Modernity

MODERNITY

This depends on both what is meant by “modernity” and the varied interpretations on this subject. If by modernity one means science, the scientific method and technological advances, then we know that scientific exploration and technological innovation flourished in the Islamic cultures of the Middle Ages, commonly known as the Golden Age of Islam. And today, millions of Muslims are involved, often in leading positions, in the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, engineering and other scientific fields.

If by modernity one means democracy and individual rights such as freedom of thought, expression religion, and conscience, then Muslim attitudes vary depending upon how they are defined.

While some Muslims view these rights as secondary to religious principles conveyed by Islam, others, including, as we explain in the introduction to these questions, consider these rights to be fundamental principles of Islam. Muslims can cite the tradition of ijtihad (independent thinking) as an essential aspect of Islamic scholarly tradition that fosters reform, reinterpretation, and the exploration and advocacy of new ideas.

However many Muslims are concerned about the devastating negative effects that modernity and its accompanying technological advances can have, when influenced by factors relating to economic profit and short-term gain, have had upon our environment and the world.

Democracy is a cited as modern trend but is interpreted very widely, broadly and differently depending upon its location. Most Muslims who favour democracy, interpret it as merely shura (“mutual consensus”) and allowing the voting system to be employed, as we have witnessed during the 2011 Arab Spring and beyond, people throughout the Arab world in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria have risked their lives, and in some places are still risking them, in their struggle for freedom and government change in their countries. However, for most Muslims allowing the voting systems as per democracy/shurah requirements, does not mean it overrides divine Islamic law – with both being compatible.

In Muslim tradition, individual rights are balanced with collective rights in a mutually beneficial manner.

The principle of individual rights was established in one of Islam’s earliest documents, the Madinah Constitution, which was drafted by the Prophet Muhammad saws when he migrated with his followers to Madinah. The agreement laid out certain rights and responsibilities between the Muslims and the major tribes in Madinah and guaranteed the security and religious freedom of the diverse religious and tribal groups who made up the new community. In the context of its time, it embodied a remarkably strong affirmation of human rights.

War, Terrorism & Extremism

WAR, TERRORISM & EXTREMISM

Islamic teachings clearly prohibit killing innocent civilians. The position of the Muslim majority is clear, as demonstrated by repeated condemnations by Muslim scholars and leaders across the world.

The entire majority of Muslims unequivocally condemn terrorism. Terrorism, defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate, coerce, or exact retribution, especially for political purposes, flagrantly violates at least three interrelated Islamic principles: respect for life, right to due process, and individual responsibility. The principle of respect for life prohibits the targeting of innocent civilians even during a state of war.

Suicide bombings also violate the prohibition against suicide and terrorism violates the prohibition against murder, one of the gravest sins prohibited by the Qur’an.

Muslims have consistently and repeatedly denounced terrorism throughout despite negative media portrayal who have their own political agenda.

Furthermore, why should Muslims be expected repeatedly to condemn terrorism? Are Christians or Jews expected to denounce every irresponsible or destructive statement or action made in the name of their religions? This assumption is clearly unjust and unreasonable, and double standards seem to operate against the Muslim community.

There appears to be some clear media bias to emphasising the low level of terrorism and extremism from Muslims over that from other White Supremacy Christian/Jewish/Hindu groups – even when terrorism from other right-wing sources poses a greater danger to ordinary people. There is a deliberate media political agenda to falsely misrepresent the Muslim community which has been independently proven by various research bodies.

Like other holy books, including the Bible, there are a number of verses about warfare in the Qur’an; they address the struggle of the early Muslims against the Makkans who fought and persecuted them first in Makkah and then after they established a state in Madinah, where Muslims fought back for the first time. However, they make up a small percentage of the 6,000 verses of the Qur’an. In addition, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • A reading of the “warlike” verses in their context in the Qur’an invariably shows that they refer to situations in which the Muslim community was under attack, either through direct military aggression or forcible denial of legitimate rights of freedom of religion and expression – that is, they refer to, and permit, only strictly defensive warfare. Aggression is clearly prohibited (Qur’an, 2:190).
  • The earliest verse related to fighting (22:39) states that “permission [to fight back] is given to those who have been wronged,” clearly indicating that such permission is an exceptional allowance responding to a specific situation, and that peaceful conduct is assumed to be the norm for Muslims.
  • There are strict rules of warfare outlined by the Prophet Muhammad saws and his successors that prohibit targeting civilians, specifically women and children, or even harming infrastructure or crops used by civilians.
  • The Qur’an allows war for self-defense, as delineated in the following verse: “Fight in the cause of the Creator against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits by aggressing; surely the Creator does not love transgressors” (Qur’an, 2:190).

