Monday, June 26, 2006

A Muslim's Love Story

Growing up as a Muslim in a multiracial or multi-religious community often brings one face to face with an important point in life when it comes to deciding on a life partner. Having been brought up exposed to other cultures and religions, one may easily develop friendships and relationships with non-Muslims which come into the equation when it comes to matrimony. The decision may not only be a matter of love between a man and a woman but also the relationship of a man or a woman with God.

I feel compelled to post this story by a woman when she had to make one of the most important decisions of her life. May it serve as a guide when one has to make one's own decision.

By Mehrun Siraj

From The Star

I grew up in the minority Muslim community of secular Singapore. My teacher father and social worker mother were both social activists and leaders of the community. I consider myself fortunate that because of my mixed parentage, my religious education was a combination of the traditional method of learning about Islam and the broader approach of a convert.

So we had an Ustazah coming to the house to teach us to read the Quran and perform the Solat in the right manner. My mother’s family was strict about performing the five daily prayers right on time and in carrying out all the other obligations imposed on Muslims.

My better understanding of the religion, however, came from my father who was the epitome of Islamic ideals. He emphasized the values that Islam expected of its followers – integrity, diligence, patience, compassion, charity, and the importance of amanah – what we are entrusted with and our duties to discharge that trust in accordance with Allah’s teachings.

I learnt and absolutely believe that the Quran is the Word of God, meant as a guide to mankind for all times and for all places. To me, the Quran is the anchor that prevents the ship of society from being buffeted by the winds of change in human behaviour resulting from a refusal to obey God’s prescriptions for human conduct.

From my constant reading of a paperback copy of Pickthall’s translation of the Quran while I was growing up, I was able to quote in English, verses which were to help me through life’s difficult times. Sadly, despite several forays into intensive Arabic courses, I am still unable to quote the Arabic text.

Surrounded as I was by people who personified Islamic values, it was inevitable that I develop a strong faith. The first test of my faith was when the question of marriage came up. I had been dating a Hindu classmate and under Islamic Law a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man.

For a valid Muslim marriage, my intended had to convert to Islam. Perhaps this is why many of my Muslim friends will not date non-Muslim men – to avoid this difficult situation. Our situation was made even more difficult because we were presented with a choice.

We were in Singapore and the Women’s Charter allows a civil marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Such a marriage would be valid by Singapore law but not according to Islam.

The Islamic Law on capacity to marry is codified from verse 2:221 of the Quran:

“Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe ?

Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe ?”

Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s commentary of this verse explains: “If religion is at all a real influence in life to both parties or to either party, a difference in this vital matter must affect the lives of both more profoundly than differences of birth, race, language or position in life. It is therefore only right that the parties to be married should have the same spiritual outlook. If two persons love each other, their outlook in the highest things of life must be the same.” That is the traditional view.

There are those who advocate an amendment to the law, arguing that the Quran should be interpreted contextually –relate the text to its socio-historical context and then relate it to the present.

I have done that with the verse above but I am unable to identify the change in society that justifies a shift from the traditional interpretation.

The argument that women today are better educated, economically independent and more mobile does not rebut Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s explanation.

Has anyone studied mixed marriages where only the wife is Muslim? What is the effect on the spirituality of the woman, the upbringing of the children and the general pattern of their lives?

Such studies would be more relevant for consideration than the other reasons that have been advanced.

For example, we are told that other Muslim countries have made the changes and their action hailed as a progressive step forward in guaranteeing Human Rights for Muslim women. Shouldn’t we think about the impact of such changes before blindly following them?

I hear the call to amend the relevant domestic laws so that women can have equal rights with men in relation to the family and thus enable Malaysia to withdraw her reservation to Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Muslims can subscribe to the theory of the universality of Human Rights but only to the extent that it does not conflict with clearly stated principles in the Quran. We cannot reject Quranic verses just to bring ourselves in line with UN Conventions and the practice in other parts of the world.

Should the fear of being labelled “backward” push us into reforming our Islamic laws? Shouldn’t the fear of incurring Allah’s wrath be a more important consideration in our deliberations?

Thirty five years ago, I could not see any reason for going against the Word of God, whatever the law of the land provided, and today, I am still unable to find the justification for rejecting the Quranic injunction.

So what does one do when the person one loves refuses to convert to Islam? My advice to everyone in that situation has always been the same – break up and go your separate ways. I have been asked how I can be so heartless when Islam itself is not heartless.

Unfortunately, I have not found any verse that says it is all right to go against the teachings of the Quran for the sake of someone you love. No matter how much we may love a fellow human being, we must love Allah even more. And that, I guess, is the bottom line – how much do we love our God?

Those who believe know that Allah will give them what is best for them, even if it is not what they want. For me, it was a happy ending.

The only love in my life had been attracted to Islam from his school days in Penang when he watched Anwar Fazal’s family going to the mosque for Friday prayers in their “furry” Pakistani caps (as he called them). His knowledge and belief increased as he read all the books on Islam in my father’s vast collection during the six years of our courtship, so when the time came, we had an akad nikah in secular Singapore.

