For Afghanistan’s women, Islam is the answer

For Afghanistan’s women, Islam is the answer

After 20 years of ceaseless war and famine, the women of Afghanistan must heal themselves, and ultimately their nation, by rediscovering their identity as empowered, dignified Muslim women.

To many, such an assertion seems like an exact reversal of the truth. After so much suffering, some think, the last thing these women need is more of what apparently caused it. However, a brief look at history and women’s rights through a correct understanding of Islam paints quite a different picture.

It was Islam, in the 7th century, that established women’s spiritual and intellectual equality with men. Muslim women were granted the right to vote, own property, inherit, receive a higher education and even run a business in which men were subordinates.

These teachings were immediately put into practice, where 1,400 years ago women played an active political role, not only voting for their leader, but also advising him. The Prophet Mohammed’s wife, Khadijah, was one of the most successful businesswomen in Mecca, employing many men, including at one point the Prophet himself. Aisha, whom the Prophet married some years after the death of Khadijah, became a scholar of Islam. A man of the time described her by saying, “I have not seen a greater scholar than Aisha in the learning of the Koran, shares of inheritance, lawful and unlawful matters, poetry, literature, Arab history and genealogy.” It was not surprising, then, when the world’s first institution of higher education — Al-Azhar Islamic University, founded in Cairo in 969 A.D. — was named after a woman, Fatima al-Zahraa.

In fact, Islam gave women rights centuries ago not enjoyed by them in our country today. For example, a Muslim woman is a totally separate entity from her husband, not only keeping her family name as well as all property she owned before marriage, but also maintaining total ownership of any money or property she acquires after marriage. In contrast, the general law in most states considers any wealth a woman obtains during marriage as jointly owned by her and her husband.

Since Afghanis are predominantly Muslim, one would expect their customs to already reflect Islam’s reverence of women. However, 20 years of war has created a culture of force, where the physically weaker sex is abused and seen as inferior, and where Islamic teachings are superseded by tribal traditions.

The suppression of women’s rights in Muslim countries is, of course, not unique to Afghanistan, and neither are the reasons for it. Women’s oppression in many parts of the Muslim world is actually just one symptom of a widespread decay of Islamic ideals and the subsequent regression to pre-Islamic tribal culture.

This spiritual cancer has also resulted in the rise of corrupt tyrannical rulers, the proliferation of usury in Muslim economies, the growing gap between rich and poor and the emergence of nationalism.

Due to this misrepresentation of Islam, some have dismissed it as a solution to the problems of women in Afghanistan. Instead, they argue that this country is a hundred years overdue for a healthy helping of Western feminism. Many are under the impression that women’s liberation was a 20th-century Western development, and that gains in women’s status in other parts of the world are primarily as a result of Western influence.

Certainly no one can deny the progress Western women have made since the days of the English Common Law, which regarded a woman as the legal property of her husband, barring her from owning property, entering into contracts or even keeping her name. After centuries of struggle, American women gained the right to vote in 1920 and British married women gained the right to own property in 1935. Laws for equal access to education and the workplace followed.

This relatively recent change in laws makes it quite clear that far from being the pioneer of women’s liberation, the West was actually a thousand-years-late newcomer to this Islamic movement. What’s more, when laws in the West were finally corrected to give women their equality, society was late to follow. It took generations to alter people’s beliefs about the status of women and affect true social change.

In contrast, Islam changed society almost overnight through the power of deep belief in God and the resulting desire to submit to His will. Afghanistan needs such an immediate and radical cultural transformation.

Western feminism simply cannot bring this about because it lacks the ideological strength to quickly penetrate hearts and minds. Even with the help of the greatest propaganda machine, Western feminism fails to answer the most basic question: Why should women be regarded as equals now after being seen as inferior for years of civil war? “Because America said so” will not hold much weight with most people.

Islam, on the other hand, teaches women’s equality as a divinely ordained principle. It elevates the status of women by revealing their God-given rights, which no one has the right to take away and which no devout believer dares question. If the Afghanis rediscover the true teachings of their faith, women’s liberation will emerge naturally.

Fundamental societal change in Afghanistan requires the power of deep religious conviction. Only this will elevate women to their proper station — servants to God alone whose rights are a sacred covenant.

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The Correct Islamic Ruling on the Muslim Woman’s Dress

The Correct Islamic Ruling on the Muslim Woman’s Dress

The recent plans to introduce anti-hijab laws in France and Germany have thrown into the limelight once again, numerous discussions on the Islamic dress code for women. Many have asked, is the hijab an actual obligation in Islam or an issue of personal choice for the woman? Should the dress code take a specific form or is it the right of the woman to decide for herself what she considers as being modest attire?

There are a few Muslims that argue that the hijab or khimar (headcovering) is not an Islamic obligation commanded by the Islamic texts but rather a personal choice of the woman. They argue that it is sufficient for the woman to dress modestly according to her own opinion of what modesty entails. For example, Gammal Banna, an Egyptian author of several books on the rights of Muslim women and brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood commented, “The head scarf is not an obligation, but derives from an erroneous reading of the Koran .. Wearing the headscarf or not is part of a debate on morals and not on religious obligations … Whether a woman wears a scarf or a mini-skirt is a matter of individual liberty.” He also stated that he did not support the French President’s decision to ban the hijab because it interfered with the personal choice of the woman to wear a headscarf.

Such comments have been introduced in recent times by those whose lives have been afflicted by the western thoughts. Such misguided notions were noticeably absent throughout the glorious history of the Islam, over the past thousand years. The commands and prohibitions of Islam are contained in the texts of Islam, the Quran and Sunnah, and it is these that one should examine when seeking the rule of Allah (swt). It is clear that the covering of the hair in the presence of non-Mahrem men (those men the woman can marry) by the hijab or khimar is definitely an Islamic obligation (fard) commanded clearly by the Islamic texts. Allah(swt) says in Surah Nur,

“Let them draw their head-coverings (khumur) over their necks and chest” [TMQ An-Nur: 31].

The head-coverings (khumur) were worn by the women of Quraish in the time of the Prophet (saw). They used to cover their heads, and the cloth would run down their backs exposing their necks and chests. Hence the command to wear the head-covering specifies also how to cover (covering all the head, neck and chest).

In one hadith reported by Aisha (ra), she said that Asmaa bint Abu Bakr entered the quarters of the Messenger of Allah (saw) wearing thin clothes. The Messenger (saw) turned his face away and said, “Oh Asmaa, if the woman reaches puberty, it is not allowed to be seen from her except this and this”, and he pointed to his face and hands.

Fortunately, most Muslim women understand the hijab as an obligation but there is often confusion or misconceptions of what the hijab is, and what the dress code is for the woman in public life. So some may view the dupatta (the see-through scarf that accompanies the shalwar kameez) as sufficient even though the hair and neck can be seen. Some may place a loose scarf over their heads while some of their hair remains exposed. Some wear the bandanna, covering all the hair but exposing the ears and neck. Finally, there are those who may wear the hijab correctly and cover all their hair, neck and ears but accompany it with a T-shirt and tight jeans or above ankle skirt, exposing their arms, legs and showing the shape of their body.

In Islam, the rules pertaining to the covering of the woman both in private life and in the public arena are not a matter of personal interpretation according to the concept of modesty, personal choice, or personal opinion. Rather they are detailed and specific as with all the Ahkham (rules) of Islam. For example, Allah (swt) has not commanded the prayer and then left people to choose for themselves how to pray. Rather the actions in each and every prayer have been described and specified. Similarly, Allah (swt) has not ordered the woman to wear the hijab or khimar and then left it to personal preference as to its form. Rather the rules of the Islamic dress code for the woman have been described in detail. In such a matter, the Muslimah would follow the obligation to cover in the defined manner, the way she would follow the rules for prayer. The mind, and personal opinions have no part to play in the hijab, as they have no part to play in the prayer. Allah (swt) says,

“But no, by thy Lord, they can have no (real) faith until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against thy decisions but accept them with the fullest of submission” [Al-Nisa: 65]

As clear in the ayah and hadith mentioned earlier, the adult Muslim woman should cover everything except her face and hands in the presence of all non-mahrem men (those to whom she can marry). The clothes should not be thin such that her skin can be seen, or tight such that the shape of her body can be seen. The whole body of the woman, including her neck and hair (even one hair), except for her face and hands are awrah (that which it is haram to reveal to any non-mahrem man). In Surah An-Nur, Allah (swt) says,

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” [An-Nur:31]

Ibn Abbas explained the words, “…beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof” as referring to the face and hands.

In addition, when the woman leaves her home and enters the public arena, she has been commanded to wear the khimar (a head cover that covers the entire head, neck, and the chest) and the jilbab (a one piece outer dress that covers her indoor clothes and drapes down to the floor). It is not sufficient that she wears the khimar accompanied by a skirt and blouse or shirt and trousers. Allamah ibn Al Hazam writes,

“In the Arabic language of the Prophet, Jilbab is the outer sheet which covers the entire body. A piece of cloth which is too small to cover the entire body could not be called Jalbab.” [Al Muhalla, vol. 3, p. 217]. If she leaves the home without these two pieces of clothing then she would be sinful for she has neglected a command from Allah (swt). The evidence for the jilbab is also clear. Allah (swt) says in Surah Al-Ahzab,

“Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (Jalabeeb) all over their bodies.” [Al-Ahzab:59]

In addition, in one hadith narrated by Umm Atiyya (ra), she said, “The Messenger of Allah (saw) ordered us to bring out the young women, the menstruating women and veiled women for the two Eid festivals. The menstruating women were to keep away from prayer, yet witnessing the goodness and the dawa (address) to the Muslims. I asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what about the one who does not have a Jilbab?’. He said, ‘Let her use the Jilbab of her sister.’” The Prophet (saw) maintained the insistence that the women wear the jilbab even if she did not possess one, i.e. she would have to borrow one.

A Muslim woman should not imitate the western woman who uses her own mind to decide what to wear, and what is appropriate to be seen in. Aisha (ra) is narrated as having said to some women from the tribe of the Bani Tamim who were wearing dresses made of thin material when they were visiting her, “If you are mumin (true believers) this is not the type of dress suitable for mumin women. But if you are not mumin, then do as you please.”

Muslim women of today should take guidance from the Muslim women of the past who were praised by the Messenger (saw) and gained the Pleasure of Allah (swt). When the verses for covering were revealed they responded immediately without a second of delay by covering their awrah with whatever they could find of material. Safiyyah, daughter of Shaybah, said that Aisha (ra) mentioned the women of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them. She then said, “When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers (veils) of them.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).

Hence the hijab is much more than covering modestly, or following traditional or contemporary customs and practices. It is an Islamic obligation that has precise rules, and needs to be fulfilled in the manner that Islam has prescribed.

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A Veil on the Truth

A Veil on the Truth

A few privileged Afghan women have been caught smiling for AP cameras, but many Afghan women, men and children are silently dying behind the burqa of U.S. deceit.

The facts are simple. Massive food distribution programs put in place prior to 9-11 in response to widespread famine were derailed by the anticipation of and then the actual U.S. bombing campaign, and have been even further set back by the Taliban’s retreat. According to the New York Times (11/30/01), “In the past two weeks, the tonnage [of aid] delivered dropped to a pace less than half of what it had been in the previous two weeks.” The problem is that the “towns and cities are so chaotic that relief agencies cannot safely operate. Many roads are off limits because of lawlessness and banditry.”

Those of us who opposed the U.S. war in A fghanistan nevertheless saw its apparent rapid resolution as an opportunity to at least get much needed supplies into the country. Having routed the enemy, perhaps the United States would stop the bombing, allowing food trucks to move in from across the border. But, instead, the opposite is true. As of this writing (December 5), the bombing continues, civilian populations are left at the mercy of marauding gangs, and food aid dwindles.

There are a few simple things we could do that would immediately turn down the torture in Afghanistan.