The other justification for war in the Qur’an is to protect others from harm, but this is permissible only if the harm prevented is greater than the harm caused by the acts of war. This is the same as the principle of proportionality in the Christian doctrine of just war, which bears other similarities to the concept of war in the Qur’an.

According to the following Qur’anic verses, protecting others from harm includes defending people of other faiths: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight, because they are oppressed. Verily, the Creator is capable of aiding them. They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of what is just, for no other reason than that they say, ‘Our Lord is the Creator.’ Had the Creator not restrained one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques wherein the Creator’s name is oft-mentioned would have been destroyed. The Creator will certainly aid those who aid His cause” (Qur’an, 22:39-40).

The Arabic term jihad literally means “striving.” Jihad is often mistranslated as “holy war.” While the word can refer to military action against an aggressor, this is by no means the only meaning of the term. Traditionally, Muslim sources distinguish between the “greater” and the “lesser” jihad. The “greater jihad” is described by Muslim scholars as an internal struggle to avoid negative actions and cultivate good character. The “lesser jihad” is the external striving for justice, in self-defense or against oppression. One can do this in one’s heart, with one’s tongue or pen, and, if these are ineffective, by forcibly trying to change an oppressive situation. It should be noted, however, that violent revolution was often seen by classical scholars as the absolute last resort. The social chaos and mayhem that could ensue from overthrowing an oppressive leader was often viewed as much worse than the reign of an oppressor.

The Qur’an describes the desirability of peace and the means of attaining it in various passages, including the verse, “If they incline toward peace, then seek you peace also,” which clearly demonstrates that peace is a desired state to be striven for. Another verse describes the blessings of peace: “’Peace,’ a word from a Merciful Lord” (Qur’an, 36: 58). Furthermore, Salaam alaikum – “peace be upon you” – is the universal Islamic greeting; and as-Salaam is one of the 99 names of the Creator, meaning “The Giver of Peace.” One of the best-known prophetic supplications is: “O the Creator, You are peace, peace comes from You. Blessed are You O Possessor of Glory and Honor.” Furthermore, one of the various names for heaven is Dar al-Salam, “Abode of Peace.”

Muslim peacemakers are working throughout the world building bridges between people of different faiths. We believe the work we are doing to increase religious awareness is the best antidote for conflict.

The majority of global conflicts are not based upon religion, even though parties may use it sometimes to invoke support for a war, religion is at most one factor among many in producing conflict, and usually not the most important one. Ethnic, economic, and political issues are generally the underlying causes behind most conflicts, including those involving Muslims.

Despite negative media portrayal, the vast majority of the 57 Muslim countries are at peace.

Furthermore, many countries with non-Muslim majorities are involved in conflict. The United States, for instance, a Christian-majority country, is the world’s largest arms exporter and is involved currently in several armed conflicts. The two largest world wars in history were fought mostly between Christian-majority countries (i.e. World Wars I and II).

Attributes of the Creator (God, Allah)

Attributes of the Creator (God, Allah)

We believe that the Creator’s love for humanity is indeed central to our faith. The Qur’an mentions Creator’s compassion and mercy 192 times, as opposed to Creator’s wrath, which is mentioned only 17 times.

Two of the Creator’s main attributes are the “Compassionate” and the “Merciful.” Both of these names denote Creator’s love and care for all creation. These are the two most often mentioned names of the Creator, since all but one of the 114 chapters in the Qur’an begin with “In the name of Creator, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”

The Qur’an cites 99 different names or attributes of the Creator, many of which also emphasise these characteristics, including “the Loving,” “the Giving,” “the Forgiving,” and “the Kind.”

