By Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan
One of the major problems associated with Muslim marriage system is the element of time sense often becoming senseless. Perhaps Islam is the only religion which has prescribed ‘time’ for every action of a Muslim. Namaz has to be offered at the appointed time as decided by the concerned authorities from time to time. There is absolutely no violation of this mandate. Whether the congregation consists of 5 or 500 persons, Namaz is offered on dot. This is discipline taught by Islam.
But this mandate for time sense in all other social functions is respected more in its breach than in its observance. By and large nobody seems to bother about this social disease. People are simply resigned to their fate. But it not good for the Muslim community. Indian Standard Time (IST) today reminds us of the crime against the society by attending or performing all social functions after the scheduled time. Muslim Standard Time (MST) is still worse. It is a well defined and confirmed trait of our culture to ignore time sense. Every one wants to use a wrist watch. The illiterates are no exceptions. Let us not blame the illiterates for violation of time sense. What about the educated, the elite and others who are supposed to adhere to Islam prescriptions for the good governance of the society. How do they justify their actions in disgracing Islamic functions?
Violation of time sense becomes clearer and more relevant when perceived in the context of ‘Nikah’. The mental tension, uneasiness and frustration caused by violation of time are beyond tolerance and justification. The wedding card says ‘Nikah’ at 11 A.M. Those who have time sense will arrive at the wedding place at least a few minutes before this stipulated time. But those who have either no respect for time or those who have time sense but know the social reality will come later than the scheduled time. The former category of persons are punished, while the later category has nothing to lose.
Both the brides and bride groom’s parties are generally the villains of this social pathological approach. By 11 A.M. they will be busy in having their breakfast which consists of varieties of dishes, some people will still be washing their faces. Some will be dressing. Finally the bridegroom arrives by 1 P.M. two hours behind the scheduled time. Then there will be minor or sometimes major conflicts over ‘dowry’. Unless this is fully settled, the bridegrooms people will not allow further proceedings. Ugly and shameful scenes will be created. Poor bride and her parents will be surmounted by tensions. Until Nikah is celebrated, there is uneasiness in the already disturbed social climate.
Though my intention is not to make a sweeping generalization, I do admit emphatically this is the normal situation so far as time-factor is concerned. The question that has to be answered by all those who stand by Islamic spirit and prescriptions is how to overcome this growing tendency to disrespect Islamic mandate for observance of time. It becomes the responsibility of every true Muslim, whether he is poor or rich, educated or uneducated, religious leader or a layman to strive to remove the social malady. There are umpteen number of social or socio-religious organizations among Muslims working for the cause of Muslims. Some organizations are directly involved in preaching the significance of five time prayers, fasting, etc. It is the duty of all these intellectuals and organizations to create awareness among Muslims about the importance of the time, particularly for performing Nikah. Sincere efforts should be put in. Overnight changes in their attitudinal behaviour may not be possible. But a beginning has to be made today, not tomorrow.
The one punitive step I suggest to start with immediately is that the Mosque committee should issue a direction to the ‘Khazi’ to be present at the place of Nikah a few minutes earlier, complete all formalities and perform Nikah and get back. But if the party or parties are late, then the Khazi should walk out of the marriage place with Nikah nama and no substitute should be allowed. Nikah nama should not be given to any other person who comes forward to perform the Nikah in the absence of the Khazi.
There could be a number of better alternatives. But what is stressed here is that the Muslim community should not be sleeping when the whole world is awake. Islam should be presented to non-Muslims through appropriate social action programmes for the good of the whole human race.