  • Now retired, the writer has served as a Professor, an Advocate and Solicitor, a Consultant for UN agencies, a Commissioner of Human Rights and an NGO activist.
  • Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    Be Careful About Swearing On Holy Books

    Comment by SHAH A.DADAMEAH

    From The Sunday Star 18thJune 2006

    PERHAPS Matthias Chang had taken a cue from International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, who made her infamous teary oath on the Quran over the AP issue last July.

    The former political secretary to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, however, went further.

    He got a stack of holy books, including the Quran and the Bible, to swear upon these religious texts that he was not involved in businesses in the country and abroad.

    There was no provocation from anyone to drive him to do that.

    I doubt if even Dr Mahathir, who has a good religious upbringing and a great tolerance for other faiths, approves of such an act.

    Like the Muslims, I am sure followers of the other faiths also frowned on the way their religious books had been used.

    Among the Muslims, the Quran is a revered text of Allah’s commands to the ummah on managing their families and governments, making judicial decisions, doing business, becoming socially accepted and providing a host of practical and spiritual guidelines to the Islamic way of life.

    And there are certain protocols to be adhered to when handling the Quran, as even young Muslims learning their first alphabets know.

    The children are taught that the Quran is not like any other textbook or file that you carry under your armpit or lumped together with other schoolbooks.

    When you see the children going to their Quran nurseries, you see them carrying the Quran over their head or carrying it diligently in their right hand.

    The Quran is laid over a rehal (which, thankfully, Rafidah did), or over a pillow or a mat, or any layer that can shield the Holy Book from any suspected unclean surface.

    In Muslim homes, it is placed in a shelf or showcase of its own – normally at high locations – to project its revered status.

    Furthermore, before handling a Quran, the faithful must first perform the ablution (wudhu’), the cleansing ritual to absolve oneself from negative or unclean thoughts and to focus only on the act of worship.

    And then, before taking an oath, he has to recite a preamble in the name of Allah and His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad.

    Needless to say, even good Muslims are careful when they have to swear on the Quran, for whatever reason. It is not as simple as just placing a hand on the holy book and saying, “I’ll be damned if I am telling a lie.”

    Admittedly, I am quite naive about the protocols used by followers of other faiths when handling their holy scriptures but I dare say they would agree that Chang’s action – which he chose to perform only in front of the Chinese press and the foreign media – was in bad taste.

    His timing, too, was embarrassingly poor as it came at a time when the ulamas were being criticised over the issue of kongsi raya, which has since been resolved after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said they were merely social events and had no religious significance.

    Chang’s move then, only serves to fuel the notion among the ulamas that the Islamic lifestyle is in danger of being usurped by elements of liberalism and pluralism.

    For half-a-decade, Malaysians of different races, faiths and cultural backgrounds seem to be getting on well together. Socially and in business partnerships, their relationship has been successful.

    In a world plagued with prejudices, suspicions and back-stabbings, these elements have diminished in Malaysia and the country is a shining example of a rich melting pot where unity is found in diversity. Let us continue to live like that.

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Datuk Seri Harussani - If they do not want to follow, we can't do anything. We are not the ones ruling the country.

    The ulama’s call for the Government to review practices such as "Kongsi Raya" celebrations and open house to check the erosion of the faith of Muslims has sparked an interesting debate(see Saturday's post). Most of us has called for more light to be shed on the issue. In the following interview from the New Sunday Times Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, chairman of the working committee of the Ulama Conference 2006, tells M. Husairy Othman why the practices contradict the syarak law.

    Q:What did you actually say in your speech at the close of the Ulama Conference 2006 in Ipoh on Tuesday?

    A: I relayed the collective decision reached by the National Fatwa Council that Muslims cannot conspire or join in the celebration of the festivals of other religions. They can only celebrate Islamic festivities.

    Q: Is it all right for Muslims to visit their non-Muslim friends during such festivals?

    A: Yes, but not for the purpose of celebrating that particular day.

    Since we have a multi-racial population and live next to each other in the same neighbourhood (it is permissible for Muslims) to attend functions which we have been invited to. We are merely fulfilling the invitation, not celebrating the festival.

    Q: What about open house held at state and national levels? Is it "haram"?

    A: Yes. This should not be nationalised. Even in China, it (Chinese New Year) has not been nationalised. In several (Christian) countries abroad, it (Christmas) has not been nationalised.

    If the Prime Minister or Menteri Besar wants to hold open house during Hari Raya, it should not be a problem. When our (non-Muslim) neighbours hold open house, we can go on the basis of friendship.

    Q: What about Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim’s statement that national-level open house is good for society in line with efforts to promote Bangsa Malaysia?

    A: We can promote Bangsa Malaysia in other ways such as during the National Day celebrations. Invite all Malaysians to come on that day and make the pledge to protect and defend the country.

    But then again, on that day, the majority of the crowd on the field at midnight are mostly Malays and the same goes for those seen at the field the next morning.

    All should attend, but what we have seen are only Malays. Others do not celebrate apart from those holding high ranks or posts.

    This is quite disappointing. Why are we so adamant in celebrating the festivals of others when they do not do the same?

