Selasa, 7 Disember 2010
New to Islam from Glasgow, Scotland – On The Prophet’s ‘image’
IMAN President’s conversations (via email) with Sr Elena Vidican, a Romanian sister who recently converted to Islam.
(EV: Elena Vidican; KO: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamar Oniah)

Date: Monday, 22 November, 2010, 8:04

KO: Salam Elena. Forwarding here a piece by Lauren Booth. It is inspiring. I love in particular the quotation below. Dr. Kamar

The sheikh who finally converted me at a mosque in London a few weeks ago told me: “Don’t hurry, Lauren. Just take it easy. Allah is waiting for you. Ignore those who tell you: you must do this, wear that, have your hair like this. Follow your instincts, follow the Holy Qur’an- and let Allah guide you.”

[Refer the article “Lauren Booth: I’m now a Muslim. Why all the shock and horror?” in the previous post]

Date: Sun, Dec 5, 2010

EV: Salam Dr. Kamar,
Thank you once again for taking time to answer my questions.

I was thinking about the issue of the 'image' of the Prophet Muhammad. I understand that in Islam is not allowed to have pictures of the Prophet. Does it have to do with what it might lead to, such as idolatry? Also, I found at times (in books about Islam), descriptions of the Prophet, which naturally lead to His visualization in one's mind. Could that be portrait as something wrong?

Thank you,

Date: Mon, Dec 6, 2010 at 7:03 PM

KO: Wasalam Elena. There are many reasons why images of Prophets, not just Rasulullah are prohibited. It is not so much about idolatry per se but the inclination to idolize human beings. Take a look at how film and sport stars are idolized and how their pictures are posted with so much adoration. Idolatry actually started with adoration of certain figures or certain items. These figures are commemorated in various forms and eventually crafted and molded. As for visualizing anybody in our minds - that's all right for it is only imaginative, fantasy and so we know it is not actually what it is. And this fantasy is not consistent too cos with more info, more will be added or some dropped off.
Tq for the question - as usual, you help me to think about things I had not given so much thought, and I enjoy this.
Wassalam and take care.
Dr Kamar
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 7:28 PTG   0 comments
Isnin, 22 November 2010
Lauren Booth: I’m now a Muslim
(Lauren Booth is Tony Blair's sister-in-law)

Posted: November 7, 2010 by crescentandcross

News that Lauren Booth has converted to Islam provoked a storm of negative comments. Here she explains how it came about – and why it’s time to stop patronising Muslim women.

Lauren Booth . . .’How hard and callous non-Muslim friends and colleagues began to seem’. It is five years since my first visit to Palestine. And when I arrived in the region, to work alongside charities in Gaza and the West Bank, I took with me the swagger of condescension that all white middle-class women (secretly or outwardly) hold towards poor Muslim women, women I presumed would be little more than black-robed blobs, silent in my peripheral vision. As a western woman with all my freedoms, I expected to deal professionally with men alone. After all, that’s what the Muslim world is all about, right?

This week’s screams of faux horror from fellow columnists on hearing of my conversion to Islam prove that this remains the stereotypical view regarding half a billion women currently practising Islam.

On my first trip to Ramallah, and many subsequent visits to Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, I did indeed deal with men in power. And, dear reader, one or two of them even had those scary beards we see on news bulletins from far-flung places we’ve bombed to smithereens. Surprisingly (for me) I also began to deal with a lot of women of all ages, in all manner of head coverings, who also held positions of power. Believe it or not, Muslim women can be educated, work the same deadly hours we do, and even boss their husbands about in front of his friends until he leaves the room in a huff to go and finish making the dinner.

Is this patronising enough for you? I do hope so, because my conversion to Islam has been an excuse for sarcastic commentators to heap such patronising points of view on to Muslim women everywhere. So much so, that on my way to a meeting on the subject of Islamophobia in the media this week, I seriously considered buying myself a hook and posing as Abu Hamza. After all, judging by the reaction of many women columnists, I am now to women’s rights what the hooked one is to knife and fork sales.

So let’s all just take a deep breath and I’ll give you a glimpse into the other world of Islam in the 21st century. Of course, we cannot discount the appalling way women are mistreated by men in many cities and cultures, both with and without an Islamic population. Women who are being abused by male relatives are being abused by men, not God. Much of the practices and laws in “Islamic” countries have deviated from (or are totally unrelated) to the origins of Islam. Instead practices are based on cultural or traditional (and yes, male-orientated) customs that have been injected into these societies. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive by law. This rule is an invention of the Saudi monarchy, our government’s close ally in the arms and oil trade. The fight for women’s rights must sadly adjust to our own government’s needs.
My own path to Islam began with an awakening to the gap between what had been drip-fed to me about all Muslim life – and the reality.

I began to wonder about the calmness exuded by so many of the “sisters” and “brothers”. Not all; these are human beings we’re talking about. But many. And on my visit to Iran this September, the washing, kneeling, chanting recitations of the prayers at the mosques I visited reminded me of the west’s view of an entirely different religion; one that is known for eschewing violence and embracing peace and love through quiet meditation. A religion trendy with movie stars such as Richard Gere, and one that would have been much easier to admit to following in public – Buddhism. Indeed, the bending, kneeling and submission of Muslim prayers resound with words of peace and contentment. Each one begins, “Bismillahir rahmaneer Raheem” – “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate” – and ends with the phrase “Assalamu Alaykhum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” – Peace be upon you all and God’s mercy and blessing.

Almost unnoticed to me, when praying for the last year or so, I had been saying “Dear Allah” instead of “Dear God”. They both mean the same thing, of course, but for the convert to Islam the very alien nature of the language of the holy prayers and the holy book can be a stumbling block. I had skipped that hurdle without noticing. Then came the pull: a sort of emotional ebb and flow that responds to the company of other Muslims with a heightened feeling of openness and warmth. Well, that’s how it was for me, anyway.

How hard and callous non-Muslim friends and colleagues began to seem. Why can’t we cry in public, hug one another more, say “I love you” to a new friend, without facing suspicion or ridicule? I would watch emotions being shared in households along with trays of honeyed sweets and wondered, if Allah’s law is simply based on fear why did the friends I loved and respected not turn their backs on their practices and start to drink, to have real “fun” as we in the west do? And we do, don’t we? Don’t we?

Finally, I felt what Muslims feel when they are in true prayer: a bolt of sweet harmony, a shudder of joy in which I was grateful for everything I have (my children) and secure in the certainty that I need nothing more (along with prayer) to be utterly content. I prayed in the Mesumeh shrine in Iran after ritually cleansing my forearms, face, head and feet with water. And nothing could be the same again. It was as simple as that.

The sheikh who finally converted me at a mosque in London a few weeks ago told me: “Don’t hurry, Lauren. Just take it easy. Allah is waiting for you. Ignore those who tell you: you must do this, wear that, have your hair like this. Follow your instincts, follow the Holy Qur’an- and let Allah guide you.”

