Archive for January, 2010

Belief in Life After Death

Light at the end of the tunnel

Islam views death to be a natural threshold to the next stage of existence.

Everyone is scared of dying and rightly so. The uncertainty of what lies beyond is frightening. It may be that of all religions, Islam, provides the most graphic details of what comes after death and lies beyond. Islam views death to be a natural threshold to the next stage of existence.

Islamic doctrine holds that human existence continues after the death of the human body in the form of spiritual and physical resurrection. There is a direct relation between conduct on earth and the life beyond. The afterlife will be one of rewards and punishments which is commensurate with earthily conduct. A Day will come when God will resurrect and gather the first and the last of His creation and judge everyone justly. People will enter their final abode, Hell or Paradise. Faith in life after death urges us to do right and to stay away from sin. In this life we sometimes see the pious suffer and the impious enjoy. All shall be judged one day and justice will be served.

Faith in life after death is one of the six fundamental beliefs required of a Muslim to complete his faith. Rejecting it renders all other beliefs meaningless.

Think of a child who does not put his hand in fire. He does not do so because he is sure it will burn. When it comes to doing school work, the same child may feel lazy because he does not quite understand what a sound education will do for his future.

Now, think of a man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment. Would he consider belief in God and a life driven by his belief in God to be of any consequence? To him, neither obedience to God is of use, nor is disobedience of any harm. How, then, can he live a God-conscious life? What incentive would he have to suffer the trials of life with patience and avoid overindulgence in worldly pleasures? And if a man does not follow the way of God, then what use is his belief in God, if he has any? The acceptance or rejection of life after death is perhaps the greatest factor in determining the course of an individual’s life.

The dead have a continued and conscious existence of a kind in the grave. Muslims believe that, upon dying, a person enters an intermediate phase of life between death and resurrection. Many events take place in this new “world”, such as the “trial” of the grave, where everyone will be questioned by angels about their religion, prophet, and Lord. The grave is a garden of paradise or a pit of hell; angels of mercy visit the souls of believers and angels of punishment come for the unbelievers.

Resurrection will be preceded by the end of the world. God will command a magnificent angel to blow the Horn. At its first blowing, all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth will fall unconscious, except those spared by God. The earth will be flattened, the mountains turned into dust, the sky will crack, planets will be dispersed, and the graves overturned.

People will be resurrected into their original physical bodies from their graves, thereby entering the third and final phase of life. The Horn will blow again upon which people will rise up from their graves, resurrected!

God will gather all humans, believers and the impious, jinns, demons, even wild animals. It will be a universal gathering. The angels will drive all human beings naked, uncircumcised, and bare-footed to the Great Plain of Gathering. People will stand in wait for judgment and humanity will sweat in agony. The righteous will be sheltered under the shade of God’s Magnificent Throne.

When the condition becomes unbearable, people will request the prophets and the messengers to intercede with God on their behalf to save them from distress.

The balances will be set and the deeds of men will be weighed. Disclosure of the Records of the deeds performed in this life will follow. The one who will receive his record in his right hand will have an easy reckoning. He will happily return to his family. However, the person who will receive his record in his left hand would wish he were dead as he will be thrown into the Fire. He will be full of regrets and will wish that he were not handed his Record or he had not known it.

Then God will judge His creation. They will be reminded and informed of their good deeds and sins. The faithful will acknowledge their failings and be forgiven. The disbelievers will have no good deeds to declare because an unbeliever is rewarded for them in this life. Some scholars are of the opinion that the punishment of an unbeliever may be reduced in lieu of his good deeds, except the punishment of the great sin of disbelief.

The Siraat is a bridge that will be established over Hell extending to Paradise. Anyone who is steadfast on God’s religion in this life will find it easy to pass it.

Paradise and Hell will be the final dwelling places for the faithful and the damned after the Last Judgment. They are real and eternal. The bliss of the people of Paradise shall never end and the punishment of unbelievers condemned to Hell shall never cease. Unlike a pass-fail system in some other belief-systems, the Islamic view is more sophisticated and conveys a higher level of divine justice. This can be seen in two ways. First, some believers may suffer in Hell for unrepented, cardinal sins. Second, both Paradise and Hell have levels.

Paradise is the eternal garden of physical pleasures and spiritual delights. Suffering will be absent and bodily desires will be satisfied. All wishes will be met. Palaces, servants, riches, streams of wine, milk and honey, pleasant fragrances, soothing voices, pure partners for intimacy; a person will never get bored or have enough!

The greatest bliss, though, will be the vision of their Lord of which the unbelievers will be deprived.

Hell is an infernal place of punishment for unbelievers and purification for sinful believers. Torture and punishment: for the body and the soul: burning by fire, boiling water to drink, scalding food to eat, chains, and choking columns of fire. Unbelievers will be eternally damned to it, whereas sinful believers will eventually be taken out of Hell and enter Paradise.

Paradise is for those who worshipped God alone, believed and followed their prophet, and lived moral lives according to the teachings of scripture.

Hell will be the final dwelling place of those who denied God, worshipped other beings besides God, rejected the call of the prophets, and lead sinful, unrepentant lives.

The Fundamentals of Understanding Islam

By Dr. Waseem Aslam

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and sincere exhortations and debate with them in manners that are most appropriate.” (Quran 16:125)


The Quran

The Quran is the basis of all Islamic understanding

The correct approach of understanding Islam entails an understanding of beliefs and practices of Islam, based fundamentally on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

It encompasses an understanding and interpretation of the Qur’an, primarily from within the Qur’an, emanating from its theme, context, sequence and language. It involves an understanding of the Qur’an which also acknowledges interpretation of the verses in the light of the time of revelation and the phase of the Prophetic mission of religious propagation, both of which are determined from within the Qur’an. Sources that are external to the Qur’an are secondary to its interpretation.

This approach began as a movement for the renaissance of original thinking about the concepts and interpretations of religion and the study of its basic sources. Imam Hameed ud din Farahi (1862- 1930) was the founder of this thinking and he initiated the study of the Qur’an on these lines. He pioneered the discovery of coherence in the Qur’an and demonstrated that by taking coherence into consideration a single interpretation of the Qur’an was possible.

Amin Ahsan Islahi (1904-1997), his most distinguished pupil wrote a commentary of the Qur’an along the thinking of Imam Farahi called Tadabur-i-Qur’an. This commentary fully reflects the principles of his illustrious guide. It has ushered in a new era in the field of scriptural interpretation.

One of Amin Ahsan Islahi’s students, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has now established a research institute in Lahore, Pakistan called Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences; (founded 1983) dedicated to the continuity of this tradition of original research and thinking. The objectives of the institute are to conduct and facilitate academic work on Islamic sciences and to educate people on its basis.

This booklet aims to introduce an approach to understanding Islam that is revived and promoted by the scholars of the above institute. The main content of the booklet consists of the following:

  • Religion
  • The Qur’an
  • The Sunnah
  • Hadith
  • Some of the important outcomes


The essence of religion is to worship God (Allah); it entails humility and obedience. The rites, rituals, norms and confines of this worship constitute religion. The righteous religion Islam is God’s guidance in this world. This guidance has been bestowed upon mankind by way of His messengers and prophets. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) is the final prophet of this sequence.

Purpose of Religion

According to the Islamic religion, the purpose of our lives is to please God; which leads us to Paradise. To attain this we need to develop purification. This encompasses positive enhancement and moulding of the good in our soul, and purification and purging of the bad. The purpose of religion is to help us attain purification; both in our individual and collective lives. In the Qur’an, God states, “Successful is he who has cleansed himself.” (87:14).

The Concept of Guidance

The Qur’an maintains that human beings have not been created blind and ignorant: “Have we not shown him the two ways [that he could understand the good and the evil]? (90:10). Religion does not provide guidance on all aspects of life but it maintains that human beings have generally been endowed with sufficient ability to solve their everyday problems (inborn guidance). Religion acts as a reminder (Revealed guidance) for men. A reminder about things and concepts which deep inside, he is already aware of, yet, due to the influence of the external world, his society and surroundings, he tends to forget. In light of the above it is incorrect to suggest that Islam provides complete guidance in all aspects of life. Islam is a direction finder and influences our way of thinking and steers us to the right Path.

