Friday, December 16, 2005

Ihsan: A Natural Flower with Sweet Fragrance (Part One)



Our religion (Islam) has three significant aspects: Islam, Iman and Ihsan. To attain Iman one needs to accept Islam whole-heartedly. And when we beautify or perfect our Iman, we achieve Ihsan. When Allah talks about the believers in the Qur’an, He says,

“And that Allah is with the believers.” (Al Qur’an -8: 19)

But whenever Allah speaks about Ihsan, He says He loves those who achieve Ihsan.

And practice Ihsan. Truly, Allah loves the doers of Ihsan." (Al Qur’an -2:195)

In order to win Allah’s love we need Ihsan. Now what is Ihsan? In Arabic, Ihsan means "perfection" or "excellence." In Islam, Ihsan is the Muslim responsibility to obtain perfection, or excellence, in worship, such that Muslims try to worship God as if they see Him, and although they cannot see Him, they undoubtedly believe He is constantly watching over them.

We see this aspect of Islam defined in a hadith narrated on the authority of Omar, who said:
One day while we were sitting with the messenger of Allah there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the prophet. Resting his knees against his and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said:"O Muhammad, tell me about Islam". The messenger of Allah said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so." He said: “You have spoken rightly", and we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken rightly. He said: "Then tell me about Iman."He said: “It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof." He said: “You have spoken rightly". He said: " Then tell me about Ihsan." He said: "It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you". Then he said: "O Omar, do you know who the questioner was?" I said: "Allah and His messenger know best". He said: "He was Jebreel (Gabriel), who came to you to teach you your religion." [ Sahih Muslim - Book 001, Number 0001:]


The purpose of our creation is to worship Allah (swt). Allah says,
“And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).” [Al Qur’an 51:56]


Simile:

To understand Ihsan more clearly, we can use a simile.

Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. (Muslim)

Allah gave a soul to each one of us. If a company provided raw material to someone and asked them to make a quality product, it would be obligatory for the one receiving the raw material to make the best product out of this raw material or else he would lose his recompense. If he destroys the raw material, will he be remunerated for that work? Likewise our soul is the raw material Allah has given us. So each one has to strive hard to perfect and beautify the soul. Undoubtedly, one who purifies and beautifies their soul will be victorious and those who spoil their souls are indeed losers.

Let us take another example, the mandatory worship, Salah. People pray for three different reasons:

1. Some pray for people to notice them and win their praise.
2. The second category of people pray because of the fear of Hell or desire for Paradise
3. The third sets of people are people who pray for Allah with the intention to please Him i.e. they pray with Ihsan (excellence).

This can be compared to a flower. The first group who pray for the appreciation of others or for the people is comparable to an artificial flower. The second group is like a real flower without fragrance and the third group is like a real flower with beautiful fragrance. The difference between a natural flower with a sweet fragrance and an artificial flower is like the difference between life and lifelessness. Similarly every deed of ours is like this flower. We should try to make a beautiful garland out of these flowers and adorn our souls with it.

When does Allah accept our deeds?

When someone wants to garland us, how do we accept the garland? By bending down, right? Similarly deeds done with humility would be accepted.

Aim of the Mandatory Worship

The pillars of Islam in their spirit and appearance may vary from one another but in aim and purpose, they are very close to each other. Salah, Zakah, Sawm and Hajj and other mandatory forms of worship are catalyst for real perfection. If these forms of worship do not purify the hearts of mankind, if they do not nourish the best qualities in those who observe them and if they do not improve and build the resolute relationship between Allah and the worshipper, then we should resuscitate our intention and our way of performing those acts. If we do not reform ourselves then we are left with nothing except destruction and devastation.

“ Among the desert Arabs there are some who believe in God and the Last Day and look upon their payment as pious gifts bringing them nearer to God and obtaining the prayer of the Apostle. Aye, indeed they bring them closer to Him; soon will Allah admit them into His mercy. For God is Oft Forgiving and Most Merciful.” (9:99)


With the help of these acts one must attempt to seek Allah’s mercy and love. We need to purify our soul and make it beautiful in turn to emit fresh and sweet fragrance. This fragrance will be overt in two circumstances.

When our souls are taken out – the Angels would say, “ Who is this sweet smelling soul?”
After the questioning in the grave, these deeds will come and stay with us.


Why is Ihsan Important?

A Mu’min (believer) has certain rights (Huqooq) over the people.

Allah's Messenger (SAW) said: "Verily, Allah has prescribed Ihsan towards everything.” (Muslim)


The following are certain deeds done with Ihsan –

Ihsan to: -

Parents and Relatives: Being kind to them
Orphans: Protecting their wealth and maintaining their rights.
Wayfarers: Helping them fulfil their needs.
Workers: Paying them their wages before their sweat dries.
People: Speaking to them in a good manner.
Animals: Feeding them when they are hungry.
Work: Being dedicated and professional.


Deeds without Ihsan

What will happen to deeds done without Ihsan?

For a man who commits the error of performing various forms of worship without understanding their true value and significance, worship will be nothing but a ritual or an imitation. Even a child can copy the movements of Salah and will be able to repeat what is recited during the prayer. These kinds of deeds do not benefit the faith or meet the purpose of worship. Our prayer must stop us from misdeeds.

A person asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Oh Messenger of Allah! A certain woman is well known for her prayers, fasting and charities but she talks rudely with her neighbours. Tell me what will be her fate?” Prophet (pbuh) said “Hell.” Then the man asked the Prophet again,” I know another woman who completes her compulsory acts and she does not do much of voluntary acts but she does not harm her neighbours. Tell me what will her fate be.” He replied, “Paradise” [Ahmad]

The deeds of the first lady did not benefit her because she did not perform her huqooqul (rights) correctly and her prayer was not reflected on her deeds. If she had fulfilled her rights correctly, it would have shown on her deeds and in turn it would reflect on people.

Another example from the saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is:


Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do you know who is a Muflis (pauper)? They (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) said: The one who has neither dirham with him or wealth. He (the Holy Prophet) said: The poor of my Umma would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakat but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire. [Muslim]

In the above-mentioned hadith, we saw a man who has Iman and Islam but did not have Ihsan -- he lost all his good deeds. Similarly a person with only Ihsan and no Iman will also be a loser as his Ihsan, does not have any base (Iman) to stand upon. Lack of Iman (belief in Islam) will make any good deed void. Therefore only with Iman one can strive for Ihsan (excellence)

(Continued)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

`Uthman ibn `Affan : The Man With Two Lights (Part Two)


