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Fitnah Frenzy: Muslim Men Traumatized

“Mama, I am sorry that I am a very big trouble and difficulty upon you,” my son (who was 8 back then) said to me as he entered the house after Jumu’ah. It was a strange thing for him to say! I noticed serious regret on his face,  filled with remorse, and my heart cringed at the sight. Perhaps if it was any other time I would have taken advantage of his “realization” but he had just come back from Jumu’ah and that is the time when I usually appreciate and encourage him. So I asked him why he said what he had said, and he explained, “Today shaikh said in his khutbah that money and children are fitnah!”

Ah! My son had become just another victim of misunderstanding the word “fitnah”.  Because he was called a “fitnah”, he thought of himself as someone evil and wicked!

Unfortunately, it is not only a misunderstanding of an 8 year old, but of a fair percentage of the Muslim world, and hence, the most commonly misunderstood hadeeth remains the one in which the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam warned the men:

“I have not left behind me any fitnah more harmful to men than women.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

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It seems that some of my Muslim brothers, as much as they love the female species, equally love to demean Muslim women, put them under unnecessary restrictions, and psychologically butcher their confidence as “proud Muslimahs”using the above hadeeth as a “proof” for their actions.

In reaction, some of the sisters, to justify and maintain their Muslimah pride, have gone to the other extreme of rejecting the hadeeth and denying its authenticity. The common notion of their rationalization is along the lines: “If I must believe in the fairness of Muhammad then I must deny…” and a number of ahadeeth are questioned in the name of “fairness and logic”, the aforementioned included.

I questioned the meaning of the hadeeth in an effort to understand if the negative view of women was justified. I could not argue with the hadeeth, since without a doubt, I discovered that, it was an authentic hadeeth. Therefore, rejecting it was out of the question for me. Hence, I was faced with a dilemma: should I miserably accept myself as a fitnah, inherently evil as portrayed by many Muslim clerics, and let them condemn me whenever they wish, by using the words of the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam, as proof, or simply excuse away the hadeeth? It so happened that since I am a proud Muslimah and am very proud of every aspect of my deen, so accepting either option would have been a paradox.

Did I have a third option? Was there any way the hadeeth could be understood rationally while maintaining the harmony of fairness.

Of course, educating myself was the only option not only in this situation but in any situation when my belief, the Qur’an or ahadeeth are criticized; instead of denial and rejection, knowledge is always the key. After researching the matter, I discovered several of the following misunderstandings.

Firstly, I focused on the word fitnah. Fitnah comes from the word fitan which means to separate. That’s why one of the names of goldsmith is al-fattan because he separates the pure gold from its impurities.

In sharee’ah this word has been used numerous times to indicate a test or a trial, because a test/trial separates a true believer from a non-believer. It is only through a trial that a person’s true faith shines. As Allah azzawajal says:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested

وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

“And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars.”

يُفْتَنُونَ and  فَتَنَّا both are derived from the rood word “fitan”.

When something is referred to as “fitnah” it doesn’t mean that it is inherently evil or an innate source of corruption, rather it only means that it is a mean to put a person through a trial. In fact, every blessing or favor of Allah is also a fitnah for mankind. For if a person is blessed with something, and that blessing becomes a reason for him/her to disobey Allah or become negligent of Allah due to the luxuries of it, then in of itself that blessing becomes a fitnah for that person.

Likewise, if a person is put under a test (fitan) but he/she uses that fitnah (test) to come closer to Allah, increase his/her iman through worship, repentance, proper evaluation of himself/herself and improving his/her condition, then in fact that fitnah becomes a blessing of Allah upon him/her.

Hence in the hadeeth, the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam, is simply warning the men against their shahwa (lust/desires) for women and that this shahwa (not the women) is one of the biggest trial for men. He, sallallahu alihi wasalam, is not labeling women innately evil or wicked rather he is warning the men that their lust for women will be a test for them. How they act with and around women can be a case for them or against them. Even in our rational world, psychologists have recognized carnal lust of men as one of the strongest desires and addictions.

Nevertheless, the complicity in understanding the beautiful meanings of this hadeeth seems to come from the over zealousness of some brothers in many parts of the Muslim world, who have abused this hadeeth to enforce their male “superiority” over women, and use religious submission of women to satisfy their male chauvinism.

Of the common ways this hadeeth is misused is by restricting women from going to the masajid and branding them a source of “fitnah” for mankind, by adopting a condescending tone or attitude towards the women during khutbah or by delivering lectures warning the men against females, as if they are the cause of the “original sin”. I believe that psychological injuries are far worse than physical injuries and those brothers who demonize women in such a way will be held accountable for the harm resulting from misrepresenting the words of the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam. They have obviously not understood the proper meaning of “fitnah” and thus have decontextualized it.

Second, I looked for other verses that use the word fitnah to refer to things other than women.

Allah azzawal warns against wealth and children calling them a fitnah for us:

إِنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ

“Your wealth and your children are only a trial.”

This verse is  another proof that just because something is mentioned as “fitnah“, doesn’t make it inherently evil. No one considers money to be evil or one’s progeny to be wicked. People will attain higher levels in Jannah because of how they spend their wealth in the way of Allah. Some will continue to gain good deeds even after their death through the righteous children they raised. The fact is that these two are blessings of Allah and the fitnah lies in how we take advantage of these two blessings, whether we let ourselves get drowned in this world because of them, or we become thankful to Allah for blessing us with these favors and use them to come close to Allah. Similarly, how men deal with their desires for women can either become a path to Jannah or path away from Jannah for them.

The same men who condemn women because they are “fitnah” never condemn wealth or adopt a condescending attitude towards children. Furthermore, these men never restrict the usage or gain of money to keep themselves from the “fitnah” of wealth, nor do they distance themselves from their children to protect themselves from the “fitnah” of awlaad (progeny).

It is quite interesting though that when people, both who abuse and those who reject ahadeeth, evaluate the hadeeth in question, they forget to search how many times and how many things are referred to as fitnah in Qur’an. In reality everything we own and everyone we know can become a form of fitnah for us, as described in this verse:

وَجَعَلْنَا بَعْضَكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ فِتْنَةً أَتَصْبِرُونَ

“And We have made some of you a trial (fitnah) for others, will you have patience?” (25:20)

How many times are men reminded that they too are as much fitnah for women as women are for men? If men are attracted towards women, women too are equally tempted to attract attention from men. Nonetheless, the world is as incomplete without men as it is without women, and women are blessings for men as much as men are blessings for women yet they both remain a fitnah for one another. Men are tested through their women as much as women are tested through their men, but neither group is innately evil.

Hence, the notion that Islam considers women to be the innate source of mischief, inherently evil or inferior (based on the word “fitnah”) is nothing short of a blasphemy and a result of sheer ignorance. Although there are a number of textual proofs opposing such a negative view of women, my favorite one to counter these unsubstantial notions regarding women’s place in Islam is when the Prophet, sallallahu alihi waslama said:

“Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i)

Having said all this, I must remind those who doubt the Authority of the Sunnah, position of the Companions, and prefer to put their logical reasoning over textual proof that it is not upon us to bend Islam based upon our own whims and desires. It is sad to see Muslim women ridiculing the ahadeeth simply because they think they contain misogynist undertones. This type of intellectual arrogance is not limited to female Muslims, but even to Muslim men who like to show their sympathy towards women by picking and choosing ahadeeth. Any authentic statement of the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam is binding upon us to accept as much as it is binding upon us to accept the ayahs of the Qur’an. Simply because an authentic hadeeth does not make sense to us, does not mean that the hadeeth can be rejected. Similarly, just because some men misinterpret or misuse a certain hadeeth, does not mean that we deny it, to establish our place in our religion. People who have taken this path have endangered themselves with an understanding that is not in obedience to Allah.

My son is not an affliction upon me; in fact, he is one of the biggest blessings from Allah, alhamdullilah, yet he remains a fitnah for me, just as much as I remain a fitnah for him. It was my turn to explain to my son the precise meaning of fitnah, and as I did, his remorse was replaced with relief. As the explanation sank into his little mind, it became obvious through the spark in his eyes and the big smile on his face that he had understood the reality of his “fitnah“. I hope and pray that just as an 8-year-old understood what it means to be a fitnah, so too will most of the Muslims around the world , men and women, so Muslim men can stop demeaning women and Muslim women can stop rejecting the ahadeeth to find their place in Islam.

