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Muslimah’s Guide to Puberty: How to talk to your daughter about Adolescence

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Goodbye butterflies and Princess dolls

As I rip out the butterfly wall paper I had so painstakingly installed 7 years ago and roll on the hot pink paint she picked for her bedroom wall, I want to hold on to her tight but she has started her journey to womanhood and all I can do is pray for her & guide her to the best of my ability. She has outgrown Gymboree but Justice is too ‘tween’ for her. My baby can barely make her bed, how will she handle adolescence? It is natural, I know but I want her to stay a child for a little bit longer. Puberty is a confusing and emotional time for young girls. Their bodies are changing; their emotions are raw and magnified. Having taught this workshop in our masjid & in my home several times, this is the first year my 9-year-old will participant. I think she is ready.

My cousin wonders why she needs to learn so early about puberty especially since she may not get her period until 11-12. There are a myriad of reasons why this channel of communication needs to be opened: because girls are maturing earlier every decade, because we live in a world of texting & Youtube, because they will hear about it somewhere; at school, at your friend’s dinner party or from an older, ‘wiser’ neighborhood teenager. She may hear nonsense and take it for fact.

If you google muslim-puberty-girls, there is a dearth of any usable literature or practical advice. All that shows up are X-rated websites with a few Islamic fatwas sites scattered in between. I did find one Yahoo group where young Muslimahs were desperately begging each other for info about how to clean themselves, wondering whether they should they pray or not. The poor women who answered their post had her facts wrong and kept hinting at ’secrets’ after they get married. That’s not what I want for my daughters. Instead of hearing snatches of conversation that confuses them even more, wouldn’t it be better to hear it from the woman whose womb bore them or an understanding teacher who can answer their what, when and whys.

Muslim girls need guidance and knowledge at this time, but this knowledge needs to stay within the confines of hayya (modesty).  In most American public schools, parents are given a choice of showing their girls a video about puberty. Many Muslim parents opt out of this program for good reason as the videos shown are ‘very graphic’ albeit in cartoon form and discuss how you get pregnant – you can read ‘Just around the corner’ movie reviews by moms and decide for yourself. Even if some Muslim parents discuss puberty, they do not explain the Islamic responsibilities that arrive after this stage in life. They need to understand these changes are from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and with them come a great responsibility; they are now adults in front of God.

I remember reading about ‘it’ in Judy Blume’s young adult novel ’Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret’ but never connected the dots that this would happen to me as well. When I finally reached puberty over summer vacation while visiting my Nani, I remember my aunts making kheer (rice pudding) and congratulating me, grown women giggling away with each other but no one ever told me what was going on.

I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong, evil. In Muslim countries, many terrified girls look at soiled undergarments and wonder if they are dying because they are clueless, often it is taboo to talk about what is happening to them. Between these two extremes lies Islam’s golden, middle way.

Advice to moms:

It’s awkward for mothers to talk about this subject as well, so I designed this info in a class format with handouts for the girls – so a mother can talk to her daughter or a teacher can address her class and explain puberty in terms that even a 5th grader can understand.

After talking to many young Muslimahs and their moms, here are some practical suggestions I have for moms:

  • Inculcate the habit of wearing a camisole around at 8 years, this will help her get used to wearing something under her clothes. When you do purchase her first bras, make a date and take just her to the store.
  • Please buy her a small, separate trashcan as well (or reuse your diaper genie!) so she can throw away the used pads appropriately. Show her a private place where she can stash her deodorant, pantiliners and pads away from the inquiring eyes of younger siblings.
  • At this point in life, young girls can be gifted their own masallah (Janamaz or prayer mat), their own copy of the Quran and a tasbih, it makes them feel more responsible for their ibadah (worship).
  • She may want to sleep longer, so adjust her schedules. She may get moody; talk her through her feelings, as they are just as scared of their mood swings as you are.

You can give her this information in one formal class or a series of discussions, as you know your daughter’s learning style. Invite her friends, bake some brownies – make it mother-daughter time. Let them get their giggles out at the beginning- it soothes them and helps them when they see that all the girls are going through the same thing. I usually show the girls maxi pads, panty liners, and give them calendars to start their habit of marking their haidh (period). Another cute thing I hand out is a card that reads ‘Allah has chosen today to make me a young woman’. They can give this to their moms to let them know the day they get them-if they are too shy. I find it easier to show them an anatomical diagram of the uterus and use scientific terms of the body parts, without going into too much detail. Please feel free to use the information below,  just remember to give credit and make dua for me.

Muslimah’s Guide to Puberty handouts

Circle of Life: Start with a discussion on how it all begins and ends with Allah – our Creator

· Allah created the first human being Adam (AS) from dust

· Allah creates every baby in their mother’s womb – It is related from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah the Mighty and Majestic appoints an angel to every womb who says, ‘O Lord! A drop! O Lord A clot! O Lord! A lump of flesh!’ ‘Then if He desires to complete His creation, He does so and the angel asks, ‘Is it to be male or female? Wretched or happy? What is its provision? What is its life-span?’ This is all decreed in the mother’s womb.”

· The baby develops from one stage to the other until it reaches full term. In the Quran, Allah tells us: It is He who has created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot; Then He brings you forth as a child, then ordains that you reach the age of full strength and afterward that you become old – though some among you die before – and that you reach an appointed term, in order that you may understand. (40:67)

· By Allah’s will the baby is born and progresses through life from one stage to another

· Until her time on Earth is complete and she returns to her Creator

What is it?

Adolescence (balughat) is a stage of development when your body goes through changes at a fast rate under the effect of hormones produced in the body by the will of Allah (Taa’la).

· Every baby girl is born with two ovaries

· and a uterus – a muscle the size of your fist where a baby can grow

· Allah produces hormones called estrogen and progesterone in your body

Changes in body will include:

· Hair grows on the underarms and in the private area – Muslims should shave these areas at least every 40 days – using wax, creams or shavers

· Sweat glands develop – take regular showers as body odor tends to increase at this age

· The chest starts growing so it can produce milk when you get married and have a child

· The ovaries release an ovum (egg) every month

· The uterus prepares a thin layer of tissue to receive the ovum

· Upon puberty, the uterus shed this thin layer of tissue every month and it discharged from the body. This is your monthly period or menstruation.

Why do we get it?

Little girls are starting to become women – the process takes several years but you have to learn to carry yourself like a Muslim woman. Over time, your body matures so that one day it will be ready to be a mother when you get married. A healthy, able body is a trust from Allah. Allah made it, so He knows best how to take care of it and he tells us how through the Quran and Sunnah – by doing halal and staying away from haram.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, ‘This is something that Allah has decreed for the daughters of Adam.”  Unlike Judaism, Hinduism or Christianity, Islam does not view your period as a curse. Our faith does not teach any connection between menstruation and Eve or the first sin – Islam does not preach that women are the source of evil. We believe that Adam and Hawwa (AS) made the choice to disobey Allah together.

When will I get it?

In Islam, puberty cannot begin before the age of nine. Even if you do not menstruate by the age of fifteen (Islāmic years), you will have reached the age of puberty. A girl’s first period usually begins between the ages of 9 and 16. The average age is 12.5 years. You and your best friend will probably not get it the same day or even the same year. So relax!!! As long as you are eating healthy and sleeping enough hours you have nothing to worry about. It is a special time chosen by Allah and it will happen when your body is ready of it.

Some signs that your body is getting ready:

· Developing Breasts – First, you’ll get breast “buds”. (Your breasts then can take up to 3-4 years to fully develop.) Generally, you will get your period 2-3 years after your breasts start developing. The average age for breast buds is 10.5 years

· Growing Pubic Hair -Right after your breasts start to form, you’ll start developing pubic hair. It will be soft and thin at first, and then gradually become coarser. Your period usually arrives around 1-2 years after the hair development.

