Saturday, November 24, 2012

Can women travel alone?


What is Islamic view on women traveling alone? Is having a mahram ( a close male relative or husband) a prerequisite even if the woman can take care of herself and take necessary precautions? I am planning to attend an Islamic program in New York for weeks but couldn't find a mahram or even a sister to come along. I have made the necessary arrangements with the organizer to even fetch me from the airport. My parents don't allow because I will be a way for more than days and without a mahram. Could I still attend the program without my parent's blessings? By the way, I'm yrs old.


If you have a genuine reason to travel, then you are allowed to travel without a mahram—provided that you have taken all the necessary precautions for your safety and security during the course of your journey. This can be done by making prior arrangements for a safe journey to and from the airport as well as for your stay with trusted Muslim friends or in a hotel under the guidance of the organizers of the conference. I assume that the conference you are attending is being organized by a reputable Muslim organization; if not, at least by a reputable organization or institution with integrity and acceptable ethical and moral standards.

Islamic laws are not whimsical dictates of a tyrannical master who is simply testing the obedience of his slaves; rather they are the orders of Allah who is All-Wise and All-Knowing; His orders have tangible purposes and objectives that are discernible for all rational minds. The Prophet’s interdict against a woman’s travel without a mahram is primarily intended to ensure that a woman’s honor, dignity and reputation are fully protected. This is why he is also reported to have made the following statement in the early years of his mission in Makkah, “I will continue to struggle with this mission until a woman can travel (all by herself freely) without any fear for her safety!” It is, therefore, only reasonable for us to assume that the Prophet, peace be upon him, while forbidding women from undertaking a journey of three days without a mahram, had in mind the perils of the journey in the wide expanse of the desert where there was no semblance of law and order; where in fact for all practical purposes it was the the predatory tribal life-style that prevailed before Islam established law and order.

It is also for this reason that we find Aishah, the beloved wife of the Prophet, peace be upon him, who while being fully aware of the above Prophetic interdict, replied when someone asked her, 'can a woman travel without a marham?': “Can everyone find a mahram always?” in other words, if a woman needs to travel, she can do so if she can be reasonably assured of her safety and protection. We also read that Imam Shafi’s mother traveled from Ghazza to Makkah carrying the Imam who was still a toddler at the time in her own arms in a safe company. It is for these reasons that we find that a number of eminent scholars from both the Maliki and Shafi schools have ruled that a woman can travel without a mahram as long as she can find a safe company.

Today in counties where law and order prevail we can be reasonably assured of a woman’s safety and security especially in airplanes and public transportation networks. As some scholars have rightly pointed out that these conditions are vastly superior in terms of safety and security than the perilous and unpredictable conditions of a remote desert especially in the bygone past.

So I do not find anything wrong for you to undertaking this journey if you have to; nor do I think that your parents should be particularly concerned about your safety in this case. Perhaps you should have a free and frank discussion with them on this matter; you should also give them the details of your booking and relevant travel details as well as your contacts in the city of your destination, including your stay/hotel arrangements, etc. May Allah grant us all rectitude in speech and action-aameen.

Can a woman go to another country for education without a mahram?


Can a woman go to another Muslim country for education without a Mahram...She already made a mistake by going and now she is in her final year and realized that what she is doing is wrong. Allhumdulillah...but her dad is really pushing her to go. and he is very sad as she has refused to continue studies without a mahram..She is confused and dosen't know what to do.


A woman may travel for the purpose you have mentioned as long as she has taken all the necessary safeguards to protect her religion and honor. This is the sound ruling of many scholars of the past and the present-including 'A'ishah, the mother of the believers, and the beloved wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him). According to them, the Prophet's interdict against woman's travel without a mahram was because of his fear for her safety.
Therefore, there is no need for us to make this religion so rigid in order to restrict the movement of women.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How does Islam view pluralism and democracy?


Dear Sheikh! Some people keep on yelling that Islam is the religion of one political party meaning that when Muslim activists come to power, they will never allow the existence of any other political party, a thing that marks a defeat of all forms of democracy. Please comment!


