Archive for June, 2009

So, my usra and I are memorizing Suraht al-Mujaadilah and the story of Khuwaylah bint Tha’labah raises many interesting points. Khuwaylah (ra) was married to a very old man, and during this time, it was common within Arab culture to curse one’s wife by saying, “You are to me as the back of my mother,” which is known in the Qur’an as dhihaar. When a husband would say this to a wife, this meant that he would be depriving her of intimate relations and it was akin to a divorce, but a) the husband can say this an unlimited amount of times and b) when he feels like making amends, he just returns to his wife. This essentially would leave the wife powerless. As one can gather, this is what happened to Khuwaylah, as I’m sure it was happening to other women in the Peninsula. The only difference, however, is that Khuwaylah demanded justice. She would keep going to the Prophet Muhammad (sas) waiting for revelation from Allah to grant her her rights. Initially, (pre-revelation from Allah) Sayidna Muhammad (sas) said, “Oh Khuwaylah, your husband is an old man, be conscious of Allah in him.” Khuwaylah, however, had a deep faith that Allah would reveal to Sayidna Muhammad (sas) and the rest of the humanity that she was being unfairly treated and the idea of dhihaar was not aligned with the teachings of Islam. She persisted, staying with Saydina Muhammad (sas) until Allah sent down the beginning of Suraht al-Mujadilah, and with it, came a very difficult punishment for those that abuse their wives through dhihaar.

First, Allah reminds those who do curse their wives in such a fashion that clearly, your wives are not your mothers, your mothers gave birth to you. SubhanAllah, sometimes we really need a wake-up call by stating the obvious. Also, we can just adopt sayings that really are not their literal meanings and be so unaware of the obvious. For example, the idea of saying “That’s so ill” (meaning it’s cool). Or, the story of the two fish and a turtle asks them how they enjoy the water and they respond by asking, “What’s water?”

Then, the punishment. Allah commands those who commit dhihaar and then want to return back to their wives that they must first free a slave. If they cannot find a slave to free, they must fast two months straight. Straight! That means, there is no “I am tired today, I’ll just skip this day of fasting and make it up.” If they are not able to do this, they must feed sixty needy people before they even touch their wife. It should be noted, that these are not three options, of which a husband can pick from. He must first try to find a slave, then try to fast the two months, then if those two fail, feed sixty people.

The story of Khuwaylah is impressive in so many ways. We see the persistence of a woman who knows that this Arab custom must be eliminated and has a deep faith that Allah will reveal something regarding her particular situation (remember, she was married to an old man, and Allah gives three ways of purifying him from his error). We also see the justice and mercy that Allah has towards His creation. This is a clear directive that husbands cannot deprive wives of their rights and vice versa, and yet, if we do err, “Inna Allaha la’afuwwun ghafur” (al Mujadilah, aya 2)- Indeed Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving. Then, we think of the punishment. We obviously think of it as a punishment, but in reality, Allah says why He issues it, “thaalika litu’minu billahi wa rasulihi”- this is so you can believe in Allah and his Messenger (sas) (aya 3). When we are fasting, it gives us time to reflect and make amends, and in a two month period of fasting, it would be hard to come out of it with a lower state of imaan.

Some questions that I do have: “Since the Qur’an is relevant at all times and places, and we know that this was an Arab custom that has been eliminated (I hope), how does it pertain to us today? Are there any phrases similar to it that the scholars would say the punishment would be the same?”

My second question is, “What if a wife said something akin to that phrase to her husband? What would the ruling be then?”

If anyone happens to know, please inform us 🙂

Any thoughts about the story of Khuwaylah (ra)?

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I received this email as a forward and was actually quite impressed since we usually are dualistic in our thought process:

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. He asks one of his new students to stand and…

Prof: So you believe in God??
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Prof: Is God good?
Student: Sure
Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student: Yes.
Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then?

(Student is silent)

Prof: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fellow. Is God good?
Student: Yes
Prof: Is Satan good?
Student: No
Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From…God
Prof: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes
Prof: So who created evil?