· Discharge -This is the big sign. You’ll start to experience vaginal discharge that will be either white or yellowish. If you like, you may want to start using panti liners to protect your underwear. This is from Sunnah, the women of Madinah used to wear a piece of cotton wool (karsoof). Your period may start around 6-18 months after the start of discharge. A girl’s first few periods are usually light. You will lose about two to five tablespoons of blood over a period of two to eight days.

There’s one more way to figure out when you’ll start menstruating: Ask your mom. You’ll probably get your period within a year or so of when she got hers.

Now that I have it, what should I do?

Basic Supplies

  • Lots of pads.
  • A change of clothes kept in your locker at school.
  • Tylenol, Panadol, Midol or Advil.
  • A hot water bottle.
  • Lots of chocolate!

· Use a pad to wear with your underwear. Change the pad as often as you need to stay dry and comfortable. Keep some underwear exclusively for use during these days.

· Be prepared. You should start carrying pads around with you in advance of getting your period. If you find yourself stuck at school without a pad , go ask your school’s nurse.

· If at any point while at school your period leaks through your clothing, excuse yourself to the office and get them to call your mom to bring you something to change into. These clothes are now najis and need to be washed. Avoid wearing white or light-colored pants and underwear during the week of your period to cut down on the chance of visible leakage as well.

· During your period, you may get cramps- which is because your uterus is contracting- use a hot water bottle, exercise, drink hot tea and cuddle with your mom. If it really hurts ask your doctor if it is OK to take pain medication.

· It is perfectly normal not to have a regular pattern or habit the first few months or even few years. Start keeping a calendar and keep track of your habit, lots of rules depend on this.

· Make sure you wrap your used pad and throw it in garbage. It is really bad manners to leave them in plain sight. Do not flush down the toilet. You are not a little kid anymore; be a proud, clean Muslimah!

· During your period, you are excused from salah. This is a gift from Allah (SWT), as he knows how much a woman is suffering. Do not cut all connection with Allah. Do make wudu, sit and make dhikrdua, read salawat/durood etc. so you don’t lose the habit of praying 5 times.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “… a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses” (Sahih Muslim).

·You don’t have to make up the salah, however; the menstruating woman must make up the missed fasts after Ramadan.

Aishah (RA) said: “When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

· After you are sure the bleeding has stopped than make ghusl *Handout. Women used to send ‘A’isha (RA) little boxes containing pieces of cotton cloth which still showed some yellowness.

‘A’isha would say, “Do not rush [to do ghusl] until you see white cotton,” meaning by that purity from menstruation.’After you are sure that all discharge has changed to white then you are ready to make ghusl and get back to praying five times a day. “When we purified ourselves by doing ghusl after menstruation, we were allowed a small amount of light perfume.”

· Every religion has a corner stone, the cornerstone of is Islam is hayaa (modesty). We should try to act on this principle in every action of our lives. Don’t discuss your period around boys, men and younger sisters.

· Most importantly, the pen has started flowing, every action is recorded now. You are responsible for your salah, your fasting in Ramadan is compulsory, hijab becomes obligatory. Congratulations!

FIQHI ISSUES: I am not an a’lema, please always refer to a scholar for detailed questions on menstruation. However there are some basic fiqh questions that every Muslimah should learn and can be discussed in follow up sessions. The following are according to the Hanafi/Shafaee madhab and has been reviewed by Mufti Ibrahim Qureishi.

Purity is islam is of two types Hukmi (ritual)and Haqeeqi (real).

You may be bleeding but still not be impure or you may not be bleeding but you could be impure. For example: bleeding stops after two days and resumes on fourth day so you weren’t bleeding on day 3 but you were impure. In istihadha, you are bleeding but are ritually pure.

ISSUE 1 
If a young girl experiences bleeding for the first time, then it should be observed whether it continues for three days and three nights (seventy-two hours). {According to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A). for twenty-four hours.} If it does, then it is menstruation.

ISSUE 2
If bleeding continues for more than three days and three nights and stops at any time within ten days and ten nights, then all of it would be menstruation, similarly all of it would be menstruation if bleeding continued for full ten days (two hundred and forty hours). {Fifteen days and fifteen nights according to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A).}

ISSUE 3
If bleeding continued for full ten days and ten nights {Fifteen days and fifteen nights according to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A.)} then the ten days and ten nights will be menstruation and the bleeding beyond it is chronic discharge (istihadha).

Since any bleeding beyond ten full days is chronic discharge (istihadha). She should take a bath after ten days and start her prayer. The minimum amount of time between two periods is 15 days, if you start bleeding before the fifteen days then it is also istihadha. In istihadha, a young woman has to pray regularly – just change her pad, clean her private parts and make a freshwudu before each salah.

But if a woman is a mo’tâda [one who has a normal set menstruation period] and bleeding continues beyond her habit, then it should be seen, if it stops within ten days, all of it is menstruation and if it continues after ten days, then only the days of her habit would be regarded as menstruation and the days after that is chronic discharge (istihadha).

Therefore, she should make up the prayer for the days beyond her habit. If she has a habit of seven days and she bled for twelve days then only seven days would be menstruation and the rest chronic discharge (istihada). But if she bled for nine or ten days only then all of it is menstruation.

ISSUE 4
If a mubtadeah keeps bleeding continuously for a few months, then in every month ten days from the day when bleeding started, these are of menstruation and the remaining nineteen to twenty days are of chronic discharge (istihada) e.g. if bleeding started on the fifth of a particular month, the days between the fifth and the fifteenth of every month are of menstruation and from the fifteenth to the fifth of the next month are days of chronic discharge (istihada). Note: the Islamic (lunar calendar) is used regarding Islamic matters.

ISSUE 5
If a woman notices blood for three full days and three nights or more, or any number of days up to ten days and ten nights and then remains clean for full fifteen days or more, and again sees blood for three or more days then both bleedings are called menstruation and the days in between are regarded as a period of purity.

ISSUE 6
If a woman notices blood for three days and three nights or more and then remains clean for fifteen days or more and again sees blood for less than three days then the first bleeding was menstruation while the second bleeding is chronic discharge (istihada) because the bleeding was for less than three days although the period of purity was for fifteen days.

ISSUE 7
If a woman notices blood for less than three days and three nights and after full fifteen days or more sees blood again for less than three days then both bleedings are called chronic discharge (istihada) and she will be regarded as pure for all these days.

As soon as the bleeding stops within three days, she should make ritual ablution (wudu) and start her prayer during the last stages (end part) of the mustahab [preferable] timing (i.e. just before disliked or makruh timing). She must also make up prayers for those days which she has missed while she was bleeding.

ISSUE 8
If a woman who is ritually pure puts on sanitary pads, etc. at night and in the morning when she removes it; she finds it to be blood-stained, then her menstruation starts only at the time when she sees the blood.

ISSUE 9 
If a menstruating woman notices no sign of blood on her pad, then the clean period will be counted right from the time the pad was put on.

credits: Dr. Rida Bashir’s lecture, Fiqh of Menstruation by Shaykh M. Ibrahim Palanpuri

Related on Muslim Matters: Quandary of Female Vaginal Discharge: Pure or Impure?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

74 Comments

74 Comments

  1. Avatar

    M.M.

    October 4, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    JazakAllahu Khair for writing about this topic.

    Its vital to educate our young girls about this subject before they experience it themselves because without this knowledge, it just leads to confusion.

    • Avatar

      Yasmeen

      May 13, 2015 at 5:11 PM

      Thank you sister for sharing this topic with us i am currently 11 years old and thanks to you i know what is happening to my body. I think this was very helpful…JazakAllahu Kair

  2. Avatar

    Muslimah

    October 4, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    Thanks for sharing this. I remember meeting some younger girls at a masjid who were in one of the weekend schools, and feeling bad for them because they knew they coulnd’t pray, but were also told they can’t go out on the playground during recess time to play – so they sat alone inside the closed classroom. I was like “huh?”

