LAWFUL AND UNLAWFUL IN ISLAM.
"Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil one by his touch hath driven to madness. That is because they say: Trade is like usury, but God hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving directions from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past, their case is for God (to judge) but those who repeat (the offence) are companions (of the fire): they will abide therein (for ever)". (II : 275).
Lending money on interest is forbidden by Allah from the fact that the word used is the Qur'an is "Riba" which ordinarily means usury i.e. lending of money at an exorbitant interest Some appear to think that thee is no objection to lending or borrowing money at or within the rate of interest established by law. They also take their stand because the following verse:
"O ye believe ! devour not usury, doubled and multiplied but fear God; that ye may (really) prosper". (III : 130)
But this alternative claim is baseless. "Riba" means not only usury but also interest in general. The word is derived from "Riba" which means "to increase".
Is the word usury different from interest ? According to the Oxford dictionary "usury means lending money at exorbitant or illegal rates of interest". Therefore what exactly constitutes usury?
Interest is not different from usury, but as we have explained above usury is the same as interest, the Arabic word is "Riba" which means "to increase". Interest is simply a modern name given to usury, which does not have the objectionable connotations which have become associated with usurers used to charge exorbitant rates of interest that usury came to be objectionable. The modern financial system of the capitalist world makes the rate of interest more plausible. Anyone, however, who understands something about economy can point out that the United States or any other European country play havoc with the economy of the world when higher rates of interest are given in relations to other countries. Can we then say that this particular country indulges in usury while the rest of the world operates on the interest system.
There is no doubt that what constitutes usury is forbidden. Perhaps no prohibition has been expressed in more categorical terms that usury. The Prophet (PBUH) says in his farewell sermon:
"Allah has decreed that no usury is admissible".
Allah Himself states in the Qur'an:
"O Ye who believe ! fear God and give up what remains of your demand for usury; if ye are indeed believers. If ye do not, take notice of war from God and His Apostle".
Given this absolute prohibition, who wants to be at war with Allah and His Apostle. We must be careful with what we receive of returns on our investment. There are two elements which differentiate usury from principle investment.
i) This relates to the element of risk which must be borne by every investor. You give your money to a man or an institution to invest because you are confident that they can make successful investment which gives you some return. If by doing so, you are made to understand that you are liable to incur a loss in as much as you are liable to make a profit, then you have satisfied the first requirement which makes your investment lawful. Nobody wants to make a loss. But every trade and business has this risk element, in which every investor must share. If there is no such risk, then the partnership is unequal. Hence, it is forbidden.
That according to Islam, money cannot generate money. It is the effort, or the expertise, or the skill of a certain person or an institution which generates money through a business activity. When you give your money to a financial institution and you are told that your money will give you a certain fixed percent every year, this means that the mere action of depositing your money with that institution gives you that fixed percent return. This is forbidden in Islam.
Does the interest given by Banks nowadays fall under usury? In our modern world, all business transactions inevitably involves banks which invite some measure of giving or taking interest. How does a Muslim deal with this situation?
The fact is that usury and interest are absolutely the same. They involve an initial sum of money being deposited with a person or a financial institution for a period of time and then recovered with an additional sum. It is this excess which makes the whole dealing absolutely forbidden in Islam. All interest based banking transaction operated by modern banks fall under the single category of usury and interest. They cannot be countenanced by any Muslim.
It is the nature of the dealing of a certain bank which determines whether it is proper to use the services it provides or not. If one opens a current account with a certain bank and does not get any interest on that account, he is making a legitimate use of the bank, despite the fact that the bank itself deals in interest. A person is responsible only for his own actions. What is not legitimate from the Islamic point of view is to open a deposit account where money deposited is returned, after a period of time with an extra sum in the shape of interest. It is also not legitimate to make arrangements in order to receive a loan which is repaid with interest. In short, it is what one uses the bank for which determines the legitimacy of his dealings.
How does one deal with a banking institution that declares that it is abiding by Islamic principles and offers a "PROFIT and LOSS" account?
When a banking institution declares that it will abide by Islamic principles and offers a "PROFIT and LOSS" account, the onus is on that institution to keep true to its word. According to Islam, contracts are judged on the face value of their terms. In other words, when you deposit your money is such an account and the bank assures you that you are liable to make a loss in as much as you liable to make profit, then no blame attaches to you if you take the bank at its word. When you are certain, however that this is a mere cosmetic to cover up an essentially interest earning account, then the proper course of action is not to deceive oneself. You must, however be certain of your grounds. The proper attitude is to go to the bank and put to them all the questions you need to satisfy yourself of the legitimacy of such an investment. If they assure you that the commission they will be paying you at the end of the year, or any other agreed period, depends on the performance of their own investments and involves an element of risk, no matter how small, then you may invest your money with them, without going into any more details. The fact that you receive returns year after year, at varying rates, and without making loss, is only to be expected. After all they are experts in investment. You give them your money because of their expertise.
