CULTURAL FORCES AND MUSLIMS IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

The following article was written for the ‘The Homeland’ journal around the years 1997-98. It contained some observations of mine regarding a cultural crisis in the forging of Muslim identity in the West and in some respects that were taking place in the wider Muslim world before popular Nasheed artists of the likes of Maher Zain and Sami Yusuf. At the time I felt that it was only a matter of time until those Muslims – particularly those understanding the effects of the popular western culture on younger generations – challenge the Islamic revivalist forces opposed to all things musical and artistic and create a third way. A school of thought that sought to restore balance and equilibrium in the Muslim psychic. You will therefore notice that only mention was made of Yusuf Islam formerly, Cat Stevens. This is simply because he was the only Nasheed artist that I would follow his only battle with the question of Islam and music and so mentioning him is purely the fact that he is an icon from my generation.

The article written during a time when my writing style was in the early stages of its development begs for my editorial attention, but I have decided to leave it largely untouched and instead add some context to it.

In the original copies there were footnotes and references, but I have decided to leave those out in this published version, for mainly technical reasons. May Allah forgive us any trespasses.

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Is Muslim literary and artistic expression poised to defend the realm against Western cultural saturation and its affect upon Muslims in the West? Malick Elias writes in defence of music and entertainment and argues that Muslims at the cross-roads of a crisis need to begin expressing themselves and asserting their identity.  

Experiencing the crisis:

 ANY MUSLIM living in the real-world will know by now or at least have experienced the results of a deepening cultural crisis facing Muslims in the West and to a lesser extent those in the Muslim world today. The affects have been felt most by Muslims families who daily experience injury to their self-esteem bringing up children in a cultural environment unsympathetic to their moral choices. When the feeling strikes – that they either have to integrate within main stream Western culture to be accepted or to opt out with a confused sense of identity and suffer isolation – then you know they are in crisis. These stark choices can be crude and depressing.

 “What can I do? I am only one person, and I have myself and family to think about -” is a thought each of us will have muttered at some time in dark moments of our frustration. Alternatively there are those of us (exploding with self-assurance)  who refuse to suffer injury to their self-confidence only to face the imaginable frustration of having to communicate their aspirations to their children. These feelings of disappointment are borne out of a widening cultural-gap between the old and young generations which undermines a parents’ ability to communicate their moral concerns to their offspring, positively and assuringly. As a parent it is easy to forget that our children will soon reach the age when they too have choices to make on their own. They should not have to cross our (sometimes foolhardy) moral boundaries to make choices such as; the type of entertainment they are allowed to enjoy, at the expense of “declaring war on Islam”. As the great Andulusian Muslim scholar pointed out: “I have tried to find one goal which everyone would agree to be excellent and worthy of being striven after. I have found one only: to be free from anxiety. When I reflected upon it, I realised that not only do all agree in valuing it and desiring it, but I also perceived that, despite their many different passions, aspirations, preoccupations and desires, they never make the slightest gesture unless it is to expel anxiety… People eat, drink, make love, wear clothes, play games, build a shelter, mount a horse, go for a walk, only in order to avoid the reverse of all of these actions and every other kind of anxiety.”

Ibn Hazm does indeed make an important point. And it relates especially to the bouts of boredom we experience going through the daily cycles of our psychological development. It seems to begin at the earliest periods of the human species; as children we continuously want to be entertained and as grown-ups we become sophisticated attention seekers. Why then do some adults – when anxiety and boredom could be at its worst – think that the need to be entertained is less natural or that serious matters cannot be made amusing?  

Alright, we live our lives constantly ducking calamities, unnecessary hardships and dull moments. In what ways do our parents, elders or community leaders help in cushioning our headlong fall into the consequences of quick fixes and solutions? Many mosques and Muslim community centres though adequately providing for the spiritual needs of the elders within their communities are still failing the increasing needs of our youth. Boredom, the lack of excitement and the unavailability of avenues of expression are exposing Muslim youth to undesirable options. Young teenagers going through difficult phases during poignant periods of their psychological lives are likely to find expression of their teenage frustrations and anxieties in the company of morally delinquent and hapless peers. Muslim scholars, community leaders and activists are still not doing enough – as in opening the bag of ‘could dos,’ to counteract the demands of nature and nurture (society). 

Added to these inefficiencies, there are already mounting pressures on parents to be earners in times of inadequate child care and without the support structures suited to one’s moral choices.  Muslim children will be left unsupervised and without quality time spent with their parents. Does it matter who they are left with? It does. Already, even under our supervision, they are left to the mercy of prime time entertainment television-viewing to shape their creative faculties, develop their social skills and cultural values. Two out of every three Muslim households can accurately name, if not all the star players of their local football team, at least one of their Holly-Bollywood movie idols. How else can Muslim parents or indeed any other parent with specific moral choices exercise their right to shape the expectations of the next generation in the crucial years of their childhood?

The solution is neither in deciding to exclude a television or in forbidding a radio whilst pushing a book of purposeful instruction into their hands. To either choose not to listen to broadcasts or watch television programmes (because it is accompanied by music or songs or portraying the wretchedness of some peoples lives) fearing the influence it may have upon our children is to retreat and; is not a way forward out of our crisis of living in a society that does not focus on the specific needs of Muslims. 

Fine, you may want to retreat and do nothing to rectify a problem that will not go away. Sitting back and hoping that your children will always be there at the Mosque with you will not eradicate the opposite possibility – that they might not have any interest in your moral choices. Children grow up, they become independent individuals and in a society like Britain, their rebellion against the restrictions and fears of parents is met by support from the state. Every Muslim parent (except to whom Allah has been merciful) will face one of these scenarios or are already experiencing it in one form or another.  Giving our boys their freedom and keeping the girls under house arrest will work no longer. Both must be armed with a strong sense of affiliation to Islam as a way of life, code of practice and an alternative system of moral choice but not detached from their societal experiences. 

To overcome the cultural void we need role models to show us how to articulate their experiences and achievements of living in two worlds. Muslims are in no need of the Secular-Mufti-Mullah types; those who tell us how important it is to gain an education or that we should practice what is stated in the Quran and prophetic traditions, but are themselves unable to bridge the gap between the dictates of old institutional practices and the new ones we now face. Role models are needed from amongst those who are able to express their Islamic and Muslim identity through contemporary literature, art, the intellectual and academic sciences, and in the fields of sport and entertainment. 

Our future generations of role models will set the standards of achievements in shaping the future conduct and aspirations of Muslims in the West. Moreover, they are the ones that can bridge the cultural gap and fill the void that Muslims today experience in the search of ‘the  Muslim identity.’ We have to arm them with the information necessary to harmonise Islamic ideals with the harsh realities in order to allow them to release their potential.

Muslim Culture?

It is not accurate to claim that there is a cultural void spanning the various sections which constitute the ethnicity of the Muslim Community. In Britain, for example, Muslims of the Asian sub-continent, Africa and the Middle East each have a semblance of a cultural identity which they have tried to maintain against all odds. I attended the recent launch of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) – which was set up to speak on behalf of Muslim interests in Britain and forge stronger links among them –  and was greeted with poetry from the Indian sub-continent! Not that I am not an admirer of Muhammad Iqbaal or any poet from the Muslim world, but his time has ended and along with him his experiences. It is now time to listen to poems reflecting the experiences of Muslims in Britain and the West IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE WEST. It is those who have accepted Islamic values from the background of Western indigenous culture who find it more difficult to make claims of having any Muslim identity. Therefore it is worth noting that when one speaks of Muslims in the West and a cultural vacuum a distinction must be made between the particular cultural background of various ethnic minorities and the void that exists among them as a Muslim collective. 