    I am also curious how many women allow their daughters to wear tampons, instead of just pads, considering the fact that the under garments are cleaner, they have more free range in motion, once you are used to them, you don’t even notice they are inserted, unlike pads which slip around, etc. Since Islamically we know that a women doesn’t lose her virginity this way, then why not create this as an option?

    I’m curious what taboos are surrounding this? Until I met Muslims, I never knew a single female growing up into adulthood who used pads. The only reason I heard from Muslims that they only used pads, was that it was “shameful to insert something” internally.

    Thoughts?

    • Avatar

      M.M.

      October 4, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      Yes, that’s true tampons do not break your virginity but they do break the hymen and this is some cultures is something that is disliked before marriage.

      ( Not that I agree with that thinking or anything! I agree with you, there is much more freedom when wearing them but I guess its up to mothers to decide this ).

      • Avatar

        Hena Zuberi

        October 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM

        Salaam sisters-

        Tampons are an option- I honestly don’t know if they break any ‘rules’- don’t think so but I can ask. Some moms I spoke to were uncomfortable letting their daughters use them even though the moms use them. They are not as common in predominantly Muslim countries maybe as M.M. said because of the affect on the hymen.

        As for the girls who were not allowed on the playground- that is precisely why this topic should be talked about so misinformation is dispelled and girls are not treated like they did something wrong! So much cultural baggage piled on in the name of Islam.

      • Avatar

        Muslim Sister

        November 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        I have to comment that the hymen does not get “broken” by anything, this is a myth. The hymen is a porous membrane that actually STRETCHES normally WITHOUT anything being inserted into the vagina. It stretches from exercise, moving around, etc…it doesn’t pop and you won’t bleed when this stretching happens. And there is no hymen breaking during the first instance of sexual intercourse. I learned this from a sexual health educator who co-teachers Muslim girls with me on this topic and it’s sad that cultures within Islam are perpetuating this myth! Tampons are fine to use since they won’t break anything…it depends on the comfort level of the girl and the religious views of herself and her family. Let’s educate ourselves on what the hymen actually is from a medical/physiological standpoint and stop perpetuating myths that cause girls to get scared if they DON’T bleed after their first sexual intercourse.

        • Avatar

          kendra

          May 31, 2014 at 3:22 PM

          I am sorry to inform you that you are wrong . You do bleed the first time that you are with your husband. If you do not bleed this may mean that you have ruptured it somehow. Many athletic girls had this happen to them . Also woman that ride horses daily ( not many ppl do this anymore ) even falling the wrong way, my daughter was 5 and she jumped on my back suddenly from the couch I leaned back to fast and she fell backward and she landed with her foot hitting her private parts she was in pain and when she used the bathroom there was blood. I called her dr and the dr said she may have ruptured her hymen altho she was was scepticle I have never had that happen to me and I grew up playing like a boy .

  3. Avatar

    ayesha

    October 4, 2010 at 3:10 AM

    jazkAllah for writing in so much detail and answering questions I have even as a much older girl! you explain things soo well, and leave no room for doubt.

  4. Avatar

    ummi

    October 4, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    mashallah,may Allah reward u for ur efforts.
    i have boys and am wondering how to approach pubrty with them?

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM

      InshaAllah the Muslim guide to Adolescenece is almost complete, I will be posting it it in MAy inshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous

        April 25, 2015 at 6:07 PM

        Asalamu alaikum, above information made me satisfied so I wanna ask dat it’s said during 1st time of menstruation girls should nt go out nd 1 of my friend came for school it was her 1st time so is there no restriction in that please answer me i really wanna no????

        • Avatar

          Aly Balagamwala

          April 27, 2015 at 5:10 AM

          Dear Sister

          There is no such restriction on going out of the house during your menses.

          Aly

          *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  5. Avatar

    Zayna

    October 4, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    Masha’Allah and Jazak Allah Khair. I’m not a mommy yet, but just sent the link to my sisters and they couldn’t thank me (you actually :)) enough!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 29, 2011 at 1:02 AM

      Aww JazakAllah May Allah make it easy for them and give us all pious children who please Allah SWT.
      Ameen

      • Avatar

        zita

        March 6, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        Shukran Jazakh Allah Kheir Sister
        I’ve a nine year old girl
        I was wondering how to explain puberty…
        Masha Allah you have really helped me

  6. Avatar

    Sadaf

    October 4, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Hena, this is wonderful. JazakAllah for posting it.

  7. Avatar

    naz

    October 4, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    jazakallah for this article. it was very much needed.

  8. Avatar

    Daily Hadith Online

    October 4, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Thanks for the good article. Parenting is extremely important and many parents do not put the in time and effort their kids deserve. =(

    Allahu Musta’an,

  9. Avatar

    Iftikhar Ahmad

    October 4, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    children should be allowed to have CHILDhoods, and not forced into adulthood by a sex-mad society. Maybe if we didn’t bombard young people with messages of how great and “perfectly safe” sex was in every television program, magazine article and new pop song, then they wouldn’t be doing the things they do.

    The teenager prégnances and the sheer madness of sex education teaches nothing about morality. A fifteen years girl has a child from a thirteen year old boy. They and their parent are very proud of the child and grand child. Now two more boys claimed that they are the fathers of the child. DNA test will prove the child’s paternity. This means that the girl had multiple sexual relations. Britain’s rate of teenage pregnancy is the highest in western Europe. This is a clear indication of broken society. It is an eye opening for the Muslim community who send their children to state schools with non-Muslim teachers.

    Sex education and contraception in schools make children as quasi adults, capable of making their own life choices. Children are being taught that sexually transmitted diseases could be easily treated and there is no acknowledgement of the emotional harm of premature sexual activity. The truth is that more sex education and contraception are provided to children and teenagers, the more they fall pregant. Studies have shown that access to contraceptions and sex education, sexual activity and conception and prgnancy rates go up.

    The teaching of sex education could not curb teenage pregnancies. Infact, it has simply increased it. The spectre of hidden epidemic of sex crimes inside Britain’s classrooms has emerged after Scotland Yard revealed there have been nearly 900 rapes or sex attacks in schools. The vast majority of victims were school children under the age of 16. As many as one in three were under 11.

    According to official figures, nearly half of babies are now born out of wedlock. They are more likely to suffer social.mental and emotional problems. Researchers have revealed the migrants in Britain are more likely to have children within marriage. If Muslim children keep on attending state schools with non-Muslim monolingualk teachers than there is a possibility that teenage Muslim girls will have children out of wedlock.

    The sexualisation of children by the government, Dept of Education, ‘pregnancy advice centres’, social workers, school nurses, media aimed at teen girls, contraceptive industry lobbyists, fashion industry and the welfare state to name just a few, is a crime against humanity.

    It is also gross hypocrisy for the police to prosecute paedophiles when the government is overseeing boy scouts being given condoms from the age 11 and girls of the same age being told it is OK to have sex if they use ‘protection’. Boys and girls at age 11 are not allowed to marry but they can have sex and produce children. Every parent is worried about his child being indoctrinated into the idea that gay and sexual promiscuity is “normal” modes of behaviour. At the same time, all parents have the right to control their children and it is their Duty to control them.

    It is an eye opening for the Muslim parents who keep on sending their children to state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers a s role models during their developmental periods. Muslim teachers are in a better position to teach sex education to teenagers according to Islamic perspectives. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. State funded Muslim schools are crucial for social cohesion, religious and cultural harmony. They are preparing children and young people to face the challenges of life in modern Britain and to also contribute in a positive way to wider society. Muslim children will develop self-confidence and self-esteem. According to TES, pupils make more progress at Muslim secondary schools than anyother type of schools. They are promoting tolerance and support the spiritual, moral, social, linguistic and cultural development of pupils.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 29, 2011 at 1:09 AM

      Brother I don’t understand- you seem to be preaching to the choir-you and I are saying similar things- I agree that they should remain children and not grow up too soon.
      I agree with

      Muslim teachers are in a better position to teach sex education to teenagers according to Islamic perspectives

      that is what we are trying to do. Every single time I hold this workshop 100% of the girls know more than their mothers ever could imagine they knew- They need to be educated about these topics from an Islamic perspective.

      please add any links that you may have helping teach it from an Islamic perspective.
      JazakAllah khair

  10. Avatar

    Sarah

    October 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Great article! JazakiAllahu khayrn :)

  11. Avatar

    umm.esa

    October 4, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    JazakiAllahu khyran for sharing this information.