Interest is forbidden in Islam. What does one do when we see that funds deposited in current accounts would only dwindle by the yearly deduction of Zakat?
I fully appreciate the case where, fears of your savings dwindling gradually, especially if one has to survive on them, very real indeed. The need for such savings to be invested is clearly obvious. Moreover, the reluctance of a person who reaches retirement age to venture into the world of business when he does not know much about it, is understandable. These considerations, however, are not enough justification for anyone to receive interest and use it for his basic needs. The fact is that we must abide by Allah's ruling in order to expect His help and receive His grace. Thus we must abide by His teachings and His orders and not enter into any interest based transactions.
Having said this, I may ad that it is not difficult to think of ways of investment which do not carry great risks. You may consider buying a small farm and employing someone who can look after it for you, considering that you may not know enough about farming. You may wish to consider, alternatively , entering into a partnership with a successful businessman in your hometown or city or even abroad. Moreover, there are Islamic Banks and companies which accept investments from people all over the world. You may wish to contact these, and possibly, place your investment with several of them rather than placing all your investments with a single company which may run into some difficulties.
In recent years, however, large companies have started to offer participation in their activities on the basis of partnership which satisfies the Islamic requirements. These are a number of such companies working in Saudi Arabia, Egypt Pakistan, Sudan etc. There are also similar companies in the Gulf States and elsewhere. You may find that dealing with such companies gives you the assurance of investment with a large concern and at the same time satisfies the Islamic conditions in this regard.
Another form of investment is, in stocks and shares of companies in your own country or in United States, Europe etc. In principle, investment in stocks and shares is acceptable, provided that the establishment whose stocks and shares you buy deals in something acceptable from the Islamic point of view.
You may say that any of those forms cares a measure of risk. This is true, but the element of risk must always be present for any investment to be acceptable from the Islamic point of view. When a transaction ensures return, whatever the performance of the project, this transaction is unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. It becomes part of what we term as usury.
"O ye who believe ! Eat of the good things that we have provided for you, and be grateful to God, If it is Him ye worship". "He hath only forbidden you, Dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of God. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits; then is he guiltiness. For God is oft-forgiving most Merciful". (II : 172-173).
Unless when compelled by dire necessity and not willfully indulging in them when the need for them ceases to exist a Muslim is prohibited from partaking of the following whether openly or by stealth :
i) That which dieth by itself,
iii) Flesh of swine,
iv) That which has been sacrificed under the invocation of any other name than that of Allah,
v) That which has been strangled,
vi) That which is killed by a blow,
vii) That which is killed by a fall,
viii) That which is killed by goring and
ix) That which has been partly eaten by beasts of prey i.e. game, unless it is slaughtered as required while still alive.
All the above has been declared to us through the following verses of the Qur'an: (II : 173); (V : 2,4,5,6) ; (XVI : 115).
God has also informed us:
"O ye people ! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and God; and do not follow the footsteps of the Evil one, for he is to you an abowed enemy". (II : 168).
With regards to the things forbidden, taken under dire necessity (XVI : 115), the Muslims is allowed to partake of them if there is a question of the individual's life or death and that too only enough to save his or her life. With regard to drink i.e. wine or "KHAMR". Men are enjoined by Allah to abstain or shun it. According to commentators the word "KHAMR" used in (V : 93) is defined as anything which intoxicates. Hence all intoxications are forbidden, except when medically required and for a short period only.
"O ye who believe ! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handiwork; Eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper". (V : 93).
The meaning of the word "KHAMR" is "VEILED" or "COVERED". The prohibition of drinking such intoxication was a process in stages and chronologically revealed as follows:
First stage Sura XVI Verse 67.
Second Stage Sura II Verse 219.
Third Stage Sura IV Verse 43.
And finally Sura V Verse 93.
What is the difference between Makrooh and Haram?
Makrooh is translated as discouraged, while HARAM is forbidden. A thing is discouraged when there is no specific ruling which makes it forbidden, but it is not proper for a Muslim to do. If someone does not offer his prayers until it is almost time for the next prayer, and does that regularly, his practice is discouraged or MAKROOH. He is not showing due respect and attention to his prayers. You will find that such a person tends to think of prayer as a burden.
On the other hand, a thing is forbidden, or HARAM, when we have a clear ruling it unlawful for a Muslim to do. Thus, drinking or gambling are forbidden because the Qur'an states that there are two practices of the devil's own making. Failing deliberately to do something ordered by the Qur'an or the Sunnah is forbidden. Thus, to fail to pray deliberately is to commit something that is forbidden. If we do something which is discouraged or MAKROOH, we do not commit a sin. We are not liable to be punished for it by Allah. We stand to loose something of Allah's reward, however, In our previous example of delaying prayers until their time is almost over, our reward for praying is much diminished for this delay. If we do something which is forbidden, we incur a sin and are liable to be punished. Thus if we neglect our prayers, we will be punished for that negligence.
