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Some questions:

Does Quran say non-believers should be killed?

The verse in question is found in chapter 9, Surah Tawba. This was one of the final chapters of the Quran revealed to the holy Prophet (sawws). If we look at the surah overall, it mainly examines the preparation, journey and aftermath of the famous battle of Tabbuk, which occurred in the 9th year AH. Therefore, and very importantly, each verse has to be considered under this context, and analyzed taking the historical events into consideration. The chapter also deals, in many places, with the hypocrites that existed everywhere at that time, as well as their signs and methodology of influence. 

The Polytheists in and around Mecca were given a certain time frame, to either embrace Islam and abandon worshipping idols, or leave the area. Look at this verse for example, where Allah ta’la clearly instructs the Prophet to adopt the peaceful method of dealing with them:

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ [٩:٦]

If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. (9:6)

Verse 73 and many other verses in the holy Quran must not be interpreted without objectively analyzing the historical context of revelation. Many exegetes of the Quran point to the specific nature of this and other verses, whilst lessons applicable at all times can still be derived. This means that Allah (swt) instructed the Prophet to be harsh with the disbelievers who were adamant in fighting His religion and destroying it. They were not willing to accept any peaceful means of resolving the matter.

Therefore this and the other verses which seemingly ‘incite hatred’ against non-believers cannot be hijacked by some Muslims to satisfy their whims and desires, because they were revealed for a specific circumstance. Many other verses in the Quran strongly encourage peaceful co-existence whilst others warn of the severe consequences of killing innocent souls, irrespective of faith.

The School of Ahlul-Bayt (as) propagates that Jihad comes into 2 categories: defensive and offensive. During the time of the occultation of the Imam, offensive Jihad is prohibited since it requires the permission of the ma’som (as). Defensive struggle involves self-defense against occupiers and the natural right of humans to resist occupation against their homelands, possessions. This type of Jihad does not require the permission of the Ma’soom, but the direction of the representative of the Imam (the marajie), is preferable. 

Allah Knows Best

Should women stay at home or be out there working?

Everything has a purpose in this World. It is part of Allah (swt)’s immaculate creation that nothing was created without any function. Once Al-Mansur was annoyed by a flying insect, he complained to Imam As-Sadiq (as) as to why Allah created this creature? Imam (as) replied that it was to remind those who are arrogant and the oppressors of their weakness (they could be annoyed by the smallest of creatures).

With regards to men and women, Allah (swt) has clearly mentioned in several verses in the holy book that they are equal in terms of their obligations towards Him and the path they need to undertake in this life, with the reward not reserved for one gender more than the other. Nevertheless just like how everything has a purpose in this beautiful creation, so do the roles of men and women differ. Women have been bestowed by the Almighty with gentle features coupled with powerful caring and emotional characteristics, very much needed for the female to display compassion and love towards their children as well as the husband. 

The problem is, some people in the West emphasise that women should act like a man in performing certain tasks and have to be encouraged to take their full position in society, competing with men in all fronts. Islam encourages the education and the development of women as well as men, since a strong society is based on high standards of moral conduct and knowledge. Hence we find the hadith of the Holy Prophet (sawws): “Jannah lies beneath the feet of the mother”, because it is she who builds the character of the men and women of the future, leading to righteous individuals in a healthy society.

When asked about the Jihad of Women, the holy prophet of Islam (sawws) replied: ‘Husn al-taba’ul’ meaning to be a righteous devout wife. What we understand from this hadith and many others, is that although our sisters should be encouraged to seek education in all fronts and develop skills and expertise through engaging in certain jobs (not all according to Sharia), their main area of responsibility lies in the home, whereby Islam encourages them to nurture the strong foundations of faith, akhlaq and righteousness within their children though the correct upbringing. The issue is sometimes misunderstood by some, claiming that Islam is against women working in society and wants to confined them in their homes. 

What the ulema emphasise is that if the two options were placed alongside each other, whereby the mother would either work 5 days a week for e.g. and take her young children to nursery or allocate more time to educate and raise them, then the latter is preferred.

We do need our sisters to be engineers, doctors, scientists etc, and achieve high standards of education, as seeking knowledge is an obligation upon each Muslim (hadith), but at the same time the main responsibilities and roles of the mother must not be neglected. Sometimes striking a balance is practically difficult; therefore an important choice needs to be made. The reward reserved for those who stand to protect the future of the society by strengthening the upbringing of their children is abundant.

What should we be thinking about when watching Tv or surfing internet? Can doing these become haram?

One of the Quranic facts that needs to be understood is that as a Muslim who adheres to the teachings of the Religion of Allah (swt), accountability of every action for every minute of the human’s life is quite clearly emphasised. In other words, unlike some people who live in the West and constantly exclaim that ‘they are free to do what they like’, Islam dictates the affairs of a believer entirely, from sleep to eating to worship. Reflect on these verses:

وَقِفُوهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ مَسْئُولُونَ ﴿الصافات: ٢٤﴾

And stop them, for they shall be fully accountable

 

فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَسْأَلَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ [١٥:٩٢] 

So, by your Lord, We would most certainly question them all, 

As to what they did. عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ [١٥:٩٣] 

(15:92-93)

This accountability also includes how we utilise our time and in which way we spend it.

Watching TV or browsing the internet, on the first level (ie no secondary conations) is Mubah (ie permissible). Sometimes it can become Mustahab (if it’s utilised for seeking pleasure of Allah (swt), for eg by offering services to mankind with sincerity). It can also become haram if through this the disobedience of Allah (swt) occurs. Therefore the outcome is entirely dependent on how one utilises these facilities at her/his disposal. 

Islam teaches us moderation and reflection on whatever we do/plan to do. Sometimes excessive watching of the TV or browsing the internet simply for leisure purposes can become haram (even if forbidden scenes are not watched) since the ulema emphasise that this becomes a distraction from the remembrance of Allah (swt) and worship. They refer to this as laho (excessive fun). We know that in Islam the purpose of this life is not just seeking fun activities, but devotion and sincerity to Allah (swt) through righteous deeds and finding the path to perfection. Certain fun activities, if not causing the disobedience of Allah and not becoming excessive, are permissible. But they must not be the sole or main daily activity of a believer. 

With regards to the second question, if the person watching knows for certain that they will be affected or dragged into temptations of shaitan through watching, it is not permissible. In other words, if the outcome is disobedience of The Almighty then it should not be watched. However if you know for certain that you can remove/turn away/fast forward these scenes, and it will not have any negative implications on your soul, then it can be watched, but it is highly discouraged. The reason is that the hadith points to one of the arrows of the shaitan being the unlawful look or glance, and such images can remain in someone’s mind and imagination. Prevention is better than cure, and another hadith states that one of the eyes that are saved from feeling hellfire on day of judgement is the one that turns away from forbidden scenes or images. The rewards promised by Allah (swt) for such determination and abstinence from munkar (falsehood) are endless.

For a spiritual wayfarer or a person seeking close proximity to Allah (swt), even contemplating about watching such films should not occur. This is because the believer is the one who always sides with caution (ihtiyat) and avoids any acts which may lead to disobedience, since as we know we all have al-nafs al-mmara (soul that tends towards evil) therefore we must against its temptations and the satanic whisperings.

Why do Shia’s prostrate on clay/turba?

The laws of Islam are derived from the main sources of legislation, namely the Holy Quran and the Sunna of the holy Prophet (sawws) (The School of AhlulBayt considers the Sunna of his AhlulBayt as a source as well). This means that both verses of the Quran as well as hadith should be used, since neither can be neglected.