  12. Avatar

    Middle Ground

    October 5, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Salam

    Due to the lack of any half decent Islamic books about this, I bought this Christian focussed book from Amazon for my daughter:

    http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Facts-Truth-About-Design/dp/1600060153/ref=pd_cp_b_3

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:05 PM

      Wasalam,
      Interesting but sad- I have thought about developing this into a book but honestly I am having a hard enough time getting people to share this article or facebook it- It is too awkward, don’t want the boys/men to read it just because it is so accessible, some think I am being too open about my experience. I tried to balance hayya and information.

      What did you think of the book?

      • Avatar

        Jeremiah

        October 7, 2010 at 2:29 PM

        Jazakillah khair to the author.

        Please, if you have the time and resources develop this into a book, inshAllah. This could be a valuable resource for the weekend schools. We also need one for the boys. I am sure you are familiar with the resistance from many parents once the chapters on purity for salah are being discussed. Some parents want to completely skip the parts on what makes ghusl necessary even when their kids are in middle school! It makes the rest of the year really awkward.

      • Avatar

        sumaiya

        June 12, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        MashaAllah amazing article, and JazakAllahu Khairan for sharing it. And I agree with jeremiah that you publish a book about this, even for boys. We can definitely use it as parents, Islamic schools can use it and even Masjid Qur’an/Islamic classes can use it. I teach my girls this every year in our evening Islamic classes at the masjid so it would be nice to teach from a good book and give the girls the book with Islamic guidelines, a calender, etc. so that they can always look through it. And I’m also sure if there are any single Muslim dads out there, they’d love this book.

  13. Avatar

    Ibn Muhammad

    October 5, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    According to Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, there is no such thing as Adolescence in Islam.

    • Avatar

      Marwa

      October 5, 2010 at 6:27 PM

      Well, there is.

      • Avatar

        Sister

        October 7, 2010 at 4:54 AM

        There isn’t.

        Your either a child or an adult.

        • Avatar

          Hena Zuberi

          October 7, 2010 at 12:27 PM

          Speaking legally, you are one day a child and then an adult. Fiqh rules that do not apply to children, start applying as adults the day they reach puberty . No doubt about it- we can’t say ‘oh she is only 11- even though she got her period she is too young to be expected to pray 5 times a day’

          Baligh means developed. A human is said to be baligh when they have attained the age of puberty or what fiqh has defined as ‘adulthood’, when a child is not a child anymore and becomes responsible for his or her deeds for which they may entail punishment on Judgement Day.
          True Form: بالغ

          However, there is a physical process that takes starts a couple of years before puberty is reached. Islam is not just law or Fiqh-it is our total life- your Islam is also your body, your feelings, your understanding, sense of responsibility. Just like in childhood there are physical stages: a newborn, an infant, a toddler, being an adolescent is also a stage. This stage needs to be addressed and discussed.

          Many parents ignore this crucial stage and then it too late. That is why we are instructed to start Salah training your children at 7 and at 10 the practice of praying 5 times a day must be established. If a child attains puberty the very next day after she turns 10, she is on the spot “legally an adult”.

          .

  14. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    October 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    A good and free way to keep track of your monthly cycle is through monthlyinfo.com. You can graph your menses and they offer pretty accurate predictions and a reminder email before the start of your next period.

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:13 PM

      Jazakillah Ify,
      ain’t the net great :) I signed up! Will give feedback in a couple a months.

  15. Avatar

    Hina

    October 6, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    good job, hena, masha’Allah! i’m sharing this with all of my girlfriends and they are most appreciative. may Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) reward you for your hard work in educating our kids in a gentle, intelligent manner. aameen.
    wassalaam,
    hina

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:38 PM

      Hina Bhabhi!
      Your comments mean a lot alhamdulilah
      Ameen to your duas- Jazakillah khair for sharing it with your friends- you may be my tipping point lol

  16. Avatar

    Hena Zuberi

    October 7, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Salaam to all the sisters who read and appreciated it- i understand that this is a sensitive subject.
    Please use the info, talk to your daughters, nieces, there are many girls who may not have moms- host a workshop at your home!
    I hope and pray that Allah (SWT) helps us fulfill our responsibilities and raise pious children who please Him. Ameen

  17. Avatar

    D. Khan

    October 7, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Jazak Allah for sharing all these wonderful tips. I have a 2 year old daughter and have always wondered how I would talk to my daughter about this topic. This is exactly how I would want to talk to my daughter, so thanks for sharing. I am sure I’ll be digging this article up when the time comes.

  18. Avatar

    xainab

    October 11, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Very educative indeed!

  19. Avatar

    Sarah

    October 17, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    Please, I think it would be a very good idea to make a post for girls who know about sex but their mothers haven’t told them a thing!

    My mother hasn’t told me about about sex, not a word, and I’m fourteen! The truth is that it’s partly my fault as I didn’t tell her when we had sex education in seventh grade. I’m in an international school in a Muslim country so the chapter was strictly scientific and there wasn’t really anything explicit. However, by the next year dirty jokes were everywhere, and I deal with them all the time, although they’re never directed at me as I’m muhajaba and most people act like I’m off-limits *eyeroll*. I think that I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I actually went on my own and read my father’s hadith books last year and found out about porn, homosexuality, marriage and love within marriage etc on Muslim sites. I’ve had crushes ever since about first grade, but never told my mom as her attitude has always been ‘kissing/hugging/love/dating is haraaaam”. I’d love to be able to casually talk to my mom about boys, crushes, sexuality, what I think about Islam and stuff but I just can’t approach her! So that none of you get the wrong idea, although I’ve had deep crushes, talked and laughed and teased my friends about them, I have never flirted or dated (couldn’t if I wanted to anyway). The flirtiest things I’ve ever done are lend a guy a book or laugh at a joke. Also I’ve always disapproved of swearing with my friends (they do it anyway), as well as disapproving of their never-ending language, “that is so gay”. Bastard, suck my ballz, all these are pretty normal phrases around me at school. I don’t mind a dirty joke, say between girls but I hate it when it’s suggestive and between guys and girls. I’ve since made up my mind on lots of Islamic topics and have my own ideas/views, but we live in a very close space and I’m embarrassed to be seen reading Quran or ahadith or religious books as it always makes me feel as though I’m being fakely religious. I feel very free and easy at school, had debates with teachers and showed my views, but when I’m at home it’s like I’m in a different world!

    Does anyone have some help for me, please? Thank you.

    • Avatar

      Hazem

      November 24, 2010 at 1:24 PM

      Your post suggests already part of the help you’re asking for. It looks like you feel you’re living a “double life”: the so called religious life and worldly life. In Islam, there is no separation between religion and life. You live by your Islam. If you chose (or were forced to) not to discuss with your parents, then there should be a way you educate yourself more islamically. This will create a bigger gap in yourself between the two worlds you live in. Read more in details about the issues of Fiqh and purification that present these “sensitive” topics within the boundaries of Hayaa and religion. Make a lot of dua’a and in shaa Allah I’m sure you’ll be able to decide which path you want to follow. More precisely, you’ll feel comfortable (in shaa Allah) when reading Quran, performing Salah, etc… but you’ll feel disturbed when mingling with the company you;ve mentioned.

      May Allah guide you to the good company that gives you help and support in this Dunyia.

