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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 13-02 No:146    *   FEBRUARY 1999/ RAMADAN 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

OUR DIALOGUE


Anniversaries
Two Witnesses
Centre of Earth
Suicide or Predetermined Death
One Indian end Life every 7 minutes


Anniversaries

By Abdullah Tariq

Q. What is the Islamic way of celebrating the following events? Death anniversaries, birth days, marriage anniversaries. Shab-e-Meraj, Shab-e-Barat and Shab-e-Qadar.

Please also write about the various Namaz said during all the three important nights.

Faiz Siddiqui; Nasik.

Ans. None of the above occasions call for celebration as far as Islam is concerned. Of the above, birthdays, Shab-e-Bara-at and Shab-e-Qad’r have some sort of precedence for observance (not celebration) of instructions. Death anniversaries or Shab-e-Meraj have none of these. I shall take them up one by one.

Death Anniversaries

No observance was reported on death anniversary of any person, in the life time of the Prophet (Pbuh) or his companions in the early era. However after the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, his family members started the practice of his annual remembrance by recalling the events of the Karbala tragedy. The new practice was a political move to remind people of the excesses of the dynastic rule and to motivate them to overthrow the unjust regimes and establish the caliphate of Ahl-e-Baith. There is no harm in observing anniversaries of pious people to remember their good deeds for our inspiration and offering Eissal-e-sawab for them. The remembrance may be observed by organising meetings for the purpose. The procedure for Eisaal-e-Sawab is to perform any deed, like recitation of Qur’an or feeding or clothing the needy and praying afterwards that the reward thereof be transferred to the deceased. It must be remembered that if the holding of any such anniversary or fixation of any set procedure is considered a part of obligation of Deen, it will become Bid’at (a new thing in religion), which is a sin.

Birthdays

The prevalent practice of celebrating birthdays has no place in Deen. However if there are no anti-Islamic practices like immoral songs, dances and flirtation mixed gatherings in such functions, they may not be branded as against Islam. The Prophet (Pbuh) observed his birthday (not date) by keeping fast on every Monday. Therefore the best way of observing a birthday, which conforms to the Islamic ethics in any way is to keep fast on that day, devoting that day in remembrance of the Hereafter.

Marriage Anniversaries

There is not even a semblance of a precedence of marriage anniversaries in the lives of the Prophet (Pbuh) and his companions. If, however, the day is observed by performing good deeds like alms-giving and making a pledge to serve the Deen unitedly, there is no harm in observing it. My mentor, Maulana Shams Naved Usmani, always greated the newly weds with the following blessing: The Barat (marriage procession) has not reached home yet. It is still on the way. Make ye a pledge that both of you will not rest till you reach together your home, which is paradise. I like to remember his words on my marriage anniversary.

Shab-e-Me’raj

There is not a single authentic tradition, verifying the exact date of the Me’raj night. Scholars differ in fixation of the date. It is generally believed by the masses that Me’raj took place on 27th Rajab of the 10th year of Prophet-hood but it does not stand scrutiny. It is accepted unanimously that Me’raj occurred after the demise of the Prophet’s wife Hazrat Khadija. It is also known that Hazrat Khadija expired in the month of Sha’ban of the 10th year of Prophet-hood. Therefore, the Grand Ascension could not have taken place in the month of Rajab. Some scholars contend that it happened in the 5th year of Prophet-hood as the events related to Me’raj have been mentioned in Surah Najam which was revealed in the 5th year. Scholars also have other varied opinions. We have no conclusive proof in favour of any particular date or even a particular year. How can the Me’raj night, then be observed, when there is no confirmation of a definite date.

Shab-e-Bara’at

Bara’at means pardon or absolution. In a weak narration of Tirmizi, it is reported that on the night of 15th Sha’ban, Hazrat Ayesha woke-up and did not find the Prophet (Pbuh) at home. She came out of the house searching for him and found him in the graveyard of Madina. There, the Prophet (Pbuh) told her that the Lord, on that night granted pardon of as many sins as the number of hairs on the sheep of Bani Kal’b ( a tribe of shepherds). A number of logical questions are posed on the above narration and the answers thereof are not satisfactory. Anyhow in the absence of conclusive proof of the narration being false, there is no harm in observing ‘The Night of Forgiveness’, by visiting graveyards to ask forgiveness for the dead and by praying in the night for one’s own forgiveness. It may be remembered that one is not granted remission unless he truly resolves to stay away from the acts of disobedience in future. Another prescribed way to seek forgiveness of Allah is to forgive other human beings for their faults against you.

