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A logical religious view of masturbation and other addictive behaviors with potential solutions

When religious leaders speak of masturbation and other addictive behaviors, even the best informed forward-thinkers among them fail to find a solution, maybe due to the fact that they are so out of touch with what it feels like to be a young person in the modern world. Below, I will try to present a realistic (as opposed to high-flying moralistic) view of the problem that I have never heard from any leader or writer, and potential solutions that rely on this view.

A question I received today:
What can I do to avoid the temptation to masturbate? I'm really sorry if it makes you uncomfortable because I want to please Allah. I don't want him to be upset @ me. I want to please HIM. But it as if I cannot control myself sometimes.
"Trying" not to commit a sin is like "trying" not to think of flying elephants, the more you "try", the more difficult it becomes. Don't think of the sin, focus on improving yourself instead.

Masturbation is not the problem, and there are respected scholars, such as Imam al-Shawkani (died 1834), who consider it permissible. Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of the Hanafi school, considers it permissible if the desire cannot be resisted. The general opinion, however, is that it is a negative thing to do and it is best not to do it. But either way, it is not a big issue and there are no clear texts about it in the Quran, nor are there any sahih (authentic) prophetic sayings or traditions on the issue.

When the Quran is silent on a topic, it is a sign that God did not want to make the religion impossible to follow by outright forbidding the thing, even if God did not like people doing it. Many Christian (and sadly Muslim as well) leaders speak harshly of masturbation, not realizing that they are only showing how irrelevant and out of touch they are. These leaders often have a steady income, lots of friends, wives and children, and busy and fulfilling lives. From their position of power they cannot imagine why anyone will desire to masturbate unless they are a bad and sinful person. They cannot understand or empathize with the situation of young people, so they pass judgment on them as if they are as fulfilled as they are themselves.

A young person usually has much energy and desire, but no or few outlets. Young people have to go to irrelevant schools teaching them irrelevant things, and at home their families treat them as second-class individuals, not giving them any important responsibilities or tasks, making them feel isolated and unable to do much good. 

Young people want to go out in the world and do things that matter and to feel like citizens of the world, not slaves controlled by the world. But their lives often feel like being a prisoner or hostage. They are treated like children, but they want to be adults.

Some animals that do not masturbate in the wild start to do it when they are in captivity. In situations of captivity, masturbation can become attractive as it provides excitement and temporary fulfillment in an otherwise bland and unfulfilling life. 

Parents and leaders think that youth have it better than they did when they were young. They think youth have all they need so that they have no reason to masturbate. But youth do not have what they need. What they need is to be treated as respected human beings with responsibility and power, not as children to be controlled and put through 12 years of mind-numbing and useless education.

Young people feel like captives. Yes, they are comfortable and have much to entertain them (similar to zoo animals), but they are still prisoners in their comfortable homes and schools. Captivity brings with it unfulfillment. The energy of youth, if not given proper outlets, will find secret and possibly harmful ways of manifesting itself. Different people prefer different outlets, some masturbation, others smoking, drinking or drugs. The problem is not the things that these youth do, it is the fact that society has made young people irrelevant. And the solution is for them to feel relevant.

Potential Solutions for Youth

If you suffer from any addiction-like behaviors (meaning that you dislike the thing you do, but you cannot stop it), the first thing to know is that the thing you are doing is not the problem. The problem is that you are not fulfilled in life. The problem is that you feel like a prisoner with no legitimate outlets.

To solve the problem, find legitimate outlets. Find something that gives you a sense of purpose. You may think that masturbation cannot be replaced by anything else, but you do not know unless you try something else. Below are some ideas you can try. Each one of them may reduce your need for the addictive behavior by 10%, meaning that if you try many of these simultaneously, or come up with many of your own, you may soon find that you barely have any desire to masturbate, or to do any other behavior you want to give up:
  1. Start memorizing Quran.
  2. Find a charity in your area that you can volunteer for.
  3. Take classes in a thing you are interested in, such as a language you'd like to learn, or painting. You do not have to pay for it, you can take classes with a relative, or find a relative who also wants to learn and do the same thing so that you can both do it together at home, by watching an instructional video or reading a book together. What matters is that other people should be involved.
  4. Join a team or club. It can be in sports, or video games, or a book reading club. When you do something with other people, and those people have expectations in you, it gives you more of a sense of purpose in life. It may not be anything immediately life-changing, but when you know that there are people out there who care about you being there with them, it will make your life a little somewhat better.
  5. Start doing an exercise program, such as weightlifting or martial arts. Something that has trackable and achievable goals.
Some of the above things may be impossible for you to do, and it is possible that you may not find any good alternatives. In that case, know that Allah does not burden a person beyond their ability. Endure patiently and read as much Quran as you can. If you succumb to your desire, make up for it by improving yourself in other areas, use it as a motivation to become better. Don't focus on your sin, focus on improving yourself.

There is no perfect or final solution for this issue. But a day will come when life offers you enough of good things that you will lose your desire for the behavior. Use your time now to make that day happen earlier. Learn as many languages and skills (programming, etc.) as you can. Constantly work to improve yourself. Read as many books as you can. And as your status in life improves, as you acquire more influence and power to do good, you will soon find it easy to give up anything you dislike about yourself now.

Potential Solutions for Parents

If you are a parent and and would like to help your children avoid addictive behaviors like masturbation, what you should NOT do is tell them they are sinners or speak to them about the harms of their behavior. To them, asking them to stop their behavior is like asking them to fly. They will either think you are completely out of touch with reality (and thus they may think the religion is false since it is asking them to do the impossible), or they may think that they are simply bad and sinful people with no hope of improving, and this too can lead them into disliking the religion, since they feel that they can never live up to its standards.

Neither of the above cases will do any good for you or your children. What you should do instead is find outlets for their energies. Make them feel more like adults and less like children or prisoners. Here are things you can try:

  1. Start a home-based business with your children. This is the best thing you can try. Provide a way for your children to earn money by doing something useful. For example I would create a website or blog for them and pay them a certain amount for each article they write for it, as well as sharing with them any advertising money the blog may make. Or I would hire them to build a video game with me (and pay them enough to interest them in the project). Or I would hire them to write a book on a certain topic, when it is done I would publish the book and share with them any money the book earns. Treat them as adults and give them adult things to do and adult wages to earn.
  2. Do activities with your youth. It can be fishing, or building something (like a table or shelf), or playing a multi-player video game that has rankings, anything that provides an outlet for their energy and has a an appreciable result. Youth want to do things that matter, they want their labor to produce some fruit. Playing a card game or solving a puzzle may not do it. Find something they like. When you first suggest something, they may be against it, but when they try it, they may find that they enjoy it. 
  3. Take them to join a martial arts class, or any other group activity, and join the class with them. Your presence there will be motivation for them to continue the class, and may also lead to a better relationship with them.
In all of the above, the goal is to make them sense that they matter, that they can help in the family, that they can improve their own and the family's situation in life. If you provide them with enough fulfillment, they will not feel like prisoners and will not act as such by trying to find illicit outlets for their energies.

Blank slates: Why Islam mentions backbiting and spying together, and why they are both forbidden

A New Life

Imagine a man who has done many wrong things in his life. One day he decides to change course and become a better man. But people around him continue to judge him as if he is the same man as before. For this reason he moves to another town to start a new life.

In the new community, people treat him kindly, ready to accept him as a good man, as if he has no bad past. This creates joy in his heart and motivates him to be better each day.

But what if someone from this new community decides to spy into this person's past? The man's past bad deeds become known, and the spy will start to treat him differently. And if our spy decides to commit the other sin, backbiting, the bad news of the man's past become widespread, and people in the community start to treat him like a bad man. His feelings of joy will disappear, to be replaced with depression, dislike for his community, and a desire to escape from it.

