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Fitnah Frenzy: Muslim Men Traumatized




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

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

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

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

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.



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    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:

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    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.

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    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…

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      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

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      Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      April 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

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

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    April 11, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Fantastic, jazaki Allahu khayran.

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    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.

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    April 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

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

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      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!

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        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.

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          Umm Reem

          April 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM

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

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            Hena Zuberi

            April 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM

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

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    April 11, 2011 at 12:32 PM

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

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    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

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      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??

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    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.

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      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.

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    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?)

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      April 11, 2011 at 7:23 PM

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

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        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!

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      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.

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        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


          April 11, 2011 at 11:26 PM

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

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            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!

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            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.

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            April 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM

            In Arabic, fasad= corruption!

            Talk about lost in translation.

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            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…

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        April 12, 2011 at 5:44 AM

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

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          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…

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            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


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        April 12, 2011 at 7:09 PM

        The most well known riwayah is:

        ‘Adarr 3ala-r rijal..

        Allah knows best’

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        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

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    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

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 11, 2011 at 3:25 PM

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

      • Avatar


        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!!

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      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 :)

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      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 =)

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    Mariam E.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Asalamu Alikum

    Great article and explanation, jazaki Allah khayr.

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    Nahyan Chowdhury

    April 11, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Great point and very well written

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    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

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    April 11, 2011 at 8:33 PM


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    April 11, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Alhamdulillah! Allahu alim.

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    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


    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.

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    April 12, 2011 at 1:40 AM


    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.

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    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!!

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    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


      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.

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    Yousuf Tafhim

    April 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Nicely put sister..

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    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.

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      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)

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    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.

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      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


    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


      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


        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


      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


        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.)


    Allah knows best.


    • 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


        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


      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

    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


    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!


  34. Avatar


    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


    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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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh



The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir Verses 72-81

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.

But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.

He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,

Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”

They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.

Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.

Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”

Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.

Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”

“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.

Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,

Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)(as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:

  • «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
  • ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»

May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.

Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,

Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”

Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.

Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.

Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.

Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.

Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.

Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”

  • «لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»

It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.

Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.

Khidr explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.


1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.

This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

  • « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”

Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

  • «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»

“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) consoles and comforts the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)

2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.

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