The Behavior and Social Interaction of a Believer

Allah says in the Quran, “O believers! Enter completely into Islam” (2:208). As stated earlier, Islam is a comprehensive religion. Its teachings touch upon all aspects of life. This is because in every aspect of life, the Muslim should be worshiping and serving Allah. There is no compartment of life that can ever fall outside of that general precept.

Islam, therefore, goes well beyond articles of faith and ritual acts of worship. All of a Muslim’s behavior, manners, ethics and practices must reflect his belief that there is none worthy of worship except Allah. It is inconceivable that someone should claim to be worshiping Allah while at the same time he mistreats this person, cheats another person and harms yet a third. This kind of behavior would demonstrate that his claim to belief is either outright false or is very diseased.

For a new convert to Islam, this comprehensiveness may mean that there are many things that he will have to change about himself in order to be a complete and true Muslim. He may have many character flaws from his pre- Islamic days that he will have to work on and correct. He has no choice but to intend to change his ways. He is now stating his belief in Islam. If his belief is true, it must mean that he is willing to accept what the faith is teaching him and he is willing to do his best to implement all of the faith in his life.

As his understanding of Islam increases and as his faith strengthens, many behaviors may change “automatically,” as he now has a new view on life and a correct understanding of reality. This author has witnessed such changes in new Muslims. For example, some non-Muslims get very upset when participating in sports. Any time things do not go their way or when they feel that the other team is getting some unfair advantage, this sets off an angry rage in some individuals. This rage reflects how much weight and importance they are giving to that sports activity. After becoming Muslims, some such individuals change completely. Now, all of a sudden, sports are just for fun and exercise. The new Muslim understands that sports have no long-term value to a person’s real worth. This new understanding of his reality automatically—and sometimes even imperceptibly from the individual’s point of view—changes the person’s behavior and character.

The goal is to make such a transformation with respect to all interactions one has. This transformation is assisted by knowledge of how one is supposed to behave. Therefore, in this chapter, after an introductory section on the importance of behavior and character, the following interactions will be discussed:

(1) AMuslim vis-à-vis his own self.
(2) AMuslim vis-à-vis his/her parents.
(3) AMuslim vis-à-vis his/her spouse.
(4) AMuslim vis-à-vis his/her children.
(5) AMuslim vis-à-vis his/her neighbors.
(6) AMuslim vis-à-vis other Muslims.
(7) AMuslim vis-à-vis non-Muslims.
(8) AMuslim vis-à-vis society as a whole.
(9) AMuslim vis-à-vis wealth and property.

Islam’s Emphasis on Proper Behavior, Manners and Etiquette

In an emphatic hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated, “I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting good morals.”252 In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has clearly stated that one of the important aspects of his being sent as a prophet was to show what the good morals, behavior and manners are. This is a clear sign that behavior and manners clearly fall within the scope of the teachings of Islam. A Muslim cannot escape this fact and he must adjust his behavior accordingly.

There are actually numerous statements of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) related to the importance of having good character. Here, just a few will be presented to simply highlight the importance of this topic.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Paradise for the one who makes his behavior good.”253 This hadith clearly shows the reward for improving and perfecting one’s behavior. Some people claim that their character is simply what they are born with and there is nothing they can do to change or adjust it. That is simply not true. As demonstrated earlier, much of the driving force behind one’s character has to do with what one believes about God, this life, the Hereafter and so on. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Piety and righteousness is being of good character.”254 Piety is achievable but it may take some effort. In fact, when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) described the hypocrites, those of weak or false faith, he described them by their actions and behavior: lying while speaking, breaking one’s trust and so on.255

Once again, the example par excellence for the behavior of a Muslim is found in the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). By the grace and mercy of Allah, Allah sent the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), a human being who was a husband, father, member of society, leader of society and so forth, to exemplify for the believers who one should behave in a manner that is pleasing to Allah.256 He demonstrated how the Quran is to be applied in practical, daily life. Thus, Aishah, his wife, said about him, “His character was that of the Quran.”257 Thus, one finds that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sincere, honest, grateful and straightforward. He was humble, patient, calm and forgiving. He would not lie, backbite or slander others. He had a cheerful disposition and would treat all classes of society with proper respect. This is all part and parcel of what it means to behave like a believer.

From an Islamic perspective, character and manners are also comprehensive. In other words, one must have the proper behavior and actions with respect to his Creator, with respect to his own soul, with respect to the others he interacts with, with respect to the other beings on earth and with respect to all parts of creation. (Some of these categories will be discussed further in this chapter.)

The most important category is behavior with respect to the Creator, as that will influence all of the other categories. This embodies having the proper relationship with Allah and submitting to Him in a sincere fashion with a correct attitude. Aspects of this relationship have been touched upon throughout this work.

The last two categories stated above imply good behavior toward all other living creatures on earth as well as all that Allah has placed within this cosmos. A Muslim is not free to behave in any way he wishes with respect to animals or inanimate objects. Indeed, he will be answerable to Allah concerning his behavior towards all things. Everything in this creation that has been put at the disposal of humankind is nothing more than a trust from God. There are, for example, numerous hadith that touch upon how Muslims should treat animals. For example, even with respect to slaughtering an animal for consumption, which Allah has permitted humans, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill in a good manner. If you slaughter, slaughter in a good manner. Each of you should sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering.”258 This fact was not lost on the early Muslims as can be seen in the statement of al-Fudail ibn Iyaad, “By Allah, it is not allowed for you to harm a dog or a pig without just cause, how then can you harm a Muslim?”259

252 Recorded by al-Haakim and others. Graded sahih by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer, number 2349.

253 Recorded by Abu Dawud. Graded hasan by al-Albani in Sahih al-Jami’ al-Sagheer, number 1464.

254 Recorded by Muslim.

255 Found in a hadith recorded by al-Bukhari.

256 This author has written elsewhere: “This is an aspect that many people today seem to overlook.
There is a lot of talk about following the Sunnah but the Sunnah is not simply the number of prayers in a day, fasts in a month, length of one’s clothing or style of dress. The Sunnah is much more than that. As was noted earlier, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent with the most excellent morals and behavior. This is an outstanding and necessary part of his mission. This is an extremely important part of his Sunnah that everyone should try to emulate.” Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi.

257 Recorded by Muslim.

258 Recorded by Muslim.

259 Quoted in Muhammad al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’laam al-Nubala (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risaalah, 1990), vol. 8, p. 427.

(1) A Muslim vis-à-vis His Own Self

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained that a person’s own self has a right over him.260 Indeed, an individual has very important responsibilities with respect to his own self. Logically speaking, a person’s self has a right and duty to do what is best for it. It is only reasonable that a person should do what he can to keep his soul from being destroyed.

Furthermore, every human must realize that he did not create himself. He is not his own lord. He cannot even claim for himself the right to use his own self or body in any way that he wills, although this is something that one hears often nowadays. Islam teaches that humans have been created by an All-Knowing, All-Merciful God. Thus, even with respect to his own self, the human must obey its Creator and Lord. In turn, the Creator has actually commanded the human only to do what is best for its own self.

Actually, the Creator has shown him the way to save himself. This is achieved by exerting oneself to accept wholeheartedly what Allah has revealed and to do what is pleasing to the Lord. In the long-run, in reality, all of the guidance that has come from Allah—the religion of Islam itself—is simply for the benefit of the individual himself. Allah is neither benefited by being worshipped nor harmed by being belied. Thus, in numerous places in the Quran, Allah makes it clear that all of this merciful guidance is simply at the disposal of the humans for their own benefit: “Verily We have revealed the book to you in truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, who receives guidance benefits his own soul. But he who strays injures his own soul. Nor are you [O Muhammad] set over them to dispose of their affairs” (39:41; see also, for example, 6:104 and 41:46); “Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit.Who goes astray does so to his own loss. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another nor would We visit with Our wrath until We had sent a messenger (to give warning)” (Al-Isra 17:15); “And whoever purifies himself does so for the benefit of his own soul; and the destination (of all) is to Allah” (35:18).

Everything explained in this book is actually for the individual so that he may fulfill his responsibilities toward his own self and establish the proper relationship with his Creator, God and Lord. Thus, all of this book that the reader is reading can be considered an explanation of this particular subsection.

