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5 things Muslims can learn from Christmas

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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There will usually be two types of reactions to the title of this article. The first will be along the lines of, “Finally. Someone who agrees that there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas and having a tree, turkey, Christmas cards etc…” The second will be along the lines of “Astaghfirullāh. How can Muslims learn anything from a non-Muslim holiday?”

This article certainly does NOT condone the ever-increasing practice of imitating non-Muslims in the celebration of their holidays. However, I do believe that there are lessons that we can draw from the way that non-Muslims celebrate their holiday. These are lessons that we can apply to our own two historically Islamically legitimate holidays – the two ‘Īds.

So, what are these lessons?

1. Taking time off


In a capitalist society, everyone’s worth is judged by their bank balance. In such a society, taking time off is something you do so that you can recharge your energies just enough to get back into the rat race. However, it is unquestioned that almost everyone relishes getting a break for Christmas – even the most secular people. Meanwhile, many Muslims don’t bother taking time off work for ‘Īd for fear of what that would mean to their career. Many of them tell their kids not to take the day off school because somehow that one day off could mean the difference between becoming a brain surgeon or a drug-addled homeless refugee. We are instilling in ourselves, our families and our colleagues the unsaid thought that ‘Īd is not important. It is not worth any inconvenience that it may cause. Eventually, our kids will come to visit us on Christmas and bring us a Christmas present and we’ll stupidly ask, “how did this happen?”

2. Giving gifts


I remember watching a news report about how many non-Muslims set themselves back financially to buy the best presents they can for their entire family. A lot of thought and preparation goes into these gifts with many of the trendiest and most expensive items being gifted, rather than the bargain basement stuff. And it is not only the parents who give gifts. Even the young children save up their pocket money to buy their parents a gift within their limited means. Therefore it is ironic that it was our very own Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who said, “Give gifts to one another and you will love one another.” We hardly give gifts during ‘Īd time and instead save them for other “special occasions” like birthdays, anniversaries or graduations. We don’t realize the psychological impact this will have on those receiving it, i.e. associating these other events with happiness from an early age and ‘Īd with a $10 bill thrust into their hand – if they’re lucky. I am not promoting the excesses and commercialization that we see at Christmas, but the spirit of giving gifts and presents to young and old alike is something worth thinking about.

3. Emphasize the story

Who doesn’t know the story of Christmas? Every part of it, from the three wise kings to Santa Claus, is well-documented, played and replayed in hundreds of TV shows, movies, comics and even advertisements. How many Muslims can explain the significance of the ‘Īds, who were the main characters involved and what lessons are we to derive from them? Unfortunately, ‘Īd is marketed in most of the Muslim world in a way that means we hardly ever reflect on the true stories behind them, and instead just spend time with the family stuffing our faces – if we take any time off work that is. Because of the lack of understanding behind the meaning of ‘Īd we think little of adding in lots of other celebrations of our own – after all, if it’s only about having a good time, why not have more of it?

4. Celebrate well

Ever go past a house and see it decked out with lights for Christmas? It may be a terrible waste of money and electricity, but you cannot deny that they are getting into the spirit of the season. There are carolers that go around regaling their neighbors, decorations on public buildings and festive events in every office. In fact, getting into the Christmas spirit is such a ubiquitous thing that anyone who rebels against it is labeled a Scrooge or Grinch. The festive spirit on the two ‘Īds is usually so well hidden that no one outside the Muslim community would be able to tell that a Muslim household is celebrating a special occasion – a real shame and a real missed da‘wah opportunity.

5. Excite the kids

Why am I so focused on getting the kids to enjoy ‘Īd? Well, let’s face it. A large proportion of us are deep into either selfish hedonism, extreme secularism, hypocritical liberalism or some type of sectarianism. The future of the Ummah will be determined by factors such as whether our children see ‘Īd as a holiday worth celebrating, or if they relegate it to the B-list behind the “cool” holidays of Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year etc. While Christmas is (supposed to be) all about the theatre, excitement and happiness of children, ‘Īd is all about eating lots of food in slightly different locations throughout the day. ‘Īd doesn’t stand a chance. We are failing our children by not inspiring them to hold on to their faith and our traditions. Watch how many young Muslims in Manchester (UK) celebrate ‘Īd  by drinking, dancing, waving nationalistic flags and harassing any white women who happen to be unlucky enough to be in the vicinity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MygzRFb4yzM

I remember vividly seeing an old man crying at the mosque on ‘Īd day. When asked why he was tearful he said that his children don’t visit him or even call him on ‘Īd day as they are busy at work. His grandchildren send him Christmas cards and get upset because he doesn’t buy them presents for Christmas like everyone else. He looked back and wished he had instilled the love of our own holidays in their hearts when they were young rather than going with the flow. Unfortunately, it’s too late for him now. If we don’t change our attitudes, unite as a single community and take our own holidays seriously instead of freeloading on a holiday that isn’t ours – it will soon be too late for us too.

WAJiD Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Safwan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Alchamdulillah, very well said brother!
    May Allah grant that your intention and faith be understood by all others who read this, ameen

  2. Avatar

    Aser Rehman Mir

    December 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Excellent article! The comparisons and lessons you’ve brilliantly detailed have been lingering in my mind for many years but just couldn’t spell it out as meticulously above.

    The next stage is implementation which needs a lot of PR and support from Muslims businesses, schools and similar connections.

  3. Avatar

    Safwan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Alchamdulillah, very well said brother!
    May Allah grant that your intention and faith be understood by all others who read this, ameen.

  4. Avatar

    Dan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    Christmas is a holiday based on pagan tradition. The whole focus of gifting during Christmas takes months to build up with the help of greedy merchants that promote their merchandise on every available media. The true meaning of gifting is lost because the social pressure of giving is incredible. The long preparation for celebrating Christmas end in unrestrained consumption. There is no fasting, very little praying except on Christmas eve service… I always thought Christians have more to learn from Muslim tradition preparing for and celebrating for Eid holidays.
    Did I miss something?

    • Avatar

      Aser Rehman Mir

      December 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM

      @Dan, it still doesn’t explain the lack of enthusiasm and problems of our celebration compared to those celebrating Christmas.

      You make valid points linking to Paganism and the issue of consumption. However, we can still learn from this without going to the extreme of innovating, imitating or consumption. We can find true balance. Use the middle path. Adopt in a way that is morally acceptable and ignite the same level of excitement.

    • WAJiD

      WAJiD

      December 24, 2012 at 3:02 AM

      Absolutely agree with you Dan, however we can learn from every aspect – especially the negative – including how our gift giving should not become overly commercialised or excessive.

      And we can also learn from the relative absence of God from Christmas celebrations – and not let our Eid go the same way.

      • Avatar

        scarfed

        December 24, 2012 at 12:07 PM

        I grew up in India; for me the ‘celebration’ was the “gift of giving”. On the day of Eid I was taught to give money to the poor, besides the Zakah / arrange for a meal and sit down for a meal with orphans etc.
        The act of helping someone with less monetary advantage was the celebration. And that was “exciting” for me.