Collectively, and at any one time, there may be a least three competing identities seeking recognition in one ethnic group. Take for instance, a Pakistani living in Britain – not withstanding the fact that he or she maybe of first or second generation – in his/her cultural identity there is certain to be remnants of the Indian sub-continent (in his food, clothing, symbolism) interacting with his sense of Britishness. Extra complications arises if one happens to be ‘practising Muslims’ – maintaining certain traditional religious practices and values exclusive to their Islamic orientation. This can either act as a filter for determining what is acceptable behaviour from the dominant culture (its values, beliefs,  role models  and practices) as well as is can act to counteract it. 

This sub-conscious mechanism which either acts against or allows acculturation to the overpowering culture is innate to any ethnic group. It is especially strong among those consciously committed to an Islamic way of life who sense unacceptability from the dominant culture and thus help create the very feeling of existing in the cultural vacuum which we mentioned earlier. 

Speaking to women who have decided to integrate within main-stream culture by taking off their head scarves for example; it was constantly the case, that their anxieties were being made to feel un-accepted or on equal par with members of the dominant culture. It is often because the pressures of the dominant culture are so overwhelming – by its constant projection of itself as a more exciting, upwardly mobile and freer way of life – that feelings of fear, isolation and rejection are targeted at it. Other responses – which now seem to be a growing trend as seen from the sitcoms and satires of minorities in the film industry, aimed at making comedy of their own cultural backwardness, are having the reverse effect. However, the majority of people have chosen to forget about it all and maintain their ethnocentricity and Islam in their domestic life and on festive occasions whilst continuing to reap the benefits of living in the way they can. 

Thus, is the state of Muslim culture in Britain and in the West; somewhere in between shades of duplicity and struggling for recognition and self-confidence. Having a double identity is not so bad if one is conscious of his or her responsibility bearing the Muslim identity and as the verse states the, “heart is tranquil with faith.” What is abominable is to become one of the new breed of dominant-culture prototypes who exploit the misfortunes, frustrations and anger of their own kind to secure a position in the world by portraying their other half as a loony and a misfit. 

The complexity and diversity of Muslim culture in lands not indigenous to their belief and value systems are bound to give birth to unique problems and crises. There will always be a price to pay, whether one decides to integrate, isolate or dissimulate. It is more difficult to safeguard one’s household from the fears that we hope will pass it by, than to engage in bashing other Muslims who end up misfits of either culture; the dominant host culture or the weak sub-culture. Let’s face it, there isn’t such a thing as Muslim Culture in Britain. There are Asian, African, and Arab Muslim cultural trends but there isn’t a culture which reflects the experience of Muslims in the West. The Prophet’s traditional practices (Sunnah) do not constitute the whole of Islamic culture. They are only a constituent of it. They make up the essential beliefs, values and virtues to aspire for – which are in themselves universally acceptable by reasonable minds. It is the continuos experiences of a people or individuals; their admirable achievements, the memorable days in their history the good times and the bad, in a particular time and place, which complete their culture.  These we have to forge for ourselves and make known to others through literature, film, poetry, paintings, music and so on. 

Stepping into the Front-line:

The role of the entertainment industry has grown immensely in public importance during the last decade. This has been partly due to the active role which governments now play in promoting entertainment as devices for diverting the urge for power and the grievances of the masses into channels which are not threatening to society. This trend is being adopted by Muslim governments themselves. Now, not only are Muslim indigenous cultures and its Islamic values under threat from the West’s global culture but the daily lives of Muslims increasingly becoming overshadowed by it. 

Islamic communitarian ideals have fallen victim to the individualistic culture produced by modern technology, the television, and other multimedia systems.  It is now enough for us to interact with one another in the same village through cables and the satellite systems. So much so that a concerted effort has to be made to find the time to meet publicly in common venues and gatherings. There is much talk among some Muslims about opening theatres and public houses for the sharing of cultural interests, this is an admirable step in the right direction. Such public venues would certainly assist in addressing the anxieties created by the host culture. At the least it would give adults and youth a forum for expression. However, a revolution does not come about without brave-hearts and people willing to sacrifice their honour. Artistic mediums are the best way to promote Culture. In the West it is generally about entertainment and amusement and Islamic conservative forces are resentful of this. What is first needed is a change of attitude towards a more moderate position and rationalisation of amusement on the whole in Islam. 

The recent decision of Yusuf Islam, formerly the pop singer Cat Stevens, to return to music ‘for Islam’ is a brave and decisive step towards doctoring the problem. His decision to change his approach to music and musical instruments which was made back in 1977 following his embracing Islam has come at the right moment when so many Muslims are crying out for a means of expression. It will also be a great relief to the many Muslim artists and musicians who have been operating in the shadows of the underground scene for some time. What follows is a treatise which the author hopes, will rationalise and justify a change in attitude.

The Muses, between Passion and Resentment!

The debate among orthodox scholars on music stem from the mixed feelings among the companions of the Prophet (saw) with regards to الغناء; the Prophet’s granting of permission to sections of the people of Medina to indulge in the playing of some localised musical instruments and; also his clear consent to localised forms of entertainment in festivals such as Eids, weddings… These instances within which no conclusive Quranic text or prophetic statement on what forms of music were allowed or forbidden mean that the issue was one left up to the conscience of individuals, and of the collective leadership to lay down specific checks and balances to regulate its affects upon society. 

The first two Khalifs, Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq and Umar ibn al-Khataab, were too busy expanding the interests of Islam and possibly had, little love for, or any interest in, music. Under Abu Bakr, his noted dislike for muse and his determination to maintain political stability within renegade and new territories, would have contributed to the general suppression of any artistic expression that had existed before Islamic expansion northwards. Henry George Farmer in his book (History of Arabian Music), makes this point saying, that in spite of the austere regime of Abu Bakr, the wealthy and the nobility may have indulged in forms of amusement in private. He suggests that Umar may have been a little different than his predecessor and may have had a taste of listening to singing girls providing their songs did not go beyond moral confines.  

Under Umar, the newly expanding Muslim empire with large influxes of people from the former Byzantine and Persian civilisations forced artistic expression to the fore towards the end of the first century Hijriyyah. Fresh cultural contacts found expression in new types of singing that added to the simple caravan songs of the Arabs of the “Days of Idolatry”. Combined with the non existence of conclusive doctrinal inhibition or directive from the prevailing Muslim leadership banning or regulating people’s artistic tastes, the general public had become divided between those known to be indulging in the listening of music and those who frowned upon such activities. 

By the end of the reign of the first four Khalifs what was once beneath the surface became widespread among the affluent and the nobility so much so that the renowned scholars of the day decided against its legality. Abu Haneefah is said to have “disliked singing, and classified it as a sin.” Imam Malik was asked about the endorsement of  the Prophet (saw) to the people of Medina to indulge in entertainment they were accustomed – among which was listening to music on festive occasions – to which he replied “only the abject (al-Fusaaq) among us do that.” Imam Shafi’i writes in one of his treaties on the Etiquette of Judges, “al-Ghinaa is a detestable (Makruuh) entertainment and resembles that which is false; he who excesses in it is an half-wit (Safeeh) and his testimony in Courts is rejectable.” And Imam Ahmad is said to have replied when asked about al-Ghinaa by his son: “It creates hypocrisy in the heart and I dislike it.” 