This is why Islam forbids backbiting and spying, and why it mentions them together in the same verse:
O you who have attained to faith! Avoid most guesswork [about one another] for, behold, some of [such] guesswork is [in itself] a sin; and do not spy upon one another, and neither allow your­selves to speak ill of one another behind your backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would loathe it! And be conscious of God. Verily, God is an accep­tor of repentance, a dispenser of grace! (Quran 49:12)
Islam wants to enable people to change, and wants society to forgive and forget and give people second chances.

Islam wants a person's current and past misdeeds to be unknown. Because when you treat a person, regardless of how bad they are or have been, as a good and acceptable human being, it creates a good change in them. It creates a motivation in their heart to change for the better, to become the person you think they are.

But if society loves to find out bad things about others, it will start to treat people badly, even if they have changed for the better. And the prejudice creates a motivation in the heart for these people to be as bad as society thinks they are. It creates dislike and hatred in both parties. It is a loss for everyone involved, and prevents many great things and blessings that could exist otherwise.

The worst thing is that in many Muslim societies the backbiting continues to hurt for generations. A person is considered bad an un-marriageable because their grandfather was so an so.

***

It is not backbiting if ...

Someone spoke ill of a particular person because he neglected his daughter. Knowing the said man, I mentioned that since we do not know what is in this man's heart, and since we do not know what burdens and troubles he has, it is unfair to focus on just one negative part of his personality and defame him for it.

Her reply? It is not backbiting if it is true.

My reply:



This, sadly, is how many Muslims seem to think. 

In case it is unclear, it is backbiting only if you think it is true or might be true. If the bad things you say about someone are false and you know them to be false (or you know that they have a high likelihood of being false), this becomes another sin called ramyi or qadhf (calumny or defamation in English), which the Quran speaks much more severely about. For example, people who make up stories about other people's virtue are cursed by God in 24:23.

***

Backbiting and spying: two sins, similar effects

Both backbiting and spying enable people to find out negative information about their target. Both of them are means of gathering intelligence. They are different activities and require different skills, but the end result is the same: the information gathered gives the spy or backbiter the power to harm and destroy people's lives. People who engage in this get a big rush out of doing it because humans do not normally have much power to cause good or harm. The knowledge that you can do harm without suffering any harm to yourself creates a momentary feeling of great power and can be quite addicting.

Humans love power, whether it is the power to do great good or harm. When a person does not have the power to do good but finds an opportunity to safely cause harm to others (through spying or backbiting), the opportunity can be too tempting to resist. We are designed to enjoy the feeling of power; our bodies do not care where the power comes from. This is why so many otherwise nice people can become guilty of backbiting and spying; they enjoy it, and they do not care to think too much about the harm it may cause.

***

Reading someone's diary

A classic example of spying that many may not realize is reading a person's diary (or other secret writings and creations) without the person's knowledge. It can be very tempting to go inside a person's head and find out their deepest thoughts. But you have not earned the right to do so, and doing so enables you to find out negative information about the the person that can forever harm your relationship with them.

Islam wants to protect people's dignity and wants to give people the ability to renew their lives. Finding out secret information about them through spying or backbiting blocks this process. Negative knowledge about a person becomes permanent in our minds, and we end up treating them with less love and consideration than we would otherwise. In some cases finding out secret information about a person can lead to downright dislike and aggression in a relationship that may have had a great future otherwise.

Therefore if you ever had the chance to learn about a person's secrets, do not fall for the temptation.

***

Be nice, but use common sense

Islam's ideal is that we should give people second chances and to think the best of others. We should avoid negative suspicion about others, whether it is about members of our family or acquaintances, and we should ignore any suspicions we have instead of spying on people to confirm them.

Islam wants us to believe that people can change, even though change usually happens extremely slowly. If a person says they want to be good and that they have changed, we should treat them with sincere acceptance and ignore our suspicions that the person may still be the same. When you treat someone as if they are good, it creates a small change in them. Even if that person becomes 1% better every week through your acceptance, in a year or two they could become some of the best people you know.

The practical lesson from all of this is that we should think the best of others (even though it can be difficult at times), treat them as if they are good people regardless of what we know or have heard about them, we should not gossip or spy, and we should forbid others from gossiping in our presence.

This does not mean that we should treat people as if the world is perfect and nobody is bad; you shouldn't give a person the key to your home just because you want to think the best of them. Trust is built over time, over years. As a person starts to change for the better, you can trust them more. And if a new person enters your community and appears to be a saint, you can be kind and accepting towards them without putting yourself at risk. They may be a good person, or a government agent wanting to entrap you, or a person with a severe mental illness who may be able to bring some harm to you. Only time will tell.

Islam doesn't require you to be a saint, it doesn't want you to put yourself at the mercy of others. What it wants is that you should follow its guidelines, then use your common sense to decide what to do, and if your own knowledge fails you, use the advice of others more experienced than you. You can be nice and polite and non-judgmental with others without putting yourself at risk. You do not have to learn about all of their bad deeds to decide how to treat them. Always treat with kindness and acceptance, trust with the amount of trust that common sense requires, and leave it to God to judge people.

The Anatomy of Virtue

What is it that the believer does that makes him worthy of Paradise?

This article is an effort, a meditation in hope of reaching a conclusion. I will first lay down my questions, after which my analysis will come, if Allah gives me success.

What does the believer do? What is the force at work during every act of virtue?

Why should I deserve a reward when I avoid a sin? I have noted that my power to do good and avoid sin increases and decreases by the amount of Quran I read or listen to (I have this idea that a Muslim needs to dedicate at least one hour a day to reading or listening to Quran if he wants to be a Muslim that he is not ashamed of). So the virtuous act itself is actually the fact that I remind myself of Allah, which then gives me the power to be good.

It is easy for a person to sin when God's punishment seems distant. So distant, in fact, that it seems unreal or impossible to many. It is part of our design (a design created by God) that we discount faraway rewards and punishments. The thought of receiving a thorough beating in an hour gives you a bigger amount of stress than the thought of receiving said beating in five years. A virtuous person keeps God's punishment real in his imagination, so that it seems nearer than what our brains tell us, and this is the virtuous act. The virtuous act wasn't the avoidance of the sin, but the fact that he had "done his homework" and had kept God's punishment real in his imagination, so that he had the willpower to avoid the sin.

You could say that the avoidance of sin is an application of his willpower, and that this is where the virtue lies. But anyone who has lived and tried to be virtuous knows how easy it is to slip when presented with temptation, and how easy it is to forget God without active remembrance of Him. For this reason a person's willpower at the moment of choice is not very significant, what is significant is his willpower to perform remembrance of God, to do the homework necessary to be virtuous, so that when the moment of temptation comes, he has the power to be good.

So a believer deserves reward for choosing to keep God's remembrance alive in his heart during his normal, everyday life, and when the hour of action comes, his power to do good and avoid evil is directly proportional to how real God's reward and punishment is in his imagination.

The unit of measurement of a person's virtue, as given to us by God, is taqwa (fear and mindfulness of God), as expressed in the following verse:
... the most honorable among you are those who have the most taqwa ... (Quran 49:13)
A person's capacity to fear God is directly related to how much "homework" he does at home, during those calm and "boring" moments when others entertain and enjoy themselves in various ways. The virtuous person chooses to listen to Quran instead of music. Or if he wants to listen to music, he chooses to listen to an Islamic song. When he is lying in bed, instead of thinking of the best way to conquer the world, he chooses to make istighfar (pray to God for forgiveness) a hundred, or a thousand times, until he falls asleep. When he performs sujood (prostration during formal prayer), he chooses to recite each line seven times instead of three, and then he chooses to add three more prayers for forgiveness to this.

We often think that virtue is made at special times, when a person uses his willpower to do a great deed or avoid a very tempting sin. This is incorrect. These are simply signs, expressions, or proofs of a person's virtue, a virtue that he has built elsewhere, during the normal and boring days when no one was watching him, he built his virtue small choice after small choice, listening to an Islamic song instead of another type of song, he prayed a little while longer, he made istighfar during moments of waiting.

