Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's the difference between Sunnah as custom and Sunnah as an act of worship?

Interesting article on how to distinguish between Sunnah (the practice/tradition of Prophet Muhammad) and Arab culture by Shaykh Al-Albani

The original Arabic article can be seen here and the translation is posted here.

Questioner: May Allah bless you, what is the criterion according to the Islamic legislation for distinguishing between the Sunnah which is considered custom and the Sunnah which is considered worship?
Shaykh Albani: The criterion requires a level of knowledge as relates to the one who wishes to distinguish between a Sunnah that is worship and a Sunnah that is a custom. And it has been mentioned that there are actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, that came from him and he did them seeking to get closer to Allah the Blessed and Exalted; this category is the Sunnah that is worship.
Its opposite is another category that also mentions actions of the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him; and the least we can say is these actions dont have the ruling of worship, rather they have the ruling of customs or that the affair returns back to the desire of the person and they have no connection to worship. This category is clear that it has no connection to worship so it will be in the category of customs; and between these two are doubtful matters.
If we look at these doubtful matters from a particular angle then the person might lean towards connecting an action to worship, and if we look at these doubtful matters again we might lean towards connecting them to a Sunnah that is only a custom; according to the student of knowledge (who is investigating these issues). And it is sufficient for the student of knowledge to stop at the second category that is opposite the first category.
For example: The Prophet used to have sandals that had two straps , so what appears at first glance is that if the student of knowledge has sandals with one strap then they are opposing the Sunnah!! And the Sunnah is to have sandals with two straps!! It appears that this has a connection to worship, but it is only a custom of the Arabs, they used to wear this type of sandals. And they didn't wear the type of footwear known today as "shoes" or what resembles that with the different names according to the different countries.
And what is left as relates to the student of knowledge is the category that can be linked to the first group or the second group, and this requires knowledge to distinguish or to determine that it is from the first group and not the second group or the opposite, such that it is from the second group and not the first group. And with this we find the Scholars agreeing upon affairs that they are from the Sunnah of custom but differing upon the particulars of it, is it from the Sunnah of custom or from the Sunnah of worship.
An example of this is what is connected to the Hajj, and soon we shall be greeting the Hajj inshaAllah. It is related that the Prophet prayer and peace are upon him, descended at Al Batha so some of the companions said, and I think it was Aisha, "Staying at Al-Mahassab in not the Sunnah." And they only agree that he pitched a tent there and rested, but some of the people who arrive believe that resting at Al Batha is from the completeness of Hajj. And here there could be a difference of opinion because this affair requires something extremely clear in order to connect it to the first category or the second category.
Now we shall mention some current examples, because many of the youth and all praises belong to Allah, shorten their garments and don't allow their garments to flow long and they intend by this to follow the Sunnah, so is this a Sunnah that is custom or a Sunnah that is worship? If we looked at this action (shortening the garment) of the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, separately from some of his statements then perhaps we would waver between connecting this action to the Sunnah that is worship or the Sunnah that is custom. But when the hadith containing the statements of the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon, came such as the hadith where he said, "The izaar of the believer is to the midway point of the shin and if it is longer then let it go to the ankles and if it is longer then it is in the fire." This hadith cuts off the wavering between whether this action is a Sunnah of worship or a Sunnah of custom and it is certain that this is a Sunnah of worship because when he described the method of clothing as it relates to the believer he said it is to the midway point of the shin and if it is longer then it is no problem, if it goes to the ankle but as for what is longer than that then it is in the fire.
Opposite to this is a Sunnah that has been establish for the Prophet prayer and peace are upon him, and it is that he used to have long hair. Sometimes his hair would reach his earlobes and if it was longer then it would reach the top of his shoulders. Rather, it has been confirmed that when the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, entered Mecca he has his hair in four braids. Therefore is growing the hair long firstly, and then putting it into braids secondly, a Sunnah of worship or a Sunnah of custom? The answer as I see it, there is nothing here that calls to or justifies or can be construed to cause any wavering concerning this Sunnah of custom. Why? Firstly, because the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, was not the one who started this Sunnah, rather, this was present before the Messenger was born, not to mention before he became a Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him!!! This was the custom of the Arabs; they used to grow their hair long. And some of the youth to this day, some of the youth in the deserts of Syria that we have witnessed, some of them bunch their hair and put it into braids. So this is a custom that was not started by the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him, rather he just continued upon the customs of the Arabs, and he let his hair grow and when he entered Mecca he put it into four braids. There is nothing here that would hurt us if we considered this Sunnah a Sunnah of custom, as opposed to a Sunnah of worship.
Another example: The Prophet peace and blessings are upon him used to wear white; is this Sunnah of custom or a Sunnah of worship? If his statement had not been narrated, The best clothes for you are white clothes, therefore dress your living in white clothes and bury your dead in white clothes; if it were not for this statement we would have said this was his preference. And the Messenger used to love white clothes just as he used to love honey for example and he used to hate lizard meat, this was his preference. But when his statement came, "The best clothes for you are white", and then he ordered with wearing it and at the least a command shows that it is recommended, so he said to dress your living in white clothes and bury your dead in white clothes, then this left from being a Sunnah of custom and it became a Sunnah of worship. And with this standard and with this criterion it is obligatory for us to weight the actions of the Prophet, prayer and peace is upon him. Therefore what he started and there is nothing in the context of it that can make us believe it is a Sunnah of custom then it is a Sunnah of worship.
