CLICK HERE FOR THOUSANDS OF FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES »

Monday, April 1, 2013

In the belly of the Beast: questions on Islamic devotion in prison


[1] There are so many ideas associated with Islam, and countless books, CDs, and brochures published by different sects. How can we determine what is correct?

Answer: Obviously, the two authorities for Muslims are the Qur’an, which is the book of Allah, and the goodly model that is present within the example of Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It’s true that all the sects say this, and it’s also true that there are countless books with fancy Arabic titles and proposing to present all of the solutions to our questions. In our view, the following methodology is needed, especially for the New Muslim, but it’s just as relevant for a veteran Muslim as well. [1] Have faith in Allah, understand that he is one and alone. The God concept of Islam is easily found within the Qur’an, a few examples are 2:255, 24:35, and 112:1-4.  [2] Be regular in Salaah [daily [prayers]. This also requires learning how to offer it. There are many brothers in all the prisons from whom it can be learned, it’s largely uniform across sectarian lines, and an abundance of books, pamphlets and instructional materials are also widely available. [3] Be a consistent reader of the Qur’an. Have it be your ultimate authority on what’s authentic, because it is often the case that ideas spread word of mouth are not only contrary to Islam, but also dangerous in one sense or another.

[2] Are we allowed to be friendly with Non Muslims?

Answer: The Qur’an only forbids friendships with those who would be detrimental to us spiritually and who display enmity towards Islam! Thus, Allah says: “and when you see those engaged in vanities about Our signs [i.e. Quranic revelation] , then turn away from them until they turn to a different way of speaking. If Shaytaan [the Devil] makes you forget, then upon being reminded, sit not with those who are bent on being a people of wrongdoing.” [Q 6: 69]. Another verse reads “...when you hear the verses of Allah rejected and ridiculed, do not sit with them… if you did, you would be like them.” [Q 4:140]

It is often said that Islam forbids relations with Non Muslims, but this is simply not true! This misconception stems from an incorrect translation of the word Awliyaa’ [singular Waali], found in the Qur’an 4:144, 5:57 and other texts. These verses are to be understood in context, and to be seen in context of patron-client nation states. Muslims are forbidden in these verses from taking as protectors those whose enmity has already been proven, a common sense teaching! 

Here, we should remember that the Qur’an itself allows us to eat the food of Non Muslims, which means dining as well, as well as marriage with Jews and Christians [ Q 5:5]. Moreover, a just and fair way of dealing with those who deal with us in a similar way, even though there are religious differences, is the command of the Qur’an in 60:8-9.

[3] Do we cut relations with Non Muslim family?
To cut relation simply due to religious differences is not correct. Islam sees as extremely important the family ties. Indeed, remember that the Qur’an directly uses parents as an example, if they want us to commit idolatry, we can’t obey that, but we are to keep goodly ties with them in life.

[4] Interactions with Pseudo Islamic groups [Nation of Islam, Five per centers, Moorish Science temple, etc...]

Admittedly this is a tricky question. Without doubt, the God concept and the racially oriented teachings of such groups are contrary to Islam. Yet, usually such beliefs are adopted out of ignorance about authentic Islam, and once they are exposed to what’s true, their hearts turn towards that. We recommend dealing with such people in understanding, compassion and patience. Keep in mind the following verse: “  And it was by God's grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers, for if thou had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, and pray that they be forgiven.." [Q 3:159, Muhammad Asad translation]

[5] Is Salaatul Jumu’ah [Friday prayers] valid in prisons?
The Qur’an and Hadeeth literature both give us the conditions for Friday prayers. It’s purpose, like all the other prayers, is “the remembrance of Allah” [Q 61:9]. It also serves as a social function, in the sense that hearts are united and relationships established by attending the services and praying together. Thus, we find the argument that Jumu’ah prayers are invalid in prisons due to lack of public access as baseless. We have to remember that many of the views advanced by some jurists, yesterday and to some extent today as well, are views that were shaped in circumstances different than today’s prison system. Historically, the Madhaahib [schools of jurisprudence] had different ideas as to the number of attendees necessary for Friday prayers, the Shafi’ees held that at least 30 are needed, whereas some Shi’ah authorities in Iraq, Iran and even Lebanon held that Friday prayers were invalid when the ruling government was unjust [Ghayrul ‘aadil].  In any case, it has to be remembered that the Prophet, Sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that the whole earth is a place of prayer, and this certainly includes prisons! The conditions for Friday prayers are well known and established, [1] It is recommended to bath beforehand, wear one’s best and clean clothes, and to smell good [ Bukhari 11:3], [2] To listen attentively to the Khutbah [sermon] and be silent during [ Bukhari 11:35] [3] The Khutbah is divided into two sections, with a pause for Du’a between them. Those brief moments between the Khutbah’s first and second parts are important moments in which Du’a is heard and accepted by Allah [Tabaraani].