By Hasan Mansur
The Indian polity as it exists today presents a situation which at worst could be described as alarming. Political parties, ideologically illiterate and the dominant among them, unashamedly professing a theology that indulges in sophistry using terms like cultural nationalism and Hindutva as a way of life, rule the scene. As for the left, it has become ineffectual, refusing to come to terms with the reality of the Indian situation though undoubtedly it is secular. All these parties are represented in the legislatures but their accountability to the people they are supposed to represent is seriously questioned. Ambedkar’s statements, such as, “Majority in India is a communal majority, not a political majority” and “Communal majority in India is born permanent and fixed, a majority untenable in Indian conditions” sound prophetic and are borne out by events today. A communal outfit that passes for a political party, the BJP has the building of the Ram Mandir as its foremost objective in its manifesto, a gross violation of the principles of a secular democracy enshrined in the Constitution, has gone unchallenged either by the Election Commission or the judiciary. Now this communal outfit is entrenched in power at the Centre. As for the bureaucracy, it reflects the prevalent political ethos and kowtows to whosoever is in power oblivious of the oath it has taken to uphold the constitution. Its police has turned partisan if not downright communal and the army once hailed as most secular, as one of its former chiefs of the naval staff wrote, wears the saffron vest beneath its khaki tunic! Coming to the judiciary, it suffices to state that it has not risen to its constitutional obligations as seen in the verdicts over Babri Masjid, Bhopal gas disaster, Hindutva and the Enron project. To sum up, the constitutional safeguards of a democratic state are in a state of collapse.
Now the citizens confront an Indian state flexing its military muscle, investing more money in policing and militarisation, modernising its weapons of oppression and its armed might will be brought to bear on people’s movements opposing it. Its latest budget shows lesser funding towards promotion of education, employment prospects, shelter, health and other welfare measures. The victims of these exploitative and oppressive measures will be the poor among the backward classes, minorities, Dalits and the tribal.
The people’s movements are slowly gathering strength in the face of poverty and deprivation. There are growing demands for education, employment, shelter, health and in the present context, right to one’s faith not to speak of the most basic need like drinking water. This is a crucial struggle for the fundamental right to life with dignity, an inherent right of every human being. Enlightened Muslims must bring about this awareness among the members of the community so that they become a part and parcel of the democratic movement of all people in the country. There is a solemn duty cast on these members to educate the community on all these issues. In the movements demanding these fundamental rights, Muslims must stand shoulder to shoulder with all those marginalised in society. What is to be understood is that all these struggles are inter-related; for instance the right to life is related to the right to information. These fifty years, the Indian state has veiled all its transactions in the spheres of defence, particularly atomic energy and deals with countries abroad on the plea of confidentiality, thus concealing kickbacks allegedly received by individuals and political parties. The right to information is a just demand for transparency in governance which will enable citizens to insist on accountability on the part of the ruling powers. Since this wasteful expenditure on conventional arms and nuclearisation impinges on the fundamental right to life with dignity, it needs to be questioned and combated so that the state embark on welfare measures that could improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
Enlightened Muslims must educate fellow-Muslims to make common cause with all those communities like backward classes, Dalits, tribal and other minorities in their struggle for democratic rights. All these marginalised classes are sought to be terrorised by the authoritarian state through the terror of lawless laws like the National Security Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958, not to mention new laws as in Tamil Nadu directed at minorities. Muslims must be in the forefront of struggles demanding repeal of these unjust laws, roll back nuclearisation, cut down expenditure on conventional weapons. They must be a part of movements upholding human rights, join secular groups combating communalism, make common cause with social action groups fighting for gender justice and rights of working children. The active presence of Muslim youth in social activism will enable acknowledgement of their role in the democratic struggle of the people seeking social justice and creation of democratic ethos in the country.
Another crucial aspect of the people’s movement is to promote understanding and amity between the peoples of India and Pakistan. This should serve two objectives; one to reduce animosities created by the ruling powers by both countries and incidentally this could contribute to progress of harmony among communities within India and secondly forge a joint peoples’ alliance to oppose and end nuclearisation in the sub-continent.