`Uthman ibn `Affan:
The Man With Two Lights
(Part Two)
November 29, 2005
In the sixth year after the emigration to Madinah, the Prophet decided to perform the `Umrah, so he set out with 1,400 Muslims in pilgrim’s dress, heading towards Makkah, but the Quraish did not allow them to enter the city. The Muslims halted at a place called Hudaibiyah. From there, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sent a messenger to the Makkans to tell them that the Muslims were there only to perform `Umrah and had not the slightest intention to fight. But the Makkans humiliated the messenger, and he returned without success. The Prophet then wanted to send someone highly respected by the Quraish, so he chose `Uthman, who was from one of the most powerful families in Makkah, the Umayyah family. The Makkans detained him for three days and a rumor reached the Muslim camp that `Uthman was killed. This outraged the Muslims and, without exception, all of the 1,400 Muslims present pledged that they would stand firm together to avenge `Uthman’s murder. After everybody had taken the pledge, the Prophet placed his own right hand on his left hand and took the pledge on behalf of `Uthman. `Uthman thus secured the unique honor that the Prophet himself took the pledge on his behalf. The Muslims’ pledge pleased Allah and it was revealed in the Qur’an:
[Surely, Allah was pleased with the believers when they took the pledge under the tree. Allah knew what was in their hearts. He sent down tranquility upon them, and rewarded them with near victory.] (Al-Fath 48:18)
Soon they learned that the rumor of `Uthman’s death was false.
`Uthman returned from Makkah in the company of an emissary from the Quraish. When `Uthman came to know about the pledge the Muslims in the camp had taken in his absence, and that the Prophet had taken the pledge on his behalf, he immediately took the pledge in person.
The Treaty of Hudaibiyah
After considerable discussion, an agreement was arrived at, which came to be known as the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. According to the pact there was to be a truce between the Quraish and the Muslims for a period of 10 years. Each party was free to make its own alliances, but they were not to resort to war. Any person who deserted the Muslims and sought refuge with the Quraish was not to be returned, but any person who escaped from the Quraish to the Muslims was to be returned to the Quraish. It was stipulated that the Muslims were to return to Madinah that year without performing the `Umrah, but they could come to Makkah for three days the following year to perform it, during which time the Quraish would vacate the city for them.
After the pact had been signed, the Muslims sacrificed the animals they had brought with them, broke camp, and started on the return journey to Madinah.
On the face of it, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah appeared to be loaded in favor of the Quraish. Some of the Muslims, particularly `Umar, felt dissatisfied with the terms of the pact and expressed their dissatisfaction. `Uthman, however, felt satisfied with the terms of the agreement. He was confident that the pact, though apparently in favor of the Quraish, would ultimately turn out to be against them. He said that the Quraish were fast losing their will to resist Islam, and in pursuance of the pact the Muslims and the Quraish would come into contact, and most of the Quraish were likely to accept Islam. While on the way to Madinah, Allah revealed to the Prophet that the Hudaibiyah pact was indeed a victory for the Muslims, as it would work to their advantage and the disadvantage of the Quraish. When the Prophet told of these tidings to `Umar and his other Companions, all of them felt happy.
The assessment of `Uthman also proved correct, for in the period following the Hudaibiyah pact, many Quraish including such stalwarts as Khalid ibn Al-Walid and `Amr ibn Al-`Aas accepted Islam.
`Uthman’s Generosity
`Uthman’s generosity was boundless. Even before he became caliph, he was always ready to spend in the cause of Islam and to help the needy with his wealth. On two special occasions he proved to be one of the most generous men of his time.
In AH 9 the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) got the news that the Romans were plotting to destroy the newly emerging Islamic state, so he wanted the Muslims to equip themselves and prepare for the attack. That seemed impossible because in that year the Muslims suffered from reduced crops and limited resources, as they had faced an extremely hot summer. They did not have enough resources to meet such a powerful army, and most of the Muslims were poor. This situation did not stop the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He urged his Companions to prepare for the battle. Every Companion tried his or her best to strengthen the army. The women sold the few jewels they had to help the men prepare for the battle.
Though hundreds of Companions were ready to enter the battlefield, they were short of many things that were required for the battle, such as horses, camels, even swords and spears. The Prophet told them that this was a matter of life or death for the new Islamic state. The Prophet made a loud and clear announcement: “Anyone who provides outfits for the soldiers will have all his sins forgiven by Allah.”
The moment `Uthman heard this, he outfitted two hundred saddled camels that were to travel to Ash-Sham, and presented them all with 200 ounces of gold as charity. He also fetched 1,000 dinars and cast them into the lap of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Again and again `Uthman gave till his charity topped 900 camels and 100 horses, besides the money he paid. Seeing `Uthman’s generosity, the Prophet made the following statement: “From this day on, nothing will harm `Uthman regardless of what he does.”
In another incident during Abu Bakr’s caliphate, people faced great hardships. The land became arid and very few people could find something to eat. The people of Madinah came to Abu Bakr and asked him to provide them with something that they could survive with.
However, the caliph could not do anything to help them. The treasury was empty and there were no other means to feed the hungry people. At that time, `Uthman received a huge caravan from Damascus carrying food and other goods. All the merchants gathered at his house asking him to sell them some of the items he received so that they could sell them to the people. `Uthman asked them to offer him a good price. Though the merchants offered a high price, he kept asking them for a higher price. They offered him the highest price they could and told him that no merchant would be able to pay more than what they had offered. But `Uthman told them that he would sell the goods to the One Who would pay him 10 times what the merchants had offered, that is, Allah Almighty. `Uthman then gave away the whole of caravan to the starving people of Madinah and did not charge them anything.
Election of `Uthman
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, was stabbed by a Persian slave Abu Lu’ lu’ a Al-Majussi while performing Fajr Prayer. As `Umar was lying on his death bed, the people around him asked him to appoint a successor. `Umar constituted a committee of six people to choose the next caliph from among themselves.
This committee comprised `Ali ibn Abi Talib, `Uthman ibn `Affan, `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, Az-Zubayr ibn Al-`Awam, and Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah, who were among the most eminent Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and who had received in their lifetime the tidings of Paradise.
The instructions of `Umar were that the Selection Committee should choose the successor within three days, and he should assume office on the fourth day. As two days passed by without a decision, the members felt anxious that the time was running out fast, and still no solution to the problem appeared to be in sight. `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf offered to forgo his own claim if others agreed to abide by his decision. All agreed to let `Abdur-Rahman choose the new caliph. He interviewed each nominee and went about Madinah asking the people for their choice. He finally selected `Uthman as the new caliph as the majority of the people chose him.
Reign of `Uthman ibn `Affan (644–656 CE)
During the reign of Caliph `Umar (634-644 CE), the Islamic state expanded beyond the borders of the Arab Peninsula into Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. In the subsequent reign of Caliph `Uthman, the expansion continued on into Persia, India, Russia, China, Turkey, and across North Africa. The Islamic state became rich and powerful, and many people of these regions accepted Islam and learned the recitation of the Qur’an from the early Muslims.
His Life as a Caliph
`Uthman led a simple life even after becoming the leader of the Islamic state. It would have been easy for a successful businessman such as him to lead a luxurious life, but he never aimed at leading such in this world. His only aim was to taste the pleasure of the hereafter, as he knew that this world is a test and temporary. `Uthman’s generosity continued after he became caliph.
The caliphs were paid for their services from bait al-mal the treasury but `Uthman never took any salary for his service to Islam. Not only this, he also developed a custom to free slaves every Friday, look after widows and orphans, and give unlimited charity. His patience and endurance were among the characteristics that made him a successful leader.
His great love and trust in Allah were steadfast. Whatever happened, he never lost trust in Allah and resigned himself completely to the decree of Allah. He was always mindful of Allah, and that guided his actions.
`Uthman’s love for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was evident from the way he lived his life. He followed the teachings of the Prophet and took them as his source for guidance. As a way of taking care of the Prophet’s wives, he doubled their allowances.
Opposition and the End
During his caliphate, `Uthman faced a lot of hostility. His rivals started accusing him of not following the Prophet and the preceding caliphs. However, the Companions who were true defended him. These accusations never changed him. He remained persistent to be a merciful governor. Even during the time when his foes attacked him, he did not use the treasury funds to shield his house or himself. As envisaged by Prophet Muhammad, `Uthman’s enemies relentlessly made his governing difficult by constantly opposing and accusing him. His opponents finally plotted against him, surrounded his house, and encouraged people to kill him.
Many of his advisors asked him to stop the assault but he did not, until he was killed while reciting the Qur’an exactly as the Prophet had predicted. `Uthman died as a martyr.
Anas ibn Malik narrated the following hadith:
The Prophet once climbed the mountain of Uhud with Abu Bakr, `Umar, and `Uthman. The mountain shook with them. The Prophet said (to the mountain), “Be firm, O Uhud! For on you there is a Prophet, a Siddiq, and two martyrs.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 57, Number 24)
Sources:

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Uthman ibn `AffanThe Man With Two Lights - Part One


Uthman ibn `Affan: The Man With Two Lights

(Part 1)

‘A’ishah reported: The Prophet was lying down in his house with his thighs or his calves exposed. Abu Bakr asked permission to enter and was permitted while the Prophet was in that position and he came in and spoke with him. Then `Umar asked permission to enter. He was granted permission and came in and spoke with him while in that position. Then `Uthman asked permission and the Prophet sat up and straightened his clothing. He was then permitted and came in and spoke with the Prophet. After he had gone, `A’ishah said, “Abu Bakr entered and you did not get up for him or worry about him and `Umar came in and you did not get up for him nor worry about him but when `Uthman came in, you straightened out your clothing!” The Prophet said, “Should I not be shy of a man around whom the angels are shy?” (Muslim).


`Uthman ibn `Affan, one of the close Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was the fourth man to accept Islam and the third of the four rightly guided caliphs of Islam. During his reign the Islamic state expanded vastly. `Uthman accomplished a lot during his rule; one of his notable accomplishments was the distribution of single-volume copies of the Qur’an to the Muslim provinces. These copies were made from the master compilation produced under the first caliph, Abu Bakr.


Background
`Uthman came from a wealthy Ummayad clan of the Quraish tribe in Makkah. His father was a well-known and successful businessman. `Uthman’s father provided him with everything he needed to lead a comfortable life. He was brought up in a manner like any other child born into a wealthy family. Thus `Uthman enjoyed luxuries in life right from childhood. He was a distinguished child who had high morals. He was unique in his bashfulness and honesty, which distinguished him from his peers, and he grew up to become a man of great virtue, generosity, integrity, and modesty.


Successful Businessman
After his father’s death, `Uthman—although he was young—took charge of his father’s business and proved to be very efficient and successful just like his father. The business expanded and grew. He was very truthful and honest in his dealings and, unlike others, he spent most of his profits to help the needy. He did all that he could to bring a smile to the faces of the poor and needy, and so he became respected and adored by many.


Journey to Islam
During that time the Arabs were worshiping idols and indulging in many evil practices like burying their daughters alive and shedding blood for little or no reason. Racism was prevalent, and this racism made the masters treat their slaves cruelly. Women were also treated badly and were considered as objects. The woman’s sole purpose was giving birth and pleasure.
As a young man, `Uthman was full of energy. He traveled to many places for business. Due to this he got a chance to meet different people from different nations and to learn a lot about other beliefs, which were different from his own. His views about the idols and the lifestyle of the Arabs changed when he got to know the Christian and Jewish beliefs.


One day when `Uthman returned to Makkah after his usual business trip, people were speaking about Muhammad ibn `Abdullah. The whole city seemed to be in a state of chaos because Muhammad presented himself as Messenger of Allah and told everyone that there was only one God worthy of worship and that one should not associate any partners with Him. Muhammad asked them to forgo all the false deities and worship Allah alone. Although the Arabs knew Allah, Muhammad’s message seemed strange, as they had long since worshiped other deities in addition Allah.


