By Adil Salahi
1. Arrangement of the Quran
Q.1. Could you explain the basis of the arrangement of the Qur'anic Surahs. We know that the Surah entitled Al-Alaq was the first to be revealed, but it is placed as Surah No. 96 in the final arrangement. May I ask on what basis was the Qur'an arranged and by whom.
Q.2. It is said that Sarah, the wife of Prophet Abraham, was unhappy when his other wife had given birth to his first son, Ishmael. She asked him to banish her and that was the cause for Abraham taking both wife and child to the barren valley of Makkah where he left them. Was Sarah actually so jealous?
Q.3. Since the Shias praise Ali all the time, rather than God and His messenger, and since they do not say the azan as we do, can we consider them Muslims?
The Prophet received revelation of the Qur’anic Surahs as and when God chose to bestow on him new revelation. At times several Surahs, particularly the longer ones, were being revealed to him concurrently. The Prophet was instructed by Angel Gabriel who brought him the revelation where to place every new passage.Similarly the arrangement of the Surahs in a specific order was given by the Prophet, who indicated it mostly by reading the Surahs, particularly in prayer, in a specific order. There are some reports about the arrangement of the Surah being done without any specific authority given by the Prophet, but there is no basis for this assumption. The fact is that when Caliph Abu Bakr instructed Zaid ibn Thabit to collect the original writings of the Qur’anic revelations, Zaid produced a whole copy of the Qur’an. It was arranged in the order we have today. This was done in the first two years after the Prophet’s death, since Abu Bakr ruled for less than two years.
Later at Caliph Uthman’s time, copies were produced and sent to various centers of the Muslim state to be the reference copy in each center. These, also produced by Zaid ibn Thabit, were based on the first collection. There was no disagreement among the Prophet’s companions with regard to the ordering of the Surahs. This shows that an arrangement was made by the Prophet himself as he taught the Qur’an to his companions.
The question remains why the arrangement did not follow the chronological order of revelation. The answer is that the Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years, with passages and Surahs revealed in connection with certain events. This was highly beneficial as the Qur’an addressed cases when they actually took place. But when its revelation was over, its arrangement should take into consideration the needs of later generations of Muslims. The arrangement reflects what God wishes His book to be like. Hence, He gave His instructions to His messenger to indicate its arrangement, with both Surahs and verses placed at their appropriate positions.
The report about Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is correct to the best of our knowledge. Sarah was susceptible to all the feelings and emotions of ordinary women. Hence, it is not surprising that she should feel jealous when her husband was given a child by his second wife, while she, an old woman, had no children. As Abraham showed great care and tenderness toward both mother and baby, Sarah must have felt that she was reduced to a secondary position. Hence her demand that both be taken away. It was God who commanded Abraham to take his wife and child to the valley of Makkah and leave them there. That was for a definite purpose of His, and He does what He wishes.
Answer 3 :
It is true that the Shias accord great respect to Ali, placing him above other companions of the Prophet in their esteem. But neither this, nor the additions they have in the azan or call to prayer, is reason to consider them non-believers. How can anyone say so when they declare that they believe in the oneness of God and the message of His messenger, Muhammad (peace be on him).
2. God's Name and Tawaf
Considering that the Prophet's father's name was Abdullah, may I ask if God's name, Allah, was known before Islam?
3. Why is the tawaf movement anti-clock wise?
Ans 1. Yes, God’s name, Allah, was known for a long time in Arabia. We find it in Arabic poetry dating back many centuries prior to the advent of Islam. It is perhaps the name used by Prophets Abraham and Ishmael. To the Arabs who lived shortly before Islam, it signified the overall God who controlled the universe. However, they thought their idols to be His partners who would listen to their appeals and bring them closer to God.
Ans 2. In matters of worship, we accept what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has taught us without question. There need not be an apparent reason for the form of any particular worship. Otherwise we would be questioning every thing and suggesting alternatives. People would ask: why do we do one rukoo’ and two prostrations, or sujood in prayer? Why do some prayers include two rakaahs while others have four? We should remember that whatever God does or orders must have a purpose. We accept that God’s purpose is always wise and beneficial. Hence, we do our worship as the Prophet has taught us. When he started his pilgrimage, he announced to the large number of his companions travelling with him: “Learn from me your rituals.” It is a clear order that the pilgrimage and the Umrah should be done exactly in the manner he did or approved. When he did his tawaf he walked round the Kaaba in an anti-clock wise movement. This is why we do the same.
4. Ablution for Tawaf
Q. You have stated that ablution is obligatory for doing the tawaf around the Kaaba. I have recently come across a ruling issued by the Deobandi school in India, stating that ablution is highly recommended for tawaf, but not obligatory. Please clarify.