Can a businessman hoard food such as wheat, rice and sugar etc. in order to make a larger profit in future? Is it forbidden to hoard food for more than 40 days?
To buy food at the peak of its season, when prices are low, and to store the same for a period of time in order to ensure a good margin of profit is permissible, provided that the same items remain available at shops at reasonable prices throughout that period. To do this in fact, is sound business practice. We must not, however lose sight of the condition I have just stated, namely, the availability of the same article of food in the market. If the same are in short supply then their storage becomes an act of monopoly. Prices will rise, but they only rise artificially because these commodities are withdrawn from the market. At this point, their continued storage, in order to ensure larger profit becomes forbidden. Thus, the matter depends on the conditions of the market and the need for the commodities stored.
It is not correct that storage of food for a period of over 40 days is forbidden. It is all subject to the conditions of the market. If the storage is done buy a family, having its supply for a long period of any commodity, this is perfectly acceptable. The Prophet (PBUH) himself provided for his family their supply of certain commodities for a whole year. Hence it is a matter which is decided by common sense and market conditions.
What are the requirement for a proper slaughtering of an animal, can we use a sword or stab the animal?
There are two conditions for slaughtering to be proper; that the cut should be made across the animal's neck from one artery to the other and to deep enough to ensure a quick death, and that Allah's name must be mentioned as the slaughtering is made. The normal form used is "In the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest". i.e. BISMALLAH AR REHMAN AR-RAHIM, ALLAH O-AKBAR". Thus any animal slaughtered for the "honor" of a person or an object without mentioning Allah's name is not lawful to eat.
We are further recommended by the Prophet (PBUH) to use a sharp blade and to hold the animal to be slaughtered in a comfortable position. When these conditions are fulfilled the slaughtering is proper and the meat of the animal so slaughtered is permitted to eat. There is so special requirements concerning the instrument to be used apart from its having a very sharp blade so that the pain is minimized. A sword is an appropriate tool to use, if its blade is p enough and the cut is effected in the above mentioned manner A strike with the sword or knife, say on the chest or head of the animal is not proper. Similarly stabbing the animal in any of the body makes it unlawful be it.
Are Muslims living in western societies allowed to partake the animals slaughtered there, and the Fast Food available in Restaurants?
Animals slaughtered in other ways, or slaughtered by non-muslims other than Jews or Christians are not permissible to eat. This is general rule, but as there is an exception in the case of animals slaughtered by followers of earlier divine religions, namely Jews and Christians, scholars are of the opinion that animals slaughtered nowadays in Western Countries using the method of electrical stunning before introducing a cut with a knife to allow the animal to bleed are also permissible to eat. This applies only to large animals. When it comes to chicken, these societies use a method which makes most of the birds die before they are actually slaughtered. Hence, it is far better to refrain from eating them.
There is no mechanical method which is in use today to slaughter large animals such as sheep and cows by machine on a massive scale. Each animal is killed individually. Certain countries use methods which do not meet the Islamic requirements in killing animals. When such machines are used (for small animal such as chicken) we need to be careful and establish for ourselves that the Islamic requirements of throat cutting, bleeding and mentioning of Allah's name are fulfilled.
When we speak of eating ready-made (or fast) food in western type restaurants we have to remember that anything which comes from the pig is forbidden to consume. If we can establish that the "fast food" eating places use only beef in their Burgers and do not use lard, which is the fat taken from the pig for frying, then their food is permissible to eat. If we suspect that lard is used, then it is safer to refrain from eating in such places.
Is it permissible to hunt birds to eat? Which birds are forbidden to eat? What if the bird dies as a result of the shot and before the hunter is able to slaughter it?
It is perfectly permissible to hunt and shoot birds to eat. There is no restriction except that we do not do that when we are in the state of consecration, i.e. IHRAM, when we go for the pilgrimage or Umrah, nor do we hunt within the Haram area, which surrounds the Ka'aba. The Qur'an says:
"O ye who believe ! Kill not game while in the sacred precincts or in pilgrimage garb". (V : 98)
"Lawful to you in the pursuit of water game and its use for food; for the benefit of yourself and those who travel; but forbidden is the pursuit of land game; as long as ye are in the sacred Precincts or in pilgrims garb" (V : 99)
Birds of PREY, generally, are forbidden for us to eat. Otherwise, all birds are permissible.
