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Organ Donation: Something to think about?

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Recently, the UK PM, Gordon Brown, proposed that in order to tackle the problem of organ donor shortages, the current “opt-in” system should be replaced with an “opt-out” one, whereby all British citizens would automatically be placed on the donor register, unless they objected during their lifetime, or their family members refused permission after death. The “presumed consent” proposal has been welcomed by some, and rejected by others, including several patient groups.

I’d almost forgotten about the issue, until I came across this comment by Lord Sheikh, in a House of Lords debate on the Kidney Transplant Bill:

To my knowledge, the five major faiths in the United Kingdom do not object to the principle of organ donation. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have all endorsed organ donation and transplantation… My understanding is as follows.

A Christian who chooses to donate an organ is following the example set by Jesus of demonstrating love. Sacrifice and helping others form a key part of Christianity and, in the Bible, Christians are invited by St Matthew to “freely give”.

Jews are required to obtain consent from a competent rabbinic authority before any organ donation procedure can commence, but nothing in principle in Judaism conflicts with organ donation in order to save lives. Jewish law prevents the unnecessary interference with the body after death and requires immediate burial of the complete body.

In Islam, violating the human body is normally forbidden, but it is permitted to save another person’s life. Indeed, the Holy Koran states in chapter five that, “whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind”.

“Daan” is a word in Sanskrit for donation, which means selflessly giving to a Hindu. That is the third of the 10 niyamas, which are virtuous acts of the faith. Actions that sustain life are accepted and promoted as dharma, which means righteous living. Hindus believe that the soul is invisible, and that it is wrong to grieve for the body.

A key feature of Sikhism is the requirement to put the needs of others ahead of one’s own requirements. As with most of the other religions, the soul of an individual is separate from the physical body, and Guru Nanak taught, in the Guru Granth Sahib, that: “The dead sustain their bond with the living through virtuous deeds”.

Discovering this “common ground” between five very different religions, made me realise that, as a Muslim, I’ve never really thought much about the idea of becoming an organ donor before. I had some inkling that it was permissible in Islam, but had not yet embarked upon a serious quest to decide whether or not I should carry a donor card. In light of this recent debate, and the fact that I don’t know how long I have left on this Earth, I think it is about time that I did.

So, what does Islam really have to say about organ donation? Referring to Sheikh Google, I discovered a leaflet published by the NHS Transplant website titled “Islam and organ donation“, which states:

One of the basic aims of the Muslim faith is the saving of life. This is a fundamental aim of the Shariah and Allah greatly rewards those who save others from death.

Violating the human body, whether living or dead, is normally forbidden in Islam. The Shariah, however, waives this prohibition in a number of instances: firstly in cases of necessity; and secondly in saving another person’s life. It is this Islamic legal maxim al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat (necessities overrule prohibition) that has great relevance to organ donation.

Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. Holy Qur’an, chapter 5 vs. 32

[…]

Muslim scholars of the most prestigious academies are unanimous in declaring that organ donation is an act of merit and in certain circumstances can be an obligation.
These institutes all call upon Muslims to donate organs for transplantation:

  • the Shariah Academy of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (representing all Muslim countries)
  • the Grand Ulema Council of Saudi Arabia.
  • the Iranian Religious Authority
  • the Al-Azhar Academy of Egypt

In addition, according to a fatwa on Islamonline.net:

“Organ donation is permitted in Islam if it is done within the permissible limits prescribed by the Shari`ah.

The following are the conditions scholars have stipulated for donation:

Conditions associated with a living donor:

1. He/she must be a person who is in full possession of his/her faculties so that he/she is able to make a sound decision by himself/herself;

2. He/she must be an adult and, preferably, at least twenty-one years old;

3. It should be done on his/her own free will without any external pressure exerted on him/ her;

4. The organ he/she is donating must not be a vital organ on which his/her survival or sound health is dependent upon;

5. No transplantation of sexual organs is allowed.

Conditions associated with deceased donors:

1. It must be done after having ascertained the free consent of the donor prior to his /her death. It can be through a will to that effect, or signing the donor card, etc.

2. In a case where organ donation consent was not given prior to a donor’s death, the consent may be granted by the deceased’s closest relatives who are in a position to make such decisions on his/her behalf.

