Polemics of polygamy


By Prof Datuk Dr Zaleha Kamaruddin, the Rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia

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Although permitted in the Quran, there are two different views on the practice, men are generally in agreement but most women are not in favour of it.

POLYGAMY remains a controversial issue not only in Malaysia but many Muslim countries around the world. It has been the subject of many debates but is actually far from settled (Latest: newly-formed polygamy club propagated by Ikhwan).

According to a Malaysian anthropologist, Prof Azizah Kassim, whenever the issue of polygamy is debated in Malaysia, the conclusion that can be made is that men are positive while most women abhor it.

Why have such polemics occurred, and what are the causes behind these conflicts, especially in a situation where, despite its legal validity, polygamy has been largely perceived by many as a practice which fails to protect the rights of women?

Writings relating to the legal position of polygamy show that there is an agreement among Muslim jurists (classical and modern) that this practice is permitted in the Quran.

However, during the late 19th century, Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, a reformer who was the Grand Mufti of Egypt, in his Tafsir al-Manar questioned the practice of polygamy in a modern society.

He mentioned that polygamy might have once been useful and practical in early Muslim society but it could no longer be viewed in the same light in today’s society where it has, more often than not, been misused and has caused much pain and suffering among women.

His views are shared by many other jurists and thinkers, such as Rashid Redha, Muham-mad al Ghazali and Azizah al-Hibry.

On the other hand, there have also been writers and jurists who vehemently oppose any form of limitation on a practice which has clearly been permitted in the Quran.

Sheikh Muhammad Shaltut, Abu Zahrah, Aisha Abdul-Rahman, Zainab al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Siba’i and Sheikh Abul-A’la al-Mawdudi are of the view that those who try to reinterpret the Quran in relation to polygamy are actually going against the very teachings of Islam.

Although there are two different views on polygamy, many Muslim countries today acknowledge the fact that polygamy can be abused, and have made improvements to the laws to curb such exploitation.

In Malaysia, steps have been taken to include the incorporation of specific provisions controlling the practice of polygamy through the Islamic Family Law Enactments of each state.

Latest research conducted by Dr Raihanah Abdullah has shown that the main cause for abuse in relation to polygamy in Malaysia stems from the lack of understanding on the concept and execution of justice. This has led to a prolonged antagonism and has caused various reactions from the public, especially women’s organisations.

The National Council for Women’s Organi-sations says it is not seeking to abolish polygamy, but opposes the way in which polygamy is being practised.

Issues of enforcement including finding better solutions to ensure justice and welfare for the wives and children need to be addressed.

Researchers have shown that one solution to the problems brought about by polygamy would be strict compliance with the conditions of polygamy based on the true teachings of Islam.

It is the absence of such realisation that has led to various difficulties associated with polygamy.

From the legal perspective, in order to rectify the situation, there is a need to consolidate the laws and to formulate a uniform approach to polygamy. Discrepancies in the law have allowed men, as Gavin Jones puts it: “…to ‘shop around’ and find another state where his application will succeed”.

Although the Government has made efforts to achieve uniformity in the laws for all Malaysian states, unfortunately, the aim was not achieved as when it was finally enforced, the states had discretionally amended several matters in the provisions of the law.

Researchers have shown that lighter penalties and limited jurisdiction between states also contribute to the inability to put a stop to the contravention of these laws.

The imposition of a minimum fine of RM1,000 and mandatory imprisonment ranging from as short as one month to a year should be imposed on offenders.

However, this view has also been objected to. It is argued that mandatory imprisonment would not solve the problem but instead aggravate it, as these men would not be able to maintain their families while serving prison time.

Aside from that, a more detailed review in deciding polygamy applications should also be made.

Judges should also play a more proactive role in ensuring that an applicant is truly capable of being fair before allowing his application. The views of existing wives should also be taken into consideration.

Besides educating the existing wife on her rights in a polygamous union, she should also be facilitated in making claims for maintenance against her husband should he fail to provide for her.

This should be done without the wife having to file an application for maintenance but be ordered by the judge during her husband’s application for polygamy.

A review of the law on the amount of maintenance – which had been abolished earlier – should be reintroduced.

There should also be provisions to prohibit husbands from changing the economic status of the existing wife and children.

There is also a need to expedite enforcement of other rights as well, such as claims for jointly acquired property.

It would be extremely unfair for the wife, who has worked equally hard as her husband, to suddenly share not only her husband, but also their property, with another woman.

These proposals are being looked into by the relevant authorities and some have been included among the amendments to the Islamic Family Law Bill said to be soon tabled in Parliament.

However, one should remember that the law has limitations, especially in matters relating to the heart.

Fact and Evidence in Islam


Islam is a religion established by reason and evidence, and the supreme bases of its teachings are the Quran and the Sunnah. Islam does not exist without reason, and any utterance beyond reason is unworthy of association with it. Islam is the religion of Allah the Creator, the Omniscient. It is therefore impossible to find in its teachings anything that opposes truth, evidence and fact. If an opinion produced in the name of Islam fails the test of reason and evidence established in the Quran and Sunnah, then such an opinion cannot be said to derive from the teachings of Islam even though the one who makes that opinion assumes a religious title or dresses in a manner that reflects piety.

Similarly, any view must be excluded from Islam if it contradicts demonstrable truth or scientific certainty, or if it is prejudicial to the good of common humanity. A prominent scholar of Islam, al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah (d. 751H), said:

Indeed for the shariah of Islam, its construction and foundations are built on all wisdom and goodness for humanity in this world and the Hereafter. The shariah of Islam is all about justice, goodness and wisdom. Therefore, if any aspect that departs from justice into vindictiveness, from blessing into curse, from goodness into evil, from wisdom into foolishness, then it is not from the shariah of Islam even though it is interpreted as such. (I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in, Beirut: Dar al-Jail, 3/3.)