When we come to hadith, we find that many narrations indicate that the holy Prophet and companions used to prostrate on mud or anything that can neither be eaten or worn. The prophetic narration affirms this. The idea is not limited to the Shia but hadith found in sahih books also point to this fact:

  • Narrated Abu Sa’id al-Khudri: I saw Allah’s Apostle prostrating in mud and water and saw the mark of mud on his forehead.
    [Al-Bukhari, Sahih (English translation), vol. 1, book 12, no. 798; vol. 3, book 33, no. 244]
  • Narrated Maymuna: Allah’s Apostle used to pray on a Khumra.
    [Al-Bukhari, Sahih (English translation), vol. 1, book 8, no. 378]
  • According to al-Shawkani, a famous Sunni scholar, more than ten Companions of the Prophet (s) have narrated traditions mentioning his prostration on a Khumrah.  And he lists all the Sunni sources recording these traditions which include Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan al-Nasa’i and many others.
    [Al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar , Chapter of Prostration on the Khumrah, vol. 2, p. 128]

We then have to establish what the ‘khumra’ is. Ibn al-‘Athir, a famous Sunni scholar, in his Jami al-‘Usul has written:”Khumra is [like that] upon which the Shi’ah of our time perform their prostrations.” [Ibn al-‘Athir, Jami’ al-Usul, (Cairo, 1969), vol. 5, p. 467]

Takhlis al-sihah, another book from our brothers, confirms this:

“Khumra is a small mat made from palm fibres or other material…. and it is like that which the Shi’ah use for prostration.” [Talkhis al-Sihah, p. 81]

Therefore to follow the Sunna of the Prophet, we prostrate on clay or the turba which is made from clay (or anything that cannot be eaten or worn). Of course the Imams (as) have also encouraged prostration on turbat al-hussain (as), ie from Karbala, due to its sacred nature, although this is not obligatory but highly recommended. 

My son wastes a lot of time playing games etc. What advice do you have in terms of managing time according to Islamic teachings?

One of the ideas that the holy Quran portrays to mankind is that in this world (dunya), mankind is fully responsible for all the bounties and blessings from Allah ta’la. What we mean is that we will be fully accountable for what we have at our disposal and how we use it. 

وَقِفُوهُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ مَسْئُولُونَ [٣٧:٢٤] 

And stop them, for they are (fully) responsible: 

 

Unfortunately this important notion is not understood by many and hence we tend to waste and become extravagant with all that we have been blessed with. One of these things is Time. Throughout history many have failed to realise the importance of utilising this gift from Allah and not wasting it. Hence we find Allah ta’la swearing by it, due to its importance:

وَالْعَصْرِ [١٠٣:١] 

I swear by the time, 

If this is understood, then the human being will work to be organised in terms of daily activities and utilise time for the ultimate purpose of creation: seeking perfection through righteousness and acts which please Allah (swt). Some practical tips can also be mentioned:

  1. Amir Al-Moimeneen (as) in his will mentions the importance of being organised in one’s affairs: “My advice to you is to have Taqwa and be organised in all matters.” Hence we find many people writing books and instructions on time management. These days we have several ways in which we could be occupied for hours, eg TV, internet, chatting, sports etc. Whilst halal activities are recommended in moderation, excessive usage of time is considered by some ulema as sin since it’s a source of distraction from the dhikr of Allah (swt). The idea is to have a personal commitment plan, either daily or weekly, to set out objectives and how they can be achieved. Remember the idea is to have a balanced approach, demonstrated brilliantly by the Ahlul-Bayt (as), in which time is given to family, work or study, worship and seeking knowledge of deen. 
  2. As methods of motivation, it’s advised to constantly think and ponder, where am I going? What do I want to achieve? As Imam Ali (as) famously said: Mercy of Allah be on the one who has recognition of where they came from, where they are now, and where they will be going’. Many people are negligent and heedless and so you find them wasting precious time in useless activities. This is because they fail to recognise that they will be held accountable for every minute of their lives. Remembrance of death and visiting the graves also helps in this realisation.
  3. One issue is understanding the emphasis Islam places on tafaquh bil-deen, ie to seek Knowledge of religion. This, in turn, can strength your faith and help in seeking close proximity to Allah (swt). As an eg, a hadith from one of the ma’someen says: ‘Seek knowledge of religion, at least once a week, for Allah does not look at or help purify anyone on the day of judgement if they do not do this’. The verses and narrations highlighting this are many. Once we understand this we subsequently feel the need to make time for such important activities, even though we may have busy lifestyles.
  4. Some hours of the day are wasted by waiting or ‘hanging around’, this could be used by dhikr of Allah (swt) through tasbeeh, or recitation of Quranic chapters (as an eg Rasulallah (swt) is narrated to have said that whomsoever recites surat al-tawhid once, Allah will give them the reward of reciting 1/3 of the entire Quran).  I have found hadiths that emphasis dhikr at times when people are very much negligent of Allah, for eg during shopping or in the darkness of the night. If we are travelling in a bus/tube, it a very good idea to always carry a book or the Holy Quran (these days you could have these on the mobile phone) and to read/recite at every opportunity, even if it’s a few lines.
  5. Everything should be given a limit, eg sleeping/ watching TV or browsing the net. If this is not followed then Shaitan’s grip on the human being intensifies leading to forgetfulness of Allah (swt):
  6. وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ [٥٩:١٩] 

And be not like those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls: these it is that are the transgressors.   

  1. One important usage of time is through contemplation and reflection. This can be done at any time but the quality is important:
  2. إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ [٣:١٩٠] 

Most surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day there are signs for men who understand. 

Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire: الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَٰذَا بَاطِلًا سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ [٣:١٩١] 

The idea is to reflect on what we have offered for our eternal life, to scrutinize one’s self and to focus on ways of self improvement.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْتَنْظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ [٥٩:١٨] 

O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah, and let every soul consider what it has sent on for tomorrow(day of judgment), and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do. 

And Allah Knows Best

Salaams and Dua

Doesn’t verse (33:33) that the Shia claim talks about Ahlulbayt also include the wives of the Prophet?

The verse of Purification (33:33) needs to be analysed and examined carefully, due to its importance and significance as far as theology and the core belief system of Islam is concerned.

The School of Ahlulbayt (as) puts forward a number of arguments to demonstrate that the Ahlulbayt referred to in this verse is an exclusive term, referring to the five ashab al-kisaa and the 9 sons of Imam Hussein (as). They are the following:

  1. The majority of the verse is directed towards the wives of the Prophet (sawws), hence the usage of the feminine plural. Only in the last part, which is the subject of discussion, does the verse refer to both males and females as being purified, using masculine plural. This clearly means that those who have been purified by the Almighty are not just the wives of the prophet (if its them at all as we shall see).
  2. The beginning of the verse rebukes the wives, whilst there is a sudden change in tone at the end, with the Ahlulbayt exalted and praised as being completely pure and ma’soom. This change of tone cannot be explained except is we say that a different group of people are being mentioned.
  3. We have several instances in the Quran where the first part of the verse is directed as someone and the end at someone else. Look at this verse in Surah Yusuf as an example:
  4. The majority of commentators of the Quran say that the word ‘Rijs’ in the verse means sin. If we take the word Ahlulbayt to mean the wives, this would contradict the Quran since Chapter 66 clearly rebukes 2 wives of the Prophet for disclosing a secret. There is no doubt about their mistake and disobedience of Rasulallah. Furthermore, Aisha stood up against the khlaifa of her time, The Commander of The Faithful, in an act that the majority of Sunni Scholars deem a mistake (which resulted in the death of thousands of Muslims). Hence historical accounts clearly point to the fallibility of the wives of Rasulallah (sawws).
  5. Numerous narrations from both sides provide evidence that the word Ahlulbayt in the verse refers to Ashab Al-Kisaa (The Holy Prophet, Imam Ali, Lady Fatima, Imams Hassan and Hussein peace be upon them all). Let look at an example:
    Abu Sa’íd al-Khudari quotes Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet in whose house the incident of Kisã’ took place. She says: Jibra’íl came with the verse of purification; the Prophet called Hasan, Husayn, Fãtima and ‘Ali, and he gathered them together and covered them with the mantle. Then he said, “O Allãh, these are my Ahlul Bayt, so ‘keep away the abomination from the Ahlul Bayt, and purify them thoroughly.’” Umm Salama (may Allãh be pleased with her) said, “Am I with them, O Apostle of Allãh?” The Prophet said, “You stay in your place, and you are virtuous.”
    As-Suyûti, ad-Durru ‘l-Manthûr, vol. 5, p. 197. Also see at-Tabari, Jãmi’u ‘l-Bayãn, vol. 7, p. 22; Muhibbu ‘d-Dín at-Tabari al-Makki, Dhakhã’iru ‘l-‘Uqba, p. 55-60.
  1. Sahih Muslim and Tirmidhi also narrate a similar hadith, with Imam Muslim commenting that a wife cannot be considered from the Ahlulbayt since she can be divorced and hence leave the family.
  2. History demonstrates without ambiguity the purity of the Ahlulbayt of The Prophet (sawws). No account of any wrongdoings, mistakes or sins on their behalf exists. This is testimony to their purity and ‘isma.

