Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rajab / Shaban 1423 H
October 2002
Volume 15-10 No:190

News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments View from the Other Side Muslim Perspectives
Islam and the World Women 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

Our Dialogue


Criticism of Muslim Writers
Suicide and Sacrificing One's Life
Test-Tube Babies
Interfaith Marriage
Controlling Anger
Is Zakah an inhibition to Saving
Bank Interest and Usury
On ablution
Offering a Missed Prayer


By Adil Salahi

Criticism of Muslim Writers

Q. Some people criticize contemporary Muslim writers and scholars, such as Abul Aala Maudoodi and Sayyid Qutb. I have seen a book full of criticism of the former, equating him with Ayatullah Khomeini in preaching the same thoughts. Unfortunately some people repeat such criticism without making sure that what they say is true. Could you please throw some light on the validity of such criticism.

A. That great scholars should be criticized and be severely treated by people in different walks of life is nothing new. Let me tell you that Al-Bukhari himself was criticized by one of his contemporaries who issued orders that Al-Bukhari must never be allowed to attend his circle. It is only natural for scholars of the calibre of Maudoodi and Sayyid Qutb, who have had great influence on many young Muslims, doing a great service to Islam and Muslims, to be criticized by people in different quarters. Both were harshly treated by politicians simply because they have shown that Islam was as much relevant in social and political life as it was in the mosque. Politicians instigated other scholars, particularly those who were happy to receive their favours, to launch attacks on them.

On the other hand, some scholars were genuine in their disagreement with either writer. This is again normal, because in Islam there are different viewpoints and methods of understanding. It is perfectly legitimate for a scholar to criticize another, provided he is sincere, aiming at explaining the truth, as he believes it, and refrains from personal or abusive attacks. When a person writes contemptuously of a scholar like Maudoodi or Sayyid Qutb, then he moves away from Islamic values. When faced with such a situation, the best thing is to request the critic to provide evidence. It is not right for anyone to say that this or that scholar has written such a fierce attack on Maudoodi or Qutb. The one who wrote is answerable for his writing, but anyone who repeats it without verification is accountable before God for repeating it without proper knowledge.

It is absolutely untrue to say that Maudoodi had the same thoughts in common with Khomeini, because they belonged to totally different scholarly traditions. Nor is it true to claim that Maudoodi denied God’s attributes. You need only to read his commentary on the Qur’an to realize the falsehood of such a claim. Sayyid Qutb has come for criticism more on account of how people tried to implement his ideas in a highly misguided way than for his ideas themselves. Some scholars have accused him of things which they could not substantiate. His book, In the Shade of the Qur’an has done a great service, bringing out the meaning of the Qur’an in a highly powerful and easy to understand language, always moving away from controversy in order to help readers understand the Qur’an, pure and simple.

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Suicide and Sacrificing One's Life

Q. It is well known that suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam; but nowadays we see much support for people who undertake operations that are certain to end in their own death, as in the case of suicide bombing. Please comment on the legality of such operations from an Islamic point of view.

A. When a person kills himself out of despair, feeling that his life has been a continuous chain of misery and that no hope is looming, then this is suicide, which is clearly forbidden in Islam. Indeed the prohibition is very strict because such an action betrays lack of faith in God and absence of trust in His mercy. However, the situation you are referring to is completely different. It is called ‘suicide bombing’ by Western media, because of the very strong emphasis laid on this worldly life in Western culture. In fact, the concepts of sacrifice and martyrdom are unknown in modern Western society, except when a country goes to war and calls on its youth to die for their country. When Palestinians blow themselves up to kill Israelis, this is an operation seeking martyrdom.

It is not much different from a situation where a company of Muslim soldiers, say 15 or 20, find themselves in a tight situation, where they are certain of being captured or killed by the enemy, unless one of them takes a step that ends in his own death, but saves the rest of the company. If one of them does that, he is not committing suicide; he is earning martyrdom. His action is to be praised if it is undertaken only for God’s sake. In the Palestinian case, the people are practically surrounded, with no escape, other than trying to gain their own freedom in their own land. They have little or no arms to fight a very heavily armed force that resorts to brutal tactics, such as mass killing, blowing up houses, unending curfews, cutting water and electricity supplies, etc. They must fight back, and one of the very few means of fighting back left to them is to sacrifice themselves for their cause.

