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From Mr. Darcy to Edward Cullen: The Dilemma of Literature in our Times

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Parental Discretion advised. Explicit content in article, not suitable for all ages.

Recall Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice: the picture-perfect scenery of Longbourn, and the inculpable longings of young girls wanting to be spotted by a suitable betroth, not to start premarital relations, but to be proposed to for marriage. Whether one was born in the ’70s or the ’90s, almost everyone remembers Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in a love story set in 1800s, but still popular even today. And even if one has any “religious” objections to the book, one can’t deny that the novel remains a morally refined piece of writing.

I must confess that I was one of those young girls who fantasized about the intelligent and confident Elizabeth, and the gentleman Mr. Darcy, whose confidence was often misunderstood for haughtiness. I had my fair share of “Awww moments”, especially whenever Mr. Darcy made an effort to engage in a conversation with Elizabeth. However, throughout the book, the author never mentions any sensual immorality, nor does she make even a remote effort to insert physical contact between the characters who fall in love with each other. In fact, in many instances, even the details of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s communications are not mentioned, ostensibly so as not to corrupt a young reader’s mind.

Now let’s fast forward to the present time and take a look at one of the most popular love stories of our era, the Twilight Saga. Not long ago, I remember not giving my daughter permission to read the book. But as we all know, when you stop a kid from doing something, it only makes them want to do it more! So, she started reading it secretly, but soon felt the urge to confess after reading a few pages.  Alhamdulillah, for the fact that she cannot keep secrets from me. As a reward for her owning up to it, I rewarded her by giving her permission to read the book online, based on my awareness of the book as just a vampire story. Normally, I would read the book myself first or ask trustworthy sources about it, however, due to some other pressing matters, I didn’t do my homework in this case.

When the next book in the Twilight Saga called Full Moon hit the bookstores, I skimmed through it first. And I didn’t have to go beyond the second chapter, before I realized my mistake of allowing my daughter to read the first book. And alhamdulillah that she stopped at that.

Allow me to explain what I mean in the words of a young Muslim girl (college freshman), who described the series in the following sentence,

Twilight series is nothing more than sex and sexual interaction between a human and a vampire!

Before I proceed, let me bring the readers’ attention to the fact that once most girls reach around 10 years of age, their feelings towards the opposite gender start changing noticeably. Boys start becoming less gross, and so does their “ickiness” factor. Suddenly boys appear cuter and nicer. Similar feelings emerge in boys as well about girls, but at a later age than girls.

These emotions are inevitable and quite natural. It would be almost abnormal to not develop any liking for the opposite gender; if not in preteen years, then definitely in teenage years. I’ve been through it, my friends have been through it, many young teens that confide in me have been through it (or are going through it now). Parents who think that their children don’t go through such a phase need to pull their heads out of the sand.

So, as a tangent, some points of benefit:

  1. Know that your child will go through this stage.
  2. Build a very friendly and trusting relationship with your child BEFORE they get to this stage (I discussed this in more details in parenting articles that will be published soon insha’Allah).
  3. Minimize and control the factors that will lead innocent crushes to the next step
  4. Let them breathe: allow room for mistakes. After all, remember, your kids are still humans.

Let’s get acquainted with the fact that occasional adoring of the opposite gender, also known as a “crush/puppy love”, is not wrong in itself, but to let the liking loose and to dwell in those thoughts may lead to questionable feelings or even actions. It is given that forbidding our youngsters from having crushes will only lead them to hide their true feelings from their parents; it is far wiser that parents focus on minimizing a simple innocent crush from progressing to the next step, rather than trying to suppress a natural feeling.

There are a number of factors that contribute toward developing, encouraging, and even accommodating a crush to the next step. Let’s not overlook that other than the weakness of our own nafs and giving into the waswas (whispers) from shaytan, our environment and society equally, if not more, contribute towards our culpable actions.

Within this environment, are the books and the literature that revolve around gender interaction, those that explicitly describe the development of a crush, provocation to take it to the next step, seed in ideas of how it can be done, and finally instigate the young minds to indulge more physically with the opposite gender, describing the details of physical relations between couples!

It is quite distressing to know that many parents do not filter the books that their children read, and undermine the potentially dangerous impact of literature on young growing minds. We are no longer living in the times of literature like Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. Unfortunately, in our times, teenage-targeted books are becoming an outlet for “soft-porn” literature. A prime example is the following passage from the New Moon:

Edward seemed perfectly content to hold me in his arms, his fingers tracing my face again and again. I touched his face, too. I couldn’t stop myself; though I was afraid it would hurt me later, when I was alone again. He continued to kiss my hair, my forehead, my wrists…but never my lips, and that was good.

He caught my hand securely between his iron hands, ignoring my struggles when I tried to turn my head away. “Please don’t,” I whispered. He stopped, his lips just half an inch from mine. “Why not?” He demanded. His breath blew into my face, making my head whirl. [After a confession of loving her forever and ever]…

His mouth was on mine then, and I couldn’t fight him. Not because he was so many thousand times stronger than me, but because my will crumbled into dust the second our lips met. This kiss was not quite as careful as others I remembered, which suited me just fine. If I was going to rip myself up further, I might as well get as much in trade as possible. So I kissed him back, my heart pounding out a jagged, disjointed rhythm while my breathing turned to panting and my fingers moved greedily to his face. I could feel his marble body against every line of mine, and I was so glad he hadn’t listened to me—there was no pain in this world that would have justified missing this. His hands memorized my face, the same way mine were tracing his, and, in the brief seconds when his lips were free, he whispered my name.

When I was starting to get dizzy, he pulled away, only to lay his ear against my heart. I lay there, dazed, waiting for my gasping to slow and quiet. (New Moon, p. 511-12)

I cannot quote all the similar passages from the twilight book series, because there are many. Suffice to say, this series is full of erotic interaction between Bella and Edward with the side theme of the war of vampires. What will happen when a young girl is exposed to such sensual text? Will it not entice her sexual emotions, arouse her carnal desires challenging her with the fitan of the opposite gender? If a married woman reads such content, at least she has an outlet to satisfy her desires; but what will happen to a young girl who is already challenged with hormonal changes, who has no husband but unfortunately, has many outlets in the lewd society of our times to give in and experience what she reads?

I had once discouraged one of the mothers from allowing her daughter, 13, to read this series. Although, the mother had provided a strong Islamic upbringing for her daughter, unfortunately, she didn’t see eye to eye with me on this issue. Later, her daughter developed an internet relationship with a non-Muslim boy (who I believe was really a much older pedophile). She communicated in a way that no Muslim parent would want for their daughter or son. To make the long story short, when I spoke to the girl, she especially emphasized the dangers of reading books like the Twilight series and how it is different from watching a movie with indecent scenes. In her own words,

When you see such things, you only see what is playing on the screen, but when you read about such sensual engaging, you are free to imagine however you want to imagine it. When you watch a kissing scene or something like that, you don’t know the feelings, but the books go into describing the change of emotions and the feelings of the girl when a boy looks at her, tries to touch her, or holds her hand, or when he grabs her to kiss her; you can read how she feels and what goes through her mind, and then you want to experience those feelings!

Yet another college student wasn’t very pleased when her mother allowed her younger sister, 11, to read the series. She read her sister’s diary, and was telling me the changes it caused in her sister’s way of perceiving the boys. She said,

Once she started reading Twilight, all of a sudden her baby crushes changed from, “I think he is cute” to “I wonder how his lips would feel!”

I cannot describe the sadness I feel when I find our young tweens and preteens facing such situations while their parents are totally negligent of the dangers of such literature. My article maybe too late for many parents, but I’m sure there are many who may still benefit from this warning, insha’Allah.

At the same time, I do realize that it is not so easy to stop teenagers from doing what they want to, especially when there is a lot of peer pressure. This book is perhaps one of the most popular reads in our time, and anyone who hasn’t read it, remains “so out of it”. So how can parents convince their daughters not to read such novels? How can parents highlight to their kids the dangers of such literature that they can foresee? Many parents may forbid their children from reading the series, but how can they ensure that their children will not read it secretly?

My advice to the parents is to:

  1. Know and embrace your role as a parent.
  2. Develop a VERY friendly relationship with your children from an early age.
  3. Monitor their activities.
  4. Communicate. I am very liberal when it comes to the topics of communication between a mother and her children. And I firmly believe that a mother’s relationship with her child should be of the nature that even if a child has a crush, he/she should be able to share it with his/her mother.
  5. Be wise. The mother’s role is to know her child inside out and to provide guidance and help to steer their thoughts in a positive direction without getting on their nerves or sounding like a dictator (which is the harder part and I am still learning!).
  6. Be firm. As much as I encourage giving space to the children, I equally advise holding firmly to the reigns.
  7. Be a step ahead of your child.
  8. Be patient and make du’a.

Lastly, when banning certain books or movies, make sure:

  1. Talk to your children and layout the reasons why you want to ban the book.
  2. Give them space to refute, listen to them and re-emphasize your points of objection.
  3. Acknowledging to them that staying away from books/movies that are popular amongst their friends is not an easy task and requires a lot of courage, and you believe in their courage and strength.
  4. Appreciate them for obeying you.
  5. Be proud of them and show it both in words and actions.
  6. Reward them.
  7. Replace it with other books or activities. Consider the “classics” section of the library.
  8. Make du’a for them in front of them and especially behind them.
  9. Be prepared for slips. Even after taking all your precautions and adopting the best parenting techniques, know that you are not raising angels and they will, once in a while, give in to their temptations. As long as they are remorseful, do not be heartbroken and do not give up on your children.

Nevertheless, the struggles of the parenting continue. As much as I feel for our children, I do not have many alternatives to Twilight to offer them. How I wish we had more literature available with high morals yet in correspondence to our natural feelings, like we once had in the past.

Let me end this, with a beautiful quote from Pride and Prejudice, when Mary, merely a teenager, learns a lesson from the mistake of her younger sister’s elopement and reminds her other sisters:

“…that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable — that one false step involves her in endless ruin — that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful, — and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.”

May Allah azza wa jal help us all raise salih, strong, and pious children. Amin.

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

134 Comments

134 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AbuMarjaan

    December 6, 2010 at 3:21 AM

    Assalam alaikum,

    Masha Allah.. very useful advice. Jazaaki Allah Khair
    Umm reem, your children are blessed to get a muslimah like you as mother.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 6, 2010 at 9:07 AM

      jazakaAllah khair brother

    • Avatar

      Tariq

      May 12, 2016 at 1:18 PM

      @AbuMarjaan, true indeed! Masha Allah. I have been benefiting so much from her articles, Alhamdulillah. May Allah bless sister Umm Reem and her family, Ameen.

  2. Avatar

    firoz85

    December 6, 2010 at 5:39 AM

    MashAllah sister loveley article wonderful depicting the rot of media. This deterioration is more so evident in the world of television . I remember growing up on the relatively decent ‘mind your language’ and ‘full house’ series and now you have ‘friends ‘ and what not ! Would be nice if you have a piece written on the decay of television too, would make another nice forward :)

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 6, 2010 at 9:08 AM

      yes it will be but someone else will have to do it because i’d been out of the television world for sometime now :)

  3. Avatar

    africana

    December 6, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Interesting article, Ma sha Allah.

    I wish to warn parents of the dangers of unrestricted mixing even with other children. Some children who might have been sheltered from such loterature might, neverthe less, pick up these ideas from their associates. I know ogf one young Muslim girl was left in tears after another girl (also muslim) described, in a telephone conversation, how boys supposedly kiss girls in a secluded area of the playground at the second girl’s primary school.

    I have since discivered that the girl who described the scene of kissing is an aggressive and domineering bully, although to most she appears very demure.

    I believe tht part of the reason the girl behaves as such is because her parents, as recent economic migrants, don’t fully understand what is being said in the TV programmes to which she has access and are not able to monitor the literature that she’s reading.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 6, 2010 at 9:23 AM

      yes, immigrant parents often develop the communication gap with their children, and have no clue what is being said in the tv series esp. for teenagers…and the book of course…

      nevertheless, this problem is not limited to west only. Twilight has made it to the eastern world too…

  4. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    December 6, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    Brilliant and so true.

    The really sad thing is that while we want our kids to read rather than watch TV or movies or play video games all the time, the type of books available these days are just as/ more dangerous than the visual media!
    And too many Muslim parents are unaware of the dangers found in books like the Twilight series… and not just Twilight, but the Gossip Girl books and other series of a similar type (that basically glorify sex, money, cliques, and more).

    Anyway, the quality of writing in Twilight sucks :)

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 6, 2010 at 9:16 AM

      exactly mouse, that’s the thing…parents really don’t know what is happening and some totally underestimate the power of literature…

      i gave a lecture to the mothers while i was in houston this past summer, and i had a hard time convincing some mothers about how dangerous can the books be with inappropriate content…

      in all honesty, with the limited choice i have left for books, i would rather let my kids read harry potter than books like twilight…i don’t know about the Gossip Girl books, reem hasn’t asked me about them yet, LOL

      • Avatar

        ElvenInk

        February 26, 2014 at 9:49 PM

        Harry Potter 100% it is about standing up for what’s right, friendship, etc, and doesn’t have these terrible messages you mentioned in your article. I like your suggestion about going to the classics section for more moral alternatives. Things like the Hobbit, too, are quite good and it’s “famous” now because of the movies so kids won’t feel they’re missing out.

  5. Avatar

    Been There

    December 6, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    Assalamu ‘Alaykum,

    This all sounds great, but there is no ideal Islamic environment for our youth. Even the best environment — Islamic schools — is fraught with the Was Was of what lurks beyond — and indeed permeates — the Islamic bubble we try so sincerely to create for our kids. Twilight and skinny jeans have already taken over the Islamic school culture (or subculture). “Cool” to our middle and high-school students is what is on the other side of the fence ie. public school.

    The predicament today is that many if not most of our Muslim youth have already succumbed to Twilight and skinny jeans, so do we ostracize them from our own children? If so, we face rebellion and fracturing the Muslim community. In the end, as Sayedna Ali (RAA) taught us, we must befriend our youth in their third set of seven years (ie. ages14-21) so they can make their own choices.

    Meanwhile, what we are offering our children by way of alternative is a day late and a dollar short. Society and the Muslim community don’t sustain a purist life of Qur’an and Sunnah except for families and communities that are very tight and bolstererd by an extensive support network resourced with viable entertainment options for our youth. Meanwhile, the call of corrupting forces of the larger world in which we live must be reconciled by our youth. They themselves need to come to terms with them sooner or later: to make sense of the world around them and integrate, in sha Allah, what is good and beneficial into their hearts, minds, souls, actions, speech and intentions.

    Most of our youth flounder between separate worlds of home, school, the Islamic center, and society at large. They are seeking to make sense and integrate all of the reflections these environments mirror to them into one strong Muslim personality – their own personality (not Mama’s and Baba’s).

    Eventually, they will have to experience the Dunya for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Eventually, we have to cut the umbilical chord wa tawakalna ‘ala Allah.Beware of attempts to control and restrict too much. Eventually, in sha Allah, they will learn from their mistakes and seek to guide others just as we now seek to guide them. We can lead by example, but there is no compulsion in Islam.

    Our community and youth in particular are in need of sincere Duaa’. May Allah Al Jal wa Al ‘Ala bless and guide us all. Ameen.

    Barak Allahu feekum.

    • Avatar

      F

      December 6, 2010 at 11:56 AM

      I agree with you that we can’t control our youth their entire lives. That’s a folly many parents fall in thinking they can be sheltered. What’s more important is the realization that one day they will be on their own and our job as parents is to equip them with the tools to different the halal from the haram.

      Often I find the parents are too scared because they have not given the Islamic education of differentiating the good from the bad so they are terrified of letting go. They don’t trust even their grown up children (university onwards) to make the right decisions.

      Key is to educate them on the ideal but also talk to them about what exists in the dunya otherwise they will not know how to handle it when they meet the world.

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 7, 2010 at 2:28 AM

      @been there- Ameen to your dua. You bring up some great points-
      My biggest issue growing up was the fitting together of my different ‘faces’ -a different in school, another at home, in front of the Muslim community, another one in front of relatives. The hypocrisy was hard for me to keep up with myself- I pray that my children grow up with one face- the same whatever it is (hopefully one that is pleasing to Allah SWT) in front of everyone.

      True about Muslim communities as well. I was just having a conversation with a mom today who was tired of saying no to her daughter. She isn’t allowed to hang out with non- Muslim girls but her mom feels that her Muslim friends are leading her down the wrong path faster- suggesting she lie to her mom etc. If Muslim friends are at this stage in their imaan, who do they befriend and turn towards? At some point we do have to trust in our parenting and let them be-

      We can’t shield them from everything- true but we need to expose them to ideas in a controlled manner so eventually when they are faced with making choices they can make the right choice- Leaving them to experience the dunya on their own without preparing them for it would be a disservice to them.

      This rings so deeply with me-

      Be prepared for slips. Even after taking all your precautions and adopting the best parenting techniques, know that you are not raising angels and they will, once in a while, give in to their temptations. As long as they are remorseful, do not be heartbroken and do not give up on your children.
      Sometimes we are such high expectations from our children- May Allah SWT help us raise them right-

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 2:56 AM

      Ameen!

      This all sounds great, but there is no ideal Islamic environment for our youth. Even the best environment — Islamic schools — is fraught with the Was Was of what lurks beyond — and indeed permeates — the Islamic bubble we try so sincerely to create for our kids. Twilight and skinny jeans have already taken over the Islamic school culture (or subculture). “Cool” to our middle and high-school students is what is on the other side of the fence ie. public school.