You do not have to slaughter the bird you have shot in order to make it permissible for you to eat. You slaughter it if you catch it alive in order to relieve its pain. Your shot might have injured the bird and in capacitated it from flying but it could live with that injury for a long time. Rather than do that it is mare merciful to slaughter it. If it dies as a result of the shot, it is still permissible to eat.
Why do scholars give different opinions on smoking; Some of them say that it is forbidden, while others say that it is preferable that people refrain from smoking? I should be grateful if you would kindly explain in detail the reasons for this difference in opinion on a question which seems to be straightforward.
It is thought that smoking as a habit was imported into Europe after having made one of the early voyages to the New World. That means that smoking was totally unknown in the world at the time when Islam was revealed. Hence, we do not find a specific ruling about smoking in the Qur'an or the Hadith. It was possible for Islam to specify a ruling for something which was totally unknown to people so that its verdict would be known when it is discovered. Neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah is a legal code which contains judgments on everything which is or will be available to human beings in any period of time. What Islam does is to outline certain principles which could be used by scholars to determine how Islam views something which may not be known at the time of its revelation. The starting point is that everything is permissible unless there is cause to prohibit it. This is a basic principle which applies to food and drink in the same way as it applies to actions and practices. The verdict on smoking therefore, must be deduced in the light of these principles. In matters of food and drink, a new substance is judged to be permissible or forbidden after taking into consideration whether it is harmful, intoxicant, contains any forbidden stuff or it has any effect on the mind. There are other factors which may be taken into consideration.
At the beginning, smoking appeared to be harmless. Neither ordinary people nor physicians could relate smoking to any particular ailments or symptoms which used to affect smokers. Therefore, the majority of Muslim scholars did not see anything wrong with smoking. Nevertheless, some of them did pronounce a verdict of prohibition or, at least, strong discouragement on the basis that smoking was an expensive, useless habit which gave smokers a bad smell. Some of them were under the impression that tobacco had a debilitating effect on the mind and the body. These scholars were probably in the minority, but they belonged to all schools of thought.
More recently, the harmful effects of smoking have come to light. Perhaps the first comprehensive study on the effects of smoking on health was the report published by the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom in 1970. Prior to this there were several reports and studies which showed that smoking had harmful effects on health, but this report put the case against smoking in the proper perspective, showing the magnitude of the problem and its very serious effects on health. As a result, the British anti-smoking society received a boost and it started a campaign for effective legislation against smoking. As European and American countries followed suit and the movement against smoking began to gather momentum, a warning of hazards of smoking was made obligatory to be published on every packet of tobacco. Advertising of cigarettes and other methods of smoking was curtailed and smoking in public places, transport and other enclosed areas was either disallowed or discouraged.
With better knowledge of health hazards of smoking, and all uses of tobacco, it was necessary for Muslim scholars to make their judgement of whether tobacco was permissible or not. We have to understand something of great importance in this connection. It is always more difficult for a scholar to pronounce something as forbidden that to say that it is lawful or permissible. That is partly due to the basic principle which we have already mentioned, namely, that everything is permissible unless there is cause to prohibit it. Moreover, the only authority which may forbid something is Allah. Scholars try to determine the Islamic view of something on the basis of what they have of principles and information about that particular thing. Sometimes it happens that scholars do not have the same information about a particular thing and people keep asking them whether it is permissible or not. This applies particularly in the case of smoking. The first people to suspect that smoking is injurious to health were probably smokers themselves. However, that could have only been a suspicion rather than a well-founded conclusion. After the findings of the Royal College of Physicians, there could no longer be any doubt about the effects of tobacco. But not every Muslim scholar who is called upon to give a verdict on smoking can be expected to understand the health aspects of smoking thoroughly. Many have only vague idea that it is a harmful substance, but they are not truly aware of the extent of the harm it causes. Therefore, the only verdict to be considered is one which brings together the findings of medical research and Muslim scholars. Several attempts have been made in this regard. In different countries, Muslim authorities were asked to give their verdicts on smoking. The more learned a scholar, the more insistent he is on having as complete information as possible about the effects of tobacco on health. When such information was submitted to different scholars, their verdicts have been largely identical.
Recently, the World Health organization sent a number of relevant reports about the effects of smoking on health to a number of Muslim scholars in Egypt and Saudi Arabia asking them to consider the question of smoking and whether it is permissible or forbidden in Islam. The reports show very clearly that smoking is not only very harmful to the health of the smoker himself, but it affects others as well, through what s termed as "passive smoking". That is, when non-smokers are forced to inhale tobacco smoke because they happen to be near to one or more smokers in a confined area. The reports also show that young children suffer much if their parents, or either of them, smoke. The scholars have replied to the questions put to them by the World Health Organization and their replies are being published in a booklet on the subject which is due to appear in a few weeks time. I happen to have read the manuscript of this publication and I concur with the findings of the ten scholars who have given a resounding "No" to this unhealthy practice. The verdict does not stop at pronouncing the action of smoking as forbidden, but it also forbids planting tobacco and selling it. More and more scholars are giving the same verdict throughout the Muslim world, as they get to know more and more about the extremely harmful effects of smoking. Indeed, now that we know how hazardous tobacco is to the smoker and to those who happen to live with him in he same home, or who share an office with him or to fellow passengers in a bus, train or plane, any verdict other than prohibition need to be supported by very clear evidence which is not easy to find.
