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The Curious Story of Moses and the Angel: Did the Messenger Musa عليه السلام Really Punch an Angel?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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It is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that when the angel of death came to Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) he punched him and popped his eye out. The angel then complained to Allah, “You sent me to a servant who does not want to die.” The hadith continues, but for our purposes, we can stop here. Doubters say: “Could a prophet really punch an angel? This can’t be a hadith. Therefore, Sahih al-Bukhari itself should be doubted if it narrates such hadiths.”

The answer: Actually, the person who finds this surprising, has clearly not pondered the life and characteristics of the Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

Tell me: what do you say about someone who throws a holy book? Did not Musa “throw the tablets in which there was guidance and light”? The questioner should be more concerned with this than with the angel.

Tell me: what do you say about someone who grabs the beard of a respected scholar? Well, didn’t Musa “grabbed the beard of his brother (a prophet) and dragged him to himself” to the point that Harun had to plead with him, “Do not embarrass me in front of the enemy.” Didn’t all this happen in Surat al-Araf? Isn’t this all more critical than punching an angel?

And way before this, did not Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surat al-Qasas see a man arguing with a fellow Hebrew then “punched him and killed him”? Do prophets punch people? Does a prophet punch someone before hearing both sides of the story (later Musa would come to realize that in fact his compatriot the Hebrew was the argumentative one, not the Egyptian). Even before receiving their revelation, prophets are exemplars of upright character. So the doubter who wishes to shed doubt on Sahih al-Bukhari should actually be questioning the Quran first.

The reality is that Musa was so passionate for the truth that sometimes, actually quite a number of times, the unfiltered expressions that came out of him were technically incorrect actions by outward. But Allah looks at motives and intentions as well. Did Musa purposely do sinful actions? Did he do them because of base desires? Or rather, did they overflowed from a heart filled with passion for Haqq. And for this reason, Allah did not blame him for any of these actions because his heart was so pure. Allah knew Musa was angry for the right reasons. Some people are angry for the right reasons, and others are calmly polite for the wrong reasons. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) threw the tablets and grabbed the beard of his brother out of anger when seeing his people worshipping the golden calf. Musa killed the man when he had had enough of the Egyptian humiliation of the Hebrews.

And there’s more…

What do you say of someone who answers back to Allah and becomes angered with His actions? Surat al-Araf continues to speak about Musa’s “ghadab” or anger: After the incident with the golden calf, “He (Musa) chose seventy of his men for Our meeting” (to make taubah and draw near to Allah). They climbed the mountain with him and watched him pray. They saw a cloud come upon him and saw lights flickering within it. But they weren’t satisfied. They said show us Allah Himself. “Then a loud quake overtook them (and killed them). He (Musa) said, ‘Lord! If You wanted You could have just killed me and them before this!” Is this how someone talks to the Lord of the worlds? He talked like this to Allah because of how much he had wanted these men to come near to Allah and know Him with certainty. He wanted to see good results in the da’wa. And also because he would be held responsible for the lives of these men; they died under his watch. What would he tell the people when he went back? They might all make kufr after this catastrophic result. (Allah resurrected them and they returned safely to their families, having made taubah.)

And yet Allah overlooked this because his motive was sound. In fact, it is said that when Allah gazed upon the earth for someone who would overthrow Pharaoh, He found no heart more humble and pure than the heart of Moses.

Look closely, and you will find that every time Musa’s “anger subsided” he brings forth the most beautiful of prayers. After killing them Egyptian: “’My Lord, indeed I’ve wronged myself, so forgive me,’ and He forgave him. Indeed, He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. ‘My Lord, for the favor You bestowed upon me, I will never be an assistant to wrong doers’” (28:15-16 al-Qasas). After throwing the tablets and scolding his brother the Prophet Harun 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him): “My Lord, forgive me and my brother and admit us into Your mercy, for You are the most merciful of the merciful.” (7:151 al-Araf).

And yet there’s still more…

Did not Allah inform Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) about a man whom, “We granted ‘Laddunni’ knowledge”—knowledge directly from Allah in Surat al-Kahf. And what happened? Every single time Khidr took an action, Musa rejected it and questioned it. Was it because he felt he knew better? Did he have doubts? Did he disrespect his teacher? No. It was his zeal for the Sacred Law. If it was bad manners, Khidr would not have given him all the answers after parting with him.

 

Now we get to the angel. Finally, after forty years wandering in the desert, and a total of eighty years presiding over the Bani Israel with the sole mission of delivering them from bondage to the Promised Land, Musa passed over a hill and finally laid eyes on the holy territory that would be the first home to God’s true religion. And then at that very moment the angel came to take his life. Now, after all that you have seen from the fiery zeal of this great messenger, how do you expect him to react?? He punched that angel so hard, his eye popped out. And he continues marching to his destination with determination. Did he punch him out of love of dunya? Or out of hatred of death? Never. It was a reaction that emanated from his devotion to finish the mission Allah gave him. To finally deliver the Believers from bondage and wandering to freedom and the establishment of the deen of Allah on the earth.