And so I now live in a reality that is not unlike that of Jim Carey’s character in the Truman Show. I have glimpsed the great lie that is the facade of our modern lives; that materialism, consumerism, sex and drugs will give us lasting happiness. But I have also peeked behind the screens and seen an enchanting, enriched existence of love, peace and hope. In the meantime, I carry on with daily life, cooking dinners, making TV programmes about Palestine and yes, praying for around half an hour a day.

Now, my morning starts with dawn prayers at around 6am, I pray again at 1.30pm, then finally at 10.30pm. My steady progress with the Qur’an has been mocked in some quarters (for the record, I’m now around 200 pages in). I’ve been seeking advice from Ayatollahs, imams and sheikhs, and every one has said that each individual’s journey to Islam is their own. Some do commit the entire text to memory before conversion; for me reading the holy book will be done slowly and at my own pace.In the past my attempts to give up alcohol have come to nothing; since my conversion I can’t even imagine drinking again. I have no doubt that this is for life: there is so much in Islam to learn and enjoy and admire; I’m overcome with the wonder of it. In the last few days I’ve heard from other women converts, and they have told me that this is just the start, that they are still loving it 10 or 20 years on.

On a final note I’d like to offer a quick translation between Muslim culture and media culture that may help take the sting of shock out of my change of life for some of you.

When Muslims on the BBC News are shown shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” at some clear, Middle Eastern sky, we westerners have been trained to hear: “We hate you all in your British sitting rooms, and are on our way to blow ourselves up in Lidl when you are buying your weekly groceries.”

In fact, what we Muslims are saying is “God is Great!”, and we’re taking comfort in our grief after non-Muslim nations have attacked our villages. Normally, this phrase proclaims our wish to live in peace with our neighbours, our God, our fellow humans, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Or, failing that, in the current climate, just to be left to live in peace would be nice.


[Versi Bahasa Melayu]

Lauren Booth: Kenapa saya pilih Islam


Berita tentang Lauren Booth yang memeluk Islam telah menimbulkan pelbagai komen negatif. Berikut adalah penjelasan beliau tentang perkara tersebut – dan kenapa masanya sudah tiba untuk berhenti memperkecilkan wanita Islam.

Lauren Booth . . .’Betapa rakan-rakanku yang bukan-Muslim mula nampak keras dan tidak berperasaan’.

Dah masuk lima tahun sejak pertama kali melawat Palestin. Dan bila saya sampai di sana untuk bekerja bersama-sama badan-badan kebajikan di Gaza dan Tebing Barat, saya bawa bersama sifat sombong dan tinggi diri yang biasa tersemat dalam jiwa setiap wanita kulit putih kelas menengah terhadap golongan wanita Islam yang miskin, wanita yang saya anggap lebih sedikit sahaja dari jubah-hitam yang hodoh, dan bersikap pendiam. Sebagai seorang wanita barat dengan segala kebebasan, saya bercadang untuk berurusan secara professional dengan lelaki sahaja. Lagi pun, bukankah itu yang dikatakan dunia Islam?

Heboh di kalangan teman-teman kolumnis kerana tidak bersetuju dengan tindakan saya memeluk Islam, membuktikan yang pandangan stereotaip terhadap berjuta wanita yang mengamalkan Islam masih wujud.

Dalam perjalanan pertama saya ke Ramallah, dan diikuti dengan lawatan seterusnya ke Palestin, Mesir, Jordan dan Lubnan, saya memang berurusan dengan lelaki-lelaki yang berkuasa. Malah satu atau dua orang dari mereka mempunyai jambang menakutkan seperti yang kita lihat dalam buletin berita yang berada di tempat yang kita musnahkan dengan bom jarak jauh. Yang mengejutkan (bagi saya), saya juga mula berurusan dengan ramai wanita dari berbagai peringkat umur, yang memakai tudung dengan berbagai cara, dan mempunyai kuasa dalam jawatan mereka. Percaya atau tidak, wanita Islam boleh belajar, bekerja berjam-jam lamanya macam kita, malah menjadi bos kepada suaminya di pejabat.

Dah cukupkah memperkecilkan mereka? Saya harap begitulah, kerana tindakan saya memeluk Islam telah dijadikan alasan oleh pengulas-pengulas untuk melemparkan segala macam tuduhan ke atas wanita Islam di seluruh dunia. Sehinggakan dalam perjalanan saya untuk mesyuarat tentang tajuk Islamofobia dalam media minggu ini, saya terfikir untuk membeli besi cangkuk dan berposing seperti Abu Hamza al Masri (gambar). Lagi pun, melihat kepada reaksi ramai kolumnis wanita, saya pada pandangan mereka seperti tidak diperlukan lagi dalam memperjuangkan hak-hak wanita.

Jadi mari kita semua tarik nafas dalam-dalam dan saya akan beri sedikit imbasan tentang dunia Islam dalam abad ke-21. Sudah tentu, kita juga perlu mengambil kira tentang wanita yang tidak dilayan dengan baik di kebanyakan tempat dan budaya, kedua-duanya di dalam dan di luar populasi Muslim. Wanita sebenarnya dipergunakan secara salah oleh kaum lelaki, bukannya Tuhan. Banyak amalan dan undang-undang dalam negara-negara “Islam” telah menyimpang dari (atau tidak berkaitan dengan) ajaran Islam yang asal. Sebaliknya amalan-amalan tersebut hanya berdasarkan kepada adat budaya dan tradisi yang telah ditanam dalam masyarakat. Di Arab Saudi, contohnya, undang-undang tidak membenarkan wanita memandu. Peraturan seperti ini adalah ciptaan sistem monarki Saudi, iaitu sekutu rapat kerajaan kita dalam perdagangan senjata dan minyak. Malangnya, perjuangan hak-hak wanita terpaksa diselaraskan dengan keperluan kerajaan kita sendiri.

Perjalanan saya kepada Islam bermula apabila disedarkan dengan jurang yang wujud antara apa yang diceritakan kepada saya tentang kehidupan Muslim – dan realiti sebenarnya.

Saya mula kagum dengan ketenangan yang ada pada kebanyakan mereka. Tidak semua. Tapi ramai sekali. Dan semasa lawatan saya ke sebuah masjid di Iran September lepas, apabila jamaah mengambil wudhuk, berlutut dan membaca bacaan dalam sembahyang mengingatkan saya tentang apa yang dipandang oleh barat adalah sesuatu yang berbeza sama sekali; satu golongan yang menolak keganasan dan memilih kedamaian dan kasih-sayang melalui meditasi secara diam (sembahyang). Satu agama yang kelihatan sama seperti yang dianuti oleh bintang filem seperti Richard Gere, yang lebih mudah diterima masyarakat jika anda membuat pengakuan menganutnya – Buddhisme. Sebenarnya, setiap posisi rukuk, duduk dan sujud dalam sembahyang cara Islam diisi dengan bacaan-bacaan yang bermaksud kesejahteraan dan keredaan. Setiap satunya bermula dengan, “Bismillahir rahmaneer Raheem” – “Dengan nama Tuhan, yang Maha Pengasih, lagi Maha Penyayang” – dan berakhir dengan ucapan “Assalamu Alaykhum wa rahmatullah” – Sejahtera atas kamu dan kasih-sayang Tuhan.