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance."Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. 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 had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam.She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

77 Comments

77 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Farhan

    April 11, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Excellent article, I like your reasoning. This kind of understanding and analysis is lacking nowadays…

    On that note, France felt it necessary to arrested some niqabis:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/police-detain-women-protesting-on-first-day-of-french-islamic-veil-ban/2011/04/11/AFXSjtID_story.html?hpid=z2

  2. Avatar

    MW_M

    April 11, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Excellent analysis!!! I agree with the above poster, this kind of understanding and analysis is lacking nowadays. I’ve found many time, people reacting to the perception of non-Muslims (and, of course, some Muslims) as Muslimahs being inferior by denigrating and mocking brothers. Very balance article, alhamdulillah.

  3. Avatar

    Amman Abdul Adl

    April 11, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Masha’allah Sister, you’ve written a great article….

    Muslims need to understand how to put the Hadith together. Every ahadith must be understood with other hadith related to that topic; and then look at it with the Qur’an. Of course that is not easy, but I think this how Allah tests us. To see how much effort we put into our faith, and if we still stick around even though we don’t have all the answers.

    By the way, is this hadith authentic?: “Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i)

    Allah Knows Best…

    • Avatar

      ahmed

      April 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      This narration is graded hasan in Takhrij Mishkat al Masabih:
      حبب إلي الطيب والنساء ، وجعلت قرة عيني في الصلاة

      wa Allahu ta’aala a’lam

    • Avatar

      Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      April 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      It is authentic according to Shaykh Al-Albani. Allah knows best.

  4. Avatar

    Amatullah

    April 11, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Fantastic, jazaki Allahu khayran.

  5. Avatar

    Mouyyad Abdulhadi

    April 11, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Great way of explaining that Fitnah doesnt mean evil or bad, but is actually a trial from Allah (SWT). Our lives are filled with trials just like living in this country contains many trials such as building for our future as Muslims in America.

  6. Avatar

    Saba

    April 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    LOL…..what your son said was too funny. ….aww poor guy.
    very cute!
    MashaAllah awesome analysis!

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 11, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      jazakiAllah khair. We revisited this issue a couple weeks ago and I made him read this article. He had questions how a fitnah can become a blessing and vice versa, so I explained. Then he asked, “So TV is a fitnah, it can become a blessing?!!”

      kids these days!

      • Avatar

        Bushra

        April 12, 2011 at 6:19 AM

        LOL! That’s so cute! TV can be a blessing or a fitnah…depends on how its used. Same with internet, facebook, even reading newspapers or books.

        • Umm Reem

          Umm Reem

          April 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM

          and exactly how can TV be a blessing? :) (without Huda and Peace channels)

          • Avatar

            Hena Zuberi

            April 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM

            Sister Hebah debating on CNN= TV becomes a a blessing :)

  7. Avatar

    Layla

    April 11, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    masha’Allah what an excellent explanation, Barak Allahu feeki!

  8. Avatar

    Abdullah

    April 11, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Asalamu Alaykum Sister.

    Jazakum’Allahu khayran for your explanation.

    Another explanation of the Arabic word for fitnah that an Arabic teacher gave me was to be smitten by something. To be taken by something, so to speak. Allah knows best if this would also apply to some of the uses of the word in the Quran and hadith or ahadeeth, and it would be best to check with a teacher on this.

    Asalamu Alaykum

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 11, 2011 at 11:05 PM

      I have.

      So let’s say is we were to take the meaning you are referring to, how would you explain the hadeeth then??

  9. Avatar

    Sabeen

    April 11, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for clarifying the hadith and the correct attitude that we should have in such situations:

    Of course, educating myself was the only option not only in this situation but in any situation when my belief, the Qur’an or ahadeeth are criticized; instead of denial and rejection, knowledge is always the key

    I grew up in a Muslim country but never saw the inside of a mosque till I was twenty. It is truly unjust that the words of the Prophet (saws) are misinterpreted and used to exclude generations of Muslim women from the mosques of Allah. There are masajid named after the Mothers of the Believers such as Masjid Khadijah where no Khadijah or Ayesha or Fatimah is allowed to enter and pray.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 12, 2011 at 12:04 AM

      I am not sure if this is the Eastern vs. Western mentality or what but I have particularly noticed a condescending attitude towards women among eastern muslim men.

  10. Avatar

    Mohamed al_mahaldheefi

    April 11, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    “I have not left behind me any fitnah more harmful to men than women.” (Bukhari & Muslim) You have chosen to focus on the word ‘fitnah’, leaving out the ‘most harmful to men’ qualfier that in my mind makes it misogynist. While other muslims are picking & choosing which ‘hadeeses’ fit their worldview you seem to be picking & choosing which parts of a given ‘hadees’ to intepret in a way tat does not conflict with your views (which is essentially the same thing right?)

    • Avatar

      MW_M

      April 11, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      If you understand fitnah from the article, the rest falls into place….

      • Umm Reem

        Umm Reem

        April 11, 2011 at 11:22 PM

        ^ Exactly!

        Br. Mohamed: I am obviously not being selective of which parts of the hadeeth I want to focus on, I focused on the part of the hadeeth which is most commonly abused and that is the word “Fitnah”. The way people use it and the way the meaning is understood is as if fitnah=evil

        Concentrate on the overall mafhoom (meaning) of the hadeeth and that is “men’s desires for women is one of the biggest challenges for them.” I don’t see any misogynist tone in this hadeeth!

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      April 11, 2011 at 8:02 PM

      i was curious to see what the original Arabic of the hadith is..and subhanAllah, not that I am in skilled in translation but I would have translated it differently. Arabic says:

      (ما تركت بعدي فتنة أشد على الرجال من النساء)

      Which you can translate as: I have not left behind me any fitnah more difficult for men to overcome than women. There is no word here for ‘harmful’, “ashaddu” doesn’t necessarily mean harmful…It means something that is hard to pass or difficult to overcome or has a greater magnitude (the structure of the word shows that it is a superlative). It is from shiddah, like shadeed, strength and power. Looking at it that way, it doesn’t seem to tell us anything we don’t know already, doesn’t seem very controversial in my opinion.

      It’s unfortunate the translation of “harmful” is the one that is used most often, there are so many other ways to translate ashaddu ‘alaa than harmful. We must remember that translations are merely based on the opinion and understanding of the translator. Allahul Musta’an. and Allah knows best.

      • Umm Reem

        Umm Reem

        April 11, 2011 at 11:10 PM

        jazakiAllah khairan Amatullah for posting the arabic text. The problem is that the widespread translations of this hadeeth use the word “harmful”, especially on the internet world…hence that’s what commonly used by people/men.

        Besides, what is abused in this hadeeth is the word “fitnah” as if fitnah is equivalent to something/someone being evil.

        • HenaZuberi

          HenaZuberi

          April 11, 2011 at 11:26 PM

          then it gets further translated into other languages ( fitnah fasad in Urdu) further confusing people.

          • Umm Reem

            Umm Reem

            April 11, 2011 at 11:57 PM

            True “fasad ki jarr”!!! :)

            But unfortunately even Arabs abuse the term as if there weren’t any women there would not have been any “fitnah” for them!

            We were just watching a series of debates in my Arabic class where women were called equivalent to shayateen. Some Arab authors wrote plays, a while back, questioning the role of women in this world and how they are guilty of اغراء and اغواء etc. etc.

            I have some non-Muslims in my class and I was getting desperate to show them that this ins’t really “islamic” so I asked my teacher exactly when did this mentality started changing in Muslim world from the time of the Prophet, sallallhu alihi wasalam? I was hoping to show them that how Muslim women really enjoyed their rights during the golden era of the Prophet and the sahabas…

            Unfortunately the teacher’s reply was a slap back on my face! He said something along the lines that Arab culture is a “reflection” of Islamic culture so what you see in Arab world has Islamic roots…and that Muslim women really never had a clearly defined position in islamic society!

          • Avatar

            Bushra

            April 12, 2011 at 6:16 AM

            LOL @ fasad!

            I find that really annoying. Urdu is a mix of many languages, mostly Persian and Arabic and I find that a lot of the words have been mistranslated due to cultural norms as opposed to being used in the correct way.

          • Avatar

            ahlam

            April 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM

            In Arabic, fasad= corruption!

            Talk about lost in translation.

          • Avatar

            Amman Abdul Adl

            April 12, 2011 at 11:56 AM

            Sister Um Reem posed a really question. When did the mentality start to change? Not only about womens issues, but also about everything else that has spiraled out of control…

      • Avatar

        M

        April 12, 2011 at 5:44 AM

        The narration I found has اضر instead of اشد , which does mean ‘more harmful’

        • Avatar

          Bushra

          April 12, 2011 at 6:27 AM

          As Amatullah said:

          We must remember that translations are merely based on the opinion and understanding of the translator. Allahul Musta’an. and Allah knows best.

