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Fussing Over the 15th of Sha‘ban

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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Question: Is marking out the 15th night of Sha‘ban (laylat al-nisf min sha‘ban) with extra prayers and devotion sanctioned by Islam, or is doing so judged to be a reprehensible innovation (bid‘ah)?

Answer: Each year, a fair amount of fussing and fighting takes place over this issue. Yet the truth of the matter is that scholars have long-held this issue to be one over which there is a valid difference of opinion. The first group considered the night to have no specific virtues over and above any other night of the year, and believed that singling the night out for extra acts of worship is unsanctioned. Another group begged to differ and held that the middle night of Sha‘ban does possess special merits and should be earmarked for extra prayers and devotion.

What follows is a discussion about why such a difference has arisen and how each of the two stances has its legitimacy in the canons of classical Islamic jurisprudence. The discussion will also make a distinction between prayer in mid-Sha‘ban and the prayerof mid-Sha‘ban: the first, as will be shown, is textually grounded; the second, actually unfounded.

I

Although there is no explicit reference to the 15th of Sha‘ban in the actual Qur’an, the hadith corpus does record the merits or fada’il of this night – of which the following hadiths are among the most significant and widely cited:

1. The hadith of Mu‘adh b. Jabal that relates the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying: ‘God looks at His creation during the middle night of Sha‘ban and forgives all of them, except an idolator and one who harbours rancour.’1

2. The hadith of ‘Abd Allah b.‘Amr where the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘God, majestic is He, looks at His creation on the middle night of Sha‘ban and forgives all of His slaves, save an idolater and a murderer.’2

3. The hadith of the lady ‘A’ishah: ‘Allah, exalted is He, descends to the nearest heaven in the middle night of Sha‘ban and His forgiveness is greater than the number of hairs on the sheep [in the tribe] of Kalb.’3

II

At first blush, the bone of contention seems to be settled. For if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has spoken about the merits of mid-Sha‘ban (as per the above hadiths), then who are we to object. That said, the fact of the matter is that the actual authenticities of the above hadiths have been greatly disputed. Hadith specialists differ over whether or not the above words can be reliably ascribed to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Typifying those in ‘the night has no special distinction’ camp is the acclaimed Maliki jurist, Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi, who said: ‘There is no authentic hadith which may be relied upon in respect to the middle night of Sha‘ban; neither about its merits, nor the decree being written in it. So pay no attention to it.’4 Others in this camp include Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Tartushi and al-Hafiz al-‘Iraqi.5

This group of eminent scholars take the view that, although there is a sizeable body of hadiths that speak about the merits of this night, none of these hadiths are free from having defects and flaws in their chains. Some contain narrators whose memory and precision have been called into question. Some contain missing links in their chains. While in other cases they contain narrators whose truthfulness or veracity have been seriously doubted and disparaged.

III

In contrast, there are those who advocate singling out mid-Sha‘ban with optional acts of devotion. Their reasoning is straightforward enough. They take the view that since some of the hadiths about mid-Sha‘ban are only mildly weak they may, according to certain established rules in the science of hadith, be used to strengthen one another to yield a final grading of sahih or hasan (“authentic” or “sound”). On this basis, Ibn al-Salah, the notable Shafi‘i jurists and hadith master, ruled: ‘The middle night of Sha‘ban does have merit. To spend its night in acts of worship is recommended (mustahabb); but on an individual basis, not collectively.’6

Ibn Taymiyyah wrote: ‘Hadiths and salaf-reports about the virtues of the middle night [of Sha‘ban] have been related. It is also reported about a group of the salaf that they would pray during the night. Thus the prayer of someone praying individually during the night has a precedent with some of the salaf, and therefore stands as a proof for it. So it cannot be objected to.’7

In another fatwa, he stated: ‘If someone offers prayer in the middle-night of Sha‘ban, whether individually or collectively, then this is excellent (fa huwa ahsan).’8

In closing his definitive account about the 15th of Sha‘ban and the stance of the early scholars concerning it, Ibn Rajab states: ‘Thus it befits a believer to devote himself in this night to God’s remembrance (dhikr), exalted is He, and to asking Him to pardon one’s sins, conceal one’s faults and relieve his hardships. This should be preceded by offering sincere repentance. For God, exalted is He, relents towards those who turn to Him in repentance.’9

IV

The above is a sample of the juristic difference surrounding mid-Sha‘ban. And insofar as there is a legitimate difference on the subject, there need be no fussing over the 15th of Sha‘ban; no dividing Muslims over it; no deploying it as a benchmark to distinguish ‘pure’ follower of the Sunnah from ‘tainted’ ones; and no whipping up a frenzy among the public by blowing things out of proportion. Wherever such schisms are occurring, they simply have to stop, and repentance be made.