Their decision to speak out against music was in fact recognition that the issue had previously gone unchallenged; but, by then had now became widespread and identifiable with sections of the populace which demonstrated moronic and morally lax behaviour. 

What is also clear from the many statements of these great scholars was the absence of mechanisms of enforcement or of any proscribed penal or public reprimands (Ta’zeer) for the people of muse. The problem was so entrenched among the masses, particularly the nobility and the Khalifs of that period that the best they did was to default musicians (and any one engaging in detestable artistic professions) the right to claim liability if the tools of their trade had been deliberately damaged. Perhaps they feared causing an upset among the ranks of the nobility or maybe did not think about the impossibility of eradicating the problem and of ways of effective regulation?

Looking at the wider picture it is not difficult to see that the views of those Fuqahaa (legalists) aforementioned, and those that sharing their sentiments, had little impact upon curbing the artistic tastes of the wider society.  Subsequently they did not go unchallenged by later legalist who were still faced with the social problems resulting from an abuse of the muse. So it leaves one to wonder how could the Fuqahaa (legalist) reach a consensus when the issue itself was inconclusive during the Prophet’s lifetime, and was continued to be publicly challenged throughout Islamic history? In spite of this, some still argue in a manner as if  the matter had been settled.

Moreover, music among many other forms of entertainment were important issues of “public concern”. Classical Muslim scholars gave great importance to issues of public concern in the belief that issues of this type had to be addressed by the Prophet as part of his duty in executing his mission. If such an issue was not made conclusive (Qat’e) by the Prophet it was considered to be speculative (Masalatuz-Zanni) and judgement was either left to the authority of juri-consult, the head of state to pass legislation or left to the conscience and personal piety (Taqwa) of individuals in regulating their tastes and choice of entertainment. 

Music, Entertainment, Sport and Culture in the Balance: 

The manner in which music is discussed by those opposing it gives the impression that it should have had the same status of that of alcohol consumption, fornication and adultery. If this be the case then the issue would have had to have been conclusively addressed by the law (Shar’) — music, poetry, sport, the arts and so on are matters that do constitute “public concern” — instead what we see from the data presented to us is that neither did the Quran nor Prophet (saw)  cast a blanket judgement over entertainment, including music.  Even in the few significant traditions that are used as proof of prohibition on the question of music, those of Hisham Ibn Amar: “From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, wearing of silk, drinking alcohol and the playing of stringed instruments as lawful …”and Abdur Rahman Ibn Saabit: ” Verily from amongst my Ummah there would be disgrace, transformation (of people) into animals and false accusations of adultery.  Some companions asked:“ O Messenger of Allah!, are these people (Muslims)? ” He replied: “Yes, if string instruments and wines and the wearing of silks become prominent in society. ” one cannot conclusively claim that they refer to the total prohibition of all forms of music.

Thesetraditions demonstrate a concern for the effects of ma’aazef and doplace it in the public domain. However the menace of stringed instruments must be seen from the perspective of its use of  it in the Prophets era as ameans for inciting  seductiveness. This is clear from the Prophet’s statements in that stringed instruments are pitched together with other lavish, sensuous  and above all, misplaced and immoral acts. Sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk and the drinking of alcohol are only wrong and immoral in so far as their purposes are misplaced. Sex is great, but not promiscuously or outside of the full commitment to one another in marriage, for instance. Neither is silk or alcohol forbidden in themselves when both can be used in medicine and one looks better on women and the other can be used in so many other utilities within the chemical industry. Therefore matter, in itself, is not forbidden. Similarly stringed instruments, the gun and television are to be judged upon the basis of the purposes they serve at a particular point in time.

Could it be then that many classical scholars overlooked that fact that it may have been “excessive amusement and entertainment” of a “base type” that was morally unacceptable. “Excessive,” because it was not conducive to the focusing of the minds to engage in the promotion of Islam and the defence of the realm? “Base,” because there is sufficient evidence to prove that the Prophet did not intend to ban اللهو (amusement of sorts), providing it served the objectives of the community –  as poetry did at that time – and were in accord with Quranic moral guidelines?

Furthermore Quranic texts which are seen by the advocates of the non-permissibility of al-Ghinaa as “conclusive proof” for forbidding music are themselves the same evidence used by those advocating its permissibility. For example the verse “And of mankind is he who pays for mere pastime of discourse, that he may mislead  (others) from Allah’s way without knowledge, and makes it the butt of mockery.  For such there is a shameful doom” is seen by some Quranic commentators (Mufassireen) to be linked to a contemporary of the Prophet (saw) who bought girls to sing for him night and day. The assumption of ‘conclusive proof’ is set upon the opinions of a number of companions of the Prophet (saw) who viewed this verse as referring to music. 

Al-Qaysarani, in his book as-Simaa’, disputes that the term اللهو refers to الغناء  (frequently translated to mean music). He argues that the Prophet himself would not have used the term  اللهو  (amusement) had there been an immoral stigma attached to it. In hadith Hishaam Ibn ‘Awrah on the authority of his father that ‘Aa’esha, the Prophet’s  wife, related to him that after she had attended the wedding of an Ansaar couple the Prophet asked her,“…wasn’t there any اللهو; the Ansaar are ecstatic about it (When there is lahwu in the festivities)? 

Furthermore the above verse explicitly stipulates a particular type of lahw; that which was deliberately aimed at misguiding or instigating immorality of any sort.  How then could it – the most important for the prohibitionist – be used to cover all forms of entertainment, particularly الغناء

Al-Ghinaa covers many different forms of entertainment from various forms of poetic chants such as wedding eulogies, work and war melodies, many of which have strong foundations in Arabic culture and Muslim tradition.  The Prophet was welcomed into Medina with a now famous eulogy – طلع البدر علينا , he encouraged his wife to witness a war dance accompanied by chants in the Holy Mosque at Medina. The Prophet rebuked Abu Bakr remarks on al-Ghinaa, when he entered upon (visited) ‘Aa’isha’s and the Prophet on the day of Eid, while they both were in the presence of two singing girls singing songs about the battle of Bu’ath.   And it was also reported that the Prophet (saw) himself commissioned a singer to sing for Aa’isha, later showing disapproval of the sentiment and seductiveness in her singing.

Al-Ghinaa then is not Lahw, though it is from it, and has to be distinguished from al-Ma’aazif – which altogether are used synonymously to mean music. Music is best defined as the art of combining sounds in a melodic or harmonic order for aesthetic effect.  The specialization of the word’s meaning began in Greek (Mousike) first referring to ‘poetry sung to music,’ and subsequently to ‘music’ alone. As an art it has two sections, the art of the composer and that of the performer. However today, the word is commonly used with special reference to the section on performance, and to the instrumental execution rather than the vocal. The ArabicAl-Ghina which is used today equivocally to mean music, was a mode of recital of poetry or verse, that was uttered with a trilling, quavering, or prolonging and a sweet modulation of the voice. There were three known styles of Ghina, the Nasb, the Sinaad, and the Hazaj.  The Nasb was the music of the riders (Rukbaan) and the singing girls (Qainaat). The Sinaad, was of a heavy style and the Hazaj a lighter grouping. The Nasb, in which the voice was raised and elevated, was originally used for urging and exciting camels and later applied at the opening of odes (Qasi~dah) for creating a form of nostalgia and yearning in the heart of the listener.  For instance, the opening of the ode of ‘Imru Al-Qays, a famous pre-Islamic poet:

“Stay! let us weep, while memory tries to trace

The long-lost fair one’s sand-girt dwelling place..” 

