"Our Dialogue" 6th Edition Rev

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You can say the same thing about almost everything in life. A person who stays at home doing nothing will earn no wages from anywhere. He cannot blame Allah or His will for not having enough to live on. It is his own decision not to go out to work and, consequently, not have any wages. Had he sought some employment or started some trade and, having had it, continued to discharge his duties and do his work to the best of his ability, he would have his salary or profit, as the case may be. It is Allah's will to organize human life in such a way as to make work a means to earn a livelihood. But it is a man's choice whether to work or not.

We have to differentiate here between what Allah knows beforehand of what will happen to us during our lifetime and what He has predestined for us. He has certainly determined in advance the life duration of every one of us. He has written when and how each one of us dies. According to an authentic Hadith, when a human being is still an embryo in his mother's belly, an angel is sent to him to breathe spirit into him. The angel also writes down his life duration, livelihood and whether he will come out of this life happy or miserable. But this does not mean a predestination with regard to what a person may earn in his life. This is only a reference to Allah's advance knowledge of what will happen to each one of us. As you realize, time, as we know it, does not apply to Allah. The succession of night and day, by which we calculate months, years, etc. is a natural phenomenon caused by the position of the earth in relation to the sun and the fact that the earth is in a continuous movement round itself and, at the same time, moves in orbit around the sun. Hence, time is a very accidental phenomenon. It does not apply to Allah.

Allah's foreknowledge of a man's livelihood does not mean that a man will end up having the same amount of money, whether he works or not. To believe this is to take a very naive attitude. The fact is that man's earnings are dependent on his work, but Allah who has full knowledge of everything knows in advance what sort of work every person will do and how much he will earn for it. The knowledge of Allah does not impose on a man a certain level of earnings.

We can compare this to the productivity of the earth. Allah has given the earth the ability to be cultivated and to yield all sorts of agricultural produce. If man makes use of this quality which Allah has given to the earth, every one will have enough to eat. However, if man does not cultivate the earth, its surface will be covered with wild plants, few of which are edible and many are not. If man then goes hungry, he cannot put the blame on Allah. If two neighbors share a plot of land and one of them plants apple trees in his part, while the other does not, the latter cannot say that Allah's will has prevented him from having apples in his land. Indeed, it is Allah's will which has given the first one his apples, but the realization of Allah's will has come about through man's effort.

• Allah's will and Iraqi invasion of Kuwait

As I understand it, everything [that] takes place in the world comes from Allah. Does this apply to events such as one country invading and occupying the other?

When we say that everything comes from Allah, we mean two things: Allah knows of it before it takes place and it happens according to the laws of nature Allah has set in operation. Our actions, however, are done by us. Hence, we are accountable for what we do. We cannot put the blame on Allah for our wrong actions. It is we who take such action and we are responsible for them. Allah, however, has created us and He created the world in which we live and has given us our minds to think, reflect and decide what actions to take. He has told us that stabbing a person with a knife close to his heart or in his abdomen may result in his death. Therefore, if a person stabs another and kills him, he may face the capital punishment for the murder he has committed. He cannot defend himself by saying that this has come from Allah. Allah has made the law which causes the death of a person when he is stabbed in these areas. But the stabbing was an action taken freely by the person who has committed it. Hence, he is accountable for it. The same applies to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The Iraqi ruler took his decision when he was conscious of its effects. He is, accountable for it. We cannot condone his actions as something that has come from Allah. It is his own doing.

• Allah's will and man's choice

When something happens, we say that it has happened by Allah's will. But then we say that man is required to abide by Islamic teachings and he will be either rewarded or punished for his actions. I realize that certain things like health and illness, birth and death, etc. are out of our control. But I have also heard it being said that with regard to financial earnings, a man cannot exceed what Allah has fixed for him. It is up to him to earn his money through legitimate or illegitimate means. At the same time, when someone has a large number of children, people will say Allah will provide for them. Could you please comment on these points.

No believer will question the fact that it is Allah who has created the universe and who has set all the rules of nature in operation. On the basis of this common acceptability, everyone agrees that weather conditions, birth and death as well as effects of natural forces and conditions on man happen by Allah's will. We are not considering here the argument of non-believers who try to explain these phenomena away, by saying that they are the product of natural forces and natural laws. When you ask them who has devised these natural laws and set them in operation, they have no convincing answer. But to a believer who accepts that all these have been put into existence by Allah's will, no conflict arises between the divine will and his own choice.

