A lot of the suspicion surrounding Islam comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding of a religion that is still foreign to many people, despite its 1.6 billion followers. Often this lack of knowledge results in the public cooptation of important aspects of the faith.
Words like jihad and shariah have become synonymous with things like terrorism, violence and radicalism, resulting in Muslims being unable to freely use or express these important tenets of their faith.
To help clarify some common misconceptions about one of the world’s largest religions, here is a page from my Muslim dictionary.
: peace that comes from submission
Islam derives from the Arabic root consonants s-l-m, which means submission.Islam is also derived from the root word salaam, meaning peace. Islam is thus the submission of oneself to God through which the highest form of peace is attained. Assalaamu alaykum, a common Muslim greeting, is translated from Arabic to be “Peace be upon you.”
: one who has submitted
The word Muslim in Arabic is also derived from the same root consonants as Islam, s-l-m. A Muslim is one who has submitted or surrendered; in this religious context, a Muslim is one who has voluntarily submitted to God’s will or God’s decree to achieve peace.
: The God
The word Allah can be broken down into two parts. The al is a prefix definite article that translates to the. The second part luh simply translates to God. Therefore, Allah refers to The God. This is an important clarification to make because Allah is not a God Muslims believe in that is inherently antithetical to other groups’ beliefs; rather, Allah just refers to The God. From an Islamic viewpoint, this is the same God that the other Abrahamic faiths believe in. For example, Christian Arabs would also refer to God as Allah.
: a spiritual self struggle
Jihad is derived from the Arabic root word juhud, which means effort. Jihad is thus generally the process of exerting effort and can be applied to nonreligious actions. In the religious context, however, jihad does not mean waging a holy war or engaging in violence. Rather, the greatest form of jihad is an individual’s struggle with the self — the heart, the soul. A Muslim exerts effort in daily life activities — such as pursuing an education or a career — to do and achieve good for the personal process of self-improvement so as to achieve internal peace and closeness with Allah.
: legal reasoning; law
Shariah derives from the root shara’a and refers to a pathway or a path that leads to water. Shariah refers to the pathway upon which the believers should tread so as to reach this source of water i.e. the righteous way of life. The shariah is derived from Quranic revelation, the Prophet Muhammad’s sunnah (Peace be upon him) or his traditions and sayings, and other sources of law and legal reasoning.
: a school
The word madrasah derives from the root consonants d-r-s, meaning to learn or to study. Derived from this root, madrasah literally translates into a place where one goes to learn or study. A madrasah, though it can be, is not necessarily exclusively for religious studies; for example, a high school Muslim American student in the United States would refer to her public high school as a madrasah.
The implications of this false use of rhetoric is neither trivial nor inconsequential; rather, it has serious implications for the millions of Muslim Americans living in the United States. This false rhetoric — used by everyone from the 2016 presidential frontrunners to our next door neighbors — contributes to the increasingly unwelcoming and hostile environment and promotes dangerous Islamophobic sentiment.
The use of jihadists to refer to terrorists and Islamism to terrorism is detrimental to American Muslims’ ability to freely and confidently practice and express faith. Reversing the seemingly continuous stream of hatred directed towards Muslims requires fostering a deeper understanding of Islam among Americans, and so I offer to you a page from my Muslim dictionary.
30 Rabiul Akhar 1437
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Living in the west, the hijab has become a potent indicator of identity with many non-Muslims viewing it as a political statement. However, it is pertinent to note that the hijab is, first and foremost, an act of worship that women engage in, and an act undertaken to seek the pleasure of one’s Lord.
The definition of a hijab is fiercely contested by many Muslims, and unfortunately most of those who engage in the topic are unaware that it is very much defined by Islamic law, the Shari’ah, and not cultural habits or one’s idea of what modesty is, or should be.
In discussing the hijab, Islamic jurists have stipulated a number of conditions for it to be a hijab in the Islamic sense. In brief, these conditions are that one’s clothing must cover the entire body in a way that the shape of the body is not apparent and the material must not be so thin that one can see through it. Clothing should not resemble that which is specific to men nor the disbelievers. It should not be attractive to men, nor should women be perfumed in public. The main aim of hijab is to stop fitnah; females who are attractive by nature attract the gaze of males which then leads to other greater sins such as fornication and adultery. Allah commanded women neither to display their adornment nor to display any form of behaviour that might attract the attention of men. Allah says,
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers or their brothers sons, or their sisters sons, or their women, or the female slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.”
“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner. And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and perform As-Salat, and give Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger.”
As the verse states, Allah forbids the wives of the Prophet to incite the desires of weak men, and given that this effective cause (illah) is to do with desire which is found everywhere, then this command should certainly be applied to all other women as well.
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.”
On the streets of London, Amsterdam and other big cities in Europe we witness various types of un-Islamic hijabs. Tight Jeans (also known as ‘skinny jeans’), long leather high heeled boots and tight shirts with a head scarf are all typical representations of the kind of hijab that is now being promoted by many young and middle aged Muslim women. Fancy scarves are also a form of covering that is seen as a ‘Shari’ah compliant hijab’. Indeed, the way many Muslim women adorn the hijab defeats the whole purpose of hijab itself. Furthermore, western women are very fond of attracting the interest and attention of men. It seems that many of our Muslims sisters have been influenced by this and have started to wear clothes to attract the admiration of “brothers” in an enticing way.