    • Avatar

      Erum

      April 7, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Yeah, that’s so true. My mom told me about periods the day I got my first one. And she hasn’t told me anything about sex, obviously living in a non-Muslim country, I have to hear it all the time at school. And it sort of makes me guilty knowing about it. About boys, yeah I’ve had huge crushes too and considering the fact that if I told my mom she would kill me, I just deal with it. I don’t usually talk to boys, but if they talk to me and one of my brother sees that he goes straight home and tells my mom and my moms like why was he talking to u? And I’m like what the hell?! It’s not like its a crime and all he said was hello, why don’t u talk much? Another thing, I’m thirteen and my mon doesn’t by be proper bras, she just buys me those vests, the ones that eight year olds wear that have lace on the neck. My mom gets really annoying all the time she’s always making me do the housework. I swear i really wouldn’t have a problem with that, but when she says your a girl and look at your brothers, they do all the work I really want to kill myself. I’m like hello woman?! Who unloaded the dishwasher right now or who just vacuumed the whole house? Of course, I don’t have the guts to say that cuz I’m scared of her. I think she wouldn’t really care if I died. She’s got a problem with everything I do, in school, I have to bring 90 percent in every subject and when I do, she’s like why? Why not 100 percent? I wish my life was better. Wow this has almost nothing to do with what u wrote, but Im posting it anyways because I know there’s more girls like me who will read this and be happy to know there not alone.

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        April 8, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Dear Erum

        As we grow up and reach that stage in life where we become adults but the people around us fail to recognize it, it can be very frustrating. When parents refuse to accept that we are no longer the cute kid but an adult with a new found look on life and feelings that were previously not there, it can make you scream and shout and punch someone in the face.

        We all go through this, and it is very easy as an adult to tell someone at 13 oh this is a phase you will get through it. But your feelings are now, your anguish is real. While I am a parent, I still have several years before my eldest reaches that age but I hope I will be prepared to recognize the stage of his life and sit and talk with him on this subject. However, one thing that I learnt as I grew up is that whatever the case may be, respect of parents is mandated to the utmost by our Creator and thus it may be better if one sits down (with whichever parent one is closer to) and start with your love and respect for them and carry on to describe how things are changing for you and you are growing up. Talk about your feelings and how their not recognizing these feelings makes you feel. It may seem awkward to you and may be the last thing you want to do. And I don’t even guarantee your parent(s) will understand it but in the long run it will definitely make things better for you InshaaAllah.

        However, make sure you point out that bringing this subject up does not mean you disrespect them in any way.

        -Aly
        *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

        • Avatar

          Erum

          October 10, 2013 at 1:41 AM

          No offence, but I wasn’t expecting a man to answer, and if u were such a loyal muslim u wouldn’t be reading ‘girls puberty’

      • Avatar

        Muslimmah

        November 14, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        It’s really bad what your mom is doing with you.This attitude towards children leads to children towards negative things .i must say parents should give children proper respect and confidence to make them a better person in society.at this stage you really need some good and sins re friend who soothes you at this point that you feel you are not alone as far as your mother thinking living in a society like this you don’t talk to boys is really ridiculous either ppl change their places if they want to live like a real Islamic society.i specially suggest mothers should be very caring and loving for girls specially just eye upon them and teach them about good and evil education is necessary.first educate them well

  20. Avatar

    Bayan

    October 17, 2010 at 6:46 AM

    It would be a whole lot nicer if parents told us about adolescence and sex instead of leaving it till we’re twenty…

  21. Avatar

    UmmZayn

    November 1, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    jazakillah khayr, this is very much needed for our community. i just noticed a typo in your handout, the last sentence in the pink box of the last page reads:

    “Don’t forget Allah just you cuz you have your P”

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 12, 2010 at 9:09 PM

      thats just the slang that used in our area- will fix it: P=period

      • Avatar

        Nasrat

        January 9, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        Jak
        Please could you provide similar information for boys
        N

        • Hena Zuberi

          Hena Zuberi

          January 10, 2011 at 11:11 AM

          Insha Allah Sister,

          I am working on it with a scholar – hope to have it available soon.

  22. Avatar

    Sister

    November 30, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Salaam,

    I’m a teem and I have a question. It said that your period counts from the time you actually see blood.
    Sorry about being graphic but I need to have this question answered.
    The night before I started, I noticed that my discharge was a slightly different colour in that it was white but to me there seemed to be some kind of a very, very light pink colour. But I couldn’t tell if it was blood because it was very faint.
    I went to check and when I wiped myself in that section it seemed to be clear. I did that quite a few times, but one time I saw something very small and red, but it didn’t absorb into the tissue it looked like a dried stain. I wiped myself againn and there was nothing there.
    the next day I began my period, so do I start counting from the night before I started my period or on the day I actually saw blood and I’m certain i started.
    I’m asking because I last for ten days.

    Jzk :)

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 12, 2010 at 9:36 PM

      Sorry for taking so long to answer- was double checking the answers with people of knowledge. According to rulings once your discharge changes color your period or menstruation commences:

      Discharge of any color—red, yellow, muddy, green, black, or earthy—
      which a woman sees in the days of menstrual bleeding is considered
      menstrual discharge and her menstruation will continue until the discharge
      is pure white or there is no discharge. Once blood flows onto the external
      skin of the vagina (i.e., out of the inner lips),ḥayḍ commences.
      This is irrespective of whether it flows out to the outer lips or not. If some cotton, a
      pad, or a tampon is inserted into the vagina whereby the blood cannot flow
      out, then as long as the blood remains in the vagina and no blood is seen on
      the outside of the cotton, menstruation has not commenced. When blood
      appears onto the inner lips of the vaginal opening (or on the external visible
      area of the inserted cotton wool), menstruation will commence from the
      time the blood is seen.

      Example: If a woman inserted a piece of cotton or tissue in the internal
      vagina at night and in the morning she saw blood on the tissue,
      menstruation will be calculated from the time she saw the blood.

      If you continue bleeding after the ten days, it will be considered istehaadha.

  23. Avatar

    Shazia

    December 12, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    Jazakallah for all your advice. Its clear and informative and still modest. I need to tackle this topic soon with my daughter and was feeling very lost as to where to begin. Im so glad I found Your website. May Allah reward you for your sincere hard efforts!

  24. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    January 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    MashaAllah!!!! May Allah reward you for all your efforts!!! Ameen

    This is the absolute best article/blog/handout I have seen in 2 months!

    One of the sisters asked me in the home school page if I knew of anything and it has been a long search of crazy, obscure, untrue, irrelevant options. This is by far the best! JazakAllah Khayer I will share it with her

  25. Avatar

    Young Muslimmah Lady

    March 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for writing about this `taboo` in which not many people would feel uncomfortable talking about. It is vital for young Muslimmah’s to know such things to let them know you’re not a little girl anymore and you’re becoming a young modest Muslim lady. This has probably helped many, many, many young Muslims understand all this before confusion hits them.

    • Avatar

      Nidsthewriter

      March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      mashallah.. thank you for giving this valuable information.. may allah bless you for taking the effort to share the knowledge.. :-)

  26. Pingback: A Women’s Guide to Spirituality in Ramadan during Menstruation and Postnatal Bleeding - MuslimMatters.org

  27. Avatar

    Khaoula

    December 31, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    I have a question?Can a Muslim girl who is still a virgin wear tampons in Islam?Please help me all my friends wear them and I never asked my mom but am inshallah planning on. I really want to wear tampons but deen is more important to me.

  28. Avatar

    Salizah

    July 4, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    JazakAllah Khair.. May Allah reward you for all your efforts!

  29. Avatar

    amina

    August 11, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Thank you so much for the article it is amazing I am only 12 and I got mine when I was 11 and a half years old anyway this is amazing thank you it was very educative and helpful allah hafiz

  30. Avatar

    ummiumar

    August 13, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Jazakallah for the article its perfect. Do u have some info about puberty in boys too since being a mother i think its more difficult witjh boys .