        • Avatar

          Ummridhwan

          January 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

          @Scarfed, Asalaamu alaykum; If I’m not mistakened this article was towards parents and the elderly, in order to put back the spirituality and enthusiasm in Eid. Many of our young generation living in the West are not at the mental state of some of us spiritual individuals who see Ramadan and Eid as an opportunity to give to the poor, increase our good deeds and put a smile on everyone’s faces. Our environment in the West is set in a way to have our youth think of only being selfish(“the ME, ME, ME generation) self-centered and go after their desires Satan has beautified for them. In Christmas, the young careless of the many Churches who feed the poor on Christmas Eve which does not highlight the essence of what Christmas means to them. The media highlights the gift giving , the celebration of Christmas and highlights less of the charity work that is carried out, if that was the case, non-Muslims would understand more that Christmas is not about materialism or fulfilling your desires but it is the assumed Biblical revelation of Jesus birth.

      • Avatar

        Dan

        December 24, 2012 at 6:53 PM

        Jazakallah khair brother and forgive me for not mentioning the may excellent points you made in your essay. I also understand your point that there is a lack of enthusiasm the way Muslim celebrate Eid. However, there are so many things wrong with Christmas it is an example of how not to treat you religious holidays. Christmas as it is being practiced goes against the teaching of Jesus, who thought fasting, abandoning material greed, to give from the heart, and also he was strongly against using religion and God as a means to generate money or business (he overthrew the tables the merchants setup at the temple in Jerusalem). Christmas does not celebrate the teachings of Jesus, it still has strong practical resemblance to the ancient pagan practices.

        Was Salam

      • Avatar

        smorgan

        December 25, 2012 at 12:04 AM

        ASA

        To my knowledge, there is no sunnah at all for giving gifts on Eid. If so, and since Eid is definitely a “religious” event, that would make gift-giving on that particular day becoming universal and consistant a bid’a in the deen.

        So, while I agree with the intent of the article – especially regarding not even taking a day off work to celebrate the Eid – we must be even more careful about not falling into bid’a by imitating the ways of non-Muslims.

        • Avatar

          Mahmud

          December 25, 2012 at 7:48 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          No it is not a bidah inshaa Allah. Eid is a celebration. Check out what Islam Q&A has to say.

          http://www.islamqa.info/en/ref/130948/gifts%20on%20eid

          Is it permissible to give my family members some gifts on Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, and to do that every year, or is it an innovation (bid‘ah)?

          Praise be to Allah.

          There is nothing wrong with giving gifts on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to family and relatives, because these are days of joy and happiness on which it is mustahabb to uphold ties, show kindness, and eat and drink plenty. This is not bid‘ah; rather it is something that is permissible and a good custom that is one of the symbols of Eid. Hence it is not allowed to give gifts and express joy and happiness on innovated occasions on which it is not prescribed to celebrate, such as New Year, the Mawlid (Prophet’s birthday) and the fifteenth of Sha‘baan (an-nusf min Sha‘baan), because this makes them like Eids.

          Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: On this Eid people also exchange gifts, i.e., they make food and invite one another to come and eat, and they get together and celebrate. There is nothing wrong with this custom because these are days of Eid. When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) entered the house of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and found with him two young girls who were singing on the days of Eid, he rebuked them, but the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Let them be.” And he did not say it because they were young girls. Rather he said: “Let them be, for these are the days of Eid.”

          This indicates that Islam, with its tolerant and easy-going attitude, allows people to express joy and happiness on the days of Eid.

          End quote from Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn Uthaymeen, 16/276

          And he (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

          It is well known that there are no festivals in Islam except those which are proven in sharee‘ah, namely Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ahda, and Friday which is the weekly “Eid”. As for the fifteenth of Sha‘baan (an-nusf min Sha‘baan), there is no proof in Islam is that it is an Eid. If it is taken as an occasion on which charity is distributed or gifts are given to neighbours, then this is taking it as an Eid.

          End quote from Fataawa Noor ‘ala ad-Darb

          And he said concerning Mother’s Day: Once this is understood, it is not permissible, on the occasion mentioned in your question, which is called Mother’s Day, to introduce any of the symbols of Eid on this day, such as expressing joy and happiness, giving gifts, and so on.

          End quote from Majmoo‘ Fataawa ash-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 2/301

          And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Anne

      December 26, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      Yes you definitely have missed and have misunderstood the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is celebrated as the BIRTH OF CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD. Yes,some of the traditions were adopted from pagan rituals because they had a beautiful, spiritual meaning; but Christians usually pray to Christ every day and the faithful Christians go to Mass and church services at least once a week. You are a bigot. So if you don’t like Christmas, don’t participate in its celebration.

      • WAJiD

        WAJiD

        December 26, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        ^ I rest my case

      • Avatar

        harvester

        December 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        Anne, what percentage of people who celebrate Christmas do so in honor of the “the son of God”? What percentage of them are celebrating a cultural event? Do all Christians believe that the prophet Jesus was the son of God? I think it is fair to say that many non practicing Christian people observe Christmas as a day of family gathering. I think the author’s observations about certain aspects of how people observe Christmas could have come from anyone regardless of their faith. Do you deny that taking time off work, gift giving, understanding the history of the holiday, being openly enthusiastic about the holiday and making it special for the children are positive things? That is all the author is saying. He did not set out to attack your celebration of Christmas.

  5. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    December 24, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    Salaam all,

    Just thought I would clarify a few points before they are said:

    1. I don’t believe that the values I listed above are Christian values that Muslims should learn from. I believe that underlying them are true Islamic values (gift giving, inspiring our children, celebrating properly etc…) that we seem to have lost.

    2. There are many aspects of Christmas we would not want to emulate. Rampant consumerism, the loneliness felt by the disenfranchised, the whole making up of new traditions (Santa Claus replacing Jesus as the central figure as an example) However, this article focuses on some of the aspects we can see our own Islamic heritage reflected in.

    3. Some of you will find this a generalisation. It is. To those who none of this applies, keep up the good work and please try and get your fellow brothers and sisters to take Eid seriously.

  6. Avatar

    aliyu_adam

    December 24, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    I want to commend the author for such an insightfull writeup,though very important to the Ummah,this is one of many issues you hardly hear or read anyone talk about today.However,i think its better to encourage more worship and visits(families and loved ones) together with teaching our children the ideaology behind Id,giftings and general anticipation instead of encoraging such outrageous festivities such as carolers,lighting and partying becouse these go way out of the fundamental ideaology of islamic Id celebration which is a teaching of sacrifice,worship and love.Allah knows best.

  7. Avatar

    aliyu_adam

    December 24, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    Nice article.I must also commend the author for such an insightfull choice of topic as you hardly hear or read anything regarding such even with such obvious reflection it has on the islamic community.Though i think its better to encourage d ummah 2 dwell more on d fundamental ideaology behind Id (wch is all about worship,sacrifice n love) rather than emulating such outrageous christain practices(carlers,lighting and obsessive celebrations) with absolutely no regard to any spiritual envolvement.Imitating such will definately lead to a conception of Id perpendicular to its islamic aim.Allah knows best.