First, the U.S. should stop bombing. There is no real accounting yet of the civilian casualty rate, but reports in the last few days claim that U.S. bombs hit four villages near Tora Bora, possibly killing hundreds (NYT 12/3/01). This is an unethical and illegal use of U.S. firepower. If it’s Osama bin Laden who we are still after, it is never too late to apprehend him in a manner that accords with international law — present proper evidence and allow the UN to mount a prudent, ground-based multilateral campaign to capture him. In any case, since there is no Afghan enemy mounting any kind of defense or engaging in battle, there is no excuse for large-scale bombings — whether directed by the U.S. or the UN.

Second, the bridge to Uzbekistan, which is a key passage for aid trucks, should be secured. And we should meet Uzbekistan’s demand that an international force provide security at their Afghan border. Instead American military officials are saying that although they “recognize the urgency of opening the bridge from Uzbekistan, [U.S.] troops will not be protecting the border.”

There is callous disregard for human life in this casual acknowledgement of the urgency. American officials understand the consequences of their inactivity, but are blithely sitting back and saying they want Afghan forces — not foreign troops — to police the roadways, when the only Afghan forces that exist in the country are “lawless bandits,” and it is American officials themselves that installed them. Having destabilized the country to the point where it is not even safe for aid trucks to travel, it seems the U.S. is washing its hands of the disaster.

If only that were the case.

Instead, the U.S. is actually blocking efforts to bring in the very peacekeepers that might secure the roads and borders, and facilitate the transport of life-saving aid. Buried in an article about how the Northern Alliance, during negotiations in Bonn, finally relented on allowing foreign peacekeepers into the country, the Boston Globe

(11/30/01) reported that some U.S. officials believe peacekeepers will be a nuisance to their unilateral conduct of the war. “Citing Bush Administration officials, the Washington Post reported that `the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan, is opposing the imminent deployment of peacekeepers in areas freed from Taliban control out of concern this could encumber U.S. military operations.'”

In a New York Times article (12/3/01) about the Bonn negotiations, a brief aside mentions the “Pentagon’s unwillingness to take part in any peacekeeping force or to favor placing peacekeepers anywhere where they could get in the way of the war against Al Qaeda.” Specifically, since November 12 when the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the Pentagon has blocked proposals by France and Britain to send thousands of troops to secure Kabul, the northern half of the country, and aid routes. On December 4, the Pentagon said it would “not object to peacekeepers confined to Kabul and its immediate vicinity” — a concession that is mostly symbolic (only 200 peacekeepers will be admitted) and is nonetheless entirely irrelevant to ensuring open channels for aid (NYT 12/5/01).

Third, the U.S. should reconsider food airdrops. Dropping “Humanitarian Daily Rations” — bright yellow packages, decorated with the American flag and containing 2200 calories worth of peanut butter, shortbread, and fruit pastries — is counterproductive. Airdrops undermine the work of neutral aid organizations by turning humanitarian assistance into an attempt to win “hearts and minds.” They ignore the special needs of malnourished children who require a specific diet. “If you would give peanut butter to a severely malnourished child, you are likely to do more harm than good,” says Lucas Van den Broeck of Action Against Hunger (Boston Globe 10/25/01). And the airdrops bypass crucial distribution methods, which ensure food gets to all who need it, not just to those nimble enough to gather the yellow packets as they drop from the skies, assuming, that is, that they land where people can reach them and not among land mines (10 million of which litter the Afghan landscape). According to at least one UN report (Boston Globe, 11/30/01), two children have already been killed “when they stepped on mines running across a field trying to pick up food packets.”

We won’t see pictures of their exploded bodies in the morning newspaper because those images are a theat to the Pentagon’s ongoing prosecution of the “war on terrorism.” Those images must stay safely shrouded from public view. While the media showcase the newly revealed faces of Afghan women, the innocent victims of the U.S. war are still thickly veiled.

This is a veil that U.S. citizens have the power to lift, and the consequences of doing so are immense. We should expose and demand an end to a war that has turned Afghanistan into a world stage for the theatrical display of U.S. might and banal disregard for human life.

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Terrorism – Islam’s Viewpoint

Terrorism – Islam’s Viewpoint

Islamic Fiqh Council, Saudi Arabia. Source: Muslim World League Journal, Jumad al-Ula 1423/July 2002 CE

During its sixteenth session, which was held between 21-27 Shawwal 1422 H (5-10 January 2002), the Islamic Fiqh Council laid emphasis on the fact that extremism, violence, and terrorism have no connection whatsoever with Islam. In fact, they are manifestations of perilous acts with dangerous consequences, and an aggression and iniquity against the individual.

Whosoever carefully studies the two sources of the Shari’ah (Islamic law), namely the Book of Allah [the Qur’an] and the Sunnah (Traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), would discoverthat they are devoid of any import of extremism, acts of violence or terrorism, which imply carrying out aggression against others without a just cause.

Therefore, in order to draw an Islamic definition of terrorism that unites the vision and attitudes of all Muslims; and in order to clearly state this fact and highlight the danger of associating Islam with extremism and terrorism, the Islamic Fiqh Council presents the following definition of terrorism and Islam’s attitude toward it both to the Muslims and the world at large.

Definition of Terrorism

Terrorism is an outrageous attack carried out either by individuals, groups or states against the human being (his religion, life, intellect, property and honour). It includes all forms of intimidation, harm, threatening, killing without just cause and everything connected with any form of armed robbery, hence making pathways insecure, banditry, every act of violence or threatening intended to fulfil a criminal scheme individually or collectively, so as to terrify and horrify people by hurting them or by exposing their lives, liberty, security or conditions to danger; it can also take the form of inflicting damage on the environment or on a public or a private utility or exposing a national or natural resource to danger.

All these are manifestations of the mischief in the land, Allah has prohibited Muslims from committing. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And seek not occasions for mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief” (28:77)

Hence Allah did not only enact deterrent punishment against terrorism, aggression and corruption, but considers these acts tantamount to waging war against Allah and His Messenger. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the hereafter” (5:33)

Obviously, in view of the enormity of such acts of aggression, which are viewed by the Shari’ah (Islamic law) as an act of war against the laws and the creatures of God, there is no stricter punishment anywhere in the manmade laws. Moreover, according to the Islamic Fiqh Council, there are various forms of terrorism, which include state terrorism, the most conspicuous illustration and the most heinous of which is practiced in Palestine today by the Israelis, and by the Serbs in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Kosovo.

According to the Islamic Fiqh Council, state terrorism is the most menacing to security and peace in the world, and, therefore, standing up against it is tantamount to self defense and striving in the cause of Allah.

Islam’s Remedy for Extremism & Terrorism

In combating terrorism and protecting society against its evil consequences, Islam is a trail-blazer. Through clear-cut limitations that must not be trespassed, Islam urges the protection of human life, honour, property, religion and intellect. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“If any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons wrong themselves as well as others” (2:229)

Accordingly, in furtherance of this honour bestowed upon mankind, Islam prohibit[s] man’s injustice to his fellow man, and condemn[s] those who cause harm to people, not only in the Muslim world, but anywhere in the world. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are; shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason.” And: “When he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and progeny. But Allah loves not mischief. When it is said to him ‘Fear Allah,’ he is led by arrogance to (more) crime. Enough for him is Hell – an evil bed indeed to lie on” (7:33 & 2:205-206)

Furthermore, Islam ordered its adherents to keep away from anything that may cause turmoil among the people, and warned at the same time, against its evil consequences. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And fear tumult or oppression, which affects not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong: And know that Allah is strict in punishment.” (8:25)

In Islam, both the individual and the community are exhorted not only to tow the line of moderation, but likewise, to root out extremism and religious intolerance which are sure to destroy the mankind. The Prophet (peace be on him) said in a report by Imams Ahmad and Al-Nissaie:

“Beware of excesses in matters of religion. For, as a matter of fact, those before you were destroyed by religious immoderation”

Islam also addressed the issue of evil tendencies that are apt to lead to intimidation, terrifying, horrifying and killing without any just cause. The Prophet (peace be on him) said:

“A Muslim must not terrify a fellow Muslim”

And:

“Whoever points an iron rod towards his brother, the angels shall go on cursing him until he stopped, even if he (the victim) happens to be his full brother (from the sides of his father and mother)” (Sahih Muslim)

With regard to the Dhimmis (Non-Muslims living under Muslim protection), Islam ordered that they must be treated justly. It gave them rights and imposed duties on them. It gave them security in the Muslim world, and imposed blood-money and expiation for an act of killing committed against anyone among them. Allah says:

“If he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance, blood-money shall be paid to his family, and a believing slave be freed” (4:92)

Furthermore, in conformity with the saying of the Prophet (peace be on him), Islam prohibits the slaying of a Dhimmi living in the Muslim world.

“Whoever kills a person under the contract of protection shall never smell the scent of Paradise” (Ibn Majah)

Moreover, Islam does not forbid its followers from being charitable towards those who do not fight them or expel them from their homes. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loves those who are just” (60:8)

And:

“And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (5:8)

In view of the foregoing, therefore, the Islamic Fiqh Council would like to make it public that the felony of taking away one life without a just cause is tantamount to killing all people, whatever the faith of the murdered or the murderer; and that punishments and retributions are solely the prerogative of the ruler, not of individuals or groups.

Jihad is not Terrorism

In Islam, Jihad is ordained to uphold right, repel injustice and establish justice, peace, security and clemency, with which the Prophet (peace be on him) was sent to take mankind out of darkness into light. More specifically, Jihad has been ordained to eliminate all forms of terrorism, and to defend the homeland against occupation, plunder and colonialism.

Jihad is waged against those who support others in driving out people out of their homes, as well as against those who are in breach of their covenants. Jihad is meant to avoid tempting away Muslims from their faith or restricting their freedom to conduct peaceful propagation of their religion. Allah said:

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loveth those who are just”

And:

“Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for your faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support others in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them in these circumstances that do wrong.” (60:8-9)

Islam has crystal clear rules and provisions that forbid the killing of non-combatants, innocent persons, such as the elderly, women and children; pursuit of fleeing persons, slaying persons who have surrendered, injuring prisoners, or mutilating the bodies of the dead, or destroying structures and buildings that have no connection with combat.

Thus it is illogical to equate violence committed by usurpers and tyrants who violate human dignity, defile sanctuaries and plunder wealth, with the right of legitimate self-defense, exercised by the oppressed in asserting their legitimate right of self-determination. In view of the above, the Islamic Fiqh Council would like to call the attention of all nations, peoples and organizations of the world to the necessity of drawing a distinction between legitimate Jihad against aggression or oppression designed to establish truth and justice, and the act of violence which aims at occupation of land, encroaching on national sovereignty and terrifying civilian populations and turning them into refugees.

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Forget fashion, this is freedom

Forget fashion, this is freedom

The Muslim veil has become a hot political issue in France – but Stella White cannot see what the fuss is about. A Catholic from Kent, she explains the joys of the complete cover-up

To liberated Westerners, the hijab, or veil, is a stain on womankind. It symbolises the crushing of the female spirit and is the mark of slavery, transforming a woman into a passive lump who is only allowed out of the house to buy her husband’s dinner.

When faced with this piece-of-cloth-on-legs, English women will often meet the eyes peeking out of the hijab with an expression of pity and sadness. For them, the veil represents a living death. This might also be the feeling of the French authorities, who have decided to ban the hijab in schools, believing that no young girl should have to carry the burden of repression on her tender head.

Yet for many, including myself, the veil is not an instrument of coercion, but a means of liberation. Personally, I have never felt so free as I do when I am wearing it.

Before you presume that I am regurgitating propaganda from a culture that has brainwashed me, I should point out that I am a Catholic, not a Muslim. I am not from the mysterious East, but am a 32-year-old woman from boring Kent. Nor am I a prude: my life has included spells as an exotic dancer, kissogram and glamour model. Three of my best friends are strippers. I have had relationships with Muslim men, but none of them ever demanded I wear the hijab; in fact, they found my behaviour slightly embarrassing. There is nobody in my past that has coerced me to wear a veil. I do so simply because I love it.