But as for his actions prayer and peace are upon him, which are consistent with the customs of the Arabs then these actions are from the Arab customs and it is no problem for the one who does them and it is no problem for the one who leaves them. And also his actions peace be upon him, that dealt with his disposition or his personal taste then this also has no connection to the affairs of worship. And as for the aforementioned example, the Prophet peace and blessing are upon him, used to love honey and it's possible that we will find some people that hate honey, but we don't say they have opposed the Sunnah,because eating honey in its origin is not worship. Therefore if it is not easy for a person to eat honey or if they have no desire to eat honey then we don't say he has opposed the Sunnah, but he has opposed the disposition of the Prophet which was that he loved honey.
But from a different angle the Prophet peace and blessing are upon him, used to hate lizard meat and the Arabs used to find it pleasant. And when it was put on the table of the Prophet peace be upon him and it was said that it was lizard meat he didn't touch it. And in front of him was one of the famous companions, none other than Khalid ibn Walid. And Khalid ibn Walid used to eat with enormous desire such that it would cause people to look at him; he would eat and the juices would stream down his beard. So when he saw that his Prophet was not eating he said,"Oh Messenger of Allah is this (lizard meat) haram?" Because he felt a shock inside of himself, he's eating ravenously and the Prophet is not reaching his hand towards the food; so he said: "is this haram". The Prophet said,"No, but this was not in the land of my people so I find that I detest it." Therefore we don't say to the person that loves lizard meat, "You have opposed the Sunnah", because the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, used to hate lizard meat and we also don't say this to the one who does not like honey. And you will find those who don't like honey, and I have found that one of my sons does not like honey. I love honey and I love all sweets in general, but one of my sons hates honey; but I don't say to him, 'you have opposed the Sunnah', because this has no connection to worship. And like this, it is incumbent upon us to look at the actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, and many of the people especially the students of knowledge during this time period are heedless of these specifics and some of them go to extremes. So you find some of the youth intending to grow their hair long believing that this is the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. So you find some of the youth intending to grow their hair long believing that this is the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. Yes, I can say this is from the actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, but there is no proof that this is better. Rather, the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, announced as is found in Sahih Muslim, "Shave it all or leave it all". Therefore if the hair is grown long then it is not a Sunnah of worship rather it is only a Sunnah of custom. So if a person continues to shave his head his entire life it can not be said that he is opposing the Sunnah of the Prophet because the Prophet grew his hair his entire life; with the exception being during the Hajj and 'Umrah because he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to shave his head during this time. And you know the hadith that appears in Sahih Bukari and Muslim where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "O Allah, forgive those who shave their heads, O Allah, forgive those who shave their heads, O Allah, forgive those who shave their heads", they said: 'And those who cut their hair short O Messenger of Allah?', and he said: "And those who cut their hair short. But those who only cut their hair short receive a lesser reward, and to shave the head is more virtuous.
Therefore if the person grows their hair long out of habit or because this is just his natural disposition then there is nothing preventing this, but as for the one who intends by this to get closer to Allah because the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him, grew his hair long then we say indeed, this is in opposition to the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. And there is a detail that attention has to be given to, by the one who grows his hair long because the Prophet peace be upon him grew his hair long, so he believes that he is following the Prophet peace be upon him by growing his hair long. But I can say, with all frankness, that he is opposing the Prophet. But his opposition is not apparent; rather, it is hidden on the inside. So, from what is apparent, it seems that he is following the Prophet by growing his hair long, so what is the opposition? The opposition: It is obligatory upon us to pay attention to the statement of our Prophet peace and blessing be upon him, "Verily Actions are (judged) by intentions, so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated." So the one who goes out with the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, as a Mujahid, then what is apparent? The apparent is that he is a mujahid in the path of Allah; but in reality he went out for some worldly gain or to marry a woman therefore he opposed the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, in his intention. So will he be rewarded as a mujahid, when he opposed the best of the Mujahids; opposed him in what, in his intention, the answer is no.
Now the one who grows the hair on his head long, emulating his Prophet, his example is like the example of the mujahid that went out with the Prophet as a Mujahid, but his intention was opposed to the intention of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. (So the question may be) how is this related to the one who grows his hair long?
We say to him: Do you know that when the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, grew the hair on his head long that his intention with this was to get closer to his Lord? If you believe that then your action is a blessing and if you dont believe this then you opposed the Messenger in his intention. He did not seek to get closer to Allah by loving honey, and he did not seek to get closer to Allah by hating lizard meat, and also he did not seek to get closer to Allah the Mighty and Majestic by growing his hair long!! So you seek to get closer to Allah (by growing your hair long)? Then you have opposed the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, in the strongest condition from the conditions of worship. The first condition: The intention must be sincerely for the face of Allah the Blessed and Exalted. The second condition: It must be in accordance with the action of the Prophet. You are in accordance with him in his action, but you opposed him in his intention.