A greater task is to make the people of the sub-continent realise that the greatest threat emanates from the West, which finds succour in its surrogates, the ruling powers in the sub-continent, a neo-colonialism in the form of the World Bank, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a word globalisation. The debt trap, consumerism, onslaught on native cultural and religious values let loose by the market forces affect most the poor among the backward classes, minorities, and the Dalits and the tribal; the beneficiaries are the amoral elite and the upper classes in general whose vested interest is in their own welfare and the poor are expendable. No political party has shown the will to oppose globalisation; on the other hand, they are collaborators and it must be noted that despite noises made by the Sangh Parivar, its political outfit is engaged most in promoting globalisation. This is an evil that will cause mass unemployment, render most peasants landless and end affirmative action like reservations for the deprived. The battle against globalisation is a struggle to end exploitation by Western capital and that of its cohorts within the sub-continent.
The people’s movements for democratic rights is a long haul, demanding perseverance, patience and endurance. Only the unity of working people, their sustained efforts could see the end of corruption, criminalisation, communalisation and the war hysteria, put an end to the sinister machinations of wily politicians intent on hoisting medieval values on a modern society and the goal of an egalitarian society where justice is assured to all without discrimination must be sought till it is achieved. It is the most fervent hope that the people of India will create a new society based on equity and fair play so that the iniquitous past will fast fade into a bad dream. A people intent of building a new society based on goodwill and justice will certainly triumph.
The Islamic Economics research unit of the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh has warned Muslims against waste and extravagance in this day and age are excesses while making food that eventually finds its way to the dustbins. There are many negative purchasing habits that are formed as a result of misleading advertisements and commercial spots. There is also the craziness of fashion consciousness and the multiplication of new styles in clothing and cosmetic and perfume products. There also are the intoxicants, drugs, and cigarettes on which billions are spent, while these are lethal dangers for the individual, the family and society as a whole, warned the researchers.
Among the causes of waste and extravagance is ignorance on the part of the culprit about Islamic injunctions which forbid excesses and spending on things forbidden. It is also forbidden for someone to exceed the limits in consuming what is allowed, to the point of increasing bodily desires. This leads to the spread of obesity among members of society, which then results in laziness and slackness in the life of the individual, they say. The researchers said among the reasons which lead one to waste and extravagance are showiness and vainglory.
It has been observed that at functions people show off and boast in front of others, while the Prophet (Pbuh) discouraged this sort of behaviour. Another cause that drives some people to waste and extravagance is the family upbringing. This, they say, has a profound effect on its individual members. Another cause comes from associating with people who are themselves extravagant and the tendency to imitate them. Among the manifestations of extravagance is the placing on the dinner table much more food than can be eaten by those for whom the food is meant.
Also included in extravagance is when one spends his wealth on things that would do him no good either in this world or in the Hereafter, such as excessive home furnishings and the like. Extravagance is dangerous to one’s faith and his self-respect, say the researchers because the spendthrift would want to preserve his life-style of extravagance and the comfort he has become accustomed to. He will therefore be prepared to earn his money by various means, including those that are prohibited.
The researchers pointed out that extravagance leads one to sins, evil and arrogance, and leads to environmental pollution and the exhaustion of resources. Those who practice extravagance, say the researchers, face problems in balancing their budgets. Some of them spend their month’s emoluments in a day, and then land in problems for the rest of the month. But if one were to balance his expenditure, he can live well and with equanimity.
It is a well known fact, say the researchers, that at functions that are held in hotels and weddings halls food that is brought is enough to satisfy twice the number of the invited guests and usually consists of varieties, while the fact is that only very little of it would be eaten. Such sumptuous feasts cost a lot of money, they say on the other hand, many people spend a lot of money on cars, with many of them purchasing them on instalment or by otherwise borrowing the money to pay cash. Again, people spend a lot of money on perfumes and jewellery, things which would do them no good either in this world or in the Hereafter. Yet there are millions of Muslims in the world whose need for food and medical treatment are acute and deserve to be helped.