* * *

You might be wondering about the rest of the story. Allah put the eye back into the socket of the angel and said, “Tell My servant to rub the back of a calf. For every hair he touches I will give him a year more of life.” The angel gave Musa the good news. Musa replied, “Then what?” “Death” said the angel. Musa said, “In that case, just take me now.” And this is how Prophet Musa alayhi salam died one day’s journey away from the Promised Land. He never saw it. It wasn’t destined to be. But his loyal assistant—that same boy who traveled with him to meet Khidr—took the mantle after him and led the believers into the Holy Land, and there they resided in a land where Allah’s Word ruled.

 

Dr Shadee Elmasry was born and raised in New Jersey and studied in the Muslim world in Fez, Hadramawt, Cairo, Makka, and Madina. He completed a Masters from The George Washington University in comparative religion, then a PhD from the University of London, SOAS on “Da’wa in the Works of Imam al-Haddad.”

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    zainab

    August 12, 2016 at 6:44 PM

    An excellent write up!

  2. Avatar

    Badr

    August 13, 2016 at 4:07 AM

    SubhanAllah, so many lessons can be drawn from Prophet Musa peace be upon him. Allah knows best why he mentions him extensively in the Quran.

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    Anwar khan

    August 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

    The so called Hadith is as ludicrous as the one in which Prophet Musa is supposed to have come out of the river after bathing and found his clothes gone.The stone on which he had left his clothes had moved away. As Musa ran naked to pick up his clothes the stone ran too ; during this race people were watching hiding behind some cover to confirm whether Musa had the manly attributes or not, because many believed he was not a man.

    • Avatar

      Ayesha

      August 17, 2016 at 11:07 PM

      SubhanAllah! May Allah reward Shaykh Shadi for explaining this Hadith! I heard it somewhere long time ago and was earnestly wanting to know the truth if this was true and the explanation behind it. Alhamdulillah

      May Allah send peace and blessings upon our messenger Muhammad SallalahuAlaihiwasallam and Musa AlaihiSalam.

  4. Avatar

    Anwar khan

    August 13, 2016 at 7:03 PM

    The so called Hadith is as ludicrous as the one in which Prophet Musa is supposed to have come out of the river after bathing and found his clothes gone.The stone on which he had left his clothes had moved away. As Musa ran naked to pick up his clothes the stone ran too ; during this race people were watching hiding behind some cover to confirm whether Musa had the manly attributes or not, because many believed he was not a man.
    Mullahs do their best always to defend Sahih Bokhari.Many eminent scholars have established that many fabricated shading exist in all Collections named Sahih.
    They defend every narration in all the collections because if the accept one Hadith as weak or fabricated, then all ahadith will become dubious and the structure of Mullah’ Islam will start crumbling.

    • Avatar

      ASA

      August 13, 2016 at 9:38 PM

      You ignoramus!
      Name your ‘many eminent scholars’. Also don’t conflate issues – ‘Mullaism’ and the rigorous science of Hadith.