Upon investigation into both views, those qualified in the art of juristic evaluation and who see the validity of the night’s virtue, honour it; those who do not, treat it like any other night. The rest of the Muslims are muqallids; in other words, they simply follow the scholar they trust or feel at ease with in the issue, leaving it at that. Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:

‘Whoever adopts a view by being a muqallid to someone, cannot rebuke one who takes another view due to being a muqallid to someone else. But if one of them does have a conclusive shari‘ah proof, it is required to comply with it when it becomes known. It is not allowed for anyone to to say that one view is preferable to another, without  proof; nor be biased to one opinion over another – or one person over another – without a definitive proof. Instead, one who is a muqallid is obliged to follow a qualified scholar: he cannot evaluate, weigh-up, or say something is right or wrong … As for someone who only knows the opinion of one scholar and his proofs, but does not know the other scholar’s opinion or proofs, he is from the generality of the muqallids. He is not of the scholars who are able to evaluate or weigh-up [proofs].’10

V

The above discussion tackled the subject of prayer in mid-Sha‘ban. As for the prayer ofmid-Sha‘ban, often called salat al-alfiyyah – “Prayer of One Thousand Quls” – many a scholarly objection has been levelled against it. Ibn Taymiyyah, as an example, having endorsed praying optional prayers during this night, cautioned: ‘As for assembling in mosques so as to pray a fixed and defined prayer – such as congregating to offer one hundred rak‘ahs of prayer that require reciting Say: “He Allah, in One!” one thousand times during it – this is an innovation which none of the salaf ever recommended.’11

Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari states about salat al-alfiyyah: ‘How bizarre it is from those who have inhaled the fragrance of the knowledge of the Sunnah that they be taken in by such nonsense and pray it. This prayer was contrived in Islam after the fourth century and originated from Jerusalem.’12

In his documentation of various innovations and infringements against the Sunnah,al-Suyuti wrote: ‘And this includes salat al-alfiyyah, which is prayed in the middle of Sha‘ban. It is a lengthy and arduous prayer which is neither established by any [sound] hadith, nor any weak report from any of the salaf. The masses are put to trial with it, in their striving to perform it.’13

There is, I suggest, a peppering of confusion here. For some people mistakenly use the words of some jurists who have censured salat al-alfiyyah, and have taken this to mean that they object to any prayer or act of worship during the said night. In other words, they have confused between censuring a specific prayer of mid-Sha‘ban and prayer in mid-Sha‘ban. The first censure doesn’t entail the second, as can be seen in the fatwas from Ibn Taymiyyah.

VI

In winding up the discussion, let me gloss two more concerns related to mid-Sha‘ban. The first concerns fasting the 15th day of Sha‘ban, based on the hadith: ‘When it is the middle night of Sha‘ban, pray the night and fast the following day.’14 Al-‘Iraqi is one of a number of hadith masters who have graded this hadith to be weak (da‘if).15 Ibn Rajab concluded likewise,16 as did al-Mundhari.17 Majd b. Taymiyyah declared: ‘The merits of the middle night of Sha‘ban are related in the [hadith] narratives and salaf-reports, proving its virtue. There were those of the salaf who even singled it out with prayer. Also, fasting in Sha‘ban is related in the sound reports: as for specifying the fifteenth day to fast, this has no [sound] basis to it. Rather, it is disliked to do so.’18

Other exhort fasting this day, based on the principle of fada’il al-a‘mal – encouraging “virtuous deeds”. This is the rule which states that, provided a hadith is not a forgery or extremely weak, then it is permitted to put it into practice, if the deed it is encouraging already has a general basis in the shari‘ah.19 In this case, they say to fast the “white [full moon] days” – the 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month – is encouraged in the sahih hadiths; so this forms a general basis for fasting mid-Sha‘ban.