  8. Avatar

    online Quran study

    December 24, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    Jazakumullahukhairan!
    The information you provided on Christmas is informative but It is not permissible for Muslims to imitate them in any way that is unique to their festivals, whether it be food, clothes, bathing, lighting fires or refraining from usual work or worship.

  9. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    December 24, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    Even though we do to celebrate or encourage any aspect of Christmas in our family, I love the spirit of Christmas and the feeling it brings. If we take it at face value, everyone is more caring, loving and charitable and family ties are revisited. However, if we were to look deeply inside everything it’s not a pleasant picture, alot of commercialism, greed and pressure. Living in the UK, even we get an opportunity to spend more time with family and friends because of the extended holidays.

    • Avatar

      Umm Ibraheem

      December 24, 2012 at 7:33 AM

      Edit to say: we do not celebrate

  10. Avatar

    N

    December 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    I’m so glad this issue has been mentioned. I have always wondered if Eid could ever be commercialized and what is it about it that prevents it from being so? The commercialization of Christmas has been complained about by many but the commercialization of it is what could make Muslim kids relate to it since it’s in their faces all the time after Thanksgiving.

    Eid already has the associated meaning of family time but what could be taken as a lesson from Christmas is engaging in other family activities. After being in America all these years I still don’t get what families do after opening their presents but I don’t think it’s going from house to house like most Muslims do on Eid. To tell the truth I’m tired of going to the houses of my parents’ friends especially when there is no one there for me to talk to and I know other kids in the community feel the same. This may be a desi concept though because what my Arab friends do on Eid is spend time with their friends SEPARATE from their families. The good thing about celebrating Eid in a non Muslim country is everything is still open for people to meet at a restaurant, the movies or to ice skate. I believe families especially with young kids should do these type of things instead of dragging them to other people’s houses where they just eat snacks and sit awkwardly.

    Another thing would be to set a family tradition. Like I’d think it’d be nice to hang lights on the house during the month of Ramadan (don’t know if the neighborhood homeowner’s association will approve) or maybe make certain foods together. There are certain Ramadan foods that each family has so why not also bring them before Eid al Adha?

    I definitely agree that if gifts are exchanged they should be wrapped. I can definitely see people that exchange gifts on Eid are much more excited about it. I remember one of the youth groups did a white elephant type of gift exchange one Eid which was really fun.

  11. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    December 24, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Agreed with every point except #2…

    I loved getting Eidy, I could do what I want with my money. And and every dollar counts and never goes to waste. While with presents, I ended with useless gifts most of the time.

    I was talking to my Christain co-workers today about Eidy – giving money as gifts as they said they would prefer that instead of actual gifts.

  12. Avatar

    fatihah

    December 24, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    assalamualaikum,

    alhamdulillah living in my country Malaysia our eid-ul fitr always spent in full fun fair but sadly sometimes it also goes over board.
    let me share with you’ll how we celebrate it every year. or more how my family do it since i m young.
    we definitely wish every family member will come home and share the joy of eid as one family.
    everyone will get at least a set of new cloth.
    half way through ramadhan the women of the family will start making cookies. modern or traditional.
    during ramadhan night the whole village will take turn to feed people who came to the masjid, night after night.
    on the last day of ramadhan we’ll organize iftar in our masjid. the whole community will work together to prepare food for that night. .. some food even cooked on open fire too :)
    eid night do the takbeer.
    decorate the house.. some with twinkling light on and it is very common to light a lamp using gasoline outside the house and along the road. it make a very dramatic effect n memorable for children..
    to prepare food to be serve to guests visiting the house. a lots of traditional food to be selected upon.
    eid morning the whole family will woke up, take ghusul, eat breakfast then go to masjid for prayer.
    done solah everyone will start inviting each other for visit.
    and most of the family and neighbor will visit each other in new cloth and chat while eating from so many selection of food served.
    what we most young adult missed most is sending and receiving eid card then hang it around the house as a decoration. now only receive the FB card or text to wish you happy eid.
    gift mostly given to young children and parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle n so on and so forth.

    it really fun but sometimes it too much. wasting on food, wanting to impress guest with deco, clothing, and food. doing innovating things like going to the graves of relatives and recite quran there..with children running around the grave yards.
    shaking hand with opposite gender is extremely difficult to avoid.
    and over excited young boys imitating the Chinese firing fireworks all night long!

    i hope for more islamic eid for us in the future. ameen!

  13. Avatar

    Amy

    December 24, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Salaams,

    I have to admit I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot -even considered writing a little article myself regarding certain aspects of this for submission.

    A lot of Muslims may not realize what Christmas is like for reverts/converts like myself. Usually we grow up indoctrinated with Christmas as non-Muslims, and it truly does leave deep grooves in the brain. Then, we all take Shahadah and there’s nothing to celebrate, nothing festive.

    Like you said, the Eid Holidays -especially here in the US- are not just celebrated “moderately”….they are virtually ignored. Every time I have attended an Eid prayer, everyone else hustles home and does their individual and private celebrations with their extended families. There is no lingering fellowship or even sense that it is a special day. If a community does some type of “celebration”, often it is not even scheduled for Eid day, costs money, or is something that no one would be interested in doing (think several “bouncy houses” with some spicy food for $5/plate).

    A lot of us converts/reverts don’t have any Muslims in our family to “go home” and celebrate with after Eid prayers. We don’t have any Eid family recipes to hand down or make that day, and we struggle to start traditions to implement with our own children. Like it or not, there is a glaring cultural divide between Muslims in the west who are immigrants and those who are coverts/reverts, and sadly not even the Eid Holidays manage to bridge this adequately.

    So converts like myself are left feeling nostalgic and disappointed during Christmas. All of the programming we’ve been raised with to celebrate goodness and joy during this time of year is left unexpressed and unsatisfied even when the time for our own religious holidays arrive.

    • Avatar

      Hamza21

      December 24, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      So true Amy I’ve been Muslim for 20 years and never celebrated EId. It’s virtually a non holiday in the US. However over the years it’s hard to remember what it was like celebrating Christmas. Usually this time of year I’m grateful I’m not wasting my money on useless things like my non-muslim relatives. For the future unless this cultural divide,more like paternalistic attitude, from immigrants is changed then I don’t see Eid becoming any more “festive” then it is now.

  14. Avatar

    Infidelicious

    December 24, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Don’t be offended, relax and enjoy. In the Northern hemisphere we need something to get us through winter, be it solstice, christmas, eid, whatever. Enjoy the food and the time off, and let’s be friends rather than believers of this and that.