      • Avatar

        Anwar Khan

        August 17, 2016 at 11:01 PM

        Decorum should be maintained during intellectual debates and we should repect other’s right to their point of view.We should abstain from lowering ourselves by hurling indecent titles against those with whom we disagree.
        Let me start with the “conflate” between Mullahism and Hadith. Both are linked because the orthodox obscurantist mullahs build their structure of Islam on weak and dubious ahadith. Islam is based on Shariah and Shariah has two components: the holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet. Hadith is not part of Shariah but mullahs have misled people to believe that Hadith is a component of Shariah.
        Regarding “science of Hadith” we should understand that Hadith is not a science. Science is based on irrefutable facts and evidence.
        Many of the eminent ulema such as Darqutni,Ibn Hazam and others have criticized the Sahiain and have acknowledged that they contain a number of weak and unconfirmed ahadith.Once Abu Huraira (r.a.) narrated a hadith in front of Abdullah bin Abbas (r.a.) that “Wudu becomes void after eating anything cooked on fire” Ibn Abbas (r.a.) replied that if this is correct then wudu would become void also after drinking water heated on fire.Quoted from Sahih Tirmidhi,”Bab al Wudu” by by Shibli Naumani and Syed Suleman Nadvi in “SEERAT AL NABI” vol.1 page 39.Ibn Abbas considered that the hadith did not stand the test of scrutiny and did not accept it. When someone narrated a hadith in front of Hazrat Ayesha(r.a.) that “when someone does Noha (wailing) over the deceased person,the deceased suffers punishment”. She refused to accept it as true because she considered it contrary to The Quran which says” Nobody will carry the burden of another person.” (Bani Isarael surah 15).She said “neither you are liars nor your sources,but ears can make mistake.”Similarly,when the following hadith was narrated in front of Hazrat Ayesha (r.a.) by Abdullah Ibn Umar in relation to the martyrs of Badr,that the Prophet (pbuh) had said” whatever I say they hear it”.,she did not accept it because it was contrary to the Quran.( Seerat Al Nabi,voli1,page 50).
        An eminent sunni scholar,Mullah Qari (lived in10th/11th century A.H.) laid down some principles against which ahadith are to be judged :
        1. Those in which trivial things are mentioned which cannot possible be uttered by the Prophet (saw)
        2.Those which are against general observation e.g. “eating egg plant is a cure for all ailments”
        3. Those which are opposed to reality e.g. “Don’t take a bath with the water which has been placed in the sun,because it causes leprosy”
        4.Those which are not in keeping with the utterances of the Prophet(saw) e.g. three things improve vision,greenry,flowing water,and watching a beautiful face.
        5.Those in which there is a prophecy about the future occurrences with a set date.
        6.Those against which there are valid arguments e.g. Auj bin Anaq was 3000 yards tall
        7. Those ahadith which mention the merits of different surahs of the Quran
        The Hadith quoted by Abu Huraira(r.a.) regarding Prophet Musa running naked after the stone to get his clothes appears in Sahih Bukhari.Similarly,the hadith regarding Prophet Musa punching the angel of death is also narrated by Abu Huraira and recorded in Sahih Sahih Bukhari.Both these ahadith are demeaning for the status of a Prophet.
        Ibn AL-Hadid writes in his commentary on Nahjul Balagha ,vol 1,page 360,”Abu Jafar Asqalani has said,” the ahidth narrated by Abu Huraira (r.a) were not acceptable to Hazrat Umar (r.a.);he had told Abu Huraira (r.a.) that he had changed hadith and had attributed false sayings to to the Prophet(saw). It is reported by Ibn Asakarin his Tarikh Kabir and Muttaqi in his Kanzul Umma that Caliph Umar (r.a.) lashed him ,rebuked him and forbade him to narrate ahadith from the Prophet(saw) Hazrat Umar (r.a) said to Abu Huraira (r.a.) because you narrate ahadith in large numbers from the Prophet(saw) so you must stop narrating ahadith from the Prophet(pbuh),otherwise I will send you to the land of Dus( a clan in Yemen ,from where Abu HUraira (r.a.) had come.

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    hashir

    August 14, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    Masha Allah. How different the prophets and older generations are from us. Today, we are eager to die to get to paradise. But here is moosa a.s. punching the Angel so that he can serve his people more. There is a great lesson in this for us.

  6. Avatar

    Abubakar

    August 15, 2016 at 9:04 AM

    Some matters are very confusing. just when you think youve understood Islam another contradicting issue comes around. I just hope Allah guides us.

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 1, 2016 at 5:13 AM

      I agree with you brother Abubakar. But let me start by thanking sheikh Shadee Elmasry for a rather elaborate discussion on this Hadith. In particular the Quotation and attempt to explain the character of Musa S.A.W.It is very enlightening! However i would like to caution my brothers and sisters on one thing let us try as much as possible to use the Holy Quran to lead lives that please Allah. ”This is the Book that makes all things clear” Surat AL-Naml 27:1. Every thing that is necessary for success is made clear in this Book. The sunna of the prophet S.W.W was only meant as the best example for those who lived with him to understand how best a person can follow the Quran!If we are in doubt about what a particular verse encourages us to do in a certain special situation, then only in this case should we turn to the Prophets example and the stories of other prophets peace be upon them all.
      Apart from this specific purpose, it may be spiritually better for us to abstain from having an academic discussion of a Hadith and even trying to prove it is ”authentic” or right by Quoting the Quran. This may be dangerous to our spiritual development! Like i proposed above ,use the Quran to lead a good life it is clear enough. When in doubt consult a relevant sunna, or even Hadith and those who know better.When you are sure put all your trust in Allah and you will succeed.