Salaam and dua

I find it hard to purify my soul. Help!

The struggle to purify one’s soul is considered in Islam the most important battle any human being undertakes. In order for anyone to achieve victory in a battle, we need to have some kind of an understanding or comprehension about the nature of our soul. What we understand from the holy Quran is that Allah ta’la has created the nafs (soul) for each and every one of us, giving it the flexibility to choose its pathway in life:

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا [٩١:٧] 

And the soul and Him Who made it perfect, 

فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا [٩١:٨] 

Then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it; 

What distinguished the righteous and the one who attains eternal victory is to have some kind of a comprehension on his/her weaknesses when it comes to the nature of the soul. For e.g. Ameer Al-Mo’mineen (as) in narrated hadith says: The soul goes through phases. When it is in the advanced (iqbal) phase, make sure you perform the nawafil and wajibat. However when the soul is the retracting phase (idbar) restrict it with wajibat’. What does this mean? The idea is to understand one’s limitations and not to overburden the soul, which unfortunately may result in a negative recline towards disobedience. 

The other factor is external influences, such as the shaitan. We know that iblis is the number one enemy for human beings therefore we must guard against the traps and enticements of the devil. For e.g., a believer avoids attending places where the satanic influences are strong and the temptations intensify. 

An important factor to consider in jihad al-nafs is tawakkul and reliance on Allah (swt) in all matters. The believer needs to build on the sincere intention and the devotion towards his Lord by removing all aspects of pride and arrogance and depending on The Almighty for all aspects of their lives. This is where dhikr (remembrance of Allah) comes in, whereby the tongue and the heart are constantly reverberating the glory of The Creator and His Majesty. We are in dire need of the mercy of The All Merciful. Remember what prophet Yusuf (as) says:

وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ [١٢:٥٣] 

And I do not declare myself free, most surely (man’s) self is wont to command (him to do) evil, except such as my Lord has had mercy on, surely my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. 

That’s why Rasulallah (sawws) used to spend hours in prostration, weeping and saying: O my Lord, do not abandon me to myself for (the length of) a blink an eye’. We are dependent on Allah ta’la in every moment of our lives and so we seek His help in overcoming the nafs al-amara (the soul that commands us to evil), and at the same time develop a strategy to purify the soul through contemplation, dhikr and endless self-scrutinastion. The latter is quite important. What we are told is that we need to have a daily programme constituting of Musharata, muraqaba and muhasaba. The first is performed in the morning; it is placing certain conditions for one’s self, and i.e. what must be observed and what must not be done. During the day, we become observant and reflect on these conditions. At night, we scrutinize our actions, what did I do wrong, how could I have done that differently? This could be done before going to sleep and doesn’t need to be written. It should be a daily activity. Numerous ahadith emphasise this:

‘Whoever does not take account of his actions daily is not from us. If he/she finds good deeds they thank Allah and asks for strength to continue, and in finding bad deeds seeks mercy and forgiveness from Allah (swt).’ Imam Al-Kadhim (as)

‘Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable (on Day of Judgement)’ Imam Ali (as)  

How important is it to have the right friends?

The selection of the right friends is crucial in the life of believing men/women. As you mentioned correctly, the choice has detrimental effects on the life style and levels of Islamic dedication shown by an individual, due to the influence of companions. The Holy Quran, in numerous occasions warns about this and highlights that the only important quality for a true friendship is Taqwa:

الْأَخِلَّاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿الزخرف: ٦٧﴾

The friends shall on that day be enemies one to another, except those who guard (against evil).

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا [٢٥:٢٧] 

And the day when the unjust one shall bite his hands saying: O! Would that I had taken away with the Messenger 

O woe is me! Would that I had not taken such a one for a friend!

يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا [٢٥:٢٨] 

Certainly he led me astray from the reminder after it had come to me; and the Shaitan fails to aid man.
لَقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي
 ۗ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنْسَانِ خَذُولًا [٢٥:٢٩] 

The friend is truly influential and thus may not have desirable effects for our spiritual well-being. Therefore we should be very careful who we take as our intimate friends/close companions. This doesn’t mean we dissociate ourselves from non-Muslims or non-practising Muslims, rather our presence amongst them could be a source of guidance and clearing misconceptions. What is meant is that close relationships are not formed with such individuals, unless one can safeguard themselves as much as possible from falling into the traps of the shaitan and has a mission of propagation. 

Remember the best friend for any person is Allah ta’la Himself if we choose to take Him as our intimate companion. Having full tawakkul on Him and seeking His help and protection will make difficult decision in life easier.

And Allah knows Best

What is the difference between the soul and the spirit (ruh)?

The nature of the soul is a subject of lengthy discussions between philosophers, exegesits and ulema of irfan. Indeed the famous hadith ‘Whosoever has marifa of his soul has marifa of His Lord’ makes understanding the nature of the soul all the more important.

The verse you have quoted actually refers to the rooh (spirit):

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا 

 The Holy Quran uses the term nafs in some occasions and rooh in others. One of the theories put forward by ulema is that these are two separate entities.

The rooh is the creation of Allah, blown into each human being, as mentioned in this verse:

ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِهِ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَا تَشْكُرُونَ ﴿السجدة: ٩﴾ Then He made him complete and breathed into him of His spirit, and made for you the ears and the eyes and the hearts; little is it that you give thanks.

It seems, and Allah is the All Knowing, that the function of the rooh is to purify the human and act as a source of inspiration and guidance. The rooh belongs to the realm of Amr, or malakoot (the unseen or angelic realm). The Quran gives the idea that we are in alam al-khalq or alam al-shahda, where due to the ultimate wisdom of Allah everything is created in stages or progression. Alam al-malakoot (or ghaib) is different, when by the command of Allah (amr) things are created:

إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ ﴿يس: ٨٢﴾

His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, so it is.

The rooh belongs to the ‘amr’ realm. 

As far as the soul is concerned, ulema of nafs go to depths in explaining the different stages/forms of the soul, i.e. nafs al-mutmainna (assured soul), nafs al-mmara and nafs al-lawama (reproaching). Each of these stages requires explanations, which cannot be covered in summary, therefore it is advised one explores this and the other ideas in books such as self-building or Self Knowledge by Sheikh Shomali. 

Why should I do taqlid?

According to the School of Ahlul Bayt (as), Taqlid is one of the most important obligations upon a Muslim. It is also vital for the acceptance of actions and deeds. We believe that as far as aqeeda is concerned, we need to have full appreciation and complete understanding, and must not  follow anybody in this regard.  This includes the belief in usool al-deen. However when it comes to laws that govern our lives and what Allah (swt) has ordained in terms of obligations, acts of worship and transactions etc we need to follow a jurist who has fulfilled all the necessary conditions. The task of this faqih is to extract laws from the Islamic sources of legislation. Of course taqlid is only practiced at an age where the ma’soom is not present or is in occultation.

Allah (swt) does not expect each and every mukallaf to do this research and strenuous work, due to the difficult nature of the tasks involved, hence we follow a jurist who is the most learned and is fully qualified to issue jurisprudential rulings.  As long as you comply with the rulings, for e.g. if he allows smoking, then the responsibility falls on his shoulders before Allah (swt). 

What is more, the holy Awaited Saviour and The Master of Our Time, Imam Mehdi (atf) has instructed us to follow such individuals during the time of his occultation. It is narrated that Imam Al-Askari (as) said:

“ if there is anyone among the fuqaha’ who is in control over his own self, protects his religion, suppresses his evil desires and is obedient to the commands of his Master, then the people should follow him”.

Shaykh at-Tabarsi, al-Ihtijaj, vo. 2, Najaf 1966, p. 263

More details can be found in a well-written article by Sayid Muhammad Rizvi: http://www.al-islam.org/beliefs/practices/taqlid.html

Salaam and dua

What is Taqiyya, and why do Shias practice it? When can it be applied?

Taqiyyah (Dissimilation) is a Quranic principle not only advocated by the school of Ahlul-Bayt but other Islamic schools. Literally the word Taqiyyah means: “Concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury.”

Allamah Tabatabaei defines it as: “the situation where a person “hides his religion or certain of his religious practices in situations that would cause definite or probable danger as a result of the actions of those who are opposed to his religion or particular religious practices.”

