"Our Dialogue" 6th Edition Rev

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I have given a detailed answer on what actions may be of benefit to a deceased person, when performed by his relatives. I said that Allah may well credit to the deceased person the reward of any sadaqah or charitable donation or recitation of the Qur'an or pilgrimage made on his behalf. Allah also answers any supplication by living people to forgive the dead person and bestow His mercy on him. However, all that should be spontaneous, done with sincerity of purpose and purity of intention. It must have the right motivation and the proper method of Islamic worship. Thus, to gather students or teachers of the local Qur'anic school to recite the Qur'an for the deceased and then to reward them financially is not acceptable. To imagine that people can prevent the angels from accomplishing a task Allah has assigned to them is totally mistaken. To give financial reward to a person in return for his recitation of the Qur'an for any purpose is not permissible. Indeed it is forbidden to both the reciter and the one who employs him to do so. The reciter may not receive wages for his recitation and the other person commits an offense by hiring him for that purpose.

Having weekly, monthly or 40-day or yearly anniversaries, when you perform certain tasks, is also an innovation. Although the tasks performed are aspects of Islamic worship, it is not permissible to institutionalize them in the way they have been in your area. As you realize, these traditions place a financial burden on relatives, but they do not earn them any reward in return. It is far better for the relatives of a deceased person to pray Allah to forgive him as often as they wish, without conforming to any social traditions associating such an action with a passage of so many days or years after his death. All these habits you have mentioned are totally unacceptable and completely un-Islamic.

• Death: Washing the dead spouse

According to an Urdu weekly published in Lucknow, the husband of a deceased woman cannot give her a bath. This is because their marriage is annulled on the death of either spouse, which deprives the other of all rights acquired through marriage. The only concession is that he can see her face. I had earlier read that Ali bathed the body of his wife Fatimah, the Prophet's daughter, while Abu Bakr, the first caliph was given a bath by his wife. Could you please clarify this point.

That a marriage comes to an end on death of either partner may be technically correct. But this is only a technicality which does not deprive either party of the results of their having been married. By extension one can say that every relationship ends with death. As for the point you are asking about, it is the normal practice that the body of a deceased woman is washed by another woman. However, it is permissible for either spouse to wash the other in preparation for burial. Moreover, if a woman dies and there is no woman in the locality who is willing to give her the final bath, it is certainly far better that she should be washed in that case by her husband.

I suppose that the author of that piece you read in the Urdu magazine has based his point of view totally on a very small technical point. He made a deduction which may cause an unnecessary inconvenience and which is in conflict with what the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, did.

• Death: Washing the dead — reasons for

What is the reason for washing a dead person before burying him, when we know that the process of decomposition starts with death?

When a person dies and he is prepared for burial, all his body is washed, in the same way as a living person washes his body to remove the state of ceremonial impurity. Death marks the end of the stage of our life on earth, and the beginning of another state which leads to life in the hereafter. The departure from this life is thus marked by an act of symbolic purification.

The decomposition that takes place is a process which will eventually be reversed as we are resurrected. Therefore, the symbolic gesture of purification is useful because it marks an end to a stage of life where purification is necessary before any act of worship. It signifies that one is approaching the next stage without any lingering impurity.

• Debt: Comments on a bad debt

In an earlier answer on Zakah and bad debts, you mentioned that we do not own our money. It belongs to Allah and we are placed in charge of it. With this concept in mind, how can we explain "loss" or "profit"? The way I would look at it is that when you do not receive your money back, you are losing money that belongs to Allah but at the same time you are gaining Allah's reward for not demanding it and for writing it off. If the money is returned, you have the chance to use it for a good purpose as well as Allah's reward for doing a good deed. Please comment.

I like your comments, but I would not go as far as you have. If you lend money to someone and he does not return it, though he is able to do so, you certainly have lost it. It is true that you will gain reward from Allah for doing a good turn to someone in need, but it is Allah who has placed you in charge of something that He owns. He also allowed you the privilege of putting your money to a good purpose of your own choice, including every legitimate matter which brings you, your family and other people comfort and happiness. If someone defrauds you of that privilege by borrowing some of your money and deliber­ately refusing or neglecting to return it, then he is taking away from you something that Allah has given you. It is not for any human being to do that.

On the other hand, Allah urges us to postpone repayment dates of loans other people may owe to us, if we know that the borrower is insolvent. If we do so, or, better still, write the loan off, we certainly earn generous reward from Allah. He has also made it clear that we may ask for any legitimate guarantees that what we lend to others is returned to us. The longest verse in the Qur'an deals with the need to write down the terms and con­ditions of loans that we may make. It requires believers to write down these terms and to have witnesses to the contract. The Prophet also describes as an injustice the action of a person who delays repayment of a debt when he is able to repay it.

