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Islam, Islaam, or Islām? – The Different Styles of Arabic Romanization

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romanization_arabic.gifIs it Allah, Allaah, or Allāh? Was he Muhammad, Muhammed, or Muḥammad, (SAW)? Do we follow the religion of Islam, Islaam, or Islām? Where ever you go throughout the English speaking world, you will find variations of Arabic words romanized differently. As a result, different styles and even opinions have formed. Just for fun, let’s take a look at some of them.

The Common Style

This is what you tend to see in basic intro to Islam books. Islam is spelled as, well, Islam! And Muhammad is Muhammad. Ramadan uses a d for ﺽ. From what I can gather, most of the common Islamic terms have been standardized into a set of commonly spelled terms that basic English romanization, such as Fiqh, Deen, Hajj, Shairah, etc.

The Extended Style

In this style, special attention is paid to letter conflicts. For example, azan is spelled as athan, to make clear that the word has a ذ and not a ز. Many of the letters will have additions or swaps as a shortcut to distinguish the letters. The letter ﺽ is represented by dh and not d, forming Ramadhan. Saqib becomes Thaqib, and so on.

I think this is nice to use, as it gives respect to certain letters in the Arabic language. So if you want to change your Desi given name of Rizwan Kazi to Ridhwan Qadhi, then by all means go ahead! ;)

The Sound It Out Style

You’re all very familiar with this one. This is the one that will type Islaam, or Allaah, or even Aboo Haneefah. This style of romanization tends to come from some groups of Salafis, er, Salafees, and has been typified with that movement quite widely. No where else will you see the use of the word Soofee in such a distinct form.

With some exceptions, I think this style is not needed, really. There’s no need to sound everything out so much, especially since English is a language that doesn’t have a set way of elongating and shortening vowels. One of my maternal uncles always uses the classic example, “vhat is t-o? To. But vhat is g-o? Goo? No, it is go! Vhy is it not goo?!”

Plus adding so many extra vowels makes things look a little unkempt.  With few exceptions, end of the day, you don’t always need this style, beekuz noe wun reelee tiepz lyke this eneewayz! Soundeeng out awl uv yoar werdz in letter formatt ken reelee get weerd. Keep dhis in myned dhuh next tyme yoo kaapee payst ay refyootayshun frum dhuh skawlerz!

The Academic Style

Here’s where we get much more formal. In comes a slue of extended English characters with diacritics (the symbols above or under a letter) to establish each Arabic letter as unique from others based on the limitations of the English language. For example, we have d for ﺩ and ḍ for ﺽ. The different there being a small dot that appears under the d to signify that it’s the heavy letter and not the light one, and most Arabic terms are italicized.

They also keep all the letters present, especailly ﻝ in instances of shamsi vs qamari letters. So instead of Usul ad-Deen, you have uṣūl al-dīn, and al-Shāfi‘ī instead of ash-Shafi’i.

This is the type of romanization you see in academic works. Just read any one of Yasir Qadhi’s latest posts on MuslimMatters and see for yourself. The Quran is the Qur’ān, and kalam is not kalaam but rather kalām. Same goes for professional works by Muslim authors and publishers, in books I’ve seen such as Caesarean Moon Births by Hamza Yusuf or Islamic Foundation UK’s newest print of Towards Understanding the Qur’ān, the abridged version of Tahfīm al-Qur’ān by Sayyid Abul A‘lā Mawdūdī (how do you like THAT for romanization!). Non-Muslim academics use this style, too.

It must be noted that the font used can really make a difference in this style. In this standard Arial you are reading in, it gets the job done. However, it doesn’t compare to how it looks in fonts like Garamond, or the new made for diacritics font Gentium (YQ’s choice of font for his Yale works, free to download), which have a special cursive-esque look to them when italicized.

I personally really like this style. It’s very professional looking and gives the Arabic language more respect than others because of its attention to detail and clean, crisp presentation. The only problem is that it’s not very common, as getting all those different diacritics on letters is difficult on a normal keyboard. While I wouldn’t use it in regular chat or Emails, I feel all professional articles, papers, and especially books with Arabic terms should implement this style. To find the characters, hit up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Arabic.

The 1337 Style

Also known as Arabic chat style, this is what all the brothers and sisters overseas use when typing on forums, chat rooms, or even SMS text messages. It’s like, y3ni, cool, yo. You don’t tend to see much of this in the US or anywhere else in the west. My personal favorite use of this style I’ve seen is the URL for Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Luhaidan’s website, www.al7aidan.com. How sweet of a name is that to have a 7 in your name? He is by far the most 1337 h4xor Qari out there, mashaAllah.

Cultural Differences In Styles

This usually is noticable in but is not limited to names. A person can be named Ahmad or Ahmed, Syed or Sayyid, or choose between Husain or Hussein! Generally you’ll have Egyptians or Arabs using e’s and Desis using a’s in those cases. I think these are really fun to notice, like the time I read Shaykh Ali Guma as “Goomaa”, like a goomba from Super Mario Bros. without the b, only to later find out his name is Jumu‘ah!

Or how some may be named Javad instead of Jawad, or Farhat instead of Farhah. Or how Desis keep the tā marbūtā on words such as salat, zakat, niyyat, Farhat. That ending t sound should be gone, but you should be careful. Especially if you run into a Naigat Aunty…

Conclusion

So what’s the point of listing all these different styles of romanization? To show there’s a vast array of differences in the methods and no one way is truly the correct one. Everyone has their own style of transliterating Arabic into English, and some may be slightly better than others. However, there just shouldn’t be large amount of fuss about them. I’ve had instances of people correcting me about the way I will spell an Arabic word in English from one word to another, and really it’s not such a big deal.

And you know what? If someone tries to convince you that it’s Ramadan and not Ramadhan, or it’s Islaam over Islam, just politely inform them that the real words are رمضان and إسلام above all else before any Englsh derivative!

Wa Allāhu ta’aalaa ‘Alem,
ThāqibṢāb
SaaqibSaab
SaqibSaab
ثاقب صاب :)

SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. Avatar

    OsmanK

    November 7, 2008 at 1:55 AM

    nice article about something that not many people probably realize. One that I’ve found used commonly is Ramzan for Ramadan by desis.
    btw can someone explain to me how arab 1337 works? Is it the same way as regular 1337?