This is a challenging issue for all religions that proclaim a belief in a Creator who is at once omnipotent and beneficent. We believe that the Creator tests people in different ways, through both hardship and ease. While the cause of suffering is not always evident, the way that people respond to difficulty is a test of their moral fibre. Responding to hardship with patience and fortitude is a virtue for which we believe a great reward is promised in this life and the afterlife.

Additionally, there may be a silver lining behind every difficulty.

For instance, major disasters often bring out the best in people, inspiring them to perform remarkable acts as they respond to their own or another’s hardship with compassion and courage and come to the aid of those in need. Muslims also take comfort in their belief that life doesn’t end after death.

STATUS OF WOMEN

STATUS OF WOMEN

The Islamic faith advocates and demand complete equality between men and women. Women hold and have held many positions of authority and leadership in the Muslim community throughout history. In Muslim-majority countries women today work as physicians, businesswomen, engineers, lawyers and have served as heads of state.

There are many verses in the Quran and prophetic sayings that speak to the issue of women’s rights. They include the following:

Equal responsibilities and reward: “For the men who acquiesce to the will of God, and the women who acquiesce, the men who believe and the women who believe, the men who are devout and the women who are devout, the men who are truthful and the women who are truthful, the men who are constant and the women who are constant, the men who are humble and the women who are humble, the men who give charity and the women who give charity, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who are chaste and the women who are chaste, and the men and women who remember God a lot, God has arranged forgiveness for them, and a magnificent reward.” (Qur’an, 33:35)

“And their Lord answered them, ‘I am never unmindful of the work of a worker among you, male or female. You are from each other.’” (Qur’an, 3:195)

“Whoever does right, male or female, and is a believer, We will revivify with a good life; and We will pay them their due according to the best of what they have done.” (Qur’an, 16:97)

Right to earn money: “. . . to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn.” (Qur’an, 4:32)

Right to inherit: “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.” (Qur’an, 4:7)

Rights of a daughter: “Whosoever has a daughter and does . . . not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will make him enter into paradise.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)

“Whoever has three daughters and treats them kindly, they will be a protection for him against the Fire.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)

“Parents cannot force daughters into a marriage.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)

Rights of a wife: “The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)

In Muslim-majority countries women are involved at the highest levels of education, employment, and politics, with many female physicians, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. Muslim women have even served as heads of state in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Kosovo, Mauritius, and Pakistan.

In most Muslim communities, Muslim women work outside the home. Increasing numbers of Muslim women throughout the world are employed in various high level professions, including medicine and engineering.

Domestic violence and spousal abuse violate the Islamic principle of respect for human dignity and may even violate the principle of respect for life in severe cases. According to classical Islamic law, spousal abuse is grounds for a Muslim woman to initiate divorce. The vast biographies of prophet Muhammad (saws) record him as never having hit a woman or even a child and as condemning those who did.

There are many hadith (prophetic sayings) encouraging the seeking of knowledge that have led numerous Muslim women in history to become scholars, writers, and teachers of both men and women, as noted in the previous question. These include sayings such as “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” In fact, the first word revealed in the Qur’an was “read,” an injunction directed at both men and women.

There is a fundamental Islamic principle that to seek education and knowledge is not only a right but an obligation incumbent on both men and women, and there is nothing in Islamic texts or teachings, that limits a girl’s right to seek education and knowledge. Those who limit women’s rights to education are doing so based on local social influences and understandings, not on religious texts.

Throughout Muslim history, as verified by historians, there have been thousands of female Muslim scholars, many of whom were teachers of renowned male scholars. Some notable examples include:

  • Rabi’ah Bint Mu’awwad, a great scholar of fiqh (jurisprudence), who taught scholars of Medina
  • A’isha bint Sa’d bint ibn Abi Waqqas, whose pupils included Imam Malik
  • Sayyida Nafisa, the granddaughter of Hasan, whose pupils included Imam Shafi’i
  • A’isha bint Abu Bakr, wife of the Prophet and narrator of over 2,000 hadith (prophetic sayings)

There are also many active female Muslim scholars today.

