Back again with the Islamic bookclub! I’ll post a summary of each chapter of an Islamic book I’m reading, so you get the rundown without ever picking it up!
This is all about the lifestyle (again)…
Being Muslim: A Practical Guide by Asad Tarsin
“God ﷺ created the human race with two genders, each different and unique. Islam teaches that they have different natures, tendencies, and needs. The difference between genders, like the differences among races and ethnicities, is to be celebrated as a sign of God’s greatness.” [pg. 200]
In Islam, it is openly believed that there is equality of the sexes. Women have a religious advantage over men, meaning that they have a higher spiritual composition and are more likely to lean towards mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Men, on the other hand, have a higher level of worldly responsibility.
“God made the two genders inherently differently– physically, psychological, and spiritually– and that is it healthy to recognize and honor their differences. While certain religious and cultures attempted to obliterate the distinction between them, Islam holds that each gender has unique qualities vital to a balanced society.” [pg. 201]
“Part of the wisdom of shari’ah is that it not only protects us from actions that are directly harmful to us, in both this world and the next, but also from actions that are likely to lead to harm. One example of this wisdom is the ruling that forbids two marriageable persons of the opposite gender to be in a state of seclusion–alone together where no one can directly see them. They are, however, permitted to converse out of earshot if others, or in a room with large windows with others just outside, where they can carry on a private conversation but still be seen–these situations do not constitute seclusion and thus are not forbidden.” [pg. 201]
“In the Quran, God ﷺ commands the believers to lower their gazes, out of modesty, so as not to allow stimulating images to enter a heart striving to concern itself with God.” [pg. 201]
Whatever body part is considered to be haram for a person to show would also be haram for another person to look at without a serious reason.
“The faculty of sight is considered the most direct inroad to the heart, and any images we see have an immediate spiritual impact.” [pg. 201]
“So for the phases of a relationship that precede marriage, such as courting and engagement, the same restrictions apply regarding touching, seclusion, and the like exist for any marriageable persons of opposite genders. These rulings only change when marriage take place.
In some cultures with Muslim influence, it is customary that the prospective couple interact while in the presence of family or friends. It is important that they be allowed to get to know one another well enough to make such an important decision, within the limits set for all unmarried persons of opposite genders.” [pg. 203-204]
For men, when deciding on the reasons to marry a woman, her dedication to her religion should be the main criterion. For women, they should be marrying men of good character and temperament. This shows what each gender needs for a successful marriage.
“As part of this vision for life, God has provided us with a set of guidelines to preserve the institution of family.
In Islamic law, marriage is a contract entered into by a man and a woman willingly, with the intention of establishing a permanent relationship. The contract can be verbal or written, and it must be witnessed by at least two Muslim men of integrity, besides the bridegroom. After the contract has been witnessed, it is prophetic practice (sunnah) to announce the marriage and to hold a wedding feast for loved ones and family. A few features of the Islamic concept of marriage are worth reviewing here.” [pg. 202]
Divorce is widely considered makruh, but it is not seen as haram.
A Muslim man to marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, but not a woman from another religion or one with no religion at all. Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man. They say the reason for this is that studies show that children take on the religion of their father, so to keep the religion growing, you marry a Muslim man.
The preservation of lineage is extremely important in shari’ah.
God ﷺ has placed the responsibility of a family’s upkeep on the man. A wife can do whatever she wants with her money as but the husband must take care of the family.
“Islam also recognizes that a family, like all institutions, requires defined leadership to achieve internal harmony. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ placed much emphasis on this, perhaps as a warning to men, when he said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best to my wives.
Although this is different from the cultural norms we may be used to, it is worth mentioning that Islam allows for men to marry multiple wives (up to maximum of four) under particular circumstances. There are many preconditions to such an arrangement, the most important of which is a fair and just treatment of the wives, financially and otherwise.” [pg. 203]
“The family is the building block of society. When families, and thus societies, function harmoniously, life becomes conductive to spiritual refinement.
In the Quran, God ﷺ illustrates the relationship between spouses through the metaphor of garment of the other–a source of protection, comfort, and shared intimacy. God also uses specific terms when describing a healthy marriage: love, tenderness, and serenity. To be blessed with these in your marriage is truly a gift from God, for which we should be very grateful.
Love is incomplete without tenderness–a mildness of character even during the difficult times of a marriage. Tenderness means mercifully letting things pass even when you could justifiably take your spouse to task.”
“God ﷺ grants parents certain rights to which they inherently entitled with no preconditions. The sum of these rights amounts to righteous behavior towards them, a concept which can be termed filial piety.
You obey their wishes, tend to their needs, and always show them the utmost respect. Address your parents in a mild tone that always reminds them of the esteem in which you hold them.” [pg. 206]
Oftentimes those new to Islam will have some kind of conflict between their new lifestyle and the lives their parents are living.