  15. Avatar

    Um Yusuf

    December 24, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    Alhamdulillah having grown up in the West but being from a Pakistani Muslim background we have kind of managed to find a balance in the way we celebrate Eid. We always take the day or days off work at Eid and we even took the day off school when we were kids. Eid is also a special time to connect with family, have traditional Eid breakfasts, lunches or dinners with family and friends and call relatives near and abroad to wish them well on those special days. We make the effort to decorate our homes, have Eid parties for the kids with games and nasheeds and make Eid cakes with candles ( becos the kids love to blow out the candles!) give them gifts or money and gifts to each other. We buy new clothes and shoes to wear on Eid and especially the Eid prayer, put on henna on our hands and we always tell our kids the stories behind these events so we remember the relevance of these celebrations and what they mean. We try and attend the local Eid activities such as fundays and fairs. We send food to our neighbors whether Muslim or non Muslim. We can make small Eid parties in our kids classrooms and talk about Eid to the non muslim and muslim kids alike with permission of the teachers so our kids feel proud of their deen and feel comfortable to share it with their friends (dawah).Most of all we try and instill in ourselves and our kids that it is all ibaadah and not get carried away by being wasteful or not making the effort to attend the Eid prayer or doing the Takbeeraat (to glorify and thank Allah )or performing the Udhiya and paying the Zakat al fitr( and remember the poor have a share)We try to make all our activities halal and acceptable to Allah.
    Its all about priorities and making the effort, planning, and being creative in fun and halal ways. we need to see our situation and needs and plan how to incorporate the points the brother made into our lives, so we feel satisfied by our Eid celebrations. By the way we do not celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or other holidays such as thanksgiving, valentines, mothers day or halloween in our family, but Alhamdulillah we and our families do not feel we are lacking in any way. We just put more effort into our 2 festive days of Eid. May Allah swt accept our efforts and help us all improve, Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Amanda

      January 8, 2013 at 2:45 AM

      Masha’Allah Tabarak’Allah (= Loved this

  16. Avatar

    Dess

    December 24, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Assalamulaykum wa rahmatullah

    I’ve got to humbly disagree with you brother. You live in the West, but in Muslim countries or those who recognise Muslim festivals like Singapore, Eid is already a major celebration with its own festive traditions. And it is smthg that we are fighting against, because the spirit of Ramadan and Korban/Haj gets sacrificed because of these traditions. My take is that its best to follow Sunnah – any other ways will just confuse us & the next gen.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad Abdul Haqq

      December 25, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Na`am. You said what I was thinking as I read the article. It simply sounds like we are jealous of the kuffar and because of that we want to imitate their ways..

      • WAJiD

        WAJiD

        December 25, 2012 at 3:55 PM

        Salaam all,

        Ah – the counter arguments that I was waiting for.

        @Dess – JazakAllah khairun for pointing out the extremely relevant point that we should “follow the Quran and Sunnah.”

        @Muhammad Abdul Haqq – JazakAllah khairun for pointing out that it is not a good thing to imitate the ways of the non-Muslims. Again highly relevant.

        I (and I’m sure many others) look forward to you both explaining how the following are against the Quran and Sunnah or is imitating the kuffar:

        – Celebrating Eid instead of just turning it into a normal day at work/ school
        – Giving gifts
        – Explaining the origins and islamic meaning behind the Eids
        – Celebrating it openly and proudly instead of in (virtual) secret
        – Motivating and inspiring our children to stick to the Islamic holidays instead of those outside of Islam

        Looking forward to your answers…

  17. Avatar

    VJaber

    December 27, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    Good points, I definitely agree that children do not feel the Eid holidays. I do not think we should replicate the Christmas extravagance but maybe place eid presents under a cut out of a moon and a star or hang lights around your house, try to get your neighbors involved. Invite them for iftar and let them see how you celebrate the occasions.

  18. Avatar

    Nuraini

    December 27, 2012 at 5:30 AM

    These are excellent points. Even outside the Western world, in the past people made a big deal about Eid in our own local traditions, mainly driven by the efforts of grandparents and parents (heads of households) ensuring people grouped together and preparations are made, decorations hung, and everyone had a role, and children had fun. nowadays i see that more and more of the boomer generation who are now becoming grandparents do not invest this effort, thus resulting in lukewarm celebrations devoid of organisation and hosting. in fact, for some people they seem to feel that it is somehow impious to have so much fun, taking pride in ‘only’ taking a couple days off (in the past it is not uncommon for the whole week at least, if not two, be taken off for adequate preparations) – forgetting that for children, the weightier aspects of ramadhan and the sacrifice are not yet comprehensible, and instead it is the love for the celebrations should be prioritised until they understand.

  19. Avatar

    Marcus

    December 28, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    I was looking for a good Islamic blogs and I found your blog its such a great peace of information.

  20. Avatar

    Ashraf

    December 28, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Gift giving in Islam is not related to a particular occasion. The prophet ( may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) encouraged to give gifts all the times and said it enhance love to each other. On the other hand there is charity. Apart from mandatory ZAKAH, there is sadqah which is encouraged by so many ways, like the bad omens or problems in the life can be ward off by sadaqah. The prophet (may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) himself set the example of giving charities and it is narrated that especially in Ramadan the prophet (may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) used to give charity like breeze. In short in Islam there is not a special occasion to give gift or help others. family reunion is the problem of modern life in Muslim families they are always close to each other and Qur,an and Hadith forcefully advise Muslims to keep close ties with your kith and kin. To cut a RAHM relationship with kith and kin is a sin. There are so many good examples of the prophet(may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) and his exalted companions in this respect.
    We Muslim should learn good thing from any where we can find, but example of X Mass is not fit for this purpose.
    May Allah (subhana hoo wa taa, la ) bless you all including your family and friends.

  21. Avatar

    ArabianSpace

    December 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Very interesting article to say the least. I can see a lot of positive comments that this article draw. @Dan has made a good point about the true celebrations. My hope if there is any learning curve from this, it should not alter our own holidays, because we should not deviate from the sunnah practice!.

  22. Avatar

    Lauren

    December 28, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Assalamu alaykom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu, I honestly didn’t plan on reading this until someone posted about the article on my facebook page. As a convert, I honestly understand the importance of making the two Eids big mashallah. Most of the muslims I speak to always say the same things about the eids- they are boring and nothing to do. And they go to school instead of celebrating. I never go to work or school on the eids because these are our two celebrations. I think parents and communities should talk about the two eids and their significance and make the eids big and memorable for their kids because our kids will be leading our traditions once we die. We want them to be able to talk about the deen, practice it and tell their kids about it. Instead of being like the kuffar( the non muslims) we should be leading the way. Its sad when muslims have to look at the nonmuslims when we are the best amongst all nations.

  23. Avatar

    myDarkPassenger

    December 28, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Thanks for the article. I find this article missing a necessary global ingredient. Eid or any other islamic event is a global event and therefore covering how other muslims practice Eid in other countries would have made this more interesting for American muslim readers here. American muslims can learn lot more from, or adopt some practices of muslims living in other countries around the world without having to look at how “Christmas” is enjoyed. We should after all, show how to perfect our union by learning from each muslim-other. All except “Explaining the origins and islamic meaning behind the Eids” during Eid is not a common practice. This seems a novel activity but I dont’ find it important for that day. In fact, it’s probably not a good practice to isolate learning about Eid on any specific day.