• Debt: Compensation for late payment

I gave money on loan to a friend for a specified period of time. When the payment was due, my friend, though acknowledging the debt, claimed that he was not in a position to pay. What sort of sanctions has Islam prescribed in such a situation? Am I entitled to any compensation for late payment?

When a case of unpaid debts is referred to an Islamic court, the judge is required to look at the financial position of the debtor. If he finds out that debtor appears to have money in hand, he will order him to repay immediately. If he refuses, the judge may order that he be imprisoned until he has paid his debts. If, however, he claims to be insolvent, the lender is required to wait until he has funds to repay. This is not something that he does by choice. Order to delay payment in such cases is given by Allah in the Qur'an. If the lender foregoes his money in such a case, he will be highly rewarded by Allah, and the reward will outweigh by far the benefit he may receive from regaining the money he had lent. Such an action of forgoing an unpaid debt because of the insolvency of the debtor must be voluntary. No pressure needs to be placed on the lender to relinquish his rights.

I should perhaps remind you that an insolvent debtor is one of the beneficiaries of zakah. Islam recognizes the difficulty of one who finds himself in a position when he cannot repay his debts. The system of social security which Islam establishes takes care of such people who may have tried hard not to get to such a position. They are helped with zakah funds so that they are relieved of the pressures of being in debt and unable to repay.

Compensation to the lender for late payment is unacceptable in Islam. It is akin to usury which Islam strictly forbids. What is the difference between a moneylender who determines beforehand that he will receive a certain amount or percentage over and above the amount he has lent, and one who exacts a financial punishment for late payments? Perhaps I should add that lending to a person in need is an act of kindness. Therefore, you must not waste your reward which you are sure to have from Allah by insisting on having compensation for the late payment, especially if the borrower is truly insolvent.

• Debt: Incurred to help parents perform pilgrimage

In order to call my parents to perform the pilgrimage, I am arranging a loan from my employers. How far is this acceptable?

Your keenness to help your parents perform pilgrimage is highly commendable. You are prepared to incur a debt for that purpose. That is a genuine mark of dutifulness. However, you are under no obligation to do that, either as a gesture of dutifulness or for any other reason. Incurring a debt is not something that Islam encourages, even when the reason for it is to perform a religious duty.

Having said that, I wish to add that a pilgrimage financed by partially borrowed money remains valid. Therefore, if you go ahead and borrow from your employers in order to help your parents come for pilgrimage, their pilgrimage will be valid.

Not all loans are the same. For example, if you are borrowing a relatively small amount which will be deducted from your salary over a few months and what is left from your salary is sufficient for your needs, then that is all right. Such an arrangement is definitely better than obtaining a personal loan, the repayment of which may represent a heavy burden. Moreover, if your position with your employers is such as to earn you a decent sum of money on the termination of your employment, either at the expiry of your contract or in the case of early termination, and that payment is enough to settle any outstanding part of your loan, then to borrow from your employers in order to help your parents do the pilgrimage is perfectly appropriate.

• Decorative figurines

I collect rabbit figurines as a hobby. Some of these are more stylized and abstract while others are more realistic. Some people object to them, but they are not more than charming decorations. What is the proper view?

Such figurines are not statues. They are not thought of as idols by anyone. There is no harm in using them as house decorations.

• Delivery by a male Doctor

Is it permissible for a Muslim woman to have her baby delivered by a male doctor?

In normal circumstances, a Muslim woman should have her baby delivered by a Muslim woman midwife or doctor. It is not permissible for her to reveal of her body what a man is not allowed to see of her. However, there are circumstances which make a woman's condition particularly difficult and she needs to be attended by an experienced or specialized male doctor. It may happen that such a doctor, with the necessary expertise, cannot be found among the lady doctors in the community. In such circumstances, if the man doctor equipped with the necessary experience attends her delivery, that is permissible. One must not forget that this is in an emergency case and emergencies are treated individually, according to the need and the risk involved in every particular case. [ Added: e.g. Haraam meat is permissible to save life, so long as it is not taken more than absolutely necessary to sustain life. It is the niyyah that is the crucial factor.] The rule is that if a woman can do the job in hand satisfactorily, resort to a man is not permissible to a Muslim patient. When the skill or experience required is possessed only by a man, his services may be employed within what is needed.

• Depression: Islamic way to overcome it

What is the best Islamic way to overcome depression? (which results from thinking about the past, loss of friends, fear of getting old, possible death of parents, etc.)