In order to understand why the case is so, perhaps it is enough to quote a report of the World Health Organization which suggests that if we give through intravenous injection an amount of nicotine equivalent to that present in one cigarette to the most healthy person in the world, it will kill him instantly. That mean that tobacco is poisonous. It is certainly forbidden to consume poison in any way or form. Smoking tobacco means inhaling poison, albeit in very small amounts. The cumulative effect of that is certainly very serious. All the diseases caused by smoking, such as a lung cancer, cannot be easily dismissed. All this supports the verdict of prohibition.
There is, however, more to smoking than giving a straightforward verdict of prohibition or otherwise. Smoking is a life time habit. It is not enough to tell a person that smoking is forbidden in Islam, when he has been addicted to this habit for twenty or thirty years. Moreover, stopping smoking is not merely a matter of training oneself to do without something which he has been used to do. The addiction cannot be easily overcome. Moreover, when western government started to impose bans on advertising tobacco and taking other measures to dissuade people from smoking, tobacco companies tried to offset their inevitable drop of income by undertaking programs if intensive marketing of their evil products in Third World countries. They cared nothing for the health of people, and they wanted to make sure of the highest income they could get. Some of them resorted to the criminal practice of increasing the addictive ingredients in their foul product in order to make it more difficult for people to stop smoking.
As a result smoking became widespread in certain countries such as Egypt, where the majority of the population in cities smoke. Considering the problem in this light, it is not sufficient to pronounce a verdict of prohibition of tobacco or that government's promulgate laws forbidding smoking altogether at once. Of they do it, there will be a great deal of exploitation of smokers who cannot easily stop smoking. What is need is a long term program of educating people and encouraging them to stop smoking and to provide all the facilities which help them to do so. At the same time, restrictions on advertising tobacco should be imposed. Many governments in third world countries have started their own anti-smoking programs. The Saudi government is implementing such a program and concerting efforts in an attempt to spare people the evils of smoking. Further legislation is needed to ban smoking in public places and confined areas . Perhaps the most effective law promulgated in this connection is that of Belgium which imposes very hefty fines on smoking in public places. Here, in Saudi Arabia, smoking is now banned in Saudia International flights and certain international flights. The campaign goes on and it is hoped that it will not be long before smoking disappears from the whole world.
"O Prophet ! Tell the wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad); That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And God is oft-Forgiving, most Merciful". (XXXIII : 59).
Arabic "LIBAS" Decent apparel at the time of public worship is enjoined in the Qur'an:
"O children of Adam ! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer". (VII:31)
"O ye children of Adam ! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you, but the ruinment of righteousness; that is the best. Such are among the signs of God, that they may receive admonition". (VII : 26).
According to tradition a dress of silk is not, lawful for men, but women are permitted to wear it. Men are prohibited from wearing gold ornaments and also ornaments of silver, other than silver signet ring. Other saying of the Prophet (PBUH) as reported in the MISHKAT:
"God will not look at him on Day of Resurrection who shall wear long garments from pride". "Whoever shall wear a silken garment in this world, shall not wear it in the next".
"God will not have compassion upon him who wears long trousers (i.e. below the ankle) with pride".
"It is lawful for the women of my people to wear silk and gold ornaments, but it is unlawful for the men".
"Wear white clothes, because they are the cleanest, and the most agreeable, and bury your dead in white clothes".
PURDAH, the equivalent of which in Arabic is "HIJAB" or "SITR" means a veil, or covering or curtain. Purdah system generally means the system of keeping women secluded from the company of men. The injunction by Allah:
"and stay quietly in your houses, and make not dazzling display, like that of the former times of ignorance". (XXXIII : 33).
Shows that there was no purdah or seclusion of women in Arabia before the advent of Islam and this is supported by most orientalist writers. There is no doubt that the veil was introduced into Arabia by Islam and from different injunction in the Qur'an the Muslim women are enjoined to observe purdah. It requires them:
i) "To be home abiding and not go out in Public decked as in the days of their former ignorance i.e. in pre-Islamic times". (XXXIII : 33),
ii) "To be dignified in their conversation with men". (XXXIII : 32),
iii) "That they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty". (XXIV : 31),
iv) That they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested". (XXXIII : 59).
v) "That they should draw their veils over their bosoms" (XXIV : 31) so as to cover their heads, necks and breasts. No mention is made here of covering the face and hands".
vi) "And not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's father and other male relatives as are within the prohibited degree of marriage". (XXIV : 31; XXX : 55).
vii) "That they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (most ordinarily) appear there of". (XXIV : 31) i.e. their hands and faces.
