The Philosophy of Tayammum (Dry Ablution)

Question: What is the logic behind Tayammum for it really does not clean you?

Answer: In Islam, each directive has a form and a spirit. The form is its outward manifestation and the spirit its inner one. The form is dependent on external circumstances, whereas the spirit is not and only requires a person's sincere will. In ordinary circumstances, a directive is required to be carried out keeping in consideration both the form and the spirit. However, whenever it is not possible to carry out the directive in its required form (which as pointed out above is dependent on certain variables), Islam wants the directive to be carried out in some reduced or replaced form so that the spirit part can be kept alive. Consequently, if a person is not able to pray while standing he has been allowed to pray while sitting or lying down so that the spirit of the prayer is kept alive.

Tayammumwhen wudu is not possible should also be understood keeping in view this principle. It is meant to keep alive the spirit behind the directive of wudu. Of course it does not clean a person; however, it does make him pure in his heart if he knows its real philosophy.

Soil and Tayammum

Question: Is clean soil the requirement for Tayammum or can the hands be touched on any clean surface? What if no soil is available? Is one supposed to rub the dust on his face and hands?

Answer: Clean soil or dust is the requirement of Tayammum. Dust can be found on walls, tables and other surfaces.

It is not necessary to rub the dust on your face or hands. After rubbing your hands with dust you can blow it away and then do masah. This is because Tayammum is just a symbolic replacement of the real ways of attaining purity: wudu and ghusl. Ammar Ibn Yasir while recounting one of his travels in which he did Tayammum says:

Then I rolled over in the soil [and offered my prayer]. When I mentioned this before the Prophet (sws) he said: It was sufficient if you had just done this: The Prophet (sws) touched the ground and then blew away the dust from his hands and then rubbed them on his face and arms up to the elbows.(Abu Da`ud; Kitabu'l Taharah)

A Verse of Surah Tahrim

Question: I am having difficulties in understanding the following verse of Surah Tahrim:

And remember when the Prophet disclosed a confidentail matter to one of his wives. So when she disclosed it [to another] and Allah made it known to him, he informed part of it [to her] and abstained from a part. Then when he told her, she said: Who told you this?He replied: The all-knower, the all-aware [Allah] has told me. (66:3)

The verse seems to be referring to an incident. I have read a few entirely different verions of this incident in the various commentaries of the Qur'an. Please explain.

Answer: To understand any verse of the Qur'an, it is necessary to appreciate that it is not a disjointed collection of verses. It is a coherent book which has a context and every verse must be interpreted with reference to its context. One aspect of the coherence of the Qur'an is that generally all the surahs of the Qur'an form adjacent pairs which are complementary in nature. Surahs Talaq and Tahrim (nos 65 & 66) is one such pair with regard to their subject matter.

In Surah Taghabun (64:14-16), the surah which precedes these two surahs, it is pointed out that a person's family can become a great source of trial for him; therefore, he must remain very conscious in their affairs. In the next twosurahs (nos 65 & 66), some delicate aspects of this issue are discussed. In Surah Talaq (65) a Muslim is instructed about the right attitude in observing the limits of Allah in situations when he is overcome with hatred for his wife, while in Surah Tahrim (66) a Muslim is guided about the right attitude in observing the limits of Allah in situations when he is overcome with love for his wife.

Now I come to initial verses of Surah Tahrim (66). The first five verses which form the opening section of the surah can be analyzed thus:

VERSES 1-2:The Prophet (sws) is checked in a particular matter in which though his motivating force was fairly admirable yet since he is to become an example for the whole Ummah, any virtuous deed which crosses the limits set by Allah is not permissible. The Prophet (sws) might be doing something to console and please his wives and he might be showing sympathy to their perfectly human weaknesses, yet owing to his position as a Prophet (sws) he must remain within the bounds set by Allah even in the smallest of affairs.

VERSES 3-5:The pious wives of the Prophet (sws) are checked in a matter in which something said by the Prophet (sws) to a particular wife was disclosed by her to another wife, though in an atmosphere of mutual trust. However, since they too are to become an example for all women of the Ummah, even a small thing which crosses the limits set by Allah cannot be tolerated. The higher the position and status of a person, the higher the extent of his accountability.