    Q: What about Dr Rais’ statement that ulama should make an official statement to the Government on the matter and substantiate their views with concrete findings?

    A: We have handed over our findings (on the "Kongsi Raya" and open house issues) to the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) back in 2004 to be forwarded to the Government, but this was not done.

    We reached the decision collectively, it was not my decision. You can see for yourself that during national-level Christmas or Chinese New Year celebrations, 80 per cent of the crowd were Malays. It would seem that only the Malays are celebrating these festivals.

    Q: Can you comment on the statement by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz that "Kongsi Raya" functions will not erode the faith of Muslims?

    A: Hopefully, (those who) talk about akidah (faith) are well versed in such areas. Even during Prophet Muhammad’s time, God had already made it clear that there are only two celebrations for Muslims — Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Korban.

    If we were to add to this, it would mean that we have added on to our syariat (Islamic law), which is "haram".

    Hence, not everyone should talk about faith or belief. One should do so only when it is supported by the relevant nas (quotations from the Quran).

    We are talking based on fatwa (Islamic ruling) issued since the time of Saidina Umar Al-Khattab.

    The question is: to accommodate all this, should we gamble away our akidah? Islam has never forbidden us to mix with those of other religions, we can do so provided we don’t gamble away our akidah.

    Q: What about Dr Rais’ statement that the call for these celebrations to be reviewed was not based on academic or religious research, but on sentiment?

    A: We based our findings on Islamic laws, not on sentiment. I do not have any interest but my responsibility.

    Our responsibility is to explain akidah to the public. We did not talk according to our nafsu (desires) but based on concrete reasons and studies which have been made and practised since the time of Prophet Muhammad’s friends.

    Q: Isn’t this ruling against racial harmony?

    A: Islam has never asked us to make enemies. Have we ever forbidden anyone from going to temples?

    It is "haram" in Islam for Muslims to prevent others from practising their religious beliefs. It is even "haram" to mock them.

    Q: Dr Rais’ ministry will continue carrying out such celebrations. What do you have to say about this?

    A: It is up to him. We have already stated the truth and we have advised Muslims against (attending) them.

    Q: What if the Government rejects the findings?

    A: It’s up to them. Many Muslims have rejected (the truth). For instance, there are those who consume alcohol knowing full well that it is "haram" to do so.

    Q: What would the next step be then for the National Fatwa Council?

    A: What can we do? We only give advice. If they do not want to follow, we can't do anything. We are not the ones ruling the country.

    Q: Can Muslims hold open house during Hari Raya and invite non-Muslims over?

    A: Yes. We are merely inviting them over for food and drinks. The first person to come to my house during Hari Raya after prayers would be my neighbour who is an Indian.

    Q: Can Muslims give ang pow or presents to the children of their hosts during such visits?

    A: No. That would mean that you are sharing their celebration. It is all right if they give your children ang pow or presents as you are the guests.

    It is also all right for you to give their children duit raya of say RM2 or RM3 when they come over to your house during Hari Raya.

    Q: Is not giving duit raya haram as you would be emulating the customs or traditions of the Chinese. After all we are not supposed to "share"?

    A: No. This does not concern religion. It is just to make the children happy.

    Q: If Umno, a Muslim party, decides to hold only Hari Raya open house at state and national levels, will this be all right?

    A: There’s no need for it. The Menteri Besar’s open house would suffice.

    There’s no need to hold at national level. The Prime Minister’s open house is attended by people of all races and religion.

    Let the Chinese organise their own open house and the Indians organise theirs. There’s no need to hold it at state or national level.

    Q: Let’s say that Hari Raya and Deepavali fall on the same day. Is it wrong for the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) as a Muslim and the Works Minister (Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu) as a Hindu to hold a joint open house?

    A: Yes. It would still be considered as kongsi or sharing the celebration of other religions.

    Inside The Kaaba

    The small, cubed building known as the Kaaba may not rival skyscrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on history and human beings is unmatched. The Kaaba is the building towards which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) over 1400 years ago.

    The Kaaba

    The Size of the Kaaba:

    The current height of the Kaaba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet.
    The inside room of the Kaaba is 13x9 meters. The Kaaba's walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where people perform Tawaf.

    The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished.

    Plan of the Kaaba

    Cutout Diagram Showing Interior

    What is inside the Kaaba?

    Description 1

    Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), had the opportunity to go inside the Kaaba in October 1998.
    He described the following features:

    There are two pillars inside (others report 3 pillars)
    There is a table on the side to put items like perfume
    There are two lantern-type lamps hanging from the ceiling
    The space can accommodate about 50 people
    There are no electric lights inside
    The walls and floors are of marble
    There are no windows inside
    There is only one door
    The upper inside walls of the kaaba were covered with some kind of curtain with the Kalima written on it.

    Description 2

    On January 18, 2003, Don Brown (Rahmatullah), the political and economic officer at the American Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, joined a group of Muslim diplomats resident in Saudi Arabia to perform the ritual ceremony of washing the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. This was the first time an American diplomat had ever set foot inside the Kaaba, and Brown, an American Muslim, was deeply honored to have been included with his fellow Muslim diplomats for the event.