I relish the privacy; the barrier that the hijab creates between myself and the harsh, frenetic world, especially in London. I find a great peace behind the veil: I don’t feel invaded by nosy passers-by; the traffic, noise and crowds seem less overwhelming. I can retreat into my own safe world even as I walk and, on a practical level, I feel completely secure from unwanted advances.

The hijab is also a financial security system. Like most pedestrians in London, I can’t afford to give money to every homeless person I see, but feel stressed and guilty when I walk past them. In my hijab, my conscience can hide. I also feel fairly safe from muggers. Thieves glance at me and probably think, “illegal immigrant; not worth the effort”, presuming that my big carrier bags contain only weird, knobbly vegetables for my 16 children.

In my hijab, shopping is also cheaper. A small minority of Muslim traders operate a two-tier pricing system with the “one of us” price being considerably lower than the price for Westerners. If I want a bargain, I make sure I am “hijabbed-up”.

The most amazing effect of wearing the veil is that you automatically seem to become a member of the Muslim community and are accorded all of the privileges and dignity of a Muslim woman. When I walk into a Muslim shop, a man will say to me, gently, “Salaam aleikum [peace be upon you]. How can I help you, madam?” On the bus, Muslim men from Africa, the Middle East or the Far East will move aside for me and say, “After you, sister.”

The offices, bars and clubs of London are full of English girls in short skirts and strappy sandals, many of them looking for love. Women who wear the hijab, often despised by the West, actually feel sorry for these Western women who have to harm themselves with crippling high heels, skin-choking make-up and obsessive dieting in order to find a man.

My Iranian friend Mona is a successful businesswoman who goes out every day looking impeccable, with painted nails, stilettos, sharp suits and perfect make-up. “It was just so much easier when I was in Iran,” she says. “You’d get up at nine, throw on your big black hooded dress and jump in the car. Now, I have to spend two or three hours getting done up every morning.”

Too often, the hijab is dismissed as the preserve of Muslim fundamentalists. But in the Christian tradition, St Paul ordered women to cover their heads and, until the Sixties, no woman would be seen in an English church without a hat and gloves. Many English women wore hats out in the street or headscarves tied under their chin. Hindu and Sikh women are still expected to cover their heads loosely for their honour, or izzat, and Orthodox Jewish women have traditionally worn wigs over their real hair to conceal it from men who are not their husbands. Yet, among all these cultural groups, only Muslim women seem to have been described as weak or oppressed on account of their headgear.

Two of the most unlikely bedfellows are the woman who wears a hijab and the militant feminist. When women in the early Seventies began cropping their hair short, and wearing dungarees and comfortable shoes, they were rejecting the idea of suffering for fashion and were refusing to take part in the desperate ritual to attract spoilt, fussy males. Similarly, a woman in a hijab can retain her identity without being a slave to finicky Western notions of beauty.

A particularly sad article appeared in a popular women’s magazine last week, entitled: “How to hate your body less.” I showed it to my Arab friend Malika, who shook her head and said: “In my culture, men are so grateful when they marry a woman that they see her as a gorgeous princess, whatever shape or size she is.”

Within the hijab, Muslim women know their power and their value. One Muslim man told me: “My wife is like a beautiful diamond. Would you leave a precious diamond to get scratched or stolen in the street? No, you would wrap it in velvet. And that is how the hijab protects my wife, who is more precious to me than any jewel.”

Of course, if anybody tried to remove my veil or force me to wear it, I would react violently. I am privileged to live in a country in which I can wear whatever I want to. Not all women are so lucky. Personally, I have found in the hijab a kind of guardian angel. My mother, on the other hand, claims that I wear it because I can’t be bothered to brush my hair.

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Qualities of Aisha and her role in Islam

Qualities of Aisha and her role in Islam

In any discussion on the age of Aisha (ra: may Allah be pleased with her) at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him), it is of the greatest relevance to note the pivotal role she played as a teacher, exponent and interpreter of the religion of Islam. Aisha was an exceptionally intelligent and astute woman, a young prodigy, and this was the main reason why she was got married to the Holy Prophet, as is clearly proved by events after the Holy Prophet’s life. She entered his household, shortly after his emigration to Madina, just at the time when the teachings of Islam in all fields of life for the Muslim community were starting to be revealed to the Holy Prophet and demonstrated by him by his example and practice. An intellectually gifted person was required who would have daily contact with the Holy Prophet at the closest and most personal level, so as to absorb the teachings that he was giving on all aspects of life by his words and actions. Such a person would need to possess the following qualities:
an excellent, precise memory to retain a vast amount of detail accurately,
the understanding to grasp the significance and the principles of the teachings,
powers of reasoning, criticism and deduction to resolve problems on the basis of those teachings,
the skills to convey knowledge to a wide range of audience,
and, finally, have the prospect of living for a considerable period of time after the death of the Holy Prophet in order to spread his message to distant generations.

That Aisha possessed all these qualities and carried out this mission is an absolutely positive and undeniable, historical fact. After the Holy Prophet’s death, she acted as a teacher and interpreter of Islam, providing guidance to even the greatest of the male Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. They made a special point of going to her to gain knowledge and seek her opinion. A vast number of sayings and actions of the Holy Prophet are reported from her in books of Hadith. She not only quoted his sayings and reported her observations of events, but interpreted them to provide solutions to questions. Whenever necessary, she corrected the views of the greatest of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. She made rulings and judgments on which Islamic law is based.

The following are two examples of what the Holy Prophet’s male Companions said about her:

“Abu Musa said: Whenever there was any hadith that was difficult [to understand] for us, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, and we asked Aisha we always found that she had knowledge about that hadith.”

“Musa ibn Talha said: I never saw anyone more eloquent than Aisha.” [1]

In the famous compilation of the lives of saints in Islam, Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, the author Farid-ud-Din Attar, who lived eight centuries ago, introduces the life of the early female saint Rabia of Basra as follows:

“If anyone says, ‘Why have you included Rabia in the rank of men?’, my answer is that the Prophet himself said, ‘God does not regard your outward forms’. … Moreover, if it is proper to derive two-thirds of our religion from Aisha, surely it is permissible to take religious instruction from a handmaid of Aisha.” [2]

It is thus recognised, from the earliest times in Islam, that some two-thirds of Islamic Sharia is based on reports and interpretations that have come from Aisha.

In view of these exceptional qualities of Aisha and the towering role played by her in the transmission of the teachings of Islam, it is simply preposterous and outrageous to suggest that she was the victim of some form of child and marital abuse. We ask in particular the Christian and Jewish critics of Islam, who are reviling the Holy Prophet Muhammad on the basis of his marriage with Aisha, whether they can point out any example of a woman in their religions who played a role like that of Aisha in learning the religion from its founder and becoming the teacher and instructor of all his followers, including men, after his death.

Age of Aisha at time of marriage with Holy Prophet Muhammad
It is believed on the authority of some Hadith reports that the marriage ceremony (known as nikah, amounting to betrothal) of Aisha with the Holy Prophet Muhammad took place when she was six years of age, and that she joined the Holy Prophet as his wife three years later at the age of nine. We quote below from two such reports in Bukhari.

“It is reported from Aisha that she said: The Prophet entered into marriage with me when I was a girl of six … and at the time [of joining his household] I was a girl of nine years of age.”

“Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed [alone] for two years or so. He married Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consummated that marriage when she was nine years old.” [3]

As to the authenticity of these reports, it may be noted that the compilers of the books of Hadith did not apply the same stringent tests when accepting reports relating to historical matters as they did before accepting reports relating to the practical teachings and laws of Islam. The reason is that the former type of report was regarded as merely of academic interest while the latter type of report had a direct bearing on the practical duties of a Muslim and on what was allowed to them and what was prohibited. Thus the occurrence of reports such as the above about the marriage of Aisha in books of Hadith, even in Bukhari, is not necessarily a proof of their credibility.

Determination of the true age of Aisha
It appears that Maulana Muhammad Ali was the first Islamic scholar directly to challenge the notion that Aisha was aged six and nine, respectively, at the time of her nikah and consummation of marriage. This he did in, at least, the following writings: his English booklet Prophet of Islam, his larger English book Muhammad, the Prophet, and in the footnotes in his voluminous Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, these three writings being published in the 1920s and 1930s. In the booklet Prophet of Islam, which was later incorporated in 1948 as the first chapter of his book Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, he writes in a lengthy footnote as follows:

“A great misconception prevails as to the age at which Aisha was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa‘d has stated in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr [father of Aisha] was approached on behalf of the Holy Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair, and that he would have to settle the matter first with him. This shows that Aisha must have been approaching majority at the time. Again, the Isaba, speaking of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, says that she was born five years before the Call and was about five years older than Aisha. This shows that Aisha must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the Prophet, and not six years as she is generally supposed to be. This is further borne out by the fact that Aisha herself is reported to have stated that when the chapter [of the Holy Quran] entitled The Moon, the fifty-fourth chapter, was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed. Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly revealed before the sixth year of the Call. All these considerations point to but one conclusion, viz., that Aisha could not have been less than ten years of age at the time of her nikah, which was virtually only a betrothal. And there is one report in the Tabaqat that Aisha was nine years of age at the time of nikah. Again it is a fact admitted on all hands that the nikah of Aisha took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal, while there is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation of her marriage taking place in the second year of Hijra in the same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between the nikah and the consummation. Hence there is not the least doubt that Aisha was at least nine or ten years of age at the time of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.” [4] (Bolding is mine.)

To facilitate understanding dates of these events, please note that it was in the tenth year of the Call, i.e. the tenth year after the Holy Prophet Muhammad received his calling from God to his mission of prophethood, that his wife Khadija passed away, and the approach was made to Abu Bakr for the hand of his daughter Aisha. The hijra or emigration of the Holy Prophet to Madina took place three years later, and Aisha came to the household of the Holy Prophet in the second year after hijra. So if Aisha was born in the year of the Call, she would be ten years old at the time of the nikah and fifteen years old at the time of the consummation of the marriage.

Later research
Research subsequent to the time of Maulana Muhammad Ali has shown that she was older than this. An excellent short work presenting such evidence is the Urdu pamphlet Rukhsati kai waqt Sayyida Aisha Siddiqa ki umar (‘The age of Lady Aisha at the time of the start of her married life’) by Abu Tahir Irfani.[4a] Points 1 to 3 below have been brought to light in this pamphlet.

1. The famous classical historian of Islam, Ibn Jarir Tabari, wrote in his ‘History’:

“In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married two women. The first was Fatila daughter of Abdul Uzza, from whom Abdullah and Asma were born. Then he married Umm Ruman, from whom Abdur Rahman and Aisha were born. These four were born before Islam.” [5]

Being born before Islam means being born before the Call.

2. The compiler of the famous Hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, who died 700 years ago, has also written brief biographical notes on the narrators of Hadith reports. He writes under Asma, the older daughter of Abu Bakr:

“She was the sister of Aisha Siddiqa, wife of the Holy Prophet, and was ten years older than her. … In 73 A.H. … Asma died at the age of one hundred years.” [6]

(Go here to see an image of the full entry in Urdu.)

This would make Asma 28 years of age in 1 A.H., the year of the Hijra, thus making Aisha 18 years old in 1 A.H. So Aisha would be 19 years old at the time of the consummation of her marriage, and 14 or 15 years old at the time of her nikah. It would place her year of birth at four or five years before the Call.

3. The same statement is made by the famous classical commentator of the Holy Quran, Ibn Kathir, in his book Al-bidayya wal-nihaya:

“Asma died in 73 A.H. at the age of one hundred years. She was ten years older than her sister Aisha.” [7]

Apart from these three evidences, which are presented in the Urdu pamphlet referred to above, we also note that the birth of Aisha being a little before the Call is consistent with the opening words of a statement by her which is recorded four times in Bukhari. Those words are as follows:

“Ever since I can remember (or understand things) my parents were following the religion of Islam.” [8]

This is tantamount to saying that she was born sometime before her parents accepted Islam but she can only remember them practising Islam. No doubt she and her parents knew well whether she was born before or after they accepted Islam, as their acceptance of Islam was such a landmark event in their life which took place just after the Holy Prophet received his mission from God. If she had been born after they accepted Islam it would make no sense for her to say that she always remembered them as following Islam. Only if she was born before they accepted Islam, would it make sense for her to say that she can only remember them being Muslims, as she was too young to remember things before their conversion. This is consistent with her being born before the Call, and being perhaps four or five years old at the time of the Call, which was also almost the time when her parents accepted Islam.