He carried out God's command when He said:
... and come closer. (Quran 96:19)
The Quran repeatedly tells us the two conditions necessary for a person's entry into Paradise. In 51 different places the Quran refers to those who succeed in this manner:
Those who had faith and performed virtuous acts
Once we attain to faith, we are not left alone to do as we like until we enter Paradise. We are also required to perform acts of virtue. And to perform acts of virtue we need to keep God near and real in our imagination, otherwise we slip and lose our way and forget God.

The Quran also says:
Are they waiting for the angels or your Lord to come down to them, or for some of your Lord’s signs to come? The day when some of the signs of your Lord shall come, it shall not profit any human being who did not have faith before, or who did not earn any good by his faith. Say to them, ‘Wait then, we too are waiting.’ (Quran 6:158)
To be saved, one needs to earn good by his faith. And to earn good by one's faith, he needs to actively reprogram his brain to think that God's reward and  punishment are real and close.

The Quran, when speaking of the non-virtuous, says:
They see it [the Day of Judgment] as a distant thing. (Quran 70:6).
It becomes clear then that the fundamental force that differentiates one believer from another in virtue and rank is how close and real he keeps the things that he believed in when he attained to faith. What our religion is about, is to believe in God and His words in the first place, and then to keep these alive and close in one's consciousness.

Thus when a person first attains to faith, he does so because he has realized that God and His words are true. At this moment of true faith, in the person's consciousness, the closeness and realness of God and His promises are as follows:
Day 1: [person]-[God]
Then a day passes, and if he hasn't actively tried to re-enliven God's presence in his heart, the image becomes as follows:
Day 2: [person]--[God]
And as the days pass, if he doesn't do his homework, God fades away from his heart he becomes less virtuous and more sinful.
Day 3: [person]---[God]
Day 4: [person]----[God]
Day 10: [person]----------------------[God] (sins become easier)
Day 30: [person]-------------------------------------------------------------[God]
Day 90: [person]------------------------------------------------------[The person doesn't even know where this goes anymore. Is God even real?]
While for a virtuous believer, the graph would be as follows:
Day 1: [person]-[God]
Day 2: [person]--[God]
Day 10: [person]---[God]
Day 11: [person]-[God] (he realized that he had been neglecting his duties, and thus applies more effort toward remembering God, and brings God closer in his heart]
The thing that a virtuous believer does is keep the remembrance of God alive in his heart. We say that what a weightlifter does is to lift weights, and what a programmer does is to program applications. In the same way, what a virtuous believer does on the job is to kindle and rekindle the remembrance of God in his heart.

The non-virtuous believer ignores his duty on the job and lets God's remembrance fade away, and thus falls into sin and starts to ignore his main obligations.

So an easy way to measure your level of virtue, something that I have known for a long time without thinking too much about it, is to ask yourself how real Paradise and Hell feel to you. How close or faraway are they? I know that during those times when I was at the highest points of my virtue, Paradise and Hell felt very real, as if they could be right next door. So ask yourself, how faraway are these? One mile, a thousand miles, or infinitely faraway?

It seems now that we have found the fundamental principle of virtue, the equation that will determine a person's virtue, and thus his rank in Paradise:
Total Virtue = (Sum of the closeness of God and His promises at each moment or day of the person's life)
As an example, each moment of a person's life can be broken down as follows:
Day 1 -  Closeness of God: 96% - Score: 96
Day 1500 - Closeness of God: 50% - Score: 50
Day 8000 - Closeness of God: 100% - Score 100 (God's existence and His promises are as close as it is humanly possible to experience, thus the person, when he thinks of Paradise, it is as if he can touch it, and when he thinks of Hell, same thing.
 When the person dies, his final score is:
The sum of all scores divided by the sum of all days
The top score will be 100, which no one can get because that requires being in God's presence every day of one's life. And by averaging the scores, a person's length of life will not matter. Living for a year at a score of 50 is better than ten years at 25, even though a person may have done more good during those ten years. Because by having a lower score, we can deduce that the person also committed more sins, which take away from the good deeds.

In reality we know that God judges us based on our good deeds and sins on the Day of Judgment, not based on how real God's remembrance was in our hearts during each day. But as has been illustrated in this article, the two things are the same thing. The realness of God's remembrance in your heart decides how many good deeds you do and how few sins you commit, and thus it decides how you will end up on the Day of Judgment. It is better to focus on the root of success, which is God's remembrance, rather than the branches, which are the deeds.

We, as (hopefully) intelligent believers, can focus on the one thing that truly matters, the one thing that makes us do good deeds and avoid sins: the realness of God and the Unseen world in our minds. And everyday we can ask ourselves how close Paradise and Hell feel to us, and if they don't feel close, we must increase our worship and remembrance. And everyday we can try to make them feel closer. To make them more real in our minds. Until the fire of Hell feels so close that the slightest sin becomes unthinkable, and until Paradise feels so close that it takes away the difficulty from the most difficult good deed.

I know that as self-respecting human beings, we like to think that we can choose do to good deeds and to avoid sins whenever we want through our amazing willpower. But reality will always prove us wrong. There is no way to constantly be good and avoid sin without keeping God and His promises close and real in our minds. This is how we, as human beings, function.

A day spent in negligence of God is not a "neutral" day as we like to think. It is a day on which Paradise and Hell will become ever so slightly more distant in our minds, and immediately with this, our desire to do good deeds, and our power to avoid sins, will decrease. Virtue is like a painting that's constantly losing its color, so that it needs to be painted again and again, every day, otherwise soon little will be left of it.

Now that we realize that "how real and close Paradise and Hell feel to us" decides our success and rank on the Day of Judgment, the next step is to think of the ways to accomplish this, the best ways to keep Paradise and Hell real and close. In my own experience, reading Quran is the best way. There is a reason why the Quran is called adh-Dhikr ("The Remembrance") in verser 15:9. It is the tool that Allah in His boundless grace and mercy bestowed upon to allow us to keep Him and His promises close and real, if we only dedicate some time to it.

The proper way of treating the Quran is as Aaidh al-Qarni says:
... read the Quran in private and out in public, when standing and when sitting, when reflecting upon its meaning and without reflecting, when in a state of wudu and when not in a state of wudu, for every letter earns you ten hasanaat [good deeds].
The amount of time we dedicate to the Quran per day will determine how close Paradise and Hell feel to us, and thus it will determine our success and rank on the Day of Judgment. If we dedicate 30 minutes per day to it, this will lead to a certain outcome. If we dedicate an hour per day to the Quran, this will cause us to be a different type of believer, and a higher ranking one than the believer who dedicates 30 minutes to it. And one who dedicates two hours per day to the Quran will have a higher rank (more good deeds and fewer sins) than the previous two.

And what about the blessed believer who dedicates every available moment to the Quran? What rank will he have? How much will he put us to shame on the Day of Judgment? When Allah points him out to us, we will realize how much we have failed. Will we even think that we deserve to enter Paradise? There stands a man who deserves Paradise, and what about us? We will carry the unbearable shame of realizing just how foolish we were to have wasted the only chance we had, in all eternity, to earn a high rank in the sight of God, and yet we wasted it. We were too busy increasing our wealth. We were too busy watching the news. We were too busy having a good time on the internet. And thus we wasted our one and only chance to have an incredibly better place for the rest of eternity.

On that Day how much will we wish that we had spent just an hour more reading the Quran? How foolish will we feel to have wasted all those great opportunities that God gave us to remember Him and increase our rank in His sight?

Two years ago I learned that it is very important for a believer to be unattached to dunya (the worldly life), and I thought this was the ultimate stage of growth, to put all focus on detaching myself from the worldly life and to always be on guard to keep my attachments under control. But now I realize that this is the wrong focus. Detaching yourself from the worldly life is not something you can do, it is like telling yourself "do not think of elephants" so that you may stop thinking of elephants, it does not work.

