Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar / Rabi-Ul Awwal 1422 H
May 2002
Volume 15-05 No:185

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Our Dialogue


Discrepancies of dates and history
The obligatory and Sunnah in prayers
Controversy over historical events
A bribe for something lawful
Islamic concept regarding Imam Al Mahdi

By Adil Salahi

Discrepancies of dates and history

Q. Do we look for Lailat Al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, in the correct month and time of year? I am confused on account that God states that the Quran was sent down on that night, and we know that its revelation took place 13 years before the Prophet’s (Pbuh) emigration to Madinah, i.e. Hijra, which happens to be the start of the Islamic calendar. Did the Hijra take place in the month of Muharram? If Muharram was the first month of the year before Islam, was it a coincidence that the Hijra took place in that month? Did it actually take place on the first day of that month? On the other hand, if the months have been shifted to start the calendar, then we are not looking for the Night of Power at the right time. Please comment.


A. No, the Prophet’s (Pbuh) journey from Makkah to Madinah did not take place in the month of Muharram, but we look for the Lailat Al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, at the right time. There was no shift in the months of the year. We are required to fast in the month of Ramadan, and we have been doing so since the second year of the Hijra.

When Umar consulted the Prophet’s companions about dating Islamic history, the consultation concentrated on which event was the most important so as to date events by it. They agreed that the Prophet’s Hijra was this event, because it signalled a new age when people were able to worship God alone in security and peace, fearing no persecution. They proclaimed high and loud that they were Muslims submitting themselves and all their affairs to God. This meant that the year in which the Hijra took place was the start of the Islamic calendar. It does not mean that the event itself took place on the first day of that year. Otherwise we would go into further details so as to ask whether the Islamic calendar starts on the day the Prophet started his journey to Madinah, or on the day he arrived there. As you know the journey took him several days to complete, and he stayed in the Cave of Thawr for three days, and in Qibaa for two weeks. The choice concentrated on the event, and when it was chosen, the year in which it took place was considered the first year of the Islamic calendar.

But the year started on its normal day, 1 Muharram, i.e. more than 2 months before the actual event. We say, then, that the Hijra took place in the third month of year 1 of the Islamic calendar. This makes it clear that Muharram was recognised as the first month of the year long before Islam. There was no change of the order of months after Islam. In fact, such changes were often made, not in the actual months themselves, but in the rules applicable to them, before the advent of Islam.

The Quran denounces that and describes it as “an increase in disbelief.” Hence, Islam would not perpetrate any such thing. It remains to be said that the Hijra became possible after the Ansar gave the Prophet their pledge to protect him and defend Islam whatever that might take. That pledge took place during the pilgrimage on 11 Dhul Hijjah. The Prophet received his instructions to emigrate two and a half months later. He immediately started and arrived in Madinah on 12th Rabi Al-Awwal. The reader’s confusion arises from thinking that the Islamic calendar begins with the actual event itself. That is not the case.

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The obligatory and Sunnah in prayers

Q. Could you please explain what is obligatory and what is recommended or Sunnah in prayer. Is it permissible to recite surahs in prayer not observing their order in the Quran?


A. If we take a prayer from start to finish, we say that the iqamah, or the call to start the prayer is recommended when one is praying alone. The intention is obligatory, but the intention is not vocalised. It remains a matter of mind and thought. Reading the opening supplication is a Sunnah, while reading Al-Fatihah in every rakaah is obligatory. Reading additional verses or a surah of the Quran in the first two rakaahs is recommended, and it is recommended to recite them in the proper order as they occur in the Quran. Bowing, i.e. rukoo, rising after it, doing two prostrations, i.e. sujood, and a sitting in between in every rakaah are obligatory. What we say in each one of these positions is recommended, or Sunnah, as is the phrase, “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Supreme” which signals each such movement. Sitting down for tashahhud after the first two rakaahs is recommended or Sunnah, while it is obligatory after the final rakaah. The reading of the first half of tashahhud is obligatory, while the second half is recommended. Saying salam at the end is obligatory.

All this applies in every prayer and every rakaah. For an imam and a person praying alone to read the Quran as stated above is obligatory according to all schools of thought. When one is praying with a congregation, some schools of thought do not require him or her to read the Fatihah and a passage of the Quran in any part of his prayer. They consider that the recitation by the imam to be sufficient for all. The reader asks several other questions about prayers and other subjects, which other readers will understand by reading the answers. First of all there are many movements and positions which people do in different ways in prayer. These are all matters of detail, and they are recommended by scholars according to what they learnt from the Prophet’s companions who described prayers to them. Undoubtedly the Prophet used different movements in the same situation in order to indicate that there is no need to stick to one form every time, and to show that there is a range of what is acceptable in every part of the prayer. Thus, in tashahhud some people raise their finger and keep it raised, while others move it in circles, and others still raise it for a couple of seconds and lower it after that. All these are acceptable forms.

Surah 9 of the Quran, entitled Al-Tawbah, does not start with the usual phrase of Bismillahi-Rahmani-Raheem, which means “in the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent.” That is due to the fact that the surah renounces all past treaties and agreements made with the idolaters, exposes the hypocrites and threatens both with severe punishment if they continued in their defiance of Islam. The subject matter does not fit with the opening phrase promising mercy and compassion. It is forbidden to read Bismillahi-Rahmani-Raheem at the beginning of this surah, because that means adding to the Quran something that is not part of it. If one wears socks after having performed the ablution, or wudhu, he does not need to take them off for a fresh ablution. He merely needs to wipe the top of both socks with his wet hand. This is valid for any number of ablutions for one 24-hour day at a time. If one is starting the Umrah one or more days after arriving in Jeddah, then his point of meeqat is at Jeddah. Our reader describes a ritual at the end of religious gatherings, when the leader says loudly, “Al-Fatihah.” Then all the congregation recite Surah Al-Fatihah together with the last 3 surahs of the Quran.

