The Islamic Ruling regarding Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Today’s scholars, are faced with a task, that scholars of previous times, did not have to reckon with; before the age of globalization, scholars would render religious edicts (fataawa), about their own people, and their own cultural affairs, and their own countries and lifestyle, about which they were uniquely familiar.  Today, scholars face, and sometimes simply take upon themselves, the colossal assignment of electronically rendering religious edicts, about people, places, and cultures, sometimes thousands of miles away, where they have not lived, do not have an intimate working knowledge of, and are woefully unfamiliar with.

Fatwas, that apply to well-known, and necessary matters of worship, aqeeda, theology, and religious practices, can be applied globally, across all nations and people. With regard to such issues, all Muslims are the same, and they all have the same obligations, and responsibilities. For example, in issues of salat, fasting, inheritance, and the like, all Muslims must adhere to the same ah’kaam. However, Muslim, in matters that has to do with tradition, and cultural norms, and regional circumstances, Muslim scholars should refrain from making rulings which prohibit the cultural practices people in faraway lands.

It is not common, and virtually unheard of, for scholars of Egypt to render fatwas against the people of Syria for what they do in their country, or for the scholars of Saudi Arabia to render fatwas against the People of Bahrain for what they do in their country, or for the scholars of Lebanon, or Algeria, to render fatwas against the Muslims of Sudan, for what they do in their country.

Were they to do that, people would be insulted and take hyperbolic umbrage over it. There is a certain respect, and acknowledgement of scholars, to respect the boundaries, intelligence, and independence of Muslim peoples in other countries, to understand their own condition, and to handle their own affairs accordingly. This gentleman’s understanding and respect, should also extend to Muslims, and Muslim converts living in America.

Muslim Americans have lived on this continent, since the 1600’s, long before this country even became a republic. They have endured under slavery, torture, illiteracy, and being bought and sold like cattle, and still managed to hold on to their faith. So to think that American Muslims of today, do not know how to maintain or practice their faith in the midst of a country like the United States of America, is untenable, and untenable is a soft word because it’s more like, ludicrous. It would be unthinkable for an American Muslim scholar or Imam to render a ruling about practices in another country, and be taken seriously.

The Prophet , and his learned companions, knew how to navigate their way through their society in a way as to avoid what was prohibited upon them. This is true for most Muslims, once they know what is prohibited upon them according to the Quran and the Sunna. If we can accept, as the majority of scholars do, that the companions of the Prophet were able to navigate through Arab society using the guidance of the Quran and the Sunna, then how can we not accept the possibility that American Muslims could do the same, without outside help? The reason the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Madinah, was not because they were unable to conduct their affairs morally and comprehensively in an un-Islamic society; the reason he made the Hijra, was because the Muslims were under oppression and persecution. It is a historical fact that the first Hijra was because of persecution, and the same went for the second Hijra. This is why the Prophet “said the best of you in jaahiliyyah is the best of you in Islam if they understand (the religion). In order for people to understand the religion, their focus has to be upon the texts.

During the last four or five decades, millions of Americans have converted to Islam, and their families and extended families were not Muslim. Many converts have used Thanksgiving Day for a day of strengthening family ties, keeping in touch with their relatives whom normally, they would not have the opportunity to visit because of work obligations and distance. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, the non-Muslim families, because of love and attachment to their Muslim relative, accommodates them in every possible way.

It would be grossly irresponsible to say that Thanksgiving, or any observance of it, is prohibited. Because to do so, is to say that people gathering to eat, to be amongst their family and loved ones, and to express their thanks to God, is an abomination, and something that angers God. To render the holiday and all of the practices haraam would say that it is evil, an abomination, and something that God hates. “Say: My Lord forbiddeth only indecencies, such of them as are apparent and such as are within, and sin and wrongful oppression, and that ye associate with Allah that for which no authority hath been revealed, and that ye tell concerning Allah that which ye know not”.[1]

Thus, when a convert to Islam is now told that eating with his family, visiting his grandma, and keeping ties with his family is a shameful, hateful thing to god, it sends a dangerous psychological message, that is antithetical to our faith. To say that doing these things are permissible on other days, but not permissible of the day that it is easiest to accomplish keeping ties, goes directly against the standards of our Prophet in fulfilling godly obligations. Which was to prefer ease. “This religion is easy. No one becomes harsh and strict in the religion without it overwhelming him”.[2] It is easy for scholars from abroad to prohibit something when they have no direct experience upon the matter. This is why we seek to clarify the whole issue of Thanksgiving so that people will be upon clarity بينة.