Could you specify what parts of the body may be revealed during prayer?
For a man, the parts of his body which he must cover during prayers, or indeed at any other time, are from his waist down to his knees. The navel is considered the mark where this part to be covered begins. If a person prays with nothing on except what covers this part of his body, his prayers are acceptable. Having said that, however, I should add that we are recommended in the Qur'an to wear decent clothes when we pray. Decency is something relative, and differs from one society to another. What is generally considered as meeting the standards of decency and propriety is acceptable, provided that it meets the requirements of Islam. It is not obligatory in any sense for a man to wear a cap or a head cover when he prays.
Since these Islamic requirements are very simple in the case of men, there is rarely any chance of disagreement between what is considered decent in a certain society and what Islam requires. It is however, different in the case of women where Islamic requirements are much more stringent. A woman is required to cover all her body during prayers excepting her face and hands. Even when she is alone in the room when she is praying, she has to meet these requirements. Furthermore, her dress must not be tight or transparent.
Is it compulsory for a Muslim woman to cover her face when she goes out? You are of the opinion that they need not cover their faces or their hands. I am told that some `liberated' Muslim women maintain that the veil was obligatory for the pious wives of the Prophet (PBUH), and that they "the common women" need not observe it?
It is not obligatory from the Islamic point of view that women should cover their faces when they go out, or in the presence of men who are "strangers" to them. "Stranger" is used here in the Islamic sense which means as man to whom she may be married. What Islam requires of a women in such cases is to cover all her body, including her head, excepting her face and hands. This is based on the tradition that, Asma, the sister of Aisha, the Prophet's wife, entered into the Prophet's home wearing a transparent dress. The Prophet (PBUH) said to her "Asma" when a woman attains the age of puberty she may not reveal of her body anything except this and this" (the Prophet (PBUH) pointed to his face and his forehands).
There are some scholars, however, who insist that even the face and hands must be covered. Their view is not supported by any specific evidence. Rather, it is supported by a narrow interpretation of the same Quranic statements and traditions which are used by the scholars who say that women may reveal their faces and hands. Historically, however, Muslim women started to cover their faces in periods when social circumstances made it more in keeping with propriety to do so. This came about either through social relaxation of the standards of morality, or through influence of external factors, such as the invasion of certain parts of the Muslim lands by the crusaders. Muslim women felt that it would be more honorable to distinguish themselves by covering their faces. Such social and historical considerations, however, do not alter a general ruling which Islam makes. We receives our legislation from Allah alone. He has made it permissible for women generally not to cover their faces and hands, and this remains His ruling.
An exception is made in the case of a woman whose appearance with her face uncovered may cause what is termed FITNAH. Such a woman is required to cover her face. It is difficult to define what is meant by FITNAH, in this connection. The word is derived from infatuation. It can also mean social problems. What we can say, however, is that in the normal circumstances, a woman need not cover her face or hands. Special factors relevant to the social environment she is in may make it necessary for her to cover her face. If a women does so, it is solely because she prefers to do so by choice.
As for the Hadith quoted previously, there is nothing to suggest that the advice contained in it was of a limited application. Neither the Hadith, nor the occasion on which it was said, nor any other Hadith gives us any hint of that. Moreover, the way the Hadith is phrased in Arabic supports its general application. A more accurate translation may be given as follows:
"When a woman attains the age of puberty, nothing is permissible to be seen of her except this and this".
You note that the passive voice is used here. That indicates the omission of the person(s) who does the action. According to Arabic linguistics, this indicates generality. Moreover, since the Hadith states what may not be seen, it follows that the parts which are indicated by the words "except this and this" are permissible to be seen.
The other point which is modern that which concerns the Prophet's wives. It is not logical that the veil should be imposed on the Prophets wives because they were pious, while it was not imposed on common women. That logic requires the opposite legislation, making it compulsory for a common woman to wear the veil, while allowing a pious woman not wear it. Her piety, in this case serves as a substitute for covering her face. But this is no more than a misuse of a certain fact due to lack of knowledge.
What is the Quranic support that women do not have to cover their face, but must cover their heads?
The Quranic verse which refers to the requirement that Muslim women have to cover their heads, may be given in translation as follows:
"And say to the believing women, that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty (chastity); and that they hould not display their beauty (charm) and ornaments (in public) except what (most ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils (head cover) over their bosoms." (XXIV : 31).
