(Some queries of a Muslim Student newly arrived in the US)
Mingling with Friends who Drink
Question: Almost all the people in my hall drink and sometimes I sit with them (maybe because they have assured me that they won't force me to drink). Now, my question is: Am I also doing a sin by sitting with them?
Answer: There is no doubt that the Qur'anleaves no room for taking intoxicants. However, the question of socializing with those who violate this injunction has not been discussed in the Qur'anas such. From the overall picture of Islam, it seems prudent to avoid such company. Yet, there may be situations when it might be against the norms of ethics to cut one's self off from one's society. In an environment where a vice has become pervasive, it is sometimes permissible to regard an evil despicable only in one's heart while fulfilling one's responsibility towards one's society. However, one thing which you should continue doing is inviting other people, that is your friends, to consider your points of view seriously. This invitation must be made with love, understanding and wisdom and never out of hate.
Attitude Towards a Friend Who Drinks
Question: A friend of mine never drank while in Pakistan, but is now drinking. I have quoted the Holy Qur'anto him. What should be my attitude towards him?
Answer: Don't talk to him any further about drinking. Instead, on suitable occasions, talk to him about God. Tell him what He is and what He means to us. If he is able to understand that, he'll ask you how he should stop drinking. But even here, don't pester him. Your attitude towards him should be the attitude of a person who sees his friend moving towards his own destruction. Therefore, your attitude towards him should be of love and concern. To make yourself effective in this regard, you'll have to maintain your ethical superiority at all times in mutual dealings.
Coping with Teasing
Question: Some of the people in my hall go on screaming 'Allah, Allah' whenever they see me just for fun sake -- nothing to offend me or my religion. What should I do about that?
Answer: Rejoice in being persecuted for righteousness' sake. Smile back. Jesus (sws) is reported to have said:
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you for my name's sake, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you.
Remember, in suchsituations the best way to repel some evil hurled at you is to return the favourwith goodness. For that is what will show to all the differencebetween you and your opponent, even to your opponent himself. (Also see the Qur'an41:34).
Resisting a Grave Sin
Question: By God's grace, till this time I have resisted all the temptations, but I am scared that I may succumb to them if they get too great. What should I do to avoid temptation? My room-mate brings drunk girls every weekend to the room. What should I do? I don't want to tell him not to do that because it is his room too. The other day he brought a drunk girl and they went to sleep. I woke up for the Fajr prayer and saw her half hanging from my room-mate's bunk bed. I pulled her down and carried her to my bed which is on the ground and not bunked. She (being drunk and thinking me to be my room-mate tried to do things with me). I left her on my bed and went to sleep on the couch of the kitchen in the hall. Was I in any way at fault?
Answer: The Prophet (sws) of Allah is reported to have said that on the scorching Day of Judgment seven people shall be under a shade. One of these will be a young man who had been tempted by a woman of beauty and position and had said to her: I fear Allah. (Muslim: Kitab al-Zakat)
I congratulate you from the depth of my heart on having achieved this position. The question now is how to maintain it. Contrary to the conception of Christians about morality, Islam wants us not only to 'rejoice in being persecuted for righteousness sake' when the occasion so demands but also to try not to be persecuted. Your immense trial at the moment is not only to refrain from succumbing to temptation but also to avoid situations in which one may be tempted. This is a great trial indeed. My heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you. Trees and plants also serve our Lord. But He wants us to serve Him not only with sincerity but also with wisdom. Careful planning is needed to tackle your problem. The possible solutions can be divided into two categories: short-term and long-term.
i. Try to avoid being in the room when something inappropriate is going on. Try to get yourself busy in your work or in socializing.
ii. Try to find good company and have regular meetings with your good and pious friends. Also, you might like to get in touch with your local Islamic Centreand with the American Muslim Council. You can write to them and explain your need for good friends. I am sure they'll empathize.
iii. Also, you can promise yourself that when the temptation becomes intense you will always get in touch with your close friends before doing any thing to make your individual problem your collective problem. If you have good and pious friends, I am sure they'll be able to put their heads together to work out some solution.
iv. Keep praying to God and offering your salah. Also keep reading the Qur'anregularly, especially the verses which remind us that fornication is a great sin. Also, you might want to fast two or three times a month on weekends or whenever you have the time. During fasting, remind yourself that you are abstaining from food for His sake, and after this manner pray to Him: 'Lord for you I have abstained from this desire (for food). I could not have abstained without the strength you gave me. My Lord I am your humble and frail servant. Give me the strength to abstain from that desire as well, for I fear your wrath and seek your mercy.'