Hence, in this section, the author would like to speak about a very particular aspect that demonstrates that Islam attends to the guidance of a hu 168 1430 2009 man in every aspect of his life. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated while speaking to Abdullah ibn Amr, “Your body has a right upon you. Your eye has a right upon you…”261 Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has explained many aspects of personal hygiene and practice that are in tune with the true nature of humans. In other words, the soul naturally recognizes that these are good and beautiful practices. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) therefore referred to them as sunan al-fitra or “the acts corresponding to the sound, adulterated nature of humans.” These acts are mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the following hadith: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Five are from among the natural practices: circumcision, shaving the pubic hairs, plucking the armpit hairs, clipping the nails and trimming the moustache.”262 In another statement, he said, “Ten are from among the natural practices: trimming the moustache, leaving the beard to grow, using the toothstick, [cleaning] by putting water in the nose, clipping the nails, washing the knuckles and finger joints, plucking the underarm hairs, shaving the pubic hairs, using water to clean the private part [after urinating].” Zakariyyaa then said, “Musab said, ‘I have forgotten the tenth, unless it is rinsing one’s mouth.’”263 Although scholars differ as to whether these acts or obligatory or highly recommended, there is no question that if an individual truly wants to treat his self properly, with the proper hygiene and outward appearance, he will adhere to all of these practices that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has praised in these hadith.

In addition to such hygienic issues, Islam also guides the individual concerning his eating and drinking. For example, Allah has prohibited the consumption of alcohol: “O you who believe! Alcohol, gambling, idols, and arrows for seeking luck or decisions are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful” (5:90). Similarly, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “All intoxicants are forbidden.”264 Allah has given instructions as to what types of foods may be eaten as well: “He has forbidden you only the carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah” (2:173); “Forbidden to you (for food) are: carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, or on which Allah's Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering), and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns - and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal - unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) - and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on stone altars. (Forbidden) also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision, (all) that is disobedience of Allah and sin” (5:3); “Say (O Muhammad): I find not in that which has been inspired to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be carrion, or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork, etc.) for that surely is impure, or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, or on which Allah's Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But whosoever is forced by necessity without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, (for him) certainly, your Lord is Oft-Forgiving,Most Merciful” (6:145).

In general, a Muslim can only eat meat slaughtered by a Muslim, Jew or Christian in specified manners. For that reason—without going into the debate that has spread concerning this issue—this author recommends that a Muslim not eat the meat that is sold in the supermarkets of the West. He should restrict himself to what is known as halal or zabihah meat (slaughtered by Muslims) or kosher meat (slaughtered by Jews).

260 As found in the lengthy hadith of Salmaan, recorded by al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi.

261 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

262 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

263 Recorded by Muslim.

264 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

(2) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Parents

Allah has demanded that Muslims treat their parents in the best possible fashion. Muslims must be grateful people. They must be grateful to Allah and to all who do them well. After Allah, there is perhaps no one who deserves a person’s gratitude more than his parents. Thus, numerous verses of the Quran touch upon the question of the treatment of parents. Indeed, in more than one place, Allah has closely tied good behavior towards parents with the command to worship Him alone. Note, for example, the following verse of the Quran: “Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful” (4:36).

In this verse, Allah has combined His rights over His servants with the servants’ rights over each other. Among the servants, a person must treat the following five classes especially well: (1) those that are related to him, especially his parents; (2) those who are weak and in need; (3) those with whom he mixes and sees on a regular basis, such as neighbors; (4) those who come upon a person on a temporary basis, such as a wayfarer; and (5) the slaves that one possesses. In this last category, some of the early scholars also included what one possesses of animals.265

Allah also says, “Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents…” (6:151); “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.’ Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance” (17:23-25); “And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, (saying): Worship none but Allah (Alone) and be dutiful and good to parents” (2:83).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also emphasized good treatment of one's parents, putting it after prayer in its proper time as a deed that is most beloved to Allah:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked, “What deed is the most beloved to Allah?” He replied, “Prayer in its proper time.” He was asked, “Then what deed?” He replied, “Being dutiful to one’s parents.” He was asked again, “Then what deed?” He then replied, “Jihad for the sake of Allah.”266

Allah reminds the believers that their parents, in particular the mother, went through a great deal of hardship and effort to raise their child and therefore they are deserving of love, respect and gratitude in return. Allah says, “And (remember) when Luqmaan said to his son when he was advising him, ‘O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great wrong indeed.’ And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination” (31:13-14); “And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: ‘My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds, such as please You, and make my off-spring good. Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am one of the Muslims (submitting to Your Will)’” (46:15).

Thus, in particular, the mother is deserving of the greatest friendship and closeness from her children. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was once asked, “Who among the people has the most right for my good companionship?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “And then whom?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied again, “Your mother.” The man again asked, “And them whom?” the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once again said, “Your mother.” The man asked once more, “And then whom?” This time the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Your father.”267

265 Ibn Rajab, Jami, vol. 1, p. 346-348.
266 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
267 Recorded by Muslim.

Converts and Relations with Non-Muslim Relatives

The relationship between a new convert and his non-Muslim family and associates can be a difficult one. Many times there is open opposition from the non-Muslims. This is a great trial for the convert. He will obviously still have love for those people who were so close and good to him for many years. An example for the convert under such circumstances is the early converts to Islam in Makkah. These Muslims faced great opposition and many of them were even tortured due to their new faith. Eventually, the small Muslim community was forced to emigrate to different lands to protect their faith. However, they were patient and persevered, thereby pleasing their Lord. They understood that their new found relationship with God must take precedence over ties with anyone in this world.

When a human meets Allah in the Hereafter, he will meet him as an individual, responsible for his own actions and decisions. The fact that others close to him disliked the truth is obviously not an acceptable excuse to abandon God's religion or even to compromise with respect to God's religion. If such were acceptable to Allah, He certainly would have made that an option for those early Muslims who endured torture and banishment from their lands. However, such an option was not given to them. Actually, such an option implies none other than the destruction of God's religion as there will always be numerous people who oppose the truth and God's way.

For most converts nowadays, by Allah's grace, the situation is not as strenuous as that described above. There is usually a mixed reaction to a person's conversion: The others respect his choice but may not be completely pleased with the choice that he has made. Under these circumstances in particular it is important for the individual to understand the limits of his relationships with those who do not belong to his faith, even though they do not openly oppose his new faith.

Blood relatives, in particular, still have rights over the new Muslim convert.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record that Asmaa bint Abi Bakr came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said, “My mother is coming [from Makkah] and wishes to see me although she is a polytheist. Shall I keep ties with her?” He replied, “Yes, keep ties with your mother.” Allah says in the Quran, “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity” (60:8).268 Allah also says about non-believing parents in particular, “But if they (the parents both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do” (31:15). Of course, the individual needs to protect his faith and if the parents are exerting undo pressure on their child, then the son/daughter may have to severe some of his ties with them. However, even then, he should try to do so in the most gracious manner.

A Muslim, by his very nature, is supposed to be grateful. The Prophet said, “The one who does not thank the people does not truly thank Allah.”269 Thus, a Muslim will always remain grateful and filled with a “natural love” for his non-Muslim parents due to all the kindness and love they showed for him over the years. However, he cannot possess a “religious love” for their actions. That is, from a religious perspective, he can neither condone nor approve of their following a way other than the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Thus, he cannot have love for them for the way of life that they have chosen. Whenever there is a conflict between this natural love and religious love, the religious love must take precedence. As Allah has said, “O you who believe! Take not for supporters and helpers your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the wrongdoers. Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are the rebellious, disobedient to Allah” (9:23-24).270

Thus, it is not the right of any Muslim to show any approval for their false forms of worship. Allah has guided the convert to the one and only truth and it should be his earnest desire that those close to him would also embrace the truth. While keeping cordial relations with all of those around him, the convert must be clear to himself and to others around him that he can neither approve of nor participate in any form of worship that he must now recognize as being false. A Muslim then is not allowed to celebrate Christmas, for example.271 Their belief that this is a celebration of the birth of the son of God and the savior strikes at the very root of the Muslim's monotheism. A Muslim could not possibly participate in such a celebration. He also cannot wish that others enjoy such a celebration nor exchange gifts in joy for such an occasion. Instead, he leaves the others to their forms of worship and celebration while making it very clear that participating in such practices would be nothing short of a compromise and contradiction of his new faith. With a calm and clear explanation, it would be hoped that those around him would respect and accept his decision to remain away from such religious practices that are not consistent with his new faith.