  2. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 7, 2008 at 3:00 AM

    Spelling also tells which (potentially deviant) group you’re a part of ;)

    Siraaj

  3. Avatar

    coolguymuslim

    November 7, 2008 at 3:36 AM

    lol, i liked this post, it was enjoyable and a good break

  4. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 7, 2008 at 3:39 AM

    i have to plug yamli.com!! if you don’t know what it is go to

    yamli

    and then type the following line (don’t copy/paste):

    Allahu Akbar

  5. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 7, 2008 at 5:23 AM

    bismillah.

    Spelling also tells which (potentially deviant) group you’re a part of ;)

    Siraaj

    i sure hope that was a joke. that’s all we need is people making takfir based on transliteration. as if the world was not messed up enough already.

  6. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 7, 2008 at 5:29 AM

    bismillah. nice piece. edit needed?

    They also keep all the letters present, especaillyin instances of shamsi vs qamari letters. So instead of Usul ad-Deen, you have uṣūl ad-dīn, and ʻaqīdah instead of Aqeedah.

    in the shamsi/qamari illustration above, wouldn’t conserving every letter especially the , lead to uṣūl al-dīn?

  7. Avatar

    Musa abu A'isha

    November 7, 2008 at 8:26 AM

    I started, but did not complete a piece looking at Arabic transliteration – http://muslimspeak.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/arabic-transliteration-so-many-difficulties/

    There are so many systems available, and its true that most will convey either level of education, and possibly which ‘group’ they belong to.
    I feel most comfortable with the systems used by Sh. Yasir Qadhi and Sh. Al-Jibaly when dealing with large texts. As for anything containing numbers… I can’t bare to see it on my screen!

  8. Avatar

    MR

    November 7, 2008 at 9:20 AM

    Allah, Islam, Muhammad (saw) 4 lyfe!!!!!

  9. Avatar

    Amatullah

    November 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

    Yamli is awesome! I was about to post it as well mashaAllah. The numbers are a bit annoying, because people who don’t know Arabic (and some who do!) will see: a7san, or 3lm, or 9aali7 …what ?! You either know it or you don’t.

    If anyone wants a nice Arabic keyboard, download this one: http://zsigri.tripod.com/fontboard/arabic.html
    The way it’s set up is that each English letter corresponds (most of the time) to the Arabic letter. s = س، press shift and it becomes ص، r=ر ، b = ب, etc. So you don’t need to memorize the Arabic keys like other keyboards that have letters randomly.

  10. Avatar

    A Sister

    November 7, 2008 at 11:29 AM

    Interesting post!
    So all along we’ve been thinking that the name is ساقب when it really was ثاقب?

    I agree that one shouldn’t really fuss about which style is used because ultimately, as you said, the ‘real word’ is in Arabic.

    On a different note, I think you’ve done the “sound it out style” – as you called it – injustice. You spoke of the others in a positive light, with some humor – which is great! But this one seemed a lil too much. To me, it is the same as the “academic style”…the only difference is that it is tedious to put dots and dashes all over your ‘everyday writing’…so instead of (ī) – and finding it on the character map or making a shortcut or something – I just write (ee) and so on. This way, you can differenciate between islam (the command form for sa-li-ma, yas-la-mu – though I don’t know in what situation you’d say that to a person), and Islaam (the deen) – if I don’t have my a with a line on top character.

    I echo br. abu abdAllah (or Aboo Abdillaah?!!!)

    i sure hope that was a joke. that’s all we need is people making takfir based on transliteration. as if the world was not messed up enough already.

    By the way, I personally prefer the academic style in my academic writings/printed material etc., but for everyday writing, I prefer the “sound it out style”, and I wouldn’t want to be “judged” for belonging to any group based on my “sounding out”.

  11. Avatar

    A Sister

    November 7, 2008 at 11:34 AM

    masha = he walked

    mashaAllah

    Sometimes you DO need the “double letters”.
    :)

  12. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 7, 2008 at 12:05 PM

    bismillah. where’s nouman? i prefer writing abdAllah because i want to be explicit about Who is the Master.

    amad practically always writes “abu abdullah” which is just plain wrong :) if you took nouman’s class, mashaAllah, then just look at the translation “father of (the) slave of Allah.” the word Allah is proper (also singular and male) and mudhaf alayh to “slave,” so the word Allah is jarr. the mudhaf, “slave,” becomes proper (and it happens to be singular and male), but it is also the mudhaf alayh to “abu,” so it becomes jarr, too. (yes, i am counting this comment towards my daily course review time) abu is the mudhaf of abd (and is proper, male, and singular). since there is no reason for abu to be anything but raff, it is raff.

    but to me, writing “abu abdillah” or “abu abdillahi” would be unsatisfactory, and “abu abdi Allah” or “abu abdi Allahi” would probably cause even more confusion.

    so i just write “abu abdAllah.”

  13. Avatar

    Amatullah

    November 7, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    The way I see it, pronouncing the letters properly especially when reading Qur’an is way more important than if we spell mashaAllah or maa shaa Allaah. :)

    Another thing that is an English phenomenon is abbreviating the salaams or duaas. It took some thought to figure out what was being said when i first saw them used: aswrwb/ASA, JAK/JZK , BAF, iA, sA , aH …..?

  14. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 7, 2008 at 12:21 PM

    bismillah. it’s easy not to be consistent in transliteration. just looking at my last post — and this one — i write “bismillah” because i do not want the sound to be mispronounced. but “abdAllah” and “abu abdAllah” for the reasons i discussed previously.

    elsewhere i write “alhamdolillah” because one of my favorite shuyukh always changed my “alhamdulillah” until i gave in. but i prefer “abu” to “abo.”

    i generally dislike slavish adherence to double-vowelling — but i do it almost anytime i offer the transliteration of a dua (especially one that is not universally known) because i want people to pronounce it correctly and am afraid of a mistake in their worship that i might cause otherwise.

    i suppose the line for me is drawn between words/phrases/sentences that i am afraid to find mispronounced, and those that are pretty safe.

    thankfully we live in a country where there is no universal constant for how sounds are transliterated. some may find it annoying, but the same people probably get annoyed by “disorder” in many aspects of life.