Source of Religion

The Prophet or messenger of God is the solitary source of the religion; hence for Muslims Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is the only source for their religion. From the Holy Prophet (pbuh) the entire religion was disseminated to the Muslims by way of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Islam, like other religions, consists of two components; beliefs and practices. The beliefs have been stated in the Qur’an while the practices are embodied in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

The Qur’an

Muslims believe the Qur’an is that Book of God that was sent to mankind through Prophet Mohammad (pbuh); providing guidance about religious beliefs and practices. The Prophet (Pbuh) taught the Qur’an to his Companions. This Book has been transferred from the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), uninterrupted, through successive generations of Muslims with consensus (Ijma) and verbal perpetuation (tawaatur) to date.

Authority of the Qur’an

The Qur’an is the fountainhead of religious authority. It is the balance (mizan) in whose scales everything must be weighed in order to ascertain the extent of truth found within that entity, and it is the criterion (Furqan) which like a sieve sifts out good from evil.

It is God who has sent down the Book in truth that is the Mizan…….. (42:17)

Blessed is He Who sent down the Furqan to His servant that it may be an admonition to the people of the world. (25:1)

The Qur’an is the Final Testament of the Almighty revealed to mankind. It is the Only Divine Book which is today found in its original language and form, preserved word for word. As such it has been invested with the status of the guardian over all previous Divine Books.

And to you (O Prophet pbuh), we have revealed a Book with the truth confirming what the previous scriptures (say about it) and it stands as Guardian over them……… (5:48)

Interpreting the Qur’an

Every Muslim and every reader of classical Arabic and all those who have access to an authentic translation of the Qur’an, can easily decipher from the Qur’an the articles of belief in Islam and the basic religious obligations bestowed upon a Muslim so that one can please one’s Creator and attain salvation in the hereafter. As such, the Qur’an is a very straightforward book of guidance for all people.

However, to have a more scholarly understanding of the Qur’an and its message and to comprehend the accurate and in-depth meaning of its verses and their links together, in particular to be able to verify the authenticity of different understandings from the verses of the Qur’an, it is essential to have an in depth insight and means to appreciate and understand the Qur’an.

In this booklet, the essential means to appreciate and understand the Qur’an are called primary sources of interpretation of the Qur’an. These means and insights elucidate the Qur’an; others that are not essential but are helpful in the understanding and interpretation of the Qur’an are called secondary sources. The Primary and the secondary sources for interpreting the Qur’an are briefly introduced below.

Primary Sources for interpreting the Qur’an:

  1. Language of the Qur’an: The language in which the Qur’an was revealed was the Arabic of the highest quality spoken by the Quraysh of Makkah. As such, it is impetrative that due consideration is given to an in-depth understanding of this particular language.
  2. Context of the Qur’an: The Qur’an is a coherent Book in which its verses and Surahs are arranged in a specific order. While interpreting the Qur’an it is important to keep in view the context of its verses. No verse should be interpreted without regard to its context.
  3. Parallels of the Qur’an: One of the main sources for understanding the Qur’an is the Qur’an itself. Many verses or words in the Qur’an are explained or further clarified in other verses of the Qur’an.
  4. Theme of the Qur’an: The theme of the Qur’an is the “Indhar” of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) 1. Indhar is a term of the Qur’an and means admonition or warning. It is important to interpret verses of the Qur’an in the light of this theme (Indhar) and its different phases. In doing so, attention to the time of revelation and the addressees of verses (whether directives are general or are specific to certain group of people in the era of the Prophet (pbuh) are essential.

Secondary sources for interpreting the Qur’an:

Ahadith: Ahadith are potential sources to access the Prophet’s (pbuh) and his companions’ understanding, explanation and application of the verses of the Qur’an. A hadith that provides explanation for a verse or verses of the Qur’an helps in interpreting the Qur’an, provided that the chain of narrators of the hadith is not weak and that the context of Hadith itself is in line with the text of the Qur’an and its overall message. Hadith however cannot abrogate or add to a Qur’anic directive.

The previous scriptures: Previous divine scriptures are helpful in understanding the Qur’an. Though they are not present in their original form, however they are still an invaluable source of wisdom and divine directives. They also contain historical record about the previous prophets of Bani Israel (Children of Israel).

The major commentaries: Numerous translations and Tafasir (commentaries) have been written about the Qur’an by various Muslim scholars, these also provide a valuable source of scholarly insight and information about its interpretation.

History of Arabia: History of Arabia highlights the social, moral, intellectual and economic mood of the people at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The likes and dislikes of the people, rites, rituals and social norms of that time.

The Sunnah

Sunnah literally means well trodden path in Arabic. Sunnah are those Abrahamic practices and rituals that were adopted and revived by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), in some cases after modifications and additions, and instituted among his followers as integral part of God’s religion.

Sunnan (plural of Sunnah) are practical activities and these have been transferred and established by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), as part of the practices of God’s religion, through practical demonstration to his Companions. From the companions, these practices have been transmitted uninterrupted through successive generations of Muslims with consensus (Ijma) and practical perpetuation (tawaatur) to date. The Sunnah and the Qur’an are equally authentic. They are both delivered to us through the same source i.e. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). They have reached us through the same mechanism of history (i.e. verbal and practical perpetuation and consensus of the Muslim Ummah). The Qur’an has reached us by verbal (documentary) transmission whilst the Sunnah by practical transmission. It is within these two that the entire basic corpus of Islam is preserved.

Essential features of the Sunnah include:

  • Consists of practices initiated by the Prophet (pbuh) and not by the Qur’an.
  • Initiated by the Prophet (pbuh) as integral part of religion.
  • Does not include religious beliefs and concepts.
  • Does not include Prophetic teachings, intended at interpreting and explaining human nature.
  • Cannot be established merely through individual reports, inclusion of an act as the Sunnah requires consensus of the Muslim Ummah.
  • Does not include supererogatory acts.
  • Does not include detailed religious practices that have not been established as Sunnah by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

Significance of the Sunnah

The Sunnah provides concrete shape to Muslim faith and a practical semblance to very important tenets of Islam. It plays a crucial role towards the formation of Muslim Ummah and imparts a distinguished and unique character to all Muslims.

The Sunnan instituted by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The Sunnah consists of three main categories of Mandatory rituals, Etiquettes pertaining to personal hygiene and Symbolic customs.

These are listed as follows:

  • To eat and drink by the name of God and with the right hand
  • Saying Al hamdu lillah (All praise be for God) when one sneezes and Replying to it by saying YarhamuKa Allah (May God bless you)
  • Calling Adhan in the right ear of a newborn baby and Iqamah in his left ear
  • Bathing the dead before burial
  • Shrouding the dead body in cloth (takfin) to bury it
  • Offering funeral prayer
  • Burial (tadfin) of the dead body
  • Celebrating Eid al Fitr, on the first day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar
  • Paying alms on Eid ul Fitr
  • Celebrating Eid al Adha on the tenth day of the twelfth month of lunar calendar
  • Takbirs (saying Allah u Akbar which means God is the greatest) after prayers during the days of Tashriq (Eid days And the three days after)
  • Offering the Eid Prayers
  • Trimming the moustache (for men)
  • Greeting each other with Assalam u Alaykum (Peace be with you) and replying to it by Wa’alaykum Assalam (and Peace be with you)
  • Trimming the hair around the genitals
  • Trimming hair from the armpits
  • Circumcision of all male children
  • Keeping fingernails and toe nails trimmed
  • Keeping the teeth, nose and mouth clean
  • Washing after defecation, and urination
  • Bathing after having sexual intimacy or orgasm
  • Avoiding sexual intimacy during menses and after birth
  • Bathing (of women) after menses and childbirth marking the end of the period
  • Organisation of five daily obligatory prayers
  • Friday congregation
  • Ablution for prayers
  • “Tayammum” (Using mud/dust to make ablution in the absence of water or when use of water can be detrimental to health)
  • Saying Adhan (call for prayers)
  • Saying Iqamah before the prayers
  • Constructing, establishing and maintaining a system for the management of mosques
  • Observing the sanctity of the Ka’bah
  • Fasting during the month of Ramadan
  • Ai’tikaf (seclusion and isolating oneself for a specific amount of time for worshiping God, in particular in the last Ten days of Ramadhan)
  • Paying Zakah (Islamic tax for the poor)
  • Performing Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage to Ka’abah)
  • Sacrificing animals on Eid ul Adha, eating some of the meat and distributing the rest to the poor
  • Observing the sanctity of four months; the seventh lunar month of Rajab for Umrah and the eleventh, twelfth and The first lunar month for performance of Hajj. During these months all forms of armed conflicts and any attempt To obstruct the routes of pilgrims are strictly prohibited.
  • Tadhkiyah that is slaughtering animals with pronouncing the name of God, in the prescribed manner that is by cutting the main blood vessels to let all the blood flow out.
  • Tawaf (Circumambulation of the Ka’bah) as part of Hajj or Umrah
  • Offering Hadi (Sacrificial animals brought to the Ka’bah)
  • The procedure of Nikah (solemnisation of Marriage) and Talaaq (divorce)


Hadith literally means a saying or something new. In Islamic terminology, it is defined as the individual-to-individual narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) regarding his sayings, actions, expressed or tacit approvals, his life history and personal description.

These include:

  • Life history of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), including his meetings with people, important events in his time e.g. Holy wars as narrated by his followers.
  • Record of the Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) everyday life, rituals and routines, these are those things that he liked but did not authorise their initiation as essential part of religion. These records reveal the Prophet’s (pbuh) excellent example (Uswa Al Hasana) in carrying out the directives of Islam.
  • Record of answers to questions and explanations given by the Prophet (pbuh) to his followers.
  • Record of any explanations about commandments in the Qur’an and the Sunnah by the Prophet (pbuh) to his followers.

Principles of Acceptance of Hadith

The scholars of the science of ahadith have devised the following criteria which need to be met for a hadith to be considered authentic.

  • Continuity in the chain of narrators.
  • Narrators must be practicing Muslims and must not have engaged in activities that are forbidden.
  • Narrators should have sound understanding, memory and expression.
  • Reports should not contradict similar substantiated Ahadith regarding the same topic.
  • Reports should be free of any hidden defects (which are called Illah in this science).
  • What can be understood and derived from a Hadith should not contradict The Qur’an, The Sunnah and Established facts.

Some important requisites for the understanding of Ahadith

  • Need to understand and interpret Ahadith in light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which are the ultimate and absolute sources of religious information.
  • Need to interpret ahadith in their proper and relevant context.
  • To understand Ahadith adequately, we need to study all the related Ahadith on the particular subject.

The Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Hadith

The Qur’an and the Sunnah hold a pivotal place as the source of understanding of religion. The Sunnah and the Qur’an do not abrogate each other. They cannot be overruled by Hadith. Both these sources contain the entire religion. Hadith can thus explain these sources or provide the best example set by the Holy Prophet (pbuh); it cannot abrogate or contradict the basic corpus of religion residing in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Hadith literature does not add to the content of religion; it offers an explanation of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and dictates sense and reason.

Some of the main outcomes of adopting the correct approach to understanding Islam

Some of the outcomes of Understanding Islam approach are listed in two categories namely; ideological and behavioural outcomes.

A few of the ideological outcomes:

The following ideological outcomes are presented briefly. The objective is not to convince the reader about these outcomes or to fully explain them. More elaboration on these outcomes and the way they have been derived can be found in the sources that are listed in the bibliography at the end of this booklet.

  • Understanding the Qur’an as a robust, structured system
  • Identifying those directives of the Qur’an that were exclusively for the people or groups of people at the time of revelation.
  • Recognising that God does not punish any one unless one rejects the truth, after the truth is clearly shown to one and one is clearly and fully warned about it (Itmam Al-Hujjah). This means it is not correct to assume that any non-Muslim (of our time) will go to hell.
  • Learning that those who were among the direct addressees of the Messengers and rejected them will be punished in this world either directly by God or by the Messengers and/or his immediate followers.
  • Appreciating the role of both the Children of Israel (descendents of Prophet Isaac son of Prophet Abraham peace be upon them) and the Children of Ishmael (descendents of Prophet Ishmael son of Prophet Abraham pbut) as a collective group of people who were given the same position and authority as their respective messengers, in bringing the complete truth before people. (Itmam Al -Hujjah)
  • Understanding that Muslims, who live in this era, do not have the same authority that the Prophet (pbuh) and the collectivity of Bani Ishmael had in dealing with deniers of truth. Meaning that many of the directives of the Qur’an about Jihad and killing of rejecters do not apply today.
  • Appreciating that the primary cause of the downfall of Muslims at present is not due to any external influence or circumstances but has endogenous basis. Therefore, the only way Muslims can restore prosperity for themselves in this world is to collectively become loyal to their religion. This does not mean that clear oppressions by some external forces are denied or ignored.
  • Identifying and distinguishing between the definitions of non Muslims, People of the Book, hypocrites, disbelievers, idolaters or polytheists.
  • Recognising the difference between Messenger (Rasool) and Prophet (Nabi) in terms of their role among their addressees.
  • Appreciating the underlined “concept” of the religious practices while identifying and protecting their obligatory “form”.
  • Recognising that all practicing Islamic sects are agreed on the Sunnah.

Role of an Islamic state and duties of citizens

  • Restoring and clarifying the rules of punishment in Shariah.
  • Separating the Islam-based knowledge from other types of knowledge (philosophy, mysticism, etc.)
  • Making understanding of Islam easier and more straight forward (but not simplistic)
  • Concept of Itmam Al-Hujjah (as described above) and its implications for the present day.
  • For explanation and elaboration on any of the above points, please refer to or other items in the bibliography.

Some of the behavioural outcomes of the Understanding Islam approach

  • The approach is a research based approach, no views are blindly followed
  • The approach is a Non-Sectarian one, and rejects to assume any sectarian title other than Muslim
  • Scholars who are studying and adopting this approach are continuously revising their understanding of Islam.
  • Being a research based approach to understanding Islam, we are not hesitant to use the phrase “we don’t know” where applicable.
  • Utmost respect and learning attitude is held towards other approaches to understanding Islam and scholars who adopt these approaches

Why do we need this approach?

Every Muslim is aware that the Qur’an has a pivotal role in our religion.

And hold fast to the rope of God together and do not become disunited.… (3:103)

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has explained that the Book of God is the rope of God that stretches from Heavens to Earth.

The natural outcome of this directive is that whenever Muslims encounter a difference of opinion, we resort to the Qur’an to find its solution. Unfortunately the irony is that we have gross difference of opinions concerning the interpretations of the Qur’an itself, in many instances providing contrasting explanations about its directives. This also occurred because Muslims based their Qur’anic interpretations on unsubstantiated Ahadith, different philosophies and mysticism. They also resorted to blind following of individual interpretations by religious scholars and were reluctant to question their understandings and interpretations.

Furthermore the society did not encourage Intellectual inquisition towards the then accepted interpretations and beliefs about religion, to question them was looked upon as being un-Islamic. In addition to intellectual differences, the more serious issue raised by this multiplicity of interpretations of the Qur’an is that this forms the basis of the vast majority of sectarianism in Islam. Different religious groups have interpreted Qur’anic verses in different chosen ways to justify their beliefs and approaches. Each sect has adopted its own interpretation because isolating a verse from its context can associate multiple meanings to it.

The Understanding Islam approach is based on the thinking pioneered by Imam Farahi, and aspires that when the Qur’an is interpreted in light of its theme, context and sequence, with a firm grasp of its language and taking into account the time of revelation and the phase of the prophetic mission; it reduces possibilities of different understandings from the Qur’an because it uses the Qur’an itself as the first scale for understanding the Qur’an.