        • Umm Reem

          Umm Reem

          April 12, 2011 at 6:32 AM

          Even then the word ضر is referring to the fitnah not the women…

          • Avatar

            Anon.

            April 13, 2011 at 4:05 PM

            Dear Umm Reem,

            i am wondering whether you agree that the hadeeth is merely a pretext of many men saying what they want to say anway, and in many cases do say without the misunderstanding of the hadeeth?

            Also do you agree that the only way to understand women’s upsetness on this front , is if their confidence is premised on the nafs?

            Please do share your thoughts,

            Jazakallah khairan

            wassalam

      • Avatar

        Anon

        April 12, 2011 at 7:09 PM

        The most well known riwayah is:

        ‘Adarr 3ala-r rijal..

        Allah knows best’

      • Avatar

        Olivia

        April 12, 2011 at 8:02 PM

        makes you think twice about translations and how translators can color their translations with their own biases!

      • Avatar

        T R

        May 24, 2016 at 11:35 AM

        Arab culture is a “reflection” of Islamic culture so what you see in Arab world has Islamic roots

      • Avatar

        T R

        May 24, 2016 at 11:36 AM

        “Arab culture is a “reflection” of Islamic culture so what you see in Arab world has Islamic roots”

        — joke of the century x-D

  11. Avatar

    Ghazala

    April 11, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Salamu ‘alaikum Sis.
    Barak Allahu Feekum for such an insightful perspective. I simply loved it. Insha Allah I look forward to educating others regarding this Hadith.
    Along the same lines is another hadith about there being more women in hell than men. Can you please find the time to explain this to us ?
    Also the other day some non-Muslims asked me about the veracity of the ayah that speaks about men being able to beat women to discipline them, I did answer them but would love a better perspective from you or anyone else here at MM.
    Jazakallahu khairan Katheeran
    Ghazala

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 11, 2011 at 3:25 PM

      Keep an eye out for our domestic violence series coming soon InshaAllah

      • Avatar

        Meena

        April 12, 2011 at 9:51 AM

        I am very excited about that and feel that it is something that must be addressed in our community.

        Masha’Allah this post was AMAZING!! I <3 MM!!

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 12, 2011 at 12:00 AM

      wa alaikum assalam Ghazala,

      JazakiAllah khiar…MM team is working on these issues. Please make du’a for barakh in our time :)

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      April 12, 2011 at 8:04 PM

      Just as a note, just by sheer fact of their being significantly more women in the world then men, that alone is enough to make them the greater group in Hellfire. although there may be other reasons, but we outnumber men greatly.

      Also, as my shaikh mentioned, there will also be more women than men in paradise =)

  12. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Asalamu Alikum

    Great article and explanation, jazaki Allah khayr.

  13. Avatar

    Nahyan Chowdhury

    April 11, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Great point and very well written

  14. Avatar

    Zari

    April 11, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rehmataullahi wa barakatuhu Umm Reem, jazakallahu khayran for such a beautiful article – very well written mashaallah

  15. Avatar

    salih

    April 11, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    Alhamdulillah!

  16. Avatar

    salih

    April 11, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Alhamdulillah! Allahu alim.

  17. Avatar

    Cartoon M

    April 11, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Excellent article mashAllah. It’s sad how some people misuse the sayings of our Prophet (s).

  18. HenaZuberi

    HenaZuberi

    April 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    mashaAllah a few words mistranslated , misunderstood and half of humanity under duress. jazakAllah Khayr we need to keep revisiting these issues. keep them coming Sistah!! And tell your son to make dua for all of us.

  19. Avatar

    M

    April 12, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    Salaam,

    Why the link to the letter on Dr. Khaled Abou ElFadl’s website, in ur sentence “but even to Muslim men who like to show their sympathy towards women by picking and choosing ahadeeth.”?

    If thats meant to be a criticism of him, its kind of a cheap shot.

  20. Avatar

    Bushra

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 AM

    I thought this article was fantastic and definitely much needed. I read that hadith and always translated fitnah = trial, as that was the only translation I knew. It only made sense to me to understand it to mean men’s desire for women. The idea that women are innately evil is something borrowed from other religions, that there is a distinct fault in women, hence they must be brought into line and degraded all the time. SubhanAllah, this is not from Islam and if that was the case, then the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) would never have married, let alone mentioned that he loved women!!

  21. Avatar

    Sadaf

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    The same men who condemn women because they are “fitnah” never condemn wealth or adopt a condescending attitude towards children. Furthermore, these men never restrict the usage or gain of money to keep themselves from the “fitnah” of wealth, nor do they distance themselves from their children to protect themselves from the “fitnah” of awlaad (progeny).

    This was a very good argument in favor of properly understanding this hadith and quoting it in its proper context.

    Wealth and children have been called fitnah too, yet we almost always want more.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 12, 2011 at 6:23 AM

      The idea of using the word ‘fitnah’ in this context is similar to what Umm Reem mentioned in the article…how we treat wealth and children in the dunya will either work FOR us or AGAINST us in the akhirah. And that’s how we have to look at it.

      Wealth is a blessing, if used correctly to give charity, spend on family, invest in halal initiatives, not to mention that it has to be acquired in a halal manner. But will become a fitnah if it is shown off and will invite envy and jealousy, as well as children fighting over the inheritance. Speaking of which, children are a fitnah if brought up spoilt, and loving the dunya. But can be a huge blessing for the parents if they are brought up as righteous Muslims and will make du’a for their parents after they die.

  22. Avatar

    Yousuf Tafhim

    April 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Nicely put sister..

  23. Avatar

    someone

    April 12, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    The most outstanding part in the article is that you went ahead and educated yourself about it, instead of just ignoring or accepting the common interpretation about the hadith. This is what we should strive for as Muslims, the same though process and critical thinking that we apply in our daily lives and work. Even if most may not accept your interpretations at least we can jump start a discussions about it.

    • Avatar

      nyla

      April 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Totally agree. We put in a lot of thought into everything we do in our daily lives but when it comes to Islam, the majority of us tend to just follow the crowd and don’t analyze what and why is a certain ayah, hadith or its interpretation, the way it is. By applying the same sort of critical thinking (not questioning the law though) and thorough understanding of our religion, we would surely be able to educate ourselves better in this Deen, apply it in all aspects of our lives the way it should be applied and be able to convey the true message of Islam to those around us.

      A reminder to all of us:

      [This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded. (The Holy Quran. 38:29)

  24. Avatar

    Ejaz

    April 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    You are merely assuming that fitnah is something evil. When fitnah merely means trial/tribulation. Now, a trial can be good or bad and Allaah tests us with both. I am not sure why you would assume that to “Muslim men” fitnah is necessarily something evil. When the Prophet (sallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “I have not left behind me any fitnah more harmful to men than women,” how does that have even connotations that women are “evil”? Since fitnah merely means test/trial literally. So let’s rewrite this hadeeth with the english word and see, “I have not left behind me any trial/tribulation more harmful to men than women.” Clearly, what is being referred to as “harmful” is the trial NOT the women. I am not sure what all the ado is about.

    I am not sure how someone can even think this way, “Therefore, rejecting it was out of the question for me.”
    Why even mention this point? It implies that you did have thoughts of rejection BEFORE you found out that it was authentic. Allaahu Musta’aan.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 12, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      Fitnah (test/trials) is not something good and that is why the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasalam taught us to make du’a seeking Allah’s protection from fitan:
      اللهم إني أعوذبك من الفتن ما ظهرا منها وما بطن

      We do not wish to be tested BUT if we are tested then we can turn that test into a blessing by coming closer to Allah.

      I am not sure how someone can even think this way, “Therefore, rejecting it was out of the question for me.” Why even mention this point? It implies that you did have thoughts of rejection BEFORE you found out that it was authentic. Allaahu Musta’aan.

      I’m not sure how you think it implies that I was going to reject the hadeeth, iyyadhobillah. And the reason I mentioned is, as I said in the article, there are people who reject ahadeeth if it doesn’t make sense!

  25. Avatar

    Hassan

    April 12, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    This is shocking, I never knew the hadeeth was understood in any other way than what was mentioned in article. I would like to know if there any famous personality who said that. (referring to wrong meaning)

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 12, 2011 at 12:46 PM

      Bro, that’s exactly what I thought. Surely it’s common sense that women are not innately evil and that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) held women in high honour. By using the other meaning, the assumption is that he didn’t and that women are evil. Sounds very Christian to me.

      • Avatar

        Anon.