Part of keeping ties with one's relatives would include visiting them. Especially if part of the intention behind the visit is to allow one's relatives to see a Muslim and learn true information about Islam, there is no question that such visiting is sanctioned. The Prophet visited his polytheist uncle Abu Taalib while he was ill272 as well as a young Jewish boy who was on his deathbed.273 He would accept their invitations for meals. In fact, it is even confirmed that the Prophet visited Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool on his deathbed, even though the Prophet knew that Abdullah was the leader of the hypocrites and an opponent of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).274

There are obviously some limits to what types of visits and what activities a Muslim can participate in. Among the common issues that arises for new converts is that of attending the funerals of deceased relatives. Based on reports from early Muslim scholars, the Muslim does pay his condolences to the family and is present during that time but remains distant from the specific acts of the funeral process, especially anything of a religious overtone. The obvious goal is to remain away from any act that may contradict the Islamic faith in any way. When Ali's father Abu Taalib died as a non-Muslim, the Prophet told him to go and burry his father. Ali then did so.275 There is also a report that ibn Abbaas, the Companion of the Prophet, was asked about a Muslim whose Christian father had died and he replied, “He should attend and bury him.”276

When offering condolences to non-Muslims, one may wish them well, hoping that nothing but good reaches them and encouraging them to be patient. It is not allowed to seek forgiveness for those who, it is known, died while outside of the fold of Islam. Such has been prohibited in the Quran. Allah says, “It is not (proper) for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah's Forgiveness for the polytheists and idolaters, even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a state of disbelief)” (9:113)

268 Al-Adawi notes that some people may object to the above conclusions, arguing that the following Quranic verses abrogate the verses used as arguments above: “You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred (people). For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with true guidance from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens (Paradise) under which rivers flow, to dwell therein (forever). Allah is pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Verily, it is the Party of Allah that will be the successful” (58:22); and, “O you who believe! Take not for supporters and helpers your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the wrongdoers” (9:23) Al-Adawi states that one must distinguish between al-birr (“righteous conduct”), al-silah (“keeping of the ties of kinship”) and alihsaan (“goodness toward others”) and al-tahaabub (“love”) and al-tawaadud (“devotion”). The first three are commendable. Also, he says that “natural love and devotion” is different from “religious love and devotion.” Thus, a Muslim may love his Christian wife with a strong love while he hates her religion with the strongest hate and aversion. His love for her will lead him to treat her well, feed her with the best food, spend money on her clothing and so on, while at the same time not having any love or approval for her faith. Thus, his love and goodness toward her is one thing and his hate for her religion is something completely different. In fact, at the same time, for example, a Muslim may hate another Muslim for the wrong he has done while still loving him for his faith. Al-Shafi'ee is quoted as saying that keeping in good contact by al-birr (righteous conduct), justice, kind words and so forth is not what has been prohibited. Ibn Hajar in al-Fath also says that righteous conduct, keeping of ties of kinship and goodness do not imply the kind of love and devoon that is prohibited. He says that verse 58:22 is general for those who are being fought or not being fought. He goes on to refute the claim that there is any abrogation involved between verses 9:5 and 58:22. Mustafa ibn al-Adawi, Fiqh al-Ta’amul ma al-Waalidain (Riyadh: Daar Balansiyah, 2002), pp. 61-64.

269 Recorded by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi.

270 Many people today do not know Islam or what they think they know about Islam is false. Hence, the convert should take the time to explain to them the truth about Islam.

271 Many non-Muslims do not have any form of “religious honor or dignity.” That is, they see no harm in participating in practices that strike at the very root of their own beliefs. Thus, when Western Christians visit India, for example, they find no problem in paying homage at Hindu temples as part of their visit or vacation. Since many of them have such attitudes toward their own faith, they find it difficult to see why the Muslim convert is not still willing to participate in Christmas and other practices. In essence, this is related to how seriously one takes one’s religion. A Muslim must take his religion seriously, even if many people of other faiths today do not. Hence, a Muslim can never partake in any practice that he knows is blasphemous or not sanctioned by Islamic Law.

272 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

273 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

274 Recorded by Abu Dawood, al-Haakim and others. See al-Bakri and al-Aaroori, footnotes to ibn al-Qayyim, Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah, vol. 1, pp. 430-431.

275 The Hadith of Ali and Abu Taalib is recorded by Abu Dawood, al-Nasaa`ee, Ahmad and others. It is an acceptable narration according to al-Bakri and al-Aaroori. See their footnotes to ibn al- Qayyim, vol. 1,p. 435-436.

276 See ibn al-Qayyim, vol. 1, p. 437. There is a report recorded by ibn Abi Shaibah that Umm al- Haarith died while a Christian and the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) attended her funeral. However, this report is weak. See fns to ibn al-Qayyim, vol. 1, p.432-433. For numerous other reports concerning this issue, of varying degrees of authen city, see ibn al-Qayyim, vol. 1, pp. 432-437.

(3) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Spouse

Marriage277 is a very important institution in Islam. The family is the nucleus for society as a whole. If the family is on a sound foundation, it is more likely that society as a whole will be in a good state. Thus, in general, the messengers of God, the prime examples for humans, adhered to this institution of marriage. Allah states, “Verily, We have sent messengers before you and appointed for them spouses and children” (13:38). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also established marriage as his way of life, saying, “By Allah, I am the most fearful of Allah of you and I have the most piety; however, I fast and break my fast, pray [at night] and sleep and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not of me.”278

The Quran shows that there is a clear bond between men and women. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah reminds humans that they are from the same original human being. It is through this bond that they are interconnected and through these bonds that some of their rights upon one another are established. Allah states at the opening of surah al-Nisaa’, “O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his wife, and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship)! Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you” (4:1).

However, beyond that beginning that the two sexes have in common, Allah points out that the love and affection that He has created in the hearts of the spouses towards another is one of His great signs that act as portents for those people of understanding. In other words, such people can look at this aspect of creation and be reminded of the greatness of Allah’s work and power, the perfection of His creation and the magnificent mercy Allah has placed in this world. Allah says, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose and comfort in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed Signs for a people who reflect” (30:21). Allah also says, “He it is who created you from a single person (Adam), and then He has created from him his wife, in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her” (7:189).

Thus, according to the Quran, the relationship between a man and his wife should be one of love, mercy and mutual understanding. Allah also commands men to treat their wives kindly in the verse, “And consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah might yet make a source of abundant good” (4:19).

A few words about the purpose of marriage in Islam should be given. This is needed because many times people enter into marriage or desire to get married without realizing the roles and purpose of marriage itself. In turn, they do not realize the kinds of responsibilities that will be on their shoulders when they do get married. However, if the purposes of marriage are known and the responsibilities that marriage will entail are understood at the outset, once again, the probability that the marriage will be a successful marriage will be enhanced. The person will know what is expected of him, both with respect to his responsibilities and duties and his rights.

Obviously, the purpose of marriage is not simply “fun” or the release of “animal urges”. There is much more to marriage than that. Some of the goals behind marriage include279: procreating, experiencing permissible physical pleasure, attainment of one’s complete maturity, mutually assisting one another in making one’s life in this world, attaining numerous psychological and physiological benefits, forming the cornerstone of a moral society, bringing up the next generation in a setting that is most conducive for moral and spiritual growth and binding peoples and families together.

277 For more details on the Islamic laws of marriage, see the author’s “The Fiqh of the Family, Marriage and Divorce” (American Open University, 1997), passim. The discussion here is based on sections of that work.

278 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

279 Cf., Abdul Rahman Abdul Khaaliq, Al-Zawaaj fi Dhill al-Islaam (Kuwait: al-Daar al-Salafiyyah, 1988), pp. 21ff.

Whom One Can Wed

In soorah al-Nisaa’ verses 22-24, Allah has delineated what women a Muslim man may marry. Those categories are straightforward. However, there are a couple of issues that may be of extreme importance for Muslim converts, especially those living in non-Muslim lands. (Note that the question of remaining with non-Muslim spouses was discussed earlier.)

One important issue is that of marrying men or women who are not chaste. There is a difference of opinion among the scholars over whether or not it is allowed to marry a woman whom one knows to be a fornicatress.280 The majority of the scholars (meaning the Malikis, Shafiis and Hanafis) seem to think it is disapproved but allowable while a group of scholars say that it is forbidden. The difference of opinion revolves around the understanding of the verse, “The fornicator marries none but a fornicatress or a polytheistic woman and the fornicatress marries none but a fornicator or a polytheist. Such a thing is forbidden for the believers” (24:3). The majority of the scholars state that this verse is showing that the act of marriage with such a woman is blameworthy but not prohibited. They also based this on the following hadith: “A man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and said, ‘I have a wife who is most beloved to me but she does not keep the hand of the toucher281 from her.’ He said, ‘Divorce her.’ The man replied, ‘But I cannot live without her.’ He said, ‘Then enjoy her with that [deficiency].”

However, a number of early scholars clearly stated that it is forbidden to marry a fornicatress until she repents from her act of fornication. This was the opinion of Ahmad ibn Hanbal among others. This seems to be the strongest and correct opinion based on the verse above. As for the hadith that is quoted, Imam Ahmad considered it a weak hadith. Assuming it is authentic, as some scholars have stated, it is not explicit that the woman would actually commit illegal sexual intercourse. Instead, one could say that the woman was a little promiscuous or free with other men but not to the extent that she would commit illegal sexual intercourse. If a man has a wife of that nature, he should divorce her as the Prophet (peace be upon him) explicitly told the man in this hadith. This, in fact, is further evidence that one should not marry a fornicatress.

It could be argued that in the case of a Muslim convert, he should be extremely careful about this issue. If the person is new to Islam, he should want to be with a spouse who would improve his faith and strengthen his resolve to worship Allah properly. A spouse of immoral character would obviously not be the right choice for anyone hoping to be a true believer but it may be even more dangerous for someone whose faith is still new and vulnerable.

