"Our Dialogue" 6th Edition Rev

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This is the problem my reader is worried about, and is rightly so. Unfortunately it is not an easy problem to solve because legal provisions are meant to protect the interests of children who are in difficult situations. It is when a special case offers a better prospect for the child than [what] the legal provisions are prepared to grant that [child], a problem seems exceedingly difficult. What is needed for legislators is to introduce a situation where a family can be recognized as the legal guardian of a child. With such status the family should be allowed to bring up the child without claiming it as its own. It has to have the freedom to look after the child properly with minimum interference from the authorities. Such interference should aim only to ensure that the child is actually cared for and not abused. If Muslim countries introduce such a position, it may make their social welfare system more complete.

• Adultery: God's forgiveness and marriage

I have had a love affair with a cousin during which we trans­gressed the limits of what is lawful. Without knowing what was going on between us, our parents agreed to our marriage, while my parents disagreed. They finally relented after much persuasion. My question is whether God's forgiveness is open to us after having committed such a grave sin? Can we escape His punishment for what we have been doing?

The first thing you should understand is that adultery is not merely a grave sin, but it can also preclude marriage altogether. An adulterer may not be married to a chaste woman, even though she and her family agree to the marriage. The same applies to an adulteress, who may not be married to a God-fearing man.

In the Qur'an God states this rule: "An adulterer may not be married except to an adulteress or a non-believer, and an adulteress woman may not be married except to an adulterer or a non-believer. Forbidden is that to believers." (24; 3)

So the first thing you and your cousin should do in order to be able to marry each other is to repent for your sin, pray for God's mercy and forgiveness, and resolve not to commit adultery at all in the future. What is encouraging in your letter is the fact that you realize that you have been so deep in the wrong and you wonder whether you can still earn God's forgiveness.

Let me tell you that God does not close the door to forgiveness as long as we believe in Him and do not associate any partners with Him. Addressing every human being, He says in a Sacred, i.e. Qudsi, Hadith: "If you come to Me with an earth load of sins, but associating no partners with Me, I come to you with an earth load of forgiveness." So the gravity of the sin is no barrier to God's mercy, provided that the repentance is genuine and sincere, and also based on believing in God's oneness.

Moreover, repentance should be given credence, not only by avoiding committing the same sin again, but also by doing good deeds, such as giving money to the poor, night worship, doing the pilgrimage and the Umrah, voluntary fasting, helping people without looking for any reward from them. The more you do of voluntary good action, the greater your reward is. When your reward outweighs your sins, then God's forgiveness is assured. To encourage you on the way to genuine repentance, let me remind you that God credits every good action with at least 10 times its value, while He records against us only those forbidden actions we may commit, as they are worth. That makes earning God's forgiveness easy once a person is determined to achieve it.

• Adultery: Punishment and marriage

May I ask about the case when a man seduces a young woman to have intercourse with him: how are they to be punished? Is there any punishments for the girl's family, or her relatives who live in the same city? Should they try to get the man to marry the girl? Can she marry another person?

This involves an offense which carries a specified punishment in addition to one for which the punishment is discretionary. It is stated in the Qur'an that the punishment for fornication or adultery between unmarried partners is 100 lashes and the enforcement of the punishment must take place in public. However, for such punishment to take place, the legal system in the country must be the Islamic system. Moreover, guilt must be established in accordance with Islamic requirements which are very stringent indeed.

In the case of adultery, proof of guilt requires either a free confession or four witnesses to testify under oath that they have seen with their own eyes the offense being committed. It is not sufficient that they testify that the couple were in bed in a condition which makes it very reasonable to assume that adultery had taken place. In such matters Islam does not accept any subjective judgment by anyone. The testimony must be based on hard facts. If witnesses are found to testify to adultery but they have not seen the offense being committed then they incur the punishment of "false accusation of adultery" which is 80 lashes and the deprivation of the right to testify on any matter whatsoever.

Having said that, I should add that Islamic punishments and the Islamic legal code generally may be carried out only by a government authority that is committed to the implementation of Islam as a whole. Hence, in this case, if the local government does not implement Islamic law, there is no way for the girl's family to seek its implementation. They need not be over concerned with that because the enforcement of punishments is not a serious issue.

If the man concerned has taken advantage of the girl and left her high and dry, the family must consider the option which ensures least damage to the girl and her family. The less publicity given to the whole matter the better. What the family should do on the other hand is to review the whole situation in order to determine where they went wrong and made it easy for a man to seduce their daughter. They may discover that they had not given their daughter a solid Islamic education to protect her against any one who may try to take advantage of her tender years. As for the possibility of the girl marrying another man, there is no barrier to prevent that if the girl has repented of her slip and wishes to lead a virtuous type of life, in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles.