HIJAB AND MODESTY

HIJAB AND MODESTY

The Oxford Dictionary defines modesty as “behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.” What constitutes modesty is understood differently by Muslims in different cultures, and can include the type of dress as well as the level of interaction with the opposite gender. For some Muslims, modesty also includes humility towards the Creator (God) and other people. Modesty is described by the Prophet Muhammad pbuh as an important virtue.

The Arabic word hijab literally means “curtain.” When used to refer to dress, it either implies modest dress that includes a headscarf or refers only to a headscarf. “Hijab” is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the terms burqa and niqab. “Hijab” is generally used to refer to a headscarf, ”burqa” to a covering of the entire body including the face, while “niqab” refers to a face covering that conceals most of the face but exposes the eyes. Some Muslim women wear hijab while others do not and expressions of hijab vary greatly by culture, individual taste, and conviction.

Practising Muslim women wear the hijab, an early practice established in the formative period of Islam that references Quranic verses and hadith (prophetic sayings) which requests obligating women to cover their hair and much of their body for the sake of modesty.

Women who choose to wear the hijab do so for a variety of reasons: religious duty, as a sign of identity, as an act of devotion to their faith, or to indicate that they do not want to be judged by their physical characteristics.

A minority of women in some Muslim cultures understand modesty to require covering not only their whole body and head but also their faces – this is a voluntary practice not deemed mandatory. Therefore, when in public, they wear a burqa (a loose garment which covers the body and face) or niqab (a covering for the face that leaves the eyes exposed).

The Qur’an instructs both men and women to be modest, but how this is practiced varies greatly. One understanding of modest dress for men in some Muslim traditions requires them to cover from the navel to knee and to dress modestly in loose-fitting clothing. The traditional clothing worn by Muslim men in such places as South Asia, where they wear a loose shirt and pants, or in some Arab countries, where men wear what looks like a long dress (jalaba) and a headscarf (kuffiyah), differs little in the extent of covering from the traditional dress of Muslim women. Many Muslim men grow a beard and wear a head covering that resembles a skull cap, as do observant practitioners in some other religious traditions.

JESUS AND MARY

JESUS AND MARY

Muslims overwhelmingly revere Jesus (AS) and believe that he was born to the Virgin Mary through an act of the Creator (God), just as Adam (as) is believed to have been created without a father or mother. The Qur’an describes his conception and birth, as well as his many miracles such as healings of the sick. The Qur’an also emphasises that Jesus (as) was a great prophet of Allah swt (God), as well as a messenger who received divine revelation, but that he was, like all other prophets, only a human being. While Muslims greatly revere prophet Jesus (as), Christmas is generally considered a Christian holiday (the date of 25th December is widely now known to be inaccurate with respect to the birthday of Jesus (as)) and not a part of Muslim cultures.

Muslims believe that Mary (as) (Maryam in Arabic) is the Virgin Mother of the Prophet Jesus (as). An entire chapter in the Qur’an is named after her. The chapter called Mary (Maryam) and other verses in the Qur’an emphasise her piety, righteousness, and status as an exemplar for all people, male and female.

The Qur’an describes her as the greatest of all women: “Allah chose and preferred her above all the women of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 3: 42)

PRAYER (SALAT)

PRAYER (SALAT)

Every Muslim is required to perform a range of compulsory and voluntary prayers.

Prayer among Muslims can take many forms. Three very common forms are Salat (ritual prayer), Dhikr (remembrance of God, which usually involves the repetition of God’s names), and Du’a (supplication, or asking God for a need or desire or for forgiveness).

The five compulsory prayers take part at different times of the day are known as : 1 Fajr 2 Zuhr 3 Asr 4 Maghrib 5 Isha.

Other compulsory prayers include: 1 Eid Ul Fitr 2 Eid Ul Adha 3 Weekly Friday Jummah 4 Funeral Janazah 5 Witr 6 Hajj Pilgrimage Ritual

Each Prayer (Salat) lasts 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the prescribed length of the prayer and the number and length of Qur’anic verses recited. Other factors may also influence the length of time a Muslim prays, including the number of additional (non-obligatory) prayers one chooses to perform, and the pace at which one recites the Qur’an.