VII

Some people believe that the yearly decree is written down during the 15th night of Sha‘ban; and this is the second and last loose end that will be discussed. The yearly decree is mentioned in the verse: We sent it down on a blessed night, for We are warning. In that night every affair is wisely decided. [44:2-3] Though it is related from ‘Ikrimah, an eminent scholar among the Successors, that he held the night in which every affair is widely decided to be the middle-night of Sha‘ban; a second opinion is related from him which says that the night refers to laylat al-qadr – “The Night of Power”.20 This latter view is also that of the vast majority of scholars.21

Hence, Ibn al-‘Arabi asserted: ‘The majority of scholars hold that it refers to laylat al-qadr. Some have stated that it refers to the night of mid-Sha‘ban; however, this [latter] view is futile.’22

And God knows best.

References:

1. Ibn Majah, no.1390; Ibn Hibban, no.1980. After evaluating eight different chains for this hadith, al-Albani concludes: ’The hadith, with its collective chains of transmission, is authentic (sahih) without doubt.’ Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1979), 3:138.

2. Ahmad, Musnad, no.6642. Al-Albani stated: ‘There is no harm in using this chain as support.’ Refer to: Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihahah, 3:136.

3. Ibn Majah, no.1389; al-Tirmidhi, no.736. Al-Mubarakpuri wrote: ‘Collectively, such hadiths constitute a proof on those who allege that nothing is confirmed with respect to the merits of the middle night of Sha‘ban.’ Consult: Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi bi Sharh Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1990), 3:367.

4. Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, n.d.), 4:1690.

5. See: Kitab al-Mawdu‘at (Riyadh: Adwa al-Salaf, 1997), 2:440-45; al-Mughni ‘an Haml al-Asfar (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Tabariyyah, 1995), 1:157; al-Hawadith wa’l-Bida‘ (Riyadh: Dar al-Samay‘i, 2000), 3:789, respectively.

6. Approvingly cited by al-Suyuti, al-Amr bi’l-Ittiba‘ wa’l-Nahy ‘an’l-Ibtida‘ (Riyadh: Dar Ibn al-Qayyim, 2001), 170.

7. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 23:132.

8. ibid., 23:131.

9. Lata’if al-Ma‘arif (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm & Mu’assasah al-Rayyan, 1996), 154.

10. Majmu‘ Fatawa, 35:233.

11. ibid., 23:131.

12. Al-Asrar al-Marfu‘ah fi’l-Akhbar al-Mawdu‘ah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1986), 439-40.

13. Al-Amr bi’l-Ittiba‘ wa’l-Nahy ‘an’l-Ibtida‘, 176.

14. Ibn Majah, no.1388.

15. Al-Mughni ‘an Haml al-Asfar, 1:157; no.634.

16. Lata’if al-Ma‘arif, 151.

17. Al-Targhib wa’l-Tarhib (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 2003), no.1491.

18. Cited in al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifah, n.d.), 2:317.

19. This principle is discussed in al-Nawawi, al-Adhkar (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2008), 36; Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu‘ Fatawa, 18:65-6; al-Sakhawi, citing Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani,al-Qawl al-Badi‘ (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1987), 215.

20. See: Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1984), 7:336-37, where the two conflicting views ascribed to ‘Ikrimah are reported.

21. Consult: al-Tabari, Jami‘ an Ta’wil al-Qur’an (Cairo: Dar Hijr, 2001), 21:5-6; Qurtubi,al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kutib al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996), 16:84-5; Ibn Kathir,Tafsir Qur’an al-‘Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifah, 1987), 4:148; Sawi, Hashiyah al-Sawi ‘ala Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2000), 5:261; Ibn ‘Ashur, al-Tahrir wa’l-Tanwir (Beirut: Mu’assasah Tarikh al-‘Arabi, 2000), 25:308.

22. Ahkam al-Qur’an, 4:1690.

Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Dawah and Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the Arabic language into English such as "The Exquisite Pearls". Abu Aaliyah's written works and audio lectures can be found online.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Azharuddin Mohammed (@azhar_er)

    June 21, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Jazkallahu khairan for the balanced discussion. May Allah bless all Hanafis and Salafis.

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      June 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      …and Shafi’is, and Malikis, and Hanbalis :) I’m not sure why you singled out the Hanafis there. It’s not a “Hanafi” position. I’m Shafi’i and my teachers taught me the opinion that extra worship in Sha’ban is recommended.