In other words, in the verse you have referred to (verse 3), the teaching which emerges for the believers is that their wives must be the true confidants of their husbands (as referred to in 4:34) and must always keep the secrets which have been entrusted to them. In this regard, the Prophet's wives should be even more careful in observing this directive since they have to set an example.

As far as the actual incident which is referred to in this verses is concerned, there is nothing which can be said with certainty. Also, there is no need to go after the details of an incident which the Qur'an itself has left alone. The verses present a complete guidance to Muslims in a particular affair and following it is only what is required of them.

Why Should Men head a Family?

Question: According to the Qur'an, husbands are the guardians of their wives. Why is that so? Why should they head a family?

Answer: Men and women are the two building blocks of the smallest unit of the society: the family. The Almighty has made them such that they complement one another. In other words, they are not duplicates of one another; they are different from each other. By complement is meant that they complete certain voids present in each other. This also is precisely why they need one another to form a family. The Qur'an says that for a healthy society, both sexes should acknowledge each other's inborn qualities and characteristics and not become jealous:

And in no way covet those things in which Allah has bestowed you His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: Men shall be given a share from what they earn and women shall be given a share from what they earn, and ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah has full knowledge of all things. (4:32)

In other words, what the Qur'an is implying here is that the real sphere of competition is not natural abilities for they have been bestowed by the Almighty; it is the sphere in which one uses these abilities to earn for one's self some reward in the Hereafter in which men and women should strive and compete with each other.

After spelling out the correct attitude in this regard, the Qur'an, goes on to say:

Men are the guardians of women because Allah has given one superiority over the other and because they [--- men ---] support them from their means. (4:34)

According to this verse, men are more suited to head a family because of the fact that they are physically and temperamentally more suited. This suitability has been ingrained in their nature by the Almighty. Their physical strength and mental disposition make them more appropriate of the two to carry out this responsibility. The word qawwam (guardian) combines in it the concepts of physical protection and moral responsibility.

The second reason pointed out by this verse for this choice is that on a man lies the responsibility of earning for his wife and children. It is but natural for one who financially maintains and looks after the individuals entrusted to him to be at the helm of their affairs. In this regard, however, it must remain clear that Islam does not forbid women to earn a living. It has only freed them from the responsibility of earning, which lies upon men. It also needs to be understood that the verse does not say that the one among the husband or wife who supports the family should become the head;. husbands, whether their wives earn or not, are liable for this responsibility. A women may earn if she likes or if some need arises, but since she has not been entrusted with this duty she has not been given the governing position in the family.

The verse, it should remain in consideration, very clearly states that men's superiority to women is not absolute; it is only relative and confined to certain spheres. Consequently, there are certain spheres in which women by nature -- physical, physiological as well as psychological -- are far superior to men and much more suitable to do certain tasks.

The Right to Divorce

Question: Is the right of divorce granted to a woman as printed in her marriage form acceptable to the Shari'ah? If not, please state the reasons.

Answer: The Qur'an explicitly states that it is the husband who has the right to divorce:

In his hands, is the tie of marriage. (2:237)

Women, however, can seek divorce if they want to.

This prerogative, sense and reason demand, should go to the head of the family. Since, according to theQur'an, it is the husband who is the head of a family, therefore, he has been given this right. In other words, this right is not "gender specific" it is "authority specific": whoever is entrusted with the authority of being the head should possess this right. Had women been more suitable to head a family, they would have been given this right.

The statement in the marriage form which grants the wife the right to divorce therefore seems against the directives of Islam.

If the method of Divorce is against the Shari`ah?

Question: If divorce between a woman and a man has not taken place according toShari'ah (the man has given three divorces in one go), then what status will such a divorce hold?

Answer: As a principle, all cases of divorce which take place against the Shari'ah must be brought before the court. It is up to the judge to give a ruling in them after hearing all the relevant details. Only he is the competent authority to decide the fates of cases which violate the Shari'ah. There may be cases in which he imposes the divorce sentence and there may be others in which he does not do so and still others in which he gives some other ruling -- all depending upon the circumstances.