According to Imam Farahi:

“There is no justification or place for more than one interpretation in the Qur’an”.

Amin Ahsan Islahi in his Qur’anic commentary, Tadabur-i-Qur’an, writes:

“I have given the complete and required importance to the coherence of it’s (i.e. The Qur’an’s) text. Hence I have utilised the same diction and assertions in its entirety. In fact, I was forced to use the same diction and assertions, because after applying coherence, (The Qur’an) does not allow you to wonder in various valleys (i.e. different conclusions). The true fact becomes explicit right in front (of one’s eyes in such a manner) that unless you are ignorant or blind you would not be able to deny it.”

The text of the Qur’an will not accept multiplicity of explanations. This fulfils the obligatory and essential basis for the claim of the Qur’an that it is a balance in whose scales; everything must be weighed in order to ascertain the extent of truth; and criterion or distinguisher of good and evil which like a sieve sifts out good from evil.

Prepared by the team of Understanding-Islam in the UK (UIUK)

Bibliography (One line course for studying Islam covering all the major aspects of religion) (Web site detailing life history and achievements of both Amin Ahsan Islahi and Imam Farahi)

Mizan by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (2002) (official web site of Al-Mawrid institute of Islamic sciences) (journal about Islamic teachings and highlights current problems and issues facing the Muslims and suggests possible solutions) (tells about the life, personality, achievements and religious works of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi)

The Status of Women in Islam

Young Syrian women talking in a mosque courtyard

Group of young Muslim women talking in Omayad mosque courtyard, Damascus, Syria

The Status of Women in Islam

Jamal A. Badawi provides a brief and authentic exposition of the teachings of Islam regarding women.


  • Women in Ancient Civilization
    • 1. The Spiritual Aspect
    • 2. The Social Aspect
      • (a) As a Child and Adolescent
      • (b) As a Wife
      • (c) As a Mother
    • 3. The Economic Aspect
    • 4. The political Aspect


Family, society and ultimately the whole of mankind is treated by Islam on an ethical basis. Differentiation in sex is neither a credit nor a drawback for the sexes. Therefore, when we talk about status of woman in Islam it should not lead us to think that Islam has no specific guidelines, limitations, responsibilities and obligations for men. What makes one valuable and respectable in the eyes of Allah, the Creator of mankind and the universe, is neither one’s prosperity, position, intelligence, physical strength nor beauty, but only one’s Allah-consciousness and awareness (taqwa). However, since in the Western culture and in cultures influenced by it, there exists a disparity between men and women there is more need for stating Islam’s position on important issues in a clear way.

Dr. Jamal Badawi’s essay, The Status of Women in Islam, was originally published in the quarterly journal, Al-lttihad, Vol. 8, No. 2, Sha’ban 1391/Sept 1971. Since then it has been one of Al-Ittihad’s most-demanded publications. We thank Br. Jamal for permitting us to reprint his essay. We hope it will clarify many of the misconceptions.

Anis Ahmad,
Director Dept. of Education and Training
MSA of U.S. and Canada
P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168 USA

Jumada al Thani 1400 April 1980


Women students praying at CSU Sacramento

Women students praying at CSU Sacramento

The status of women in society is neither a new issue nor is it a fully settled one.

The position of Islam on this issue has been among the subjects presented to the Western reader with the least objectivity.

This paper is intended to provide a brief and authentic exposition of what Islam stands for in this regard. The teachings of Islam are based essentially on the Qur’an (God’s revelation) and Hadeeth (elaboration by Prophet Muhammad).

The Qur’an and the Hadeeth, properly and unbiasedly understood, provide the basic source of authentication for any position or view which is attributed to Islam.

The paper starts with a brief survey of the status of women in the pre-Islamic era. It then focuses on these major questions: What is the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society? How similar or different is that position from “the spirit of the time,” which was dominant when Islam was revealed? How would this compare with the “rights” which were finally gained by woman in recent decades?


One major objective of this paper is to provide a fair evaluation of what Islam contributed (or failed to contribute) toward the restoration of woman’s dignity and rights. In order to achieve this objective, it may be useful to review briefly how women were treated in general in previous civilizations and religions, especially those which preceded Islam (Pre-610 C.E.). Part of the information provided here, however, describes the status of woman as late as the nineteenth century, more than twelve centuries after Islam.

Women in Ancient Civilization

Describing the status of the Indian woman, Encyclopedia Britannica states:

In India, subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is descent traced through males to the exclusion of females.

In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: “a woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband.”

In Athens, women were not better off than either the Indian or the Roman women.

“Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male – to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin.

Her consent in marriage was not generally thought to be necessary and “she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her husband and her lord, even though he were stranger to her.”

A Roman wife was described by an historian as: “a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband.”

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, we find a summary of the legal status of women in the Roman civilization:

In Roman Law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband . . . the wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office . could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract. Among the Scandinavian races women were:

under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. As late as the Code of Christian V, at the end of the 17th Century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life.

According to the English Common Law:

…all real property which a wife held at the time of a marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband’s transferring real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife’s personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit.

Only by the late nineteenth Century did the situation start to improve. “By a series of acts starting with the Married women’s Property Act in 1870, amended in 1882 and 1887, married women achieved the right to own property and to enter contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees.” As late as the Nineteenth Century an authority in ancient law, Sir Henry Maine, wrote: “No society which preserves any tincture of Christian institutions is likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the Middle Roman Law.”

In his essay The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill wrote:

We are continually told that civilization and Christianity have restored to the woman her just rights. Meanwhile the wife is the actual bondservant of her husband; no less so, as far as the legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so called.

Before moving on to the Qur’anic decrees concerning the status of woman, a few Biblical decrees may shed more light on the subject, thus providing a better basis for an impartial evaluation. In the Mosaic Law, the wife was betrothed. Explaining this concept, the Encyclopedia Biblica states: “To betroth a wife to oneself meant simply to acquire possession of her by payment of the purchase money; the betrothed is a girl for whom the purchase money has been paid.” From the legal point of view, the consent of the girl was not necessary for the validation of her marriage. “The girl’s consent is unnecessary and the need for it is nowhere suggested in the Law.”

As to the right of divorce, we read in the Encyclopedia Biblica: “The woman being man’s property, his right to divorce her follows as a matter of course.” The right to divorce was held only by man. “In the Mosaic Law divorce was a privilege of the husband only …. ”

The position of the Christian Church until recent centuries seems to have been influenced by both the Mosaic Law and by the streams of thought that were dominant in its contemporary cultures. In their book, Marriage East and West, David and Vera Mace wrote:

Let no one suppose, either, that our Christian heritage is free of such slighting judgments. It would be hard to find anywhere a collection of more degrading references to the female sex than the early Church Fathers provide. Lecky, the famous historian, speaks of (these fierce incentives which form so conspicuous and so grotesque a portion of the writing of the Fathers . . . woman was represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is a woman. She should live in continual penance on account of the curses she has brought upon the world. She should be ashamed of her dress, for it is the memorial of her fall. She should be especially ashamed of her beauty, for it is the most potent instrument of the devil). One of the most scathing of these attacks on woman is that of Tertullian: Do you know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserters of the divine law; you are she who persuades him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is death – even the Sop of God had to die). Not only did the church affirm the inferior status of woman, it deprived her of legal rights she had previously enjoyed.


Magda Amer, an Islamic teacher in Egypt

Magda Amer, an Islamic teacher in Egypt

In the midst of the darkness that engulfed the world, the divine revelation echoed in the wide desert of Arabia with a fresh, noble, and universal message to humanity: “O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women” (Qur’an 4: 1).

A scholar who pondered about this verse states: “It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that deals with the humanity of the woman from all aspects with such amazing brevity, eloquence, depth, and originality as this divine decree.”

