ESSAYS AND BOOK SUMMARIES ON EMPIRICAL REALITY


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18. Selected Questions From Today's Muslims
Today, information about Islam is widely available in bookstores and on the World Wide Web. Under the URL "www.ask-imam.com," I have found an information center which serves Muslims exclusively. This web site is under the direction of an Islamic priest, Mufti Ebrahim Desai located in Capetown, South Africa. Mufti Desai publishes answers in English to Islamic religious questions. His English vocabulary is strong but his grammar is occasionally faulty. English is evidently not his native tongue.

Within the two-year period preceding January 2002, Mufti Ebrahim Desai has placed on the "www.ask-imam.com" web site, answers to over 4,000 questions. For ease of reference, he has grouped the questions with their answers into 41 categories, of which the first eight are shown here as examples:

Basic Tenets of Faith
Beliefs and Practices
Business Matters
Character, Morals
Charity, Obligatory
Charity, Ramadhan
Child Upbringing
Divorce
etc.

Since the questions come by email, their source countries are probably weighted by the availability of access to the Internet.  Most of the questions evidently come from the U.S., Europe, and the Near East.

From the content of his web site, one gets the impression that Mufti Desai is trying to answer questions of two types:

1. By referring to the Koran and to the writings of early eminent Imams, this mufti web master is trying to answer questions concerning what is, or is not, part of Islamic doctrine. Unfortunately, his explanations usually involve one or more Islamic words, upon the translation of which the explanation may depend. Also, to the confusion of non-Islamic readers, Islamic names are used for dozens of Islamic occasions and concepts, which are not listed in the furnished glossary. This, no doubt, adds an air of legitimacy to whatever is being claimed in Allah's name. It would help to de-mystify and de-glamorize Islam if all Islamic words used in an explanatory English sentence were followed immediately by an English translation in parentheses.
 

2. Within the constraints of the Koran, Mufti Desai is trying to give practical advice to Muslim people about personal problems not dreamed of in the Seventh Century.

As might be expected, with the passing of centuries, these two objectives have often led to nonsensical advice. It is painfully evident that many, or most, of the questions come from people with a limited education. I believe that, in this regard, these questions typify Islam today worldwide, and give a correct feeling for the reality that we must face. These are not questions from wealthy Muslims who, within their homes enjoy sophisticated Western gadgetry and flout the veil, and who are interviewed by Western reporters as representing the world's hope for a benign resolution of "the Muslim problem."

From the questions posted on this web site, I have selected a few (1) to illustrate and discuss some of the better known behavioral restrictions self-imposed upon Muslims, (2) to illustrate the Jesuitical ratiocination to which Islam seems addicted, and (3) to illuminate Islam's dealings with sex, because sex seems to be the area of greatest conflict between the mores of Islam and Christianity. Occasionally, I have corrected a word in the questions or added a comment in square brackets to assist understanding. Parentheses are used wherever they occur in the original. All of the answers were signed by Mufti Ebrahim Desai and may be presumed to represent one man's thinking.

Under the category Jurisprudence there are 122 questions. Here are three and their answers.

Q. (Question 2630) Is it permissible to purchase, sell, and/or consume Easter eggs and bunnies?

A. It is not permissible to purchase, sell, and/or consume Easter eggs or bunnies. The proceeds from the sales of Easter eggs will be Haraam. The same ruling applies to hot cross buns. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 1796) I know that angels do not enter a house with pictures in them, but what is the ruling for looking at pictures, say of animals or of my family or spouse?

A. It is not permissible to take and keep pictures of your spouse and family. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best. [Islam allows no pictures or images of animals or people in its art or elsewhere.]

Q. (Question 1711) I believe I have bought a leather jacket of pig skin. How can I clean myself and also my clothes and anything else that I touched and don't remember?

A. The leather jacket of pig-skin does not make anything (clothes, etc.) impure. However, it is not permissible to use the jacket. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Under the category Marriage there are 327 questions. Here are nine.

Q. (Question 4531) Is it permissible for a wife to masturbate her husband especially when she is menstruating? [See also under category "Character, Morals," Question 908 and under category "Unknown," Question 1823.]

A. Yes, it is permissible for a wife to masturbate her husband. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 4455) Is it necessary to place a sheet between a husband and wife during sexual intercourse?

A. It is advisable [for the sake of modesty] for the spouses to place a sheet above them (not between them) to cover themselves during intercourse. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best. [Further explanation from Question 3884:] Complete nudity should be avoided. Both parties should undress under a sheet and at least keep it over them throughout the intercourse.