3. It must be an organ or tissue that is medically determined to be able to save the life or maintain the quality of life of another human being.

4. The organ must be removed only from the deceased person after the death has been ascertained through reliable medical procedures.

5. Organs can also be harvested from the victims of traffic accidents if their identities are unknown, but it must be done only following the valid decree of a judge.”

But what about the permissibility of donating organs to non-Muslims? Islamonline.net says:

Islam is a universal message of love, mercy and compassion towards all the inhabitants of this globe. It is because of this that it permits a Muslim to donate an organ to a non-Muslim in case he/she is in need. Of course, priority is given to a Muslim in case the donating Muslim is offered the choice.

So, thus far, it seems that there is little stopping me from adding my name to the organ donor register. In fact, another answer suggests that I might be dumb not to:

“Organ donation to save the life of another or to help another lead a better life is considered a meritorious act that entails great rewards. This has been the view of the Islamic jurists who have discussed this issue. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us: “Whosoever of you can render any benefit to his brother should do so.” It is not hard to imagine that no benefit is greater than saving someone’s life by giving him the gift of an organ or tissue donation. Therefore, this would fall under the category of a most charitable act.

Organ donation is also reckoned as a sadaqah jariyah (ongoing charity) from which the donor will continue to reap rewards after his/her own death, so long as the organ he/she has thus donated continues to function in the body of another human being.”

After reading all this, and especially considering that my own ethnic group is in dire need of more donors, I strongly suspect that it becomes my Islamic duty to register asap.

I encourage everyone to think deeply about becoming an organ donor; discuss the issue with trusted knowledgeable people, and most importantly, with your next of kin, because, in UK law at least, organs cannot be harvested if any close family member objects, in spite of any consent given by the deceased during their lifetime.

To find out more about what it means to be a registered organ donor in the UK, please refer to the NHS FAQ. If you have already made your decision, you can even sign up online. I invite readers from other countries to deposit the relevant info for how to become a donor in their locality, in the comments section below.

Finally, I ask Allah to forgive me for any errors I have made in writing this entry, and ask for guidance on this crucial topic, which has the potential to earn such great rewards. Ameen.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    January 20, 2008 at 4:51 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    Great issue to highlight, and one that we need to discuss openly.
    My main concerns would be:

    1) How do we know or control what will be done to those organs after we die? Can we guarantee that it will be used in a patient for a life-threatening situation?

    2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework?

    3) Our eschatological beliefs of the after-life tells us that angels question us at the point of burial, and then the souls experience pleasure or punishment in the grave itself. No doubt those bodies that are somehow deprived of a burial due to circumstances beyond their control (e.g., drowning) will be an exception that God will deal with in His power, but the question is: should a person willingly ‘give up’ his body and a shot at a decent burial? The Shareeah places an obligation upon us to respect a dead body, for a hadeeth states, “Breaking the bones of a Muslim’s corpse is as if one broke them while alive.”

    I’m not saying that organ donation is prohibited; it is clearly not. My concerns are with the Islamic conditions coupled with the reality of the medical systems around us.

    Allah knows best…

    • Avatar

      Afia Baig

      September 15, 2014 at 1:18 AM

      Walaikumassalam wr
      By law at least in the western world an organ can only be used for the purpose it is donated to Also donors can place any condition they want on their donation after death for example the condition of only women doctors looking at or handling a Muslim women cadaver ,and by law the conditions have to be met .At the moment these conditions can be written in the will or mentioned to family members as by law organs are not taken witIhout having a conversation with the family. i have personally asked all these questions to the relevant people Thus the organs are not donated to science but to save life of another in need of it Further a person is listed for a transplant only when his/ her survival depends on it i know these facts by having a medical background and being a mother of a child waiting for a transplant
      jazakallahukhiarn

  2. Avatar

    iMuslim

    January 20, 2008 at 5:20 PM

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

    Great questions. I think it is best to consult your own transplant authority to answer some of them.

    For those in the UK, the NHS website says:

    Can I agree to donate some organs or tissue and not others?

    Yes. You can specify which organs you would wish to donate. Simply tick the appropriate boxes on the NHS Organ Donor Register form or on the donor card, and let those close to you know what you have decided.


    Will organs or tissue that are removed for transplant be used for research purposes?

