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Today's Reminder

September 16, 2019 | Muharram 16, 1441

Understanding The Quran

Wise Plan
Al-Fajr (The Dawn) Chapter 89: Verses 1-5

"By the dawn, by the ten nights, by that which is even and that which is odd, by the night as it journeys on! Is there not in that an oath for a man of sense?"

Much difference of opinion has been expressed by the commentators in the commentary of these verses, so much so that in respect of "the even and the odd" there are as many as 36 different views. In some traditions the commentary of these verses has also been attributed to the Prophet (upon whom be peace), but the fact is that no commentary is confirmed from him, otherwise it was not possible that anyone from among the Companions, their immediate successors, and later commentators would have dared to determine the meaning of these verses by himself after the commentary by the Prophet.

All these things point to the reality that an all-Powerful Sustainer is ruling over this universe and nothing of what He is doing is absurd, purposeless, or lacking wisdom; on the contrary, a wise plan clearly underlies whatever He does. In His world one will never see that while it is night, the midday sun should suddenly appear overhead, or that the moon should appear one evening in the shape of the crescent and be followed next evening by the full moon, or that the night, when it falls, should never come to an end, but should become perpetual, or that there should be no system in the alternation of the day and night so that one could keep a record of the dates and know what month was passing, what was the date, on what date a particular work is to begin, and when it is to finish, what are the dates of the summer season and what of the rainy or winter season.

Now, if a person living in the world of such a Wise, Omnipotent and All-Mighty Creator denies the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, he inevitably commits one of the two errors: either he is a denier of His powers and thinks that though He has the power to create the universe with such matchless order and discipline, He is powerless to recreate man and mete out rewards and punishments to him or he denies His wisdom and knowledge and thinks that although He has created man with intellect and powers in the world, He will neither ever call him to account as to how he used his intellect and his powers, nor will reward him for his good deeds, nor punish him for his evil deeds. One who believes in either, is foolish to say the least.

Compiled From:
"Towards Understanding the Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi

From Issue: 606 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Caution

Jabir ibn Abdullah reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Secure your doors, tie up your waterskins, turn over your vessels, cover up your dishes, and put off your lights. Satan does not open a secured door, untie a knot, or uncover a dish. However, a mouse could set a house on fire'. [Bukhari, Tirmidhi]

This hadith provides very useful instructions which remain valid for most people. The first instruction is to secure our doors before going to sleep. Today, in most places, this goes without saying because burglary is very common. But it need not be so. There are places in many parts of the world where people are safe from burglars, either because they live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else, or where social conditions provide enough security. Yet one may not be safe from other creatures finding their way into homes causing people some harm when they are asleep. Hence, securing our doors provides the necessary standard of safety.

Today, people have water supplied into their homes by pipes and tanks, where it is safe from ordinary contamination. However, in times past, people had to make sure that they had sufficient water for their drinking and home use. Hence, they stored it in containers, some types of which were made of hide or some other material. It is such containers, and indeed any other type, that the Prophet wanted to make sure were tightened so as to prevent any harmful object or insect from falling into them. The same applies to any plate, pot or saucepan where food is kept. While today we leave much of our food in fridges, there remains around the house much food that may be left exposed. The important thing in this hadith is not to leave food exposed overnight. Some insect might get into it or dust and harmful particles might drop on it, making it a cause of harm instead of a source of nourishment.

Putting off the light is the next injunction in this hadith, particularly when we talk about oil lamps and similar lights. Such a lamp may be blown over by wind, or by a cat, and it could then cause a fire. This is what the Prophet warns against when he mentions that a mouse could set a house on fire. What attracts a mouse is the wick of a lamp, and it could pull it and cause the lamp to fall over, spilling its oil and causing a fire. Hence, the Prophet repeatedly warned against leaving lamps on at night, or in a position where a mouse could pull at it.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi

From Issue: 1055 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Male Conscience

Women have always been present among the ranks of the ulama, but their role has almost always been invisible. Of the inestimable library of books produced by scholars of the Shariah before the twentieth century, no more than a handful issue from the hands of women. As one fourteenth-century (male) jurist observed with more pride than disapproval, it was surely the Shariah’s emphasis on female modesty and protecting women’s honour that prevented them from a greater role in scholarship, though he notes that many of the greatest scholars would issue fatwas with their learned wives’ or daughters’ signatures attached in approval. Women won respect as Sufi ascetics, and continue to be sought out as transmitters of Hadiths and the Quran to this day. But the urge to keep them from the pulpit has only grown stronger as Muslim communities and Islam’s global religious universe feel ever more encroached upon by outsiders. Muslims seek instinctively to guard a sense of authentic tradition by staking out the ground of women’s bodies and voices.

Clearly, woman-led, mixed-congregation prayers are not established practice in the Islamic tradition. But they are not unprecedented or as controversial as many think. The Hadith of Umm Waraqa proves that the Prophet commanded at least one woman to lead a mixed congregation in prayer. A woman-led Friday prayer, with the sermon delivered by a woman, is clearly a novelty. But none of the ulama’s objections to it rest on any firm, direct scriptural evidence, and solutions exist to the concerns they raise. Muslims today thus find themselves faced with a question: in the absence of opposing evidence from scripture, does simply adhering to how things have always been done justify denying half of the population the right to public religious leadership? It is revealingly plain that if this issue did not involve the knot of gender and power, the evidence for permitting it would carry the day without controversy.

That fact casts light on a dark and unworthy place in the male conscience. A humbling reminder of this is found in the life of Ibn Taymiyya, a learned and conservative Hanbali don but also an iconoclast unintimidated by mainstream censure. He used to admit how impressed he was by one Fatima bint Abbas (d. 1315), a female Hanbali scholar who had mastered the greatest works of law and took to the pulpits of Damascus mosques to harangue and inspire a sinful public with her preaching. Despite his respect for her, Ibn Taymiyya recalled that he had marked reservations about her speaking in the mosque pulpit. He intended to put a stop to it. Then the Prophet came to him in a dream. ‘This is a righteous woman,’ the Messenger of God counselled him. The inimitable scholar, who had stood unperturbed before sultans and had smashed idols, held his tongue.

Compiled From:
"Misquoting Muhammad" - Jonathan A.C. Brown, pp. 197-199

From Issue: 867 [Read original issue]