Facts not Personalities

Whichever observation about Islam that conflicts with the Quran and Sunnah, or which contradicts the fundamentals of human welfare established by shariah must be rejected without consideration of who makes that observation. Therefore, the opinions of even a mufti, a respected teacher or an ustaz or maulana (religious teacher) can be accepted or rejected on this basis.

The opinion of any individual —even the most respected Islamic scholar— may be questioned if it does not concur with evidence provided in the Quran and Sunnah. No one is maksum (infallible) other than the Prophets of Allah. The religious opinions of the esteemed, or of an ustaz, should not be swallowed without proper chewing. Allah proclaims in Surah al-Isra, verse 36:

“And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).”

Imam al-Shatibi (d. 790H) said:

Thus, it is compulsory for us to follow the one that was guarded from making mistakes (that is, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) and to stop from following whoever is not being shielded from mistakes whenever there may be doubt. Moreover, we should consider whatever comes from all imams (scholars) side by side with the Quran and the Sunnah. Whatsoever is accepted by both (Quran and Sunnah), we consequently accept, and whatsoever is rejected by both we consequently abandon. (Al-I’tisam, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, p. 165.)

Respect and the observation of good manners when dealing with ulama (the Muslim clergy) are commanded by the nas (Scripture) of Islam, but this has never stopped a person presenting intelligent criticisms, or prevented his questioning the opinions of ulama, even though he maintains the disciplines of religion. This is a principle of truth that has long been practised by all established Muslim scholars.

Consider al-Hafizd al-Zahabi (d. 748H), the celebrated historian and biographer of distinguished members of the mediaeval Muslim community. In one of these biographies, Imam al-Zahabi praised the great scholar Waki’ Ibn al-Jarrah thus: “He was between the sea of knowledge and the imams (scholars) of huffaz (hadith).” Later, Al-Zahabi recorded the words of Yahya bin Aktham: “I befriended Waki’ at his home and also when he travelled. He fasted al-dahr (every day) and finished reciting the Quran in one night.”

Al-Zahabi commented on Waki’s achievements thus:

This is an amazing ibadah (act of worship) but for it to be practised by an imam (scholar) amongst the imams of hadith, then that is not normal. Indeed it was sahih (authentic) that the Prophet pbuh prohibited daily fasting and reciting the Quran (until completion) in fewer than three days. The religion is simple. Adhering to the Sunnah is more imperative. May Allah bless Waki’. Where can we find an individual as great as he? Nevertheless, he frequently drank nabiz (date wine) that could be intoxicating if consumed a lot. He made his own judgment with regards to drinking it (he does not consider it as prohibited so long as it does not intoxicate). Should he forsake it (the drink) on the ground of devoutness, that would be much better for him. This is because whoever avoids elements of doubt, thus his religion and dignity will be saved.

Indeed, it is sahih that nabiz is forbidden and prohibited, but this is not the place to deliberate it. For every person, each of his opinions can be accepted or abandoned (except for the Prophet pbuh). Take not as an example the wrong deeds of an alim (knowledgeable person). (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Beirut: Muassasah al-Risalah, 9/142-144.)

Waki’ was an established ulama, but an academic fault must be acknowledged as such and judged accordingly. It is clear that, while we are enjoined to respect others, especially religious teachers, respect should not impede our speaking the truth while always maintaining the discipline and manners taught by Islam.

Reject Unproven Views

I discuss this subject because there those in our community who will not dare question those regarded as ustaz, even though what an ustaz claims may be utterly groundless. It is as if such an ustaz has somehow obtained an infallible licence to say anything in the name of religion without presenting reason or evidence. Worse, some religious teachers in the old days warned their students that “whoever asks a lot of questions shows that his faith is weak.”

It is unsurprising, therefore, that some states in Malaysia have issued a number of strange fatwa, such as prohibiting the sale cows to Chinese, or that budu (pickled fish) is impure when spilled on clothing but is pure when consumed. However odd these edicts might be, no one has dared question the grounds on which these fatwa were issued for fear of being labelled “weak in faith”.

There is a religious speaker who goes about our country saying that, according to Islam, the remedy for AIDS is 100 lashes of a cane on one’s back. He claims that this is a genuine “cure” based on the teachings of Islam and is derived from research based on both the Quran and science. One wonders which scientist gave him that information; but on the strength of this claim alone, the speaker has received a number of invitations to provide religious enlightenment in a similar vein—and there are those who have received him well. I wish to pose some questions: since not all those with AIDS have been involved in immoral sexual activities, is it therefore “right” to whip everyone? Is having AIDS sufficient justification in the eyes of the shariah to subject a person to 100 lashes? Such ideas are clearly mistaken; but unfortunately there are mosques, even in Kuala Lumpur, that extend speaking invitations to those who champion such views. I am perplexed when I come upon people who are seemingly highly educated and trained to make best use of their minds—but when confronted by matters of religion, they prefer to abandon their education in favour of a silence that makes it seem as if Islam opposes logic and the intellect.

There was another religious speaker who claimed that he buried the body of a rich man, which later transformed into a supernatural entity without anyone knowing a thing. What is fascinating is that in a country based on the rule and application of law, no one looked into the matter of a missing person until the one who buried him told this astonishing story. Whatever the case, the story involved a celebrity and this in turn affected the religious beliefs of many. It was a baseless claim that should not have been made, but unfortunately there were many who believed it.