v. One way of sublimating the urge to have sex with a woman is masturbation. Although undesirable for many health reasons (both physical and psychological), there is no Divine directive which categorizes it as a sin.
vi. I know in that society people sometimes take offenceon refusal. At times, they can become quite vindictive. First of all, try not to be alone with a girl, and try avoiding eye contact as much as possible. If someone makes fun of this behaviour, explain gently and solemnly that lowering your eyes is your way of showing respect to a lady as recommended by your religion. If you find yourself alone with a girl who invites you to sin, don't try to offend her by saying anything bad. Instead, gently and firmly explain your reason and walk away to a safer environment where there are other people.
i. First of all, without making a great fuss, you should try to have your room changed. Ideally, a room with a like-minded fellow or, perhaps, an independent room. Furthermore, you should try to get in touch with your local Muslim organisation – you'll probably have one in your college – and try to spend as much time as possible in the company of pious and like-minded people.
Also, when darkness prevails, `the heart that has light sings of the morn'. With wisdom and sagacity, and with courtesy and consideration, keep calling others to your faith. In the fervour of that call, you'll gain strength, for that fervour will not let the light in your own heart fade away and shall make it brighter.
I know you realise that fornication is a grave sin. (See the Qur'an 3:24 and 17:32). Therefore, you must do everything possible to avoid it. If nothing else works, then, in the longer-run, the most effective thing in this regard would be marriage. Now, I know we are talking about something very serious. But so is the Hereafter – a very, very serious matter. The most appropriate way, obviously, would be that you talk to your parents frankly. You might even tell them that you have taken such and such measures, but that you would not be able to hold on for very long. You can tell them that you are grateful for whatever they have done for you in life and for the excellent education they are giving you, but you need their help most in securing your success in the life Hereafter. You can tell them that your success in this regard will be their success and your failure (God forbid) will be their failure, and that there is nothing more important in life than that success.
If all this fails, that is if your parents do not listen, then I would very frankly suggest you to defy them. In that case, you should get in touch with one of these Muslim organisations in the U.S. (you'll definitely have some organisation in your college as well) and marry a girl with similar ideas and conviction.
Perhaps the organisation will help you in meeting a family that is appreciative of your commitment to your religion and willing to support you in your efforts and in your married life.
I know either step would be a big one for you. But, please remember that life is a trial, and in the course of our life there comes a time when it tests our commitment to our claim: 'I bear witness that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger'.
God has ordained that we be of service to our parents to the best of our ability and treat them well. But when this service leads to disobedience to God in matters as grave as fornication, we should disobey them instead1. We should remain sincere to them, keep on serving them and should continue to treat them well, but should remain – first and foremost – servants of our Lord Allah. God be with you.
Question: I read it in the Qur'an (very recently) that many Companions of the Prophet (sws) refused to eat food which was not H~alal, that is not sacrificed by taking God's name. Now, I know that I can't get H~alal meat in my campus. Should I go vegetarian or should I just read the kalmah and eat the meat?
Answer: According to the Qur'an the meat of an animal sacrificed in the name of someone other than Allah and the meat of an animal which is not slaughtered in Allah's name are not H~alal. (see the Qur'an 2:173 and 6:121). Even when taking an animal's life is indispensable for our survival and nourishment, it is only He that gives life who can sanction taking it. And it is only He in whose name life can be sacrificed. This is the Law. Yet, God in His infinite mercy has given us this allowance: if we cannot hold out in hunger, we can eat H~aram(forbidden) food without transgressing the limit or defying Him (see the Qur'an 2:173, 6:145 and 16:110).
What is hunger and what is the limit are subjective questions. One person may be able to hold out longer than another. The general rule is that you should not overburden yourself in areas where God Himself has given an allowance. The Divine law (al-Shari'ah) is based on ease. God has not given this law to make our life difficult. He has given us this law to purify us and to bless us. If you can't even get your normal intake of food and are unable to carry on your work in hunger, you can begin thinking about availing yourself of this allowance. The only thing to remember is that you should not go beyond your need or defy God. Arguments as 'Well, it doesn't matter. Just say the Kalimah and eat your food – and so on' are also a form of defiance.
This is the law and the relevant allowance. But I am certain that you won't have to go to the extreme of waiting for food until you can't go on in your hunger. There must be many alternatives available. A lot of H~alalfood is now available all over the world. Again, if you get in touch with your local Muslim organisation, they'll be able to help. You can also get many canned food items that take no or very little time to prepare. For example, milk, fish, oat meal and beans. Most of this stuff is good food, and a sensible assortment can give you a fairly good diet.
