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Stoppage Time: FIFA World Cup and Your Spirituality

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By Ehab Hassan

That time we’ve all been waiting for is finally here – the 2014 FIFA World Cup!

This year, Brazil will be hosting the 20th World Cup soccer tournament from June 12 – July 13 and it’s the biggest sporting event on the planet. It’s that time when the entire world stops to watch and people’s problems seem to fade away. It’s a time to root for that underdog, cheer for the powerhouse, or if you know soccer well enough, tune in to watch your favorite players. It is the biggest global event – with new stadiums, unprecedented prize money from FIFA, and an estimated one billion viewers.

Growing up, I was much more into watching the World Cup than I am today, and even though you can still count me among the billion viewers this year, I don’t go quite as crazy over it as I used to. As a kid, I would pick my team (then pick another team once they got eliminated) and cheer for them until my voice was gone. Yes, it was that important.

Those close games would have my heart pounding and my adrenaline rushing, and you knew it was going to have a great ending. Suddenly, the game clock would stop at 90 minutes. That’s when you knew the game was going to get exciting. Stoppage time!

For you non-soccer fans out there, unlike most other sports, soccer has a running clock. During the game, if someone gets hurt, the ball goes out of bound, a fight breaks out, or for any reason play doesn’t continue; the clock doesn’t stop like it does in other sports; but instead, the referee keeps track of the time so that it can be added on to the end of the game. Nobody except the referee knows officially how much time is left when stoppage time starts or exactly when he’ll decide to stop the game. But you do know one thing – the time left is very, very little.

This drives people to push themselves to their utmost and you see some of the best soccer plays at that time. This includes amazing game-winning shots, heart breaking goals scored, and crowds going wild. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Even the players who are dead tired and drenched in sweat give it their all in those last few minutes – fighting even harder than they did all game.

Everything is on the line and time is of the essence. It’s that final push. If players are thirsty, they go without water. If they are tired, they go without rest. They cannot let up for a second, because they do not know if each moment, that single play, will be the last – they play until the referee blows the final whistle. Only at that instant when the whistle is blown, can the players collapse on the field, exhausted after a hard fought battle. It is over and there is nothing more they can do – they have either lost or they walk away as champions.

A few precious moments to give it all we can

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized – we’re living in stoppage time. I finally started to understand that that’s what our life is. A few precious moments to give it all we can even though we don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We only know that our time is short. At any moment, our time will be up and our whistle will be blown. If we’re tired, then we go without rest. If we’re thirsty or have other desires distracting us from our mission, then we do without them, for just a little bit longer. It’s not a time for rest, but a time to give it everything we got no matter how exhausted we are. Anything we do, no matter how big or small could be our final play, our final moment. We give it our all because in this short time we have to prove ourselves so that, by the grace of Allah, we can live forever as champions.

We see people around us dying every day. Some die after long, drawn out illnesses, and others suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. How would we live our lives if we knew our time was short? I had a friend who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Just days after I heard the news, he invited me to play an online game against him; a game I was already playing with other friends. I thought to myself – what is he doing? Doesn’t he realize that his days are numbered? Does he not know that he’s dying? What is he doing with the life he has left? But then I thought to myself – are my days not numbered? Am I not going to die? He’s just more aware of it than I am. How am I making a difference in the world with the time that I do have? How am I preparing myself to stand before the Lord of the Worlds?

When it’s our time to go, what will our legacy be? Will it be that we had a 9 to 5 job and were miserable doing it? Or will it be that we did something that mattered? Will it be that we impacted the lives of our family, friends, and those around us? Will it be that we took advantage of every day of our lives and made a difference in the world? Who will miss us when we’re gone? Will we have any regrets, or did we live our lives to the fullest?

As I walked out of my office building one day, a coworker who I had never met before shared an elevator ride with me. We engaged in some small talk and started walking down the street, when I noticed that we were approaching a homeless man. So naturally, I avoided eye contact, and tried to look more engaged in my conversation with my coworker. Then suddenly, my coworker told me it was nice talking to me and that maybe he would see me around some time. Then he turned to the homeless man with a dollar in his hand and with a huge smile on his face cried out, “Dave!” The homeless man, an elderly man in a wheelchair, replied, “Chris, how have you been?” I kept walking and thought to myself, now that’s a man who will be missed one day. That should have been me.

