Today's Reminder

May 27, 2022 | Shawwal 25, 1443

Living The Quran

Man's Striving
Al-Najm (The Star) Sura 53: Verses 39-41

"Man can have nothing but what he strives for. The fruit of his striving will soon come into sight. The he will be rewarded with a full recompense."

The above verse boost the morale of not only Muslims but of all mankind, provided they have a clear view of life and champion a sound cause. For all committed people the above passage carries an inspiring message. It is especially relevant for institutions engaged in training younger generations, for it contains an elaborate moral code and set of guidelines for the young.

Allah has promised man that he will obtain success in his striving. It is emphasized in the Quran that man's efforts will bear fruit. As to the time-scale of gathering the fruit of one's striving, the Quran hints that this may take a very long time. Man is thus told not to despair if he does not gain immediate results. Man is to be credited for much in the world - the vast empires, the rise of various civilizations, the spread and advancement of knowledge, and intellectuals appearing on the public scene. All these are manifestations of man's striving.

Compiled From:
"Guidance from the Holy Quran" - Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, pp. 229, 230

From Issue: 566 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Spousal Obedience

At no point does the Quran use the word taah (obedience) in characterizing the marital relationship. Rather, marriage is characterized as a relationship of companionship and compassion (mawaddah wa rahmah), not a relationship between a superior and inferior.

The primary role in determinations of spousal obedience is played by traditions attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), the most notable of these being the one in which the Prophet reportedly says, "It is not lawful for anyone to prostrate to anyone. But if I would have ordered any person to prostrate to another, I would have commanded wives to prostrate to their husbands because of the enormity of the rights of husbands over their wives." This tradition is narrated in a variety of forms and through a variety of transmissions by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Nasai, and Ibn Hibban.

According to scholars of hadith, the authenticity of these traditions ranges from daif (weak) to hasan gharib (good). All of them are ahadi hadith (reports of singular transmissions) not reaching the level of tawatur (reports of several transmissions). While the physical act of prostration to the husband is not permitted, the moral substance of prostration does apply through such traditions. The clear implication of the reports is that a wife owes her husband, by virtue of him being a husband, a heavy debt.

There is no question that these traditions have grave theological, moral, and social consequences. They do not only support determinations mandating obedience to husbands, but they also contribute to the general denigration of the moral status of women. Regardless of the jargon generated by apologists about how Islam liberated and honoured women, these traditions subjugate a woman's honour to the will of men.

If a Muslim's conscience is disturbed, the least that would be theologically expected from thinking beings who carry the burden of free will, accountability and God's trust, is to take a reflective pause, and ask: Can I, consistently with my faith and understanding of God and God's message, believe that God's Prophet is primarily responsible for this tradition?

Perhaps the most notable thing about the prostration traditions is that they are structurally peculiar. In most reports, the Prophet is asked whether it is permissible to prostrate to him, the Prophet. To this he is supposed to have answered, "No! But actually, if a human could prostrate to a human it would be the wife to a husband." Such a fundamentally revolutionary view is expressed out of context and in a rather casual way. Prophet volunteers this injunction although that is not what is being asked. In most versions, the one doing the asking is a man and the response is given to a man or men. Although the traditions have a profound impact upon women, this advice is supposed to be enunciated before an audience of men. This is quite a casual way of delivering advice that will have profound social and theological implications upon women in particular.

Furthermore, the Quran is rather vigilant in asserting the unshared, undivided, and non-contingent supremacy of God. This assertion formed the basis for the Islamic dogma maintaining that submission to God necessarily means non-submission to anyone else. Consequently, any tradition that draws an association between the status of the Prophet, or the pleasure of God, and the status or pleasure of a human being is inherently suspect. Under all circumstances, it is reasonable to claim that if a tradition has serious theological, moral, and social implications, it should meet a heavy burden of proof before it can be relied upon. But even more, if a tradition is suspect because of a contextual or structural defect, among other reasons, then there should be a presumption against its authenticity, and the evidence supporting the authenticity of the tradition should be conclusive.

If one adopts the proportionality inquiry advocated here, the conscientious-pause would lead one, at a minimum, to refuse to rely on traditions such as the prostration and submission tradition in legal or theological matters. This does not necessarily mean that one is conclusively deciding that the tradition is not authentic. Rather, one is only deciding that the tradition cannot be conclusively said to originate primarily from the Prophet. Since one suspends, perhaps indefinitely, reliance on such traditions, one does not need to affirmatively decide whether they are authentic or not. All one needs to decide is that they are not good enough to rely on, and, therefore, we do not even reach a faith-based determination.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl

From Issue: 1003 [Read original issue]



We must learn to say 'we' again. Just as I can say 'I' and still belong to myself, we must be able to say 'we' whilst acknowledging our common sense of belonging. Some would like us to sit down at a table and discuss the best way of saying 'we' and of respecting 'one another'. And yet it is quite possible that the method itself is what is preventing us from getting the results we want.

Theories and debates about 'the sense of belonging' actually make it impossible for us to feel that we belong. We are talking about a feeling: we come to feel that we belong because we live that feeling, because we experience it. The common law protects us, but it is common causes that allow us to respect and love one another (by acting together 'for' some cause and not just 'against' a threat). A common commitment to respect for human dignity and saving the planet, or to the struggle against poverty, discrimination, every type of racism, and to promote the arts, the sciences, sports and culture, responsibility and creativity: these are the best ways of developing a real conviviality that is both lived and effective.

We become subjects who can say 'I' when we have discovered the meaning of our personal projects: we become 'we', a community or a society when we can decide upon a common collective project. In most circumstances, it is not dialogue between human subjects that changes the way they see others; it is the awareness that they are on the same path, the same road and have the same aspirations. When our consciousness acknowledges that we are travelling the same road, it has already half-opened the door to the heart: we always have a little love for those who share our hopes. 'We' exist by the sides of roads that lead to the same goals.

Compiled From:
"The Quest for Meaning" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 48-49

From Issue: 754 [Read original issue]