Ans. The overwhelming majority of scholars consider ablution, or wudhu, an essential condition for tawaf, not merely obligatory. When we speak of a condition we mean that the action itself will not be valid if the condition is not met. There are several Hadiths supporting this. In one of them, Ibn Abbas quotes the Prophet as saying: “Tawaf is a prayer. However, God has allowed speaking during tawaf. Whoever speaks while doing it should only say something good.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Hakim, Ibn Khuzaimah, Al-Daraqutni and others). Another highly authentic Hadith quotes Aishah as saying: “The first thing the Prophet did on arriving in Makkah was to do the ablution and perform tawaf.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
If a person doing the tawaf experiences doubt as to whether he has performed the ablution before he started, his tawaf is not valid. He must leave and perform the ablution and come back for his tawaf. If he has done the tawaf of the Umrah and then realized, after completing it, that he had not done the ablution first, he remains in ihraam until he has done a new tawaf after doing the ablution.
However, the Hanafi school of Fiqh does not consider the ablution a condition for the validity of tawaf, but makes it a duty. This means that if a person doing the Umrah or the pilgrimage performs the tawaf without having done the ablution, his tawaf is valid but he must compensate for omitting the duty of purification by slaughtering a sheep and giving the sacrifice to the poor in the Haram area. If a pilgrim does the tawaf when he is in the state of ceremonial impurity, i.e. janabah, or when a woman is in her period, the tawaf is valid but the compensation is a sacrifice of a cow or a camel, and they must repeat the tawaf while they are in Makkah.
As you see, the matter is serious indeed. I cannot find a basis for the ruling by the Deobandi school, which I certainly respect.
5. Tasbeeh and Dhuha Prayers
Q. Could you please explain the importance and details of Tasbeeh and Dhuha prayers.
A. Dhuha prayer is a voluntary prayer which may be offered at any time starting about half an hour after sunrise until shortly before noon. It is 2-8 rakaahs which are normally short. It may be offered any day, on regular or sporadic basis. Recitation in this prayer is normally private. It is certainly encouraged for anyone who can offer it, because it comes at a time when people are normally busy with their business. If one can take a short break to offer a couple of rakaahs, it does him well. If circumstances do not allow, then one may do it on weekends. Tassabeeh prayer is a night prayer, offered sometime before dawn. It is 2 rakaahs with long glorification of God in certain parts of each rakaah. There is only one Hadith which mentions this type of prayer, and it is not really authentic. In fact, Imam Ahmad, the founder of the Hanbali school of thought, who was one of the top scholars of Hadith and Fiqh, finds no basis for this prayer and does not encourage it. Still, if one wants to offer it, no blame attaches to him.
6. The Legal Profession
Q. I want to be a lawyer, but I have been told that there is much lying in this profession which makes it unlawful for a Muslim to take up. Please comment.
A. This is a very naïve view. It is true that some lawyers may resort to devious methods in order to get their clients out of some messy situations, but this is the choice of those lawyers. It is not something imposed on them by their profession. A lawyer may decide not to take up a case if he is convinced that the client is guilty. Or he may take it up, using his professional skill and expertise to get the court to understand the true case, with all its extenuating circumstances, so that he gets a fair trial and a favorable sentence for his client.
There is certainly nothing wrong with being a lawyer, provided that you do not compromise on your Islamic values and principles.
There are some prominent lawyers who are very good Muslims. It is the approach of the person to his profession and his religion that determines whether he abides by Islamic teachings or not.
This applies to all professions, not merely the legal profession.
7. A Second Pilgrimage
Q. My husband and I went on pilgrimage 10 years ago, taking with us our very young daughter. At the time, I knew very little about religion, and I had to take care of the child while performing the duties of pilgrimage. I feel I want to do the pilgrimage again, particularly since I have learned much about Islam. My husband, however, refused to let me go with my sister and her husband, saying that the pilgrimage is a duty once in a lifetime. Yet we are spending much on holidays, food, clothes, etc. We have had several difficulties lately: could this be a punishment from God for my husband's refusal to let me do the pilgrimage? My husband gives me an allowance for my own expenses. If I save some of this and use it for pilgrimage, is that acceptable?
A. The first point to clarify is that your difficulties are not a punishment from God for your husband’s attitude. God may punish people in this life for their sins, and your husband’s refusal to go on pilgrimage or to support your pilgrimage is no sin, because it is a voluntary pilgrimage, or Sunnah. The duty of pilgrimage is once in a lifetime, and both of you have done that. So, where is the sin in not going again? Everyone may have difficulties, because our life on earth is a test which we have to pass. This test may involve difficulties and hardship or affluence and blessings.