  15. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 7, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    bismillah. wow this thread is getting into my pet peeves. i detest abbreviations of religious speech in letters, brochures, e-mails, or web articles. how perfunctory is JAK/JZK — does that person even care to get back “WE”?

    and as for iA, sA, msA, the almost-ubiquitous PBUH, S, or SAW — subhanAllah! people use these abbreviations in their Dawah — what message do abbreviations convey to non-Muslims? “we are bound by ritual to utter a certain expression at this point, but spending time or space on it would be a waste for you and for us”? SAW in particular when it is used by Muslims in writings that will be seen by non-Muslims on college campuses… what is the most popular association with the word SAW in mass media today? subhanAllah. and do people not feel that these abbreviations convey a shallowness of respect for Allah and for the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam?

    the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam was known for prefacing his speeches and writings (note: all of them dictations), eg, “innalhamdolillah, wa nahmaduhu, wa nasteenahu…” (which reminds me — how does one convey the proper respect for Allah through capitalization in transliterations?) these and similar prefaces were of different lengths, depending on the occasion. as short as “bismillah.”

    when we write something like bA for bismillah, isn’t that tantamount to suggesting that he sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam might have written the letters ba and alif to abbreviate that expression, too?

    even when there are mediums where every character is premium real-estate, like text messages. i prefer to reduce the rest of the content — my words are less important than the word Allah (in mashaAllah for example). if i cannot condense my message, it should not go by text.

  16. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 7, 2008 at 1:40 PM

    Just as i was reading this, i had a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War sitting on the floor next to me so i could sell it at the used book store. i never got around to reading past the first few pages, but i do remember they struggled with the romanization of chinese characters as well – trying to find something easy that everyone could understand.

    here’s some examples of some of their transliteration:
    t, as in Tao: without apostrophe, pronounced like d
    p, as in ping: without apostrophe, pronounced like b
    ch, as in chuang: without apostrophe, pronounced like j
    hs, as in hsi: pronounced like sh
    j, as in jen: pronounced like r

    So the “Chou” Dynasty would properly be the ‘jou’ – ie JOE (literally pronounced) Dynasty.

    Regarding arabic romanization, it is important to come up with a standard, because it’s more consistent, professional, and dare i say it can be a point of unity :)

    In that vein, i don’t like the 3/7 method of writing things, because it just looks illiterate. and by that, i mean how a 12 year old teen communicates on myspace and text messages lol wth omg u2 l8r. does that look any different from kayfa 7aluk, or 3lm?

    I feel that some words which have gained prominence and been “assimilated” should be retained as is. Islam over Islaam. Allah instead of “Allaah”, Aisha instead of Aa’ishah or Aa’eeshah. Hadith over hadeeth. Bukhari over Bukhaaree (that one annoys me the most), Quran instead of koran or Quraan, and so on.

    The 3/7 format to me just looks illiterate. it’s like a 12 year old on myspace or txt messaging – omg wth u2 l8r. compare that to kayfa 7aluk, 3lm, etc.

    the method using diacritic marks is the most professional, and the most accurate in terms of conveying precisely which letter is used. it’s the easiest way to properly differentiate usage between and alif, hamza, and ‘ayn.

    one pet peeve of mine though, is people who mix between the two. i cannot stand books that will write hadith not as:

    a) hadith
    b) hadeeth
    c) ḥadīth

    instead they will write: ḥadeeth. this makes no sense to me whatsoever. it is like a desi auntie who speaks half english and half urdu, but can’t settle properly on one.

    the diacritic method is best, but the downfall is difficulty of use. the first time i tried it, it took me a while to get the proper fonts, set up all my keyboard shortcuts, etc. for professional papers, books, and print media though, i feel that its the only way to go.

  17. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 7, 2008 at 1:54 PM

    abu abdAllah – you might be interested in this. its from mustafa azami’s book on history of the quranic text (good book for route 114 ;))

    anyway here’s what he wrote in the intro:

    The reader may perceive that I have generally dispensed with the phrases of glofication or invocation that follow certain names, such as Azza wa Jal after Allah, Sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam after the Prophet Muhammad, ‘alayhi salam after the names of other Prophets and messengers, or radiAllahu anhu after any of the companions. My purpose was to maintain the text’s flow as much as possible, with the hope that the Muslim reader will mentally insert these phrases into the text as appropriate. Some of Islam’s greatest scholars adhered to this same practice in fact, including no less a figure than Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, and though subsequent writers saw fit to add all such phrases explicitly into the text, the eye is just as capable of slotting them in by instinct.

    i also remember dr. brown mentioning something similar at ilmsummit.

  18. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 7, 2008 at 2:16 PM

    it is funny how transliteration can be a symbol of association as siraaj mentioned. thats why you have “sidi” and “soofee” ;)

    the funniest thing is when people actually romanize native english words!! you might see people attributing themselves to where they’re from – i don’t want to pick on my dear brother but imagine:

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian being written as:

    aboo abdallaah, the hyoostonee’an

  19. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    November 7, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    Hahaha…this stuff is always the butt of my jokes. Good work Saaqib meyn. Actually, this EXACT same topic was why I named my blog Muslimology. You should write something on Urdu since it`s Hindi, Farsi, and Arabic all into one which gets reallll messy! That would be loads of fun. I`ve noticed the English books written by Desi scholars really look fake and “inauthentic” to Western Muslims simply because they use a totally different system of transileration. This is sad because it`s these Desi Hanafi scholars that have kept alive the tradition of writing commentaries and explanations on the books of Hadith, and their understanding of hadith is at such a different level that even Arab bros want to learn Urdu since nothing like that exists in Arabic. This is important because we all hear a hadith…but don`t always understand what it really means.