• Adversity: Attitude toward

I was told by a learned person that any mishap that befalls a human being serves as a "processing factor." Please comment.

In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, says: "I have wondered at the situation of a believer, which can only be claimed by a true believer and no one else. Whatever befalls him is for his own good. If something good occurs in his life, he thanks God, and that is to his own good. If he, on the other hand, suffers a misfortune, he remains patient in adversity, and that is to his own good." In both cases of gratitude for a favorable development and perseverance in the case of misfortune, a believer receives reward. If that is what your learned scholar meant, then he is certainly right.

• Advice to parents, elders

How can I advise my parents and elders to offer their prayers regularly and to fast during Ramadhan?

The Prophet says: "Good faith is to give good counsel." In his reply for a clarification as to whom good counsel should be given, the Prophet included the leaders of the Muslim community and everyone in that community. Encouraging anyone to attend regularly to his prayers and Islamic duties is certainly to give him good counsel. If one's parents are lax in observing such duties, it is certainly required of their son to try to persuade them to do so. In so doing, he should be gentle and kind and should remind them of the gravity of incurring Allah's displeasure. He should also show them that it is very easy to observe such duties. One should not give the impression that he is a better person than the one he advises. This is particularly offensive if it is addressed to a parent or an elder.

• Airlines and women's charms

It is well known that Islam requires women to dress modestly when they appear in public. How do you view the advertisements inserted by certain national airlines of Muslim countries in these terms: "A superb in-flight service is assured by our charming air hostesses"?

Such advertisements cannot be accepted by Islam. It is sad that national carriers of Muslim countries feel obliged, in order to compete with other airlines, to try to highlight such aspects of their service. Indeed, they do not need to go to these lengths. When a particular airline provides good service, that service will speak for itself, without the need to stress that at the delivery point of the service there is a "charming" hostess. The overwhelming majority of passengers are interested in the service itself, not in the person who gives it. Such advertisements are an example of how much we have borrowed from Western civilization, without scrutinizing what we are getting in the process.

[Added: Why not look at the advertisements of other foreign airlines who emphasize on the technical supremacy in providing on time schedules and avoiding delays and hazards. That should be something to follow.]

• Alcohol: In soft drinks

I attach copies of two letters from the manufacturers of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola which clearly indicate that alcohol is a part of the basic formula of both of these drinks. In the light of this information, is it permissible for Muslims to consume these drinks?

Thank you for attaching copies of these two letters. I will begin by quoting the relevant parts. The manufacturers of Coca-Cola in Britain say in their letter: "Some of the flavors in our products are produced by an alcohol extraction of natural substances. However, the extremely small amount of alcohol involved in the process becomes insignificant in the beverage."

Schweppes International which produces Pepsi-Cola says: "Pepsi-Cola contains only a small amount of alcohol, which is present in order to dissolve the flavoring. The composition of the natural flavoring is confidential and it is only known to a few individuals of the Pepsi Headquarters in U.S.A."

Both letters indicate clearly that alcohol is used in the preparation of these beverages. Hence, it is right to ask whether they remain permissible or not. In order to answer this question clearly, it is important to remind ourselves that what Allah has forbidden is what intoxicates, not a substance. No Qur'anic verse or Hadith refers to alcohol as forbidden, but we have several Hadiths, in addition to the Qur'anic orders, which make it clear that any drink that intoxicates is forbidden. The Prophet explains that when intoxication is produced by taking only a very large amount of a particular drink, then it is forbidden even to have a sip of it. The important thing is, then, to know whether a drink intoxicates or not.

Human experience shows that no one begins to feel any intoxication after drinking any amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. Besides, there is no indication whatsoever that any cola drink is habit-forming, or that the continuous consumption of that drink leads to dependence on it. If there was a sign of any of these or other aspects of intoxication, then we would have attributed that effect to the alcohol used in these beverages, and we would have concluded that they become forbidden as a result.

What is clear, therefore, is that the alcohol dissolves during the chemical interaction which results in the production of a new substance. We have then to apply the Islamic rule which states that a change of substance may lead to changing its position with regard to permissibility or otherwise. This rule applies to all substances and it is universally agreed by all Muslim scholars. In this connection, I may mention that when any intoxicant drink is turned into vinegar as a result of a chemical process, it becomes permissible to use by Muslims. What we are using here is vinegar, not an intoxicant drink. If this applies to wine and other intoxicants which people may use in order to get drunk, then it certainly applies to other liquids and beverages. The thing in which we are interested here is the end product which human beings use. We do not start by classifying the ingredients or go further to identify the elements that are part of the makeup of every ingredient, because that would lead to the prohibition of numerous things that are perfectly permissible. In this regard, I may give the example of milk. If we were to consider the place at which it originates, we would have concluded that milk is forbidden to drink. There is no Muslim scholar who suggests that because there is a clear indication in the Qur'an that it is perfectly permissible and there are numerous reports that Prophet always enjoyed a drink of milk. Verse 66 surah 16, entitled The Bee, may be translated as follows: "In cattle too you have a lesson. We give you drink of that which is in their bellies between the bowels and the blood streams: pure milk, pleasant for those who drink it." You note how Allah refers to the place at which the milk originates and the substance in-between where is produced, what is in the bowels and the blood streams. Such stuff is forbidden to consume, but the milk that results from their interaction, possibly with other ingredients, is perfectly permissible.