Although we don’t like to think of it too much, no one has ever escaped death. But we live our lives as if we may be the first. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “Every soul will taste death…” ( Al-‘Anbya’ 21:35)

I came across lyrics to a song once that read: “We are young, wandering the face of the earth, wondering what our dreams might be worth, learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “Until when the angel of death comes to one of them, he says, [For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back That I might do righteousness in that which I left behind’… ” (Al- Mu’minun 23:99-100).

 

So while you’re enjoying the World Cup games this year, make sure you take a moment to reflect. Enjoy the games, but don’t get too caught up – there is a reason why it’s called a game. As we have time to appreciate the fun and permissible things in life, such as sports, remember in the words of Nike: “Life’s short. Play hard.”

 

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Maqbool

    June 14, 2014 at 12:37 AM

    Mashallah, this was a great article, with a great mission

    I like to think of this world as waiting at the airport, in transit for a few hours, before we catch our next flight

    Our transit time at the airport consists of being online, having a meal, reading the paper and visiting the gift shop and being mildly amused at the shiny trinkets there. Most of us dont even have access to the VIP lounge where you can can have better food or have access to a bed.

    Life is the same way, in my humble opinion

    but the 9-5 that you mentioned can really be distracting. It also sucks life out of you, leaving little energy for much else.

    this whole world is designed to distract you: consisting of long work hours, long commutes and traffic jams, constant living in fear of trivial things like getting fired or family drama

  2. Avatar

    Hyde

    June 14, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Outside the most idiotic of games ever, I concur with the messages .

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      June 15, 2014 at 1:03 AM

      You calling soccer idiotic bro?
      It is the most beloved game on the planet and in every country apart
      from North America and South Asia. You are free to dislike it, but
      much appreciated if you kept it at that and didn’t venture into calling
      it “idiotic”…Does that make all of us who love it “idiots”?

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        June 15, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        Nonsense. I did not call anybody idiots by any extension. The game, or any international hyperbole event or where people gather for absolute frivolous reasons like concerts, Olympic games, these pathetic football debuts are all a tremendous waste of time.

        THINK what times we live in, think why kicking a ball around gives so much celebrity status. Everything going around us and this is what we love, a game where grown men in shorts kick a ball around for 90 minutes surrounded overzealous hooligans ?

        Was it not couple of years where in a in house Egyptian game, people died ? What ?!?!?! Muslims dying over a “damn” football game ? How cheap is Muslim blood really ? Shame shame all around.

        Was there not a Taliban attack in Karachi ? Guess what the pathetic shilled out media was covering ? Fifa world cup ? The youth of Pakistan or any other country is more focused on the world cup. ??

        One look around this desolate globalized earth, where every imaginable sin and deceit in perpetuated in longevity and open air, then one would not care if there was a galactic world cup or global…a silly waste of time.

        Entertainment and bread. Keep the masses the sullied and enslaved.

        • Avatar

          ZAI

          June 16, 2014 at 5:28 AM

          Br Hyde,
          This is a religion of balance. What you advocate and how you’re doing it will do nothing to solve the world’s problems, nor will it draw people to Islam. Please refer to the narration about Hanzalah(R). There is a time for this, and a time for that my brother. This religion does not forbid leisure and enjoyment nor does it denigrate sports, whether participating or watching.

          “The game, or any international hyperbole event or where people gather for absolute frivolous reasons like concerts, Olympic games, these pathetic football debuts are all a tremendous waste of time.”

          No one spends ALL of their time doing something serious. It is against human nature and everyone needs a break. What you’re advocating is the life of a despressing ascetic or a fanatical ideologue. Sorry my brother, but I don’t know what religion that is…it sure isn’t Islam. Our Prophet and the Sahaba(R) were besieged on all sides, fighting for their lives, suffering, being oppressed, etc..but life never stopped and it wasn’t all fighting and praying. They made time for fun…every day leisure and enjoying life within the boundaries of Islam.