What does work is to think of something else. Detaching yourself from the dunya is accomplished by making Paradise and Hell and the Day of Judgment (and the rest of God's promises) real in the mind. Once the mind is filled with God's remembrance, the dunya will automatically leave. Therefore as you will surely hear a lot about detachment from dunya, know that it is accomplished by attaching yourself to the akhirah (afterlife). The more real and close Paradise and Hell feel to you, the less real the dunya will feel.

Let's all dedicate our lives to keeping Paradise and Hell and the Unseen world as close as humanly possible through remembrance of Allah, and inshAllah in this way we will not be among those who are covered in shame on the Day of Judgement.

And to repeat, ask yourself everyday: How close and real do Paradise and Hell feel to me? If they don't feel very close and real, realize that you are in great danger of committing sins and getting in a bad place spiritually. Fix the situation immediately with more Quran and more worship, as much as is necessary to make Paradise and Hell close and real again. You may need to read the Quran all over a number of times if you have been neglecting it for a long time, because the Quran will not inspire a person who neglects it. And the next step will be to design a lifestyle, a daily routine that ensures that Paradise and Hell are always close and real to you, through Quran reading, tahajjud, istighfar, and anything else that works for you.

Who is Sayyid Qutb?

He is the writer of Fi Dhilaal al-Quran (In the Shade of the Quran), a 4000 page commentary on the Quran. He is one of the best and most influential writers in Arab history.

He was partly responsible for the 1952 revolution in Egypt against British colonialism which lead to Gamal Abdel Nasser assuming power and some of the planning and organization for the revolution took place inside Sayyid Qutb's home. Gamal at this time would pretend to be a good Muslim and exploited the support of Sayyid Qutb and his friends, and Hasan al-Banna's students, to take over Egypt.

Gamal turned out to be a perfect tool of US and British interests and it didn't take him long to start killing thousands of Muslim activists around Egypt. Qutb and his family had their own share of this. Qutb spent 10 years in prison, ended with Gamal hanging him in 1966 after a fake trial that had the entire world speaking out against it.

The West and Israel are scared of him and hate him with a visceral hatred because he was one of the most unrelenting critics of Western moral bankruptcy and their agendas in the Muslim world. As happens with everyone who has dared to speak out against the US and Israel, you won't find much positive information about him anywhere, especially not in English.

Many Muslims unfortunately believe the false information given against him and so you will find hatred for him among Muslims as well.

But as for those of us with functioning brains and hearts and who have actually read his books and his biography, we know that he was a good man, a man of rare intelligence and integrity, who lived his message, rejected all the wealth offered to him by Nasser and the US, suffered the worst tortures for years in his old age and died for the sake of Allah.

In important matters I suggest taking the opinion of more mainstream figures like Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Ibn Taymiyyah, etc. But if you ever feel your faith is weakening, or you are losing hope, or you feel that Islam has too many enemies and too few friends, reading a page of his commentary is enough to rekindle the fire in your heart and renew your dedication to Allah.

I have only read him in Arabic, so can't speak about the power of his works when translated.

The correct opinion regarding Sayyid Qutb is expressed by Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi and Ibn Baaz, who say that his work contains vast amounts of good, but that he wasn't an infallible man and the seeker of knowledge should use many sources and shouldn't take Sayyid Qutb's works as scripture, the way some people use his works to justify violence by taking his words out of the context of his time and place in history.

When Does Ramadan 2013 Start in the US? Some Possible Answers

According to the following naked-eye visibility map from the Makkah Calendar, the US should start fasting tomorrow July 9th (green and blue areas), except for Michigan's Upper Peninsula and possibly some other areas.



The city of Houston, Texas should be able to see the new moon at 11:16 PM tonight local time, and Palo Alto at 10:16 PM local time (not sure if these are in daylight saving time or not). [for more information on these hours check out the tables at the bottom of this page]

The Fiqh Council has declared July 9th the start of Ramadan in the US (i.e. tomorrow is the first day of fasting).

As it is still early, we can wait until later in the night to fully decide the issue. InshAllah I will keep updating this as I find new information.

Israel

Any American who supports Israel but doesn't support the right of Native Americans to violently round up all Americans, bulldoze their homes, throw them into the reservations, massacre those who refuse to leave, and take over the country is a hypocrite or an idiot.

The Makkah Towers: Are They Against Islam, and What Should Be Our Stance Regarding Them?

Comment received on tumblr:
That tower was built against Ka'ba, if you make researches, you can see
My answer:

Here is the thing, regardless of the intentions of the people behind this building, it is still one of the tallest buildings in the world with a super-massive LCD screen that constantly shows dhikr words, and above it there is one of the biggest pieces of calligraphy of the word "Allah".

It is the hand of God at work. People with questionable intentions creating things that glorify Him SWT. And this, in my opinion, is the proper way of thinking of this building and the famous mosques that contain incredible "waste" of money (for example Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque).

These buildings were made in the name of Allah. The real intentions of the people who made them is incredibly unimportant when you consider the greatness of the One who allowed it to be built, and who allowed it to be built in His name and in His glorification.

The Quran opposes the destruction of churches and monasteries, even though inside a church often Jesus is worshiped as a secondary deity. The reason is that these buildings, even though they have been corrupted, they still retain a relationship to Allah, and they were built in His name.

A beautiful cathedral, regardless of how you think of it and regardless of who built it, is still a sign of Allah's greatness and glorifies His name. So do these towers. You can say they were built by evil people, but these people are just the tools of Allah. Allah makes them tire themselves in holding His name high above the earth for their own selfish reasons, but Allah's goal is accomplished.

If you remove the humans and their intentions from it, what remains is the name of Allah high in the sky looking down on the Ka`ba. It is a beautiful spiritual experience to be by the Ka`ba and see His name up there, it is a reminder of who is King of this place.

So to me when people get hung up on who made this thing or why, they forget Allah's greatness. Allah is the King of the heavens and the earth, and it was He Who put His name there. Look at these buildings through the lens of Allah's greatness, and you will see that humans don't matter, it is almost like they don't exist. It is just Allah from beginning to the end. And then you can appreciate how these buildings are a beautiful sign of Allah's greatness.

UPDATE: Follow up comment received on tumblr:
Thanks a lot for replying me, but you say that building shows the Greatness of Allah, but The New Mecca Plan contains that building also to symbolise the greatness of so-called god of Babil : Sin.. And the crescent OVER the name of Allah symbolises only one part of that so-called god Sin.. Again thanks for replying :)
Are there any official records that say that this is what they meant by those symbols? No. A symbol's meaning depends on your interpretation of it, and if you make a bad interpretation, then the problem may be with you and not the symbol.

It is like people's speech. You can interpret it in good or bad ways. It is really just people who have nothing better to do who try to find bad interpretations for things when a good interpretation would work. The Quran commands against guesswork and thinking badly of others, saying  "some suspicion and guesswork is sin" (49:12).

A crescent is important in Islam because it signifies the beginning of the lunar month, which determines many important Islamic events. And the shape of the building is pretty normal in modern architecture. Why shouldn't we stop here instead of finding a bad interpretation for everything and doing guesswork that might be sinful?

If we find an ancient language in which the symbol ﷲ (Allah in Arabic) means the devil, does this mean we should throw away the symbol and that everyone who uses it is a bad person and devil-worshiper? Google "devil fork" and you will see how closely similar to the Allah symbol the pictures are.

And even assuming that bad things were meant by the symbolism of the buildings, there is nothing to stop Muslims from reclaiming the symbols for their own purposes and benefit. The Muslims were uncertain whether they should do the walk between Safaa and Marwa during Haj since it had become a symbol of idolatry before Islam. But Allah reclaimed it for Himself in the Quran and thus now it is a symbol of Islam.

