"Our Dialogue" 6th Edition Rev

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• Ablution: Undressing after ablution

If one happens to undress, does he need to do his ablution again?

No. Being undressed when one is alone does not render ablution invalid. In fact, when we take a bath, we have ablution and we are totally undressed. Why should the case be different otherwise.

• Ablution: Use of oil on skin

If I use some oils to protect my skin from drying. Should these oils be removed before ablution?

If the oil you apply is of the type which prevents water from reaching your skin, then you have to remove it for ablution. However, most oils are eventually absorbed and or dried out. Perhaps the best thing to do is to have ablution before you apply the oil, which may enable you to have your first prayer without having to have a fresh ablution. By the time the next prayer is due, the oil would have been absorbed or dried.

• Ablution: Wiping of socks

I read in an Islamic monthly magazine that when a Muslim does his ablution, i.e. 'wudhu', he may pass his wet hand over his footwear, only if it is made of leather. Wiping of socks made of cloth is not permissible. The writer supports his opinion by saying that according to Arabic literature, the word "jawrab", which denotes socks, applies only to leather-made socks. Is this true?

What I find strange is the definition the writer uses for the word "jawrab". It is certainly not true that it denotes only leather-made socks. According to one of the best Arabic dictionaries, it means "feet wrapper". There is no hint that it must be made of any particular materials.

Where the writer has probably got confused is the fact that the question of wiping feet covers is entered into books of Fiqh, or Islamic rulings, under the use of the "khuff". This is traditionally made of leather, but is different from socks. It is similar to shoes, although it is without heels. That scholars agree that this concession meant to make it easier for people to have ablution, applies to all the types of footwear which cover the area which we normally wash when we have the ablution. That includes the whole feet up to the ankles. In operating this concession we rely on the Hadith which tells us that one of the Prophet's companions was helping him to do his ablution by pouring water for him. When that man got ready to pour water over the Prophet's feet, the Prophet motioned him that he did not need to have his feet washed, but wiping his socks was sufficient. He said: "I have put them in when they were pure." That meant that he wore his socks after having had ablution.

It is perhaps useful to mention the rule here that if you do your ablution in the morning, or indeed at any time during the day, then put on your socks or boots, you make the intention (not by words but by being conscious of what you intend to do) to avail yourself of this concession. If your ablution, or wudhu, gets invalidated afterward, you do not need to wash your feet anew when you have a new ablution. It is sufficient to wet your hand and pass your fingers over the top of your feet.

To pass one wet finger over a small area of each foot is adequate. You may avail yourself of this concession for 24 hours at a time, provided you do not take off your socks. If you take them off, after having used this concession, you need to have full ablution, including washing your feet, before using this concession again.

Many people find this concession very useful if they spend a long time at their place of work, where ablution facilities may not be available. This applies particularly in countries where Muslims are a minority or an immigrant community.

• Ablution: Woman seen without head-cover

If a woman goes out with head uncovered, does that invalidate her wudhu, or ablution?

A woman’s wudhu or ablution is invalidated only in the normal way, by any genital discharge, touching the body of a man which arouses internal sensation, deep sleep, loss of consciousness, and touching one’s private parts, skin to skin. It is not invalidated if men see her when she has not covered her head.

• Abortion on medical grounds

There are many genetic disorders for which currently no cure is available, but diagnosis is possible. Some of these disorders, when confirmed, may require termination of pregnancy. What is your opinion on this important issue in the light of Islamic teachings: can abortion be allowed on medical grounds?

In 1983, a conference was held in Kuwait in which specialized doctors of medicine and Islamic scholars took part. One of the most important subject discussed was abortion. There was a great deal of discussion on the various aspects of abortion and when it can be considered appropriate.

From the findings of that conference it can be concluded that abortion is permissible if the continuation of pregnancy poses a real threat to the life of the mother. In this case, abortion can be performed at any stage during the pregnancy, and as soon as it is clear that termination of pregnancy is the only way to save the life of the mother.