    Organs and tissue that cannot be used for transplant will only be used for medical or scientific research purposes if specific permission has been obtained from your family.


    Does being a donor cause delays to funeral arrangements?

    No. The donation operation is performed as soon as possible after death.

    So it seems that donating your body for organ transplantation does not automatically mean it will be used for scientific research, and that the body will be returned for burial soon after the operation, insha’Allah.

    One point i have just read about in the FAQ, that needs to be addressed:

    Can I agree to donate to some people and not to others?

    No. Organs and tissue cannot be accepted unless they are freely donated. No conditions can be attached in terms of potential recipients. The only restriction allowed is which organs or tissue are to be donated.

    […]

    Patients entitled to treatment on the NHS are always given priority for donated organs. These include UK citizens, members of Her Majesty’s forces serving abroad and patients covered by a reciprocal health agreement with the UK.

    Although we are allowed to donate organs to non-Muslims, I have read a clause that says organs cannot be given to anyone fighting against the Muslims. So i would think “members of Her Majesty’s forces serving abroad” would be a big no-no, right?

  3. Pingback: Organ Donation: Something to think about? « iMuslim

  4. Avatar

    Shahrzad

    January 20, 2008 at 7:02 PM

    Organ donation in Iran is very common. I wrote an article about it here:
    http://shahrzaad.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/when-brain-dies/

    I am also member of the organ donation institute. Mean if i get brain death, they’re allowed to use my organs. Anyway there is this condition that parents must accept it after brain death.

    I think it is good act. Based on :
    “And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.(5:33)”

  5. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 20, 2008 at 7:12 PM

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework?”

    I understand that in the UK (or in Scotland at least) donors for medical school etc have to opt into a system and actually volunteer themselves to be used for teaching after they die. Plus I wouldn’t underestimate the benefits: yes the students are inexperienced but I’d rather they got their experience dissecting cadavers than starting with surgery – apparently a lot of the donors feel (well, felt) positively about helping train the next generation of doctors.

    We had a talk from the organ donation service when in school, I think they said that donors have to have died a brainstem death, like if you’re in a car accident and get turned into a vegetable? I’m not sure on that though.

    The thing about donating to some people and not others… I would hate to think of my liver going to some alcoholic who’ll probably just go ruin it. There’s no way around it though really, is there?

    Anyways, I think this was a great topic to bring up. Loads of Muslims would be perfectly happy to accept donated organs that would save their lives, but don’t even consider donating. Same goes for blood.

    Give blood!

  6. Avatar

    Irum Sarfaraz

    January 20, 2008 at 9:40 PM

    With due respect to the opinion of all those who have written the post and the ones commenting on it, my personal stand is that our body is the amanah of Allah and not ours to ‘give’ away at our discretion. Whatever a Muslim can do whilst still alive to save the life of others, he or she should do but after the soul has been taken, he or she has no right to further use his or her body or its organs according to their desire or wish. Wallahu Alam.

  7. Avatar

    Organic Muslimah

    January 21, 2008 at 12:28 AM

    Great post! I agree with you, so long as my body won’t be used to experiment on. I will donate my organs for a good cause. It wouldn’t matter to me anymore, I will surely be in a better place, God-willing!

  8. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 21, 2008 at 1:42 AM

    Great post…

    There is a book that I would encourage you to read, if I remembered the name of it…regarding donating your body to “science” (not necessarily organ donation) since it is related.

    In short it’s research about how donating your body to medical science doesn’t mean it will be used to save lives. Some end up being used for hair stylist school or worse in cosmetology (cosmetics!). Other bodies end up being used for military uses in testing firearms and practice (i think) for soldiers.

    Yeah, desensitization sucks.

  9. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 21, 2008 at 1:50 AM

    The book is called Stiff by Mary Roach! I haven’t read it but a friend was telling me all this. Wow can’t believe I remembered the name after so long!