May Allah keep our hearts firm upon his deen, we seek his forgiveness, mercy and guidance.


6 comments:

Non Believer said...

Hi Waheed. I hope all is well with you.

I came to this post in a search for comment on Surah 60 Al-Mumtahanah. I've seen 60:8-9 quoted quite often as "evidence" of Islamic tolerance for non-Muslims. However, what do the other verses in this Surah say about this?

I would like to look at these verses from two perspectives: First, a non-secular perspective: how would the world react to a leader speaking these words today or if we woke up in the morning and found these words tweeted out? Second, from a Christian perspective: how would Christians react if archaeologists unearthed a new writing purporting to be by Matthew containing these words purporting to be a sermon of Jesus? Would they accept these words as "divine"?

From the first perspective, we would view these words as an angry and provocative rant. The writer is clearly enraged and is seeking revenge on those who have opposed him. We know from the historical context of this Surah that this is indeed the case. The Surah is said to have been revealed shortly before Muhammad mounted an army against the Meccans. From a non-secular perspective, verse 60:13 translates to "Do not make allies of a people with whom I have become angry. 60:8 does not exactly encourage alliances with non-Muslims; it only says that they are not prohibited, and we know from history just how rare long-standing alliances like this are.

You say that Muslims are not to cut relations with non-Muslim family, but don't these verse contradict that? Doesn't 60:3 say that allegiance to Muhammad is more important that allegiance to your own children? Doesn't 60:4 say that, beyond dissociating yourselves from relations with your disbelieving family, it is wrong even to sustain hope for your own disbelieving father? And then there's 6:10-12 where we learn that marriages are dissolved and wives are to be delivered back to their parents like used cars that don't suit their owners any longer. And yet you, having this Surah in front of you as you wrote those words, are blind to the rejection of disbelieving family that this Surah contains?

I'm not being critical of Muhammad; just honest. He was forced to leave his home and is not happy about it. The reaction we see here is not surprising and the treatment of wives is what you would expect in that place at that time. But, please, let's be honest about it!

But let's also look at these verses from a Christian perspective and test their consistency with earlier revelations. Let's ask the question "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus advise dissociation with your own father? Of course not. Honouring your father is a sacred commandment. Would Jesus advise the dissolution of marriages? Of course not. A marriage is a sacred union. Would Jesus give up on these disbelievers and condemn them in the Hereafter? Of course not. He would reach out to them with love.

How are you able to reconcile that the same God would reveal such contradictory messages? For me, the answer is easy. Surah Al-Mumtahanah could not possibly be of divine origin and must be read as the angry rant that it is.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Hello NB
I am just now seeing your questions/comments above. I will try to summarize the answers by posting the query and then the answer below.

" I've seen 60:8-9 quoted quite often as "evidence" of Islamic tolerance for non-Muslims. However, what do the other verses in this Surah say about this?

I would like to look at these verses from two perspectives: First, a non-secular perspective: how would the world react to a leader speaking these words today or if we woke up in the morning and found these words tweeted out?"

In terms of the whole of the Soorah, the whole Soorah has to be read in context. We have to remember that these words were given in a time when the Muslim community was under constant attack, and, occasionally, family ties would even be manipulated to facilitate this. Moreover, a person should accept a religion because they believe it to be the vehicle by which they attain God's good favors and guidance. Therefore, it becomes important to guard from influences that would be contrary to that. That's not a secular view, that is a religious view, but remember we are talking about religion here.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...


" Second, from a Christian perspective: how would Christians react if archaeologists unearthed a new writing purporting to be by Matthew containing these words purporting to be a sermon of Jesus? Would they accept these words as "divine"?"

I think you are talking about the Soorah 61, which is another topic altogether. I will say here, in short, that the Qur'an asserts itself to be that which gives clarification, or an explanation, on many issues facing the Children of Israel [Q 27:76]. I believe "children of Israel" here means both Jews and Christians.

