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The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam
The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

By Serap Akincioglu

Most people think that religion requires only their practicing the known worships, acting in conformity to the legal deeds, and keeping away from the evil ones.

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

But these acts of worship and the evil deeds from which one keeps away, only take a part of one’s daily life.

However, religion embraces a person’s total life and understanding of morality.

As stated above, religion embraces one’s total life and this is actualized by the soul. The righteous soul is one of the most important attributes of the human spirit.

Since the righteous soul is the inspiration of Allah, it always commands virtuous and blessed deeds to people in every circumstance.

This way, the soul directs one to the conduct which will serve in attaining the will and pleasure of Allah. If one thinks for a moment, he will surely realize the mechanism of the soul in himself.

When challenged by any event, the first thing heard is the voice of the righteous soul.

But the following response that one hears in himself is the stealthy inculcation of Satan.

The believers always come across situations in their life where they have to make a certain choice.

Not in all of these happenings does the believer know what exactly to do. Yet, someone who knows and understands the Qur’an, will refer to his soul and succeed in choosing the state of behavior that will please Allah.

For instance, Allah commands in the Qur’an, “They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs” (Al-Baqarah, 2:219). Here, no absolute quantity to be kept is stated.

This verse is actually a trial to everyone for reckoning the sensitivity of one’s soul; since one can determine the degree of his needs by himself.

Right at this point, the first thing that one shall hear will be the voice of the soul. The one who acts unconditionally according to the righteous soul will also be able to attain the will of Allah.

On the contrary, the one who reduces the righteous message of the soul will have acted on the behalf of Satan.

Consequently, the soul is the basic foundation of religion. Actually, everyone is tried as to whether or not he is conforming to his soul.

As stated by Bediuzzaman, the righteous soul is always aware and in action, it will never hesitate in telling the right and the legal; “The soul always looks from the window of the heart.

Even if the mind closes its eyes, the eyes of the soul are always open” (Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p.240). In this respect, the ones who are immoral, irreligious, or arrogant act this way despite their souls.

Allah informs in the Qur’an that the ignorant ones rejected the signs of Allah in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof.

This means that even the most brutal and arrogant person knows with his soul what is right or wrong.

As a matter of fact, the ones who deny Allah actually know that a Creator exists.

Yet, in case they accept a superior Creator, they will have to obey His rules and commands; so they intentionally deny this fact.

The messengers and the prophets have also invited their people to act according to their righteous soul all through history.

every prophet has notified their people about the hereafter, death, and the Power of Allah to awaken their covered souls.

For instance, Prophet Abraham demolished the idols of his community after forewarning them but left the biggest of the idols standing straight.

When his people came to him with great anger, Prophet Abraham told them to ask the biggest idol about what happened:

“Should they intend to deceive thee,- verily Allah sufficeth thee: He it is That hath strengthened thee with His aid and with (the company of) the Believers; And (moreover) He hath put affection between their hearts: not if thou hadst spent all that is in the earth, couldst thou have produced that affection, but Allah hath done it: for He is Exalted in Might, Wise. Prophet! sufficient unto thee is Allah,- (unto thee) and unto those who follow thee among the Believers.

Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight.

If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding. For the present, Allah hath lightened your (task), for He knoweth that there is a weak spot in you: But (even so), if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of Allah: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

It is not fitting for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. Ye look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looketh to the Hereafter: And Allah is Exalted in might, Wise” (Al-Anfal, 62-67).

As seen in the behavior of the people of Prophet Abraham, people may find out what is right and true, if they just listen to their souls for a short while.

But most people use their souls only for a very brief period and then turn back to their selfish desires.

Moreover, they may indeed go further in their fierceness to kill the messengers who invite them to the divine truth.

This is an important point in recognizing how one’s behavior may differ in terms of his conforming to selfish desires or the soul.

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

Most people are not aware that they are being tried whether they act following their righteous souls.

Everybody on the street, even the irreligious ones know about the soul, but they have a misleading understanding of it.

They assume that giving money to the beggars, feeding the cats on the street, or not throwing garbage on the streets are sufficient for being righteous.

And also they think that only deeds like killing one, torturing a poor person, or swindling others are evil.

However, the instances explained in the Qur’an tell about a high understanding of the soul.

For instance, the sorcerers, initially opposed to the Prophet Moses during the period of the Pharaoh, declare their belief in Allah despite the cruelty and threatening of the Pharaoh; and they immediately obey the Prophet, which is a sign of their righteous soul.

The sorcerers who believe right away do not hesitate for a moment in doing what the divine truth tells.

Thus, one should conform to what his soul orders, right away. In the case of the sorcerers, their selfish desires would have surely tried to make them give up, and Satan would have made them fear the threat of death.

In this respect, the Pharaoh threatens them by cutting off their hands and feet on opposite sides and hanging them.

And if they act on the side of the Pharaoh, he promises them status and high posts.

In such a case, conforming to the righteous, which are the commands and will of Allah, needs a deep understanding of morality.

And the number of people who have such a superior moral understanding and soul are only very few.

As a matter of fact, acting in accordance to the soul’s inspiration only in simple and easy things is only deceit of the Satan.

Satan tries to lessen the responsibility of the soul this way. But it is a fact that the righteous soul of a person, who regards himself as doing important things when only realizing minor ones, may lose its sharpness in time and may even get dull.

Eventually, such a person loses his sensitivity and awareness against all happenings. Then it becomes impossible to explain the reality or to arise a positive impression in such a person’s heart since he would then have a deceived soul.

The most crucial factor that activates one’s soul strengthens it, and turns it into action is the fear of Allah.

The one who fears Allah and who believes without a doubt in the hereafter, knows surely that he will be resurrected and judged with his soul.

Therefore, he always acts according to what his soul tells him. Eventually, everyone will be questioned in the hereafter, as to what extent he has used his soul and to guide him.

As informed with the verses of the Sura Ash-Shams, “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right.”

The wrong is the inculcation of Satan over man, and it attracts everyone to selfish desires, anger, and opportunistic behavior by “inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception.

” This way the evil prevents man from the right way of Allah, high morality, and religion.

But even in these negative circumstances, everyone is inspired by Allah about what is right and beautiful; also what virtuous speaking and behavior are, to please Allah.

In the Qur’an, this is stated in the following verse:

The Soul is Always Aware Because of Islam

“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;- ” (Sura Ash-Shams, 7-8)

Thus, the righteous soul is a blessed inspiration to man given by Allah.

So every kind of appraised instance of morality and superior attribute of humanity is hidden in the determination to act in conformity to the soul.

The most significant attribute of Heaven is it’s being a place where only people and beings with the highest understanding of the soul may reside.

Actually, the soul will always be aware and heedful in Heaven which will in return establish an environment of complete security and peace.

Serap Akincioglu is currently writing articles as a regular columnist in a prominent Islamic newspaper Yeni Asya (New Asia) and also in a Muslim magazine called Bizim Aile (Our Family).

She has released two books written on Islamic issues: “Towards Enlightenment” and “Closer to Allah”. She participates in various panels, conferences, and meetings as a speaker. (Istanbul / Turkey)

Islam Freedom

Islam Freedom of Thought | Conscience | Religion or Belief

Islam Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion, or Belief

Islam Freedom

Statement of Dr. Laila Al-Marayati
U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Implementation Meeting on Human Dimension Issues

At previous OSCE meetings, the U.S. Delegation has applauded the expansion of religious liberty in this historic decade. At the same time, we want to address concerns we have regarding the increasing intolerance toward religious and belief groups in many OSCE participating States. The U.S. Delegation has three areas of concern:

Laws That Hinder Religious Practice and Discriminate Among Religious Groups

Recently, several participating States have enacted legislation disproportionately and adversely affecting minority religious communities. The enactment of these laws, the progression toward more state control of religious institutions, and the similarity of these legal provisions in restricting religious communities considered less desirable reflect disturbing intolerance of minority faiths.

Since our last meeting, two new laws have been enacted that restrict religious liberty in Uzbekistan. On May 1, 1998, the parliament of Uzbekistan passed amendments to the 1991 law on religious organizations and the Criminal Code, which blatantly violate virtually every Helsinki commitment to religious liberty.

Among other restrictions, the amendments now require 100 Uzbek citizens to sign a religious community’s application for registration, criminalize any unregistered religious activity, and penalize free speech based on its religious content. The new amendments particularly affect both non-Russian Orthodox Christian minorities and Muslim communities who want to practice their faith outside Uzbekistan’s religious establishment.

Observers note that these amendments to the law merely legalize what has been the practice of the Government of Uzbekistan toward religious groups over the last few years. In December 1997, the Government engaged in a series of crackdowns in the Farghona Valley, in gross violation of human rights and Helsinki principles.

Muslims were arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured, and confessions were forced while in police custody. Several well-documented cases exist of Muslim leaders who have simply disappeared, under extremely suspicious circumstances. The U.S. Delegation calls on the Government of Uzbekistan to repeal the new law and ensure that governmental practices comply with international law and Helsinki principles.

In August 1997, the Parliament of Macedonia passed a religion law that prohibits religious work and rituals from being performed by unregistered communities or groups and requires the signature of 50 citizens for registration. One of the more disturbing sections of the law prohibits the existence of two “religious communities” with the same creed, which in effect establishes the government as the arbiter between religious factions.

Some harassment of non-Orthodox religious groups has been reported and Protestant groups complain of being unable to register their churches and obtain regular employment status for their employees in violation of Macedonia’s commitment in Paragraph 16.3 of the Vienna Concluding Document to “grant upon their request to communities of believers, practicing or prepared to practice their faith within the constitutional framework of their States, recognition of the status provided for them in the respective countries.”

On September 26, 1997, President Boris Yeltsin signed a law containing discriminatory provisions against “new” religious faiths, onerous registration requirements, and vague criteria for “liquidating” religious organizations. Although this law has not led to widespread repression of religious believers and sections of the law are being challenged in the Constitutional Court, it is clear that Russian citizens now have less religious freedom than in 1991.

Furthermore, certain local officials in Russia are using this law arbitrarily to discriminate against religious organizations whose presence or practices are not to their taste. The Lutheran Church in Tuim, Khakassia, is experiencing a series of harassing lawsuits under the rubric of violation of this law and was recently ordered closed by local officials. Even in Moscow, city officials have commenced a civil court case to ban a local Jehovah’s Witness organization under article 14 of the law presumably because the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they should not accept blood transfusions.

The U.S. Delegation acknowledges that there are instances when a government may contravene a fundamental right in the interest of the health and safety of society. However, as agreed in the Copenhagen Concluding Document Paragraph 24, any restriction on fundamental freedom is an exception, must be limited and narrowly tailored to the problem. Banning a religious group based on an aspect of their belief violates this OSCE principle of proportionality.

While no new laws have been passed in Greece and Turkey, it should be noted that these countries have had constitutional provisions, laws, and government policies for many years that violate OSCE commitments on religious liberty. For Greek law, especially onerous are the anti-proselytism provisions, including Article 13 of the Constitution and the Metaxas-era Laws of Necessity 1363/1938 and 1672/1939, which have been used almost exclusively against religious minorities.

These statutes harm religious liberty in the Hellenic Republic and are inconsistent with numerous OSCE commitments, including paragraph 16 of the Vienna Document and paragraph 9 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document. We urge repeal of these laws to help ensure the freedom of all individuals in Greece to profess and practice their religion or belief.

We are well aware of the controversy surrounding the selection of individuals to serve as Mufti in the Hellenic Republic and understand that relevant Muslim practices vary from country to country.

In this regard, we stress the importance of respecting the right of members of the Muslim community to organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and institutional structure, including in the selection, appointment, and replacement of their personnel in a manner consistent with relevant OSCE commitments. We are particularly disturbed over the lengthy prison sentences – a total of 49 months – handed down against Mehmet Emin Aga for “usurping the title of Mufti.”

We are also concerned by the burdensome Greek requirements imposed on minority religious communities to obtain special permits issued by “competent ecclesiastical authorities” and the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs for the establishment or operation of churches, including places of worship. Reportedly, permission for the construction or repair of places of worship is often difficult or impossible to obtain despite the commitment of OSCE participating States to respect the right of religious communities to establish and maintain freely accessible places of worship or assembly.

Historically non-Orthodox churches have encountered difficulties in securing so-called “House of Prayer” permits although it appears the record for approval of permits is improving. Members of the Muslim community have similarly reported difficulty in securing permission for the repair of mosques, including the Suleymaniye Mosque on Rhodes. The rights of individuals belonging to minority religions or beliefs must be fully respected without discrimination or subordination. In this regard, we are aware of the pending request submitted by a community of the Macedonian Orthodox Church seeking to open a church building to conduct worship services in the Florina area.

The United States remains concerned over the inclusion of religious affiliation on Greek national identity cards. The inclusion of such information on this widely used document could lead to discrimination against individuals from minority religions or beliefs. Accordingly, we urge the repeal of the 1993 identity law. In addition, we urge further action to implement the recommendations of the advisory committee on anti-Semitic references in public school textbooks.

In a positive development, we note the Greek law on a conscientious objection that came into force earlier this year and understand that the authorities are instituting arrangements whereby those objectors imprisoned under the old law will be given the option of engaging in alternative civilian social service.

The situation in Turkey remains largely unchanged. Minority religious communities face significant challenges and are occasionally targeted for acts of violence and vandalism. Members of the majority Muslim community may even face restrictions on some religious practices or customs in certain settings. Minority religions not recognized under the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, for example, generally may not acquire additional property for worship services.

Even some recognized communities are prevented from fully utilizing existing facilities, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Halki Seminary and the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church’s Holy Cross Seminary, both closed to theological studies since 1971. In other cases, the property of religious communities has been confiscated by the state without compensation. Securing the necessary permission to build new houses of worship or the renovation of existing churches is often difficult, if not impossible, to secure.

While proselytism is not outlawed per se, activist Muslims and evangelical Christians have been jailed in Turkey on the pretext of disturbing the peace for sharing their faith in public. Eight Americans were arrested briefly in March for handing out New Testaments on the streets of Eskisehir.

The United States also takes note that even among states with a longstanding tradition of support for human rights and fundamental freedoms, there have been unfortunate developments legalizing discrimination among religious groups. For example, in December 1997, the Austrian Parliament passed legislation on the “Legal Status of Religious Belief Communities” that established a two-tier system for receiving state funds and other privileges.

In the first tier are 12 legally recognized communities, only a few of which could satisfy the pre-requisites to gain such recognition under the new law. For instance, the religious community must have existed for at least twenty years and have a minimum number of members, equal to 0.02% of the population or about 16,000 members.

Organizations that place themselves under government observation for a period of time with the hope of becoming legally recognized comprise the second tier. During the observation period, legal status is denied and the religious organization is liquidated if the government ascertains that the beliefs of the group violate, among other criteria, democratic interests, public security, public order, health, and morals, or the protection of the rights and liberties of others.

The groups in this tier cannot sponsor foreign religionists for visas and do not have other privileges that the 12 legally recognized communities enjoy. The requirement that the statutes of a religious body must include a description of religious doctrine which is different from the doctrines of existing religious belief communities or churches is of concern to the U.S. Delegation because this establishes the government as the arbiter in theological disputes.

Some religious groups, including several independent Protestant churches, are granted the status of “association” and have a rudimentary juridical personality to open bank accounts and own property. However, they do not have visiting rights in prisons or hospitals, cannot sponsor foreign co-religionists for visas, and do not have other privileges that the 12 legally recognized communities enjoy.

A few groups have been denied “association” status, including the Unification Church, which is barred from countering potentially libelous reports in the press because they do not have legal status under Austrian law. The inherent inequality of this legal structure is of concern to the U.S. Delegation, especially in light of Austria’s own authorship of the language in Paragraph 16 of the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document, which calls on the participating States to “foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect” for all religious groups.

Governmental Actions that Perpetuate Discrimination Against Minority Religious Groups

Several western European parliaments, most notably France, Belgium, and Germany, have investigated and reported on the beliefs and activities of minority religious groups in the last few years. These parliamentary investigations have had a detrimental effect on religious liberty as many groups being investigated or labeled “dangerous” have experienced a public backlash. The French Parliament’s 1996 report contained a list of “dangerous” groups to warn the public against them.

The Belgian Parliament’s 1997 report had a widely circulated informal appendix that listed189 groups and included various allegations against many Protestant and Catholic groups, Quakers, Hasidic Jews, Buddhists, and the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association).

In Belgium, some public officials have relied upon the unofficial appendix to justify denial of access to publicly rented buildings for Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is merely because they were identified in this appendix.

A German Bundestag “Enquette Commission” on June 18, 1998, issued a report on its two-year investigation into “so-called sects” and “psycho-groups.” While concluding that such groups pose no danger to German society, the report did recommend continued investigation and surveillance of Scientology. Several religious and belief groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, and independent Pentecostal Protestant churches have complained about harassment, discrimination, and biased media reports in Germany in connection with this Commission and its work.

Also of concern is the establishment of government information centers to alert the public about groups deemed by the government to be “dangerous.” The Austrian and French Governments have set up hotlines for the public and, through government-sponsored and funded advisory centers, distribute information on groups.

The German Enquette Commission recommended that such a center be created there as well. The Belgian information is scheduled to open in early 1999. We note that the Government of France, only this month, created a new Interministerial Mission to Battle Against Sects” (“Mission interministerielle de luttre contre les sectes”). The very name of this mission suggests confrontation with religious minorities rather than tolerance.

The U.S. Delegation notes that characterizations of religious beliefs by government-operated centers, particularly the publication of unproved or potentially libelous materials, create a climate of intolerance towards members of groups. Government dissemination of information that may be construed as propaganda through these centers calls into question the commitments that Austria, France, Belgium, and Germany have made to “foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect.”

Furthermore, these activities excessively entangle the government in the public discussion on religious beliefs that foists the government into the role of religious arbitrator.

Religious Liberty of Muslims and Other Minorities in the OSCE Participating States

The status of both immigrant and indigenous Muslim minorities and majorities in the OSCE participating States is often precarious. Many countries, such as Spain, Austria, and Belgium, are adopting a variety of measures to accommodate and integrate their Muslim populations. Elsewhere, religious persecution and intolerance of Muslims in the OSCE region are closely linked to racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, social malaise, and international political conflicts.

Fear of potential violence or terrorism spawned by “Islamic” fundamentalism or extremism is often used as a pretext to justify gross violations of the human rights of Muslims who are practicing their faith. Mindful of the broad spectrum of religious and ethnic oppression of Muslims in several participating States, the U.S. Delegation calls on those countries to re-examine their policies in light of existing OSCE commitments. We are not seeking special rights for Muslims or any other group for that matter. We seek to uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of our citizens without distinction of any kind.

A combination of ethnicity and religion underlie human rights violations against Muslim populations in Europe. The most extreme form of anti-Muslim sentiment manifested in Europe was the brutal assault against Bosnian Muslims, today increasingly referred to as Bosniaks, by Serbian forces of the former Yugoslavia. Recently, the inhabitants of Kosovo, the vast majority of whom are ethnic Albanians and Muslims, have suffered mass killings, arbitrary detention, rape, destruction of property, and forced migration at the hands of the Belgrade regime. These atrocities yet again test the will of the international community to take a strong stand against such assault.

Muslims who are members of an ethnic minority, such as North Africans in France and Turks in Germany are subjected to violent crimes often perpetrated by racists and sometimes by police. Indo-Pakistanis have occasionally been the subject of racist attacks in the United Kingdom. Inadequate efforts to convict the perpetrators of these violent acts contribute to a climate of impunity for such crimes.

Religious education is often abridged or denied to Muslims in the OSCE region in direct violation of OSCE commitments expressed in paragraph 16 of the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document. In Turkey, the parliament enacted measures designed to eliminate the system of state-funded Islamic education by extending compulsory primary secular education. In Uzbekistan, religious teachers Obidkhon Nazarov, Rahim Otagulov, Olinjon Glofurov have been harassed, evicted, and arrested by government authorities repeatedly over the past 2 years. In addition, unofficial Islamic teaching institutions have been closed.

Economic and political discrimination against Muslims is common in the OSCE region. In Greece, particularly in Thrace, Muslims experience discrimination through loss of promotion opportunities, confinement to low-paying jobs, inadequate political representation, and prevention from advancement in the military. Similarly, in the Bulgarian military, Muslims are consistently assigned only to construction units.

The Muslim minority in Russia, which represents 10% of the population, also faces societal discrimination in the workplace and housing. Some Muslim minorities, like other minorities, have difficulty obtaining citizenship in countries such as Germany, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece. There are numerous reports that Muslims in Serbia, particularly in the Sandzak region and in Montenegro, are arbitrarily fired from their jobs and often driven from their homes.

In Turkey, some Muslims are labeled by the military and the government as “extremist” and thereafter experience widespread discrimination. Political participation is significantly denied, most notably by the banning of the Welfare (Refah) Party earlier this year and the recent conviction and banning of Istanbul Mayor Erdogan. Observant Muslims are excluded from certain jobs, demoted or expelled from the military, and marginalized politically.

Throughout much of the OSCE area, wearing the hijab in a particular way is interpreted as a sign of extremism, although the wearing of the hijab normally represents to the woman modest dress and an expression of faith. In Uzbekistan, Muslim women in hijab have been expelled from universities.

In France, the Ministry of Education issued a decree stating that a headscarf is an “ostentatious display of a religious symbol” that should be strongly discouraged in public schools. There has been a controversy in Baden-Wurttemburg regarding a proposal to ban headscarves worn by teachers, reflecting societal trends of intolerance against Muslims. In Turkey, women who wear headscarves may become targets of discrimination and be banned from public sector jobs such as nursing, teaching, and judicial posts, and are prohibited from registering at public universities.

Efforts to respond to global threats of terrorism may lead to further restrictions and the continued marginalization of Muslim populations in the OSCE region. The U.S. Delegation notes the disturbing tendency of some OSCE participating States to assume arbitrarily that Muslims are responsible for violence and threats to national security.

In the United States, Muslims are too often victims of negative stereotypes in the media, as seen in the recent movies GI Jane or True Lies, which contributes to societal assumptions equating violence and terrorism with Islam. Arbitrary detention of over 100 North African Muslims in France at the opening of the World Cup similarly reflects a disregard of rights in the name of security.The United States supports freedom of religion, not criminal behavior. The blanket condemnation of Muslims, or any other marginalized group, is not only a violation of Helsinki principles but is a counterproductive and dangerous policy. Such policies could contribute to desperation in some quarters and lead to radicalization that might not have occurred otherwise.

If this growing problem is to be addressed, OSCE participating States must comply fully with their OSCE obligations, the core of which is that the government cannot and should not control all aspects of society and certainly not matters of faith and must accept religious groups as a positive, integral part of society.

Conclusion

The U.S. Delegation:

  • calls on the Governments of Uzbekistan, Russia, and Macedonia, to repeal or amend significantly their laws on religious associations to comply with OSCE commitments;
  • calls on the Governments of Turkey and Greece to ensure that their laws and practices conform with OSCE principles of freedom of belief, association, and expression;
  • calls on the Government of Austria to recognize the potential that its law has for encouraging other states to enact prejudicial legislation and urges the Government to amend its current law;
  • calls on the Governments of Austria, Belgium, France, and Germany to foster a climate of tolerance and respect toward minority religion or belief groups and insure through law and governmental practice that religious freedoms for minorities are protected;
  • calls on all OSCE participating States to re-examine their laws, governmental practices, and societal trends that discriminate against Muslims and other religious minorities.

Islam Freedom

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Inner Dimensions of Fasting

Inner Dimensions of Fasting – Muslim in Ramadan

Inner Dimensions of Fasting – Muslim in Ramadan

Inner Dimensions of Fasting

Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali

 

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

 

From Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship

by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, trans. from the Ihya’ by Mukhtar Holland

Inner Dimensions of Fasting

INNER DIMENSIONS OF FASTING

Three Grades

It should be known that there are three grades of Fasting: ordinary, special, and extra-special.

Ordinary Fasting means abstaining from food, drink, and sexual satisfaction.

Special Fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands, and feet — and all other organs — free from sin.

Extra-special Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God, Great and Glorious, is He? This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world.

Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of God, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya, and the intimates of God. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to God, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than God, Exalted is He. It is bound up with the significance of His words: ‘Say: “Allah (sent it down)”: then leave them to play in their vain discussions.’ [al-An’am,6:91]

Inward Requirements

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one’s organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment:

1. SEE NOT WHAT DISPLEASES GOD

Chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of God, Great and Glorious, is He? Said the Prophet, on him be peace: ‘The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be God’s curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of God will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.’

Jabir relates from Anas that God’s Messenger, on him is peace, said: ‘Five things break a man’s Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.’

2. SPEAK NOT…

Guarding one’s tongue against idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing, and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with a remembrance of God, Great and Glorious is He, and with the recitation of Quran. This is the fasting of the tongue. Said Sufyan: ‘Backbiting annuls the Fast.’ Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: ‘Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.’

The Prophet, on him, be peace, said: ‘Fasting is a shield, so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: “I am Fasting, I am Fasting!”‘

According to Tradition: ‘Two women were Fasting during the time of God’s Messenger, on him be peace. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were on the verge of collapsing. They, therefore, sent a message to God’s Messenger, on him be peace, requesting permission to break their Fast.

In response, the Prophet, on him be peace, sent them a bowl and said: “Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten.” One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, on him be peace, said: “These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!”‘

3. HEAR NOT…

Closing one’s ears to everything reprehensible; for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why God, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer, in His words, Exalted is He:

‘Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain.’ [al-Ma’idah, 5:42]

God, Great and Glorious is He, also said:

‘Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit?’ [al-Ma’idah, 5:63]

Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. God, Exalted is He, said: ‘You are then just like them.’ [al-Nisa, 4:140]

That is why the Prophet, on him be peace, said: ‘The backbiter and his listener are copartners in sin.’

4. DO NOT…

Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to Fast — to abstain from lawful food – only to break one’s Fast on what is unlawful. A man who Fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city.

Lawful food is injurious in quantity not in quality, so Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison. The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess.

The object of Fasting is to induce moderation. Said the Prophet, on him be peace: ‘How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!’ This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs against sin.

5. AVOID OVEREATING

Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one’s belly. There is no receptacle more odious to God, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food. Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering God’s enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods? It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together.

It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, to reinforce the soul in piety. If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting are to weaken the forces which are Satan’s means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one’s intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting.

No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined. Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one’s powers, with the consequent purification of the heart.

One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the night Prayers (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (award). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one’s heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven. The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God, Exalted is He:

‘We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.’ [al-Qadr, 97:1]

Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.

6. LOOK TO GOD WITH FEAR AND HOPE

After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one’s Fast will be accepted so that one will find favor with God, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors. This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.

Inner Dimensions of Fasting

It is related to al-Hasan ibn Abil Hasan al-Basri that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: ‘God, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged and lost.

It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By God, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.’ In too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while for one who has suffered rejection laughter will be precluded by remorse.

Of al-Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told:

‘You are an aged elder; Fasting would enfeeble you.’ But he replied: ‘By this, I am making ready for a long journey, Obedience to God, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.’

Such are the inwardly significant meanings of Fasting.

Al-Ghazali, Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship

The Eminence of Islam To Women

The Eminence of Islam To Women

The Eminence of Islam To Women

by Harun Yahya

The Eminence of Islam To Women

The position of women in Islam has recently been an issue of debate. Some misconceptions arise, either from traditional practices which are thought to be “Islamic,” but are not, or else from prejudices. However, the real issue is how women are regarded in the Islamic faith, and when we look at this, we see that Islam gives women great social value, freedom, and comfort.

Women in the Qur’an

God’s commandments about the status of women and the relations between men and women, which have been revealed to us through the Qur’an, consist of full justice. In this regard, Islam suggests equality of rights, responsibilities, and duties between the two genders. Islam is based on sympathy, tolerance, and respect for human beings, and does not discriminate against women in this matter.

The examples of good morals communicated to us in the Qur’an are universally compatible with human nature and are valid for all stages of history.

Respect for women and women’s rights falls within this. In the Qur’an, God insists that the tasks and responsibilities of women are the same as those of men. Furthermore, while performing these tasks and responsibilities men and women must help and support each other:

The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and pay alms, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Qur’an, 9:71)

God emphasizes that believers will be rewarded in the same manner according to their deeds, regardless of their gender.

Their Lord responds to them: ‘I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female – you are both the same in that respect… (Qur’an, 3:195)

Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Qur’an, 16:97)

The Eminence of Islam To Women

In another verse, Muslim men and women are considered together, and it is stressed that both have the same responsibility and status in God’s sight:

Men and women who are Muslims, men and women who are believers, men and women who are obedient, men and women who are truthful, men and women who are steadfast, men and women who are humble, men and women who give alms, men and women who fast, men and women who guard their private parts, men and women who remember Allah much: Allah has prepared forgiveness for them and an immense reward. (Qur’an, 33:35)

In the Qur’an, there are many more verses stating that men and women are exactly equal in terms of their tasks and responsibilities and their rewards or punishments in return. There are a few differences in social issues, but these are for the comfort and protection of women. The commands of the Qur’an regard the congenital differences between the two genders resulting from their creation and suggest a system maintaining equal justice for men and women in this light.

Islam does not see women as objects. Therefore, it is not seen appropriate that a woman of good morals should marry a man of bad morals. In the same way, it is not permitted for a woman of bad morals to marry a man of good morals:

Corrupt women are for corrupt men and corrupt men are for corrupt women, Good women are for good men and good men are for good women. The latter are innocent of what they say. They will have forgiveness and generous provision. (Qur’an, 24:26)

Also as regards marriage, the duties and responsibilities of couples towards each other require equality. God demands that both spouses be protective of and supervise each other. This duty is expressed in the Qur’an in the following words.

They are covers for you and you for them… (Qur’an, 2:187)

Many rules and commandments exist in the Qur’an regarding the protection of women’s rights in marriage. Marriage is based on the free will of both parties; the husband has to provide economic support for his wife (4:4); the husband has to look after his ex-wife after divorce (65:6).

The Eminence Islam Attaches To Women

Muslim Women

Great Issues of Concern for Muslim Women

Issues of Concern for Muslim Women

Muslim Women in Society

Renewed interest in and enthusiasm for Islam as a means of change is emerging in many parts of the world. By implementing Islamic principles, Muslims are hoping to improve their condition on many fronts, be they social, political, economic, or others. The Muslim world is comprised of people of a variety of nationalities and ethnicities which, combined with geographical realities, determine priorities of action for improving the lives of women.

Most Muslims are taught that Islam liberated women by giving them rights not previously enjoyed. Some examples include rights of ownership, decision-making in marriage, divorce, and so on.

Indeed, when reviewing primary Muslim sources of Qur’an and authentic Hadith (words and deeds of Prophet Muhammed), one is impressed by an overall image of men and women as equal partners as those who are expected by God to “enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong” (9:71) in all spheres of life and to act as His vicegerents in ensuring justice, freedom, and equality for all.

The importance of developing a strong family as the major building block of a strong society is clearly expressed in Islamic literature.

The family unit is solidified by mutual respect, understanding, and compassion that applies within the family and among all members of society in general.

Unfortunately, over time, many of the original principles have been abandoned or modified to suit political agendas, thus presenting Muslims with laws and images that hardly resembled the original Islamic community led by Muhammad.

Many of these laws were generated between the 10th and 12th centuries, long after the death of Muhammad, and are particularly reflected in legislation today related to marriage and divorce which often place women at a distinct disadvantage.

Muslims who live as minorities in non-Islamic countries are also affected by the sexist and authoritarian attitudes that pervade many communities and impact behavior in terms of marriage, divorce, abuse, exclusion of women from the mosques, and decision-making bodies, double standards applied to male and female children and so on.

Because of a belief in a liberated, equitable, and dignified position of women outlined in the Qur’an, many Muslims, men and women alike, are calling for a reevaluation of attitudes and practices that, although done in the name of Islam, are contrary to the basic messages found in the primary sources.

To question and possibly oppose entrenched positions that are based on archaic laws, weak Hadith, or cultural trends, requires courage and conviction on the part of religious leaders. But this is necessary and worth any risks to enable women to achieve liberation through Islam as originally intended.

Major problem areas that need to be addressed include the following:

  • Family laws about marriage and divorce that reinforce the image of relationships based on a hierarchy with the rights of the husband superseding those of the wife and that prevent women from being in control of their lives.
  • Violence against women occurs in the home, community, and as a consequence of warfare which is claimed by some to be allowed by Islam when it is not.
  • Abuse of certain Islamic practices that affect women negatively, such as polygamy and temporary marriage, when applied out of context and without abiding by Islamic restrictions.
  • Excluding women from religious activities such as attendance in the mosque has been established as the Muslim woman’s right.
  • Failure to promote the importance of a woman’s contribution to society beyond child-bearing.
  • Failure to enable women to take advantage of rights of property ownership and inheritance outlined by Islam.
  • Focusing on the behavior of women as a marker for mortality in society and subjecting them to harassment, intimidation, or discrimination.
  • Lack of awareness of the important role of men in contributing significantly in sharing household responsibilities and child-rearing as exemplified by Prophet Muhammed.

Until recently, because of a pervasive sexist and oppressive presentation of women in Islam, Muslim women often felt the only way to be liberated intellectually, socially, politically, and economically was by abandoning Islam. There appears to be a growing movement of Islamist women who are demanding that the rights guaranteed by Islam must be applied in their communities. In addition, women are joining the ranks of Islamic scholars, thus providing alternative points of view to what has heretofore been addressed by men.

Reviewing Islamic history from an egalitarian perspective, recalling contributions of Muslim women over the centuries, exploring current practices and laws and criticizing them from an Islamic point of view, examining texts as they pertain to women specifically are a few examples of some areas addressed by women scholars today.

Muslims today are facing great challenges from within and without. Oftentimes, calls for change are seen as tools of an outside power that is seeking to undermine the efforts of Islam and Muslims. Certain geopolitical realities lend credence to this view.

However, the current desire for change on the part of Muslim women is perhaps more borne out of the fervent belief in the image of the Muslim woman as communicated by God in the Qur’an of a liberated, vital human being who can work in cooperation with men on many levels to contribute to the betterment of society.

Muslim Women

They seek to expose this concept which has been buried by the persistence of attitudes that focus on competition and subsequent subjugation of one sex over the other in direct conflict with the spirit of the Qur’anic verse:

“And thus does their Lord answer their prayer: I shall not lose sight of the work of any of you who works (in My way) be it man or woman: You are members, one of another.” (3:195).

Islamic Emancipation of Women

The Power of Islamic Emancipation of Women

The Islamic Emancipation of Women

The Islamic Emancipation of Women
Islam brought with it great emancipation for women, who were severely persecuted in the pagan era. Prof. Bernard Lewis, known as one of the greatest Western experts on the history of Islam and the Middle East, makes the following comment:
As the verses make clear, Islam brings justice to male-female relations and puts an end to harmful practices resulting from customs and traditions of pre-Islamic societies. One example is the situation of women in pre-Islamic Arab society. The pagan Arabs regarded women as inferior and having a daughter was something to be ashamed of. Fathers of daughters sometimes preferred to bury them alive rather than announce their birth. Using the Qur’an, Allah prohibited this evil tradition and warned that on Judgment Day such people will have to account for their actions.

In general, the advent of Islam brought an enormous improvement in the position of women in ancient Arabia, endowing them with property and some other rights, and giving them a measure of protection against ill-treatment by their husbands or owners. The killing of female infants, sanctioned by the custom in Pagan Arabia, was outlawed by Islam. But the position of women remained poor and worsened when, in this as in so many other respects, the original message of Islam lost its impetus and was modified under the influence of pre-existing attitudes and customs. 1

Karen Armstrong, another Western expert on Islam, makes the following comment:

We must remember what life had been like for women in the pre-Islamic period when female infanticide was the norm and when women had no rights at all. Like slaves, women were treated as an inferior species, who had no legal existence. In such a primitive world, what Muhammad achieved for women was extraordinary. The very idea that a woman could be a witness or could inherit anything at all in her own right was astonishing. 2

In fact, during the many centuries that followed Prophet Muhammad, women of the Islamic societies had a much higher social position than the women of Christendom. Karen Armstrong emphasizes that during the Middle Ages;

… the Muslims were horrified to see the way Western Christians treated their women in the Crusader states, and Christian scholars denounced Islam for giving too much power to menials like slaves and women. 3

Anna King, a modern Muslim woman, and a converter, better to say, a revert – to Islam, explains the Islamic emancipation of women as follows:

Islam first gave women their rights in a time when women were nothing but the property of men. Islam gave women the right to buy and sell on their own, own businesses, and express their views politically. These were all basic rights that the American woman was not granted until relatively recently! It also encouraged women to study and learn Islamic knowledge, breaking a ban which several religions had stipulated, which forbid women to acquire any religious knowledge or touch religious texts… It also abolished the practice of marrying a woman without her consent. Thus, one would have to be very stubborn indeed to refuse such obvious facts and proof that Islam was women’s first liberator.

The tendencies to see women as “an inferior species” who has no right to education and that must be secluded from the society arose much later in the Islamic world, as a result of deviations from the right Qur’anic path.

Conclusion

Thus we can say that the mentality that despises women, excludes them from society, and regards them as second-class citizens is a wicked pagan attitude that has no place in Islam.

Devout women are depicted as good examples for mankind in the Qur’an. One is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Another is the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh who, despite her husband’s wickedness, is also described as an ideal Muslim. (see, 66:11-12) The Qur’an also describes very gentle conversations between the Prophet Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (27:42-44), and between Moses and two young ladies (28:23-26), which symbolize the civilized social relationship between the two genders.

Therefore, a Muslim can’t have a bigoted approach to women. In a society where true Islamic morals are practiced, immense respect and sympathy will be shown to women, and it will be ensured that they can live in freedom and comfort.

The fundamental rule in Qur’anic exegesis is ensuring that the derived meaning conforms with the integrity of the Qur’an. When this is considered, it is seen that all the rules mentioned to us by Allah regarding women form a social structure allowing them to live most comfortably and happily. In a society where all the moral values mentioned by Islam are practiced comprehensively, the social position of women becomes even more exalted than in societies that we today regard as modern.

The Islamic Emancipation of Women

Muslim Women in Society

Muslim Women in Society – Economic Rights

Muslim Women in Society – Economic Rights

Muslim Women in Society

This chapter addresses the economic rights of Muslim women. These rights are derived from the Quran, however the interpretation of these rights, as well as their application (or lack of application) in some Muslim countries, often results in some controversy.

The interpretation of verse 4:34 and the latter portion of verse 2:233 could prevent a women’s participation in the job market or promote justice and harmony.

Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former (men), than the latter (women) and with what they may spend out of their possessions. (4:34)

No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father’s] heir. (2:233)

An article titled “Islam and Women’s Work” published in ALJUMUAH magazine is an example of the interpretation of these verses to prevent women from entering the job market. This article analyzes a woman’s development in stages and finds that in each stage she should be in the care of an adult male. These stages are:

  1. While she is a child, she is under the care of her father.
  2. After she marries, the responsibility falls on her husband.
  3. If she has neither a father nor a husband, the responsibility of her care falls on her brother.
  4. If she has no male relative, the obligation falls upon the Muslim community.

When articles as such are published what is our responsibility as Muslim women? It is to challenge this view with research having the whole context of the Quran in mind. Upon reading the above one questions why a woman requires a male to take care of her. If one assumes that the above scenario is Islamically correct then one can conclude that:

  1. Males are naturally superior to females.
  2. A male should be financially responsible for his family.

However, these conclusions are at odds with other verses of the Quran.

Amina Wadud-Muhsin in her book Qur’an and Women studies verse 4:34 about other verses in the Quran. Since no verse in the Quran speaks about male physical or intellectual superiority, Wadud-Muhsin believes that the part of the verse “God has bestowed more abundantly on the former (male)” pertains to inheritance. This interpretation is derived from verse 4:11 “the share for a male is twice that for the female.” This “preference” in 4:34, therefore, is related to inheritance or a material gain.2 Thus, the male is not naturally superior to the female.

Is the male obligated to be financially responsible for the female? The interpretation of verse 2:233 in the context of all the other verses of the Quran is about mutual respect and harmony. The initial part of this verse states:

And the mothers may nurse their children for two whole years if they wish to complete the period of nursing, and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide legally for their sustenance and clothing. (2:233)

This verse reveals that the decision of weaning the child for two years is an option for the mother, not a command. This decision is based on the wife and husband’s mutual respect for a harmonious relationship. In a situation in which both of the married couple’s financial contribution is needed to maintain existence, a wife’s insistence that the only husband should provide for their livelihood would jeopardize the harmony of marriage described in the Quran:

And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of you own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think. (30:21)

Thus, the males’ responsibility to financially care for the women applies to a specific situation (when the mother weans her child) and the premise that a woman should be cared for by a male throughout every stage of her development is false and not supported by the Quran.

A conflict arises when the interpretation of verses 4:34 and 2:233 are limited to these verses alone without consideration for the whole Quran. In this case, it is viewed as the superiority of males over females or a gender-based division of labor. This division of labor entitles the male to be the “provider” and “protector” and the woman to lead a private life and solely be the source of love, affection, and care. This interpretation is not consistent with other verses of the Quran:

Whereas anyone-be it man or woman-who does [whatever he /she can] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise, and shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone. (4:124)

Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from what they earn. (4:32)

These verses address men and women in equal terms. Wadud-Muhsin concludes that “The Quran does not strictly delineate the roles of women and the roles of men to such an extent as to propose only a single possibility for each gender.”

This analysis is supported by a Bukhari hadith from Kitab al-nafqat: Aswad bin Yazeed narrates that: I asked Ayesha: What was the norm of the Prophet at home? She (Ayesha) replied: He used to work for his family at home. Then, when he heard the adhan (call to prayer) he would step out.

 The hadith supports the fact that there is no gender-based division of labor for a married couple. The couple mutually decides what is best for their household having the harmony of their family in mind.

Even though there is no command for a division of labor in the Quran, in today’s global economy, as men’s horizons and occupational choices widen, women’s in some Muslim counties remain comparatively narrow.6 What has prevented women from moving into the new activities opened by the global economy? In some Muslim countries, political instability coexists with extreme conservative ideologies regarding women. Afghanistan is an example where once women were allowed to contribute to sustainable economic growth and development. Afghan women in small numbers joined public life in the 1920s with the support of King Amanullah and Queen Soraya. Queen Soraya addressed a gathering of women in the celebration of the 7th anniversary (1926) of independence stating:

“Do not think, however, that our nation needs only men to serve it. Women should also take their part as women did in the early years of Islam. The valuable services rendered by women are recounted throughout history from which we learn that women were not created solely for pleasure and comfort. From their examples, we learn that we must all contribute toward the development of our nation and that this can not be done without being equipped with knowledge…”

Ironically, 70 years after Queen Soraya’s speech the struggle and efforts that the previous generation made to gain political and economic rights for women is threatened. Today, a woman’s basic right to vote, to pursue an education, and to join the job force is threatened by the Taliban, a political group that gain control of the country and run the government by their “Islamic” code. Noor Mohammed, a senior member of the Taliban’s Central Committee states, “We categorically refuse to let women vote or participate in politics…”

Taliban’s insistence on secluding women from public life is derived from Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of the Quran. This interpretation is colored by Saudi Arabia’s cultural ideology. To gain financial rewards Taliban emulates Saudi Arabia’s orthodox view that restricts a women’s right to vote and participate in public life. Taliban’s political power depends on oppressing women.

Muslim Women in Society

Similarly in Iran, in an attempt to balance the national budget both civil services and private sectors have excluded women from the job market by preferentially retiring female employees and not taking new staff.

 The Head of the political and Ideological Section of the defense industries, Hojatoleslam Motbahri, explains his position: “In principle, I’m against all employment for women outside their home…In my opinion, the access of women to the factory floor is against the laws of nature…Besides if women are employed by industry and the public sector, they will displace men and close their employment opportunities.”

 Economic growth requires the full participation of the labor force. Total exclusion of women from the job force means not utilizing half the energy that leads to economic growth. Interestingly enough, even with strong principles such as women’s work “being against the laws of nature,” economic realities have taken their path in Iran. In the city of Mazandaran, female workers spend long working hours at the local textile factory. The Director of the Cotton and Weaving factory explains, “Women’s work is much finer. If you take thread winding men produce about 500 kg for every 650 kg produced by women.”

 In this case women are hired because their service produces more profit and is an illustration of the impractical and unrealistic point of the “laws of nature argument.”

Muslim men and women can apply the rights given by the Quran to revolutionize the status quo in Western societies. In the United States work at home is viewed as unproductive. According to the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA), because no exchange of money takes place in a woman’s work at home, her work is not considered a value for the GNP (Gross National Product).

If a professional woman stays home with her children up to a certain time, her choice is an “unproductive activity”. Accordingly, if she does not accumulate enough credit toward her social security benefits, she will not qualify to receive such benefits in her old age or case she is disabled. If her choice is to stay at home to raise her children and perform housework, it should be considered as a contribution to the GNP. This would entitle her to social security benefits. Such a view is consistent with the economic rights given to women in the Quran.

Women were given rights in the Quran to contribute to the economy by owning and selling property 1400 years ago. Verse 4:32 emphasizes the equality of men and women in the economical growth of a society.

Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from what they earn. (4:32)

This verse, aside from giving women the right to earn, supports the economic theory of “equal pay for equal work.” The core of this theory is that women and men should be compensated for the work they perform regardless of gender. The Quran addresses this issue by referring to both genders and stating that each is compensated by their work. If it was intended that women receive less than men it would have been explicit.

This is a concept that even in today’s Western society has not completely been adopted. A recent study by Working Women magazine reported that although women’s salaries in the United States are starting to catch up with men’s in recent years, still women earn 5 to 15 cents less on the dollar than men working in a similar job.

The rights that are given to women in the Quran are not theoretical without any application. In Iran Islamist women activists used texts supported by the Quran to demand a law to provide wages for housework. Accordingly, in 1991 a law was passed under which a man divorcing his wife must first pay her housework wages.

Furthermore, historically, the Quraish women such as Khadija bint Khuwaylid and Sawdah bint Zam’ah (wives of Prophet Muhammad) are examples of women who were mothers and nurturers as well as active participants in the economy of their society. Khadija was a businesswoman whose wealth and business property gave the Prophet ease of circumstances and freedom from the cares of daily life to accomplish his mission.

Similarly, Sawdah derived her income from her leatherwork industry. None of the Prophet’s wives inherited anything from him so they were cared for by the state or they derived their income. The examples of Khadija and Sawdah are important because they shed light on women’s active participation in the economy during the Prophet’s era.

Islamic texts and the information of the early Islamic society and the rights given to women in the Quran are strong tools needed to fight the misogynist views now promoted to serve political and cultural stereotypes that are at odds with the intentions of the Quran.

Muslim Women in Society

Footnotes

  1. Islam and Women’s Work” ALJUMUAH, No. 2 & 3, p. 12
  2. Amina Wadud-Muhsin, Qur’an and Woman, (Penerbit Fajar Bhd, 1992), p. 70.
  3. Nizamuddim Ahmed, “Women and Isam,” Al-Ittihad, Oct.- Dec 1981, Volume 18, No.4 p. 40.
  4. Wadud-Muhsin, op. cit., p. 63.
  5. Victoria Bernal, “Gender, Culture and Capitalism in the Islamic Revival (Sudan)” African Studies Center Boston University 1992 W.P. No 160 p. 7.
  6. Nancy Hatch Dupree, Women in Afghanistan.(Stiftung-Foundation) 1986 P. 46.
  7. Kathy Gannon, “Afghan Women Fear Losing Rights under Taliban Rule,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 17, 1996, p. A11.
  8. Hale Afshar,”Women in Iran” Capital & Class n37 (Spring 1989) P. 74.
  9. Zaneh Rouz, August 22, 1987.
  10. Zaneh Rouz, January 11, 1986.
  11. Karen Schwartz, “Women’s pay gaining, but still lags,” Daily Bulletin, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 1996, p. B4.
  12. Women Laws Initiatives In The Muslim World, Dec. 11-15, 1994. Lahore, Pakistan. p. 40.
  13. Aboul Hameed Siddiqui, The Life of Muhammad, (Islamic Publication Ltd.,1989.) p. 53.
  14. Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, (Yale University Press, 1992) p. 60.
  15. Ibid., p. 60.
Women in Islam

#1 Women in Islam Value – Admire Women Reputability

Women in Islam – Muslim Women

Women in Islam

The issue of women in Islam is highly controversial. Any materials on this subject, whether in print or online, should be used with caution because of the lack of objectivity. While it is generally agreed that the rights granted to women in the Qur’an and by the prophet Muhammad were a vast improvement in comparison to the situation of women in Arabia before the advent of Islam, after the Prophet’s death the condition of women in Islam began to decline and revert to pre-Islamic norms.

Yet just as the women’s movement in the West began to pick up steam in the twentieth century, the same thing occurred, although to a lesser extent, in the Muslim world at this time. Feminists in the Muslim world in the twentieth century (until the 1980s) were generally upper-class women whose feminism was modeled after feminists in the West.

But just as modern socio-political models in the Muslim world after the colonial period began, in the 20th century, to shift from Western models of society and government to “Islamic” models, feminism in the Muslim world began to take on Islamic forms rather than aping the Western feminist form.

This has been true not merely for Muslim women but women throughout the entire third world. Having thrown off the shackles of colonial imperialism, women of the third world are increasingly growing resistant to the cultural imperialism marketed by the West, even in the form of feminism.

Hence, third-world women, like women of color in the West, are realizing that while they have certain things in common with the struggle of Euro-American feminists, what is best for Euro-American women is not necessarily going to be best for them. Consequently, Muslim women have been developing a distinctly “Islamic” feminism, just as women of color in the West have been developing “womanism” in contrast to feminism, which primarily was shaped by the concerns of upper-class Euro-American women.

One example of the differences between Western feminism and Islamic feminism concerns the issue of “veiling.” The hijab (often translated as “veil”) is in the form of a scarf or hair covering commonly worn by Muslim women. It has always been seen by Western feminists as oppressive and as a symbol of a Muslim woman’s subservience to men.

As a result, it often comes as a surprise to Western feminists that the veil has become increasingly common in the Muslim world and is often worn proudly by college girls as a symbol of an Islamic identity, freeing them symbolically from neo-colonial Western cultural imperialism and domination.

Women in Islam

Gender Equality in Islam

Gender Equality in Islam – Muslim Woman Rights

Gender Equality in Islam

Gender Equality in Islam

“I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other (3:195)”

Spiritual equality, responsibility, and accountability for both men and women is a well-developed theme in the Quran. Spiritual equality between men and women in the sight of God is not limited to purely spiritual, religious issues, but is the basis for equality in all temporal aspects of human endeavor.

Adam and Eve: Gender Equality

The concept of gender equality is best exemplified in the Quranic rendition of Adam and Eve. The Quran states that both sexes were deliberate and independent and there is no mention of Eve being created out of Adam’s rib or anything else. Even the issue of which sex was created first is not specified, implying that for our purpose in this world, it may not matter.

“O mankind! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity (nafs), and out of it created its mate, and out of hte two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand your rights from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you! (4:1)”

Quranic translators disagree on the meaning of “nafs” in the above verse which Muhammad Asad translates as “living entity.” Many claims that “nafs” translates as “person,” that is, Adam. But according to Asad and other scholars, God created humankind and its sexual counterpart out of its kind. The Arabic word referring to mate (zawj) in the above Quranic verse is grammatically neutral and can be applied both to males and females interchangeably.

So it is not clear, nor should we conjecture, that Adam was created first, Eve was created out of Adam, or that Eve/woman is innately subservient to Adam/man. The fact that this Quranic verse does not specify one specific sex over the other is proof of gender non-bias and equality. It is commonly (and mistakenly) argued that Adam was created first and that by this gesture God finds the male dominant and superior to the female; however, the wording of the Quran in the aforementioned verse does not support this claim.

The Quran describes how Adam and Eve were told to avoid a specific tree, which they both approached. For this act of disobedience to God, they were consequently banished from the garden; however, later both repented and were forgiven by God. The Quran does not allude to Eve tempting Adam to eat from the tree and is responsible for their downfall. In the Quranic version, both were held accountable and both paid the price for their choices, proving that gender equality is an intrinsic part of Islamic belief. (See Quran 2:30-37)

Accountability, Independence, and Freedom of Choice

Women are independent individuals, as exemplified by the fact that all human beings will be accountable for their intentions and deeds on the Day of Judgment when “no human being shall be of the least avail to another human being” (82:19) If men were ultimately responsible for women (fathers for their daughters, husbands for their wives, etc.), then this accountability would be solely on men’s shoulders to bear until the Day of Judgment. But this is not the case: “And whatever wrong any human being commits rests upon himself alone; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden…” (6:165)

Consequently, we cannot be judged according to our deeds unless we have the freedom of choice to do so. This free choice carries with it the responsibility to make the right choices or pay the consequence for wrong ones, best exemplified by Adam and Eve.

Equality in Practice

In the Quran, reference to men and women is through attributes and deeds, by which we will be judged. The most pious of us, or those who follow God’s commands, are referred to as “believers” or “mu’mineen” (pl.) in the Quran. In many references, the Quran resonates this equality by eloquently repeating “men and women” with ethical and practical qualities throughout the verses, and even emphasizes this ten times in the following verse:

“Verily for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves before God, and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remmber God unceasingly: for all of them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.” (33:35)

It is paramount to understand that the Quran equates being a “mu’min” (sing.) with actual practice so that it is not enough to just have faith in principle; we must put our faith into practice. The same applies to our belief in the equality of men and women; gender equality as outlined in the Quran must also be put into practice. About the above verse, modern scholar Laila Ahmed in “Women and Gender in Islam” says that “the implications are far-reaching. Ethical qualities, including those invoked here–charity, chastity, truthfulness, patience, piety–also have political and social dimensions.”

Gender Equality in Islam

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Islamic Inheritance

#1 of The Greatness of Islamic Inheritance

Islamic Inheritance

A source of significant controversy both inside and outside the Muslim community is the Islamic law of inheritance. This “law” is a continuing process of interpretation of Quranic rules and principles to form the complex “laws” of inheritance under Islam. It is a dynamic process that, based on specific text in the Quran and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, continues to be discussed in each Islamic age by Muslim scholars addressing changing issues and times.

Islamic Inheritance

Before delving into this complicated and controversial area, one must first realize that Islam revolutionized women’s inheritance rights. Before the Quranic injunction — and indeed in the west until only recently — women could not inherit from their relatives, and in the case of Arabia at least, were themselves bequeathed as if they were property to be distributed at the death of a husband, father, or brother. Thus, Islam, by clearly stating in the Quran that women have the right to inherit for themselves, changed the status of women in an unprecedented fashion. The Quran states:

“Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind.” (Quran 4:7).

Thus, whether women can inherit at all is not controversial. Rather, the dispute centers around the “share” that is to be inherited.

The same chapter of the Quran goes on to state in detail the division of property based on the number of relatives and the level of the kinship of the inheritor. (See Quran 4:11) The injunction that a male relative receives a share equal to that of two females applies only to the inheritance of children by their parents.

Parents who inherit from a deceased child, for example, each inherit one-sixth of the property if the deceased child is survived by a child of his or her own. In that instance, the division is equal between the mother and the father of the deceased. The verse then states what the mother shall receive if the deceased left no children or if the deceased left siblings.

Presumably, the father and the mother inherit equally in those situations. The rationale behind a brother receiving double his sister’s share, on the other hand, is based on the Islamic legal presumption that he should provide for her support.

Bearing in mind that these verses were revealed in Arabia over 1400 years ago, when women had no financial security other than what was provided by men, these verses demonstrate the care and respect given to the family unit, and ensured that women’s rights would continue to be protected.

Hence, brothers with sisters were given larger shares than their sisters, together with the legal obligation to spend a portion of this wealth on those sisters.

Within the field of Islamic scholarship, there is much discussion on the topic of inheritance. Some scholars argue that these rules apply only if no will was left by the deceased and that the division can be changed by a will. Presumably, the will would be analogous to debt and would be paid before any other disbursement of property. (See Quran 4:11; Fathi Osman, Muslim Women in the Family and the Society, at 24-25.)

Furthermore, a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad states that a person can will up to one-third of his or her property in any manner, thus allowing equalization of gender-based default presumptions. (It should be noted that a majority of the Sunni schools of thought state that the one-third share cannot be bequeathed to natural heirs; however, others, including the Shiite school, disagree with this limitation.) Moreover, transfers of property can be made during the life of the testator.

The majority of schools argue that the verses guide as to who should be provided for and at what level. Furthermore, some scholars maintain that these laws are applicable only in an Islamically-based legal system and government where a woman would have recourse against a relative who was obligated to provide for her but failed to do so.

One may argue that in the absence of a complete application of Islamic law, where the rights of women will have no teeth, Muslims should turn to the spirit of that law, which is justice and find ways to accomplish this goal. This is especially true where Muslims are a minority, as in the United States. Muslim scholars, legislators, and researchers must — and are beginning to — boldly address this issue to focus on these challenges. The Islamic laws of inheritance are, like all issues in Islamic law, a dynamic process that must respond to the many challenges and opportunities that world changes present.

Islamic Inheritance

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