      Indeed while the advise i have to give may stock a lot of emotions, many narrated Sunna, Hadith and opinions of learned scholars may be wrong! Only Allah is the one who is always absolutely right. And the Quran is the only source of light today in which there is no doubt-Allah protected it Himself knowingly! Try to keep away from discussing stories about His prophets outside the Quran which Allah in His Wisdom chose to leave out of the Holy Quran!
      So finally my point is that while the verses in Quran about Musa are very enlightening and the explanation for them interesting. The objective of trying to prove if this curious story was right or wrong is not useful nor important.
      1. The story is not recorded in the holy Quran-it is not important for us 2. The story does not explain any particular verse in the Holy Quran-so it is not useful for your guidance and mine 3. There are very many critical lesssons Allah wants you and I to remember every Day especially in the Life of Prophet Musa and they are narrated in the Quran,wasting time on those stories left out of The Quran will rob you of the precious but limited time you have to contemplate on the seriuos matters Allah presents to us!
      Allah reminds us in the Holy Quran” O ye who believe! Ask not questions which if explained to you will cause you trouble! Some people before you did ask search questions and on this acount lost their faith” Surat AL-Maida 5:101-102

  7. Avatar

    AYEINA

    August 15, 2016 at 9:32 AM

    Never heard the hadith so searched it on sunnah.com (which labels ahadith in a detailed manner – wAllahu a’lam) and found one here:
    http://sunnah.com/nasai/21/273

    May Allah guide us all.

  8. Avatar

    Muslim

    August 24, 2016 at 5:11 AM

    It appears that some people will do anything to defend the sanctity of their tribe/madhab/worldview and bring a Prophet of God (AS) down just not to belittle the status of their tribe/madhab.

    Prophets of God (AS) are bearers of a perfect message from a perfect source, that’s why they have to be perfect humans. Part of their that perfection is that they recognize no matter how much they worship Allah it is inadequate, so they ask Allah for forgiveness for that inadequacy, not because they were wrong or have sinned, Astagfulilah.

    The whole notion that there can be a book except the book of Allah (SWT) that is Sahih is majorly flawed, hadith books have been compiled and written by fallible humans, so they will have mistakes in them, its natural. People are quick to label those who attribute infallibility to the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but in return attribute infallibility to the compilers of hadith. Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy by Jonathan Brown and the works of late Mahmud Shaltut should be read by all Muslims in order not to exaggerate and at the same time not diminish the role of hadith and the books of hadith.

    Just because there are hadith in Sahih Bukhari or Muslim , it does not mean they are 100 percent correct, there are some hadith narrated from questionable chains of narration and some with what many would consider questionable content.

    • Avatar

      N.S.

      August 25, 2016 at 6:57 AM

      The presence of hadith being Sahih does not in any way take away from the authenticity of the Quran. This is not an appropriate comparison to make. The great scholars back in those times obviously knew more and had a deeper understanding of what’s contained in our collections of Sahih hadith. Who are we, the followers who come a thousand and more years later to refute? Muslims today have been bickering over these small things without having the backing of knowledge *and* WISDOM necessary to make such claims. It’s this constant disunity over small matters that continues to divide us and in turn prevents us from collectively helping each other. May Allah guide us all. Aameen

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 1, 2016 at 5:25 AM

      You make a very strong point Muslim. While talking with disbelievers, the Prophet always stressed his being a normal human being honoured with a divine message”I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me… Will ye then consider not?’’ Al –An’am 6:50

      We must focus on this Message…rather than spend time on trying to prove whether this or that ”hadith” is right or wrong. for the answer to this question may not be useful to us, may be divisive and even misleading. May Allah bless, forgive and guide us all to His straight path!

  9. Avatar

    Tahir Hussain

    December 27, 2016 at 10:57 PM

    So when the Qur’ān says, “…At length, when death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty.” (6:61), but what it really means is except that one time with Musa (AS) when the Angel failed in his duty? Also, Angels can have their eye socket knocked out by a human? That too with a slap? The hadīth is ahad, should it therefore have the authority to be able to form part of aqīda? No; it lacks certainty, it’s not mutawatir. Did Allah ﷻ not say, “But to no soul will Allah grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come…” (63:11) Did He ﷻ mean except if you punch the Angel then you will be granted respite? “To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached, not an hour can they cause delay, nor (an hour) can they advance (it in anticipation)”, again, did the Qur’ān forget to mention that it can be delayed if the Angel is slapped? Did Imām Abū Hanifah (RA) not say that if a narration conflicts with the Qur’ān then it is not from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and is rejected? But let me guess, the narration doesn’t conflict with the Qur’an in your opinion? Mūsa (AS) didn’t know it was an Angel even though the Angel said, “Respond to the call of God” and he instead decided to punch the Angel for saying such a thing? This narration is problematic and the only reason it’s accepted is to protect the sanctity of Sahih Bukhari but what about the sanctity of Mūsa (AS)? What about the Qur’ān opposing this narration?

  10. Avatar

    Millata

    July 13, 2018 at 5:08 AM

    I challenge the Author to prove to me that Musa as and Haroun as were also condemned to the 40 years of wilderness. Come with proof..and I will prove they were not sentenced to it.