It is reported that Prophet Yusuf (Pbuh) was once asked why he had never been seen with a full belly, while he had all the treasures of the world in his hands. His reply was, “I fear that if my belly becomes full I might forget the hungry ones.” (IINA)
By Yoginder Sikand
Islam is today one of the fastest growing religions in America. The Islamic presence in the Americas is commonly thought to have begun with the arrival of shiploads of slaves from the African west coast by European slave traders. Recent evidence, however, suggests that Muslims may have come to America considerably before that. Indeed, it may even be that Muslims from north and west Africa had set foot on the American continent well before its ‘discovery’ by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
In his well-documented book, ‘Deeper Roots: Muslims in America’, Abdullah Hakim Quick argues that the history of Islam in America “extends back over one thousand years, predating Columbus’ contact by six centuries”. This may be no wild, empty claim, for in recent years, numerous other scholars have made similar observations. Based on various archeological findings, including numerous artifacts, inscriptions and hoards of Arab coins of the 8th century A.D. discovered in the Americas, Cyrus Gordon writes in his “Before Columbus” that the Moors of North Africa probably had extensive trading links with America. This would add validity to the reports, recorded by Muslim historians and geographers, concerning the journeys of Muslim adventurers and navigators across the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, in his Muruj adh-Dhahab wa Ma’adin al-Jawahar [‘The Meadows of Gold and Quarries of Jewels’], the tenth century Arab historian Abul Hassan Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Ali al-Masudi, wrote about a young Moorish man from Cordoba named Khashkhash ibn Saeed ibn Aswad who made contact with people on the other side of the Atlantic and returned to Cordoba in the year 889 A.D.. A report by another medieval Arab scholar, Abu Bakr ibn Umar al-Qutiyya relates the story of one Ibn Farrukh who landed in the Canary Islands off the Moroccan coast in 999 A.D. and from there sailed across the Atlantic till he reached the other side, later returning to Spain. Likewise, the famous Arab geographer and physician of Sicily, Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Idrisi [1099-1180 A.D.], narrated in his Kitab al-Mamalik wa-l-Masalik the story of a group of Arab seamen who reached the isles of the Americas, probably the Bahama Islands and the Lesser Antilles.
Further proof of the possible Muslim presence in America preceding the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Europeans is provided by the number of maps made by medieval Arab geographers. The most significant of these is a map of the eastern coast of North America and the South American continent prepared in 1513 A.D. by the Turkish navigator Piri Muhiyuddin Rais. Although it was made some twenty years after Columbus’ arrival in America, it contains much information that could not have been known to Columbus, such as intricate details of various mountain ranges, rivers and islands. It thus might have been the case that Arab explorers had travelled throughout this region recording information before Columbus arrived there. Another map, one of Florida based on a French expedition of 1564 A.D., shows the names of three settlements that might suggest an earlier Muslim settlement in the area. These settlements had distinctly Arabic-sounding names: Mayaraca [Majorca], Cardica [Cadiz] and Marracou [Marrakesh]. That it was not impossible for the early Muslims to have sailed from north Africa to America in those days was conclusively proved when, in 1969, the irrepressible Scandinavian explorer and scientist Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic from the north African port of Safi to Barbados in the West Indies on a boat made of papyrus.
Besides North African Muslims, it is possible that black Muslims from West Africa, too, had established a presence in America considerably before Columbus’ arrival there. Perhaps the most significant group were the Mandinkas of Mali, a thriving Muslim kingdom centred around the city of Timbuktu. The famous medieval Arab geographer, Shihabuddin al-Umari, noted in his Masalik al-Absar fi Mamalik al-Masar that in 1324 A.D., when the ruler of Mali, Mansa Musa, was in Egypt on his way to Makkah for the pilgrimage, he informed the governor of Cairo that his predecessor had undertaken two expeditions, each consisting of some four hundred ships, into the Atlantic Ocean to discover its limits. Quick writes in his book on the Muslims of America [referred to above] that inscriptions in the Via and related Mandinka scripts found at several places in Brazil, Peru and the present United States, clearly suggest an early Mandinka Muslim presence in these areas.