          Something maybe frivolous, but necessary for a healthy state of mind. Since when is enjoyment forbidden by this religion? On the authority of what hadith or Qur’anic verse do you make people feel guilty for taking a break and enjoying a game for a few hours?

          You underestimate the power of sports my brother. Aside from the discipline, work ethic and striving for excellence it instills in practitioners, watching it serves as a way of bringing people, even nations, together and I’m sorry you have such a cynical view of it all.

          One of my close friends travels to Afghanistan every summer to run a soccer camp for girls and through that has brought a lot of joy to their poor lives…to children who have nothing. He has also exposed them to new experiences, taking them to Qatar and UAE to participate in girls tournaments, helped them secure soccer scholarships so they can get an education and taught them to have pride, a hard work ethic, and discipline…all through that game. Sorry that’s all a frivolous waste of time for you. I think those girls would all disagree.

          “Was it not couple of years where in a in house Egyptian game, people died ? What ?!?!?!”

          My brother, people die in Hajj too…especially during the stoning ritual.
          The behavior of certain people or a tragic event doesn’t make the whole exercise of something a thing to be shunned.

          “Muslims dying over a “damn” football game ? How cheap is Muslim blood really ? Shame shame all around.”

          Brother, thousands of times of Muslims are dying over RELIGIOUS issues by fighting over the deen. It dwarfs some soccer riot a thousand times over. I would also ask, “how cheap is Muslim” blood? Atleast vast majority of people playing soccer aren’t killing each other.

          “Was there not a Taliban attack in Karachi ? Guess what the pathetic shilled out media was covering ? Fifa world cup ? The youth of Pakistan or any other country is more focused on the world cup. ??”

          Are you kidding or what? Pakistani, Arab and even European channels were covering the Taliban siege the whole time it was happening. I even saw coverage on Afghan satellite, BBC, Al Jazeera America, most newspapers and even the God-awful CNN. Brother it is possible to be aware of what’s going on in the world and ALSO just live your every day life…including watching a game. Life is not as stark as either/or.

          “One look around this desolate globalized earth, where every imaginable sin and deceit in perpetuated in longevity and open air, then one would not care if there was a galactic world cup or global…a silly waste of time.”

          Are you talking about human beings or some kind of ideologue robot?
          Get real man…Most people are just living their lives, trying to make a living, take care of their kids, pay their bills and get through the day…and once in a while they catch a game on TV to relax. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the world…but any realistic person knows your life can’t be consumed by everything all the time.

          “Entertainment and bread. Keep the masses the sullied and enslaved.”

          There is a time for this and a time for that my Brother….and referring to people as “the masses” probably won’t draw too many of them to your message.

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            June 17, 2014 at 10:48 AM

            All right, that’s a disingenuous: juxtaposing what I am saying to helping out young girls have some enjoyment in their lifetime by playing football in Afghanistan. In fact your entire rebuttal is purposely missing the point. No where I am advocating that we hide under the bed and not do anything or not have any leisure fun for games and sports. Of course sports are necessary. They built bonds, discipline and character. I used to be an active participant in all sorts of sports myself.

            And I am no messenger with a message. My point was the over zealous grand jubilees of incessant nationalism and grandiloquent displays of musch. The issue of mass entertainment. Over glorified money pandering schemes and further I did not interject religion so much into my argument. I made a simple point of the pathetic delusional “high” the masses are to receive from such hyperbolic events.

            You really missed my point brother. It’s not the masses that are robots, it’s they are made automatons with the servile mass entertainment

            (“Entertaining us to death”).

          • Avatar

            ZAI

            June 17, 2014 at 2:32 PM

            It’s not disingenuous at all Brother. You said the GAME was idiotic in your first comment, then you followed up with a diatribe about participating or watching the game while various other problems exist in the world…as if it’s not possible to enjoy a game and care about the world at the same time.

            If you want to criticize the BAD aspects of the tournament…such as the waste of billions of dollars in construction, advertising, human rights abuses in places like Brazil or Qatar, or people who take sports to an extreme wherein it becomes an obsession, etc. I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Be more precise.

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            June 17, 2014 at 4:12 PM

            I did become precise with my comments below.