Q. (Question 3715) If Christians and Jews are going to hell, why then did Allah allow Muslim men to marry them? Why didn't Allah allow men to marry Hindu women who are also going to hell?

A. It is not permissible for a Muslim female to marry a non-Muslim male. However, a Muslim male may marry a Christian or Jewish female. It is not permissible for a Muslim male to marry any other non-Muslim female. This is the law of Allah Ta'ala.

[The argument is continued as follows in somewhat shortened form.] "The reason it is permissible for the Muslim male to marry a non-Muslim female is that he would be able to easily convince the Christian or Jewish wife into accepting Islam as she believes in a heaven. This is not so for a Hindu [who will believe in re-incarnation] or an adherent of any other religion. [On the other hand,] there is a possibility of a non-Muslim male convincing a Muslim wife into abandoning Islam. Therefore Islam has considered the feminine nature and protected her correct beliefs from being a victim of abuse from the male dominance."

Q. (Question 3257) I don’t know what to do. My husband is messing around with other girls as well as with my sister. What would be the Islamic way for me to act? Please help me. I also have two kids. I am 25 years old.

A. Without being biased or allowing your emotions to control you, you will accept that …your husband …has certain rights over you…. Womanizing doesn't give you the certificate to disobey him and stop fulfilling his rights. Being his wife, you still have to obey him as long as his request is not in conflict with the Shari'ah. As for his womanizing, it is a sin like any other sin. Therefore you should treat him as though he were involved in any other sin. Never confront him regarding his sin, if you feel that it may lead to the destruction of the marriage. Rather say prayers for his guidance and reformation…. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 2603) Can a man ask a woman to remove her scarf in order to see what she looks like when he goes to see her for the prospect of marriage?

A. If the boy's choice of marriage is based on seeing a girl's hair, he may request to see her hair. In doing so, he should be conscious of the girl's feelings. It is not permissible to 'use' the occasion simply to 'enjoy' the beauty of the girl. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 1307) In Islam, contact between unwed male and female is prohibited. However, technically, at what point of contact is a woman's purity (virginity) lost? I am an 18 year old Muslim male. Unfortunately, I had an unislamic relationship with a 19 year old Muslim female for 3 years. We were extremely close and planned on getting married Islamically once we were financially able to. Recently both sets of our parents found out about this and made us stop seeing each other. Both of us sincerely feel guilty about our actions and are repenting to Allah (swt). However this puts us in a difficult situation. My question has two parts. One, since a man is supposed to be married to a pure girl, Islamically should she marry me or another man whom she had no haraam relations with? My other question is at what point in Islam is a woman's virginity lost? Unfortunately, we committed physical sins and came very close to having intercourse (astaghfurullah). At some point though, our conscience and guilt prevented us from completing the action, yet there was still contact between both of our private parts. Are we still considered as virgins Islamically? Please answer this question as best you can. Thank you

A. It is permissible for a man to marry a girl even if she lost her virginity. However, in the referred case, the virginity is maintained. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 806) Is working as a life insurance agent permissible in Islam? I've got a daughter who is nearing 30 in age. Though she is a very nice girl, we were facing problems for her marriage. Now we have found a very good proposal who is appropriate in all matters, but he is working as a LIC agent (life insurance). Is his earning halaal? Should we accept his proposal? Please help. [Insurance is a form of gambling and therefore forbidden.]

A. If you are satisfied after having investigated the boy's character and made Istikhara [prayer asking Allah's approval] as well, then you should accept the proposal. Probably, the person could be advised to change his employment if possible. Was Salaam.

Q. (Question 747) If you have to cover your face, body, hair, and everything, then how is a male supposed to get married? Isn't he supposed to know what the female looks like?

A. If the male has identified a person to marry, he may look at her face. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 631) Is it a sin for the husband and wife to see each others private areas?

A. It is immodest for the husband and wife to see the private area of one another. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Under the heading Women there are 212 questions. Here are five.
Q. (Question 4397) What is the awra of a woman in front of her mahrams? What is the least she needs to cover?

A. A female may leave her hair, face, forearms, hands, and feet uncovered in front of her mahrams [males prohibited in marriage because of blood relationship]. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 4312) Respected Imam sahib, I know that it is prohibited in Islam to trim hair for women, but I like my wife in short hair. Is it permissible?