    Anyways, funny how, I was just saying the other day how if you came across the word saalaafees for the first time you would think it is like some sort of dinosaur, saalaafees raptor!!! lol…what was the other one, oh yeah TJ Rex (aka Tablighi Jamat) lol

    But I get this all the time when I tell people Israel (the prophet alayhi salam) is mentioned in the Quran- they get all angry saying, it is Isra’il or Izra’il (the angel?) but NEVER Israel. And thats just half the fun! :)

    And you know what ticks me off is the SAAWS I used to do. ALWAYS write it out Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam! There are many stories of scholars who used to abbreviate his salallahu alayhi wasalam’s name in their books and the Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam appeared in their dreams asking them, why they were doing that when it was a means of reward for them? Others would even go longer to Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam taslimeen katheeran katheeran katheera! :D

    ibneabeeomar: Man you have NO IDEA how hard Chinese and Japanese transileration is!
    Chi Gung becomes Chi Kung, becomes Qi Gong, and then changes all together to something else in japan!

    Alhamdulillah, this is one of the few things Orientalists have given Islam :P

  20. Avatar

    spelling_b

    November 7, 2008 at 6:03 PM

    – I think the ‘Sound It Out Style’ is pretty good. I don’t have time to put in acents on my letters.
    – It also one of my pet peaves to see people write arabic words in english incorrectly. I can’t tell what i’m reading. If you ever read a book or publication using ‘Sound It Out Style’ you can almost alwasy get the pronounciation of the word correct.
    – this also goes for some of the other styles mentioned. so, salaam > salam. at the very least.

  21. Avatar

    Musa abu A'isha

    November 7, 2008 at 8:43 PM

    For many it becomes necessity to resort to double letters to represent long vowels as they will not have the time when quickly typing something up to add in all the relevant diacratical marks, hence the ubiquitous use of it over the internet.
    On occasion I will use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) which for linguists is handy in that it is a universal system which may be used for any language, however for the average person becomes amazingly confusing.
    Ultimately you have to toss up between – Do I want what I am writing to be understood EXACTLY as the word is said in Arabict, or will it suffice to let the reader sort it out..
    Most will not have any problem with writing Iman as opposed to ‘Īmān in a short sentence as the word itself is clear enough to be understood. Though I must admit.. Sometimes the pedantic side of me comes out and I just can’t help but insisting on doing things exact, making sure that I convey the proper pronunciation and spelling in whatever I write. It helps those learning Arabic to maintain a proper understanding of correct pronunciation and helps to maintain uniformity and hence a universal understanding.
    But hey, if one wants to write 2eeman, feel free to do so.. Just please don’t use these spellings outside of the internet, they really do look awful in academic pieces!

  22. Avatar

    Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    November 7, 2008 at 9:10 PM

    My two oldest daughters are named Noor Haleemah and Khadeejah Asmaa so it’s clear what side of the debate I’m on. But I don’t call myself Aboo Noor so you can see I’m not a ‘fundamentalist’ about it.

    Like many others I’m sure, I was influenced into adopting this style back in the day from Dr. Bilal Phillips’ Evolution of Fiqh book, I think Dr. Phillips is the original popularizer of this style in our time.

    With so much Islamic material now available in the english language and english increasingly becoming a lingua franca for Muslims (not saying that is necessarily a good thing, we should continue to come up with innovative ways to encourage promotion of Arabic as our lingua franca) it is important that transliteration schemes be used and taken seriously so that even people who are not very fluent in Arabic, but who know the alphabet, can easily tell how words are spelled in Arabic that they may be used to reading in Roman script.

    Allaah knows best.

  23. Avatar

    A Sister

    November 7, 2008 at 9:52 PM

    Amatullah: The way I see it, pronouncing the letters properly especially when reading Qur’an is way more important than if we spell mashaAllah or maa shaa Allaah

    Agreed! :)

    By the way, for those who know the Arabic word, it will not matter. Whether we see it written maa shaa Allaah or mashaAllah or mashallah or maashaa2allaah (and arguably mA too, though I detest that!), we will “instantly” recognize it and sound it out “in our heads” the right way. The danger comes when those who are not familiar with the Arabic word and they see it written in a way that doesn’t convey exactly how it is pronounced, and then use it in their acts of worship – just as br. abu abdAllah pointed out:

    i generally dislike slavish adherence to double-vowelling — but i do it almost anytime i offer the transliteration of a dua (especially one that is not universally known) because i want people to pronounce it correctly and am afraid of a mistake in their worship that i might cause otherwise.

    Br. Musa and Br. Abu Noor also touched on that.

    Some words, if mispronounced, change the meaning drastically, and if the reader isn’t familiar with Arabic, he/she will have no “base” to compare things with.

  24. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    November 8, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    Last thing one needs to worry about. Yea funny, but of no use, and no benefit of saying what scores over other. If one is using a certain spelling, he may have a (valid) reason for it. English words whose pronunciation is known need not be written that way, and if one doesn;t know they open the dictionary to know it with the phonemes
    And another opportunity for Salafi ridiculing or bashing.

    If this post was written in an intelligent perspective, it should have been why a single spelling would help, at least for search hits and results over the Internet. But intelligence seems to have left us long ago.

    wassalam,

    Faraz (spelled out Furaaz)
    And a Salafi, because of its pure path, amongst various sects in Islam.

  25. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 8, 2008 at 1:37 AM

    Last thing one needs to worry about. Yea funny, but of no use, and no benefit of saying what scores over other. If one is using a certain spelling, he may have a (valid) reason for it. English words whose pronunciation is known need not be written that way, and if one doesn;t know they open the dictionary to know it with the phonemes
    And another opportunity for Salafi ridiculing or bashing.

    If this post was written in an intelligent perspective, it should have been why a single spelling would help, at least for search hits and results over the Internet. But intelligence seems to have left us long ago.

    wassalam,

    Faraz (spelled out Furaaz)
    And a Salafi, because of its pure path, amongst various sects in Islam.

    I take it you think his transliteration post is off the manhaj of the saved sect?