Shab-e-Qad’r

The night falls on any one of the odd nights of the last 1/3rd of Ramadan. These are the nights of 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th of Ramadan. These are very valuable nights and no believer should miss them as the fate of mankind for the next one year is decreed in any one of these nights. Since, the Qur’an was revealed on this night, you should recite and ponder over the meaning of Qur’an on these nights. Moreover, saying of Salat and pray as much as you can for your own forgiveness and well being and also the well being of others.

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Two Witnesses

Q.i. The number 786 denotes Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim. How do these particular digits correlate with it.

ii) For verifying any particular action why are two woman witnesses required, whereas for men only one witness is sufficient? Is it not a discrimination against women?

Anjum Parvin; Allahabad

Ans. i) Numerology assigns a number to every alphabet. In Arabic system of numerology, the sum of the numbers assigned to all the alphabets of Bismillah., is supposed to be 786. Its detailed analysis and other queries related to 786 have been dealt with earlier on two occasions in Islamic Voice.

ii) The witness of two women is not always considered equivalent to one man’s witness.

Narration of Hadith is one of the most crucial and important areas of Deen. Upon the reliability of narration depends the right and wrong, Halal and Haram and other most important decisions of our Fiqh. In this department, the witness of men and women are alike. A very large number of Hadiths have reached us on the authority of Hazrat Ayesha and other women. It was never asked of Hazrat Ayesha or other ladies to bring in support of their statements another woman. A single woman’s witness is not considered sufficient only in those matters where she is susceptible to unjust pressures because of being physically weaker and dependant over others in many ways. The Qur’an has asked for the witness of two women in lieu of one man, only in one circumstance, the writing down of deeds of debt or commercial contracts involving debts. Monetary gain or loss is one area where people slip most in the matters of Deen. Of the five pillars of Islam, the most evaded and tampered with is Zakat.

People abide by their words till it comes to the financial gain or loss. Here they tend to falter most. The lure of monetary profit is the biggest corrupter of mankind. The sighting of moon for the advent of Ramadan or celebration of Eid may be accepted upon the statement of one reliable witness but when it comes to standing witness for agreement deeds of financial transactions involving debts, a single male witness is not considered sufficient. At least two male witnesses or one male and two female witnesses are required. The relevant verse of Qur’an is the following; “O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must fear Allah, his Lord, and diminish not anything of what he owes. But if the debtor is of poor understanding, or weak, or is unable to dictate for himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (the two women) errs, the other can remind her.. save when it is a present trade which you carry out on the spot among yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it down. But take witness whenever you make a commercial contract...” (2:282)

Applying the above principle, the Fiq’h scholars have in some other select cases where the woman is susceptible to outside pressure, decided that two female witnesses are required in place of one male witness.

Please note that if it were a general rule to equate two women witnesses for one man, four females would have been required in lieu of two males. But it is not so. Allah has prescribed that at least one male witness is necessary (in such particular contracts). It is not discrimination against women, but knowing the susceptibilities of women in a particular circumstance, He has ordained what is best for us. A reason is also mentioned in the above verse for the need of two women witnesses. One may err (due to unjust pressures) but if there are two of them the other may reassure her and save her from erring.

In a different case in Qur’an, when witnesses are required against an adulteress, no distinction is made between the male and female witnesses. Four witnesses are needed, be they men or women (Qur’an 4:15)

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Centre of Earth

Q. I read in a magazine that Makkah is not only a centre of Muslims but also is the centre of earth itself. But earth has spherical shape, so is it possible for a centre to be on its surface?

Habeeb K; Trivandrum.

Ans. Can you locate the centre of India on its map? I am sure you can, if you are an expert in geography and mathematics. If you are asked to mark the centre of a rectangular hockey field, you will do it easily without calling it impossible. Is not the hockey field, a miniature part of the spherical earth? Why do you mark the centre of the hockey field on its surface when it is a segment of a sphere? The centre of a piece of land, whose longitude and latitude are given, can be ascertained. You mark it on the surface. Similarly, when Makkah is called the navel of the earth, you are required to consider only the surface of the earth rather than computing the centre of the spherical earth.

