Saturday, October 18, 2014

Male & Female and what Islam says about it's existence

If ever a topic in Islam gets people's attention, it's this: The relation between men and women. At some moment, it's unavoidable. But where to start... and where to finish. It's tempting to enter worn out, overly treaded routes, too, and resort too much to other commentators, which is not always helpful in today's much changing world. It's best to start with the most obvious topics,

How, firstly, are we described in the Qur'an, as men and women?

'O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you'. Qur'an 4:1

'O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth).' Qur'an 22:5

Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. Qur'an 33:35

'He created you from one being, then from that (being) He made its mate; and He hath provided for you of cattle eight kinds. He created you in the wombs of your mothers, creation after creation, in a threefold gloom. Such is Allah, your Lord. His is the Sovereignty. There is no Allah save Him. How then are ye turned away?' Qur'an 39:6

'And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.' Qur'an 51:49

'Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth?

Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned

And made of him a pair, the male and female.' Qur'an 75:37-39

These verses could describe the very first human beings. They also describe us as individuals, who receive in the human growing process qualities that make us man or woman, and ready to be the partner of another woman or man. Many commentators, among who Harun Yahya and Maurice Bucaille, wrote extensive works emphasizing how these verses comply with today's scientific knowledge about the human pregnancy and procreation. The verses themselves, however, give little detail and no hierarchy between men and women. The Qur'an does mention the first humans, too:

'And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not. And He taught Adam all the names, then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. They said: Be glorified! We have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower, the Wise. He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names, and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the earth? And I know that which ye disclose and which ye hide. And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis (Lucifer, Satan). He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever. And We said: O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso followeth My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. But they who disbelieve, and deny Our revelations, such are rightful Peoples of the Fire. They will abide therein.' Qur'an 2:30-39

What do these verses tell us? Firstly, Qur'an mentions in several verses the polarity in nature, 'everything was created in pairs'. Some of these verses deal with gender--not only in humanity--and some deal with other kinds of polarity in nature. Secondly, man and woman were created equally, without hierarchy, and each person is personally responsible for his, or her, relationship with Allah, God. And Adam, most likely, was the first human and scholars also see him as the first prophet. Several Qur'anic verses refer to mankind as 'Adam's Children', too:

'O Children of Adam! We have revealed unto you raiment to conceal your shame, and splendid vesture, but the raiment of restraint from evil, that is best. This is of the revelations of Allah, that they may remember. O Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you as he caused your (first) parents to go forth from the Garden and tore off from them their robe (of innocence) that he might manifest their shame to them. Lo! he seeth you, he and his tribe, from whence ye see him not. Lo! We have made the devils protecting friends for those who believe not. Qur'an 7:30,31.

True, hadiths mention creation of woman from 'a rib'. Nothing of its provenance is said. It could be anything; the X-chromosome, or even a metaphore:

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 114:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women."

If you're a non-Muslim and would like to know more about Islam, it's helpful to also read the scriptures of your own creed--if you have one. If you live in a predominantly Christian environment, you may compare these Qur'anic verses with applicable Biblical verses. (There's nothing wrong in doing this anyway, considering the similarities between both, and their intertwined history.) Bible Book Genesis, Chapter 2 and 3 describes the creation of man and woman, and their expulsion from the garden. The first man was created first from the soil. He was allowed to live in the garden of Eden. Then the animals were created to help and accompany him. Adam was the one to give the species their names. Finally, for the same purpose, the first woman was created from the man's rib. Chapter 3 describes how the woman was seduced to eat from the tree, which led to the downfall of humanity from the garden. Their life would from now on consist of hard work, worry, and man would rule over woman.

Now you may say 'what does it matter' what those books say. I think it matters, even if only indirectly. The image men and women have of their own status in the bigger picture, has been determined by religious scriptures. These have had their impact on legislation, and on general ideas of male and female capabilities and roles. The Bible primarily blames woman for the original sin, and her entire posterity will be tainted ever since, especially her female posterity. Islam doesn't share this thought. It's true, that we don't know which is right. This may be a reason to avoid the temptation to turn this into a contest. All we can say here is, that Islam gives no details about the creation of man and woman. And Islam does give details about human pregnancy and growth that fairly well approach real life. Islam has an advantage here. Let's at least admit that much.

The reason I took up writing these articles, is my hope to show where Islam reaches out to people of all creeds. People travel more today, the world has become a global village. Many people, me included, have friends and family members with different religions. Islam deserves to be seen as s free, happy religion that promotes love. Especially gender is a topic that left too many people in a situation of limitation, where it isn't needed. I'm convinced of that. Read the scriptures, think about them. It gave me new perspectives on this topic.