In the light of the fact that no amount of a pure cola drink produces any sign of intoxication, we conclude that such beverages as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are permissible.

• Alcohol: Misconcepts about the curative power of alcohol

A commentary by Dr. Muhammad Albar - special to Arab News

Since antiquity, alcohol has been used not only as a social lubricant but also as a remedy for many different ailments and diseases ranging from insomnia and indigestion to heart attacks and as an anesthetic. The list of diseases for which alcohol was used as a remedy was indeed very long.

The Arabs of Jahiliyya (pre-Islam) period used alcohol to boost courage and benevolence. The poet Hassan ibn Thabit Al Ansari before he embraced Islam said: "When we drink liquor we become like kings (in our benevolence) and during fight we become lions who never waver or falter from confrontation."

They also used it as a remedy for their ailments and diseases. The authentic narrators quote many Hadiths to show how the new converts tried to convince the Prophet, peace be upon him, that they used alcohol only as a remedy, and asked for his permission to continue doing so. The Prophet, peace be upon him, emphatically denied the benefits of liquor as a remedy and clearly mentioned it as a case of ailment and disease and not a remedy for any disease.

Muslim, Abu Dawood and Tirmithi narrate the following Hadith: A man called Tariq Al Joofi came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and asked permission to consume liquor (alcohol). The Prophet, peace be upon him, refused. The man said: I use it and prescribe it as a medicine. The Prophet, peace be upon him, answered: It is no medicine. It is a disease and ailment.

Another Hadith says that a man called Tariq ibn Swaid Al Hadrami came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said: "O Messenger of God, in our land we have vineyards and we make wine and drink." The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Stop drinking." The man proclaimed: We use it as a remedy for the ill and diseased. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "It's no remedy. It is an illness itself." Narrated by Muslim.

The people of Yemen who came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked him to allow them to drink because they lived in a mountainous cold area, and they drank liquor to fight the cold weather and to help them in their hard jobs. The Prophet, peace be upon him, asked if that liquor (made from wheat) was intoxicating. The man, who spoke for the Yemeni delegation agreed. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: Then you have to stop drinking.

Abu Dawood narrated this Hadith: "God has made for every illness a cure, but never seek your cure by things prohibited." Al Bukhari narrated a similar Hadith in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "God didn't make your remedy in any of the things prohibited." This shows that Arabs at the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, were strong believers in the medicinal powers of liquor. However, the Prophet, peace be upon him, emphatically denied that power. Instead he repeatedly stated drinking liquor even in small quantities was a cause of illness and disease.

It is, therefore, quite strange to find that the great medieval Muslim physicians and philosophers like Abu Baker Al Razi and Ibn Sina, commended the use of liquor in moderation to keep good health. What is even more astonishing is that highly esteemed men of religion like Ibn Katheer believed in the medicinal and health procuring powers of the intoxicating liquor. This misconception still persists though science and medicine have proved beyond doubt the fallacy of the medicinal powers of liquor. The modern scientific findings have also proved how baseless are the claims that alcohol heats the body and therefore is good remedy for cold weather, that it helps the digestion, and that it is a stimulant of the brain.

Imam Jaffer Al Sadiq, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was asked by a man suffering from severe bleeding piles to allow him to drink liquor as his physician prescribed it. The imam refused and said: "God has never made your remedies in things that were prohibited." He also rejected emphatically the suggestion to dissolve the ingredients of medicines in alcohol.

Ibn Al Qaim, one of the renowned jurists of the seventh century of Hijra wrote many a chapter in his books to refute the arguments in favor of the medicinal uses of alcohol claimed by the physicians of his time. There is a saying to the effect that "We are what we eat." This is true to a great extent, as the food and drink we consume is transformed in our bodies by the processes of anabolism into the cells of our bodies, and the processes of catabolism into the energy that we need to perform the functions of our life. Therefore it is no wonder, that alcohol when it enters the body, affect both the psyche and the soma badly."

That was what Ibn Al Qaim was explaining to his contemporaries including the physicians of his age. He was denying emphatically the benefits of alcohol claimed by Al Razi and Ibn Sina and the whole medical profession in his days. At his time there was little proof of what he said except that it was clearly stated in the Prophet's sayings (Hadith). Now we have ample evidence for what he was trying to prove. The ill effects of alcohol on both psyche and soma are well documented. They are taught in the schools of medicine all over the world.