This is what Ghina meant in particular, later on it adopted a more general usage, meaning the combination of poetry, mode, and instruments, now known as music.

At the time of the Prophet (saw) this was accompanied by few instruments such as the ‘uud, duff, tabl, ma’aazif, jalajil and the mizmaar, all of which were instruments that had deep roots in pre-Islamic Arab culture.

When trying to ascertain the Islamic legal opinion on music one must be clear as to which form is referred to and debated. To confuse contemporary trends of music, identified with the instrumental execution rather than older forms, distinguished  by its poetry, prose, and the powerful use of words and meaning, is a recurring error made when debating this subject.

The point I am making here is clearly demonstrated from the collection of texts used previously. While there is a stronger case for the Prophet’s resentment of al-Ma’aazif and Mizmaar (stringed and pipe instruments); lahw (amusement) of any sort cannot be said to be forbidden providing it retains the Islamic moral ethos. Take ash-Shi’r (poetry) for instance which on the face of certain Quranic verses speaks disapprovingly of it. When contrasted with the Prophet’s expressed opinion of the legible use of  poetry in his media. The Quranic statements in chapter (26) and (31) can only be correctly understood from the background of the evil effects it can have upon society in enforcing purposelessness. 

However these Quranic verses also speak for themselves. If one were to read the complete statements one would discover that they are stressing the good use of these arts and are not leaving the issue ambiguous. By extending this reasoning to stringed and pipe instruments, which may have been used in the Prophet’s day for conjuring up the sensuality and hype of baseless sentiment, they too should be viewed in the light of not being harmful in themselves but harmful on the basis of social aimlessness and irresponsibility. 

Islamic Culture is Chivalrous and Competitive!

Islam encourages all types of artistic expression the abundance of data in Muslim historical tradition confirms this claim. Such as the Prophet’s participation in competitive sports running races, his encouragement of horse and camel-racing for wagers and his rebuking of those who neglected the skills of archery. He loved wrestling; and also acknowledged the theatrical  in his presence. In each of these arts one has to judge its morality on the basis of the purpose its serves within the view of looking at the larger picture and not on the basis of casting blanket judgements.A better criterion then, than saying all music or instruments are forbidden is to use the criterion deduced from combing the exceptions made in chapter 31:6 and 26:221-7. 

Entertainment, amusement and sport (lahw wa la’ib) according to the Quran are to be motivated by a desire to preserve the Islamic existence and conditional to promoting its ethos and way of life. Living a good and upright life should at all times be paramount in the minds of the Muslims. And this cannot be achieved without accountability for one’s actions in this world. The Quran explicitly states, that the life of the world is nothing but amusement (lahw) and play (la’ib) this is true in so much as it is speaking about an apparent reality. However it is also true that this is the reality we have to deal with in the course of our life on earth and the conscious Muslim artist should guard against losing that perspective on life.

Secondly, Allah endowed His creatures with the capacity to enjoy activities that are artistic, sensuous, and luxurious. Shouldn’t these urges be directed to enhance society and our life in this world? This is not injustice on Allah’s behalf. It would have been if humans were not given the opportunity to redirect their animal instincts to doing that which is better. It would be best if humans could immediately recognise and avoid the many distractions which make up the essence of life. It would be ideal not to marry so as to give in to desire and lust; or the juxtaposition, not to have desire so as to avoid making the errors of love.  However some of us have to settle for the good alternatives presented to us through the opportunities presented before us. If you have a personal dislike for the muses leave it to those who incline to such pastimes. People need only be aware of the moral limitations and if they are truly ‘believers;’ they will not steal, commit fornication, or seek to deliberately corrupt others with their voices. Every nation needs forms of entertainment and expression and the Prophet acknowledged amusements to be an important social feature: “…to let other nations know that Islam is spacious,” as he once said. 

The muses can be a powerful tool for social comment and changing people attitudes about Islam, Muslims, their lives, hopes, visions and experiences. Social commentary through painting, poetry, creative writing and so on, need not only be defensive – always having to justify oneself or moral standpoint. It can be used either to highlight or put to record significant achievements of Muslims in the West or even to praise the collective or individual efforts made in the name of Islam. If these mediums are popularised and exhibited, Muslims and non-Muslims can begin to identify with the experiences of others and not feel so isolated and alien. The Prophet (saw) when quizzed by Ka’b Ibn Malik for his views on morality of poetry, he said: “The believer strives with his sword and his tongue. By Him in Whose hand my soul is, it is as though you are shooting at them with it like the spraying of arrows.” 

The Prophet (saw) throughout his life had at his side a vanguard of spokespersons, the equivalent of a Public Relations team who defended his character against his enemies, challenged their propaganda and publicised the victories and experiences of the Muslims (bil-Hijaa wa al-Madh). They were the Prophet’s media and were also the new generation of poets who were responsible for taking pre-Islamic Arabic ode to new literary heights. Among this new breed of poets were the likes of Hasan Ibn Thaabit, Ka’b Ibn Zuhayr and a few remarkable women such as Al-Hasnaa who it has been said, that the Prophet was bemused by her poetry . They were new because they accepted Islam and most of them incorporated Quranic concepts and precepts into their poetry styles.

Today, few are beginning to rise to the challenges of asserting Muslim identity in the West. In this context Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and the many other artists have to be commended for recognising the crisis and taking a stand to address it by practical means. What made him do it I ask myself? Did he always have doubts about the prohibitionists stance regarding it; or was it simply the fact he is a father who has witnessed the impact of the INDIGINOUS-MUSLIM-CULTURE VOID upon his own children. It cannot simply be accepted that his decision was academic or as a result of witnessing the sufferings of the Bosnian people.

“The cognitive dissonance,” that Yusuf may have experienced after his encounter with victims of the Bosnian crisis and the urge to raise awareness and express empathy, are of the same feelings increasingly felt by Muslims living in the West today. Parents are hopeless in staving off the forces of ‘popular culture.’ There are many reasons why this sense of hopelessness besets us; ignorance, the tendency to interpret everything dogmatically without looking at the complete picture, and our obvious rejection of the values of our societies which we seek safety from in becoming believers – only later to reassess our positions. Why not change now and commit ourselves to pushing back the frontiers which invade our spaces and overshadow our destiny.

There is nothing wrong with re-valuing one’s views and opinions providing that one is conscious of the moral dilemmas underlying one’s choice. As Muslims we never lose sight of the belief that life is not without purpose. We are constantly re-evaluating our position in the world. The real test of taking control over the lives we have been given, and of being wholly accountable, is to uniform our beliefs with our actions. ‘The poets’ mentioned in the Quran were accused of lying on the grounds of their irresponsibility for the culture they were its creators, and if they did recite a verse that urged righteousness, they themselves were un-righteous in conduct. If it is all a question of righteousness what’s your comment? 

Hassan Ibn Thaabit said (in reference to the Victory at Badr):

  • Thanks to Allah we fear not an army
  • How many they be with their assembled troops.
  • Whenever they brought a multitude against us
  • The gracious Lord sufficed us against their swords;
  • At Badr we raised our spears aloft,
  • Death did not dismay us.
  • You could not see a body of men
  • More dangerous to those they attack when war is stirred up,
  • But we put our trust [in Allah] and said:
  • ‘Our swords are our fame and our defence.’
  • With them we met them and were victorious 
  • Though but a band against their thousands

Pondering over Similitudes of Truth and Falsehood in the Holy Quran

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ. ١٧

“He sends down water from the sky, and riverbeds flow according to their capacity. The current carries swelling froth. And from what they heat in fire of ornaments or utensils comes a similar froth. Thus God exemplifies truth and falsehood. As for the froth, it is swept away, but what benefits the people remains in the ground. Thus God presents the analogies. (17)”

After my reading of classical Arabic texts such as al-Qurtubi and al-Kashaaf among others on interpretation of verse 17 of Surah 13, the Thunder I found that a good rendering of the actual meaning of the verse in the English is as presented by Imam as-Suyuti and the wider range of esoteric interpretations presented by one of the Sufi commentators of works attributed to Ibn ‘Abbaas (ra).