Two further evidences cited by Maulana Muhammad Ali
In the footnotes of his Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari, entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, Maulana Muhammad Ali had pointed out reports of two events which show that Aisha could not have been born later than the year of the Call. These are as follows.

1. The above mentioned statement by Aisha in Bukhari, about her earliest memory of her parents being that they were followers of Islam, begins with the following words in its version in Bukhari’s Kitab-ul-Kafalat. We quote this from the English translation of Bukhari by M. Muhsin Khan:

“Since I reached the age when I could remember things, I have seen my parents worshipping according to the right faith of Islam. Not a single day passed but Allah’s Apostle visited us both in the morning and in the evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, Abu Bakr set out for Ethiopia as an emigrant.” [9]

Commenting on this report, Maulana Muhammad Ali writes:

“This report sheds some light on the question of the age of Aisha. … The mention of the persecution of Muslims along with the emigration to Ethiopia clearly shows that this refers to the fifth or the sixth year of the Call. … At that time Aisha was of an age to discern things, and so her birth could not have been later than the first year of the Call.” [10]

Again, this would make her more than fourteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage.

2. There is a report in Sahih Bukhari as follows:

“On the day (of the battle) of Uhud when (some) people retreated and left the Prophet, I saw Aisha daughter of Abu Bakr and Umm Sulaim, with their robes tucked up so that the bangles around their ankles were visible hurrying with their water skins (in another narration it is said, ‘carrying the water skins on their backs’). Then they would pour the water in the mouths of the people, and return to fill the water skins again and came back again to pour water in the mouths of the people.” [11]

Maulana Muhammad Ali writes in a footnote under this report:

“It should also be noted that Aisha joined the Holy Prophet’s household only one year before the battle of Uhud. According to the common view she would be only ten years of age at this time, which is certainly not a suitable age for the work she did on this occasion. This also shows that she was not so young at this time.” [12]

If, as shown in the previous section above, Aisha was nineteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage, then she would be twenty years old at the time of the battle of Uhud. It may be added that on the earlier occasion of the battle of Badr when some Muslim youths tried, out of eagerness, to go along with the Muslim army to the field of battle, the Holy Prophet Muhammad sent them back on account of their young age (allowing only one such youngster, Umair ibn Abi Waqqas, to accompany his older brother the famous Companion Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas). It seems, therefore, highly unlikely that if Aisha was ten years old the Holy Prophet would have allowed her to accompany the army to the field of battle.

We conclude from all the evidence cited above that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was nineteen years old when she joined the Holy Prophet as his wife in the year 2 A.H., the nikah or betrothal having taken place five years previously.
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The Bible on marriage of young girls with much older men
As it is Christian evangelists and other believers in the Bible who have been bitterly reviling the Holy Prophet Muhammad on account of his marriage with Aisha, we put to them the practices of the great patriarchs and prophets that are recorded in the Bible itself in this connection. The main accusations regarding the marriage of Aisha are that she was too young in age while the Holy Prophet was a much older man, being fifty years of age, and that consent to marriage was either not obtained from her or she was not capable of giving it.

Abraham
In the book of Genesis in the Bible it is recorded about Abraham:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. … So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” (Genesis, chapter 16, verses 1–4, and 15–16, New International Version. Bolding is mine.)

Firstly, it is evident that as Abraham (who then had the name Abram) was 86 years old, Hagar must have been some fifty years younger than him, and probably even younger, to bear a child. Secondly, the Bible speaks of Sarai giving her maidservant Hagar to Abraham. So Hagar’s consent was not obtained but rather she was commanded by Sarai to go and become Abraham’s wife.

David
The first book of Kings in the Bible begins as follows:

“When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his servants said to him, ‘Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.’ Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her.” (1 Kings, chapter 1, verses 1–4, New International Version. Bolding is mine.)

So there seems nothing wrong, according to the Bible, in procuring a young virgin, again apparently without her consent, whose duties include lying with the elderly king in bed. The intention was certainly for sexual enjoyment, otherwise there was no necessity of looking for a young, beautiful virgin. A much older woman, perhaps a widow, could have performed all these duties, including lying with the king to keep him warm.

Mary and Joseph
The most famous marriage in Christianity is no doubt that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, with Joseph. While the following details are not in the canonical Gospels in the Bible, it appears from other early Christian writings (known as apocryphal writings) that Mary was twelve years old when the temple elders decided to find a husband for her. They selected the husband by drawing lots, and Joseph whom they chose was an elderly man, being according to some accounts ninety years old. The husband was selected and Mary was handed over to him, and she played no part in his selection.

These accounts are summed up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, which is available online, as follows:

“It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children … A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph …” [13] (Bolding is mine.)

Although these apocryphal accounts are not now accepted by many Christians, and the Catholic Encyclopedia says that they “are void of authority”, yet it also speaks of their influence as follows:

“they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of the Lord’s brothers; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that St. Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.”

However, these accounts are accepted by the Eastern churches. The website of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy has an article on this subject entitled An Elderly Joseph which agrees with the presentation in the apocryphal writings “of Joseph as an elderly man, a widower with adult children”. It concludes:

“The Christian East’s picture of Joseph as a courageous, faithful, God-centred elderly widower rings true.” [14]

We give below, as Appendix, a quotation from one of these apocryphal books, The Infancy Gospel of James, describing how Mary’s husband was selected.

While the Western Christian churches may not accept these accounts as authentic, the Eastern churches in Europe do accept that Mary was 12 years old and Joseph a widower 90 years old when they married. Moreover, there is nothing in the Gospels of the New Testament to contradict these accounts, and the Gospel stories are not at all inconsistent with these ages for Mary and Joseph.
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References

[1]. Tirmidhi, Abwab-ul-Manaqib, i.e. Chapters on Excellences, under ‘Virtues of Aisha’.

[2]. Muslim Saints and Mystics, abridged English translation of Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, by A.J. Arberry, p. 40.

[3]. Bukhari, Book of Qualities of the Ansar, chapter: ‘The Holy Prophet’s marriage with Aisha, and his coming to Madina and the consummation of marriage with her’. For Muhsin Khan’s translation, see this link and go down to reports listed as Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234 and 236.

[4]. Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, 1992 U.S.A. edition, p. 30, note 40.

[4a]. This Urdu pamphlet was published by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Bombay, India. A partial English translation is available at this Lahore Ahmadiyya website.

[5]. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 50.

[6]. Mishkat al-Masabih, Edition with Urdu translation published in Lahore, 1986, vol. 3, p. 300–301. (Go here to see an image of the full entry in Urdu.)

[7]. Vol. 8, p. 346.

[8]. Those four places in Sahih Bukhari are the following: Kitab-us-Salat, ch. ‘A mosque which is in the way but does not inconvenience people’; Kitab-ul-Kafalat, ch. ‘Abu Bakr under the protection of a non-Muslim in the time of the Holy Prophet and his pact with him’; Kitab Manaqib-ul-Ansar, ch. ‘Emigration of the Holy Prophet and his Companions to Madina’; and Kitab-ul-Adab, ch. ‘Should a person visit everyday, or morning and evening’.

[9]. Muhsin Khan’s English translation of Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 37, Number 494. See this link.

[10]. Fadl-ul-Bari, vol. 1, p. 501, footnote 1.

[11]. Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Jihad wal-Siyar, Chapter: ‘Women in war and their fighting alongside men’. See this link in Muhsin Khan’s translation and go down to report listed as Volume 4, Book 52, Number 131.

[12]. Fadl-ul-Bari, vol. 1, p. 651.

[13]. In article St. Joseph, under letter J. Here is a link to this article in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

[14]. Here is a link to this article An Elderly Joseph.

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Appendix: The Infancy Gospel of James, Chapter 8 verse 2 to Chapter 9 verse 11

“When she [Mary] turned twelve, a group of priests took counsel together, saying, ‘Look, Mary has been in the temple of the Lord twelve years. What should we do about her now, so that she does not defile the sanctuary of the Lord our God?’ And they said to the high priest, ‘You have stood at the altar of the Lord. Go in and pray about her. And if the Lord God reveals anything to you, we will do it.’ And the priest went in taking the vestment with twelve bells into the holy of holies and prayed about her. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before him, saying, ‘Zachariah, Zachariah, depart from here and gather the widowers of the people and let each one carry a staff. And the one whom the Lord God points out with a sign, she will be his wife.’ So the heralds went out to the whole surrounding area of Judea and the trumpet of the Lord rang out and all the men rushed in.

Throwing down his axe, Joseph went out to meet them. And after they had gathered together with their rods, they went to the high priest. After receiving everyone’s rod, the high priest went into the temple and prayed. When he was finished with the prayer, he took the rods and went out and gave them to each man, but there was no sign among them. Finally, Joseph took his rod. Suddenly, a dove came out of the rod and stood on Joseph’s head. And the high priest said, ‘Joseph! Joseph! You have been chosen by lot to take the virgin into your own keeping.’ And Joseph replied, saying, ‘I have sons and am old, while she is young. I will not be ridiculed among the children of Israel.’ And the high priest said, ‘Joseph, fear the Lord your God and remember what God did to Dathan and Abiron and Kore, how the earth split open and swallowed them because of their rebellion. Now fear God, Joseph, so that these things do not happen in your house.’ Fearing God, Joseph took her into his own possession.”

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Free Muslim Women

Free Muslim Women

If the media and its ensuing stereotypes are to be believed then Islam does not have very much to offer women, except for a life of misery, oppression and slavery. However, if one bothers to look closely at Islam then it has an abundance to offer men and women alike.

There is little doubt that many Muslim women are subject to abuse and subjugation – without making sweeping generalizations, many women in some so called Muslim lands are denied the rights given to them by Islam – rights to which they are entitled as human beings and as women. However we must separate Muslims from Islam; we must separate theory from practice. In Islam this separation is possible – Islamic legislation has given women unprecedented status, even if Muslims did not always live up to these amazing standards.

Let us take a quick look at some of the rights of women in Islam, comparing them with some of the legislation relating to women in Britain:

Education

Considered by many these days as a basic human right, in Islam both men and women are duty bound to seek education for the Prophet Muhammad said: “The search for knowledge is a duty on every Muslim.” (Bukhari) So, while there were no places at British Universities until the late 1870s (Ox. Ill. His. Brit. p493), there have been records of Islamic Universities with women students throughout the history of Islam: Nafisah was an early 8th century hadith scholar and the great jurist Shafi participated in her circle at Al-Fustat. Shaika Shuhuda another 8th century scholar was a lecturer at Baghdad University – the Oxford and Cambridge of its time. Nazhun was a 12th century scholar and of course we cannot forget Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet who in the 7th century was one of the greatest relaters of hadith.

So, whilst Muslim women were attending universities and were lecturers and scholars in the 8th century, 80% of London Women and 100% of East Anglican women were illiterate in 1640 – figures taken from A. Fraser page 129 and D. Cressy page 178.

Political Participation

Women in the UK managed to gain the right to vote in 1918, but that was only for women over thirty. They did not manage to gain full voting rights equal with men until 1928. These gains were not achieved easily though – to gain the vote the Suffragettes marched, rallied, chained themselves to railings, went on hunger strike and eventually one of them jumped in front of the Royal Horse on Derby Day. Muslims women however each had the right to give or not to give their allegiance from the beginning – and this right was given them without them having to march, rally, not eat or jump in front of a horse.

Property

Up until 1801 British women did not have the right to own anything – not even themselves. For up until this time a husband had the right to sell his wife. In Sweden in 1984 a man was entitled to half his wife’s earnings. Islam though has allowed women to own their own property from the outset. Everything a woman earns belongs to her. She is not a chattel to be bought and sold, but rather an individual human being, responsible to no one for her income except for God. A married woman may remind her husband: “What’s his is theirs, what’s hers is her own!”