    There is always something unique about muslim holidays enjoyed in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India (Hyderabad, Uttar Pradash) etc. I am sure we can learn lot more from a Malaysian Eid experience than Christmass any day.

    —To “Fatiha”,
    Thanks for sharing how it’s done in Malaysia. I find the sense of community, and holiday you enjoy in Malaysia during Eid is quite powerful and something American muslims can learn to have one day in their circles.

  24. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    December 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    salaam,

    Unfortunately it seems a few people are mixing up the intent of the article as I explained in the first paragraphs (maybe they are just skipping ahead to the points.)

    There’s a clear difference between saying that Muslims need to copy aspect of Christmas and saying that the way that non-Muslims take Christmas so seriously – we should do the same for our own holidays.

    @myDarkPassenger – (interesting moniker btw) – agree that it would be nice to see the Eid traditions that other Muslim countries have, but I guess the point of my article is that there’s something in our celebration of Eid that is lacking (and this is shown up very clearly when compared to Christmas celebrations) … unless we can accept that there’s a problem, no one will be interested in suggested solutions.

  25. Avatar

    Saquib Currim

    December 29, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I totally agree and apart from the points mentioned above, atleast their celebrations happen on the same day, year after year and in every part of the world unlike us who don’t even know who to wish Eid mubarak to as no one celebrates Eid on the same day. Where is the unity?

  26. Avatar

    Ummridhwan

    January 1, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu! Allahu Akbar!!! Amazingly put together brother, Muhammad Wajid Akhter. I would like to first say that I would probably be considered the type of Muslim that would say, “Astaghfirullāh. How can Muslims learn anything from a non-Muslim holiday?”” Only, because I am seen by others as a niqabi that takes her religion seriously. However, I came to the U.S at the age of 2. I was taught at an early age to be of a person of open mindness. To look at things in a different prospective and take the good from where ever it may be. However, the last revealed ayah in the Qur’an Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5: 3 where Allah says, (the meaning of which is) “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion. This is Allah telling us that our religion is perfect! However, when advise was given to rasulullah(SAW), from non-Muslims, Rasulullah would take it even though Allah was on his side, the creator of the heavens and the earth. So, it’s okay if we take the good and leave anything that is contradictory to Islam. Nevertheless, the question that I think we should ask, is not whether it’s correct or incorrect to look at the aspects we can learn from within the festivals of the non-Muslims but the qustion that should be asked is I thinkis, WHO IS ON THE STRAIGHT PATH? The non-Muslims who take seriously, ciitzenship rights, humanitarion work(missionaries), the Justice System, correct morals etc. In the city of SanDiego, where I’m from. There was a little Muslim girl who said to her Muslim father, “dad can we have a christmas tree?” And her father said, “no daughter that’s the celebration of the non-Muslims” Then the daughter said to her father, “well, can we have Santa Claus,” and the father said, “that’s also the celebration of the non-Muslims. And the 5 year old daughter said, “well then, can I become a non-Muslim.” I suggest all of the commentators that somewhat find some of the things that this author mentioned a little disagrreeable to please listen to Nouman Ali kHan’s video lecture on ‘the types of Muslim youth(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU1XFry6ixg).’ The mind of our Western Muslim youths is at the stage, in which they assume or believe, that the way of the non-Muslims must be the correct path because they practise generosity, respect, love, fairness etc. more than we find Muslims practising those same values in the West. Again, I’m speaking from expereince. There are many Muslims who do practise the same values, but we are enourmously out weighed by the non-Muslims. Islam is perfect and anything else is oppression. Shaykh Yassir Fazagi said it beautifullly, “A man said I sell vinegar with a candy face, and you sell candy with a vinegary face.” Therefore, even though the non-Muslims are astry, yet they tend to influence Muslims with their because they practise and convey their message with a sweet and respectful way. Islam did not spread with the sword, it spread through the traders who bought and sold among non-Muslims in a generous, trustworthy,and fair way and not through a grumpy face which we tend to have towards our young generation. Wallahu A3lam(And Allah knows best). Just a reminder first to myself and second to my dear brothers and sisters. May we all meet in jannah! Ameen ya Allah.

  27. Avatar

    Ummridhwan

    January 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Asalaamu alaykum. If the non-Muslims are increasing their numbers and are drawing away our numbers of the young believing Muslims because of their strong influence in the way they celebrate their holidays, shouldn’t we as well put more focus on really celebrating extensively without crossing the boundaries Allah set for us and at the same time teach the spiritual aspect of these great holidays of Eid in a way that will win back our numbers?

    • Avatar

      Amanda

      January 8, 2013 at 2:57 AM

      wa alaikum salaam.

      this isn’t a game to see who has more numbers, or who can win more numbers. Allah gives guidance to whom He wills, and lets astray those whom He wills.

      the concern is more on whether we are ‘living up’ the expectations of Eid, our Islamic celebration. do we, young and old, know why we are celebrating Eid? do we look forward to Eid? when Eid comes, are we celebrating it proudly and in the best way? etc.

  28. Avatar

    Said Make

    January 11, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I was wondering why you allowed showing non-Muslim women without hijab in this article.

    *Remainder of Comment noted by MM Team*

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 15, 2013 at 1:28 AM

      Dear Said Make
      JazakAllahu Khairin for pointing this out. We endaevor to limit the photos used with our articles but sometimes depending on the article we have to use pictures that do not have women in hijab. We could not get an image of non-muslim family celebrating christmas that fit the necessary hijab criteria.
      However, we have noted your comment and hope we can avoid usage in future.

      Best Regards
      -Aly

  29. Pingback: WAJiD (wajid) | Pearltrees

  30. Avatar

    salmirah

    May 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Okay the title actually ticked me off, but reading your article further, I could understand how well-thought your ideas are. How much we Muslims are putting Islam in our kids, is indeed a questionable matter. Nowadays our kids are more interested in Christmas, Easter, Halloween and all the Non-Islamic festivals, and the whole liability lies on our shoulder.
    Your article can be an eye-opener for this kind of Muslims, in sha Allah.
    I definitely need to share this, JazakaAllahu khair!

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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#Islam

A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

Dr Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

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The Qur’an describes Muslims committed to its mores as “a moderate nation,” and that sense of balance qualifies them to stand as “witnesses over humanity” (Q 2:143). Contemporary Muslims revel in this assertion, especially when it seems that “Islam” proposes a via media solution to a highly polarizing subject as abortion. What currently constitutes “Islam” on a given topic, however, often reflects the personal prerogative apparently offered to the average Muslim by a list of diverse legal perspectives. In other words, the mere fact that multiple legal opinions exist on one or more topics is now taken as license to appropriate any one of them, without any deep ethical reflection on the implications of the opinion, however anomalous it may be.

“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes” is what certain Muslims would assert. So if one extreme bars abortion under all circumstances and the other seeks to allow it throughout the duration of the pregnancy, one would assume that Islam must land somewhere in the middle, both forbidding and allowing abortion in certain circumstances. This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth. However, the mere existence of multiple opinions on a topic does not mean that each opinion has equal validity, nor does it mean that every opinion is valid for one to adopt. Similarly, “Islam” or “Islamic law” cannot be summed up into a simple formula like “majority rules” or “when in doubt about prohibition or allowance, the action is, therefore, merely disliked.”