[13:17]

He then strikes a similitude of truth and falsehood, saying: He, exalted be He, sends down water, rain, from the sky, whereat the valleys flow according to their measure, according to their full capacity, and the flood carries a scum that swells, rising above it, and this [scum] is the filth and the like that lies on the surface of the earth, and from that which they smelt (read tūqidūn, ‘you smelt’, or yūqidūn, ‘they smelt’) in the fire, of the earth’s minerals, such as gold, silver or copper, desiring, seeking [to make], ornaments, adornment, or ware, which is useful, such as utensils, when they [the minerals] are melted; [there rises] a scum the like of it, that is, the like of the scum of the flood, and this [latter scum] consists of the impurities expelled by the bellows. Thus, in the way mentioned, God points out truth and falsehood, that is, [He points out] the similitude thereof. As for the scum, of the flood and of the minerals smelted, it passes away as dross, useless refuse, while that which is of use to mankind, in the way of water and minerals, lingers, remains, in the earth, for a time: likewise, falsehood wanes and is [eventually] effaced, even if it should prevail over the truth at certain times. Truth, on the other hand, is established and enduring. Thus, in the way mentioned, God strikes, He makes clear, similitudes.

[Source:Tafsīr al-Jalālayn by: Jalāl al-Dīn al-Maḥallī Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī; Translated by Feras Hamza and edited and with an Introduction by Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal. Published by: The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought Amman, Jordan, 2007.]

[13:17]

Allah then gave a simile of the Truth and falsehood, saying: (He sendeth down water from the sky) He says: He sent Gabriel with the Qur’an and explained therein the Truth and falsehood, (so that valleys flow according to their measure) so the illumined hearts bore the Truth in proportion of their size and light, (and the flood beareth) the darkened hearts bore ((on its surface) swelling foam) much falsehood due to their whims (from that which they felt in the Fire) this is another simile. He says: and of that which you cast in the fire of gold and silver contains adulteration just as the foam of the sea does have salt (in order to make ornaments) which you wear. Allah says here: the Truth is like gold and silver which benefit people, and falsehood is like the impurities which are derived from the casting of gold and silver, which are of no benefit. Likewise falsehood benefits no one (and tools) ore and copper (riseth a foam like unto it) He says: these also have impurities, i.e. just as the foam of the sea. This is another simile. He says: the Truth is like ore and copper from which people benefit, just as people benefit from the Truth. And falsehood is like the impurities resulting from the casting of ore and copper, which are of no benefit, just as falsehood is of no benefit to anyone, (thus Allah coineth (the similitude of)) thus Allah explains (the true and the false. Then, as for the foam, it passeth away as scum upon the banks) it goes just as it comes: it is of no benefit to its owner, (while, as for that which is of use to mankind) pure water, gold, silver, ore and copper, (it remaineth in the earth) it is useful just as the Truth is. (Thus Allah coineth the similitudes) Allah explains the similes of the Truth and falsehood.

[Source: Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn ‘Abbās; Attributed variously to: ‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Abbās and Muḥammad al-Fīrūzabādī; Translated by Mokrane Guezzou and edited and with a brief Introduction by Yousef Meri. Published by: The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought Amman, Jordan, 2007.]

In conclusion, this verse is a similitude for Truth and Falsehood. Truth is represented by rain which brings a multitude of benefits: to vegetation, wells as well as natural minerals that settle in the valleys [hearts, if taken figuratively] and soil over a long period of time and extracted periodically by people for smelting into various utensils and ornaments. This water, leaves a froth that settles on the surface of the soil and in settles into ponds of clean water with lasting benefits for its users. Unlike the froth which represents ‘Falsehood’ that is thrown away after the smelting of the iron ore extracted from the very earth brought together by the floods over time. That is the example of falsehood. In reality it produces nothing but illusion (a useless froth). When both sources of the scum and foam are compared the first is a direct result of Allah’s sending of the rains and torrents and the second is as a intermediate result of man’s manipulation of the benefits (minerals) and the froth that that produces is thrown away.  While is it true that both froths dissipates in the end one delivers sediments which provides a whole chain of production and products for both human and industrial use the latter is like smog, a pollutant. There are greater emeralds waiting to be discovered in this verse, like for instance the repetition of ‘froth’ or Zabad’ one that settles upon the earth by a natural process and the one that is thrown or cast upon the earth after a process of purification and distillation. Look at the fact that Zabad is used both for ‘Truth and Falsehood’ but towards the end of the verse. The Zabad of Truth – an indication that truth may appear to some viewers as froth-like – but notice how it dissipates into the phase ‘that which benefits people’ and the Zabad of Falsehood becomes Definite. The implied here is (and Allah knows best) is that the roots and veins of Truth’ are deep and therefore produces lasting goodness and ‘Falsehood’ which too can be confusing at times when demarcating it from truth, will eventually disappear and be thrown out, while the former settles and produces clear, clean water. Hence, the suggestion here is that falsehood at times does appear beneficial and may even temporarily bear the upper hand over truth. This simile is consistent with many of the others in the Holy Quran that show the endurance of truth over falsehood as mentioned in Chapter17,verse 81: “And say [O Muhammad] “The truth has come, and falsehood has withered away; for falsehood is bound to wither away.”

See also chapter14,verses24-27: “Do you not see how God presents parable?good word is like good tree—its root is firm, and its branches are in the sky. It yields its fruits every season by the will of its Lord. God presents the parables to the people, so that they may reflect. (25)  And the parable of bad word is that of bad tree—it is uprooted from the ground; it has no stability. (26)  God gives firmness to those who believe, with the firm word, in this life, and in the Hereafter. And God leads the wicked astray. God does whatever He wills. (27)” 

Allah knows best and may He forgive any transgression of mine in commenting upon these verses. 

For more detailed resources and tools for researching the Holy Quran visit the following websites:

http://www.studyquran.org/

http://www.deenresearchcenter.com/Scriptureresearch/QuranicsciencesUlumalQuran/Translations/tabid/98/Default.aspx

http://main.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=0&tSoraNo=1&tAyahNo=1&tDisplay=no&LanguageID=2

https://archive.org/stream/TafseerEQurtubiArabicalJameAlAhkamAlQuran/TafseerEQurtubiVol.12#page/n49/mode/2up

Daily Conversations with God حوارات يومية مع الله

أععوذ بالله العليّ العظيم من الشيطان الرجيم

I seek God’s protection, [who is] above all [things], the Magnificent, from the accursed devil.

بسم الله الّذي… لا إله إلاّ هو الحيّ القيوم ، لَا  تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا  نَوْمٌ ۚ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ  مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا  بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا  يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا  بِمَا شَاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ ۖ وَلَا  يَئُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ ﴿٢٥٥﴾ “ 

[I begin] in the name of Allah, [with] whom there are no other Gods, only Him, the Alive, the Vigilant [that] neither slumbers nor sleeps. [Who] for Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what will befall them and [there past lives] behind them, while they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills [them to understand]. His dominion extends the heavens and the earth and it does not weary Him preserving them both. He is above all [created things], the Magnificent.