Stressing this noble and natural conception, them Qur’an states:

He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)…(Qur’an 7:189)

The Creator of heavens and earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves …Qur’an 42:1 1

And Allah has given you mates of your own nature, and has given you from your mates, children and grandchildren, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of God that they disbelieve? Qur’an 16:72

The rest of this paper outlines the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society from its various aspects – spiritually, socially, economically and politically.

1. The Spiritual Aspect

The Qur’an provides clear-cut evidence that woman iscompletely equated with man in the sight of God interms of her rights and responsibilities. The Qur’an states:

“Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds” (Qur’an 74:38). It also states:

…So their Lord accepted their prayers, (saying): I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. You proceed one from another …(Qur’an 3: 195).

Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the their actions. (Qur’an 16:97, see also 4:124).

Woman according to the Qur’an is not blamed for Adam’s first mistake. Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to God, both repented, and both were forgiven. (Qur’an 2:36, 7:20 – 24). In one verse in fact (20:121), Adam specifically, was blamed.

In terms of religious obligations, such as the Daily Prayers, Fasting, Poor-due, and Pilgrimage, woman is no different from man. In some cases indeed, woman has certain advantages over man. For example, the woman is exempted from the daily prayers and from fasting during her menstrual periods and forty days after childbirth. She is also exempted from fasting during her pregnancy and when she is nursing her baby if there is any threat to her health or her baby’s. If the missed fasting is obligatory (during the month of Ramadan), she can make up for the missed days whenever she can. She does not have to make up for the prayers missed for any of the above reasons. Although women can and did go into the mosque during the days of the prophet and thereafter attendance et the Friday congregational prayers is optional for them while it is mandatory for men (on Friday).

This is clearly a tender touch of the Islamic teachings for they are considerate of the fact that a woman may be nursing her baby or caring for him, and thus may be unable to go out to the mosque at the time of the prayers. They also take into account the physiological and psychological changes associated with her natural female functions.

2. The Social Aspect

a) As a child and an adolescent

A Muslim woman praying in the mosque

A Muslim woman praying in the mosque

Despite the social acceptance of female infanticide among some Arabian tribes, the Qur’an forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like any other murder.

“And when the female (infant) buried alive – is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” (Qur’an 81:8-9).

Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children, the Qur’an states:

When news is brought to one of them, of (the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur’an 16: 58-59).

Far from saving the girl’s life so that she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam requires kind and just treatment for her. Among the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (P.) in this regard are the following:

Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise. (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).

Whosoever supports two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together).

A similar Hadeeth deals in like manner with one who supports two sisters. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 2104).

The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from that of males. Prophet Muhammad (P.) said:

“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”. (AlBayhaqi). Muslim as used here including both males and females.

b) As a wife:

The Qur’an clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, beside perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy.

Among the most impressive verses in the Qur’an about marriage is the following.

“And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.” (Qur’an 30:2 1).

According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.

Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad (P.), and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice . . . (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). (Ibn Hanbal No. 2469). In another version, the girl said: “Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)” (Ibn Maja, No. 1873).

Besides all other provisions for her protection at the time of marriage, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her Mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. The concept of Mahr in Islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection.

The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.

The Qur’an thus states:

“And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them.” (Qur’an 2:228).

Such degree is Quiwama (maintenance and protection). This refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet, man’s role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband’s dictatorship over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur’an gives us an example:

“…If they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them…” (Qur’an 2: 233).

Over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the Qur’an and is strongly recommended by the Prophet (P); kind treatment and companionship.

The Qur’an states:

“…But consort with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein God has placed much good.” (Qur’an 4: l9).

Prophet Muhammad. (P) said:

The best of you is the best to his family and I am the best among you to my family.

The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 7396)

Behold, many women came to Muhammad’s wives complaining against their husbands (because they beat them) – - those (husbands) are not the best of you.

Noha Abd Roba of Egypt, an Olympic Taekwondo athlete

Noha Abd Roba of Egypt, an Olympic Taekwondo champion

As the woman’s right to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is recognized. To provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce. Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. Like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that.

More specifically, some aspects of Islamic Law concerning marriage and divorce are interesting and are worthy of separate treatment.

When the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it.

The Qur’an states about such cases:

When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits). (Qur’an 2:231). (See also Qur’an 2:229 and 33:49).

c) As a mother:

Islam considered kindness to parents next to the worship of God.

“And we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears him in weakness upon weakness…” (Qur’an 31:14) (See also Qur’an 46:15, 29:8).

Moreover, the Qur’an has a special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to your parents. . .” (Qur’an 17:23).

A man came to Prophet Muhammad (P) asking:

O Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company? The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man said then who else: The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man asked, Then who else? Only then did the Prophet (P) say, Your father. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

A famous saying of The Prophet is “Paradise is at the feet of mothers.” (In Al’Nisa’I, Ibn Majah, Ahmad).

And he said,

“It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”

3. The Economic Aspect

Islam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman’s right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.

With regard to the woman’s right to seek employment it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as the most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby-sitters can possibly take the mother’s place as the educator of an upright, complex free, and carefully-reared children. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as “idleness”.

However, there is no decree in Islam which forbids woman from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially for children), and medicine. Moreover, there is no restriction on benefiting from woman’s exceptional talent in any field. Even for the position of a judge, where there may be a tendency to doubt the woman’s fitness for the post due to her more emotional nature, we find early Muslim scholars such as Abu-Hanifa and Al-Tabary holding there is nothing wrong with it. In addition, Islam restored to woman the right of inheritance, after she herself was an object of inheritance in some cultures. Her share is completely hers and no one can make any claim on it, including her father and her husband.

“Unto men (of the family) belongs a share of that which Parents and near kindred leave, and unto women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be a little or much – a determinate share.” ((Qur’an 4:7).

Her share in most cases is one-half the man’s share, with no implication that she is worth half a man! It would seem grossly inconsistent after the overwhelming evidence of woman’s equitable treatment in Islam, which was discussed in the preceding pages, to make such an inference. This variation in inheritance rights is only consistent with the variations in financial responsibilities of man and woman according to the Islamic Law. Man in Islam is fully responsible for the maintenance of his wife, his children, and in some cases of his needy relatives, especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived nor reduced because of his wife’s wealth or because of her access to any personal income gained from work, rent, profit, or any other legal means.

Woman, on the other hand, is far more secure financially and is far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she even keeps her maiden name. She has no obligation to spend on her family out of such properties or out of her income after marriage. She is entitled to the “Mahr” which she takes from her husband at the time of marriage. If she is divorced, she may get an alimony from her ex-husband.

An examination of the inheritance law within the overall framework of the Islamic Law reveals not only justice but also an abundance of compassion for woman.

4. The Political Aspect

Merve Kavakci, former Turkish parliamentarian and spokeswoman for women's rights

Merve Kavakci, former Turkish parliamentarian and spokeswoman for women's rights

Any fair investigation of the teachings of Islam o~ into the history of the Islamic civilization will surely find a clear evidence of woman’s equality with man in what we call today “political rights”.

This includes the right of election as well as the nomination to political offices. It also includes woman’s right to participate in public affairs. Both in the Qur’an and in Islamic history we find examples of women who participated in serious discussions and argued even with the Prophet (P) himself, (see Qur’an 58: 14 and 60: 10-12).

During the Caliphate of Omar Ibn al-Khattab, a woman argued with him in the mosque, proved her point, and caused him to declare in the presence of people: “A woman is right and Omar is wrong.”

Although not mentioned in the Qur’an, one Hadeeth of the Prophet is interpreted to make woman ineligible for the position of head of state. The Hadeeth referred to is roughly translated: “A people will not prosper if they let a woman be their leader.” This limitation, however, has nothing to do with the dignity of woman or with her rights. It is rather, related to the natural differences in the biological and psychological make-up of men and women.