        April 13, 2011 at 6:23 AM

        Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah,

        I ‘m not sure how best you can answer tis without defamation…but I genuinely am struggling to believe that any sane practising brother would be saying that the nature of women itself is evil, (rather than the deleterious effect he finds on his eman – because of his weakness).

        Is there are examples of this that you can bring forth please? Otherwise we are either causing a storm in a tea cup , or quite frankly addressing the incorrect topic; the correct topic might be: why men (universally, except those who have been western influenced/brought up) often feel the sense of innate superiority (insecurity?) that makes them articulate the fact that they believe the male gender (in general) is better than the femal gender (in general). it seems almost part of their fitrah, and something that those who don’t engage in, are in effect suppressing their inborn nature, from merely expressing.

        As for the (mis)usage of the hadeeth – if this does indeed exist, then unfortunately I think we have a red herring.

        jazakallah khairan for the article either way.

    • Avatar

      Inqiyaad

      April 12, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      As salaamu ‘alaikum,

      Sister UmmReem, Jazakillahu khair for the article. I second what Hassan wrote, I never understood this hadith as a statement of inherent evil in women.

      Also, I would like to point out a few things,
      1. The article, focuses exclusively on one aspect of the fitnah i.e sensual desires. I believe this was inadvertent but, it might be used to subliminally peddle the idea that ‘all men are pigs’ like it is used to demean women as being inherently evil. I will give you credit for making clear that this is not the case.

      At the same time, I disagree with you about the test being equal in the sensual aspect. In the sensual context, while women cannot and should not let their guard down, women can be a bigger test to men than vice versa. As in surah ‘ali ‘Imran
      زُيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ حُبُّ الشَّهَوَاتِ مِنَ النِّسَاء
      I do not claim any competency to exegete. However, Allah begins the verse by using the collective noun that is ‘naas’ but later in the aayah, Allah used the word ‘nisa’ when in other places He has used the word ‘azwaaj’ or ‘ahl’ that are interpreted to mean either men or women. For example,
      يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا
      In this regard, while both men and women are expected to lower their gaze, Hijab is mandated on women. InshaAllah, It will be beneficial if a scholar can comment on this aspect.

      2. Women (as well as men) can be a fitnah in a lot of different ways. For example, a man might deviate from or under-perform in his responsibility as the primary person accountable for his family in the hereafter. Yes, both men and women will be questioned regarding the upbringing of children and what they did to influence their spouses, if they were going wrong. However, correct me if I am wrong, the man has a degree of responsibility over the women. This fact should not elate men rather it should scare them. What can be a bigger test than being responsilbe for someone else’s dunya as well as akhirah.
      3. I view this hadith as a warning to strike a balance. So is the case with wealth or children. In this context, men have a very difficult test. If striking a balance in anything was not difficult enough, add to the above what Rasulullah salAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said about women in a Hadith from Sahih Bukhari:
      “Treat women nicely, for a women is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So treat women nicely.”
      And in another narration, “The woman is like a rib; if you try to straighten her, she will break. So if you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some crookedness.”

      Want to insert a tangent here. I wonder if what we are facing now with regards to women’s rights and attacks on Islam is related to this Hadith? Have men, by not being able to perform well on this test, opened up the gates for attacks on Islam and scores of women being misguided in the name of gaining freedom? Now, before we think of making things ‘easier’ or ‘tougher’, know that this test is about balance. Yes, it is a very difficult test.

      4. I will end by quoting, from Surah Najm
      هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَى
      He knows you well when He created you from the earth, and when you were fetuses in your mothers’ wombs. So ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allâh and keeps his duty to Him
      Allah has created us, as He willed. Men are susceptible to their sensual desires, a little more than women. Women, if you will, making things a little difficult for men. Now it is a test for us.
      وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَاOقَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا
      Also, Allah does not test us with something that we are not capable of

      لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا

      Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        Amman Abdul Adl

        April 12, 2011 at 5:53 PM

        Masha’Allah Brother, this is a very good explanation on how things are different amongst the sexes. With Um Reem’s post, it puts everything in perspective. Like you said it’s all about BALANCE…

      • Avatar

        Bushra

        April 13, 2011 at 9:15 AM

        Want to insert a tangent here. I wonder if what we are facing now with regards to women’s rights and attacks on Islam is related to this Hadith? Have men, by not being able to perform well on this test, opened up the gates for attacks on Islam and scores of women being misguided in the name of gaining freedom? Now, before we think of making things ‘easier’ or ‘tougher’, know that this test is about balance. Yes, it is a very difficult test.

        SubhanAllah…it’s amazing that from one hadith being misinterpreted, history has taken such a turn. But we mustn’t forget about the qadr of Allah.

  26. Avatar

    Amman Abdul Adl

    April 12, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Lets just assume for the sake of argument that Fitnah means corruption. Again, does that mean women as a whole are corruption for society. I mean why are people even taking it to that extent. Men and women both have the capability of corrupting society. Aren’t men guilty of injustice,oppression,rape, and so on? Have they forgotten the stories of Pharon, Abu Lahab, and Yazid Ibn Muwayyiah. Were these men told by their womenfolk to do such heinous things in society? I don’t see a scholar on a pulpit expressing such disdain for men? So even if the hadeeth implied that, it still doesn’t exclude men from causing corruption in society…

    Allah Knows Best…

    P.S. –
    I think its amazing to see so many sisters educating themselvles about Islam. Even with all these “controversial” verses and ahadith, its wonderful to see women standing firmly to Islam (MASHA’ALLAH).

  27. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    April 12, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Salaam alaikum,

    Although I agree with the explanation (because that is what should normally be understood from the hadeeth), I really do not accept the view or charge that women have been condemned by clerics or by Muslim men in general as evil. Such a charge against your Muslim brothers requires proof. To be specific, a statement like “should I miserably accept myself as a fitnah, inherently evil as portrayed by many Muslim clerics, and let them condemn me whenever they wish..” needs evidence. I’m not asking about cultures here, but I’m asking if scholars have understood that women are inherently evil from this hadeeth?

    Men love women… a lot. When the Prophet (s) said to men there’s no fitnah greater than women, we know he is talking in the context of temptation and desire, and not that women are inherently evil. And no, the fitnah is not at the same level for women.

    It is quite sad to hear of those who reject this hadeeth. Perhaps it’s societal pressure and political correctness that leads women nowadays to view everything through a colored lens and in the process reject the hadeeth? Such problems may blur our way to understand Islam in its purity. May Allah keep us steadfast and guide us. ameen.

    From what I know, when clerics say women are fitnah, men very well understand in what context and meaning they are saying that. There should actually be a poll to check if men really consider women evil! And if what you say is true, then it must be happening in some remote place that is certainly not relevant to the society “we” belong to.

    As a Muslim man who tries to learn and practice Islam and who certainly cannot tolerate abuse of women, this piece comes across as another men-bashing post that pushes the blame of one’s own personal misunderstanding of an issue or hadeeth on men. (I thought believing men and women were each other’s helpers.)

    :Disappointing:

    Allah knows best.

    wassalam

    • Avatar

      Amman Abdul Adl

      April 12, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      “From what I know, when clerics say women are fitnah, men very well understand in what context and meaning they are saying that. There should actually be a poll to check if men really consider women evil! And if what you say is true, then it must be happening in some remote place that is certainly not relevant to the society “we” belong to.”

      Brother, you’ll be surprised exactly what many EDUCATED MEN think about women. At least within the South Asian community, I was shocked to hear so many things come out of some men’s mouths. I thought it was all exaggeration when women used to complain about what was going on. When you have chauvinism and misogyny that is prevalent amongst society, any ONE Scholar (even though if he lives in some remote location) can cause so many problems. Its simply adding fuel to the fire.

      This is not say that women are innocent in there exaggeration about men. “Men Bashing” has become very common in the western world.

      We are all victims here, but none of us are innocent either.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 13, 2011 at 7:51 AM

      Br. Faraz, There is no need to become defensive or take this post as men-bashing because that was not intended by the post. I am not sure which world you live in but this hadeeth has been misused enough times that many many sisters questioned the meanings of this hadeeth and there are some who have gone through great pains in writing against the authenticity of this hadeeth.

      I’m surprised that you have never heard it being misquoted. Perhpas you should ask Muslim women around your area, go to women shelter, ask local imams in India/Pakistan/Egypt/Africa/Morocco/Mauritania and other Muslim countries etc.

      I do not see the need of mentioning names because this article was intended as an explanation for those sisters who have heard the hadeeth being quoted in a wrong way and need answers, inshaAllah.