Another important question is whether it is allowed for a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman. This has been a hotly debated question among the scholars, with the majority permitting it (based on Quranic verse 5:5), a minority prohibiting it and another minority applying strict conditions to it.282 Without getting into the details of that debate, once again, for the convert, he should consider his particular situation carefully. Being new to Islam, he should not open up doors to temptation and reverting from his new faith. It is not expected that non-Muslim women will support him in his faith and aid him to grow in his faith like pious Muslim women would. Hence, there is no question that, in general, converts to Islam should refrain from marrying non- Muslim women.

As for a Muslim woman or a female convert marrying a non-Muslim man, Al-Ghummaari wrote, “The marriage of a Muslim woman to a non- Muslim man is forbidden, as is clearly stated in the Quran, and this is something that is known by necessity in the religion. If anyone believes that such a marriage is permissible, he is definitively a disbeliever.”283 In general, the man is the head of the household. Hence, women marrying non-Muslim men presents a much greater danger for the woman and is thus prohibited.

280 A parallel discussion could be given for the question of a woman marrying a man who is known to be a fornicator.

281 A form of this Arabic word can be in reference to sexual intercourse. However, when it is explicitly used with the word, “hand”, as it is in this narration of the hadith, it is in reference to touch and not to sexual intercourse. Allah knows best.

282 Even those who allow it (and disapprove of it) lay down some conditions for its permissibility.
(1) She must be practicing her religion. (2) The woman must not be from Ahl al-Harb (those peoples who are at war with the Muslims). Ibn Abu Shaibah records in his Musannaf that ibn Abbaas stated, “It is not allowed to marry the women of the People of the Book if they are from the people fighting Islam.” Similar statements were also made by other early scholars. The difference between ahl al-Dhimmah (the non-Muslim women citizens living under the control of the Muslim state) and others seems to be clear, especially when compared to the women living in, for example, the United States. In the United States, the courts tend to favor the mother in custody battles and aspects of that nature, without taking into consideration the question of the religion of the child. Such would not be the case in an Islamic state. (3) The Woman must be afeefah or chaste. A Muslim is not allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman who is unchaste, who does not believe that fornication and adultery are bad and so forth.

283 Abdullah al-Ghumaari, Rafu al-Shakk wa al-Irtiyaab an Tahreem Nisaa’ Ahl al-Kitaab (Tanjah, Morocco: 1989), p. 25.

The Rights of a Husband and a Wife

The first thing that every married person must realize that one’s spouse is first and foremost another Muslim. He/she is one’s brother/sister in Islam. Therefore, all the rights that fall upon a Muslim due to the general brotherhood of Islam are also due to one’s spouse. There are books on the behavior of a Muslim, brotherhood and love and loyalty among Muslims and all of those principles apply to a married person as his spouse is part of that Islamic brotherhood and community. Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also stressed this point when he stated, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”284 However, one’s spouse has even more rights upon a person due to the great and important contract that has been contracted between them.285

Therefore, when discussing the rights of the husbands and wives, this matter should not be looked at in a cold or legal fashion. The relationship between the husband and wife must be much more than a matter of rights stated by the law that each must abide by. Instead, it should be a relationship of love, support and mutual understanding. Each spouse should take into consideration the needs and abilities of the other spouse. They should attempt to make each other happy, even if they have to compromise sometimes, and not simply be out to make sure that they are getting all of their rights in the marriage.
Actually, it is usually the case that neither spouse is completely fulfilling the rights of the other and making the other happy. Hence, they both have to realize and accept their shortcomings.

The Prophet (peace be upon him), in particular, advised the husbands to treat their wives in the best way perhaps due to their greater authority or due to their greater strength, in general. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The best of you is the one who is best to his family (wife) and I am the best of you to my family.”286 The Prophet (peace be upon him) also advised, “I advise you to treat women well for they have certainly been created from the upper part of the rib and the most crooked part of the rib is the upper part. If you then try to make it straight, you will break it off; if you leave it, it will remain crooked. So, I advise you to treat women well.”287

Actually, both spouses, in general, fail to some extent in their fulfilling of the other’s obligations. Hence, before criticizing the other or being harsh with the other due to some shortcoming, the person should look to himself and realize what wrong he himself is doing.

At the same time, though, Islamic Law has clearly laid down some rights and responsibilities so that both parties in the marriage know exactly what is expected of them and know what they need to fulfill to be a proper spouse.
Thus, for example, Allah says, “And they [women] have rights [over their husbands] similar to those over them according to what is reasonable” (2:228).

In sum, the rights of the wife or the obligations of the husband include, among others, the following:

(1) Receiving her proper dower: Allah says, “And give the women their dower with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without fear of any harm” (4:4).

(2) Being fully and completely financially maintained by her husband: Allah says, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means” (4:34). Furthermore, in a hadith recorded by al- Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told Hind bint Utbah, when she complained that her husband (Abu Sufyan) was very stingy and was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his wealth without his knowledge, “Take what is sufficient for you and your child, according to what is customary.”

(3) Being treated in a proper and kind manner: Allah states, “And consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah might yet make a source of abundant good” (4:19).

(4) Having the right to sexual intercourse: In the Sahih of Ibn Hibban there is the following narration: The wife of Uthman ibn Madh’oon complained to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) that her husband had no need for women. During the day, he would fast and at night, he would pray. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him, “Am I not the best example for you to follow?” He answered, “Certainly, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) then told him, “As for you, you pray during the night and you fast during the day. Certainly, your wife has a right upon you. And your body has a right upon you. So pray and sleep and fast and break your fast.”

(5) Having the right to “privacy”: Note the following hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Is there any man among you who goes to his wife, closes the door behind then, covers themselves and conceal themselves by Allah’s concealing.” They said, “Yes.” He then said, “Then he sits after that [with others] and he says, ‘I did this and that.’” They were silent. He then turned to the women and said, “Do you any of you talk about such things?” They were also silent. Then a young girl came walking on her toes so the Prophet (peace be upon him) could see her and hear her and she said, “O Messenger of Allah, they [the men] certainly talk about it and they [the women] also talk about it.” He said, “Do you know what they are like? They are like a female devil who met a devil in the street and they satisfied their desires with the people looking on.”288

(6) The right to being taught or learning her religion.

On the other hand, the rights of the husband or the responsibilities of the women include:

(1) Being the head of the household: Allah has said, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means” (4:34). Although this is usually stated as a right of the husband, it is actually a heavy responsibility on his shoulders, as it means that he has the responsibility to guide his family and keep them along the straight path.

(2) Having the right to be obeyed: This goes with the first right. A person cannot be the head of something if he has no authority.

(3) Having his wife answer his call to meet his sexual needs: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until the morning.”289

(4) That the wife will not allow anyone in his house except by his permission: In a hadith recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do not allow anyone into his house except by permission.”

If the husband and wife enter into the marriage with the right intention of pleasing Allah and pleasing each other, recognizing their roles and responsibilities in the marriage and treating each other with proper Islamic behavior, Allah willing, their union will be a blessed union that will stretch from this life into the Hereafter.

284 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

285 Allah says in the Quran, “And how could you take it [back] while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a firm and strong covenant” (4:21).

286 Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and ibn Majah. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. See Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, Sahih al-Jaami, hadith #3315.

287 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

288 Recorded by Abu Dawud. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. See al-Albani, Sahih al-Jaami, hadith #7037.

289 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

Dissolution of a Marriage

Having said what was just said about marriage, Islam, though, is also a practical religion. It takes into consideration all possible common scenarios. It is possible for a man and woman to enter into a union with good intentions yet their personalities and likes simply do not coincide with one another. There are times in which a good marriage simply cannot be achieved and the spouses enter into a state of misery. Under such circumstances, Islamic law allows for an end to the marriage and their suffering.290 The goal is to either stay together in a friendly manner or to separate in a goodly manner. Thus, for example, Allah says, “And when you have divorced women and they have fulfilled the term of their prescribed period, either take them back on reasonable basis or set them free on reasonable basis” (2:231). Allah also says, “Then when they are about to fulfill their term appointed [bringing an end to the divorce], either take them back in a good manner or part with them in a good manner” (65:2).

There are basically three ways in which a marriage is dissolved in Islamic Law. The first is talaaq, commonly translated as “divorce.” This is a pronouncement of divorce made by the husband. After this pronouncement, the wife enters into a “waiting period” of approximately three months, during which time they may simply reunite as husband and wife. However, after the third pronouncement of talaaq, reunification during the waiting period is no longer permissible and the two must separate completely. A second form is known as khul’. This is where the wife is not satisfied in the marriage and offers something to the husband to release her from the marriage. For example, she may offer to return the dower in exchange to bringing an end to the marriage.
A third form is where the rights of the wife are not being met by the husband and therefore she turns to a judge to bring an end to the marriage.