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day is an American cultural holiday that is marked by family gatherings, cooking and feasting, being thankful, watching football, parades, staying home from work, and discounts in the malls on the following day. For many American families, thanksgiving dinner represents a day when the family comes together. For some, it is the only day where so many of the family are present on the same day and in the same place. Maintaining family relationships is prescribed in our scripture, and it is the Sunna of our beloved Prophet .

Is sitting down to a meal with one’s family prohibited on Thanksgiving? Some modern-day scholars of Islam are adamant that participating in any part of thanksgiving; going to dinner, taking off from work, eating turkey, visiting the family, taking advantage of the discounts in the malls,  is expressly prohibited. Some have even likened such behavior as disbelief. However, the evidences from the Quran and the Sunna seems not to support that notion.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not a religious holiday

Although Thanksgiving was originated by Christians, it was not born of pagan origin; amongst some of the early Christians in this country, special blessings viewed as coming from God, called for days of thanksgiving.  In its current form as practiced in the United States, it is not a religious holiday; it is an American holiday, observed in one way or another by people of all faiths. A person if they like, can use the occasion to reflect upon the blessings of their Lord, and thank Him. However, observing Thanksgiving Day does not require that a person worship, thank, or show gratitude to other than Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, nor does it require that a person worship other than Him be he Exalted and Glorified.

Contrary to some opinions, there is nothing in the Book or in the Sunna of the Prophet that prohibits a person from being American, living like an American, behaving like an American, or engaging in American culture as long as the lifestyle, behavior or actions do not contradict the Book of Allah, or the Sunna of the Prophet . If America, being American, living like an American or thinking like an American contradicts the wishes of some of the scholars, then the Muslim is not answerable to them in that; we are answerable to Allah for our actions first and foremost. It is interesting to note that many of the people who deride other Muslims for even acknowledging Thanksgiving, celebrate it themselves by arguing about it every year.

Operative principles of Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day centers around five points, all of which are prominently placed values in the religion of Islam.

1.      Thanking Allah: “And remember! your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; But if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed”.[3]

2.      Being grateful: “He showed his gratitude for the favours of Allah, who chose him, and guided him to a Straight Way”.[4]

3.      Reminding yourself of His favors: “Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny”?[5]

4.      Keeping family ties: “Those who join together those things which Allah hath commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning

5.      Feeding food. They asked the Prophet ﷺ what was there best type of Islam, he said: “feeding food and spreading the salaams”.

If the Prophet wanted to make it prohibited for a Muslim to visit his or her family during certain days of the year, then he would have done so, especially since the overwhelming majority of the companions of Rasoolillaah had relatives who continued to engage in pagan worship. Even if they converted to Islam, their family members continued to observe pagan rites, rituals and functions. It is confirmed in authentic hadith that the Prophet himself, as well as numerous companions were present at the Ka’ba while people were engaged in idol worship. However, they themselves, did not participate in anything of idol worship, nor did they engage in prohibited activity.

The Prophet , and his learned companions, knew how to navigate their way through their society in a way as to avoid what was prohibited upon them. This is true for most Muslims, once they know what is prohibited upon them according to the Quran and the Sunna. Thus is our view that scholars, who are not intimately informed about people’s daily lives, and exchanges with their environments, cannot and should not, attempt to micro-manage people’s interactive navigation through life, as they pursue the religious ideals and values for which God holds them accountable.

Errant Islamic rulings which prohibit Thanksgiving

A surprising number of religious edicts or fataawa rendered upon people, events and circumstances which occur in the United States are made by scholars who are qualified and astute in their own regard, but are distressingly uniformed about the details and social-cultural minutia of life in the United States of America. Subsequently, many rulings are made that are faulty, and harms the Muslim in areas of their faith, rather than benefit them. It is common that a fatwa is rendered, usually from abroad, which ends up requiring the Muslim to disobey Allah and His Messenger , or to hate something that Allah loves, or to ignore a basic principle of deen in order to comply with the ruling of an uninformed scholar. This phenomenon is one of the causes of American Muslim moral dysfunction. This problem is further exacerbated when we see that in many Muslim countries, holidays commemorations, and events, other than the two Eids are celebrated with the consent of the scholars while some of the same scholars, render prohibitions against Muslims celebrating anything besides the two Eids here in the United States.