Ulema of theology normal bring two verses in the Quran to support this principle:

لَا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۖ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَنْ تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً ۗ وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ ۗ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ [٣:٢٨] 

Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. (3:28)

مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِهِ إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَٰكِنْ مَنْ شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ [١٦:١٠٦] 

He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement. (16:106)

The following needs to be kept in mind:

  1. The concealment of one’s beliefs does not necessitate an abandonment of these beliefs.  The distinction between “concealment” and “abandonment” must be made.
  2. There are numerous exceptions to the above definition, and they must be judged according to the situation that one is placed in.  As such, one should not make a narrow-minded generalization that encompasses all situations, thereby failing to fully absorb the spirit of the definition.
  3. The word “beliefs” and/or “convictions” does not necessarily mean “religious” beliefs and/or convictions

The following is the answer by Samahat Al-Sayid Sistani on this matter:

1) Taqiyyah is done for safety reasons. For example, a person fears that he might be killed or harmed, if he does not observe Taqiyyah. In this case, it is obligatory to observe Taqiyyah.

2) Reconciliatory Taqiyyah. This type of Taqiyyah is done when a person intends to reconcile with the other side or when he intends to soften their hearts. This kind of Taqiyyah is permissible but not obligatory.

3) Sometimes, Taqiyyah may cause a more important obligation to be lost or missed, if so it is forbidden. For example, when I know that silence would cause oppression and infidelity to spread and will make people go astray, in such a situation it is not permissible to be silent and to dissimulate.

4) Sometimes, Taqiyyah may lead to the death of an innocent person. If so, it is not permissible. It is therefore haram (forbidden) to kill another person to save your own life.”

(sistani.org)

How can I strengthen my imaan?

One of the ways in which the human being is generally motivated to do something is by having comprehension of the consequence of their actions. Therefore people strive daily and work for many hours to earn a living, knowing that without this they cannot survive in an increasingly difficult economic climate.

Thus ulema emphasise the role of reminding one’s self about akhira and the punishment of Allah (swt) for those who disbelieve and sin without due consideration as to whom they are sinning against. This involves reading about the events of the Day of judgement, specifically the types of punishment in hell-fire that awaits the non-believers and the sinners. The holy Quran is a great place to start, by reflecting of the hundreds of verses that speak about akhira, we get a great picture of the realities of our ultimate destination. Reflect for eg  on these verses that talk about the food and drink of the inhabitants of hell:

إِنَّ شَجَرَتَ الزَّقُّومِ [٤٤:٤٣] 

Surely the tree of the Zaqqum, 

Is the food of the sinful
طَعَامُ الْأَثِيمِ
[٤٤:٤٤] 

Like dregs of oil; it shall boil in (their) bellies,
كَالْمُهْلِ يَغْلِي فِي الْبُطُونِ
[٤٤:٤٥] 

Like the boiling of hot water.
كَغَلْيِ الْحَمِيمِ
[٤٤:٤٦] 

Seize him, then drag him down into the middle of the hell;
خُذُوهُ فَاعْتِلُوهُ إِلَىٰ سَوَاءِ الْجَحِيمِ
[٤٤:٤٧] 

Then pour above his head of the torment of the boiling water:
ثُمَّ صُبُّوا فَوْقَ رَأْسِهِ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْحَمِيمِ
[٤٤:٤٨] 

Once we really think and ponder over this, and the fact that we cannot withstand seconds of fire or pain in this world, let alone eternal damnation and punishment, we will reach a realisation that this life is short and transient and that we need to build for our akhira. 

Deep contemplation on death and constant remembrance of our forthcoming journey is very much recommended. Practically visits to cemeteries as well as places where ghusl of the deceased take place is a good reminder and an eye-opener.

Some good books include Manzul Akhira by Sheikh Abbas Qummi:

http://www.rafed.net/english/books/ethics/manazel/index.html

Resurrection, judgement and the hereafter by Sayid Lari:

http://www.al-islam.org/Resurrect/index.htm

Journey to the Unseen World:

http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/kids/Books/unseen/title.htm

How can I remain on the straight and true path without deviating?

The emphasis on attaining the spiritual position of istiqmama (being steadfast) is highly praised in the holy Quran:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ ﴿فصلت: ٣٠﴾

(As for) those who say: Our Lord is Allah, then become steadfast, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the garden which you were promised.

There is no doubt that we are continuously examined by Allah (swt) and made to go through trials and tribulations. What ulema of irfan and akhlaq mention is that not only do we need to display the excellent attribute of patience (whereby we do not complain physically or verbally and show unhappiness over what has happened to us), but we need to train our soul to be pleased with Allah’s legislative and generative will (al-irada al-tashreeiya and al-irada al-takweeniya). This is the status of Al-Redha, where not only are we patient over misfortunes and our current situation, but our hearts submit in totally and become pleased with Allah’s decree. The ‘I’ becomes ‘He’, and we don’t start to worry about other people’s perceptions or opinions once we work to gain the pleasure of Allah and become completely submissive (have tasleem). This was demonstrated by Prophets of Allah (eg Ibrahim, Ismail and the holy Prophet (swt) and all our Imams (eg Imam Hussein (as) In Karbala). 

Being steadfast means not allowing the temptations of this world and its materialistic inclinations distort our thinking or objectives in life. We become determined to focus on gaining His pleasure, which results in achieving the sought after perfection and righteousness. We are not swayed by the evil whisperings and temptations of the shaitan and our soul, because we have full trust in Allah (swt) and have made Him our intimate friend. In a hadith Qudsi, Allah ta’la informs Musa (as) that ‘I am the close companion of whosoever remembers Me’.

 Hence by having the realisation of the beautiful way in which Allah (swt) has created this world, and how everything has a purpose and a limit except His existence, which is the source of everything, we begin to appreciate that in order to succeed we need to show contentment and be pleased with what Allah has bestowed upon us. Thereafter we engage in constant acts of thankfulness and gratitude towards His infinite blessings. 

In a beautiful verse, Allah (swt) then promised that once this steadfastness is achieved, the human being will no longer have any fears (about the future) or sadness (about the past):

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿الأحقاف: ١٣﴾

Surely those who say, Our Lord is Allah, then they are steadfast, they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. (46:13)

Regarding staying away from desires, we know that Allah ta’la in his infinite wisdom has given each and every one of us many powers; one of these is the power of shahwa (desire). Others include the faculty of intellect and imagination. Thus each human being will have some desires in life. What constitutes a believer and one who yearns the pleasure of Allah is the one who makes sure his faculty of desires is overcome by the faculty of the intellect, thereby not displaying animalistic behaviour and doing everything at his/her disposal to meet the temptations of the soul. They become in control, and satisfy their desires in the legitimate way, eg through marriage or consumption of halal food.  We are not asked to suppress our needs and desires entirely, but to control them effectively and not to make them the source of the disobedience of Allah (swt). That’s why Islam has placed legitimate acceptable means of meeting our physical and spiritual needs.

Salaams and dua

I’m studying at university, and with some money, hajj maybe wajib for me. I have exams though, does this matter?

Hajj is one of the pillars of religion and an important act of worship. It is an obligation upon every human being (and not only Muslims as clearly stipulated in the Holy Quran). However the obligation is based on capability and this is not confided to financial means.

Our ulema have mentioned that Hajj is wajib, once in a life time, for anyone who:

  1. Is Baligh (reached the age of puberty according to the Sharia definition).
  2. Is sane and free (not a slave)
  3. By going to Hajj, he would not need to perform any haram act(s).
  4. Can fulfil the following:

(a) He should possess provisions and means for transportation, if need be, or he should have enough money to buy them.

(b) He should be healthy and strong enough to per form Hajj, without suffering extreme difficulties.

(c) There should be no obstacle on the way. If the way is closed, or if a person fears that he will lose his life, or honour, while on his way to Makkah, or he will be robbed of his property, it is not obligatory on him to perform Hajj. But if he can reach Makkah by another route, he should go to perform Hajj, even if the other route is a longer one. But that route should not be unusually longer.

(d) He should have enough time to reach Makkah, and to perform all the acts of worship in Hajj.

(e) He should possess sufficient money to meet the expenses of his dependents whose maintenance is obligatory on him, like, his wife and children, as well as the expenses of those who have to be paid, like, servants, maids, etc.