Rather than looking at the buildings from the lens of evil, idle or misguided ancient people, look at them through the lens of Islam and you will see only beauty.

Stack Overflow

One of the powerful rhetorical techniques in the Quran is what I call the stack overflow. It is to quickly fill the reader's available memory with images and concepts. This causes the reader to surrender their judgment. It opens the mind and removes the person's ego, in this way creating an opening into the person's heart, and once the opening is made to place a message inside it. Thus in the sura below we see the first 13 verses quickly filling the memory with images and heavy concepts, and once the opening is made, the Quran inserts verse 14 into the heart.
Quran - Sura 81 At-Takweer
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.
1. When the sun is rolled up.
2. When the stars are dimmed.
3. When the mountains are set in motion.
4. When the relationships are suspended.
5. When the beasts are gathered.
6. When the oceans are set aflame.
7. When the souls are paired.
8. When the girl, buried alive, is asked:
9. For what crime was she killed?
10. When the records are made public.
11. When the sky is peeled away.
12. When the Fire is set ablaze.
13. When Paradise is brought near.
14. Each soul will know what it has readied.
The sura then uses verses 15-18 to maintain the opening. Instead of putting new arguments in, these verses add more images to the brain stack so that it doesn't have a chance to become critical and egotistic, and inserts verse 19 into the heart.
15. I swear by the galaxies.
16. Precisely running their courses.
17. And by the night as it recedes.
18. And by the morn as it breathes.
19. This is the speech of a noble messenger.
The same technique is repeated with 20 and 21, adding new images and concepts to the stack. Knowing that the many stack-filling verses from the beginning of the sura till here have disarmed the reader, the sura is now ready to make a complex argument. Verses 22-25 are arguments:
20. Endowed with power, eminent with the Lord of the Throne.
21. Obeyed and honest.
22. Your friend is not possessed.
23. He saw him on the luminous horizon.
24. And He does not withhold knowledge of the Unseen.
25. And it is not the word of an accursed devil.
 Next, stack filler at 26, argument at 27, another stack filler at 28, and the final argument at 29.
26. So where are you heading?
27. It is only a Reminder to all mankind.
28. To whoever of you wills to go straight.
29. But you cannot will, unless God wills—The Lord of the Worlds.
The most famous Islamic example of this concept at work is Surat at-Najm (Chapter 53 of the Quran). When the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, read out this chapter to a crowd of disbelievers and hating rivals, they were so disarmed and possessed that they couldn't help but obey the command in the sura's final verse to bow down. This occasion and others like it made the Prophet's enemies start saying he was a wizard, since they felt powerless in front of the powerful language of the Quran. Below is an English translation of the sura, which loses much of the sweetness of the Arabic. In Arabic most of the verses end with the same sound, but from verse 57 the musical sounds end. The sura, confident that the reader's mind is now fully open and disarmed, stops the music to acquire the reader's full attention, then inserts a potentially life-changing message into the heart.
1. By the star as it goes down.
2. Your friend has not gone astray, nor has he erred.
3. Nor does he speak out of desire.
4. It is but a revelation revealed.
5. Taught to him by the Extremely Powerful.
6. The one of vigor. He settled.
7. While he was at the highest horizon.
8. Then he came near, and hovered around.
9. He was within two bows’ length, or closer.
10. Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed.
11. The heart did not lie about what it saw.
12. Will you dispute with him concerning what he saw?
13. He saw him on another descent.
14. At the Lotus Tree of the Extremity.
15. Near which is the Garden of Repose.
16. As there covered the Lotus Tree what covered it.
17. The sight did not waver, nor did it exceed.
18. He saw some of the Great Signs of his Lord.
19. Have you considered al-Lat and al-Uzza?
20. And Manat, the third one, the other?
21. Are you to have the males, and He the females?
22. What a bizarre distribution.
23. These are nothing but names, which you have devised, you and your ancestors, for which God sent down no authority. They follow nothing but assumptions, and what the ego desires, even though guidance has come to them from their Lord.
24. Or is the human being to have whatever he desires?
25. To God belong the Last and the First.
26. How many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession avails nothing, except after God gives permission to whomever He wills, and approves?
27. Those who do not believe in the Hereafter give the angels the names of females.
28. They have no knowledge of that. They only follow assumptions, and assumptions are no substitute for the truth.
29. So avoid him who has turned away from Our remembrance, and desires nothing but the present life.
30. That is the extent of their knowledge. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who has accepted guidance.
31. To God belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth. He will repay those who do evil according to their deeds, and recompense those who do good with the best.
32. Those who avoid gross sins and indecencies—except for minor lapses—your Lord is of Vast Forgiveness. He knows you well, ever since He created you from the earth, and ever since you were embryos in your mothers’ wombs. So do not acclaim your own virtue; He is fully aware of the righteous.
33. Have you considered him who turned away?
34. And gave a little, and held back?
35. Does he possess knowledge of the unseen, and can therefore foresee?
36. Or was he not informed of what is in the Scrolls of Moses?
37. And of Abraham, who fulfilled?
38. That no soul bears the burdens of another soul.
39. And that the human being attains only what he strives for.
40. And that his efforts will be witnessed.
41. Then he will be rewarded for it the fullest reward.
42. And that to your Lord is the finality.
43. And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.
44. And that it is He who gives death and life.
45. And that it is He who created the two kinds—the male and the female.
46. From a sperm drop, when emitted.
47. And that upon Him is the next existence.
48. And that it is He who enriches and impoverishes.
49. And that it is He who is the Lord of Sirius.
50. And that it is He who destroyed the first Aad.
51. And Thamood, sparing no one.
52. And the people of Noah before that; for they were most unjust and most oppressive.
53. And He toppled the ruined cities.
54. And covered them with whatever covered them.
55. So which of your Lord's marvels can you deny?
56. This is a warning, just like the first warnings.
57. The inevitable is imminent.
58. None besides God can unveil it.
59. Do you marvel at this discourse?
60. And laugh, and do not weep?
61. Lost in your frivolity?
62. So bow down to God, and worship!
[translations from clearquran.com

Islam and Homosexuality, Solutions for Homosexual Muslims

Anonymous question received on tumblr:
what do you think of homosexuality?
My answer, with minor edits:

Thank you for writing and may Allah bless you. I am not a religious scholar or scientist, yet I have seen so many incorrect and un-Islamic opinions given on this topic by Muslims that I feel it would be good to reply to your question. Modern research (read the essay The Role of Hypothalamus and Endocrine System in Sexuality by Swaab) suggests that some people are biologically predisposed to being attracted to their own sex. The same way that a man is biologically predisposed to being attracted to another man’s beautiful wife. In both cases the reaction is or might be biologically valid and natural.

But in both cases God has forbidden acting upon it, so if our goal is to please God then we wouldn’t fulfill desires that God doesn’t want us to fulfill. We trust God’s wisdom in forbidding certain things. This doesn’t mean that we think there is no good in these things, the Quran itself says that alcohol has various benefits, for example, yet it forbids it.

What should homosexual people do then? Every person is different, what works for someone may not work for another. God says “seek help through patience and prayer” (Surat al-Baqarah 2:45), this is the best prescription I can make. Seek knowledge, both religious and scientific, and be patient and sincere with God.

Some people are born without eyes, hands or legs. Some are born with conditions like X/Y gene mosaicism making them unable to identify fully as men or women. These are all part of the tests of life, with which God tests humans, both those with the conditions and those around them.

Not being able to see might be a bigger test than homosexuality. Yet we find blind people who love God and are patient and humble and accept what God has decided for them and who try to make the best of their lives by memorizing Quran and excelling in the fields of knowledge open to them.

A homosexual person too, through patience and sincerity, will be guided to a fulfilling and pious life inshAlllah. The God who created the heavens and the earth and everything in between is perfectly capable of solving a homosexual person's dilemma in a way acceptable to Him.