      The fact that you seem quite confident in men understanding this hadeeth in its proper context and not abusing it is quite disappointing itself.

      • Avatar

        Truth

        January 25, 2015 at 9:53 AM

        A “trial” or a “test” coming from Allah is referring to those things which can take you away from the true path of Allah. With regard to women, children, or wealth being a trial, means that we should not put these things that we desire to have in the earthly world take us away from our goal of eternal life with Allah. It does not refer to lust, in it’s strictest sense, but of desire of things that bring us happiness in this world that take us away from the higher attainment of Allah. Lust is not the proper word to use, desire is more appropriate.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 13, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      Bro, I think you need to get out more and see what’s really happening in the world. A lot of educated families are very VERY backward in their thinking. It’s incredibly shocking.

  28. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    April 12, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Ok that was meant to be *disappointing*

  29. Avatar

    Zakir Umar

    April 13, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Masha’Allah sister, this is really beneficial. Even the internet is a Fitnah, and you’ve just showed how it can be a source of good.

  30. Avatar

    Omar A.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    MashAllah
    Jazakallahkhayr for the very beneficial post, brings a lot more clarity to the above mentioned hadeeth we hear so oftern!

  31. Avatar

    Mehreen Misbah

    April 13, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Jazaakillah for this insightful piece, sister! It was enlightening and definitely epitomizes the lesson of moderation that Islam encourages so fondly.

  32. Avatar

    Mucha

    April 15, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Amazing article! You have nailed it when you compared women to children and money!! It really upsets me when people de-contextualize words and use them to their own liking. Islam was never against women but people are trying to force their own thoughts by re-interpreting the phases of ayat and ahadeeth, and unfortunately lots of those are Muslims themselves. We need to re-educate ourselves about Islam and educate others about what we really are! Keep on writing we need more articles like yours, thanks for sharing!

  33. Pingback: Sexual Harassment: A Muslim Problem | ISLAMIC SPOTLIGHT: ISLAMIC NEWS, STORIES, HADITH, DOCUMENTARIES, LECTURES, NASHEED AND MORE DEEN RELATED ARTICLES

  34. Avatar

    Yasmine

    July 4, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    I just wanted to thank you for your amazing articles. I wish that all muslim women were like you and all the muslims (men and women) read what you write. Jazakillahu alfa khair ! from Morocco.

    PS : In the arab countries in general, women do suffer from men’s condescending and sometimes demeaning behaviours toward them and I know what it’s like. I honestly think that the worst muslims are the ones living in the Arab world, because they are far far away from the teachings and the values of our beautiful religion (i’m not talking about the 5 pillars)

  35. Avatar

    Uzair

    August 22, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I’ve never had an understanding other than the proper understanding of this hadith, nor have I ever met anyone, let alone a scholar, who labelled women as “inherently evil”. May be its just the kuffaar trying to defame islam by misquoting this hadith…

    Anyways, good article, sister. May Allah bless you. Do you speak english as your primary language?

  36. Avatar

    Granit Binaku

    August 20, 2015 at 12:27 PM

    1. Translating and understanding the word “fitnah” as a test/trial/temptation does not mean having a negative view of women. Rather, it is due to the great love and desire which Allah, the Creator, has put in the man for the women and due to the very specific way he is able to satisfy that desire in Islam, that women is the greatest fitnah for him!
    2. Which Muslim cleric portrays women as “inherently evil”? What does the sister mean by “a Muslim cleric”? Anyone who speaks in public, writes, posts?! Everyone does that nowadays! As for the scholars of Islam then they do not explain this Hadeeth in that manner.
    3. She writes in the article “it only means that it is a mean to put a person through a trial. In fact, every blessing or favor of Allah is also a fitnah for mankind. For if a person is blessed with something, and that blessing becomes a reason for him/her to disobey Allah or become negligent of Allah due to the luxuries of it, then in of itself that blessing becomes a fitnah for that person” Exactly! Because one of the meanings of fitnah is a test and this life is a test as we know: Allah is testing us through his countless blessings and the few hardships He has decreed to happen to us.
    4. She continues: “Hence in the hadeeth, the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam, is simply warning the men against their shahwa (lust/desires) for women and that this shahwa (not the women) is one of the biggest trial for men”. Which scholar of Islam have you extracted this explanation from : Abu Bakr – may Allah be pleased with him-, any other Sahaabee, or their students, or the Imams of Islam after them? The Prophet -may Allah praise him amongst the angels and grant him peace – has been given a special trait and that is conveying deep meanings using few words. He could have worded the Hadeeth the way the sister has, but he didn’t. Even if one agrees with her understanding of the Hadeeth, then the question arises, when is a man’s desire a fitnah for him? When he sees, looks, chats, etc with women especially those who are “dressed, yet naked” from the non-Muslims and the muslim women who imitate them. Allah says “Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return” (3:14). And he – peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him-said: “This world is fresh and sweet, and Allaah has appointed you over it, to see how you will do. Fear this world and fear women, for the first fitnah faced by the Children of Israel had to do with women” (Narrated by Muslim, 2742).  Once again, he did not say “fear your shahwa/ desire”! This is since out of all that which men desire, their desire for women is the strongest! For this reason women are the greatest fitnah.
    5. She says: “or by delivering lectures warning the men against females, as if they are the cause of the “original sin”. The first part is true: the Prophet did warn us against the fitnah of women, as it is clear from the above Hadeeth, but not because they are a cause of the “original sin”, but due to the love and desire that men have for women and it is not permissible for them to satisfy that desire except through marriage. Therefore, men should stay away from mixing and chatting with women who are allowed for them to marry and yet they’re not married.
    6. She also says: “The same men who condemn women because they are “fitnah” never condemn wealth”. That’s not a correct generalization.
    7. She continues: “these men never restrict the usage or gain of money to keep themselves from the “fitnah” of wealth”. Once again, not a correct generalization: a believer does restrict the usage and gain of money and works hard to gain it only from permissible sources just as he works hard to satisfy his desires only through permissible means (i.e. Marriage). He also strives hard to spend his wealth only in that which is pleasing to His Lord, the Most Kind.
    8. She says: “How many times are men reminded that they too are as much fitnah for women as women are for men?” and “women too are equally tempted to attract attention from men”. Reminded by who? Is there a verse in the Qur’an or a Hadeeth proving the fact that “they too are as much fitnah for women”? Then what is the benefit of the Hadeeth specifying women out of ALL the other blessings Allah, the Most Generous, has blessed us with (“and if you try to count the blessings of Allah, you would not be able to count”)?

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#Islam

A Primer On Intimacy And Fulfillment Of A Wife’s Desires Based On The Writings Of Scholars Of The Past

*For mature audiences only

This short piece is intended to provide insight on the troubling and detrimental lack of understanding among Muslim men for the necessity and virtue of the female orgasm during sexual intercourse in married couples.  The importance of the female orgasm is substantiated by naṣṣ of Qurʾān, corroborated by the ḥadīth of Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) , and has been elaborated upon by the fuqahāʾ throughout the centuries.

Many Muslim sisters have taken it upon themselves to tackle the issue online and anyone who has love and concern for the Muslim community should praise their efforts.  In initiating conversation on this matter, they have shown concern, initiative and courage worthy of the followers of Rasūlullāh .  The benefit which their writings, webinars, round-table talks have provided is obvious to anyone who ponders.  It is a known principle among the fuqahāʾ that knowledge is to be imparted to the masses by order of its need and prevalence of troubles within the masses.

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The anonymous testimonies of our Muslim sisters are undoubtedly a justification for drawing the attention of our Muslim brothers to what authentic Islām teaches us on the subject.  It is also known among the fuqahāʾ that women are the only legitimate source of information for matters specific to them; such as the different patterns of menstruation and post-natal bleeding.  Consequently, the only legitimate source for determining whether and to which magnitude the issue of reaching orgasm during intercourse is pertinent to Muslim women is the Muslim women themselves.

A synopsis of the most striking among those anonymous testimonials follows:

Testimonial 1: “Being married for 10+ years Alhamdulillah with 3 kids it’s a journey of pain and frustration in terms of sexual life.  I never knew till some 4 years of marriage that there is something called ‘orgasm’ for females.  I simply cannot explain the emptiness it leaves when he just sleeps calmly leaving me aroused once he is done. He feels hurt when I say I too want to be satisfied.  But my requests to all the brothers out there: don’t be selfish no matter how tired you are. If you want to be satisfied every single time of making love, make sure so does your wife too. Your wife will never be emotionally attached to you if you do not satisfy her with your own love and willingness in bed.”