What you need to do is to make your husband understand that pilgrimage could be offered as voluntary, or Sunnah, in the same way as the Sunnah prayers which we may offer every day. It is a method to get our past sins wiped out. Everyone needs that, regardless of how good they are. Your husband appears through your letter to be a good person, devoted to his family and kind to his relatives. He may earn great reward from God for that, but doing the pilgrimage every few years is also a great act of submission to God, for which you stand to earn great reward.
If you save from your allowance and pay for the expenses of your and his pilgrimage, this will be a great act for which he may be indebted to you.
8. Government Restrictions on Business
Q. If a government restricts the licensing of certain types of business, does violating the restrictions constitute an illegal action from the Islamic point of view? For example, if a government says that only certain organizations can establish telecommunications business, and then a person establishes his own, paying the fine imposed by the government, does he commit something forbidden in Islam? Can we see here a parallel in a government outlawing marriage with more than one wife? If one lives in a country where polygamy is outlawed, and he nevertheless marries a second wife, his marriage is valid from the Islamic point of view, even though the government of his country may consider it illegal. Please comment.
A. It is open to a Muslim ruler to restrict some permissible actions, provided that such restriction is lawful under Islamic law and undertaken in the interests of the community. To give a simple example, a government may impose speed limits that vary on the basis of the nature of the road. To start with, driving at any speed is permissible. When the government imposes speed limits and punishes those who violate such restrictions, for the sake of public safety, its action is perfectly lawful from the Islamic point of view and it must be obeyed. Hence, when a driver exceeds such speed limits, he does not only violate the law of the land, but also commits something forbidden in Islam.
This means that the nature and purpose of the restriction are vital in determining whether it must not be violated from the Islamic point of view. If a government restricts telecommunications to a public authority because it knows that such business generates good income which is then used to provide services to the public, then such restriction is perfectly legitimate and it must be obeyed. On the other hand, if the restriction is such as to give certain people monopoly because they are related to the president or to some minister, then the restriction violates Islamic law. Those who impose this monopoly, depriving people of the chance of earning their livelihood will have to account to God for their injustice.
What should be our attitude in such a situation? The general rule is that stated by the Prophet: “A Muslim must obey and comply, in matters he likes or dislikes, unless he is commanded to do what constitutes disobedience to God.” This applies when one lives under a Muslim government, or indeed under any government, because a Muslim does not unnecessarily defy orders. But when a government order requires him to disobey God, he does not comply.
This must not be confused with cases like the reader has cited, i.e. outlawing something lawful, or legalizing something forbidden. When a government does that, it exercises an authority which belongs to God alone, namely the authority to prohibit anything. When God has made marriage with up to four wives permissible, it is not for any ruler or government to say that it is not.
9. Zakah for Non-Muslims
Q1. By the grace of God, my parents converted to Islam and I was born in a Muslim family in a country where the majority are non-Muslims. Many of our relatives are non-Muslims, but they maintain good relations with us. Is it permissible to give them a portion of our zakah after distributing the larger share to poor Muslims?
Q2. We have a relative who is looking after her own children. Although she has a small house and jewellery, she has no regular income, and she is poor. Can she be helped with zakah money?
A1. The general rule is that when there are needy Muslims who qualify as beneficiaries of zakah, it may not be paid to non-Muslims. But that does not mean that a Muslim state should not look after the poor among its non-Muslim citizens. They should be helped, but from sources other than zakah. Zakah is a religious duty, and an act of worship. Hence, it should be used for the benefit of the Muslim community. When we reach a stage where the Muslim community is well looked after that there remain no one in need of zakah money, zakah may be paid to the poor who follow other religions.
Having said that, I would like to encourage you and your family to maintain good relations with your relatives who are not Muslims. You may help the poor among them and show them every kindness. But such help should not come from zakah if there are other Muslims who need it.
A2. If this woman looks after her children, she is not required to sell her jewellery. She may be helped with zakah if she is poor. You say that she does not have a regular income. It may be that her income, though irregular, is sufficient for her needs. In this case, she does not need help. If she is really poor, but sometimes she receives good income which may provide for her needs for a few months, then she is back to poverty, she may be helped during her periods of need. In fact, she must be helped, if not from zakah then from other charity, or sadaqah.
10. Reading the Qur'an
Q. If one reads a Qur'anic translation, does he receive reward for such reading?
A. Reading a translation of the Qur’an does not earn the same reward as reading the Qur’an itself, for the simple reason that the Qur’an is the word of God, while a translation is the translator’s rendering of its meaning in his or her own language. However, reading a translation of the Qur’an in order to understand its meaning and comply with its orders is highly commendable and will, God willing, earn reward from God.