We have also heard about a certain individual who declared another an apostate; and later did the same thing to the students of a college on no greater merit than some news reports, the truth of which could not be ascertained. An allegation of apostasy—if it is at all true—is very serious and requires careful scrutiny, that is, iqamah al-hujjah (the construction of proof). Apostasy cannot be declared haphazardly, but there were many who accepted these allegations without further thought and in the name of religion, and regrettably the allegations were made by one learned in religion.This attitude extends even to matter of sin.

Exploitation

In some Malaysian states there are religious groups that impose various types of “taxes” on bereaved families, and sometimes these taxes amount to thousands of ringgit. Many rituals associated with the religion are performed and the corresponding bills will then be charged to families of the deceased. For this reason some grin widely upon hearing news of death, and even recitations and forms of solat (prayer) that were not taught by the Prophet pbuh are included in the list of costs incurred. The community dares not ask if religion is really so cruel that even distressed families deserving of support should be burdened further by these “costs”. Or is Islam so materialistically driven that only those with the largest purses can be assured of the absolution of sin and the attainment of reward in the Hereafter? If this is the case, then the Gates of Heaven will open only for those with the means to pay these “agents of Allah” here and now on this transitory earth. Does this truly represent the beauty of Islam that commands believers to perform good deeds and not depend on others?

My point is that it is the community’s right to ask questions in any discussion of religion. Neither an ustaz nor a respected teacher is God’s appointed agent, unlike the Prophets of Allah, such that their declarations are binding even if they lack nas. Islam is not man’s ultimate justification to do as he pleases—it is, instead, a religion built on reason and evidence. If each of us asks the ustaz for the causes of and reasons behind every one of his religious opinions, then we should, by doing so, help realise the principles of Islam and thus improve intellectual discussion in our own community.

We must guard against the complacent satisfaction of merely memorising religious opinions without thinking about them analytically and rationally. One of the foremost scholars of our own times, Prof Muhammad Qutb, said:

From another point of view, Islamic scholarship is bound to the way it was studied around five centuries ago. There was (then) the influence of Greek thought from ilm al-kalam (Scholastic theology) that was futile and unrewarding. More than that, the speculative excesses of ilm al-kalam diverted the study of faith towards matters that overloaded the mind to no purpose. It took the concept of faith away from that which provides the essence of life, and turned it towards mere philosophical disputation without direction or benefit. Religious students devolved from thinkers into mere memorisers: a student could appear learned simply on the strength of how many texts, lectures and footnotes he managed to memorise. However, he could not think for himself or even think independently. Consequently, the authenticity of knowledge was lost to the ulama and they turned to taklid and simply quoted from others. Scholarship was impaired further by a third factor, namely the obsessive devotion towards a certain mazhab, which affected all students. Everyone fixated on the mazhab that he grew up in. He turned his ultimate religious duty into an effort to prove that his mazhab and sheikh (teacher) were superior to any other…” (Waqi’una al-Mu’asir, p. 176.)

The practice of blind taklid was never taught by any imam of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah (the Sunni community as a whole). On the contrary, imams have demanded that each person must strive to build his or her own intellectual ability. We read the following mentioned by a student of Imam al-Shafi’i, Imam al-Muzani (d. 264H):

“I have summarised all of this from the knowledge of al-Imam al-Shafi’i and from the meaning of what he taught in order to impart it to whoever wants it, along with notice of his prohibition of taklid (of his opinions) or of those of others, so that the reader will himself consider the evidence for the sake of his religion, and so as to be the more circumspect about it”. (Waliyy Allah al-Dahlawi, Al-Insaf fi Bayan Asbab al-Ikhtilaf, p. 100.)

If this form of learning should flourish, Islam will no longer be considered exclusivist such that only a privileged few may reflect upon it while the rest must follow blindly. Indeed, we are commanded to respect rigorous study and never to accept blind taklid. The development of the Muslim community will not take place as long as the intellectual competence of our religious leaders fails to meet the academic standards of an increasingly competitive world. The Muslim community must rally to support the advancement of tajdid (revitalisation) that began decades ago and which is still in progress.

Source : http://drmaza.com/home/?p=1855

Distribution of qurban (sacrifice) meat


That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor. (translation Quran 22/28)

Their meat will not reach Allah , nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good. (translation Quran 22/37)

agih daging

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Melapah daging

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Yummy, yummy

The Child’s Rights: The Parents’ Duties


Children-Playing

Islam’s general approach to children may be summarized in a few principles: First, it is a divine injunction that no child may become the cause of harm to the parents (Al-Baqarah 2:233). Secondly, by implication the parents should reciprocate and cause the child no harm either. The Qur’an recognizes very clearly that parents are not always immune from over protectiveness or negligence. On the basis of this recognition, it has, thirdly, established certain guidelines and pointed out certain facts with respect to children. It points out that children are joys of life as well as sources of pride, seeds of vanity and false security, fountains of distress and temptation. But it hastens to stress the greater joys of the spirit and caution parents against overconfidence, false pride, or misdeeds that might be caused by children.

The religious moral principle of this position is that every individual, parent or child, relates to God directly and is independently responsible for his deeds. No child can absolve the parent on the Day of Judgment. Nor can a parent intercede on behalf of his child. Finally, Islam is strongly sensitive to the crucial dependence of the child on the parents. Their decisive role in forming the child’s personality is clearly recognized in Islam.

In a very suggestive statement, the Prophet declared that every child is born into the true malleable nature of faith (i.e., the pure natural state of Islam), its parents later on make it into a Jew, Christian or pagan.

