Meri Soch aur Meri Awaz

The treasure of a fool is in his tongue, so think before you speak

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Prophet as a Man: News Bringing Tears to the Prophet

We have seen last week how the Prophet (peace be upon him) cried when his son died, and how his eyes where tearful at the death of one of his earliest companions, Uthman ibn Maz’oon, and also when he visited another of his companions, Saad ibn Ubadah, who was very ill. The Prophet loved all his companions, because they were not only good Muslims, they were the ones who believed in him, placed their full trust in him, and were ready to sacrifice their all for him and his cause. We know from our own experience that when we go through some experience together with some friends, and we cooperate with them in achieving common goals, our relations become stronger. If such an experience has noble objectives, with little personal gain for any of us, we become much closer to each other. This is what happens in the ranks of the advocates of Islam. They feel their brotherhood to be a reality. The best example of this brotherhood was the community of the Prophet’s companions. Hence, it is not surprising that their mutual relations were very strong, and their relation with the Prophet was one of pure love, incomparable to any other relation.
When the Byzantine Empire was contemplating an attack on the Muslim state, the Prophet sent a force to meet any attacking army. This led to what is known in Islamic history as the Battle of Mu’tah. The Muslim force was no more than 3000, led by Zayd ibn Harithah. The Prophet’s instructions specified that in case Zayd was killed, then the command would go to Jaafar ibn Abi Talib, and in case of his death, and then Abdullah ibn Rawahah will take the command. In case of Abdullah meeting the same end, the army should choose a commander. As it happened, when the Muslim troops met the Byzantine army, they were outnumbered by more than 30 to one. Still a battle took place and soon the three commanders fell one after the other. The command was taken over by Khalid ibn Al-Waleed who managed to withdraw with the army suffering little further losses.
What was the Prophet’s reaction to the news? Before we speak about that, we should remember that Zayd, the first commander, was gifted to the Prophet as a slave when he was still a young lad. The Prophet subsequently set him free and adopted him as a son in pre-Islamic days. When the Prophet started to receive his revelations, Zayd was the first man to declare his belief in him as God’s Messenger and was, as such, the first Muslim after the Prophet. The second commander, Jaafar, was the Prophet’s own cousin. He had only recently returned after 15 years’ absence in Abyssinia, where he and a group of the Prophet’s companions established an outpost for Islam away from Arabia. Abdullah ibn Rawahah was one of the early figures among the Ansar and a devoted servant of Islam. All three were killed on the same day. How did the Prophet react to the news of their death?
We have three Hadiths mentioning his reaction. Anas ibn Malik reports: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) announced the death of Zayd, Jaafar and Abdullah ibn Rawahah to the Muslim community before the messenger delivering the news arrived in Madinah. He said: ‘Zayd took up the banner first, but he was soon hit, and Jaafar took it over. Again he was hit, and it was taken by Ibn Rawahah and he was hit.’ The Prophet’s eyes were pouring with tears. He then said: ‘Then the banner was taken up by one of God’s swords, and they continued to fight until God bestowed His grace.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Ahmad).
The second report is given by Aishah, the Prophet’s wife: “When the news of the death of Zayd ibn Harithah, Jaafar ibn Abi Talib and Abdullah ibn Rawahah was given to the Prophet, he sat down with grief clearly visible in his face, as I looked at him through a hole in the door.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Khalid ibn Salamah Al-Makhzoomi gives us the third report: “When Zayd ibn Harithah was killed, the Prophet went to his home. When Zayd’s daughter saw him coming, she cried as she came toward him. The Prophet also cried. Some of his companions asked: ‘What! (Are you crying), Messenger of God?’ He said: ‘It is all an expression of missing a loved one.’” (Related by Ibn Hibban, Ibn Saad and Al-Baghawi).
These three Hadiths confirm that the Prophet’s grief was acute as he received the news of the death of his three companions who were very close to him. That some people wondered at him crying is not surprising, particularly in a society that considered crying to be unbecoming of a man. But the Prophet explained that it is perfectly natural for a man to miss a loved one and to cry at the news of death. What Islam does not approve of is wailing and lamentation of the type many people do. To be saddened by the death of a close relative or friend is natural, and to express such grief with tears is also natural. What is not natural is to exaggerate one’s calamity by crying out loud, lamenting, and calling out to the deceased and appealing to him or her to return. All such actions are unacceptable from the Islamic point of view.
The Prophet is reported to have cried on other occasions. One such occasion was when he visited his mother’s grave. His mother had died when he was only six years of age, but this visit must have taken place when he was in his late fifties, as the Hadith reporter, Abu Hurayrah, joined the Prophet nearly four years before he passed away. The Hadith states: “The Prophet visited his mother’s grave and he cried, as did those who were with him. Then he said: ‘I requested God’s permission to pray for her forgiveness, but He has not permitted me to do so. I then sought His permission to visit her grave and He has granted me that. You too should visit graves, because such visits remind you of the Day of Judgment.”
This Hadith gives us an insight into the type of person the Prophet was. Half a century after his mother’s death, he was still keen to visit her grave and he cried there. What a soft heart that makes those who were present with him also cry! That God did not permit him to pray for his mother’s forgiveness means that a Muslim cannot seek forgiveness for a person who died a non-Muslim. The Prophet also makes clear that the objective of visiting the graves of dead relatives is the reminder that we will die and will be brought back to life when we will receive reward or punishment. Such visits then provide motivation to do good so as to ensure a happy life after death.