A. Brother. You are correct that it is prohibited for a female to cut or trim her hair. An exemption to a prohibited act is granted only in specific situations. Your reason does not qualify for that exemption. And Allah Ta'Ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 4054) In one of the questions you have answered you said that living with a brother-in-law is very bad and you quoted a hadith, too. If parents want everyone to live together and there is a financial situation, then what?

A. If circumstances force a woman to live in the same house with her brother-in-law, or any other Ghayr Mahram, then too she has to observe Hijaab [be fully covered] for him. This Hijaab is compulsory at all times.

It is best that, within this home an area be demarcated where no one will enter without your permission. You are then free to move about in this area without Hijaab. This requires the respect and co-operation of all members of the household. It is best that all males eat in one room, all females in another. The kitchen should be reserved for females only. If there is a good understanding and mutual respect, then it is not difficult to implement a system of Hijaab within a joint family system. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 1461) Is it permissible for a married Muslim woman to visit a relative's grave?

A. [After discussing the matter in a dozen paragraphs and reviewing the opinions of eminent Imams of the ancient past, the answer was given, in part, as follows] If a female visits the grave to remember death and soften [mourn] without crying,…there is nothing wrong if they are old. It is Makrooh (forbidden) if they are young [and likely to show sorrow and thus be attractive to men who are nearby]. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Q. (Question 1341) Is it true that women who go to heaven will have one husband whom they will have to share amongst 70 other wives? This is certainly not fair nor is it justice. I'm sure Allah loves us all and women will be treated equally amongst men, because we are all humans like them and do the same deeds as they, so why should women have to share their husbands? I'm not saying that women should have more than one husband, but sharing with 70 others is certainly outrageous. If a man were to share one wife among 70 other men, he would think the same.

A. It appears that your concern devolves around women's feelings. Obviously, our hearts and its feelings are in the control of Allah and He has promised every dweller of Jennah peace and contentment. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

Under the heading Character, Morals  there are 39 questions, of which the following has clinical interest.

Q. (Question 908) For some reason I thought masturbation was allowed in Islam. I have tried it only a few times. Will I be punished as I did not know? I do not do it now. [This is about a woman masturbating herself.]

A. If you sincerely repent and do not repeat the sin, it is hoped that Allah will forgive as He is Most Merciful and Most Forgiving. Was salaam.

Under the heading Unknown there are 45 questions, of which the following has clinical interest.  To avoid misunderstanding, the answer is reproduced below with no changes except that it has been shortened by deletion where indicated by ellipsis.

Q. (Question 1823) I am 19 male, masturbating [for] 4 years. I want to stop it. But unable. Is there any ayat or duva which can help me.

A. Respected brother-in-Islam….
Masturbation is a spiritual malady that cannot be cured merely by reciting some Du'aa….Du'aa [prayers] may assist in this effort, but it is not the actual remedy.

Just as in the case of a physical ailment, one is required to receive medical [?] attention, and together with this make Du'aa for cure. Similarly one is required to adopt a programme of Mujaahadah and together with this make Du'aa for release from this spiritual evil. The Du'aa will create Barakah (blessings) in one's effort. Regarding the remedies for masturbation, a few are mentioned below:

Nikah [marriage]:
Allah Ta'ala has created man with innate carnal desires, and has made Nikah a lawful and dignified avenue to discharge these desires.

Under normal circumstances, Nikah is Sunnah. If a man's sexual desires reach a stage where there is strong fear that he will be involved in Zina (fornication), it will then be Waajob (compulsory) to him to make Nikah. At this juncture, shyness is no excuse. The man will have to approach his elders and request them to make arrangements for his Nikah.

Nikah should not be delayed or avoided for fear of poverty and want. In the Ahaadith, we are told that Nikah creates Barakah in one's sustenance. Allah Ta'ala has taken it upon himself to assist the person who performs Nikah to protect his chastity. Nikah is a simple and inexpensive affair in Islam. The errant customs have made it difficult for others. The solution is to abandon all such customs and conduct the Nikah strictly according to the Sunnah. Nikah, then will not be a burden, rather it will release one from a burden.

Masturbation:
The person involved in [self-]masturbation is almost certainly a victim of evil gazes. It is thus imperative to strictly guard the gaze. Where it is practical, avoid all such situations where ones gaze may fall on Ghayr Mahram females (women not prohibited in Nikah). TV, books, magazines, internet, newspapers, should be shunned.

Should one's gaze accidentally fall on some woman, immediately lower the gaze. This is not difficult. It only requires some courage and training….