It would be easy to go on with a list of the rights of women in Islam – but how does Islam really benefit women?

Islam has given women the right to be themselves! They are equal before God – on the Day of Judgment they will be answerable as individuals and cannot say “my husband told me to do it”, “my, father, brother, uncle – led me astray”. Nor will they be treated unfairly because they are women – women have souls in Islam – and there has never been any debate about that in Islamic history unlike in Christianity!

Islam offers to women, as it does to men, a belief in God, and this upholds everything. Belief in the Creator gives life a wholeness, and a balance, for it means that we do not look at everything in the short term – the intrinsic whole is this world and the Hereafter. This belief in God, this taqwa – God consciousness – thus shapes everything in Islam.

Men and women in Islam are protecting friends of one another; they are garments of each other hiding each other’s faults. The Qur’an says:

“Verily, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves before God, and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for all of them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward”
(Surah 33: verse 35).

This verse offers women so much; it offers them paradise on the basis of their own actions. It demands of them good character, tells both men AND women to be active; and instills in them the sense of individual responsibility.

So, Islam offers to women, as it offers to men – paradise as a reward, it offers a complete picture which considers both this world and the hereafter – built solidly upon the foundation of a believe in The Creator. A relationship with one’s Creator brings untold peace – for men and for women.

Islam allows women to know themselves as they are. Thus in Islam women are equal to men, but they are not the same. Men and women are equal before God – they are the protecting friends of one another, they are garments of one another, hiding one another’s faults; but they are not the same. In Islam – imitation is not liberation.

Women are not men – an obvious statement, but one which is often overlooked. Islam offers a balance – which can be seen if one looks to nature – black and white, up and down, day and night etc. etc. Two halves to form a whole. Balance is absolutely vital. But, after the industrial revolution women and men are becoming more and more alike. Men have become cogs in the system. Women have also been pulled into the consumerism of an industrialized society and have been forced into the work place, but still receive no help at home – a recent study showed that 9 out of 10 men were not ‘New Men’ and did not help out at home (The Times, Nov. 1995).

Western society has ignored the balance and told women that for them to have status they must achieve what men achieve. Western society has created a new image for women based on the male – and this is very objectionable. Rather than highlighting her individual strengths, she is told to compete according to male criteria in order to have value. But she is not given any help to cope with her additional responsibilities. “Work, have a career to achieve status – but we will not provide crhche facilities, or time off during school holidays.” We are now facing a situation where, as the President of Bosnia, Alija Ali Izebegovic, said:

“Modern civilization has disgraced motherhood… It has preferred the calling of a salesgirl, model, teacher of other people’s children, secretary, cleaning woman and so on to that of mother. It has proclaimed motherhood to be slavery and promised to free women from it.” (Islam Between East and West p.144-145)

So, we have put down the feminine and are saying: ‘masculine criteria is the best, indeed only thing to judge by, feminine criteria is second class – useless’.

But in Islam both are equal, but they are different. So in Islam we do not have the situation where: -the logical is perceived as better than the lateral; the firm is perceived as better than the tender; the analytical is perceived as better than the intuitive. In Islam women do not say: “I’m only a housewife” – Where did this ONLY come from? – It came from taking the masculine criteria as best. Why is being in the rat-race superior to being a mother? Because we see the masculine as superior to the feminine. Where is the spirit of the Malcolm X (Malik El Shabazz) quote:

“If you educate a man you educate one person; if you educate a woman you educate and liberate a nation”.

Women in Islam of course have a role beyond that of motherhood – one does not spend 25 years preparing for and another 25 years recovering from motherhood – but the point is do not demean motherhood; and do not demean and belittle the feminine. Islam offers to women pride in the feminine. The equal but different roles of men and women in Islam have to be understood, and in understanding – individuals can be themselves, and thus find a balance and true happiness.

And this peace and security allows and gives room for the development of a woman’s potential based on her own strengths.

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TO VEIL OR NOT TO VEIL, THAT IS THE QUESTION

TO VEIL OR NOT TO VEIL, THAT IS THE QUESTION

The Oprah Show did an introduction of Islam on October 5, 2001, which was called Islam 101. Oprah, whose program is broadcast to most of the world, wanted to introduce Islam to the American public. “Since our world was horribly shaken three weeks ago,” she told her viewers, “all eyes have focused on a part of the world and a set of beliefs that many of us know very little about. We’re told that terrorism violates the teachings of Islam, but what is Islam? Who are Muslims? What are their practices?”

This was promising. Moreover, Oprah was friendly and open to what Muslims, who constituted the majority of the audience during that show, had to say. Even the expert she had asked to the show, anthropologist Akbar Ahmed, was Muslim. But did we discuss the meaning of being Muslim, or the problem of violence, or even the rage caused by American foreign policy in the region? No, the Muslim audience had more pressing things to discuss. The show proved to be a mirror of our intellectual bankruptcy, a mirror of our true obsessions and fixations, because after a quick discussion of what Islam was about, the show veered off to discuss women in Islam, particularly the dress code. The “after show” segment, which the program puts daily on its website after the live recording in the studio, was entirely about “Hijab.” This was both insightful and disheartening. It seemed that the gender question in Islam had become the central issue and what Muslim women wear the core of the debate on Islam, both internally and externally. It was disgraceful to see how our contemporary discourse as “modern Muslims” has become so focused on the scarf at the expense of the real paradigms that define Islam, its history and its universal values.

It is truly sad to see a certain culturally and historically specific edict with controversial roots and implications–becoming the raison d’être for contemporary Muslims while the larger parameters of Islam and its challenges are rendered into obscure shadows in the background.

In a pervious show, a woman from Oprah’s audience, asked if Muslim women could take off their scarves, at least until things calmed down. Oprah had to apologize in this show for that question after a big amount of mail from Muslims was sent to her (When did Muslims start writing so much mail? If it is about the Hijab, I guess, we will write). But, Oprah did not have to apologize for something the very religious establishment in the Middle East had raised in the last few weeks. This was a legitimate question, although it was received with hostility, even when it came from Imams in the form of affirmative fatwas in the larger community, published in Al Majalah magazine a couple of weeks ago– allowing women to remove their scarves in the wake of recent events.

I understand Muslim women’s sensitivity regarding the recent fatwas or the question on Oprah’s show. They feel this is who they are and they are not about to quit when the going gets tough. They perhaps even feel somewhat betrayed by such fatwas, since wearing the Hijab has not always been easy anyway in a society which has equated it with gender oppression and fanaticism. But for Muslim women living in North America, keeping the Hijab in the current crises has also represented a spirit of defiance against racism and ignorance. This shows the contextual nature of Hijab, which could be a symbol of oppression or courage and independence, depending on the circumstances. In fact, an American women organization called for American women to cover their hair on October 8th as a sign of solidarity and protest against racial harassment.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the scholars acted out of concern and open mindedness. But I also find it interesting how, for the first time since the Hijab has become central to our identity in the last few decades, the scholars suddenly realized the relativity and conditional nature of the verses dealing with covering, and the principles of recognition and safety implied in them. –In the case of early Islam, free women were asked to cover to be distinguished from slave women while slave women were not allowed to. I do not think the well-meaning Muslim women in Oprah’s audience knew anything about this or even wanted it aired in front of Oprah.

I have always hesitated to discuss the issue of Hijab in public, or its controversial historical roots I had come across in my reading of classical Islamic texts for fear of falling into the same hole of centralizing this marginal edict of Islam. I also did not want to associate myself with an issue that I consider marginal, yet so sensitive to the entire Ummah. In fact, I adopted a culturally specific code of dress for myself. I cover in Muslim circles and the Middle East and do not in the West. If I do otherwise, I will put too much time into having to explain why I am not wearing it or why I am wearing it, depending on where I am. By adopting a chameleonic way of dressing, –and not a chameleon character– I have reduced the amount of time and energy spent discussing the scarf while creating a different context to discuss things other than what I am wearing. I also did this because, while I believe in modesty, I do not define myself through the scarf, nor shy away from it. It is simply a way of dressing that can be beautiful, empowering and protective but also, at times, limiting, misleading and impractical. In addition, I felt, by discussing the juristic and historical facts, which informed my decision, I would be digging out some trivial nuance while invoking tremendous opposition from the community.

But after the Oprah Show last Friday I was so disturbed that I realized this issue, at least regarding its centrality in our contemporary discourse, has to be questioned. Muslim women are still forming their identities and no one should have the final word on how we should come to terms with being Muslim in this age.

It was interesting to see the Muslim women in Oprah’s audience appeal to the ideals of pluralism and civil liberties in defense of their visibility and difference. However, when Queen Rania of Jordan appeared via satellite, there was a murmur in the audience and some of the Muslim women said that the Queen should be covered. Is it possible that Muslims think it is acceptable to use civil liberties to practice their truth, but if given the power to decide, they will coerce others to wear and do what Muslims want? These kinds of questions are far more pressing. We have to create internal debates about liberties, democracy and the need for various efforts of interpretation within the Muslim communities. Such debates should replace the non-issues of dress codes and small edict matters in mainstream Muslim communities.

We can no longer afford to have the scarf as the core of the debate on Islam, nor as the symbol by which the level of a Muslim woman’s piety or commitment to Islam is measured. We can no longer afford to have every opportunity and discussion about Islam turn into a conversation on dressing, nor can we afford as Muslim women, in our communities, to be judged and awarded degrees and ranks of religiosity according to the level of the dress code we abide by. The darker the color the better, the bigger the garment the more pious. The race of ranking morally high through fabric has no end in a path where the Taliban model seems to be the only logical conclusion. It makes more sense to judge women on matters relating to the basic tenets of Islam: regular prayer, fasting, paying alms. But even such things were not acceptable to the Prophet as criteria for assessing a person. When one of his companions praised another companion, the Prophet said to him it was not enough to see him going up and down in prayer at the Mosque. The Prophet asked him: Have you traveled with him? Have you seen him angry? Have you dealt with him in matters of money?

When people are not noble enough to resort to the Prophetic method of assessing a person, I try to bring them back to the basic requirements, without getting lost in juristic and historical details, by citing the story of the Bedouin man who came to the Prophet and asked him what makes a good Muslim. The Prophet then listed for him the five tenets of Islam, while the Bedouin was saying, at each tenet, he would do it, but would not do more, nor less. After the Bedouin left, the Prophet said, “The Bedouin will succeed if he is truthful.”

Interestingly, an African American woman in the “after show” segment asked precisely about this, how the list of the basic commands and prohibitions of Islam, which the show presented at the beginning, did not deal with the scarf, and I guess for her, did not reflect the level of Muslims’ obsession with it. But it is not enough to have such questions thrown at us from others. Muslim women need to start thinking for themselves and learn the difference between a command and what a social practice open to different interpretations.

The challenge, however, is that most Muslim women are not equipped to stand up and provide an alternative juristic view of the matter, and the scholars who do are not willing to discuss it in public out of concerns of inflaming Muslim sensitivities about an issue which they, and rightly so, believe is not a pressing one. Even those who are brave enough to dissent like Jamal Al-Banna face rejection and opposition from mainstream Muslims, despite being a scholar whose views are rooted within traditional Islam.

The centrality of the scarf reduces Islam to a piece of garment and places Muslims perpetually on the defensive explanatory panel. De-centralizing and de-romanticizing the scarf, I am afraid, is fast becoming increasingly urgent and necessary. The recent fatwas are revealing. The scholars would not ask Muslim women or men, to compromise easily in something they believed to be a core command of Islam. The events of the last week have, it seems, started to urge us to rethink our priorities and what defines being Muslim. This is in itself a big step.

However, for the moment, until those who are politically and juristically mature and sophisticated want to discuss this matter openly without getting bogged down by the many implications and problems it will raise, we will remain hostage to the centrality of the scarf. And until something is done, we will be stuck with the rosy and romanticized views of the sweet Muslim ladies on Oprah’s show and forever caught up in the centrality of the scarf.

For eternity the question will not be for us, Muslims, why our young men are turning themselves and others into bombs, or why we do not have democracy in Muslim societies, or whether American foreign policy is based on principles of equality and liberty for all. The question will be, it seems, for a long time: To veil or not to veil.