This is what they are doing. When one of them undertakes such an operation for God’s sake and dies as a result, he or she is, God willing, a martyr.

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Test-Tube Babies

Q. Is it permissible to use the technique known as test-tube babies in order to have children?

A. Most of the modern techniques of fertilization in order to ensure pregnancy are permissible if, and only if, they involve a man and his wife, with no third party. Thus, if we are talking about taking a man's sperm and his wife's egg and ensuring fertilization in a laboratory, then implanting the fertilized egg back into the woman's uterus, then this is permissible. On the other hand, if a third party is involved, as in the case of using a sperm bank, then this is not allowed. Using the practice of surrogate mothers, where a woman is hired to bear the child of a couple who are unable to have a child of their own, is also forbidden.

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Interfaith Marriage

Q.1. In Islam it is permissible for a Muslim man to marry a Christian or a Jewish woman. May I ask why cannot a Muslim woman marry a Christian or Jewish man? It might be for the children’s sake, because children take their father’s name and religion. So, what if the couple agree to have no children and that alcoholic beverages and pork would not be allowed into the house? Or what if the husband agrees that the children will follow their mother’s religion? The mother normally has a greater effect on her children than their father.

Q.2. My friend wants to dye her hair black, but she heard that it is forbidden. Is this true? I really don’t think so because why should black be forbidden and other colors not? It does not make sense to me.

A.1. Islam believes in religious freedom. It does not accept that a man or a woman could or should be pressurized into accepting a faith in any way other than personal conviction. Hence it allows marriage between a man and a wife belonging to a faith which is recognized by Islam as a divine faith. When a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman, he believes in the truth of the messages God revealed to the Prophets Moses and Jesus. He respects his wife’s faith and ensures her freedom of belief and worship. If he does not, he is accountable to God for his omission. How could the same freedom be guaranteed in a reverse case where a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim husband? People may profess to accept that men and women are equal, but in practice, a woman is often the weaker party in a family situation. So, why expose a Muslim woman to such a situation by allowing marriage with a man who does not believe in the truth of the message given to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)? As for your point about a particular couple who make all sorts of agreements concerning their life together and their children, you have to remember that laws are enacted for general application, not for individual cases. Thus, if in the majority of cases, religious freedom cannot be guaranteed, we cannot say that an individual case may be excepted because we have guarantees or agreement between the two parties. As you see, I have not referred to the status of the children, because this is a different issue. It is the question of religious freedom, and the fact of the husband’s disbelief in the Prophet of Islam that are more relevant here.

A.2. The point about hair dye is the importance of ensuring that a person does not deliberately give a false impression. Thus, when an old man dyes his hair black, he wants to be seen as though he is younger than his real age. While, if your hair dye is of any other color, it could easily be seen as an artificial color. When Abu Bakr brought his father to the Prophet after Makkah had fallen to Islam, and Abu Bakr was nearing 60, his father looked very old with all his hair absolutely white. The Prophet advised Abu Bakr to have his father’s hair dyed, but said: “Avoid black dye.” You may imagine what a man of 80 or so would look like if his hair is dyed black. If a middle-aged man wants to dye his hair or his beard black, there is nothing wrong with that. The same applies to women. When we hear of some Islamic rule, we better ask first what is the purpose behind it. We do not rush to make a judgement, like ‘it does not make sense’. It could very well make sense if we are alerted to a certain aspect which we might have not taken into consideration.

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Controlling Anger

Q. A young man I know is quick of temper. Although he is normally well behaved with his parents and considerate and sincere in his friendship, his temper often gets the better of him. He may shout and scream at his parents or his friends. When he cools down he seeks his parents' forgiveness, or apologizes to his friends, but this has lost him many a friend. What should he do?