There, however, is a problem. Computation of the centre of the surface of a spherical segment is no problem but how can there be a centre of the surface of the whole sphere? I came across this problem more man a decade ago when I was deliberating upon 2:143 of Qur’an, which reads; “Thus we have made you a Wasat Ummah...” Wasat in this verse is taken to mean ‘just’. This is one meaning of the word. Wasat also means ‘central’. With this meaning, the verse will read; “Thus we have made you a central nation...” Immediately it struck upon me that the Ka’abah is called the navel of the earth. Even the ancient Vedas of India had declared; Nabha Prathivviya Ilaaspad, which translates as ‘The Lord’s place at the navel of earth. Is this navel, the life-line, at the centre in the true geographical sense also? Then I faced the question. “How can a centre of an spherical surface be fixed? I remembered the Lord of the east and west in Qur’an and started thinking over the concept of east and west of a spherical surface in space which is continuously revolving. Why is it that we always place Japan in the east and America in west, when the earth is revolving? If east and west can be fixed, the centre can also be fixed. Japan is located in east and America in west because we have cut open the globe at a particular longitude and then spread it out in the form of an Atlas. Why was it that the globe was cut open at that particular line and not anywhere else to form a flat map? I could not solve the problem and would be highly obliged if a geography scholar could help me understand it. Anyway, leaving it at that I took a world map, as it is and drew two diagonals to locate the centre. It lay in Arabia but not in Makkah. I was sure that I was overlooking something and then it struck. The earth is revolving on its axis, which is 12 degrees tilted to its perpendicular axis through the two poles. I shifted the diagonals accordingly and lo! The centre of the earth’s surface lies exactly at Makkah.

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Suicide or Predetermined Death

By Adil Salahi

Q. It is an absolutely true belief that Allah has predetermined the death of every creature, its time, place and how it effected. Keeping this in mind, it follows, as I argued with a friend of mine, that the term "suicide" is incorrect. When a person shoots, stabs or hangs himself it is not his action that kills him. It is Allah that causes him to die. What is your view of my argument?

Ans. Allah has predetermined the time and place of everyone's death as well as how and by what means it is effected. Nothing can change what Allah has predetermined unless He Himself chooses to do so. Moreover, Allah has kept the knowledge of the time of death He has appointed for everyone of His creatures totally to Himself. He informs the Angel of Death of such time when He pleases.

There are numerous ways of how people meet with their death. Some die in war, others have accidents and still others die of illness. Many die when old age has consumed all their strength. Some die in infancy, some in youth, others in middle age while a fourth group attains a very old age before they die. There is no way any person can tell when or where or how he or she will die.

Having said that we have to admit that much in this world takes place as a result of the law of cause and effect. When something falls in water, it gets wet; when we throw a piece of glass on the floor, it breaks; when a certain virus attacks the human body, it produces certain symptoms of illness; when a man is shot in his heart or head, he dies.

What we have to understand in this context is that the law of cause and effect operates by Allah's will. It is, therefore, part of what He has determined, or, if you like, predetermined for human life. If we take the example of a napkin getting wet when it is thrown in water, we say that it gets wet by Allah's will. If it is not thrown in water, it remains dry. This also happens by Allah's will. Whether it gets wet or remains dry, therefore, depends on what man does with it. His action is the cause which results in the napkin either getting wet or remaining dry. It is we who choose what to do with the napkin. This applies to everything over which we have a choice. Our freedom of actions is extended over a very wide area indeed. It is because of this freedom of choice which Allah has given us that we are held accountable for what we do. If we could not choose, it would not be just that we should be held responsible for our actions. Allah is the most just of judges. It follows that He will not pass a judgement on us over that in which we have no say.

Bearing this in mind, let us ask ourselves; Why has Islam legislated capital punishment for murder? If the victim would have died anyway at this particular time, and if it is Allah's will that he would meet with his death through a gunshot or a stab with a knife or any other weapon used for his murder, then his killer was merely a tool of effecting Allah's will. Why is his action punishable by death? There are several points to be considered here. First, regardless of what may have happened to the victim, the fact that a murderer strikes his victim with whatever weapon he chooses, with the intention of killing him, merits that punishment. By so doing, he commits a crime against the basic rights of life which is enjoyed by every human being. Secondly, his action is the result of personal choice. There is nothing to compel him to take his weapon and strike his victim. That he does of his own accord. Hence, he must be punished. Thirdly the victim's death is the effect of the action of his assailant.