    Siraaj

  26. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    November 8, 2008 at 1:46 AM

    What… a post on MM on a non-political topic?! What’s MM coming to? :)

    To be honest, once you become used to the academic style, you really can’t go back to anything else. Its very precise and does the job amazingly well, and looks professional as well. But there are a few styles within academics as well – for example, do you write the taa marbuta on the end or not (Fatiha or Fatihah), and also with regards to the al of Arabic words.

    And, of course, there are some differences between ‘dots’ or ‘curly lines’ or other small details. But the most accepted style is the one that ibnabeeomar mentions, and you’ll see examples in the articles on MM.

    Yasir

  27. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    November 8, 2008 at 3:37 AM

    I take it you think his transliteration post is off the manhaj of the saved sect?

    Siraaj

    Nopes. I think my post clearly says spells are not that important, that’s what it was all about. Its not even an issue. But the author created space to ridicule Salafis, which is not intelligent. Bcuz the focus and core thing about it is wat I highlighted in the end.

  28. Avatar

    Blogger

    November 8, 2008 at 3:49 AM

    May Allaah ta’ala guide us all!

  29. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 8, 2008 at 5:59 AM

    bismillah. so many comments… so little time. again, bismillah. :)

    ibnabeeomar at 1:54 pm — i would greatly prefer what is described in that post to abbreviations of alhamdolillah, etc. why i detest the abbreviations has been hashed already, alhamdolillah. strangely enough (and less cogently, too) many people who abbreviate give the same argument as the brothers you cite/refer to.

    and again at 2:16 — dude, amad can’t even spell the first part right… and what you describe would happen all the time to someone who has no idea what the word is — another reason i write “the Houstonian.” just to try and clue in the clueless. if i wrote “al Houstonawi” — i’d be getting comments from Allah Knows how many rubes…

    israel (or however you want to spell it) at 2:17 pm — shaykh yaser birjas told us in heavenly hues that the orientalists also gave us the first word-indexes for the Qur’an.

    shaykh yasir at 1:46 am — you’ve hit on the secret underground message of this thread: “Barack” — look how it’s transliterated! and don’t forget, “Hussein” — he’s not fooling any of us with that spelling… and last but not least the much misunderstood “Obama” — maybe faraz is not in on the secret, but i’m guessing by now that the rest of us are. heh, heh, heh.

    generally. i think different systems evolved to deal with the needs of different communities. i am completely (almost) at ease with different transliteration systems.

    you know what is funny to me, the fact that there are so many transliterations of English words into urdu and arabic. you know what we call those words? we call them borrowed words. we don’t go around saying the arabs transliterated “dish” — we say they have borrowed the word. none of us (or at least i know i don’t) give a darn whether they spell it with a soft d or a hard d. they can use a hard DH if they want to. if i am sad at over the arabs’ “dish,” it’s that they borrowed the word because satellite TV is now sucking the life out of them, too.

    and these words, especially Allah, have become borrowed. we may be annoyed by weird translits of the word Allah because the word itself is so valuable to us (to the non-abbreviators at any rate).

    who gets annoyed over any strange spelling of “dish” in arabic? yup, the people trying to sell dishes over there…

    that line of reasoning is almost enough to make me want to get annoyed about transliteration of Arabic to English… almost.

  30. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 8, 2008 at 8:34 AM

    Nopes. I think my post clearly says spells are not that important, that’s what it was all about. Its not even an issue. But the author created space to ridicule Salafis, which is not intelligent. Bcuz the focus and core thing about it is wat I highlighted in the end.

    Really? I’m not that good at reading into people’s hearts and guessing at their intentions myself, I consider myself to be a human being and I tend to think of Allah subhaana wa ta’aala as being the only One who truly knows what’s in our hearts, so I hope you’ll not be offended if I don’t take the same opinion you do ;)

    Siraaj

  31. Avatar

    Bint Amina

    November 8, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu

    As mentioned by a couple of others – it’s unfortunate that all of the styles were described in a positive manner, while one was specificaly singled out in a negative light, that is, the sound out style.

    It seems odd that the conclusion states, that the purpose of the article was”to show there’s a vast array of differences in the methods and no one way is truly the correct one.” And while ‘no one way is truly correct’, one reading the article could gather that one way is seemingly “wrong” – as the author writes of the sound out style:

    “I think this style is not needed, really. There’s no need to sound everything out so much, especially since English is a language that doesn’t have a set way of elongating and shortening vowels.”

    What’s perhaps more interesting is that the sound out style is on par with the academic style in that they both seek to carry out this very function, that of identifying those vowels that are elongated and those that are shortened – in hopes of conveying to the reader the closest possible representation of the arabic word itself. Why, then, is one (the ‘academic’ style) said to be “very professional looking and gives the Arabic language more respect than others because of its attention to detail and clean, crisp presentation” and the other style “not needed”? Why, then, is one hailed as ‘academic’ and the other ‘unkempt’ – to be followed, even, by an unintelligible sentence, that uses the style, and calls it ‘weird’?

    Spellings like Islaam, or Usool AlFiqh, or Tawheed, or Ramadhaan do not – to me at least – look unkempt (nor ‘weird’). Rather, they (to use your words regarding the ‘academic style’) seek to give the Arabic language respect, or give the Arabic language its due, by striving to adhere to the closest representation, and aiding its readers in saying these words correctly (an especially helpful tool for those coming across such words for the first time). So, in this way, and in light of this goal, spelling the word ‘usool’ like so, may achieve something that, say, the spelling of ‘usul’ would not. And Allah knows best.

    Furthermore, it seems that the stance on the sound out style, and its negative portrayal, speak more to the group that they are attributed to, than anything else. A thinly veiled criticism, perhaps. I am reminded, too, of other such articles which employ this and would hope that future articles on MM would not follow in this fashion. To give sound naseeha regarding a particular practice is one thing, but to use seemingly unrelated topics as a springboard for gripes on a certain group, which in and of themselves achieve nothing, is quite another.

    I am reminded of a beautiful statement by Ibn Taymiyyah, in which he said:
    The people of the Sunnah are the most merciful of creation, to the creation.

    May Allah ta’ala increase in good akhlaaq, and may we be gentle and merciful unto the people. Ameen.