There is hardly a single Muslim country on earth that does not celebrate their National Day, or their Independence Day, or the Prophet’s Birthday or their Revolution Day, or their Election Day, or million man marches as was held in Egypt recently. In Saudi Arabia they celebrate, in addition to the two Eids, the June Solstice on June 21st, the September Equinox on September 22nd, and the New Year on the first of Muharram, or November 5th, and the scholars are silent about that.  There are millions of Muslims who came to America, applied for citizenship and then went to the citizenship celebration held by the U.S government, and the scholars are silent about that. In fact, many of them participate in it every year.

When the Abbasid Dynasty came into being, it started with a huge celebration and feast for the leading Umayyad princes, and ended with them all being slaughtered. Muslims celebrate victories in battle. They celebrated for days when Mu’ammar Qadafhi was killed, they celebrated in the streets of Egypt when Husni Mubaarak was deposed, and they celebrated in the streets of Kuwait, after the Gulf war and the scholars sanctioned it. Even the Muslims, who cry about thanksgiving being haraam, commemorate it every year by arguing about it, so they still participate in the holiday; they just do it by arguing about it. In Pakistan they celebrate Pakistan Independence day on the 14th of August, Pakistan day on the 23rd of March, and Labor Day on the 1st of May, and the scholars are silent about these things and participate in them

Thus many of the fatwaawa (Islamic legal rulings) which prohibit thanksgiving are biased and use a double standard, or are issued by people who may mean well but who do not fully understand western society and how we celebrate our holidays. They are unaware of how we differentiate between the religious and the cultural and they are uninformed about how we navigate our affairs so and sift through the prohibited actions in order to engage in that which is permissible. Some scholars are also uninformed about the operative meaning of the word ‘celebration’ in the modern American context; they infer that by celebration, we mean worship, or that we mean partying, from morning to night, dancing in the streets, and making a spectacle of ourselves. Additionally, the notion of a holiday to many scholars is that it is religiously incumbent, and that participation is mandatory, not optional.  This is not the case not only for Thanksgiving but for many American holidays, even the religious ones.

People in America celebrate thanksgiving differently. There is no one way that the whole population; all 311,591,917 of us, observes the day. For some it is merely a paid or non-paid day off from work, which is permissible in either case. For others, it is a time when shopping bargains are available in the stores and online which is also permissible in Islam since there is no prohibition in purchasing an item that has been discounted.  For others it is a day of preparing a feast for the family and serving it to them which is a praiseworthy action in the religion of Islam. Or spending quality time with the family which also a praiseworthy action according to the Quran and the Sunna. Still for others it is no different from any other day at all. Some people abhor the thought of Thanksgiving, and others simply sleep through the whole day and don’t wake up until the next day. So anyone can see the obvious difficulty and absurdity in rendering any acknowledgement, involvement, celebration or participation in anything that has to do with Thanksgiving as prohibited

Many scholars of Islam, (may Allah bless and strengthen them), are also unfamiliar with the operative meaning and concept of the term ‘holiday’ means in the United States. Holidays in America can be religious, political, cultural or environmental (like earth day), historical (like Presidents Day), or patriotic in nature, like Veterans Day. Since the United States, thus far, is a free society, people generally are free to observe them any way they like. It’s not like religious holidays in the Muslim world whereas on the Eid for example; you aren’t considered to have observed the Eid unless you attended Eid prayer. If a woman is menstruating, she would be considered to have observed the Eid if she attended the prayer even if she didn’t pray.  30,000 people in the city where I live, observed Thanksgiving today by running a 5k race to raise money to feed the homeless, and it’s hard to find an argument that makes raising money to feed homeless people haram.

A Muslim is not obligated to live his or her life based upon the ignorance or misinformation of a well intending scholar.  Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in people’s traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he (a scholar) will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that he understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah”.[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya.  There is a fatwa floating around, attributed to our esteemed Shaykh bin Baaz, (RA) that prohibits celebrating any festivals, holidays, or special occasions of non-Muslims. I regret that during my time of study with him, I did not ask him specifically and in detail about Thanksgiving in America. Had I done so, I doubt if he would have found it prohibited but Allah knows best.