    • Avatar

      Nabiilah Nunnoo

      June 2, 2015 at 12:23 AM

      May Allah bless all those who bears witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His final messenger. :)

    • Avatar

      Abdus Samad Lateef

      May 21, 2016 at 10:34 PM

      Dear Br.
      I an really thankful for this eye opener note
      May Allah Bless you. When i finished the note
      I was surprised to read last sentence.

      Thank you for your eye Jazkallahu khairan for the balanced discussion. May Allah bless all Hanafis and Salafis.

      I feel it should be not Hanahies & Salafis But just Muslims

      Wa Salaam

      Abdus Samad Lateef

  2. Avatar

    tamim ahsan (@tamimahsan93)

    June 21, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I can’t decide myself. :( Such deep discussion certainly can’t help general people decide what’s the right thing that’s for sure. May be you could help us do that. :)
    jazakallah!

    • Avatar

      Abu Aaliyah

      June 22, 2013 at 5:04 AM

      The article wasn’t actually written with the intent to “help general people decide” the issue. Instead, it was written to show that this issue should not be one where Muslims split over or accuse others of being deviant or of being one of the astray Muslim sects.

      As for what a lay person should do, as mentioned in the article [section IV], they simply trust a scholar who they believe is qualified, pious and upright.

      While it is clear there should be no fussing over the 15th of Sha’ban; there needn’t be any stressing over Shab’an too.

      May Allah grant you ease and grace.

      • Avatar

        Uzair Ansari

        June 25, 2013 at 6:32 AM

        Jazakallahu Khairan for the detailed discussion on the topic.

        O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result – Surah An-Nisa Verse 59.

        Also, the reports that some of the salaf (Tabi’een) of Sham used to do voluntary acts of worship needs more discussion. I heard it another lecture that the act was objected to by the scholars of Hijaz at the time like Imam Maalik and his companions. And the Tabi’een themselves engaged in those acts of worship by referring to Israeeliyaat. I’ll try to get the reference Insha Allah if possible

        • Avatar

          Abu Aaliyah

          June 25, 2013 at 7:18 AM

          Jazakallahu khayran Uzair.

          The reports about the tabi’un of Madinah objecting to the practice, and some of the Syrians hounouring the night (some individually, others collectively), is mentioned by Ibn Rajab in his Lata’if al-Ma’arif. I translated the section about seven or eight years back, and have also included it in a booklet I wrote a few years back, called: Fussing Over the 15th of Sha’ban & the Golden Rule of Differing.

          I’m not sure I agree that more discussion is needed. Since it does not change the reality of the difference, nor the two opinions on the matter. Indeed, detail, for detail’s sake, is unwise and uncalled for.

          • Avatar

            Uzair Ansari

            June 25, 2013 at 8:36 AM

            Jazakallahu Khairan,

            The tafseer of the Verse i quoted above should insha Allaah be helpful in coming to a conclusion on whether to perform or to abstain from acts of worship.

      • Avatar

        Ahmed

        May 20, 2016 at 3:48 PM

        Thanks to the author of this, its put my mind at slight ease.

  3. Avatar

    nida

    June 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Jazakallah khayr for sharing. A lot of people are confused by this, I agree with the article that its best to follow the opinion of a scholar you trust.
    Some people I know of make sweet dishes on the 15th, and also other important nights. would this would be considered bidah if its done regularly or just if its believed that its an act of worship? Little confused on what to make of this tradition.

    • Avatar

      Abu Aaliyah

      June 21, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      All I’m aware of is the following ruling concerning your question:

      Al-Munawi, citing Majd b. Taymiyyah:

      ‘Likewise, marking it out for festivities by preparing different
      foods and sweet dishes, and putting up decorations comes
      under the category of celebrations that are newly innovated,
      for which there is no basis.’ [Fayd al-Qadir, 2:317]

      And Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        Nida

        June 22, 2013 at 4:43 AM

        Jazakallah khayr.

  4. Avatar

    khalidrocKhalid Roche

    June 21, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Specifying the day of the 15th of Sha’baan by fasting or reciting the Qur.aan or performing naafilah prayers

    Question:

    We see some people specifying the 15th of Sha’baan with particular supplications and reciting the Qur.aan and performing naafilah prayers. So what is the correct position concerning this, and may Allaah reward you with good?