    Wa Salamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu

  32. Avatar

    A Sister

    November 8, 2008 at 5:05 PM

    Well said, sis. Bint Amina.

  33. Avatar

    Abu Ninja

    November 8, 2008 at 7:54 PM

    Interesting post, however the salafi ‘bashing’ by Dawud Israel and others, really there was no need for it.

    However some people tend to use any opportunity to label everyone with the same brush. One can simply read the blog of Dawud Israel for example and clearly see the brother obviously has a serious gripe with those who try to follow the way of the Salaf. An the blog is filled with articles attacking all things salafi, regardless of the severe inaccuracies and baseless assertions.

    At the end of the day, may Allah increase us all in ilm, mercy, compassion and guide us all onto the straight path.

    Abu Ninja

  34. Amad

    Amad

    November 8, 2008 at 9:15 PM

    One of the lessons of blogging (and I am the worst offender of all), is to make sure not to touch any remotely controversial subject, or remotely slight another group, or remotely touch a completely tangential topic… otherwise the entire attention will move from the main subject, the main point, to this small issue.

    On the other hand, what’s a post without some controversy…. and I bet more people read this post because of the many comments in it (and again I will use my own example, sorry Saqib :) ) than who would have otherwise.

    It’s a difficult, touchy blogging issue in itself :)

  35. Avatar

    Kaltham

    November 8, 2008 at 9:59 PM

    Assalaamu aleeykum wa rahmatu Allahi wa barakatuh..

    Jazaki Allah khair Bint Amina, I couldn’t agree anymore!

    Alhamdulilah many of us realize the serious faults that the ‘super’ salafis fall into, but why is there the need to sarcastically bash? Isn’t this the exact attitude we do not like about the ‘super’ salafis? The attitude of ‘oh look how lost and misguided they are and how saved we are’? Someone who is familiar with the extremism the ‘super’ salafis fall into might understand where the author is coming from, however, it still does not justify the manner in which he speaks of them… If someone is totally ignorant of what the term salafi is, he or she will take it be something so evil and negative… they will not realize that salafiyyah is pure and free from the actions of its claimants. What I see is that the MM authors are tolerant and respectful about differences, it would be nice to see this extended to the salaafees.

    Fi Amaani’Laah

  36. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 8, 2008 at 10:57 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu

    As mentioned by a couple of others – it’s unfortunate that all of the styles were described in a positive manner, while one was specificaly singled out in a negative light, that is, the sound out style.

    It seems odd that the conclusion states, that the purpose of the article was”to show there’s a vast array of differences in the methods and no one way is truly the correct one.” And while ‘no one way is truly correct’, one reading the article could gather that one way is seemingly “wrong” – as the author writes of the sound out style:

    “I think this style is not needed, really. There’s no need to sound everything out so much, especially since English is a language that doesn’t have a set way of elongating and shortening vowels.”

    What’s perhaps more interesting is that the sound out style is on par with the academic style in that they both seek to carry out this very function, that of identifying those vowels that are elongated and those that are shortened – in hopes of conveying to the reader the closest possible representation of the arabic word itself. Why, then, is one (the ‘academic’ style) said to be “very professional looking and gives the Arabic language more respect than others because of its attention to detail and clean, crisp presentation” and the other style “not needed”? Why, then, is one hailed as ‘academic’ and the other ‘unkempt’ – to be followed, even, by an unintelligible sentence, that uses the style, and calls it ‘weird’?

    Spellings like Islaam, or Usool AlFiqh, or Tawheed, or Ramadhaan do not – to me at least – look unkempt (nor ‘weird’). Rather, they (to use your words regarding the ‘academic style’) seek to give the Arabic language respect, or give the Arabic language its due, by striving to adhere to the closest representation, and aiding its readers in saying these words correctly (an especially helpful tool for those coming across such words for the first time). So, in this way, and in light of this goal, spelling the word ‘usool’ like so, may achieve something that, say, the spelling of ‘usul’ would not. And Allah knows best.

    Furthermore, it seems that the stance on the sound out style, and its negative portrayal, speak more to the group that they are attributed to, than anything else. A thinly veiled criticism, perhaps. I am reminded, too, of other such articles which employ this and would hope that future articles on MM would not follow in this fashion. To give sound naseeha regarding a particular practice is one thing, but to use seemingly unrelated topics as a springboard for gripes on a certain group, which in and of themselves achieve nothing, is quite another.

    I am reminded of a beautiful statement by Ibn Taymiyyah, in which he said:
    The people of the Sunnah are the most merciful of creation, to the creation.

    May Allah ta’ala increase in good akhlaaq, and may we be gentle and merciful unto the people. Ameen.

    Wa Salamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu

    Man, you guys are so sensitive about everything. I consider myself Salafi (not salafee) and this ain’t all that big a deal. Brother said, “I think…” and that’s his personal opinion about word construction – you would think he was dissing Ahlus Sunnah’s aqeedah or something.

    Siraaj

  37. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    November 9, 2008 at 12:54 AM

    Ummmm, I don’t get what the big deal is… I read the post and found it amusing, not that it picked on “Salafees.” (BTW, I have family members who ascribe to the sound-it-out-style, while I myself am fond of doing a bit of “mix ‘n’ matching.”)

  38. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    November 9, 2008 at 3:33 AM

    Alas, Amad- my apologies for attracting this. He’s just here to pick a fight with me, not you or Saqib.

    Interesting post, however the salafi ‘bashing’ by Dawud Israel and others, really there was no need for it.

    However some people tend to use any opportunity to label everyone with the same brush. One can simply read the blog of Dawud Israel for example and clearly see the brother obviously has a serious gripe with those who try to follow the way of the Salaf. An the blog is filled with articles attacking all things salafi, regardless of the severe inaccuracies and baseless assertions.

    At the end of the day, may Allah increase us all in ilm, mercy, compassion and guide us all onto the straight path.

    Abu Ninja

    Clearly you still need to learn how to read. Nor do you know anything about what actually happens at my website- we produce dawah material and islamic projects- and out of all that, you look at 2-3 articles on that issue? What about the Bilal Philips material? Or the Khalid Yasin ebook? You think that like you, I would push aside the work these scholars have brought forth, simply because I may disagree on one or two small things?