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Women Abuse In America

Women Abuse In America

  • 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period. 1
  • On the average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.2
  • 92% of women say that reducing domestic violence and sexual assault should be at the top of any formal efforts taken on behalf of women today.3
  • 1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.4
  • 1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Abused girls are significantly more likely to get involved in other risky behaviors. They are 4 to 6 times more likely to get pregnant and 8 to 9 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide.5
  • 1 in 3 teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by his/her partner.6
  • Women of all races are equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.7
  • 37% of all women who sought care in hospital emergency rooms for violence–related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.8
  • Some estimates say almost 1 million incidents of violence occur against a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend per year. 9
  • For 30% of women who experience abuse, the first incident occurs during pregnancy.10
  • As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy. 11
  • Violence against women costs companies $72.8 million annually due to lost productivity.12
  • 74% of employed battered women were harrassed by their partner while they were at work.13
  • Ninety-four percent of the offenders in murder-suicides were male.14
  • Seventy-four percent of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner(spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend). Of these, 96 percent were females killed by their intimate partners.14
  • Most murder-suicides with three or more victims involved a “family annihilator” — a subcategory of intimate partner murder-suicide.Family annihilators are murderers who kill not only their wives/girlfriends and children, but often other family members as well,before killing themselves.14
  • Seventy-five percent of murder-suicides occurred in the home.14

1. Henise, L., Ellsberg, M. and Geottemoeller, M. Ending Violence Against Women, Population Reports, Series L, No. 11., December 1999.

2. Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001. February 2003.

3. Liz Claiborne Inc., study on Teen dating abuse conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, February 2005.

4. Jay G. Silverman, PhD; Anita Raj, PhD; Lorelei A. Mucci, MPH; and Jeannie E. Hathaway, MD, MPH, “Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy , and Suicidality,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 286, No. 5, 2001.

5. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, August 1995.

6. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.

7. US. Department of Justice, Violence? Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments, August 1997.

8. US Department of Justice

9. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, May 1999.

10. Helton et al 1987.

11. Gazmararian JA, Petersen R, Spitz AM, Goodwin MM, Saltzman LE, Marks JS. “Violence and reproductive health; current knowledge and future research directions.” Maternal and Child Health Journal 2000; 4(2):79-84

12. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Center for disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA/

13. Family Violence Prevention Fund. 1998. The Workplace Guide for Employer, Unions, and Advocates, San Francisco, CA.

14. Violence Policy Center (VPC), American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States, April 2006

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The Distorted Image of Muslim Women

Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 70’s there has been a magnifying glass placed over the status of Muslim women. Unfortunately, the magnifying glass that has been used is an unusual one. Unusual in the sense that it is very selective about which items it will magnify; other items it will distort to such a degree that they will no longer look familiar. I remember once reading in an “in depth” article about the lives of Muslim women. This article “explained” that at any time a man can divorce his wife by simply stating “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you”. This article can lead anyone ignorant of the Islamic ruling regarding divorce to believe that in less than five seconds the woman is left with no husband and is left to care for herself (and possibly children) by any means necessary. The question that immediately popped up in my mind was, “Did the author innocently write that out of sincere ignorance or was it another of the many attempts to degrade the religion of Islam and its followers (muslims)?” It may be my own paranoia, but I tend to believe it was the latter of the two.

The truth of the matter is that Islam has the most humane and most just system of divorce that exists. Firstly, many options are taken and tried before coming to the decision of the divorce. If the man and woman decide that they can no longer live together successfully as a husband and wife, the husband (in most cases, not always) pronounces the divorce by saying “I divorce you”. At this point the waiting period begins. The waiting period lasts for three menstrual cycles to assure the woman is not pregnant. This period allows the couple time to think about what they are doing and if this is what they really want to do. There are no lawyers involved to antagonise an already delicate situation.

In the case that it is realised, that the woman is pregnant, the waiting period lasts the entire time she is pregnant. During the waiting period (whether the woman is pregnant or not) the man is obligated to provide food, clothing and shelter to the woman as he did before the divorce pronouncement. If the couple carries the divorce through to the birth of the child and the woman suckles the baby, the man is obligated to feed and clothe both his ex-wife for the time the woman suckles (the maximum being two years). After this weaning, the child will be provided for by the father until he/she is no longer in need of support.

It is quite ironic that in such an “advanced society” as America, there are divorce cases in which women are being forced to pay alimony to their ex-husbands. Can this and many other things we know about the American system of divorce compare to the Islamic system of divorce?

I have also read stories wherein it is stated that women are forced to marry men without their consent. This in no way resembles the marriage system in Islam. In Islaam the woman marries the man of her choice. She may even marry someone that her mother and/or father objects to. The point is that it is the woman who makes the final decision as to whom she will marry. Once the man and the woman decide that they are interested in one another for marriage, a dowry is decided upon. A dowry is not a brides price but, it is a gift from the groom to the bride. They agree upon a gift that is affordable by the groom. In the time of the Prophet (sas), often things such as livestock and money were given. This is a wise decision in the event that a woman becomes divorced or widowed, she has some financial security to fall back on even if it is for a limited amount of time. Once the man and woman are married, the man is required to clothe, feed, shelter and educate her (or allow her to be educated) in the same manner as he does himself.

The last distorted image that I will cover is that of the Muslim women’s dress. The western influenced media portrays our dress to be outdated and oppressive. Needless to say however, I differ with these adjectives. Our dress code does not hinder us from doing anything productive in our lives. Muslim women maintain a variety of jobs, non of which are devalued nor hampered due to their dress code. And as for the timing of muslims women’s dress during these contemporary times, it seems most appropriate due to decreasing morals in the world today.

For those who say that Islamic dress is outdated, they speak from great ignorance. The decreasing morality and trials of this time makes Hijaab even more in need. More than ever before sex crimes are rampant. Although this society tells women they can wear what they want to wear, anytime a rape occurs the woman is the one put on trial an one of the first questions is, “What were you wearing?” This concept seems as though it is a set up directed against the so called contemporary woman. Also there is a direct correlation between the respect a man has for a woman and the amount of her body her body she displays flauntingly.

In conclusion, I hope this article helped to clear up some distorted/misunderstood aspects of Islam and women. Women in Islam are respected and held in high regard. We will never find success and/or solutions to our problems until we realise that Allaah knows best and that this disbelieving society will ruin itself.

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The Status of Woman in Islam

The status of woman in Islam constitutes no problem. The attitude of the Qur’an and the early Muslims bear witness to the fact that woman is, at least, as vital to life as man himself, and that she is not inferior to him nor is she one of the lower species. Had it not been for the impact of foreign cultures and alien influences, this question would have never arisen among the Muslims. The status of woman was taken for granted to be equal to that of man. It was a matter of course, a matter of fact, and no one, then, considered it as a problem at all.

In order to understand what Islam has established for woman, there is no need to deplore her plight in the pre-Islamic era or in the modern would of today. Islam has given woman rights and privileges which she has never enjoyed under other religious or constitutional systems. This can be understood when the matter is studied as a whole in a comparative manner, rather than partially. 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 even 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.

It is not the tone of Islam that brands woman as the product of the devil or the seed of evil. Nor does the Qur’an place man as the dominant lord of woman who has no choice but to surrender to his dominance. Nor was it Islam that introduced the question of whether or not woman has any soul in her. Never in the history of Islam has any Muslim doubted the human status of woman or her possession of soul and other fine spiritual qualities. Unlike other popular beliefs, Islam does not blame Eve alone for the First Sin. The Qur’an makes it very clear that both Adam and Eve were tempted; that they both sinned; that God’s pardon was granted to both after their repentance; and that God addressed them jointly. (2:35-36;7:19, 27; 20:117-123). In fact the Qur’an gives the impression that Adam was more to blame for that First Sin from which emerged prejudice against woman and suspicion of her deeds. But Islam does not justify such prejudice or suspicion because both Adam and Eve were equally in error, and if we are to blame Eve we should blame Adam as much or even more.

The status of woman in Islam is something unique, something novel, something that has no similarity in any other system. If we look to the Eastern Communist world or to the democratic nations, we find that woman is not really in a happy position. Her status is not enviable. She has to work so hard to live, and sometimes she may be doing the same job that a man does but her wage is less than his. She enjoys a kind of liberty which in some cases amounts to libertinism. To get to where she is nowadays, woman struggled hard for decades and centuries. To gain the right of learning and the freedom of work and earning, she had to offer painful sacrifices and give up many of her natural rights. To establish her status as a human being possessing a soul, she paid heavily. Yet in spite of all these costly sacrifices and painful struggles, she has not acquired what Islam has established by a Divine decree for the Muslim woman.

The rights of woman of modern times were not granted voluntarily or out of kindness to the female. Modern woman reached her present position by force, and not through natural processes or mutual consent or Divine teachings. She had to force her way, and various circumstances came to her aid. Shortage of manpower during wars, pressure of economic needs and requirements of industrial developments forced woman to get out of her home – to work, to learn, to struggle for her livelihood, to appear as an equal to man, to run her race in the course of life side by side with him. She was forced by circumstances and in turn she forced herself through and acquired her new status. Whether all women were pleased with these circumstances being on their side, and whether they are happy and satisfied with the results of this course is a different matter. But the fact remains that whatever rights modern woman enjoys fall short of those of her Muslim counterpart.

What Islam has established for woman is that which suits her nature, gives her full security and protects her against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life. We do not need here to elaborate on the status of modern woman and the risks she runs to make her living or establish herself. We do not even need to explore the miseries and setbacks that encircle her as a result of the so-called rights of woman. Nor do we intend to manipulate the situation of many unhappy homes which break because of the very “freedom” and “rights” of which modern woman is proud. Most women today exercise the right of freedom to go out independently, to work and earn, to pretend to be equal to man, but this, sadly enough, is at the expense of their families. This all known and obvious. What is not known is the status of woman in Islam. An attempt will be made in the following passages to sum up the attitude of Islam with regard to woman.

Woman is recognized by Islam as a full and equal partner of man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father; she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By this partnership she has an equal share in every aspect; she is entitled to equal rights; she undertakes equal responsibilities, and in her there are as many qualities and as much humanity as there are in her partner. To this equal partnership in the reproduction of human kind God says:

O mankind! Verily We have created your from a single (pair) of a male and a female,m and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other… (Qur’an, 49:13; cf. 4:1).

She is equal to man in bearing personal and common responsibilities and in receiving rewards for her deeds. She is acknowl-edged as an independent personality, in possession of human qualities and worthy of spiritual aspirations. Her human nature is neither inferior to nor deviant from that of man. Both are members of one another. God says:

And their Lord has accepted (their prayers) and answered them (saying): ‘Never will I cause to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female; you are members, one of another… (3:195; cf 9:71;33:35-36;66:19-21).

She is equal to man in the pursuit of education and knowledge. When Islam enjoins the seeking of knowledge upon Muslims, it makes no distinction between man and woman. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Muhammad declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim male and female. This declaration was very clear and was implemented by Muslims throughout history.

She is entitled to freedom of expression as much as man is. Her sound opinions are taken into consideration and cannot be disregarded just because she happen to belong to the female sex. It is reported in the Qur’an and history that woman not only expressed her opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet himself as well as with other Muslim leaders (Qur’an, 58:1-4; 60:10-12). Besides there were occasions when Muslim women expressed their views on legislative matters of public interest, and stood in opposition to the Caliphs, who then accepted the sound arguments of these women. A specific example took place during the Califate of Umar Ibn al-Khattab.

Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies. Women used to accompany the Muslim armies engaged in battles to nurse the wounded, prepare supplies, serve the warriors, and so on. They were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless creatures and deprived of souls.

Islam grants woman equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. Her life, her property, her honor are as sacred as those of man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensations equal to what a man in her position would get (2:178;4:45, 92-93).