This ritual was not ever performed by the Prophet, nor did his companions do anything of the sort. Hence, it is an innovation which must not be followed. When a gathering was over, the Prophet used to say a short prayer, glorifying God and praising Him, declaring His oneness and praying for His forgiveness. In Arabic, this prayer reads as follows: Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika. Ashhadu an laa ilaha illa anta. Astaghfiruka wa atoobu ilaika. To protect oneself or one’s child against envy, evil eye and the like, one is recommended to read the last two surahs of the Quran, namely, Al-Falaq and An-Nas. When one moves into a new home, whether rented or owned, it is good to offer voluntary prayer and to pray God to bless his new abode and give him happy days therein.

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Controversy over historical events

Q. Why was Ali ibn Abu Talib not chosen as the Caliph immediately after the Prophet when he was the most suitable person among the Prophet’s companions? If you do not answer this question, I will think that the Shia are more correct in their views than us.


A. Our reader states in his letter that he has asked several people on this, but received no satisfactory answer. He also goes into a great length of describing the qualities of Ali which, in his view, qualifies him as the best to assume the leadership of the Muslim community after the Prophet. The first thing I would like to say to this reader and others who dwell on such matters is that however much time we spend over past controversy, we cannot alter the facts of history. Nor can we truly find out the real intention behind an action or a statement done or said by any one who lived in an earlier generation. Yet if we make judgments on people’s characters on the basis of historical reports, God will ask us about these judgements and we expose ourselves to His punishment if our judgement is wrong.

So what is the use of saying today who was better suited for this role or that role at any period of history? The first Muslim community chose Abu Bakr to be the first Caliph after the Prophet. That choice was unanimous. Is it not enough for us to remember the Hadith: “My community cannot unanimously approve something wrong.” This means that since the Muslims in Madinah, who were the Prophet’s companions, unanimously chose Abu Bakr, then he was the right choice. But suppose he was not. Who are we to judge those companions of the Prophet and their actions? Besides, what purpose would it serve? Having said that, I wish to add that all Sunni Muslims love Ali ibn Abu Talib dearly. How could a Muslim refrain from loving such a great servant of Islam, when he was also a member of the Prophet’s household and praised by the Prophet greatly?

But to love him does not mean to engage into argument about whether he should have been this or that. Such matters cannot be influenced now by any argument. Hence, we do not engage in them.

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A bribe for something lawful

Q. Is it allowed in Islam to claim something which is perfectly permissible by unlawful means, such as the payment of a bribe or telling a lie?


A. Much depends on what the thing is and how it is obtained. In some countries it is difficult to obtain even what you are entitled to and what is your right unless you pay the officials concerned. Now in such a case what you pay the official is not a bribe, but simply something to get your entitlement. Suppose you are working in a company which allows you to get extra payment for the portion of your annual leave which you do not use, but continue in work instead. You may use only two weeks of your one month leave. Suppose that the personnel manager does not process your application for financial compensation in lieu of your extra work unless you pay him something. If you do, you are not guilty of paying a bribe, but you are simply yielding to an unfair demand.

On the other hand, if you pay him so that he writes down that you have used only one week of your leave instead of two, that is a bribe. It is forbidden for you to pay and for him to take. In the case the reader asks about, he should ask himself whether, using the means he is employing, he is getting an unfair advantage to which he is not entitled. Is he harming anyone? Is he depriving anyone of something that is due to them? Is what he wants to obtain granted by the government or individuals? If it is the government, then is it allowed under the rules and regulations? If it is, then it is appropriate.

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Islamic concept regarding Imam Al Mahdi

Q.1. If one heir who is earning a better living than his brothers wishes to forego part of all of his share of inheritance from their father, with the intention of helping them, can he do so? I have an impression that this is not open to him, because it affects his own children’s inheritance when he dies? Please comment.

Q.2. What is the authentic Islamic concept concerning Imam Al-Mahdi, his absence, reappearance and role in future?


A. 1. It is definitely open to anyone to make a gift to his close relatives or friends, without impairing anyone’s rights. If you are well off and wish to forgo part or all of your share of inheritance from your father to your brothers and sisters, then you are making them a gift, for which you may, God willing, earn a great reward. That reward may take the form of God’s help to your children when they need it. If this is the case, then God’s help would be far more valuable than any gift you make to your brothers and sisters.

A. 2. We do not have a concept about Imam Al-Mahdi. What we have is some Hadiths which speak about the appearance of a God-fearing man who will strive hard to put an end to the Impostor who would have wrecked havoc and spread corruption. He would fight that Impostor with those who believe in the right faith. When will this happen? The Hadiths give some indications and signs, but no definite dates. When the questioner asks about Mahdi’s absence and reappearance, he is confusing this notion of the Mahdi with the Shia’s belief concerning the 12th Imam. They hold that the Mahdi was the 12th Imam and that he was removed by God until the time when it is right for him to reappear. He would then ensure total justice on earth. There is nothing of such beliefs in the Sunni schools of Islamic thought.

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