      True, there is no ideal Islamic environment that we can offer our kids in our times unfortunately BUT we CAN offer them what we feel is ideal within our homes but NOT in a shape of bubble.

      Tell them what happens in the outside world so they are aware, but there is no need to expose them to that evil in the name of “immunity”.

      what i’m trying to say, for example, is that when i didn’t allow my daughter to read the series any fruther, i told her the reason. We have had already our “birds and the bees talk” but then i explained to her the dangers of reading such material…and how reading such sensual text may lead her to want to try out those things…
      we discussed the story of Juraig and the way shaytaan traps a person…i was very explicit in my explanation…because i believe that when we want our children to protect themselves from certain actions, we need to explain in details why and how etc. AND tell them what they are up against…it is not fair on them to be told partial information and expect a 100% “pure” result….

      In the end, as Sayedna Ali (RAA) taught us, we must befriend our youth in their third set of seven years (ie. ages14-21) so they can make their own choices.

      True, however, let’s keep in mind the first half portion of his statement too…the time of discipline/training/education comes between 7-14…we MUST not miss out on that.

  6. Avatar

    VikkLaiyho

    December 6, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    I think the double sense of morality from this generation parenthood is sad. I’m sure your child will be okay when she grows older, doubt her youth will be shadowed by reading such a lame and immature literature, perhaps you should read some good literature yourself too. If you want to make sure your daugther knows about sex the right way you should spend more time educating her about it, this will make sure wether she reads a sex novel or not her mind will be unharmed.

    • Avatar

      africana

      December 6, 2010 at 9:57 AM

      From what I’ve seen of Umm Reem, in comments and in her articles, she has done a good deal to demystify sexuality and the bodily and emotional changes that occur at puberty, ma sha Allah.

    • Avatar

      F

      December 6, 2010 at 10:52 AM

      Obviously you haven’t read the other articles advising parents on how to educate children about sex and maintain an open communication about the subject. What’s immature is to assume that children will not be harmed by sex novels because you’ve spoken with her. If this method was so great, the average age for losing virginity wouldn’t be less than 16.

      Wake up and realize children need supervision but not sheltering. They need to guided through the sex starved societies of today (east/west).

      Taking this one article to assume that parents want to hide sex away is not fair to the author nor to the readers.

      • Avatar

        Nazihah Malik

        December 7, 2010 at 1:07 PM

        I don’t think the issue here is to hide sex away from children. If I am not mistaken, the issue of Sex Ed has been addressed on this very blog.

        I believe what’s important is that books such as these are creating distorted images and experiences of “love” in a child’s mind (and yes, they’re children who are reading it). These images trigger certain emotions and hormones in one’s body, which also trigger biological/physiological changes which a normal person experiences in stages of intimacy.

        Aren’t these experiences one should feel after marriage, when one is in love with her husband ideally?

        secondly, what if the person this child ends up marrying doesn’t meet up w/ the expectations this child has been reading about for all these years? it causes frustration and tensions in the marriage.

        again, i’m only addressing this from a societal point of view.

        • Avatar

          Umm Reem

          December 7, 2010 at 11:30 PM

          If I am not mistaken, the issue of Sex Ed has been addressed on this very blog.

          InshaAllah there will be a series posted on children’s sex ed by the end of this month.

          secondly, what if the person this child ends up marrying doesn’t meet up w/ the expectations this child has been reading about for all these years? it causes frustration and tensions in the marriage.

          true…but for that matter even Mr. Darcy’s standard was difficult to meet up with being all rich, confident and handsome and what not, but top this with how Edward would give intimate attention to Bella after every five minutes, only makes it nearly impossible for any Muslim man to match this standard!

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 6, 2010 at 11:14 AM

      The solution, in all honesty, is not to educate our youngsters about sex. I have explained to my daughter far more than what many parents may allow their children to know. And subhanAllah, only by Allah’s Mercy I was able to do that…yet i keep her from this type of literature because, educating a child about this subject is VERY different than reading an erotic novel.

      Education, especially when done with the help of Qur’an, ahadeeth and in a sensible way, increase their awareness in a positive way and in some aspect increase their haya/shyness…
      these novels…really rip apart haya, morally corrupt them and arouse emotions and feelings, especially in girls, that doesn’t happen when you are simply educating them…

  7. Avatar

    Abdul Rahman

    December 6, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    Such great advice sister!

  8. Avatar

    UmmOsman

    December 6, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Assalamo elikuim
    Jazak Allah khair for a wonderful article. I always love and learn a lot from your articles, keep writing and May Allah swt reward you for all the good you do, Ameen.
    Although my daughter is quite young, I will remember this once she is older :)
    Where as my boys,it will be a miracle to see them reading a book :) Alhamdullilah for this in this case:)

    Wasalam

  9. Avatar

    Mezba

    December 6, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Perhaps we should develop Muslim “romance” stories (100% halal of course).

    Of course sometimes a book’s a book. Well brought up kids know to distinguish between right and wrong. Many of us grew up with Bollywood and we all turned out OK.

    • Amad

      Amad

      December 6, 2010 at 11:46 AM

      I think Bollywood now is not the Bollywood of the old… I am visiting Pakistan and as I was flipping channels, I was shocked to see the costumes that are now rampant in these movies… I mean it was embarrassing just flipping through them! I’d say Bollywood, even without nudity (I think they still have some controls), is far more suggestive and disgusting now than Hollywood. Of course, not all fit the billing, but most do.

      • Avatar

        F

        December 6, 2010 at 11:51 AM

        I agree with you Amad.
        National Geographic once did a feature on Bollywood and the accompanying pics were so bad, they make many Hollywood movies look Victorian.

        Though I think Bollywood has always been bad. Before we were too young and naive to realize it.

        • Avatar

          S

          December 6, 2010 at 4:07 PM

          Totally agree. My parents watched movies back in the day but they always had a strong moral lesson behind it, it wasn’t always about love, and of course rarely ever had bad scenes in it.

          Now Bollywood is taking a lot from American movies, and Pakistani movies/dramas are taking their influence from Bollywood. Soon they’ll all be exactly the same, no matter what country they’re from.

  10. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    December 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Jazak’Allah Khair for this advice… even though my daughter has long time before she can read novels as she’s learning her ABCs now :), this advice will definitely come handy when the time comes.

  11. Avatar

    Asmaa

    December 6, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Nice article sister..

    It scares me to see what the world is coming to..

    Dua is the most important factor.. I am single and the future of the coming generation worries me a lot.. Not just my kids, but what about their friends and the community as a whole..?

    You have been an awesome mother and Jazaaki Allaahu kul khair for sharing these valuable nasihas with us here :)

    It’s a sensitive issue but also something that should be ignored due to it’s sensitivity. I had instill patience in myself to read through this because the mere mention of few things made me uncomfortable.. I pray and ask Allaah to protect our children from this filth and keep their hearts pure and clean and their eyes on the goal..

  12. Avatar

    AMS

    December 6, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Instead of just saying no, give them the cliff notes version and give them a link to the plot summary on Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_(novel)

    Problem solved.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 3:04 AM

      great suggestion!

      In fact, my daughter asked me to go through the series first and staple/blackout the text where they have the inappropriate stuff.

      First of all i wasn’t going through those thick books doing this. Secondly, I realized after flipping through a few pages in the series that throughout the book, the author has put too much emphasis on touching and looking and describing Bella’s emotions for Edward…it wasn’t like a “scene” after a few pages…it’s spread throughout….

    • Avatar

      someone

      December 7, 2010 at 8:41 PM

      That is great , in case they feel outcasted at school because there not hip with the trendy literature. When growing up i always though that my own parents did not understand that children are pressured everyday to conform. Not just from the pupils but also from the teachers themselves. Although you may teach them to distinguish right and wrong, its hard for them to stick with the choices they make. Especially if they are targeted , labeled or mistreated in school.

  13. Avatar

    S

    December 6, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Wow that passage is horrible! I have never read the twilight books nor do I intend on reading it. But I can’t help but noticing most of the muslim girls middle to high school in islamic schools obsessing over it AND having their parents let them watch the movies. I don’t see any point in such reading that’s just meaning to arouse some girls, and I also don’t see a point in watching a movie where a werewolf or vampire takes his shirt off every five seconds! Women get more into the words and not the visuals, that’s why so many women read romance novels.

    The quote from the muslim girl who said Twilight is just about sex between a human and vampire is so true. I don’t see such a need for any books that don’t challenge your intellect at all. May Allah swt protect our young brothers and sisters. Ameen

    Another plus for Harry Potter Books series.

  14. Avatar

    Amatullah

    December 6, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Let’s tell our kids to make dua for a pious spouse.

    Amatullah
    http://sisterswithpower.blogspot.com
    EMANcipate yourself

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 3:17 AM

      by all means!

      i had told my daughter to make du’a that Allah protects her from acting upon her crushes or falling in love wrongfully…and to make her amongst the salihaat….
      i also told her about a few disastrous love marriages in the family, and i think it helped her understand better, inshaAllah.

      i’m doing the du’a for her pious spouse myself for right now :)

      • Avatar

        n

        December 7, 2010 at 6:01 AM

        kinda off topic but the whole ‘love marriage’ label..sort of implies that the other marriages were some kind of ‘robotic’ business deal type marriages, where the partners were paired cuz they were ‘compatible’ on paper.

        i prefer the label ‘planned marriage’ :-)

  15. Avatar

    anonymous

    December 6, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    jazakallah khair for writing this sister, people really needed a heads-up on what’s going on in the teen community. I go to an Islamic private school and the Twilight series has been the “hot topic” for the last 5 years. At first, I wanted to read it so bad because EVERYONE was reading it. Then, I kept putting it off until later becaue I was too busy. Recently, I came to the conclusion that fiction w/o purpose is useless and a waste of time anyway because we are going to be asked on the Day of Judgement about how we spent our time. Guess Allah led me to a positive form of procrastination lol! But thanks anyway to highlight how bad “Twilight” really is. Sometimes parents need to be really shown in the face as to how BAD their kids’ books really are. I just wish there would be more ppl in the Muslim community who would write Islamic fiction.

  16. Avatar

    SA

    December 6, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    Salaam,

    A couple years back, I read Twilight. SubhanAllah, back then I was obsessed with them, and now I can see that the series is a horrible attempt at literature. I agree, it provokes so many thoughts and feelings in a reader, and that’s a reason why people are so attached to it. There is a good fictional Islamic series by Umm Zakiyyah. It is a trilogy, starting with”If I Should Speak”. MashAllah, it is a great series, May Allah SWT reward her for bringing forth an interesting and informative read! I believe it is a MUCH better read than Twilight or Harry Potter.

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 7, 2010 at 1:37 AM

      Two thumbs up for “If I should speak”- it is a powerful book about dawah, coming to Islam, college. I thoroughly recommend it as well.

      • Avatar

        Nayma

        December 9, 2010 at 5:13 PM

        Yes I read Umm Zakiya’s books too as my daughter did. Her books also talk about affection and love between spouses, etc. but in a beautiful wholesome way. She makes sure her readers get the main message, that whatever one does, Allah comes first in all thoughts and actions. Have you read them Umm Reem? I would love your input from them, especially her last book. Come to think about it, it would be great if we could go through each of the characters in her books and have an online discussion of them with our daughters!

        • Avatar

          Gul Jan

          December 10, 2010 at 8:26 AM

          And MashAllah Umm Reem what you wrote is amazing. JazakAllah. May God Bless You. My daughter is begging me to let her read Twilight and now that you gave me advice and light, i will take it. NEVER SAY NEVER.

  17. Avatar

    Sabour Al-Kandari

    December 6, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    Well done, mash’Allah. Whenever giving some sort of public talk to the youth I always try to sneak in a way to go Wesley Snipes on Twilight =P.

    I think one powerful effect is to make use of the natural counter-culture that the Ummah creates, especially in the Western world. When the kids are told that they aren’t like the other boys and girls, or they don’t do the same things as the other boys and girls, you automatically instill that feeling of being different. Not being equal only has two possibilities, and the dangerous one is feeling inferior one way or another. Even the feeling of “I know it’s the right thing to do but I can’t” is a type of inferiority complex.

    You have to flip it the other way around. They have to be convinced that what they are doing is better, cooler, smarter and firmly have that ‘Izza of the Deen instilled in them in all its glory – without going too far and having an arrogant/holier-than-thou attitude or becoming isolationist.

    There are a number of ways of doing this, and it comes very naturally with Islam (alhamdulillah). All you have to do is make sure it’s not lamed-up by being poor Islamic role models or boring/mediocre (making them feel like they are uncool weirdos, as opposed to everyone else being the weird ones). Presentation is key in teaching. If you bring the strength, akhlaq, humility, fearlessness, beauty and true fun/enjoyment of Islam into them, it’s hard for anyone to resist for shallow alternatives.

    My favorite technique though would be the big brother/sister effect. If you get that older brother/sister or any sort of role-model that they follow around everywhere to show them that (even a cool group of friends), again, hard to resist (Kamal-el-Mekki / Saed Rageah just to name a few that have that effect going on, mash’Allah). This is where the University students have an extra-special responsibility to get their job done right.

    For those who haven’t always been practicing, think back, who were the people that influenced you?

    At the end of the day though, they will be the ones who make the choice sooner or later. The story of the son of Nuh alayhi salam comes to mind, but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to fulfill the obligations we have towards our youth and use every tool Allah has granted us.

  18. Avatar

    CA

    December 6, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Reading such stuff also desensitizes teens to some extent.The next book they read has to be at least equally erotic than the last one they read or they loose interest in it.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 3:20 AM

      exactly…

      a friend of my daughter started writing a story, and when i read it she had added kissing scenes in it and when i asked her she told me no one would read it if she doesn’t put this kind of stuff…not even the Muslim kids will read it!

  19. Avatar

    Abdul Rahman

    December 6, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    mashallah, a very useful and relevant article

  20. Avatar

    Anon

    December 6, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    Salaam!

    I think twilight was not as bad other books I’ve seen. I even remember someone telling me it was mild because Edward wanted to wait until marriage etc.

    Maybe it’s because im desensitised to kissing in stories.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 3:59 AM

      here is the problem:

      If the book had said, “edward kissed bella” it would have been different….still bad no doubt, but unfortunately in our times even this is better, iyyadhobillah.

      but the book goes in great detail in describing how the kiss happened, and how was bella feeling emotionally and physically when he held her and started kissing her…excuse my explicitness but it is high time we realize the effect of this type of literature on young and even elder minds…
      ESPECIALLY females because they are more “imaginative” (unlike men who are more visual and perhaps that’s why TV is worse for boys than girls!)

      Our Muslim girls are falling for non-Muslim boys because that is a prime & easy “outlet” for them. Our girls are developing internet relationships while the parents are happy thinking that their daughters are at home “safe”!

      In the eastern world, girls who are “protected” in an all-girls school, are “experimenting” with other girls, a’oodhobillah…

      I do believe a lot can be prevented, firstly by du’a of course, and then by parents’ “positive” involvement in their chidlren’s lives…sadly though many times parents, who would shy away from explaining to the children about their body parts, would not mind at all buying them books like these!

  21. Avatar

    ahlam

    December 6, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    Well, these twilight series sound pretty disgusting everywhere I go. Nasty stuff. As for Jane Austen and her books,one word -modesty. She puts down a lot of her views from a moral perspective in the story.
    I read them for school and remember reading a passage were one of the sisters was told off by the mother for wearing inappropriate clothing,and many similar instances of discipline and behaviour etc.

    The funny thing is,I don’t think kids in my community have a knack for reading even. Which is a problem in itself. It seems that it has a lot to do with reading being ”uncool”.But then there is the fitnah of a particularly gross TV series here called ‘Eastenders’. So,I feel that TV has more of a grip on our kids (add in adults too) than Twilight-like books do.

  22. Avatar

    Haseeb J

    December 7, 2010 at 1:30 AM

    the quote at the end made my day, a nice read after those lengthy political posts

  23. Avatar

    Hena Zuberi

    December 7, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    Jazakillah Khair UmmReem, I am so glad your daughter is a couple years older than mine- you reach the tough stages and help moms like me prepare for them :)
    Thanks for bring this up. This is such an major issue.

    I was a voracious reader as a childhood and so far have survived by recommending books to my girls that I have read and loved. But my girls are growing up so fast, they will often come back from school or the library with books that I have not read. Some I try to read before they do but often I don’t have the time. I frequent review sites to read what other moms/reviewers have said about a particular book but so far have not found one that address Muslims specifically. Our standards are different.

    I find parents so grateful that their children are reading books instead of watching TV or playing video games that they will let them read anything; case en pointe the Twilight series being read by my 11-year-old cousin. Many do not realize that books can be as graphic as TV and can expose your children to ideas that they are not ready for or are just not ‘halal’ topics. We may never let our child watch an R-rated movie but we rarely wonder what is in some of the young adult books that our kids may read.

    “There is no standard at all,” says Luann Toth, managing editor of the book review section of the School Library Journal. “It’s pretty arbitrary. Publishers do their own thing. Unlike multimedia, which tries to have a standard, there is no equivalent in the book world.”

    My 9-year-old reads at a 13/14 year old’s reading level so if she picks up a “14 and up” book, all I know about it is it’s reading level, book ratings don’t give us a clue about its content.
    This inspired me to enlist my daughters & niece, ferocious readers, to start to compile a list of books that they think are great reads for Muslim kids. Included are series titles and stand-alone fiction that cover a variety of genres: fantasies, mysteries, thrillers, novels and historical fiction.

    Its a small little effort- we started over the summer-would Reem like to be a part of it? especially during the summers (no school !!)