`Uthman knew Muhammad very well. Muhammad was a man of remarkable personality and excellent morals. Though he did not accept this belief immediately, he never opposed Muhammad or Islam as the other leaders of the Quraish did. He remembered that on many of his travels he had heard the Christian and Jewish scholars speaking about the coming of the final Prophet in the land of Arabia. Whenever `Uthman heard about the final prophet from the Christian and the Jews, he hoped that this prophet whom they spoke of would lead the Arabs into the light of guidance and knowledge. He pondered over the Christian and Jewish talk on the final prophet and finally he decided to visit one of his friends, Abu Bakr, to find out about this new belief. He knew that Abu Bakr had accepted Islam and that he was very close to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Abu Bakr explained things about Islam. He told him that Islam asked people to worship Allah alone and to give up the worship of all false gods or idols. Then Abu Bakr invited him to embrace Islam. `Uthman felt that Islam was the true religion of Allah and immediately embraced Islam on Abu Bakr’s invitation. After that, `Uthman met the Prophet (peace be upon him) and declared that he accepted Islam.


Those who accepted Islam became prone to hardships, suffering, and oppression. The Quraish tortured the Muslims in every possible way, attempting to force them to leave Islam. `Uthman faced a lot of oppression at the hands of his pagan uncle Al-Hakam ibn Abi Al-`Aas, who was angry with him for leaving their forefathers’ religion. He tied `Uthman up and tried to force him to leave Islam. Nevertheless, `Uthman remained firm in his belief and never gave in to this oppression. Finally, when his uncle realized that `Uthman would never leave Islam, he left him to himself. `Uthman, with all his might, defended Islam and never gave in to the torture and oppression. Right from the time he accepted Islam, he became close to Prophet Muhammad and married the Prophet’s second daughter, Ruqayyah, who was a divorcee. Uthman’s marriage to Ruqayyah was a happy union; they both loved each other and led a blissful life.


Migration to Abyssinia
At that time, most of the people who embraced Islam were the less privileged and poor. The Muslims became a target for the pagans, and they tortured the Muslims, even to death, because they refused to leave Islam. Because of this, some Muslims left Makkah and migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to seek refuge.


`Uthman along with his wife Ruqayyah migrated to Abyssinia. He was one of the first to do so, and later other Muslims who were agonized by the Quraish to desert Islam followed him.
An-Najashi (the Negus), a Christian king who ruled Abyssinia at that time, was well known for being a just ruler. An-Najashi, in his power, provided the immigrants with all necessary facilities for their stay. The Quraish sent a delegation to Abyssinia and hoped that they would convince the king to expel the Muslims from his state. The king heard both the Quraish and the Muslims, and refused to expel the Muslims. The Quraish delegation saw `Uthman and tried to persuade him to return to Makkah, but their aim failed.


While the Muslims lived peacefully in Abyssinia, `Uthman started a business. Though he faced some difficulties in the beginning, his business flourished because of his hard work. His wife, Ruqayyah, gave birth to a boy whom they named `Abdullah. After this `Uthman came to be known as Abu `Abdullah. `Uthman remained very popular among Muslims because of his generosity to the poor.


He returned to Makkah from Abyssinia because of the false news that had spread among Muslims living in Abyssinia that the lives of the Muslims in Makkah were better, as the Quraish of Makkah had accepted Islam.


In Makkah, `Uthman spent most of his time in the company of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He always tried his best to help the Muslims who were poor and needy.


Death of Ruqayyah
He then again migrated with his wife to Madinah, which was known as Yathrib at that time, in 622. `Uthman carried on his business as a merchant and was successful. `Uthman and Ruqayyah lived on happily for sometime in Madinah.


The Muslims knew about Makkah’s merchant caravan that was coming back from Syria, and was led by Abu Sufyan. They wanted to attack this caravan, but Abu Sufyan was aware of their plan and changed the path of his return to Makkah. At the same time he sent a message to Makkah’s leaders, telling them of the Muslims’ plan.


The Makkans gathered a huge army and headed towards Madinah to put an end to Islam and the Muslims, while the army of the Muslims had only 314 men. The Makkan and Muslim armies met at a place called Badr near Madinah. `Uthman was unable to take part in this battle, as his wife Ruqayyah fell ill. She died after a few days, leaving `Uthman in grief and sadness. At that time, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Muslims were fighting with the Quraish at the battlefield of Badr. The Muslims emerged victorious, and the news of victory reached Madinah when Ruqayyah was being buried.


Union With Umm Kulthum
After Ruqayyah’s death `Uthman was deeply saddened. At this time `Umar ibn Al-Khattab proposed that `Uthman marry his daughter Hafsah, who was a widow. He refused the offer, as he knew that the Prophet was going to propose to her. Towards the close of the year 625, the Prophet married Hafsah.


Umm Kulthum was the Prophet’s third daughter and he married her to `Uthman. `Uthman thereby earned the name Dhun-Nurain, “the Possessor of Two Lights,” because he had married the Prophet’s two daughters, one after another. `Uthman’s marriage with Umm Kulthum was as happy as that of the marriage between him and Ruqayyah. Unfortunately, such happiness was shortly lived, for Umm Kulthum died barely six years after her marriage. She bore no children.


A year after the battle of Uhud—two years after the death of Ruqayyah—`Uthman’s son `Abdullah passed away. `Uthman loved his son dearly and his death caused him intense grief. The Prophet consoled `Uthman, and advised him that as a true Muslim, he should accept the will of God.


(Continued....)


**************************

© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Reverts to Islam: Lonely in a Crowd



Reverts to Islam: Lonely in a Crowd

-Amatullah Abdullah

When we hear that someone has entered Islam, we often ask .How did you accept Islam? . We also say Al hamdulilah (All praises are due to Allah alone) when someone says they have reverted to Islam, Right? These remarks show that we are heartened to see someone accepting the Truth!


Life is not easy for any believer. Life is a test!, a Jihad (struggle), for every believer whether you are a "born" Muslims or reverts to Islam.

As for reverts to Islam they undergo a great struggle. The moment they declare their faith (Islam), most of them lose their loved and dear ones. Their old friends refuse to accept their new lifestyle and new faith. Some of them tend to lose their family who are unable to digest the fact that they have embraced Islam. Whenever I hear a revert saying, "I love my parents so much… my family showered and lavished me with affection until I embraced Islam. My family’s attitude towards me is causing me much pain that sometimes I even think of leaving Islam, then Allah would shower His mercy on me that I would be reminded that this is a test and this World is just a temporary abode... and I would say 'I should not fail this test and Allah, The Most Merciful will shower His mercy and blessing on me and my family...'" The pain which, reverts to Islam undergo is something which cannot be felt unless we are in their shoes.


During this time it our duty as brothers and sisters in Islam to lush them with friendship, brotherhood, love, kindness, affection, etc. To the contrary we find some of our brothers and sisters in Islam (who are born into a Muslim family) cause our new brothers and sisters much ache in their heart, by being prejudiced, intolerant and proud.


I intended to write this essay after hearing about the treatment of our revert brothers and sisters in Islam by some of the "born" Muslims. I feel outraged to the core when I hear the spiteful attitude of these Muslims towards reverts to Islam. The new Muslims feel disheartened when they face this kind of behaviour.


I wonder how someone can neglect the brothers or sisters who reverted and consider them inferior.

Prophet [Salla Allaahu .alaihi wa sallam (May Allah peace and blessing be upon him)]
observed: Are you not aware of the fact that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)? Verily migration wipes out all the previous (misdeeds), and verily the pilgrimage wipes out all the (previous) misdeeds. [Collected by Muslim: Book 001, Number 0220]


I have heard and seen so many Muslims who are born into a Muslim family and raised as a Muslim collecting revert stories. When asked, "Why are you collecting these stories?" They would either reply, "We are curious to know how they found the truth and got the guidance?" and I have heard them saying, "Their reversion stories are truly inspirational and it helps us to boost our Iman (faith)..." The stories of reverts are published in Islamic magazines, Islamic newspapers, Islamic websites and sometimes a book is made out of these stories.

Why?
Because we know these brothers and sisters were not raised in a Muslim family and many would not have had met many Muslims before they reverted, yet they were still able to find the Truth and Guidance. This stirs curiosity in the minds of a raised Muslim or anyone, be it Muslim or non- Muslim, who is immersed and attracted to the "striking" lifestyle of the West. The influence of the west is so great on these Muslim that they tend to lose Islam. People become curious to know the reason why a person from the a non Islamic world, who was living in this "attractive" life of "freedom", suddenly is ready to forgo all his/her liberty and enter a religion which is considered to be irrational, extreme and oppressive. Thus, these revert stories (which are true life stories) act as a food to feed the curious mind.

---

Nobody is infallible except Allah (swt) and everybody would have committed some sins or the other knowingly or unknowingly in their lifetime. When Allah is ready to forgive, who are we judge anyone??


Mariam* 27 from Germany said, “ Seriously, I don't want to go to the Masjid. I find some Muslims are so intolerant towards us (reverts)..." She added, “I find them to be mean and spiteful. They are being so judgmental for the errors which I committed before I completely entered Islam...”


A renowned scholar, Sheikh Muhammad al-Jibaly said, “It is only to Allah to give final judgment in regard to any person. Anyone who takes it upon himself to do so would be overstepping his human boundaries, and may deserve Allah's punishment.”