The correct Islamic ruling on celebrating Thanksgiving Day

Deeds are reckoned according to intentions, based upon the hadith; “surely deeds are reckoned by intention”.[7] There are several Sunnan and Quranic injunctions that are found in the observance of thanksgiving such as the Prophet’s exhortation upon the believers to feed food; when asked what is the best type of Islam, he replied: “feeding food, and spreading the salaams”[3]. Thanksgiving also is marked by gathering with family and strengthening family bonds, which is a praiseworthy act; “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.[4]”additionally, it is not prohibited in Islam to visit the homes of your relatives, and eat there; “It is no fault in the blind nor in one born lame, nor in one afflicted with illness, nor in yourselves, that ye should eat in your own houses, or those of your fathers, or your mothers, or your brothers, or your sisters, or your father’s brothers or your father’s sisters, or your mother’s brothers, or your mother’s sisters, or in houses of which the keys are in your possession, or in the house of a sincere friend of yours: there is no blame on you, whether ye eat in company or separately. But if ye enter houses, salute each other – a greeting of blessing and purity as from Allah. Thus does Allah make clear the signs to you: that ye may understand”.[8]

There are no verses in the Quran or authentic ahaadeeth of the Prophet that expressly prohibit celebrating thanksgiving. Even though there are scholars who triangulate different ahaadeeth and verses and interpret them to make Thanksgiving prohibited, this is without warrant according to our understanding.

It is not possible to prohibit an entire day, since all the days of the year belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. However, activities that occur on any given day can be prohibited if there is sufficient proof. So based upon the evidences that we have provided, observing Thanksgiving Day by itself, is not prohibited, and just like every other cultural occasion, the activities that one participates in on that day, should be looked upon on a case by case, compartmental basis.

It is permissible for a Muslim to prepare a meal on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day in their own homes, and eat thereof. It is also permissible to invite guests to your home on that day or any other day of the year to eat your food. It is permissible to cook turkey, chicken, duck, lamb, beef, or any other meat that is allowable according to the Book and the Sunna. It is also permissible to go vegetarian if one likes. Allah has made no restrictions on which days people can feast and which days they cannot except in the case of Ramadan.

Likewise, If one sees benefit in taking a paid day off from work to spend with their family or to rest then they should do so. If they see benefit in spending that time with their families over grandma’s house and enjoying a good meal of allowable food, then they should do so. If the see benefit in spending halal money, on permissible items that are discounted in the mall, then they should do so. However, if going to grandma’s house for dinner or preparing a special meal in your own home will cause problems in the family, sour relations with the relatives, or somehow cause you to lose your religion, or disobey Allah and His Messenger, then you should not participate. Likewise, if a person wishes to avoid everything about that day, pay full price instead of the discounted price at the mall, return to their employer, their day’s pay when they took off, and behave as if it is just another day, then they are allowed to do that according to the Kitaab and the Sunna.

Another important point is that, if we can accept that scholars can make ta’weel (interpretation) of divine ordinances so as to render an affair like Thanksgiving to be prohibited, despite that that there are no direct texts that say such, then it should be more acceptable that the opinions of scholars are also subject to interpretation, as to render their opinion erroneous, or invalid. Scholarly opinions are not divine writ. If the Book of Allah, and the ahaadeeth of the Prophet , are subject to interpretation, then so are the opinions of scholars.

Conditions for celebrating thanksgiving:

·        That you thank Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala first for the good that He has given you.   It is permissible to thank others as well according to the hadith; “whoever does not thank people, does not thank Allah”.

·        That you thank Him on all of the other days of the year as well, and not pick only that one day to be grateful to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala.

·        That you do not participate in any activity that is prohibited in the religion, such as drinking alcohol, using intoxicants, or displaying lewd, and unlawful behavior.

·        Thanksgiving dinners sometimes invite to overeating or gluttony, so a Muslim must be mindful of that, not just during thanksgiving but during the whole year.

·        That you do not waste food, and if there is excess, then you should feed others with it, or refrigerate it until a later time. But you already knew that.

·        That you do not eat in the name of other than Allah, or eat an animal that was killed in the name of other than Allah.

·        That you do not sit at a table where alcohol and intoxicating beverages are served.

Follow-up question: Is celebrating Thanksgiving imitating the kuffaar?

There is no evidence in the Book or in the Sunna that everything that a non-Muslim does is prohibited. It is impossible for Muslims to not imitate anything at all that a non-Muslim does. They are all; both Muslims and non-Muslims, human beings and inhabitants of this earth. They shop at the same stores; they wear the same brands of clothes, eat the same kinds of foods, use the same types of utensils, use the same brands of computers, and sport around in the same types of automobiles as the so-called unbeliever. Muslims use the same types of tools that non-Muslim use; power drills, electric saws, lawn mowers, and weed whackers.