    Response:

    That which is correct is that fasting the 15th of Sha’baan or specifying it with reciting (the Qur.aan) or making (particular) supplications has no basis. So the day of the 15th of Sha’baan is like any other 15th day of other months. So from that which is known is that it has been legislated for a person to fast the 13th, 14th and 15th of every month, however, Sha’baan is characterised unlike the other months in that (except for Ramadhaan) the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) used to fast more in Sha’baan than any other month . So he used to either fast all of Sha’baan or just a little. Therefore, as long as it does not cause difficulty for a person, it is befitting to increase in fasting during Sha’baan in adherence to the example of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam).

    Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen
    al-Bid’u wal-Muhdathaat wa maa laa Asla lahu – Page 612
    Fataawa Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Saalih al-’Uthaymeen – Volume 1, Page 190

    Standing the night of the 15th of Sha’baan in prayer and fasting during it’s day

    Question: Is standing the night of the 15th of Sha’baan in prayer and fasting during it’s day legislated?

    Response: Nothing firm and reliable has been established on the authority of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) that he stood in prayer in the night and fasted during the day of the 15th of Sha’baan. So the night of the 15th of Sha’baan is like any other night, and if someone is a regular worshipper during other nights, then he may stand the night in prayer on this night without assuming anything special (because of it being the night of the 15th of Sha’baan). This is because specifying a time for any act of worship requires a authentic proof, so if there is no authentic proof then the act is regarded as an innovation and all innovations are misguidance. Likewsie, regarding specifically fasting during the 15th day of Sha’baan, then no (authentic) proof has been established on the authority of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) to indicate the legislation of fasting on that particular day.

    As for that which is mentioned from the ahaadeeth regarding this subject, then all of it is weak as the people of knowledge have indicated. However, whoever has the habit of fasting the 13th, 14th and 15th (of every month), then he can continue and fast during Sha’baan as he fasts during the other months, without assuming anything special about the 15th of Sha’baan. Also, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) used to increase in fasting during this month (Sha’baan), however, he did not particularise the 15th day, rather proceeded as per norm.

    Shaykh Ibn Fowzaan
    al-Bid’u wal-Muhdathaat wa maa laa asla lahu – Page 614
    Noorun alad-Darb Fataawa Shaykh Saalih Ibn Fowzaan – Volume 1, Page 87

    Giving sadaqah specifically on the night of 15th of Sha’baan

    Question:

    When my father was alive, he entrusted me to give sadaqah (charity) according to my means on the 15th of Sha’baan every year, and likewise I have been doing this ever since. However, some people have admonished me for doing so saying it is not permissible. So is giving sadaqah on the night of the 15th of Sha’baan permissible according to the willment of my father or not? Kindly advise us and may Allaah reward you with good.

    Response:

    To specify the giving of sadaqah on the night of the 15th of Sha’baan every year is an innovation, and despite your father having entrusted you with that, it is not permissible. It is befitting you give this sadaqah without specifying the night of the 15th of Sha’baan, rather do so every year and in whichever month, but without particularising any one month (on a consistent basis). However, it is permissible to do so in the month of Ramadhaan (for the evidence which indicates so).

    And with Allaah lies all success and may Allaah send prayers and salutations upon our Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) and his family and his companions.

    The Permanent Committee for Islaamic Research and Fataawa

    al-Bid’u wal-Muhdathaat wa maa laa Asla lahu – Page 611
    Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa.imah lil-Buhooth al-’Ilmiyyah wal-Iftaa. – Fatwa No. 9760

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      June 22, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      I don’t get it, did you even read the article?

      • Avatar

        idesireranks

        June 24, 2013 at 1:54 AM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        There is nothing wrong with providing a fatwa by one of the most beneficial men from this Ummah, Muhammad Salih ibn Uthaymeen. Just because he isn’t like everybody else and saying “yes we must have tolerance” doesn’t mean his comment has nothing to do with the article.

        I also follow this and think this is the most correct opinion. I would tell others what I think is right, and obviously provide fatwas because this is part of enjoining on what is right and forbidding what is wrong. There were two peoples befores us who followed their religious leaders who made halal, haram and vice versa and that was their worship of them. So, all Muslims should seek out guidance.