As for other medical conditions, scholars differed a great deal on this issue. It is however, remarkable that the proceedings show that gynecologists and obstetricians who also have sound Islamic knowledge took a stronger attitude opposing abortion at any stage of the pregnancy. Scholars of Fiqh could find room for a more understandable attitude.

They gave different verdicts for different stages of the pregnancy. Most of them say that abortion is forbidden after 120 days of conception. Others say that this prohibition begins after 45 days. Both groups define the limit which they favor on the basis of a certain Hadith. The one which speaks of 120 days may be given in translation as follows:

"Indeed, the creation of each one of you is brought together in the mother's belly for 40 days in the form of a drop of sperm, then he is a germ-cell for a like period, then an embryonic lump for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him and who is commanded about four matters: to write down his means of livelihood, his life span, his actions and whether happy or unhappy.

By Allah, other than whom there is no God, one of you may behave like the people of paradise until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of hell fire and thus he enters it; and one of you behaves like the people of hell fire until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of paradise and thus he enters it." (Related by Al Bukhari & Muslim.)

We note that the Prophet speaks of three stages of forty days each before spirit is blown into the embryo. It is on this basis that some scholars consider that abortion on medical grounds is permissible at this stage.

• Accidents: Scope of accidental killing

Someone bought an electric immersion water heater, but plugged it wrongly when using it with a two-pin outlet. He mistakenly connected the earth wire to the neutral wire, instead of disconnecting it completely. This meant that when the heater was put in a bucket to heat the water, the current passed through the body of the heater. One day a new maid wanted to check whether the water was hot enough, but she got electrocuted and died. Does the ruling of accidental killing apply in this case? Her employer has paid compensation to her family at the time, but is he required to do anything else under the rules on accidental killing? Do these rules apply in the case of a man crossing the highway but is run over by a car driving at high speed?

The rules of accidental killing apply when a person does something that does not normally lead to death, but results in the killing of someone he had no intention to kill. Someone may push another person, and in the overwhelming majority of cases such a push does not cause more than a step or two backward and adjustment of one’s balance. However, in this particular case, the person so pushed steps over a stone and loses balance completely. As he falls he hits his head against the hard pavement, or a lamppost and dies of the impact. When the first person pushes the other, he has no intention of killing him, but his action results in his death. That is accidental killing.

It requires atonement in the form of freeing a slave who is a believer, and paying blood money to the family of the deceased. If he cannot find a slave to release from bondage, either because he cannot afford to buy one or because of the non-availability of slaves, since slavery has been abolished by God’s grace, then he must fast for two months without intermission.

In the case we are looking at, the man simply did the wiring wrongly, which action resulted in the death of his maid. When he did so, he did not even know the maid, which was to die as a result of his action. That is accidental killing. He has to atone for his mistake, which came about by connecting a live electric wire the wrong way. The compensation is in two parts. The first is the payment of blood money. The man says that he paid compensation to the woman’s family, but was that the full amount of blood money for accidental killing? If it was a small amount, which he decided, then he has to complete it to the full amount of blood money, unless her family is willing to forego part or all of that blood money. As she was a maid, then her people are probably poor and they may accept a lesser amount if they do not know what they are entitled to receive. He must not try to lessen his liability at their expense. He must give them the indemnity they deserve.

The other point is the freeing of a slave, which is not available to anyone these days. Hence, the other option applies, which is to fast for two consecutive months in a gesture of repentance. The word, “consecutive”, is important. These must be completed without interruption, except through illness. If he fasts for 55 days, or even 57 days and then he interrupts his fasting for no valid reason, i.e. gets ill after having fasted for a number of days, he resumes his fasting as soon as he recovers and regains his strength.

These rules apply, as we have said, to all accidental killing, including traffic accidents. If a person crosses the highway at the wrong place and gets run over by a car, then that is accidental killing. If the pedestrian shoulders the blame, wholly or partly, then a judge will determine whether compensation is due or not, and its amount. However, the fasting part is necessary in practically all cases of accidental killing.