We also use the same weapons as the non-Muslims use; in fact, Muslims don’t even manufacture weapons; all the advanced weaponry that Muslims use in today’s modern warfare are imitations of the non-Muslim types of weapons.  If you turn on any television (which by the way was invented by the non-Muslim, you will see Muslims in all parts of the world, wearing thobes made in China (atheists), eating on dishes made in France,  wearing diamonds mined in South Africa, bearing military ranks (general, captain, lieutenant , sergeant) invented by the so called kuffaar. So it would seem that 99% of the Muslims in the world have entered into what some scholars would characterize as disbelief.  I’m not buying it. The only one who is free from error and whose opinion must be accepted without question is Rasoolillaah . When we see textual evidence which prohibits virtually every product, action, celebration, festivity, or cause of joy that exists on the planet, as the fatwa prohibiting Thanksgiving seems to say, then we will accept it. Otherwise, we must look at all actions on a case by case basis. And Allah knows best.

Second follow up question: Do Muslims have to celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

Understand; you cannot prohibit an entire day. No one can do that. The days, the months, the years and all millennia belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. If you are one of those people who want to see Thanksgiving Day abolished or want to prohibit it all together then before you get started, understand that you can’t prohibit a day, but you can prohibit an action that occurs on any given day, if there is sufficient proof. That’s the way the sharia works. You can’t prohibit time; you can only prohibit how you spend the time allotted to you. You can spend Thanksgiving Day doing anything that you want in eluding your five prayers, fasting [because it’s Thursday], or an other action.

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by any method or means that indicate that you recognize it and an American holiday, is not wajib. It is not incumbent upon you in your religion and you don’t have to do it. However, whether on like it or not, if you live in the Unites States of America, unless some sort of cataclysmic event takes place, Thanksgiving Day will come in sha Allah [God willing], and many things will happen. Your disgust about Thanksgiving will not stop the day from occurring. Many people will have a day off from work. 75% of all Americans who would normally be at work on Thursday, do not work on Thanksgiving Day. Of those who do work that day, like nurses, emergency medical people, police and firemen, and retail workers, most of them will receive overtime pay. Banks, most state, local and federal agencies, as well as public and private schools will be closed for Thanksgiving Day.  How any individual feels about Thanksgiving Day will not stop the day from coming.

No one is saying that you have to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, or to be any way involved in it. People do not have to eat with their family on that day, they don’t have to cook, or even think about cooking if they don’t want to. They don’t have to take off from work, (unless their job is closed that day), or participate in any Thanksgiving related activities. They don’t have to answer the phone when their auntie calls them to ask are they coming, and can they bring some extra plastic cups for the kids. They don’t have to take advantage of 20-50% off, in any Thanksgiving Day sale, and they don’t have to watch the parade, watch football on television, or finger through the big Thanksgiving edition of their city’s newspaper. They don’t even have to get out of bed, except to perform their prayer. They don’t have to get dressed, like they are going somewhere, and if a woman is menstruating, she can sleep through the whole day, and wake up the next day if she wants.

Participating in Thanksgiving in any way is not a religious obligation. The deen of Allah is easy, and the Lord that we worship is above pettiness of any kind. He is also very clear about what He wants us to do, and about what He wants us to stay away from. Thus, if someone wants to declare something haram, and declare that anyone who participates in a thing is committing a sin against Allah, then they need to bring clear evidence, otherwise, they risk forging a lie against Allah sub’haanahu wata’ala, and that’s what we have an issue with.

When someone, says that something is haram, then they are speaking on behalf of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and they need to bring conclusive proof, and not just their dislike for something or dislike for a certain people. It is not permissible in Islam for anyone to render something prohibited on their own accord. 7:32 “Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand”.[9]

Personal sentiment by itself, is not enough to manufacture law. Law is made by the use of textual evidence, or decisive proof, not merely that people do not like Christians, or don’t like America, or don’t like the kuffaar, or don’t like the Pilgrims, or don’t like the idea of families getting together and expressing their gratitude for each other on that day, or don’t like turkey, or don’t like what some people did in celebration of Thanksgiving, or don’t like the oppressors of hundreds of years ago. A Muslim should not let their dislike for a people, prevent them from being just. “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you, make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is closer to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do”.[10]

Summary;

It is not possible in Islam, to render a particular day haram. Just like it is not possible to render a particular week, month, or year haram. All of the days, all of the weeks, months, and all of the years belong exclusively to Allah (God) be He Exalted and Glorified. Each day, week, month, or year occurs by His will, according to His decree and in the measure that He ordains. Thus, for people who claim Thanksgiving Day itself is haram, such is a statement that has no logic, or legitimate Islamic legal consequence. Allah does not hold people accountable for the days in which they live; He holds them accountable for the action which they engage in during those days.