to be continued in sha Allah...

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Want tips on dealing with Muslims in the workplace?

hilarious!: I found this article while looking up information on the rights of Muslims in the workplace and educating prospective employers and employees about workplace diversity.
Good stuff!
Have a Muslim in your employ or as your co-worker? Feeling a little frightened? Alone? We at Satirical Muslim understand the situation will be different for various employers and co-workers. So in order to ease the oft-difficult teething process of bringing a Muslim into your team, Satirical Muslim offers its guide to dealing with Muslims in the workplace for both the Nervous Employer and the Overly-Accommodating Employer.
The beliefs
Do not quip about your “infidel” status. We get it. Ha ha. You’re an unbeliever. But your employee works for you, not a renegade militia in the Afghan mountains. Don’t feel suspicious because of your differences. It’s dangerously possibly the Muslim man or woman is just working for you to earn an income to provide for their families — not unleash jihad on your infidel capitalist system. Put aside your disappointment and suck it up — and stop calling the terrorism hotline.
Finally, when asking your Muslim employee questions, it’s not a good idea to respond with, “That’s so stupid. Welcome to the 21st century!” Reactions to these kinds of judgments will vary. Although Islam is a religion of peace, the same can’t always be said for Muslims. Just something to bear in mind.

The halal food
It’s not discrimination to have both halal and non-halal meat available in Australia, so don’t make a fuss when your Muslim employee refuses the ham and cheese sandwich at morning tea. You’ll survive. This isn’t about you. Haven’t you seen Babe, you heartless carnivore?
The dress
Many Muslims adhere to a strict dress code. While many are familiar with the hijab and burqa, not many are aware that Muslim men are obligated to grow a beard. (Note, this means an actual beard, not a funky goatee with fancy designs.)
If a Muslim man in your employ has a moustache or a rat’s tail, find a way to fire him without it looking discriminatory. There’s no excuse for either. Ever.
Don’t be alarmed by a woman’s hijab. As frightening as fabric from Spotlight can be, nothing’s going to happen to you, and research indicates that the hijab-wearer’s brain size does not decrease due to the pressure of the material. This is good news for you when it comes to her work performance!

Asking questions is always a good place to start in finding out more about a person’s modest dress code. Be casual, not cagey.
We advise against the overused “Don’t you get hot in that?” Most likely the wearer is thinking that hell is a whole lot hotter. Also veer away from, “I know many Muslim women choose to wear it but that’s only because they don’t know any better”. You’ve just insulted many members of her family, and inadvertently told her that she and her belief systems are stupid. A no-brainer that that’s not very nice now, is it? (Following on from such a faux pas, you might want to check whether she has any brothers and gauge the level of closeness between them.)
The breaking-the-ice
No, Ahmed in shipping doesn’t “know where Bin Laden is”. Where’d you get your sense of humour — a cornflakes box?
Joking about the world’s most wanted isn’t going to endear your employer to you or your workplace. If it’s meant to ease your heightened and exaggerated sense of fear, maybe try a brain exercise, like throwing a ball, or writing your name out and admiring it. Anything that doesn’t involve you putting your foot in your mouth will do just fine.
The prayers
Muslims pray five times a day. Each prayer only takes about ten to fifteen minutes (including time for ablutions). The ritual won’t disrupt other employees and has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda.
However, if the employee is not back within those fifteen minutes, most likely he or she is off for a ciggie. It may be best to keep tabs on them. Note, however, that on Fridays Muslim men must attend prayer at a nearby mosque or prayer room. This can take up to an hour. Don’t question the time taken there. It will only get messy and you’ll have HREOC on your back quicker than you can say “jihad”.