• Accountability: Role model and the acts of his followers

Someone else, like a younger brother or a junior colleague takes a person who commits an offense as a role model. Is he liable to account for those who follow his example?

There are two principles that apply here. The first is that each person shall be responsible for his or her own actions. “No one shall bear the burden of another,” as the Qur’an states more than once. The other principle is that of bearing the responsibility for setting an example. The Prophet, peace be upon him, says: “Whoever sets a good example shall have its reward as well as the reward of every one who follows his suit until the Day of Judgment, without reducing their reward in any way; and whoever sets a bad example shall bear its sin together with the sin of all those who follow his suit until the Day of Judgment, without reducing their sin in any way.”

What this means is that the one who sets a bad example shall bear the burden of what he does and will be punished for every time someone else follows his bad example. But every one who follows him will also bear the blame for his own actions. The same applies in reverse with regard to setting a good example.

• Actions and intentions

A book prepared by Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baz as a guide for pilgrimage says that only in pilgrimage and Umrah the intention must be stated verbally. In all other actions, a verbal intention is an innovation. On the other hand, an author in my home country declares that actions done without intention, or ‘niyat’, are not valid. He declares that the intention is obligatory. Could you please explain this contradiction and what is meant by the Hadith which states "Actions are but by intentions."

Let us start with the Hadith which you have quoted and which is highly authentic. It is the intention behind a certain action which determines its value. That intention refers to the purpose you have in mind for doing any action. Intention does not signify a certain sentence or phrase which you may say before embarking on a certain action. For example, you stand up to pray. If you have in mind before starting your prayer that you are doing it only to fulfill your obligation which Allah has imposed on you and to earn reward from Him for your obedience, then you are rewarded for your prayer. On the other hand, someone who prays in order to give an impression to other people that he is religious incurs Allah's displeasure for cheating. The action made by the two people is the same, but the value is widely different. The first person earns a reward while the other incurs a punishment.

That is, generally speaking, the meaning of the Hadith. It applies to all intentions whether they are ordinary, day-to-day affairs, or actions or worship. There is, however, something more to the latter type of actions. When you stand up to pray, you have to be conscious of the action you are embarking on to have the intention present in your mind that you are about to pray, say, the obligatory prayer of Asr in fulfillment of Allah's command. When you have this thought present in your mind, you have made the intention which puts your action in the proper place. You have fulfilled your duty to have the right intention and you have ensured the value of your action. That satisfies the condition spoken of by the second author.

That thought is not expressed in words. You do not start your prayer by a verbal statement declaring that you intend to pray four rak'ahs which constitute the obligatory prayer of Asr. It is true that many people make that verbal statement, but this is the innovation of which Sheikh ibn Baz speaks.

This is only reasonable for we speak in our daily life about our actions, saying that I have intended this action for this particular purpose. You may report to your wife or to a friend that you had an argument with a certain person. You may give an account of what took place and follow that with stating: "If he went on in that particular vein, I intended to give him a piece of my mind." Here you used the word "intended." That does not mean that you made a statement saying: I intend to give this person a piece of my mind if he does so and so. It simply means that you had made up your mind to do something. This is what is required in all acts of worship. To make up your mind to do something and fulfill your intention.

With regard to pilgrimage and Umrah, the thought of offering them is normally present in one's mind for sometime before embarking on the action itself. That does not constitute an intention, in the Islamic sense of the word. It is only when you embark on your journey to offer the pilgrimage or the Umrah that you are required to have the intention of offering them. In this particular case, the intention is the thought in your mind and a verbal declaration. That declaration represents a beginning of the Umrah or the pilgrimage in the same way as the phrase, "Allah-O- Akbar", signifies the beginning of prayer. Once you have made that verbal declaration you cannot stop on your way to Makkah and return back home. It is obligatory to complete your pilgrimage or your Umrah. Because the verbal statement is so important, it is made in a special form. You say: "Labbaik Allahumma Hajjah," or "Labbaik Allahumma Umrah." This means "I respond to your call, my Lord, for a pilgrimage or an Umrah." This is the form of verbal declaration of your intention that you are embarking on a trip to offer the pilgrimage or the Umrah [just like you say Allahu Akbar at the beginning of your prayer.] As for the other duties of pilgrimage such as tawaf, sa'ie, etc. you do not start them with any verbal declaration. Like all other acts of worship, they are done with the intention being present in your mind, not expressed in words.