The learned men of religion (jurists) agreed that liquor should never be used as a drug for medicine, or to quench the thirst. However, the jurists allowed the use of alcohol as a solvent of drugs provided that: (a) there is no other available drug which does not contain alcohol; (2) the amount of alcohol as a solvent is minute and does not cause drunkenness; and (c) it is prescribed by a competent Muslim physician.

Ibn Qudama Al Madgsi states this quite clearly in his book Mughai Al Muhtaj: "The use of liquor as a remedy is prohibited in our religion. However, the use of drugs which have been mixed with liquor as a solvent is another matter. It is permissible to use that drug provided the liquor (alcohol) used is very small in quantity and provided that a competent good Muslim physician has prescribed it."

The medical and pharmacological profession in the Muslim world are strongly called to replace the drugs containing alcohol with others which are alcohol-free. Most of the drugs containing alcohol found on the counter e.g. tonics, etc. could easily be replaced by alcohol-free drugs.

A ban could be imposed if the governments do agree.

(The author of this article, Dr. Muhammad Albar, DM., M.R.C.P., is consultant of Islamic Medicine, King Fahd Medical Research of King Abdul Aziz University.)

• Alcohol: Physical use of

Some of the substances which a woman uses as part of her makeup, such as perfume, hair spray, anti-deodorants and facial and body powder may contain alcohol. What should she do, if she wants to offer her prayer? Some women pray wearing their full make up, including lipstick. How far is this correct.

What seems to be the point at issue in the first part of your question is the fact that alcohol may be an ingredient of the substances used. It is well know that intoxicants, all of which are alcoholic drinks, are described as impure. The question is whether such impurity is imparted to other substances in which alcohol is an ingredient.

To answer, I would like to point out that the weightier opinion is that the impurity of alcohol is not physical. In other words, if alcohol is dropped on someone's clothes and then it dries up, the person concerned need not wash his clothes to remove the impurity. He may use them in prayer without having to wash them first.

Hence, if a man or a woman uses perfume or after-shave or anti-deodorant spray or any similar substance which includes alcohol, they need not worry about offering their prayer in the normal way just on account of having used such substances.

In matter of using makeup, Islamic rulings appear to take account of the fact that women need to use such substances more than men. For example, it is not possible for a man to offer prayers, if he has used saffron over any part of his body. There is no such restriction on women. A man, however, may use saffron over his clothes and offer his prayers. The Prophet used to do that, because saffron gives clothes a better appearance.

If a woman wants to go to the mosque to offer her prayers, she may not go wearing perfume, unless its smell has disappeared. This restrictions is not made on account of the substance of perfume itself, but on the basis of the fact that its smell may attract attention to her. As you realize, when a Muslim woman goes out, she must dress in a way which does not attract passers by. If she is praying at home alone or with a group of Muslim women, she may offer her prayer without removing her makeup first. If she removes some of her makeup which stands out as particularly noticeable, such as lipstick, this is preferable according to some scholars.

Al-Fatihah in congregation

Is it compulsory for a person in congregation prayer to read the Fatihah? Is the prayer valid without reading it?

Scholars have different views about the reading of the surah Al-Fatihah by a worshipper who has joined a congregational prayer. Those who say that it is not required rely on a Hadith which suggests that the recitation by the Imam is sufficient for the whole congregation. Those scholars who take the view that it is necessary for everyone in the congregation to read the Al-Fatihah in every rakah rely on a Hadith which says that prayer is invalid without reciting Al-Fatihah. Both Hadiths are authentic. If a person takes either view, his prayer will, God willing, be accepted.

• Allah's 99 names

I read in a note posted in a mosque that the person who memorizes Allah's 99 names is certain to go to heaven. I am always repeating those 99 names after Fajr and evening prayers. [Please comment].

Most of Allah's 99 names denote His attributes. Thus, a name like Al-Khaliq denotes the attribute of creation which belongs to Allah, since Al-Khaliq means, "the Creator". Al-Raziq on the other hand, denotes the attribute of providing sustenance to his creation, since Al-Raziq means, "the Provider". The same applies to Allah's other names. Hence, knowing them all helps us formulate a clear concept of Allah and His essential attributes. This is important for a Muslim to have. Moreover, it helps him adopt the right attitude when he is faced with a problem or a difficult situation. Say, for example, a person finds himself in a situation where he is in bad need of even a small amount of food, as in the case of refugees who flee from their homes as a result of war or famine. A refugee who is well aware of Allah's attributes realizes that it is Allah who provides sustenance for all His creatures. Hence, he turns to Him for help and prays Him to provide him with such sustenance.

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