Although the Christians have denied the Divine Law as such, the Jews still follow it as it was revealed to Moses (sws) in the Torah. The Divine Law as revealed to the true Messengers of God has become lenient in Islam, not stricter. Therefore, you can ask for 'Kosher' food as well, which is available almost everywhere in the States. However, beware of the subterfuges of the Jews! They even have 'Kosher' wine. As I have already explained, wine – 'Kosher' or not – or any other form of intoxicants is prohibited in Islam. (By the way, there are non-alcoholic wines which, obviously, are H~alal).
Maybe I am Going Wrong Somewhere ….
Question: I have realised (while reading the Holy Qur'an again) that whoever is a true Muslim is protected by God. Also, a person (a Muslim) was talking to me, and he said that if I were a true Muslim, then these materialistic things would not matter to me and I would, as a true Muslim, be always happy. I, on the other hand, go into depression fits very easily. I feel hollow very often and get upset by a lot of things going around me. My moods have been fluctuating a lot nowadays, going from jolly to very hollow. This has made me undergo a kind of complex of perhaps maybe not being a true Muslim. Maybe I am going wrong somewhere. What should I do?
Answer: I am not aware of any verse of the Qur'an which says that a Muslim by definition is one who can't get depressed. Getting depressed at times is but natural. A Muslim may get depressed on matters different from the ones which may be depressing to a non-Muslim. Perhaps, a non-Muslim might get depressed if he can't find a girl to flirt with. A Muslim, on the other hand, might get depressed even if he commits a minor sin. But his depression is not one borne out of hopelessness. Even in extreme depression, a Muslim never loses hope in the Mercy of His Lord, for he knows that even if he has blundered into sin, his Lord Allah will forgive him if he does not persist in his wrongdoing knowingly.
Question: I have done a lot of things which God would not be happy about. Now that I realize that those things were not as trivial as I thought and do carry a lot of significance in-front of God. I feel bad and guilty. What should I do?
Answer: Although a Muslim should be concerned about every deed of his and should constantly strive for his spiritual advancement, yet his concern should not be a case of 'straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel'. The puritanical attitude of being finical about trivialities while ignoring the real issues is not an Islamic attitude. The true believers avoid big sins (see the Qur'an 42:37 and 53:32) and continually seek the forgiveness of their Lord' (9:112). If your attitude is not of insisting on your sin knowingly (3:135), which insistence can at times eat up all your virtues (2:81), then you should know that your Lord, whose love and care has sustained you since you were a drop of 'mingled water', is immensely kind and gracious to those who believe and put their trust in Him. If you are sincerely trying to avoid sin, He'll replace the blunders you make with the good deeds that are part of a Muslim's everyday life (25:70). He understands all our imperfections and failings, and what He, in His unfathomable mercy, requires of us is not perfection but sincerity. For He knows. And He cares. Therefore, never let your depression after blundering into a sin make you lose heart. Let each mistake be a lesson, and a reason to move ahead with greater fervour. For that is what Tawbah means: returning. Even if a true believer commits a serious sin incidentally, he should remember that the doors of repentance and atonement are always open. If he has wronged someone, he should make the best effort to make amends, and if he has wronged his own soul, he should ask God for forgiveness and make a solemn pledge to restrain himself in future.
If you do not deceive your Lord and turn back to Him, you'll find Him welcoming you with open arms. In this is indeed a reason to rejoice. So, never lose hope and never stop trying. 'The Lord is your shepherd. You shall not want. He shall make you lie down in green pastures: He shall lead you beside the still waters. He shall restore your soul: He shall lead you in the path of righteousness for His name's sake. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear not; for you are with Him. His rod and His staff shall comfort you.'
Question: I want to evaluate myself. How do I do that?
Answer: As far as the five basic tenets of Islam and the injunctions about H~aramfood are concerned, there can be no compromise in any situation except as and when allowed by Islam itself; for example reduced prayer in travel and H~aramfood in unbearable hunger. Similarly, big sins as fornication, theft and murder are to be avoided in all situations. In other matters, try to avoid evil as much as possible without putting so much burden on yourself that you be ultimately bound to commit a greater sin. In these areas, Islam gives a lot of allowance in case of an evil that has pervaded the society. Moving gradually towards the ideal is more natural here.