Clearing Yasir Qadhi's Name, Refuation, Salafis, and Slander

This is a question received on our Islamic Art and Quotes tumblr:
AsalamuAlaykum, I love your blog and all mashaAllah but seriously you gotta stop posting about Yasir Qadi, he's refuted from even his own teacher. You should really look into the sheikhs you put on your blog before posting them this will be held accountable against you if someone was to go and search him up and start taking from him. AllahuaAclim though, Allah knows best, do your own research and come up with a verdict inshaAllah. Forgive me if I have wronged you.
This was my answer, with minor edits:

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I take the good from everyone and leave their judgment to Allah. I haven’t seen anything but good from him. Does he believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment? Yes. That’s 99% of faith.

To me speaking against someone who is obviously a good and striving Muslim, even if he has said or believes many wrong things, is a very serious matter. It is like calling a woman an adulteress without proof, and there is an entire chapter of the Quran dedicated to baseless claims against Muslims and the severe punishments waiting for people who make such claims (Surat an-Nur, 24:23: “Truly, those who accuse chaste, unwary, believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter. For them awaits a terrible punishment.”)

The burden of proof is not on me, but on the one who speaks against Yasir Qadhi and any other Muslim.

You said: “he’s refuted from even his own teacher”—this ambiguous accusation, what does it even mean? This is gossip and slander. And what makes us know whether his teacher or himself is the better, more God-fearing, and more knowledgeable person?

InshAllah if you know something I don’t, if he has gone against any of the clear verses in the Quran, then feel free to mention it.

I have followed his MuslimMatters blog and have read all of his twitter feed (when I was looking for Islamic quotes) and have seen only beautiful words and advice from him.

What I’ve seen is some Salafis hating on him for political reasons (he is not for us so he must be against us, this kind of thinking is also why I stay away from all sects and groups) and spreading baseless, very general slander against him without ever mentioning a single clear piece of evidence.

What has stirred the Salafis against him is his recent speeches critiquing Salafism. But what Yasir Qadhi says is perfectly valid. It just makes some people uncomfortable.

Islam is a religion of the heart and the heart is the most important thing. Once a person shows signs that he has a good heart, even if he believes in and does wrong things, all of these are to be forgiven. I am not saying Yasir Qadhi has done anything wrong, but as a general rule. What matters is the heart of the person, not their political or intellectual positions.

From the evidence I have seen, the good things he has said far outweigh any wrong he may have said, and the good in his heart far outweighs any evil that may be there. Even if I disagree with him on a thousand things, we automatically agree on the things that really matter, because both of us are practicing Muslims.

So brother/sister, if you have clear proofs against him, feel free to mention them. But if you are just passing around what you hear others say, without full and certain knowledge, then please remember these verses: “When you were spreading it with your tongues and saying with your mouths things of which you had no knowledge, you considered it to be a trivial matter, but, in God’s sight, it was a mighty thing. When you heard it, why did you not say, ‘It is not right for us to speak of this. God forbid! This is a monstrous slander.’ God warns you never to repeat the like of it again, if you are true believers.” (Quran 24:15-17)

Is There a Difference in Prayer (Salah) of Men and Women? (Answered)

This is a question received on the QuranClub Facebook page (my answer is below)
i have a question for you, please it's an earnest request to you for giving me true explanation according to Qura'an and Hadith.
Question: is there any difference of offering salah between men and woman?
If so or not so, can you provide me any proper link showing and explaining the method of offering ''sunna way salah'' for woman?
NB : i have seen two videos showing method of prophetic (sallalahualihi wasalam) way salah.
1. by Honourable Zakir Naik :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkoGRmdS1HA
2.is the link for sunni or shia'a ?!?!?!? OR THE PROPER WAY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id7WRNGCxzQ
please, i will be waiting for your reply as it has become very burning situation for me. i, myself, am searching and researching many websites but finding difference. so i am feeling very much confused.
may allah give you best reward for it. jazakallahu khairan

Answer

Assalamu Alaikum,

The main, fundamental rule is that there is no difference between the salah of men and women, for the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said "Pray as you saw me pray", and this saying is to both men and women, not just men.

So this is the main rule. Everything besides this are just recommendations that some scholars have made so that women follow somewhat stricter rules of modesty, and many respected scholars are against any difference.

For example some scholars have said that a woman in sujood should lower her chest to touch her legs, so that she does not have their backside raised (which makes the shape of her body stand out more). But this is not a necessary recommendation because a woman should either pray at home or in the women's area at the mosque which is behind the men's. So there would be no stranger (non-mahram) men to see a woman in that position, so that the rule is unnecessary.

So if a woman finds herself praying in a situation where a random male may see her body shape due to some of the salah positions, she could try to make some differences to keep more modest, but this is about the larger, general rule of being modest and not limited to salah.

When it comes to salah, if there are no random males looking, a woman should pray exactly like a man (and like the Prophet), since this is what the Prophet said.

Below are good anwers by Shaykh ibn Baaz and Ibn al-Uthaymeen saying that the rule is that there is no difference (they are in Arabic):
http://islamqa.info/ar/ref/38162
http://www.binbaz.org.sa/mat/877

Drawing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Islamic Rulings and Opinions


There are no clear and authentic texts forbidding the depiction of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the Quran or the Sunnah. There are some debatable hadiths that forbid drawing images in general, but many mainstream scholars today consider drawing things to be acceptable in Islam (such as Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, president of Ittihad `Ulama al-Muslimeen - World Union of Islamic Scholars).

There are historic depictions of the Prophet, such as from the Ottoman period, done under the Ottoman Sultans, who were Orthodox Muslims. The Islamic rulings forbidding the depiction of the Prophet come from the last half of the 20th century, from al-Azhar and other institutions, and are all debatable.

The entire issue is about respect. Is it respectful to create drawings of the Prophet or name objects with his name? It is not a 100% clear issue regardless of what some might say, but as a Muslim who wishes to gain the favor of Allah, I'd take the safer road of not depicting him or naming objects with his name.

But, if someone else does it, in my opinion it doesn't necessitate the least bit of attention or condemnation. In Islam, according to the Fiqh al-Awlawiyyat (the Law of Priorities), what is clear and distinct wins over what is unclear and debatable. Kindness and forgiveness are clear and central tenets of Islam, while it is debatable whether depicting the Prophet is forbidden, for this reason the situation requires kindness and forgiveness, not condemnation.

If a person creates an image of the Prophet, he has done something questionable, but people do questionable things all the time. If the person did it with a good intention, then his intention is what counts.

And if the person did it with a bad intention, it should be left to God to deal with him and the Muslims in general should simply avoid and ignore him as the Quran commands when dealing with such people (7:199, 6:68, 28:55).

The Quran doesn't even include any punishment or condemnation for people who make fun of Quranic verses, but simply asks Muslims to avoid and ignore such people.

Those who make a big deal out of people making fun of the Prophet or the Quran haven't understood Islam correctly and are trying to fill an emptiness and purposelessness in their own lives through hating on some random fool. If those people who are so quick to join anti-depiction protests were as quick to help the poor, to go and plant trees, to fix roads, or to read Quran, their countries would have fewer problems.

But since it feels so good to hate and be angry at someone (it makes one forget one's own faults and shortcomings), these people would rather do that instead of planting a tree or cleaning up a road, things that don't give you adrenaline rushes and don't usually get you TV coverage.

Is Paradise Only for Physical Pleasures in Islam?