الحمد لله الّذي أحيانا بعد إذ أمتّنا و إليه النشور .

All praise [and thanks] is for God who causes us to live after causing our death-like state [sleep] and before Him we rise [once again].

اصبحنا وآصبح الملك لله والحمد لله لا اله الا  الله وحده لا شريك له ، له الملك وله الحمد وهوعلى كل شيء قدير .

We have risen to a new day and the dominion belongs to Allah; all thanks is for Allah, there is no other deity except Him alone, for Him is all sovereignty and praise and He is able to do anything.

أصبحناعلى فطرة الآسلام، وعلى كلمة الإخلاص ، و على دين نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم ، و على ملة أبينا إبراهيم حنيفا مسلما و ما كان من المشركين .

 We have risen to a new dawn on the natural religion of Islam and upon the vow of Monotheism and upon the religion of Muhammad , may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him and upon the pure Islamic creed of our father Abraham and he was not an idolator.

 اللهّمّ إنّا نسألك خيرما في هذا اليوم وما بعده و انّا نعوذ بك من شرّ ما في هذا اليوم و ما بعده . اللهّمّ إنّا نعوذ بك من الكسل ونعوذ بك من سوء الكبر و نعوذ بك من عذاب في القبر و عذاب في النّار .

O God, we ask you to [grant us] any goodness contained in this day and day [s] to come and we ask for your protection from any evil contained in this day and day [s] to come. O God we seek your protection from laziness and the evils of pride and from the punishment of Hell.

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ  السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الْأَرْضِ   وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ  وَ النَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ  لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ ﴿١٩٠﴾ الَّذِينَ  يَذْكُرُونَ  اللَّـهَ قِيَامًا وَ قُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمْ  وَ  يَتَفَكَّرُونَ  فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الْأَرْضِ   رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَـٰذَا بَاطِلًا  سُبْحَانَكَ  فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ﴿١٩١﴾ رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ مَن تُدْخِلِ النَّارَ فَقَدْ أَخْزَيْتَهُۖ  وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ  مِنْ أَنصَارٍ ﴿١٩٢﴾ رَّبَّنَا إِنَّنَا سَمِعْنَا مُنَادِيًا يُنَادِي لِلْإِيمَانِ أَنْ  آمِنُوا بِرَبِّكُمْ فَآمَنَّاۚ  رَبَّنَا فَاغْفِرْلَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَ كَفِّرْعَنَّا سَيِّئَاتِنَا وَ تَوَفَّنَا مَعَ الْأَبْرَارِ﴿١٩٣﴾ رَبَّنَا وَ آتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَىٰ رُسُلِكَ  وَ لَا  تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِۗ  إِنَّكَ لَا  تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ ﴿١٩٤﴾ .

“In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the changes of night and day there are signs for those who ponder. Those who remember God while standing, sitting and [lying] of their sides and they engage in deep thought over the creation of the heavens and the earth [marvelling, they say]: Our Lord, you did not create this without a purpose, Subhaanaka [how great thou art], deliver us from the painful [punishment] of Hell.Our Lord! Those whom You will commit to the Fire will most certainly be in a humiliated position. And the oppressors will have no one to help them. Our Lord! We have heard someone calling us to faith, [saying]: “ Believe”– and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, and hold us not into account for our bad deeds, and join us with the righteous when we die. Our Lord! Give us all that You have promised us through Your messengers and do not humiliate us on the Day of Resurrection. [Promise us] You never break Your promise.’ C:3,V:192

اللّهمّ إنَّك عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ العَفوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي .

O God! You pardon, you love to pardon, so pardon me!

اللهّمّ إنّي أعوذ بك من الخبث و الخبآئث

O God! I seek your protect from [every] malicious evil creation and all their wickedness.

غفرانك ، الحمد لله الّذي أَذهَبَ عَنِّي الأذَى و عافانِي .

Your Forgiveness! [O Allah], All thanks is for God who removed from me all harm and had pardoned me.

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم ، أعوذ بِكَ مِن هَمَزاتِ الشَّياطين ، و أعوذ بك ربّي أنْ يَحضرون.

I begin [always] in the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind. I see your protection from influences of the devil, and I seek refuge with you so that they do not come close to me. C:23, V:97-8

أشهد أن لاّ إلهَ إلاّ الله وحده لا شريك له و أشهد أنَّ محمّدا عبده و رّسوله . اللّهمّ اجعلني من التَّوَّابين و اجعلني من المتطَهِّرِينَ.

I bear witness that there are no other deities but Allah, who Has no partners [or sons] and I further testify that Muhammad [peace be upon him] is God’s servant and His Messenger. O God, make me be from amongst those who [always] turn to You in repentance, and make me be from amongst the pure [in heart, body and mind].

بسم الله تَوكّلت على الله و لا حولَ و لا قوّةَ إلاّ باللهِ .

In the name of God. I depend upon Him and there are circumstances nor powers [greater than you].

اللّهمّ اجعل في قلبي نورا و في بصري نورا و في سمعي نورا و عن يميني نورا و عن يساري نورا و فوقي نورا و تحتي نورا و اجعل لّي نورا كثيرا.

O God, cast a light into my heart, into my eyes, into my ears and on my right and left and above me and below me. Grant me a lot of light!

اللّهمّ افتح عليّ ابواب رحمتك .

O God, open unto me the gates of Your Mercy!

الله أكبر كبيرا ، و الحمد لله كثيرا ، و سبحان الله بكرة و أصيلا ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر و لله الحمد

God is the Greatest! All Praise and Thanks are for God! Glory to God, in the morning and evening. God is Great, God is Great. To Him belongs all praise.

اللّهمّ ،إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ  وَجْهِيَ  لِلَّذِي فَطَرَالسَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًاۖ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ﴿٧٩﴾  “

“I have turned my attention and full focus towards [Him] who created the heavens and the earth and I am non an idolator.” C:6, V:69

”…إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٦٢﴾ لَاشَرِيكَ لَهُۖ  وَبِذَٰلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ﴿١٦٣﴾  “

“My prayer and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, Lord of all the Worlds; He has no partner. This is what I am commanded, and I am the first to devote myself to Him.” C:6, V:162-3

أعُوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

I seek refuge and protection with God from the outcast devil.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴿١﴾ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٢﴾ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴿٣﴾ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ﴿٤﴾ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ﴿٥﴾ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ﴿٦﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ ﴿٧﴾

[I begin] In the name of God, [who is] the Most Merciful, the Compassionate. All [thanks and] praise is for God, the Lord of the Universe. The Merciful [to all], the Kindest [to all believers]. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: The path of those You have blessed, those whom incur no anger [from you] and who have not gone astray. C:2, Vs:1-7

يا الله ، يا أحد ، يا الله ، يا الصمد الّذي لم يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن لّه كفوًا أحد

O God, O [Unique] One, O God, O Eternal One who did not beget anyone [the way His creation does] nor was He begotten [by anyone], and [the one] who is incomparable … C:112

أعوذ بك يا ربّ الفلق من شرّ ما خلق و من شر غاسق إذا وقب و من شرّ النّفّاثات في العقد و من شرّ حاسد إذا حسد

‘… I seek your protection, O Lord of the daybreak against any harm that was created; and from the darkness [of sinister plotters] when darkness falls, and from the harm [of those] who blow into knots, and from the harm of [any] envier when they envies.’ C:113

أعوذ بك يا ربّ النّاس ، يا ملك النّاس ،يا إله النّاس من شرّ الوسواس الخنّاس الّذي يوسوس في صدور النّاس من الجنّة و النّاس.