    I invite moms and kids to submit reviews of their favorite books. I would like the contributors to include whether the book is appropriate for Muslim kids of a certain age ie 5-7 years etc.

    http://muslimslovetoread.blogspot.com

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 4:08 AM

      sure hena, inshaAllah, I will share with my sisters whatever helped me raise my children, but i must warn you that i am not half as good of a mother as it appears to be…only Allah has hidden my weaknesses…so don’t be disappointed :)

      And yes inshaAllah I would love to have Reem a part of this group!!

      the problem with my children is that they have read most of the series that were suggested previously for them…and especially now that we live in a country with no libraries…LOL…
      since i dont’ have a tv at home, my kids hobby is to read books, and because they’d been reading for so many years, they have started reading quite fast…so now i have to set limits on them on how many books a week they can read!!

  24. Avatar

    sharmeen

    December 7, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    ASA
    very useful indeed. thnks for sharing it . i would never be able to imagine all this without your article.

  25. Avatar

    Bushra

    December 7, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    As an avid bibliophile from the age of 6, I have read Pride and Prejudice 6 times (am going through it the 7th time around on my BlackBerry), the Harry Potter series twice and Twilight on its own just once. I’m gonna cut to the chase. It was pure rubbish. Like The Da Vinci Code (which was fun to read for its Sherlock Holmes-y nature), it didn’t stimulate or challenge my grey matter in any way possible and only dumbed down my reading level (I’m 24, but if I was 12, this would still be way too dumb and stupid for me!).

    Honestly speaking, I totally agree with Umm Reem about the dangers of reading teen ‘soft porn’ or ‘mild erotica’. Whilst men are more visually stimulated (hence why porn is a bigger problem for them more than it is for women), women are better with their imagination, which would explain the amount of girly romantic trash that are in the bookshops today. Believe me, we really do run away with our imagination when presented with such material.

    The problem with Twilight is that it has NO STORY to it whatsoever. Nothing substantial. None, nada, zip, zilch.

    Whilst P&P might have been about a man and woman falling in love despite their pride, the writings of Jane Austen also teach one moral values, the culture at the time and the follies and vices present then, which are not so apparent now. And as mentioned by Umm Reem, even the strictly religious ones can’t have too much to object to. With Harry Potter, it’s a very complex story set in a world parallel to ours, and one could probably derive several analyses pertaining to it being a parallel to real-life global politics and possibly history too. HP also has some great use of English language and British sarcasm not to mention that the only TWO true kisses mentioned are undertaken by the protagonists and have a description of barely a sentence or two. It doesn’t mean I recommend it. It’s like comparing minor shirk with major shirk, HP being minor shirk and Twilight being major shirk. Just because minor shirk may not take the person out of the fold of Islam, it doesn’t mean one should do it at all. But I digress.

    The quote from the Muslim freshman summarises Twilight adequately. As does a review I read a while back. In its essence, the story is about a werewolf and a vampire fighting to be with a girl who is in love with both of them. Let’s move away from Islamic morals…is this book(s) going to teach any morals whatsoever??

    I think the answer is quite clear.

    Not only is it an immoral book, it’s complete, and utter RUBBISH! It lacks varying vocabulary (except for maybe the use of ‘irrevocably’ being possibly the only sophisticated word), little humour, no sense of imagination, doesn’t teach much (except for the stages of mitosis if one reads carefully enough) and is just fodder for empty minds. And somehow it’s become a bestselling, book-turned-movie extravanganza.
    What does this tell us about the time, society and emptiheaded self-centredness we’re living in?

    Umm Reem, jazakallahu khair for this article. It’s much needed. And no, you’re not being OTT. Those mothers who wish to let their children read such books do so at their own risk. It doesn’t just boil down to the effect that these books have on us now, but also how they will affect us in the Akhirah. I just hope many mothers are mindful of this ‘butterfly effect’.

  26. Avatar

    mohamed

    December 7, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    jazak for the article. It’s tough being an older brother to young girls that read these books (I have 2 that have read the book and my 9 year old sister wants to read it), and living away from home at college. What can I do to help if I’m not there?

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      December 7, 2010 at 9:16 AM

      Keep talking to them and stay updated about their lives on a regular basis and subtly bring in the topic of the book without patronising them. Unfortunately, as adults, we have a tendency to talk down at pre-teens and teens without realising it.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 11:11 AM

      be friend them…take interest in their lives, and offer them advice without ever being pushy….you already have an advantage of being an older brother…younger sisters really love their older brother’s involvement in their lives! :)

    • Avatar

      Nazihah Malik

      December 7, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      i have two older brothers. When the eldest went away to college, I got closer to him. He was more than a best friend. Take advantage of that relationship. Call, txt, fb frequently, buy them gifts (girls love just about anything!), get them alternatives to books such as these, or get them involved in other hobbies as well.

      Most important thing–older siblings have the advantage that they can relate more so w/ younger ones compared to parents. use that.

      keep an open dialogue w/ them. no topic is too shameful to discuss.

  27. Avatar

    Abez

    December 7, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    I loved this article, thank you for writing it. JazakAllahuKheiran. I got turned off by most popular fiction years ago, when I realized that some of it was just porn on paper stitched together with a plot, and if it wasn’t permissible for us to watch this and glorify it, how was it ok for us to read about it, imagine it, and luxuriate it the feelings it aroused?

    It would be great if there were a list of + and – books for kids and young adults, based on how sexually explicit or morally misleading they were. Do you have any recommendations for what we should recommend they be reading instead? In addition to the classics?

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 11:21 AM

      yes…real quick: these are all series…great for kids

      A to Z mysteries
      Boxcar children
      Bailey school kids
      Encylopedia Brown
      Nancy Drew (but not the new series)
      Clues brothers
      magic treehouse

      i will post more inshaAllah

      • Avatar

        Hafsa

        December 8, 2010 at 9:54 AM

        Well, I used to love reading E.Nesbit’s classics. Oh and I’ve read a few of the Series of Unfortunate Events books and they’re pretty awesome too. =)

      • Avatar

        Abez

        December 9, 2010 at 3:25 AM

        It would be great if we could compile this list from these comments. I have a few suggestions that I remember fondly from my childhood, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve been that age or read those books! *ah, nostaglia!*

        Little House on the Prairie Series
        Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen- This book made a huge impression on me as a child, it addresses perseverance, strength of character, and self-reliance. Boy is the only survivor of a light plane crash in the wilderness with only a hatchet.
        My Side of the Mountain– Jean Craighead George
        The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis- I know it had an underlying Christian theme, but I never realized that until I was told years later. What I remember from it is honor, honesty, bravery, and fighting for what is right. And reading about the Calormen (who were a poorly disguised stereotype for Turkish Muslims) in the 6th book was educational for me in that I was aware of how wrongly Muslims were perceived, and it was a talking point in our family.
        Bridge to Terabithia– Katherine Patterson
        Harry Potter– Magic isn’t real, which is a good talking point for parents beforehand. And the books are well written and clean.
        White Fang- Jack London
        Call of the Wild– Jack London
        The RedWall Series– Brian Jacques- Over 15 books of an amazing series- Rabbit Warriors, Badger Lords, Mouse Heroes battling the forces of evil, pirates, raiders, etc. Strong moral themes, well written, and very clean. 10+
        To Kill a Mockingbird– Harper Lee
        Roald Dahl– Any and all of his children’s books are wonderful. His short stories for adults are quite dark though, but most people don’t even know he wrote them.
        Louis L’Amour– Authentic western/frontier/cowboy stories- cleanly written, simple English, great stories, ethical protagonists, easy for teenagers to get in to and a classic with adults for the last sixty years or more.

        • Hena Zuberi

          Hena Zuberi

          December 9, 2010 at 2:58 PM

          on it Abez, was doing that for my daughter so can easily do a list for MM, have some suggestions from my youth group girls too from Facebook comments to this article – going to ask our lovely editorial team if we can have a permanent page or internal link. Please keep commenting and sharing your favorite books.

        • Avatar

          Ali

          December 13, 2010 at 7:07 PM

          Abez, I read most of those books growing up myself. I disagree with you on the Harry Potter Series though. It also discusses boyfriend/girlfriend themes, albeit a lot less graphically than Twilight.

        • Avatar

          RCHOUDH

          December 28, 2010 at 3:06 PM

          Wonderful list sister!

          To that I’d like to add The Adventures of Stuart Little; loved that book growing up.

          Has anyone read the Choose Your Own Adventure series? I really enjoyed those books growing up.

          For 6-7 year olds I’d recommend them first having them read Wizard of Oz and then watching the classic Judy Garland film. My daughter was thrilled to watch that after reading it. I’d recommend the same with Alice in Wonderland (but with regard to the watching it on film I recommend you watch the Disney animated version instead of the live action film starring Johnny Depp. If I think of anymore I’ll be sure to list them later Insha’Allah. And I agree with Sr. Hena Zuberi we should compile a permanent list for this website as permanent reference for parents.

        • Avatar

          ElvenInk

          February 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM

          I started a website for this exact purpose a few weeks ago! (themuslimlens.ca) So glad to hear I’m not alone in thinking we really need to share lists and reviews for the better literature and media out there! :) I’ve never read the Louis L’Amour ones, but I liked almost everything else on your list. Narnia is problematic though…as you mentioned the portrayals of the Calormen are quite racist.

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 7, 2010 at 11:23 AM

      Some suggestions for 9-12 years old
      Helwani, Najiyah Diana. Sophia’s Journal: Time Warp 1857.
      Hiaasen, Carl. Flush.
      Little House on the Prairie series
      A Series of Unfortunate events
      Island of the Blue Dolphins

      for younger kids-
      Magic Tree house series

      This was suggested by an online homeschooling mom- Ayat Jamilah

      Amazon’s review: “Winner of the 2004 Aesop Prize, Ayat Jamilah/Beautiful Signs: a Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents is the second book in Eastern Washington University Press’ This Little Light of Mine series. A young adult/adult crossover anthology, it draws from not only the core of Islamic spirituality and ethics, the Qur’an, and the traditions (hadiths), but also from the mystical verse, folk tales, and exemplary figures of the Islamic narrative. Unlike any other collection of Islamic stories, Beautiful Signs gathers traditional stories from the farthest reaches of the Muslim world, which stretches from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east, and from China in the north to Tanzania in the south. This unique anthology, with its rich and thorough explanatory notes, will be invaluable to anyone wishing to understand, or to teach, geography, world history, or world religions. It will also be treasured by Muslim families and by all parents committed to broadening the lives and values of their children and themselves.

      I am having an issue with the Percy Jackson series- the whole greek ‘gods’ idea is making me wary

      • Avatar

        Mari

        December 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM

        There is also lots of really great historical fiction, such as books by Linda Sue Park, like The Single Shard, When My Name was Keoko, etc…

        What we do is always go for the literature with literary awards. That’s your best guide to good quality English literature. There is a huge trough of classical literature with great lessons, lots of history, and great plots. This is a great alternative to the trashy novels or twaddle books of today.

  28. Avatar

    NotSuprised

    December 7, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    I can relate to the points you mentioned in the article.

    I used to read novels when I was younger with such scenes in them and another girl I knew did so too but the difference between us what that she would skip through those scenes and get straight into the stories, where else I would read ‘those scenes’ slowly and enjoy them actually (astaghfirulla). Now looking back at things, I understand why I was the one who would have crushes on all the boys compared to my friend. Why my feelings were always going wild. I thank Allah though for protecting me from falling into anything bad.

    This issue reminds me of the pornography issue with men these days. Though it may not be as worse, it is similar. Women are not visual creatures. Each time you read a novel, you keep wanting more and more, then start imagining these scene in your head after you finish reading the novel and so you enjoy the feelings that your body produces and also these novels create unrealistic expectations for young girls when they get married because you start to imagine a Mr Perfect that will do what these novel characters do.

    may Allah protect our children

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 11:34 PM

      JazakiAllah khair for sharing with us your experience, inshaAllah it will help many others understand the dangers of such literature.

      Women are not visual creatures. Each time you read a novel, you keep wanting more and more, then start imagining these scene in your head after you finish reading the novel and so you enjoy the feelings that your body produces and also these novels create unrealistic expectations for young girls when they get married because you start to imagine a Mr Perfect that will do what these novel characters do.

      truly a very essential point for the parents to understand

  29. Avatar

    Nazihah Malik

    December 7, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    You didn’t even take words out of my mouth, you took them out of my mind.

    For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling to find a way to address this issue. InshaAllah, I hope to address this issue in my community–to the youth as well as parents.

    Thank you, may Allah reward you for..

    not only addressing the superficial problem, but the more important, underlying issue–which is communication b/w parent and child and how imp. the role of a parent is in situations such as these.

    “Not Surprised” stated it straight up….

    Men are more visually stimulated–pornographic images appeal to them. Women are more stimulated by feelings, touch, etc. and what’s described in these books appeals to those feelings. You can call them pornographic thoughts.

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      December 7, 2010 at 1:26 PM

      not to play devil’s advocate (ok maybe) but isn’t it normal to a certain extent for teens to have pornographic thoughts? even before TV, internet, Twilight, sex has been boasted as the greatest pleasure known to mankind, and it’s forbidden to them until marriage. isn’t it rather normal, and perhaps even a little healthy, for them to wonder?

      • Avatar

        africana

        December 7, 2010 at 3:22 PM

        Salam Alaikum,

        But, isn’t it one thing to have these thoughts arise naturally or from stimuli over which we have no control (such as accidental exposure to arousing imagery) and quite another to actively seek it out?

        What do you advise that the teenager should do when experiencing these thoughts, should the teenager find them detestable or should they accept them?

        In Orthodox Judaism, the dwelling on lascivious thougts is strongly discouraged; does Islam teach the same? Or would the attempt to cancel out such thoughts lead to neurosis and possible sexual obsession?

      • Avatar

        Umm Reem

        December 7, 2010 at 11:37 PM

        Olivia: i agree and i also mentioned this part in my article that to not have the liking for other sex is nearly abnormal….but as africana mentioned it is more what is naturally produced from within us, our hormones etc. In all honesty, the society we live in these days, plays enough role of an exposure, we don’t need icing on the cake with all this soft-porn literature…and Allah knows best…

      • Avatar

        Haseeb J

        December 9, 2010 at 6:19 AM

        I can’t recall in any study or book that says this. It is quite impossible to conjure up imaginations that have not been even seen yet but what exists are feelings, feelings that initially lead to confusion if not channeled and controlled properly. That is where good parents come in, like Umm Reem

  30. Avatar

    Olivia

    December 7, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Personally, I don’t have any kids this age, but will some day insha’Allah, so it’s always beneficial reading the experience and advice of other mothers who have already been there. =)

    Here’s my question about this dilemma: How do you distinguish between what is an outlet and what creates an issue that needs that outlet?

    Let me explain: On the one hand, the article mentions that books like Twilight create feelings that need an outlet, so the reader-teen may turn toward internet relationships or porn. On the other hand, some may argue that our teens already have the hormones and circumstances that require them to find an outlet. So some may say that teens are already somewhat horny, pardon my language, and are naturally curious about things like intimacy and sex so they need to find an outlet to satisfy their curiousity, so some may argue that a book like Twilight provides an outlet for an already existent “problem” (or perhaps natural state of being for a teen).

    This is not my opinion on the issue (frankly, I haven’t really visited the issue), but I know many parents feel this way about teen-related stuff. That you have to allow them some room for exposure or they’ll become rebellious/secretive. So on the one hand, some say reading the lit causes the problem whereas others may say that reading the lit satisfies and will prevent the problem. Your thoughts? :)

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      December 7, 2010 at 1:23 PM

      or another way to put it would be that some people read to replace what they don’t have in the their lives. like some of us housewives are fantasy nerds because let’s face it, we may be lacking adventure, so reading about it whets the literary appetite… ;)

      *cough* i really recommend the wheel of time, there is also a junior version. the MM CEO concurs *coughs*

    • Avatar

      Mari

      December 7, 2010 at 2:06 PM

      I know this comment will draw some gasps… but umm… shouldn’t they get married then? If age is an issue, then just the Nikaah?

      • Avatar

        africana

        December 7, 2010 at 3:12 PM

        I agree with you, Mari. I have no issue with early marriage. In the present age, it seems the only people marrying at age 16 or 17, in any great number, are the Roma.

    • Avatar

      Sabour Al-Kandari

      December 7, 2010 at 3:55 PM

      I think the porn analogy fits well, and sifting through the stories and comments on that article will show a person it’s hardly an outlet – it’s a catalyst!

      The same outlet-argument has been seen with that phenomenon as well, and it does seem reasonable. But I think experience shows that the neurochemistry associated with this part of human nature is addictive like a drug (desire = k x fulfillment) rather than something that can just be filled like hunger (desire = k x 1/fulfillment).