Adil Salahi

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Prophet as a Man: Crying for Child and Friend

It is well known that the Prophet, (peace be upon him) suffered bereavement on many occasions. When he was very young, he experienced the loss of very close relatives. He lost his mother when he was six, and his grandfather who looked after him at the age of eight. He also lost his two sons when they were very young. When he had a third son, the only child born to him by a woman other than his first wife, Khadeejah, that child, Ibraheem, lived less than a year and a half. He also lost three of his four daughters during his lifetime. But he also suffered the loss of some of his grandchildren. As a loving parent and caring prophet, each loss caused him much grief, but he was always resigned to God’s will, accepting it with patience.
Usamah reports: “The son of one of the Prophet’s daughters was about to die when she sent for him requesting him to go over to her. He sent her a message saying: ‘Whatever God takes away or gives belongs to Him. He determines everything at its appropriate time. She should be patient and resigned to God’s will.’ When this message was delivered to her, she asked the messenger who brought it to go back to the Prophet and tell him that she requested him by God to come over. He then stood up and we all stood with him. He went to her accompanied by Saad ibn Ubadah and Ubayy ibn Kaab, I think. The dying child was placed on the Prophet’s lap as life was almost departing from him. The Prophet’s eyes were tearful. Saad ibn Ubadah said to him: ‘What is this, Messenger of God?’ He replied: ‘This is compassion which God places in the hearts of those He chooses from among His servants. God will bestow His mercy on those of His servants who are compassionate.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad and Abu Dawood).
Some people may wonder why the Prophet did not go to his daughter when she sent for him the first time, although he was told the reason for her urgent call. In fact, it was understandable. The Prophet was attended by a group of his companions and he could not just leave them and go. Hence, he sent her a consoling message, reminding her that death is determined by God’s will and we must accept it with resignation, no matter how close and beloved the dying person is. His daughter, Zaynab, was keen that the Prophet should attend her dying son. Hence, she sent the messenger back with an oath requesting him to come over. Therefore three of his companions go with him as he proceeds to go. The child was suffering as anyone would be in the throes of death. His mother wanted the Prophet to pray for him so that his suffering would be lightened. The Prophet could not withhold his tears as he saw his grandson about to die. Yet his companions wonder at his crying, because a man is not expected to cry, particularly in the Arabian society at the time. Hence the Prophet explains that crying in such a situation was the mark of compassion and it should be treated as such. Compassionate people are sure to receive God’s mercy, because they are softhearted people who will help others in their difficulties.
The Prophet was reported to cry in other situations as well. Aishah reports: “The Prophet kissed Uthman ibn Maz’oon when he died, and he was crying as he did so, or indeed his eyes were pouring with tears.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
Uthman ibn Maz’oon was one of the very early Muslims, and was very close to the Prophet. Hence, it is not surprising that the Prophet should be extremely saddened by his death. However, the Prophet expressed his feelings properly, with tearful eyes, but no wailing or lamenting, which is forbidden in Islam.
On another occasion the Prophet was told that Saad ibn Ubadah was ill. Saad was the chief of the Khazraj, one of the two main tribes of the Ansar. “The Prophet went to inquire after him, accompanied by Abd Al-Rahman ibn Awf, Saad ibn Abi Waqqas and Abdullah ibn Masood. When he went in, Saad was unconscious. The Prophet asked: ‘Has he died?’ The people attending him answered in the negative. The Prophet’s eyes were tearful. Those attending also cried as they saw the Prophet cry. He said to them: ‘Do you hear me? God does not punish anyone for a tearful eye or for sad feelings. But He punishes or forgives for what this might do. (He pointed to his tongue). A deceased person is punished on account of his family’s wailing for him.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Saad ibn Ubadah was very close to the Prophet. As the chief of his tribe, he rendered good service to the cause of Islam. The Prophet appreciated his contribution and that of Saad ibn Mu’adh, the chief of the other Ansari tribe, the Aws. It was apparent that Saad’s illness was serious, as he lost consciousness, to the extent that the Prophet wondered on arrival whether he was already dead. As he realized the extent of Saad’s illness, his eyes were tearful, and this caused all those attending him to cry as well.
The Prophet took that opportunity to explain what is acceptable and what is not on such sad occasions. He made it clear that feelings and crying are perfectly permissible. They do not incur God’s displeasure, as they are natural phenomena. It is the wailing and lamenting, which are people’s own actions that may cause the deceased to suffer. But this applies only in certain situations, because no one bears the burden of another. If the deceased’s family do something wrong, how can he be responsible for them? He will definitely not have to answer for their actions unless he wanted them to do so. Many Arabs used to include this in their will in pre-Islamic days, giving instructions as to how their departure should be mourned. In Islam, this is clearly not permissible. A dead person may also be held responsible for his relatives’ wailing, if he likes such wailing to be done after his death. Otherwise, the dead cannot be answerable for the deeds of the living. Indeed, it is those who wail and lament that have to answer to God for their actions.
Adil Salahi

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On singing and pastime

There are some things that are and will always stay unclear to a lot of ppl be it for any reason. The likes of which are "eating the food of theppl of the book", "listening to music", "singing" and the "celebration of festivals in the name if religion". Singing is declared by some scholars in different parts of the world and mostly is looked as a bad thing if not forbidden. So here is Adil Salahi's take on this issue..