Obviously, divorce is not a desired goal or a light matter. In a perfect world, all married couples would be in bliss. However, there are times in which this option is the best for all parties concerned.

290 Unfortunately, in some Muslim cultures today, divorce has become so “shameful” they have neglected this important guidance of Islamic Law, leading to spouses suffering in silence. This is definitively not the goal of Islamic Law concerning such issues.

(4) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Children

Having a child is both a great blessing and a great responsibility. Allah has said, “Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah—with Him is a great reward (Paradise)” (64:15). Allah also says, “O you who believe, guard yourselves and your families from the Hell-fire whose fuel is men and stones” (66:6). The meaning of this verse was reiterated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when he said, “All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards... The man is responsible for his household and will be asked about his responsibilities. The wife will be asked about the house of her husband and her responsibilities.”291

Muslim scholars consider that the rights of children appear long before they are even conceived via the selection of a pious and righteous spouse. This will be the first step in providing a good household and environment for the child.

Beyond that, the most important rights of the child include:
(a) being maintained and provided for in a healthy manner;
(b) being taught the tenets of the religion;
(d) being treated with compassion and mercy;
(e) being just among multiple siblings; and
(f) having a good example set for them by their parents.

291 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

(5) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Neighbors

Allah says in the Quran, “Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful” (4:36).

Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his neighbor.”292

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “Gabriel kept advising me concerning the neighbor to the point that I thought he would inherit [from his neighbor].”293

In another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “By Allah, he is not a believer. By Allah, he is not a believer. By Allah, he is not a believer.” It was said to him, “Who is that, O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)?” He said, “The one from whose affairs his neighbor is not safe.”294

One time the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about a woman who performed lots of prayers, fasted and gave charity but she used to harm her neighbor by her speech. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that she is in the Hell-fire. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about a woman who did not fast, pray or give in charity much [more than what was obligatory upon her] but she would not harm her neighbors. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that she is in Paradise.295

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also demonstrated specific ways by which one is generous or courteous to his neighbor. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) once said to Abu Dharr, “O Abu Dharr, when you prepare stew, increase its water and deliver it to some of your neighbors.”296

Being courteous and generous to one’s neighbor includes helping him when they need assistance, visiting them when they are ill and general checking on their welfare. Abu Bakr al-Jazairi wrote,

One should demonstrate goodness towards one’s neighbor by: helping them when they seek help, assisting them if they seek assistance, visiting them when they fall ill, congratulating them if something pleasing occurs to them, giving them condolences upon afflictions, helping them if they are in need, being the first to greet them, being kind in speech to them, being gentle in one’s speech to the neighbor’s children, guiding them to what is best for their religion and worldly life, overlooking their mistakes, not attempting to look into their private matters, not constraining them with one’s building or renovations or along the walkway, and not harming them by letting one’s trash onto their property or in front of their household. All of those actions form part of the goodness that one is ordered to perform in Allah’s command [in the verse to be quoted shortly].297

Living in non-Muslim environments, it is very important to recognize that the scholars have concluded that there are three types of neighbors:

(a) a neighbor who is also a relative and a Muslim. This type of neighbor has three types of rights over the person (that of being a neighbor, a relative and a brother Muslim).
(b) a neighbor who is not a relative but is a Muslim. This neighbor has two types of rights over the person.
(c) a neighbor who is neither a relative nor a Muslim. This neighbor only has the right of a neighbor.298

Thus, even if a neighbor is a non-Muslim, that person has the right to a special relationship by virtue of being a neighbor.

The Permanent Committee for Scientific Research, Saudi Arabia, was asked about dealing with non-Muslim neighbors (accepting gifts from them and so on) and they stated in response:

Response: One should treat well those who treat him well from among them, even if he be a Christian. If they give you a permissible gift, you should respond in kind. The Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted a gift from the leader of the Romans who was a Christian. He also accepted a gift from a Jew. Allah says in the Quran, “Allah forbids you not to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and drove you not from your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whoever befriends them are the wrongdoers” (60:8-9).299

Ibn Uthaimeen also stated, “There is no harm in meeting the needs of a disbeliever if it does not contain any action which is forbidden as the neighbors have rights upon one another and this might even be a reason for him to accept Islam.”300 Ibn Baaz also said, “[The Muslim] must be neighborly toward his non-Muslim neighbor. If your neighbor is good to you, you do not harm him and you may even give him charity if he is poor or give him a gift if he is rich. You may also advise him concerning what is good for him. All of this may lead him to want to learn about Islam and become a Muslim and because neighbors have very great rights.”301

The spirit of neighborliness is something that has been lost in many cultures in the hustle and bustle of contemporary civilization. It would be excellent if Muslims, new converts or long-time Muslims, could revive this spirit and revive part of the religion of Islam.

292 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

293 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

294 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

295 This hadith was recorded by Ahmad, ibn Maajah and al-Haakim. Ali Hasan al-Halabi states that its chain is sahih. Ali Hasan Abdul Hameed, Huqooq al-Jaar fi Saheeh al-Sunnah wa al-Athaar (Amman, Jordan: al-Maktaba al-Islaamiya, 1993), p. 31. This hadith is some mes misused. Obviously, the second woman fulfilled her requirement of prayer, fasting and so forth but she did little voluntary deeds of that nature. There are people today who do not even perform the five daily prayers and they claim to be better than those who do pray just because they are good to their neighbors or others. What they claim for themselves cannot be concluded from this hadith.

296 Recorded by Muslim.

297 Abu Bakr al-Jazaairi, Minhaaj al-Muslim (Beirut: Daar al-Fikr, 1992), p. 107.

298 See Muhammad ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh Riyaadh al-Saaliheen (Riyadh: Daar al-Watan, 1995), vol.5, p. 205.

299 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, pp. 32-33.

300 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, p. 32.

301 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, pp. 30-31.

(6) A Muslim vis-à-vis Other Muslims

If one were to ask many today as to what the strongest bond there could possibly be among people, most of them would probably answer something like blood relationship, ethnic origin, nationality and so forth. Actually, the Quran shows that these types of bonds are not that strong if the foundation behind them is weak. In the Quran, Allah gives the examples of Cain and Abel, who were two brothers yet one killed the other, as well as the example of the brethren of Joseph, who cast Joseph into a well. Those were all blood relatives; however, they put this world above their relationship with others. Such is occurring today throughout the world. The ties between the people are subservient to their desires, goals and wants of this world. Many individuals are quickly and easily willing to sell out their own kith and kin to get ahead in this world or to get something they want in this world.

All of this demonstrates one thing: When the ties between people are based on worldly considerations, even if they are originally blood ties, then those ties are given up when the worldly considerations so demand them to be given up. Hence, those are not the strongest ties that can be built among people. The strongest ties that can achieved between people are the ties of Islam and true faith. These are the bonds forged between people that are solely the result of their belief in Allah and their love for Allah. This was clearly pointed out by Allah in the Quran when Allah stated, “And He has united their (believers’) hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly, He is All-Mighty, All- Wise” (8:63). Allah also says, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts together, so that by His grace, you became brethren and you were on a brink of a Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes clear His signs to you, that you may be guided” (3:103). The Quran and the Sunnah show that the bond of faith is the strongest of all bonds. It represents humans from all over the world coming together for one purpose only: to establish the worship of Allah alone. To achieve that goal, Muslims work together and help one another in compassion mercy and love.

There are actually numerous texts of the Quran and hadith that demonstrate beyond any doubt that Muslims are to form one universal, international brotherhood and sisterhood.302 For the sake of brevity, only a few examples of those texts will be presented here:

Allah says, “The believers, men and women, are auliyaa (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin what is good and eradicate what is evil. They offer the prayers and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surely, Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise” (9:71). Another verse reads, “The believers are nothing else but brothers” (49:10). Allah also says, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers and merciful among themselves” (48:29). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The believer with respect to another believer is like a building, one portion strengthening the other.”303 Another hadith states, “The parable of the believers with respect to their love, mercy and compassion for one another is like that of the body: if one of its limbs is hurting, the remainder of the body is afflicted by sleeplessness and fever.”304

But this great brotherhood of Islam is not something theoretical. It is, in fact, well defined. It has certain basic components to it and specific rights and obligations that are spelled out in the Quran and Sunnah. These rights and obligations are due to every Muslim, of every time and place.

One of the necessary aspects of this brotherhood is love. That is, it is an obligation upon all Muslims to love their brother Muslims. In fact, they should love them in a manner similar to the way they care for themselves. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”305

A second necessary aspect of this brotherhood is mutual support, aid and assistance. When his brother is being oppressed or wronged, he comes to his aid and assistance with his wealth and soul, if possible. This is described, for example, in the following verses: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women and children, whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help’” (4:75).