(f) On return from Hajj, he should have some means of livelihood, like, income from the property, farming, business, employment etc. so that he may not lead a life of hardship.

Regarding studies and work, our scholars have mentioned that if any situation brings about extreme and unbearable difficulty (al-haraj al-shadeed) then Hajj can be postponed. The extent of the difficulty and whether it falls under this Islamic definition is determined by the individual themselves or through consultation with the experts. For example, Ayatollah Sistani (ha) was asked about the situation where Hajj coincides with exams at college, and whether the pilgrimage can be performed in the future:

Question: If the exam schedule for a student conflicts with the timing of the hajj, is it permissible for him to postpone the hajj that year especially if the exam was very important for him?

Answer: If he is sure that he will be able to perform hajj in the following year, it is permissible for him to postpone it; otherwise, it is not permissible. However, if postponing the exam will cause difficulty to such an extent that it is normally unbearable, it is not obligatory on him to perform hajj that year. 

We need to remember that many narrations from the glorious ma’someen mention the consequences of not performing hajj with the ability to do so. The Imams (as) say that the individual concerned would die as a non-Muslims (i.e. all actions nullified). 

It is highly recommended that hajj is performed at a youthful age, since the benefits as well as energy of the hajji is greater than at a later age. Ulema for example say that Hajj is more important than marriage, unless ‘extreme and unbearable difficulty’ is experienced.

What were the names taught to Adam by the angels?

The identity of the names that were ‘taught’ by Allah ta’la to Prophet Adam (as) is an interesting and fairly debated subject within Quranic exegesis. In short, the possibilities can be narrowed down to two, taking into account the various narrations from the Ahlul-Bayt (as). 

  1. The names are of the proofs or hujjaj of Allah ta’la on this earth. Allamah Tabatabaie (ra) mentions this in his tafseer, quoting a hadith from Imam Al-Sadiq (as):

Imam As-Sadiq (as) said: “Verily, Allah taught Adam the names of His proofs, all of them; then He presented them – and they were the spirits – to the angels, and said: ‘Tell Me the names of these if you are right in your claims that you have more right, than Adam, to the vicegerency in the earth because of your glorifying and extolling (Me).’ They said: ‘Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou, Thou (alone), art the Knowing, the Wise.’ Allah, Blessed and High is He! said: ‘O Adam! inform them of their names.’ When he informed them of their names, they knew of their (i.e. those spirits) high rank before Allah, Great is His name! They realized that they (i.e. those spirits) were more deserving to be the vicegerents of Allah in His earth, and (to be) His proofs over His creatures. Then Allah removed them (the spirits) from their sight, and subjugated them with their (i.e. those spirits) obedience an d love; and told them, ‘Did I not say to you that I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you were hiding?’” 

  1. The other more likely possibility, which is also mentioned in tafseer na’mona (al-amthal) and tafseer Al-Qummi, is that Allah taught Adam the names of all things; -including the things that were unseen and hidden secrets from the heavens and the earth. This all encompassing and in-depth knowledge was not only restricted to names, but the hidden secrets and reasons for their existence and specifications. Otherwise, as Allamah Tabatabaie mentions, the mere knowledge of names as we understand it does not give Adam (as) any special position over the angels, whom of course did not possess this and were subsequently taught by Adam (as) himself. 

Hadiths from the ma’someen support this:

Abu al-Abbas asked Imam Sadiq (as.) about the words of Allah, And He taught Adam the names, all of them, (and enquired) as to what Allah had taught him. (The lmam) said: “The earths, the mountains, the canyons and the valleys.” Then he looked at the rug which he sat upon and said: “And this rug is among the things which He taught him.”

Indeed as has been mentioned, some ulema hold the opinion that the asma’ are the Great Names of Allah (swt). However we can say that since the creation of Allah are manifestation of His Names and Attributes, the above fits into this explanation. In addition, this opinion also encompasses the first possibility, i.e. names of the representatives of The Almighty (swt), since the names are so comprehensive in nature and deep in reality.

The Allamah adds an interesting point, which is worth sharing:

‘Adam was taught the names of the named ones in such a way that he clearly knew their reality and recognized their substantial existence; it was not merely knowing the semantic value of a noun. The named ones were substantial realities, the actual beings that were, at the same time, hidden behind the curtain of the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth. This especial knowledge could be learnt only by an earthly human being, but was quite incomprehensible by a heavenly angel. And this knowledge had an intrinsic bearing upon vicegerency.’

Allah Knows best

Salaam and dua

Is Latimiyya (lamentation by beating the chest) allowed in Islam?

The commemoration of the martyrdom of the Master of Martyrs, Imam Hussain (as) and his faithful and loyal family and companions giantess great rewards from The Almighty (swt). This is found in many narrations across different Muslim schools of thoughts. With regards to latom and beating one’s chests, it’s an act of devotion and an expression of grief shown by millions of believers across generations. It symbolises loyalty and allegiance to the universal message of Imam Hussain (as), which includes justice, freedom, sacrifice and ultimate devotion to the cause of Allah (swt).

The recommendation of latimyya is considered as unanimous amongst our scholars. All our marajie encourage the faithful followers of the noble household to uphold these practices throughout the year in order to revive the ever-lasting message and sacrifice demonstrated in Karbala. 

The following are examples of narrations found in books of hadith belonging to the School of Khilafa (our Sunni brothers) highlighting how the practice is acceptable in Islam:

  1. The Prophet strikes his thighs in sadness:

    Imam Ali (as) narrates: That Allah’s Apostle came to him and Fatima the daughter of Allah’s Apostle at their house at night and said, “Won’t you pray?” ‘Ali replied, “O Allah’s Apostle! Our souls are in the Hands of Allah and when he wants us to get up, He makes us get up.” When ‘Ali said that to him, Allah’s Apostle left without saying anything to him. While the Prophet was leaving, ‘Ali heard him striking his thigh (with his hand) and saying, “But man is quarrelsome more than anything else.” (18.54)
    The hadith is found in the following books:
    – Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 446
    – Sunnan al Nasai, Volume 3 page 305
    – Adaab al Mufarad, page 426
    – Sahih Muslim Volume 1 page 291

  2. Ibn Hajar Asqalani in the commentary of this tradition in Fatah al Bari, Volume 3 page 11 writes:
    “His statement ‘striking his thigh’ shows the permission of striking the thigh to express the grief”
    We read in Tafseer Kabeer (fakhr al-deen Al-Razi, a Sunni scholar) Volume 9 page 98: “It has been said that when Jibraeel (as) went to Yusuf (as) in jail he (Jibraeel) said to him: ‘Your father has become blind due to the grief for you. Thus he (Yusuf) put his hand on his head and said: ‘I wish if my mother didn’t give birth to me and there would not have been the reason for my father’s grief.”
  3. The following demonstrates that it was a practice by the wives of the Prophet (sawws):
    As narrated by al Tabari in History Volume 9 page 183
    Abbas narrates:
    “I heard Ayesha saying “The Messenger of God died on my bosom during my turn, I did not wrong anyone in regard to him. It was because of my ignorance and youthfulness that the Messenger of God died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my chest and slapping my face along with the women”.

    Ibn Katheer in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah Volume 5 page 420, records the event as follows:

    “Rasulullah (s) died while he was in my lap. Then I laid his head on a pillow and got up beating my face along with other women”. Even companions of the holy Prophet beat their chests and heads in grief: “When the situation of the Prophet worsened, Bilal emerged beating his head and loudly wailing, ‘I wish my mother had not given birth to me, and that if she had I wish that I had died before this day’”
    Madarij al Nubuwah, Volume 2 page 441
    In Sunnan Ibn Majah, page 30, we read that: ‘… he saw Abu Hurrayra hitting his forehead and said ‘o people of Iraq could you even imagine that I would lie about the Prophet?’
    The above examples demonstrate the validity of  beating the chest according to the books of our brothers. In our narrations, we have many ahadith that encourage the commemoration of Ashura through aza, jaza’ and matam. For example, we read a tradition from Wasail ai Shi’a as quoted in Jahaur aur Kalaam Volume 4 page 370:
    “Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (as) said ‘the daughters of Fatima would slap their faces and shriek. It is permissible to beat yourself and shriek for a pure soul such as Hussain”
    Some hadiths about lamentation and matam are found below:

    Imam Baqir (A.S.) said: “He who remembers us, or in whose presence, we are remembered, and (as a result) tears flow from his eyes, even though they may be in the measure of a wing of a mosquito, Allah shall construct for him a house in paradise and make the tears a barrier between him and the fire (of hell).”