In ethics and social responsibility, ask yourself: What would the Prophet (sws) have done in this matter? It is he who is our ideal in morality and ethics. Although we can never reach his level, we can use the example of his life to chart out the course of our own. Blessings of Allah be upon him.
I know, in a far off land, practising your religion poses immense difficulties and you are bound to feel lonely. Learn to talk to God. His hotline is Tahajjud – when the world sleeps, wake whenever conveniently possible to open your heart to Him. Learn how to speak to Him through the prayers of the Prophet (sws)2.Train you ear to listen to Him as He speaks through the Qur'an. Then, you'll hear Him talking to you3.
Seek His refuge in your prayer and in your perseverance, in occasional fasting4, and in the study and the propagation of religion5. Let your prayer and perseverance be your strength, your fasting your shield and the knowledge and propagation of your religion your sword. With these, you shall prevail. Insha'Allah.
How to Overcome Depression?
Question: I get depressed very easily and feel hollow. What should I do to overcome this problem?
Answer: In remembrance of God, there is peace of heart. When one remembers God, one also remembers that the purpose of one's life is to serve Him (51:65). Therefore, you must decide about how you are going to use your life in His service. For that you need to follow the Divine law and live in accordance with the principles of ethics and morality. But you also need to do more. The talent, the ability and the initiative that God has given us entail something more. Perhaps something for others. Perhaps something for our religion.
Each Muslim must do something for the propagation of his religion according to his ability and circumstances. If he is a religious scholar, he should strive for the understanding, interpretation and dissemination of religion. If he has some position of authority, he should use that authority to implement the directives of religion. And if he is an ordinary Muslim, he should not only follow and implement religious directives within the confines of his authority but strive to propagate and disseminate his religion.
One way you can do something for the propagation of your religion is to co-operate with scholars working for religion in whom you can trust generally. You can co-operate in many ways: by providing financial assistance to a cause, by helping in raising finances or by contributing personally in understanding and disseminating religion.
You will find that the ardour of your involvement in such activities will rekindle the feeling that you are part of Muhammad's (sws) Ummah and are doing your bit for the revival of its commitment to Islam and for the revival of its lost glory. In that feeling you will find the fervour and the stir that will not let you feel hollow as long as you live.
Flirtation and Love Affairs
Question: A friend of mine has a realtionship with this girl in Pakistan. They have a completely non-physical relationship, but they depend a lot on each other and also express their feelings every now and then. He wants to know if this is wrong or not, and, if it is, how should he cut off with her as there is a lot of emotional dependence involved?
Answer: It is not unnatural to have feelings for a member of the opposite sex. However, there are certain things that must be given consideration in expressing those feelings.
First of all, there should be nothing immoral or indecent in the feelings or their expression. Secondly, there should be nothing against the good norms of society (2:235, especially note the words Qawlan ma'rufan).
Furthermore, there are situations in which it is advisable to abstain from not only a sin but also from activities which may lead to it. In verse 151 of the sixth surah, the words 'Do not go near indecency' also point to this principle.
Moreover, it must be borne in mind that there is a spirit behind every law. In Islam, the underlying spirit in every law pertaining to morality and ethics is the purity of one's soul. This purity is essential if one wants to become a true servant of one's Lord and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The object of the Divine law is to ensure that a man's soul is purged and that its purity is not profaned. Therefore, in following these directives one must make sure that one is not negating the spirit behind the law through subterfuges. Of particular relevance in the Divine directives pertaining to social interaction between men and women are the directives in Surah Nur (24:30 & 31).
One more thing. A Muslim's heart should be filled with remembrance of God and with love for Him. In the absence of this remembrance, it becomes easy for the Satan in our souls to lead us to such subterfuges as negate the spirit of the Divine law, if not its structure.
In the light of what has been said above, your friend should decide for himself whether his attitude and behaviour are appropriate or not. If he feels they are not, then he can explain the whole rationale to his friend, and invite her as well to follow a course of action which, in affording them their mutual pleasure, does not earn them the displeasure of their Lord.
Also, love without loyalty is merely infatuation, if not flirtation. And this 'humour' more often than not proves to be 'dark and portentous' in matters which are no joke: love, relations, family and family values. True love is never afraid of venturing into a commitment.
Unless there is some extraordinary hindrance, your friend should think about marriage. This legal bound keeps the two people involved together 'when they are out of love until they are in love again' and thereby ensures that the sanctity of higher and indispensable ideals as love, relations and family values is not desecrated at the unhallowed hands of base desires.