According to these guidelines, and more specifically, one of the most inalienable rights of the child in Islam is the right to life and equal life chances. Preservation of the child’s life is the third commandment in Islam.

Another equally inalienable right is the right of legitimacy, which holds that every child shall have a father, and one father only. A third set of rights comes under socialization, upbringing, and general care. To take good care of children is one of the most commendable deeds in Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was fond of children and he expressed his conviction that his Muslim community would be noted among other communities for its kindness to children.

It is charity of a higher order to attend to their spiritual welfare, educational needs, and general well-being. Interest in and responsibility for the child’s welfare are questions of first priority. According to the Prophet’s instructions, by the seventh day the child should be given a good, pleasant name and its head should be shaved, along with all the other hygienic measures required for healthy growing. 

Responsibility for and compassion toward the child is a matter of religious importance as well as social concern. Whether the parents are alive or deceased, present or absent, known or unknown, the child is to provided with optimum care. Whenever there are executers or relatives close enough to be held responsible for the child’s welfare, they shall be directed to discharge this duty. But if there is no next of kin, care for the child becomes a joint responsibility of the entire Muslim community, designated officials and commoners alike.

Dr. Hammudah Abdalati graduated from al-Azhar Universiy of Egypt. He received an M.A. in Islamic Studies from McGill University and a Ph. D. in Sociology from Princeton University. In 1958 he joined the Department of Islamic Culture at al-Azhar. He was appointed in 1960 the first full-time director of the Canadian Islamic Center of Edmonton, Aberta. From 1967 till he passed away in September 1976, Dr. Abdalati was Associate Professor of Sociology at Utica College of Syracuse University.

Source : OnIslam

Etiquette of Eid


ketupat raya

Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. There are two such Eid in Islam. The first is called Eid Al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast Breaking). It falls on the first day of Shawwaal, the tenth month of the Muslim year, following the month of Ramadan in which the Holy Quran was revealed and which is the month of fasting.

Ghusl (taking a bath)

One of the manners of Eid is to take a bath before going out to the prayer. It is reported in a saheeh report in Al-Muwatta’ and elsewhere that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar used to take a bath on the day of Al-Fitr before coming to the prayer-place. (Al-Muwatta’ 428)

It was reported that Saeed ibn Jubayr said: “Three things are sunnah on Eid: to walk (to the prayer-place), to take a bath and to eat before coming out.” This is what Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said, and he may have learned this from some of the Sahaabah.

Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned that the scholars were agreed that it is mustahabb to take a bath before the Eid prayer. The reason why it is mustahabb to take a bath before Friday prayer and other public gatherings also applies in the case of Eid, only more so.

Eating before coming out

One should not come out to the prayer-place on Eid Al-Fitr before eating some dates, because of the hadeeth narrated by Al-Bukhaari from Anas ibn Maalik who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would not go out on the morning of Eid Al-Fitr until he had eaten some dates… and he would eat an odd number.” (Al-Bukhaari, 953)

It is mustahabb to eat before coming out because this confirms that we are not allowed to fast on this day, and demonstrates that the fast is now over. Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) explained that this is to prevent people extending the fast and it also means obeying the commandment of Allah. (Fath, 2/446). If a person does not have any dates, he can eat anything permissible for breakfast. On Eid Al-Adha, on the other hand, it is mustahabb not to eat until after the prayer, when one should eat from the meat of one’s sacrifice.

Takbeer on the day of Eid

This is one of the greatest sunnahs of this day, because of the words of Allah (interpretation of the meaning): “… (He [Allah] wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah (say Takbeer – ‘Allahu Akbar’) for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.” [Al-Baqarah 2:185]

Al-Waleed ibn Muslim said: “I asked Al-Oozaa’i and Maalik ibn Anas about saying Takbeer aloud on Eid. They said, ‘Yes, ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar used to say it aloud on the day of Fitr until the imam came out.’” Abu ‘Abd Al-Rahmaan Al-Salami said: “On Eid Al-Fitr they would say it louder than on Eid Al-Adha.” Wakee’ said, “ie, the takbeer.” (Irwaa’, 3/122).

Al-Daaraqutni and others reported that when Ibn ‘Umar came out on Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, he would strive hard in making Takbeer until he reached the prayer-place, then he would continue making Takbeer until the imam came. Ibn Abi Shaybah reported with a saheeh isnaad that Al-Zuhri said: “The people used to make Takbeer on Eid when they came out of their houses until they reached the prayer-place and until the imam came out. When the imam came out, they fell silent, until the imam said Takbeer, then they said Takbeer.” (Irwaa’, 2/121).

The practice of making Takbeer from home to the prayer-place, and until the imam comes in, was well-known among the salaf and was reported by a number of authors such as Ibn Abi Shaybah, ‘Abd al-Razzaaq and Al-Firyaabi in his book Ahkaam al-’Eidayn from a group of the salaf. An example of this is the report that Naafi’ ibn Jubayr used to make Takbeer and wondered why people did not do so.

He would say to people, “Why do you not make Takbeer?” Ibn Shihaab Al-Zuhri said, “The people used to make Takbeer from the time they left their homes until the imam came in.” The time for making Takbeer on Eid Al-Fitr starts from the night of Eid until the time when the imam comes in to lead the prayer.

The wording of the Takbeer

Ibn Abi Shaybah reported in Al-Musannaf that Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say Takbeer on the days of Tashreeq as follows: “Allahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allah, wa Allaahu akbar, Allahu akbar wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allah is Most Great… there is no god but Allah, Allah is Most Great, and to Allah be praise).” Ibn Abi Shaybah reported it elsewhere with the same isnaad, but with the phrase “Allahu akbar” repeated three times.