Secara tidak disedari, saya telah mula menyebut “Ya Allah” menggantikan lafaz biasa “Ya Tuhan” dalam sembahyang sejak tahun lepas. Kedua-duanya, sudah tentu, membawa maksud yang sama, tetapi bagi seseorang yang baru memeluk Islam, bahasa yang begitu asing digunakan dalam sembahyang dan dalam kitab al-Quran mungkin menjadi halangan besar. Saya dapat melepasi halangan tersebut tanpa saya sedari. Kemudian barulah datang satu tarikan perasaan: iaitu perasaan kasih sesama Islam dan rasa keterbukaan yang cukup tinggi. Itulah apa yang saya rasai.

Betapa rakan-rakanku yang bukan-Muslim mula nampak keras dan tidak berperasaan.

Kenapa kita tidak hebohkan secara terbuka, berpelukan sesama kita, sambil berkata “saya sayangkan awak” kepada seorang rakan baru, tanpa ada perasaan ragu-ragu dan sikap untuk memperlecehkannya? Berlainan dalam masyarakat Islam, saya akan melihat emosi dikongsikan dalam rumah-rumah bersama-sama bekas yang penuh dengan gula-gula dan berfikir, jika undang-undang Allah berdasarkan kepada ketakutan semata-mata, kenapa teman-teman Muslim yang saya sayangi dan hormati itu tidak mengenepikan amalan mereka dan mulai minum alkohol, untuk menikmati “kegembiraan” sama seperti kita yang di barat lakukan? Dan memang kita lakukan begitu, bukan?

Akhirnya, saya dapat rasakan apa yang dirasai oleh Muslim apabila berada dalam sembahyang yang sebenar: terpahat keharmonian manis, kegembiraan kerana bersyukur atas apa yang saya miliki (anak-anak saya - gambar atas) dan selamat dalam ketentuanNya sehingga saya tidak memerlukan apa-apa lagi. Saya bersembahyang di kompleks pemakaman Mesumeh (gambar) di Iran selepas membersihkan muka, lengan, kepala dan kaki dengan air. Dan segalanya berubah selepas itu.

Sheikh yang mengislamkan saya di sebuah masjid di London beberapa minggu yang lalu memberitahu saya: “Jangan terburu-buru, Lauren. Lakukan apa yang kamu rasa mudah. Allah sedang menunggu kamu. Jangan dihiraukan mereka yang berkata: awak mesti buat begini, pakai begitu, mempunyai rambut seperti ini. Ikutlah naluri kamu, ikut al-Quran – dan biarkan Allah memimpin kamu..”

Dan sekarang saya hidup dalam dunia realiti yang mempunyai persamaan dengan watak Jim Carey dalam Truman Show. Saya menyedari satu penipuan besar iaitu tentang kepalsuan dalam kehidupan moden kita; bahawa materialisme, konsumerisme, seks dan dadah akan membawa kebahagian yang berpanjangan. Saya juga berada di belakang skrin dan melihat wujudnya kasih-sayang, kedamaian dan harapan. Buat masa sekarang, saya teruskan kehidupan harian, memasak untuk makan malam, membuat program TV tentang Palestin dan Ya, mengerjakan solat selama lebih-kurang setengah jam sehari.

Sekarang, waktu pagi saya bermula dengan sembahyang subuh pada pukul 6 am, sembahyang lagi pukul 1.30pm, kemudian yang terakhir pukul 10.30pm. Pembacaan Quran saya juga konsisten dan ada peningkatan hari demi hari (lebih kurang 200 mukasurat). Saya sering mendapatkan nasihat dari Ayatollah, imam dan sheikh, dan setiap mereka memberitahu bahawa perjalanan seseorang menuju kepada Islam adalah haknya. Ada yang menghafal teks sebelum memeluk Islam; bagi saya pula, pembacaan kitab suci akan dilakukan secara perlahan mengikut kemampuan saya.

Pada masa lepas, usaha saya untuk berhenti mengambil alkohol selalu berakhir dengan kegagalan; sejak memeluk Islam saya tidak pernah terfikir pun untuk minum semula. Saya tidak ragu-ragu lagi bahawa inilah sebenarnya kehidupan: banyak lagi tentang Islam yang perlu saya pelajari, nikmati dan sanjungi; Saya tewas dengan kehebatannya. Beberapa hari lepas, beberapa wanita saudara baru memberitahu saya bahawa yang ini hanya baru permulaan, dan perasaan seperti itu masih mereka rasai walaupun setelah 10 atau 20 tahun memeluk Islam.

Akhir sekali, saya berharap untuk menterjemahkan antara budaya Muslim dan budaya media yang mungkin boleh menghilangkan rasa terkejut anda semua terhadap perubahan yang berlaku dalam hidup saya ini.

Apabila berita BBC menayangkan gambar orang Islam berteriak “Allahu Akhbar!” di Timur Tengah, kita orang barat pula dilatih untuk mendengar seperti ini: “Kami benci kamu semua warga Britain, dan kami dalam perjalanan untuk meletupkan diri kami di supermarket Lidl semasa kamu sedang membeli belah di sana.”

Sebenarnya, apa yang kami orang Islam katakan adalah “Tuhan Maha Besar!”, dan kami sedang menenangkan perasaan sedih selepas kampung-kampung kami diserang tentera bukan-Islam. Biasanya, perkataan ini mengisytiharkan keinginan kami untuk hidup aman bersama orang Islam dan bukan-Islam. Kalaulah itu sukar dicapai dalam suasana dunia hari ini, maka membiarkan kami hidup aman damai dalam masyarakat kami pun sudah memadai.
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 5:54 PTG   0 comments
Khamis, 7 Oktober 2010
New to Islam from Glasgow, Scotland – On Halal Food
IMAN President’s conversations (via email) with Sr Elena Vidican, a Romanian sister who recently converted to Islam.
(EV: Elena Vidican; KO: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamar Oniah)

Date: Wed, 6/10/10:

KO: Elena, Assalamu 'alaikum wrt. wbt.
How are you? Praying that all is well with you. Been quite some time since we communicated. Although very late now, I wish you 'Eid mubarak. I was away a lot in Ramadhan and then had to catch up with all those works I missed. Hope you find my book helpful.