Legal positivism plagues both religious and secular-minded people. Just as an act does not acquire its moral strength simply because it is legal, morally appropriate opinions are not always codified into law. If it is true that any unjust law is no law at all, where is the injustice and to whom is it being perpetrated against in the debate between pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Is it deemed unjust to prevent a pregnant woman from disposing of an “insignificant lifeless part of her body” that no one other than herself should be able to decide what to do with? Or is one “depriving a helpless growing person” of the opportunity and right to exist after its Creator initiated its journey into the world? Does a law that prevents a woman impregnated by a family member or rapist from an abortion oppress her? Or does such a law protect the life of a vulnerable fetus, who, like other weak members of society, is expected to be protected by the strong? Does it do both or neither? And if one is taking the “life” of this fetus, what proof is there that it is a living creature?

While these are all extremely important questions, this missive is neither intended necessarily to answer them nor to resolve today’s raging political debate. The main goal here is to offer ideas that should be on the minds of Muslims when deciding to join such debates or promoting the idea that their “religion” provides the best solution to social polarization, when by “religion” we mean the opinion of a small minority of scholars in some place and time in Muslim history.

Islamic law is very sophisticated; the legislative process is not facile, nor is it a place where any Muslim is entitled to pragmatically select the opinions that he/she finds attractive and accommodating. It demands knowledge of particular aims, the ability to properly realize those aims in the lives of people, and understanding the epistemic and metaphysical foundations that ensure that judgments conform to coherent rationale. In other words, the laws of Islam and the opinions of jurists cannot be divorced from their philosophical and evidentiary underpinnings. Otherwise, the thread holding the moral tapestry of Islam together falls apart completely at its seams.

Is Abortion Lawful in Islam?

Many past and present have written about the Islamic view of abortion. The ancient scholars prohibited it at all stages of the pregnancy and made practically no exception. Some would later allow for it only if the mother’s life was in danger. That notwithstanding, six popular legal opinions exist regarding abortion:

  • Unlawful (haram), in all stages of the pregnancy.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), during the first 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Disliked (makruh), before the passage of 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), if it is from illicit intercourse (zina).
  • Permitted (ja’iz) without conditions, before 120 days.
  • Permitted only for a legitimate excuse.

The late mufti of Fez, Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil (d. 2015) said,

The first opinion forbidding that during the [first] 40 [days] and beyond, regardless of whether or not it is due to an excuse, even if from illicit intercourse, is the view of the supermajority [of jurists].[1]

The Qur’an is a Book of Ethical Teaching

The reasons for the cavalier attitude among contemporary Muslims about abortion are multiple. The most significant reason may be that at times Islam is seen as a synonym for shariah. The truth, however, is that the shariah is only part of Islam. Islam covers law (fiqh), creed (aqidah), and ethics (akhlaq). Even though the Qur’an consists of laws, it is not a book of law. It is a book of ethical teachings. Merely 10%–12% of the Qur’an relates to legal injunctions. It is not characteristic of the Qur’an to enjoin upon Muslims to command what is “compulsory” or “recommended” and to forbid what is “unlawful” and “disliked.” What is common though is for it to command us to do what is “ma’ruf” and to avoid what is “munkar.”

“Ma’ruf” and “munkar” can be translated respectively as “what is socially commendable” and “what is socially condemnatory.” This is in spite of the fact that social acceptability and unacceptability are often subjective. This does not mean that the Qur’an is morally relativistic. It is quite the contrary. What this means, however, is that the Qur’an’s aim is not merely to teach Muslims what one can and cannot do. It means, rather, that the Qur’an has a greater concern with what Muslims “should” and “should not” do. For this very reason, the companions of the Prophet seldom differentiated between his encouragement and discouragement of acts by the juristic values of disliked, unlawful, recommended, and compulsory. Rather, if the Prophet encouraged something beneficial, they complied. And, if he discouraged from something potentially harmful, they refrained.

The Qur’an permits many actions. However, to permit an act is not equivalent to encouraging it. It permits polygyny (Q 4:3), the enslavement of non-Muslim war captives (Q 8:70), and marrying the sister of one’s ex-wife (Q 4:23). Similarly, some Muslim jurists validate marriage agreements wherein the man secretly intends to divorce the woman after a certain period of time known only to him.[2] This is the case, even though the average Muslim man is monogamous; practically no Muslim today believes it is moral to enslave a person; the vast majority of Muslims find the marriage of one’s sister-in-law upon the death of one’s wife to be taboo; and they chide men who marry with a temporary intention of marriage. If the mere existence of permission or legal opinion permitting a socially condemnable act is a legitimate reason to adopt it, why would Muslims be uneasy about these cases but inclined to take a different stance when it comes to abortion?

The proper Islamic position on any given issue of public or private concern should not only consider what the law or jurists have to say about the topic. Rather, one should also consider how theology and ethics connect with those laws or opinions. That is to say, one should ask, “What wisdom does God seek to realize from this injunction or opinion?” assuming that such a wisdom can be identified. Secondly, one need ask,

“Who and how many will be helped or harmed if this action is undertaken?”

The Qur’an is the primary source of Islam’s ethics. And, one often observes a major difference between its morality and the morality validated by certain jurists, often lacking a clear connection to Qur’anic and prophetic precepts. That notwithstanding, a juristic opinion can sometimes masquerade as one that is authentically Islamic, especially when it aims to appease or assuage a social or political concern. Consequently, one finds some contemporary scholars championing opinions simply­ because they exist, like that of mainstream Shafi’is who traditionally argued that the reason for jihad was to rid the world of unIslamic doctrines (kufr); or certain contemporaries who validated taking of the lives of innocent women, children, and other non-combatants in suicide bombings; those who endorsed the execution of Jews for converting to Christianity and vice versa;[3] or others who classified slaves as animals rather than human beings?[4] For, surely, there are Muslim jurists who validate each one of these opinions, despite their evidentiary weakness. Hence, simply because there is an opinion allowing for abortions does not necessarily mean that it is something Islam allows, even in cases of rape and incest.

When Does Life Begin?

Medieval Muslim scholars, naturally, lacked the scientific tools that we have today to determine whether or not the fetus growing in its mother’s womb was actually a viable creation and a living creature from conception. Other than when the fetus first showed signs of movement in its mother’s belly, scholars took their cues from the Qur’an and prophetic tradition on when the fetus possessed a soul or if it did so at all. For this reason, very few scholars have offered clear answers to the question of when human life begins, while they agreed that upon 120 days, the child is definitely a living person.