According to Islam, the head of the state is no mere figurehead. He leads people in the prayers, especially on Fridays and festivities; he is continuously engaged in the process of decision-making pertaining to the security and well-being of his people. This demanding position, or any similar one, such as the Commander of the Army, is generally inconsistent with the physiological and psychological make-up of woman in general. It is a medical fact that during their monthly periods and during their pregnancies, women undergo various physiological and psychological changes. Such changes may occur during an emergency situation, thus affecting her decision, without considering the excessive strain which is produced. Moreover, some decisions require a maximum of rationality and a minimum of emotionality – a requirement which does not coincide with the instinctive nature of women.

Even in modern times, and in the most developed countries, it is rare to find a woman in the position of a head of state acting as more than a figurehead, a woman commander of the armed services, or even a proportionate number of women representatives in parliaments, or similar bodies. One can not possibly ascribe this to backwardness of various nations or to any constitutional limitation on woman’s right to be in such a position as a head of state or as a member of the parliament. It is more logical to explain the present situation in terms of the natural and indisputable differences between man and woman, a difference which does not imply any “supremacy” of one over the other. The difference implies rather the “complementary” roles of both the sexes in life.


The first part of this paper deals briefly with the position of various religions and cultures on the issue under investigation. Part of this exposition extends to cover the general trend as late as the nineteenth century, nearly 1300 years after the Qur’an set forth the Islamic teachings.

In the second part of the paper, the status of women in Islam is briefly discussed. Emphasis in this part is placed on the original and authentic sources of Islam. This represents the standard according to which degree of adherence of Muslims can be judged. It is also a fact that during the downward cycle of Islamic Civilization, such teachings were not strictly adhered to by many people who profess to be Muslims.

Such deviations were unfairly exaggerated by some writers, and the worst of this, were superficially taken to represent the teachings of “Islam” to the Western reader without taking the trouble to make any original and unbiased study of the authentic sources of these teachings.

Even with such deviations three facts are worth mentioning:

  1. The history of Muslims is rich with women of great achievements in all walks of life from as early as the seventh century (B.C.)
  2. It is impossible for anyone to justify any mistreatment of woman by any decree of rule embodied in the Islamic Law, nor could anyone dare to cancel, reduce, or distort the clear-cut legal rights of women given in Islamic Law.
  3. Throughout history, the reputation, chastity and maternal role of Muslim women were objects of admiration by impartial observers.

It is also worthwhile to state that the status which women reached during the present era was not achieved due to the kindness of men or due to natural progress. It was rather achieved through a long struggle and sacrifice on woman’s part and only when society needed her contribution and work, more especial!; during the two world wars, and due to the escalation of technological change.

In the case of Islam such compassionate and dignified status was decreed, not because it reflects the environment of the seventh century, nor under the threat or pressure of women and their organizations, but rather because of its intrinsic truthfulness.

If this indicates anything, it would demonstrate the divine origin of the Qur’an and the truthfulness of the message of Islam, which, unlike human philosophies and ideologies, was far from proceeding from its human environment, a message which established such humane principles as neither grew obsolete during the course of time and after these many centuries, nor can become obsolete in the future. After all, this is the message of the All-Wise and all-knowing God whose wisdom and knowledge are far beyond the ultimate in human thought and progress.


The Holy, Qur’an: Translation of verses is heavily based on A. Yusuf Ali’s translation, The Glorious Qur’an, text translation, and Commentary, The American Trust Publication, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1979.

Abd Al-Ati, Hammudah, Islam in Focus, The American Trust Publications, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1977.

Allen, E. A., History of Civilization, General Publishing House, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1889, Vol. 3.

Al Siba’i, Mustafa, Al-Alar’ah Baynal Fiqh Walqanoon (in Arabic), 2nd. ea., Al-Maktabah Al-Arabiah, Halab, Syria, 1966.

El-Khouli, Al-Bahiy, “Min Usus Kadiat Al-Mara’ah” (in Arabic), A 1- Waay A l-lslami, Ministry of Walcf, Kuwait, Vol.3 (No. 27), June 9, 1967, p.17.

Encyclopedia Americana (International Edition), American Corp., N.Y., 1969, Vol.29.

Encyclopedia Biblica (Rev.T.K.Cheynene and J.S.Black, editors), The Macmillan Co., London, England, 1902, Vol.3.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, (11 th ed.), University Press Cambridge, England, 191 1, Vol.28.

Encyclopedia Britannica, The Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, III., 1968, Vol.23.

Hadeeth. Most of the quoted Hadeeth were translated by the writer. They are quoted in various Arabic sources. Some of them, however, were translated directly from the original sources. Among the sources checked are Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal Dar AlMa’aref, Cairo, U.A.R., 1950, and 1955, Vol.4 and 3,SunanIbnMajah, Dar Ihya’a Al-Kutub al-Arabiah, Cairo, U.A.R., 1952, Vol.l, Sunan al-Tirimidhi, Vol.3.

Mace, David and Vera, Marriage: East and West, Dolphin Books, Doubleday and Co., Inc., N.Y., 1960.

Women & Shariah – Dr Nazreen Nawaz (HTB) and J. Bakewell

From the UK’s Islam Channel. Two Muslim women talk with a non-Muslim journalist about the subject of the position and treatment of women in Islamic law and in practice. An intelligent, honest discussion.

The Five Pillars of Islam

Five Pillars of Islam

In Islam, the term ‘worship’ covers any action that one does in accordance with the will of Allah. It can be mental, physical, spoken or otherwise. All such actions will be rewarded. There are five acts of worship that are so fundamental that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) grouped them together as the Five Pillars of Islam. Every muslim is expected to fulfill these obligations. They are:

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah, written in Arabic script in the shape of a man praying.

1. Shahadah

Recognising and acknowledging the monotheistic nature of Allah stands at the core of Islam. This is to firmly believe in the heart and declare:

“Ashhadu allaa ilahha, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullah.”

{” I bear witness that there is no God except Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is Allah’s Messenger.”}

This is known as the Shahadah. Once a person declares it, he becomes a Muslim.

The Shahadah has two parts. Firstly, its a declaration that Allah is the only Lord and Ruler, and He Alone is worthy of worship. He has no partner, and He cannot be compared with any other thing. Everything which is in this universe is under His control and wors according to His Command. Mankkind is also required to live according to the C ommands of Allah. Allah loves those who follow His command and He dislikes those who disobey Him.

The second part of the Shahadah is the declaration that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. He was the one who b, and ask Allah to give him brought the Qur’an to us. Muslims are required to obey the Prophet (PBHUH) and follow his example without hesitation. Muslims are also required to honour and respect him blessings and salutations. Whenever his name is mentioned we must say: Sallallaahu ulayhi wa sallum meaning “Allah’s peace and blessings upon him.”

2. Salah – Prayer

The second pillar of Islam, the salat or prayer

The word "salat" or prayer, written in Arabic calligraphic script

Prayer or Salah is obliguitary on every muslim and they must pray five times a day. “Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the belivers at fixed hours.” [The Holy Qur'an 4:103] It is the distinguishing feature of Islam and the most obvious act which a muslim does to shows his obedience to Allah. A person abandons prayer at the risk of going out of Islam.

When Allah made us, He made us for a purpose and that was to Worship Him and Him alone. “I have only created jinns and men, that they may worship Me.” [The Holy Qur'an 51:56] Praying regularly reminds us of this prupose and bring us closer to Allah thereby preventing us from straying off the right path. “O all you who believe, bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord, and do good deeds, so that you may be successful.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:77] Theoretical recognition of Allah and saying you believe in your heart is not sufficient. Many people say that they worship God in their ‘own way’ but by taking this view we make ourselves gods and decide how Allah should be worshipped, rather than follow His command.