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All thanks and praise are due to Allah and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner! Thanks a lot for your question and the interest you show in having a clearer view of the true teachings of Islam. May Allah help you get the right understanding and stand firm on the Straight Path! Amen!
First of all, we would like to highlight the fact that pluralism is something known to Islam and Muslim scholars a long time ago. Islam does not say that only one party should run the affairs of the whole state or seize power; rather, it leaves the matter to be determined according to the rules of As-Siyasah Ash-Shar`iyyah (Shari`ah-Oriented Policy) that vary according to time and place. Muslim scholars accept the articles of the democratic system that cope with the teachings of Islam.

Making this concept clear, here is the fatwa issued by the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, vice President of the European Council for Fatwa and Research:

“To claim that Islam advocates monocracy is untrue. It is well-established that since the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Muslims have known different political parties that have constituted in shaping political structure of the Muslim societies.
The Emigrants (Al-Muhajirun) and the Helpers (Al-Ansar) acted as if they were two parties, still they were far remote from enmity known among the fans of each party. They (the Emigrants and the Helpers) differed concerning choosing the Caliph. This was the first political difference of its kind occurring among Muslims. Each party demanded that the Caliph was to be chosen from among them. This is not far different from the demand of any contemporary political party.
Yet, the emergence of real partisanship was remarkable after the assassination of Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan, may Allah be pleased with him. The assassination itself was a form of a military coup against the ruler, another act that can be carried out by a political party.
Later, the Kharijites appeared during the reign of Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, and were known as a political party as well as a sect. Many dynasties that appeared later including the Abbassyds, the Turks and the Mamlukis were no more than political parties taking power.
In fact, forming political parties or gatherings that call for political legal goals is completely Islamic. Muslim activists who hold the view that Islam allows one party are very few and even have no effect on the mainstream. Muslim activists who can win elections all believe in pluralism within the framework of Islam. In case those peaople come to power, there will be no fear of any political despotism.
As for the true concept of democracy, it is not our main concern. We, Muslims believe in pluralism and political freedom as part and parcel of Islamic teachings. It is worth stressing here that we accept the articles and the principles of democracy that cope with the teachings of Islam and reject those principles that are non-Islamic. Our main reference is Islam when deciding whether to accept or reject any new ideology.”
Allah Almighty knows best.

Can women be rulers in Islam?

This was my question that I forwarded.


Salaam dear scholars, I understand that women have special duties, but if they are taken care of or something like it, can she be the ruler of a state? I've read biographies of some Muslim women who ruled places like India and Morocco. Thanks


Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

Thank you brother Ali for your good question.

In fact, I wonder why some people still imagine that Muslim women face unnecessary restrictions or discrimination in Islam. Though women’s position in Islam is unique, unprecedented, and highly appreciated, some writers, mostly from the West, attempt to cast doubts over it. Among the points that seem to be controversial and debatable in this regard is women’s eligibility for leadership and holding pubic positions in Muslim communities. To fully perceive Islam’s stance on this significant issue, let’s consider the following essential points:
1. Men and Women: Equal, Not Identical
In fact, both women and men are equal in Islam. So, Islamic Shari`ah never discriminate between people, men and women. Women enjoy as equal rights as men. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in a hadith, "Women are men’s counterparts" (Abu Dawud, Sunan, hadith no. 236)

Also, the Quran unequivocally emphasizes that men and women are equal: (O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.) (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