    The visitors were led to the interior of the Kaaba, which Brown described as a simple but elegant rectangular, windowless room.

    Floored with cool white marble, he said the building is immaculate and mostly hollow, except for three massive floor-to-ceiling Burmese teak wood columns with gilt footings.

    Off-white marble covers the walls up to about two meters above the floor, above which is a finely brocaded green silk (almost exactly like the black silk Kiswa Cloth that covers the Kaaba’s exterior, but without the exquisite gold embroidery) covering reaching up the walls and the entire ceiling.

    In addition, Arabic-inscribed marble plaques are set into the walls inside at eye-level, describing renovations made by previous custodians of the two Holy Mosques, according to Brown.

    Hanging on a rod between the three columns are dozens of antiques, mostly gold dishes, cups, and containers donated over the centuries.

    The Kaaba interior is a unique place in the world for Muslims in that one may pray in any direction and still be facing the Kaaba.

    Once inside, all visitors independently performed individual prayers; some wept and some chatted quietly, all appreciating the deeply religious significance of the event.

    Upon leaving the Kaaba, the diplomats were assailed by well wishers who wanted to shake their hands and touch their garments.

    Brown said the experience was humbling, and something that he would remember for the rest of his life.

    Description 3

    This is the description from Wikipedia:-

    It is made of granite from the hills near Makkah. The most current dimensions for the structure are: 15 m high (49') with sides measuring 10.5 m (34') by 12 m (39'). [Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London: Routledge, 1996. p.142.] It is covered by a black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah; it is replaced yearly.

    The eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba contains the Black Stone or al-Ħajaru l-Aswad, which is generally thought to be a meteorite remnant.

    Entrance to the inside of the Kaaba is gained through a door set 2.13 meters above the ground on the north-eastern wall of the Kaaba.

    Inside the Kaaba, there is a marble floor. The interior walls are clad with marble half-way to the roof; tablets with Qur'anic inscriptions are inset in the marble.

    The top part of the walls is covered with a green cloth decorated with gold embroidered Qur'anic verses. Lamps hang from a cross beam; there is also a small table for incense burners.

    The building is believed to be otherwise empty. Caretakers perfume the marble cladding with scented oil, the same oil used to anoint the Black Stone outside.

    Lock of the Kaaba


    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Kongsi Raya - Can We Or Can't We

    By Kilamxx

    Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, the Ulama Conference 2006 working committee chairman, last Tuesday said the ulamas wanted the government to review practices such as Kongsi Raya and open house to ensure they do not contradict Islam.

    Datuk Seri Harussani said this was necessary because the National Fatwa Committee had decided that celebrating the festivals of other religions could erode the faith of Muslims and could lead to blasphemy.

    Harussani's statements have set off a wave of responses from laymen as well as government Ministers as reported in the media in the last few days.

    The Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister last Thursday asked that the ulamas present their argument with facts backed by the law.

    Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the ulamas should make an official statement to the Government on the matter and substantiate their views with concrete findings.

    “I want it in black and white, substantiated by an official statement from the ulamas to the Government. You cannot simply say it is wrong and not in accordance with the religious tenets and not substantiate your claims.”

    Dr Rais added that the Government would not simply do away with the celebrations “simply because such comments were made without being tabled for the Government to analyse”.

    “As such, the celebrations will go on as usual,” he said.

    Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, has gone a step further by handing out his own fatwa on the matter by saying:

    “They (the ulamas) are wrong.

    “First, as Muslims we must have faith in Islam and things like (kongsi raya) will not erode our belief.

    “Second, the purpose of the celebrations is to bring together people from all backgrounds, which Islam encourages, and not to isolate the Muslims.

    “This is the opinion of a few people and we are not bound by it. We also have our advisers on Islam.”

    With the current widespread publicity given to the topic, the writer feels that Datuk Seri Harussani or any of the other prominent ulamas should grab the opportunity to explain in detail to the Malaysian public the reasons for their concerns and illustrate the circumstances where these concerns might be trampled on.

    The ears are already waiting. This might be the best time to educate the public on an aspect of socializing of which quite a number of Muslims themselves are ignorant.

    It might be useful to be reminded that being a government appointed officer of the state the Mufti might be subjected to pressure from his employers or appointers to not make any comments or stand which might be contradictory to the official stand.

    Therefore, we implore that the ulamas be allowed to freely express the Islamic viewpoint for the sake of the Muslims of this country.

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Fatwas From Europe

    The following are a few rulings or fatwas issued by the
    European Council for Fatwa and Research during their 15th Ordinary Session held in Istanbul, Turkey in July 2005. The findings are most applicable in communities where Muslims are a minority.

    I'm an engineer commissioned to study in Romania. I'm a single young man of the age of 32. Thanks to Allah, I pray and observe my religion as much as I can. I'm facing a great difficulty. If I marry a woman from my country, the Romanian authority will not grant her a visa to live with me during the period of my study. Moreover to find a righteous Muslim wife in Romania is extremely difficult. I got engaged to a Romanian Muslim lady, but due to my financial circumstances the marriage was refused. Temptations are surrounding me and I cannot tolerate being single. Taking into consideration that the Romanian girls do not keep their virginity after reaching the age of fifteen, can I marry a Romanian lady for the period of my study bearing in mind that my intention is to continue this marriage if she becomes righteous? Can I marry her without the consent of her guardian since her father refuses to marry her to an Arab or a Muslim?