Testimonial 2: “I am 2 years in this marriage and I’m highly dissatisfied. Because I’m outspoken I have told my husband clearly many times that even if he doesn’t want I do. But it only led to fights and more dissatisfaction. He tried to improve but after it had done enough damage already. He loves me, he kisses and cuddles a lot but his appetite for love making is very poor. I don’t feel desired.  We so often hear [sic] that we should not deny intimacy to the husband but why is it not the other way round too?”

Testimonial 3 “In [my first] 5 years of marriage, I’ve orgasmed once with him though I love him with all my heart. I cannot stress on the importance of a female climaxing and reaching an orgasm with her husband because this has saved our marriage [after he realized how important it was]. It brings a couple so much closer. To all you ladies who think sex is a chore, I can guarantee none of you have ever had an orgasm. Had you had a true orgasm you would be pulling him to bed. It’s the best physical feeling ever and melts away the stress.”

These testimonials speak for themselves, and the verses of Qurʾān, aḥādīth and sayings of the fuqahāʾ below will demonstrate their legitimacy.

The Qurʾān unambiguously affirms the presence of lust in both men and women, without distinction:

“Tell the believing men that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts; it is more decent for them. Surely Allāh is All-Aware of what they do.  And tell the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts” (s. 24, v. 30-31).

In Aḥkāmul-Qurʾān, Qāḍī Abū-Bakr Ibn al-ʿArabī (passed away 543 A.H/1148) comments on this verse as follows: “Just as it is not permissible for a man to gaze at a woman, it is likewise not permissible for a woman to gaze at a man; the man’s attachment to her is no different than her attachment to him.  His [lustful] intent from her is likewise identical to her [lustful] intent from him”.  It is noteworthy that Al-Qurṭubī also relays this statement of Ibn al-ʿArabī in his tafsīr.  This then raises the question: if lust is set to be fulfilled through marriage, then what is the purpose and benefit of such fulfillment?

The Qurʾān provides clear guidance as to the importance of a loving marital relationship.  “And it is among His signs that He has created for you wives from among yourselves, so that you may find tranquility in them, and He has created love and kindness between you” (s. 30 v, 21).  The greatest mufassir among the Ṣaḥāba, ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās, contends that “love is intercourse (jimāʿ)” i.e a loving relationship stems from the act of intercourse. It is simply inconceivable for the relationship to be a loving one, if one of the parties to intercourse is dissatisfied.  Mujāhid and al-Ḥassan al-Baṣrī ascribe the same meaning to love as Ibn-ʿAbbās.

The Qurʾān does not detail the requirements of the act of intercourse. That responsibility is carried out by Rasūlullāh .  While commenting on the verse “And We sent down the Reminder (The Qur’ān) to you, so that you explain to the people what has been revealed for them, and so that they may ponder.” (s. 16, v. 44), Al-Qurṭubī explains: “The Rasūl  explains on behalf of Allāh that which He intends in the rules of ṣalāt and zakāt as well as other commands, by detailing such intent where Allāh has provided  statements which are general in nature”.  This leads us to the aḥādīth below for the guidance of men on how to satisfy their spouses during intercourse.

إذا جامع أحدكم أهله فليصدقها فإن سبقها فلا يعجلها خرجه أبو يعلى عن أنس

“When one of you has intercourse with his spouse, then let him be truthful towards her.  If he happens to precede her then he should not rush her” .

Al-Manāwī comments on this ḥadīth as follows: “He should be truthful in his love and his display of good will towards her.  This means that it is commendable for him to make love to her with strength, resolve and make fine love to her”.

إذا جامع أحدكم أهله فليصدقها ثم إذا قضى حاجته قبل أن تقضي حاجتها فلا يعجلها حتى تقضي حاجتها خرجه عبد الرزاق وأبو يعلى عن أنس

“When one of you has intercourse with his spouse, then let him be truthful towards her.  Then if he fulfills his need before her need is fulfilled, let him not rush her until it is fulfilled”

Al-Manāwī comments as follows: “When he has fulfilled his need from her by reaching climax, then-as a matter of merit-he should not impel her to separate from him.  Rather he should carry on with her until her need from him is likewise fulfilled.  This will only occur by her reaching climax and her lust settling.”.

The next ḥadīth praising a woman whose appetite for intimacy is strong, should therefore not come as a surprise.

خيرُ نسائِكم العفيفةُ الغَلِمَةُ ، عفيفةٌ في فرجِها ، غَلِمَةٌ علَى زوجِها

“The best of your women is the one who is modest yet lustful.  She is modest with regards to her private parts (towards strange men) while she is lustful towards her husband”.

Al Manāwī comments as follows: “The modest woman refrains from the ḥarām. For her to be lustful means that her carnal desire is restless. However, such restlessness is not praiseworthy in an absolute sense, as explained by the ensuing part of the ḥadīth i.e she is modest towards strange men”.

The above references in ḥadith literature are not meant to be exhaustive. Other references exist, and the commentators have been consistent in their explanations.

The fuqahāʾ(jurists) in the Ummah have, from very early on, also unapologetically touched on the subject in the most emphatic and direct manner. Some are quoted below to demonstrate such.

In his commentary of Al-Naṣīḥa al-Kāfiya Ibn-Zukrī, a Moroccan scholar who passed away 400 yrs ago (1133 A.H) quotes from Ibn al-Ḥājj (passed away 737 A.H/1336), Imam al-Ghazālī (passed away 505 A.H/1111) and al-Manāwī (passed away 1031 A.H/1621). The quotations below are directly taken from his commentary on al-Naṣiha of Shaykh Aḥmad Zarrūq (passed away 899 A.H/1493). These dates are quoted here to stress on the fact that this subject is not a contemporary one, it is rather a subject that has existed from the very time Muslim scholarship has. What is most pertinent here is the unambiguous language the fuqahāʾ use to get their point across.

“And softness towards the woman, until her fluid mixes with the fluid of the man, is certain to induce love for her and for him as well”.

Ibn-ʿArdūn explains: ‘The author of al-īdāḥ explains: whenever their two fluids blend together at the same moment, it is the utmost form of reaching pleasure, love, affection as well as cementing love. The amount of pleasure and love will be commensurate with how closely in time they blend together’.

The author of al-Iḥyāʾ mentions: ‘And once he has fulfilled his need let him take his time with his spouse until she likewise fulfills her need because her climax may be delayed and to withdraw from her while her lust has been agitated would cause her harm. Differences in patterns of climax inevitably lead to repulsion and discord whenever the husband should reach climax first. It is more gratifying and pleasurable for the woman that she and her husband reach climax simultaneously because  he will be engaged and absorbed alongside her, accommodating thereby her likely shyness [she will enjoy her orgasm without bashfulness]’

In al-Madkhal [Ibn al-Ḥājj] explains: ‘It is fitting for him, when he has fulfilled his need, not to rush to rise because it is among the things which will upset and perturb her.  Rather he should remain agreeable and engaged until he ascertains that her need has been fulfilled.  The intent is to have consideration for her matter because the Nabī  used to advice [men] regarding women just as he used to encourage kindness towards them. At this juncture, it is not possible to show kindness to her without it [the fulfillment of her need]. The man should therefore thoroughly exert himself to achieve that goal, and Allāh will certainly forgive any incapacity’.

Ibn Zukrī then goes on to quote al-Manāwī’s commentary of the two first ḥadiths quoted above.

The author of the Naṣīḥa then goes on to explain, and Ibn Zukrī’s commentary follows:

“And whoever wishes to accomplish that, then let him not come close to her until her breathing becomes intense and her eyes hollow, and that she seeks to remain attached to him; those are signs of her lust having been awakened”

Ibn Zukrī : it is explained in the commentary of al-Waghlisiyya : part of the etiquette of intimacy is to engage in foreplay so that the wife’s heart becomes cheerful and that the attainment of her desire becomes easy. This should be done until the point that her breathing becomes intense, her agitation increases, and she seeks to remain attached to the man, only then should he come close to her [for the act of intercourse].

He continues to say: “Those preliminaries consists in abundant foreplay with her, fondling her breasts and rubbing his penis with her labia”.  Ibn Zukrī explains: the author of the Madkhal explains: ‘When one decides to intimately engage with his spouse, it is befitting for him to refrain from the prohibited behavior which some of the common folk adopt, which consists in approaching their spouses hurriedly. Rather he should not do so until he has played and bantered with her in permissible ways. That includes cuddling, kissing and similar actions, until he sees that she has aroused herself to what he is seeking from her, feels relaxed and takes interest in it. Only then should he approach her. The wisdom of the religious code in this matter is obvious, and it is that the woman desires from the man what he desires from her. If he were to come to her abruptly, he may very well fulfill his need while she would remain upset and her dīn and chastity may be compromised as a result.  If he however does as stipulated, then the matter will be eased for her and her dīn and chastity will be protected’.