        • Avatar

          Hyde

          June 16, 2014 at 8:59 AM

          (Okay iffy iffy I was bit too harsh, I can say ‘okay okay’, you can “enjoy” the game, but I still stand by that it is a an “idiotic” game unlike cricket of course hehe and that any mass hyperbolic entertainment festivals are just frivolous and morose concentrated to sway minds from else matters that require more concern)

          • Avatar

            Balooh

            June 16, 2014 at 10:57 AM

            True say Mr Hyde. ” Keep the masses sullied and enslaved.”
            I know someone who usually prays with jamaat in the masjid but as its world cup he has thought it’s a good idea to pray at home so he doesn’t miss any of it. May Allah accept all our prayers, but to break such a good habit for something quite meaningless, not so good.

            Too much focus on entertainment and too little on what’s real.
            We all are probably a little guilty of it to some extent, may Allah guide us.

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            June 16, 2014 at 12:37 PM

            Guilty we all are, and that definitely includes me. Not like I am a five time praying mufti, but the way I see it, even though I can’t inject the vaccine into my body, I still can diagnosis the disease (trying not to sound too presumptuous)

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
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While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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Complicated?:​ ​The A-Z of Women’s Modern Fiqh | Sh Waleed Basyouni

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Can Women Attend The Burial Of The Deceased?

A short survey on what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue

Quran at graveyard, woman attend burial
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A few weeks ago, my brother passed away, may Allah have mercy on his soul. By Allah’s grace, his funeral was well-attended by many friends, relatives, and students of his, including a number of women. In this context, someone asked me about the Sharia’s guidance regarding women attending the burial of the deceased, and in what follows I consider what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue. The short survey below is by no means exhaustive, something that will need to be left for a much longer piece, but I hope it can be considered representative for the purposes of a general readership. 

This is not a fatwa, but rather a brief outline of what past scholars have argued to be the case with some suggestions as to how this might be understood in modern times. Finally, I should note that this is a discussion about accompanying the deceased to their final resting place (ittiba‘/tashyi‘ al-jinaza) after the conducting of funeral prayers (salat al-janaza). Accompanying the deceased on the part of women is considered more contentious than simply attending the funeral prayer, so in general, jurists who permit such accompaniment would allow for attending the prayer, while jurists who do not permit accompaniment of the deceased may be more reluctant to permit prayer. Whatever the specific cases may be, I do not go into this discussion below.

Key positions and evidence

In brief, I have been able to discern three general positions regarding women accompanying the deceased until they are buried: 1. A clear majority of scholars indicate that women are permitted to attend the burial of the deceased, but it is generally discouraged (makruh). 2. Some scholars permitted elderly women’s attendance of the burial unconditionally. 3. Others prohibited all women’s attendance unconditionally.

Overall, it is clear that most schools have permitted women’s attendance of burial, with most of these scholars discouraging it for reasons we shall consider below. The notion that women should not attend the burial of the deceased will thus clearly be shown to be a minority position in the tradition, past and present. Being a minority position does not mean it cannot be practiced, as we will consider in due course. The evidence from the Sunnah is the main legal basis for the ruling, and I shall now consider the most authentic hadiths on the matter.

The general rule for legal commands is that they apply to both genders equally. Accordingly, in a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) strongly encouraged attending the burial of the deceased. That the ruling for women would be one of discouragement (karaha) rather than of encouragement (istihbab) would thus necessarily arise from countervailing evidence. This may be found in another hadith narrated by both of the earlier authorities. This short hadith is worth quoting in full: 

(‏متفق عليه‏) قالت أم عطية: نهينا عن اتباع الجنائز، ولم يعزم علينا

In translation, this reads: Umm ‘Atiyya said, “We were prohibited from following the funeral procession, but it was not insisted upon.”

Interpreting the evidence

The Sharia’s ruling on this matter hinges on how this hadith is understood. On this point, scholars of various schools have adopted a range of positions as outlined earlier. But on the specifics of how the wording of the hadith should be understood, it is worth considering the reading of one of the towering figures of hadith studies, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449). In his authoritative commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari entitled Fath al-Bari, he glosses the phrase in the aforementioned hadith “but it was not insisted upon” as meaning, “the prohibition was not insisted upon.” He adds: “It is as though she is saying: ‘it was discouraged for us to follow the funeral procession, without it being prohibited.’”