According to the Andalusian scholar of Seville, Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1148),

The child has three states: 1) one state prior to coming into [material] existence …, 2) a state after the womb takes hold of the sperm …, and 3) a state after its formation and before the soul is breathed into it …, and when the soul is breathed into it, it is the taking of a life. [5]

Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said,

Coitus interruptus (‘azl) is not like abortion and infanticide (wa’d) because it [abortion] is a crime against an actualized existence (mawjud hasil). And, it has stages, the first being the stage of the sperm entering into the womb, then mixing with the woman’s fluid, and then preparing for the acceptance of life. To disturb that is a crime. Then, if it becomes a clot (‘alaqah) or a lump (mudghah), the crime is more severe. Then, if the soul is breathed into it and the physical form is established, the crime increases in gravity. [6]

These are some of the most explicit statements from Medieval Muslim scholars; they deemed that life begins at inception. The Qur’an states, “Does man think that he will be left for naught (sudan)? Was he not a sperm-drop ejected from sexual fluid?” (75:36-37). In other words, the “sperm-drop” phase is the start of human existence, and existence is the basis for human dignity, as with other living creatures. The human being was a “sperm-drop.” If that is so, this strongly suggests that meddling with this fluid, even before the fetus begins to grow and develop limbs and organs, would be to violate the sanctity of a protected creature. The Qur’an further says, “Did We not create you from a despicable fluid? And then, We placed you in a firm resting place, until a defined scope” (Q 77:20-22). The use of the second person plural pronoun (you) in these verses strongly suggests that the start of human life begins at inception. This is not to mention the multiple verses forbidding one from killing one’s children due to poverty, fear of poverty, or out of shame or folly.

The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) similarly offers sufficient indication that even though the fetus is not fully formed, it is still an actualized existence and living creature. The Prophet reportedly said, “The miscarried fetus will remain humbly lying with its face down at the gates of heaven saying, ‘I will only enter when my parents do.’”[7] Similarly, it is reported that when the second caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab ordered that an adulteress discovered to be pregnant be stoned to death, the companion, Mu’adh b. Jabal, said to him, “Even if you have a right to punish her, you do not have a right to punish what is in her belly.”[8] The Prophet and his followers after him never executed a pregnant woman guilty of a capital crime until she gave birth and someone had taken on the care of the child. In addition, they imposed a hefty fine on those who were directly responsible for a woman’s miscarriage.[9] All of this indicates that the fetus is to be respected from the time the male’s sperm reaches the ovum of the woman.

Imam Al-Razi’s Ethical Reflection on the Qur’anic Verse, 6:140

God says in the Qur’an, “Ruined are those who murder their children foolishly without knowledge and forbid what God has provided them with while inventing falsehoods against God. They have strayed and are not guided aright” (6:140).

About this verse, Imam Fakr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) comments,

Many issues relate to the verse: the first issue is that God mentioned, in the preceding verse, their murder of their children while depriving themselves of the sustenance that God provided them with. Then, God brings these two matters together in this verse while clarifying to them all that is a logical consequence of this judgment, such as ruin, folly, lack of knowledge, the deprivation of what God has provided them, false statements against God, straying, and the privation of guidance. So these are seven characteristics, each of which is an independent cause for censure. The first is ruin (khusran), and that is because a child is an immense blessing from God upon a person, so when one strives to terminate its existence, he/she suffers great ruin and especially deserves great censure in life and a severe punishment in the hereafter due to terminating its existence. Censure in life is warranted because people say one has murdered one’s child out of fear of it eating one’s food. And there is no censure in life greater than such. Punishment in the hereafter is warranted because the closeness resulting from childbirth is one of the greatest sources of love. Then, upon achieving it, one sets out to deliver the greatest of harms to it [the child], thereby committing one of the gravest sins. As a consequence, one of the greatest punishments is warranted. The second is folly (safahah), which is an expression of condemnable frivolousness. That is because the murder of the child is only committed in light of the fear of poverty. And, even though poverty is itself a harm, murder is a much graver harm. Additionally, this murder is actualized, while the poverty [feared] is merely potential (mawhum). So enforcing the maximum harm in anticipation of a potential minimal harm is, without doubt, folly. The third regards God’s saying, “without knowledge.” The intent is that this folly was only born of the absence of knowledge. And there is no doubt that ignorance is one of the most objectionable and despicable of things. The fourth regards depriving one’s self of what God has made lawful. It is also one of the worst kinds of stupidity, because one denies one’s self those benefits and good things, becoming entitled by reason of that deprivation of the severest torment and chastisement. The fifth is blaspheming God. And it is known that boldness against God and blaspheming Him is one of the cardinal sins. The sixth is straying from prudence (rushd) with relation to the interests of the faith (din) and the benefits found in the world. The seventh is that they are not guided aright. The benefit of it is that a person might stray from the truth but may return to proper guidance. So God clarifies that they have strayed without ever obtaining proper direction. So it is established that God has censured those described as having murdered children and denied what God has made lawful for them, with these seven characteristics necessitating the worse types of censure. And that is the ultimate hyperbole.[10]

The Ethical Contentions of a Moroccan Mufti

We have already quoted Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil of Morocco. Like the medieval scholars, he maintained a very conservative opinion on abortion, allowing it only if the mother’s life was at risk. The following is a list of his nine ethical contentions against abortion and those scholarly opinions allowing it. The bulk of what follows is a literal translation of his views. Regarding why abortion is immoral, he says:

  • Firstly, it is a transgression against a vulnerable creature who has committed neither sin nor crime, a denial of it from its right to existence and life that God has given it and Islam has guaranteed as well as the taking of a life in some situations.
  • Secondly, it is a clear challenge to God’s will and a demonstratively defiant act meant to stubbornly contend with God’s action, creative will, and judgment. And that manifests itself in the murder of what God has created, the voiding of its existence, and a commission of what He deems unlawful.
  • Thirdly, it a decisively demonstrative proof of hard-heartedness, the absence of mercy, and the loss of motherly and fatherly affection or rather the loss of humanity from the hearts of those who daringly undertake the act of abortion with dead hearts and wicked dark souls.
  • Fourthly, it is the epitome of self-centeredness, selfishness, narcissism, and sacrifice of what is most precious¾one’s own flesh and blood, sons and daughters¾to gratify the self and enjoy life and its attractions far away from the screams of infants, the troubles of children, and the fatigue resulting from them.
  • Fifthly, it is a practical expression of one’s bad opinion of God, the lack of trust in His promise to which He decisively bounded Himself to guarantee the sustenance of His creation and servants. It also shows ignorance of His saying, “And, there is not a single creature on earth except that God is responsible for its sustenance, just as He knows its resting place and place from which it departs. Every thing is in a manifest record (Q 11:6); as well as His saying, “And do not kill your children due to poverty. We will provide for you as well as for them” (Q 6:151); in addition to His saying, “And, do not kill your children out of fear of poverty. We will provide for them and for you” (Q 17:31). This is in addition to other verses and prophetic traditions that indicate that all provisions are in God’s control and that no soul will die until it exacts its sustenance in full as the Prophet said.
  • Sixthly, it is a bloody war against the Islamic goal, introduced by the Prophet and to which he called and strongly encouraged, of population growth and increase in posterity.
  • Seventhly, it undermines the aims of the Islamic moral code that considers the preservation of offspring to be one of the five essentials upon which the sanctified revealed moral code is built.
  • Eighthly, it goes against the nature to which God has disposed both animals and human beings to of love of children, childbearing, and the survival of progeny….
  • Ninthly, it is the grossest display of bad manners towards God and the epitome of ingratitude towards a blessing and the rejection of it. And that is because both pregnancy and children are among God’s favors upon His servants and among His gifts to the expectant mother and her husband.