(Student does not answer)

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir
Prof: So who created them?

(Student has no answer)

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you.
Tell me, son…Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.
Prof: Tell us you have ever heard your God?
Student: No ,sir.
Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes
Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn’t exist.
What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Prof: Yes, Faith. And that is the problem science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.
Student: And is there such thing as cold?
Student: No sir. There isn’t.

(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, megaheat, white heat , a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat , but we cant go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat .We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat , sir, just the absence of it.
(There is a pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre)
Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something .You can have low light, normal light, bright light , flashing light…But if you have no light constantly , you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Prof: So what is the point you’re making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: Just the absence of it.
Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your student that they evolved from monkey?
Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course , I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your OWN eyes, sir?

(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class is in uproar)

Student: Is there anyone in this class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class breaks out into laughter)
Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so .So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol , science says that you have no brain, sir.
With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Prof:I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir…The link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keeps us moving & alive.

Disclaimer: Obviously there are flaws in the student’s argument. The fact that the Professor is talking and even functioning proves he has a brain…however, I think that if that part didn’t exist, it would have made his argument stronger. The idea that there are things even in the human body which scientists can’t figure out because it is way too perfect is another aspect we should consider when thinking of the existence of God.

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Last year I had the great opportunity to go to Egypt for two months to study Arabic at the Diwan Center in Cairo.  My parents are originally from Alexandria, Egypt so it was not the first time that I have visited, but it was the first time not traveling with my parents and the first time I went there for study as opposed to visiting family.

The ability to go abroad is a beautiful blessing from Allah (swt), but it also comes with its own set of tribulations. One should be cautious when saying, “I just need to get away.” While we all face those times when we desire to escape, we should always remember that we really can’t ever escape the ibtila’ (trials) of Allah. They just seem to follow subhanAllah- they do not need to pay for airfare, rent or tuition. They are with us everywhere we go- whether it be in the States, Malaysia, the Middle East… anyway, this is a tangent to what I really wanted to reflect upon today, which is the Egyptian Identity Crisis.

Egypt has an identity crisis the same way Americans had one in the hippie 60s-70s. It is a land that is filled with paradoxes. In it, we can find the best Islamic schools, well known scholars, beautiful masajid, and yet we see the impact the fath (Sadat to the Western world) has had on the perception of what it means to be advanced. Walking to Masjid Bilal for maghrib, I had to pass by a sheesha place. The place was packed, (especially if there was a soccer match that day), and the athaan for maghrib was flooding the streets.

Egypt is also very well known for its fashion style. Only in Egypt can I find women wearing a yellow hijab with a yellow body (a very tight shirt which is not so hijabi) and yellow flip-flops. The style is definitely a mixture of trying to be perceived as Western while remaining “Islamic”- unfortunately it tends to fail on both fronts. Why am I making these observations? As an American Muslim, I wanted to go up to each and every hijabi and say, “Muslims in America don’t dress like this- is this the new Egyptian cool or are you trying to emulate Westerners?”

At the same time, there is a different layer to all of this and that is with personal identity. As a Muslim living in the West, I am clearly a minority, so if I wear hijab at all, I feel empowered and I proudly stand out. This is not so for Egyptian hijabis. If a sister does decide to wear hijab in Egypt, she will be like the majority of other women who reside there- so, what may make them feel different, is the sense of perceived Western style that they are incorporating into their wardrobe.

This identity crisis is problematic for several reasons. If we don’t feel a sense of pride in Islam, we will always allow other worldviews, fads, the moda, infiltrate our perception of self and then we end up being (and looking) quite confused. This confusion is clearly seen on the dirt roads of Egypt, where a donkey and a Mercedes share the same road as a vendor is yelling that he has loofahs for sale.

I say this all with a deep respect and love for what Egypt has to offer in terms of knowledge, history, and the genuine noble characters that I have met on my travels. It just saddens me to see all the talent that many “developing countries” have and it is strangled underneath the jar of bad government.

Descending Jabal Musa (Mt. Sinai) :)

Descending Jabal Musa (Mt. Sinai) 🙂

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