On singing and pastime

In his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, which is devoted to Hadiths concerned with morality and good manners, Al-Bukhari gives a heading: "A chapter on singing and pastime." We should note that in this book, which is independent of his other great work, known as Sahih, Al-Bukhari applies a criterion for the acceptance of Hadiths which is less stringent than that he applies in the Sahih. Some Hadiths he relates in both books, which means that they are highly authentic. Those which are related only in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad are reliable, but some of them may be of a degree less than absolutely authentic.
The first Hadith in this chapter may be translated as follows: "Abdullah ibn Dinar reports: ‘I went to the market place with Abdullah ibn Umar where we passed by a girl who was singing.’ He said, ‘Had Satan left anyone alone, he would have left this girl alone’." This is certainly not a Hadith attributed to the Prophet. It simply quotes a scholar of high repute who was one of the Prophet’s companions. Scholars of Hadith consider that the Prophet’s companions would not have said something directly related to religion unless they were absolutely certain of their grounds, relying on guidance from the Prophet. Hence, they treat their statements as if they were attributed to the Prophet.
Some people quote this Hadith in support of their view that singing is forbidden, but this Hadith does not signify prohibition. It is well known that to pronounce anything as forbidden, we need very clear evidence, because the authority to prohibit anything belongs to God alone. All that this statement by Abdullah ibn Umar signifies is that the girl’s action has been encouraged by Satan. This may refer to what the girl was singing, which means that the words or the poetry she was singing was not appropriate, or to the fact that she was singing in the market place.
As for singing itself, it is subject to different rules according to the words, the person singing and the way the singing is done. If the singing is of the chanting type, like one does when repeating a poem or saying some poetry with affected voice, to indicate one’s pleasure or to give pleasure to his audience, all this is permissible. If, on the other hand, one is singing something that describes a certain woman’s beauty, or a poem describing wine and its effect on one’s mind so as to encourage drinking or to associate it with pleasure and happiness, or to arouse some other evil thoughts, then such singing is forbidden.
All this shows that singing may be permissible in certain situations and forbidden in others. What influences the verdict is the type of the song, its words, the aim of the singer and the way it is sung.
When singing is only a pastime, then the ruling differs according to situation. If we are listening to singing in order to have some relaxation, after which we go back to our serious work, then that is perfectly legitimate. If we are just killing time by listening to singing, we may be close to committing something forbidden, because killing time aimlessly and without benefit is close to prohibition. It is in this framework that we should understand the next Hadith in this chapter which quotes the Prophet as saying: "I do not belong to idle play and idle play does not belong to me in any way." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).
This Hadith makes it clear that the Prophet does not approve of killing time in any profitless pursuit. Islam is serious and it wants people to benefit by their time so that they improve their situation in this life and in the life to come.
Another Hadith given in this chapter quotes Abdullah ibn Abbas commenting on a verse which may be rendered in translation as follows: "Among men there is many a one who prefers a mere play with words so as to lead others astray." (31: 6) Explaining what "play with words" refers to here, Ibn Abbas said: "It is singing and similar things." Scholars agree that the verse has a much broader significance. It is anything that people use to divert others from following God’s guidance and to lead them astray. This applies to any temptation or seduction that encourages people to abandon God’s guidance in preference to something that draws them away from the right path. Some singing falls in this category and some does not. If it does, it is forbidden.
Al-Bukhari mentions two more Hadiths in this chapter. The first of these quotes the Prophet as saying: "Spread the greeting of peace and you will attain safety. Idle play is evil." Apart from Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, the first sentence of this Hadith is related by Ibn Hibban. This Hadith encourages us to spread the greeting of peace, which is characteristic of Muslims. It encourages friendly relations, since we tell people that we wish them peace and happiness the first moment we see them. It is a much better greeting than what other communities have, such as "good morning" and its equivalents. However only the second sentence relates to the title of this chapter, and it is relevant only to wasting time which the Prophet describes as evil. It has nothing to do with singing.
The last Hadith in this chapter mentions that Fudhalah ibn Ubayd was with a group of people when he was informed that some people were playing with dice, or backgammon. He was very angry and he spoke against it in the strongest of terms. He said, "A person who plays it to devor what it brings him is like one who eats the flesh of swine or performs his ablution with blood."
This Hadith is more specific than the earlier ones, but it is related merely to playing games with a dice. Scholars say that games that rely merely on chance, like those decided with the throw of a dice, such as backgammon, cards and the like, are forbidden.
They are not only a way to pass time in useless pursuits; they often lead to friction between friends. But when such a game is used as a means of gambling, as when the two players or parties to the game pledge a wager which the winner of the game receives, while the loser gets nothing, then they are doubly forbidden. This is what Fudhalah spoke about very strongly, likening the game of taking such reward to eating pork or using blood for ablution. Both are obviously forbidden.
As we see, there is nothing in the Hadiths quoted by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad that may be interpreted as clear prohibition of all singing. As we have said above, singing may have different rulings according to the words sung and the way they are sung.