One of the main problems is limiting the hijab as being a manifestation of female Muslim identity. When France banned the hijab they looked at it as a religious symbol unable to understand the meaning of ibaadah (worship). However, it is unfortunate to see many Muslims treating it as merely a form of identity, and once the symbolic representation has been accomplished the necessity to perform it in a way that meets its conditions laid down by Allah is overlooked. This is one of subtly reprehensible values that many western Muslims have unknowingly adopted. We have to understand that Islamic practices including observing the hijab are actions of ibaadah. They are meant to please Allah, avoid being disobedient, and earn hasanaat in order to attain a high rank in paradise. Allah says,
And (remember) when it was said to them: “Dwell in this town (Jerusalem) and eat therefrom wherever you wish, and say, (O Allah) forgive our sins; and enter the gate prostrate (bowing with humility). We shall forgive you your wrong-doings. We shall increase (the reward) for the good-doers.”
Whosoever desires the life of the world and its glitter; to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds therein, and they will have no diminution therein.
This is a major mistake that many Muslims fall into when undertaking many Islamic practices. Having the correct aim in wearing the hijab is the first and main step towards a solution for this problem. It should be noted that projecting concerns about this non-shar’ii form of hijab does not imply discouraging Muslim women from observing a limited form of hijab which they have chosen, but instead it serves to encourage Muslim women to progress to observe the correct method of hijab. The intention of this article is driven by the desire for improvement and progress and not to incite women to withdraw from the hijab completely.
Some Muslims posit that we should not be strict in calling for the proper observance of many Islamic practices in the west, and as such, we should encourage Muslim women to do as much as they are, without criticism, even if some do not complete such observance. Undoubtedly we agree to encouraging Muslim women to do as much as they can, but correcting wrong or incomplete Islamic practices is an obligation upon those who know.
It is indeed the case that many sisters are completely ignorant about the conditions of the legally valid hijab, and hence it is incumbent upon us to raise awareness of the legal conditions and features of a correct hijab. Knowledge is the cure for many of our mistakes. Advising sisters who undoubtedly wear the hijab out of good intentions as well as educating their parents is another way towards solving this issue. It might be a good idea to print and distribute some leaflets that describe the authentic hijab in a way that goes beyond merely a head covering.
The New Year
by Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh
Having just completed the year, the ‘New Year’ is seen and heard all around us. However, the question remains as to what should be a Muslim’s take on these events.
Upon the passing of a year, the common trend is to celebrate; people have birthday parties, wedding anniversaries etc. However, in certain spheres this is not the case; take the example of a businessman who at the end of the (financial) year will first take stock of the past year. He will meticulously go through the accounts of the past year taking into account every single penny. He will check to see if he made a profit, and if so then how can he make more in the coming year. He will check his expenses: where did he spend his money? Can he make further savings? All of this is done so that he can make the coming year more profitable than the one that has passed.
This should be the case at the end of the year in every Muslim’s life for we too have been sent to this world as businessmen with the commodity of time; which is life. We will have to one day give account for every second in the Court of Allāh ta‘ālā, when our books of deeds shall be presented.
We will bring forth a book for him that he will find wide open, (and We will say to him) ‘Read your book. Enough are you today to take your own account.’ (17:13-14)
‘Umar radhiyallāhu ‘anhu, emphasising the same, says:
Take stock of your own lives before Allāh ta‘ālā reckons you. And assess yourself before you are assessed by Allāh. And prepare yourselves for the great summoning.
It is our belief that on the Day of Judgement Allāh ta‘ālā will reckon us for everything that we did in the world.
On the day when everybody shall find present before him whatever good he did and whatever evil he did, he will wish there would have been a wide space between him and that (day). (3:30)
No matter how minute or trivial an act we did, we will find that it is present in our book of deeds.
So, whoever does any good act (even) to the weight of a particle will see it. And whoever does evil (even) to the weight of a particle will see it. (99:7-8)
This will be to the extent that in awe people will say:
‘Woe to us! What a book is this! It has missed nothing, minor or major, but has taken it into account.’ Thus they will find whatever they did present before them, and your Lord will not wrong anyone. (18:49)
We need to keep this reality in mind and spend our lives with regular reflection on our actions with Murāqabah and Muhāsabah. Murāqabah means to supervise and oversee oneself to ensure that he/she stays away from disobediences of Allāh ta‘ālā and spends every moment seeking the Pleasure of Allāh ta‘ālā. Muhāsabah means taking account of one’s activities at the end of the day, week and year; and thanking Allāh ta‘ālā for the ability to have performed any good actions and seeking forgiveness for any sins one may have committed. Inshā’allāh, if this is adhered to, then we will see a great change in our lives. We will find ourselves spending every second of our lives with great care.
The end of a year is a time to reflect and say to yourself, ‘Another year from my precious life has passed. Who knows how many more years, if any, I have remaining?’ Let us spend them in those avenues that bring the pleasure of Allāh ta‘ālā and stay away from those things that bring His displeasure, so that we can meet Allāh ta‘ālā in a state that He is pleased with us.
© Riyādul Jannah