The sort of depression you ask about is easily dispelled when one remembers that every­thing in this life is decreed by Allah. We all get older and it is possible for a young person to lose his or her parents. None of us know what the future brings to us. We may be close friends with a person today and in a short period that person becomes far away from us. All such happenings should be accepted with patience. One should know that whatever happens in this life, takes place only with Allah's will. When we remember Islamic values, we accept such events with resignation and we can easily submit our will to Allah. When we do that, we view any happenings in our lives as trivial. We are able to look at life in a more detached and reasonable way. No event in the life of a human being represents the end of the road, except his own death. Allah takes care of us and we should entrust ourselves to His will. When we are true believers, we view every development in our life as good. We can easily submit to it as it represents Allah's will.

A prayer which helps overcome such depression should be addressed to the causes of depression themselves. The Prophet teaches us that we should pray according to the situation we find ourselves in. There are, in addition, prayers which the Prophet himself used. One of these which is relevant here is that which says: "My Lord, I seek refuge with You against worry and depression, disability and laziness, cowardliness and miserliness, being overburdened with debt and being subject to oppression."

• Devil — the powers of

Could you please give your view on the mysteries like "the Bermuda Triangle" where ships and airplanes are said to have disappeared without a trace. Who is responsible for such actions? They cannot be of Allah's doing, but could they be the work of the devil or space creatures?

I do not know much about the Bermuda Triangle. Nor should a Muslim be over-concerned with its history. What we should know is that events that take place in the universe are subject to the law of cause and effect. If a ship is lost in the sea, there must be a reason for its sinking. It cannot just disappear and leave no trace. If it is true that ships are being lost in a certain area, then a study of the sea currents in that area could reveal the cause.

It is not right to attribute such happenings to "the devil". Allah has not given the devil such powers. What the devil does is to persuade people to follow a pattern of behavior which takes them away from the fold of the faithful. When they listen to him, they bring on themselves misery in this life and in the life to come. But the devil cannot interfere with the laws of nature which Allah has sent into operation. Otherwise, the devil would appear to be a force competing with the power of Allah. That is not possible.

Nor can we explain such happenings as the work of space creatures. We have not seen any such creature approach our planet. Apart from science fiction, there is no evidence whatsoever that invaders from other planets or stars represent a danger to human life on earth. While we do not deny the possibility of existence of creatures or civilizations in other planets or galaxies, we better not attribute anything that takes place on earth to them until the time comes, if at all, when we have hard evidence of the existence and their interference with our planet.

• Directives and rituals

Religious directives are complemented by practical steps which aim at shaping life in a certain fashion. If religion were to be confined to directives and rituals, then the directives will remain unimplemented. A complete way of life on the basis of religion is necessary to allow its directives to be put into practice in situations where directives and practices complement one another. This is the Islamic view of religion which makes it a complete system regulating all aspects of life.

• Disowning one's child

Can a father declare his son or daughter as not his and disinherit either one on the basis of indulging in un-Islamic behavior? Suppose a daughter marries a non-Muslim husband, can she be disinherited?

No, it is not permissible for a father or a parent to disinherit his own son or daughter for any reason, as long as that son or daughter is a heir, which means that he or she is a Muslim. Only when the father and the child follow two different religions, inheritance between them is blocked. Therefore, if a father who used to belong to any other religion embraces Islam, while his children do not follow suit, neither can he inherit any of them, nor can they inherit him. This is based on the Prophet's Hadith: "The followers of two different religious do not inherit each other."

If a child is guilty of disobedience to his parents, or if he indulges in forbidden and sinful practices, it is not open to the father to disinherit him or disown him.

It is well-known that adoption is forbidden in Islam. Similarly, disowning one's own child is not permissible. A father may feel bitterly aggrieved by the disobedience of his son or his daughter, and he is tempted to deprive them of their shares of inheritance. He must not forget that these shares have been apportioned by Allah and it is not open to anyone to change Allah's rules.

They should leave that to Allah to determine the best course and the suitable punishment, or indeed to reward the parents for what they suffer as a result of their children's undutifulness.

Even if a daughter is "married" to a non-Muslim, her father may not disinherit her or disown her. Such a marriage is not acceptable or valid from the Islamic point of view. She is certainly guilty of a very grave sin. But her father should not sit in judgment of her.

That judgment belongs to Allah alone. Her father may give her sound advice and try to persuade her against that marriage.

When he has done that, he has discharged his duty. If she persists, he may boycott her if he wishes.

But perhaps it is better to keep in touch with her, so that he may try to bring her around to follow the Islamic rules. If she does not listen and declares that she is not a Muslim, then she deprives herself of the right to inherit her Muslim parents, because she is an apostate.