      Short answer, the more they get the more they want.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 7, 2010 at 11:48 PM

      I think the porn analogy fits well, and sifting through the stories and comments on that article will show a person it’s hardly an outlet – it’s a catalyst!

      couldn’t have said it better :)

      i dont’ think our teens, in this society of our times, need more exposure to sexuality…
      let’s keep in mind that girls/females have a strong power of imagination unlike men who are more visual…so would we offer boys more phonographic magazine/sites/movies in the name of “little exposure” or an “outlet”?
      similarly allowing our girls to read these books will only act like a catalyst, as br. sabour said!

      here is a comment from my facebook that a sister posted there who is very involved with the youth of her community:

      Masha’Allah excellent advise & article. SubhanAllah I remember having this convo with the yth girls at one of our sleepovers .We were discussing reading & how many of them actually read.It was very sad to see that of the 14 girls there ages 12 & up only about 3 of them really read.The others read but books that were ‘cool’ to their school friends, like twilight etc.
      I have always been upfront with my own kids on many things especially the so called ‘taboo’ subjects & still till today review their books even though I only have my sons left but even some of the ‘boys’ book have some nasty stuff in them especially comic type books.Not the story line as much as the illustration of the so called heroines & their various states of nakedness.
      It is a tough world out there & not that many choices left in reading material that have no sexual text in them & that is why now more then ever we need more Muslim authors like sr. Naima Roberts & others to write appropriate fiction novels for our muslim yth & it would really be nice if some brothers could do teh same for the boys [teen].
      I read all the comments & some of them state that we’re trying to raise our kids in a bubble by contrlling them & that if we teach them the facts of what is correct & what is not, they won’t be affected. That is a whole lot of hogwash! sorry to say.I was one of those yth who loved reading & read novels that my high schl cousins were reading.At the yng age of 13 I was reading teen love stories & by the time ai was 16 I was reading Mills & boone & I knew what was right & wrong as a muslim girl. Unfortunately my parents were not observant or really worried what I read as long as I was reading.No one checked what books I bought/ exchanged or borrowed as long as I was at home & not doing ‘bad’ things & with ‘bad’ company but believe me the books DO lead you down a road that is unIslamic. One might not experiment with the opposite sex but shaytaan does lead you close too if not all the way to masturbation. In my time most teen girls had no idea what masturbation meant believe me & that it was wrong for muslim girls as well.In madrasa only the boys were informed about what this is & so forth..
      It’s high time Muslim parents & I don’t care where you’re from , whether in the west or east , open their eyes & get their head out of the sand.There is alot of work that needs to be done for our yng kids & we need to work together for it to be more effective. Let’s not say there are no alternatives, there are & where there is very limited alternatives lets work to make more for them!

      she points out a valid concern, how reading such material will aid the girls to be involved more in masturbation…and aoodhobillah, if continues that will just be a stepping stone to bigger evils.

      As br. sabour pointed out, this is how addiction starts…vicious…how shyataan plays with innocent minds.

      • Avatar

        AnonyMouse

        December 8, 2010 at 3:07 AM

        LOL I was just going to post my mom’s comment when I saw you already did :P

        • Avatar

          Umm Reem

          December 17, 2010 at 7:52 AM

          great minds think alike ;)

  31. Avatar

    Umm Rufayda

    December 7, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Assalamu alaykum

    Jazakilla kairan Umm Reem for your insightful article. My daughter is a voracious reader but she’s 9 years and has not yet been exposed to the series you mentioned. When she was younger I filtered all her reading material, blotted out inappropriate material,or discussed unsavoury issues from the books. Now I cannot keep up with her reading and I do worry that she maybe exposed to things I do not wish her to. So I think the sister’s suggestion about us compiling a safe list is fantastic- (maybe a summary/review of the book as well. Some books are mostly good but with a little bit of bad so we can point out these things in the review so parents can be aware and make it a discussion point while reading the book as its very hard to find literature which is 100 percent Islamically safe. If we all set out to do this we can have an easier time choosing books for our kids and saving us the stress of trying to filter everything.InshaAllah I’ll visit the sister’s website and email her some series which I find safe, innocent and interesting.

  32. Avatar

    muslimah

    December 7, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    twilight is crap…i think teens will fall into the fitnah, not me..im mature enough not to get carried away over crappy vampire stories.

    harry potter is better!

  33. Avatar

    Sara

    December 7, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Salam,

    I’m 18 and love to read as well. I read Umm Zakiyyah’s series and loved it. Do you have any recommendations for books to read? Do you think Pride and Prejudice is a good choice?

  34. Avatar

    Perspective

    December 7, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Interesting article…I know that parents try incredibly hard to limit any sort of contact that might lead their away from the right path, and while I understand that this is well intentioned, I think that sometimes it actually backfires and becomes counter-productive. I’ve never read the Twilight series (I’ve seen the movies but wasn’t impressed), and I doubt there is anything of substance within the books. That said, I still feel that pre-teen/teen girls should be allowed to read the series if they so desire. I honestly think literature like Twilight, although not great, provides the safest outlet for a lot of the feelings that pre-teen/teen girls develop as a result of hormones and puberty; this is natural and its better that they are able to use literature as an outlet (rather harmless) than go out and experiment with boys in the real world. Reading Twilight doesn’t put thoughts of boys and intimacy in a girls head, I guarantee you those thoughts are developing regardless, but it does provide an imaginative and harmless outlet for those thoughts given that parents are INVOLVED with discussing the book with their daughters afterward. And I honestly think its a little far fetched to attribute internet relationships (possibly with a pedophile) to the Twilight series…issues like that stem from a lot more than teen literature.

    Instead of censoring teen novels, I think parents should try to develop a relationship with there children so that these issues can be openly discussed. Read through Twilight beforehand, and then after your daughter has read it go over why the story might sound so appealing, but why as Muslims, we don’t do things like that in our real lives. I find this approach to be far more effective with kids. As a small example, I have a niece whose mother is more “old school” in terms of parenting, and thus the issues of boys and feelings are not openly discussed between the two of them. Being in my twenties, my niece instead comes to me to tell about who she thinks is cute and what she likes in a boy, and while I listen to her and tell her these feelings are totally normal, I explain to her that she is NOT to act upon any of these feelings. The most surprising part about this is that she completely agrees, and even tells me how every relationship at her junior high lasts two weeks and end in girls being devastated…she understands the consequences of this behavior and the stupidity of it, she just wants someone to talk about this stuff without feeling like she’s done something wrong! So if your really worried about your child going off the right path, just talk to them, create an open dialogue where they can tell you about boys and their feelings towards them, and where you can explain that this is normal but where the limits are. I really feel that this will be a lot more effective then censoring literature that they can likely borrow from a friend without your knowledge anyway.

    Regardless, good article and food for thought. Parents definitely have their work cut for them in todays culture, and I really commend mothers for trying to deal with these issues as best as possible.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 8, 2010 at 12:02 AM

      jazakiAllah khair for ur insight and may Allah reward you for being there for your niece.

      I don’t think dealing with one child can give a full picture of what is going on in the society, with other families, with other girls etc.
      Besides, if u read my article, i did mention that part of the solution is to be involved in ur child’s life and to be there for them as a friend. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that by befriending them we can allow them soft-porn literature…
      as i mentioned before, this is similar to letting our boys read/watch movies with pornography in it!

      I guarantee you those thoughts are developing regardless, but it does provide an imaginative and harmless outlet for those thoughts given that parents are INVOLVED with discussing the book with their daughters afterward.

      yes and that’s why we don’t need to add salt on already wounded teens!!

      brother/sister, as i mentioned before, we are dealing with parents who shy away from even explaining different body parts to their children, do u think they will discuss the content of Twilight with their children??!!!

      And I honestly think its a little far fetched to attribute internet relationships (possibly with a pedophile) to the Twilight series…issues like that stem from a lot more than teen literature.

      perhaps, u need to get more involved with youth in your community and you will then understand! :)

  35. Avatar

    Olivia

    December 7, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    That said, I still feel that pre-teen/teen girls should be allowed to read the series if they so desire. I honestly think literature like Twilight, although not great, provides the safest outlet for a lot of the feelings that pre-teen/teen girls develop as a result of hormones and puberty; this is natural and its better that they are able to use literature as an outlet (rather harmless) than go out and experiment with boys in the real world. Reading Twilight doesn’t put thoughts of boys and intimacy in a girls head, I guarantee you those thoughts are developing regardless

    This is what I was wondering as well. (?) Is a novel such as this an oulet, something that creates the need for an outlet, or does it just depend on the person reading it?

    • Avatar

      ummZainab

      December 9, 2010 at 12:06 AM

      Perspective & sr. Olivia
      As someone who read such garbage & was raised by parents, the like of which ummReem is talking about, I can tell you from personal experience we don’t need to provide our yth with outlets such as this for their hormones & that they do put thoughts of intimacy in yng girls minds. This type of literature is harmful but while may not make them experiment with boys, will entice them to experiment none the less on themselves or with their girlfriends.Yes some of these thoughts are developing but when they read these type of novels instead of them imagining a kiss as a kiss[sorry for being discriptive here] with just 2 sets of lips locking, it provides greater visual imagery that they would other wise not know more details of.
      By reading this type of material, even for the most innocent & immature minds in girls, that initially have no knowledge, ideas or feeling that reading these types of explicit material arouse in young hormonal girls, they will lead to some type of experimentation.Why? because once a young girl starts feeling aroused, she will need to somehow have these feelings come full circle.Yes it depends also on how sexually aware[mentally] a girl is & what she has seen, heard or been told.
      An example; a young girl from a religious practising family with little sexual awareness will end up having a wet dream as this will be her ‘natural’ outlet for such built up thoughts/ feelings/ tension that arise from reading such explicit material.This will also make her think that ‘this’ is the way one should feel when they’re kissed for the first time & so will give her an unrealistic expectation for when she marries & it’s a totally different thing.This may lead to other bigger problems for her in her marriage & sexual relations with her husband as she will always remember what she read when she was ynger & she will expect that this is HOW she should be feeling.This will unfortunately be her guidline for sexual fulfillment & we know what happens to so many women that don’t get that from their marriages/ spouses.
      A girl from conservative but not so religious family [ who has never been informed of the wrongs of masturbation in islam or who was allowed to attend the public schl sex ed. program with parents skirting their responsibilities in dealing with this themselves] & where she has been told/ taught that masturbation is a ‘normal’ way of releasing sexual tention & there’s nothing wrong with it, will do so!
      In her case, she will already ‘know’ how to fulfill herself & what the feelings are when reaching climax & will expect her spouse in the future to bring her to the same level.This will also cause her bigger issues in her marriage as should her spouse not be able to help her reach the same level, she won’t care too much as she will do it herself.This is beside her not knowing how all this effects her iman & religious obligations.
      What is Islamically normal is for these yng girls to understand that feeling an interest in the opposite sex & having a crush as well is ‘not bad’ or wrong BUT there has to be someone that informs them that as long as they make sure to keep their gaze lowered, don’t expose their feeling to the boy/s or even friends [as I think we [ women] can all agree to this is that even crushes on a boy changes from one guy to another from a week to the next or a month to the next or having crushes on more then 1 guy at a time] & also why reading literature that has discriptive sexual content is not good for them all around & explain to them how to Islamically control that themselves so these feeling don’t build up. We can get them into sports [ that are Islamically suitable & in an Islamic enviroment ] for them to get rid of that tension, also applying ALL the Islamic guidleines & last but not least marry if they feel it’s too much. To also inform them that should they have a wet dream , it’s okay & nothing to be ashamed off as this IS normal & islamically happens to females as well.
      our yth already face so many challenges in keeping them away from the fitnah of sex outside what is Islamically acceptable, let’s not minimise the issue of reading such material & what it does. So censorship is not all that bad. I have had too much experience in seeing what this does to even ‘good’ Muslim kids with much Islamic potential, to want anymore to go through this.
      Our boys are affected by ‘soft-porn’ on a daily basis whether in the east, west or north,south in the visual media.Our girls are affected by all the novels that are made to seem/ look innocent but aren’t & this is not only teens but also children from ages 5 & up[ think Barbie & ken, disney princesses etc] what is the underlying message?It’s all about finding love as in the end that is all we all want as humans. To be loved by someone of the opposite sex!
      We do have some beautiful Islamic ‘love’ stories that teach the yth & adults of what is correct love & how to go about it. Let’s get those stories read to our children & we will see how much better it’ll be for them. May Allah help guide us & help us guide our yth today in dealing with these matters that are invading our lives as Muslims no matter where we live.

      • Avatar

        africana

        December 9, 2010 at 1:36 PM

        Assalamu Alaikum,

        Interesting perspective, Umm Zainab. I agree that sexual frustration in marriage may, in part, be attributable to earlier self-experimentation. However, another source of such dissatisfaction could be simply the widely available knowledge that something similar to what the male experiences is possible.

        Furtheemore, an inabilty to satisfy a wife’s sexual desire is considered grounds for divorce in sharia (even if the number of women who would actually sue for divorce on those grounds is minimal to non-existant).

        • Avatar

          Algebera

          December 10, 2010 at 6:02 PM

          Africana and others:
          I didn’t get to read all the comments, I basically skimmed through most of them, until i got to this one.
          Many women are afraid to actually bring up sexual dissatisfaction as an only or primary grounds for divorce b/c society as a whole or muslim women would look down on them and their chances of getting married would become slim to say the very least.
          Speaking of literature harnessing desires in women when they are young is not the only factor it is a natural desire. During the the Prophets’s(PBUH) time women would come and in one instance a woman did ask for a divorce on the very grounds of her dissatisfaction with her husband on the ground of sexaul dissatisfaction, and at that time they did n’t have any literature or pictures that contributed to her bringing about her dissatisfaction. point being i don’t think it is literature or pics that make a woman realize she is dissatisfied or contribute to her high expectations of being satisfied or not satisfied. She knows if she is and sometimes she may not be able to reitierate it or vocalize it and its not literature that is making her think that way.
          Maybe women should read the hadiths, especially Muslim and Bukhari and one can find many hadiths in which women would talk about sexaul things and those weren’t brought about literature or pics at that time.
          Lets STOP diminishing the need or belittleing the need to be satisfied to the excuse that literature and procacative pictures are making them dissatisfied somehow and they really wouldn’t want it if they didn’t look at pictures or media like that.
          salam

      • Avatar

        Umm Safiyyah

        January 16, 2011 at 5:22 PM

        mashallah, very well said UmmZainab

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 7:58 AM

      This is what I was wondering as well. (?) Is a novel such as this an oulet, something that creates the need for an outlet, or does it just depend on the person reading it?

      wAllahu ‘alam but it seems like it is something that ADDS to the need for an outlet…because that need will automatically exist as the girls reach a certain age and their hormones kick in…
      then we can either add to it (which, trust me, is not hard to do in our times) or we can help them control it…

  36. Avatar

    Arif

    December 7, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    This was a very powerful piece – JazaakumAllahu Alfa Khayran for this. One of the reasons that I set up Muslim Youth Musings back in the day was because I saw that there was no outlet for Muslim youth literature nor a a decent and platform to express their thoughts.

    I hope that writers realize that there is an untapped market filled with Muslim youth who just simply want to pick up mystery novels/thrillers/adventure/comedy novels that are written by Muslims and for Muslims. Kudos to writers like Sr. Na’ima Roberts who has began writing for Muslim teens, but we need so much more – both for men and women. Imagine if we classics to look back to, novels such as “Little Muslimahs”, “Dawud Muskfield”, etc. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) make this into reality. Ameen…

  37. Avatar

    africana

    December 7, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Irresepctive of any arguments in this book’s favour, isn’t reading passages, describing sexual scenes, somewhat analagous to what’s contained in the hadith which warns against discussing the details of one’s sex life with others?

  38. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    December 8, 2010 at 3:27 AM

    I’ve been a voracious reader since the time I could start reading… back in the days when I had no friends, I’d sit curled up in my room for hours with piles and piles and piles of books… and then I started shunning human company for books instead :P

    I think I’ve read the gamut of novels – from mystery to fantasy, fairy tales to comic books, classics to newfangled silliness :)
    By and large, my taste has always leaned to the fairy tales and gothic fantasy than romance novels (I flipped through a couple but the writing quality was nauseatingly childlike and there was no plot beyond the point that the guy and girl get in bed).

    The truth is that there are a LOT of really good books available for kids of all ages, even/ especially the ‘dangerous’ preteen/ teen phases.
    As both a booklover and a patriotic Canadian, I’d recommend the Anne of Green Gables series (yes, there really is an entire series!) for preteens and teens alike. It’s funny, touching, and MORAL! Any time a character feels some kind of romantic inclination, they get married to their crushes :)

    There’s also the Unicorns of Balinor (for preteens); there’s the Once and Future King by T.H. White for all ages; the Last Unicorn; the Yearning; A Girl Named Disaster; The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm (this one is great for both girls and boys, I loved it); the Chronicles of Narnia (forget the movies, the books ROCK!); the Dark is Rising… there is sooooooooo much available in the ‘morally acceptable’ book category… unfortunately the new rush of lame teen ‘literature’, now outfitted with interesting book covers and schoolgirl hype, overshadows it all.

    As for whether this ‘soft porn for teens’ encourages sexual feelings or simply provides a healthy outlet, by and large it’s the former. AlHamdulillaah I had a pretty insulated childhood away from males anywhere near my age (with the exception of my brothers) so I never really got into the major crushing over a guy phase… sure, I daydreamed and all, but that’s normal. However, I completely recognize that IF I’d been in public school, IF I’d come across guys on a regular basis… the situation would have been very, very dfferent. It is wayyyyy too easy for a girl to find herself ‘falling’ for a guy at school, whether he’s a classmate or someone in the class next door. Even just saying ‘hi’ every day can lead to not just doodling hearts on a notebook (which is silly but innocent), but having lunch together, going to the corner store together, and then going to the mall (and other, less savoury places) together.
    Teenage girls tend to be pretty stupid (and I say this as someone who is still a teenage girl :P), and fluffy romantic books and scenes just fuel that silliness and make you wish you could engage in something similar… and given an opportune circumstance, will encourage you to do something similar. You have no idea how many books talk about how the girl has to ‘be brave and confront him’ and ‘tell him how she feels’ so that he can ‘realize how much he actaully does like her.’ Fuel for the fire, anyone?

    The ideal answer to a teenage girl’s twitterpatedness is indeed marriage… but only if she’s correctly perpared ahead of time to know that marriage isn’t just a short-term boyfriend/ girlfriend relationship, but something serious and long-term as well. If you think your daughter is mature enough to handle it, then fix her up with a good, Deeni guy and let her be as twitterpated as she wants (and then she can read Twilight if she wants too, as long as she doesn’t expect her husband to turn into Edward Cullen! ;) ).