The Prophet (saws) told that once a self-righteous man saw a sinner, he said: "By Allah, Allah will never forgive him. Allah then said, "Who are you who should dictate to Me what to do? Indeed, I have forgiven so-and so (the sinner), and demolished your deeds. "[Sahih Muslim no. 2621]

He (sheikh) further added: Righteous people are told to be merciful towards those who committed mistakes, even if their mistakes harmed them personally. During the fitnah of accusing ‘Aaishah (ra) with zinaa, one of those who transmitted the falsehood was a poor relative of Abu Bakr (ra) that Abu Bakr used to give sadaqah. When Allah declared ‘Aishah's (ra) innocence in His Book, Abu Bakr made an oath that he will never give any more help to that relative. He showed us a daleel (proof) from the Qur’an:

"Let not those of you with virtue and wealth swear not to give aid to the relatives, the needy, and the emigrants for Allah’s cause. Rather, let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.." [Soorat an-Noor 22]


As a Muslim, I love all my brothers and sister for the sake of Allah and it causes great pain to hear our brothers and sisters describing their experience as a Muslim after their reversion. Many reverts feel excluded and hurt by this kind of treatment.


One sister said, “I just don't feel lonely but excluded, when I am among Muslims. I would be sitting for hours listening to relatives talk in Urdu. They know I don't understand but still they continue to do that.”


I remember showing a sister an essay. It was an essay for the youth, which tells us that Allah is the Wali (Protector and Friend) to the believers. This essay was actually meant for the youth but this sister (revert) who is in her late thirties told me that this essay made her feel good Alhamdulilah! Why? Because she felt so lonely and barred after reverting and this essay made her realize that she should not accept anyone to be her friend and she is heartened to know that Allah is her Friend.


A brother who had accepted Islam few years’ back said, "I faced a lot of racism in Islam..." I wondered why he said that and then realized he said that because unfortunately the Muslims treated him that way. Then it was explained to him, "One cannot judge Islam based on Muslim's attitude. Because it looks like Muslims haven't submitted completely to the faith. We pick and choose what is convenient for us to follow and leave which is not convenient for us and our culture."


When Sr. Fathima* 42 from the USA was asked to describe the experience of her first
Ramadan, she said, "My first Ramadan was one of my most spiritual.... and was completed in the near total absence of Muslims. I hate to tell the story because I fear it sounds like bragging for having overcome some hardships, but I think it’s a sad commentary on where our community stands that the most spiritual Ramadan I had was done pretty much alone."

Sr. Lamina*, 26 from Chennai, a strong and bold new Muslimah says, "It is really sad to note that some Muslims are behaving like creeps. I started acquiring Islamic knowledge from the time I declared my faith. I witness so many unislamic cultural acts carried on by Muslim in the name of Islam. They tell me what I am doing is wrong and they know better because they are born Muslims. Just because I am new Muslim I have no right to voice the evils happening in the society in the name of Islam? She further ad," Didn’t the prophet say that everybody is born in state of fitrah (natural) and everybody are Muslims when they are born and it is only the way they are raised which makes him a person of another faith? ...Doesn't Islam insist on humility? "


Do these Muslims (who calls themselves born Muslims) know that almost all the Sahabah were reverts? Are they better than the Sahabah (reverts) in understanding and interpreting Islam (Qu’ran and Sunnah)? It is such a pitiful situation that some of these "born" Muslims are corrupting Islam with their shameful and horrible attitude, which has no place in Islam.


This kind of behaviour made many Muslims say "Alhamdulilah! We found Islam before we met any Muslim."


But I would say it is heartening to see there are still many brothers and sisters in Islam who are conscious of Allah. They are like a source of warmth and haven for our new brothers and sister in Islam. They are ready to shower them with love, kindness, encouragement and brotherhood!


Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and harmony but we see that this is lacking among us. It's so unfortunate that many reverts to Islam tend to leave Islam! Maybe if the community was more welcoming and supportive reverts to Islam would find it easier to stay on the straight path (Islam). These ugly stances by ignorant Muslims should be rejected and amended. Let us be conscious of behaviour towards anyone be it new Muslim, non-Muslim, children or servant. We will meet our Lord soon and let us strive to amend our ways before we meet our Lord.

*Names changed for privacy sake

************************************************

© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

MANY VOICES ,ONE FAITH!



MANY VOICES ,ONE FAITH!


Muslim Women Writers Reveal Their Thoughts on Daily Life, Politics, War, and Religion in the New Anthology Many Voices, One Faith

San Francisco, CA, July 16, 2005—With reflections on the challenges of practicing Islam in a world that is often hostile to its adherents and what it means to be a Muslim, Many Voices, One Faith is an anthology of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and works for children written by Muslim women of a variety of ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. At times poignant, at times humorous, sad, angry, joyful or grieving, Many Voices, One Faith provides a glimpse into the multifaceted world of today’s Muslimah.

“Many Voices, One Faith is unique in that it is a publication of writing by Muslim women about a wide variety of topics — Muslim women talking about Muslim women, about children, about politics, war, marriage, mental health, religious and spiritual experiences. It is a collection that reveals the diverse experiences of Muslim women,” says Pamela Taylor, Publications Officer of the Islamic Writers Alliance.

“It is our hope that non-Muslims will gain insight into the struggles, the joys, the thoughts and feelings of their Muslim neighbors,” she adds. “So much of what we see in the media presents a single stereotype – Muslim women wearing long, loose, dark-colored robes and black scarves, without any real personality. It’s refreshing to see a new perspective.”

“This anthology has historical significance, emerging from today's multi-ethnic
American Muslim landscape and featuring the voices of promising writers who
have been working seriously on their craft in writerly communities,” says Mohja Kahf, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Arkansas and author of Emails from Sherezade. “As American Muslim culture continues to grow in all its facets, we will likely see many more literary anthologies; here are the brave early risers.”

Early reviews of the book have been overwhelmingly positive. “It is absolutely beautifully written,” writes one reader, Umm Raiyaan from the UK. Another, Linda, from the US, says, “I wanted to say thank you again for the wonderful book. I’ve been reading the poetry this week and it is absolutely wonderful. I am sooooo enjoying the reading.”

Review by Br.Yahiya Emerick :

"One Faith, a production of the Islamic Writers Alliance, is a fascinating collection of poetry, short stories, plays and prose written by a wide variety of very talented sisters. This wonderful assemblage is organized to take the reader through a journey of the heart, imagination and mind, even as its structure of poetry, stories and plays are grouped likewise. The issues that are presented, from the universal longing for peace to the struggles of interfaith dialogue, speak to today's readers, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Through riveting and poignant verse we journey through a stunning cross section of today's emerging voices in the budding field of English Islamic literature. I would highly recommend this book for junior high through adult readers, and would also suggest that Islamic schools make it a part of their English Language Arts reading curriculum."

-Yahiya Emerick


Authors included in Many Voices include: Emman MZH Al-Aghbhary, Amatullah Al-Marwani, Fatima Asmal, Rym Aoudia, Enna Ayyub, Nancy E Biddle, Linda D. Delgado, Judy Nelson Eldawy, Nadia Hamed, Aaminah HernĂ¡ndez, Leila Montour, Amana Raza, Mahasin Shamsideen, Pamela K. Taylor, Veiled Writer, Najiyah Umm Waheeb, and Iman Yusuf

Some have previously written for publications such as Azizah Magazine, The Minaret, Islamic Horizons, MuslimWakeUp.com, Islamonline.com, Message International, Mirror International, and Muslims Weekly. Others have published novels and children’s literature.

Many Voices, One Faith took shape through the work of the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA). The IWA is a group of Muslim women dedicated to writing about, presenting, and promoting positive Islamic fiction and non-fiction reading materials. The proceeds of this IWA anthology will support the activities of the IWA and will be funneled to purchase books for the libraries of Islamic schools. The IWA hopes to enrich the lives of Muslim readers, to reach out to non-Muslim readers, and to offer a platform for new writers alongside some well-known Muslim authors.

Established in January 2004, the IWA has members at various stages in their writing careers, from little known and talented authors on the path to publication, to newly published writers, to pros who have been publishing for decades. The IWA includes Muslim women from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and theological bents. We also encourage writers in all genres—from poetry to science fiction to journalism. For more information about the Islamic Writers Alliance, please visit our website: www.islamicwritersalliance.net.

Many Voices, One Faith
ISBN
1933037180 Paperback
1933037474 Hardcover

Contact:

Islamic Writers Alliance
www.islamicwritersalliance.net
Widad Delgado, Director
woodad@mindspring.com
Pamela Taylor, Publications Officer
momtotsan@yahoo.com


Heliographica Press
866-272-6187
info@heliographica.com
www.heliographica.com

Monday, September 26, 2005

My Best Friend



As Salaamu Alaikum

The follwoing is a diary entry of 14 yr Muslimah

My Best Friend
By Amatullah Abdullah

Dear Diary ,

When I hear anyone telling me about their best friend, I would feel "Oh I wish I had a friend like that!"