    Allah has permitted Muslims to marry chaste Kitabiyah . Allah said: "(Lawful to you in marriage) are the chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christian)"(Trans. 5:5)

    According to the majority of Muslim scholars of Tafseer , a chaste woman is the woman that refrains from adultery. Allah forbids marrying a woman that commits adultery even if she is a Muslim. The majority of Muslim scholars consensually state that marrying a Muslim woman who used to commit adultery if she repents is permissible. It is evident that the same rule applies to the Kitabiya. So marrying her is permissible provided she gives up adultery. But if she persists in adultery, marrying her is prohibited.

    If the difficulty you are facing is due to your residence in Romania and the unavailability of marriage there, there is no harm in marrying a Romanian woman provided she gives up adultery and proves that she is not pregnant by one monthly period.

    As for marrying a woman without the consent of her guardian, according to the majority of Muslim scholars this marriage is not valid if she is a Muslim and her guardian is a Muslim too. This is due to the fact that the consent of the guardian was traditionally recognized even in non-Muslim societies, likewise the majority of Muslim scholars stipulate it if a Muslim marries a Kitabiya. The situation has currently changed in non-Muslim societies. Most of the laws in these societies do not recognize the consent of the guardian. As your planned marriage will be subject to Romanian laws, there is no harm if you marry her without her guardian's consent if Romanian law does not stipulate his consent as a condition, otherwise you should abide by the law. Above all we advise you to obtain her family's consent as this supports the continuity of the marital relations.

    I have a Muslim English friend who is married to a Muslim English man. They got married in the Islamic way but this marriage has not been registered in the registrar's office. Her husband has an Arab friend who wants to live in England. He has no other alternative to get permission to remain in England but to marry an English woman. The husband suggested that his wife would marry his friend in the registrar’s office. This has been done and witnessed. Is this marriage Islamically valid? Does it affect her first husband? Please answer this question as this case occurs frequently in this country.

    The marriage contract entered into in the registrar office is void. Consequently none of the rights of marriage can be based thereon. All the results thereof are null and these who entered into this marriage are delinquent and they have committed a sin. Whoever participated in facilitating or accomplishing this contract, while knowing that this lady is married, has taken part in this sin and violated the laws Allah has set.

    Allah stated among the prohibited marriages: "Also (forbidden are) women already married."(Trans. 4:24) Allah prohibits marrying a married woman. Some people, due to their misunderstanding that a marriage contract entered into in the registrar’s office is not valid, are negligent regarding this contract. They think that the marriage is only valid if entered into in a mosque or an Islamic centre. This is wrong. Apart from the place, the marriage contract is valid provided the pillars and conditions are fulfilled. Had this woman not been married, that marriage contract entered into in the registrar’s office would have been valid.

    Since this contract is void, it should be cancelled as soon as possible. Again it should be cancelled as since it is legitimate according to the civil laws it may result in prohibited issues according to Islam. According to the civil laws this marriage is binding.

    Being in need of permission to stay in a country cannot be used as an excuse to commit what is prohibited and violate the Shari'a and the rights. Muslims are obliged to shun such issues based on deception and lies.

    I got married to a man who is more than twenty years older than I. Nevertheless, I would have never seen the difference in age as a barrier that separates me from him or turn me away from him, had he shown me a cheerful face and a good tongue and love. Alas, he has deprived me of the cheerful face, sweet word and the active emotion that makes woman feel her femininity and her place in the heart of her husband.

    He is not mean when it comes to my clothing and expenditure, nor does he hurt me. But this is not everything a woman needs from her husband. I do not think I mean anything to him other than as a chef or a unit of pleasure whenever he wills. This makes me feel bored and hate my life especially when I see my friends and peeresses whose husbands are filling their lives with love and euphoria.

    Once I complained to him against this treatment and he said: Do you think I do not fulfill my duties towards you? Am I mean regarding your expenditure and clothing?

    For husbands and wives to know I raise the following question: Are the financial needs in terms of food, clothing and accommodation the only Islamic duties that the husband owes his wife? Is the psychological aspect valueless in the Islamic view? According to my limited knowledge and by nature I do not think so. Please elaborate on this issue since it dramatically affects the continuity and happiness of the Muslim family.

    This sister with her sound nature and limited knowledge realized the correct opinion that Islam states.

    According to the Islamic Shari'a, the husband is obliged to provide his wife with her financial needs e.g. expenditure, clothing, accommodation, medication etc in a way suitable to his circumstances and hers or as the Qura'n states "In a reasonable way".

    The Shari'a does not neglect the psychological aspects that man cannot do without. Moreover the Qur'an describes marriage as one of Allah's signs and one of His graces on people. Allah said: "And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily, in that are signs for those who reflect."(Trans. 30:21) This verse specifies the aims of marital life or its components as tranquility, love and mercy between the wife and the husband and these are psychological, and not material, components. Hence, marital life is meaningless in the case of the absence of these meanings when it turns into bodily closure and emotional separation.