    Al-Ghadeer vol. 2, pg. 202
    The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “Surely, there exists in the hearts of the Mo’mineen, with respect to the martyrdom of Husain (A.S.), a heat that never subsides.”
    Mustadrak al-Wasail vol 10 pg. 318

    Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: “The breath of one who is aggrieved upon the injustice and oppression subjected to us, is tasbeeh (glorification of Allah), and his grief for us, is i’baadat (worship of Allah) and his concealing our secrets, is jihad in the path of Allah.

    The Imam (A.S.) then added: This tradition ought to be written in gold.”
    Amaali al-Shaikh al-Mufid, pg. 338

    Abdullah Ibn Sinaan says: “I arrived in the presence of my master, Imam Sadiq (A.S.) on the day of Ashura and found him pale and grief-stricken, with tears streaming from his eyes like falling pearls.”
    Mustadrak al- Wasail, vol 6, pg, 279.
    Many other narrations are also found on this subject.

    It needs to be mentioned that at the time when our ulema encourage latmiyya, they stress that it should not be the cause of excessive harm or injury to the body.

    Such practices should strengthen the emotional connection that believers display with their Imam (as), and act as way to learn and apply the lessons from Karbala into our lives. When we beat our chest it should not only demonstrate our sadness over the tragedy of Karbala, but the willingness to sacrifice and give everything we have for the cause of Allah (swt). Azadari needs to be the starting point for a revolution from within, that which gets us closer to The Almighty through righteous acts.

Was the Prophet’s night journey by body or through dream?

The topic concerning the famous journey of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sawws) has been a subject of contention and much discussion between Sunni and Shia scholars for centuries. In general, many Sunni ulema are of the opinion that the isra and miraaj did not take place physically, i.e. it was the soul of the prophet (possibly through a dream as some say) that went on the buraq. On the other hand, the majority of Shia scholars are of the opinion that the journey was actually physical with the holy body of the Prophet being involved. They cite several references from the Quran to back this belief:

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ [١٧:١

Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. 

ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّىٰ [٥٣:٨

Then he drew near, then he bowed   

فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَىٰ [٥٣:٩

So he was the measure of two bows or closer still. 

 

We can clearly see from the above two verses that the Quran points to the idea that both the body and soul of the Prophet were involved in the heavenly journey, The word used in Surat Al-Israa is ‘His Servant’ and in al-najm describing how close he (sawws) got. Hence our understanding is as follows: The Israa of the Prophet of Islam from the Masjid Al-haram in Makkah to Al-aqsa mosque was in person, thereafter his journey into the heavens was either in person or through the soul (not by dream however). The latter is discussed by some Shia scholars, who argue that the upper heaven are metaphysical and hence the human body would not be able to travel through them,  thus only the soul of the Prophet travelled. Others however argue that by the command of The Almighty everything is possible and his journey involved his body in person.

What does Islam say about backbiting? Is it permissible at any time?

Gheeba (backbiting) is an act which is abhorrent in the eyes of Allah (swt) and condemned in the holy Quran:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَنْ تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ [٢٤:١٩] 

Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe, they shall have a grievous chastisement in this world and the hereafter; and Allah knows, while you do not know. (24:19)

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ [٤٩:١٢] 

O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful. (49:12)

A hadith on the grave consequences of backbiting:

Gheeba is worse than fornication because if a fornicator repents, Allah (Swt.) forgives him but He does not forgive the back-biter till the person about whom he has back-bited forgives.” Holy prophet Mohammed (sawws)

(Al-Makasib Vol. 3 page 310)

In order to stay away from this act, we need to have a full understanding of its meaning. 

‘Al-Makasib’ is an important book which is studied at higher stages of hawza studies. It is written by a well known and respected Shia scholar, Sheikh Murtadha Al-Ansari. In of the chapters, he examines this subject extensively, trying to reach a definition for gheeba. In deriving this he refers to some hadiths from the Ahlul-Bayt (as), for eg:

Gheeba is exposing that aspect of your brother which Allah had concealed.” Imam Al-Sadiq (as)

(Al-Kāfi Vol. 2 page 358)

Abu Dharr (ra) once asked the Prophet Muhammad (sawws): “O Messenger of Allah, what is gheeba?” He replied: “It is to mention about your brother that which he detests.”

Abu Dharr (ra) said: “O Messenger of Allah, what if that which is mentioned of him should actually be in him?” He (sawws) replied: “Know that when you mention that which is in him, you have committed his gheeba, and when you mention that which is not in him, then you have slandered him.”

[Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasai’l al-Shi`ah, vol. 8, hadith no. 16312

Sheikh al-Ansari studied the relevant hadiths, coming to the conclusion that gheeba is divided into three different categories:

Absolute Gheeba: exposing the defect(s) of a believer with a clear intention of defaming

 Apparent Gheeba: Not for exposing but for other purpose. As an example to prove a point.

Implied Gheeba: Saying things which are already known about a person, with the intention of degrading or defaming that person. Some scholars have debated on whether this falls under the definition of gheeba, nevertheless it is unanimously agreed that it is haram and should not be said. As an example we find people calling someone by their nickname for laughter, this is very dangerous and could be insulting. The Quran admonishes this practice in Surat al-hujjurat.

The sheikh then goes on to explain what exactly falls under backbiting, and says: ‘it makes no difference whether the defect mentioned is of a physical nature, pertains to ones descent, a trait of one’s character or with regard to ones speech or actions, or whether it is with regard to religion or worldly aspects. Special mention is made of defects pertaining to ones dress, house, vehicle etc. Examples are cited for each of these. A physical defect is mentioned that, such and such is cockeyed, one-eyed, bald, short, tall, dark complexioned, yellow skinned etc.’

Regarding exclusions, the list is quite exhaustive, but the following are some of the most important ones:

1) Gheeba of a person whose defect is not hidden. It is known to all. Like the one who roams the streets with a bottle of wine on his lips. But this sin should be open and seen by all.

“One who sins openly is not worthy of respect and his gheeba is not Harām

(Makasib page 27, Vol. 4)

2) Complaining against an unjust ruler

3) ‘Gheeba is allowed with the intention of Nahy Anil Munkar. For example you see a Muslim prone to an evil way and think that by doing Gheeba he’ll give it up. Gheeba is allowed in this case provided one is sure that it will have the desired effect. If there is doubt that the person has already given it up his Gheeba is not permitted. As in the previous case, we should take into consideration the harm of doing his Gheeba in comparison to the harm caused by his bad deed. That is, if the exposure of this Muslim is more serious than the sin he his committing, his Gheeba is not allowed, even if we are sure that by doing his Gheeba he would give up the act.’

4) Warning people of someone’s wrong preaching or innovation that would otherwise lead people astray.

5) A person who narrates a false hadith or narration should be exposed.

6) For the purposes of judicial rulings or being a witness to a crime for eg

7) For advice with regards to the integrity of an individual as far as marriage or another contractual relationship is concerned, eg business partnership. 

In all the above we need to be careful not to transgress boundaries and fall into the trap of sin.

May Allah (swt) protect us from this and other diseases of the soul.

Why is there differences in the time for fajr prayers between different timetables?

The subject you have raised is quite an important jurisprudential point of discussion between fuqaha. The subject of determining the exact time of fajr prayers involves a lengthy discussion on the exact meaning of al-fajr al-sadiq and how it can be applied. I will Inshallah attempt to summarise the issue.

All Muslim scholars are in agreement that true dawn (al-fajr al-sadiq) is the time when fajr salat commences (as well as fasting). The Shia ulema also agree on the classical definition of the fajr al-sadiq.  From the verses of the holy Quran and hadiths of the ma’someen we can ascertain that this fajr al-sadiq has 2 main characteristics: the horizon becomes horizontally visible (the verse says the ‘white thread’ is seen), and the common people can observe this occurrence.

The disagreement between scholars is the application of this Sharia principle, i.e. what time of dawn is this fajr al-sadiq? 