This invites the question; What would have happened if the murderer did not do the action which caused the death of his victims? The answer is that we do not know for certain. We live and die by Allah's will. Whether a person lives or dies depends on what Allah has predetermined. It may be that he has predetermined that the victim would live forty years if he is shot by his murderer and he would live for sixty years if he is not. Allah's knowledge, however, is perfect and absolute. He knows before He even creates us what we will do at every moment in time. He does not wait for a man to fire his gun in order to determine that the shot will hit someone and he will die. He knows that before hand. His knowledge, however, is not a dictate. If it was, He would not have held us responsible for what we do.

This is in line with the Hadith "The Prophet says: 'He who likes to be granted increase in his income and his life to be prolonged, should maintain good relationship with his kinsfolk." (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood). How does kindness to one's relatives prolong one's life? It is an increase in what the Angel of Death is informed. Allah may tell him that the life of a particular person is sixty if he severs his relations with his kinsfolk. If he is kind to them, his life will be increased to seventy. Allah knows before hand what this person will do with his kinsfolk. Hence, the increase is real as far as we and the Angel of Death are concerned. The extra ten years in that person's life are dependent on what he does with his relatives. As far as Allah's knowledge is concerned, there is nothing that can be added to it. He knows whether the person will be kind to his relatives, and He knows how long he will live, even before he is born.

The case of suicide is the same. If a person shoots himself in his head or his heart, he dies. He is punishable for his action. If he does not hold the gun at his head and fire that shot, he would not die by that bullet. Perhaps he would have died at the same time by some other cause, but it would not be his own doing. It is for this reason that Allah says in a Qudsi Hadith; "My servant has affronted me by taking his own life and I therefore, have banned him from entering heaven." There can be no greater punishment than that. Allah would not have meted out that punishment to anyone unless it is commensurate with the crime. Here the crime is the fact that a person, exercising his freedom of choice, consciously takes steps to end his life. It does not matter whether his life would have ended any way at that particular moment. The fact that he holds a gun to shoot himself or jumps from a very high building, or ties a heavy weight to his legs and jumps into the sea or stabs himself with a sharp weapon is a great crime against Allah's right to give and end life. The Prophet (Pbuh) tells us that a person who kills himself will remain in hell for ever, doing the same act by which he ended his life. Would you imagine that Allah's absolute justice would have required such punishment if that person was only executing Allah's will by killing himself?

Usual arguments are based on the technicality of the timing of death, and that the person who killed himself would have died anyway and at that particular moment even if he did not lift a finger to kill himself. That may be true, but it is his action which caused his death. That is Allah's predetermined law. He, however, has taken the step which caused his death and he is, therefore, held responsible for that action which is known in human language as "suicide".

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One Indian end Life every 7 minutes

Bangalore, Nov 14 : One Indian commits suicide every seven minutes, 80,000 in a year. A majority of them are below 30.

These statistics prompted speakers at a symposium, organised by the Jayanagar Citizens Awareness Forum, to explain the phenomenon.

Lawyer C.H. Hanumantharaya said the attempt to end one's life was punishable under law. The constitution gives citizens the right to live, but not to end one's life. He said suicide was cowardice.

Dr. Parthasarathy, additional professor at NIMHANS, was of the opinion that intensely emotional people and those who were always tense were prone to suicide. Other emotions that drive one to suicide could be isolation, hopelessness, guilt and uncontrollable anger. Unstable life-styles, alcohol and drug abuse too promote suicidal tendencies.

"Suicide is considered to be a cry for help, which says 'I cannot cope any more', he said. He said that, in most cases, persons attempting suicide would have already told somebody about his or her feelings, but it often goes unnoticed or is rejected.

Improving support from relatives and friends and good counselling can help prevent suicides. Parthasrathy called for the implementation of decision-making, creative thinking communication, self-awareness, interpersonal relationship skills and other personality development programmes in schools to educate children and adolescents.

Humorist Y M N Murthy blamed society, saying there was no more humanity in it. This leads to depression, helplessness and drives people to suicide. He called on people to make efforts to understand others problems. He coined a new tip; Be broad-minded when things are going right, it is not permanent. Be bold when things are going wrong, even that is not permanent. The speakers called for the setting up of a cell that offers telephonic counselling to suicide-prone people. ENS Indian Express, 16/11/98