A Christian [or anyone else for that matter] can reject the Quranic claim if they wish, but if a person believes the Qur'an is from God, then they will have no issues with Soorah 61. Besides, the only issue that is controversial for a Christian reader at Soorah 61 is where it says Jesus, upon whom be peace and God's blessings- predicted the coming of "Ahmad". Muslim writers have long explained, by looking at the N.T. and other sources, how this relates to Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings. Many Christians have been convinced of the Quranic statement here and have, thus accepted the Islamic message.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

" You say that Muslims are not to cut relations with non-Muslim family, but don't these verse contradict that? Doesn't 60:3 say that allegiance to Muhammad is more important that allegiance to your own children?"

From a religious perspective God does come first, I could even cite New Testament quotes that have the same sentiment, but that does not mean that one has to cut family ties.

Thus, no contradiction. The Qur'an says that if your parents make effort for you to worship something other than God, do not obey them, yet, keep relationship with them in this life. All of these verses should be understood together, that way a wrong impression is not formed.

" Doesn't 60:4 say that, beyond dissociating yourselves from relations with your disbelieving family, it is wrong even to sustain hope for your own disbelieving father? And then there's 6:10-12 where we learn that marriages are dissolved and wives are to be delivered back to their parents like used cars that don't suit their owners any longer. And yet you, having this Surah in front of you as you wrote those words, are blind to the rejection of disbelieving family that this Surah contains?"

If that father is a proven opponent of truth, vitriolic and hateful. THOSE types do exist. As for the marriages, all of that has to do with lots of things, such as treaty obligations and the like. It will take up alot of space to explain, a simple explanation can be found if you consult the Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur'an. He has footnotes on this subject.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

" But let's also look at these verses from a Christian perspective and test their consistency with earlier revelations. Let's ask the question "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus advise dissociation with your own father? Of course not. Honouring your father is a sacred commandment. Would Jesus advise the dissolution of marriages? Of course not. A marriage is a sacred union. Would Jesus give up on these disbelievers and condemn them in the Hereafter? Of course not. He would reach out to them with love."


The Bible has Jesus-peace be on him- say " I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it was already kindled. Do you think I have come to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now one there will be five in one family divided against each other...father against son, son against father, mother against daughter." [Luke 12:49-53 NIV translation].

This text seems to go against your assessment. I'm not saying Jesus did or did not say these words. I am saying that your judgement of the Qur'an is a little bit biased, especially when one sees in the Bible similar or even stronger terminology. I think you should rethink your judgements here!

"How are you able to reconcile that the same God would reveal such contradictory messages? For me, the answer is easy. Surah Al-Mumtahanah could not possibly be of divine origin and must be read as the angry rant that it is."

Certainly you are free to think as you see fit, just as I am free to see it as a text speaking to certain realities faced by the early community of Muslims, and sometimes even today.

I do hope that you take some more time to study the Qur'an, not for the sake of converting but of knowing what it is that a fifth of humanity believes.

Non Believer said...

"I am free to see it as a text speaking to certain realities faced by the early community of Muslims, and sometimes even today"

This is exactly in agreement with what I've been saying. The Qur'an was for a particular people at a particular time and needs to be understood in that context. It may (or may not) have relevance today.

"I am saying that your judgement of the Qur'an is a little bit biased"

I'm curious to know what you think that bias is. When I began to read the Qur'an, it was from a fairly objective perspective: I had heard that it was an inspirational work by one of the most influential writers in human history. As I've described in other comments, I began by reading the chapters in order, unaware that the Qur'an was not organized with the verses in the order that they were written. By the time I was half way through the second chapter, I was aware that the book was, using your words, "a text speaking to certain realities faced by the early community of Muslims". That is how I would describe my "bias".

On the other hand, someone who is raised Muslim is taught from a very early age that the Qur'an is the word of God and that Muhammad was a morally perfect human. When such a Muslim reaches adolescence and early adulthood, his intellect matures and he becomes able to think critically about these issues. However, his view of the Qur'an is very much influenced by what he has been taught and has an extremely strong bias.

There are two issues here:
1. Can a non-Muslim rely on such a biased person for honest and accurate discussion about the Qur'an?
2. What are the consequences for a (young adult) Muslim who is able to set his bias aside and who then comes to the conclusion that the fundamental premises of Islam are false? When you claim 1/5 of humanity, I don't think we know how many people you are including who are culturally Muslims but in no way accept the fundamental doctrine of Islam. Even in the West, it can be socially devastating to "come out".