Take care.
Dr. Kamar

Date: Thu, Oct 7, 2010:

EV: Assalamu 'alaikum Dr. Kamar,
Thank you for your e-mail and wishes. Eid Mubarak to you as well!
I have been away for some weeks, to visit my family and then had to work on my dissertation.
It has been a lovely time to see everybody, especially my niece who is already two years old and talks so much:-)

KO: Wa 'alaikumu salam, Elena. So happy to know you had such a good time. Indeed, on becoming a Muslim, your relationship with your family should in fact become stronger, not weaker. Do keep it up. As usual, I will respond to your queries as per question.

EV: I really enjoyed reading your book and indeed I found it very useful. I will borrow [lend] it to people who might need it as well. Also I have given your email address to some of the girls that attended the New to Islam meeting here in Glasgow.

KO: I am happy that you find my book useful. Indeed it is for you and those like you that I wrote the book for, i.e., eager to understand and learn Islam, intelligent with very profound questions. The Ummah is set for new dynamics that will promote Islam as the universal religion that it is meant to be, to help resolve the plight of modern civilization. Keep learning and thinking Elena, and you will see the Blessings and Wonders of Allah Most Merciful unfolding before you, responding to your dedication and commitment. Amin.

EV: I have just returned from the usual Wednesday meetings (New to Islam Meetings) where various speakers come and teach about Islam or answer questions that are asked. One of the topic of today was about Haram /Halal.
One of the question asked by a person was why was pork forbidden for eating? And if it was forbidden for eating, still as a creature created by Allah , should it be considered 'evil' or should we have an aversion towards it?

KO: No, CERTAINLY NOT - pigs or any creatures of Allah should never be regarded as evil. Only Iblis or Satan and those with the will-power to prefer and do evil are to be regarded as evil, i.e., cruel, sadistic humans. Pork is haram and so is contact with pigs, and Islam is not the only religion that says so, even Judaism says so. I do not have the answer to why this is so but I see this as a test to our acknowledgment to Allah's commandments. In the case of Prophet Adam PBUH, the command was with regard to the fruit, i.e., to see if Adam would comply with Allah's command not to eat the fruit. In our case, it is perhaps the pig. This, however, is my personal opinion, not verified by any source.

EV: Also when asked if seafood is halal, the answer was not very clear as there are different opinions by scholars. But if God said that what comes from the sea is considered halal (I am not sure of the accuracy of the statement though) , why are there different interpretations?

KO: The argument here is what is meant by from the sea. This is actually to determine if these are what we classify today as "fish" and not "amphibians". Amphibians, although they also live in water, we cannot eat [them], e.g. crocodiles, frogs, some types of crabs, etc. To make it easy, you can [eat] all fish. And I am sure, we don't want to eat amphibians, do we?

EV: It seems that this issue of Halal food could raise many questions especially in countries where there are so many places which also sell or offer food that contains non halal ingredients. At some point one can think if it is possible to even go out and eat in a restaurant, where you can choose a vegetarian option, but that particular place also offers haram food. Should it be so strict or if we have the right intention, that is enough?

KO: Yes, you can eat vegetarian food even if others around you do not. The concern is if indeed the food is truly vegetarian. If it is labeled as vegetarian and certified by some authority it is vegetarian, yes, we can eat. I know for example in some restaurants in UK, they have packed halal food too which the restaurant only put in microwave ovens to heat. Do not worry about the plates and glasses. Alcohol can be rinsed off by water and if you do not particularly see pork served on the plate, then the plate is okay too. In Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, the food is okay since Buddhism also prohibit alchohol. In the case of Jewish and Christian food, although their meat is halal but their food is not because they can take alcohol and do include alcohol in their cooking, not just drinking.

EV: Also if alcohol is forbidden, is it also forbidden to sit at a table or be in a place where other people drink? This situation could appear for example if you are out with friends who are not muslims, or in a social, work related event. How can one relate to these situations?

KO: No, and in fact I once advised a Muslim sister in New Zealand who had to attend dinner functions as part of her profession to attend such functions and eat the halal food there. I look at it as a form of da'wah, i.e, people will ask why she does not take alcohol - and this will become a point to start a conversation on Islam. Be confident and nice to people, Elena, for you may never know someone is there ready to become like you. Smile around and enjoy everybody's company, and enjoy life for life is a great gift of Allah Almighty and all His creatures are our fellow-creatures.

EV: Thank you

KO: Wassalam and thank for all the questions. I too am learning from you.
Dr. Kamar
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 11:31 PTG   0 comments
Rabu, 11 Ogos 2010
New to Islam from Glasgow, Scotland – On Fasting in Ramadhan
IMAN President’s conversations (via email) with Sr Elena Vidican of Glasgow, Scotland, a Romanian sister who recently converted to Islam.

On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 6:39 AM, Elena Vidican wrote:

Ramadan Mubarak Dr. Kamar,

As the month of Ramadan is starting, I would like to know how can we prepare better and also how is the fasting in this period to be interpreted ( as compared to other religions)?


Dr. Kamar Oniah replied:

Salam and Ramadhan karim, Elena. I have discussed some points regarding Ramadhan in my book, Understanding Islam. To add to these:

1. Fasting is so special in Islam - it is a sacrifice of oneself to Allah Almighty. It can only be carried out when a person already feels convinced and committed to the religion of Allah. Thus it is a stage after the shahadah and solat.

2. During fasting, we are not in our normal condition in that we feel thirsty and hungry and even tired and uncomfortable, i.e., we are in need and experience difficulties. It is in the nature of humans that in times of needs and difficulties to turn more inward and towards our Creator. This is the fitrah of human beings, i.e., human nature. Fasting is therefore an imposed (self-imposed) situation, as it were, of needs and difficulties to assist us in turning more intensely and consciously towards ourselves and our Creator Almighty. Unfortunately, for those without religion, they turn to external stimulus such as drinks, drugs and cigarettes in times of needs and difficulties in their attempt to overcome their situation, and often end up tragically. The fact that they do so reflects the existence of that fitrah in them, i.e, a fitrah that calls out for help during times of need and difficulties.

3. In fasting, we give our physical organs a much needed rest and thereby too shifting our focus from our bodily and physical needs to our spiritual and intellectual needs. We take a spiritual journey into ourselves - reviewing our weaknesses and strength, training to improve ourselves spiritually and intellectually. Thus Ramadhan is a month of spiritual intensification and of humble reflection, particularly at night when we connect with the Almighty more intensely than during other days. It is a time when we pay more attention to our spiritual existence than our physical existence as compared to other days. In fact, in the Holy Qur'an, Allah Most Merciful informed us that others before us were also ordained to fast.