End of quotes from Ibn-Zukrī. 

It is clear from the above that the fuqahāʾ have kept within the confines of the Qurʾān and the Sunna and, as is their responsibility, lucidly relayed the information contained therein to the masses, with a full understanding of the pertinence of the subject in society.

This article cannot be complete without mentioning what some of the people of ḥaqīqa i.e taṣawwuf have said on the subject.

Ahmad Ibn Ajība explains, regarding ḥaqīqa: ‘It is derived from the Qurʾān and the Sunna, as well as from the inspirations of the ṣāliḥīn [pious ones] and the spiritual unfoldings [futūḥāt] of the ʿārifīn [gnostics]. The subtle understanding of the Quran and the Sunnah is predominantly found among the ṣālihīn.  Their statements clearly show that.

In his book on the etiquettes of marriage, Muhammad alTihāmī Kanūn (passed away 1915) explains: Abul ʿAbbas Aḥmad b. Yaḥya alWansharīsī says in his abridgment of the nawāzil of alBurzulī: ‘The pious Shaykh AbuBakr alWarraq states: every worldly passion hardens the heart, except the passion of intercourse which in fact softens the heart, which is why the Anbiyāʾused to engage in it’.  It is also mentioned in hadith:

Three things have been made beloved to me among your worldly matters: perfume, women and the coolness of my eyes has been placed in salat’.

In fact, alQurtubi relates the statement from alWarrāq with a prelude explaining how it is said that the desire for intercourse is commensurate with one’s taqwa

Note: We will state the obvious here, that this is true for both men and women, in accordance with what has been stated above regarding their equivalency in the search for carnal satisfaction from one another.

Finally, the author of marginal notes on Tafsīr alJalālayn Aḥmad alṢāwī states: ‘One of the gnostics [ʿārifīn] has mentioned that intercourse is one of the avenues towards reaching [the ma’rifa of] Allāh’.

These last statements from the ṣālihīn should serve as an admonition as well as an encouragement to the Muslim brothers who are lacking in being mindful of their spouse’s sexual needs. They may beg the question: is it a deficiency in taqwā which causes a man to not be mindful of this? It clearly makes the case for an opportunity for spiritual development through the act of intimacy

There are many related subjects which have not been discussed here, as the intent was very specific. However, our brothers and sisters should certainly take it upon themselves to contribute in educating the Muslims on those issues. Issues such as: the need and importance of marriage counseling; how to nurture a good relationship outside of the bedroom; how to address psychological and/or medical issues related to intimacy; how to educate Muslim adolescents (girls and boys alike) on sexuality, etc. There are, alḥamdulillāh, many competent and articulate brothers and sisters who specialize in different fields, and/or have valuable life experience which can be put to the profit of the Muslim Ummah

And we all ask Allāh for tawfīq.

PDF of sources in Arabic with references

  1. Aḥkāmul-Qurʾān, Vol. 3 p. 380
  2. Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī, Vol. 16 p. 412
  3. Idem.
  4. Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī, Vol. 12 p. 329
  5.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 1 p. 325. Ḥadīth n. 548. 
  6.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 1 p. 325. Ḥadīth n. 549.
  7.  Al-Manāwi mentions that this is mustahab, and he is correct.  However, the statement of istiḥbāb is only to encourage this action, in order to avoid harm to the woman.  If she is being harmed by the lack of satisfaction, then it becomes wājib. 
  8.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 3 p. 493. Ḥadīth n. 4093.
  9.  Sharḥ al-Naṣīḥa, Ibn-Zukrī Al-Fāsī, p. 651.
  10.  Reference from Hikam.
  11.  Qurratul-ʿuyūn bi-sharḥ naẓm ibn-Yaʾmūn, p. 48. 
  12. It is worthy to mention here that the commentators of hadith have determined that “three things” is an addition from the narrator as opposed to being the speech of the Nabi SAW.  Salat is not part of worldly matters. The hadith should therefore be: ‘Among your worldly matters perfume and women have been made beloved to me and the coolness of my eyes has been placed in salat’.
  13.  Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 6 p. 419.
  14.  Ḥāshiya al-Ṣāwī, Vol. 3 p. 204.

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#Life

Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriage

Like many people in my mid-20s, I approached my parents about getting married and initially chose to use a more traditional route. That is to say, creating a resume – or biodata – and sending it to matchmaker aunties. I wanted this approach because I wanted to be able to balance my American, Desi, and Muslim identities. I wanted things to be done in a halal way with my parent’s knowledge. However, over the past 2 years, my experience with the process has left me jaded.

Before I continue, I want to preface with two things. The first is that my parents are wonderful. We’ve butted heads, but I recognize that they are doing what they think is best, via a method that they’re used to. Providing critical feedback of the method should not be taken as critical to my parents.

The second is that while I have critical feedback, I am not intending to discredit the entire process. Meeting people through family is hardly a bad thing, and maybe what some people need. It is very possible that I will still end up using this process. That said, there are changes that need to be made, especially in the modern world. I want to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters can get an idea of what the process is, and what they’re in store for.

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Superficiality

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. They are, in total, the person’s education/career, info on their parents and extended family, and pictures. There’s nothing written about the person’s personality barring, perhaps, a few sentences about their interests. This doesn’t provide any real depth of information about the other person at all.

Then there is the emphasis that is placed on the pictures. It is important to acknowledge that physical attraction plays a role in all of this. I think one of my early mistakes was that I was trying to pretend it didn’t matter at all, and that’s not reasonable for a marriage. The problem, however, is that given the lack of personal detail in the written part of the bio-data, we are left with the photo being the most personal piece of information presented. Unless you really care about where a person’s grandfather went to University in the 1940’s, that photo ends up being the most important thing you’re making your choice on.

Like “Tinder, but safer,” a friend said to me, as I explained how these situations played out. That’s not far off from how the experience played out for me. We’re not given much time to make a decision on the bio-data, so the result is the superficial, un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

How many times have I heard, “Oh, she’s too fat,” or “Oh, she’s too short,” or “Too tall,” or “She’s pretty dark isn’t she?” Bengali speakers will recognize the word “moyla,” [dirty] used to describe women who are slightly darker, which is terribly problematic.

It’s not just that women are being chosen based on their looks alone, but on top of that, they’re being held to Eurocentric notions of what is deemed attractive. We’re all being held hostage to a standard designed by and for an entirely different race of people, and I have been told that it would be weird for me to be attracted to a darker-skinned woman because in the minds of many, dark skin is undesirable.

The superficiality is worse for women, but even as a guy I felt it. I’m fine with how I look, but you can only hear, “Oh, your face looks weird in that picture,” or, “He’s not tall enough,” so many times before it starts to mess with you. Men face another superficial judgment as well: the problem with men being reduced to their ability as moneymakers. I’m a graduate student and there are people in my class who have a spouse and children and are making it by just fine on the stipend we receive. But, inevitably, it will come up that I’m not making tons of money, so how can I support a family? While recognizing that men do have an Islamic responsibility to financially support their families, it troubles me that the process boils men down to one thing and one thing only – money, and not just having enough of it, but lots of it.

Age

I’m relatively young, 27 in May, and so when I started this process two years ago, I told my parents that I was willing to go +/- 3 years, just because I thought that would be a good range to encompass people I’d have some similarities with. However my prospect of an older wife – even a day older – was rejected with quite some vigor. I’ve been disqualified from matching with some women because they were born just a couple of months before I was.

The majority of the biodatas sent to me are of women still in college, between the ages of 19 and 22. It doesn’t matter when I say that’s too young, or how that I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone who hasn’t fully grown up yet. I get told that I’m wrong.

Do you know how many random aunties and uncles have told me that a 7-8 year age gap is necessary to make a marriage work because otherwise, the women “will demand too much?” It’s shocking that I’m being told specifically that I need a wife young enough to be manipulated and shaped to my desires. When I push back on this, I’m, again, told that I’m weird.

I’m being constantly told to reconsider my age preferences as if wanting to marry a woman in her mid-20’s is a weird thing to do when I myself am in my mid-20’s. The sheer number of times I face this makes me think it’s an inherent flaw in how our cultures think, and not something unique to my situation. This is to say nothing of the fact that people will, to our face, tell me (26) that I’m too young for marriage, but my sister (25) is rapidly passing her expiration date.