A. The first thing to say to this young man is that he certainly must control his temper, particularly when he speaks to his parents. God has forbidden us to say even a small word that expresses anger or displeasure with our parents. He says in the Qur'an: "Your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him, and that you shall do good to your parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in your care, never say 'Ugh' to them or scold them, but always speak to them with reverent speech." (17: 23) It is clearly forbidden to say as much as 'Ugh' to one's parents. Let this young man consider what he says to his parents when he is in a flight of temper. It may be said that he has no intention of hurting his parents, and that simply he cannot control himself. But this is no argument. He can, if he wishes, train himself to control his temper, although this requires a strong effort.

He should remember the Hadith which says: "A strong man is not the one who overpowers others in physical combat. A strong man is the one who controls himself when angry." This young man needs to train himself to control his anger. This can be achieved by self-discipline. While it is not easy for someone who allows his temper to often get the better of him, it is not impossible either. He may do well to seek help, either from parents, or friends, or even professional people, such as a psychologist. One thing which he must try without delay is to leave the place when he feels his temper beginning to rise. Thus, if he is having some disagreement with his mother, or with a friend and he senses that he is beginning to feel angry, he should simply leave, or change the subject of discussion, or do something totally different from what is irritating him. But whatever he may decide, he must get to control his anger.

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Is Zakah an inhibition to Saving

Q. Could you please explain whether zakah is payable on all assets every year, except what is needed for personal and dependents’ living. If so, does that not discourage saving to look after one’s children? If one is to pay 2.5% of one’s savings every year, then the whole amount will disappear in less than 50 years. I am told that zakah is payable only once, which means that if your savings this year are SR10,000 and you pay zakah for this amount, then next year you add to your savings a sum of SR2,000, then you pay zakah on this added amount only, because you already paid zakah for the first amount. If this is correct, then it sounds more encouraging to saving? Please comment.

A. Zakah is an act of worship required of every Muslim, male or female, who owns more than the threshold of zakah, which is equivalent to 85 grams of gold, in excess of what he needs for his own and his dependents’ living. It is imposed on every type of property that is liable to growth. Thus, it is not imposed on a person’s own accommodation, or on the tools of his trade, even though these may be costly.

Thus, no zakah is payable on the value of your shop if you run a trade, or on your taxi if you are a taxi driver, etc. But it is payable on capital and profit, every year, at the rate of 2.5 percent for most types of money or property, although the rate may be different in some situations. An important aspect is the liability of the property to grow. Thus, if you have a farmland, your zakah is applicable to your produce; and if you have an animal farm, zakah is payable on your animals, be they sheep, cows, camels, etc.

It is not true that zakah is payable once only. It is payable every year. If you have some savings and you keep them for five years, you pay zakah for them every year of these five. Does this inhibit savings? Certainly not, because Islam does not like money to remain idle, unused. It should be invested. The Prophet has warned against leaving money idle, saying it would be eaten up by zakah. A person who has more than enough for his needs should express his gratitude to God by paying his zakah to help other members of the community who are less fortunate than he is. It is only a person who keeps his savings unused that suffers reduction through zakah. Anyone who invests his savings is likely to increase his savings even though he has to pay zakah.

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Bank Interest and Usury

Q. Is it clearly mentioned in the Qur’an that interest is forbidden? If so, could you please define interest. What should people do if they do not have Islamic banks and they are forced to use the present banking system? How can one who does not know how to run a business invest his or her savings to draw an income to meet their living expenses? Is working in a bank forbidden?

A. The Quran states a very clear and strict prohibition of riba, or usury, which is what a lender gets from a borrower in excess of the principal amount of the loan the former may have advanced to the latter. This amount normally increases if the time of repayment is extended. The prohibition in the Qur’an is stated in the clearest of terms, in verses 2: 275-280. The question that arises here is whether interest is included in such prohibition.