‘… [and] I seek the protection of the Lord and King of Humankind from the evil whisperers of humans and spirits that places [their] insinuations into the hearts of humans. C:114

سبحان الله و بحمده ، سبحان الله العظيم

[All] Glory and Praise be to God, Glory to God, the Magnificent!

التّحيّات لله و الصلوات و الطيّبات . السلام عليك أيّها النّبيّ و رحمة الله و بركاته ، السلام علينا و على عباده الصالحين ، أشهد أن لّا إله إلّا الله وحده لا شريك له و أشهد أنّ محمدا عبده و رسوله .

All compliments, prayers and courtesy is for God. Peace, Allah’s Mercy and His blessings be upon you, O Prophet; Peace be unto us and all of God’s good servants. I testify that there are no other Gods but Allah who is alone and has no partners [that share His control over His creation] and I further bear witness that Muhammad (Peace be unto him) is God’s [final] servant and Messenger.

اللّهمّ صلّ على محمّد وعلى آلِ محمد كما صلّيت على إبراهيم و على آلِ إبراهيم إنّك حميد مجيد.

O God, send Your Serenity upon Muhammad, and his household in the same manner You have granted Your Serenity to Abraham and his household. You are the Most Praised, the Majestic.

اللّهمّ بارك على محمّد و على آلِ محمّد كما باركت على إبراهيم و على آلِ إبراهيم ، إنّك حميد مجيد.

O God, grant Your Blessing to Muhammad, and his household in the same manner You have granted Your Blessing to Abraham and his household. You are the Most Praised, the Majestic.

الّلهمّ إنّي أعوذ بك من عذاب القبر و عذاب النار و من فتنة المحيات و الممات من فتنة مسيح الدجّال.

O God I seek Your protection from the punishment of the grave and hell fire; and I seek Your protection from the trials of life and death and from the tribulations of the Anti Christ.

اللّهم أنت السّلام و منك السّلام تباركت يا ذا الجلال و الإكرام .

A God, You are Peace and from You Peace is derived; You have blessed [us] O Possessor of Majesty and Grace.

اللّهمّ أعننِي على ذكرك و شكرك و حسن عبادتك.

O God help me to remember you, thank you and devote myself to you in the best manner.

لا إله إلاّ الله محمّدا رسول الله. (كلمة الطَّيِّبة)

[Compliment] There is no one [worthy of worship] but God [and] Muhammad (pbuh) is God’s Messenger.

أشهد أن لاّ إلهَ إلاّ الله وحده لا شريك له و أشهد أنَّ محمّدا عبده و رّسوله (كلمة الشهادة)

[Endorsement] I testify that no one is worthy of worship but God alone and I testify that Muhammad (pbuh) is God’s servant and messenger.

سبحان الله ، و الحمد لله و لا إلهَ إلاّ الله والله أكبر و لا حَولَ و لا قُوَّةَ إلاّ بالله العَليُّ العَظيم. (كلمة النمجيد)

[Admiration] Glory and Praise is for God; Nothing is worthy of worship except God. God is the Greatest and there is no power [to change one’s circumstances] nor any strength [more powerful] than God.

لا إلهَ إلاّ الله وَحدَهُ لا شَرِيكَ لَهُ لَهُ المُلك و لَهُ الحَمد يُحيي و يُميت بِيَدِهِ الخَيرِ و هُوَ على كُلِّ شَيءٍ قَدِير. (كلمة التوحيد)

[Affirmation] There is none worthy of adoration except God alone [who] is without partners [wife, son or daughter], for Him is the dominion [of the heavens and earth]; For Him is all praise, the one who gives life and causes death; in whose hands is all goodness and He is able to do anything.

أستغفر الله العظيم الّذي لا إله إلاّ هو الحي القيوم و أتوب إليه . (كلمةالإستغفار)

[Absolution] I ask forgiveness from God, the Highest; [the One] who is alone, without partners, the Everliving, Alert and I repent to Him.

اللّهمّ إنِّي أَسأَلُكَ من فَضْلِك .

O God, I beseech You [award me] something from Your Bounties.

اللّهمّ إنّ نأسألك خير المَولَج و خير المَخرَج ، بسم الله ولَجنا و بسم الله خرجنا و على ربّنا تَوكّلنا.

O God, we ask you for the best departure and arrival [at this house], in God’s name we arrive and in God’s name we depart and upon Him we depend.

بسم الله و على بركة الله.

In the name of God and in receipt of God’s blessing [we eat].

الحمد لله الّذي أطعمنا و سقانا و جعلنا من المسلمين.

All thanks and praise is due to God, who fed us, gave us drink and made us from amongst the Muslims.

اللّهمّ إنِّي اسألُكَ من خيره و خيرِ ما هو لَهُ و أعوذُ بِكَ مِن شَرِّه و شرِّ ما هُوَ لَهُ .

O God, I ask you to grant us from the good [of this offering] and what has been allocated to it and I seek your protection from the evil of it and is allocated to it.

آللّهمّ كَما أَحسَنْتَ خَلقي فأَحسِن لي خُلُقِي.

O God, just as you made me appearance handsome, please enhance my character.

الله أَكبر ، الله أكبر ، الله اكبر

God is Great! God is Great! God is Great!

سبحان الّذي سَخَّرَ لَنا هذا و ما كُنَّا لَهُ مُقرِنين و إِنَّآ إلى رَبِّنا لِمُنْقَلِبون .

“Glory to God, who has subdued this means [of transport] to us without which we could not have otherwise control. Most certainly to our Lord we will [one day] return.” C:43, V:13-4

اللّهمّ إنّا نِسألك في سفرنا هذا البِرَّ و التّقوى و من العمل ما ترضى. اللّهمّ هَوِّن علينا سفرنا هذا واطوِ لَنا بُعْدَهُ . اللّهمّ أنت الصّاحِبُ في السّفر و الخَليفَة في الأهلِ . اللّهمّ إنّي أعوذ بِك مِن وَّعْثاءِ السَّفرِ و كَآبةِ المَنظَرِ و َ سُوءِ المُنقَلَبِ في المالِ وَ الأَهلِ.

O God, we ask of You [to aid us] in this journey to be righteousness, conscious of You and to engage in acts that are pleasing to You. O God, make this journey easy for us and its distance a short one. O God you are the companion of the traveller and the guardian over the family [of the traveller] O God we seek refugee in You from the exhaustion of travel, from having a change of heart and being in a bad predicament, and I seek refuge in You from an ill fated outcomes with wealth and family.’

آئِبُونَ تآئبون عابِدون لِرَبِّنا حامِدون.

Returning [from travel] returning to Allah, obedient to Our Lord and praising Him.

اللّهمّ إنّي أسألك عِلماً نافِعا و رزقا طَيِّبا و عَمَلا مُتَقَبِّلا .

O God, I ask You to [bless me with] useful knowledge, clean sustenance and actions acceptable to You.

اللّهمّ لا سهلَ إلاّ ما جعلتَهُ سَهلاً ، و أنتَ تَجعل الحَزَنَ إذا شِئتَ سهلا .

O God there is nothing that is easy except that which You make easy and You make difficult matters easy if You so wish.

الحمد لله

All Praise is for God!

يرحمك الله

May God have mercy on you.

يهديكُمُ اللهُ و يُصلِحُ بالَكُم .

May God Guide you and correct your affairs.