From the scientific point of view, the light which appears before sunrise and remains after sunset is known as “twilight”. Twilight literally means “the light between the two,” i.e., between night and day or between day and night. To distinguish the various stages of twilight, the scientists have divided it into

  1. The Astronomical Twilight: this begins when the Sun’s centre is 18 degrees below the horizon. 
  2. The Nautical Twilight: this occurs when the Sun’s centre is at 12 degrees below the horizon. 

Many Muslim scholars have taken al-fajr al-sadiq to be the astronomical twilight. The problem with this is that the astronomical twilight does not seem to fit with the Sharia definition of true dawn, since many scientific sources say it’s too indistinct for sight-taking. On the other hand, the Nautical Twilight fits the characteristics of the fajr al-sadiq (it’s distinct and visible). Hence it seems the best angle to calculate al-fajr al-sadiq is 12 (Sayid Melani confirmed this in person to me many years ago).

As you can see from the above, the differences are due to application of the Sharia law. The matter is not related to taqlid per se. The best advice as far as salat al-fajr is concerned, is to perform it (in this example) after 4pm (respecting the time given by Sayid Sistani’s office). Regarding Salat al-layl and fasting, it should be done before 3:30 (respecting Sayid Shirazi’s office).

With regards to asr and Isha prayers, our ulema are of the opinion that the we have the choice of performing them with dhuhr and maghrib respectively, or separately if the mukallaf wishes.

Allah Knows Best

What does Islam say about disability?

The key to understanding Islam’s position on disability is comprehension that one of the established sunnan (ways in this world) of Allah (swt) is that every human being will be subjected to trails, difficulties and tribulations:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ [٢٩:٢] 

Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, We believe, and not be tried? 

And certainly We tried those before them, so Allah will certainly know those who are true and He will certainly know the liars.
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ
 ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ [٢٩:٣] 

This applies to the able and the disabled.  The successful one is he who displays patience e at adversity and thankfulness at enjoyment and prosperity.

Islam views disability as a way in which Allah (swt) examines certain individuals, and of course they will be compensated for this examination. It is neither a blessing nor a curse, but a way in which Allah ta’la in His Ultimate Wisdom wanted some people to be. This does not mean that they are less valuable or have a lesser degree at all. The Quran quite clearly established the fact that Taqwa is the only distinguishing factor between people when it comes to degrees.

The Quran also reduces the burden of responsibility on those who are disabled; outlining that Allah ta’la knows how much any human being can give or do therefore the takleef is in line with their capabilities:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا 

Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability (2:286)

Also the following verse outlines how some obligations are lifted for those blind and less able:

لَيْسَ عَلَى الْأَعْمَىٰ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ

There is no harm in the blind, nor is there any harm in the lame, nor is there any harm in the sick (if they do not go forth); (48:17)

The religion of Islam stresses that the disabled are not marginalized, mistreated or abused. They should be supported, helped and provisions facilitating their lives should be made available. 

What is the reality of dreams?

The reality of dreams is commonly sought amongst human beings since it’s an experience most people go through sometime during their lives. What we understand is that in terms of interpretations, two types are commonly presented: the materialistic and spiritual.

The materialistic interpretation are commonly associated with the daily actions of human beings, i.e. whatever we may have experienced over the past few days becomes somehow embedded in our dreams. This is especially the case if before sleeping the mind is in reflection about activities that the body had undertaken during the day. Sometimes it’s also unfulfilled desires or even fears that influence dreams and their nature. Therefore many of such dreams are related to the past.

Those subscribing to the spiritual interpretation of dreams view them a result of possible delusions, inclinations, desires and imaginations.  Such dreams relate to the future and people often seek interpretations. Not all such dreams have meaningful interpretations, as some are called (athgath ahlam or distressing dreams).

We know from the holy Quran that one way in which Prophets of Allah received revelation is through dreams (e.g. Prophet Ibrahim as). Indeed Prophet Yusuf (as) was given the ability by Allah (swt) to interpret the dreams.  Therefore we don’t reject all dreams and dismiss them. From history books and narrations, we find that some dreams do have meaningful interpretations whilst others don’t.  Another Quranic fact is that the soul departs from the body during sleep, thus some dreams are associated with the idea that the soul is not limited to time and space, as well as it belonging to the realm of malakoot (i.e. unseen realm).

The difficulty in interpreting dreams is that people often do so themselves, without seeking help of experienced and knowledgeable scholars. We know that some dreams refer to aspects in this world, for e.g. I was told by an alim that if a believer witnesses a dream of being given water to drink, it eludes to the idea that Allah ta’la is bestowing them with knowledge. 

What is the difference between Sufism and Irfan? What is the Sheikh’s opinion?

Irfan is from marifa (Gnosticism). The subject is something sought after, one that we yearn, yet difficult to find. It’s The Almighty Allah tabarak wa ta’la. It’s about feeling His Presence and appreciating His greatness. Urafa say we need to be able to see, no through our eyes but our baseera, the inner vision from the soul. It’s the effect of sins which blocks our baseera, therefore the practical stages of irfan seek to purify the soul and enable the lover to reach The Beloved through opening the baseera. Marifa of Allah is not knowledge about Allah. The latter is learnt in philosophy or other sciences. Neither is it knowledge about His Attributes. Rather it is when you feel His attributes in your heart and have deep recognition of His Ultimate Beauty and Perfection.

Irfan differs from Sufism today in that the latter has unfortunately adapted some unislamic practices, such as certain dances and long isolation periods. This, coupled with monasticism and deprivation, makes Sufism different. The main essential element of Irfan is to follow the Sharia, and to obedient to the Commands of Allah (swt). For many urafa Amir Al-Moimineen (as) is the best example of an arif.

As you asked for my personal opinion, as far we understand the goal of life is to seek the path of perfection in our journey towards Allah (swt). Irfan is a spiritual tool for self-purification, and as long as teachings of the Quran and the infallible masoomen are followed, it is a very desirable field to explore.

And Allah is the All Knowing

Why do the Shia remember birth dates and death times of their Imams?

 The concept of holding majalis for the master of Martyrs, Imam Al-Hussain (as), is one that has emphasised throughout Islamic sources. It is probably fair to say that the question presented could be generalised to include sessions of remembrance of the holy Prophet Mohammed (sawws) and his infallible progeny (as), namely during anniversaries of their martyrdom or birth. The following arguments can be used:

  1. Such remembrance constitutes upholding the truth since Allah (swt) instructs his prophet to remind people about the specific days of the year that belong to Him:
    وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْ أَخْرِجْ قَوْمَكَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَذَكِّرْهُمْ بِأَيَّامِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ ﴿ابراهيم: ٥﴾

    And certainly We sent Musa with Our communications, saying: Bring forth your people from utter darkness into light and remind them of the days of Allah; most surely there are signs in this for every patient, grateful one.

    According to mufasireen the days that belong to Allah (swt) are those in which He is remembered, praised, and people are reminded about His Greatness and Majesty. Since the Ahlul-Bayt (as) are those whom Allah ta’la has selected to be sources of guidance, and they are the path towards Allah (Whoever has recognition of you (o AhlulBayt) has recognition of Allah, and whomsoever is ignorant of you is ignorant of Allah) in Ziyarat Al-Jamia Al-Kabeera from Imam Al-Hadi (as). Therefore these majalis are the true way of uplifting the word of Allah and establishing them as His days.

  2. We consider the actions of Rasullah (swt) as sunna, i.e. whatever he says, does or is silent about (taqrir) is to be used as source of legislation for the way we live our lives. Numerous reports are narrated on how the Holy Prophet (sawws) wept for Imam Hussain (as). Ahmed ibn Hanbal and Al-Hakim in Al-Mustradak both narrate that Umma salama saw Rasullah holding the clay from karbala and weeping for Imam Hussain (as). Therefore since the holy prophet himself displayed his grief, his followers are to follow on his ways and commemorate the tragedy of Ashura through majalis. 
  3. Allah (swt) also instructs us to show compassion and love towards the Ahlul-Bayt (as): قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَى )
    Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives; (Shura:23)
    One way to express this is to remind people about their exemplary lives and sublime teachings and sacrifice. This is especially the case when it comes to commemorating the tragedy of Karbala and remembering the devotion of Imam Hussain (as).
  4. Islamic philosophers have also said in terms of full human comprehension of an event or idea, human beings need to involve powers of intellect and emotion, i.e. the emotional attachments to these individuals adds to the respect and commitment towards perfecting one’s self in the way of Allah (swt). This was described in the discussion that took place in Stanmore this year on the subject of azadari (source: 
  5. Numerous narrations from the Ahlul-Bayt (as) encourage such remembrance, for e.g. the famous saying of Imam Al-Sadiq (as) to Futhail: Ahyoo Amrana (make alive our affairs, may the mercy of Allah be on whomsoever makes alive our affairs). Of course the Imams established majalis al-Hussain and encouraged Muslims to hold them regularly and they attended and supported such majalis.
  6. It is clear that remembering the Ahlul-Bayt (as) throughout the year by establishing these majalis has given the followers of Ahlul-Bayt an excellent tool to propagate Islam to the masses and to get them closer to religion. This is a means that others are jealous about and so try to in vain to diminish or tarnish, however alhamdulillah they are growing in strength and number across the world and with the efforts of the believers will continue to do so.