Most scholars are of the view that interest is the same as usury which is prohibited in the Qur’an. However, some scholars have argued that interest is different. They consider that when a person opens a bank’s savings account, he is not in the position of a lender to the bank. The bank uses the money in different forms of investment and gives returns. While this argument has some validity, it has not been sufficient to convince scholars that interest is not a form of usury. Hence most of them maintain that it is forbidden. This whole area needs to be considered in more depth by scholars and economists at the same time. As for investing savings, most banks offer schemes of investment that do not earn interest. Rather they earn profits and may even incur a loss. They rely mostly on investing in shares of large companies. This is not the same as dealing on the stock market. This form of bank investment is permissible. It may generate a better income than any savings account that earns a fixed rate of interest.

Because a considerable part of a bank’s activities involves interest, it is better to avoid working in a bank, because the Prophet(Pbuh) has cursed the person who takes usury, the one who pays it, the one who writes the contract between the two and the witnesses to the contract. However, if one’s work in a bank that does not involve this aspect, then it is permissible.

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On ablution

Q. What are the rules concerning ablution while wearing one’s socks?
Should one sprinkle one’s socks when performing ablution?

A. If you wear your socks after you have performed ablutions in the morning, you can wipe over them when you need a fresh ablution at any time later in the day. You do not have to wear your socks immediately after having the first ablution. You can wear them at any later time, before you invalidate your wudhu or ablution. When you need a fresh ablution, you do not have to sprinkle your socks. This is wrong. All you need to do is to wet your hand and wipe over the top part of your foot with your fingers. In fact, wiping with one’s finger is sufficient over any part of the top of your foot. If you have your first ablution when you perform your dawn or Fajr prayer, you may wipe over your socks for the rest of the day, until the following morning. However, if you take off your socks after you have invalidated your first wudhu, you need to have a fresh full ablution before you put them on again in order to avail yourself of this concession.

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Offering a Missed Prayer

Q.1. Are women allowed to touch and read the Qur’an when they are in their period?

Q.2. If one misses a prayer at its appropriate time, could one pray it after its time has lapsed, like what we do with fasting? Some people suggest that prayer cannot be offered after its time has lapsed.

Q.3. Is it obligatory for a woman to keep her face, hands and feet covered all the time?

Q.4. When a woman prays in congregation, is she supposed to read everything as she reads when praying alone?

Q.5. Can Muslims pray for the welfare of their non-Muslim friends?

A.1. If a woman is reading a book or an article that contains some Qur’anic verses, there is no harm in reading these verses. This is the general view of scholars. But most scholars agree that a woman who is in her period may not touch the Qur’an and read any passage of it. However, Imam Al-Bukhari is of the view that there is nothing to stop a man or a woman who is in the state of ceremonial impurity, as is the case for a woman in her period, to read the Qur’an. He has judged that all Hadiths that say that this is not allowed, are lacking in authenticity.

A.2. Most schools of thought are of the view that missed prayers may be offered after their time has lapsed, in what is generally known as qadha. However, a number of scholars are of the view that if a prayer is missed for no valid reason, it cannot be offered after its time has lapsed. A valid reason is sleeping through the time of a prayer, or being unconscious, or forgetting the prayer. In such cases, it should be offered as soon as one remembers or is aware of the prayer he or she has missed. If one misses a prayer because of laziness, or being busy with something else, it cannot be offered after its time. This is the weightier ruling in my view.

A.3. No, this is not obligatory. A woman need not cover her face or hands when she goes out. She should cover the rest of her body. People who insist that covering a woman’s face and hands is obligatory do not have firm evidence to support their view.

A.4. Women pray in the same way as men. Some schools of Fiqh consider that the reading by the imam is sufficient for the entire congregation. Thus, those in the congregation need only say the glorifications and the tashahhud. Other schools of Fiqh insist that everyone should read the Fatihah in every rak’ah. A third view is that if the imam reads aloud, the congregation do not read. When the imam reads in private, the congregation also read in private. Each view has its supporting evidence. Perhaps the third view is the one which satisfies all evidence better.

A.5. There is nothing to stop you from praying for a non-Muslim, particularly if you include a prayer that your friend be guided to the path of truth.

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