These are some important matters of consideration. Every Muslim, woman, and man, will ultimately need to decide what burdens he/she is prepared to meet God with. While abortion is an emotionally charged matter, especially in Western politics, emotions play no role in the right or wrong of legislation. Although our laws currently may not consider a fetus aborted before its survival outside of the womb to be viable, the Muslim who understands that legal positivism does not trump objective or moral truths should be more conscientious and less cavalier in his/her attitude about the taking of life and removing the viability of life.


[1] Al-Ta’wil, Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Qasim. Shadharat al-Dhahab fi ma jadda fi Qadaya al-Nikah wa al-Talaq wa al-Nasab. Hollad: Sunni Pubs, 2010, p. 148.

[2] Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi Al-Zurqani quotes Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr as saying,

They unanimously agreed that anyone who marries without mention of a particular condition while having the intention to remain with her for a period that he has in mind is permitted (ja’iz), and it is not a temporary marriage. However, Malik said this is not an attractive thing to do (laysi hadha min al-jamil). Nor is it part the conduct of moral people (la min akhlaq al-nas). Al-‘Awza’i took a solitary view saying that it is a temporary marriage. And, there is no good in it (la khayra fihi). ‘Ayyad stated it.

Al-Zurqani, Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi b. Yusuf. Sharh al-Zurqani ‘ala Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, (no date), 3/201.

[3] Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said about the prophetic tradition, “Kill whoever changes his lifepath”, “Some Shafi’i jurists clung to it concerning the killing of anyone who changes from one non-Islamic faith to another non-Islamic faith (din kufr)…”

Al-‘Asqalani, Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari. Muhammad Fu’ad ‘Abd Al-Baqi Edition. Riyadh: Al-Maktabah Al-Salafiyyah, (no date), 12/272.

[4] Al-Ra’ini, Muhammad al-Hattab. Qurrah al-‘Ayn bi Sharh Waraqat al-Imam al-Haramayn. Beirut: Mu’assassah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 2013, p. 78.

[5] Al-Wazzani, Abu ‘Isa Sidi al-Mahdi. Al-Nawazil Al-Jadidah Al-Kubra fi ma li Ahl Fas wa ghayrihim min al-Badw wa al-Qura al-Musammah bi Al-Mi’yar Al-Jadid Al-Jami’ Al-Mu’rib ‘an Fatawa al-Muta’akhkhirin min ‘Ulama al-Maghrib. Rabat: Wizarah al-Awqaf wa al-Shu’un al-Islamiyyah, 1997, 3/376.

[6] Al-Ghazali, Muhammad Abu Hamid. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 491.

[7] This is how Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi relates the report as related by Al-Wazzani in his Nawazil 3/376. In the Musnad of Abu Hanifah, however, the Prophet reportedly said, “You will see the miscarried fetus filled with rage.” When it is asked, “Enter Paradise”, it will respond, “Not until my parents come in [too].” Al-Hanafi, Mulla ‘Ali Al-Qari. Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifah. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1985, p. 252.

[8] Ibn ‘Asakir, Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali b. al-Hasan. Tarikh Madinah Dimashq wa Dhikr Fadliha wa Tasmiyah man hallaha min al-Amathil aw ijtaza bi Nawahiha min Waridiha wa Ahliha. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1997, p. 342.

[9] Among the fines due for causing the miscarriage of a fetus are: 1) prison or flogging; 2) the penance for murder (kaffarah), which is the freeing of a slave, fasting two consecutive months which is compulsory for Shafi’is and recommended for Malikis; and 3) the gifting of a slave to the woman who lost her child.

[10] Al-Razi, Fakr al-Dina. Tafsir al-Fakr al-Razi al-Mushtahir bi Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir wa Mafatih al-Ghayb. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981, pp. 220-221

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Blessed Are The Volunteers | Imam Omar Suleiman

Our communities would not be able to survive Ramadan without these precious souls

Imam Omar Suleiman

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As the rows line up for prayer and the mosques are bursting at the seams, there is a small group of people that watch our backs, arrange our possessions, and prepare to nourish us after our prayers. They’re none other than the volunteers.

It’s not easy being one of them.

You hear the soothing recitation of the Quran in a prayer you’re not able to join because you’re on volunteer duty. And you also hear the painful nonstop complaints about how you’re not doing a good enough job. In those moments it’s easy to throw your arms up and say, “I’m not getting paid for this!” But there are so many better ways to be paid than money.

Allah’s rate is higher and more everlasting.

That doesn’t excuse the people from paying you basic necessary courtesy. Nor does it give you license to be unnecessarily harsh with those you’ve been blessed to serve. Know dear brother and sister that the reward of every prayer performed, every good word spoken, every stomach fed, every tear shed in humility, and every interaction held in tranquility is potentially on your scale of good deeds when you serve Allah through serving His people.

We may not always appreciate you, but Allah never loses sight of you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the reward of the one who serves the fasting person is the reward of that persons fast without decreasing from the reward of the doer in any way. What then of the prayer you facilitate that nourishes the soul? Charity is vast, and the heart of a charitable spirit must be vaster.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم “كُلُّ سُلَامَى مِنْ النَّاسِ عَلَيْهِ صَدَقَةٌ، كُلَّ يَوْمٍ تَطْلُعُ فِيهِ الشَّمْسُ تَعْدِلُ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُعِينُ الرَّجُلَ فِي دَابَّتِهِ فَتَحْمِلُهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ تَرْفَعُ لَهُ عَلَيْهَا مَتَاعَهُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَالْكَلِمَةُ الطَّيِّبَةُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَبِكُلِّ خُطْوَةٍ تَمْشِيهَا إلَى الصَّلَاةِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُمِيطُ الْأَذَى عَنْ الطَّرِيقِ صَدَقَةٌ”.
[رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ]
، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari) (Muslim)

All of this is at your disposal as you welcome people into the houses of Allah with a smile, which is also a charity, seeking no smile but the smile of the Divine on the day of judgment. You may be exhausted in these days of service, but you also are running away with the rewards of everyone’s worship. When someone fails to appreciate you, look forward to the appreciation of Allah as compensation. When someone advises you, smile at them again and consider their counsel.

Blessed is your station, and blessed is your service.

May we not abuse you or fail to appreciate you. May we be patient with you, and you with us. May the prayers we perform elevate us, and you. May our hearts be purified and brought together. May we all make the sacrifices needed to gain Allah’s pleasure, and relieve each other’s pressure. May we all be volunteers freed from our egos, and freely smiling at all in our paths.

May Allah accept you and us on that blessed night of Laylatul Qadr, and allow us to observe with worship, service, and sincerity. Ameen

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