The verse goes on to make a further exception in the case of those men before whom a woman may take a more relaxed attitude with regard to her appearance. These are her husband and her relatives to whom she cannot be married. What we have to examine here is the phrase
"except what (most ordinarily) appears therefore or also translated "beyond what may be apparent of that". Scholars, including some companions of the Prophet (PBUH) have interpreted this as meaning a woman's face and forearms.
The Quranic word ZEENAH which is used here means outward charm and it also refers to a woman's makeup and what she may wear in order to improve her appearance. It is needless to say that the phrase in question does not refer to those items on their own. A man may look at a woman's jewelry or makeup when she is not wearing them. These articles are like any other thing which one may see, examine and buy without any blame or prohibition being attached to him. What the Quranic verse refers to is the place of a woman's body which may be described as her charms. It is for this reason that interpreters of the Qur'an and other scholars have explained this particular phrase as a reference to a woman's face and forearms.
I realize that other interpretations have been given to this phrase, but to my mind, the interpretation I have just quoted is the one which seem most suitable in view of the practice maintained in the early Islamic periods.
The interpretation it supports is that the phrase "beyond what may be apparent of that" refers to a woman's face and forearms.
Another Quranic verse which does not directly address this question is still relevant to it. At a certain point in time, the Prophet (PBUH) was forbidden to marry any women other than those to whom he was already married. Verse 52 Surah 33 may be translated as follows:
"It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee". (XXXIII : 52).
The question which arises here is, how would the beauty of those women please the Prophet (PBUH) if he could not look at their faces ? Long before the proper Islamic dress was imposed, the Prophet (PBUH) was not in the habit of gazing at women. In fact, he was always exemplary in his sense of propriety and he was very shy. What this verse tells us that the Prophet (PBUH) was allowed to look at women's faces, like other Muslims, because the face of a woman need not be covered.
Is it permissible for a Muslim to wear western style clothes?
It is forbidden in Islam to wear something which is a distinctive mark of any religion other than Islam. It is forbidden, therefore to wear the dress normally worn by Buddhist or Christian priests or Jewish rabbis etc. There is nothing wrong on the other hand in wearing what is commonly acceptable by people of different nationalities. Western-style clothes, such as a suit and a tie, are used by the general public in many an Islamic country, especially in towns and cities. There is nothing wrong therefore, in wearing such clothes, provided they do not violate the essential rules of Islamic dress which are well known for both men and women.
Though we are certainly required to maintain our own characteristics so as not to be confused with the followers of other religions. Imam Ibn Taimiyah wrote a dissertation on this subject showing that Muslims must try to have their own distinctive style in dress, food and practices so that a Muslim is immediately distinguished by his appearance in the same way as he is distinguished by his name, speech and beliefs. It is authentically reported that Umar ibn Al Khittab wrote to the Muslims living in Persia warning them against adopting the style of non-believers in their dress. Thus we should certainly be keen on maintaining our distinctive style as we are indeed distinguished by our faith.
"Let no man guilty of Adultery or fornication marry any but a woman similarly guilty or an unbeliever; Nor let any but such a man or an unbeliever such a thing is forbidden". (XXIV : 3)
On punishment for Adultery.
The punishment prescribed by Islam for adultery i.e. for married men or women is stoning to death (RAJAH) (SAHIH AL-BOKHARI VOL VIII. Article LXXXIII Hadith No. 814 to 817). The punishment prescribed by Allah for fornication i.e. unmarried men or women. (AL BOKHARI Vol VIII Hadith No.815 also Hadith No.818-819) the punishment is one hundred lashes and exile. This is stated clearly in the Qur'an:
"The woman and the man guilty of Adultery or fornication flog each of them with a hundred stripes; Let not compassion move you in this case, in a matter prescribed by God". (XXIV : 2).
Any country which implements Islamic law must abide by this legislation when the requirements of evidence are met. Once a crime for which a specific punishment is prescribed in Islam is proven, then no judge or ruler can waive the punishment or reduce it or pardon the guilty person. This is because punishment of such crimes have been prescribed by Allah. For anyone to claim the authority to change Allah's legislation is inadmissible. If anyone, be he a judge, a chief justice, or indeed a ruler or a king, claims such authority, his claim must be treated as a claim of divine authority. According to Islam, this is a claim of Godhead.
This does not mean that Islamic courts set to pass severe sentences in every case which comes before them. Indeed, Islam prefers that the need for such punishments does not arise. The Prophet (PBUH) has taught that if anyone slips and commits a sin he should try to keep it secret, pray for Allah's forgiveness and mend his ways. This is the proper attitude when the violation of the law becomes well established, the Imam or the Ruler must apply the prescribed punishment.
