iron out all points of disagreement. I may add that when he insists on buying a house that is within his means, he is right.

He is not required by Islam to go beyond his means. If his wife and relatives have a different sort of advice, they should show him that it is practical and beneficial without landing him in debt for a long time.

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Adoption of Islam

Q. I have been working in Saudi Arabia for years, and now my stay is extended for another 2 years. In this period I have learned much about Islam. Now I feel I want to belong to this faith. Could you please let me know where to go, and what shall I do. I would like to know how to go about it in a step by step manner.


A. The adoption of the religion of Islam is very simple. Nothing is required except a declaration by the person concerned that he believes in God as the only deity in the universe and in Muhammad as His messenger. What this declaration actually means is an acceptance that worship can be offered only to God and that the authority to legislate for human beings in all aspects of their life rests solely with God. Man's position is to obey and implement God's laws, whatever they are. Should the law of any authority, government, parliament, society, or tribal council clash with God's laws, then the latter must be implemented without any question. The Prophet says what may be translated as follows: "No creature may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience of the Creator." Now how do we know God's legislation? The second half of our declaration provides the answer to this question. Our acknowledgment of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as God's messenger means that we accept him as the man through whom God has conveyed to us the code of legislation He wants us to implement in our lives for our own benefit. It is through Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) that the Quran has been sent down to us as the book containing the Divine constitution for human life. Prophet Muhammad's own pronouncements serve as an explanatory memorandum for the Quran, providing the details of what the Quran may state in general terms, and giving us guidance on how to implement the Quran in our lives. Thus obedience to God necessitates obedience to His messenger. Indeed God commands us: "Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, refrain from it." (59: 7)

Thus the declaration means that God alone is the only one to be worshiped, that obedience to Him and submission to His law is an essential part of worshiping Him and that Muhammad, His messenger, is the one who has taught us how to worship God and conveyed to us His laws.

Anyone who makes this declaration, fully convinced of it, is a Muslim. The Arabic wording of the declaration is: Ashhadu an la ilah illallah, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadur Rasoolullah. This translates as follows: "I testify that there is no deity except God and I also testify that Muhammad is His messenger." Once the declaration is made by anyone, in full consciousness of its significance, then the person making it is a Muslim. Anyone who is embracing Islam is required, however, to have full ablutions, that is, a complete bath at the time when he makes the declaration. This is a gesture which symbolises washing off all one's past misdeeds. No Muslim is held accountable for anything he or she did before adopting Islam.

When one becomes a Muslim, one is required to do all the things Muslims do and to refrain from all those which they are not allowed to do. Thus he is required to offer 5 prayers each day, fast in the month of Ramadan, pay zakah according to the rules governing its payment and do the pilgrimage at least once in one's lifetime. There are other duties a Muslim should also do, and these one learns gradually. A Muslim must also refrain from all sinful acts such as murder, adultery, drinking, lying, stealing, gambling, perjury and all corruption generally. Islam is a religion of serious morality and strict discipline. So, a Muslim must always weigh up his actions before doing them and avoid all kinds of sin. Should he yield to temptation and commit a sin, he should repent and pray for God's forgiveness.

According to Islam, all Muslims are equal and should be treated equally. The Prophet has emphasised this on many occasions and God lays down the only criterion of distinction among Muslims. He says in the Quran: "The noblest among you in God's sight is the most God-fearing of you." (49:13) Yet people may not live up to this very important requirement. Family or tribal or national considerations may lead to different modes of discrimination. Islam shuns such practices. It is often the case, however, that people's practices fall short of their ideals. We have, therefore, to distinguish between what Islam lays down and what Muslims do.

What I have outlined is the religious aspect of becoming a Muslim. However, people may require some documentation of the fact that a person has adopted Islam. For this, one has to make this fact in court where he is questioned about his desire to become a Muslim and witnesses are present. He is given a certificate that he has adopted the religion of Islam. This may be useful in facilitating certain things, such as travel to offer the pilgrimage and marriage with a Muslim person. From the religious point of view, it is unnecessary.

Converts to Islam often change their names so as to adopt Islamic or Arabic names. This is unnecessary unless one's name is directly associated with another faith, or has a meaning that is unacceptable to Islam. Otherwise, the Prophet did not change anyone's name after becoming a Muslim except for one of these two reasons.

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Islam and peaceful co-existence

Q. 1. I have invested my end-of-service allowances in a government scheme which gives an income I use towards covering my family's living expenses. Is the capital amount liable to zakah? I also have another amount of savings which I have earmarked to cover the marriage expenses of my children, but against it I have taken a loan. The income I receive from this saving pays off the loan installment. I also have invested some money in establishing a small business, but so far, the business is making a loss. Which of these amounts is liable to zakah?