The five daily prayers have a physical and spiritual nature. They consist of a series of bowings and prostrations together with recitations of the Holy Qur’an and praises of Allah, complemented by personal requests. They are a fusion of body, soul and mind. We start the day with Fajr which is prayed at morning twilight before sunrise; the second prayer is Zuhr, prayed after the sun has passed its zenith or highest point at noon; then at mid-afternoon Asr is payed; Maghrib is prayedafter sunset, and the final prayer of the day is Isha, which is prayer after the onset of night. The five daily prayers reaffirm again and again that we are in the service of Allah. “Verily, in the rememberance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [The Holy Qur'an 13:28]

The Zakat, third pillar of Islam

The word Zakat or charity, one of the pillars of Islam, in Arabic script

3. Zakat – Alms giving

Zakat means purification and growth. Once a year every Muslim above the poverty threshold must give 2.5 % of all his belongings which are not in regular use and wealth which has been allowed to accumulate for a whole year to set categories of recipients, those who are needy or without support. It is way of doing our duty to other Muslims less fortunate to us. Giving zakat reminds a person that his wealth is not his own, but its real owner is Allah. This should make a person ready to spend in accordance with Allah’s Command. “Truly, those who belive and do deeds of righteousness, and perform Salat, and give Zakat, they will have their reward with their Lord, On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [The Holy qur'an 2:277]

Zakat is not tax imposed by Islam, but a due fixed by Allah so that the wealth of a person may be purified. It is an act of worship and purifies the heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. It is a way of showing sympthay to those who are less fortunate. It is also to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.

4. Sawm – Fasting

Ramadan kareem, or blessed Ramadan, in Arabic script

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam

Fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was for those before you, that you may attain piety.” [The Holy qur'an 2:183] Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. Fasting is both a spiritual and physical exersice which allows Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, to atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy.

During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip and to try to get along with each other better than normal. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. If he does not control himself and avoid evil deeds, his fast will not bring him any benefit nor reward from Allah. Fastiong throughout ramdan trains one to control their desires and strengthen their will-power.

For those whom fasting is dangerous and excessively problematic, fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory, and is even forbidden in some cases. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those who are ill or on a travel. Missing fasts usually must be made up soon afterwards, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.

5. Hajj – Pilgrimage

The Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah, one of the pillars of Islam

Hajj or pilgrimage is a pillar of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform once in a lifetime

Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is obligatory in every muslim who is finicially and physically able to, once in a lifetime. “And Hajj to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses.” [The Holy Qur'an 3:97] No annual event on the face of the globe, religious or non-religious, compares to Hajj in terms of the sheer number of participants, duration of the event and the breadth of agenda. In spite of this fact, it has always remained equally fascinating and mysterious to not only non-Muslims, who are barred from entering the holy city, but also to millions of Muslims, who had not performed Hajj.

At Hajj a number of rituals are carried out which reflect the efforts of Abraham (Ibrahim), peace be with him, who had left his second wife Hajar and her young son Ishmael (Ismail) there in the arid desert, and Allah rewarded Hajar’s struggle to find water with the well of Zamzam, a spring which made the region prosperous and a religious focal point after Ibrahim and Ismail built the Kaabah. There is also the gathering at the plain of Arafat, reminiscent of the even larger gathering to come on the day of judgment.

Hajj is more than a get together of Muslims from all over the globe; it is akin to a virtual reality training camp. Pilgrims leave behind their busy world, dress in simple white sheets of cloth not unlike the ones they will later be buried in, and concentrate on the concept of sacrifice – recalling Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Ismail for Allah. Properly conducted, this simulated journey from this world to the next prepares the pilgrims for the remaining life ahead of them, assisting them in making the right choices and judging their worldly affairs against the standard of the hereafter.

All over the Muslim world the conclusion of Hajj is celebrated with the festival of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, where the meat of a sacrificed animal is shared out between family, friends and the needy, celebrating the fact, that Allah only tested Ibrahim’s willingness, but did not demand of him to give up his son, letting him slaughter a ram instead. Islam thereby categorically rejects the concept of human sacrifice but also emphasises that nothing should be so dear to us that we are not willing to give it up for the sake of Allah. “And proclaim unto mankind the Hajj. … That they may witness things that are of benefit to them.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:27-8]

Adapted from Islam A Brief Guide & Basic Principles of Islam

Muhammad in the Bible – Ahmed Deedat on Video

Famed Muslim preacher and debater Sheikh Ahmed Deedat delivered lectures all over the world and successfully engaged Christian Evangelists in public debates.

One of his most famous debates was “Was Christ Crucified?” when he impressively debated Bishop Josh McDowell in Durban in 1981.

Famous books by Deedat included “The Choice – Between Islam and Christianity; “Is the Bible God’s Word?”; “Al Qur’an the Miracle of Miracles” ; “What the Bible says about Muhammad (PBUH)?”; and “Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?”

The following lecture, “Muhammad in the Bible”, was first delivered as part of a series of lectures at the Durban City Hall in South Africa, under the title, “What the Bible Says About Muhammad”. It was later published as a book with the same name.

Suicide Bombers in Islam

“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you. But do not transgress limits. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors.”

- Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (2:190)

The dangerous escalation of violence in the world is disturbing to all people of conscience, from September 11 to the Middle East battles, and other random acts of violence perpetrated at innocent civilians.

In Islam, several things are clear:

  • Suicide is forbidden. “O ye who believe!… [do not] kill yourselves, for truly Allah has been to you Most Merciful. If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire…” (Qur’an 4:29-30).
  • The taking of life is allowed only by way of justice (i.e. the death penalty for murder), but even then, forgiveness is better. “Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause…” (17:33).
  • In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace. If someone was killed, the victim’s tribe would retaliate against the murderer’s entire tribe. This practice was directly forbidden in the Qur’an (2:178-179). Following this statement of law, the Qur’an says, “After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement” (2:178). No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people.
  • The Qur’an admonishes those who oppress others and transgress beyond the bounds of what is right and just. “The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice. For such there will be a chastisement grievous (in the Hereafter)” (42:42).
  • Harming innocent bystanders, even in times of war, was forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This includes women, children, noncombatant bystanders, and even trees and crops. Nothing is to be harmed unless the person or thing is actively engaged in an assault against Muslims.

The predominant theme in the Qur’an is forgiveness and peace. Allah (God) is Merciful and Forgiving, and seeks that in His followers. Indeed, most people who spend time on a personal level with ordinary Muslims have found them to be peaceful, honest, hard-working, civic-minded people.

In the fight against terrorism of all forms, it is important to understand who or what is our enemy. We can only fight against this horror if we understand its causes and motivations. What motivates a person to lash out in this violent, inhumane way? Researchers conclude that religion neither causes nor explains suicide terrorism. The true motivation of such attacks is something that all of us — mental health professionals, politicians, and common people — need to understand, so that we can address the issues more honestly, prevent more violence, and find ways to work towards lasting peace.

“O ye who believe! Remain steadfast for Allah, bearing witness to justice. Do not allow your hatred for others make you swerve to wrongdoing and turn you away from justice. Be just; that is closer to true piety.”

- Qur’an, Surah al-Maidah (5:8)


By Huda, guide
Reprinted from

Support Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti

A group of volunteers carry a body in Puerto Principe, Haiti, after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck.

A group of volunteers carry a body in Puerto Principe, Haiti, after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck.

We extend our most heartfelt condolences to the people of Haiti who have suffered a tremendous loss as a result of the recent earthquake. May those who survived be blessed with patience for their irrevocable loss.

Disaster relief efforts are underway but the need for assistance is not being met. Thousands of people are sleeping in the streets and most have not received food or water since the earthquake.

We urge Muslims and all compassionate people to respond and contribute to the humanitarian aid appeal by Islamic Relief, an Islamic relief organization.

Please donate generously in alleviating the suffering of people in Haiti.

You can donate through Islamic Relief USA’s website here:

Haiti Earthquake Emergency Donations

Checks can be mailed to:

Islamic Relief USA, P.O. Box 5640, Buena Park, CA 90622.

How to Become a Muslim

The Shahadah, or Islamic testimony of faith, written in a style of Arabic calligraphy

The Shahadah, or Islamic testimony of faith, written in a style of Arabic calligraphy

All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe. May peace and blessings of Allah be upon Mohammad, His last messenger.

