Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

June 2006
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Our Dialogue

The Plight of Divorced Women
By Adil Salahi

Q. In Western countries, when divorce takes place, the woman takes half the husband’s property. In Islam the woman is left on her own, with nothing to survive on. If she becomes a dependent of her parents or her brothers, she is made to feel herself a burden. She is often ill treated. Few divorcees have a chance of getting married again. Her life is ruined. How can she survive?

A. The entire social system is different in the West, where a woman has to work for her living, throughout her life. Thus, when she gets married, she contributes to the family finances. She shares in paying for the house she and her family live in, and she makes an equal payment to the family budget. As such, it is only fair that she takes half the family assets when the marriage breaks up. Islamic law is made for Islamic society, and applied by a Muslim community whose members know that they are answerable to God for their deeds. In an Islamic society, no woman has to work for her living. Her living expenses are the responsibility of her parents, her husband, or her brothers or other relatives. In this case, she contributes little or nothing to the family finances. How could she claim half the assets if the marriage breaks up? I realise that many Muslim women suffer a great deal as a result of being divorced. But this has nothing to do with Islam. It has much to do with the local culture or traditions.

Take, for example, the case of a divorcee’s second marriage. In some Muslim societies, a divorcee is presumed responsible for the collapse of her marriage. People do not inquire into the case before blaming the woman for the divorce. But this is totally un-Islamic. It is often the case that the man is more to blame for his marriage ending in divorce. Besides, divorce is made lawful by God, so that an unsuccessful marriage is terminated in a way satisfactory to both parties and to their children.

Unfortunately, circumstances and local traditions may get in the way and prevent the proper implementation of Islamic rules. In a poor family, where a man can hardly manage to look after his wife and his own children, he does not want to increase his burden by looking after a divorced sister. In communities like those of the Indian subcontinent, where traditions are borrowed from non-Muslim communities, the marriage of a woman is a financial burden for her parents. When she is divorced, she gets nothing back. The financial loss to her family is huge. Hence, divorce is not looked upon as a case where two people are not compatible. It is a case of wasting life savings. Hence, a woman is expected to stick it out, whatever the situation is, in order not to be the cause of wasting such an amount of money. Hence, tradition has militated against the welfare of divorced women. The answer to all these problems is that Islamic rules are applied in society, in all aspects of life. This ensures fairness for all.

Congregational Prayer and Reciting Fatihah

Q. Could you please explain whether in a congregational prayer, the worshippers must read surah Al-Fatihah in every rak’ah, even when the imam is reading aloud?

A. Scholars differ on the requirement of reading Surah Al-Fatihah by the worshippers in a congregational prayer. There are several views on the subject, with the Shafie school requiring everyone to read it in every rak’ah in all situations, while the Hanafi school not allowing such reading. In between there are other views. Each one of these views has its supporting evidence, and the way the evidence is interpreted leads to such variation. The relevant evidence is composed of one Qur’anic verse and two authentic Hadiths. The verse states: “When the Qur’an is recited, hearken to it, and listen in silence, so that you may be graced with God’s mercy.” (7: 204) The first Hadith states: “No prayer by anyone who does not read Al-Fatihah is valid.” And the other Hadith says: “When a person prays with an imam, the reading by the imam is considered a reading by him.” Without going into the details of how different schools emphasize different aspects of these three statements, I will tell you the view I feel most comfortable with taking all three statements in consid-eration. If the imam is reading in private and the congregation does not hear his recitation, then everyone should read Al-Fatihah in every rak’ah. When the imam reads aloud, then those behind him read Al-Fatihah only if he allows a period of silence for them to read it. If he does not leave this period of silence, they do not read Al-Fatihah, relying on the last statement that considers the reading by the imam sufficient for the entire congregation.

Fighting Against Muslim Armies

Q. What is the responsibility of Muslim soldiers and officers who are with the army of a country where Muslims are only a small minority if their country is in war with a Muslim country?

A. The rule is that one must never face other Muslims in war. The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “When two Muslims face each other with their swords drawn out, both the killer and the killed are in hell.” His companions asked him: “We understand why this applies to the killer, but what about the one who is killed?” The Prophet said: “He was just as keen to kill his opponent.” Needless to say, all efforts should be made to avoid war, but sometimes war is unavoidable. Moreover, there are cases where one party is fighting for justice and is clearly right in its stand. Fighting for that party defending the right and justice is legitimate, even though there are Muslims on the other side. As for other cases when the situation is blurred, one must do his utmost to avoid being party to such a war. One may assert to the authorities in his country that he is a conscientious objector. In some situations, this is enough to assign him to non-combat duties.

The Friday Sermon and Sunnah Prayer

Q. If one arrives in the mosque at the time when the Friday sermon is already in progress, does he offer two rak’ahs in Sunnah prayer first before sitting down to listen?

A. Schools of Fiqh or jurisprudence differ on this question. Some recommend that when we enter the mosque on Friday, we offer two voluntary rak’ahs of prayer as greeting to the mosque and then sit down to listen to the sermon.

