Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Woman Recites Qur'an to Open a Session at ISNA for the First Time

I was recently sent an inquiry by a pious student of knowledge regarding a buzz on the internet hailing the first time a sister had been given the opportunity to recite the Qur'an at an ISNA Convention, this year. I figure that many others have the same question, so I have reproduced the question and answer below I added a few comments to this post that were not included in my letter to the young brother:

RE: Question about listening to a non-mahram's voice

Salaam Shaykh Hamzah,

I hope you are doing well, it was nice to see you this past weekend.

In light of the recent event of the sister reciting Qur'an at ISNA, there's been a lot of discussion going around relating to the permissibility of this. I was wondering if you could explain the Maliki position on this topic? And also if you knew the position that allows for its permissibility? I've had a hard time finding much information online, other than people saying its haram lol.

Jazak Allah Khair!

From: Hamzah Wald Maqbul

RE: Question...

Wa'alaykumussalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
The voice of a woman is haram for a man to listen to if it will be a cause for fitnah for him, except in specific circumstances based on dire need.
Likewise, if a woman knows that her speaking to someone or in front of someone will cause a fitnah she is prohibited from doing so, except in specific circumstances based on similar need.

[Such a fitnah is taken for granted from a young attractive woman.]

The opening recitation of Qur'an for an ISNA session is not such a need, and given that the young lady in question (whom I have met in the past) is almost surely to have caused some impropriety by having recited in front of a mixed gathering, I am not terribly excited about what happened. Often times Muslims in the west behave like they have something to prove to others, and they thereby misplace their priorities and values. I don't believe by her having recited, that the honor of Muslim women increased, and if we feel that by putting women in positions traditionally discharged by men is somehow progress, then we ourselves are admitting two things: one is that women will not be honored until they are encouraged to behave like men, and two, that centuries of intervening Muslims society and scholarship have been mired in a patriarchy that has barred them from being fair to women, until ISNA's enlightened conference organizers elevated them to that status that our `ulama were hitherto unable to accord them.
As for those who would argue that only the most extreme pervert would be put into fitnah by a Qur'anic recitation, I propose that only one who lacks basic fitrah would not be at least charmed by an attractive young lady reciting something as beautiful as the Qur'an. I did not listen to the recording, but assume she recites well. [The fact that a beautiful voice is reciting the Qur'an does not negate the possibility of fitnah, rather it compounds the sin therein, as it causes something that is sacred to be violated rather than something mundane like normal speech.]

Anyone who sat in our tasawwuf class, or classes like it from the past 14 centuries knows that the pathways to the enlightening or destruction of the heart cross through the eyes and ears. To fail to vigilantly guard over those gateways to the heart is to slacken in defending one's deen and will ensure that one is robbed of the maqam of ihsan
I'm not saying that this sister is evil or that whoever listened is surely going to hell. [In fact, I have much respect for her efforts to serve Islam, as do I for the good intentions held by those who wished to benefit from listening to the speeches of various community leaders at the conference.]
I'm just saying that all of the `ulama' I've ever studied with would be mortified by the prospect of young women reciting in a mixed gathering, and that fear is not based on bigoted patriarchy, but on the firm principles established by the sunnah. [Din is nasihah or sincere advice. If we didn't care or have some hope for good, we wouldn't have wasted our breath.]
The fact that this event is being touted as an achievement of something betrays an attitude that until we behave like them, we are backwards, otherwise I am sure that many other people recited Qur'an at other venues this weekend, and if all things were equal, those recitations would be received with acclaim. I am happy with the way of the old mashayikh of dar al-Islam and never felt that they were in need of the philosophies of modernity or western feminism in order to rectify their attitudes which are based on an usuli understanding of the sunnah.
... and Allah knows best.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Worry About Allah. Don't Worry About the People.

A great part of tasawwuf that seems to have been obscured from the masses in the era of big conferences, YouTube videos, Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, is developing the capacity in one's self to be immune from people's praise and scorn. In an age where being shamed online causes young people to take their own lives, do what is right, and don't worry about what people think afterwards. Enjoy your good deeds because Allah loves them, not for the sake of the people, and feel shame for your sins in front of Him, and don't care what they say. If one can do this it will greatly contribute to their spiritual progress, as well as their own psychiatric well-being.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Transcontinental Boycotts and Other Perils of Contemporary Islam

A response to how to reconcile the seeming angst between some scholars and activists of Islam in .pdf format.

Read Paper Here

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can Supplications to the Divine Change One's Destiny?

Having taught basic `aqidah courses several times over, through phone, internet, and the time honored medium of person to person contact, I can tell you that one of the trickiest subjects to tackle is always that of qadr or divine predestination: are we in control of our own lives, or are we living out a hard deterministic cosmic script in which we are bound without any choice of our own?

The brief answer according to orthodox Sunni theology based on the Qur'an and Sunnah is:

(a)     Allah knew everything before He created anything, in both gross and minute detail, that which was, that which is, and that which shall for ever be through His perfect and all-encompassing knowledge, which is an essential attribute of His divine essence.

(b)     Everything that ever happened only happened, happens and shall happen through His causing it to happen. He has control over what happens in terms of times, outcomes, measurements, amounts, quanta, etc., to the minutest degree. Nothing happens in creation against His will or according to anything other than His plan. We do not believe like the misguided nations before us, or their heretical conjugate counterparts within our fold, that anything happens against His will, or that he regrets or resents anything that happens. Indeed the meaning of the divine name al-Samad mentioned in surat al-Ikhlas is He through whom if something is to happen, it must be done, and He, who if He doesn't partake in a matter, that matter will never be realized.