Al-Muhaamili also reported that Ibn Mas’ood used to say: “Allahu akbaru kabeeran, Allahu akbaru kabeeran, Allahu akbar wa ajall, Allahu akbar wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allah is Most Great of All, Allah is Most Great of all, Allah is most Great and Most Glorious, and to Allah be praise).” (Al-Irwaa ‘, 3/126).

Congratulating one another

People may exchange congratulations and good greetings on Eid, no matter what form the words take. For example they may say to one another, “Taqabbal Allahu minnaa wa minkum (May Allaah accept [the fast and worship] from us and from you” or “Eid Mubarak” and other similar permissible greetings.

Jubayr ibn Nufayr said: “At the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when people met one another on the day of Eid, they would say, ‘Taqabbal Allaahu minnaa wa minka (May Allaah accept from us and from you).’” (Ibn Hajar. Its isnaad is hasan. Fath, 2/446).

The practice of exchanging greetings was well-known at the time of the Sahaabah and scholars such as Imam Ahmad and others allowed it. There are reports which indicate that it is permissible to congratulate people on special occasions. The Sahaabah used to congratulate one another when something good happened, such as when Allah accepted a person’s repentance and so on.

There is no doubt that congratulating others in this way is one of the noblest kinds of good manners and one of the highest social qualities among Muslims. At the very least, one can return Eid greetings when they are given to you, and remain silent if nothing is said, as Imaam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If someone congratulates me, I return the greeting, but I do not initiate it.”

By Shaikh Al-Munajjid

Source : kuwaittimes.net

The art of giving: Zakat during Ramadan


One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to Allah, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. Therefore, our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need.

Zakat – also known as zakah – is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived individuals. The payment of zakat is obligatory for every sane and mature Muslim whenever there is an economic activity resulting in the net increase in their wealth.

Zakat not only purifies the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead goodwill and warm wishes for the contributors.

Paying zakat compulsory, and the Qur’an states that those who pay zakat are in the “brotherhood of faith”.

How is zakat distributed?

Zakat is distributed amongst eight categories of people. The Qur’an states that:

“Zakat is for the poor, and the needy and those who are employed to administer and collect it, and the new converts, and for those who are in bondage, and in debt and service of the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers, a duty ordained by Allah, and Allah is the All-Knowing, the Wise.”

How to calculate zakat:

It is an obligation to pay 2.5 per cent of the wealth you have made after a full lunar year. Farmers who own their own land and harvest their own crops are required to pay 5 or 10 per cent of their harvest’s worth, depending on the type of irrigation.

Do I pay zakat on my house and car?

No, as long as you have one house. If you have a second house for investment purposes, this is “zakatable”. You should pay 2.5 per cent of the total saved from the house, excluding what is spent on maintenance or insurance. The same applies for cars. If you are renting a car to someone, this is considered a business entity, therefore also zakatable.

What about businesses?

It is advised that if a businessman earns a certain amount from his business, whatever he saves after taking care of his family’s needs and his business expenses, he pays zakat of 2.5 per cent. Secondly, a businessman has to pay zakat on the commodities in his store. This would require evaluating the purchasing power of the commodity and then paying 2.5 per cent of this amount.

The importance of zakat during Ramadan:

Most Muslims prefer to give their zakat in Ramadan because there are more rewards for doing so, but it is not necessary.

However, it is obligatory to pay Zakat Al Fitr, which is for fasting Muslims to give food or money on behalf of fasting people. The food or money is equal to one day’s meals for one person. The head of the family pays this amount on behalf of each person in the family.

If he is responsible for his parents, then he has to pay Zakat Al Fitr for them too.

Dental Health and the Miswak


“Good dental health is more than the absence of disease or tooth decay in your mouth,” says David Kennedy, DDS and author of How to Save Your Teeth (Kennedy, pg.3). “It is an integral part of your well being. People with exceptionally healthy bodies usually have healthy teeth and gums.” Teeth are also a blessing from Allah. It is said that, “If the eyes are a window to the soul then the mouth is the doorway to the body” (Stay, p.5).

Teeth play an important function in the digestive process. They are important in helping people to speak and in upholding one’s facial structure. Without teeth, nobody would be able to say anything comprehendible, if at all. Without teeth you would have to swallow your food without being able to chew it first, which is unhealthy for the digestive system.

However, despite their important functions, teeth are the least cared for part of the body. But, cleaning one’s teeth does not have to be complicated. Eating unprocessed food and staying away from sugary sweets are simple keys to good dental health.

Caries, or dental decay, is the most common disease affecting the teeth. People eating large amounts of processed foods or sweets and then forgetting – or not wanting – to brush their teeth afterwards, end up causing easily avoidable decaying of the teeth. While chewing food, small pieces tend to become stuck to the surface the teeth, as well as in between them. Leaving those pieces there for a long period of time causes the food to go bad, which in turn attracts bacteria that dig holes in the teeth. Most people do not realize the damage that is being done until the tooth is already decayed and must be pulled out by a dentist.

In addition, poor dental health also leads to bad breath and many other diseases, including malocclusion, periodontal diseases or even oral cancer.

David Kennedy documents that the devastating effects of sweet-rich diets were documented as early as 1938. In many industrialized countries, dental decay is becoming less common due to renewed awareness and efforts towards dental health. However, in the developing world, where previously many people were free of dental decay, it is becoming increasingly common (Kennedy, pg. 10).

Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, set out on a world expedition to discover why, as a general rule, societies untouched by modern civilization had excellent teeth, whereas civilized societies had comparatively poor teeth. He compiled a photographic record of his travels and concluded that diet – not poor brushing habits, was the culprit (Kennedy, p.2). However, proper care of the teeth was the second most influential factor in people with healthy teeth.

According to researchers, the people with the best teeth are not those who have the fanciest sonic toothbrushes – but those who use their toothbrushes regularly and after each snack and meal. In fact, ancient cultures and developing nations lacked the technology to create such machines for the teeth, yet there have always been reliable ways to clean them.

American Indians used fresh bark from the prickly ash tree to clean their teeth. The sap from this tree kills bacteria. Mojave Desert Indians used twigs from the cresote bush and rural villagers in India used the neem tree.

Muslims use what is called a miswak. A miswak, or siwak, is a small stick with which the teeth are rubbed and cleaned. The end is shaped into a brush through biting or chewing, which serve to separate the fibers and release the healing herbal powers of the twig. Some advantages of the miswak are that is does not require toothpaste, water or a special area to use it, and may be easily carried in one’s purse or pocket. It is also disposable and biodegradable – therefore, it is the ultimate environmentally safe toothbrush. Some people even believe it works better than a toothbrush.

Nevertheless, a more compelling reason to use the miswak is that it is Sunnah to do so. Abu Hurairah reported that Prophet Mohammad (saws) said,

“Were it not that I might overburden believers, I would have ordered them to use the miswak at every prayer” (Imam Muslim, Vol. 1).

According to researchers it is this regular cleaning of the teeth, along with a proper diet, that makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy teeth.

Keeping your teeth clean is as important Islamically as it is medically. It is as difficult to envision speaking to Allah (through prayer) with bad breath and dirty teeth as it is to envision speaking to a friend when you are suffering from bad breath and dirty teeth.

The Prophet himself (saws), used to use the miswak before every prayer (Sahih Muslim, Vol.1).

Modern science suggests we would do well to follow his example.

Fasting the Month of Ramadan


By Sheikh Yusuf Estes

The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. Allah prescribes daily fasting for all able, adult Muslims during the whole of the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, beginning with the sighting of the new moon.

Exempted from the fast are the very old and the insane. On the physical side, fasting is from first light of dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. On the moral, behavioral side, one must abstain from lying, malicious gossip, quarrelling and trivial nonsense.

Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing are permitted to break the fast, but must make up an equal number of days later in the year. If physically unable to do so, they must feed a needy person for each day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.

In addition to the fast proper, one is encouraged to read the entire Quran. In addition, special prayers, called Tarawih, are held in the mosque every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (Juz’) is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Quran has been completed. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was begun during Ramadan.

During the last ten days – though the exact day is never known and may not even be the same every year – occurs the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). To spend that night in worship is equivalent to a thousand months of worship, i.e. Allah’s reward for it is very great.

On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted, a special celebration is made, called ‘Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish themselves from the People of the Book.

While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism, celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘Id al-Adha, the feast of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden.

Zakat Al-Fitr


INJUNCTION

It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

“Remember! Zakat al-Fitr is Wajib (strongly recommended, just short of obligatory) on every Muslim, man or woman, free or in servitude, adult or child.” (Hadith: Tirmidhi’s Sunan)

MEANING

Literal meaning of Zakat (or Zakah) is the process of purification. Fitr is from the word Fitrah and its literal meaning is (one’s) nature or natural state. Hence the meaning of Zakat al-Fitr is to purify one’s nature.

PURPOSE

Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that

the Prophet (saw) made the Zakat al-Fitr obligatory for the purpose of: purifying our fasting from vain talk and shameful mistakes, to make arrangements for the poor and the needy for food and clothing (for the festival of Eid). (Hadith: Abu Dawud, Ibn Maja)

WHO SHOULD PAY?

Every adult Muslim, with sufficient food for the family for a day, should pay Zakat al-Fitr for himself/herself and all his/her dependents. Even those who did not fast should pay it. Zakat al-Fitr should also be paid for the child born or the person died before the Fajr (dawn) on the day of Eid.

HOW MUCH SHOULD BE PAID?

At the time of the Prophet (saw), payment of Zakat al-Fitr was made in terms of weight of grain. It is one Sa for each person. One Sa approximately equals to 3.15 kg or 6.94 lbs. The Muslim jurists agree that Zakat al-Fitr can also be paid in cash equivalent to the cost of 3.15kg/6.94 lb. of grain including rice, wheat, lentils, corn, and dry cheese.

WHEN TO PAY?

Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said,

“Whoever paid it (Zakat al-Fitr) before Salatul Eid, it is acceptable Zakat before Al’lah. Whoever paid it after Salat-ul-Eid, it is just a charity.”  The companion of the Prophet (ra) used to pay it a few days earlier. (Hadith: Bukhari)

Imam Shafi’i held the opinion that Zakat al-Fitr can be paid as early as the beginning of Ramadan.  I suggest that Zakat al-Fitr should be paid early enough so it will reach the needy and the poor before the Eid day.  It will enable them to use it for food and clothes and give them the opportunity to enjoy the happiness of Eid-ul-Fitr.

WHO SHOULD BE PAID?

Zakat al-Fitr should be paid directly to the needy and the poor.  However, you can also pay it to an organization, which would distribute it in accordance with the teaching of Islam. Remember! It is still your responsibility.  So, make sure before paying that the organization will distribute it according to the teaching of Islam and before Salat-ul-Eid.