    I discuss this sort of stuff in sociological terms, not prejudiced ones to discuss things in our community- a Salafi bro is a Muslim bro, if he has a sickness, why is it considered harmful to tell him to take some medicine? If there was a “friendlier-term” for Salafi brothers than I would use it- but their isn’t and I pray that your breed of ignorance be a cause of your guidance!

    NOW I am going to advise you to look in the mirror.

    Be silent. Learn to listen. Do not speak but listen to others for a few days. Contemplate on your own heart and it’s condition and in sha Allah, take upon an evaluation of yourself to yourself and perchance Allah will bring to His truth !

    -Edited. No need for personal attacks. We all need to try to be respectful, otherwise advice, no matter how sincere, will simply be disregarded. Maybe you both need to communicate in person, and we can provide email info if you both would like/allow

  39. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    November 9, 2008 at 9:49 AM

    You would be better off simply deleting his and mine comments.

    I hate even replying to trashy comments like this that lack any real substance.

  40. Avatar

    Abu Ninja

    November 9, 2008 at 6:40 PM

    I was contemplating on how to reply to the comments made by Dawud Israel, and then decided against replying in the same harsh manner devoid of Islamic adab.

    So instead I have simply deiced to quote comments made by Dawud Israel and instead I will let my fellow brothers and sisters make up their own mind and come to their own conclusion, and see who is in the wrong.

    Dawud Israel said,

    Anyways, funny how, I was just saying the other day how if you came across the word saalaafees for the first time you would think it is like some sort of dinosaur, saalaafees raptor!!! lol…

    From Dawud Israels blog,

    Some of the problems that keep originating from the Saudi ulama:

    -anti-kaffir and anti-Ahlul kitab, when Islam does accord these groups rights

    -simplifying complex Shariah laws (example is to say: this person is gay, so we should kill them)

    -brainwashed scholars that lack intellectual capacity and just repeat pre-recorded messages

    A friend of mine who attended Al-Maghrib’s Ilm Summit commented Al-Maghrib students are too narrow-minded and that they reject everything, unless the shaykh says it. I don’t think this is entirely true but I do know there are a number of hard-liners there who will reject something if it is not related to the type of Islam espoused by Saudi Islam. So not just here but abroad such as in the UAE, extremist literature is disposed of and rejected and most of it originates from Saudi Arabia.

    But the real point I want to make is that it is psychologically damaging to people who believe in this Saudi form of Islam. I have a friend studying in a Saudi Islamic university and he has a number of psychological and emotional issues involving his marriage.

    I know of a number of brothers and sisters who have been divorced and you will find most of them have a Saudi or Salafi mindset. It is my sincere belief that there is a serious problem among these brothers and sisters and it has something to do with their strict, almost inhuman form of Islam.

    So the take home message here is that there is a serious lack of baraka in Saudi Islam – because if they were doing things right there wouldn’t be all these problems there.

  41. Avatar

    Amatullah

    November 9, 2008 at 7:09 PM

    إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

    The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy. (49:10)

    Please, can we move past the attacks and finger pointing? It’s really disheartening how the majority of the posts on MM, or the comments, transform into a discussion about this sect, that sect, this group, that group. Every single thing we utter is being recorded and preserved, we should internalize that and think before we speak, or in this case: type. Our mother A’ishah radi Allahu anha told some women who were talking into the night during Hajj in Mina: “give your angels a break.”

    Our ummah has bigger problems, we should be focusing on other things, such as this mass hijrah we have made from the Qur’an.

    How many of us have memorized the Qur’an? How many of us can understand the Qur’an in its pure form (Arabic)? How many of us pray qiyaam regularly? How many of us have studied the authority of the Sunnah? How many of us know, from beginning to end, the seerah of our beloved Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam? Stop with the pettiness and use your time with something that will benefit you in this life and the next, inshaAllah. Our graves are ready for our arrival, and that sect or this group won’t be there to help you…you will only have your deeds.

  42. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    November 10, 2008 at 12:27 AM

    a’oozu billah. Laa ilaaha illAllah. I live in Saudi Arabia, and I bear witness that the scholars here are far above the false attributions and baseless charges made against them. this blessed country is host to muslims and non-muslims who live here in peace, safety and security.

    hardly will you find people and scholars anywhere around the world, the kind you find here alhamdulillah. yea.. good and bad are everywhere, but depends on which area you focus and what you keep sniffing out for.

    i thought of responding. But on second thoughts, will it do any good? And to what do I respond? Those comments are broad attacks without proof or any specific detail.

  43. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    November 10, 2008 at 1:45 AM

    Wow. When I wrote this post about a month ago, I never thought it’d get so many responses. I didn’t think too many people would pay attention to or care for all this. Apparently not. :) For those of you who got offended from this meant-to-be humorous post, I apologize as that wasn’t the intent.

    In any case, didn’t mention this in the actual post, but I actually use all three. I feel they work for case by case scenarios.

    Common Style
    For general “popular” terms, we should spell them “normally,” like Islam (not Islam or Islām). And if someone puts Ramadan instead of Ramadhan I’m not going to bust a vein.

    Sound It Out Style
    Names. I really am an advocate for transliterating Arabic names in the “sound-it-out” style. Like I was telling Siraaj just a few hours ago while leaving to go have dinner at Usmania with Shaykh Mohammed Faqih (he’s in town for Route 114), I see nothing wrong with Siraaj instead of Siraj, and even think it may be better. I’ve had some interesting experiences going to 12 years of public school with “Saqib.” Sakeeb, Sockquib, Sacajaweah, Saa.., you name it. Also, I actually spell “assalaamu alaykum” and “wa alaykum assalaam,” in chat. (I don’t do the “salaamz” thing, never did.)

    The Academic Style

    Like in the article, I feel professional publications and works need to use this. It just looks way more professional and shows more grasp of the English language while maintaining the Arabic that it tries to transliterate. Plus I have to agree with Shaykh Yasir when he said:

    To be honest, once you become used to the academic style, you really can’t go back to anything else.