    • Avatar

      Hafsa

      December 8, 2010 at 10:14 AM

      Yessss!!! Anne of green gables! And Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom and An Old Fashioned Girl and all those Agatha Christies and Sherlock Holmes and David Copperfield and the Lord of the Rings and what not! I like reading, hehe! =)

      • Avatar

        Olivia

        December 8, 2010 at 5:06 PM

        also a huge anne fan =) siraaj is going to take me to the AOGG house one day…right, siraaj, mr. coo?

        • Avatar

          chemaatah

          December 8, 2010 at 5:37 PM

          it’s a very fun place to visit! there’s a museum too, in ontario. i’ve visited some of the little house on the prairie sites too. i was very lucky to have a kind, and understanding dad who understood how important it was to a little girl to be able to see the places from her favorite books for some of our family vacations!

          i never was able to talk him into letting us visit red square, and all the other russian landmarks i wanted to see during my russian lit. phases. maybe someday i’ll be able to talk my husband into visiting them with me…

      • Avatar

        Algebera

        December 8, 2010 at 7:10 PM

        Anne of green gables! and all those Agatha Christies and Sherlock Holmes I dont’ think I have missed any agatha Christie, I watch Masterpiece Theatre when it is “PEROT”

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 8:18 AM

      couldn’t agree more with what you said…

      Teenage girls tend to be pretty stupid (and I say this as someone who is still a teenage girl ), and fluffy romantic books and scenes just fuel that silliness

      i wish parents could understand this point….

  39. Avatar

    muslimah

    December 8, 2010 at 5:02 AM

    I think its important that parents establish a connection with their kids and teach them right from the wrong.
    Trust me, i grew up reading more risque books..like sweet valley university but i never acted out things in real life. My parents instilled some strong morals and vaues in me and i find myself unable to go against them.

    If twilight is soft porn, what are shidney sheldon’s books? I have read a couple of his books and omg, i felt sick to the stomach..too explicit. I pormised myself i will never read a sidney sheldon book again..that was like 7 yrs back and im going strong on that promise!

    Another thing i would like to point out is, we are perfectly capable of distinguishing right from the wrong..it all comes to down to the person. I didnt want to go here, but i think this is a great example. Im sure everyone knows who lisa kudrow is. She played a very raunchy character in *friends* and guess what? She stayed a virgin till her wedding night. She said she was raised to believe her body is sacred and to bestow it upon someone who is worthy of it. Imagine, a hollywood celeb say that! So my point is, dont waste too much time worrying abt your kids IF you have done a good job in the parenting department.

    And i gotta agree with Bushra. Harry potter has excellent vocabulary and usage of english language. On a sidenote, it’s just not 2 kisses. More than that i can recall, but they are not explicit in the least..

  40. Avatar

    africana

    December 8, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    I mentioned this in a previous comment and would appreciate some feedback, in sha Allah:

    What do you advise that the teenager should do when experiencing sexual these thoughts, should the teenager find them detestable or should they accept them?

    In Orthodox Judaism, the dwelling on lascivious thougts is strongly discouraged; does Islam teach the same? Or would the attempt to cancel out such thoughts lead to neurosis and possible sexual obsession?

    • Avatar

      mohammed

      December 8, 2010 at 9:35 AM

      salam alaikum

      try to teach your children that feeling this way is natural and expected in anyone who has hormones. however despite acceptance of hormonal changes in a youngster’s mind they should try to suppress the urge to go looking for an outlet for these until they are in a marriage.many reasons can be given to them and by islam there is no sin in thinking a certain way nor is it a sin for having these thoughts,simply because the child may not know where the influence of these thoughts is coming from. these days even cartoons for toddlers have encrypted soft pornographic images and themes which sit in a child’s subconcious and take action later on when the child is old enough to decide what to do with those indoctrinated ideas.in Islam Allah is oft-forgiving and All Merciful,he does not punish for thoughts due to this reason.its ok if a thought shows up in someone’s mind.just not ok to put it in action.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 8:44 AM

      good answer:
      http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/2252/sexual

      and as for the sexual thoughts/fantacies, here is what i found…the topic of the question was different, but i think the answer is related:

      “Sexual fantasies are among the thoughts that cross a person’s mind because it is something that is stored in the subconscious which is affected by the environment in which he lives and the scenes that he sees. These are thoughts that occur to most people, especially the youth, but they vary from one person to another with regard to their type, strength and effect.
      Islamic sharee’ah is the sharee’ah of the fitrah (natural state of man) and it is in harmony with human nature, and it takes into account the psychological fluctuation that Allaah has made a part of the human make-up. So it does not go beyond human limitations or impose impossible burdens.

      Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

      “Allaah burdens not a person beyond his scope” [al-Baqarah 2:286]

      It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has forgiven my ummah for whatever crosses their mind so long as they do not speak of it or act upon it.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (2528) and Muslim (127).

      Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said commenting on this hadeeth:

      Whatever crosses a person’s mind, so long as he does not dwell on it or continue to think of it, he is forgiven for it, according to scholarly consensus, because it does not happen voluntarily and he has no way of avoiding it. Al-Adhkaar (p. 345).

      Passing fancies come under the heading of that which crosses a person’s mind, which is forgiven according to the hadeeth quoted above. So if a person imagines haraam things that came to his mind unbidden, there is no blame or sin on him, rather he has to ward them off as much as he can.

      http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/84066/sexual

  41. Avatar

    mohammed

    December 8, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    it goes a lot deeper than you people think.little crushes are NOT ok-why? read the quran and it’s translation and you’ll know. read up about shaitan and his plans and how his greatest trick was to have man believe he did not exist. nothing is without purpose in this world.everything has a reason and history behind it.before any of you start to comment,sit and think about it for a minute. a muslim does not want to anger Allah in any way shape or form correct? so why is it mandatory to follow some of his orders and ok to neglect others? if we could follow them all,this world would be so wonderful to live in. ask yourselves this question-what is the first pillar of islam? start your research about why this whole subject goes deeper than a page against twilight.pride and prejudice was not simple and sweet,neither were any of the books of the past-all books,authors starting after the first murder at the time of Adam (a.s) had an agenda,an agenda that predates our simple minded assumptions about the current day books and their goals. many of you will simply roll your eyes at the next sentence and many will try to outsmart my comment by showing off their new aged ideas that are apparently modern and updated compared to this simple truth i will unfold right now- to steer mankind off the right path.if anyone has any legitimate questions to ask about this matter,please do so,those looking to troll ,try to outsmart or hating please do not reply to this.those who know what i’m talking about and those who are erudites in history -please do reply and remark.i will continue to comment after reading replies.

    • Avatar

      africana

      December 8, 2010 at 11:00 AM

      Jazak Allahu khair for your responses, brother.

      A believer’s heart cannot be torn in two separate directions. Crushes certainly take one away from the rememberance of Allah.

  42. Avatar

    africana

    December 9, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    I think most of us are agreed on the fact that the reading of sexually charged literature increases the likelihood of masturbation and/or illicit realtionships, so should be avoided.

    Does anyone have any advice on how youngsters can cope with/manage the normal feelings that arise naturally within them?

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 8:58 AM

      1. try to seek protection form shaytaan by making du’a
      2. making morning and afternoon adhkaar
      3. staying away from the means that provoke/instigate or add to these thoughts
      4. keeping good company
      5. try NOT to spend time alone, be with the family, good friends etc.
      6. get more invovled in community activities
      7. work out
      8. start reciting Qur’an when these thoughts are provoked

      please feel free to add to these points…

  43. Avatar

    NY

    December 9, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Sabhannallah i never knew twightlight was all about that and no im not old, im in my twenties. I see so many Muslims reading it. Now i know to advice people about it when i come across it and to look out for my future children even more! Great Techniques

  44. Avatar

    ReemAkon

    December 9, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    JazakAllahkhaira Ummreem for the well written article on a very relevant topic.
    Another basic of effective parenting is finding ways to expose our kids to the real world. We and our children see so little of true trials and suffering like fear, poverty, sickness, war etc. Yet we should be exposed to the trials of others on a firsthand, consistent basis in order to develop compassion for our fellow human beings and to keep ourselves grounded in reality.

    Consider a child whose regular routine includes visiting the sick, spending time with the elderly and the poor – a child who from a very early age understands that the highest faculty of human beings is in doing good deeds – worshipping Allah and serving His creation.

    Such a child, by the will of Allah, would be compassionate, deep and goal oriented. If this child was then exposed to temptations like reading trashy romance novels — even if they were to succumb and read such books the effects would be temporary because they would quickly recognize their irrelevance to reality.

    “It easy to say “No” to temptation, with a genuine smile on your face, if you have a bigger “Yes” burning inside.” That quote is a paraphrase from something I recently read in a Stephen Covey book. Think about it…I think it’s pretty deep =)

  45. Avatar

    Gul Jan

    December 10, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    Asa,

    I started reading Twilight and i HATED IT. and my sister read it and fell in loveee with it.
    I thought it was soo boring and i’d much prefer pride and prejudice because im so sensitive:) heheeh.

    So i reccomend all you muslim sistaaaaas NOT to reaad Twilight cause its crap. vampires, werewolves? Are you serious? i meaaaan, how BOGUS! i meaaaan come on!!!!!

    Yours sincereelyy,

    Gul Jan.

    • Avatar

      Gul Jan

      December 10, 2010 at 8:28 AM

      BTW i am 13 years.(older than you) :D never say neverrrr :*

  46. Avatar

    Farooq

    December 10, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    Try reading the “Eight Scroll” its amazing
    http://www.eighthscroll.com/

  47. Avatar

    anon

    December 11, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    I have read the Twilight series, and there are a few romantic scenes. Compared with television programs, it is comparatively chaste; I realize that may not be saying much, but Edward and Bella refrain from expressing their love because they fear for the fate of their souls if they give in. That is a surprising thing for popular Western novels.

    I believe that Twilight is an extended allegory of a young girl seeking (1) maturity and (2) to become more heavenly, like the Cullen family. I think that is the series’ primary appeal, and I, for one, found reading it an enlightening experience.

  48. Avatar

    Sad Mom

    December 17, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Assalamu ‘Alaykum,

    For me, denying my teenage girl permission to read Twighlight, which nearly all of her teenage friends were reading at her Islamic school, with our without the knowledge of their parents, tipped the scale to full-scale rebellion on her part.

    It is not realistic to deny access to these books, if our teens get them anyway and hide them from us.

    Believe me, I loath these books, but sometimes too much control backfires.

    Wa Allahu ta’ala alam.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 9:05 AM

      wa alaikum assalam,

      dear sister, don’t let it be a “control”…let it be “mutual understanding”…
      communicate, be gentle, be reasonable, substitute with something BIG, appreciate, encourage…

      It is not realistic to deny access to these books, if our teens get them anyway and hide them from us.

      as i mentioned in my article, denying them these books should not be in a way that they become rebellious or do it behind our backs…

      and it IS realistic…inshaAllah!
      make du’a, your dua IS accepted for ur child inshaAllah.
      don’t let a few slips/rebellious reactions be the end of your efforts.

      Keep trying sister, you know your child better than any other human being on this face of earth and YOU are the most sincere to your child…
      build a relationship with them. You should know what approach will be more effective for your child…try those…and know that, as a parent, you will make mistakes too.

      Let me tell you a secret:
      sometimes, when they disobey/rebel, just letting your disappointment reflect through your facial expression (making sure that the child has noticed it) without getting upset at them is FAR more effective than punishments/other consequences…

      • Avatar

        Sad Mom

        December 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM

        With all due respect, Umm Reem, I have a masters in counseling and have tried ALL OF THE ABOVE. This advice is a bit pedantic and a “one size fits all prescription.” It seems to be written from the vantage point of someone who has a strong Muslim family support network to balance the forces of the dunya; by someone who has relatively easy and compliant child(ren) or has not seen her children go through the difficult teen years.

        I don’t mean to be rude, but I have tried all of the things you have mentioned and more including putting my children through Muslim school for four years as a single mom while drivinga 1996 vehicle, praying at Arafah on Hajj and asking subsequent Hajjis to do the same; and nothing seems to working, subhan Allah. Please make Duaa’ for my daughter.

        I would like to share something, though. The Muslim community has to certain extent failed my family, subhan Allah. Her Muslim dad abandoned her at the age of three. Her Salafi step dad from one of the most pious families, ma sha Allah, divorced me after 25 months and is now on wife number six. She used to sit on his lap and play with his beard and say, “Baba, read tell me another story about the Sahaba.” And then, she was bullied for too years straight in Islamic school.

        Hindsight is 20/20 and, looking back, I can see that I made two huge mistakes: As a revert with no Muslim family, I put too much pressure on my daughter to follow Sunnah, while at the same time not having the Muslim family support network to sustain it. I cannot tell you how many Eids we spent alone.

        May Allah forgive me my shortcomings, make this extrutiating trial easy and grant me sabr. Ameen.

        • Avatar

          Umm Reem

          December 17, 2010 at 10:03 AM

          sometimes it doesn’t require a master in counselling to relate to one’s child…neither is my advice ‘one size fits all’.
          Not only I have a teenager myself but I’d been actively involved with many teenagers in different communities, including Islamic schools around me and by Allah’s Mercy, and only by His Mercy alone, what i advice is a result of all these years’ experience.

          It may work for some, it may not work for others, wAllahu ta’ala alam…

          Having said this, I cannot agree with you more on the fact that it is not a single mother’s job to raise her children esp. when the father is alive. And i cannot agree with you on how i wish that our islamic communities come forward in raising good muslims together…

          As for having a non Muslim family, i understand it is challenging. But grass always looks greener on the other side…we all are facing our fare share of challenges…sometimes, having a non-practising Muslim family or practising their own “version” of Islam is worse…

          As for our hard core salafi brothers practicing “marry-go-around-marriage-marathon”….seriously it is a shame. And i can only imagine how it must affects the raising of the children. However Dear Sister, remember Imam Ahamd’s mother raised him single-handedly…Imam Bukhair’s mother was a widowed. Shaikh Bin Baz didn’t have a father.

          May Allah make your matters easy for you. May Allah help you with your difficulties. May Allah help you with raise salih children, may Allah make your children form among the saliheen, sadiqeen, sabireen, ‘abideen.

          • Avatar

            Sad Mom

            December 17, 2010 at 10:17 AM

            Jazaki Allahu khairan, Umm Reem. Ameen. Thumma Ameen. Thumma Ameen.

            Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guides whom He wills. Please keep her in your Duaa’.

        • Avatar

          muslimah

          May 14, 2011 at 11:49 PM

          my heart goes out to you sad mom even though i dont have children.. May Allah make this life and the next easy for u.. and bring and keep your daughter on the right path.. ameen!

  49. Avatar

    Hebah Ahmed

    December 18, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    Barak Allahu Feekee ya Ukhti!!!!!!!! I wish I had this kind of advice when I was a young girl. Maybe I could have avoided many pitfalls myself. I agree 200% with your perspective and your advice!

    Honestly, I don’t even think married women should read this stuff…as you said it creates an impossible standard of romance that husbands simply will never meet. Usually these novels are works of fiction because they are creations of an extreme form of what a woman craves, not what is actually attainable. This not only creates disappointment and feeling let down in a marriage, but can also effect ones ability to have a healthy, satisfying sexual realationship. I know many women who were exposed to sexually explicit matieral (in writing and visually) and they cannot enjoy their spouse because they have preconceived notions of how things should be. Its almost like having had prior relationships that frame a person’s sexuality and in comparison, a husband cannot fit the bill.

    My daughter is still young and even when she rebels, after talking to her about Allah and voicing my disappointment and concern with a bad choice, she eventually does what I guide her to. I know and want my daughter to develop her own independent will and already tell her that she should not expect to always make the same choices as I simply because “mommy did”, rather she should be more concerned with making sure her choices are within the bounds of Allah’s pleasure. She does not understand this now (she always wants to copy mommy) but I know the time will come when she will make choices I would not. And this is the time I fear the most. At the same time I know that the mistakes and bads decisions I made in the past are what have given me true conviction in the Islamic way of life. SO i constantly wonder how my children will learn to be compassionate and non-judgemental yet full of conviction and taqwa without failing themselves! But then I constantly make duaa that Allah protects them from harm, fitnah, and sins. Aye, what a dilemna! But I am sure Allah will take care of this without my worry though, since all must be tested.

    May Allah give me and all parents the patience and wisdom to teach our children and give them boundaries and direction while also accepting our children’s mistakes with the hope and prayers that it is what will bring them back stronger to the path. Ameen.

  50. Avatar

    Chasing Purity

    December 20, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    I wish someone would have told me about Twilight when I read it. It was in seventh grade, and I remember wondering what it would be like to have my own “Edward”. Now that i realize my stupidity, it’s so sad to realize that young girl. PRE-teens, view him as a sex symbol. And how yes, most teen books now are soft-porn.
    Your daughter is Masha’Allah very lucky to have a mother with your values. I strongly admire them. If more parents nowadays got more involved, the right way, in their children’s lives, they could greatly reduce the filth us teens are being bombarded with. It’s your kind of advice we need.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 27, 2010 at 1:13 AM

      Chasing Purity,

      JazakAllah khair for your kind words.
      You know, you can be a mentor to many young girls in your community and can teach them a lot of valuable lessons. Girls of your age always have a stronger impact on preteens. Maybe you can start a weekly group discussion in your masjid? :)

      • Avatar

        Chasing Purity

        December 27, 2010 at 7:58 PM

        We have a local group, but I’m afraid that it doesn’t attract much attention. In all honesty, I myself am not interested. But I was thinking of actually reviving it and making it more teen-friendly. Any suggestions on how to achieve this?