(c)     Every human being has the ability to chose between good and evil at every turn. Those choices earn a person a place in the hereafter which is commensurate with the quality of said choices made.

Those choices plays out in one of five combination scenarios.

          1- Tawfiq: This is when you wish for good, and Allah wishes for you to execute that good you wish for. This results in earning a minimum of ten times that good deed's value in reward, up to 700 and beyond, as well as having further doors for good opened.

          2- Reward without tawfiq: This is when you wish for good, but Allah doesn't allow you to execute what you wished for. This results in earning the good deed intended at face value.

          3- Null result: This is when someone wishes for something which is morally neutral like buying lavender soap rather than pine. The result is likewise null whether the person gets what they wanted or not.

          4- Protection from evil: This is when one wishes to sin and indeed goes through with the attempt, but is thwarted by Allah's not wishing for that sin to be actualized. From Allah's grace, such a person is not punished for such a matter.

          5- Khudhlan: This is when a person wishes to sin, and Allah allows them to carry out such a self-destructing act so that they can be indisputably deserving of the punishment that they earn by their own hands on the day of Judgment. Such an act is punished at face value.

Now when taken in isolation, each (a), (b), and (c), seem very straightforward and even intuitive. The problem lies in reconciling, how they can all be true at the same time.

The messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam, informed us that the reconciliation would not be graspable by the mind which is trapped in the cage of time and space, so we should save our time and bandwidth from being sunk in this question. There is great wisdom in his prescription: it allows one, by accepting their inability to grasp the common thread that binds three such basic and intuitive concepts, to come to terms with the greater and more important realization that Allah has the prerogative to chose what He chooses without having to answer to others: "[None have such right that] He be asked about what He does, but [He has the right that] they be asked." (surat al-Anbiya'). 

Far from being a crippling blow to the intellect, the acceptance of (a), (b), and (c) being true at the same time is as much a sign of suspending one's intellect as using a cell phone while not being able to explain how it works in complete detail. To conceive of the idea that some parts of the mechanics of creation might be beyond the grasp of most, if not all of the creation is a given when considering that in physical scale, the laws that govern the seven firmaments, heaven, hell, multiple dimensions (which are talked about in the hadith literature), is not far-fetched. The laws of predestination apply to all of them universally, and are therefore functioning at a fundamental level that to which we have not been, and, in this life, are not to be exposed.  

This is in line with a saying attributed to Sayyiduna al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib by Shaykh Ali Hajwiri in his Kashf al-Mahjub: "I saw the position of the companions of the messenger of Allah sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam with regards to predestination was to believe in their hearts that Allah was in total control of all affairs, while practically conducting themselves as if they were in complete control of their affairs."

The messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam said, "Each is facilitated to [behave in the manner for] which he was created." This is with regards to the idea that in Allah's predestination, each soul was divinely preordained to either be from the people of felicity or wretchedness. With regards to the issue of fate, I have found that there are two reactions in people, each being indicative of one of the two aforementioned states. Those with propensity towards wretchedness will respond by saying that if they are going to hell anyways, then there is no point in even trying anymore. Those who have a propensity towards felicity will understand that the only One who has the power to switch their fate one way or the other is Allah, and so this realization will increase them in their humility toward Him, by highlighting the knowledge that He is the only one who can help them out in this matter.

To question whether such a system is fair, or why it is in place is to run afoul of the Qur'anic maxim of surat al-Anbiya' mentioned earlier: the Muslim theological definition of justice is that to which Allah commands. The fact that that command is one in which there is great mercy and benefit to us is not an essential quality of Justice, but an incidental one which Allah chose through His generosity. We do not, like the neo-Platonic mu`tazilah or the Christians, hold Allah to an external and synthetic standard of justice. If He was beholden to anything, it, rather than He would be the supreme power in the universe and more worthy of worship and veneration, which, as a concept is alien to the prophetic tradition and will lead an utterly ludicrous and paradoxical trap regarding the nature of divinity.

Finally coming to the question indicated in the title, can supplication or du`a change one's fate, the authentic hadith literature would seem to indicate so, as Hakim narrates a hadith which Dhahabi accepts as sahih: "On the authority of Thawban, [may Allah be pleased with him], the messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam said, 'Nothing can repel fate, except du`a, and nothing can increase one's lifespan, except piety. Verily a man will be deprived of his apportioned lot in this world due to sins he commits.'"

Does this mean that du`a is a wildcard in the system? Hardly. Rather the meaning is there to reaffirm (c) which is the idea that the choices that you and I make are very intimately tied to the outcomes that we experience in this world and the hereafter, by stating the benefits and power of an act of piety such as du`a or the harms of an impiety like sin. Does this necessarily negate (a) or (b)? Not at all. Allah knows that the person making du`a will make du`a and He allows it to happen. The fate that is repelled when such a person makes du`a is that evil fate that they would have had had (a), (b), and (c) not lined up in such a way to save him from it by means of du`a.

Perhaps this is what is meant in the hadith of Bukhari narrated by Sayyiduna Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: "The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam, said, 'Indeed the slave, when placed in his grave, and his companions turn around and leave him and he hears the footfalls of their sandals, at that time two angels will come to him, sit him up, and ask him, 'What did you used to say about this man, Muhammad, sallallahu`alahyhi wa sallam?' As for the believer, he will say, 'I testify that he is the slave of Allah and His messenger.' It will be said to him, 'Look at your your seat in the fire. Indeed Allah has exchanged for it a place in jannah.' He will be able to see both of them at the same time..." One possible fate was replaced by another through piety, all the while with Allah's primordial knowledge of one taking precedence over the other, and His allowing and facilitating one to overtake the other.

... and Allah knows best.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This a very surreal and strange article I read recently...