    I guess that makes you Yāsir Qāḍi from now on.

    Your brother in Al-Islām,
    ŚṤŜŠṦṠŞṢṨȘS̩áàăắằẵẳâấầẫẩǎåǻäǟãȧqʠíìĭîǐïḯĩįīỉȉȋịḭɨiıḃḅḇƀɓƂƃ

  44. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 10, 2008 at 2:08 AM

    bismillah. ya saqib, it’s only been a few years at most since i got used to the way he spells his name now… :)

    by the way, our qur’anic sciences class is fantastic, mashaAllah. if you have not taken the class with shaykh yq, you simply must do it as soon as possible…

  45. Avatar

    Musa abu A'isha

    November 10, 2008 at 3:41 AM

    I guess that makes you Yāsir Qaḍi from now on.

    It would be rather – Yāsir Qāḍī

    One of the reminders of why exactness in transliteration and speech is important could be demonstrated in the following mock scenario –

    Yasir Qadhi goes to india where he then becomes Yasir Kazi, then to Bangladesh where he is now Yasir Kaji, then to Egypt where he thus becomes Yasir Kagi.
    Sure he remained Yasir, but look what happened to the Qadhi!

    Its fun to see the variations in speech and it provides lots of study, however it deprives many of us of an easier access to the proper Arabic of the Qur’aan.How many Muslims have never heard of ‘dhikr’ and only know of zikr? Muhammad becomes Mehmet, Maometto, Mahoma or Mà..
    Al-Hamdulillaah we have a language which unites us, when we speak it right all goes well.

  46. Avatar

    OsmanK

    November 10, 2008 at 3:56 AM

    i was always confused about the Muhammad and Mehmet. Just doesnt seem close enough for me to blame spelling.

  47. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    November 10, 2008 at 9:09 AM

    A brother I know personally commented on that blog entry of Dawud’s accusing him of baseless accusations and that unless he lived a good portion of his life in Saudi Arabia he should remain silent about issues he clearly has insufficient knowledge of (he used as ‘dalîl’ for his assertion that Saudis suffer from psychological problems, the popularity of the book ‘Don’t be Sad’ for God’s Sake!). He rejected the comment.

  48. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    November 10, 2008 at 2:06 PM

    JAK to abu abdAllah, the Houstonian and Musa abu A’isha for the corrections, btw.

  49. Avatar

    Mahin F. Islam

    November 10, 2008 at 10:19 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum Saqib,

    Which style do you think I prefer??? Just guess. :) Insha’Allaah it shouldn’t be too difficult.

  50. Avatar

    abu abdAllah

    November 11, 2008 at 12:49 AM

    wa eeyak, Saqib. you know, the more i think about it, maybe changing how he spells his name could benefit shaykh yasir in other ways… :)
    — abu abdAllah

  51. Avatar

    Faiez

    November 11, 2008 at 1:13 AM

    What do ulama ikraam say about this?

  52. Avatar

    Qas

    November 11, 2008 at 10:46 AM

    What do ulama ikraam say about this?

    I never knew there were ulema specialized in the sciences of transliteration…

  53. Avatar

    AbdelRahman

    November 12, 2008 at 12:32 AM

    I think the Romanization, on a general scale, makes it difficult to understand sometimes, especially with certain words. I think in general mass-media usage, the standard (i.e Islam, Allah, Muhammad, Gulab Jamun) should be used. But when we get to, oh I don’t know, say academic papers for our PhD thesis to be turned in at some Ivy League University on the East Coast with alumni such as George Dubbya, then we can worry about putting marks and dots and stresses over and under the letters.

  54. Avatar

    Farook

    November 13, 2008 at 4:05 AM

    As’salaamu Alaikum,

    Nice topics…
    For me personally when doing transliteration of Arabic one should spell the words in the way that it sounds.
    This has always been an issue for me…
    Lets say Nasara tries to greet you with As’salaamu Alaikum but pronounces the words wrong which changes the words into meaning something else for e.g. “death be upon you” this can easily be done…
    The main thing is we need one standard transliteration for all Books I have a problem with the use of the letter Z in place of Th For example, azan and athan, to make clear that the word has a ذ and not a ز.

    Lets say for instance someone reverts to “Islaam” and starts to read some transleterationed books and he comes accross azan instead of athan? you get what I’m saying…

    Anyway for interest sake I have an interesting blog post up feel free to pop by at…

    http://mynewsblogs.24.com/ViewBlog.aspx?blogid=296c3dbd-4dae-4da1-a447-063e277c70a6

    From me…
    Farook Mohammed aka Al-Faarooq
    Wa’salaam

  55. Avatar

    Nidaa

    November 22, 2008 at 3:22 PM

    Hmm, this post has made everyone conscious of their transliterations, even if they are correct.

    Sometimes, those double letters really are needed, as “A Sister” pointed out. I must say, that nobody-pronounces-“go”-like-“goo” was a bad example. People who know English also know that “go” is pronounced “go”, not “goo”. But when you’re transliterating something into English (especially a rich language like Arabic), you have to make the pronunciation clear. If the English-reader doesn’t know Arabic, he would depend on the transliteration. In that case, you wouldn’t want him to pronounce “Allaah” as “Allah”, or “Maashaa-Allaah” as “Masha Allah”. Chances are the reader doesn’t know Arabic, so why assume he would pronounce “Allah” as “Allaah”, just because in his own language (English) he pronounces “car” as “caar”, not “care”?… You get the point.

    Nidaa.

  56. Avatar

    bdr

    July 15, 2009 at 6:08 PM

    ‘Ramadhan’ is never right.

  57. Avatar

    bdr

    July 15, 2009 at 6:11 PM

    ‘Ramadhan’ is never right. Even if you write a whole article about it.

    dh= ذ not ض

    ;)

  58. Avatar

    ibnTaufic the second

    November 1, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    What fonts were being used in these comments? I was seeing a lot of question marks, like when Shaykh Yasir’s name was being spelled “correctly” I just saw a whole bunch of question marks.

    JazakAllaahu Khair

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

Published

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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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