The fact is I had many friends. They were countless. Whomever I meet ,I called them my friend but I never had any best friend in my life. I saw my mother, my sisters, my brothers, my cousins, my classmates, etc talking about their friends and heard them talking about the strength in their bond of friendship. Many times I heard them say to each other " We have been through a lot together, we shared good times and bad times, laughter and tears, and no matter what, we were there for each other." These words made me yearn to have a best friend. I realized best friends are a blessing from Allah , subhanahu wa ta`ala (the Exalted and Glorified) and no matter what we do we cannot earn best friends unless Allah (swt) wills. A year back I was too silly that I used to have an imaginary friend who I always shared my feelings with and made everybody believe that this friend was real. My imaginary friend was my best friend who was with me during times of joy and hardship.

Sometimes I would not have control over my tears and it would flow through my cheeks and would drench my scarf. I wondered why? I then realized it is because I lack something precious in life…A BEST FRIEND! No imaginary friend can replace a real friend. I became desperate and wondered " Am I so cruel that nobody wants to be close to me even if I try to be close to them?" I sunk deep inside but never showed my emotions and pretended I didn't give way to my emotions.

I cried so much when I was alone! One day when I was crying for a friend, suddenly fears of shiver ran up my body…

I wondered why? Then felt a voice inside me saying,

"Stop!…Stop this nonsense!….How can you cry? And Why are you crying?…Don't you know Allah is the Walee of the believer?…Are you a believer?…If so then stop! And talk to your Best Friend!"

" Allah is the Walee (The Protector) of those who believe and takes them from darkness into light." (Qur'an 2:257)

SubhaanAllah!(Glory be to Allah)
He (Allah (swt), my Protector and my Friend) had been there with me even before I was born. He is there for at all times. He would never abandon me. His word (Qur’an) is a source of encouragement, hope and a counsel for me …He is The Best of all best friends anybody can have!

And I know my Best Friend will surround me with many more companions in the Hereafter. I will ask Allah (swt) to surround me with friends like Fathima ,radi Allahu `anha (may Allah be pleased with her) bint Muhammad salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), one of the noble woman in the entire world ,because I read her story was so impressed and touched by her wonderful noble quality!

Now will I say " Oh I yearn for a best friend!”?

No! I will try my best to work according to the way my Best Friend advised and InshaAllah I will get to see my other friends like Fathima (ra) bint Muhammad (saws) in the Hereafter!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Prophet’s Compassion for Children



Alhamdulilah! one of my article entitled:

The Prophet's Compassion for Children

is published on Islam online.net (IOL)

Here is the link : The Prophet’s Compassion for Children


The Prophet’s Compassion for Children
By Amatullah Abdullah

Children are a great blessing from Allah. With their tender hearts, children can be molded into righteous people only with a positive and tender approach. Islam considers children to be an amanah (trust) given to the family and says it is fard (obligatory) for the family to raise a child in a righteous manner. One should not favor one child over another. In Islam, both male and female children should be treated equally and should be loved and cherished. The children have certain rights over their parents; it is the family’s obligation to shelter, feed, clothe, educate, support, nurture, and love them.

In today’s world many parents are so immersed in worldly life that they forget to pay attention to their children. Many parents think that providing financial support for their child is enough. The fact is, financial support alone doesn’t fulfill a parent’s duty towards their child. One can only win a child’s heart through love and a gentle attitude. It is the child’s right to be loved and cherished.

I remember that, as a child, I yearned for the attention of my family, but being in a joint family—my family and my uncle’s family lived together and a few other cousins stayed with us as their parents were working abroad—did not give me the opportunity to experience the kind of attention I expected. My parents felt that they should not express their love for their children in front of others, as people might think they were favoring us. As a child (and even now), I heard people saying “We need not to express our love to prove that it is there, it is enough to have a loving heart.” But the fact is that only when one expresses love to a child will the child feel more confident and stronger. Children have the capacity to easily distinguish when there is a difference in the attitude of the adults. Whether an adult shows or does not show love will have a significant impact on a child. Hence, we adults have to be conscious with our behavior in the child’s presence and be constantly aware of the emotions we project to our children.

Nowadays, we see people have become hardhearted so that their attitude towards children is unpleasant. There are some who show much partiality toward one gender, and there are some who don’t treat others’ children with the same kindness or affection which they show to their own children. It is common to see even people who claim that they act on the Qur’an and Sunnah showing less interest in playing with their children or giving them the due attention or expression of love.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the model for the whole of humankind. His attitude towards children was always compassionate and merciful. Being fond of children, Prophet Muhammad showed great interest in playing with them. His involvement in children’s games shows us the great importance in playing with our children. He would have fun with the children who had come back from Abyssinia and tried to speak in Abyssinian with them. It was his practice to give lifts on his camel to children when he returned from journeys.

Prophet Muhammad never held back his love for the children and always expressed his fondness to them. In one hadith Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

I went along with Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) at a time during the day but he did not talk to me and I did not talk to him until he reached the market of Banu Qainuqa`. He came back to the tent of Fatimah and said, “Is the little chap (meaning Al-Hasan) there?” We were under the impression that his mother had detained him in order to bathe him and dress him and garland him with sweet garland. Not much time had passed that he (Al-Hasan) came running until both of them embraced each other, thereupon Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O Allah, I love him; love him and love one who loves him.” (Muslim)

Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), the servant of the Prophet, had another recollection:

I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up his son and kiss him, then come back. (Muslim)

The Prophet’s love for children was not restricted to his children and grandchildren. The scope of his mercy and affection embraced all children, and he showed the same interest and gentleness to his Companion’s children. The following hadith narrated by Usamah ibn Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) shows this humane aspect of the Prophet’s personality:

Allah’s Messenger used to put me on (one of) his thighs and put Al-Hasan ibn `Ali on his other thigh, and then embrace us and say, “O Allah! Please be merciful to them, as I am merciful to them.” (Bukhari)

Some people who were not able to understand the power of expressing love to children wondered why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) played with children and took such an interest in them. Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him),

Allah’s Messenger kissed Al-Hasan ibn `Ali while Al-Aqra` ibn Habis At-Tamim was sitting with him . Al-Aqra` said, “I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.” The Prophet cast a look at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet was always concerned about everyone’s thought and feeling. The following hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) proves his thoughtful character:

The Prophet said, “(It happens that) I start the prayer intending to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I shorten the prayer because I know that the cries of the child will incite its mother’s passions.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet was always patient and considerate with children and took great pain not to hurt their tender feelings.

Narrated Abu Qatadah: “The Messenger of Allah came towards us while carrying Umamah the daughter of Abi Al-`As (Prophet’s granddaughter) over his shoulder. He prayed, and when he wanted to bow, he put her down, and when he stood up he lifted her up.” (Al-Bukhari)

In a another hadith,

Narrated Umm Khalid: I (the daughter of Khalid ibn Said) went to Allah’s Messenger with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger said, “Sanah, Sanah!” (`Abdullah, the narrator, said that sanah meant “good” in the Ethiopian language). I then started playing with the seal of prophethood (between the Prophet’s shoulders) and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger said, “Leave her.” The Prophet, then, invoked Allah to grant her a long life thrice. (Al-Bukhari)

In another narration we see the Prophet’s tolerance towards children.

Narrated `A’ishah: The Prophet took a child in his lap … and then the child urinated on him, so he asked for water and poured it over the place of the urine. (Al-Bukhari)

Finally I would like to add another saying of the Prophet that proves that Muslims should be conscious to treat their sons and daughters justly:

“Fear Allah and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

From all the above hadith we see Prophet Muhammad’s attitude toward children is an example for the whole human race that shows how to treat them and cherish them at all times.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Marriage: It’s your choice!


Marriage: It’s your choice!

By Amatullah Abdullah

Saleema was sitting on the bed in her bedroom, staring at the beautiful red sari which had rich jardosi embroidery on the borders.

"Saleema baaji … Saleema baaji!" Sabeera sounded excited as she entered Saleema’s room.

"Baaji , guess what?!…." The excitement in her tone increased

"Papa has agreed to take me to perform Hajj after your wedding…"

Saleema forced a light smile and said in a low voice," "Oh that’s good Sabeera. I am happy for you."

"Baaji you don’t sound too good… are you ok?" Sabeera asked with concern.

"I’m ok, don’t worry …I haven’t slept properly for the past two days so I’m just tired," Saleema patted her sister’s head and smiled.

"Oh ok! I understand , you’re gonna be married in a week, so you must be nervous and excited and the excitement is not allowing you to sleep I guess! "Sabeera winked at her sister. Her eyes fell on the red sari.

"Wow this is so beautiful baaji, you’re gonna look like a doll in this sari!" Sabeera exclaimed pointing to the red sari on Saleema’s bed.

Saleema smiled, "Is Ummi back from mousy’s house? "

"Not yet," Sabeera answered, "I just got a call from the tailor and she said she would finish Ummi’s sari in another two days. I wanted to inform Ummi about this. Please inform her about this because I might forget. My memory hasn’t been good for the past few days" Saleema told her.

"Sure Baaji I’ll do that, but now I better go and clean my room before Ummi comes!" Sabeera pecked a kiss on her sister’s cheek and left her room.

Saleema was alone. She latched her door, leaned against it, and closed her eyes, tears gushed from her eyes flowing on her cheeks. Her heart told her, "Saleema, you have your freedom of choice, you have the right to choose and you need to express your feelings before it is too late. Marriage is for tranquility. Will you have tranquility in this marriage, which you don’t want?"