There is a new concern in collection and distribution of Zakat al-Fitr and Zakat-ul-Maal. Millions of dollars have been confiscated by the government agencies. This requires additional care on our part to select an organization carefully and rationally so that Zakat is delivered to the rightful person. Best method is still the personal contact.

Year after year Zakat is sent to deserving persons in the Muslim World. Let’s try to spend some of it in our own communities including Moaliful Qoloob, non-Muslims to turn their hearts and minds as friends of our communities. This will require knowing our own communities and friendly and deserving non-Muslims. It may be difficult at first but it will be better for us.

HOW TO CALCULATE ZAKAT AL-FITR

Zakat al-fitr is a flat amount per household member paid by the head of the household for himself and his or her dependents. It is estimated for $8 per person for the year 2009.  It should be paid no later that the eid-al-fitr. For example, a married person with three children should add the number of his household and multiply by $8. The total amount is thus calculated: 5×8=$40.

About the author:

Imam Ali Siddiqui with 37 years of service, is a Friday Khatib, Islamic teacher, Muslim Chaplain, youth advisor, family counselor, educator, poet and writer with a vision who has been involved in the teaching Islam, history, comparative religion, contemporary issues to Muslims and non-Muslims. He is actively involved in the community service including spiritual/educational development, service to the sick and the incarcerated; and the interfaith work. Imam Siddiqui’s work has been successfully building bridges between communities. Additional information can be acquired by contacting the Imam: siddiqui@aol.com

Of Names , Justice and Islam


The Perlis Shariah Committee provoked much public discussion when it debated the issue of retaining the name of one’s father upon conversion to Islam. Even those who have long been silent have emerged with statements to the media. Emotion and sentiment play active parts in this. Some are waiting for just the right moment, for the opportunity. I say: be patient.

This was not in fact a fatwa I issued in my personal capacity. It was the unanimous decision of all twelve committee members in attendance. The majority of them were university lecturers in various Islamic studies and many possessed PhDs. Alhamdulillah, Perlis has the largest number of  fatwa committee members, and it would be wrong to think that this matter was decided without thought.

This is quite a unique issue. Only in our country does a convert to Islam have to change his or her name (and therefore descent) to Abdullah. I am not sure if this is the practice in Brunei, but it certainly does not occur in the Arab countries or in Indonesia. So, if there was an association in this country which has a few hundred converts as members, all of them would have the same ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ (son or daughter of), that is “Abdullah”. If there are ten Ahmads, for example, how very confusing it will be as they will all be named “Ahmad bin Abdullah”. And so the officers of such an association would have to memorise their identification card numbers instead. Similarly, should a husband and wife embrace Islam they will become two individuals whose father has the same name: Abdullah.

If the Prophet  pbuh practised this then surely the majority of his Companions would have had the name “bin Abdullah”. There would not be `Umar bin al-Khattab but `Umar bin Abdullah instead, nor Uthman bin `Affan but `Uthman bin Abdullah. There would be no `Ali bin Abi Talib but `Ali bin Abdullah. All of their fathers did not embrace Islam. But this is not what happened. The Prophet pbuh did change the unseemly names of some who embraced Islam, but they kept the names of their fathers; and the fact is that Arabs preserve their heritage and can name their descent to several generations. If we turn to the opening the celebrated book  Riyadh al-Salihin  by Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676H), we find the first hadith to be from `Umar bin al-Khattab. Imam al-Nawawi says: “Amir al-Mukminin ‘Umar bin al-Khattab bin Nufail bin `Abd al-`Uzza…”

“`Abd al-`Uzza” means the servant of al-`Uzza.  The name of the Prophet’s great grandfather was “bin Kilab” and  kilāb  is Arabic for “dog”. Islam did not change what was certain.

There are those who try to tie this issue to  akidah  (faith), as if the Perlis Shariah Committee did not take  akidah  into consideration. They feared that if the father’s name contained an element of syirik (any other God), this might affect the  akidah  of his son or daughter who embraces Islam. How weak-minded this is. Do they not realise that not only does the father have a name with elements of  syirik,  the father  himself  practices  syirik. For example: if Gopal the son of Subramaniam converts to Islam and changes his name to Marwan, do we also want to change the name of Subramaniam—who does not approve of Islam as the true religion—to Abdullah?

And so every time we meet Subramaniam we shall have to address him “O Abdullah” for fear that addressing him as Subramaniam it will ruin his son’s  akidah . Truly,  syirik has nothing to do with this! If merely the name of Subramaniam can damage Marwan’s akidah , what happens when Subramaniam goes to the temple? Will Marwan become an outright apostate? Doesn’t this kind of thinking demonstrate how poorly some people understand the concept of  akidah ?

Some asked us why we raised this matter. This, after all, has been the practice for a long time. We told them that there were always grounds for any issue brought for discussion in the State Shariah Committee: there may be questions about it, or people might be unclear about religious rulings. An issue is debated for any of these reasons.

Briefly, the two main reasons for the Committee’s resolution were thus: first, there exists textual evidence in the Quran and Sunnah prohibiting the current practice. Allah says: “Call them by (the names of) their fathers, that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if you know not their father’s (names, call them) your brothers in faith or your  mawlās.

And there is no sin on you if you make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft -Returning, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Ahzab, verse 5.) Imam al-Tabari (d. 310H) said in his Tafsir al-Tabari: “This verse is the reason why one may not claim to be the son of him who is not one’s father.