        • Avatar

          Abu Asiyah

          June 24, 2013 at 1:40 PM

          wa ‘alaykum assalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

          Brother I love you for the sake of Allah and may He accept your intentions to please him. I would like to disagree with you on this though. The above article discussed why both opinions are acceptable. You seem to be intent that only one is correct. Since you are following the opinion of these shyookh, you are not a mufti yourself, you are a muqallid of the above scholars (May Allah have mercy on them). Therefore it is not your position to think what is the most correct opinion – that’s the job of the scholars. Neither is it your job to forbid the wrong in matters of fiqh when there is a legitimate difference of opinion and you are not qualified to hold an opinion. Plain and simple.

          Furthermore, considering the above article went over the position against singling out the 15th of Sha’ban for worship, the fatwas you posted don’t add to the discussion. What they do add to is “fussing over the 15th of Sha’ban”.

          May Allah guide us all to correct conduct, ameen.

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            June 24, 2013 at 3:09 PM

            ?????????

            The person who posted the fatwa and me are different people.

            “You seem to be intent that only one is correct.”

            I said that was my opinion. Obviously you are intent that it is correct. Both cannot be correct and the same time. One is wrong and the other is right.

            “Since you are following the opinion of these shyookh, you are not a mufti yourself, you are a muqallid of the above scholars (May Allah have mercy on them). Therefore it is not your position to think what is the most correct opinion – that’s the job of the scholars.”

            Assign whatever labels you want to me, they are irrelevant to me. I have the right to think what is the most correct opinion. The scholars are not our Lords. Your comment is not going to prevent me from telling certain brothers, for example, that riba in kaffir countries IS haram, that alcohol besides wine IS haram, and that marriage without a wali IS zina.

            Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from `Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, `Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah . `Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai’) and whose father, Hatim At-Ta’i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, `Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck. The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

            ﴿اتَّخَذُواْ أَحْبَـرَهُمْ وَرُهْبَـنَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ﴾

            (They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah). `Adi commented, “I said, `They did not worship them.”’ The Prophet said,

            «بَلَى إِنَّهُمْ حَرَّمُوا عَلَيْهِمُ الْحَلَالَ وَأَحَلُّوا لَهُمُ الْحَرَامَ فَاتَّبَعُوهُمْ فَذَلِكَ عِبَادَتُهُمْ إِيَّاهُم»

            (Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshiped them.)
            http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2565&Itemid=64

            “May Allah guide us all to correct conduct, ameen.”

            Ameen.

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            June 24, 2013 at 3:10 PM

            Gibran and idesireranks are the same person. Somehow, idesireranks was posted. The original poster is a person named khalid. He is different from Gibran/idesireranks

        • Avatar

          Abu Aaliyah

          June 25, 2013 at 7:40 AM

          Jazakallahu khayran. But you seem to be forgetting the part where the article cites Ibn Taymiyyah saying:

          “It is not allowed for anyone to say that one view is preferable to another, without proof; nor be biased to one opinion over another – or one person over another – without a definitive proof. Instead, one who is a muqallid is obliged to follow a qualified scholar: he cannot evaluate, weigh-up, or say something is right or wrong.”

          So for you to “think that this is the most correct opinion”, you would have had to exam the chains of narrations of each relevant hadith, to determine their level of soundness or weakness; or you would have had to look at the arguments for and against the hadiths being sound; and ONLY then would you have the authority to say it is right or wrong, preferable or not preferable.

          But as for acting on permissible taqlid, and thus trusting a scholar, disqualifies you from thinking it is most correct or not. As Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘As for someone who only knows the opinion of one scholar and his proofs, but does not know the other scholar’s opinion or proofs, he is from the generality of the muqallids. He is not of the scholars who are able to evaluate or weigh-up [proofs].’

          If you have a chance, please do read the following piece I wrote about when a Muslim layman has a duty to correct wrongdoing, and when he does not have a duty; nor even have a right:

          http://thehumblei.com/2013/06/10/muslim-misunderstandings-the-war-of-words/

          May Allah bless you and increase us both in understanding and nearness to Him, and in love and honour for each other.

    • Avatar

      ashraf

      June 1, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      What’s wrong on praying on 15th of Shabaan? later when we die and find out oops there was so much benefit if we would had prayed on that night can you bring that time back?

  5. Avatar

    azmathmoosa

    June 22, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    thanx. May Allah protect us from cultist mentality.