Race

As a Bengali man, I have no problem marrying a woman of Bengali descent, but it’s annoying that even in 2020, it’s seen as a taboo to marry outside of your race in Desi culture. I personally have had it conceded to me, that if I choose an Indian or Pakistani woman on my own, that might be ok, but nothing else. Not an Arab. Certainly not someone with (black) African descent. And a white/Hispanic/black convert would cause a genuine scandal.

And even this concession is not universal, as there are many Bengali parents I know who will not let their child marry anyone outside of their own culture. Even when people have pushed through it and married outside of their ethnic backgrounds, there is still gossip and concern as to how the parents could “let this happen.”

Going into this I thought, “Well, all I have to do is show a few videos from Imams talking about how inter-racial marriages shouldn’t be taboo for Muslims,” but it doesn’t matter how many of these clips I show, it falls on deaf ears.

I understand the concern of losing culture and heritage to life in the West, I get it. But if I want to teach my kids about their Bengali roots I can do that with a wife of any background, and if I don’t want to teach them, having a Bengali wife isn’t going to make me any more likely to do so.

Ultimately, the feeling I get is that the older generation wants in-laws who they can go and have chai and gossip with, to do traditional things they saw their parents do with their in-laws. And again, while I empathize with the desire to do something familiar, this seems like an unhealthy reason to dictate why your children can’t marry someone from another race or culture.

Classism

I understand that families need to mesh and that it makes things easier if there are similarities that exist. However, in what world am I reading a biodata and seeing what a woman’s uncle does for a living, and then deciding that she’s marriage material?

It doesn’t work for me that way, but it works on the minds of the older generation, and there are even ways of working the class distinction to your advantage. Uncles in the community have actually told me that marrying into a “lower class” may be good if you want someone to be subservient to you because they’re thankful you brought them to your status. But they’ve also told me that marrying a “higher-class” woman isn’t bad either, because a rich father-in-law could have its perks. Caveat- beware of them being snobby with you, since you may be expected to be thankful, subservient one instead.

I can’t even wrap my head around what people are talking about here, but it’s yet another factor that I end up having to deal with during this process.

Religion

I want a wife who cares about the deen and prays 5 times a day, and I want this not to be a controversial take.

I have been told that’s unrealistic. Literally a couple of weeks ago, an auntie told my sister that ‘modern women’ do not pray regularly and so I should not expect that in a future wife. She said this, of course, to my sister who is both a modern woman and someone who prays five times a day without fail.

It’s crazy to be told that I’m being too picky because I want a wife who already has her religious-ness established. I have been told, by both aunties and uncles, that it’s better for me to marry a wife who isn’t too religious yet so that I can shape her deen. This isn’t about mutual growth in faith as you may hope for in a marriage. This is about controlling women with religion by only teaching her what I want to teach her. When older women tell you this, it raises so many concerns about what they’ve been through and what they want future generations of women to go through.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me. I don’t mean to fetishize anybody, but I want a wife whose religion drives to be bold, to stand up for what’s right, to be outspoken. I want to partner with someone whose religiosity pushes me to be a better version of myself, not to do what she’s told.

Marry Back Home

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me, as someone who has lived their entire life in the US, to think that I’ll mesh much better with someone with a similar background. This isn’t universal, some people will genuinely get along better with people from “back home,” and that’s fine, but this needs to be a personal choice.

Yet, I keep getting told that it would be better for me to marry from “back home.” I have been told, straight up, if you bring a wife over here, she’ll be more “indebted,” to me because I brought her to America. Setting aside that I don’t want to marry someone who just wants to marry me for a Green Card, why would I want to marry someone who feels like they owe me?

I fail to see how marrying from “back home” is an issue of compatibility in this case, it feels way more like an issue of subservience.

You can see here that the concern isn’t about finding a spouse who matches with my personality, it’s about finding someone who’ll come and cook and clean and bear children for me without speaking up about it because they feel like they owe me. Which segues to…

Gender Roles

I want to preface this section by saying that this is one topic where my parents haven’t, at all, been the source of my concerns, but rather, this something that comes up when talking to certain members of the community.

For men, there is an emphasis on making money to provide for a family, and for women, raising children and taking care of the home. There’s no problem with this model, but it is not the only model. It’s a valid option, but I am being told it’s my only choice.

In the eyes of many, the preference is to pick a homemaker. This seems at odds with the desire to select a woman with a good education, making it seem that I’m then not expected to let her utilize that education professionally. After all, it could be embarrassing for me if my wife makes more than me, and I have been told to be careful, because a wife who makes too much money could be “too independent.”

I must also be careful to stay in my exclusive role as a moneymaker too, and not try to go beyond that. I had pictures with my nephews in biodata because they mean the world to me. I was told to take them out because somehow a man taking care of children is deemed…bad?. I also like cooking. I once said this to an auntie and I remember her saying, “Why do you like doing girl’s stuff?”

Quite bluntly, I don’t want a wife who will only cook and clean and raise children for me. I want someone I can share those duties with because they’re my equal partner, an idea that, to me, keeps getting glossed over in this process. Every couple deserves the opportunity to figure their marriage out for themselves.

Quick Marriages

There are limits to what we can(‘t) do as Muslims. I understand that we shouldn’t have 3 year-long courtships or live together before getting married, and I am not advocating that. But we should be allowed some time to make such an important decision. I’ve been shown bio-datas and have been expected to come back with an answer in two days – just two days – about whether the information on this piece of paper is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Please, can we have a few months? Can we talk, and try to make sure that this is the decision we want to make (chaperoned)? When reviewing potential spouses, try to make sure everyone is one the same page about how much time you give to each other in order to avoid heartbreak and confusion.

Nature Of Relationship With Parents

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship. It’s relatively open and comfortable, but it’s still a Desi parent-child dynamic. Expressing a dissenting opinion is disrespectful, which means it can be harder to speak up without fear of disappointing them.

Plus, my parents and I never openly spoke about sex or physical attraction, at least not in-depth. To go from that to suddenly having to talk to your parents about the physical aspects that you’re looking for in a wife is awkward, and it can lead to miscommunication.

It’s a culture clash on top of a generational one. I have a hard time articulating what I want to my parents, and it’s not easy to figure out. If you know this before starting the process, you can make an effort to speak as openly about things as you can. You can even recruit an older cousin or friend, or an Imam you trust to help you. Don’t do what I did and go by yourself, have people to support you to make sure you and your parents are communicating well.

In Conclusion

It’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll get everything you want in a spouse. There will be compromises that are made, whether they be with yourself or with what your parents want. But don’t sacrifice on the points most important to you. Determine those, know what your must-haves are, and negotiate on other things. Make sure your potential spouse is on board. It can be awkward, especially with how many of us were raised, but talk to your potential spouse about these important things.

While this was a reflection of my own experience, I place emphasis on the aspects I feel are more universal. Speaking to other Desi Muslims in my age bracket, it certainly does seem that my concerns are relatively common. Obviously, there are individual factors that are at play, but these were things that came up regularly when speaking to elders in the community.

I also, again, want to stress that this isn’t an attack on my parents. While I have a level of frustration with how this situation has played out, I recognize that this is what they’re used to. And to their credit, they have made some concessions. Furthermore, it’s not just parents who are playing a role in this. The (often unwarranted) voices of certain elders are given undue emphasis, and that, I think has complicated the situation even further.

Ultimately, I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t consider arrangements or biodata, but if you do, then you must openly discuss this with your parents. Make sure they know what you want, and stand firm if it’s something important, even if it complicates things. It may put a strain on your relationship with your parents, but it’s better to open about things now than to have anger and resentment towards them for years later.

I’ll end with a specific piece of advice to the brothers: You have a duty to learn about why these issues are red flags and to push back on them yourselves. Women can be labelled as too rebellious if they push back themselves, and we need to be aware of this. Speak up for your (biological) sisters, family members, and friends when you notice their discomfort. Make sure you establish with your potential spouse that she is actually on board with the process, not just going along with it because she feels that she needs to. It might be awkward, but it’s important to establish a clear line of communication with someone even before you get married.

May Allah bless us all with happy, healthy, and fruitful marriages. Ameen

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Gender Relations

Podcast: Get Over It: 21 Ways to Say Goodbye to that Haram Relationship and Move on With Your Life | Ehab Hassan

So you finally came to your senses. That girl or guy you’ve been talking to is not the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and definitely not helping you advance or get closer to Allah. You know it’s wrong, you want to get over it, you want to move on, but it’s just so hard and no one understands you! InshaAllah, it’s all going to be alright.

You're probably thinking that getting over a relationship can’t be as easy as people make it sound.Click To Tweet

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

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