What is very important to remember is that it has been Allah's will to create man with the ability to determine his own actions. Moreover, human life is made in such a way that man is influenced by his own actions. When you do something, its results must affect you in one way or another. If they were to have no effect at all on you, then you lose the motivation or the incentive to do anything at all.

The point you have mentioned with regard to a person's earnings is rather misleading. A government employee who can get away with embezzlement of funds and remains in his job for several years will be able to amass a wealth which he could not hope to have received otherwise. We cannot say, therefore, that he would have ended up with the same amount of money whether he resorted to embezzlement or chose to be honest and not to take a single riyal in an illegitimate way. If this is true, people will sit idle and wait for their provisions to come to them. Similarly, a person who drinks or smokes will have the ill-effects of both substances. A smoker is likely to develop lung cancer or heart disease or any one of the other diseases associated with smoking. If he does not smoke, the likelihood of him suffering any of these diseases is greatly reduced. The same applies to alcoholic drinks and their effects on health. We cannot, then say that whatever man does, he will end up suffering the same diseases. Nevertheless, you have accepted that our health condition is part of Allah's will. How can we reconcile these two sets of facts?

The answer is simple. Everything operates according to Allah's will. Nicotine, which is the poisonous substance in tobacco, produces its effects by Allah's will. It is He who has given it its qualities. Therefore, when man inhales this substance, he cannot escape its cumulative effects on his health. This effect is, therefore, produced by Allah's will. What this means is that when man inhales nicotine he sets up Allah's will to operate on him in a certain manner. When he refrains from smoking, he sets it to operate in a different manner. In both cases, he is subject to Allah's will, but the end result is widely different.

The other point which we have to clarify here is Allah's advance knowledge of what we are going to do in our lives. Allah knows before He creates any man or woman or indeed any creature what this creature will do and what others will do to it and what will happen to it at every moment of its life. He knows who of us will be a chain smoker and who, like myself, cannot stand the smell of tobacco. He similarly knows who will have lung cancer as a result of smoking and who will be spared that agony. This knowledge does not interfere with man's choice. It is not the way that Allah has created a particular person that influences which make him take up this dangerous habit. In the final resort, it is his choice which determines what happens to him.

As you see, there is no conflict between Allah's will and man's choice. Man's choice is indeed part of Allah's will, in the sense that it is He who has given man this ability, told him of its effect on him and allowed him to exercise this freedom of choice throughout his life. This is what makes man accountable for his choices. If his choice was not a free one, accountability would not come into it, in the same way as all animals are not accountable for their actions. They do not have free choice.

As for children and what Allah provides for them, again this is a simple matter. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that everything that walks on earth will have its provision set for it by Allah. Nevertheless, if we were to stop working and consume what the earth produces of vegetables, fruit and cereal, etc. we will very soon go through all that is available on earth and find out that we have nothing to sustain us for another day. At the same time, when we work we are able to increase production manifold.

If you were to ask any scientist one hundred years ago whether the earth will be able to support five billion people, his answer would have been a decisive 'no'. Nor would he have imagined that the population would reach this figure in 1988. His answer was most probably according to his knowledge of the potentials of the earth. He could not have imagined the effects of electricity and other sources of energy on man's productivity. The earth could not have supported this number of people if we were still using the same agricultural and industrial techniques we were using one hundred years ago. In this example, man's work is a very important factor in the equation of productivity and consumption. It is the means with which we are working that make all the difference. Allah has certainly given us the potential to earn our living and the living of our families. But He will not just send us an extra sum of money every month, which will come to us through a special post simply because we have another child. When you have a large family you have to work harder in order to earn more to support your wife and children. When you do work harder, Allah gives you the fruit of your work.

Having said that, I must clarify that I include within "working harder" what every one of us tries to do when he is coping with a greater responsibility, namely, to look for more opportunities to help one's family. That such opportunities do occur is part of Allah's will. Whether we take them up or not is our choice.

• Allah's will and man's doing

Allah has committed Himself to grant victory to those who support His cause and fight to defend His faith. But this is conditional on certain things: that the whole concept of faith must be deeply entrenched in their hearts, that the practical implications of faith must manifest themselves in their organization and behavior and that they must equip themselves with all the means to achieve victory and exert their maximum effort. This is the law of nature which Allah has set in operation and which gives favor to no one. When the believers fall short of meeting any of these conditions, they have to accept the consequences. The fact that they are Muslims does not mean that the laws of nature should be suspended or abrogated for their sake.