“Differences in religion should not be an obstacle to filial piety. Some scholars of Islam state that if a person’s mother is Christian and elderly, it is that person’s obligation to take her to church. It is well known that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught his sahabah to remain kind and respectful towards their disbelieving parents, even those who opposed them most offensively.” [pg. 207]
Remember that it is hard for parents to see their child convert to a new religion, especially if they aren’t educated well on the religion. Some will accept them with open arms while others will work to change their child’s mind. In all cases, you should try to have a stronger relationship with them whether or not they are supportive.
“Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us, “There can be no obeying a creature by disobeying the Creator.” If your parents ask you to do something haram, you should politely refuse, explaining kingly to them why you will not do it. Beware of the tendency to allow differences in beliefs to create a rift between you and your parents–Islam should only enhance your relationship with them.” [pg. 207]
You owe your family a good relationship on good terms, this means to keep in touch with them, to visit them, and to ask about things that are important to them. The Arabic term for this translates to “to keep the wombs connected.”
“In a hadith from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, we see the inseparable relationship between the two. He recounts a statement from God ﷺ which says:
“I am God and I am the Merciful (al-Rahman). I created the womb (rahm) and derived its name from My own. If someone connects the [ties of the] womb, I will connect him with Me, but if someone severs the [ties of the] womb, I will cut him off from Me.”
Therefore, a believer should work to keep connected with extended family members, hoping for divine mercy. You should make family functions a priority in your life and put forth an effort to attend such events.”
“A believer has duties towards anyone who lives near his or her home.” [pg. 208]
This means that you need to check on your neighbors and make sure that they are well. If they need anything, they should feel comfortable to approach you and ask you for help.
“Prophet Muhammad ﷺ highly emphasized the importance of generously honoring your guests. This means working to put the best that you have before them, ensuring their comfort and joy during their visit.
We should be hospitable, displaying care for the comfort and ease of others. When we nobly these virtues, putting others before self, God ﷺ will in turn grace us with divine comfort and ease in our lives.” [pg. 208-209]
“Before Islam, Arabia was a collection of tribes.
A Muslim was to maintain familial and tribal affiliations and not to reject them or attempt to suppress their influence. Instead, they were to be complemented with a brotherhood in faith proclaimed by God, which supersedes, but does not negate, all other types of associations.”
“A pious poor man is mightier in the sight of God, and thus in the sight of the Muslim, than a wealthy or powerful immoral person. A righteous person of another race is better than a corrupt person of our race, regardless of social norms of a particular time or place.
By simply being a Muslim, a person becomes your brother or sister in the faith–a member of the Nation of Believers (Ummah).
This brotherhood must be understood within the backup of our allegiance to God ﷺ alone, and His command that we always side with truth and justice. Our duty to our brothers and sisters in faith who err, is to remind them of the moral character the God commands.”
Islam is a perfect religion from God ﷺ, but that doesn’t mean it is practiced by perfect people.
“Converts and those newly returning to Islam tend to be graced by God ﷺ with an enthusiastic earnestness in learning and practicing their religion. It may therefore seem odd to them when they see others, especially those born as Muslims, being less earnest in their practice. Some Muslims may even harbor bad habits that stem not from their faith but from their cultures and backgrounds. For some newer believers, these negligent birth-Muslims wasteful and ungrateful, whereas the newer Muslims feel like people who have lived in poverty and never known wealth: They tend to be very aware of the bounties they live in once they find Islam.”
The Islamic concept of struggle (jihad) is of two types:
Internal: greater struggle (against one’s own nafs, passions, and weaknesses)
“It requires struggling against Satanic insinuations and the destructive vices towards which our egos tend. The internal struggle can be thought of as a prerequisite to the external, or lesser, struggle. Only a serene soul purified of destructive vices can be trusted to use military force without going to excess.” [pg. 213]
External: lesser struggle (for self-defense or to remove oppression)
“It is the use of state-sectioned martial force to restore harmony and equilibrium to society because as the Quran tells us, “persecution is worse than killing” (2:217).
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ strictly forbade the killing of women and children. Islam forbids the destruction of the environment in war, as well as the use of fire as a weapon, which some scholars say would render the use of nuclear weapons haram. Monasteries and other places of worship should not be attacked. Such restrictions, forbidding indiscriminate killing and the destruction of the land, were unprecedented in their time and speak to the spirit, method, and purpose of the regulated use of violence in Islam.” [pg. 213]
“While Islam is universal and timeless religion, it is expressed and practiced by people who are products of their environments, and who are very much of this world. As a result the practice of Islam is taken on many different cultural expressions of the universal elements it contains.
Many cultures have had Muslim influences for generations, and as a result, Islam has become nearly inseparable from their culture customs. This does not mean that each of their cultural customs is an accurate expression of Islamic principles, although some may assume so.” [pg. 213-214]
An example of this would be female genital mutilation in Africa.
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