The separation of men and women in prayer is not universal among Muslims. In the mosque built around the Ka’bah, men and women are not separated, but pray together in circular formation around the shrine. In some mosques women pray in balconies above the prayer hall for men, and in some mosques women pray parallel to men while in others they pray behind the men.

The main reason for this practice involves the practice of modesty. The Muslim ritual prayer is very physical in nature, involving standing, bowing, and prostrating oneself. While in congregational prayers, Muslims are supposed to stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with those next to them. Many Muslim cultures have considered it distracting or immodest to have men and women praying side by side or to have women prostrate themselves in front of men.

Depending on their schedules, Muslims probably will not need to perform all five prayers while on the job since the prayers are spread throughout the day. In addition, each of the five prayers has a window of time during which each prayer can be performed. This time frame extends from about one hour to as long as four hours depending on the specific prayer and the time of year, since the times shift depending on the season and length of day.

Throughout most of the year, the prayer time for the noon prayer does not end while students are at school, so they can perform it when they return home. During the time of year when the prayer time ends while students are still in school, they can take a few minutes during breaks or lunch to pray. Students can ask their teachers if they can pray in the classroom or library.

The daily prayers represent not only the fulfilment of a divine mandatory duty, but an opportunity to connect spiritually with the Creator throughout each day, showing gratitude for the many bounties that Allah swt has provided for people.

KA’BAH

KA’BAH

The Ka’bah is the cube-shaped building covered with a black cloth in Makkah, Saudi Arabia that is believed by Muslims to have been the first house of worship to the Creator (God, Allah (swt)).

Muslims throughout the world face towards the Ka’bah when they perform each of their daily prayers.

Muslims believe that the first prophet on earth, Adam (as) built the original Ka’bah and that Prophets Abraham (as) and his son Ishmael (as) rebuilt and consecrated it as the first house of worship to Allah swt (God).

HALAL DIET

HALAL DIET

Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. The opposite of halal is haraam, which means unlawful or prohibited. Whilst the term is used in relation to many aspects of life, when specifically used in relationship to food, halal refers to any food product that is not prohibited. In reference to meat products, halal means that the animal was slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines, which includes reciting Allah’s name over the animal before slaughter and draining all the blood from the animal. This practice is similar to the guidelines set by Jewish law that classify meat prepared in this manner as kosher. It is common to find halal butcher shops or restaurants in most major cities of the world.

Muslims do not drink alcoholic beverages and other intoxicants such as drugs, because the Qur’an forbids the practice.

Muslims do not eat pork, because the Qur’an forbids the practice, a dietary restriction also followed by observant Jews.

The Islamic faith has a complete system for classifying permissibility of food, beverages, diet and actions.

Economics

The Islamic faith has a unique, holistic view of the economic system model to be adopted, and applies moral filters to the earning and spending of wealth. It has a wealth distribution policy which takes into consideration the needs of the poor, elderly, children, women and fulfilment of basic welfare needs of its citizens (food, shelter, clothing, education, health).

Muslim economists view money as something to be earned, which is one of the many reasons that both gambling and loaning at interest (riba, usury) are prohibited.

Muslim scholars regard interest as being prohibited because it penalizes the poor for their lack of money and rewards the rich for their abundance of money, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. On the other hand, investment in business is highly encouraged because it involves some risk to the investor, which makes it a fair return. Investment also promotes the circulation of wealth and the growth of new businesses.

Applying this principle in the modern world is a major challenge, yet today there are over five hundred financial institutions offering Islamic finance in over eighty different countries. These institutions generate income through shareholding, leasing, lease purchasing, and rent sharing. Interest-free banking is an experiment in Islamic modernization. The fact that Islamic banks are now worth a trillion dollars attests to their modern viability. In fact, many western economists maintain that interest-free economies can be extremely beneficial.

Additionally, many economists have noted that during the recent financial crisis Islamic investments and banks were largely unaffected, since they did not deal with interest based financing such as mortgages or risky speculation.

However, unfortunately many Muslim countries do not operate any type of an Islamic economic system model and have not yet adopted it partially or fully, so its broader, wider benefits can be known to the people at large.