A third essential aspect of this Islamic brotherhood is mercy and tenderness between the believers. This goes beyond a simple love for one another but it means that each brother feels in his heart for what his brother is going through. The Prophet (peace be upon him) described the Muslims in the following fashion, “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of a body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches due to fever and sleeplessness.”306

A final necessary component of our brotherhood is common acts of courtesy. True brotherhood has to be put into practice; it cannot simply be a statement of the tongue. One amazing and beautiful aspect of Islam is that it does not leave matters at a hypothetical level with each individual attempting to figure out how goals can possibly be achieved. Thus, for example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has detailed specific acts that one has the right to expect from one’s brother and which one should also perform towards one’s brother. Thus, among those common obligatory acts of courtesy are the six mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim.... When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast, accept it; when he seeks your sincere counsel, give it to him; when he sneezes and says, ‘al-hamdulillah,’ say, ‘May Allah show mercy to you’; when he falls ill, visit him; and when he dies, follow his funeral bier.”307

Beyond these six well-known practices, Islamic Law guides Muslims to many other practices that help gender love and closeness between the believers, which is an obvious goal of the Law itself. Thus, for example, if a Muslim loves another Muslim for the sake of Allah, he should inform the other individual of that feeling. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained the reason for doing so when he said, “If one of you loves his brother for the sake of Allah, he should inform of that as this will make the bond longer lasting and the love more confirmed.”308

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe. And you do not believe until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that which will establish such for you: spreading peace among yourselves.”309 This hadith could mean the spreading of the greetings of peace or doing actual deeds that bring about peace and togetherness.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also noted the importance of giving gifts to one another. He said, “Exchange gifts and you will love one another.310

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also encouraged Muslims to visit one another. He stated, “Visit one another occasionally and love [between you] will increase.”311

In addition to all of these positive acts, when one avoids the forbidden acts, the results will also be positive for interpersonal relationships. In other words, when one avoids backbiting, slandering, lying, cheating, spying and so forth, nothing but good will result from the avoidance of these evil practices that Islam has clearly forbidden.

In sum, if Islam is truly applied, a Muslim will be a brother/sister to all the Muslims in the world and would do nothing but good toward them and would expect nothing but good in return from them.

302 It is important to realize that this brotherhood is founded upon a common faith. In fact, blood relationships come to an end because of differences in religion. Allah says about Noah and his son, “[Noah said,] ‘O my Lord, verily my son is of my family! And certainly your promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges.’ He [Allah] said, ‘O Noah! Surely he is not of your family, his work is unrighteous’” (11:45-46). Hence, non-Muslims fall outside of the fold of this brotherhood. They are more than welcome to join this brotherhood by embracing Islam, as this brotherhood is not based on race, ethnicity or nationality. Otherwise, by their choice of religion and belief they have opted to remain outside of this brotherhood. As shall be discussed later, the Muslim still has some obligations toward such non-Muslims though.

303 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

304 Recorded by Muslim.

305 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

306 Recorded by Muslim.

307 Recorded by Muslim.

308 Recorded by ibn Abi Dunya in Kitaab al-Ikhwaan. According to al-Albaani, it is a good narration. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer #280.

(7) A Muslim vis-à-vis Non-Muslims

Obviously, Muslims and non-Muslims are following very different paths. A Muslim’s life revolves entirely around the proper belief in God. A Muslim’s attitude toward others is likewise determined by the other’s attitude toward God. A Muslim could not possibly feel complete affinity and love toward someone who has turned his back on God, refuses to submit to God or ridicule belief in God. It is simply not natural for there to be complete love between two such people.312 However, even given this possible negative feeling in the heart, a Muslim must deal with non-Muslims on the basis of just principles. This applies to all non-Muslims—many non-Muslims are not antagonistic at all toward Muslims while others exhibit clear and unequivocal scorn and hatred toward Muslims.313

One of the basic principles of behavior toward non-belligerent, non- Muslims is found in the following verse of the Quran: “Allah forbids you not to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity” (60:8)

Additionally, a Muslim has very clear responsibilities towards non- Muslims.

First, he must call them to the way of Allah. It is part of a believer’s attempt to bring good to all people and to the world as a whole that he thereby actively calls other people to Islam.314 The desire to see others know and worship Allah fills the heart of the true believer. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), of course, set the best example. Allah describes in more than one place in the Quran how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) grieved over the fact that many refused to become believers. Allah says, for example, “Perhaps, you, would kill yourself (O Muhammad) in grief, over their footsteps (for their turning away from you), because they believe not in this narration (the Quran)” (18:6).

In fact, although the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) suffered so much harm from the disbelievers of Makkah, when the angel came to him to give him the option of bringing the mountains of Makkah down upon those people, the Prophet refused the offer and said, “I hope that from their descendants there will come a people who will worship Allah alone while not ascribe any partners to Him.”315 Calling to the religion of Allah is truly the path of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the path of the believers. Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way; I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah) with sure knowledge’” (12:108). This is truly the greatest and best good deed that one could do toward his fellow citizen.

A second obligation toward disbelievers is proper and just treatment.
This is described by Shaikh ibn Baaz who said, “[the Muslim] may not wrong the other person with respect to his life, wealth or honor, if the non-Muslim is a citizen of the Islamic state or has attained other protection. He must fulfill the other’s rights. He may not wrong him with respect to his wealth by stealing from him, deceiving him or cheating him. He cannot harm him in his body by beating or killing him. His protection from the state guarantees his safety from such things.”316

A Muslim can interact with non-Muslims, buying, selling or renting from them, for example.317 Even on a social level, there can be interaction, such as coming together for meals and the like. However, such interactions are, by nature, going to be limited. The different views of reality between a Muslim and a non-Muslim easily leads to disagreements. On a religious level, there is definitely going to be a feeling of discontent or disappointment with people of other faiths.318

However, in addition, the differences in a Muslim’s outlook and actions are going to prevent him from truly participating and being close friends with non-Muslims. A Muslim, for example, does not drink alcohol and does not wish to be around people when they are drinking alcohol, not to speak of drugs and other activities. A Muslim must be very restrictive and cautious in his or her interaction with the opposite sex, which creates barriers for social interaction. Even among members of the same sex, a Muslim does not engage in inappropriate speech about members of the opposite sex, a very common practice in social settings these days. Perhaps one could say that the Muslim’s ultimate goal in his relations with non-Muslims is to bring them to Islam, thereby opening the door for there to be a complete relationship of love and brotherhood between them. Even if the non-Muslim is antagonistic and impolite, the Muslim knows that he should repel his evil with goodness. Allah says, “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel [the evil] with [a deed] that is better. [If you do that] then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend” (41:34).

In sum, as ibn Baaz wrote,

It is obligatory upon Muslims to deal with disbelievers in an Islamic fashion with proper behavior, as long as they are not fighting the Muslims. One must fulfill one’s trusts to them, must not deceive them, must not betray them or lie to them. If there is a discussion or debate between them, one must argue with them in the best manner and be just with them in the dispute. This is in obedience to Allah’s command, “And argue not with the People of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) unless it be in a way that is better, except with such of them as do wrong” (29:46). It is sanctioned for the Muslim to invite them to the good, to advise them and to be patient with them at the same time being neighborly and polite with them. This is so because Allah has stated, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom (of the Quran) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better” (16:125). Allah has also said, “Speak good to people” (2:83).319

Finally, a Muslim may even give charity to non-Muslims. The Permanent Committee of Islamic Research (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) has stated,

It is permissible for a Muslim to assist his non-Muslim neighbor by giving him some meat from his sacrificed animal… It is allowed for us to give food to the disbelievers living under the Islamic state and wayfarers from the meat of the sacrificed animal. It is allowed to give to them on the basis of their poverty, blood relation, being a neighbor or to soften their hearts… However, one should not give such meet to a harbi (someone who is fighting against the Muslim state) because in their case, the obligation is to suppress and weaken them and not assist or strengthen them with charity. In fact, that is the ruling with respect to all forms of voluntary charity, based on the generality of the verse in the Quran, “Allah forbids you not to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity” (60:8). Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered Asma bint Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her) to help her mother out with money although she was a polytheist.320

312 This fact is true for secularists as well. Many of those on the left side of the political scale feel true scorn and enmity toward those on the right, and vice-versa.

313 There are times in which Islamic states may go to war with non-Muslim states. Such conditions of belligerency are not uncommon in the history of humankind and do not necessarily imply the impossibility of some cooperation in the future. In fact, European states constantly fought each other, sometimes for a hundred years’ time, and yet today they all belong to the European Union.
A state of belligerency will affect the relationship between such Muslims and non-Muslims. However, that is not the normal case in the world today. Thus, a discussion of those cases is beyond the scope of this work.

314 This is not based on an evil intent in the heart of the Muslim, as some
contemporaries try to distort the issue. In fact, a Muslim would never try to force another person to become a Muslim.
Christians speak about spreading Christianity throughout the Muslim world and yet virtually no one in the West takes this as a negative statement. In fact, many today are trying to spread democracy throughout the world because they believe in the inherent goodness of democracy. God alone knows how such people would react if the Muslims of today were to try to impose Islam on non-Muslims in the way that some of these people are trying to impose “democracy” on the Muslims.