Adoption in Islam

Question: I am working on a presentation on the issue of adoption. I need to find out the stand Islam takes on this issue. Please advise.

Answer: To adopt a child is a very commendable thing to do. Islam does not prohibit adoption in any way. In this regard, two courses can be adopted:

a) To adopt a child during his suckling age so that he can drink the milk of the mother who has adopted him. In this case, the child will be her foster-son and there will be no difference between him and the mother's real children in any manner. He will possess the same rights in all affairs (eg inheritance) as the real children possess.

b) To adopt a child when he is past his suckling age. In this case, he of course will not be the son of the parents who have adopted him in the legal sense. He will be called by the name of his previous father. The parents who have adopted him can of course address him as "son". The child will consequently not inherit their wealth after them, unless of course they make a will in his favour.


Question: Is a person "genetically compelled" to be homosexual. Is it a punishable offence in Islam?. Some of my friends are homosexuals. How should I interact with them? Should I quit meeting them?

Answer: Homosexuality is a sexual deviation that has existed since antiquity. Male homosexuality was found in ancient Greece from where it was transmitted to the Persians and the Romans. The Prophet Lot's (sws) nation as a whole was afflicted with this malady as mentioned in the Qur'an (See for example:Surahs Aa`raf, Hud and Naml). In the Judaic tradition, it is an abomination punishable by death. There is no punishment for this deviation in the Shari`ah revealed to the Prophet (sws) Muhammad. An Islamic state, however, can legislate in this regard, if required.

Authorities have presented a number of theories to explain the cause of this aberration. Whatever may be the causes, one thing seems certain from the Qur'an: It is not a genetic disorder. A person's own free will leads to him to it and it is his own free will which can lead him out.

People who are the victims of this deviation are generally of two types: Those who want to do away with this addiction and those who have no intention to do so.

The first category needs sympathy and support which includes treatment like psychotherapy. Consequently, they should be extended help in whatever way it is possible. The second category needs sparks from the fire of reformation which kindles in every believers heart. One should find ways and means to positively influence such people. However, there may be circumstances in which the only remedy is breaking ties with them. The decision depends on the variables of a given situation and one must judge for himself or herself as to what he or she should ultimately do in this regard.

Fake Qur'anic Verses on the Internet

Question: A particular site on the net is displaying fake Qur'anic verses. We are organizing a movement against this blasphemy. We would like to have your support. Can you send a note of disapproval at this address ... ?

Answer: I am sorry, I do not agree with your approach in handling this issue. In my opinion, the best way to deal with it is to ignore it. People who open their mouths against a book as established as the Qur'an only belittle their own selves. It has borne the tough test of fourteen centuries and even the strongest of its adversaries are not in a position to deny its unimpeachable Divine nature. Giving importance to non-issues unnecessarily inflates their status and wastes a lot of time, money and energy as well. There are several other issues to which Muslims should divert their attention.

Taking Allah's Name while Slaughtering

Question: Not taking Allah's name while slaughtering an animal is haram – right! I have see many Muslims here in America eating non-halal food in restaurants .They claim it is mukruh (undesirable) and not haram. Is that correct ? Does the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) specify a particular way of slaughtering? Also what are the reasons of taking Allah's name while slaughtering an animal?

Answer: According to the Qur'an, animals which are not slaughtered while taking Allah's name are forbidden:

Eat not on which Allah's name has not been pronounced. (6:121)

In other words, taken Allah's name before slaughtering an animal is a positive requirement. Therefore, the meat of animals which are slaughtered while disregarding this practice bears the label of prohibition in the Islamic Shari`ah.

Yes, the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) specifies a particular way of slaughtering. It is called "Tadhkiyah" by the Qur'an. In this particular way, animals as goats and sheep are slaughtered through their jugular veins and are not killed instantaneously by cutting the bead of the neck. This method keeps intact the connection between the heart and the brain so that every drop of blood is drained out of the slain animal. This purifies the meat from the contamination of blood -- and achieving purity, we know, is the objective of every directive of Islam.