The hadith has, however, been interpreted in various ways by the schools of law. A useful summary of these interpretations may be found in encyclopedic works of fiqh written in recent decades. In his al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu, the prolific Syrian scholar Wahba al-Zuhayli (d. 1436/2015) notes (on p. 518) that the majority of jurists consider women’s joining the funeral procession to be mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi) on the basis of the aforementioned hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya. However, he adds, the Hanafis have historically considered it prohibitively discouraged (makruh tahrimi) on the basis of another hadith in which the Prophet reportedly told a group of women who were awaiting a funeral procession, “Return with sins and without reward.”

Al-Zuhayli inclines towards this ruling despite noting in a footnote that the hadith he has just mentioned is weak (da‘if) in its attribution to the Prophet. However, he also adds that the Malikis permitted elderly women to attend the burial of the deceased unconditionally, and also young women from whom no fitna was feared. What constitutes fitna is not generally specified in these discussions and perhaps needs further study, but one contemporary Hanafi defines it as “intermingling with the opposite sex,” and thus suggests that where there is no such intermingling between members of the opposite sex, it is permissible for young women to attend funerals and burials.

Another valuable encyclopedic source for learning about the juristic rulings of various schools and individual scholars is the important 45-volume al-Mawsu‘a al-Fiqhiyya compiled by a team of scholars and published by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments a quarter of a century ago. In its section on this issue, it notes that the Hanafis prohibitively discourage women’s attendance of the funeral procession, the Shafi‘is mildly discourage it, the Malikis permit it where there is no fear of fitna, and the Hanbalis mildly discourage it. The reasoning behind these positions may be found in the Arabic original, and ought to be made available in English by Muslims in the West investing in translating such voluminous works into English. 

From the above, we may gather that of the four schools, only the pre-modern Hanafis prohibit women’s attendance of funeral processions. I have already indicated one example of a modern Hanafi who moves closer to the position of the less restrictive schools in this issue, but it is worth highlighting another. Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Itr (b. 1355/1937), one of the greatest Hanafi hadith experts alive today, in his commentary on the hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya writes that the report indicates that women’s attending a funeral procession is only mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi). Additionally, in a footnote, he criticises a contemporary who interprets the hadith as indicating prohibition and then proceeds to cite the less restrictive Maliki position with apparent approval.

The fiqh of modernity

In none of the above am I necessarily arguing that one of these positions is stronger than the other. I present these so that people may be familiar with the range of opinions on the matter in the Islamic tradition. However, this range also indicates the existence of legitimate difference of opinion that should prevent holders of one position from criticising those who follow one of the legitimate alternatives with the unfounded charge that they are not following the Qur’an and Sunna.

Furthermore, there are often interesting assumptions embedded in the premodern juristic tradition which modern Muslims find themselves out of step with, such as the assumption that women should generally stay at home. This is clearly an expectation in some of the fiqh literature, and in modern times, we sometimes find that this results in incoherent legal positions being advocated in Muslim communities. We find, for example, that in much of the premodern fiqh literature, Hanafis prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna, while we live in times in which women frequently work outside the home. As one of my teachers in fiqh, the Oxford-based Hanafi jurist Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, once remarked in class, is it not absurd for a scholar to prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna while none of these scholars would prohibit a woman from going to a mall/shopping centre?

This underlines the need for balanced fiqh that is suited to our times, one that allows both men and women to participate in spiritually elevated activities, such as going to the mosque and attending funerals while observing the appropriate Islamic decorum, so that the rest of their lives may be inspired by such actions. The answer to modernity’s generalised spiritual malaise is not the shutting out of opportunities for spiritual growth, but rather its opposite. This will only come about when Muslims, individually and communally, invest more of their energy in reflecting on how they can faithfully live according to the Qur’an and Sunna in contexts very different to those in which the ulama of past centuries resided.

And God knows best.

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