In his well-reputed book, Islam in Focus, Hammudah Abdalati Abd Alati says,
The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two quite different things. This difference is understandable because man and woman are not identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no problem. It is almost impossible to find two identical men or women.
This distinction between equality and sameness is of paramount importance. Equality is desirable, just, fair; but sameness is not. People are not created identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no room to imagine that woman is inferior to man. There is no ground to assume that she is less important than he just because her rights are not identically the same as his. Had her status been identical with his, she would have been simply a duplicate of him, which she is not. The fact that Islam gives her equal rights - but not identical - shows that it takes her into due consideration, acknowledges her, and recognizes her independent personality.
Following are some manifestations of equality between men and women in Islam:

a) Both women and men are equally addressed by religious ordinances of Shari`ah such as prayer, fasting, hajj, zakah, decency, etc. For instance, we read in the Quran, (Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest.) (An-Nur 24: 30-31)
b) Both men and women are Islamically encouraged to pursue education. Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, “Seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim.” In another version of the same hadith, it is said, “…on every Muslim, male and female”.
c) Both men and women have the equal right to participate in the public life. History bears witness that Muslim women, throughout centuries, used to participate in different aspects of the public life. They used to go out with the Muslim armies to nurse the wounded and prepare supplies. Women used to discuss rulers’ decisions as happened in the famous incident when a woman publically objected to `Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s proposal to decrease dowries where the latter accepted the woman’s opinion and nullified his decision.

2. Leadership is Based on Qualifications

In Islam, eligibility for leadership is based on qualifications and skills. So, if a woman or a man possesses the sufficient qualifications to lead his or her community, company, institution, etc., then he or she should be the leader, the manager, or the head of the office. When it comes to running people’s affairs, Islam fully considers people’s pubic interests, which take precedence over individuals’ personal benefits. Therefore, qualifications and capabilities are the main requirements in choosing rulers and leaders. In this context, the well-known Maliki jurist, Shihab ad-Din al-Qarafi says,

In every post or authority, a priority should be given to the one who is the most capable to run it properly. In wars, for example, those who are more experienced in leading armies and fighting plans should take priority in leadership. In judiciary, those who are more aware of legal rulers and intelligent enough to deal with people’s complaints should be judges. Those who are more capable to take care of the orphans and their money should take the responsibility.
The Quran confirms this principle when narrating the story of prophet’s Shu`yab’s daughter who asked her father to hire Prophet Musa owing to his distinctive capabilities (power) and noble character (trustworthiness):

 (One of the two women said: O my father! Hire him! For the best (man) that thou canst hire is the strong, the trustworthy) (Al-Qasas 28: 26).

3. Context of the Hadith on Women’s Leadership

Some people misunderstand the hadith that Imam Al-Bukhari reports from Abu Bakrah that: "Allah provided me with considerable benefit during the battle of the camel with one word (or one statement). When news reached the prophet (peace be upon him) that the Persians had appointed Chosroe's daughter as their ruler, he said: ''A nation which placed its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper!'' (Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami` as-Sahih, hadith no. 4425)

So, this hadith has a special meaning and an occasion that should be considered when interpreting and understanding its contextual connotation. That hadith signifies that the Prophet (peace be upon him) foretold his Companions that the Persian empire would come to an end.
Some people literally interpret and rely on the above hadith to say that a woman cannot be a leader. However, the fact is that there has never been unanimity on this matter among Muslim scholars, past and present.

From the earliest days of Muslim scholarship, even those jurists who implicitly accept the hadith above as containing some injunction have differed on the meaning of ''placing affairs in the hands of a woman''. While some prohibit women from all public duties, others hold the opposite view. Abu Hanifah, for instance, permits a woman to be a judge in matters in which her testimony is admissible. Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari, as Ibn Hajar reported in his Fat-h al-Bari, does not only support the unrestricted appointment of women to judgeship, he permitted also her appointment as Head of State. A similar view is reported from Imam Malik Ibn Anas and adopted by some Maliki jurists (although the popular view in the madhab, juristic shool, is contrary to this).

Given the above, it becomes evident that a qualified woman may be elected or appointed in any leading position in the Muslim community or state. She could be a head of a government, a university, a company, etc. A qualified woman can be a minister, an MP, a lecturer, a teacher, a doctor, community leader, etc. The position of the Caliph, which is non-existent nowadays, is debated by scholars owing to the tough responsibilities and heavy burdens that early Muslim caliphs used to shoulder, among which leading people in congregational prayers and delivering Friday sermons which are peculiar to men. However, many Muslim scholars see that a woman can hold any public position if she is well-qualified to. What matters, then, is promoting people’s public interests and adherence to the dictates of Shari`ah.