  11. Avatar

    Omar A Mirza

    October 28, 2018 at 10:31 AM

    Thanks for the article! May I just comment briefly on this?
    “And this is how Prophet Musa alayhi salam died one day’s journey away from the Promised Land. He never saw it”
    I don’t think this can be right, since a sound hadith tells us that Sayyiduna Musa, peace be upon him, asked to die within a stone’s throw of the Sacred Land. Since, as we know from the prophetic biography, a prophet is always buried where he dies, we know he was buried a stone’s throw away from the Sacred Land (the well-known place near Jericho can’t be his grave, therefore, since it is right in the Sacred Land.)

  12. Avatar

    Omar A Mirza

    October 28, 2018 at 10:37 AM

    I also wanted to comment on this, inshaAllah:
    “And way before this, did not Musa ‘alayhi’l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surat al-Qasas see a man arguing with a fellow Hebrew then “punched him and killed him”? Do prophets punch people? Does a prophet punch someone before hearing both sides of the story”

    I don’t think it made sense for Sayyiduna Musa, peace be upon him, to hear both sides of the story, since there was a man facing physical harm and crying out to him for help, and it was already clear who was the oppressor and who was the oppressed.
    The strike was meant to stop the wrongdoer, not to kill him, though we know Sayyiduna Musa, peace be upon him, was gifted with supernatural strength: it is enough to point this out as an explanation, and to mention that the next time the same man appealed to him for help, he grabbed, rather than striking, the wrongdoer.

  13. Avatar

    Sahil

    May 3, 2019 at 4:08 PM

    How can a fellow muslim, who seems very intellectual, berate one of our Holy Prophets, Musa (AS)?

    The tone of this is not only disrespectful, but when you say that one should question the Quran of Musa’s attitude is borderline-offensive.

    I am not saying that we shouldn’t question our religion, but it seems to me that you think Musa was a bad man from the start, even so his prophethood was only after he killed that innocent man. Be more respectful to a Prophet who is never to be tarnished in a way you wrote in this article, brother.

    I hope to Allah that you’ve realised your mistake, otherwise why would this article still be up?

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#Islam

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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Do You Know These Heroes of Eid?

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

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Rohingya children

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

Between one million and three million Muslims are being detained in concentration camps in China, while masjids are being demolished and imams executed.

The Rohingya Muslims of Burma continue to suffer from terrible persecution. In one Rohingya refugee camp on the Burma / Bangladesh border there are half a million children. These children are banned by the Burmese authorities from attending school and are at risk of early marriage, child labor or being trafficked.

In the Central African Republic, the Muslim minority lives in daily fear of being killed, especially in the south.

The Palestinians continue to suffer after seventy years of occupation, with no end in sight.

Russian and Assad regime attacks on civilians continue in Syria, with the real possibility of an upcoming genocide in Idlib province.

Heroes Abound

In the midst of this all suffering, heroes abound. There’s Serikzhan Bilash of Kazakhstan, who has labored feverishly to document China’s internment of Muslims across the border. He urges those in his organization to continue their work, even as he himself has been arrested.

Those Rohingya children I mentioned in the refugee camp, banned from attending school? One 14-year-old Rohingya girl mentioned in the article has managed to enroll in school in Bangladesh. Her mother sold her food rations and borrowed money to create a fake Bangladeshi birth certificate, then paid a smuggler to take her daughter out of the camp. The girl herself says, “People hate the Rohingya here. I don’t tell people I am one… I have to lie about my identity to survive. Even though it’s a big struggle… I am able to study. There are hundreds of thousands of kids like me inside of the camps who are forced to marry off early…They have no opportunities.”

Also in that camp is 13-year-old Halim, who runs his own tutoring service, where he teaches more than 20 children. He says, “I am teaching them so they can do something for our nation. If they don’t learn anything, they can’t prosper in their life, as well as they can’t fight for the nation.”

Razan al-Najjar

Razan al-Najjar

In Palestine, let us not forget Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic from Gaza who was shot by an Israeli sniper on June 1, 2018, while tending to a tear gas victim. In her last Facebook post, the day before she was killed, she wrote, “Your conscience will be comforted as much as possible since God always knows your intention. #sleep_well Be good.”

In Syria, we have Dr. Omar Ibrahim, an Egyptian neurosurgeon who could probably be earning a hefty salary anywhere in the world, but instead labors under constant bombardment in the war-torn and half crushed city of Idlib. He’s been in Syria for five years and says, “I have no regrets about doing this work. Because I have passion for my work, and this work inspires me.”

A Religion of Heroes

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Such stories are amazing, but they are not unique. There are countless heroes, and should that surprise us? Islam is a religion of heroes, and has always been so, going all the way back to its inception in Makkah, when the Prophet Muhammad (sws) drew around himself the weak and powerless, the slaves and foreigners. They were tortured, but did not surrender their new faith. Heroes.