• Actions on behalf of dead persons

A few months ago, you published an answer claiming that it is permissible to recite the Qur'an on behalf of a dead person and that the reward for such a recitation is granted to the dead person. This opinion has been vehemently opposed by almost all renowned Salafi scholars. They consider such a recitation as an innovation and they support that by the fact that neither the Prophet nor his companions used to read the Qur'an on behalf of those who died in battle or a natural death. They also suggest that it is not possible to compare such a recitation with offering substitute pilgrimage on behalf of a dead person, which is certainly permissible. Moreover, Allah defines the purpose of the Qur'an as "an admonition to any one who is alive". This means that the Qur'an is for those who are alive. Please comment.

I am confused by your contradictory replies. You said sometime in the past that "no one may offer prayers or other religious duties which have been left undone by a deceased person." You have also quoted the Hadith which states that the actions of every person come to an end when he dies except in one of three well-known ways. Now you are saying that it is possible to transfer the reward of a good action to a deceased person. Will you please explain these contradictions?

These are the view of only two of my readers who have written to me on this subject. Others have written, making the same objections. To all such readers I say that this is a question which relates to an aspect of Islamic worship. The answer, therefore, must be based on what the Prophet has taught us. We cannot argue a case supporting any viewpoint on purely logical basis. Our starting point may just be the Qur'an and the Hadith. Before starting to answer the objections of my readers, I wish to say that I hold on to my position on both points and I do not see any reason to change either. Nor do I see any contradiction between what I have said on different occasions on this subject. The difficulty experienced by some people in reconciling these points can be easily overcome. Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim, a highly renowned scholar, has spoken extensively on this question, devoting to it more than thirty pages in his invaluable book, Ar-Rooh, or The Spirit. My reply is based largely on what he says, since he discusses all points in detail and replies to all objections.

I have often quoted the Hadith which may be rendered in translation as follows: "When a human being dies, all his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways: A continuing act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge or a God-fearing, dutiful child who prays for him." This Hadith cannot be quoted in support of the argument that our actions cannot benefit those who are dead. It is important to know that when we attempt to understand the meaning of a Qur'anic statement or Hadith, our approach should be one of careful consideration of the statement in front of us. It must be clear to us that every Qur'anic verse and every Hadith is meant to convey only the sense of the words used in it. We cannot, and must not, carry any such statement beyond its apparent meaning. It cannot be imagined or envisaged that Allah would mean something and express it in words which convey a different meaning. Nor is it possible that the Prophet, who has been endowed by Allah with the gift of the most precise expressions, should mean anything other than what he states. Anyone who would entertain such a thought actually suggests that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, could fail to convey precisely an idea which constitutes a part of his message. That is not acceptable from a Muslim. No one would remain a Muslim for a second if he attaches such an inadequacy to the Qur'an.

Bearing that in mind, we have to understand every Qur'anic statement or Hadith as it is. The above mentioned Hadith states that "When a human being dies, his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways, etc. " What comes to an end, then, is the deceased person's own actions. This does not mean that a dead person does not benefit by anything else. He simply cannot do more for himself. He is powerless and incapable of accomplishing anything. Scholars, however, are unanimous that those who are dead can benefit by what living people may do in one of two ways: What the deceased person himself initiated during his lifetime and the supplication of Muslims on his behalf, their prayers to Allah to forgive him and whatever charity or pilgrimage other Muslims may do on his behalf. Scholars have different views on whether physical worship such as fasting, prayer, reciting of the Qur'an, etc. may be done by a living person and rewarded to a dead relative at his request. Imam Ahmad and many scholars say that the reward of such actions can be credited to the dead person, while the Shaf’ie and Maliki schools of thought take the other view, saying that it does not.