    Google it and you can get a preview of it. There’s something in there about also using corpses for reenacting the crucifixion… :S

    La howla wa la quwatta illah billah

  10. Avatar

    H. Ahmed

    January 21, 2008 at 3:53 AM

    Asalaamualaykum wr wb,

    In response to:

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework? ”

    Gross Anatomy Labs and the dissection of cadavers is crucial to medical education. Moreover, medical students hold the bodies that we dissect and study with great respect. At the end of each first year anatomy class my school (along with many others) holds a ceremony in respect of those bodies we dissected all year. Many family members of the cadavers (of those who volunteered that their bodies be used for education) attend the ceremony. So to address your question, yes, many people in fact, are proud of the fact that their bodies helped in the education of future physicians.

  11. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 21, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    H. Ahmed, despite having done dissection I would still think twice about donating my body for it, it’s horrible to think about even for the least squeamish. We did the head & neck… sawing the face in half was probably the worst bit.

    Did get us all thinking of our own mortality though.

  12. Avatar

    iMuslim

    January 21, 2008 at 11:37 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah all

    Methinks the thread has got a little sidetracked. There is obviously a big difference between donating one’s organs for transplantation, and donating one’s body for medical research. My entry was about the former… and i don’t have a clue about what the scholars say about the latter!

    Irum, I also respect your personal opinion, though I hope you understand that my entry wasn’t about expressing my own opinion on organ donation, but rather trying to investigate the position of some of the ulema; i’m not sure if there is a complete consensus on the issue.

    However, if i were to give a personal opinion from the perspective of the body being an amanah from Allah, i would add that one’s wealth is also amanah from Allah. After death, we have no claim to it anymore, and it should be distributed to the heirs as Allah has commanded, because wealth was never ours to own, but rather ours to manage for a short time.

    However, Allah has allowed the believer some control over his wealth, even after death, whereby up to one third of the estate can be given away to a non-heir of their choosing, via the will. They don’t have to – it’s a voluntary act of sadaqah, and in fact, sometimes it’s best not to so that the true heirs receive a greater share.

    The heir of the body is the grave. However, if we choose, we can donate a part of this wealth (and what is the best form of “wealth” other than good health itself?) to non-heirs, in the form of organ donation. You don’t have to, just as you don’t have to bequeath your estate to anyone other than your heirs – it’s a voluntary act of sadaqah.

    That is my personal opinion. Wa Allahu ‘alam.

    Islam doesn’t seem to forbid organ donation – though obviously it is a matter of ijtihad, as it is a modern day advancement in Medicine, not directly covered by the Qur’an & Sunnah. However it seems that there are some conditions placed on who can receive the organs, which i would like clarified, especially the point about not being allowed to donate to enemies of Islam/Muslims. Something slightly hard to define when you’re living as a minority in a non-Muslim land, whose soldiers happened to be stationed in Muslim-majority countries…

    May Allah guide us.

  13. Avatar

    Bilal

    January 22, 2008 at 12:28 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum,

    Also in response to:

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework? ”

    For your body to be used in the gross labs of medical schools you have to specifically donate your body to science which is different from being an organ donor. If someone wants to donate their body to science (i.e. having medical students dissecting it), they have quite an extensive amount of paperwork to fill out (versus just having it labeled on their drivers licence). Actually, the person wanting to donate their body to science has to personally pay for their body to be transported to the medical school at which it will be dissected. (This is the case for the state of Florida. Every state has its own rules). The people who donate their bodies to science are generally very committed as its quite a hassle to donate your body for medical education.

    I have to admit after having gone thru Gross Anatomy last semester, I don’t think I could donate my body to science (yes, sawing off a leg was quite disturbing). I think there’s definitely less than 1,000 people who do such a thing here in Florida every year.

    However, it should be noted that there is a huge difference between donating your body to science (and having medical students study it) versus being someone who is an organ donor (and it’s not very hard to become one, that’s for sure).

    Does anyone know what Shaykh-ul-Islamqa says about this matter.?

    Wa Allahu Alim.

  14. Avatar

    Anonymous

    January 22, 2008 at 12:59 AM

  15. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 22, 2008 at 1:47 PM

    Sis Irum: “… my personal stand is that our body is the amanah of Allah and not ours to ‘give’ away at our discretion. Whatever a Muslim can do whilst still alive to save the life of others, he or she should do but after the soul has been taken, he or she has no right to further use his or her body or its organs according to their desire or wish. Wallahu Alam.”