اللّهمّ ا ذهِبِ البأسَ  رَبَّ النّاس . واشْفِ أنتَ الشَّافي لا شِفاءَ إلاّ شِفآئُكَ ، شِفاءً لا يغادر سَقَماً

O God, remove suffering – O Lord of Mankind! Cure! You are the Curer, there is no cure except Your cure. [You are the] cure that removes all illness.

سبحانك اللّهمّ و بحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت أستغفرك و أتوب إليك.

Glory be to you O God and Praise to You, I testify that there is no other God except You. I ask Your forgiveness and I repent to You.

Questions and Answers

 – يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ ۖ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا ۗ وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ –

“They ask you [Prophet] about intoxicants and gambling. Say, “There is great sin in both, although they have some benefit for people: but their harm is greater than their benefit.” 

(Al-Quran: 2:219)

AA, On the question of alcohol and swine (as a food category in the Islamic Laws). The prohibition in Islamic Law covers their drinking and eating as well as their production or farming for these purposes: i.e: human consumption. Apart from their eating and drinking, for example, the appearance of forms of alcohol in perfume or skin products or the skin of pigs in footwear there is obvious benefits in their use and thus do not fall under the prohibition. This is what is meant by their harm in the Quranic verse for instance: “They ask you [Prophet] about intoxicants and gambling. Say, “There is great sin in both, although they have some benefit for people: but their harm is greater than their benefit.” How one understands the latter part of the verse will either be used as evidence to extend or limit the prohibition of products containing alcohol or pork extracts. In the final analysis, one has to know that the Shari’ah of Allah is characterised by ease and leniency in the first instance and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) would chose the easier of two choices once neither or them contravened Allah’s laws. Those who extend the prohibition of using products containing alcohol or pork beyond the eating and drinking of them have understood that their harm in the wider social and spiritual contexts are greater than their benefits and would thus recommend abstaining from their use altogether. I hope I have given you the core of the matter. And Allah knows best.

(Break for prayer)

AA, I would have liked to expand upon the reply to this question, but I had to rush off to obtain the blessings of praying in Jamaa’ah. If there are practical issues still unclear relating to my previous response please do ask; providing they are issues of practice. Two important things I try to keep in mind when approaching issues of fiqh: (1) To keep it simple so that everyone can gets the idea of how to consult the sources for themselves, because the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were sent for the intellectual and the common man. (2) That one must be aware that the Allah’s laws are often stated in a manner, which leaves room for conscience and the development of the human soul and Taqwa or personal piety. In the above issue, for instance, there are Muslims who will have no problem wearing a perfume which contains alcohol, while a Mu’min will make a choice to abstain from it altogether. And it may be that the Mu’min is the one who choses to wear it and the Muslim does not. It is not I who determines who is the believer and who is not, but it is Allah (swt) based upon one’s intention and conscience in the practice of his or her faith who will determine the faithfulness of His servant. While at the same time both are working within the boundaries set by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh). I hope that the wisdom pointed out here helps you to determine (for your personal faith) whether the benefits of using products containing alcohol or pork ingredients which you do not intend to eat (through the channel of your mouth and not through the pores of your skin) have some benefit which you can use despite having much harm; or that the benefits have been wiped out by the greatness of the harm involved in using those products. WS and Allah knows the secrets of the hearts.

Questioner: 

How can you justify suggesting that the common man consulting the sources for themselves ????

(AA) Because the Holy Quran in chapter 21, verse 7: “… ask the people of knowledge (اهل الذكر) if you do not know.” A close reading of this means, if it is clear one would not ask, if it is unclear one should ask. Yet again, the wisdom of the Shaari’ (Allah) is to give His servants the space to wilfully submit to Him; everyone has to consult their heart and their faith, especially in matters of belief. For no one bears the burden of another on the Day of Judgement. In matters of daily practice if one does not know it is usually the case that one asks (and we are encouraged to think positively of others حسن الظن. Should they refuse to ask, knowing that they do not know, then they will have to bear the consequences of their choices on the Day of Judgement. Imaan and faithfulness to Allah (from one’s heart – an not the heart of anyone elses) demands enquiry and the urge to worship Allah with conviction. Allah knows better.

Questioner: 

I think you misunderstood my question akhi. If the scholars differ so and they are considered to be learned enough to consult the sources and produce an accurate conclusion, then how can the common man be trusted if he has less knowledge ???

Also how would know who “knows” if we havent got enough knowledge to determine whether what they tell us is factual or not ????

AA. Dear questioner May have have grant us patience. (1) All of humanity ignorant in the face of Allah. So I guess none of us have a right to speak. And this may explain why the scholars (May Allah be please with them) differ on so many opinions. (2) Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) trusted the opinion of his companions, both in matters of Deen and Dunya. And this is when he was alive with them and revelation had not been yet completed, and they did not have the knowledge of those that came after them. He asked Mu’aadh what will you teach the people when you go to the Yemen? He took the point of view of his companions in battle strategy in the Battle of Badr on the best positions to face the enemy and Salmaan The Persian, on the digging of the Trench, and the opinion of his wives on many matters of practice and their knowledge of the human condition as we saw when after the negotiations of the Treaty of Hudhaybiyyah, many were angry with some of the clauses of that treaty and refused to shave their heads when commanded to and it was the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) wife Ummu Salamah (ra) who advised him (pbuh) to go out and shave his head first and they would follow him. You have Umar (ra) advising him (pbuh) to separate between the men and the wives in dining spaces for instance and the list is endless. All of these examples imply that the Holy Prophet nurtured in his companions the habit of questioning and thinking for themselves with the guidance send down. If the erred he (pbuh) corrected them and at the same time commended them for thinking critically in search for the truth. He once told them of the illusiveness of truth, but of the importance of exerting one’s intellectual capacity, ‘when a learned person arrives at the truth in a matter he is granted two rewards by Allah (swt) and when he errs he is only granted one.” (3) The common man is pragmatic and does not over intellectualise his religion. He is only interested in the rights and wrongs, the do’s and don’ts of his practising of faith. It is the intellectual or those who profess to have attained knowledge that delve into the complex matters of religion and life. And the most intelligent of them both is the one who avoids useless talk and a lot questioning regards the practice of Deen. What concerns such a person are the deeds and creed that will help them to obtain paradise. Therefore, make sure that your questions are seeking those answers that you only need for your journey onwards to Paradise. The Holy Prophet warned that the nations before us hastened the destruction of themselves by asking too many questions. Revisit Surah al-Bayynah (chapter 98) and the destructiveness of knowledge is highlighted. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) use to seek refuge against the seeking of knowledge which is of no use. So stick with pragmatism and be like the common man. (4) Islam came to set the human spirit free from the servitude of man to the worship of Allah. Hence, empower Allah’s servants to think – but to think firstly with their hearts – to develop their personal accountability to Allah first. That they follow the opinions of the learned not because of who they are but because they connect their hearts, minds and soul to Allah and the practice of His beloved Messenger (pbuh). So after the Aalim (the learned) has spoken know that it is you and only you that will be held accountable for what happens next. Allah states quite clearly: ‘No one bears the burden of another’ (Chapter: 6, verse 164) This means that YOUR OPINION MATTERS as it is you who will make that final decision of action or inaction. (5) Therefore, do the right thing for yourself. Save yourself and your family from the fire of Hell. Ask only those questions that will light your path to Paradise. The rest which you will not encounter in your life or which are mere mental gymnastics avoid and watch the madness from a distance. May Allah help us to find our Soul’s way home. Ameen

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