Saleema asked herself, "but how will I tell them, what if they alienate me and hate me for expressing my feelings about this man?" She struggled with her heart, which was insisting her to express her feelings. Finally, she decided to tell aunt Najeeba, her father’s sister who she considered to be the most understanding and considerate member in the family.

After an hour had passed, Saleema heard her mother’s voice downstairs and went down slowly on the steps to speak to her mother. Saleema’s mother came back from her aunt’s house. She brought a dazzling traditional jewelry set for her to wear on the wedding day.

"As Salaamu Alaikum , ummi…" Saleema said softly. Her mother turned around with a big smile on her face when she saw Saleema.

"Wa Alaikum Salaam. Saleema, look at this! I got this jewelry set for you. See whether you like it?"

"It’s beautiful," Saleema said with a smile.

"I know, and you will look gorgeous in this. I can’t wait to see you as a bride!" her mother was euphoric at the thought.

Saleema smiled faintly and said "Ummi, will mousy be coming home today….?" before she completed her sentence, she heard the door bell. Saleema answered the door hoping and wishing that it would be Aunt Najeeba and it was…

"As Salaamu Alaikum!" Najeeba greeted as she entered the house.

Saleema was glad that her aunt came and hugged and kissed her, "Wa alaikum salaam mousy. I knew you would be coming today …"

Najeeba laughed and said "I come here almost every day, especially since your wedding got fixed. Tasneem would not leave me even if I don’t come…" pointing to her mother.

Tasneem laughed and greeted her "As Salaamu Alaikum, of course, how could I leave you? You are not only my SIL but also my best friend and the bride’s to be aunt." Najeeba sat on the sofa with a huge grin and remarked to Saleema, "So, you must be counting your days now…"

Saleema sat quietly next to her aunt. Her mother and aunt were busy discussing the wedding and other ceremonies, which would be held before and after the wedding. Indian weddings have a lot of add-on ceremonies; a mehndi function, another reception after the wedding, etc.

Saleema pretended to read a magazine till her mother left to set the table and prepare lunch for them. Saleema was alone with her aunt Najeeba. She became restless and was wondering how to approach the subject about her feelings for the man who she is going to marry. Najeeba noticed Saleema’s restlessness and asked her "Do you want to say something Saleema?"

Najeeba could sense Saleema’s attitude as Saleema usually poured out her feelings and thoughts only to her aunt. Saleema always approached Najeeba if she had any problem and needed counsel.

"Yes mousy , I want to talk to you alone" she said. Najeeba got up, saying "Okay let’s go to your room." They both went to Saleema’s room and Saleema latched her door. Najeeba was looking at Saleema with worry.

"What is it Saleema ?" she asked. Saleema was thinking of how to start the topic and then said , "It is about my wedding Mousy."

"What about it?" Najeeba asked

"Oh mousy I really don’t know how to start…" Saleema’s eyes were filled with tears, "Mousy let me be honest with you. I don’t want to marry Ahmed"

Najeeba was shocked to hear this; her eyes widened. "But why, what’s wrong with him?"

"I grew up with him Mousy and my heart has always seen him as my own brother and now suddenly everybody says I am gonna marry him and my marriage date is fixed without my permission." Saleema said tearfully.


"My heart is not inclined towards him. I cannot accept him as my husband. Oh please Mousy help me," Saleema pleaded.

"Saleema sweetie, the marriage is fixed and now don’t you think it is too late…" Najeeba said softly. Saleema’s tone rose, "Mousy it will be too late only after marriage!" she busted into tears.

Najeeba hugged her niece and said, "Sweetie, even I had the same feeling when I married my husband but in course of time I started getting comfortable with him especially after having children…"

"What if I end up not being compatible after marriage?" Saleema asked her hurriedly

"But you will… I was not happy for 15 years but now I am happy, in fact very happy," Najeeba said trying to persuade her.

"GOOD!" Saleema said irritably.

"So you want me to marry him and wait till I become forty to have a comfortable married life?" Saleema was angry and disappointed, "I thought you would be the only one who would understand me." She added, sadly, "Nobody asked my permission Mousy. Everybody arranged this and then they come and tell me that I am gonna marry Ahmed and my marriage is fixed."

"I do understand sweetie but this is our culture. We all went through the same thing which you are going through," Najeeba said pathetically and hugged her niece.

"So I HAVE to marry him and I have no other choice?" Saleema asked desolately.

"Yes sweetie, being born as girls, we need to be patient and undergo all this. Allah will reward you for your patience," Najeeba said. Saleema was unable to hold back her tears and cried so much that Najeeba’s sari blouse got soaked with them. Najeeba kissed Saleema and tried to pacify her…

* * *


Islam, a way of life, is a religion that is moderate and balanced. Islam has the Qur’an and Sunnah to guide the people. Now what does Islam say about this situation?

Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya, that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Apostle and he declared that marriage invalid. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 69)

He (saws) also said:

"The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained." (AlBukhari)

"Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise." (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).

Marriage is a beautiful and a sacred bond which allows each spouse to live in tranquility.

"And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect." (Qur’an 30:21)

There are thousands of "Saleemas" in different parts of the world. They are forced into marriages and the result is that they too ruin their own daughters’ lives. Parents or guardians need to reflect on the words of Prophet Muhammad and the Noble Qur’an before they give in to their culture, if they call themselves Muslims.

After knowing what the Prophet (saws) said, can we still consider forced marriages to be valid in the sight of Allah???

************************

© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I Discovered A Friend!


As a writer I wanted to explore different areas of writing. This is my first fiction piece.

I Discovered A Friend!

Aisha was lying in bed 207 in the main block of Sumathi hospital, used by the less privileged in society. The shoddy furnishings that made up the ward exposed the quality of the Hospital. Dark deep cuts ran across Aisha’s pretty face. Salma and Shrin, about 16 stood at her bedside. Their dressings seemed trendy, in line with the latest in teen magazines. Salma was normally a poised young lady, but she looked somewhat uncomfortable on that particular morning.


Aisha looked at Salma and Shrin and asked them in a weak voice, “Where is Chitti?”


“She is outside,” replied Salma.


“Do you want me to call her?” asked Shrin.


“I want to tell her something” Aisha said in a fragile tone.


“You stay with her Salma I’ll go and get Aunt Jamilah” Shrin instructed as she left the room in search of Aunt Jamilah.


Salma nodded.


Salma was left alone with Aisha. She went and sat on the chair, which was near the bed. She placed her elbow on the edge of the bed in which Aisha was lying and placed her hand on her cheeks. Few minutes had passed and still Shrin was not back. Salma lowered her left hand looked at her watch without making it obvious that she was bored. This time, when she raised her head and looked at Aisha, she froze, a tinge of concern and shiver ran through her body when she saw at Aisha’s face losing colour.


“Goodness! What’s going to happen!?” she thought to herself.


Salma stood up and stroked Aisha’s head.


“Don’t worry, you’ll be all right,” Salma said and fought with her tears.


Aisha had been in the hospital for the past 3 days after a truck ran down on her. Salma, reluctant at first to pay her sick classmate a visit, agreed to pay a visit to Aisha in the hospital only after Shrin told her that Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him had highly recommended to visit people who are old and sick.


“I’m sorry; because of me everybody’s summer vacation is ruined.” Aisha sounded guilty and sad.


Aisha was always considerate, helpful and concerned about others. Her helpless state caused her more pain than the hurt of her wounds. She always found happiness in helping other. She hated troubling anyone and always preferred to help than being helped. Now being in this plight, she thought she bothered others and this made her feel miserable.


Salma held Aisha’s hand tightly and said “No, not at all. Our dear friend is more important to us than our vacation…”


Aisha’s lips curved lightly into a light smile and said,” Thank you.”


“Salma, can you please open that drawer and take that envelope from there?” Aisha asked

Salma pointing to a table, which was in the corner. The table looked old and crooked with a rusted handle. Salma went to the table that was in the corner, pulled the draw, and took the envelope. It was a white long envelope. Salma was surprised to see that it was addressed to her. She looked at Aisha who nodded,
“That is for you Salma,” Aisha said.


Just then, Shrin entered the room with Jamilah. Jamilah, a woman who seemed to be in her mid forties looked elegant in her black burkha and scarf inspite of her stout stature. Aisha gestured the woman to come and sit next to her.


“Chitti...” she wanted to say something but found it difficult to speak.


“What is it sweetheart?” Jamilah touched Aisha’s cheeks gently.


“Chitthi, they will take me to the operation theatre for my surgery in another one hour….” Aisha paused and then continued. “Before I leave I wanted to tell you something.” She paused again for a minute and then continued, “Since the time I have known you, you have taken care of me like your own daughter. I never saw my parents...” Aisha could not hold back her tears this time. She held Jamilah’s hands and kissed it with her dimmed energy.


“You have been my mother Chitti and you are my mother…only Allah knows whether I will be alive or dead after the surgery,” Aisha told her and fought with her breath.


“Insha’Allah you’ll be fine sweetheart,” told Jamilah holding back her emotions that poured while Aisha spoke.


Jamilah was a strong woman who raised her sister’s daughter after her sister and her brother-in-law died in a car accident. Now, she sees Aisha in the same condition in which her sister and brother-in-law were 14 years back. Though Jamilah had two children of her own, she took care of Aisha who was always obedient and well mannered, like her own daughter. Jamilah was unable to see her beloved niece like this. The doctor had informed them that Aisha would need to undergo a surgery.