4.Other religions have retreats in one form or another; either physically by going into remote areas, as in Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Shinto or refraining from all works as the Sabbath of Judaism, and some other religions even make spiritual retreat a full time and a whole life affair - thus the monks, devotees and elects in such religions. In Islam we do not retreat physically since we are created as the khalifah of Allah on earth and have social responsibilities, but we take an inward journey into ourselves. Thus, during Ramadhan, we should not fast but eat normally at night - this is in order to replenish our strength so that we can carry out our normal duties. Fasting is therefore not to destroy our physical entity but to strengthen our spiritual entity. In the ultimate, our physical, spiritual and intellectual entities are balanced up, and thus the nurturing of the wholesome person as required by our religion

5. After a month of fasting, we celebrate our sacrifice and spiritual training with the 'eid - a time for healthy festivities. Thus celebration too is part of the rituals in Islam for in such celebrations, we give thanks to the Almighty and celebrate His Mercies and Blessings. As such, Islam is not a religion of glum and gloom but a religion of balance.

6. The tarawih solat is a beautiful experience of congregational solat with its intense yet cheerful atmosphere. Even if done alone, we should feel a deep sense of fulfillment and joy in its performance. At the end of tarawih, especially when we are alone, we should become reflective, turning to Allah with deep gratitude and joy at being linked with Him. Indeed, the tarawih can be described as both fulfilling and joyful, a celebration of Allah's Blessings and a joy in being a Muslim.

7. Ramadhan too was the month when the angel Gabriel came to read the whole of the Qur'an with the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon them, testifying to the exactness and accuracy of the revelations. And during Ramadhan too is a special night most blessed where the angels come down to perform errands. The exact night is not specified because if so, our focus will be for the blessings of this night rather than on sincere worship of Allah Almighty.

So Elena, enjoy Ramadhan with all its blessings and glory.

Dr. Kamar
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 11:39 PTG   0 comments
Ramadhan Fallacy
Ramadhan Fallacy

1. I have been to many countries and observed that the custom of iftar (berbuka puasa) at hotel or restaurant only prevails in Malaysia. I do not know how and when this phenomenon started.

2. When I was attached to sales / marketing section some time ago, I had to make sure that all the company customers were invited to at least one session of iftar at hotel. If I was late to invite them or missed any one of them, they unashamedly asked me when their turn would be.

3. The cost per person is never less than RM60 while the food were just normal food that may cost in total RM10 if bought from the Ramadhan food stall. Think of mee goreng, karipap and air bandung. In fact, most of the times, the guests would not eat much.

4. The hotels are making huge profit during Ramadhan. The fasting Muslims contribute to this huge profit when rightfully they should be channeling the money to the more needy ones especially during Ramadhan. Spending RM60 per person for iftar goes against the very spirit of Ramadhan.

5. When Ramadhan should be the time for us to learn to be thrifty and to share with the less fortunate both emotionally and physically, we do the exact opposite. We even take for granted the halalness of the food that we take for iftar. Even worse, we invite others to join in the syubahat.

6. Most of the time, when we take iftar at hotel or restaurant, we miss to pray Maghrib on time. We will be too consumed with the food and the guests or spending long time queuing for the food. By the time we decide to pray, the small prayer room arranged by the hotel or the restaurant will be pack with the guests. By the time our turn to pray, it is almost Isha'.

7. Most of the time too, we will miss the Terawih prayer as the chatting and socializing will continue until the last meal is served. Some of us do plan to perform solat Terawih later at home during this particular night, but by the time we reach home, we are just too tired and directly go to sleep.

8. Nothing good is realized by having iftar at hotel or restaurant. This phenomenon defeats the very essence of Ramadhan in every single aspect. The better way to have iftar is either at home with the family members or friends or at functions that are laced with Islamic itineraries, or better still, at mosques.


N. A. Latif
Jelebu, N. Sembilan.
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 12:17 PG   0 comments
Ahad, 8 Ogos 2010
On Call: The Trials of Being a Muslim Doctor during Ramadan
Original source:

On Call: The Trials of Being a Muslim Doctor during Ramadan

Published on August 1, 2010
by Ahmed Zaafran

With Ramadan rapidly approaching, the time has come to prepare mentally, spiritually, and physically for one of the most important times of the year in Islam. The month of Ramadan comes at the height of summer this year, bringing unique challenges.

The focus of this particular article is geared towards those who are medical professionals: physicians, students, nurses, technicians. However, as people from all lines of work deal with time management issues, in sha’ Allah (God willing) those who do not work in the healthcare industry may still benefit from this advice and can work collectively to implement it.

Making a Plan

Making a plan is a useful way to get things moving in the right direction. List out the objectives you aspire to meet for the day. For example, as a resident physician in Anesthesiology at the busiest trauma center in the country, I anticipate being in the operating room for many hours at a time, often without a break. Knowing that, sometimes I have to use lunchtime or break time to fulfill my obligatory prayers and may even be forced to combine my prayers in unusual situations.

Many hospitals provide prayer areas within chapels for Muslims to pray or even have a masjid (mosque) within the hospital. However, this may not always be the case. Whatever the situation, try to find a spot where you can reflect on your prayer, reconnect with Allah and your intentions for fasting, and reenergize yourself. In time, you’ll find many unexpected gifts from Allah peppered throughout your day, giving you a firsthand view of the fruits of hard work and good intentions. Remember that Allah knows your circumstances even more than yourself. You may become discouraged that because of your time constraints, you cannot fulfill your desire to be fully engaged with Allah during your Ramadan. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that rut; your two rak`at (units of prayer) are worth more than you think.

Establishing the Right Mindset

Establishing the right mindset is half the battle. I can’t tell you how many times throughout medical school my Muslim peers would make excuses as to why they don’t need to fast during Ramadan. The most common excuse I heard was, “How could I possibly concentrate on my studies if I’m fasting?” Another common cop-out was, “Bro, I’ll just make it up later once finals are done with.”

To many of you, this may sound outlandish or even blasphemous, but it is commonly seen in people who deal with the physical and emotional demands of being a medical student or physician, which brings me to the point of this section. Establishing the right mindset means more than just telling yourself that you will fast during Ramadan. It means training yourself that your “starvation” is in fact the easiest part of Ramadan. The real challenge lies in your remembrance of Allah, making all of your actions a form of worship, and fulfilling your role as a representative of Islam in the midst of a watchful environment.

To be honest, Ramadan is the best time to showcase the beauty of our religion and its focus on self-control. For example, how many times, in any occupational platform, have people come up to you, after finding out that you are fasting from food AND water (for some reason they are always impressed with the water part), to inquire more about your fast and your faith? This is the perfect time to explain to them what fasting during Ramadan really means, that abstaining from our material desires, including food, sexual relations, backbiting, and slander, are only the physical vehicles that allow the spiritual self a viable platform to elevate itself. People in the healthcare industry understand what it means to make sacrifices. It might sound like clockwork to you, but for many of your colleagues, it is the most profound thing they will ever hear.