  51. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    December 28, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Jazakillah ul Khair sister for this insightful article. What I find strange about Twilight is that the author claims to be a practicing Christian who wanted to write a romance that didn’t involve premarital sex. So she seems to have had good intentions but the irony is that instead downplaying sex her books have overemphasized upon it in other ways (the passage you quoted is but one of many describing intimate relations; it doesn’t matter that the description isn’t of actual penetration because it’s still all meant to be arousing!)

    I’m surprised and disappointed to hear that some Muslim parents actually insist upon allowing their daughters to read such trash. This reminds me of the whole public/private school vs. Islamic/homeschool debate. Is it better to shield and protect one’s children from wider society by keeping them away from secular educational institutions (and with books/media by preventing their exposure to materials with objectionable materials)? Or should children be exposed to such elements in order for them to not live in a “bubble” that pops when they venture out into the world, giving them a rude awakening?

    From my understanding we have to learn to balance these things. We shouldn’t try to have them live in a bubble but at the same time we shouldn’t expose them to everything that’s out and hope for the best from them.
    Re: Twilight I agree with you it is wholly unnecessary to expose them to this particular material. I’ve been reading other YA novels recently and I find that there are many out there involving little to no romance that deal with more pressing real life issues; they also contain interesting storylines and characters. There are even some novels now with Muslim characters! We should always try to find a middle way in these matters.

  52. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    March 5, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    Masha’Allah Umm Reem, a very good article. May Allah (swt) guide us and help us to guide our children to the right path.

    As you discourage your child from reading these current ‘hot’ books, there should some halal options that you should present them with. Unfortunately, halal fiction is so very much limited. We need more creative writers out there with great books that are better and more enjoyable for our young ummah.

  53. Avatar

    Umm Reem

    May 6, 2011 at 3:32 AM

    Interesting :)
    ——–
    “How do you expect kids to listen to their parents?…

    Tarzan lives half naked,
    Cinderella comes back home at midnight,
    Pinocchio lies all the time,
    Aladdin is the king of thieves,
    Batman drives at 320 KM/h,
    Sleeping beauty is lazy,
    and Snow white lives with 7 guys.

    We shouldn’t be surprised when kids misbehave! They get it from their story books..”

    Shared By: Taimiyyah Zubair
    Al Huda Institute, Canada

    • Avatar

      The Truth Seeker

      May 15, 2011 at 4:50 AM

      lol …. but so true

      snow white lives with 7 guys …. this one took me out

  54. Avatar

    Cailin

    November 2, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    I appreciated your post. I am teaching at an American university about globalization and Twilight so it has been wonderful to read what people around the world think of this popular culture phenomenon.

  55. Avatar

    Muslimah

    December 31, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Assalaam u alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh!

    A very nice article. A must read. I was always looking for this. I just stumbled upon it through Muslim matters.
    This article is equally essential for the parents living in Muslim countries. they think that the are living in Muslim countries everything is fine. But things have changed a lot.
    And, yes PEER pressure is the major challenge. Thay are good when they are at home but the friends they teach more than family and friends. I guess we should be equally bothered about the child’s friend as we our for ours.
    We really need EDUCATED and Practically Muslim Mothers.
    Jazakillaah khair!
    May Allaah bless you for your efforts. And MAke your children Sadqa-e-jaria for you!

    Pls remember us in your prayers!
    Assalaam u alaikum wa rahmatullaah!

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  58. Avatar

    Souso

    August 29, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    So as a teenager who loves to read, I have a hard time choosing appropriate books. Would you say that reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ would be okay? Or is there any harm in reading the books? And lastly, do you have any good book tips, preferably fiction.

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#Islam

Reflections on Muslim Approaches to the Abortion Debate: The Problem of Narrow Conceptualization

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question.

Shaykh Salman Younas

Published

on

Abortion

“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes’ is what certain Muslims would assert… This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth.”

Shaykh Abdullah Hamid Ali in A Word on Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

“The golden mean is kind of a summit, and it is a struggle to get there. The ego does not want balance because you have to think and make sacrifices.”

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad in Paradigms of Leadership (6)

A few months ago, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law House Bill 134, or the Human Life Protection Act, which prohibited all abortion in the state of Alabama except in cases where it was deemed necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother. The bill additionally criminalized abortion or any attempt to carry it out in situations deemed non-necessary. A motion to exempt rape and incest victims from this law was defeated in the Alabama state senate, which give the state the (dubious) distinction of possessing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in America. This move by Alabama to place extreme restrictions on abortion followed a spate of similar legislative moves by other states, such as Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

This escalation in anti-abortion legislation occasioned intense debate within the Muslim community.[1] Muslims who self-identify as progressives chanted the familiar mantra of “my body, my choice” to affirm a notion of personal rights and bodily autonomy in defending a woman’s right to choose. The ideological underpinnings of this view are extremely problematic from a theological perspective, and the practical policies arising from it that sanction even late-term abortions contravene the near-consensus position of classical jurists and is rightly seen as an assault on inviolable human life. For this reason, this essay will not pay any particular attention to this view.

Several people pushed back against this permissive attitude by arguing that abortion is essentially prohibited in Islam in all but the direst of situations, such as when the life of the mother is at genuine risk. This opinion has a sound precedent in the legal tradition and is the mainstream view of some of the legal schools, but it has often been presented in a manner that fails to acknowledge the normative pluralism that exists on the matter in the shariah and rather perniciously presents these alternative opinions as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’. Similarly, those who favour the more lenient view found in other legal schools are often seen characterizing the stricter opinion as ‘right-wing’ or reflective of the Christianization of Islamic law. Despite having legal precedent on their side, both groups engaged the abortion question in a manner that was rather superficial and fundamentally problematic.

Abortion

Did Jurists Only Permit Abortion in ‘Dire’ Circumstances?

I will begin this essay by offering a corrective to the mistaken notion that classical jurists only permitted abortions in cases of necessity, an assertion that has become very common in current Muslim discourse on abortion in America. One need not look much further than the Ḥanafī school to realize that this claim is incorrect. Though there are opinions within the school that only permit abortion before 120 days with the existence of a valid excuse, the view of several early leading authorities was that abortion was unconditionally permissible (mubāḥ) before this period and/or prior to the physical form and features of a fetus becoming clearly discernible.[2] In his encyclopaedic work al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, Burhān al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 616/1219) presents two main opinions on abortion in the school:

(i) It is permitted “as long as some physical human features are not clearly discernible because if these features are not discernible, the fetus is not a child (walad)” as per Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand. Some scholars asserted that this occurs at 120 days,[3] while others stated that this assertion, though incorrect, indicated that by discernibility jurists intended ensoulment.[4]

(ii) It is disliked because once conception occurs, the natural prognostication is life and so the fetus is granted this ruling at the moment of conception itself. This was the view of ʿAlī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī (d. 305/917-18).[5]

The first opinion of unconditional permissibility was not a solitary one in the school. It was forwarded by many of the foremost Ḥanafī authorities, such as Ḥussām al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 536/1141),[6] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī (d. 575/1175),[7] Jamāl al-Dīn al-Ghaznawī (d. 593/1196),[8] Zayn al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 666/1267),[9] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī (d. 683/1284),[10] Fakhr al-Dīn al-Zaylaʿī (d. 743/1343),[11] Qiwām al-Dīn al-Kākī (749/1348),[12] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī (d. 767/1365),[13] Kamāl ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457),[14] Muḥyī al-Dīn Jawīzāda (d. 954/1547),[15] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī (d. 1088/1677),[16] and several others.[17] The reasoning underlying this view was that prior to a specific period (whether defined by days or by fetal development), a fetus is not a ‘child’ or ‘person’.[18] Therefore, no ruling is attached to it at this stage.[19]

Another opinion in the school, and one that has gained wide acceptance amongst contemporary Ḥanafī jurists, argued that abortion prior to 120 days was disliked and sinful unless carried out with a valid excuse. This view was most famously expressed by Fakhr al-Dīn Qāḍīkhān (d. 592/1196) in his Fatāwā and subsequently supported by the likes of Ibn Wahbān (d. 768/1367),[20] Ibn Nujaym (d. 970/1563),[21] and Ibn ʿĀbidīn (d. 1252/1836).[22] These sources, however, do not define or fully flesh out what constitutes an excuse, sufficing mainly with a single example as illustrative of a case where abortion would be permitted, namely when a woman ceases to produce milk on account of pregnancy and her husband is unable to provide an alternative source of sustenance for their child and fears his or her perishing. Cases of rape, incest, adultery, and other possible excuses are not discussed by most of these authors, and it is not clear whether they would have deemed these valid excuses or not.[23]

The Ḥanafī school, therefore, had three main opinions on the issue: unconditionally permissible prior to a specific time period; unconditionally disliked; and conditionally permissible prior to a specific time period. Of the three, the first view seems to have been the dominant one in the school and held by multiple authorities in virtually every century. The view of conditional permissibility was also a strong one and notably adopted by several later jurists. It is also the view that has gained currency among modern Ḥanafī scholars who are generally not seen forwarding the view of unconditional permissibility.

Some Contemporary Views on Abortion

A wide range of opinions is also found in the discourse of contemporary jurists. Shaykh Muṣṭafā Zarqā (d. 1999) presented a gradated scheme where abortion prior to 40 days was permitted without a “severe excuse”, which included “undertaking necessary travel where pregnancy and giving birth would prove a hindrance, such as for education or for work that requires a couple to move.”[24] He also considered financial strain arising from a child as a valid excuse during this limited time period. According to him, the threshold for a valid excuse would become higher as the pregnancy proceeded beyond 40 days.

Muftī Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (d. 1996), one of the foremost scholars of the Deobandī school, permitted abortions when conception occurred out of wedlock (zinā).[25]

Muftī Salmān Manṣurpūrī states emphatically that the basis is that abortion is impermissible unless there is a valid excuse before 120 days, such as the life of the mother being at risk, serious consequences to her general health, an actual inability to bear pregnancy, clear harm or danger to one’s current children, and adultery, but not fear of economic difficulty nor the decision not to have children.[26]

In Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya, Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq states that a fetus diagnosed by medical professionals with an incurable and serious disorder that will prove to be an extreme burden on the child and its family is permitted to abort prior to 120 days as per the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Mecca.[27] Elsewhere, he divides pregnancy into three stages. The first stage is when the general form and facial features of the fetus take shape but prior to the formation of its limbs. At this stage, it is permitted to carry out on abortion with a valid and established excuse, such as the fetus suffering from a “dangerous hereditary disease”, “physical abnormality/deformity”, the life of the mother being at risk, or reasonably-established fear of the mother’s “physical and mental health” being impacted. The second stage is when the limbs of the fetus are clearly formed and discernible, and the third stage is after 120 days. In both these stages, the respected Muftī rules that abortion is not permitted except in cases of necessity, such as saving the life of the mother.[28] The permission to abort the fetus is also extended to cases of rape.[29]

Mawlānā Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī (d. 2019), a founding member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, India, argued that the permission to carry out an abortion before ensoulment (even after discernibility) is not simply restricted to cases of necessity (ḍarūra) but includes cases of need (ḥāja), which broadly includes “any situation that entails bodily or psychological harm for the parents or the child and is a cause for continual distress.”[30] Examples of valid excuses include “danger to the general health, mental health, or life of the mother”, pregnancy resulting from rape or fornication (so long as it is not someone who has engaged in the latter habitually), the strong possibility that the child will be born with serious physical abnormalities or defects as determined by a medical professional, and the genuine inability of the parents to raise and maintain/sustain more than one child without it negatively impacting their current children.[31]

Mawlānā Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī states, “Essentially, abortion is impermissible in Islam, and there is no time period in which it is acceptable to abort a fetus. However, this impermissibly has degrees. In the first scenario (i.e. post-ensoulment) it is a grievous sin and categorically prohibited; in the second scenario (i.e. pre-ensoulment but post-discernment of limbs) it is lesser than this; in the third scenario (i.e. before features/limbs become discernible) it is relatively less severe than the previous two.” He then goes on to rule that abortion is not permitted for the following reasons: not desiring more children; conception out of wedlock; or being physically or mentally unable to care for a child, since others may be able to do so. Excuses that permit abortion before ensoulment include a doctor concluding with reasonable-surety that the child will suffer from a dangerous hereditary disease, physical abnormalities, and deformities, and the life of the mother is at serious risk.[32]

There are stricter views than some of those mentioned above, especially from non-Ḥanafī scholars. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, taking the Mālikī school as his basis,[33] has argued that abortion before 40 days is prohibited “with rare exception.”[34] This view of impermissibility is also held by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī although he allows for a dispensation to be given to victims of rape.[35]

Shaykh ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya also deems abortion at all stages of pregnancy to be sinful to varying degrees except in situations where the life of the mother is at risk.[36]

Shaykh Wahba al-Zuhaylī (d. 2015) ruled that abortion was impermissible from the moment of conception “except in cases of necessity” such as being afflicted with cancer or an incurable disease.[37]

Framing the Problem: Basic Levels of Engaging the Law

The discussion so far makes one point quite evident: there are an array of opinions on the issue of abortion ranging from the extremely restrictive to the more permissive. Though ‘difference of opinion’ (ikhtilāf) has generally been viewed as one of the outstanding and unique features of Islamic legal discourse, it is precisely the range of views that exist in the tradition on abortion that partly plays a role in the problematic approaches to the issue seen amongst certain Muslims. It is not so much the differences themselves that are the issue, but the manner in which particular opinions are selected by individuals who subsequently propagate them to the community as binding doctrine.

To better understand this, one can broadly identify four basic levels of engagement with religious law applicable to Muslim leaders and scholars in the West in the context of the abortion issue,[38] which often overlap with one another: (a) personal, (b) academic, (c) fatwā, public preaching, and irshād, and (d) political.

(a) The Personal

The ‘personal’ level concerns an individual’s own practice where he or she can follow the legal school (or trusted scholar) of their choosing or decide on the rulings that govern their lives when possessing the ability to do so. This level does not directly concern anyone but the individual himself.

(b) The Academic

The ‘academic’ level in the current context refers primarily to a process of study, reflection and deduction, and research to arrive at a personal conclusion regarding some aspect of the law that is undertaken in conversation with a guild of peers and not the general population. Such academic activity is often theoretical, abstract, and conceptual, and even when it addresses more practical concerns, it constitutes a general articulation of an opinion, not an individualized responsa, that others engage with as members of a scholarly class. This scholarly class includes the ʿulamā’ and others whose input is relevant to a particular issue.

(c) Fatwā, Irshād, and Public Preaching

The realm of fatwā is exclusively for a qualified scholar. Here, the scholar enters most directly into the practical implementation of a legal ruling. Fatwā does involve an academic process, and it is often conveyed by a jurist as a universal ruling in accordance with his academic conclusions. However, the practice of fatwā is commonly understood as an answer directed by a qualified jurisconsult (muftī) to an individual (mustaftī) who requires guidance on a particular religious matter. The jurisconsult providing said individual with an answer is now tasked with translating the abstract, theoretical, and academic into a practical solution, which requires taking into account the circumstances of the questioner.[39]

The delicateness of this matter has led some scholars to compare the relationship of a jurisconsult with the questioner to that of a doctor and his patient.[40] Indeed, the answer that a scholar provides a questioner may not be fully in accordance with the theoretical and abstract conclusions the former has reached in an academic setting, it may disregard an opinion that the jurisconsult otherwise deems a valid legal interpretation because its application is not appropriate in the specific case at hand, it may be strict or lenient, in accordance with the legal school of the scholar or a dispensation from another, and it may be inapplicable to anyone but the questioner. Further, a fatwā is non-binding (unlike a judicial court ruling) and does not negate other valid opinions or peoples’ choice to follow them. This is important to note in contexts where a fatwā is issued to communicate a universal rule.

In many cases, the answer that is provided to a person is not presented as a fatwā but merely a form of religious advice or irshād. Though there is presumably a difference between these two concepts, they are sometimes indistinguishable in a Western context. Irshād has a seemingly less formal quality to it, and it can be offered by a non-scholar though the prerequisite of sound knowledge still remains. Like fatwā, the proffering of religious advice and guidance can assume a more public form and have an academic flavour to it. The articles written by non-scholars on the blogosphere, lectures and speeches delivered by speakers, and religious counsel extended to others falls within this general category of irshād. For those in leadership roles, the public nature of their work means that high standards are required even here when it comes to addressing and conveying religious issues of a complex or delicate nature.

(d) The Political

If the issuance of a fatwā and providing religious advice is a delicate matter, the process of forming, advocating for, and/or enacting laws on the political level is far greater in this regard. Such laws are made in the context of human societies and affect large swaths of people who objectively vary in their circumstances – individual, social, religious/ideological, and economic. Unlike a fatwā or irshād, once a law has been settled upon by the state, it becomes binding upon an entire population and any reasonable alternative ceases to hold validity in practice at least until the law is reviewed and amended. Exemptions are only tolerated when affirmed by the law itself. Further, law interacts with and influences society in complex ways. This is true for all forms of law, not just ones that are state-enacted.

A core question in legal philosophy is what the law ought to be or what makes a law good. The ‘good’ is a moral concept and might be described as one that is essentially contested in so far as people differ over its conception and the criteria for its application. Some emphasize the consequences of a rule (consequentialism), while others favour a deontological moral ethic or one that is virtue-centred. Each of these families of theories subsume within them further particular theories that differ with one another. There are also considerations of fairness, equity, distributive justice, enforceability, practicality, and/or efficiency that those evaluating the law might assign significant value to. These notions of morality and the good influence policy-making and legal systems.