There are also hadith that strictly prohibit this.” This issue appears frequently in the hadith of the Prophet pbuh , among which is one that states:

“Whoever claims to be the son of a person other than his father, and he knows that person is not his father, Paradise will be forbidden to him.” (Reported by al-Bukhari.)

He also said:

“Among the major falsehoods is when one claims that he is the son of a person other than his father.” (Reported by al-Bukhari.)

Why is this prohibited? Islam is a religion that values and protects human rights. It is a religion that never distorts fact. A father, regardless of who he is, is forever a father because it is from his seed that his descendants rightfully spring, and not from the seed of another. His child is tied to him, and moreover there are regulations relating to rights, marriage and property. To reject a father or to act as if he does not exist can cause confusion in genealogy, muddles in marriage and the denial of family responsibility—and Islam is a religion that upholds rights and justice, and promotes human well-being. Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili said in his work al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu:

Justice and rights demand that one is acknowledged to be the child of one’s true father. Not an invented father. Islam is a religion of rights and justice [...] and whosoever has a father that he knows about must assert his kinship. When a person does not have a father he knows about, only then he is referred to as mawlā or a brother in Islam. All this is done to prevent the distortion of truth. (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1989, 7/674.)

Islam is an upright religion. Abu Bakr al-Jazairi in his exegetical work Aisar al-Tafasir said sarcastically that “it is right that adopted children be acknowledged children of their known fathers, even though the father may be a donkey.”

The Prophet  pbuh changed the name of one who embraced Islam only when his name bore an unworthy meaning—but he did not change the father’s name. For instance, he changed the name of one of his Companions from `Abd al-Syams bin Sokhr to `Abd al-Rahman bin Sokhr because “`Abd al-Syams” meant “servant of the Sun”. However, the name Sokhr (“rock”) was retained.

Furthermore, he did not change the name of Abdullah bin `Abd al-Asad even though “`Abd al-Asad” meant “servant of the lion”. The Prophet  pbuh did not say that a father’s name had to be changed for fear of ruining the son’s  akidah. Those who desire details of this should consult those scholars of hadith who have mastered the Kutub al-Tarajim; or they can refer directly to books of  al-tarajim  that discuss the biographies of those who are mentioned in the history of Islam. Some of these include Al-Isobah fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah by al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala by al-Hafiz al-Zahabi, and many others.

If this was the practice of the Prophet  pbuh and his Companions, do we mean to say that we are more conversant with Islam than they were? Do we imply that the Prophet pbuh cared so little for akidah that he allowed a Companion to be called son of “the servant of the lion”? O commentators! Let us read more widely and not get ahead of ourselves.

Secondly, we raised this matter because we intended to preserve the good name of Islam. Today, Islam is attacked from many directions, and a common misconception is that Islam does not value human rights. In our country, many non-Muslims think that Islam is unjust because it breaks the ties binding a son to his father. When people embrace Islam, some of their fathers say: “You have converted, and I, who have toiled so much for you, you have discarded. Even my name is gone. Who is this Abdullah, this new father of yours?”

For this reason many oppose Islam even more and worry greatly if their children convert. Sometimes, those who intend to convert ultimately cannot because they love their families and have no wish to cause them pain. How much worse all this will be when he is told to discard his family’s or his father’s name!

In truth, Islam enjoins one to do good by one’s parents, even if they do not embrace Islam. This remains true even if the parentsendeavour to make him leave Islam. Allah commands that a person does good by his parents, and this command stands. All that is required is that the child does not cling to the old ways of  syirik, kufur (rejection of Allah) and disobedience. Look at what Allah says in Surah Luqman, verse 15:

“But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration).”

The question we should pose is whether we shall behave kindly towards our parents—as commanded by the verse above—if we refuse to be acknowledged as their children, or if we change their names without their approval, or if they reject the new ‘bin’ as their name. Does this not wound their hearts for no good reason? And all this time Islam commands us to act with justice and consideration towards our parents even they are not Muslims. Islam honours what is good and it honours the rights of all.

Moreover, don’t such actions cause non-Muslims to hate and to think ill of Islam? And is it not our duty to preserve the good name of Islam? For these reasons I believe that the Perlis Shariah Committee had very strong reasons to discuss the matter. Just because a practice has endured for a long time doesn’t mean that it must be retained and cannot be changed. The respected Malay intellectual Za’ba (Zainal Abidin Ahmad) wrote in his magnificent work Perangai Bergantung Kepada Diri Sendiri (“Attitude Depends on Us Alone”):

It is only in recent centuries that the Muslim intellectuals, almost the world over, have lost the spirit of individual ability and the qualifications to do as their predecessors have done. Yes, if we go searching for them, we might find that a few know how to be individuals, or are brave enough to be such; but everywhere we will find those who are accustomed to taklid (adherence without question), and worse, most of them adhere blindly!

Unfortunately, if anyone tries to do what was done by past scholars of Islam—that is, to free themselves from the shackles of  taklid  and to return to the Quran and Hadith to meet the ever-changing needs and conditions of the modern world—they will forthwith have hurled at them such unworthy words as ‘deviant’ and ‘causing others to deviate’, ‘conceited’, ‘innovator’, ‘wandering from the way charted by experts of the past’, ‘young and inexperienced but arrogant enough to challenge his elders and betters’ and much more. Such people believe that it is right merely to sit still and petrify right where they are! And it is probably because they themselves are incapable that they resent others who are capable. (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, 2005, p. 33.)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, Islam in Malaysia: Perceptions & Facts. (sample chapter)

The author are former Mufti of Perlis, Malaysia, lecturer in University Science of Malaysia and currently at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford attending “Visiting Research Scholar” funded by British Council.