A Muslim may engage in any activity that is not expressly prohibited by Allah, or His Messenger, or by a unanimous consensus of Muslim scholars. They can engage in any activity that does not compromise their faith, does not require from them that they ascribe partners with Allah, does not require or encourage that they disobey Allah or His Messenger (SAWS), and that does not place them or their religion, or the practice thereof, in harm. They can engage in any activity that does not invite to haram, or leads to haram, or that glorifies something that is haram. Muslims are not allowed to engage in any activity that promotes or glorifies, kufr, shirk, disobedience to Allah and His Messenger, or that makes a mockery of our noble religion. We don’t do Christmas, Easter, or Halloween, since all of these celebrate, commemorate, or invite to disbelief, or glorifies evil, as in the case of Halloween. . If you don’t want to have anything to do with the Thanksgiving Day, then leave it alone completely; there is no blame in that, as long as you fulfill your other obligations to Allah. Wal Al-humdu lillaahi Rabbil aalameen.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad in the Imam and Executive Director of the Islamic center of Del Paso Heights, and the Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank, based in Sacramento California, you can reach him at imamluqman@icdph.com.

A Fatwa About Celebrating Your Country’s National Day [By Sheikh `Abd Allah b. Bayyih]

Every country has its National Day. This day is not a religious festival. The new holidays that we as Muslims are prohibited from introducing into our lives are new religious holidays. We are not prohibited from other occasions where people get together for one reason or another. People celebrate their marriages, they celebrate the birth of a new child. They might celebrate any number of other occasions, and there is nothing wrong with this, as long as their celebration is not a religious observance.

It is essential to clear up the misunderstanding that many people have about this issue. Due to this misunderstanding, people have been placed in great difficulties, since so many religious people have been made to think that by observing these non-religious holidays they are committing some sort of sin.

Observing these days is not sinful. In Islamic Law, the default ruling for an activity – barring any evidence to the contrary – is that of permissibility. We should consider how scholars related to such events in the past. There was a tradition that hailed to before the time of Islam known as `Atîrah. It was a day in the month of Rajab where an animal would customarily be slaughtered. Scholars of the Hanbalî school of law regarded it as permissible. Mâlikî scholars disliked it, since it was a practice from the times of ignorance before Islam.

Nevertheless, Hanbalî scholars saw no problem with it. They argued that there is no text forbidding it. The fact that people from since bygone days had a day in Rajab where they would traditionally slaughter an animal – called a rajabi or an `atîrah – is something that is permissible by default. If people want to get together on a day in the month or Rajab or Sha`bân or any other time that of the year that suits their customs to slaughter an animal and have a feast, then that is up to them.

The same can be said for the anniversary of a country’s independence – which is usually what is meant by the “national day” in the countries of Africa and Asia that used to be colonial possessions. There is nothing in Islam to prohibit this.

We need to properly understand the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him), upon his arrival in Madinah, found that the people there had two festive days wherein they would play and enjoy themselves and said: “Allah – most blessed and exalted – has replaced them with what is better: `Îd al-Fitr and `Îd al-Adhâ.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (1134) and Sunan al-Nasâ’î (1556)]

These were pagan religious holidays tied in with their idols. The Prophet (peace be upon him), therefore, mentioned to them the two religious holidays of the Muslims, `Îd al-Fitr and `Îd al-Adhâ. This does not imply in any way that people are forbidden to engage in any public assembly or celebration whatsoever. As long as participating in these celebrations does not entail any sinful conduct, people should be allowed to celebrate. It is unwise to raise objections, disturb people in their traditions, and cause division in society when there is no text form the Qur’ân and Sunnah to forbid those traditions, nor any scholarly consensus even within the schools of thought. Islamic Law is easy with regard to matters wherein there is no clear objection and where the disapproval that is expressed is not based upon any unequivocal evidence. People should be allowed the scope to express their customs. The principle of maintaining ease and facilitation is an essential principle of Islamic Law. Allah says: “He has not placed any difficulty upon you in religion.” [Sûrah al-Hajj: 78] He says: “Allah desires that He should make light your burdens.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 28] Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Make things easy and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings and do not become divided.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (69) and Sahîh Muslim (1734)] We say again that the religion of Islam, essentially, seeks to make things easy for the people. The other opinions and views that scholars have on this matter should be treated with respect. Nevertheless, those opinions are not sacred scripture.

And Allah knows best. By Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Bayah


[1] Quran, 7:33.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Quran, 14:7

[4] Quran, 16:121

[5] Quran, 55:49.

[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

[7] Collected by Muslim.