By maintaining the gaze, one is in fact moving to the depths of Jahannum (hell). And by lowering the gaze, one is ascending to the highest ranks of Jannah [heaven]….

Consider the reality of the woman at whom one is gazing. If she does not groom herself or apply perfume for one day, she will look dreadful and stink. For a number of days every month she has impurity pouring out of her. If one had to just go near such impurity, one will wish to flee. Imagine if she went to the toilet and forgot to flush and, if you had to enter the toilet, will you still have the desire to gaze on her? If this woman does not have Deen, then by raising her arms and exposing her unsightly arm pits, she will give out the smell of a skunk. These are some thoughts (although undignified) which will assist one in taming the evil desire to look at women….

Try as far as possible to remain in the state of Wudhu. In the Hadith we are informed that Wudhu is the weapon of Mu'min. With this weapon it is much easier for him to thwart the onslaughts of Shaytaan….

Try to remain in the company of the true friends of Allah Ta'ala. The true friends are those that, when you sit with them they remind you of Allah Ta'ala and their company produces a desire for the Aakhirah (hereafter). The company of such people is extremely effacious in imbuing the obedience of Allah Ta'ala, and in cultivating an abhorrence of sin….

May Allah Ta'ala save you and every Ummati from this evil, Aameen.

And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best.

IV. PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES

19. The Use of the Veil, Then and Now
A key to the resolution of Islam's unrest lies with its women and their willingness to be veiled. The first challenge of September 11 is to send our imaginations back 15 centuries to reconstruct reality, when gathering the bare essentials of life was a full-time job, when violence was inescapable, when, for nomadic life, male slavery was impossible, and female slavery was necessary. Having the father choose the husband for his daughter and meanwhile keeping the daughter hidden was probably the only system that could have worked to breed a spectrum of intelligence and managerial talent needed for Mohammed's military ambitions. What we have today in Islam is a Seventh Century military culture dedicated to a world conquest that it cannot achieve.

For educated women living in the USA today, there are better ways of locating a prospective mate than turning the job over to father. For non-Muslim woman who must live or travel in orthodox Islamic areas, a veil might still be useful.

20. Speculations About Love
These speculations on the nature of love are offered for the light they may throw on Islamic customs and for the need they may show for scientific research on love.

It is generally accepted that the desire for sexual intercourse in the human male and female accompanies a biological process called sexual arousal. Susceptibility to sexual arousal is determined by past experience, by genetic endowment, and by current body chemistry.

It is likewise generally accepted that sexual intercourse between loving, consenting adults is not inherently evil. Sexual love by itself is juvenile. A healthy conjugal love will usually include sexual intercourse as a way of giving pleasure to one's self and one's spouse.

"Falling in love" is the popular expression for any kind of love bonding which expresses itself as a desire to be close to the loved one. Love bonding involves an intimate interaction between A and B. B may bond to A when A sends to B, perhaps unintentionally, an intimate, self-revelatory signal. A dog, for example, generally bonds to its owner when petted. Exchanging childhood memories is a mature form of courtship.

Love of B for A may take many forms which, for discussion purposes, might be tentatively classified as parental, offspring, sexual, intellectual, sibling, spiritual, and unrequited.

Sexual love includes a desire for sexual intercourse. Intellectual love includes a shared interest in topics other than sex.

Sibling love is the aggregation of related bonds acquired by companionship without sexual interest throughout a childhood spent together. It is mutually shared and cannot be simulated if childhoods were not shared to some extent. It may have a genetic component.

The religious ecstasy of St. Theresa of Avila is a spiritual love that may be experienced in a milder form by one who attends a religious service, possibly without regard to his belief in the doctrine of the service. This form of ecstasy may also be experienced by one human for another as a normal human love. Spiritual love is non-possessive, non-exclusionary, and finds its highest selfish pleasure in giving pleasure to its mate.

Couples planning marriage might consider, in advance, matters of "marriage etiquette" to be jointly agreed upon. Total nudity in each other's presence might be avoided in the hope of preserving the flash reaction of sexual love and, with it, sexual virility. To promote spousal, parental, and infant bonding, the husband's hand-holding presence should ideally be required at all child births.

Other topics needing more research are: The successive stages of parental-offspring bonding. (Infant-parental bonding is the first. In the last, the adolescent asserts his adulthood.) Animals' love for their offspring and for their masters. Differences among animals and among humans in the psychophysiology of sexual arousal. Social intercourse, self-masturbation before dating, and other methods of controlling sexual arousal.

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