Many other reasons can be mentioned but to keep the answer short, it is without doubt that the remembrance of the Ahlul-Bayt (as) in such majalis is highly encouraged and rewarded by The Almighty (swt).

Doesn’t Qur’an (9:100) say all companions are righteous?

The verse in question is an important part of a discussion between Muslims schools of thought on the position of the companions of Rasulallah (sawws) in Islam. Unfortunately many Muslims have misunderstood this and some other verses to mean that all the companions of the prophet are righteous and Allah ta’la is pleased with them!

The verse is clearly specific and not general; as they word ‘sabeqoon al-awaloon’ (early vanguard) is used. The mufasireen here have several opinions, some say it refers to those who embraced Islam before the changing of Qibla (17 months after hijra), others are of the opinion that it refers to those embracing after battle of badr and so on..Regardless of the difference of opinion, what we can understand from the wording is that the verse praises those early companions who stood by Rasulallah and supported him and Islam with all that they had. On top of this list are Ameer Al-Moimineen (as), Khadija (as) and Abo Talib (as). Their sacrifices are well known in history. The verse clearly does not praise all companions of the holy Prophet. In fact we do not have a single verse in the Quran that unequivocally praises all the companions. Conversely there are verses that point to the existence of hypocrites amongst Muslims: وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ ۖ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ ۖ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ ۖ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ ۚ سَنُعَذِّبُهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ [٩:١٠١] 

And from among those who are round about you of the dwellers of the desert there are hypocrites, and from among the people of Medina (also); they are stubborn in hypocrisy; you do not know them; We know them; We will chastise them twice then shall they be turned back to a grievous chastisement.

 In fact the Holy Quran points to the fact that some so-called companions of the Prophet will turn against him after his demise: (3:144)

وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ ۚ أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِكُمْ ۚ وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا ۗ وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ [٣:١٤٤] 

And Muhammad is no more than a messenger; the messengers have already passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed you will turn back upon your heels. And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least and Allah will reward the grateful. 

Amongst our brothers (the Ahlul-sunna) the exact definition of companions remains vague. Therefore people like Muawiya and Amr ibn Al-As are classified alongside respected and honourable companions of the prophet like Ammar ibn Yassir and salman.

  1. The verse goes on to place another condition: ‘Those who follow them righteously’, i.e. not anyone who was from the tabi’oon is the recipient of the mercy of Allah (swt). The condition is the correct following and adherence to the teachings of Rasulallah (swt).
  2. Sahih Al-Bukhari (chapter 7 page 209) and (chapter 4, page 49) as well as Sahih Muslim (Chapter 7 page 66) plus many other sources narrate the famous hadith from Rasulallah (sawws) that on the day of judgement he shall pass by Pond of Kawther, then see some of his companions taken to hellfire. The holy Prophet then asks: these are my companions! The answer shall be heard: You do not know what they did after you!’ This clearly demonstrates how some companions deviated from Islam after Rasulallah, some becoming instrumental in harming his holy progeny and denying them their legitimate rights.
Is playing chess haram?

The discussion surrounding chess (in arabic it’s referred to as Shetranj) is a long jurisprudential matter discussed in detail amongst jurist for centuries. As an example, Sheikh Al-Ansari in his famous book ‘Al-Makasib Al-Muharrama’ places a complete chapter (15) on this and lists many narrations that seemingly forbid the participation in such games. The main link from the hadiths seem to be the association of chess with gambling (al-rihan or rahn), which is forbidden in Islam. Sheikh Al-Ansari argues that many narrations indicate the forbidden nature of such games even if no money is involved.

Some hadiths from Al-Kafi on this issue:

  1. Futhail asked Imam Al-Sadiq (as) about shatranj (chess). Imam replied: Do you see, when the truth (al-haqq) is distinguished from the false (al-batil), with which of them is it? He said: I said: With the false. He said: So there is no good in it.”
  2. Imam Al-Askari (as): “Backgammon (an-nard) and chess (ash-shatranj) and fourteen (al-arba`a `ashar) are the same status, and everything that is bet upon (qumir `alayhi), then it is gambling (maysir).
  3. A group of Muslims asked Imam Al-Sadiq regarding the holy verse

فَاجْتَنِبُوا الرِّجْسَ مِنَ الْأَوْثَانِ وَاجْتَنِبُوا قَوْلَ الزُّورِ ﴿الحج: ٣٠﴾

“.. avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words”. He replied: The filth of idols is chess and the false speech is singing (al-ghina’).

More than 30 narrations are found in other books like Wasail Al-Shia prohibiting chess and linking it to gambling.

From analysing the viewpoint of several scholars, both in the past and contemporary, it seems the difference of opinion on this issue stems from the understanding of these and other narrations, and the application of the words ‘Qimar’ and ‘Maysir’ as used in the sources of legislation. Sheikh Al-Ansari argues that some scholars have understood ‘Qimar’ to mean the tools sued for chess etc, 

Today, the majority of the ulema are of the opinion of the impermissibility of chess. Others, like Imam Khomeini (ra) hold the opinion of permissibility. He considered the main purpose of playing chess these days was to strengthen the mind and not gambling. 

How do we know if we’re arrogant?

Arrogance is one of the dangerous diseases of the soul that Islamic sources continuously warn against. It is the cause of the first act of disobedience against The Almighty (swt) by the outcast Shaitan. Arrogance is a vice that originates from the heart and reflects on the actions of a human being. The opposite of arrogance of course if showing humbleness and humility (al-tawadhu). This should be for Allah exclusively, since some people humble themselves before others such as politicians or wealthy individuals. In a narration from one of the infallibles (as), it is mentioned that whomsoever humbles him/herself for Allah only, Allah will raise their status and reputation in the eyes of mankind. This is evidently seen in thousands of examples in history, at the top of the list Prophets and Imams (as), who were the personification of humbleness and sincerity. 

The concept is lengthy and much can be said, but in a nutshell we are expected to scrutinize ourselves and recognise that in the eyes of Allah we may be the worst sinners or wrongdoers, since we cannot have firm knowledge about the final outcome of other people. No matter how much we’ve achieved or been successful in life, this shouldn’t make us feel arrogant or think we are better than people. This feeling of being ‘the special one’ must be eradicated from our hearts even if the whole world is praising us. This is because what matters is the pleasure of Allah ta’la and not the people.

The signs of arrogance that we can gather from Quranic ayat and hadith are several:

  1. Constant mockery and demeaning of other humans, looking at people less favourably. This sometimes happens for those who are older and look down at the youngsters, and vice-versa.
  2. Boasting after defeating others in arguments and discussions. Some scholars have mentioned that one starts to feel arrogant in a discussion, it is better to terminate and resume some other time, especially if it’s performed in front of others.
  3. Unwillingness to accept criticism and advice, and thinking that one is better than being a recipient of this.
  4. Dressing and eating excessively and for the purpose of exalting one’s status in the eyes of people.
  5. Not listening to others and constantly interrupting other’s talk.
  6. Walking arrogantly with ahead high (unless its demonstration of izzat against the enemies)
  7. Having arrogance when it comes to learning and acquiring knowledge, thinking that one is above learning.
  8. Preferring to be served by others rather than having the willingness to serve.
  9. Boasting about one achievements and successes in the idea of bringing what others have achieved down.
  10. Not greeting others or saying Salaam is seen as a sign of arrogance.

We beseech Allah The Almighty to bestow upon us the tawfeeq to humble ourselves for His sake and to uproot any arrogance existing in our hearts.

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You can view a selection of questions answered by the Sheikh here as well.