How do Muslims approach this issue? Islam is viewed by Muslims as a comprehensive moral and philosophical system where the moral value of an act is determined by the divine will. It is the commands and prohibitions of God that render an action good or evil, and under this divine command theory, revelation is the primary source for moral knowledge.[41] However, this legal notion of moral value is not as straightforward as it sounds since a significant number of legal rulings are probabilistic in nature and differed upon. Consequently, the moral value attached to these rulings lack a decisive character, which engenders a plurality of moral outlooks. This pluralism is an indelible feature of the tradition itself creating a paradox whereby Muslims can affirm that good and evil are known through revelation, while recognizing that differences concerning moral judgments are part of the moral vision of revelation itself.

This raises important questions regarding the political approach a minority Muslim population in the West might take regarding the abortion issue. Should Muslims seek to accommodate a pluralism justified by tradition and avoid commandeering the state to coercively impose laws that negate the right of people to follow an acceptable and mainstream Islamic legal opinion?

Should Muslims simply support restrictions on abortion practices that contravene the consensus position of Islam? Or should Muslims seek to promote an opinion, or some combination of opinions, among those found in the legal schools on the basis of a reasonably defined criteria that assesses the issue holistically from the perspective of the theological, legal, ethical, and the public good?

Indeed, there are many classical opinions whose validity scholars did not accept, others that were prima facie valid but not put into practice, and classical jurists themselves erected systems to keep a check on legal chaos resulting from people being allowed to arbitrarily follow any opinion with a basis in precedent. Yet, Muslim societies always tolerated differences of opinion, and for most of its history, people living in these societies had recourse to various scholars from multiple legal schools. Unlike the centralizing and homogenizing tendencies of the modern nation-state, Islamic law was centrifugal and operated on a grass-roots level to produce self-governing societies. In many periods, this diversity was even found in judicial settings where courts were established for each of the legal schools. This was extended to non-Muslim populations living under Islamic governments as well who were accorded a high degree of autonomy. While this might strike some as a thing of the past, a nostalgic yearning for a bygone era, there are many lessons the community can draw from the attitudes and approaches of past societies.

In a political context, the notion of the ‘public good’ (maṣlaha) is particularly relevant given the scope and consequences of legislative actions, but it is a notoriously complicated one to pin down and, like the ‘good’, might be described as essentially contested. Even the basic question “who will this law or opinion impact, and in what manner” takes one into a complex maze of considerations and perspectives that demand careful attention and thought. It is hard to imagine any informed answer to this question without the input of a variety of experts. While Muslims are not quite in a position to craft legislation, influential religious activists and scholars who advocate for specific legislation and/or discourse on it to the wider community should keep the above points in made for any advocacy that proceeds in the name of religion is one that must be approached with care and seriousness.

Abortion

Identifying the Problem: Beyond Personal Preferences, Emotions, and Selective Madhhab Picking

With this framework in mind, it is now possible to identify a major problem in current American Muslim discourse on abortion, which is that it does not meaningfully engage any of the levels described above save the personal. The distinction between these various engagement contexts is hardly recognized. Most public discourse on abortion promotes one traditional opinion over another based not on a rigorous standard that is grounded in revelation, theology, legal theory, ethics, the public good, and a keen awareness of human nature, the individual, political, social, and ideological currents and factors, historical trends, and the challenges of the contemporary world, but seemingly on personal opinions based on little more than a reaction to a perceived ideological threat, individual proclivities, or pure taqlīd. The mainstream opinions of the legal school simply act as tools of legitimation for one’s personal view.

The Problem of Imposition

On a personal level, this is not a problem per se, and people have their reasons to select certain views as opposed to others and even vociferously promote them in some limited capacity to friends, colleagues, or family over a session of tea or a short-lived social media feud with random individuals. However, for those in positions of leadership and influence, this cannot be the basis for a fatwā, general communal irshād, or public advocacy impacting millions of people. The imposition of the personal onto these areas in this manner is both ill-advised and potentially harmful. Even the conclusions reached by a scholar on the basis of sound academic research may be put aside in these contexts, i.e. fatwā and political activism/legislation, when the scholar feels that competing considerations and interests demand so. Thus, a scholar may believe in a reading of revelation that is extremely restrictive on abortion but recognizing the probabilistic nature of his interpretation and the variety of individual circumstances, the ethical norms of ease and warding off hardship, profound societal and economic changes, complex and strained community and family structures, the advice of other experts, and the general public good chooses not to advocate for this view as a matter of policy to be implemented as law or provided to a specific individual as a legal edict.

The Sunna Imperative for Leniency, The Lack of Depth of the Lenient

It is often forgotten that a peculiar response by some classical jurists to the degenerated state of society was not in toughening up legal prescriptions but relaxing them: “Our time is not one of avoiding the doubtful (shubuhāt), meaning if a person only avoids the impermissible, it is sufficient.”[42] This was an ethical consideration influencing the judgment of the jurist who saw it not as compromising religion nor a dereliction of his duty but part of the guidance of the sunna itself where facilitating the affairs of people was deemed important.[43] As Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad states commenting on the instruction of al-Birgivī (d. 981/1573) not to give the laity the more difficult opinion on an issue validly differed upon:

This, of course, is a Prophetic counsel. The ego doesn’t always like giving people easy options because we assume it is because of our laziness or some kind of liberal Islam. For al-Birgivī it is taqwā to give the ordinary Muslims the easier interpretations… but nowadays, we tend to assume that the narrower you are, the less compromises you make, the more the West will be angry and, therefore, the better the Muslim you must be.[44]

The Prophetic counsel that Shaykh Abdal Hakim refers to is known to many: “Make things easy and do not make them difficult.” This attitude of facilitating matters for people, granting them leniency, and not repulsing them with harshness and difficulty is a part of Islam. As Imām al-Shāṭibī stated, the removal of hardship (rafʿ al-ḥaraj) is a decisively established foundational principle in the shariah.[45] From this foundational principle arises some of the most important legal and ethical principles in the Islamic tradition, such as hardship necessitates ease, there is no harm nor reciprocating harm, harm is lifted, the lesser of two evils, taking into account the consequences of an act, custom as a source of law, and more. In fact, some jurists opined that when the evidence for an issue was contradictory or conflicting, the more lenient opinion was to be given preference due to the generality of revelatory texts affirming ease in the shariah.[46]

But there is a problem. Many of those who promote and relay the lenient Ḥanafī opinion of unconditional permissibility approach it in a manner that lacks substance. On the academic plane, even basic questions regarding this position are not addressed or understood, much less entertained. Take, for example, the difference between the statement of Ḥanafī jurists that abortion is impermissible after the physical features of the fetus become discernible and the statement of others in the school that this impermissibility comes into effect after a 120-day period. Are these the same? Who in the madhhab held these positions? Is there a clear preference for one or the other? How was discernibility understood? What features needed to be discernible? Did discernibility refer to what is normally observable by humans or to what is discernible by modern embryogenesis? How have contemporary jurists addressed this issue? Then there is the matter that one is hard-pressed to find a single contemporary Ḥanafī jurist who favours the view of unconditional permissibility. What does this reveal about this opinion and the possibility of critically evaluating past opinions that fall within the scope of differences of opinion?[47]

These questions largely fall within the parameters of an intra-school discussion and do not even begin to address the broader social and political considerations mentioned earlier.

Here, the sheer fact that there were over six-hundred thousand abortions reported in America in 2015, the latest year for which statistics exist from the CDC, should be alarming to people and cannot be callously dismissed.

Though the overwhelming majority of these occurred well within a 120-day period (≤13 weeks’ gestation, which is measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstruation and not from the day of conception), most of those who obtained these abortions were unmarried women who did so in non-dire circumstances.[48] The culture of sexual freedom out of which the abortion movement emerged and its ideological grounding in notions of bodily autonomy and personal choice cannot be ignored in this discussion.[49] Nor can the devaluing of family and motherhood,[50] the practice of female foeticide, the increasingly materialistic outlook of society, and its mechanistic view of human beings.

Additionally, some Muslims seem largely oblivious to the fact that abortion politics link to many other issues that have little do with abortion itself, such as assisted suicide or end-of-life care. In a famous district court case on assisted suicide, Compassion in Dying vs. Washington, it was Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that was cited as an important precedent to rule that a ban on physician-aided suicide was unconstitutional.[51] Clearly, it is not sufficient to make simplistic appeals to leniency to justify promulgating an opinion that leads to such wider consequences. Abortion, in other words, cannot be treated as a ‘stand-alone’ issue with little or no relation to a broader philosophical outlook that downplays a sanctity of life ethic.[52]

Thou Shalt Make No Exceptions, But Should We?

Many of the issues highlighted in the previous paragraph raise serious theological and ethical concerns for Muslims and should push them to reflect on the type of society they wish to create and sustain in America. Is the abortion movement today in line with the moral vision envisioned for society by God and His Prophet (blessings upon him)? Clearly not. But while the seriousness of this crisis cannot be understated, a core question, at least in the context of this debate, is often missed: if it is misplaced and dangerous to forward the most lenient opinion in this context, in what way does the strictest possible position on abortion where exemptions are not even extended to victims of rape and incest ameliorate the current situation? Or to put it differently, how do these social and ideological problems make the strictest possible opinion on abortion the most appropriate one to adopt for the individual and society?

The answer to this question is not usually satisfactorily provided. Generally, such a view returns to a genuine moral belief one holds regarding a fetus being an inviolable living person. This moral belief may be grounded in a preferred reading of revelation, simple adherence to a specific legal school, a reaction to a perceived ideological battle framed in the language of pro-life vs. pro-choice, personal inclinations, or, as is usually the case, some combination of these factors. But the no-exception view is at least initially a personal view one holds, which is then forwarded as a broad religious and political solution. One may wonder why this is an issue. After all, why shouldn’t a person forward what he or she personally believes to be the Islamic ruling on an issue?

Certainly, this is expected especially when it concerns human life, but as stated earlier, it is problematic when that personal view, which it should be noted in this case lacks a decisive legal/moral character from a religious perspective, moves into the realm of fatwā and public advocacy without taking into account the many considerations required to make an informed decision in these areas. This is in addition to the fact that those who hold this view feel perfectly within their rights to tell others to set aside their personal moral views permitting abortions precisely in view to a broader context.

Here, it is worth sharing the response given by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī when he was asked about abortions for Bosnian Muslim women who were raped during war. After mentioning that his basic view is that abortions are impermissible “from the moment of conception” and “this is what we give preference to”, he states:

However, in cases of need, there is no harm in taking one of the two alternative views (i.e. permissibility before 40 or 120 days), and whenever the excuse is more severe, the dispensation will be more established and manifest, and whenever it is before the first 40 days, it is closer to dispensation.

We know that there are jurists who are very strict on this matter and do not permit abortion even a day after conception… but what is most preferable is a middle path between those who are expansive in granting permission and those who are excessively strict in prohibition.[53]

This is, of course, how knowledge and fiqh operate. They do not merely float around in the world of the abstract but address a complex world of real people, which in the context of fatwā, irshād, and politics often requires setting aside individual feelings and personal adherences to particular legal opinions: “Know that this ikhtilāf [between scholars] may be a reason to provide facilitation and ease, which is one of the higher aims of the shariah affirmed by the unequivocal text of the Qur’an and sunna.”[54]

Too often, many of those who vociferously promote the strictest view on abortion address the issue on the level of the abstract and then transfer it to the practical realm with little further thought. Take, for example, the argument that Muslims should oppose the legalization of abortion because a majority of abortions are due to economic anxiety or a feeling of unreadiness, which in turn return to the increasingly materialistic outlook of society and crumbling family structures.

This materialistic outlook and erosion of the family must be remedied. However, no justification is ever furnished as to why a no-exception abortion stance is the best method to address this social problem, and there is almost no focus on the individual. It never crosses the mind of the proponents of this view that it is the very fact that society is materialistic to its core and the family lay in ruins that causes economic anxiety and feelings of unreadiness to be felt much more palpably and intensely by young, unmarried, pregnant women.

Web MD

By largely confining their analysis and presentation of the issue to ‘materialism’, ‘decay of family’, ‘feminism’, etc., proponents of the restrictive view (inadvertently) divert attention away from the lived realities of people. This leads to neglecting the more concrete conditions and circumstances people are subject to, such as poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, poor health, psychological issues, sexual abuse, incarceration, social inequality and stratification, and the varying abilities of people to cope with life pressures and struggles. This focus away from the individual produces an unsympathetic, even antagonistic attitude, where the solution favoured is uncompromising and rigid. The ethical is erroneously conflated with strictness even though it might entail leniency in recognition of individual and social conditions.

To take one example where these broader considerations come into play, take the issue of pregnancy resulting from rape. Though statistics regarding rape are inconsistent because the crime is so underreported, it is safe to say that hundreds of thousands of women are victims of rape every year with tens of thousands of these rapes resulting in pregnancy (approximately five percent).[55] A significantly high number of rape victims are under eighteen with many actually being under the age of twelve.[56] Victims of rape spend many weeks simply recovering from physical injuries and managing mental health symptoms, which can remain with them for years. Beyond the physical and psychological symptoms common after rape, if a rape victim decides to carry her child to term, she is forced to go through a lengthy and exhausting process to prosecute her rapist in a criminal court and contest custody in a family or dependency court.

The political and legislative context makes matters even more difficult. Not every state has legislation in place allowing for parental rights to be terminated for a rapist. Most states that do have such legislation in place require a criminal conviction of rape beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of evidence possible, with several also requiring a civil court conviction by clear and convincing evidence that conception resulted from rape.

Some states require the rape to be of the first-degree, which is varyingly defined.[57] Generally, the chances of obtaining a conviction of first-degree rape are slim. Not only do rape crimes go unreported in a majority of cases,[58] there are numerous hurdles in the criminal justice system that disadvantage rape victims at every stage of the process, such as ‘rape myths’ that influence police, investigative officers, jurors, and judges.[59]

In most cases, a rapist will plead guilty to lesser crimes in order to avoid prolonged jail time, which would potentially allow him to gain parental rights in states requiring first or second-degree rape convictions for such rights to be terminated.[60] In view of this, one can state that the suggestion by some Muslims that abortion should not be permitted even in such contexts because a woman can simply put her child up for adoption is seriously misinformed and potentially harmful.[61] Is the correct solution in this context to support the most restrictive view on abortion?

Conclusion: Refining our Conceptualization & The Bigger Picture

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question. This issue, like many others, cannot be properly addressed through a narrowly defined law, politics, or clash of ideologies narrative, especially at the level of individual fatwā, communal irshād, or political activism, advocacy, and legislation.

Nor can the wider community be shown direction on this issue, or have a course charted for them, merely on the basis of narrowly-informed personal opinions and proclivities neatly presented in the classical opinions of our choosing. Our approach must address the issue through real fiqh, namely deep understanding, where the question of abortion is tackled with an academic rigor that is cognizant of lived realities and is grounded in the ethics and guidance of revelation.

Today in America, a crisis we face is of an activism not based in, or guided by, real scholarship, and a scholarship that is wanting, uninspiring, and disconnected from those it seeks to guide. The first step scholars must take on this issue is to gain a proper and thorough conceptualization of the issue. No sound and effective conclusion can arise without such a conceptualization. This is true for any issue we find ourselves dealing with.

On the level of addressing the broader community, this is not an issue to be decided by an individual but a collectivity of minds coming together to exchange ideas and opinions. The laity should understand that American Muslims will not reach an agreement on this matter, and nor should we demand that they do. People will continue to forward different opinions and solutions. The progression of time will likely result in a plurality of acceptable views emerging within our context. This should not be met with confusion.

Muslims once lived in an age of ambiguity where opinions were confidently held but differences embraced. Today, we live in an age of anxiety, people with confused identities, threatened by modernity and various ideologies, so much so that “the only form of Islam [we] can regard as legitimate is a totalitarian, monolithic one” as Shaykh Abdal Hakim once remarked. Let us avoid this, allow for different perspectives, but demand higher standards from those who seek to guide us and speak on our behalf especially when the matter veers into a space that impacts people and communities in a very real way.

Finally, and most importantly, Muslims must break out of the mindset that social problems can simply be legislated away or solved through polemical battles waged on the internet against pernicious ideologies. The political and social are intimately intertwined, but it is all too common to see many Muslims neglecting the latter while imagining that the activities they are engaged in to address the political are actually meaningful and impactful. In fact, it is often detached from the real world, a mouthing of clichés and idle moralizing on social media platforms that elicits rage and fails to yield actual solutions on the ground. If television altered the meaning of being informed as Neil Postmann asserted, social media has undoubtedly taken things a step further by altering the meaning of ‘taking action’.

The erosion of family, the decay of morality, the rise of materialistic outlooks, the loss of higher purpose and meaning, and the devaluing of life must be addressed more directly through education, the creation of a real community, the nurturing and training of leaders who embody knowledge and wisdom, and the erection of structures that support peoples’ faith and anchor them in times of crisis. It should not be forgotten that these non-legal institutions play an important role in shaping behaviours and promoting social mores.

Muslims should learn from the many conservative Christian activists who, contrary to popular stereotypes, demonstrate an acute awareness of the struggles and anguish that many women contemplating abortion experience. As the prominent pro-life activist Frederica Mathewes-Green states:

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.[62]

It is this realization, which arises from a perspective that looks beyond abortion as simply an ideological battle between ‘the feminist’ or ‘the liberal’, that generates a sense of empathy within many conservative Christian activists who are then motivated to assist women in concrete ways.