315 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

316 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, p. 30.

317 Issues concerning non-Muslim relatives or non-Muslim neighbors have already been touched upon.

318 Allah has stated, “O believers! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends, showing affection towards them, while they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the Truth” (60:1).This author comes from a non-Muslim background and has mixed with many non-Muslims in the past. It is not uncommon for many religious groups to have disdain towards people of other religions. However, the only ones who seem to be very open and honest concerning this situation and how it is supposed to be dealt with are the Muslims. Most other religious groups conceal their dislike for others under some banner of “love.” One notable exception is Rus Walton who wrote in a book entitled, One Nation Under God, “Our Savior and our King instructs us to love our enemies.
Yes! But nowhere in Scripture, nowhere, does the Lord God tell us to love His enemies or to make covenant with them in any way.” Quoted in Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 130.

319 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, p. 42.

320 Ali Abu Lauz, Answers, p. 47-48.

(8) A Muslim vis-à-vis Society as a Whole

When a Muslim accepts to live in a certain society, he is, in essence, making a pact that with that country that he will abide by the laws of that state. He does not have the right to violate the laws of that state simply because he is a Muslim and the state is not an Islamic state. Thus, all of the principles of proper behavior that have been described in this chapter apply to a Muslim living wherever he may be living. In most countries today, many things may be legal that are forbidden to a Muslim. These legal things a Muslim simply avoids. He should also demand his legal rights to ensure that he is not forced to do anything forbidden in Islam. Overall though, he should be from among the law-abiding citizens.

In addition to that, a Muslim should be a plus for any society he is living in. He should be a model citizen in many ways. As described earlier, he should be a good neighbor. He has the obligation to encourage what is good and prevent evil wherever he may be living. In addition, he must avoid and oppose what most societies see as the greatest crimes, such as murder, robbery, extortion and so forth. Furthermore, he must steer clear of alcohol or drug use, thus not burdening society as a whole with his personal weaknesses and addictions. Finally, he must be just and fair in all of his dealings with the other members of society.

Even though Muslims should play a positive role in any society, in many countries of the West today, a Muslim’s loyalty and patriotism is being questioned. Obviously, a Muslim is not going to have the same feelings towards a secular government as he would toward a Muslim government. That, however, does not mean that he is going to work against his government or seek to harm the country he is living in. Undoubtedly, many a Jew will feel more loyalty to Israel than to their own home country. In fact, the recent debates in the United States demonstrate that many Christian groups are displeased with their government (and with the Supreme Court in particular). Many a Democrat in the United States, for example, does not feel complete loyalty for Republican administrations and vice-versa. However, no one seems to be questioning their loyalty and patriotism.

If patriotism means to simply follow and support what one’s government is saying and be gung-ho in such blind allegiance, no intelligent person would be patriotic as all governments are known to lie and deceive at one time or another. On the other hand, if patriotism means to wish what is best for one’s country, then the problem is that everyone differs as to what they see is best for their country. Some feel that they have the right to speak on behalf of all, but their “right” to do so may be questioned.

Islam recognizes the fact that it is natural for an individual to love his country and to have an affinity for that land in which he grew up. When the Muslims were forced to migrate from Makkah, which was under the control of the polytheists, many of them expressed their love for Makkah. Hence, it is natural for Muslims to develop a love for whatever land they happen to be in, even if the country is not an Islamic state. It is also natural for Muslims to desire what is best for their homeland.

But, again, unfortunately, their idea as to what is best may not be shared or appreciated by others. For example, the Muslims may wish to see an end to gambling, prostitution and pornography. The Muslims believe that this is what is best for all the people concerned, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. However, many non-Muslims will not share this feeling. Therein lies the crux of the problem. Theoretically speaking, though, in contemporary “free” societies, this should not be a problem. Muslims should be able to hold on to their values and customs—without bringing harm to others—while the others follow the dominant culture in non-Muslim lands. If the “free” countries are not willing to give the Muslims that much, it means that they are not willing to live up to their own ideals. It is not that Muslims are trying to cause them harm, they are simply trying to be good citizens while living a different lifestyle than the dominant culture.321

321 With respect to warfare, in general, Muslims today should be pacifists and conscientious objectors.
The only type of fighting sanctioned in Islamic Law is fighting on behalf of an Islamic State or clear self-defense. In the absence of those two, Muslims should not engage in warfare. This author will not even bother to touch upon the question of terrorism. Enough Muslim scholars have already denounced terrorism and have shown that it has no place in Muslim behavior. Unfortunately, though, the non-Muslim media does not seem very interested in presenting a full picture of the attitude of Muslim scholars, preferring, it seems, to blame Muslims for not coming out strongly against terrorism. This author attended a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (April 20-22, 2004) entitled, “The Stand of Islam on Terrorism, Violence & Extremism.” Had this same conference been held in the Vatican and had been about Christianity’s view of those topics, the conference findings would have probably been assailed and praised for months if not years to come. However, although participants came from all over the world, barely a mention was made of the Conference (if any mention were made) in the international media.

(9) A Muslim vis-à-vis Wealth and Property

In Islam, wealth is not considered an evil. Wealth is a bounty that Allah bestows upon individuals. It is definitely not evil nor even a necessary evil, as some other religions teach. In fact, protecting and safeguarding wealth is one of the goals of the Sharee’ah. Hence, people are encouraged to engage in earning a livelihood and accumulating wealth.

However, like many good things, there has to be limits with respect to wealth. In the hands of a righteous person, wealth becomes a tool that can be used to please Allah. On the other hand, it can also be something that may lead to a person's own destruction. Hence, it is truly a kind of trial from God. Allah describes it in this manner, “Your wealth and your children are only a trial” (64:15). The Prophet said, “The two feet of the human will not move on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about his life and he how he used it, about his knowledge and what he did with it, about his wealth and how he acquired it and how he spent it…”322 For example, one cannot give wealth priority over the teachings of the faith. Wealth or money cannot, thus, become one's ultimate goal in life. Additionally, wealth must be acquired by permissible means and spent on permissible matters. The ethical standards of Islam must be adhered to and, as a result, the wealth may be blessed by Allah, benefiting the individual in both this life and the Hereafter.

The righteous person understands that the wealth under his control actually belongs to Allah and the human's ownership of wealth is more akin to that of a caretaker. In other words, the human must use wealth only in the manner approved of by the true owner of that wealth, Allah. The Muslim understands that he is not free, therefore, to use his money in any fashion that he wishes. There are some things that are clearly and obviously forbidden for him. For example, he cannot use his money to bribe others or wrong others, thus going against justice. Allah says, “And eat up not one another's property unjustly, nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully” (2:188).

322 Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and al-Daarimi.

Ethics and Business Dealings in Islam

Business dealings in Islam are not simply a matter of getting ahead in this world. They are not cutthroat competition or taking advantage of others. Instead, they are based on a very strong ethical basis. A Muslim realizes that every business transaction is a question of morals and ethics.

Business transactions are an essential aspect of any developed society. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a great deal of guidance concerning business transactions. Muslims must heed this guidance. This guidance will, Allah willing, go a great way in removing many problems and feelings of hatred that are the result of unjust or improper business practices. Furthermore, the feeling of brotherhood loving for one’s brother what one loves for oneself should permeate all business transactions. How can brothers be considered true brothers to one another when they are willing to cheat each other or lie to each other simply for the sake of the dollar?

Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated in a hadith that stresses both brotherhood and fair business practices: “Do not be envious of one another; do not artificially raise prices against one another; do not hate one another; do not turn one’s back on each other; and do not undercut one another in business transactions. And be, [O] servants of Allah, brethren. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him. He does not fail him [when he needs him]. He does not lie to him. And he does not show contempt for him. Piety is here” and he pointed to his chest three times. “It is enough of evil for a person to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All of a Muslim is inviolable to another Muslim: his blood, his wealth and his honor.”323

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “May Allah have mercy on the one who is easy-going and generous while buying, while selling and when demanding his rights.”324

In fact, the key to blessed business transactions, in which both parties please Allah and receive blessings, is honesty and straightforwardness. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The buyer and seller have the right of option as long as they do not part from one another. If they were honest and clear, they would be blessed in their transaction. If they concealed facts and lied, the blessings of their transaction would be destroyed.”325

If a person is ethical and morally conscious in his business dealings, this is a good sign that he is preferring the Hereafter to this world. He is not willing to risk Allah’s punishment and anger for a measly gain. He is also strengthening the trust among the Muslim brethren. Allah willing, his reward with Allah will be great.