• Divorce: A review on Islamic limits and regulations

The Islamic Sharee’ah has placed a number of obstacles in the ways of divorce in order to confine it within the narrowest possible compass. Divorce without lawful necessity and without first exhausting all the other means mentioned earlier of resolving the conflict is unlawful and is prohibited in Islam. Some jurists maintain, it is injurious to both husband and wife, unnecessarily damaging the interests of the two, which, like the wasting of property is haram. "Do not harm yourself or others," the Prophet has instructed us.

People who divorce their spouses and marry others in order to enjoy a variety of sexual partners are liked neither by Allah nor by His Messenger. The Prophet called them "the tasters," saying: "I do not like the tasters, men and women," and "Allah does not like the tasters, men and women." Abdullah bin Abbas said, "Divorce is (only) in the case of necessity."

Prohibition of divorce during menstruation

When divorce becomes necessary, it is not permissible for the Muslim to implement it any time he pleases; he must wait for a suitable time. According to the Sharee’ah, this suitable time is when the woman is clean following her menstrual period or the period of perpetual discharge following childbirth and before her husband has resumed sexual relations with her, or when she is pregnant and her husband is aware of her pregnancy.

The reason for prohibiting divorce during menstruation or the period of puerperal discharge is that, since during such periods sexual intercourse is haram, the idea of divorce may come to a man's mind because of sexual frustration and nervous tension. He is therefore advised to wait until his wife is clean and to divorce her then, if he is intent on divorce, before the resumption of marital relations.

Just as divorce during menstruation is haram, it is likewise haram between menstruation periods (i.e. "the period of purity") if the husband has had intercourse with his wife following the termination of her previous period. Because it is possible that she may have become pregnant from this union, the husband may change his mind concerning divorce when he knows that his wife is carrying a child, desiring to stay married to her for the sake of the embryo in her womb. However, when the wife is in the period of purity but he has not had intercourse with her following the termination of her menses, or when she is pregnant and he is aware of it, he will be able to ascertain that his intention to divorce her is the result of deep-seated antipathy, and accordingly is permitted to carry through with the divorce. In the Saheeh of Al-Bukhari, it is transmitted that 'Abdullah bin Umar mentioned [such a]matter to the Messenger of Allah, he became angry, saying: "He must take her back. If he still wishes to divorce her, he may do so when she is clean of the menstrual discharge before having intercourse with her, for that is the period of waiting which Allah has prescribed for divorce" He referred to the ayat, "O Prophet, when you (men) divorce women, divorce them during the prescribed periods."(65:1). Another version of this hadith reads: "He commanded him to take her back and then divorce her when she is clean from the menstrual discharge or (otherwise) is pregnant."

A question now remains: If a person does divorce his wife during these prohibited periods, does the divorce become effective or not? The prevailing opinion is that it does become effective, although the husband will be considered sinful. However, some jurists hold that, it does not become effective, as Allah did not legislate it so and whatever is not legal cannot be correct or enforced. Abu Dawood, on sound authority, has transmitted that when Abdullah bin Umar was asked, "What would you say if a man were to divorce his wife during menstruation?" he related his own story of divorcing his wife during her period and the Prophet's commanding him to take her back, disregarding his pronouncement of divorce.

Taking an oath of divorce

It is not permissible for Muslims to take an oath of divorce, vowing that if particular event does not occur, his wife will be divorced, or to threaten her by saying that if she does this or that particular thing, she will be divorced. In Islam an oath may be expressed only in one specific manner, that is, in the name of Allah alone. Apart from this, no other form of oath-taking is permitted. The Prophet said, "Anyone who swears by (anything) other than Allah, has committed shirk." and "Whosoever wants to take an oath should take it in the name of Allah or keep silent.:

Where the Divorcee resides during the waiting period

The Islamic Sharee’ah requires that the divorced woman remains in her home, her husband's house, for the duration of her iddah (waiting period). It is not permissible for her to move from the house, as it is likewise not permissible for her husband to evict her without a just cause. This requirement leaves the way open, during the iddah following a first or second pronouncement of divorce, for the husband to revert to his wife without the requirement of remarriage. Her presence in the same house with him makes it quite probable that the mutual sympathy and love between them may be rekindled. If she is pregnant, the passing of months will make her pregnancy obvious, which may be a further inducement to him to change his mind. In any case, ample time is at their disposal to reconsider the whole situation. With the healing effect of time, feelings of antipathy may give place to affection and reconciliation, and the revitalization of their love may occur.

...And fear Allah, your Lord. Do not turn them out of their houses, nor shall they leave (of their own accord) unless they commit some clear immorality; and these are the limits set by Allah. And whoever transgresses Allah's limits indeed wrongs his own soul. Thou knowest not; it may be that Allah will afterwards bring some new thing to pass.” (65:1)

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