  31. Avatar

    A

    October 2, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    It’s been a while since I read this and I am still passing it on to others ma sha Allah. Has the boys version come out yet? I haven’t seen it…

  32. Pingback: Managing "Sexpectations" as a Newlywed - SimpleMuslimWeddings.com

  33. Avatar

    Naeema Halim

    May 22, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Great article I must say..but pls clarify,should at this stage 9 onwards,should we just tell the girls about puberty and menstruation..what about the actual process of baby birth,how the ovary is fertilized by the sperm..thats the toughest part..how to convey that and at which stage ,because when we will tell them about ovary and babies,they would ask this question.Please advise

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      August 23, 2015 at 9:55 PM

      Same question i posted too.

  34. Avatar

    Zainab O.

    May 27, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    May Allah reward you abundantly , may He accept it a an ibadah for you and a hujja for you on the day of Qiyam. Ameen. We really need this and yes may Allah make it easy for you to publish it and the boy’s version as well . An e-book will be a good start, insha Allah

  35. Avatar

    Free Palestine

    September 27, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    what if you get it for only one month and dont get it any of the next months :( what DOSE THAT MEAN?

  36. Avatar

    malaika

    October 9, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    My daughter is 11 and everyone in her class has waxing or shaving but I didn’t start shaving until I was 18 what should I do let her shave or wait?

  37. Avatar

    Umm Afraz

    April 22, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    Masha Allah, a much needed article! Very beneficial!
    BarakAllahu feeki fid-dunya wal aakhirah!

    Is the Muslim’s Guide to Puberty published? I can’t seem to find it.

  38. Avatar

    Fatima

    August 23, 2015 at 9:52 PM

    JazakAllah! This covers almost all the things that concerned me. My little girl is showing most signs of puberty now, for which i have already explaind almost everything about her first period (as this page tells). But The only question that bothers me (which i hv skipped so far) is “how does pregnancy really happen, and The mating processes etc!
    I hv not discussed sex with her, and i am really unsure what to tell, and how much to tell her? She is going to be 12 yrs in 2 months time, and mentally she is still a small little child !
    I m lost!

  39. Avatar

    Khadija

    November 30, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    I am 12 yrs of age and have started my period but r we as Muslims allowed to tell our fathers, etc about starting our periods.
    Also Jazaakallahukairun for explaining this in so much detail. May Allah reward you.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      November 30, 2015 at 4:26 PM

      Congratulations! May Allah make this an easy transition for you. There is no Islamic reason not to tell your father as now you have become baligh and many rules such as those of salah and fasting have started to apply to you, but please keep your local culture in mind.

  40. Avatar

    Jenna Chowdhury

    January 27, 2016 at 5:49 AM

    I’m reading this article in 2016 and it is so refreshing and vitally important to have this kind of education available for young girls. This is not always an easy topic to discuss with family but there is some excellent advice in this article. My daughter just recently started her period and I had her read this article which proved to be very helpful. I also bought my daughter a monthly subscription box from a company called Madame Ladybug which delivers pads/tampons directly to your home. They also have a first period box for young girls which I bought for my daughter and she loved it. I highly recommend it, especially if you feel awkward buying feminine hygiene products in public. Thank you for writing this article, so very important!

  41. Avatar

    Rahmah

    July 15, 2016 at 3:17 AM

    Mashaa Allah. Jazakallah khayran for this article. It is quiet helpful

  42. Avatar

    Farhana Sharmeen

    September 20, 2017 at 9:43 PM

    JAK for this article. I hope sisters benefit from this post on the same topic-
    http://simplymuslimmom.com/muslim-moms-guide-to-puberty-part-2/

  43. Avatar

    Desert Rose

    May 22, 2019 at 8:43 AM

    Aslam-o-alikyum, sister
    I am a student and i have really a issue of menstruation cycle. Whenever i read 15 days gap in between two periods i can’t get that point. Is this 15 day gap start from the first day of period like if i have period on 1st of month and have habit of 10 days, then after 10 days my periods stop. Now, on what date my mens is consider on 15th of that month(if i bleed) or on 25th? Please explain that thing. and one more thing, i have continuous bleeding for 4months, and now can i fast on 11day before taking gusal or not? please explain my these question… i will be grateful to you.

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#Culture

Messiah, A Fitnaflix Production

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Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series. 

This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.

The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media. 

The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic. While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.

The show repeatedly refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is also consistent normalization of Israeli occupation and glorification of the occupying forces.  

Islamic eschatology 

Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the son of Mary 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” [1]. Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra [2]. When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:

  • Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name. 
  • The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah. 
  • The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement. 

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”

Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, and  roam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.

Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned

The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.

The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.

On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.

What Netflix got right and what it got wrong

The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism [3]. Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does. 

messiah

photo credit: IMDb

However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.

Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa [2].

Safeguarding against tribulations

The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking? 

walking on water

Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence. 

Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.  

Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality. 

Is it time to live on a remote mountain?

The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.

The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!

Muslims and the entertainment media

This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information. 

It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.  When we don’t tell the story, someone else will. 

Make it a Netflix Night?

We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it. 

Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner. 

Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.

Works Cited

[1] T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007. 
[2] O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991. 
[3] [Online]. Available: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/06/23/dajjal-emerges-khawarij/.

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Shaykh Hamza Yusuf And The Question of Rebellion In The Islamic Tradition

Sepoy rebellion, Shaykh Hamza
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In recent years, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a notable Islamic scholar from North America, has gained global prominence by supporting efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to deal with the fallout of the Arab revolutions. The UAE is a Middle Eastern autocracy that has been the chief strategist behind quelling the Arab revolutionary aspiration for accountable government in the region. Shaykh Hamza views himself as helping prevent the region from falling into chaos by supporting one of its influential autocratic states.

However, more recently, he has become embroiled in another controversy because of comments he made regarding the Syrian revolution in 2016 that surfaced online earlier this week and for which he has since apologised. I will not discuss these comments directly in this article, but the present piece does have a bearing on the issue of revolution as it addresses the question of how Islamic scholars have traditionally responded to tyranny.

Thus, in what follows, I somewhat narrowly focus on another recent recording of Shaykh Hamza that has been published by a third party in the past couple of weeks entitled: “Hamza Yusuf’s response to the criticism for working with Trump administration”. While it was published online at the end of August 2019, the short clip may, in fact, predate the Trump controversy, as it only addresses the more general charge that Shaykh Hamza is supportive of tyrannical governments.

Thus, despite its title, the primary focus of the recording is what the Islamic tradition purportedly says about the duty of Muslims to render virtually unconditional obedience to even the most tyrannical of rulers. In what follows, I argue that Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule—a contention that he has been repeating for many years—is inaccurate. Indeed, it is so demonstrably inaccurate that one wonders how a scholar as learned as Shaykh Hamza can portray it as the mainstream interpretation of the Islamic tradition rather than as representing a particularly selective reading of fourteen hundred years of scholarship. Rather than rest on this claim, I will attempt to demonstrate this in what follows. (Note: this article was sent to Shaykh Hamza for comment at the beginning of this month, but he has not replied in time for publication.)

Opposing all government vs opposing a government

Shaykh Hamza argues that “the Islamic tradition” demands that one render virtually absolute obedience to one’s rulers. He bases this assertion on a number of grounds, each of which I will address in turn. Firstly, he argues that Islam requires government, because the opposite of having a government would be a state of chaos. This is, however, to mischaracterise the arguments of the majority of mainstream scholars in Islamic history down to the present who, following explicit Qur’anic and Prophetic teachings, opposed supporting tyrannical rulers. None of these scholars ever advocated the removal of government altogether. They only opposed tyranny. For some reason that is difficult to account for, Shaykh Hamza does not, in addressing the arguments of his interlocutors, make the straightforward distinction between opposing tyranny, and opposing the existence of any government at all.