    Thing is, if you or a loved one were in the position of accepting an organ donation or dying, which would you choose? If you deny it, it’s like choosing death. If you accept it, it would be somewhat hypocritical and selfish since you’re taking from the pool but not contributing to it. Some parents even have to make this decision for their child.

    • Avatar

      Btru2u

      April 14, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      i would like to know your situation in the Grave. i read in a hadith somewhere that beaking the bones of a deceased person will be as if you broke them while he/she was alive. Some are of the opinion that the body still feels pain after it is dead. I think this is another factor lingering in the back of muslims minds before they decide to donate

  16. Avatar

    Suhail

    January 23, 2008 at 7:02 PM

  17. Avatar

    nurjannah

    February 24, 2008 at 7:39 AM

    Assalamu’alaikum w.b.t

    firstly, i would like to express my gratitude to iMuslim and others for helping me to understand more about organ donation from islamic point of view..
    i am a medical student and now i had already do the dissection to the cadaver for the hand..i still have to dissect the leg and need to complete the task before this saturday.. at my place, we only had non-muslim as the cadavers, i do not know that in other country, they use muslim body as cadaver.. can we actually do that as a muslim? use another muslim’s body? is there any hadith related to that? there’s still a lot of things that i do not know, i really appreciate if any of you would like to help explain it to me… syukran…wassalam..

  18. Avatar

    Kaneta

    January 28, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Came across this oooold thread, searching for clarification with the upcoming legislation in Wales which will assume consent for organ transplantation after death. I’m a registered organ donor, however my parents have both decided that they will be opting out from the donor register.
    The rationale being that organs may be harvested from a brain dead individual, however brain dead is not equivalent to cardiac dead. Furthermore, they also have concerns regarding the sanctity of the human body.

    Re. the point raised by Brother Qadhi (love your book the Etiquette of Dua btw :-)_Organ donation does not mean that you are donating your body .

    My

  19. Avatar

    Salma

    March 12, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    To be able to use vital organs, the human body is kept alive in order to keep oxygen flowing through the organs so the organs remain viable, ie alive. The doctor may pronounce the person “brain dead”, but there is no absolute certainty – it is left to “expert OPINION” of other human beings (doctors). If the organs are then harvested while the person is allegedly “brain dead”, perhaps with the body kept alive using life support, then once the vital organs are harvested that person will well & truly die.

    1. Only Allah knows when the brain is truly “dead”. Sometimes people in a coma suddenly “wake up” years later.

    2. When organs are harvested from a body that is not dead – even on life support – removing those vital organs will cause that person’s death, rather than Allah determining that person should die.

    There is also the issue of financial and other incentives for declaring one “brain dead” in order to harvest the organs!

    These are serious ethical concerns surrounding organ donation.

    Here are a couple interesting webpages, though I can’t attest to the reputation of these websites:

    “Brain Death” – The new “pretend death” is not real death
    and
    Organ removal is done while (live) patient given only paralyzing agent but no anesthetic
    http://www.truthaboutorgandonation.com/factsaboutbeinganorgandonor.html

    Brain Death as Criteria for Organ Donation is Deception
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brain-death-as-criteria-for-organ-donation-is-a-deception-bereaved-mother

  20. Avatar

    Salma

    March 12, 2015 at 12:43 AM

    See also this article from New England Journal of Medicine

    Written by pro-organ donation doctors, questioning the definitions of brain death for organ transplants
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474?query=TOC&

  21. Avatar

    Ateeb Ahmad

    September 26, 2017 at 11:15 PM

    Assalamoalaekum,

    Great topic; I actually just came across this leaflet which came in mail with my drivers license renewal about organ donation. To Shaikh Yasir Qadhi point in the form I have from province of Ontario, Canada you can opt for your organs to be only used for transplant and not for research. Also you can choose if you wish to donate all of the organs or you can take an exception that you don’t want your kidneys or heart or eyes etc. to not be used for transplant. Ontario residents for further information please go to ServiceOntario.ca/BeADonor or BeaDonor.ca/about-donation.

    General information for all Canadian residents could be found in the following link
    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/blood-organ-tissue-donation.html

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.

Story

From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

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When Faith Hurts: Do Good Deeds = Good Life?

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan

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hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakariyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Because if it’s that bad then it’s has to be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His Mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When He grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.

Ameen.

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

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The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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