University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts)  
The Official King James Bible Online

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Islam & Entertainment such as Music

Somehow, music has a controversial name in religions, especially in Islam. It's associated with uncomplicated fun not focused on Divine worship, and some consider that waste of energy. Or it's associated with social, sexual and alcoholic abuse. Sometimes this is true. But, does Islam truly forbid music?

The Qur'an mentions prophet Dawud as singer of praise with the birds. Dawud is King David in the Bible; the Biblical book of Psalms is named after him. He is supposed to be their writer, and he is the Bible's best known musician. Dawud, King David, received a divine scripture and prophetic wisdom, which is mentioned in the Qur'an:

YUSUFALI: And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms.

YUSUFALI: To Solomon We inspired the (right) understanding of the matter: to each (of them) We gave Judgment and Knowledge; it was Our power that made the hills and the birds celebrate Our praises, with David: it was We Who did (all these things).
YUSUFALI: We bestowed Grace aforetime on David from ourselves: "O ye Mountains! Sing ye back the Praises of Allah with him! and ye birds (also)! And We made the iron soft for him;-

YUSUFALI: Have patience at what they say, and remember our servant David, the man of strength: for he ever turned (to Allah).

YUSUFALI: It was We that made the hills declare, in unison with him, Our Praises, at eventide and at break of day,

YUSUFALI: And the birds gathered (in assemblies): all with him did turn (to Allah).

Music is very well part of human knowledge and as such appropriate for religious worship, too. Somehow, however, it lost most of its place in Islam. Also hadiths do not forbid music; there are enough stories of people singing in the prophet's presence, and he didn't say anything against it. The bottom two hadiths are transmitted by Sahih Muslim, the other ones by Sahih Bukhari:

Volume 2, Book 15, Number 70:
Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Buath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (p.b.u.h) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, "Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (p.b.u.h) ?" Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) turned his face towards him and said, "Leave them." When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signalled to those girls to go out and they left. It was the day of 'Id, and the Black people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet (p.b.u.h) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (p.b.u.h) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, "Carry on! O Bani Arfida," till I got tired. The Prophet (p.b.u.h) asked me, "Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?" I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave.

Volume 2, Book 15, Number 72:
Narrated Aisha: Abu Bakr came to my house while two small Ansari girls were singing beside me the stories of the Ansar concerning the Day of Buath. And they were not singers. Abu Bakr said protestingly, "Musical instruments of Satan in the house of Allah's Apostle !" It happened on the 'Id day and Allah's Apostle said, "O Abu Bakr! There is an 'Id for every nation and this is our 'Id."

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 155:
Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu'ath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, i.e. Khazraj and Aus, before Islam.) The Prophet reclined on the bed and turned his face to the other side. Abu Bakr came and scolded me and said protestingly, "Instrument of Satan in the presence of Allah's Apostle?" Allah's Apostle turned his face towards him and said, "Leave them." When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I waved the two girls to go away and they left. It was the day of 'Id when negroes used to play with leather shields and spears. Either I requested Allah's Apostle or he himself asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then he let me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, "Carry on, O Bani Arfida (i.e. negroes)!" When I got tired, he asked me if that was enough. I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave 

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 336:
Narrated Ar-Rubai bint Muauwidh: The Prophet came to me after consuming his marriage with me and sat down on my bed as you (the sub-narrator) are sitting now, and small girls were beating the tambourine and singing in lamentation of my father who had been killed on the day of the battle of Badr. Then one of the girls said, "There is a Prophet amongst us who knows what will happen tomorrow." The Prophet said (to her)," Do not say this, but go on saying what you have spoken before." 

Volume 8, Book 73, Number 229:
Narrated Anas: The Prophet was on a journey and a slave named Anjasha was chanting (singing) for the camels to let them go fast (while driving). The Prophet said, "O Anjasha, drive slowly (the camels) with the glass vessels!" Abu Qilaba said, "By the glass vessels' he meant the women (riding the camels)."  

Book 023, Number 4879:
'Ali b. Abu Talib reported; There fell to my lot along with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) an old she-camel from the spoils of Badr. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) granted me another camel. I made them kneel down one day at the door of an Ansari, and I wanted to carry on them Idhkhir (a kind of grass) in order to sell that. There was with me a goldsmith of the tribe of Qainuqa'. I saught to give a wedding feast (on the occasion of marriage with) Fatima with the help of that (the price accrued from the sale of this grass). And Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib was busy in drinking in that house in the company of a singing girl who was singing to him. She said: Hamza, get up for slaughtering the fat she-camels. Hamza attacked them with the sword and cut off their humps and ripped their haunches, and then took out their livers. I said to Ibn Shihab: Did he take out anything from the hump? He said: He cut off the humps altogether. Ibn Shihab reported 'Ali having said: I saw this (horrible) sight and it shocked me, and I came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and there was Zaid b, Haritha with him and communicated to him this news. He came in the company of Zaid and I also went along with him and he went to Hamza and he expressed anger with him. Hamza raised his eyes and said: Are you (not) but the servants of my father? Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) turned back on his heels (on hearing this) until he went away from them. 