[8] Quran, 34:61.

[9] Quran, 7:32.

[10] Quran, 5:8.

The Islamic Ruling Regarding Muslim Women Following Funeral Processions, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Al-humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen, wa salaatu wa salaam alaa Rasoolilllah, wa alaa aalihi wa sah’bihi wa sallam

A short time ago there was a death in our area and after the janaazah prayer, the women were told to stay away from following the funeral procession to the burial site. Among those present were the wife and female children of the deceased. The announcement was disheartening to them, and to others who then asked me what my opinion on the matter was. Al-humdu lillah we were able to redress the issue and allowed them to accompany us to the grave yard to offer their du’aa and to pay their last respects to their husband and father, and they did so without any wailing, any misconduct and without losing control of themselves in any way. However, I became aware that this is a prevalent understanding of many Muslims in the United States that women are not allowed to accompany the funeral procession to the grave site under any circumstances. Thus, we release the following statement in order to clarify the question. Wal Allahul Musta’aan wa bihi tawfiq.

Women following the funeral procession and going to the grave site

This issue is both a matter of urf (local custom) and fiqh (Islamic law). The part of it that deals with urf , is; what is the local custom amongst Muslims in America is with regard to women’s role and behavior at funerals, and whether or not that behavior is permissible based upon the Quran, the sunna and the analysis of our scholars.  The other part of the matter is the definitive understanding of this issue by our Prophet (SAWS), his companions, the Salaf of our ummah and the people of knowledge. Wa Allahul Musta’aan, wa bihi tawfiq.

The objective of understanding the religion and the proper practice thereof is not served when we apply a ruling to a condition that does not exist. When people say: women following the funeral procession, and going to the grave site, what is meant here in the United States and elsewhere is when after the janaazah prayer is over, they follow the burial procession to the grave site, and stand and be witnesses to the body of the deceased being lowered into the ground and put to rest while they make du’aa, and stand quietly, and allow the men to do the actual lowering and speaking if any. This is the practice as it occurs here in the United States and therefore this is what the ruling needs to apply to.

The reason women were prohibited from the graves

The prohibition and disliked nature of women attending the gravesites is not simply a matter of a female presence at the grave; it is a matter of unlawful and unislamic behavior, some of which would harm the deceased and add to their punishment, as mentioned in the hadith; “Indeed the deceased will be tortured for those who wail over him.”[1] This understanding is also taken from the hadith; “There are four things from the affair of the days of ignorance that my nation will not abandon; boasting about one’s status, criticizing people’s lineage, seeking rain from the stars, and wailing over the dead. And if the wailing woman does not repent before she dies, she will be made to stand on the Day of Judgment wearing a garment of tar and a mangy coat of armor.”[2]  In the days of jaahiliyyah (ignorance), before the guidance of Islam, the women during that time used to tear their clothes and beat their cheeks and make unlawful utterances upon the death of someone, and the Prophet (SAWS) used to disavow such behavior; “They are not from us; those who beat their cheeks, tear open their garments, and call out with cries from the days of ignorance.”,[3]

Understanding of the scholars regarding this prohibition

The textual prohibition of women going to the graves is found in the hadith of Umm Atiyyah; :”We have been forbidden to accompany funeral processions but it wasn’t strict upon us[4] In explaining this hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani says: “The phrase ‘but it wasn’t strict upon us’ [wa lam yu’zam alainaa] means; he didn’t make it a firm prevention for us like he made other things that were prohibited. So it’s as if she [Umm Atiyyah] said; he disliked for us to follow the funeral procession without making it prohibited”.[5] In this respect, Imam al-Qurtubi said: “the apparent wording of Umm Atiyyah indicates that the nahiy [prohibition] here is nahiy tanzeeh[6][prohibitively disliked]. The hadith is also a daleel (proof) that there are degrees in prohibition and that not all statements of prohibition from the Prophet (SAWS) have the same meaning. Imam al-Qurtubi goes on to state: This is the position of the majority of people of knowledge, and Imam Malik leans towards it being permissible outright, which was the position of the people of Medina.

The permissibility of women attending the gravesite is further supported by what was related by Ibn Abi Shayba in the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Messenger of Allah was at a funeral and Umar saw a woman (following the funeral procession). He yelled at her, but the Prophet (SAWS) said to him: “Leave her alone, `Umar! Verily her eyes shed tears, the soul feels the pangs, and the promised hour is near.”[7] According to Abu Hasan ad-Dawudi[8] the meaning of the Prophet’s statement “and it wasn’t strict upon us” is so that we do not go to the family of the dead, console them, and invoke blessing upon their deceased and then not follow the funeral procession. The majority if not all of the hadith regarding the prohibition of women attending funeral processions, except for the hadith I mentioned from Sahih al-Bukhaari, are weak. However what it prohibited, is unlawful behavior such as wailing, tearing the clothing, jumping into caskets, cursing Allah’s decree, beating one’s self, and like behavior.