    On this basis, many good husbands are wrong when they think that the duties they owe their wives are naught but expenditure, clothing and accommodation neglecting that as the woman needs food, clothing and other material needs, she needs, and needs more, the good word, the wide smile, the tender touch, the entertaining kiss, loving treatment and flirtations that remove life burdens and achieve happiness.

    Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him- set the highest example in this regard. In spite of his huge burdens of Da'wah, establishing the rules of Islam, educating the Muslims, establishing the Muslim state intrinsically and protecting it against the extrinsic enemy, in addition to his love to his Lord and eagerness to perform continuous worship e.g. fasting, reciting the Qur'an, night prayer until his feet swelled and cry until his beard was wet. He –peace be upon him- never neglected his wives' rights. His spiritual aspects never drove him to the negligence of their human aspects in terms of quenching the thirst of their feelings that could not be satisfied with food and clothing.

    Imam Ibn Al-Qayim described his attitude towards his wives saying: "Prophet Muhammad's life with his wives was founded on good company and good ethics. He-peace be upon him- used to send girls from Ansar to play with his wife 'Aish. Whenever she asked for something permissible he agreed. When she drank from a cup he would take it and put his lips on the same place she put her lips and drink and when she ate meat he would take the bones and put his mouth on the place of hers and eat. He-peace be upon him- used to put his head on her lap and recite Qur'an when she might be in her monthly period. When she was in her monthly period he used tell her to wear Izar (so that intimacy can be practiced indirectly) and then he would have intimate relations with her. He –peace be upon him- used to kiss her while he was fasting. Out of his morals he would enable her to play and carry her over his shoulder to show her the Abyssinians when playing in his mosque. He –peace be upon him- raced her twice. He used to say: "The best among you is the best to his wife and I'm the best to my wife." When he prayed 'Asr he used to pass by his wives and get informed of their affairs and when night came he would go to the one according to the turn. 'Aisha said: "He never stayed with any of us more than the others and it rarely happened the he did not visit all of us and come closer to each of us without touching until he reached the one who had the turn so he would stay overnight with her."

    When we consider this piece of the prophet's biography regarding the way he treated his wives, we can see clearly that he looked after them all, visited them all and drew nigh to them all. But he used to pay more attention to 'Aisha and that was not for nothing or bias but rather due to her young age and virginity. He-peace be upon him- married her when she was a virgin and he was her first and last husband. Such a girl would need more from her husband than an old woman. Her need is not the mere need for expenditure and clothing or even sexual intercourse, but rather the psychological aspects of the feelings which are deeper and of greater importance.

    It is not strange to see prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him – having great interest in the psychological aspects even though he was overwhelmed with a wide range of burdens in terms of Da'wah and establishing the Muslim nation and state. Allah (swt) said: "Indeed, in the messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow."(Trans. 33:21)

    I'm a teacher residing in Britain for a period of study. I have signed a contract with an educational organization according to which I should supervise examinations of scientific courses in my specialization and that I will be called when needed. It happened that they called me to supervise a course during the time of Friday prayer. I had no other alternative but not attending the Friday prayer. Please note that this sometimes happens. To be honest I need this work, but I'm not in dire need.

    As long as this happens every now and then and it is not made deliberately to miss the Friday prayer and you primarily exert efforts to offer the prayer, there is no harm in missing the Friday prayer for this reason. It is reported that prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him- said: "Whoever neglects the Friday prayer three times, Allah will set a seal on his heart." Al-Termizi categorized this hadith as a sound good hadith. Since your case is different and you need this work, then there is no harm.

    The Islamic centre is hosted in a five-story old building that does not reflect any aspect of Islamic architecture. The administration of the center intends to knock down the building and erect a new building in an Islamic excellent style. The estimated cost is five million Dollars, which is very expensive. Upon exerting huge efforts we managed to collect one fourth of this amount from the Muslim community. Since we cannot collect this amount from any international Muslim organization, we want to take a mortgage that involves paying interest to the bank. The ECFR issued a Fatwa on the permissibility of taking a mortgage from the traditional banks to purchase a house when necessary. In the light of this are we allowed to take a mortgage because of necessity taking into consideration that we have other reasons:

    1- The centre lies in an excellent location accessible to public transportation and if it is rebuilt in an Islamic style it will attract people's attention and serve as a means of Da'wah. Nonetheless, it is the oldest centre in the city.

    2- There are other mosques erected after this centre in inhabited areas. The buildings of these mosques were financed by money earned through usury. The people in these mosques practice Bid'a and they have no Da'wah programmes. But these mosques attract the attention of non-Muslims when they want to visit a mosque.

    3- If we do not start building on the spot the planning permission will be withdrawn and it will be very difficult to get it again. In addition, the building costs increase on a daily basis.

    It is recommended to have an Islamic centre in an excellent Islamic style in the West so that it will attract people's attention, so they will look forward to learning about Islam and through this way some may become Muslims.

