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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.

        • Avatar

          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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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

Published

on

High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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Thoughts on Gillette: The Best Men Can Be

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Some people love it, some people hate it, but Gillette’s short film (ad) has people talking about masculinity in culture, media, and all things #MeToo.

So how does this relate to the Muslim community, and how does the lens of religion change the angle we view this with? Also, how do all those people taking photos of Gillette razors down their toilets plan to take them out without fishing around by hand? (ew.)

We asked our writers to share. Tell us what you think of the ad in the comments below.



“I found the Gillette ad a powerful statement challenging bullying, rape culture and sexual harassment. For me those are the Islamic ideals that actually drew me to Islam. The first Muslim men came from the family I knew. I felt respected and even safe being around them. And respect for women was a key teachings in the Islamic literature I read as I learned about the faith before embracing it. There was so much on honoring women, raising women’s status beyond objectification.

But at the same time it makes me very sad having lived in three Muslim majority countries where sexual-harassment was common place. And seeing it here in the United States a where lot of problematic behavior is condoned by our communities. I’ve even seen some pushback against the term toxic masculinity.

So at first I wondered how would this commercial relate to our community. Then, I was encouraged when I saw the footage of ibn Ali Miller intervening and interrupting street violence. He reminded those teens that they were men. A Muslim man was being held up in this viral ad as being among the “some” who were pushing for change. His courage provided a remedy to the toxic masculinity that leads to the vulnerability of Black life through street violence. It reminded me of the upstanding behavior of the Muslim men who embody our values of honor and respect, and make a difference in our neighborhoods. They are the peace keepers like the ones I worked with at United Muslim Masjid in Philly who stopped a feud, like the young men at Islah LA who escort the sisters to our cars after a function, like my wali, Salah Lashin, the father of three daughters, they are the allies of Muslim women and we look out for each other to make sure that we are not oppressing each other. They create safety. That is what Muslims are supposed to do.

I met ibn Ali Miller this past fall at the MAS LA Convention where he gave an inspiring speech, so that’s pretty awesome. So for me the biggest Takeaway is that by living the prophetic example, the sunnah, ibn Ali Miller did the best dawah. May Allah reward him.”

Margari Hill


“The polarization of our times does not allow calm coherent conversations on gender identity. Long story short, without the authority and nuance of revelation, our frame of reference will always be so biased and so shallow. This discussion is just one small example of that. Toxic masculinity cannot be combated with demasculinization – reactions are expected to be imbalanced though.

Only wahy (relevation) can tell us what acceptable spectrum of masculinity is not toxic, and what aspects of compassion and gentleness are not unmasculine. And in the end, only sincere devotion to God can break the egotism and groupthink at the core of these debates. Allahul Musta’an. Perhaps we should take these opportunities to remind of that in general, the necessity of an authentic God-centric, God-informed personality to escape the pendulum effect of moral debates that rage on.

Mohammed Elshinawy


“We knew 1400 years ago that beating on each other and disrespecting women was haram, so maybe we roll our eyes a little when this stuff is seen as groundbreaking or woke or revolutionary, but we shouldn’t. Maybe we’re taking too much for granted. The gentility, honor, and refinement that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) brought to men was groundbreaking and revolutionary in pre-Islamic Arabia too, back when girls were buried alive and women were inherited as property.

Religiously speaking, boys don’t just “get to be boys” because the Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) demands they grow up and become non-bullying, gaze-lowering, chastity-guarding, men. Our religion demands better of all of us, and when we fail to do better, we can’t blame Islam for it.

Cultural speaking though, “Boys will be boys” is a deeply entrenched social norm in this as well as cultures in some Muslim-majority countries, and challenging it is a commendable attempt on Gillette’s part even if it seems like old news as Islam is concerned.

Zeba Khan


“Yes, we need strong men who raise dignified boys that know how to respect women…nothing new there. Our culture just doesn’t have a way for producing that systematically. We don’t teach ethics and good character to children in school or even in the house, so unless we come up with a way of addressing these problems, all this hype is not all that productive.