Adil Salahi

Maintaining Proper Standards in Whatever We Say

Numerous are the Hadiths that stress the importance of observing proper standards in what we say. This applies to both poetry and ordinary speech or writing. We are often judged by what we say. People often have no indication of what we really feel until we have expressed our feelings in words. Hence it is only to be expected that Islam should stress that what we say should always conform to Islamic values.
One of the most important of these is telling the truth. A Muslim must never resort to telling a lie. Although a concession is given in three particular situations when saying an untruth is not considered a lie, there is no justification for lying in any other situations. But we all find ourselves in some sort of a situation when telling the truth may cause a problem or lead to trouble that should be avoided at all costs. What to do in such a situation, when the first thing that comes to mind is that the truth should not be said if trouble is to be avoided?
The answer is given by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself who is reported to have said: “Ambiguity may provide a way out to avoid telling lies.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Tabari and Al-Tabarani.)
Here the Prophet points out a way out that eliminates the need for telling a lie. It is the use of an ambiguous statement that may direct the listener away from what the speaker does not want to tell him. Yet the statement is true. This is often used by poets, literary figures, politicians and ordinary people in every day speech. The statement would be true, but its relevance to the case in hand is not readily apparent. Thus, the truth, which is meant to be avoided, could only be understood from it after reflection and deep thinking. Rather, the listener’s attention is deflected away from it by the apparent meaning of the statement, which is also true. Thus, the speaker would not have said a lie, but he would avoid saying what he is keen not to say in order to avoid a worse situation.
The Prophet himself resorted to this method on one occasion, when he answered a question put to him by a Bedouin: “Who are you from?” The Bedouin was asking him about his tribe and people. This was shortly before the Battle of Badr and the Prophet was with his companions who were to fight that battle. Giving the Bedouin a straight answer could have meant that the enemy would gather intelligence about the location of the Muslim forces. Hence the Prophet’s answer was covered with ambiguity. He said: “We are from water.” He meant that they, like all human beings, were created from the semen fluid. The Bedouin understood the Prophet’s answer as meaning that they belonged to the marshland of Iraq where water was plentiful that the area itself might be called water. There is nothing wrong in resorting to such ambiguity in order to avoid a straightforward answer that may land the speaker in trouble.
A different type of objectionable speech is that to which poets may resort in trying to degrade their opponents. This used to be done frequently in Arabic poetry, which, in Arabian society, played a role similar to that of the media in our modern times. A poet would use his talent to abuse an opponent, or to abuse a tribe that might have had a quarrel with his own tribe. Such abuse was sometimes highly effective. A tribe could be elevated or downgraded in Arabian ranking, on the basis of the poetry that mentions it. In order to highlight a poet’s responsibility in this regard, the Prophet says: “Among those guilty of the worst offenses is a poet who indiscriminately abuses an entire tribe, and a man who disclaims his father.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban.)
When a poet speaks disparagingly of an entire tribe or an entire community, he is certainly including in his abuse some good people who are free of blame. He might have good reason to abuse some individuals of that tribe, as in the case of suffering an unjustifiable attack by a group belonging to it. They might have made away with his property, or abused him in one way or another. If he has such a grievance, he may be justified in denouncing those people who attacked or wronged him. But when he abuses the whole tribe to which his attackers belong, he would be including in his abuse some God-fearing people who might have come to his aid had they known of the wrong he suffered. Thus, his poetry would not be avenging the attack against him, but would do wrong to some innocent people. This is a grave offense.
What applies to a poet in old times applies today to journalists and broadcasters who use the means available to them to unjustifiably abuse people who may be free of blame. This is particularly true when such journalists and broadcasters target an entire community. This is now recognized as a serious offense in contemporary society. Some countries include it in offenses that could lead to community trouble. Some have constituted authorities that look into race relations, and an attack of this type would be dealt with, and punished by such authorities. Here we see the Prophet describing such abuse as one of the worst offenses a human being could commit.
The other type the Prophet points out is that of a man disclaiming his father. Perhaps nothing would aggrieve a father more than seeing his son declare that he does not belong to him, or claim that he is born to a different father. If this is done because the father is of a low rank in society and the son aspires to a higher level, it is so injurious to the father. Thus, the father is paid back for all the kindness and love he had shown to his son, and for the trouble he took in upbringing him by being disclaimed. The father is bound to take such an insult to heart and to feel its pain for the rest of his life. We all know the emphasis Islam puts on being kind and dutiful to one’s parents. Disclaiming one’s father or mother is the ultimate insult that one could level at them. Hence, the Prophet says that it is one of the worst offenses a human being could commit.

Adil Salahi

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Prophet as a Man: Recommended and Voluntary Prayers

It is universally agreed that every Muslim, man and woman, must offer five prayers every day, consisting of a total of 17 rak’ahs. A rak’ah is a unit of Islamic prayer, consisting of reading of the Qur’an and glorifying God’s name and extolling His praises, together with specific movements starting with standing upright, bowing and standing up again followed by two prostrations with a short sit between them. In addition, we are recommended to offer other prayers, in the same form, at the same times that we offer our five obligatory prayers. These are known as Sunnah prayer. The Prophet did not maintain the same numbers of Sunnah, or voluntary prayer. However, he was keen to do some of these far more regularly than others. When he consistently prayed a particular Sunnah prayer, it became strongly recommended, but when he prayed a Sunnah infrequently, it became recommended but not very strongly. This latter type is known in some circles as nafl prayer, although the term actually applies to all prayers other than what is obligatory.
We have for example a Hadith mentioning the Sunnah prayer the Prophet always offered. Aishah, his wife, reports: “The Prophet was never so keen to offer any voluntary prayer more than the two rak’ahs before Fajr.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Another Hadith describes these two rak’ahs as “better than the whole world and all that it contains.” These two rak’ahs are offered before the obligatory Fajr, or dawn prayer. The Prophet practically never omitted them.
Since following the Prophet’s example is highly rewarding, particularly in matters of worship, it is only right that we should learn what the Prophet offered in voluntary or Sunnah prayer. People in the early days of Islam used to ask those who were very close to the Prophet about his practices in order to emulate them. Abdullah ibn Umar reports: “God’s Messenger used to pray two rak’ahs before Dhuhr and two after it, as well as two rak’ahs after Maghrib in his home. He offered two rak’ahs after Isha, but on Friday, he would not offer any voluntary prayers before leaving, when he would offer two rak’ahs in his home. (Related by Al-Bukhari, Malik, Al-Nassaie, Abu Dawood and others.)
This report by Ibn Umar gives us the smallest number of voluntary prayers the Prophet did throughout the day. It only mentions eight rak’ahs that do not include the two before Fajr. Apparently Ibn Umar was describing what the Prophet did during the day. We have other reports that give us a more comprehensive description of the Prophet’s daily Sunnah prayers. Many of these reports are given by Aishah, the Prophet’s wife. Abdullh ibn Shaqeeq mentions that he asked Aishah about the Prophet’s voluntary prayer and she gave him the following answer. “The Prophet used to offer four rak’ahs before Dhuhr, or midday, prayer in my home. He then went out to the mosque and led the congregational prayer before returning to my home and offering two more rak’ahs. He used to lead the Maghrib congregational prayer and return to my home to pray two rak’ahs, and he would lead the Isha congregation and then come to my home and pray two rak’ahs. During the night he would pray nine rak’ahs that included the Witr. He might pray long at night standing up, or he may pray long seated. If he recited the Qur’an standing up, he would do his bowing, or ruku’, and his prostration from the standing position; and if he recited while seated, he would do the bowing and the prostration from that position.” (Related by Muslim and Abu Dawood.)
This Hadith mentions four rak’ahs before Dhuhr or midday prayer, but limits the voluntary night worship to nine rak’ahs including the Witr, which means either six in night worship and three for Witr, or that the Witr was in one rak’ah and eight for night worship or tahajjud. However, all night worship, including the Witr, was completed before dawn, or Fajr. Hafsah, the Prophet’s wife, reports: “When Fajr was due, the Prophet never offered more than two short rak’ahs of voluntary prayer.” (Related by Muslim and Ibn Majah.)
Night worship is particularly important in Ramadan, but the Prophet used to do it much more often. There are several Hadiths that mention the answers of members of the Prophet’s household concerning this prayer. In one Hadith, Aishah answers the question about the Prophet’s night prayer in Ramadan. She says: “The Prophet did not pray more than eleven rak’ahs at night in Ramadan or at any other time. He would pray four rak’ahs, but you need not ask about their perfection and length. He would then follow these with four more rak’ahs, and again you need not ask about their perfection and length. He would then pray three.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Malik and Al-Nassaie.)
This Hadith mentions that the Prophet offered the Witr in three rak’ahs, but it also highlights two facts: 1) that his prayer at night was particularly long, not only in reading the Qur’an, but also in its other movements and glorification of God; and 2) that he limited himself to eleven rak’ahs at night. However, this does not mean that this is the maximum on any one night. There is simply no maximum, but this practice was the one the Prophet did more often. Indeed the Prophet varied the number of rak’ahs in voluntary prayer and also varied the length of his prayer, sometimes making it very long while offering short rak’ahs at other times. He did so in order to make it clear to us, by practical example, that all types are acceptable to God and highly rewarded by Him. Therefore, we may choose what suits us. Voluntary, or Sunnah, prayer remains voluntary. No one will be questioned by God if he did not offer it. However, he will miss out on the rich reward God gives for such prayer.

Adil Salahi

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Prophet as a Man: When Prayer Is Completed

Prayer is the most important aspect of Islamic worship. Its Arabic name, salat, has several connotations, but one of these is the establishment of a link or a bond. Indeed Islamic prayer gives a worshipper a clear sense of a direct link and a strong bond between him and God. As a believer begins his prayer, he opens a door that admits him into God’s presence. Hence, he should always be mindful that he is directly seen and observed by God, who listens to all that he says. Moreover, the Prophet (peace be upon him) describes prayer as the central pillar of the Islamic faith. Therefore, whoever attends to it regularly, offering it on time and with devotion, is a good believer. It will reflect on his conduct in all situations. It is important, therefore, to learn how the Prophet performed his prayers and what he did after he finished a prayer.
Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, reports: “When the Prophet finished a prayer he did not sit down for any length of time except to say: ‘My Lord! You are peace, and peace comes from You. All glory be to You; for You are the Lord of majesty and benevolence.’” (Related by Muslim and Ahmad.) Another similarly related version but reported by Thawban adds that the Prophet began by three short prayers for forgiveness. Thus, the Prophet did not wish on such occasions to sit down and say any long supplication.
The Prophet was joined in congregation by many of his companions, men and women. Umm Salamah, his wife, reports: “During the Prophet’s lifetime, when prayer was finished, women would leave straightaway, while the Prophet and men worshippers would stay behind for whatever time they wished. When the Prophet stood up, all men left.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Ibn Majah and Al-Bayhaqi.)
This Hadith refers to a recognized order that allowed women to proceed first when the prayer was over. Thus, they could leave the mosque in peace to attend to their business at home. Men would stay behind a little, and the normal thing was for the Prophet to indicate that the discussion was over, when they would all leave.
There are other Hadiths that speak of what the Prophet used to say after finishing an obligatory or voluntary prayer. Al-Mugheerah ibn Shubah reports: “God’s Messenger used to say at the end of prayers: “There is no deity other than God, the One God who has no partners. To Him belongs all dominion and to Him is due all praise. He is able to do whatever He wishes. My Lord! No one can stop something You wish to give to anyone, and none can give something You wish to withhold. No one who exerts efforts can benefit by his efforts against Your will.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Al-Nassaie and others.)
Another report of what the Prophet used to say after prayer is given by Abdullah ibn Al-Zubayr: “When the Prophet finished his prayer, he would say in a loud voice: ‘There is no deity other than God who has no partners. To Him belongs all dominion and to Him is due all praise. He holds sway over all things. No might or power can operate except by His permission. We worship none other than Him. He bestows blessings and grace, and to Him all good praise is due. There is no deity other than God, and we worship Him with all devotion, even though the unbelievers dislike that.” (Related by Al-Shafie, Muslim, Al-Nassaie and others.)
These last two Hadiths quote some of the praises the Prophet used to say after he finished his prayers. These praises show a man whose devotion is incomparable with that of any other. He recognizes God’s position and extols His praise in humble submission to His will. This is the attitude every believer should adopt. Indeed, human history never knew anyone more devoted in his worship than Muhammad (peace be upon him). When he praised God, the entire universe echoed his praises in full submission. Thus, Islam was always the religion that stressed monotheism and Muslims have always remained consistent in upholding this basic tenet of their faith.
We mentioned one Hadith saying that the Prophet did not stay long in his position after finishing a prayer. Other Hadiths, however, mention that he stayed for sometime. Apparently, the Prophet did both these things, and each one was reported by one of the Prophet’s companions who witnessed that option more often. Jabir ibn Samurah reports: “When the Prophet completed his dawn prayers, he did not depart until the sun had risen well into the sky.” (Related by Muslim, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nassaie.)
This Hadith speaks particularly of the dawn prayer, when none in the community would have started his day yet. Therefore, the Prophet stayed after prayers to do his praises and glorifications, or to remind his followers of their religious duties and what belongs to God Almighty. It may be that the earlier Hadiths speaking of the Prophet leaving soon after he had finished a prayer were only speaking of midday or evening prayers. On both these occasions people would want to go back home as soon as possible to take rest. The Prophet was always sensitive to his companions’ needs. He would not inconvenience them except when there was some serious need.
It is well known that Muslims offer five obligatory prayers every day. However, the Prophet used to offer voluntary prayers that could include more rak’ahs than the obligatory prayers. Abdullah ibn Umar reports: “I prayed with the Prophet two rak’ahs before the obligatory Dhuhr prayer, and two after it, and two more rak’ahs after Maghrib and Isha, as well as two rak’ahs after Friday prayers. As for Maghrib and Isha prayers, he used to offer voluntary prayers after these obligatory ones in his own home. My sister, Hafsah, told me that he used to offer two short rak’ahs of voluntary prayers shortly after the dawn broke. I did not go near to the Prophet’s home at such a time.
Perhaps we should mention here that what the Prophet did in his own home was reported by his wives. Hafsah, Abdullah’s sister was married to the Prophet.

Adil Salahi

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Worthless Luxuries

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was keen to illustrate to his companions, and to Muslims in following generations, the basic Islamic concept that attaches no importance to the comforts, pleasures and luxuries of this world. He always emphasized that life in this world is merely a test and those who prove their understanding of the nature of this test are the ones to pass it with honors and gain the great prize reserved for those who are successful. Failure in this test is the result of one’s own lack of effort.
A random incident or a readily understood image provided a chance for the Prophet to re-emphasize this concept. In Madinah, where the economy was agriculture-based, the Prophet described the life of this world as the farming that yields its fruit in the hereafter. This is an image that is clearly understood by everyone who works in agriculture, and its nature of hard work that for a long while does not seem to be producing anything. A farmer works hard for months on end, weeding, preparing the land, plowing, cultivating the soil, seeding, adding fertilizers, and ensuring irrigation at regular intervals. If you look at his farm during the long winter months, you do not see a promise of any yield. Yet without such work no harvest would be forthcoming. The farm will be desolate, and the people who rely on it for their living will be in a miserable state of affairs.
Yet people find much enjoyment and are ready to sacrifice a lot for the comforts of this life. They compete with one another in pursuing the luxuries that give life a different taste of enjoyment. The Prophet repeatedly emphasized that such comforts are of little value, unless they are used to improve one’s chances to pass the test we have to go through in this life.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reports that the Prophet once went through the market, entering from its upper side. People were with him walking on his both sides. As he walked, he saw a dead goat with its two ears cut off. He held it by the remaining part of one ear and, addressing his companions, he said: “Who of you would like to have this for one dirham?” They said: “We do not like to have it for anything whatsoever. What shall we do with it?” He asked again: “Would you like to have it anyway?” They answered in the negative. He repeated this last question three times. They added in answer: “We would not like to have it at all! Had it been alive, it would be of little value because of his cut ears. How could it be worth anything when it is dead?” The Prophet said: “By God, the whole of this world is, in God’s sight, of lesser value than this is to you.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Muslim and Ahmad)
In his dialogue with his companions, the Prophet made sure that everyone of them was clear in his mind that he would not take that dead goat for the smallest amount of money. When this was clear to all, he told them that, to God, the entire world we live in is even more worthless. I suppose that the description here is so graphic that the intended message is most clearly understood.
Anyone who contemplates the message of this Hadith is filled with wonder when he looks at how people strive hard to get what they cherish and think most valuable in this life. Yet, what they can get is only a fraction of what this world offers. The entire wealth of the richest person on earth is only a fraction of what this world contains, and the most powerful ruler enjoys only a small portion of the authority and power that our world exhibits. The same applies to everything that people covet and desire. But if we put this whole world together with all the wealth, power, beauty and happiness it can provide to all its inhabitants, it is worth practically nothing in God’s sight. This is what we should remember when we wonder why unbelievers may have power, riches, and life comforts. We should not be surprised because we know that God may give whatever people may desire in this life to both believers and unbelievers, but He gives the happiness of the hereafter only to believers.
It has to be said, however, that Islam does not advocate a total rejection of life comforts. On the contrary, a Muslim may enjoy these, provided that he acquires them in a legitimate way. He must not seek to acquire a position of arrogance as a result of having such comforts. On the contrary, he should use them to show kindness to his neighbors and to the poor in the community. If he does, then these luxuries become a means of earning reward from God.
One aspect Islam disapproves of and is indicative of values that prevail in non-Islamic societies is that of treating tribal or national allegiance as paramount. When a person finds himself in difficulty or under pressure, he appeals to his family, tribe or community for support. He expects them to support him only because he belongs to them, not because he suffers injustice or oppression. When such bonds are made paramount, then Muslims must take the right stand, and show their rejection of such bonds. “Once a man appealed for support in the fashion of pre-Islamic days in the presence of Ubayy ibn Kaab, and Ubayy immediately abused him in clear terms. The people present looked at him with disapproval. He said to them: ‘It seems that you disapprove of what I said. I do not fear anyone at all. I heard the Prophet as he said: Whoever appeals on the basis of ignorant bonds should be abused in clear terms.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Ahmad and Ibn Hibban)
What is significant in this Hadith is that it recommends the use of clear abusive language, not merely indirect disapproval. Such language may be thought contrary to the values Islam advocates, which disapprove of express and clear abuse. There is no contradiction between the two, because the warning against the use of such language is made in the case of people who do not deserve such abuse. The situation to which this Hadith applies merits such usage as part of the punishment for the one who resorts to the values of ignorance. Indeed the Prophet disapproved even when some people made an appeal for support invoking ties much closer to Islam than tribal loyalties. In a dispute between two Muslims, one called out to the Muhajireen and the other to the Ansar for support. But the Prophet told them: “Abandon such blind loyalty, for it stinks.” Although the two men called out invoking an Islamic loyalty, but it was akin to what the people of ignorance in pre-Islamic days used to make. Hence, the Prophet’s censure.

Adil Salahi

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Prophet as a Man --- A Keen Sense of Status

The behavior of the Prophet (peace be upon him) provides a model for us to emulate. He had a keen sense of his position and status, realizing that his practice was observed and reported so that Muslims would follow his example in all situations. This is required in order to live an Islamic life that steers away from everything that is unacceptable to God or offensive to other people. He was keen to be always in the best sense of cleanliness, with a good smell. Since we may have a bad mouth smell in different situations, the Prophet was keen to brush his teeth often, and certainly after any situation that could give such a smell. Thus, Hudhayfah, a companion of the Prophet, reports: “When the Prophet woke up at night to offer night worship, he would use his tooth stick to brush his teeth.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawood and many others.)
In another Hadith, Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, was asked: “What did the Prophet do first when he entered his home?” She answered: “He brushed his teeth.” (Related by Muslim, Al-Nassaie, Ibn Majah and Ibn Khuzaymah.)
In the two Hadiths we see the Prophet making sure that his mouth would give a good smell, but in the first situation he was alone, getting ready for his voluntary night worship in which he would normally read long passages of the Qur’an. Since a person may lie in an uncomfortable position that causes his mouth to be dry or giving an unpleasant smell, the Prophet started by brushing his teeth and washing his mouth so that it would have a good smell when he read the Qur’an. In the second situation he wanted to make sure that his family would not smell anything unpleasant that might have affected him when he was out. Therefore he started with brushing his teeth. He wanted to have a good smell during worship and when meeting people.
Aishah also reports: “The Prophet always used his right hand for purification and eating, but he used his left hand in the toilet and to remove anything dirty.” (Related by Abu Dawood, while Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate a Hadith with similar meaning but in different wording.) This observation shows that the Prophet’s sense of cleanliness was so sharp that he did not want to use the same hand for clean and unclean things. Indeed, he wanted to spare his right hand for all good things. Aishah reports: “The Prophet loved to start with his right side in all matters: Ablution, walking and wearing his shoes.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)
In fact the Prophet associated the right side with goodness. What adds to this association is that the Arabic word for ‘right’ is yameen, which is derived from a root that means good prospects and beneficial expectation.
However, the Prophet’s prayer reflected his keen sense of his position as a servant of God, believing in Him and recognizing that the only thing that is acceptable of a human being is to submit to God and seek His acceptance. We need only to look at what the Prophet said in his prayer to appreciate how he felt his position in relation to God.
Ali ibn Abi Talib reports that when the Prophet stood up for prayer, he would start with saying Allah-u Akbar, which means God is Supreme. This is the phrase which indicates that one begins his prayer. “He then said: ‘I have turned my face with pure and complete devotion to Him who brought the heavens and the earth into being. I am not one of those who associate partners with God. My prayers, my worship, my living and my dying are for God alone, the Lord of all worlds. He has no partner. Thus have I been commanded, and I shall be the first of those who surrender themselves to Him.’” These statements are quoted from the Qur’an, as they occur in Verses 79, 162-3 of surah 6. They express total devotion to God and acknowledge His oneness. The Prophet then added the following glorification:
“My Lord! You are the King and there is no deity other than You. You are my Lord and I am Your servant. I have wronged myself and I acknowledge my sin. Please forgive me all my sins, for no one forgives sins other than You. Guide me to the best of manners and morality, for no one guides to them except You. Keep me away from the worst of these, for none other than You steers anyone away from them. I respond to You and submit to Your will, for every good thing rests with You. My life is from You and goes back to You. Glorified and exalted are You. I seek Your forgiveness and I repent of my sins.” All this supplication which expresses total submission to God in all situations, acknowledgement of one’s sins and seeking God’s forgiveness, the Prophet said immediately after the opening which quotes the above three Qur’anic verses.
The Hadith does not mention what the Prophet read or said in his normal prayer, which at this point included the opening surah of the Qur’an and some other verses. It goes on to report what he did in his next position, when he bowed, i.e. ruku’: “My Lord! I have bowed to You and in You I believe and to You I submit myself. Hearkening to You are my senses of hearing and sight, as well as my brains, bones and nerves.” When he lifted himself and stood up, he said: “May God answer the prayer of whoever praises Him. Our Lord! All praise belongs to You, filling the heavens and the earth and filling everything You wish beyond them.” When the Prophet prostrated himself in his sujood, he said: “My Lord! I am prostrating myself to You, and in You I believe, and to You I submit. My face prostrates to the One who has created it and perfected its form, and placed in it its organs of sight and hearing. Blessed is God, the best of all creators.” When he finished his prayer, the Prophet said: “My Lord! Forgive me all that I had done in the past and what I may do in future, what I do in private and what I do in public, as well as whatever excesses I may commit. Forgive me also what You know better than me. You are the One who places people in their high or low positions. There is no deity other than You.”
As we realize when reading all this, the Prophet glorified God in the most comprehensive forms. Perhaps no one ever lived that frequently and consistently praised God in such a way, reiterating God’s oneness in the clearest of terms, and acknowledging man’s need for His help and forgiveness. It is through such recognition that a Muslim develops his awareness of God’s presence in every situation. Thus he begins to watch God in all that one does. This is the essence of fearing God, which is the key to every good action.

Adil Salahi

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

At What Age Was Aishah Married to the Prophet

Asalam O Alaikum,

This is one question about our great prophet that I have been asked several times by muslims and non muslims as well. I never did a search nor did I look into it as I was always taught in my school days that Aishah was married to our Prophet (pbuh) when she was very young. Recently, I revisited this issue with a colleague of mine who is a muslim and was disturbed by the fact that our Prophet(pbuh) married a girl who was very young at that time. I then decided to look into it and see what I can find regarding this and I ended up seding en E-Mail to Mr. Adil Salahi and got a reply from him on this issue which I would like to share here.

Q. I have been asked numerous times about the Prophet’s marriage with Aishah and her age at the time. Could you please throw some light on this issue, and explain the reasons why this marriage took place at such an early age?

A. Yes, this question will inevitably be raised time after time, particularly with the steadily increasing attacks against Islam and against the Prophet personally. Yet there is nothing in Islam, or in the character and behavior of Muhammad (peace be upon him), God’s last messenger to mankind, that we need to apologize for, or feel embarrassed about. However, some discussion of his marriage to Aishah and her age at the time of their marriage is needed in order to show that there was nothing wrong in all that.
The most commonly quoted report suggests that Aishah was only six years of age when the Prophet proposed to her, and their actual marriage took place when she was nine. People tend to take this as an established fact. But when we examine this report and take into consideration all factors and related reports, we find that this report does not stand to even elementary scrutiny.
The first thing we have to understand is that the Arabian society at the time of the Prophet was largely illiterate, with very few people able to read and write. There was no particular calendar used for dating major events, let alone the births and deaths of people. We read for example that the Prophet was born in the year of the elephant, which was the year when an Abyssinian commander went from Yemen to Makkah at the head of a large army with the aim of destroying the Kaaba. A large elephant marched in front of the army. Hence, the name given to the event and the year.
Reports of people’s ages in Arabia at the time of the Prophet are often confused, and always uncertain. For example, the common idea of the Prophet’s age at the time of his first marriage to Khadeejah is said to be 25, while she was 40. However, in the most reliable biography of the Prophet, written by Ibn Hisham, which gives him that age, we have two additional reports, one putting his age at 30 and the other at 21. There is simply no way we can determine with any degree of accuracy which of the three figures indicating the Prophet’s age is the correct one. Khadeejah’s age is also subject to speculation with different reports saying that she was 35 and 25. One report by Ibn Abbas, the Prophet’s cousin who was one of the most authoritative scholars among the Prophet’s companions, says that both the Prophet and his wife were 28 at the time of their marriage. Considering that Khadeejah gave the Prophet six children, there is no way she could have been 40 at the time of their marriage, which is the most common report. She must have been much younger, and the report that she was 28 or 25 seems far more reasonable.
The Prophet did not marry anyone else while Khadeejah was alive, and he lived with her for 25 years. When she died and he was facing great pressure, a woman companion of his suggested that he should get married, so that he would have companionship and comfort at home, after a long day of preaching his message. She suggested either a virgin, Aishah, or a previously married woman, Sawdah. The Prophet told her to go with his proposal to both of them.
The idea behind a new marriage was to give the Prophet companionship and comfort, and yet those who suggest that Aishah was six at the time want us to believe that the woman who wanted the Prophet to get married would suggest to him a girl of 6 to marry! That is some companionship! I wonder whether she meant companionship to him or to his youngest daughter who was older than Aishah, if we accept this report.
But then we cannot take the matter on logical factors alone. We have to have some other basis. Consider then that in Ibn Ishaq’s biography of the Prophet, which is the basis and most accurate of all biographies, we have a list of the early Muslims, who accepted Islam in the very early days of the Islamic message. He lists about 50 people and this list includes the names of Abu Bakr’s two daughters, Asmaa’ and Aishah, adding that she was young at the time. On that list, Aishah comes at number 20, but let us not attach any importance to this order. We will only take the fact that all these were Muslims before the message of Islam was in its fifth year, because in that year the first immigration to Abyssinia took place, when many of those included in this list were among the immigrants. So, at that time, in year 5 or earlier, Aishah was young but old enough to be listed among people accepting a new faith. What age do we give her? Surely it cannot be said that she was 2 or 4 or 5, and still be included in such a list of illustrious names. Otherwise, all children born to the other 50 people on the list would have been mentioned. She must have been old enough to make an informed decision of the serious magnitude of changing or accepting a religion. To me, she could not have been less than 10 or 8, if people would insist on making her younger.
We now need to find out how long after that her marriage took place. Well, we know that the marriage took place after the Prophet and his companions had settled in Madinah, which means year 13 or 14 of the beginning of Islamic revelations. Simple arithmetic shows that she could not have been less than 14 when she was named to the Prophet as a possible wife, or less than 17 when he married her, with the stronger possibility that she was even older, perhaps 19.
Then someone might ask why the Prophet would marry a young woman of that age when he was 53 or 54? In order to understand such issues we need to remember that we cannot apply our own social norms to a different society, even though we live at the same time. Thus, American social norms may not be applied in Africa, Malaysia or Japan, nor can the social norms of any of these societies be applied in the other. At that time in Arabia, people did not consider age difference between man and wife to be of great significance. Take the case of Umar ibn Al-Khattab and his daughter Hafsah. When she was divorced, Umar suggested to Abu Bakr, who was at least 10 years older than him, to marry her. The age difference in that marriage, had it taken place, would have been nothing less than 30 years, and Umar thought that it would have been a great and welcome match. When Abu Bakr was slow in answering Umar’s suggestion, Umar offered her to Uthman, who was only a few years younger than him. But Uthman had a reason for not marrying her, and then the Prophet married her. He was about the same age as Abu Bakr or slightly older. The age gap counted for nothing at the time.

Adil Salahi