In the case of adultery, what is required to implement the prescribed punishment is a clear and voluntary confession by the person concerned or four male witnesses who declare that they have seen with their own eyes the crime being committed. Anything short of that is not admissible as proper evidence. Let me say here, that it is not true that the witnesses required are four women and two men. Indeed, women's evidence is not acceptable in cases of adultery. Four male witnesses are required. This requirement is no reflection on the intelligence or ability of women, it is understandable in the type of society Islam aims to create.
In the case of the first type of evidence, the confession, it must be voluntary. Indeed, the judge or the Imam must establish before panning sentence that the person concerned is of sound mind and knows what he is admitting and the punishment which awaits him for such on admission. The confession may be withdrawn at any time prior to the infection of the punishment and any such withdrawal is accepted without question. Moreover, if someone confesses to Adultery and names his or her partner, only the one who has made the confession is punished unless the partner concerned also makes a voluntary confession.
In the case of four witnesses giving evidence, four honest men must testify to have seen the crime being committed. The judge must establish that there is no malice involved. He must also make sure, through cross-examination, that they know very well what testifying to Adultery means. If any of them fails to make an absolutely clear evidence or hesitate in his testimony to the extent that makes the judge determine that he has not seen an actual crime of Adultery the testimony of all witnesses is rejected and the accused person is not punished. However, if fewer persons accuse any person of Adultery and cannot complete their number to four witnesses they are punished for accusation without proper evidence. This offence carries a penalty of 80 lashes and a rejection of their testimony in any legal case.
When we consider the evidence required, we are bound to come to the conclusion that the prescribed punishment for Adultery is indeed for a person whose guilt weighs so heavily on him that he makes a voluntary confession, knowing that the punishment which awaits him is stoning to death. He prefers to receive such a punishment than to be punished for his crime in the hereafter. It must be also pointed out to him that if he is not punished in this life and he sincerely repents of his crime, Allah may forgive him. It is useful to point out here that the infliction of punishment means that the adulteration will not be questioned about his adultery in the hereafter.
In case a wife confesses to Adultery during husbands long absence, is the marriage still valid?
The fact that the woman is guilty of Adultery, according to her own confession, does not have any effect on the validity of her marriage. She remains married to her husband and neither of them need have any qualms over that.
What is greatly important, however, is for that woman to turn to Allah in repentance and firmly resolve not to commit that sin again. Moreover, she should try hard to atone for her mistake by voluntary worship and praying to Allah requently for forgiveness. If her husband knows that she has genuinely repented of her guilt and she harbors no intention whatsoever of it again, then he may resume his marital relationship with her without the need to go through any formality. It is of course, open to him to divorce her if her character remains suspect.
We have to understand the problems of such women who are left alone to look after their families, while their husbands go to work abroad. While is no blame to be attached to the man for trying to provide his family with a decent living by working abroad, we have to recognize that the pressures on the wife who stays behind with young children constitute a heavy burden which she may not be fit enough to undertake. It is for this reason that Islam does not allow a man to be away from his wife for more than four months unless she willingly agrees to his prolonged absence. From the practical point of view, however, a man working abroad may not be able to make more than one visit a year to his family. In this situation, problems may arise of which the one we are discussing today is an example. The problems can be overcome by understanding compassion and a genuine desire on every side to do what is right and to repent of past mistake.
One can then pray that the family will be able to determine the right course of action which will bring happiness and enable everyone to forget and forgive and what his happened in the past.
If a person is accused by another group of committing adultery and the court of justice finds the accused to be innocent and releases him, what is the punishment prescribed by Islam for those who had leveled the charges? Thus actually having committing perjury?
Any false accusation is a very grave sin, from the view point of Islam. Allah has put perjury on equal footing with idol worship as He forbids both in the same Quranic verse:
"But shun the abomination of idols and shun the word that is false". (XXII : 30).
No specific punishment is set for perjury. It is however, a punishable crime, but the punishment is left to the judge to decide according to the gravity of the case.
A false accusation of adultery leveled at any person is, however, a special case of perjury for which punishment has been prescribed in the Qur'an Allah says:
"And those who launch a charge against chaste women and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations); Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after; for such men are wicked transgressors". (XXIV:4).
It is obvious that the punishment is severe indeed. Moreover, it combines both physical and moral punishment. This is due to the fact that Islam places very strong emphasis on morality. Since Muslims are required to observe a high standard of social morality, the moral fabric of the society must be protected against those who have no scruples to deter them from falsely accusing people of committing adultery. From the Islamic point of view, it is far better for the society that a crime should be left unpunished in this world than suspicion to spread among the community and people should walk in the society knowing that they are suspected by others of having committed adultery. Moreover, a person who accuses any Muslim of adultery and cannot substantiate his accusations by providing the witnesses required, is one who shows careless disregard to the social and moral values of Islam. He is either a person with a grudge against the person he accuses, or a person who cares little about the morality of the society. Such a person should be punished severely.