Amongst medical students and physicians, a quite broad category in and of itself, a high demand on time handcuffs their abilities to have an effective Ramadan. The amount of information required of medical students to learn, memorize, digest, and apply is quite daunting, and they often find themselves missing out on prayers entirely, whether during Ramadan or other times of the year. The key is to prioritize your time around your prayer by redistributing it. The epicenter of your day is your prayer, and you should make everything else the ornamentation to that foundation. As hard as it many seem at the time, you’ll eventually find yourself both excelling in your prayers and concentrating on patient care as well. Keep in mind that the workday has its gaps and moments when you can take quick breaks. For the student, study breaks are a part of the daily routine. Rather than rushing to the TV for a break, take a moment to reconnect with the Qur’an, even if it is just for a few minutes. Ramadan comes only once a year. Don’t let the month leave without cashing in on those precious moments that usually go wasted.

Spiritual Connection

Finally, put your work into perspective. The type of work you do in medicine exposes you to various situations that challenge your mind and your soul. You are given the task to heal people’s ailments, whether physical or mental, and are able to provide them with a service that nurtures and improves the thing most precious to them: their health. Personally, I can relate to the spiritual challenges faced by physicians on a daily basis at the hospital. Just a few weeks ago, I took care of a young man in his early 30s who seemed to have the world ahead of him. A minor ailment initially brought him to the hospital, but his health deteriorated quite rapidly.

“Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” [Qur'an, 2:156]

The team working to save his life moved quickly and diligently, doing everything humanly possible to resuscitate him. The exact moment Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) took his soul was quite evident, and the organized chaos in the room instantly transformed into a deafening silence. Despite exhaustive measures on my part and on that of the medical professionals around me, we were not able to save his life. Muslims and non-Muslims alike had to deal with that situation, and the fear can choke the air out of your throat. Moments like these can shake one’s faith if he is not prepared, but it can also strengthen one’s resolve and solidify his love for Allah.

Use Ramadan to strengthen yourself. Seek refuge from Allah from all your insecurities. Use the training that Allah has blessed you with to fulfill His commandments. Take every opportunity to show Allah that more than anything else, you are trying to purify yourself and humble yourself under His Presence. Medicine is a field that carries much responsibility and much prestige. Use your status amongst your peers as a pedestal to serve your Lord and as a mechanism to eradicate arrogance. The Qur’an gives us pearls every time we read it, and perhaps the verse that can be used by medical practitioners the most to correct their intentions and set the tone for their daily work lies in Surat al-Ma`idah, entitled “The Table Spread.”

“Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” [Qur'an, 5:32]

With this verse in mind, we can truly use the month of Ramadan as a springboard not only to serve our fellow human beings in need of medical treatment but also as an opportunity to use our skills as a means to please our Creator, Allah, exalted is He.
posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 8:05 PTG   0 comments
Selasa, 13 Julai 2010
New to Islam from Glasgow, Scotland
IMAN President’s conversations (via email) with Sr Elena Vidican, a Romanian sister who recently converted to Islam.
(EV: Elena Vidican; KO: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamar Oniah)

Date: Monday, 5 July, 2010

EV: Salam Aleikum Dr. Kamar Oniah,
My name is Elena and I would first like to say that I felt great joy attending the meeting that you were present at, here in Glasgow, at Andalus. I am new to Islam and listening to your words and thoughts I identified myself with the way I am thinking and I realise that thinking in a particular way does not mean you are not following Islam.

Wa 'alaikumu salam warah matullah wa barakatuh, Elena. So nice of you to mail and so happy to have met you at the Andalus Center in Glasgow. First of all, my heartiest congratulations indeed on your conversion too Islam. You are truly blessed, Elena, and may Allah keep you ever in His Mercies and Love.

KO: Yes, Elena, Islam is called deen al-fitrah i.e. a "natural religion" (religio naturalis) in that it fits with the natural disposition or character of human beings, i.e., the inclination in human beings to think good and to do good, and the need to reach out to God their Creator. So everything that is good, that result in good is Islamic, be this in thinking or acting or feeling. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that every human being is born a Muslim but their upbring made them to be a non-Muslim.

EV: For example I often hear or I am told that Islam is only about obeying without asking or questioning why something is in a particular way, that a true believer is someone who hears and believes because this is what was told. As we humans have limited knowledge and can not comprehend.
I am studying law, and maybe as it is in my nature I tend to always ask and compare things or analyse certain situations.
I remember that when I was a child, and I used to ask my dad, who is an orthodox priest, about different "dogmas" and often got the same reply, 'believe without questioning' . So to me, religion was something that didnt' really made lot of sense and I couldn't understand why should I believe in something that, at that time, for me was 'not making lot of sense'

What should be different about Islam?

KO: Elena, as I mentioned in my talk, the very first revelation given to the Holy Prophet Muhammad was Iqra', which connotes read, think, reflect, ponder. The essence of religion in Islam is understanding and from understanding comes conviction. Understanding requires thinking, assessing, reflecting. So much so is the significance of thinking in Islam that alcohol and all such items that destroy the ability to think is prohibited by Islam. Also, because the lunatic, children and the senile (very old people) are not able to think rationally, they are exempted from responsibility to the laws (shari'ah).

In fact, Islam, unlike Medieval Christianity, has always promoted thinking and expansion of knowledge and because of this when Medieval Europe went into the Dark Ages because the Church prohibited acquiring science, Islam was at its glory and contributed tremendously to scholarship, science and human development. It is very sad now that the Muslim world is in a state of disorder which makes the development of scholarship by brilliant Muslims very difficult today.

Indeed, in Islam, a person is highly encouraged to think. So Elena, go on questioning and thinking - this is Islamic. When a person says you should not ask, in all probability, the person doesn't know how to answer you. I asked a lot of questions before when I was in school too and my poor teachers whom I really adore, could not answer them. Then I realized that why should they be the ones to answer my questions; these were my questions, I should search for the answers myself. Because I have asked a lot of questions, alhamdulillah, I am able to reach out to people who have lots of questions, like you. And I am truly happy to be with people who ask and think, people like you, Elena. So keep on asking and we both can search for the answers.

EV: Also, I have many times, been thinking about how can so many texts of the multitude of the Hadiths be preserved with so much accuracy, having in mind that they were not written down in the time of the Prophet, and they are related by hearsay.?
From what I know, a message that is transmitted orally , looses from the accuracy as it is transferred from one person to another.

KO: Unlike the history of many religions' oral traditions, Islam came in the 7th Century C.E. into a society (Mecca) that was literate and many were scholars. Even Europe in the 7th Century had well read scholars among the clergy. The sayings of the Holy Prophets were memorized and his actions duly noted by many of his Companions. However, he did not allow them to write these down for fear that his words and actions may be confused up with the revelations he received from God. He only dictated the revelations down. When he died, the revelations were compiled together within 2-3 years of his death by Caliph Abu Bakar (i.e., the Qur'an) and later copies were made by Caliph Uthman to be distributed to different parts of the Muslim world then.