Or, several years later, when the disbelievers of Arabia came in great numbers to wipe the Muslims off the face of the earth. The Muslims dug a great trench around Madinah, and held off the attackers under conditions of hunger and terrible cold, until – with Allah’s help – the siege was broken. Heroes.

So if you thought such heroes were a thing of the past, remember Serikzhan Bilash, the Rohingya girl, Halim, Razan al-Najjar, Dr. Omar Ibrahim and the untold, uncounted heroes like them. You may even know a few heroes personally. I do.

There’s my friend Karim, who works for an organization that sponsors Muslim orphans. He’s overworked and underpaid, and struggles to support his family and two children. He’s highly experienced and could earn more somewhere else. But he sticks with it because he believes in Islamic work.

I think also of my daughter’s homeroom teacher, sister Sharmeen. She’s an enthusiastic teacher who pushes the children to read, write and understand the roots of language. She does more than is required and is not appreciated as she should be. But once again, her passion drives her.

Persistence of Dua’

Our local Imam recently gave a khutbah about the importance of dua’. He said that Allah loves the dua’ that is persistent. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawa’: “One of the most beneficial of remedies is persisting in dua’.”

So be persistent. Pray for our suffering Ummah, and pray for our heroes. And donate whatever you can spare to the organizations that work on their behalf.

My Ordinary Life

As for me, my life is ordinary. On the morning of Eid, I, my mother and my daughter Salma – who is twelve years old now – wake up early and put on our best clothes, inshaAllah. We get in the car and stop at Krispy Kreme donuts.  I buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a long line and elbow people to snatch a cruller.

I pick up my cousin’s son, who does not have a car. We go downtown to the Fresno convention center and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. The Eid salat begins, then I strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. Especially, the sisters. Sorry ladies, but it’s true :-)

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone is wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of sharing a connection with every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, my mother makes cookies, and we put some decorations on the walls. Salma opens her presents, which this year are a new Switch game, a dartboard and a pearl necklace. It’s the first piece of real jewelry I’ve ever bought her. Buying it left me with $18 in my bank account, which means I predict a lot of Uber driving (my side job) in my near future. So I hope she likes it.

On such days, I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim and a better human being.

The Spirit of the Prophets

I also talk to Salma, as I do every year, about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world, fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid or pearl necklaces. Some are starving. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet they are resolute. They have a deep strength that, like the well of Zamzam, never runs dry, SubhanAllah. They will not give up their hopes, their dreams or their faith, Allah willing.

These are the real heroes of Eid. I feel small next to them. They are the ones living the spirit of the Prophets and the Sahabah. They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

May Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, and tyranny with freedom. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf

Last verses of Surah Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Surah Kahf

Alhamdulillah last session we were able to cover the meanings of verses 83-98. InshAllah tonight we’ll explore the meanings of verses 99-110, which will bring us to the end of this noble and beautiful Surah. Just as a quick reminder, the last set of verses related the story of Dhul Qarnain, who was an upright and God-conscious ruler who ruled over the entire known world of his time. He was a righteous servant of Allah to whom Allah granted might, power and sovereignty over the world along with knowledge and wisdom. He was a special servant of God. We’re told about his journeys to the east, west, and north as well as his building of a huge wall to prevent Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj from escaping. This story highlighted the fitna and trial of might, power, leadership, and authority and showed us that the way to deal with it is through faith and sincerity. Dhul Qarnain was tested with a lot of wealth and power but it was unable to corrupt him because of his faith and sincerity. The Surah follows the story of Dhul Qarnain with a scene from the Day of Judgment.

Verse 99: And We shall leave them, on that day, to surge over one another like waves. And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.

The first part of this verse is referring to Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj and the second part refers to resurrection, when the Angel Isrāfīl will blow into the horn bringing all creation back to life. On that day, is referring to the day near the end of times when Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj will break through the barrier and surge down the mountains like waves upon humanity destroying everything in their way. As Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Al-Anbiya, “Until when [the dam of] Gog and Magog has been opened and they, from every elevation, descend…” They will wreak havoc for a period of time known to Allah until they will be destroyed.

As we’ve covered before there will be two instances when the trumpet will be sounded. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has appointed the Angel Isrāfīl to blow into the trumpet. This will happen twice. The first time every single thing will be destroyed. The second time every single thing will be brought back to life. This is how the day of Resurrection will start. The sūr, which is a trumpet or a horn, will be blown and all of mankind will rise from their graves and come towards the plain of judgment. That’s what Allah ﷻ is mentioning here in this verse, “And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.”

The Surah then describes a scene from the day of Judgment that’s specific to the non-believers. Those who received the message and consciously chose to reject it and rebel against God and His messengers.