Q. 2. I travel to visit my relatives regularly, who live at a distance of 76 kilometers by road. If I travel by sea, the distance is shorter by 20 kilometers. I am told that I may shorten my prayers when I travel by road, but not by sea. What if I use one method for going out and the other for my return journey?


A. 1. When a person has savings that give him an income, even though it may be only a small amount, he should reflect that he is in a much better situation than others who cannot earn enough to pay for their living. Therefore, he should be very grateful to God for having enabled him to make such savings and pay zakah on what he has. To try to justify non-payment on the basis that if he were to take out the amount of zakah, his savings and, in consequence, his income will be reduced is not a strong argument.

The fact is that he owns the invested money and he can do with it what he likes. In the situation of our reader, he meets most of his living expenses from the income he receives on his investment. This means that the amount invested is liable to zakah, every year, at the rate of 2.5 percent.

We look at such an investment in a different light from looking at a business. Had the reader used his money to build a factory or buy a business premises, or a farm, or a house for rent, then these assets would not have been liable to zakah. The income from them would be. But in his case, the certificates he bought are available to turn into cash at any time. Hence, they are treated as liquid money.

Having said that, I may add that some scholars feel that zakah on such investment should be considered differently. They say that the capital invested is not liable to zakah, but the dividends received are liable for zakah at the rate of 10 percent. Thus, they compare it to the zakah charged on agricultural produce that grows without need of any care or irrigation, relying only on rain water. The reader may take this view if he so prefers, but once the investment changes, and he cashes any part of it, it becomes part of his ready money and zakah is applicable in the normal way.

The amount saved for his children's marriages is also liable to zakah, even though it is earmarked for this purpose. He has full access to it and can change its usage at any time. It is part of his own assets. Then liability to zakah cannot be waived. Although he uses the income to repay his debt, the principal is liable for zakah. The business which does not generate any income has a different status. The reader has not told me what business it is. If it is a trading business, then his stocks which he owns in full are liable to zakah. He should calculate the value of his stock and pay zakah for it, as long as it is paid for. If his business is one of providing a service, with no trading commodities, then he would have no zakah to pay on that.

What the reader should do is to calculate his assets on his zakah date, and deduct the amount he owes, and pay zakah on the net assets.

A. 2. The relatives our reader visits are at a travelling distance, no matter what means of transport he uses. He may avail himself of the concession of shortening his prayers when he visits them, regardless of how he travels

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Hell: Temporary or everlasting?

Q. In a discussion with a friend, I mentioned that Muslims who commit sins go to Hell until their sins have been washed away and then they are transferred to Heaven. He objected to that, saying that once a person is committed to Hell, he or she stays there for ever and ever. He would not accept the word of any scholar. Could you please confirm the correct view.


A. I am always reluctant to discuss the point of who goes where in the life to come. Heaven and Hell belong to God, and He decides who goes where and for how long. When we speak about this issue, we must not make any firm statement, because we do not know who earns God's forgiveness, and who incurs His punishment. Even if we see someone committing many types of sin, we do not know how he will be and what he will do towards the end of his life. He may do some good actions, with a pure heart and total dedication. That may earn him God's forgiveness, and perhaps a rich reward. In the Quran, God tells us that everyone, no matter who he is, will be certain to come close to Hell, but then people will be either saved or left there.

"By your Lord, We shall most certainly bring them forth together with the evil ones, and then We shall most certainly gather them, on their knees, around Hell: and thereupon We shall drag out from every group those who had been most obstinate in their rebellion against the Most Gracious. For, indeed, We know best who most deserves to be burned in the fire of Hell. There is not one among you who shall not pass over it: this is, for your Lord, a decree that must be fulfilled. But We shall save those who are God-fearing, and leave the wrongdoers there, on their knees." There is a clear reference here to people going out of Hell after having gone into it. Moreover, the Prophet (Pbuh) says: "A person with even an atom-weight of faith shall not remain in Hell." This Hadith tells us that no matter how great one's sins are and how weak one's faith is, a person will not stay in Hell for ever, if he or she believes in God's oneness.

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News | Community Roundup | Editorial| Comments| Investigation| Muslim Perspectives| Men, Machines and Methods|
Community Development| Children's Corner| Quran Speaks to You| Hadith| Our Dialogue| Religion| Miscellany| Opinion| Living Islam|
From Darkness to Light | Matrimonial| Jobs| Archives| Feedback| Subscription| Links| Calendar| Contact Us

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