The originality of the revelations (Qur'an) was thus secured, and after that, the younger Companions started to compile the sayings (Hadith) and noted the actions (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet from the witnesses and memories of the Companions. These were cross-checked and only those that had many narrators, or popularly known were accepted as authentic Hadith and Sunnah. Even so, the possibility of error is there unlike in the case of the Qur'an. Because of that Muslim scholars are very meticulous in identifying true strong Hadith from doubtful and weak narrations. The narrators are traced to the origin of the sayings and if the person has no contact with the Holy Prophet, the saying will not be acceptable.

EV: Also, the Quran is the word of God, why was it necessary to have additional guidance? Aren't we 'adding' things to the Qur'an?

KO: The status of the Hadith is never to add on but to clarify, explain and to elaborate. Thus if there seems to be contradictions between the Qur'an and particular "hadith", then that is not an authentic Hadith but the works of mischievous people who claim such to be a Hadith; and this so-claimed "hadith" has to be discarded because it is false.

EV: Is it possible that traditions are also a part of the Hadiths?

KO: It is possible only if the Prophet endorsed the traditions. This is because Islam does not reject anything good and valuable, and Islam acknowledges that there were many people who were given wisdom by Allah.

EV: As an explanation I was told that for example there is no mention in the Qu'ran how to pray and how many times. But does it matter if a certain ritual is followed while praying or the important thing is that we pray truly with our hearts and we manage to establish a 'real' connection with Allah ?

KO: This is one example of how the hadith elaborates the Qur'an. In the Qur'an, we are asked to pray, to be consistent in our prayers. Since Allah cannot be seen, we need a person to show us how, and Prophet Muhammad was that person. Prayers and all other rituals cannot be invented or creatively developed because the possibility of them leading to the worshipping of other than God. For example, people many takes means or medium such as idols or people to act as a bridge to God and end up by worshipping these, and so will end up by having a God that is not the actual God, Allah the Creator of everybody, everything and every being. In fact, that is the history of other religions; they started by worshipping Allah but got deviated little by little. The prophets were actually sent to lead people back to the religion of Allah. With Prophet Muhammad, however, the revelations and his teachings were well documented and therefore there is no need for other prophets anymore. People can all refer to the Qur'an and the Hadith for authentic guidance.

EV: Regarding the haram/halal issue I wonder if for example the fact that, let's say at a family reunion, where there are also people who are not Muslims, is it necessary that the halal food to be prepared in separate vessels using separate utensils? what is actually the real meaning of halal/haram?

KO: In such cases, go with the "safe" food, i.e. that you know for sure has no haram ingredients. As for the utensils or vessels, if these have been cleaned properly and nothing haram is suspected to be still there, it is alright.

EV: I would also like to know how can I purchase a copy of your book that you mentioned and also if you can recommend me some books on Islam that I can read?

KO: Elena, just mail me your postal address. It is my pleasure to give you one.

EV: Thank you for taking time reading this e-mail and I apologize for making it too long

Kind regards,

KO: No apologies please. In fact, I apologies for my late response. If you want to share my mail around, please feel free to do so.

God speed. Salam.
Dr. Kamar

Date: Thursday, 8 July, 2010

EV: Salam Aleikum Dr.Kamar,

I would very much like to receive a copy of your book. My postal address is: ********, Glasgow, Scotland, UK., (Elena Vidican).

KO: Wa'alaikumu salam wm wb Elena. Insha Allah, I will post it soonest possible and will let you know when I have done so.

EV: Thank you for taking time in replying in lenght to my questions :-) Yes, I think that it is right to say that we should try and search for answers ourselves, and find the true meanings.
I have began reading the Qur'an, an English translation, as I do not know Arabic.

KO: Good. The most important thing is to understand what Allah says to you, whatever the language this may be. In fact, as stated in the Qur'an, the revelations that came before the Qur'an came to non-Arab prophets too and in their own languages which surely were not Arabic.

EV: Is it obligatory to learn Arabic in order to benefit from the blessings of Allah?

KO: Not obligatory since not every person has assess to the means to learn Arabic, but learning Arabic for understanding Islam is certainly both meritorious and helpful. But for the formal rituals such as the solat (formal 5 times a day prayer), these must be performed in Arabic and you must understand the meaning (translation). This is because these prayers are formal and like everything formal, they should be done properly and translations is not as accurate as the real ones. The du'a (personal invocations) can be done in your own language and with your own words.

EV: I have often heard and known people who can recite the Qur'an in Arabic without understanding much or nothing at all, from what they are reading. For example, today, as I attended a New to Islam meeting, one of the speakers (an imam) was saying that even if you don’t' understand , but know how to recite the Qur'an in Arabic is it considered valuable and you will get more rewards.

Now, my mind again started asking, how can you, your intellect, your heart connect to something that you do not comprehend? Is it the fact that the message of the Qur'an was in Arabic, that gives it a special meaning? Or should it matter if is Arabic or any other language?

KO: The Qur'an is the words of Allah and is a miracle. Reading and understanding it gets higher rewards and reading without understanding gets lesser reward. This is because when people read the Qu'ran, they feel close to it and therefore close to Allah too. When people are close to Allah, they will be conscious that Allah is with them always and thus will not do the bad and forbidden things and will do the good and praiseworthy things, i.e. be good Muslims. Reading the Qur'an is therefore as much an intellectual and rational matter as it is a spiritual and psychological matter. In fact, there are people who understand Arabic and may have read the Qur'an but are not Muslims as in the cases of the Arab Christians and Jews who understand Arabic in the Middle East and also the orientalist scholars. This is because such people reject Allah and Islam both intellectually and spiritually. Thus understanding does not always lead to acceptance. Moreover, Muslims who do not understand Arabic still do understand the general message of the Qur'an.

EV: In relation to this, I would also like to know, if you can indicate some source in the Qur'an or Hadiths, where it is said that the mere fact that a person is born Muslim, or is a Muslim, that person will for sure find the place in heaven, regardless of his actions[as i was told].

KO: Heaven is to be deserved. However, all those who acknowledges Allah as their Creator and do not regard that there are other gods other than Allah, then they will eventually go to Heaven after they have got their due punishments. If a person is a born Muslim but he or she rejects Allah as the Creator, then this person has gone out of Islam and is no longer a Muslim; no Heaven for such persons. You may want to refer to the following Qur'anic verses - 2:82, 4:48, 4:137, 29:58 . The first number is the chapter and the second number is the verse of the chapter e.g. 4:48 means chapter 4 verse 48 (Yusuf Ali translation).

EV: Again, I wonder, doesn’t' this mean that by having this belief, we as Muslims are basically trying to 'separate' from the rest, and we try to think as 'the chosen ones'?

KO: No, there is no such thing as "the chosen ones" because Muslims will be punished too if they do bad things and there are very many verses in the Qur'an that warn Muslims of the punishment of Allah if they do wrong. That is why good Muslims are very concern about doing good and rightful things and always avoid doing the forbidden and bad things. In fact, the more religious and committed the Muslims are to Islam, the more concern they are about doing good as compared to bad Muslims because the good Muslims are afraid of Allah's punishment. Being Muslim by itself does not protect us from Hell fire and punishment will come both on this earth in various forms as well as in the next life; thus no such understanding as the "chosen ones" in Islam.