    However, this aim should be achieved through legal methods. Mosques are built to celebrate the Names of Allah and worship Him. Mosques should be described as good from the first step of their establishment as Allah is good and accepts only what is good. We do not categorize your case as a necessity for the following reasons:

    1- In spite of the fact that the current building is old, it still satisfies people's needs. It can accommodate prayers, gatherings on religious occasions and teaching children.

    2- To have such a centre in Oslo is essential. Nonetheless, it does not justify spending this huge amount of money to compete with other mosques financed by money earned through usury.

    3- Allah does not overburden a person. This rule, as it applies to individual Muslims, applies to the Muslim nation since it is required to establish the Islamic rites within the limits of its capacity.

    We advise the officials of the centre of the issue to search for alternative legal methods such as limiting the project to their capacity, restoring the current building so that it appears in the Islamic style or exerting more efforts to collect donations from other places to complete the fund for the project.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    If The Holocaust Occurred Then Europe Must Draw The Consequences Not The Palestinians

    Iran's Ahmadinejad Speaks On The Holocaust, The Palestinians, Iran's Nuclear Needs And US occupation Of Iraq.

    The following is an excerpt from the interview of Iran's President Mahmoud
    Ahmadinejad by Germany's Spiegel magazine:
    (For complete interview click here)

    SPIEGEL: There was great indignation in Germany when it became known that you might be coming to the soccer world championship. Did that surprise you?

    Ahmadinejad: No, that's not important. I didn't even understand how that came about. It also had no meaning for me. I don't know what all the excitement is about.

    SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president's denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.

    Ahmadinejad: I don't exactly understand the connection.

    SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

    Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.

    SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?

    Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?

    SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.

    Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe. On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...

    SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...

    Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.

    SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.

    Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.

    SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.

    Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.

    SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

    Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

    SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

    Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

    SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?

    Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.

    SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.

    Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn't worry.

    SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel's right to exist?

    Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

    SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.

    Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today's youth play in World War II?

    SPIEGEL: None.

    Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?

    SPIEGEL: The German people today can't do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.

    Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn't even alive at the time be held legally responsible?

    SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.

    Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely?

    SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the Germans in post-war history that they have grappled critically with their past.

    Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to tell that to the German people?

    SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.

    Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit an impartial group to ask the German people whether it shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.

    SPIEGEL: All questions are allowed in our country. But of course there are right-wing radicals in Germany who are not only anti-Semitic, but xenophobic as well, and we do indeed consider them a threat.

    Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end - in 20, 50, 1,000 years?

    SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves. DER SPIEGEL is nobody's hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only with Germany's past and the Germans' crimes. We're not Israel's uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are independent, but we won't simply stand by without protest when the existential right of the state of Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.

    Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.

    SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?

    Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?

    SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region finally. But don't you share that responsibility?

    Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression, occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won't bring peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to note that you are honest people and admit that you are obliged to support the Zionists.

    SPIEGEL: That's not what we said, Mr. President.

    Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.

    SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we're talking about the Holocaust because we want to talk about the possible nuclear armament of Iran -- which is why the West sees you as a threat.

    Ahmadinejad: Some groups in the West enjoy calling things or people a threat. Of course you're free to make your own judgment.

    SPIEGEL: The key question is: Do you want nuclear weapons for your country?

    Ahmadinejad: Allow me to encourage a discussion on the following question: How long do you think the world can be governed by the rhetoric of a handful of Western powers? Whenever they hold something against someone, they start spreading propaganda and lies, defamation and blackmail. How much longer can that go on?

    SPIEGEL: We're here to find out the truth. The head of state of a neighboring country, for example, told SPIEGEL: "They are very keen on building the bomb." Is that true?

    Ahmadinejad: You see, we conduct our discussions with you and the European governments on an entirely different, higher level. In our view, the legal system whereby a handful of countries force their will on the rest of the world is discriminatory and unstable. One-hundred and thirty-nine countries, including us, are members of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) in Vienna. Both the statutes of IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as all security agreements grant the member countries the right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. That is the legitimate legal right of any people. Beyond this, however, IAEA was also established to promote the disarmament of those powers that already possessed nuclear weapons. And now look at what's happening today: Iran has had an excellent cooperation with IAEA. We have had more than 2,000 inspections of our plants, and the inspectors have obtained more than 1,000 pages of documentation from us. Their cameras are installed in our nuclear centers. IAEA has emphasized in all its reports that there are no indications of any irregularities in Iran. That is one side of this matter.

    SPIEGEL: IAEA doesn't quite share your view of this matter.

    Ahmadinejad: But the other side is that there are a number of countries that possess both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. They use their atomic weapons to threaten other peoples. And it is these powers who say that they are worried about Iran deviating from the path of peaceful use of atomic energy. We say that these powers are free to monitor us if they are worried. But what these powers say is that the Iranians must not complete the nuclear fuel cycle because deviation from peaceful use might then be possible. What we say is that these countries themselves have long deviated from peaceful usage. These powers have no right to talk to us in this manner. This order is unjust and unsustainable.

    SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, the key question is: How dangerous will this world become if even more countries become nuclear powers -- if a country like Iran, whose president makes threats, builds the bomb in a crisis-ridden region?