A complex tradition

Rather than support these tyrannical governments, the Islamic tradition provides a variety of responses to how one should oppose such governments, ranging from the more quietist—opposing them only in one’s heart—to the more activist—opposing them through armed rebellion. The majority of later scholars, including masters such as al-Ghazzali (d. 505/1111), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795/1393), and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449) appear to have fallen somewhere between these two poles, advocating rebellion only in limited circumstances, and mostly advising a vocally critical posture towards tyranny. Of course, some early scholars, such as the sanctified member of the Prophetic Household, Sayyiduna Husayn (d. 61/680) had engaged in armed opposition to the tyranny of the Umayyads resulting in his martyrdom. Similarly, the Companion ‘Abdullah b. Zubayr (d. 73/692), grandson of Abu Bakr (d. 13/634), and son of al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwam (d. 36/656), two of the Ten Companions Promised Paradise, had established a Caliphate based in Makkah that militarily tried to unseat the Umayyad Caliphal counter-claimant.

However, the model of outright military rebellion adopted by these illustrious scholars was generally relinquished in later centuries in favour of other forms of resisting tyranny. This notwithstanding, I will try to show that the principle of vocally resisting tyranny has always remained at the heart of the Islamic tradition contrary to the contentions of Shaykh Hamza. Indeed, I argue that the suggestion that Shaykh Hamza’s work with the UAE, an especially oppressive regime in the Arab world, is somehow backed by the Islamic tradition can only be read as a mischaracterisation of this tradition. He only explicitly cites two scholars from Islamic history to support his contention, namely Shaykhs Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899/1493) and Abu Bakr al-Turtushi (d. 520/1126), both of whom were notable Maliki scholars from the Islamic West. Two scholars of the same legal school, from roughly the same relatively peripheral geographic region, living roughly four hundred years apart, cannot fairly be used to represent the swathe of Islamic views to be found over fourteen hundred years in lands as far-flung as India to the east, Russia to the north, and southern Africa to the south.

What does the tradition actually say?

Let me briefly illustrate the diversity of opinion on this issue within the Islamic tradition by citing several more prominent and more influential figures from the same tradition alongside their very different stances on the issue of how one ought to respond to tyrannical rulers. Most of the Four Imams are in fact reported to have supported rebellion (khuruj) which is, by definition, armed. A good summary of their positions is found in the excellent study in Arabic by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Dumayji, who is himself opposed to rebellion, but who notes that outright rebellion against tyrannical rule was in fact encouraged by Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik (d. 179/795), and is narrated as one of the legal positions adopted by al-Shafi‘i (d. 204/820) and Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855). As these scholars’ legal ideas developed and matured into schools of thought, many later adherents also maintained similar positions to those attributed to the founders of these schools. To avoid suggesting that armed rebellion against tyrants was the dominant position of the later Islamic tradition, let me preface this section with a note from Holberg Prize-winning Islamic historian, Michael Cook, who notes in his magisterial study of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong that “in the face of the delinquency of the ruler, there is a clear mainstream position [in the Islamic tradition]: rebuke is endorsed while [armed] rebellion is rejected.”

But there were also clearly plenty of outliers, or more qualified endorsements of rebellion against tyrants, as well as the frequent disavowal of the obligation to render them any obedience. Thus for the Malikis, one can find Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi (d. 543/1148) who asserts that advocating rebellion against tyrants is the main position of the madhhab; similarly among later Hanafis, one finds Qadi Abu Bakr al-Jassas (d. 370/981); for the Hanbalis, one may cite the positions of the prolific scholars Imam Ibn ‘Aqil (d. 513/1119), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201), and in a more qualified sense, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. Among later Shafi‘is, I have found less explicit discussions of rebellion in my limited search, but a prominent Shafi‘i like the influential exegete and theologian al-Fakhr al-Razi (d. 606/1210) makes explicit, contrary to Shaykh Hamza’s claims, that not only is obeying rulers not an obligation, in fact “most of the time it is prohibited, since they command to nothing but tyranny.” This is similar in ways to the stance of other great Shafi‘is such as al-hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani who notes concerning tyrannical rulers (umara’ al-jawr) that the ulama state that “if it is possible to depose them without fitna and oppression, it is an obligation to do so. Otherwise, it is obligatory to be patient.” It is worth noting that the normative influence of such a statement cited by Ibn Hajar transcends the Shafi‘i school given that it is made in his influential commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. Once again, contrary to the assertions of Shaykh Hamza, there is nothing to suggest that any of the illustrious scholars who supported rebellion against tyrannical rulers was advocating the anarchist removal of all government. Rather they were explicitly advocating the replacement of a tyrant with a just ruler where this was possible.

Al-Ghazzali on confronting tyrants

A final example may be taken from the writing of Imam al-Ghazzali, an exceptionally influential scholar in the Islamic tradition who Shaykh Hamza particularly admires. On al-Ghazzali, who is generally opposed to rebellion but not other forms of opposition to tyranny, I would like to once again cite the historian Michael Cook. In his previously cited work, after an extensive discussion of al-Ghazzali’s articulation of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong, Cook concludes (p. 456):

As we have seen, his views on this subject are marked by a certain flirtation with radicalism. In this Ghazzālī may have owed something to his teacher Juwaynī, and he may also have been reacting to the Ḥanafī chauvinism of the Seljūq rulers of his day. The duty, of course, extends to everyone, not just rulers and scholars. More remarkably, he is prepared to allow individual subjects to have recourse to weapons where necessary, and even to sanction the formation of armed bands to implement the duty without the permission of the ruler. And while there is no question of countenancing rebellion, Ghazzālī is no accommodationist: he displays great enthusiasm for men who take their lives in their hands and rebuke unjust rulers in harsh and uncompromising language.

Most of the material Cook bases his discussion upon is taken from al-Ghazzali’s magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Such works once again demonstrate that the Islamic tradition, or great Sufi masters and their masterworks, cannot be the basis for the supportive attitude towards tyrannical rule on the part of a minority of modern scholars.

Modern discontinuities and their high stakes

But modern times give rise to certain changes that also merit our attention. In modern times, new technologies of governance, such as democracy, have gone some way to dealing with challenges such as the management of the transition of power without social breakdown and the loss of life, as well as other forms of accountability that are not possible in absolute autocracies. For their part, absolute autocracies have had their tyrannical dimensions amplified with Orwellian technologies that invade private spaces and facilitate barbaric forms of torture and inhumane degradation on a scale that was likely unimaginable to premodern scholars. The stakes of a scholar’s decision of whether to support autocracy or democracy could not be higher.

Modern scholars like Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1345/1926), someone who Shaykh Hamza’s own mentor, Shaykh Abdullah b. Bayyah (b. 1353f./1935) considered a teacher until fairly recently, has advocated for an Islamic conception of democracy as a possible means to deal with the problem of tyranny that plagues much of the Muslim world. He is hardly the only scholar to do so. And in contrast with some of the scholars of the past who advocated armed rebellion in response to tyranny, most contemporary scholars supporting the Arab revolutions have argued for peaceful political change wherever possible. They have advocated for peaceful protest in opposition to tyranny. Where this devolved into violence in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, this was generally because of the disproportionately violent responses of regimes to peaceful protests.

Shaykh Hamza on the nature of government

For Shaykh Hamza, the fault here appears to lie with the peaceful protestors for provoking these governments to crush them. Such a conception of the dynamics of protest appears to assume that the autocratic governmental response to this is a natural law akin to cause and effect. The logic would seem to be: if one peacefully calls for reform and one is murdered in cold blood by a tyrannical government, then one has only oneself to blame. Governments, according to this viewpoint, have no choice but to be murderous and tyrannical. But in an age in which nearly half of the world’s governments are democracies, however flawed at times, why not aspire to greater accountability and less violent forms of governance than outright military dictatorship?

Rather than ask this question, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf appears to be willing to defend autocracy no matter what they do on the grounds that government, in principle, is what is at stake. Indeed, in defending government as necessary and a blessing, he rhetorically challenges his critics to “ask the people of Libya whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Yemen whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Syria whether government is a blessing?” The tragic irony of such statements is that these countries have, in part, been destroyed because of the interventions of a government, one for which Shaykh Hamza serves as an official, namely the UAE. This government has one of the most aggressive foreign policies in the region and has been instrumental in the failure of representative governments and the survival of tyrannical regimes throughout the Middle East.