Waleed S. Ahmed


I heard the furore over the ad from both sides – one that felt that this was overdue recalibration of toxic masculinity and another that felt that this was an unjust and generalised caricature of men.

My take is that, as Muslims, we have a unique example of non-toxic masculinity / non-toxic femininity as embodied by our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and many of the great Muslims we look up to. It is up to us to ensure that we emulate and promote them and their examples rather than take sides in a debate in which no one wins.

“An external sign of marū’ah (manliness) : A beard.

The Prophet ‎ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)‎‬‎ said there are ten things which are part of fitra (divine order)… which includes growing the beard. Every Prophet of Allah had a lihya. From its inception Gillette has been redefining manliness. Of course they will continue to push the limits.”

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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The Male Lust, The Female Form And The Forbidden Gaze

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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Allah ﷻ informs in the Holy Qur’an: Made beautiful for mankind is the love of desires for women and offspring, of hoarded heaps of gold and silver, of branded horses, cattle and plantations. [3:14] Although such things are elsewhere spoken of positively in the Qur’an, as blessings for which people should be thankful, here they are spoken of seductively in terms of objects which men lust over, crave and covet. Unsurprisingly, women top the list. This fact rings loudly in a hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ informed: ‘I have not left after me fitnah more harmful for men than women.’1 It’s a warning that only a fool or a fasiq would be keen to overlook or take lightly. Another hadith states: ‘The world is green and sweet and Allah has placed you in it as custodians to see how you behave. So be mindful of the world and be wary of women; the first fitnah of the Children of Israel was to do with women.’2

If alcohol breaks inhibitions such that people will sexually behave in ways they usually wouldn’t when they are sober, then the devil is even more potent in removing modesty, boundaries and inhibitions between the sexes. The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘A woman is ‘awrah;whenever she goes out, the devil beautifies her.’3

The word ‘awrah, often translated into English as ‘nakedness’, can also mean weakness, vulnerability or something that is unseemly and indecent.4 Women are considered to be ‘awrah because of their desirability. In Islam, the feminine form – desirable, alluring and sensuous in the privacy of the marital home – should not be made to appear so in the public sphere. It’s not just the objectifying male gaze that demeans or threatens women; sometimes some women need saving from their own intemperate selves.

Of course, in our e-world awash with sin, porn and the sexualisation of even children, such revealed wisdom is unlikely to be received with the openness it would have done in a not so long ago age. Notions of modesty, decency or respectability with regard to how the sexes should interact are utterly alien to our consumer-driven, sexually-charged culture. To even suggest, as Islam does, that there could be a modest or dignified way of being a ‘lady’ (and, of course, a ‘gentleman’) is to court ridicule or scorn from an often uncritical public: some may even shout misogyny. I’ve previously written on contemporary gender interactions in Beards, Hijabs & Body Language: Gender Relations, so I’ll confine myself to these few remarks:

The principles of modesty, restraint and respectability have long been written out of our social norms and mores, and this was bound to impact Muslim attitudes too. One hadith says: ‘Modesty and faith are two close companions; if one of them is removed, the other follows.’5 Indeed, as Muslims themselves begin to relax these principles, or compromise them in the hope of being welcomed to the table of liberal sensibilities, can we perhaps see in where it has led others, where we too could be heading?

It’s not just the hijab or niqab we’re talking about. It runs far deeper than that. It’s about much more than just the externals. It’s about how one behaves; it’s about how one carries themselves; of how one disposes their soul towards the opposite gender. Ultimately, it’s about the heart’s purity and its attachment to its Lord.