I heard a university professor criticizing the Islamic Paradise for only being a place of physical pleasures and not having a space for intellectual activities.
He hadn't understood that the Islamic Paradise given to a person is a custom-made world dedicated to the one thus blessed. It is a world made for you, in which you are treated like royalty, in which you have the freedom to do what you love, for ever and ever, without fears, worries and distractions.
In Paradise all your physical needs are taken care of, to give you complete freedom to pursue your dreams.
How many gifted and talented people have wasted years of their lives to take care of irrelevant things like providing their daily meals? This is what Paradise is about; it removes these silly distractions, these millions of little things that in this world cause us grief and prevent us from doing what we love.
If you had the entire world to yourself what would you do with it? Paradise gives you this world. So that you may use your creativity and imagination to do everything, to create everything, to work on everything, that this world's shortcomings prevent you from.
Paradise is everything we wish this world to be. You want world peace? You want a loving family? Amazing friends? Is there a beautiful and sweet moment in your life that you often think of, when everything was just perfect, that you wish could have lasted forever? Paradise is about giving us these things, these moments, and making them last forever, and removing every possible difficulty and flaw.
There are video games I love that I wish I could play with good friends for a long, long time. Another wish I have is to read every (interesting) book ever written. Learn every programming language. Master all the sciences. And to spend an eternity in the Golden Country
, the place that Winston dreams of in Orwell's 1984. Paradise is about giving us these things, without the possibility of losing them. Every person's dreams come true, forever and for eternity.

Why I am not a Salafi

I received an anonymous question on our Islamic Art and Quotes tumblr asking if I am a Salafi Muslim. The answer is: No I am not. Those of them who fear Allah and the last day and always strive to do good are my beloved friends.

I believe that Islam is bigger than Salafism, Sufism, and any other sect or group. The goal of Islam is Allah, and there are many roads to Him SWT.

I don't belong to any group. I call myself Orthodox, meaning that I follow the Quran and the Sunnah, but I don't have any historical allegiances and don't care about the historical rivalries between the various groups.

I am with everyone who loves and fears Allah and works for the Hereafter. My biggest mentors are the prophets, peace be upon them, and I identify most with them, since the Quran is my main source of guidance. Islam is even bigger than the Islam that Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, brought to us. Islam encompasses all true religion. The Quran, for example, calls Prophet Lut and his family "Muslims".

The various groups and sects are tools that the sincere Muslim can use to get closer to Allah. The goal is Allah. Sectarianism distracts from Allah.
Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah ; then He will inform them about what they used to do. [Quran 6:159]
Most sects were created with good intentions. To get closer to Allah. To get closer to true Islam and revive the religion among people. But...good intentions don't guarantee good results. Once you have created a clearly defined group with "us" and "them", all inside the same religion, you have immediately created division and sectarianism.

I love and respect people belonging to various sects and ideologies, sometimes opposing one another. A sincere believer can find the right path regardless of where he comes from and what group he was born into.

Thus, for example, I love and respect all of these people, though often I may disagree with some of them: al-Hasan al-Basri and the rest of the early Salaf; Ibn Taymiyyah; Ibn al-Qayyim; ibn al-Jawzi; Abu Hanifah;  Imam Malik; Imam ash-Shafi`i; Imam Abu Hamed al-Ghazali; Rumi; the Azhari sheikhs Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Muhammad al-Ghazali, and Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraghi; Imam Muhammad Abduh and his students; Imam Sa`eed an-Nursi (from Turkey) and his students; Imam Hasan al-Banna and his students; Sayyid Qutb; Muhammad Qutb; Dr. Ali Shari`ati (from Iran and Shiite, but doesn't hold any of the popular Shiite beliefs that Sunnis dislike), Dr. Nasir Subhani; Ibn al-Uthaymeen, Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, Yasmin Mogahed; Tariq Ramadan; Yasir Qadhi.

What also separates me from Salafism is that I believe the goal of the Sunnah is the Quran, and the goal of the Quran is Allah. The Sunnah is not a goal in itself. The Sunnah is meant to create a fertile environment in which the seeds of the Quran can grow. The Quran is the goal, and arguing and bickering over the Sunnah when ignoring the Quran is completely against everything the Sunnah is for. To me having or not having a beard, for example, is the very least of a Muslim's concerns. Fear Allah and the last day, and do good deeds, this is our concern.

Islam is a matter of the heart. The sects invariably move attention away from the heart to appearances and judging people, is he or she for us or against us?

If a person reads the Quran often, fears Allah and the last day, and always strives to do good, then what right do I have to judge him for belonging or not belonging to a particular sect?

This is not to say that I hold Utopian ideas like love is all we need and regardless of what you do if your heart is good then you're fine. I am not Sufi because it focuses only on particular attributes of Allah and ignores others, to create a beautiful version of Islam, filled with love and kindness, but extremely prone to creating human beings who do not fear Allah the way He deserves to be feared, and who, focusing only on Allah's mercy, forget that His punishment is severe and that they will be judged.

Salafism, on the other hand, is prone to making one forget that Allah is the most kind and most forgiving, and to making one focus only on His punishments and making Allah appear as a hardhearted and exacting micro-manager. It also often demands inhuman amounts of strength and willpower from the person, which can cause desperation and hopelessness. The prophets mentioned in the Quran are a lot more human than the ideal that Salafism seems to ask of us. They cared about the dunya and prayed for it (Prophet Ibrahim and Zakaria praying for children, Yaqub being attached to the love of his son and going blind in crying so often for him, Sulaiman asking to be a king). Many Salafis would look down on you if you show such behaviors, behaviors that the prophets showed. Prophet Ibrahim asked Allah to make Makkah a prosperous city. Some Salafis would say you should be too worried about the Hereafter to care about worldly things. But Prophet Ibrahim cared. And Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of All be upon him, cared so much about the worldly life that his ardent prayers for winning the battle of Badr (a worldly goal) are famous. And when his son or wife died he cried.

Islam doesn't ask us to be automatons worshiping Allah and caring nothing for anything else. Islam tells us to enjoy life's blessings, and strive for both the worldly life and the Hereafter. Islam asks us to unite dream and day (the Hereafter and the worldly life), not to throw away the worldly life.

For this reason to me the Quranic prophets, in their humanity and weakness, are better guided than many of today's Salafis.

True Islam is larger than any sect or group and the smart Muslim will use the good and useful from every sect to get closer to Allah. Salafi literature reminds me not to get lazy in worship, and Sufi literature reminds me, when I fail, not to forget that Allah is most kind and forgiving.

Allah has 99 attributes, many of them seemingly contradictory, and any sect that focuses only on some of His attributes and ignores others is likely to create an inaccurate version of Islam. These sects often work for some people and do a lot of good, but pure Islam itself is better; devoted to serving Allah, focusing on the Quran, too concerned with Allah's judgment to judge others, not hung up on appearances, not concerned with differences but with similarities with others, sincere, forgiving, and non-exclusionary.

Super High Quality (True PDF) Arabic Quran for Kindle, Kindle Fire, iPad and Other Devices


This is a dream that has finally come true alhamdulillah. A vector-based PDF version or the Madinah Mushaf. Vector-based of True PDF means that a verse can be zoomed in infinitely without it losing quality/becoming blurry.
Here is part of a verse zoomed in on an Asus Transformer (10.1 inch screen):


A screenshot on a laptop:
Zoomed in a bit:

Download Links

Old (and my favorite) version

Download here [PDF - 140 megabytes - right click and choose "Save as..." to save on your computer]
This is the version shown in the screenshots above. The text is vector based, but the arabesque (decorations) are non-vector, thus when zoomed in they become blurry. I like this one because this mushaf is the one I've been used to reading all my life. The new one below is a different one, with different calligraphy and verse arrangements.

Newer version

Download here [PDF - 127 megabytes - right click and choose "Save as..." to save on your computer]
The newer version has cleaner text and vector-based border decorations, thus this one is even more "true" PDF than the above one. However as said above, it is not the mushaf that many people are used to. Here is a screenshot, maybe you will like it:

These PDF Mushaf files and this last screenshot were found on this [Arabic] website http://quranmadina.blogspot.com/.

The Quranic Guide to: Attaining God's Mercy


The phrase la'allakum turhamoon, translated as "that you may attain God's mercy" is repeated eight times in the Quran. Looking at these 8 mentions provide a good Quranic guide for attaining the Mercy of Allah SWT, a guide for those who love the Quran and respect its advice and recommendations. Below are the eight mentions in the Quran followed by my analysis.