Hopefully, my reply meets your expectations.

Please keep in touch.
Wa salamu `alaykum.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Can Muslims take disbelievers as protectors?


Allah commands us not to take the disbelievers as awliya. Does this mean that in my college i cant ask questions from teacher? I'm in UK and not a in Muslim college and possibly can't move right now to a Muslim school or country.


You are free to seek beneficial knowledge and wisdom from any source, regardless of whether they are Muslims or non-non-Muslims. This is an irrefutable principle of Islam; it is amply proven by the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his companions, caliphs, savants and scholars of Islam, throughout the ages.

It is wrong to say that we cannot take help from non-Muslims. How can we say so when the Prophet the caliphs as well as others have sought help from non-Muslims in various capacities? It is a well-known fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) appointed a non-Muslim as his guide during hijrah to Madinah while he was being pursued by his pagan oppressors who had sworn to assassinate him.

Likewise, in the aftermath of the battle of Badr, the Prophet (peace be upon him) freed the pagan captives of war who were literate to teach ten Muslim children how to read and write-as a pre-condition for setting them free. The Prophet's wife 'Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) tells us that the Prophet would consult physicians coming to Madinah (many of them were non-Muslims) on treatments. Aishah would listen to their prescriptions, thanks to which, she became an expert in the medicine as known to the Arabs at the time. Examples like these abound in the sources.

Furthermore, Umm Salamah (who was married to the Prophet, later) was escorted to Madinah by a non-Muslim. It is also a historical fact that the Islamic civilization as we know it was the result of Muslims learning freely from the non-Muslims in the countries they conquered. They thus followed the Prophetic wisdom: "Wisdom is the most cherished wealth of a believer; he appropriates it from any source." 
Therefore, the verses you have referred to are specifically related to taking those who oppress and wage war against Muslims as helpers and friends. It cannot be applied as a general principle.

Can Muslims take non-muslims as friends? Part 3


What is meant by not taking the Jews and Christians as awliya? What were the reasons for these verses being revealed?


You are referring to the verse in surat al-ma'idah: 5:1, it is best translated as follows:

"O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as your closest allies, for they are only the close allies of each other. Whoever among you turns to them (for alliances, in place of believers,) is one of them, for God doesn't guide corrupt people." (Qur'an: 5:51).

The verse in no way implies establishing normal friendly and amicable relations with either Christians or Jews or anyone else (who is not a Muslim). It specifically refers to siding with them against Muslims, or joining with them on causes that are clearly detrimental to the interests of Islam and Muslims.

The above interpretation is confirmed by a close study of the context of the revelation of the verse: It was revealed, as stated by the great mufassirin (exegists) such as Imam Ibn Jarir and others, in the context of the alliance of Jews with the pagans in waging war against Muslims. When the Jews of Madinah did this, some Muslims from Ansaar, who had been formerly allies of Jews, declared their innocence of them, while others (apparently the hypocrites) still persisted in their alliance--in clear violation of the interests of Islam and Muslims.

Therefore, the above verse is specifically forbidding Muslims against forming alliances with others against the interests of their own community as well as siding with them on causes that are immoral or considered as unjust.

Seen in this light, it does not in any way forbid Muslims from having normal friendly relations with members of these communities or cooperating with them on causes of mutual benefit. Not only these are permissible but also clearly recommended in Islam: Allah tells us,

"...And never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression: but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God: for, behold, God is severe in retribution!" (Qur'an: 5:2)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "(In pre-Islamic times) I attended a pact of virtue in the house of Abd Allah b. Jud'an: If I were called in Islam by anyone to join a similar pact, I would never hasten to join it!" 
Furthermore, it is an incontrovertible fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) turned his foes into his bosom friends by his mercy and friendly relations with them.

In conclusion: The word awliya in the verse referred to above means making them allies against Islam and Muslims.