Others, notably Imam Malik, require such a person to sit down and listen without offering any prayer. Both have valid evidence supporting their views. Therefore, one should follow the view with which he is more comfortable. After all, these two rak’ahs are voluntary, and if one does not offer them, one does not do any wrong. If one is keen to offer them for the reward, but reluctant to do so because of the objection often expressed, one may offer instead two extra rak’ahs after one finishes Friday prayer. There is no restriction on the number of voluntary rak’ahs one may offer after the obligatory prayer is over.

Zakah and Money Lost in Investment

Q. I gave a relative a large sum of money to join in an investment project. It is now three years and the project has not started. For the last two years, every time I approached him to return the money he said that he could not do that, and the project would start soon. Do I have to pay zakah on this amount that now appears frozen? How about zakah on a loan the borrower intends to repay, but has not done so for several years?

A. Both cases are viewed in the same way. In the second case, the money was advanced as a straightforward loan, but several years have passed without any indication of when the loan was going to be repaid. While in the other case, the money was advanced as an investment, but it now appears to be totally inaccessible. In both cases, the owner need not pay zakah annually on the amounts advanced. When the loan is repaid, whether tomorrow or in a few years’ time, zakah becomes payable immediately, for one year only. Suppose that the borrower gives you your money back in two years from now. He will have held the money for five years, but upon repayment, you pay zakah for the entire amount repaid for one year only. This is due on receipt of the money. It should not wait until your zakah date.

The case is different if the borrower acknowledges the debt, is known to have the money, or even has more, and he is worthy of trust to the extent that the lender has no doubt that at any time he demands repayment, the lender will give him his money back. In this situation, the borrower is holding the money by the lender’s consent, but it remains available to the lender. This case is different because of the availability of the money. In this case, zakah is payable every year, on the lender’s zakah date.

The case of the investment is similar, because you gave the money to your relative and now you are unsure of having any access to it. From what you say, it appears that you have real difficulty in laying your hand on your money. Therefore, only when you are sure that the money is available to you that you need to pay zakah.

Having said that, may I add a word of advice? You need to tie up this arrangement in a satisfactory way as soon as possible. You should have your relative signing proper documents acknowledging your rights and how you can get your money back. Otherwise, you may be in for a real shock should the money be lost.

Marriage and a Woman's Consent

Q. I have selected a husband for my daughter, but she says she will only accept him to please us. She prefers one of her fellow students at university. From every aspect, her choice is far inferior to the other man. She keeps on reminding me that I cannot get her married without her full consent. This situation is causing us problems because my relatives are advising me to get her married to the man I have chosen without delay. May I ask whether it is appropriate for a Muslim girl to remain unmarried?

A. Let us clear the last point first: There is nothing wrong with a woman remaining single throughout her life. Some women simply do not like to get married, and there is no harm in that. They should be helped to lead the life of their choice, so that they are not made dependent on others throughout their lives. Such a woman may pursue her education so as to have a career as a teacher, nurse, doctor, or whatever may suit her talent and ability.

Your daughter is right when she says that you must not force her into a marriage without her consent. A woman complained to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that her father had married her to a cousin of his without her consent. The Prophet nullified the marriage. When he had done that, she said to the Prophet: “Now I accept what my father has done, but I only wanted to make it clear to women that men have no way over them.”

From the Islamic point of view, you can refuse to accept the man she has chosen if you have concerns about his being compatible with her, or that he is socially unacceptable. With the description you have given me, you can easily refuse him.

Therefore, you should tell your daughter that while you will not force her into a marriage she does not like, you would not accept the man she suggests because he is unsuitable. In order not to aggravate things, you should tell her your grounds for refusing him. When she realises that your objections to him are really valid, she may well see your point. The important thing is that she should feel that she is not being forced to do what she dislikes.

Organ Donation in Islam
By Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi

What does Islam say about organ donation during life or after death. Is this allowed in Islam?

This question is very much debated by the jurists in the past two decades. The Supreme Council of ‘Ulama in Riyadh (in their resolution no. 99 dated 6 Dhul Qi’dah 1402) has allowed both organ donation and organ transplantation in the case of necessity.

The organ can be taken from the body of a living person with his/her consent and approval and also from the body of a dead person. In the case of a living person, the jurists have stipulated that this donation should not deprive him/her of vital organs. It should also not cause risk to his/her normal life.

The Fiqh Academy of the Muslim World League, Makkah also allowed organ donation and transplantation in its 8th session held between 28, Rabi’ul Thani- 7 Jamadi Awwal 1405.

The Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah, during the year 1408, and the Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Sayyed At-Tantawi also allowed the use of the body organs of a person who has died in an accident, if the necessity requires the use of any organ to cure a patient, provided that a competent and trustworthy Muslim physician makes this decision.

It is important to note that most of the jurists have only allowed the donation of the organs. They do not allow the sale of human organs. Their position is that the sale of human organs violates the rules of the dignity and honour of the human being, and so it would be haram in that case.

Some jurists suggest that because people have become too materialistic and it may not be possible to find a free organ, under necessity one can purchase the organs, but a Muslim should never sell his/her organs.

(Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, is former president of the Islamic Society of North America)