Everything in this world takes place in accordance with Allah's will and His predestination, and serves His overall purpose. Man's thoughts, movement, action and will are part of Allah's law, which He uses in order to accomplish whatever He wishes. Nothing of man's thoughts, movement, action or will lies outside of, or in confrontation with, the law and rules of nature.

• Angels recording our deeds and the need for such a record

I have read in my school book that Allah has assigned two angels to each one of us who are called "writing angels". They record everything we do. My question is: Since Allah can see everything and knows everything, what need is there for angels to be on our shoulders to write down what we do? May I add that I am a ten -year-old student.

I will start my answer by giving you this example. Suppose you are playing a game with your friends who are all the same age group as you. Some indeed may be a little older than you. Suppose again that the game itself is not suitable for those who are under 9 years of age, because they cannot get to learn it well. Now suppose that your 6-year-old brother comes over and sees you playing. He asks you imploringly to allow him to take part in the game. You will certainly try to persuade him that he cannot join you because the game is unsuitable for his young age. Nevertheless, he insists and asserts that he can play as perfectly as anyone in the group. Your friends are bothered and want to get on with the game, but your brother persists and starts to behave improperly. Because you love your brother, you do not want to upset him. Since you are kind to your brother, you do not think of beating him up for interrupting you in this irritating fashion. What do you do?

It is very likely that you may invite him to try the game. You may even tell him what he needs to do in order to play it. You may request your friends to be patient with him a little so that he can have a full try. Soon afterward, he realizes that the game which seemed so appealing to him when he saw you and your friends enjoying it is not so enjoyable after all. He leaves you to get on with the game and goes to find a different sort of entertainment.

May I ask why did you allow your brother to have a go at a game when you were absolutely certain that he would not know how to play it? You may say that although you were absolutely certain of that fact, your brother would not accept it, therefore, you wanted to demonstrate to him that he cannot play it. So, when he had a go at it, his attempt did not give you any information which you did not know beforehand. It was useful, however, for your brother's sake. He was soon convinced that you were not denying him any share of your fun. That share was not there for him to take. But he could not have been convinced of that unless he tried it himself.

This example is similar in some ways to what you are asking about. Your question is that since Allah sees and knows everything, why He sends angels to write things down. Let me tell you that Allah knows everything before it happens. You were certain, in your example, that your brother will not be able to play the game before you offered him a try. Your certainty was based on your knowledge of the game and your knowledge of the ability of your brother. Allah has created us and the universe around us. He knows everything fully well. He knows us and our abilities even before He creates us. He does not need to see our action in order to know them. He actually knows them before we start doing them. Yet, He sends to each one of us these two angels to record what we do. Since He does not need that record, there must be a different use for it.

You know that on the day of judgment, everyone of us will be asked about his deeds. We will be rewarded for our good ones and punished for bad ones, unless Allah forgives us. When we stand in front of Allah on the day of judgment, He will tell us that we have done so and so. Some of us may think that they could escape punishment by a simple denial that they did any bad deeds. They will begin to swear in front of Allah that they did not do those bad things. Allah will then command the angels to produce those records. When we will see them, none of us will be able to deny anything. This means that the record is kept for us, not for Allah's sake. Allah does not need them, but we would be shown that everything is documented as it took place.

May I tell you that we do not know the nature of these records. They are certainly more than a simple description of the actions we do. The record may be in the form of a book supported by a panorama which shows every action of ours and how it was done. This is the reason why Allah tells us that when the record is opened, sinners will find a sense of fear, because they realize that it shows everything in full details. They cry out: "Doomed we are. What sort of record is this. It leaves out no major thing or minor detail. It takes down everything."

You seem to be a little worried about the angels being on our shoulders. Remember that we do not know exactly the nature of the angels, except that they are made of light. We certainly do not feel their presence. But they are certainly with us, although we may not be carrying them physically on our shoulders. We know that angels have wings and it may be that they hover close to us so that they fulfill their task Allah has assigned to them. As you are well aware, angels do not disobey Allah. They do everything that He requires them to do.

These matters should not trouble you, because Allah has arranged the world in this way. You should be sure, however, that it is enough for every one of us to try his best to do what is good in this life. When we try that, concentrating our efforts on doing what Allah has ordered us to do and avoiding what He has forbidden us, then we shall have nothing to worry about on the day of judgment. We are certainly liable to commit mistakes, but if we also do good deeds, then Allah will erase our mistakes and reward us for our good deeds. He will then give us the utmost blessings of all: Admission into heaven. Let us pray that we are included among those on whom Allah bestows that blessing.