Islam does not state these rights in a statistical form and then relax. It has taken all measures to safeguard them and put them into practice as integral articles of Faith. It never tolerates those who are inclined to prejudice against woman or discrimination between man and woman. Time and again, the Qur’an reproaches those who used to believe woman to be inferior to man (16:57-59, 62; 42:47-59; 43:15-19; 53:21-23).

Apart from recognition of woman as an independent human being acknowledged as equally essential for the survival of humanity, Islam has given her a share of inheritance. Before Islam, she was not only deprived of that share but was herself considered as property to be inherited by man. Out of that transferable property Islam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent human qualifies in woman. Whether she is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kin’s property, a share which depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favor of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so. Any proprietor is permitted to make his will within the limit of one-third of his property, so he may not affect the rights of his heirs, men and women. In the case of inheritance, the question of quality and sameness is fully applicable. In principle, both man and woman are equally entitled to inherit the property of the deceased relations but the portions they get may vary. In some instances man receives two shares whereas woman gets one only. This no sign of giving preference or supremacy to man over woman.The reasons why man gets more in these particular instances may be classified as follows:

  • First man, is the person solely responsible for the complete maintenance of his wife, his family and any other needy relations. It is his duty by Law to assume all financial responsibilities and maintain his dependents adequately. It is also his duty to contribute financially to all good causes in his society. All financial burdens are borne by him alone.
  • Secondly, in contrast, woman has no financial responsibilities whatsoever except very little of her personal expenses, the high luxurious things that she likes to have. She is financially secure and provided for. If she is a wife, her husband is the provider; if she is a mother, it is the son; if she is a daughter, it is the father; if she is a sister; it is the brother, and so on. If she has no relations on whom she can depend, then there is no question of inheritance because there is nothing to inherit and there is no one to bequeath anything to her. However, she will not be left to starve, maintenance of such a woman is the responsibility of the society as a whole, the state. She may be given aid or a job to earn her living, and whatever money she makes will be hers. She is not responsible for the maintenance of anybody else besides herself. If there is a man in her position, he would still be responsible for his family and possibly any of his relations who need his help. So, in the hardest situation her financial responsi-bility is limited, while his is unlimited.
  • Thirdly, when a woman gets less than a man does, she is not actually deprived of anything that she has worked for. The property inherited is not the result of her earning or her endeavors. It is something coming to them from a neutral source, something addition-al or extra. It is something that neither man or woman struggled for. It is a sort of aid, and any aid has to be distributed according to the urgent needs and responsibilities especially when the distribution is regulated by the Law of God.
  • Now, we have a male heir, on one side, burdened with all kinds of financial responsibilities and liabilities. We have, on the other side, a female heir with no financial responsibilities at all or at most with very little of it. In between we have some property and aid to redistribute by way of inheritance. If we deprive the female completely, it would be unjust to her because she is related to the deceased. Likewise, if we always give her a share equal to the man’s, it would be unjust to him. So, instead of doing injustice to either side, Islam gives the man a larger portion of the inherited property to help him to meet his family needs and social responsibilities. At the same time, Islam has not forgotten her altogether, but has given her a portion to satisfy her very personal needs. In fact, Islam in this respect is being more kind to her than to him. Here we can say that when taken as a whole the rights of woman are equal to those of man although not necessarily identical (see Qur’an, 4:11-14, 176).

In some instances of bearing witness to certain civil con-tracts, two men are required or one man and two women. Again, this is no indication of the woman being inferior to man. It is a measure of securing the rights of the contracting parties, because woman as a rule, is not so experienced in practical life as man. This lack of experience may cause a loss to any party in a given contract. So the Law requires that at least two women should bear witness with one man. if a woman of the witness forgets something, the other one would remind her. Or if she makes an error, due to lack of experience, the other would help to correct her. This is a precautionary measure to guarantee honest transactions and proper dealings between people. In fact, it gives woman a role to play in civil life and helps to establish justice. At any rate, lack of experience in civil life does not necessarily mean that women is inferior to man in her status. Every human being lacks one thing or another, yet no one questions their human status (2:282).

Woman enjoys certain privileges of which man is deprived. She is exempt from some religious duties, i.e., prayers and fasting, in her regular periods and at times of confinement. She is exempt from all financial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honor in the sight of God (31:14-15;46:15). The Prophet acknowledged this honor when he declared that Paradise is under the feet of the mothers. She is entitled to three-fourths of the son’s love and kindness with one-fourth left for their father. As a wife she is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded.

The standing of woman in prayers behind man does not indicate in any sense that she is inferior to him. Woman, as already mentioned, is exempt from attending congregational prayers which are obligatory on man. But if she does attend she stands in separate lines made up of women exclusively . This is a regulation of discipline in prayers, and not a classification of importance. In men’s rows the head of state stands shoulder to shoulder to the pauper. Men of the highest ranks in society stand in prayer side by side with other men of the lowest ranks. The order of lines in prayers is introduced to help every one to concentrate in his meditation. It is very important because Muslim prayers are not simply chanting or the sing-a-song type. They involve actions, motions, standing, bowing, prostration, etc. So if men mix with women in the same lines, it is possible that something disturbing or distracting may happen. The mind will become occupied by something alien to prayer and derailed from the clear path of mediation. The result will be a loss of the purpose of prayers, besides an offense of adultery committed by the eye, because the eye-by looking at forbidden things – can be guilty of adultery as much as the heart itself. Moreover, no Muslim man or woman is allowed during prayers to touch the body of another person of the opposite sex. If men and women stand side by side in prayer they cannot avoid touching each other. Furthermore, when a woman is praying in front of a man or beside him, it is very likely that any part of her dressed body may become uncovered after a certain motion of bowing or prostrating. The man’s eye may happen to be looking at the uncovered part, with the result that she will be embarrassed and he will be exposed to distraction or possibly evil thoughts. So, to avoid any embarrassment and distraction to help concentrate on mediation and pure thoughts, to maintain harmony and order among worshippers, to fulfill the true purposes of prayers, Islam has ordained the organization of rows, whereby men stand in front lines, and women behind the children. Anyone with some knowledge of the nature and purpose of Muslim prayers can readily understand the wisdom of organizing the lines of worshippers in this manner.

The Muslim woman is always associated with an old tradition known as the “veil”. It is Islamic that the woman should beautify herself with the veil of honor, dignity, chastity, purity and integrity. She should refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of people other than her legitimate husband or cause evil suspicion of her morality. She is warned not to display her charms or expose her physical attractions before strangers. The veil which she must put on is one that can save her soul from weakness, her mind from indulgence, her eyes from lustful looks, and her personality from demoralization. Islam is most concerned with the integrity of woman, with the safeguarding of her morals and morale and with the protection of her character and personality (cf. Qur’an, 24:30-31).

By now it is clear that the status of woman in Islam is unprecedentedly high and realistically suitable to her nature. Her rights and duties are equal to those of man but not necessarily or absolutely identical with them. If she is deprived of one thing in some aspect, she is fully compensated for it with more things in many other aspects. The fact that she belongs to the female sex has no bearing on her human status or independent personality, and it is no basis for justification of prejudice against her or injustice to her person. Islam gives her as much as is required of her. Her rights match beautifully with her duties. The balance between rights and duties is maintained, and no side overweighs the other. The whole status of woman is given clearly in the Qur’anic verse which may be translated as follows:

And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but man have a degree (of advantage as in some cases of inheritance) over them (2:228).

This degree is not a title of supremacy or an authorization of dominance over her. It is to correspond with the extra responsibilities of man and give him some compensation for his unlimited liabilities. The above mentioned verse is always interpreted in the light of another (4:34).

It is these extra responsibilities that give man a degree over woman in some economic aspects. It is not a higher degree in humanity or in character. Nor is it a dominance of one over the other or suppression of one by the other. It is a distribution of God’s abundance according to the needs of the nature of which God is the Maker. And He knows best what is good for woman and what is good for man. God is absolutely true when He declares:

mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, and created of like nature his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women (4:1).

Doing Quran recitation is the religious duty of every Muslim.  In saheed Sunnah, it is encouraged to do the recitation of Quran in a melodious voice by the quran reciter by making the voice more melodious and interesting. Reading quran and Making it melodious does not mean that it should be made more in singing tone but once should at least recite and read quranic Arabic in a good tone so that he/she himself feels good while listening to it and others also feel good while listening to it.

How Islam Fought Terrorism

How Islam Fought Terrorism

While Caesar had sleepless nights, Umar (RA) slept under a tree without anyone guarding him.

The U.S. method of fighting terrorism by force, injustice, pre-emptive strikes, unilateral action and “regime change” only adds fuel to the fire. As witnessed by the recent world events.

The Bush administration has released a new National Security Strategy document which has been likened by the Moscow Times to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and described by the New York Times as Bush’s “how I’ll rule the world” blueprint.

This method which is used by Israel has only been devastating to both sides if measured in human cost, loss of freedom, psychological trauma and economic loss. The U.S. and the rest of the World will be expected to suffer similar losses when it mirrors the method used by Israel and Hitler as shown by the following statement from the Bush administration, “the only path to peace and security is the path of action”. That is, the U.S. must wage a perpetual war, because without war there can be no peace.

If we compare this attitude with that of the Early Muslims who are considered the best generation, we find the following example of Caliph Omar.

The Caliph Omar was the governor or president of the Islamic Empire, which included Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Spain.

One day Caesar wanted to know how Omar lived and how he treated his people. He sent a person to Al Medina where Omar lived.

When this man entered Al Medina he asked the people, “where is your king?” The people replied, “we have no king but we have an Amir similar to a president.” This man asked, “where is he?” They told him, ” he is outside Al Medina.”

He went to find him. What did this man see? He saw Omar sleeping alone on the sand holding a little stick with no guards around him.

When he saw him like that he became very impressed and ashamed of himself and said, “A man all the kings in the world are scared from, sleeps that humble without any guards? You governed your people with justice and honesty so you became safe and slept. Our king is unjust and dishonest. That is why he is always scared and awake most of the night surrounded by guards inside a fortress.

Fighting terrorism is only by spreading justice and education, but not by force as what is happening now.

In the Qur’aan, Surah Al Nahl (16) verse 90, ” Allah commands justice, the doing of good and looking after our relatives. Allah forbids all shameful deeds, injustice and rebellion. Allah instructs you so you may comprehend.”

However, spreading only justice is not enough because some ignorant people may do acts of terrorism.

In Surah Al Nahl (16) v. 125, ” O Mohammed, invite to the way of your Lord, which is Islam, with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, you Lord knows best who has gone astray from his path, and he is the best aware of who are guided.

This was the character of the Early Muslims which allowed Islam to spread throughout the whole World. Allah said that the most honorable to Allah is the most fearful of Allah and not the richest, strongest or those who belong to a certain group or nationality as shown in Al Hujurat (49) v. 13. “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 to Allah is that who is most faithful, pious and fearful of Allah.”

There are numerous historical examples in the Qur’aan showing the eventual outcome of oppressive tyrants such as Pharaoh compared to those who are righteous. The Qur’aan teaches us the morality, wisdom and meaning behind these events.

Unfortunately in Schools and Universities, history is only taught in a factual manner only showing the consequences of military conquests where morality, responsibility and accountability are considered irrelevant. It is no wonder that we can never learn from our previous mistakes. Particularly if the Christians insist on believing the Paulian idea that “the means justifies the aims”. That is, it does not matter how evil your actions are as long as your intentions are good.

Whereas, for a good deed to be accepted in Islam, it must be sincere, with good intentions and done according to the Sunnah of our Prophet.

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Knowledge is only through study.” While some knowledge can be gained from reading quran online or casually listening to lectures, and listen quran through the best means to gain knowledge is through finding a qualified teacher and then setting up a systematic program to read quran online. Picking up a book or reading an article and trying to figure things out on our own is no substitute for learning from someone who has a direct link to our living tradition find more Islamic articles and quranic knowledge through quran blog and plz do spread the true knowledge as much as you and Allah knows best. quran reciter

Dad .. what’s a terrorist?

Dad .. what’s a terrorist?

Surely even a child can understand the difference between good and evil.

Dad … what’s a terrorist?