Book 030, Number 5743:
Anas reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had in one of his journeys his black slave who was called Anjasha along with him. He goaded by singing the songs of camel-driver. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Anjasha, drive slowly as you are driving (the mounts who are carrying) glass vessels 

In the forlast hadith, number 4879, another topic is introduced: Alcohol. Alcohol is known to be forbidden for Muslims, however, in the Qur'an it is also granted some good qualities. Drinking isn't a sin that makes one leave Islam, yet, performing prayer when intoxicated, isn't allowed. A believer who drinks or trades alcoholic drinks, will be deprived of alcohol in the hereafter. Alcohol is the reward in Paradise for those believers, who abstained from it during their lifetime. Islam sees alcohol as an issue that believers need to abandon, yet, it's known, that many won't. It's an undesirable, complicating part of life for Muslims--yet, perhaps, no unforgivable sin. However, Muslims shouldn't gamble on their future.

YUSUFALI: They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-

YUSUFALI: If ye (but) eschew the most heinous of the things which ye are forbidden to do, We shall expel out of you all the evil in you, and admit you to a gate of great honour.

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged (intoxicated), until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again.

YUSUFALI: Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.

YUSUFALI: Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?

YUSUFALI: And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out wholesome drink and food: behold, in this also is a sign for those who are wise.

YUSUFALI: (Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord. (Can those in such Bliss) be compared to such as shall dwell for ever in the Fire, and be given, to drink, boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces)?

And there are many hadiths about drinking alcohol. Believers were ordered to throw away alcoholic beverages, not to use them as medicines, and not to produce or sell them.

Volume 7, Book 69, Number 481, Sahih Bukhari:
Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "Whoever drinks alcoholic drinks in the world and does not repent (before dying), will be deprived of it in the Hereafter."

Volume 7, Book 69, Number 484:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "An adulterer, at the time he is committing illegal sexual intercourse is not a believer; and a person, at the time of drinking an alcoholic drink is not a believer; and a thief, at the time of stealing, is not a believer." Ibn Shihab said: 'Abdul Malik bin Abi Bakr bin 'Abdur-Rahman bin Al- Harith bin Hisham told me that Abu Bakr used to narrate that narration to him on the authority of Abu Huraira. He used to add that Abu Bakr used to mention, besides the above cases, "And he who robs (takes illegally something by force) while the people are looking at him, is not a believer at the time he is robbing (taking) 

Volume 7, Book 69, Number 487:
Narrated Ibn 'Umar: 'Umar stood up on the pulpit and said, "Now then, prohibition of alcoholic drinks have been revealed, and these drinks are prepared from five things, i.e.. grapes, dates, honey, wheat or barley And an alcoholic drink is that, that disturbs the mind. 

Book 023, Number 4892, Sahih Muslim:
Wa'il al-Hadrami reported that Tariq b. Suwaid a-Ju'fi asked Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) about liquor. He forbade (its use) and he expressed hatred that it should be prepared. He (Tariq) said: I prepare it as a medicine, whereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: It is no medicine, but an ailment. 

Book 023, Number 4961:
Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent me and Mu'adh to Yemen saying: Call people (to the path of righteousness) and give good tidings to the (people), and do not repel them, make things easy for them and do not make things difficult. I (Burda) said: Allah's Messenger, give us a religious verdict about two kinds of drinks which we prepare in Yemen. One is Bit' which is prepared from honey; it is a fermented Nabidh and is strong and turns into wine, and (the second is) Mizr which is prepared from millet and barley. Thereupon, Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), who had been gifted with the most eloquent and pithy expressions, said: I forbid you from every intoxicant that keeps you away from prayer.

Book 023, Number 4975:
Yahya Abu 'Umar al-Nakhai reported that some people asked Ibn Abbas about the sale and purchase of wine and its commerce. He asked (them): Are you Muslims? They said, Yes. Thereupon he said: Its sale and purchase and its trade are not permissible. They then asked him about Nabidh and he said: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) went out on a journey and then came back and some persons amongst his Companions prepared Nabidh for him in green pitcher, hollow stump and gourd. He commanded it to be thrown away, and it was done accordingly. He then ordered them (to prepare it.) in a waterskin and it was prepared in that by steeping raisins in water, and it was prepared in the night. In the morning he drank out of that and on that day and then the next night, and then on the next day until the evening. He drank and gave others to drink. When it was morning (of the third night) he commanded what was left of that to be thrown away. 


University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts)