Zul-Qada / Zul Hijja 1422
Volume 15-02 No:182
Q. Does Islam believe in reincarnation in this world? I am enclosing a copy of an article 'The Islamic Concept of Reincarnation' by Sultan Shahin that appeared in The Times of India,Bangalore dated 2.7.01. The writer claims that reincarnation is an Islamic belief.
(P. Abdulla Kunhi, Mogral Puttur)
A few Sufis, Mystics and Muslim intelligentsia have come out with interpretations of some verses of the Quran supporting the evolution in life. Though their interpretations are open to debate, their contentions cannot be called un-Islamic as Qur’an nowhere explicitly negates the evolution theory. However the author of the article has gone too far to call it reincarnation. The theory of Re-incarnation is altogether different from evolution. The reincarnation belief is based upon repeated earlier lives in different moulds including human moulds of a human being. It says that a human being can and does go back to other forms of lives in this world according to his deeds in the present life, while the evolution theory does not talk of re-birth of a human being in this world in any form. It must also be clear that the theory of evolution some Muslim Mystics or scholars derive from the Quran is not exactly ‘The Darwinian Theory of Evolution’.
The Quranic Scholars believe in the continuous existence of both the processes of creation and evolution in the universe. They also believe in the actual existence of Paradise and Hell after the Judgment. From the two quotations of Jalauddin Rumi and Mansur Hallaj (though they at no time were accepted as authority on Quran), the author’s effort of proving re-incarnation of the Hindu Philosophy is sheer ignorance to say the least. See the words of Rumi as quoted by the author of the said article. “I died as a mineral and became a plant, died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?...” Rumi or Hallaj’s words do not indicate their belief in reincarnation. They never talked of going back to human or lesser lives again in this world. Sultan Shahin has also relied upon a Theosophist’s distortion of the ‘Belief of Rajat’ of Shia commentators referring to the respected Imams Baqar and Jafar. Shiite belief of ‘Rajat does not corroborate with reincarnation. Asna Asharia Shias believe that the last of the chain of their twelve Imams is still alive for centuries, waiting to reappear (not reborn). They do not believe that the Imam ever died.
Quran has at many places argued with the disbelievers of life after death that it is possible for God to bring back to life, those who are dead, as He revives the dead earth and creates life out of dead through rains. Sultan Shahin has quoted two such verses in support of reincarnation. Only an ignorant who has not studied the whole Book can deduce such conclusions as the Quran in no uncertain words mentions that no one will ever be given a chance to mend his deeds in this world after he is dead. See the following verses: “Every living being shall taste death, then unto Us you will be returned” (29:57) “Until when death comes to a wrongdoer, he will say: ‘Lord let me go back, that I may do good works in the world I have left behind’. Never! It is only a word which he will speak. Behind them, there shall stand a barrier till the Day of Resurrection”. (23:99-100) “And spend of that with which we have provided you before death befalls any of you and he says: ‘Reprieve me my Lord a while that I may give in charity and be among righteous’. But Allah reprieves no soul when its term expires and Allah has knowledge of all your actions”. (63:10-11) The writer has also mentioned the following verse: “How can you deny Allah! (Do you not reflect that) He gave you life when you were dead. Then he will cause you to die and then restore you to life and then unto Him you will be returned.” (2:28)
After quoting the verse he argues: “The word ‘you were dead’ can only mean that we had lived before becoming dead. And the words, ‘in the end shall gather you unto Himself’ could very well mean the attainment of Moksha rather than what is usually interpreted as an eternal life in Heaven or Hell”. ‘Dead’ is very commonly used for Non-living things. It does not necessarily mean that you were alive before being a Non-living thing or dead. Qur’an often elucidates a part of a verse at other places so that no room for ambiguity is left. Had Sultan Shahin gone through the following verse, he might not have interpreted the above verse leading to reincarnation. “They (the unbelievers) will say: ‘Our Lord! Twice you have caused us death and twice you have given us life. We now confess our sins. Is there any way out (now)”? (40:11) See that the disbelievers will not say that they have been through many human lives. The state of being twice dead and twice alive can now be understood from the above two verses. The first state of death was before coming to live as human in this world for the first (and last) time. The second state of death is the death after the only one human life in this world and the second living is eternal life in the Hereafter of course.
The most absurd deduction of them all by the writer is the derivation of the concept of Moksha. Moksha in the theory of reincarnation means the riddance from repeated births in this world and living in a state of Bliss with God. No amount of sorrow or punishment is associated with Moksha. This is another instance of the writer being ignorant of Quran. Quran repeatedly warns of painful doom in Hell to the disbelievers after they are returned to Allah after this life.
Following is one of many such verses: “Say: ‘Those who invent falsehood about Allah shall not succeed. (They may take their) portion of ease in this life but to Us (after that) they will return. Then We shall make them taste a dreadful doom for they used to disbelieve”. (10:69-70) It is strange that the propounders of reincarnation in Qur’an tell themselves (and others) that scores of very detailed and explicit descriptions of paradise and Hell are the allegories of this world’s comforts and pains while they swear by far fetched deductions from those verses that can be manipulated for being brief and concise.
The writer has started his article with: “That reincarnation is a Hindu belief is well known. But it is not as well known that belief in reincarnation is central to Islam as well”. He is probably unaware that The Theory of transmigration of Souls popularly known as Avagaman or Punarjanam is non-existent even in the Hindu Scriptures proclaimed as Word of God by them.
Following are the declarations of two well renowned scholars of Hindu philosophy. “The Rishis (seers) of Vedic era were not aware of Punarjanam” (Rahul Sankrityayan, Darshan Digdarshan, Kitab Mahal Allahabad, 1992, P. 388)
“In the ancient Indian literature Chandogya (author of an Upanishad) was the first to talk of Punarjanam i.e. besides Parloka (The world Hereafter) a being takes birth in this Loka (this world) also according to deeds”. (ibid P.403)
“The belief in Punarjanam is consistent at least from the Upanishad Era....” (Dr. Radha Krishnan; Upanishdon Ki Bhumika: Rajpal & sons Delhi, 1st ed. P. 120)
“At places it was professed that before Punarjanam, a soul is rewarded or punished at definite places. The original Vedic belief of being rewarded in Heavens or punished gets mixed up with Punarjanam”. (ibid P. 122)
There are dozens of Quran- like descriptions of Heaven in Vedas, but at no place Vedas talk of humans taking rebirth in inferior moulds according to deeds. Much later, the philosophers of Upanishads presented the idea of Transmigration of souls.
Q. Suppose someone from the USA came to India and married a girl just for fun (as revealed later). He returned back with a promise to take the girl later to the States. But it didn't happen. Instead he sent a letter from there declaring divorce written three times.
(Tarique Razzaque, firstname.lastname@example.org)
A:1. According to Sunni scholars, the written Talaq is valid if there is no doubt about the identity of the person writing the letter of Talaq. In their opinion, the consent or the presence of the wife is not necessary for a Talaq to be valid. If the person holds a USA passport, you can sue him in a USA court citing evidence of marriage. He may end up paying huge damages. There is a Hadith in which the Prophet (e) instructed to give Talaq in the presence of Witnesses, but unfortunately Sunni scholars consider it an advice instead of an order or condition for Talaq.
2. In the opinion of Ahle Hadith scholars, and a number of others, pronouncing two or more Talaqs at a time is deemed to be only one Talaq, irrespective of the number of times, the husband proclaims it. Four Sunni schools of Fiqh decree it as irrevocable.
Q. Muslims, particularly those living in non-Muslim countries need to be informed on the correct Islamic way of slaughtering animals. I have the following questions on the subject.
A. The Islamic mode of slaughtering was among the issues regulated by rules established by the Quran and the Sunnah. The adherence to these rules is an obligation which distinguishes Muslims from non-Muslims as the Prophet stated: “ he who prays our prayers, turns in praying towards our Qiblah and eats animal slaughtered by us is a Muslim, who enjoys the Covenant of Allah and his Messenger.”
1. The two widely used and known modes of slaughtering according to Shariah are: Zabh, which is carried out by cutting the throat’s oesophagus and jugular vein. This is the preferable mode of slaughtering sheep, goats, cows and birds and is permissible for all other animals. Then Nahr, which is carried out by stabbing the lower part of the neck. It is the preferable mode of slaughtering camels and it is permissible in slaughtering cows. In addition, aqr can be used. Aqr (hamstring) is the cutting of any part of the body of the animal which is difficult to catch whether the hunting of which is permitted or it is a domesticated wild animal. The hunter should resort to zabh or nahr of the said animal if it is caught alive.
2. Slaughtering shall be deemed correct provided that the slaughtering person is an adult sane, a Muslim, or an adherent of a revealed religion, that is Jew or a Christian. It is not permissible to eat animals slaughtered by pagans, atheists, Magians, apostates and all disbelievers.
3. The slaughtering should be carried out by a sharp tool which splits lengthwise and cuts with its edge. It may be made of iron or any other material, but not a nail or tooth and should cause the blood to flow.
4. The following animals are deemed forbidden to eat-an animal killed by a violent blow by a heavy tool like a stone or a bat, an animal killed due to a headlong fall or a fall in a hole, an animal gored to death, an animal which has been partly eaten by a wild animal. But such an animal can be eaten if it were caught alive and slaughtered.
5. The name of Allah should be mentioned while slaughtering the animal. Using a recorder for the purpose is not enough. But the slaughtering will be deemed lawful if Allah’s name is forgotten.
6. Special ethical rules have been cited by the Shariah while carrying out slaughtering to show consideration to the animal before, during and after the slaughter. The slaughtering tool (knife) should not be sharpened in front of the animal. One animal should not be killed in front of another animal. It should not be slaughtered by a blunt tool, not tortured. While still alive none of its limbs should be cut, skinned or immersed in hot water or feathers be deplumed without making sure of its death. The animal should be free from infections other diseases which could make its meat harmful to consumers. Health of the animal should be ascertained before it is bought for slaughtering.
7. Killing the animal without stunning is a basic principle in the Shariah. This is the best method and it shows consideration to the animal as it reduces its sufferings. The authorities which are responsible for slaughtering are required to develop the means of slaughtering big animals to ensure that this principle is applied in the best way. In view of the above, meat of the animals slaughtered after being stunned can be eaten if the stunning stage prior to the animal’s death is carefully scrutinised. The following conditions at the stunning stage have to be observed by experts-connecting the two electrodes on both temples or on the front, the voltage should range between 100-400 volts, the current should range between 0.75-1.0 ampere for goats and sheep and 2-2.5 amperes for cows, the current is applied for 3-6 seconds, neither a needle shotgun, axe, nor hammer should be used in stunning the animal to be slaughtered, an electrical shock should not be used in stunning the chicken as it has been proved that this leads to the death of a large number of chickens before they are slaughtered, the animal cannot be deemed unlawful if it is stunned by the use of gases or by a ball-gun in a way which does not lead to pre-slaughter death.
8. Muslims in non-Muslim countries should endeavour through legal ways to get permission for slaughtering animals according to the Shariah and without resorting to stunning.
9. Muslim visitors or residents in non-Muslim countries can eat animals slaughtered by the people of the Scriptures after exerting some effort to ascertain that the slaughtering is not done in methods prohibited by the Shariah.
10. Meat is deemed lawful if it is imported from countries where the majority of the people are people of the Scripture and hence their animals are slaughtered at modern abattoirs which apply the Shariah mode of slaughtering as mentioned above. The following Quranic verse is an evidence that such meat can be eaten: “ The food of the people of the Book is lawful unto you” (Surah Al Maida). However meat imported from countries where majority is not from the people of the Book is prohibited as it is most likely that animals are killed by a religiously unauthorized slaughter. Meat imported from such non-Muslim countries is considered halal if the animals are slaughtered in accordance with the Shariah mode under the supervision of an authorised Islamic commission and if the slaughterer is a Muslim or from the people of the Scriptures.
Q. Despite the availability of hi-tech facilities in slaughter houses, animals are still chained and dragged in some places, boiling water is poured on them when they are still alive to help remove their skin and hair. Big businesses where such practices are common supply meat in different forms to many Muslim countries. May I ask whether such treatment of animals to be killed for food is permissible in Islam. Within the same context, what is the Islamic view of the practice of killing unwanted fish and other life caught while fishing?
A. Human beings should always remember that it is only by the grace of God that they are allowed to slaughter animals such as sheep, cows and poultry for food. They are also permitted to catch fish to eat. Therefore when they slaughter animals and catch fish, they should always show their gratitude to God for His blessings and approach the task of slaughter with humility and propriety. This requires that they should understand and abide by the Islamic teachings which regulate this activity.
The Prophet once instructed one of his companions who was about to slaughter a sheep to take it out of sight of other sheep so that they do not see it. Needless to say, the Prophet did not want the other sheep to witness the slaughter of one of their members in order to spare them that feeling of sorrow. The Prophet also emphasised the need to ensure that the slaughtered animal be placed in the most comfortable position and that it should be allowed to die very quickly and with with minimum pain. He is authentically reported to have said: “ God has indeed prescribed that all things should be done in a proficient manner.
Thus when you kill, kill properly and when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering.” (Related by Muslim). It is clear that the Prophet considers a quick death as part of the proper slaughter. He has emphasised this on several occasions. In another hadith, the Prophet says: “ When any of you slaughters, let him ensure the animal’s death.” The Prophet once saw a man sharpening his blade after having laid his sheep down. He said to him, “ Do you want her to die over and over again? Could you not have sharpened your blade first before taking her for slaughter.”
All this goes to show that Islam has a clearly pronounced attitude with respect to treating animals in a humane manner, particularly those which we intend to slaughter for food. When people neglect this, they demonstrate their apathy to what the Prophet has taught. Needless to say, God will ask everyone of us about his lack of response to the Prophet’s teachings. Such people will not be able to provide a good reason for their lack of care.
Moreover Islam has forbidden any painful extraction from animals. The people of Arabia used to cut off the humps of camels or the fat part of the sheep while still alive. The Prophet realised that such action would torment the animal and he stopped it by making it forbidden to eat. He said: “Whatever is cut off an animal when it is alive is just carrion.” It is well-known that carrion which refers to any animal dying by natural causes is forbidden to eat.
All this goes to show that Islam does allow any practice which causes any unnecessary suffering to the animal. To cut the throat of an animal and then to pour boiling water on it when it can still feel the pain is certainly unacceptable. People who do that will certainly have to account for it on the Day of Judgement.
The same applies to fishing. If the catch is found to include some live fish which are unwanted, the proper thing to do is to put them back in the water so that they can survive. The same applies to any other living creature that is taken with the fish. What is not needed should be allowed to live, unless it is harmful. In that case, it should be killed in a humane way