Well, according to the Oxford dictionary a terrorist is “a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. Which means that terrorists are very bad men and women who frighten ordinary people like us, and sometimes even kill them.

Why do they kill them?

Because they hate them or their country. It’s hard to explain … it’s just the way things are. For many different reasons a lot of people in our world are full of hate.

Like the ones in Iraq who are capturing people and saying that they’ll kill them if all the soldiers don’t leave?

Exactly! That’s an evil thing called “blackmail”. Those innocent people are hostages, and the terrorists are saying that if governments don’t do what they want the hostages will be killed.

So was it blackmail when we said we’d attack Iraq and kill innocent people unless they told us where all their weapons were?

No! Well … yes, I suppose. In a way. But that was an “ultimatum” … call it “good blackmail.

Good blackmail? What’s that?

That’s when it’s done for good reasons. Those weapons were very dangerous and could have hurt a lot of people all over the world. It was very important to find them and destroy them.

But Dad … there weren’t any weapons.

True. We know that now. But we didn’t at the time. We thought there were.

So was killing all those innocent people in Iraq a mistake?

No. It was a tragedy, but we also saved a lot of lives. You see, we had to stop a very cruel man called Saddam Hussein from killing a great many ordinary Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein stayed in power by giving orders that meant thousands of people died or were horribly injured. Mothers and fathers. Even children.

Like that boy I saw on TV? The one who had his arms blown off by a bomb?

Yes … just like him.

But we did that. Does that mean our leaders are terrorists?

Good heavens, no! Whatever gave you that idea? That was just an accident. Unfortunately, innocent people get hurt in a war. You can’t expect anything else when you drop bombs on cities. Nobody wants it to happen … it’s just the way things are.

So in a war only soldiers are supposed to get killed?

Well, soldiers are trained to fight for their country. It’s their job, and they’re very brave. They know that war is dangerous and that they might be killed. As soon as they put on a uniform they become a target.

What uniforms do terrorists wear?

That’s just the problem … they don’t! We can’t tell them apart from the civilians. We don’t know who we’re fighting. And that’s why so many innocent people are getting killed … the terrorists don’t follow the rules of war.

War has rules?

Oh, yes. Soldiers must wear uniforms. And you can’t just suddenly attack someone unless they do something to you first. Then you can defend yourself.

So that’s why we attacked Iraq? Because Iraq attacked us first and we were just defending ourselves?

Not exactly. Iraq didn’t attack us … but it might have. We decided to get in first. Just in case Iraq used those weapons we were talking about.

The ones they didn’t have? So we broke the rules of war?

Technically speaking, yes. But …

So if we broke the rules first, why isn’t it OK for those people in Iraq who aren’t wearing uniforms to break the rules?

Well, that’s different. We were doing the right thing when we broke the rules.

But Dad … how do we know we were doing the right thing?

Our leaders … Bush and Blair and Howard … they told us it was the right thing. And if they don’t know, who does? They say that something had to be done to make Iraq a better place.

Is it a better place?

I suppose so, but I don’t know for sure. Innocent people are still being killed and these kidnappings are terrible things. I feel very sorry for the families of those poor hostages, but we simply can’t give in to terrorists. We must stand firm.

Would you say that if I was captured by terrorists?

Uh … yes … no … I mean, it’s very difficult …

So you’d let me be killed? Don’t you love me?

Of course! I love you very much. It’s just that it’s a very complicated issue and I don’t know what I’d do …

Well, if somebody attacked us and bombed our house and killed you and Mum and Jamie I know what I’d do.

What?

I’d find out who did it and kill them. Any way I could. I’d hate them for ever and ever. And then I’d get in a plane and bomb their cities.

But … but … you’d kill a lot of innocent people.

I know. But it’s war, Dad. And that’s just the way things are. Remember?

David Campbell is a Melbourne writer.

The true knowledge of Islam is in reading quran online and bring the true succeed in to our daily life we should learn holy quran online as much as we could and not just in Arabic but try to understand the meaning of it so when ever we listen to quran online we can understand the Koran and learn how to read quran online it gives us the guidance to bring the purity in to our life with the true way and also spread the word of Islam and its knowledge to all over the world find more Islamic articles in this quran blog and feel free to spread it further as much as you could

Does Islam allow wife beating?

Does Islam allow wife beating?

Respected scholars! Does Islam allow wife beating? Some husbands are violent and they say that the Qur’an allows them to beat their wives. Is there any logical explanation given regarding men being allowed to beat their wives, as stated in surat An-Nisa’, verse 34?

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

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

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

The verse you mention has been greatly misconceived by many people who focus merely on its surface meaning, taking it to allow wife beating. When the setting is not taken into account, it isolates the words in a way that distorts or falsifies the original meaning. Before dealing with the issue of wife-battering in the perspective of Islam, we should keep in mind that the original Arabic wording of the Qur’an is the only authentic source of meaning. If one relies on the translation alone, one is likely to misunderstand it.

Commenting on this issue, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:

“According to the Qur’an the relationship between the husband and wife should be based on mutual love and kindness. Allah says: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Ar-Rum: 21)

The Qur’an urges husbands to treat their wives with kindness. [In the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects]. Allah Almighty says: “Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” (An-Nisa’: 19)

It is important that a wife recognizes the authority of her husband in the house. He is the head of the household, and she is supposed to listen to him. But the husband should also use his authority with respect and kindness towards his wife. If there arises any disagreement or dispute among them, then it should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Spouses should seek the counsel of their elders and other respectable family members and friends to batch up the rift and solve the differences.

However, in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation. However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely.

The Qur’an is very clear on this issue. Almighty Allah says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them to guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all). If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things.” (An-Nisa’: 34-35)

It is important to read the section fully. One should not take part of the verse and use it to justify one’s own misconduct. This verse neither permits violence nor condones it. It guides us to ways to handle delicate family situation with care and wisdom. The word “beating” is used in the verse, but it does not mean “physical abuse”. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained it “dharban ghayra mubarrih” which means “a light tap that leaves no mark”. He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush.

Generally, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to discourage his followers from taking even this measure. He never hit any female, and he used to say that the best of men are those who do not hit their wives. In one hadith he expressed his extreme repulsion from this behavior and said, “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace (sleep with) her?” (Al-Bukhari, English Translation, vol. 8, Hadith 68, pp. 42-43)

It is also important to note that even this “light strike” mentioned in the verse is not to be used to correct some minor problem, but it is permissible to resort to only in a situation of some serious moral misconduct when admonishing the wife fails, and avoiding from sleeping with her would not help. If this disciplinary action can correct a situation and save the marriage, then one should use it.”

Dr. Jamal Badawi, professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and a cross-appointed faculty member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Management, adds:

“If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, the husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem persists, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in bad habits and showing contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one.

Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:

a. It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect, kindness and good treatment. Based on the Qur’an and Hadith, this measure may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband’s reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.

b. As defined by Hadith, it is not permissible to strike anyone’s face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadith qualifies as “dharban ghayra mubarrih”, or light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of siwak! They further qualified permissible “striking” as that which leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen-centuries-old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from “abuse” in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort, and “lesser of the two evils” measure that may save a marriage does not meet the definitions of “physical abuse,” “family violence, ” or “wife battering” in the 20th century law in liberal democracies, where such extremes are so commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.

c. The permissibility of such symbolic expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability. In several hadiths, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) discouraged this measure. Here are some of his sayings in this regard:

“Do not beat the female servants of Allah”;

“Some (women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you.”

In another hadith the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?”

d. True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who never resorted to that measure, regardless of the circumstances.

e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures and circumstances. Some measures may work in some cases and cultures or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. By definition, a “permissible” act is neither required, encouraged or forbidden. In fact it may be to spell out the extent of permissibility, such as in the issue at hand, rather than leaving it unrestricted or unqualified, or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way, which can lead to excesses and real abuse.

f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any “Muslim” can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur’an or Hadith). Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).”

Allah Almighty knows best.

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When you recite Quran or learn quran with proper understanding, it helps you in understanding the complexities of world and daily life. It helps you in making your life simpler to understand and easier to cope with. Recitation of Quran gives your strength and knowledge to deal with different patterns of life. reading quran or Recitation of Quran doesn’t even gives you mental peace and calmness but if you recite it with complete understanding of what each verse is saying to you, you would find those verses a complete guideline for you to deal with your daily life problems and confusions. Prophet Muhammad said, so join the true path of knowledge and learn holy quran to bring purity to your life. And see quran blog more quranic article

Why British Women are turning to Islaam

Why British Women are turning to Islaam

THE SPREAD OF A WORLD CREED
The Times – Tuesday, 9th November 1993 – Home-news Page

“Lucy Berrington finds the Muslim Faith is winning Western admirers despite hostile media coverage.”

Unprecedented numbers of British people, nearly all of them women, are converting to Islaam at a time of deep divisions within the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The rate of conversions has prompted predictions that Islaam will rapidly become an important religious force in this country. “Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here”, says Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher at a Hull comprehensive and the author of a textbook guide to the Qur’aan. She says: “Islaam is as much a world faith as is Roman Catholicism. No one nationality claims it as its own”. Islaam is also spreading fast on the continent and in America.

The surge in conversions to Islaam has taken place despite the negative image of the faith in the Western press. Indeed, the pace of conversions has accelerated since publicity over the Salman Rushdie affair, the Gulf War and the plight of the Muslims in Bosnia. It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islaam treats women poorly. In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million. Many of Britains “New Muslims” are from middle-class backgrounds. They include Matthew Wilkinson, a former head boy of Eton who went on to Cambridge, and a son and daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the judge heading the arms-to-Iraq enquiry.

A small scale survey by the Islaamic Foundation in Leicester suggests that most converts are aged 30 to 50. Younger muslims point to many conversions among students and highlight the intellectual thrust of Islaam. “Muhammad” said, “The light of Islaam will rise in the West” and I think that is what is happening in our day” says Aliya Haeri, an American-born psychologist who converted 15 years ago. She is a consultant to the Zahra Trust, a charity publishing spiritual literature and is one of Britain’s prominent Islaamic speakers. She adds: “Western converts are coming to Islaam with fresh eyes, without all the habits of the East, avoiding much of what is culturally wrong. The purest tradition is finding itself strongest in the West.”

Some say the conversions are prompted by the rise of comparative religious education. The British media, offering what Muslims describe as a relentless bad press on all things Islaamic, is also said to have helped. Westerners despairing of their own society – rising in crime, family breakdown, drugs and alcoholism – have come to admire the discipline and security of Islam. Many converts are former Christians disillusioned by the uncertainty of the church and unhappy with the concept of the Trinity and deification of Jesus.

Quest of the Convert – Why Change?

Other converts describe a search for a religious identity. Many had previously been practising Christians but found intellectual satisfaction in Islaam. “I was a theology student and it was the academic argument that led to my conversion.” Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher and author, said she objected to the concept of the original sin: “Under Islaam, the sins of the fathers aren’t visited on the sons. The idea that God is not always forgiving is blasphemous to Muslims.

Maimuna, 39, was raised as a High Anglican and confirmed at 15 at the peak of her religious devotion. “I was entranced by the ritual of the High Church and thought about taking the veil.” Her crisis came when a prayer was not answered. She slammed the door on visiting vicars but travelled to convents for discussions with nuns. “My belief came back stronger, but not for the Church, the institution or the dogma.” She researched every Christian denomination, plus Judaism, Buddhism and Krishna Consciousness, before turning to Islaam.

Many converts from Christianity reject the ecclesiastical heirarchy emphasising Muslims’ direct relationship with God. They sense a lack of leadership in the Church of England and are suspicious of its apparent flexibility. “Muslims don’t keep shifting their goal-posts ,” says Huda Khattab, 28, author of The Muslim Woman’s Handbook, published this year by Ta-Ha. She converted ten years ago while studying Arabic at university. “Christianity changes, like the way some have said pre-marital sex is okay if its with the person you’re going to marry. It seems so wishy-washy. Islaam was constant about sex, about praying five times a day. The prayer makes you conscious of God all the time. You’re continually touching base.

Taken from Is There a God?

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