• Anger

How far is anger forbidden? Is there any method to overcome anger?

Being angry is a condition which cannot be described as permissible or forbidden. Prohibition applies to actions which a person may do of his own free will. Anger is a reaction to some sort of an event which is particularly displeasing to a person.

However, anger tends to cloud one's vision. It causes a person to do things that he may not choose to do in normal circumstances. Therefore, one should try as much as possible to cool one's temper, and not allow his anger to get the better of him. The Prophet has spoken about the need to control anger. He says: "Strength is not the physical ability of a person to overcome others, but strength is to control one's anger."

It is mostly through common sense that a person can resist acting in anger. If he is made angry in a particular situation, it helps if he walks away from it and stays away until his temper has cooled down. [It is recommended to drink some water or perform ablution. It helps to cool down.] It is also a very good advice to refrain from doing anything when angry. One should neither say nor do anything while angry. Even if he is angered by the behavior of a person over whom he has full authority, it is better for him not to react in anger. Let him first of all cool down, then he can deal with the situation in a sensible manner. That is straightforward wisdom.

• Animals for sacrifice — accidental death of

Last year, I intended to sacrifice a sheep on the Eid day. However, after buying the sheep, it got electro­cuted through coming in contact with a live electric wire and was killed within two minutes. Do I have to sacrifice another sheep in place of it?

A sacrifice on Eid day is strongly recommended. When we do the sacrifice and give some of its meat to poor people and make pre­sents of some of it to relatives and friends, retaining a portion to ourselves, we earn reward from Allah.

The Prophet says: "Actions are but intentions," which means that when you intend to do something good, you are rewarded for your intentions. When you carry it out, your reward is increased. Now you intended to make the sacrifice and bought the sheep and brought it home, ready to make the sacrifice when it falls due. The fact that it was killed makes its meat forbidden to eat and you cannot sacrifice it. However, Allah rewards you for your in­tention and for the money you have spent. It is not necessary to buy another sheep, since the occasion has lapsed and it is, in the first place, a recommendation - not an obligation. However, if you had bought and sacrificed another sheep, you would have earned greater reward from Allah. When you did not, it was perfectly in order.

Now it is better that you wait till next Eid, when you do another sacrifice, if you so wish.

• Anniversaries: Observing death anniversaries

Is it proper to commemorate death anniversaries of one's forefathers by conducting feasts or giving charity and reciting parts of the Qur'an with the help of other people, including professional reciters of the Qur'an, as it is customary in certain parts of the Muslim world?

Let us ask ourselves why should we commemorate the death of any person? Is it to remember them and renew our sorrow for their departure? Or is it to organize some sort of occasion which we assume to generate some reward from Allah and hope that this reward will go to the deceased person? If it is for the first purpose, then such commemorations are unnecessary. If the deceased person is dear enough to us, we will always remember him or her. Every time we do, we can pray for the deceased and supplicate to Allah to forgive him or her. If it is for the second purpose, then we have to examine it in the light of Islamic teachings.

The Prophet states very clearly that when a human being dies, "all his actions come to an absolute end, except in one of three ways: a continuous act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge or a dutiful child who prays Allah for him." The first two are matters that the deceased would have done during his life. A person may decide to make a continuing act of charity, such as by allocating certain capital and ensuring that the proceeds of that investment or capital goes to charity. If, for example, a person decides that certain orchards that he owns should go to charity, he should make it clear that the orchard itself should not be sold. It is kept but the fruits that are produced are either given to the poor directly or sold and the price is given to the poor. Every time this is done, his reward from Allah increases.

The third of these possibilities is prayer by a dutiful child. Now this should not be confined to annual anniversaries of death, but a dutiful child will continue to pray for his deceased parents every day of his life.

If he recites the Qur'an, or passages from it, and prays Allah to give the reward of his recitation to his deceased parents, then it is hoped that this is acceptable to Allah. But it is only in such ways that a human being can do something good to a deceased person. Hiring professional reciter of the Qur'an is certainly not one of them. It is a practice that cannot be sanctioned by Islam.

• Apostate: When an apostate returns to Islam

Is it a condition that a non-Muslim should obtain the parent’s permission to convert to Islam? If a Muslim woman who had renounced her faith declares that she wishes to be Muslim again, together with her non-Muslim husband, how should she be treated by her family? What if the elders in her family decide to boycott the couple as punishment for the woman’s previous conduct, and to make of her an example to youngsters in the family? How can we stop Muslim women from eloping with non-Muslim men? How far are family elders answerable to God for such acts?

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