The washing
Before prayer, it’s necessary to make ablutions (see above). This includes washing the feet. If you walk in to your restroom and see your employee mid-feet-wash in the sink, don’t be afraid. It’s just a foot, and that’s just water cleaning it. There is no anthrax involved in the process.
However, the employee may invoke the oft-used “I wash my feet five times a day so they’re cleaner than your face”. This is lame. Find a way to fire him or her without it looking discriminatory.
The office Christmas party
Muslims don’t drink alcohol. By all means invite all employees to the Christmas party, but don’t bother being culturally sensitive about it. Muslims shouldn’t be attending it in the first place unless you’re willing to take away the band, the alcohol and segregate the men from the women. You would also need to arrange for halal food, a prayer room and washing facilities, and rename it the ‘Office End-of-Year Gathering’.
You can just have your annual booze-fest without your Muslim employees in attendance and that way everyone’s happy.
The teetotalling and gambling
Don’t feel guilty that your Muslim employee doesn’t fancy the idea of getting smashed off their face at the local pub every Friday after work. There’s no need to move “Friday drinks” to the local coffee shop or include them in the weekly email confirming said booze-up so that he or she doesn’t “feel left out”.
The employee doesn’t feel left out.
Nor do they feel sad when they don’t lose 50 bucks on Melbourne Cup Day in the office sweepstakes.
Pick your battles.
The world
We understand this is new to you. But don’t try to break the ice and show your high tolerance levels by discussing politics and/or religion with your Muslim employee without Muslim supervision — at least not until you’ve ascertained which sect your Muslim employee adheres to, and where exactly their sympathies and focus lie in the war against terror.
For example, is your employee from an area afflicted by the US’ “liberation” policies? Is your employee a traditionalist, modernist, progressive, liberal, modernist-progressive-liberal, moderate or extremist? Sometimes that person doesn’t even know until a smarty pants co-worker challenges their belief system.
If you make the mistake of offending your Muslim employee, assure them you don’t buy Danish anymore and take some annual leave until the incident is forgotten.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

What really happened on 10th Muharram in Muslim history?

from: A simple, succint article on the 10th of Muharram at
"The 10th day of Muharram, known as Yawm Al-‘Ashura, is the most significant day of this month.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “Fasting on the Day of ‘Ashura is an expiation of sins for the previous year”[3]. Many events are attributed to this date such as that the Prophet Adam was born and his repentance was accepted on this day, the Prophet Abraham was saved from the Fire, the Prophet Ishmael was delivered from the Sacrifice, the Prophet Joseph was reunited with his father, the Prophet Job was cured of his illness and the Prophet Solomon was ordained as king on this day[4], but these assertions are not backed by accurate historical evidences
Ibn Abbas relates that when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came to Madinah, he found the Jews fasting on the Day of ‘Ashura. When asked for the reason of their fasting, they replied that it was the day when Allah Ta‘ala saved the Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel from their enemies. Moses fasted to thank Allah and they fasted in emulation of him. So the Prophet (SAW) said “We have more of a right to Moses than you” and so he ordered the Muslims to fast on that day [6]. This fast was later abrogated with the fast of Ramadan substituted in its place but it was kept as an optional recommended fast[7]. However, in order not to follow the Jews, the Prophet encouraged Muslims by saying: “Observe the fast of ‘Ashura and differ from the Jews by fasting a day before it or after it”[8].
Martyrdom of Imam Husayn
The Prophet’s younger grandson Husayn was tragically martyred on 10th Muharram 61 AH/ 680 CE. As a result, the Shi‘ites commemorate Husayn’s martyrdom and give prominence to this day.
But it must be remembered that ‘Ashura was given significance by the Prophet himself- hence it is pointless to claim that this day is significant due to Husayn’s martyrdom which happened three decades after the Prophet’s death. However, the heroic martyrdom of Imam Husayn demonstrates to Muslims the need to uphold truth and justice and to fight against tyranny and evil and they should be prepared to give their lives in a similar cause if the need arises. Such situations are all too common in our own times when Muslims are being persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world.''
More information on the martyrdom of Imaam Husayn here (an excerpt from The History of Islam by Akbar Shah Najeebabadi) and here (contains the transcript of an address by Abdullah Yusuf Ali on the day of Ashura)

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Why do Muslims love Moses?

Nice article from beliefnet's 'A MidWestern Muslim' blog on why Muslims love Moses.