That Muslims may have been present in America before the arrival of Columbus’ ships at San Salvador on October 12,1492, was suggested by several early European explorers who travelled to America in Columbus’ footsteps. Indeed, Columbus seems to have made some references in this regard in the records of his own travels. The records of these early European travellers contain considerable interesting material on the lives of these American Muslims as well as of the Muslim slaves who were brought to America in the wake of its conquest by the Spaniards, the French, the Portuguese and the English. To that little known history of the early Muslims of America we shall turn in the next month.
By Dr. Shahid Athar
Sex to most Muslims is a dirty word. A word that they don’t even want to talk about. On the other extreme, many Muslims’ are obsessed with sex. This I can say from the questions about sex that I receive.
The desire to have a better sexual performance for men is again, not a new pre-occupation. Muslim Hakims (traditional physicians’) have been working on medications for over one thousand years trying to achieve a magic love pill. Now that this “love pill” seemingly has arrived, wealthy Muslims’ are ecstatic. Viagra which is sold around $10 per pill in the U.S.A., is being sold at $100 per pill on the black market in Saudi Arabia. Kuwait recently had allowed the sale at about $49 per pill officially. The religious scholar of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Baaz has allowed it to be used by men if it does not cause any harm to the body.
Recently a visitor from Pakistan wanted to get some samples of Viagra, and I asked him why. He stated “ that he wanted to give them as a gift to his boss”. Obviously, he did not get the gift.
Sexual desire is a gift from God, just like all other desires that He has built in us. It is not our fault that we get aroused at sexual thoughts. These are built in physiology. In order to have a legitimate outlet for this built in desire, God has created mates for us. Quran says, “He that created you mates from among yourselves that you can dwell in them in tranquillity”. (30:21) Sex outside of marriage is not permitted in Islam.
Impotency is a disease and should be dealt with as any disease. To seek a cure for a disease is advised by Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) who said that “God has created no disease unless he created a cure for it as well, except old age”. Thus, before we physicians’ start a new treatment, we either must find out the cause for impotency which could be vascular, neurogenic, infection, diabetes, or hormonal deficiency. To treat all the causes with one type of treatment would be wrong, and that is why many patients’ on Viagra do not respond because they have not been screened properly to see if they would be good candidates. In addition, if the mental stimulation is not present before, then Viagra alone will not achieve the desired results as the brain is one of the most important organ.
The appropriate way for a man to deal with this is to see his physician for a thorough evaluation, hormone testing, and psychological testing. There is some suggestion that patients who may have underlying coronary artery disease, who have not been actively involved in sex, should be screened first for coronary artery disease before using Viagra.
About 20 men have died after sex while taking Viagra. It is not clear that any of these deaths were directly related to Viagra. I see several social problems in the use of Viagra indiscriminately. It may lead to more sexual promiscuity and infidelity. Recently an old man in New York who used Viagra, left his wife and then went for a much younger lady. His wife sued the company. It is also being called “the party drug”, or the “love pill”, and it is being distributed by some of the night clubs. What is the difference between getting high on marijuana and cocaine, or on Viagra? Many women are also complaining that they are being subject to Viagra attacks by their husbands’ and boyfriends even if they are not in a mood. Sex is an expression and extension of love. In the absence of love, sex becomes a boring routine. Forced sex even in marriage is rape.
Instead of trying to achieve potency, men should try to achieve love and respect for and from their wives. Prophet Muhammea (Pbuh), who was ahead of his time, had encouraged foreplay before intercourse saying “Do not attack your women like a wild beast, but send a message before”. He also was known to have said, “Do not leave her before she is satisfied”. Thus Islamic sexuality is based on nature, and not attempting to achieve a quick result. The human body is a wonderful creation of God, but not a sex machine. It will not run better on a high octane oil or any potency drug.
( * Shahid Athar, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E. is a practicing Endocrinologist, Clinical Associate Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is author of Islamic Perspectives in Sex Education.)