As for things that the dead person himself had initiated in his lifetime, the above quoted Hadith is sufficient evidence to endorse that. Another Hadith related by Ibn Majah quotes the Prophet as saying: "What is credited to a believer of his action and good deed after his death is any useful knowledge he might have taught or spread, a God-fearing child he might have left behind, a copy of the Qur'an he might have left to an heir, a mosque he might have built, a house he might have dedicated for use by travelers, a stream or river he might have caused to run, a donation to charity (i.e. sadaqah) he might have set aside when he was enjoying good health. All that catches up with him after his death." Another authentic Hadith related by Muslim quotes the Prophet as saying: "Any Muslim who initiates a good practice receives its reward and the reward of anyone who follows his example without reducing their reward by the smallest of fractions, and any Muslim who initiates a bad practice will bear its burden as well as the burden of everyone who follows his example without reducing their burdens in anyway."

In support of our statement that a dead person will benefit by the supplication and prayer of living Muslims, I refer to the praise Allah bestows on succeeding generations of believers for praying Him to forgive those believers who lived before them. Allah says in the Qur'an: "Those who come after them pray: our Lord, forgive us our sins, as well as those of our brethren who preceded us in faith." (59;10). When a Muslim dies, it is a duty on the community of Muslims to offer a special prayer for him during which they pray Allah to forgive him and admit him into heaven. The Prophet says: "When you pray for a dead person, make your supplication sincere." In his own supplication for a dead person, just before the latter's funeral, the Prophet said: "My Lord, forgive him; bestow Your mercy on him; purge him of sin, assign to him a good abode and a wide entrance (to heaven); wash him with water, snow and hail and purge him of sin as a white dress is purged of impurity; replace his home, family and wife with better ones; admit him to heaven and protect him against torment in the grave and the suffering in hell."

There are numerous Hadiths which tell us that a number of his companions came to the Prophet individually to ask him whether they can give sadaqah or fast or do the pilgrimage on behalf of their deceased relatives, and he always said that they may do that and the dead person would benefit by it. Al-Bukhari relates that Saad ibn Ubadah, the chief of the Ansari tribe of Al-Khazraj, said to the Prophet: "Messenger of Allah, my mother died when I was away. Would she benefit if I give charitable donations (i.e. sadaqah) on her behalf? The Prophet answered in the affirmative. Saad said: "I would like you to be my witness that I am giving as sadaqah on her behalf my orchard at Al-Meraf." Ibn Abbas reports that a woman traveled in a boat and pledged that should Allah save her life, she would fast for a month. She was saved but she did not fast before she died. Her daughter or her sister asked the Prophet about that and he ordered her to fast on behalf of the deceased woman. (Related by Abu-Dawood, An-Nassaie, Ahmad and others). Hadiths in support of offering the pilgrimage on behalf of a deceased person or one who is unanimously unable to undertake the journey are numerous. Moreover, it is unanimously agreed by scholars that if a person dies without settling an outstanding debt, leaving no money to settle it, anyone could pay it on his behalf. Whether the person paying it is a relative or not, the deceased is deemed to have repaid his debt. If the case is such and the deceased person may benefit by a financial payment, why should he not benefit by a gift made of the reward for a good action? It should be mentioned here that it is not possible to do the obligatory duties of fasting and prayer on behalf of a deceased person. This means that you cannot pray Dhuhr or Asr, or fast a few days of Ramadhan on his behalf. You may, however, fast if he took a pledge to fast but did not honor it, as in the Hadith quoted above. You may also do a voluntary act of worship and request Allah to credit its reward to the deceased person. That applies to reciting a passage of the Qur'an. It is important to have a clear intention when you begin such an action that you are gifting its reward to a dead person.

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