''Another year brings another season of Passover, during which Jews commemorate the bitterness of Egyptian bondage, the grace of having death pass over them on its way to claim each Egyptian first born, and the elation of freedom from bondage at the hands of God's mighty Messenger. [...]
Many may not know this, but Muslims also commemorate the Exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt by fasting the ninth and 10th day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The event is called Ashura, stemming from the Arabic word for "ten."

While this may be surprising to non-Muslims, it's important to understand that Moses figures prominently in Muslim belief. The Exodus story is a happy one for Muslims; it is a tale of bitter bondage and hardship and the glory of God's deliverance from that hardship. The Qur'an speaks a great deal about Moses and his dealing with Pharaoh. In fact, about 73 passages--many encompassing several verses at a time--deal with Moses. More verses mention Moses by name than Muhammad (peace be upon them both).

The Qur'an tells of two miracles--Moses' staff turning into a serpent and his hand glowing when he places it under his arm--that God permitted as proof of Moses' prophethood. It details the plagues that were unleashed on the Egyptians for their refusal to believe in God and set the Hebrews free: "We (God) then sent upon them the flood, and locusts, and lice, and frogs, and blood as manifest signs; [as a result] they became arrogant and were a people steeped in crime" (7:133).
The Qur'an then speaks about a great affliction that befell the Egyptians and led them to finally let the Hebrews go. The text does not go into what sort of affliction it was; perhaps it was the death of every Egyptian first born, but this is speculation. My favorite part of the story, the splitting of the Red Sea, is mentioned at least twice in the Qur'an as well.
Thus, I am happy to fast on Ashura to commemorate this event.

The two (communities) have much in common. Both espouse a staunch monotheism. A great number of Hebrew prophets, whom Muslims love dearly, are mentioned in the Qur'an and highly honored. Muslims and Jews both trace their faith origin to Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). These commonalities far outweigh and outnumber any differences there may be, and they should serve to bring both communities closer together.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

How prejudiced can people get?


from: Yahoo News
WASHINGTON - A high school track star has been disqualified from a meet because officials said the custom-made outfit she wears to conform to her Muslim faith violated competition rules.

Juashaunna Kelly, a senior at the District of Columbia's Theodore Roosevelt High School, has the fastest mile and 2-mile times of any girl runner in the city this winter. She was disqualified from Saturday's Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet.
Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt's cross-country and track teams. The custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard covers her head, arms, torso and legs. Over the unitard, she wears the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.
The outfit allows her to compete while adhering to her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.
"It's not special," Kelly said. "It doesn't make me perform better."
But meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event. Uniforms are required to be "a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches," he said.
Rogers said that he knew Kelly was wearing the uniform for religious reasons and that he offered her several options to conform to the rules while still respecting her faith, including placing a plain T-shirt over her unitard and then wearing her team uniform over it.
Kelly's mother, Sarah, and Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden disputed that account. They said officials made several demands of her daughter before Rogers made his decision.
"First, they said she had to take her hood off," Sarah Kelly said. "Then, they said she can't have anything with logos displayed. Then, they said she had to turn it inside out. When I told them that there weren't any logos on it, they said she had to put a plain white T-shirt on over it."
Juashaunna Kelly has worn the same uniform for three years without any problems, including at last year's Montgomery Invitational. Rogers said officials must have missed the uniform last year.
"It wasn't a problem last year, and it's a problem this year? Make me understand why," Bowden said.
Kelly, whose 1,600-meter time of 5 minutes 17.49 seconds and 3,200-meter time of 12:00.81 are the fastest of any D.C. girl, was hoping to run fast enough at the Montgomery Invitational to qualify for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9.
Bowden said the team has no other meets scheduled that would allow her to qualify for the event, which attracts dozens of college recruiters.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why does the Muslim New Year come after Jan 1?

No, it's nothing to do with Muslim Standard Time (inside joke on how Muslims are often late for interviews/appointments/functions/flights etc.)

The Saudi Aramco magazine carried this really informative article on the Islamic Hijri Calendar that should clear up the why's and wherefores for anyone who wants to know more about the calendar that Muslims follow.

Hamzah Moin's website 'ManiacMuslim' has more on following MST:

''When September 11th happened, news stations everywhere were starting to speculate that it was “Muslim”-like or something stupid like that.
I disagree.
The heinous acts of terrorism against the World Trade Center were too well-timed and organized to be run by Muslims. I’m serious. I worked for the Muslim community for the last 6 years of my life and there are some cold, hard facts about Muslims today:
1) we’re not organized enough to pull off a 9/11
2) we’re never on time.
If there was such a thing as a Muslim terrorist, he would have missed the flight.''

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