Allah ﷻ commands: Tell believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty. That will be purer for them. For Allah is aware of what they do.[24:30]. On citing this verse, Ibn al-Qayyim noted:

‘Allah put purification after lowering one’s gaze and guarding the private parts. This is why restraining the gaze from the forbidden necessitates three benefits of great worth and tremendous significance. Firstly, [experiencing] the sweetness and delight of faith that is far sweeter, pleasant or delightful than that which the gaze was left, or averted from, for Allah’s sake. Indeed, whoever leaves a thing for Allah’s sake, He shall replace it with what is better than it.6 The soul is deeply enamoured with gazing at beautiful forms. The eye is the scout for the heart, and it sends its scout out to see what’s there. If the eye informs it of something it finds visually attractive and beautiful, it is moved to desire it … Whoever allows their gaze to roam free will constantly be in regret. For the gaze gives rise to love, which begins with the heart having an attachment (‘alaqah) to what it is beholden too. As it strengthens, it becomes an ardent longing (sababah); the heart now hopelessly besotted with it. Growing more, it becomes an infatuation (gharam); it sticks to the heart as a creditor (gharim) sticks to his debtor (gharimah) from whom he doesn’t part. Growing stronger, still, it becomes passionate love (ishq); an excessive love. Then it becomes a burning love (shaghaf); a love which reaches to the very lining of the heart and enters it. Intensifying further, it becomes worshipful love (tatayyum) … the heart becoming a slave [worshipper] of that which it isn’t worthy of being enslaved to. And all of this is because of the harmful gaze.’7

Leave aside the debate on whether the greater onus is on women dressing modestly, or men lowering their gaze. There’s no doubt that in today’s ambiance it falls upon men to lower their gaze and to refrain from the lustful, illicit and harmful glance. Shaykh Jaleel Akhoon recently remarked that sins usually leave a black stain on the heart, that can be cleansed through the act of contrition and repentance. But if the heart is captive to the object of its love; enslaved to it by its ‘ishq, then this is worse than the ‘usual’ sin. For the heart isn’t just stained or darkened, he stressed; it is inverted. This has certain echoes of Ibn al-Qayyim when he said: ‘Many a passionate lover will admit they have no place at all in their heart for other than their passionate love. Instead, they let their passionate love completely conquer their heart, thereby becoming an avid worshipper of it … There is no comparison between the harm of this dire matter and the harm wrought by sexual misconduct (fahishah). For this sin is a major one for the one who commits it, but the evil of this ‘ishq is that of idolatry (shirk). A shaykh from the knowers of Allah (‘arifun) said: “That I be tested with sexual misconduct by this beautiful form is more preffered to me than to be tested with it through ‘ishq, by which my heart worships it and is diverted from Allah by it.”‘8

The cure, Shaykh Jaleel says, is that as soon as the heart is tempted by what it must not gaze at, one reins in the gaze and diverts it from the haram or harmful. No effort can be spared in doing so, lest the forbidden glance secretes its poison into the heart, causing it irreparable injury, anguish and torment.

We Ask Allah for safety, sensibility and success.

1. Al-Bukhari, no.5096; Muslim, nos.3740-41.

2. Muslim, no.2742.

3. Al-Bazzar, no.2061; at-Tirmidhi, no.1173, who said it is hasan gharib.

4. Cf. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2003), 2:2193-4.

5. Al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no.1313; al-Hakim, Mustadrak, 1:22, who declared: ‘It is sahih as per the conditions of the two shaykhs.’

6. Possibly paraphrasing the hadith: ‘Indeed, you will not leave anything for the sake of Allah, except that Allah will replace it with something better.’ Ahmad, no.22565, and its chain is sahih. See: al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Da‘ifah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1992), 1:62; no.5

7. Ighathat al-Lahfan fi Masayid al-Shaytan (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2011), 75. The other two benefits he discusses are: Secondly, the heart being illumined and given to see with spiritual clarity and insight; thirdly, the heart is given strength, courage, firmness and honour.

8. Al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa’ (Saudi Arabia: Imam Dar al-Hijrah, 2014), 514-5.

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