    Ahmadinejad: We're fundamentally opposed to the expansion of nuclear-weapons arsenals. This is why we have proposed the formation of an unbiased organization and the disarmament of the nuclear powers. We don't need any weapons. We're a civilized, cultured people, and our history shows that we have never attacked another country.

    SPIEGEL: Iran doesn't need the bomb that it wants to build?

    Ahmadinejad: It's interesting to note that European nations wanted to allow the shah's dictatorship the use of nuclear technology. That was a dangerous regime. Yet those nations were willing to supply it with nuclear technology. Ever since the Islamic Republic has existed, however, these powers have been opposed to it. I stress once again, we don't need any nuclear weapons. We stand by our statements because we're honest and act legally. We're no fraudsters. We only want to claim our legitimate right. Incidentally, I never threatened anyone - that, too, is part of the propaganda machine that you've got running against me.

    SPIEGEL: If this were so, shouldn't you be making an effort to ensure that no one need fear your producing nuclear weapons that you might use against Israel, thus possibly unleashing a world war? You're sitting on a tinderbox, Mr. President.

    Ahmadinejad: Allow me to say two things. No people in the region are afraid of us. And no one should instill fear in these peoples. We believe that if the United States and these two or three European countries did not interfere, the peoples in this region would live peacefully together as they did in the thousands of years before. In 1980, it was also the nations of Europe and the United States that encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack us.

    Our stance with respect to Palestine is clear. We say: Allow those to whom this country belongs to express their opinion. Let Jews, Christians and Muslims say what they think. The opponents of this proposal prefer war and threaten the region. Why are the United States and these two or three European nations opposed to this? I believe that those who imprison Holocaust researchers prefer war to peace. Our stance is democratic and peaceful.

    SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have long gone a step further than you and recognize Israel as a fact, while you still wish to erase it from the map. The Palestinians are ready to accept a two-state solution while you deny Israel its right to existence.

    Ahmadinejad: You're wrong. You saw that the Palestinian people elected Hamas in free elections. We argue that neither you nor we should claim to speak for the Palestian people. The Palestinians themselves should say what they want. In Europe it is customary to call a referendum on any issue. We should also give the Palestinians the opportunity to express their opinion.

    SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have the right to their own state, but in our view the Israelis naturally have the same right.

    Ahmadinejad: Where did the Israelis come from?

    SPIEGEL: Well, if we tried to work out where people have come from, the Europeans would have to return to east Africa where all humans originated.

    Ahmadinejad: We're not talking about the Europeans; we're talking about the Palestinians. The Palestinians were there, in Palestine. Now 5 million of them have become refugees. Don't they have a right to live?

    SPIEGEL: Mr. President, doesn't there come a time when one should accept that the world is the way it is and that we must accept the status quo? The war against Iraq has put Iran in a favorable position. The United States has suffered a de facto defeat in Iraq. Isn't it now time for Iran to become a constructive power of peace in the Middle East? Which would mean giving up its nuclear plans and inflammatory talk?

    Ahmadinejad: I'm wondering why you're adopting and fanatically defending the stance of the European politicians. You're a magazine, not a government. Saying that we should accept the world as it is would mean that the winners of World War II would remain the victorious powers for another 1,000 years and that the German people would be humiliated for another 1,000 years. Do you think that is the correct logic?

    SPIEGEL: No, that's not the right logic, nor is it true. The Germans have played a modest, but important role in post-war developments. They do not feel as though they have been humiliated and dishonored since 1945. We are too self-confident for that. But today we want to talk about Iran's current mission.

    Ahmadinejad: Then we would accept that Palestinians are killed every day, that they die in terrorist attacks, and that houses are being destroyed. But let me say something about Iraq. We have always favored peace and security in the region. For eight years, the Western countries provided arms to Saddam in the war against us, including chemical weapons, and gave him political support. We were against Saddam and suffered severely because of him, so we're happy that he has been toppled. But we don't accept a whole country being swallowed under the pretext of wanting to topple Saddam. More than 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives under the rule of the occupying forces. Fortunately, the Germans haven't been involved in this. We want security in Iraq.

    SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, who is swallowing Iraq? The United States has practically lost this war. By cooperating constructively, Iran might help the Americans consider their retreat from the country.

    Ahmadinejad: This is very interesting: The Americans occupy the country, kill people, sell the oil and when they have lost, they blame others. We have very close ties to the Iraqi people. Many people on both sides of the border are related. We have lived side by side for thousands of years. Our holy pilgrimage sites are located in Iraq. Just like Iran, Iraq used to be a center of civilization.

    SPIEGEL: What are you trying to say?

    Ahmadinejad: We have always said that we support the popularly elected government of Iraq. But in my view the Americans are doing a bad job. They have sent us messages several times asking us for help and cooperation. They have said that we should talk together about Iraq. We publicly accepted this offer, although our people do not trust the Americans. But America has responded negatively and insulted us. Even now we're contributing to security in Iraq. We will hold talks only if the Americans change their behavior.

    Interview conducted by Stefan Aust, Gerhard Spörl and Dieter Bednarz in Tehran.