Where do we go from here?

In summary, Shaykh Hamza’s critics are not concerned that he is “supporting governments,” rather they are concerned that for the last few years, he has found himself supporting bad government and effectively opposing the potential for good government in a region that is desperately in need of it. And while he may view himself as, in fact, supporting stability in the region by supporting the UAE, such a view is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the evidence. Given his working relationship with the UAE government, perhaps Shaykh Hamza could use his position to remind the UAE of the blessing of government in an effort to stop them from destroying the governments in the region through proxy wars that result in death on an epic scale. If he is unable to do this, then the most honourable thing to do under such circumstances would be to withdraw from such political affiliations and use all of his influence and abilities to call for genuine accountability in the region in the same way that he is currently using his influence and abilities to provide cover, even if unwittingly, for the UAE’s oppression.

And Allah knows best.

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Can Women Attend The Burial Of The Deceased?

A short survey on what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue

Quran at graveyard, woman attend burial
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A few weeks ago, my brother passed away, may Allah have mercy on his soul. By Allah’s grace, his funeral was well-attended by many friends, relatives, and students of his, including a number of women. In this context, someone asked me about the Sharia’s guidance regarding women attending the burial of the deceased, and in what follows I consider what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue. The short survey below is by no means exhaustive, something that will need to be left for a much longer piece, but I hope it can be considered representative for the purposes of a general readership. 

This is not a fatwa, but rather a brief outline of what past scholars have argued to be the case with some suggestions as to how this might be understood in modern times. Finally, I should note that this is a discussion about accompanying the deceased to their final resting place (ittiba‘/tashyi‘ al-jinaza) after the conducting of funeral prayers (salat al-janaza). Accompanying the deceased on the part of women is considered more contentious than simply attending the funeral prayer, so in general, jurists who permit such accompaniment would allow for attending the prayer, while jurists who do not permit accompaniment of the deceased may be more reluctant to permit prayer. Whatever the specific cases may be, I do not go into this discussion below.

Key positions and evidence

In brief, I have been able to discern three general positions regarding women accompanying the deceased until they are buried: 1. A clear majority of scholars indicate that women are permitted to attend the burial of the deceased, but it is generally discouraged (makruh). 2. Some scholars permitted elderly women’s attendance of the burial unconditionally. 3. Others prohibited all women’s attendance unconditionally.

Overall, it is clear that most schools have permitted women’s attendance of burial, with most of these scholars discouraging it for reasons we shall consider below. The notion that women should not attend the burial of the deceased will thus clearly be shown to be a minority position in the tradition, past and present. Being a minority position does not mean it cannot be practiced, as we will consider in due course. The evidence from the Sunnah is the main legal basis for the ruling, and I shall now consider the most authentic hadiths on the matter.

The general rule for legal commands is that they apply to both genders equally. Accordingly, in a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) strongly encouraged attending the burial of the deceased. That the ruling for women would be one of discouragement (karaha) rather than of encouragement (istihbab) would thus necessarily arise from countervailing evidence. This may be found in another hadith narrated by both of the earlier authorities. This short hadith is worth quoting in full: 

(‏متفق عليه‏) قالت أم عطية: نهينا عن اتباع الجنائز، ولم يعزم علينا

In translation, this reads: Umm ‘Atiyya said, “We were prohibited from following the funeral procession, but it was not insisted upon.”

Interpreting the evidence

The Sharia’s ruling on this matter hinges on how this hadith is understood. On this point, scholars of various schools have adopted a range of positions as outlined earlier. But on the specifics of how the wording of the hadith should be understood, it is worth considering the reading of one of the towering figures of hadith studies, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449). In his authoritative commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari entitled Fath al-Bari, he glosses the phrase in the aforementioned hadith “but it was not insisted upon” as meaning, “the prohibition was not insisted upon.” He adds: “It is as though she is saying: ‘it was discouraged for us to follow the funeral procession, without it being prohibited.’”

The hadith has, however, been interpreted in various ways by the schools of law. A useful summary of these interpretations may be found in encyclopedic works of fiqh written in recent decades. In his al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu, the prolific Syrian scholar Wahba al-Zuhayli (d. 1436/2015) notes (on p. 518) that the majority of jurists consider women’s joining the funeral procession to be mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi) on the basis of the aforementioned hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya. However, he adds, the Hanafis have historically considered it prohibitively discouraged (makruh tahrimi) on the basis of another hadith in which the Prophet reportedly told a group of women who were awaiting a funeral procession, “Return with sins and without reward.”

Al-Zuhayli inclines towards this ruling despite noting in a footnote that the hadith he has just mentioned is weak (da‘if) in its attribution to the Prophet. However, he also adds that the Malikis permitted elderly women to attend the burial of the deceased unconditionally, and also young women from whom no fitna was feared. What constitutes fitna is not generally specified in these discussions and perhaps needs further study, but one contemporary Hanafi defines it as “intermingling with the opposite sex,” and thus suggests that where there is no such intermingling between members of the opposite sex, it is permissible for young women to attend funerals and burials.

Another valuable encyclopedic source for learning about the juristic rulings of various schools and individual scholars is the important 45-volume al-Mawsu‘a al-Fiqhiyya compiled by a team of scholars and published by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments a quarter of a century ago. In its section on this issue, it notes that the Hanafis prohibitively discourage women’s attendance of the funeral procession, the Shafi‘is mildly discourage it, the Malikis permit it where there is no fear of fitna, and the Hanbalis mildly discourage it. The reasoning behind these positions may be found in the Arabic original, and ought to be made available in English by Muslims in the West investing in translating such voluminous works into English. 

From the above, we may gather that of the four schools, only the pre-modern Hanafis prohibit women’s attendance of funeral processions. I have already indicated one example of a modern Hanafi who moves closer to the position of the less restrictive schools in this issue, but it is worth highlighting another. Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Itr (b. 1355/1937), one of the greatest Hanafi hadith experts alive today, in his commentary on the hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya writes that the report indicates that women’s attending a funeral procession is only mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi). Additionally, in a footnote, he criticises a contemporary who interprets the hadith as indicating prohibition and then proceeds to cite the less restrictive Maliki position with apparent approval.

The fiqh of modernity

In none of the above am I necessarily arguing that one of these positions is stronger than the other. I present these so that people may be familiar with the range of opinions on the matter in the Islamic tradition. However, this range also indicates the existence of legitimate difference of opinion that should prevent holders of one position from criticising those who follow one of the legitimate alternatives with the unfounded charge that they are not following the Qur’an and Sunna.

Furthermore, there are often interesting assumptions embedded in the premodern juristic tradition which modern Muslims find themselves out of step with, such as the assumption that women should generally stay at home. This is clearly an expectation in some of the fiqh literature, and in modern times, we sometimes find that this results in incoherent legal positions being advocated in Muslim communities. We find, for example, that in much of the premodern fiqh literature, Hanafis prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna, while we live in times in which women frequently work outside the home. As one of my teachers in fiqh, the Oxford-based Hanafi jurist Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, once remarked in class, is it not absurd for a scholar to prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna while none of these scholars would prohibit a woman from going to a mall/shopping centre?

This underlines the need for balanced fiqh that is suited to our times, one that allows both men and women to participate in spiritually elevated activities, such as going to the mosque and attending funerals while observing the appropriate Islamic decorum, so that the rest of their lives may be inspired by such actions. The answer to modernity’s generalised spiritual malaise is not the shutting out of opportunities for spiritual growth, but rather its opposite. This will only come about when Muslims, individually and communally, invest more of their energy in reflecting on how they can faithfully live according to the Qur’an and Sunna in contexts very different to those in which the ulama of past centuries resided.

And God knows best.

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