A general principle with respect to business transactions is that they must be the result of the mutual consent or approval of the contracting parties: Allah says, “O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it be a trade amongst you, by mutual consent” (4:29). During the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also announced, “The wealth of a person is not permissible except through willing consent.”326 In other words, no one can be coerced into giving up part of his wealth or entering into a business dealing. Such coercion is illegal and would void the contract. At the same time, the Muslim is free to enter into any business transaction that does not violate Islamic law. In general, he is a “free actor,” neither compelled by the state nor any other force. In this sense, the Islamic economic system has some characteristics in common with free market capitalism.

Another general principle with respect to business transactions is that they are permissible unless there is evidence to demonstrate that they are forbidden; only if it is found that it contains some forbidden aspect will it be deemed forbidden. Thus, Islamic Law has laid down some principle guidelines while delineating particular forbidden aspects that must be avoided. The matters that should be avoided include unstated or undetermined terms, speculative or overly risky conditions, interest, gambling and fraud or deception. If any one of these factors is found in a contract, the contract, depending on the extent to which they are present, may be rendered null, void and impermissible. It is essential that Muslims be aware of these forbidden characteristics so 2009 that they may live off of pure and permissible sources. Thus, some of them are discussed in some detail below.

323 Recorded by Muslim.
324 Recorded by al-Bukhari.
325 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
326 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The Aspect of Gharar

Gharar refers to speculative or overly risky transactions. Imam Muslim records in his Sahih: “On the authority of Abu Hurairah who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade ‘sales of speculative nature’ (bai’ al-gharar).” Al-Bukhari and Muslim record: “On the authority of ibn Umar who said that ‘the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibited the sale of fruits until their ripeness and freedom from disease were apparent. He prohibited both the seller and the buyer.’” Commenting on a hadith with similar meaning, al-Nawawi explained why the prohibition was for both the seller and the buyer. He wrote, “As for the seller, it is because he is wanting to devour wealth wrongfully. As for the buyer, it is because he is in accord with him on this forbidden act and because he is [possibly] wasting his wealth while wasting wealth has been prohibited.”327

From these hadith and others, there is a consensus among jurists that an overwhelming presence of undue risk or uncertainty renders a business contract null and void. Such transactions are ones in which the probability of one or both of the parties being wronged is great. Concerning the meaning of this concept of gharar, Rayner states,

The Sharee’ah determined that in the interests of fair, ethical dealing in commutative contracts, unjustified enrichment should be prohibited. This policy precludes any element of uncertainty or risk (Gharar).328 In a general context, the unanimous proposition of the jurists held that in any transaction, by failing or neglecting to define any of the essential pillars of contract relating to the consideration or the object, the parties undertake a risk which is not indispensable for them. This kind of risk was deemed unacceptable and tantamount to speculation due to its inherent uncertainty. Speculative transactions with these characteristics are therefore prohibited…329

Although such contracts are prohibited by Islamic Law, due to their speculative or risky nature and hence the possibility of making gains from such transactions, they can be very alluring to individuals.330 Thus, ibn al-Atheer, going back to the lexical meaning of the term, says, “Al-Gharar is that concerning which its apparent component is preferable but its non-apparent component is disliked to the person. Hence, its apparent component entices the buyer while its non-apparent component is unknown.”331

According to ibn Juzay, examples of gharar transactions include:

(1) “Ignorance of the price and uncertainty about the existence of the object.”332

(2) “Uncertainty about the price of the object and about its characteristics, as in the example of the sale of cloth in a shop without any specification about its quality or price.”333

(3) “Uncertainty related to difficulties of delivery.”334

(4) “Uncertainty about the existence of the object, as in the case of a sickly animal.”335

327 Yahya al-Nawawi, al-Minhaaj Sharh Saheeh Muslim ibn a-Hajjaaj (Beirut: Daar al-Ma’rifah, 1999), vol. 10, p. 424.

328 The statement, “any element of uncertainty or risk,” is not quite correct. The Muslim jurists have long recognized that amounts of “uncertainty” or “risk” exist in many legal contracts. The true question, as much of Rayner’s quote itself further shows, is the predominance or the effect of such “uncertainty” or “risk” on the essence of the contract.

329 S. E. Rayner, The Theory of Contracts in Islamic Law (London: Graham & Trotman, 1991), p. 289.

330 Both parties must enter into contacts out of free will. However, that does not mean that every contract in which parties are willing to enter is permissible.

331 Mubaarak ibn al-Atheer, Jaami al-Usool fi Ahaadeeth al-Rasool (Maktaba al-Hilwaani. 1971), vol. 1, pp. 527-528.

332 Nayla Comair-Obeid, The Law of Business Contracts in the Arab Middle East (London: Kluwer Law Interna onal, 1996), p. 58.

333 Ibid., p. 58.

334 Ibid., p. 58.

335 Ibid., p. 58.

Aspect of Riba (Interest)

One of the well-known great sins is the taking or paying of riba (interest).336 Indeed, any Muslim familiar with the numerous texts censuring riba would undoubtedly do his best to avoid any trace of riba. For example, Allah has said in the Quran, “Those who devour interest will not stand [on the Day of Judgment] save as he arises whom the devil has deranged by (his) touch. That is because they say, ‘Trade is just like interest,’ whereas Allah has permitted trading and has forbidden interest. He unto whom an admonition from his Lord comes, and (he) refrains (in obedience thereto), shall keep [the money of] that which is past, and his affair (henceforth) is with Allah. As for him who returns (to interest), such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein forever. Allah destroys interest and gives an increase for charity. Allah loves not every disbelieving, sinner. Truly, [as for] those who believe, perform righteous deeds, establish the prayer and pay the Zakat, their reward is with their Lord. No fear shall come upon them neither shall they grieve. O you who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remains (due to you) in interest, if you are (in truth) believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war from Allah and His messenger. But if you repent, then you have your principal [without interest]. Do not wrong [others] and you shall not be wronged” (al-Baqarah 275-279).

Among the other numerous Quranic and hadith texts concerning interest is the following: Jaabir stated, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) cursed the taker of interest, its giver, its recorder and its two witnesses. They are all alike.”337 In this important hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) one sees that the giver and the receiver as well as those who assisted in this forbidden contract are all equally sinful and have all been cursed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Thus, it is forbidden to pay interest or to receive interest, and this includes the interest that one earns on one's checking or savings account. In general, if an individual wishes to loan money to another individual who is in need, this act should be a brotherly and charitable act and there should be no thought of reaping monetary benefits in such a case. If someone wishes to make a “business loan,” hoping to reap profits, then he should be willing to put his risk and not demand a guaranteed return for his money. It is not fair that the borrower is at risk in his business venture while the lender faces no risk at all.

At the same time, Islam opens the door to many avenues by which injustice is avoided while investment still takes place. Hence, profit-sharing agreements on business loans are allowed while fixed interest payments are not.

336 The word riba is sometimes very poorly and improperly translated into English as “usury.” “Usury” implies an exorbitant amount of interest, above and beyond what is permissible by law. In Islamic law, any increase above the principle is forbidden. Hence, any positive rate of interest, no matter how low, is both interest and usury in Islamic law. Hence, the word interest is a much better translation for the word riba.

337 Recorded by Muslim.

Fraud and Deception

Fraud and deception are also forbidden in Islam. This would include intentionally concealing defects in one's merchandise or work. One time the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in the marketplace and he put his hand into a pile of grains and he found that it was wet on the bottom. He asked the vendor about it and the man told him that rain had fallen upon it. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) told him, “Why did you not put it on top of the grain so people could see it? Whoever deceives is not from me.”338

Ibn Maajah records that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in another hadith stressing the aspect of brotherhood and its relation to business dealings, “A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim. It is not permissible for a Muslim to sell something defective to his brother without making that [defect] clear to him.”339

338 Recorded by Muslim.

339 Recorded by ibn Maajah. Ahmad and al-Haakim have something similar. According to al- Albaani, it is sahih. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami, vol. 2, p. 1136.

Other Forbidden Sources of Wealth

There are other obvious forbidden forms of obtaining wealth. These include robbery, through bribery, gambling and extremely speculative transactions. A Muslim is also not allowed to sell or trade articles that are forbidden in Islam, even if he himself does not consume them. Hence, a Muslim is not allowed to sell alcohol, porn, drugs and the like.


In this chapter, the interactions of a believer were discussed. The true belief in God should permeate every aspect of an individual’s life, especially his interaction with others of God’s creation. Thus, starting with how he treats himself, the individual realizes that he is one of God’s creatures and therefore must treat himself in a way that is pleasing to God. In order to achieve this goal, Allah has mercifully sent humans clear guidance to teach them how to behave even with respect to their own selves.

The individual created by God obviously, then, cannot claim for himself the right to treat others in any way he wishes. Again, Allah has provided guidance in this area as well. Whether it is with respect to one’s parents, children, neighbors, others in society—even animals and inanimate objects such as wealth—there is a way of behavior that is representative of one’s belief in Allah. It behooves a believer to learn this proper behavior and to exert himself to live by it in his life to the best of his ability.