Surat Al `Imran

And obey Allah and the Messenger that you may attain God's mercy. [Quran 3:132]

Surat al-An`am

And this [Quran] We have bestowed from on high, a blessed one: follow it, then, and be conscious of God, so that you may attain God's mercy. [Quran 6:155]

Surat al-A`raf

Why, do you deem it strange that a tiding from your Sustainer should have come unto you through a man from among yourselves, so that he might warn you, and that you might become conscious of God, and that you may attain God's mercy? [Quran 7:63]
When the Qur'an is recited, listen to it and pay attention that you may attain God's mercy. [Quran 7:204]

Surat An-Noor

Hence, [O believers,] be constant in salah, and give zakah, and obey the Messenger, so that you may attain God's mercy. [Quran 24:56]

Surat An-Naml

Said [Salih to the erring ones]: Why do you seek to hasten the coming upon you of evil instead of hoping for the good? Why do you not, rather, ask God to forgive you your sins, so that you may attain God's mercy? [Quran 27:46]

Surat Ya-Sin

When they are told, "guard yourselves against what is before you and what is behind you, in order that you may attain God's mercy," [they turn away]. [Quran 36:45]

Surat al-Hujurat

The believers are brothers of one another; therefore create reconciliation between your brothers and fear Allah, that you may attain God's mercy. [Quran 49:10]

Analysis

Here are the actions that these verses command us so that we may attain God's mercy:
  • Having taqwa [fear and mindfulness of God and protection of oneself from displeasing God] [3 times]
  • Respecting the Quran and following it [3 times]
  • Obeying the Messenger [SAW] [2 times]
  • Obeying Allah [SWT] [1 time]
  • Making istighfar [praying to God for forgiveness] [1 time]
  • Performing salah [1 time]
  • Giving zakah [1 time]
  • Helping, fixing and improving the relationships between the believers. [1 time]
The numbers add up to more than 8 because many of the verses contain multiple commands. Obeying Allah is mentioned only once even though it is the most important command, maybe because whichever command you follow you are obeying Allah. The command to obey Allah can be considered a reference to every other command in the Quran.

Of note here is the command for islah [helping and improving relationships] between the believers. If you are in need of Allah's mercy (and who isn't?), trying to have an active role in improving people's relationships will inshAllah lead to good results.

In Quran 7:24 above, it is said "when the Quran is recited", which means that the reciter could be anyone, including yourself. The command is to pay attention when the Quran is recited. Which means that when you read Quran and recite Quran, if you do your best to pay attention to your recitation, Allah will, inshAllah look down on you with loving mercy at such a time, be it a small chapter recited during salah. And the best time to recite the Quran is when you are standing in salah, especially at night after the isha prayer, for at such a time you'd be obeying Allah's extremely important command in Surat al-Muzammil that today unfortunately 99% of Muslims feel free to ignore:
O you who are wrapped in your clothing. Spend the night in standing, except for a little. Half of it, or decrease a little from it, or increase a little on it. And recite the Quran in tarteel (in a beautiful manner and without hurry). [Quran 73:1-4]
"The night" in this verse means the period between the `isha prayer and the fajr prayer. Half of the night for me is 5 and a half hours where I'm writing this in Sulaimaniyyah, Iraq in February. When the verse says add a little to it or decrease a little from it, it means either to do this recitation for one third of the night, half of the night, or two thirds, as it becomes clear at the end of the chapter.

According to a hadith from `Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, when this chapter was revealed to the Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, the Prophet and a group of the dedicated believers with him used to stand up in prayer for so long at night that their feet would swell. They weren't sure just how much of the night to stand to please Allah, so they would often end up standing until dawn (since they had no accurate ways of measuring time). This state went on, according to `Aisha, for a whole year until the last verse of the chapter was revealed:
Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. And Allah determines [the extent of] the night and the day. He has known that you [Muslims] will not be able to do it [perfectly] and has turned to you in forgiveness, so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur'an. He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others traveling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah . So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah . It is better and greater in reward. And seek forgiveness of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Quran 73:20]
In this verse Allah's mercy, kindness and understanding is shown. Allah says to "recite what is easy" of the Qur'an. Unfortunately most take this to mean "recite it when you have absolutely nothing else to do." But the verse subtly tells us, those of us who are dedicated to Allah and love His book, which excuses are valid in Allah's eyes: illness, travel, and being engaged in war.

Therefore if you are one of those who are truly dedicated to Allah, I recommend that you make it your goal to carry out this command of dedicating at least one third of the night to reciting the Quran in prayer. Unfortunately excuses are too easy to find to avoid carrying out this command. But we should never forget that an entire chapter of the Quran is dedicated to this one command. And that the elite group of Muslims who were with the prophet took it (very) seriously and carried it out. If we wish to be like them and to be in their ranks (and even compete with them as the Quran commands), we should never ignore this command like most Muslims do. Because we aren't most Muslims. We are [inshAllah and by the grace of Allah] Allah's chosen ones:
Those who listen to what is said and follow the best of it: [for] it is they whom God has graced with His guidance, and it is they who are [truly] people of understanding! [Quran 39:18]
One quick excuse that I have said to myself too often is that "I haven't memorized the entire Quran, I will stand the night in prayer when I finish memorizing it!" [even though I wasn't actively memorizing]. This is forgetting the fact that the chapter was revealed at the earliest days of Islam when little of the Quran was revealed. Therefore what you know of the Quran could possibly more than what many of the Prophet's companions knew at the time, yet they carried out the command.

Therefore to truly carry out this command we should either spend at least one third of the night in salah in which we recite Quran, or we should spend it in memorizing the Quran to make it possible for us to recite it in salah

And for those who don't speak Arabic they should dedicate the night to learning. However as I have learned many times, we shouldn't let secondary goals get in the way of our Quran reading. Therefore whatever you do to make it possible to carry out God's command, you should continue to read Quran so that you can stay close to Allah. You can for example dedicate one third of the night to reading the Quran (in the language you understand) and to reciting the Quran you know in prayer, and another third to learning Arabic or memorizing Quran.

In all of this we shouldn't forget that Allah [SWT] is very kind and merciful and we shouldn't lose hope if we fail sometimes. What's important is to constantly guard ourselves against insincere excuses.

One important note is to not look down on those who don't try to carry out this command. Because as the last verse of the chapter (73:20) says, even at the time of the Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, only "a group" of the believers carried this command out. Those of us who are (or wish to be) the vanguard of the ummah, its intellectuals, those who "listen to what is said and follow the best of it", those who always try to do what's right and good, those are the ones this command is meant for. The vast majority of the population will not be eager believers regardless of how much we wish them to be.
AND [remember:] We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without [an inner] truth; but, behold, the Hour [when this will become clear to all] is indeed yet to come. Hence, forgive [men's failings] with fair forbearance. [Quran 15:85]
Therefore if you wish to help people, do it in a beautiful way and with kindness, without criticism or humiliation. And if this fails then leave them alone in a non-aggressive and beautiful manner as the Quran commands:
and endure with patience whatever people say, and avoid them with a comely avoidance.
And pray for them, but don't say you are praying for them in a passive-aggressive manner, since that's not the attitude of the one who loves and follows Allah's book.

The more knowledge we gain and the closer we get to Allah, the more kind, humble and non-patronizing we should become among people and the more beloved it should make us to them. For the true believer is needless, kind, and giving, and people love those who are like this. If your Islam is stressing your relationships and creating aggression in you toward others, there is probably something wrong with your heart and your understanding of Islam and the Quran.

May Allah guide us and shower His mercy upon us and forgive our sins and errors.

And to Allah all knowledge belongs. Whatever good there is in this, it is from Allah, and whatever bad and wrong from myself.
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