  6. Avatar

    The Shardul of Allah

    June 22, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    I think the article should have included a discussion about why some scholars call the hadith about 15 of Shabaan weak or strong. For example, if a scholar has said that the hadith is weak, we needed to know why he called it weak. Does the chain of narrators include someone who had weak memory or who was not very well known or who was not very righteous? If the answer is yes, who are they? What are their names? Tell us about them. Also, we need to know about why some scholars think that the hadith has no flaw. For these scholars, who think that the hadith has no problem with authenticity, how do they refute those who say that there are problems with the narrators?

    This article merely states two opinion, but does not explain the whys behind each position.

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      June 22, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      the scholars would already know that and a student of knowledge who is not qualified to make his/her decision on the matter doesn’t need to know. I’m not sure why that’s crucial, the point is that both opinions are valid.

  7. Avatar

    Taimur

    June 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    MashAllah .. a beautifully balanced discussion. I believe this is a blessed night but with no special worship assigned to it however I respect my brothers an sisters who hold the other position. May Allah (SWT) keep the bonds of brotherhood strong among all the Muslims.

  8. Avatar

    shabier

    June 23, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    slmz bro

    Could you please clarify why Almighty Allah have to decree on a yearly basis for His creation ,mentioned in the above point :vii” whereby it is clearly stated in the Hadith of Abdullah bin Mas`ud (RA):Bukhari volume 4, book 54, number 430 : that Almighty Allah had already decreed for mankind 4 things…..

  9. Avatar

    Ahsan Raza

    June 24, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Jazakallah brother. very informative article.

  10. Avatar

    Mohammad Rafique

    June 27, 2013 at 3:02 AM

    Very nice and informative Islamic article. May Allah reward you.

  11. Avatar

    Umme Shariq (Fahmida waqar)

    August 29, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    Alhamdulillah, a very informative article. Jazak Allah for giving both views in detail. Mysincere wish is that in articles we use Allah Subhana wa Ta’als name rather than God and Rdi-Allahu Ta’ala for Ummahatul Momineen. I hope its allowed, I am a lay man.

    Please keep it up , I would like to read more of your articles Abu Aliyah, Insha Allah.

  12. Pingback: The Significance Of Sha'ban | Muslimommy Muslimdaddy

  13. Avatar

    Fuad Johnson

    June 1, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Alhamdulilah, always good to see different views.

  14. Avatar

    Irfan

    June 2, 2015 at 1:01 AM

    Hi to all of brithers nd sisters, its a great debate i admir, can u plz let me know about the sweets / fiids prepare nd givn un the nane of Allah nd his prophet (PBUH)
    As i was reading one of the answer was innovation, i.e it was not thr before,
    As its very trure tht one shd do such things on regular basis, so why not on this special night of 15 shaban, as we cook sweets on ths night each year, though we also fo the same on other days as well, specialy on nochandi jumiraat, plz explain nd clearfy,
    Warm wishes nd dua.

  15. Avatar

    Mussa

    May 20, 2016 at 6:56 PM

    Jazaka-Allah! !

    I wish this site be translated into other languages so that it could reach to many peoples.

  16. Avatar

    Muneeb

    May 21, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    Shukran for add and acceptance

  17. Avatar

    Safoora

    May 23, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Jazāk Allāhu Khayran

  18. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 7:43 AM

  19. Avatar

    Imran Khan

    May 10, 2017 at 11:45 AM

    As Salamu alykum Shaykh

    I have’nt read the full article.But you said there are two opinions on this issue.In fact,there is three.

    1)First group of scholars say that there is no virtue of this night and we should not specify the night for worship.

    2)Second group of scholars says that this night has special virtues but we should not specify it for worship.

    3)Special virtue and specify this night for worship.

  20. Avatar

    15 Shaban

    March 29, 2018 at 6:27 AM

    The month of Sha’ban contains uncountable advantages and the 15 shaban of this month is unique as it is a night when Muslims worship whole night

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

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

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

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

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

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

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

Open grave

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

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

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

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israel, occupied Palestine

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

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

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

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

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

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

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

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

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

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

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

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

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

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

4) The Israeli lobby

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

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

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

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

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

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

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

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

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

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

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

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

Show Your Work

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Charity

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

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

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

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

Dawa is the new Jihad

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

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

No Standards or Accountability

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

The Shift to Meaninglessness

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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