The purpose of this article is to correct a false idea spread among those willing to adopt Islam as their faith. Some people have a wrong notion that entering into the Islamic fold requires an announcement from the concerned person in the presence of high ranking scholars or shaikhs or reporting this act to courts of justice or other authorities. It is also thought that the act of accepting Islam, should, as a condition, have a certificate issued by the authorities, as evidence to that effect.

We wish to clarify that the whole matter is very easy and that none of these conditions or obligations are required. For Allah, Almighty, is above all comprehension and knows well the secrets of all hearts. Nevertheless, those who are going to adopt Islam as their religion are advised to register themselves as Muslims with the concerned governmental agency, as this procedure may facilitate for them many matters including the possibility of performing Hadj (Pilgrimage) and Umrah.

(Note: this advice is not applicable in many Western nations such as the United States, where there is no governmental agency that tracks such matters).

If anyone has a real desire to be a Muslim and has full conviction and strong belief that Islam is the true religion ordained by Allah for all human-beings, then, one should pronounce the “Shahada”, the testimony of faith, without further delay. The Holy Qur’an is explicit on this regard as Allah states:

“The Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.” (Qur’an 3:19)

In another verse of the Holy Qur’an, Allah states:

“If unyone desires a religion other than Islam (Submission to Allah), Never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (their selves in the hell fire).” (Qur’an 3:85

In addition, Islam is the only religion prevailing over all other religions. Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:

“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety:…” (Qur’an 5:48)

Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), said:

“The superstructure of Islam is raised on five (pillars): testifying that there is no God (none truely to be worshiped) but Allah, and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah, performing the prayer, paying the Zakah (poor-due), fasting the month of Ramadan, and performing Hadj.”

The Shahada can be declared as follows:


The English translation is:

“I bear witness that there is no deity (worthy of worship) but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

However, it would not be sufficient for anyone to only utter this testimony oraly either in private or in public; but rather, he should believe in it by heart with a firm conviction and unshakeable faith. If one is truly sincere and complies with the teachings of Islam in all his life, he will find himself a new born person.

This will move him to strive more and more to improve his character and draw nearer to perfection. The light of the living faith will fill his heart until he becomes the embodiment of that faith.

What Next?

What would be next after declaring oneself a Muslim? One should then know the real concept underlying this testimony which means the Oneness of Allah and meet its requirements. One must behave accordingly, applying this true faith to every thing one speaks or does.

What do the words of the “Shahada” signify? The significant point which every Muslim must know very well is the truth that there is no God (deity) to be worshipped other than Allah. He – glory be to Him – is the only true God, Who alone deserves to be worshipped, since He is the Giver of life and Sustainer and Nourisher of mankind and all creation with His unlimited bounties. Man must worship Allah, Who alone is worthy of worship.

The second part of the Shahada (i.e., Wa ash-hadu anna Mohammadan rasul-Allah) means that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the servant and chosen messenger of Allah. No one must have two opinions about this matter. In fact the Muslim has to obey the commands of the Prophet (PBUH), to believe him in what he has said, to practice his teachings, to avoid what he has forbidden, and to worship Allah alone according to the message revealed to him, for all the teachings of the Prophet were in fact revelations and inspirations conveyed to him by Allah.

What is the meaning of worship? It simply means rendering sincere service, showing reverence for Allah. In a deeper shade of meaning, it implies total submission and complete obedience to Allah’s commandments both in utterances and actions of man whether explicit or implicit.

Worship fall into two categories:

  1. Visible (manifest or outward)
  2. Invisible (concealed or inward)

Visible worship includes acts such as uttering the two parts of the “Shahada”, performing prayers, giving Zakah (the poor-due), recitation of the Holy Qur’an, supplication, adoring Allah by praising Him, purifying our bodies before prayers, etc.

This type of worship is associated with movement of the parts of the human body.

Invisible worship is to believe in Allah, in the Day of Judgement (in the Hereafter), in the Angels, in the Books of Allah, in the Prophets of Allah, in the Divine Decree of destiny (that good and bad are determined by Allah alone).

This type of worship does not involve movement of parts of the body but it surely has bearing on one’s heart which subsequently affects one’s way of life.

It should be borne in mind that any worship not dedicated to Allah alone will be rejected as one form of polytheism and this causes apostasy from the Islamic fold.

The next step for a newly revert to Islam is to purify himself by taking a complete bath. He should then resolve to comply with the principles and rules of Islam in their entirety. He should disown all forms of polytheism and false beliefs. He should reject evil and be righteous. Such rejection of evil and being righteous is one of the equisites of the motto of Islam – that is, Laa Ilaha Illallah.

Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:

“… whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy Hand-hold, that never breaks…” (Qur’an 2:256).

We have to consider that when we declare from our heart that “there is no god (deity) worthy to be worshipped but Allah”, it implies on our part love, devotion, faith and obedience to the rules of Islamic legislations which are legally binding on all Muslims. It is a requirement of “there is no god worthy to be worshipped but Allah” to love for the sake of Allah and to reject for the sake of Allah.

This is the firmest anchor of belief which materialise the meaning of ”AL WALA” and ”AL BARA”. It means that a Muslim should love and be loyal to his Muslim brothers. He should, as a practice, dissociate himself completely from the unbelievers and refuse to be influenced by them, both in worldly and religious matters.

We conclude with a humble prayer to Allah that may He cleanse the hearts and souls of those who are genuine seekers of truth and may He bless the community of believers. Aameen.


This is an amended copy of ”HOW TO BECOME A MUSLIM” originally prepared & published by Cooperative Office for Call and Guidance – Riyadh.

For more detailed information about Islam, please contact the nearest Islamic center in your area.

What Does Islam Say about Terrorism?

A man praying at the edge of a cliff in Makkah. Muslims are spiritual, peaceful people.

A man praying at the edge of a cliff in Makkah. Muslims are commanded to be faithful, upright, spiritual, peaceful people. Fighting is only allowed in self defense, and must obey moral codes of conduct.

Islam, a religion of mercy, does not permit terrorism. In the Quran, God has said:

“God does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. God loves just dealers.” (Quran 60:8)

The Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, used to prohibit soldiers from killing women and children,[1] and he would advise them: “…Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not kill a newborn child.”[2] And he also said: “Whoever has killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years.”[3]

Also, the Prophet Muhammad has forbidden punishment with fire.[4]

He once listed murder as the second of the major sins,[5] and he even warned that on the Day of Judgment, “The first cases to be adjudicated between people on the Day of Judgment will be those of bloodshed.” [6][7]

Muslims are even encouraged to be kind to animals and are forbidden to hurt them. Once the Prophet Muhammad said: “A woman was punished because she imprisoned a cat until it died. On account of this, she was doomed to Hell. While she imprisoned it, she did not give the cat food or drink, nor did she free it to eat the insects of the earth.”[8]

He also said that a man gave a very thirsty dog a drink, so God forgave his sins for this action. The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, was asked, “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?” He said: “There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.”[9]

Additionally, while taking the life of an animal for food, Muslims are commanded to do so in a manner that causes the least amount of fright and suffering possible. The Prophet Muhammad said: “When you slaughter an animal, do so in the best way. One should sharpen his knife to reduce the suffering of the animal.”[10]

In light of these and other Islamic texts, the act of inciting terror in the hearts of defenseless civilians, the wholesale destruction of buildings and properties, the bombing and maiming of innocent men, women, and children are all forbidden and detestable acts according to Islam and the Muslims. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the vast majority have nothing to do with the violent events some have associated with Muslims. If an individual Muslim were to commit an act of terrorism, this person would be guilty of violating the laws of Islam.


[1] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #1744, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3015.
[2] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #1731, and Al-Tirmizi, #1408.
[3] Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3166, and Ibn Majah, #2686.
[4] Narrated in Abu-Dawood, #2675.
[5] Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6871, and Saheeh Muslim, #88.
[6] This means killing and injuring.
[7] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #1678, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6533.
[8] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2422, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2365.
[9] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2244, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2466.
[10] Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #1955, and Al-Tirmizi, #1409.