Verse 100-101: And We shall present Hell, on that Day, as an array before the non-believers, those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.

Meaning on the Day of Judgment Allah ﷻ will show the non-believers Hell Fire, exposing it to them so that they can see it with their own eyes. They will see it with their own eyes and hear its raging and frightening sounds even before entering it. Allah then describes the non-believers with 3 characteristics, which are essentially three reasons why they will be punished in the hereafter:

1) “Those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.” They weren’t able to understand the truth when it was presented to them because they were spiritually blind and deaf. They were blind to the signs of Allah’s existence and power all around them spread throughout the universe, so they never thought or reflected over them. On top of that, they weren’t able to understand what was being recited to them. Meaning, they consciously chose to ignore the message and turn away from it. Here Allah is contrasting their condition in the hereafter to their condition in the life of this world. In this world, they chose to turn away from belief in the fire and in the hereafter, they won’t have the option to turn away. The veil over their eyes will be removed and they will see the consequences of their choice.

2) The second is that they worshipped others besides Allah.

Verse 102: Do those who disbelieve reckon that they may take My servants as protectors apart from Me? Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!

Allah is scolding them and showing them their mistake. Did they really think or believe that they could take created beings or inanimate objects as protectors apart from Me? Did they really believe that worshipping idols, angels or people would benefit them or help them in any way? There’s no help or protection except with Allah, who deserves to be worshipped alone without any partners. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Maryam, “No! Those “gods” will deny their worship of them and will be against them opponents [on the Day of Judgment].” Allah then tells us that their punishment is Jahannam, which has been prepared as a resting place for them. “Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!”

3) The third quality that the non-believers are described with is that they are fools for thinking that their actions in this world will be of any benefit to them in the Hereafter.

Verse 103-104: Say, “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds? Those whose efforts go astray in the life of this world, while they think that they are virtuous in their works.

In this verse, Allah ﷻ is addressing the Prophet ﷺ directly and he’s telling him to pose this question to the non-believers. “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds?” Do you want to know who the greatest and biggest losers are with respect to their deeds? They are the ones who did good deeds and put in effort, but all of it went to waste. Those individuals who were misguided in the life of this world so their actions were guided by their wants, desires, and pleasures. Their actions were misplaced and not guided by faith in Allah. The reason why all of their efforts will go to waste is their disbelief or absence of faith. As Allah says,

Verse 105-106: They are those who disbelieve in the signs of their Lord, and in the meeting with Him. So their deeds have gone to waste, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign them no weight. That is their recompense, the Jahannam, for having disbelieved and for having taken My signs and My messengers in mockery.

The greatest losers with respect to their deeds are those who reject the signs of Allah in this world. Those who refuse to accept the oneness, might, power and magnificence of Allah, those who refuse to believe in life after death and accountability. Their deeds will go to waste and on the Day of Judgment, they won’t have any weight. We know from multiple verses and narrations that our deeds are going to be weighed on the Day of Judgment. And on the Day of Judgment, it’s not about the number of deeds but the quality. That’s why on the Day of Judgment our deeds won’t be counted but they will be weighed. It could be that the weight of one action or deed is more than a thousand other deeds.

Those actions that are devoid of faith and sincerity will have no weight whatsoever. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Al-Furqān, “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” Their recompense is the fire of Jahannam, and that is the ultimate justice and fairness. They get punishment as recompense because of their rejection and disbelief and mockery of Allah’s signs and His messengers. Allah ﷻ then contrasts the punishment of the non-believers with the reward of the believers in Paradise.

Verse 107-108: Those who believe and perform righteous deeds, theirs shall be the Gardens of Paradise as a welcome. Abiding therein forever, they don’t seek any change from it.

Just as Hell is a “welcome” for the non-believers, Paradise is a true “welcome” for the believers. Meaning, those who believe in the existence and oneness of Allah, believe in the Prophet ﷺ and life after death and that faith expresses itself through their actions, their reward will be Gardens of Paradise. Again we see this formula being mentioned, faith + righteous deeds. This is the simple formula to achieve success in this world and the next. Our faith has to be real and practical; it has to translate into action. If we do so then our reward will be Jannah al-Firdaws, which is the highest and most virtuous level of Paradise. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise ask Him for Al-Firdaws. It is the highest level of Paradise, the middle of Paradise and the rivers of Paradise flow from it.”

  • إذا سألتم الله الجنة، فاسألوه الفردوس، فإنه أعلى الجنة، و أوسط الجنة، و منها تفجر أنهار الدنة.

In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “In Paradise, there are a hundred levels, what is between every two levels is like what is between the heavens and the earth. Al-Firdaws is its highest level, and from it the four rivers of Paradise are made to flow forth. So when you ask Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdaws.”