Take the example of Embrace Grace, a Texas-based non-profit organization, which describes its purpose as “providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy” and to “empower churches across the nation to be a safe and non-judging place for the girls to run to when they find out they are pregnant, instead of the last place they are welcomed because of shame and guilt.” Christians have set up hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the United States, which, despite issues of concern, provide resources and services to pregnant women. Various churches have set up support groups for single mothers and mothers-to-be, while the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) has set out to confront systemic injustices in society that lead women to seek out abortions, such as poverty.[63]

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad said reaching the golden mean requires that we think and make sacrifices. It is time for leaders, thinkers, and scholars in our community to begin thinking more deeply and contemplatively about the issue of abortion in its various contexts, and it is time for our community to sacrifice their time, wealth, and energies in providing concrete solutions and remedies that demonstrate a true concern for both the unborn and the women who carry them.

God alone is our sufficiency.

[1] References to Muslims in this article should be primarily understood as referring to people in positions of leadership and influence. In this article, I discuss some of the technical aspects surrounding the legal debate over abortion, but my intent is to simply provide a brief overview of this aspect of the debate in order for a general audience to appreciate some of the complexities of the topic.

[2] Though the term fetus technically refers to the unborn after 8 weeks of gestation, many use it to refer to the unborn throughout the period of pregnancy. I will be using the latter convention for the sake of simplicity.

[3] al-Ḥasan ibn Manṣūr al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, on the margins of Fatāwā Hindiyya (Bulāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Amīriyya, 1310 A.H.), 3:410.

[4] Ibn Māza himself framed the ruling in terms of ensoulment. He stated that jurists differed on the permissibility of abortion pre-ensoulment with some permitting it. He then cited the text of Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand, which only speaks of discernibility. Qāḍīkhān mentioned how the discernibility of physical features and limbs was “determined” by some as occurring at 120 days. Kamāl ibn al-Humām and others correctly pointed out that observation proves otherwise but proceed to state that the connection made between discernibility and ensoulment shows that scholars intended the latter when expressing the former. Ibn ʿĀbidīn, however, questioned this. I agree for several reasons: firstly, many jurists make no reference to 120 days or ensoulment when presenting this ruling; secondly, discernibility and ensoulment are clearly different stages during the pregnancy, a fact that was known to classical scholars who sometimes applied different terms to these two stages, such as taṣwīr/ṣūra and takhlīq/khalq; and, thirdly, most Ḥanafī rulings premised on determining personhood rely on the discernibility criterion. Given this, there are two possible views in the Ḥanafī school regarding the period before which abortion is permissible: before some of the physical features of the fetus become discernible or prior to ensoulment at 120 days. Additionally, there was discussion in the Ḥanafī school on the features that were to be given consideration when assessing whether a fetus was a ‘person’. These discussions are highly significant in modern debates for if the criterion for personhood is discerning a particular physical form on the basis of observation, this potentially broadens the scope for modern Ḥanafī understandings of the concept of personhood and how/when it is established. I hope to address these issues in a separate paper. See Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī fī al-fiqh al-Nuʿmānī, ed. Nuʿaym Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 2004), 8:83-84; al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, 3:410; Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 1:201.

[5] Ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, 8:83-84. It is worth noting that al-Qummī did not say fetus is a life at conception but that it has begun a process that concludes with life.

[6] Ḥussām al-Dīn ʿUmar ibn Māza, al-Fatāwā al-Kubrā (Istanbul: Rāghib Bāshā #619), ff. 96b.

[7] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī, al-Wajīz (Istanbul: Koprulu #684), ff. 116a.

[8] Jamāl al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad, al-Ḥāwī al-Qudsī, ed. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿAlī (Lebanon: Dār al-Nawādir, 2011), 2:326.

[9] Zayn al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr al-Rāzī, Tuḥfat al-Mulūk, ed. Ṣalāḥ Abū al-Ḥajj (Amman: Dār al-Fārūq, 2006), 290.

[10] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī, al-Ikthiyār, ed. Shuʿayb Arna’ūṭ (Damascus: Dār al-Risāla 2009), 4:153.

[11] ʿUthmān ibn ʿAlī al-Zaylaʿī, Tabyīn al-Ḥaqā’iq Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq (Multan: Maktaba Imdādiyya, n.d.), 2:166.

[12] Amīr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Kākī, Miʿrāj al-Dirāya (Istanbul: Koprulu #619), ff. 395b.

[13] Jalāl al-Dīn ibn Shams al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī, al-Kifāya Sharḥ al-Hidāya, on the margins of Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:373.

[14] Kamāl ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:372-73.

[15] Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn Ilyās Jawīzāda, al-Īthār li-Ḥall al-Mukhtār, ed. Ilyās Qablān (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Irshād, 2016), 4:98.

[16] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī, al-Durr al-Mukhtār (Lebanon: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2002) 197.

[17] I am usually disinclined to list names of jurists in this manner when relating who held a specific legal opinion. One reason for this is that it creates the mistaken illusion that every one of these jurists came to this conclusion on the basis of their individual ijtihād when it may in fact simply be an exercise in taqlīd. Thus, one finds that most of these authors merely relate verbatim those who preceded them without any additional comments. However, it still indicates that these jurists accepted the ruling in question as the position of the school without qualms.

[18] When does a fetus qualify as a ‘person’ or a ‘human’? What are the necessary and sufficient features for personhood? Does personhood correspond to the beginning of life? If not, when does life begin? How is this connected to ensoulment? When does ensoulment occur? When does a fetus have moral standing? What is the nature of this moral standing over the course of a pregnancy? These are central questions in classical and modern debates on abortion. Sometimes, one finds that ‘person’, ‘human’, ‘life’, and related terms, are not properly defined, which is a problem given that conclusions regarding abortion are often premised on their proper conceptualization. Further, when attempts at proper definition are undertaken, people naturally come to different conclusions. For example, some modern pro-life philosophers argue that ‘persons’ are individuals of a rational nature and a fetus has no capacity for sentience, at least not until mid-gestation. Conception, therefore, cannot mark the beginning of a person. Yet even here, some scholars note that the fetus is a potential person. Therefore, it has some moral value and standing, but others counter with a “person-affecting restriction” that argues that merely potential people possess no moral claims. Some people work under material assumptions regarding the nature of the mind and opine that a moral person must be a ‘self’ and a necessary condition for something to be a self is some form of electrical brain activity. The bioethicist, Baruch Brody (d. 2018), also relied on this criterion of brain waves in his conception of personhood. Jane English presents a range of features or ‘factors’ that she views as being found in typical conceptions of a person: biological, psychological, rationality, social, and legal. There are religious conservative thinkers who define being human on the basis of genetics. John T. Noonan stated, “The positive argument for conception as the decisive moment of humanization is that at conception the new being receives the genetic code. It is this genetic information which determines his characteristics, which is the biological carrier of the possibility of human wisdom, which makes him a self-evolving being. A being with a human genetic code is man.” Many religious conservatives also maintain that there is no moment during pregnancy that can be identified as conferring moral significance on the unborn, i.e. it possesses moral standing before birth and after. Thus, brain waves, sentience, quickening, viability, physical human form, etc., are given no consideration as points at which moral standing is affirmed for the fetus and prior to which it is denied. For important early works on this topic see John T. Noonan, The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); Jane English, “Abortion and the Concept of a Person,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5, no. 2 (1975): 233-43; Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sanctity of Life (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1975); Stephen Buckle, “Arguing From Potential,” Bioethics 2, no. 3 (1988): 226–253; Mary Anne Warren, Moral Status: Obligations to Persons and Other Living Things (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Michael Tooley, Abortion and Infanticide (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983); Richard Warner, “Abortion: The Ontological and Moral Status of the Unborn,” Social Theory and Practice 3 (1974). The literature on this is vast.

Classical jurists of Islam were guided fundamentally by revelation in their answers to these questions, but they still had substantial disagreements. Some identified a fetus as a person from the moment of conception, others as potentially so, yet others as a person only when its physical features became discernible, while some seemingly assigned no status to it at any fetal stage prior to ensoulment. When it came to ensoulment, the majority said this occurred at 120 days, while others said 40 days. Some equated ensoulment with personhood, while others distinguished between them. There were other conceptual frames utilized in discussions concerning the fetus as well, such as dhimma and ḥuqūq, being ‘animate’ or ‘inanimate’, a constituent part (juz’) of the mother or a separate self (nafs), and so forth. This occasioned a degree of ambiguity regarding the moral standing of the fetus at various stages of pregnancy. For example, Imām al-Ghazālī prohibited abortion at all stages of pregnancy but stated that the sin of doing so is less severe in earlier stages than later ones. Some jurists deemed it permissible to undergo an abortion due to a minor excuse in the first 40 days, requiring a more serious excuse from that point up until 120 days, and impermissible in all but the direst of situations following ensoulment. The fetus, therefore, seems to have a diminished moral standing at the beginning of the pregnancy and full moral standing post-ensoulment even in the eyes of jurists who affirmed personhood from conception. This is also reflected in rulings concerning financial compensation (ghurra) and expiation (kaffāra) owed by someone who causes a woman to miscarry. Meanwhile, many Ḥanafīs seemed to have assigned no moral status to the fetus before it had a discernible human form. The moral standing of the fetus was also influenced by the manner of conception with some jurists suggesting that a fetus conceived out of wedlock was not similar to a fetus that was conceived through a religiously sanctioned relationship. Besides revelation, observation played an important role in these determinations, as did the specific legal traditions jurists operated within. Today, science and embryology have guided the conclusions of many scholars, which has raised questions regarding the epistemological and interpretive value of the former. There is arguably a need to go beyond limited legal conceptions of personhood and life and engage in deeper theological and philosophical discussions on this matter.

[19] This ruling was consistent with several others in the school regarding whether a miscarried fetus is named, shrouded, and washed, whether a miscarriage concludes the waiting-period of a pregnant woman, and even whether a fetus is resurrected in the next-life. These rulings, among others, returned to whether the miscarried or stillborn fetus was actually considered a child/person, which in turn related to the formation and discernibility of its physical features. I believe this strengthens the view that discernibility of physical features was the main criterion for personhood in the Ḥanafī school. For some of these rulings see Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, al-Aṣl, ed. Mehmet Boynūkālin (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2012), 1:296, 4:415, 481, 5:144. This interconnectedness of legal doctrine, or its organic unity, is expressed in a famous aphorism, “The law is a seamless web.” These discussions are also present in the other three legal schools.

[20] Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Wahbān, ʿIqd al-Qalā’id wa-Qayd al-Sharā’id, ed. ʿAbd al-Jalīl al-ʿAṭā (Damascus: Maktabat al-Fajr, 2000), 195.

[21] Zayn al-Dīn ibn Nujaym, al-Baḥr al-Rā’iq (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʿIlmiyya, 1893; reprint by H.M. Saeed, n.d.), 3:215.

[22] Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 2:388-89.

[23] The Hidāya mentions that a child conceived out of wedlock is still muḥtaram and so cannot be aborted. Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī mentions that this only applies to a fetus that has reached the stage of post-discernibility. He then goes onto state that the fatwā position in his time is that it would be permissible pre-discernibility and post-discernibility. See Burhān al-Dīn al-Marghinānī, al-Hidāya Sharḥ Bidāyat al-Mubtadī maʿa Sharḥ al-ʿAllāma ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī, ed. Naʿīm Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 1417 A.H.), 3:25.

[24] Muṣṭafā Zarqā, Fatāwā (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2010), 285.

[25] Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī, Fatāwā Maḥmūdiyya (Karachi: Idārat al-Fārūq, 2009), 18:321.

[26] Sayyid Muḥammad Salmān Manṣurpūrī, Kitāb al-Nawāzil (Muradabad: al-Markaz al-ʿIlmī lil-Nashr wa’l-Taḥqīq, 2016), 16:248-81.

[27] Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq, Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2015), 6:756.

[28] Ibid., 6:755.

[29] Ibid., 6:763.

[30] Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī, “Khāndānī Manṣūbabandī,” in Jadīd Fiqhī Mabāḥith (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān, 2009), 1:332.

[31] Ibid., 1:331-32.

[32] Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī, Kitāb al-Fatāwā (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2008), 6:218-226

[33] The relied-upon position in the Mālikī school prohibits abortions almost entirely even if done prior to ensoulment, which Mālikī jurists opine as occurring at 40 days.

[34] https://renovatio.zaytuna.edu/article/when-does-a-human-fetus-become-human

[35] Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara (Cairo: Dār al-Qalam, 2005), 2:541-50.

[36] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā wa-Fiqh al-Aqaliyyāt (UAE: Masār lil-Tibāʿa wa’l-Nashr, 2018), 577-78.

[37] Wahba al-Zuhaylī, al-Fiqh al-Islāmī wa-Adillatuhu (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1985), 3:557.

[38] The delineation and explanation I have presented here should not be seen as a comprehensive exposition of the concepts being discussed. Rather, it should be seen as a basic explanatory framework to understand the problem I wish to highlight in the next section. I have intentionally left out many details surrounding fatwā, siyāsa, taqlīd, etc., for the sake of the average reader.

[39] Muḥammad Kamāl al-Dīn al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ fī Rasm al-Muftī wa-Manāhij al-Iftā’ (Deoband: Ittiḥād Book Depot, n.d.), 61-62 in the Takmila; Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 28-29, 230.

[40] al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ, 28.

[41] ʿ Abd al-Malik ibn Yūsuf al-Juwaynī, Kitāb al-Irshād ilā Qawāṭiʿ al-Adilla fī Uṣūl al-Iʿtiqād, ed. Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Raḥīm (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqāfa al-Dīniyya, 2009), 210-11. This is admittedly a simplification of a very complex debate on the role of reason, its meaning and limitations, its relationship to revelation, deontological vs teleological theories of Islamic normative ethics, and more. These were issues of fundamental debate between the great theological schools, namely the Ashʿarīs, Māturīdis, and the Muʿtazila.

[42] Ibrāhīm ibn Ḥusayn Bīrīzāda, ʿUmdat Dhawī al-Baṣā’ir li-Ḥall Muhimmāt al-Ashbāh wa’l-Naẓā’ir, ed. Ilyās Qablān & Ṣafwat Kawsa (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Rushd, 2016), 2:415.

[43] This is also seen in the tradition of rukhas, or dispensations, and ḥiyal, or legal stratagems/loopholes.

[44] From his Paradigms of Leadership (6) lecture series.

[45] Ibrāhīm ibn Mūsā al-Shāṭibī, al-Muwāfaqāt, ed. Mashhūr Ḥasan (Cairo: Dār Ibn ʿ Affān, 1997), 1:520.

[46] For reference to this see Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273-75.

[47] One might state that these people are simply engaging in a form of taqlid. This is fair, but there is still a level of diligence and rigor expected from anyone who wishes to publicly opine on a matter of such nature.

[48] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/ss6713a1.htm

[49] Take the following statements made by Judith Thomson in her well-known defence of abortion, which continues to be loudly echoed by the pro-choice movement: “My own view is that if a human being has any just, prior claim to anything at all, he has a just, prior claim to his own body” and “No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body.” The violinist analogy she forwards, among others, expresses this point quite clearly. See Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1971): 48, 54.

[50] The sociologist Kristen Luker noted over three decades ago that pro-life and pro-choice activists were mainly divided due to their differing views on the meaning of sexuality, motherhood, and the role of women. See Kristin Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley (California: University of California Press, 1984), especially Ch 7.

[51] Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 850 F. Supp. 1454 (WD Wash. 1994). This was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997.

[52] The phrase ‘sanctity-of-life’ has featured prominently in theological, political, and biomedical ethical discussions related to abortion and end-of-life questions. Some members of congress, for example, have tried repeatedly to introduce a ‘Sanctity-of-Life Act’ to protect the unborn. However, the origins, meaning, and application of the phrase remain unclear and heavily debated. For a basic overview see the edited volume Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity (Boston: Springer Dordrecht, 1996).

[53] al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara, 2:609-13.

[54] Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273.

[55] The Federal House Bill 1257 that passed in 2015 as the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act cites between 25,000 and 32,000 pregnancies from rape annually but this is almost certainly an underestimate.

[56] For details on these and other related statistics see https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf.

[57] For detailed information regarding state statutes and provisions on the termination of pregnancy in contexts of children born as a result of sexual assault see http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/parental-rights-and-sexual-assault.aspx

[58] For statistics on this see the Department of Justice Criminal Victimization analysis (revised, 2018) at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv16.pdf. There are several reasons why women choose not to report such crimes, which include fear of retaliation, shame and guilt, and a belief that police will not be able to help them.

[59] For a brief discussion on existing research around rape myths see Olivia Smith & Tina Skinner, “How Rape Myths Are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials,” Social & Legal Studies 26, no. 4 (2017): 442-45.

[60] Rachael Kessler, “Due Process and Legislation Designed to Restrict the Rights of Rapist Fathers,” Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, no. 10, vol 1 (2015): 199-229.

[61] There is a sensitive discussion surrounding the definition of rape in Islamic law specifically as it relates to intimate married partners. I have ignored this issue because it would distract from the main purpose of this article.

[62] https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/01/abortion-roe-v-wade-unborn-children-women-feminism-march-life/

[63] There have been initiatives in the Muslim community directed at addressing these pressing issues, such as the work of Dr. Aasim Padela of the University of Chicago and his Initiative on Islam and Medicine, Dr. Rafaqat Rashid and the work of al-Balagh Academy, Dr. Mansur Ali of Cardiff University and his research on bioethics, and several others. This is not to mention the many individuals who have tried to create practical spaces to assist people who may find themselves in difficult life circumstances. While there is much more to do, the efforts of these people should not go unnoticed.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?

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Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:

immorality

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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