EV: Is it true that Allah had chosen the Muslims (like special souls were meant for Muslims) ? What happens then with the rest of the humanity that is not Muslim, and have never heard about Islam?

KO: No, no such thing as special souls for Muslims above all other human beings. Same soul for all human beings. For those who have not heard about Islam, they come under a special category of those who have not received or aware of Islam. Allah will relate to them in a special way. If they are pure at heart and felt that there is only one Creator, the All Supreme God and they are not evil and do not do bad things, these people may be classified as Hanifs (plural hunafa') and are highly regarded by Allah.

EV: Salam

KO: Elena, what we are discussing here are very informative. You ask very profound questions and I am grateful to you for opening for me the venue to respond. Is it okay with you if I mount this on my website so that others may benefit too? This is called da'wah and in doing so, you are contributing much to Islam and to those who are in similar situation as you. You certainly have my permission to forward and mount our mails unto websites.
Dr. Kamar Oniah

Date: Fri, Jul 9, 2010

EV: Yes, I very much agree with posting our conversations on your website. I think it might benefit others as well.

Today I do not have questions, or so many as usual :-).
I was thinking what does Islam say about the period of Greek Philosophy?

Date: Mon, Jul 12, 2010

KO: Wa 'alaikumusalam wm wb, Elena. Tq very much for the permission to mount our mails on websites.

The Qur'an does not say anything precise about Greek philosophy but it is very appreciative of rational thinking. Muslim scholars have benefited much from Greek philosophy and were the inheritors of it and expanded it. Europe, however, under Christian power was very antagonistic to Greek philosophy and it was only during the Crusades that European scholars got to appreciate and re-learn Greek philosophies when they were exposed to it in the Muslim lands. Thus, after the Crusades, the socio-political and intellectual landscapes of Europe changed, bringing in the Renaissance and Reformation.

Date: Fri, Jul 16, 2010

EV: Assalamu alaikum Dr Kamar,

Thank you very much! I am looking forward to receiving it!

1. I would like to discuss again about the halal/haram issues in Islam.
It is understood that haram is something forbidden as it brings only bad effects upon one person. For example, alcohol produces intoxication of the body and mind and that is why was considered bad.
However, I have often heard people saying that for example products (not for eating) that might contain alcohol are also prohibitted. Such as: a gel used for hair, or perfumes or mouth wash, etc.
Why would these be haram? One will not be 'intoxicated" or drunk after using them in no way
So if we consider these things as haram, that means we are adding to the Quran, which is prohibited.

KO: Haram things are also impure things and cannot be on us when we pray. Alcohol is one of these. When perfumes contain alcohol, we may have it with us when we pray. If hair gel, then make very sure that it is thoroughly removed from our hair when we clean our hair. As for mouth rinse, the alcohol in the rinse can surely penetrate into our cells in mouth. Because of all this fuss about cleaning them, etc., surely it will be wiser for Muslims to just go for the non-alcoholic things. Thus, in saying that it is haram, it is not adding but translating into operation the injunctions of the Qur'an.

EV: 2. Why is music and dancing forbidden (if they are) in Islam? Does the Quran provides for such an interdiction or it is only in the traditions (Hadiths) ? And if is only in the Hadith, doesn’t that mean 'adding' something new?

KO: Music and dancing per se is not forbidden. The Holy Prophet was welcomed into Madinah with songs and cheer, and he also attended weddings with songs. Even today many Muslim weddings have dancing but these dances are confined to male or female-only groups. What is forbidden is music and dancing that portray lewdness or loose mixing and frolicking which is against the ethical values of Islam. Songs or sonoral art is a big thing in the Muslim world and Muslims, particularly the Sufis (Muslim mystics) express their devotion to Allah in songs of praises of His Majesty and some Sufi groups also have their dances of devotion.

EV: 3. Also there is the saying that people should follow the Sunna, the practice of the Prophet. For example eating with your hand (without using a fork or a spoon) or other acts that were done in a certain way. But shouldn't we also consider the time we are living in and the evolution of a society? While the main principles should remain the same, like being just and leading a moral life, eating in a particular way has changed since that time.

KO: Yes, you are right and you will see Muslims using fork and spoons and the Chinese Muslims using chop sticks. But again, if Muslims choose to eat with their fingers because they want to follow the Holy Prophet, surely this too is well intended and good. If you are not comfortable with Muslims who are so imposing and demanding in their character, making the sunnah (recommmended) matters as wajib (obligatory) please find other Muslims. Among Muslims, like other religious groups too, there are those who are ultra dogmatic, even petty at times. Move out of this circle and join the more general type, please.

EV: 4. What about superstition? Are they accepted in Islam? To be more specific: wearing a certain necklace that contains verses from the Quran and that can keep one away from troubles, or wearing a ring that also has some verses , enclosed.

KO: No, superstition is never accepted in Islam and talisman such as necklaces etc with Quranic verses or Islamic emblems are not acceptable practices. This in fact has its traditions in Judaism where symbols are much used as sacred and holy connections, as it were. In Islam, we turn to Allah Almighty, and only to Allah, for protection and guidance and we do it with a simple du'a (prayer) from our hearts and lips, in our own words or we can also recite the relevant Qur'anic verses.

EV: 5. What does Istikhara represent? Can it be performed by a 'scholar or imam', as I know the practice can be, and then that particular person can give an advice on the matter? How different is that, from making recourse to a 'wizard' or persons who think they can predict the future?

KO: Istikharah, in simple words, is a prayer to ask for guidance in decision making where we are uncertain and not confident in our own decisions. Therefore, before we make istikharah, we should first to evaluate and think thoroughly the possible consequences of our decision. If we are still uncertain, then we do istikharah. No, others should not do istikharah for us; we do it ourselves because the guidance should come to us. Those who seek Imams and scholars to do so are often those who are not sure of the strength of their own faith and prayers. Istikharah should not be looked upon as a completion of our needs; we should always work hard and seriously towards the goal even after our istikarah. Istikharah also does not mean that we do not have problems after we are guided into making the decision. The problems and difficulties may be necessary for the goal, i.e., part of the whole package, as it were. Istikharah means the guided decision is the best for us in the ultimate.

EV: Kind regards,


KO: May Allah be with you always, Elena. I am linking you up with my niece, Shakirah, who was with me at our meeting in the Andalus Center, Glasgow. If you happen to come to London, do meet her and her friends. I am sure you all will have lots of fun and cheer, which are of course, very Islamic. Muslims should be happy and cheerful, not dull in look and in appearance, looking like zombies. Get away of such a gloomy and intense circle, Elena.

Dr. Kamar

posted by Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN) @ 1:01 PG   0 comments

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