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Fitnah Frenzy: Muslim Men Traumatized

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“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)

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.

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.

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!

    • Avatar

      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.

        • Avatar

          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

    • Avatar

      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.

    • Avatar

      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….

      • Avatar

        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.

      • Avatar

        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.

          • Avatar

            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!!

    • Avatar

      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.

    • Avatar

      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.

    • Avatar

      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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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

Published

on

My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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