“Yes Chitti I do want to live if Allah wills and want to be always helpful to you and everyone,” Aisha said sincerely.


Jamliah hugged her niece, “Insha’Allah you’ll be fine after the surgery…” she kissed her niece’s forehead. Jamilah took her hands away from Aisha.


“No!” Jamilah shrieked.


Aisha was bleeding and she saw blood on her hands and pillow and shuddered. When Shrin saw the blood she almost fainted and Salma froze.


“We need to call the doctor immediately,” Jamilah told Salma. Icy shivers of anxiety ran up Salma’s spine.


“Please call the doctor…” Jamilah cried.


Salma was unable to move and her heart was beating wildly. Shrin dialed the emergency number on the intercom. The doctor arrived with two nurses and checked Aisha’s pulse.


“Hurry we need to rush her to the operating theatre,” the doctor told the nurse.


Before they took Aisha to the operating theatre her pulse stopped and her soul left her body. Jamilah who held back her emotions all this time burst into tears and broke down. Salma remained frozen till she heard Jamilah’s cry. Salma and Shrin tried to help Aunt Jamilah and tried to pacify her…


----------------------------


Salma rang the doorbell. She looked pale and exhausted as though she had not slept for weeks. A tall beautiful and elegant looking woman opened the door.


“As Salaamu Alaikum Salma!” she greeted Salma with a smile.


“Wa Alaikum salaam Amma,” Salma replied in a weary voice.


Anisa, Salma’s mother was in her late thirties. She found the usual warm beautiful smile on her daughter’s face was missing. She looked at Salma worried as Salma went and sat on the cushioned sofa and opened the letter, which Aisha gave her. Anisa saw tears rolling down Salma’s cheeks who was reading the letter,


“I don’t believe this!” Salma cried shaking her head, trying to balance herself physically and emotionally.


“What’s wrong Salma?” Anisa asked her.


“A…A...Ammaa…” Salma could not talk and bursted into tears.


Anisa never saw her daughter crying like this before. She came and sat next to Salma. Salma tucked her head on her mother’s shoulders. Anisa hugged her and patted her back gently.


“Relax sweetie…what happened? I have never seen you crying like this before.” Anisa asked her.


Salma wiped her tears from her cheeks and eyes. Her long beautiful eyelashes were still wet with her tears. Salma gathered her energy to talk to her mother,


“Amma …” She said, “Do you remember Aisha?”


Anisa nodded her head, “Isn’t she the one who always kept calling you up and always invited you to her place.”


“Yes Amma, she is the one,” she said.


“What about her?” Anisa asked.


"She died this morning…” Salma buried her face in her hands and cried.


Anisa immediately said, “To Allah we belong and to Allah we will return.”


And then continued, “What happened …was she unwell?”


Salma said, “She met with an accident. A truck ran down on her and she was admitted in the hospital. The doctor said there was nothing to worry about and we thought she would be fine … she suddenly started bleeding terribly … and she died…I am feeling guilty Amma!”


Anisa hugged her daughter and said, “Sweetie, everybody has an appointed time and it was time for her soul to leave this temporary abode…why do you feel guilty, this is all Allah’s will, nothing can stop anybody’s death.”


“I know Amma …I am guilty because I was a horrible friend!” Salma cried.


Baffled by these words, Anisa looked at Salma. Salma continued with her eyes filled with tears, “Every time she called me, I was annoyed and found her boring. I felt she was unpopular. She did not have the same interest I had…no music, no movies, no fashion…I kept ignoring her and she told me she yearned to have a friend like me and she wanted me to be her friend.”


Anisa was listening to her daughter patiently nodding her head. Salma looked up at her mother and continued confessing her attitude and her behaviour towards her friend when she was alive.
“She was a great friend. She always tried to give me gifts and tried inviting me home so many times. But… I kept ignoring all this and secretly wished she would leave me alone, and spoke ill of her when I was with my other friends. The last time she called me was yesterday and asked me if I could visit her…I became agitated but Shrin insisted that we would go visit her as she is sick.”


“Alhamdulillah, she never knew -- she really thought you were a good friend. At least you gave her that happiness.” Anisa said thoughtfully.


Salma paused and stammered to get the words again to speak, “ W…w…when I… I… I… read the letter she gave me…I feel horrible after reading the words ‘Good friends are precious! Thank you for being my friend’.”


She continued, “The only people around her when she died were me, Shrin and her aunt. She is an orphan so only her aunt was the only relative near her when she died. Her face was so beautiful after her soul left her body.” She raced with her words breathing hard.


She paused and then continued, “Do you know Amma what she wrote in that letter?”


Anisa asked her, “What did she write?” She sounded eager to know the content of the letter thinking that it might be the content which is upsetting her daughter.


Salma said, “The letter said I was her best friend. She was an orphan. She mentioned that she yearned to have a best friend but she never had any, till she met me…” Salma buried her face in her hands and started to cry …


Anisa poured some water into the glass and gave her to drink. After a glass of water she continued,” The truth is, I never treated her like my friend. Friends are supposed to care for each other but I didn’t and instead I spoke ill of her behind her back. I was never proud to have her around me…but to be honest; she was the best friend I have ever had…. She never expected anything from me though she was needy, she was always smiling and helpful and she never hesitated to correct me when I was wrong but I used to hate that and always snubbed her…she always praised me if I did a good job at work.”


“Amma, I have lost a wonderful opportunity of taking her and treating her as my best friend.” Salma said.


“No! Only now you got a friend” Anisa said smiling at her daughter.


“What makes you say that Amma?” Salma asked earnestly.


“Aisha made you realise your faults after her soul left this world. Now every time you do something, you will remember her and her words of advice… won't you?” Anisa asked.


Salma nodded.


“Well, her words are living in your heart and those words are your friend! Salma…A friend is someone who would make us almost invincible and helps us with his or her counsel when we face a problem.”


Anisa added, “Many people will walk in and out of your life; but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart…Aisha has left footprints in your heart which will never be wiped out!”
Salma nodded “Yes Amma, you are right, I have discovered my true friend!”


***********************************************

Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dowry In Islam?!



DOWRY IN ISLAM?!


A woman holds a very high status in Islamic faith. She is honoured and respected at all times, but many startling transgressions have crept into Islamic practice. These transgressions have been caused by cultural influence that has no basis in Islamic scripture.

Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent have slowly incorporated the act of dowry into their lives. Dowry originated in the upper caste Hindu communities as a wedding gift (cash or valuables) from the bride's family to the groom's family. There is nothing strange or unique about a culture influencing Muslim practice, as it is a common characteristic around the globe that when a new religion spreads in an area, people who live in that area retain some of the customs and traditions which they have been practicing for centuries. There is nothing wrong with this as long as those practices do not contradict Islamic law. The practice of dowry, however, does in fact transgress Islamic law.

We usually use the word gift for something, which we give voluntarily, to a person we like. A gift is something that strengthens the friendship bond between two people. Dowry, which is usually defined as a “gift” given along with the bride, by a bride’s family to the bridegroom, is used as tool of coercion and greed in societies like India. The bride’s family must give this “gift” or the marriage will not take place. Always the price of the dowry is set higher than the bride’s family can afford and sadly, this results in the bride becoming a burden on her family. The bride’s family then struggles to pay the “gift”.

In Islam it is the the man who pays Mahr(dower) to the woman . The following verses in the Qur’an proves that it is the man who is obligated to pay the Mahr (dower) to the woman unless the woman chooses not to take it.

"And give women (on marriage) their dower (Mahr) as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer." (Al-Qur'an : Al-Nisa' :4)

Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with Mahr ( dower, a bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. (Al-Qur'an :Al-Nisa' :24)


Cultures that demands dowry from the bride’s family, are actually practicing the opposite of what Allah commanded. They have reversed Allah’s words in their practice. The bride is forced to pay a negotiated amount to the groom unless the man chooses not to take it.

When the woman brings less than the negotiated amount, she has to endure constant torture from her in-laws after marriage. When the husband or in-laws are not satisfied with the dowry brought by the bride, they even go to the extent of killing the woman after marriage. The most severe among all the dowry abuse is “bride burning”. The parties engaged in the murder usually report the case as an accident or suicide.

While dowry abuse is most common among Hindus, it is rising among Muslims too. Dowry abuse is rising in the Indian Sub continent despite a Dowry Prohibition Act being passed in 1961. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports 6,285 dowry deaths in 2003. The official records are always under reported. It is obvious that this crime is under reported, for e.g.: In Delhi 90% of cases of woman being burnt are recorded as accidents, five percent as suicides and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder. The statistics of dowry deaths in whole of India is spine chilling

Many women remain unmarried due to this dowry. Even worse is that, when Muslim men who intend on honoring the Mahr(dower) to the bride, the bride rejects them. The women prefer to remain unmarried rather marrying some one who is not from their culture.

Another practice is that people tend to exchange their sons. In other words, they give a bridegroom (mostly their son) to a girl to be married in exchange for a bridegroom from girl’s family (the bride-to-be’s brother or any unmarried male relative) so that they can have their daughters married without dowry. This places an incredible disadvantage on the parents who have daughters and no sons. The parents of daughters end up giving money to get their daughters married!