  • “‏ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مِائَةُ دَرَجَةٍ مَا بَيْنَ كُلِّ دَرَجَتَيْنِ كَمَا بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ وَالْفِرْدَوْسُ أَعْلاَهَا دَرَجَةً وَمِنْهَا تُفَجَّرُ أَنْهَارُ الْجَنَّةِ الأَرْبَعَةُ وَمِنْ فَوْقِهَا يَكُونُ الْعَرْشُ فَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ فَسَلُوهُ الْفِرْدَوْسَ ‏”‏ ‏.

They will be in Paradise for all of eternity, enjoying all of its pleasures and not wanting or desiring anything other than it. Allah (swt) then tells us about the extent and vastness of His knowledge. That his knowledge is infinite. This is also a description of the greatness and status of the Qur’ān.

Verse 109: Say, “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like thereof to replenish it.”

“The words of my Lord” may be a reference to Allah’s infinite knowledge or wisdom or the meanings of the Qur’ān. Meaning that if the oceans were turned into ink and the words of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) were to be written with this ink, then the ink would run out and the words of Allah (swt) would still be left, even if more ink were to be brought. This is an example to make us understand the vastness of Allah’s knowledge, wisdom, and secrets. This example is being given to make us as human beings recognize the infinite nature of Allah’s knowledge as compared to or finite and limited knowledge.

The ocean is the largest and richest creation known to us as human beings. It takes up more than 70% of the surface of the Earth. And we use ink to document and record our knowledge, which we think is vast and amazing. So Allah gives this example of the ocean as ink being used to write and record His words. The entire ocean is used up and then it’s replenished but the words of Allah are still being written. This example is trying to help us comprehend the difference between the infinite and the finite. “And if all the trees on earth were pens, and if the sea and seven more added to it were ink, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Truly Allah is Mighty, Wise.” This example should allow us to recognize the greatness and magnificence of Allah ﷻ as well as humble us as human beings as well.

We as human beings should never be deceived or fooled by our own intellect and abilities. No matter how much we learn and how advanced we become scientifically and technologically, it’s nothing compared to the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Allah ﷻ. Our knowledge compared to the knowledge of Allah is like a drop of water compared to all the oceans. Allah ﷻ then ends the noble Surah by reminding the Prophet (saw) about humility and us about the path of true salvation.

Verse 110: Say, “I am only a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is one God. So whosoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.

Allah ﷻ is speaking directly to the Prophet ﷺ. He’s telling him to tell his nation, his community, that he is a human being just like them. He’s not an Angel nor is he divine in any way. He eats, drinks, walks, talks and sleeps just like them. The only difference is that he ﷺ receives revelation from above from the Most High. It has been revealed to him that there is only one God, alone without any partners. So whoever believes in the meeting with their Lord, meaning they believe in the last day, resurrection, accountability and judgment. They know that the life of this world is temporary and finite and that the life of the hereafter is eternal and infinite, should “perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.”

Righteous deeds include fulfilling all of our obligations, obeying the commands of Allah and staying away from His prohibitions. It includes all voluntary acts of worship such as praying, fasting, reading Quran, making dua, dhikr and charity. It includes being kind to our parents, spouses, children, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. It even includes smiling at someone. There are multiple paths of righteousness in Islam.

We’re then reminded to not associate partners with Allah in our worship; to not commit shirk. There are two types of shirk: al-shirk al-akbar and al-shirk al-asghar. Al-Shirk Al-Akbar is associating partners with Allah; it’s an act of disbelief. Al-Shirk Al-Asghar refers to ostentation and showing off or not having sincerity in acts of worship. The Prophet ﷺ referred to ostentation as “the lesser idolatry.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “I do not fear that you will worship the sun, the stars and the moon, but I fear your worshipping other than Allah through ostentation.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “What I fear most for my community is doing things for other than the sake of Allah.” Ibn al-‘Arabi quotes his shaykh, “Let not the hours of your dear life pass away confronting contemporaries and socializing with friends. Watch out! Allah concluded His statement on the following verse…”

Alhamdulillah that brings us to then end of this noble and beautiful Surah. A Surah that has a special and unique status because the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to recite it specifically on Fridays. Through four stories the Surah focuses on four different types of trials we’re going to face in this world and how to respond to them.

1) The story of the people of the cave represents the trial of faith. And we’re taught that one of the best ways to deal with it is through good company; surrounding ourselves with people of faith and righteousness.

2) The story of the owner of the two gardens is representative of the trial of wealth. And we’re taught the most powerful way to deal with it is by recognizing the reality of the life of this world.

3) The story of Musa (as) with Khidr is representative of the trial of knowledge and the way to deal with it is through seeking knowledge and humility.

4) The last story, the story of Dhul Qarnain is representative of the trial of power. The solution is sincerity and righte

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