The underlying reasons in taking Allah's name before sacrificing an animal can be summed up as:

1. As a principle, Muslims have been directed to take Allah's name before every task, routine or work they do. This actually is an acknowledgement of the Almighty's favours and as such is a worthy expression of gratitude.

2. The sanctity a life possesses requires that even an animal be sacrificed only with the permission of the Almighty who is the Creator of life. It is only Allah who can give us this right, and, therefore, as a reminder of this fact, it is necessary to take His name when the life of an animal is taken.

3. This practice closes the gateway to polytheism. Those who are aware of the history of various religions know that animal sacrifice is deeply linked to idol worship. To please various deities, polytheists used to sacrifice them. Taking Allah's name eliminates these unwarranted practices as well.

Some Questions about the Prayer

Question: Is the hearing of A^dhana condition for saying our prayer? If for some reason one says his prayer at home? Should one wait for the sound of A^dhanor one can say his prayer based on the timings he can find in the prayer calendar available from market?

Answer: Hearing the sound of the A^dhanis not a condition for saying the prayer. The prayer calendar can be consulted for prayer timings and once the time for a particular prayer begins you can offer it.

The purpose of the A^dhanis just to signal the time of congregational prayers in a mosque.

Question: In case of the Jum`ah Prayer, offering two fard rak`ats complete our prayer or saying two or four nafal rak`ats in addition are also obligatory?

Answer: The obligatory part of the Jum'ah prayer is only the khutbah (given after the second A^dhan) and the two fard rak`ats. The rest is all optional.

Question: How much distance should one keep while passing in front of a person saying his prayer? In many cases we finish our prayer early but people behind us still have to complete theirs. If they are not interrupted, can we proceed?

Answer: The point on the praying surface at which a person offers sajdah is the limit beyond which one should not pass. This distance is normally equal to the width of a saff (row). Passing at a distance greater than this is allowed. However, it should be done only if there is no other alternative since this might distract people who are praying.

Question: If at some occasion, a person finds it difficult to get up for the Tahajjud prayer, can he say it with the Isha prayer?

Answer: The Prophet (sws) has allowed Muslims for whom it is difficult to get up at night and say the Tahajjud prayer to say it with the Isha prayer. The three witrs Muslims generally offer in their Isha prayer is actually the Tahajjud prayer.

It should be kept in mind that the Isha prayer said by the Prophet (sws) throughout his life consisted of four obligatory and two optional rak`ats only.

Question: Owing to some illness or a similar situation, can one say the Qasr prayer?

Answer: Qasrprayer is only allowed during travel. If a person is sick or unwell he should say his prayer in whatever form possible (sitting, lying down, or even by mere gestures).

Question: What kind of clothes or general appearance are desirable while saying our prayer. The other day my brother was saying his prayer while wearing only a vest and a shalwar. Since he is usually in this dress while at home in summer, is it permissible?

Answer: The clothes a person generally regards as decent are the ones in which he should say his prayer. Therefore, it is up to your brother to decide in this regard.

Question: If someone's wudu breaks while saying a congregational prayer, what should one do?

Answer: He should came out of the congregation and rejoin it after doing wudu. If it is not possible owing to some reason, he should sit at his place and wait till the prayer is finished.

Question: What are the things which nullifies one's prayer?.

Answer: The only thing stated in the Shari`ah which nullifies the prayer is the breaking of one's wudu.

Question: If one joins a congregational prayer some time late and the front row is full and the next row in which he has to stand is empty, can one continue or should he pat at back of someone in front row to join him in the rear one.

Answer: He should motion to a person of the front row to join him.

Question: What is the right way of offering the sajdah-i-sahaw (sajdah of mistake): Offering two sajdahs before salaam or before darud? What if one commits a mistake while saying a prayer in congregation?

Answer: Both ways are correct.

In congregational prayers, a mistake done by any of the followers does not require any sajdah-i-sahaw. Only if the imam commits a mistake should all the followers offer sajdah-i-sahaw in the leadership of the imam.

Question: What is the right way of indicating to the Imam that he has committed a mistake in prayer.

Answer: Women should pat their knees and men should say subhanallah.