It is a sad irony that women (mostly mothers-in-law) end up being the ones who direct oppressive attitudes toward other women (daughters- in-law). Mostly, mothers-in-law-to- be are the ones who demand dowry from the bride’s family and who end up torturing the daughter-in-law after marriage if she brings less than the negotiated amount.

Syed* (35 from Chennai, India) says, “It is difficult to find a bride who would be able afford all that my mom asks…because of this I am still unmarried”

When I asked his mother why she is demanding a dowry from the bride, she said, “We have spent so much on our son, for his education, for raising him and now we will marry him off and most of the money he earns will go to his wife. So she will be benefited from all the money we spent on him. For that they can pay some amount to have our son.”

Ahmed* (29 from Delhi, India) says” I don’t want to take any dowry but can’t stop my parents from asking as I will disrespect them if I do so.”

So in an effort to respect parents and to conform to cultural norms, Muslim youth in India are bending over backwards to follow traditions that aren’t even rooted in Islam. Demanding dowry and getting married may seem valid in the eyes of many, but will the marriage be validated in the eyes of Allah ?

Dowry is purely a matter of culture. One should not feel obliged to continue these unIslamic traditions. If a culture contains unIslamic aspects, then one should not feel any shame to break the culture’s traditional practices.

The practice of dowry has caused Muslims in many parts of the world to continue their prejudices against women despite the Islamic prohibitions against it. In the Indian subcontinent, a woman is considered to be a great burden mainly because of the dowry system. Here, it is common to see people rejoicing over the birth of a son and lamenting over the birth of daughter. In India, the reason why people prefer male children over female children is mainly due to cultural practices such as dowry. Why aren’t people listening to the message of Islam instead of following the customs of others around them?

Allah has given us warning of this in the Qur’an. Allah tells us that infanticide is a grave sin and that favor of one gender over the other has no grounds in Islam.

When news is brought to one of them, of (the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Al-Qur'an: An Nahl: 58-59)

As Muslims, we should consider, the birth of daughters to be a great blessing. In addition to the Qur’an, the Hadiths also carry the message to value women.

Malik reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: He, who brought up two girls properly till they grew up, he and I would come (together) (very closely) on the Day of Resurrection, and he interlaced his fingers (for explaining the point of nearness between him and that person). [Sahih Muslim: Book 032, Number 6364]

Narrated 'Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) A lady along with her two daughters came to me asking me (for some alms), but she found nothing with me except one date which I gave to her and she divided it between her two daughters, and then she got up and went away. Then the Prophet came in and I informed him about this story. He said, "Whoever is in charge of (put to test by) these daughters and treats them generously, then they will act as a shield for him from the (Hell) Fire." [Sahih Bukhari :Volume 8, Book 73, Number 24]


It is so unfortunate to see the people submitting themselves to the dictates of culture than to the will of Allah who is our Creator, Cherisher and the Sustainer.
Islam stresses fairness and kindness. Islam ensures that boys and girls are treated equally. Discrimination between children because of their gender is not advocated in Islam.

Narrated Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas: I was stricken by an ailment that led me to the verge of death. The Prophet came to pay me a visit. I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have much property and no heir except my single daughter. Shall I give two-thirds of my property in charity?" He said, "No." I said, "Half of it?" He said, "No." I said, "One-third of it?" He said, "You may do so) though one-third is also to a much, for it is better for you to leave your off-spring wealthy than to leave them poor, asking others for help. [Sahih Bukhari : Volume 8, Book 80, Number 725]

Let us not succumb to the fitanh caused by culture and let us stand firm in practicing Islam by enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong!

Let there arise out of you
A band of people
Inviting to all that is good,
Enjoining what is right,
And forbidding what is wrong:
They are the ones
To attain felicity.'
(Al-Qur'an :Aal-e-Imran : 104)



*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those interviewed

Please send your comments & suggestions to: amatullah110@yahoo.com
© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Eating: An Act of Worship

Eating: An Act of Worship


By Amatullah Abdullah
July 6, 2005


What strikes your mind when some one mentions worship? Most people would answer: a ritualistic act performed in a prescribed place in a set manner, or something along those lines.


In Islam, every act done in day-to-day life is considered as worship if done in accordance to the ways prescribed by God (Allah). Islam says a Muslim will be rewarded for every single act he or she does when done within the prescribed law. Eating, an act done to fulfill physical needs, is considered as a form of worship when done in the way prescribed by Allah and Prophet Muhammad, as well as the right intention.


Food plays a prevalent role in an individual’s life. There is no denying that food is one of the necessary requirements for the survival of a human being.
Islam acknowledges the importance of consuming food to nourish the body and mind. Only when the body is healthy, can the mind be healthy.

Food in the Qur’an

The Qur’an and Sunnah recommend food rich in nutrients. [O You people: eat of what is on earth, lawful and wholesome] (Al-Baqarah 2: 168).


The Qur’an also says what means:
[So eat of (meats), on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced if ye have faith in his signs.]

[So eat of (meats), on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced if ye have faith in his signs.] (Al-An`am 6:118)

[The game of the sea and its food are permitted to you.] (Al-Ma’idah 5: 99)

[Pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink.] (An-Nahl 16:66)

[He it is who produceth gardens with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds and olives and pomegranates, similar and different, eat of their fruit in season.] (An-Nahl 16:141)


Live to Eat, or Eat to Live?

Islam emphasizes the concept of moderation in eating. Muslims are expected to eat for survival, to maintain good health, and not to live for eating. Moderation in dietary habits can help people to lead healthy and balanced life. Modern research has proven that excessive eating and improper diet can increase the chance of diseases such as obesity, cholesterol, heart diseases, and diabetes.
With regards to food, as with many other subjects, in Islam, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, overeating has been strongly discouraged in the Qur’an and Sunnah.


[Eat and drink and be not immoderate. Verily Allah does not like the transgressors.] (Al-A`raf 7:31)

The Qur’an also says what means:
[Eat of the good things We have provided for your, sustenance, but commit no excess therein.] (Taha 20:8 1)

In addition to the Qur’an, many hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad encourage moderation:

“No man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man. But if he must eat more, than he should fill one third (of his stomach) with food, one third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing” (Reported by Ahmad)


Reading these Qur’anic verses and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, some people may think that Islam is too caught up with details of everyday life. Why is so much attention given to something like food and eating, when there are more important things like charity, mercy, love, and piety to be discussed? This stress on daily details of life is, however, part of the worldview of Islam. The essence of Islam lies in the relationship between the human being and his or her Creator: God (Allah). Therefore, Islam lays down suggestions and rules for living in order to promote the maintenance of the kind of living that achieves the best results for this relationship. Consequently, Islam believes that optimum spiritual health can only be achieved if one is physically sound.


Food with Healing Properties


There are many Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings that recommend certain foods such as honey, dates, figs, milk, and olives, for their healing properties.
For example, the Qur’an mentions the healing properties of honey:

[And thy Lord inspired the bee, saying: Choose thou habitations in the hills and in the trees and in that which they thatch;
Then eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of thy Lord, made smooth (for thee). There cometh forth from their bellies a drink divers of hues, wherein is healing for mankind. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for people who reflect.] (An-Nahl 16:68-69)


The date, a fruit known for its rich nutrient value, is also recommended.
The Prophet Muhammad said, “There is a tree among the trees which is similar to a Muslim (in goodness), and that is the date palm tree.” (Narrated by Bukhari)


The olive is mentioned several times in the Qur’an.


[He it is Who produceth gardens trellised and untrellised, and the date-palm, and crops of divers flavour, and the olive and the pomegranate, like and unlike. Eat ye of the fruit thereof when it fruiteth, and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day, and be not prodigal. Lo! Allah loveth not the prodigals.] (Al-An`am 6:141)


Prohibited Foods in Islam


In Islam, all foods are allowed except for those which are harmful. The Qur’an lays down injunctions regarding diet.


[He has only forbidden you carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of God. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience or transgressing due limits, then is he guiltless. For God is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful.] (Al-Baqarah 2: 173)


[Forbidden to you for food are: Carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which has been invoked the same of other than God, that which has been killed by strangling, by violent blow, by a headlong fall or by being gored to death; that which has been partly eaten by a wild animal unless you are able to slaughter it (in due form), that which is sacrificed on stone (alters); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who rejected faith given up all hope of your religion: So fear them not, but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, God is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.] (Al-Mai’dah 5:4)


Alcohol is also prohibited. [They question thee about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness. And they ask thee what they ought to spend. Say: that which is superfluous. Thus Allah maketh plain to you (His) revelations, that haply ye may reflect.] (Al-Baqarah 2:219)


Eating and Drinking Etiquette

Islam also stresses proper eating and drinking etiquette.


Some examples of etiquette which are encouraged include washing one’s hands before and after eating, saying “in the name of Allah” before starting to eat, never eating unless one is hungry, never indulging in excessive eating or drinking, sitting while drinking, and finally, returning back to the main objective of helping people to improve and elevate their relationship with their Creator, praising and thanking Allah for the blessings of food and drink.


Please send your comments & suggestions to: amatullah110@yahoo.com
© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.

Published in www.islamonline.net
http://www.islamonline.net/ENGLISH/INTRODUCINGISLAM/Individual/article10.SHTML