The Islamic ruling regarding women attending the funeral procession and visiting the graves

Following the body of the deceased to the grave yard is a right of the dead upon the living according to the hadith: “the right of a Muslim over a Muslim are six” and at the end of the hadith is the phrase; “and when he dies, follow him”. This is the agreed upon position of Ahlus sunna past and present. The ruling of whether or not women should be allowed to accompany the funeral procession to the gravesite is predicated upon whether or not unislamic behavior will occur as a result of their grieving. What constitutes normal behavior occurring during funerals varies from country to country and sometimes even from region to region. Because of the tumultuous conditions in many parts of the Muslim world, many deaths of Muslims are a result of bombings, terror, war, retaliation and factionalism. These are all circumstances where emotions may run high and wailing is more likely to occur. Additionally, many funerals accompany protest which is another reason for high emotions.

In the United States, at this juncture in our history, most deaths of Muslims are due to illness, old age, accidents, and natural causes. In cases where death is from homicide, it is usually one or two persons. Amongst American Muslims, there has never been an accepted tradition of wailing over the dead, tearing clothing, jumping into the casket, cursing Allah, or questioning His decree with regards to someone’s soul being taken. Some of these practices did exist in jaahiliyyah before people entered into Islam, and some of it still exists amongst non-Muslims. However, this type of behavior amongst Muslim Americans was addressed and stamped out early on, and the Islamic prohibition on these things has been pretty well known across the board by the general Muslim population here in the United States.

Furthermore, we do not have a history of paid mourners, wailing parties, and mass hysteria during funerals amongst the Muslim women folk here in our country.  Although it has happened on occasion that one or two persons would get out of hand, this is has been usually corrected immediately by others who are present. I have been present at scores of funerals and have seen the women present at scores of burials and have never witnessed or even heard of women wailing, yelling, cursing, tearing their clothes, or beating their cheeks at funerals.

Similar moral progress occurred during the time of the Prophet (SAWS) with regards to visiting the grave sites. In the beginning of the Prophetic era, there was a need to prevent the women from the gravesites because of their recent habit to jaahiliyyah practices, and later as people gained greater understanding, the prohibition was rescinded. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “I used to prohibit you from visiting the graves, now (I say) visit them for verily it will remind you of death[9]. In another tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) saw a woman crying at a grave so he told her: ‘Fear Allah and be patient.[10] It is duly noted in this hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) did not forbid her from staying at the grave. The Mother of the Believers, Aisha (RA) continued to visit the graves after the death of the Prophet (SAWS), as mentioned in the hadith of Abdullah Ibn Abi Mulaykah, who said: `Aisha came one day from the graveyard, so I said: “O Mother of Believers, from where have you come?” She said: “From the grave of `Abdul-Rahmaan Ibn Abi Bakr.” I said: “Did not the Prophet (SAWS) forbid visiting the graves?”She said: “Yes, then he commanded us to visit them.”[11]

Therefore, based upon the fact that Muslims in America, as a rule do not engage in the practices of wailing, tearing clothing, beating the cheeks, and hollering out bad statements at funerals, and the evidence from the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and the view of the scholars we have mentioned, it is not haram for Muslim women to accompany the funeral procession to the grave sites as long as they are able to control themselves from the unlawful types of behavior that we have mentioned in the hadith. If there is a probability that attendance at the burial will stir emotions to a degree where unlawful behavior will likely occur, and If the standards of adab and decorum cannot be maintained when following the funeral procession to the gravesite, then it is prohibitively disliked. And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, an associate Imam, khateeb, at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo, Ohio. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF). He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[2] Collected by Muslim.

[3] Collected by Muslim.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Fat’hul Bari, vol. 3, p. 489.

[6] The difference between nahiy tah’reem [prohibitively unlawful] and nahiy tanzih [prohibitively disliked] is that the former makes something haram and therefore a sin while the latter makes it disliked but not sinful in and of itself.

[7] Collected by Ibn Majah and an-Nisaa’ee.

[8] Abu Hassan Abdurrahman ibn Muzaffar ad-Dawudi (d. 467).

[9] Collected by Abu Dawood in the Sunan and by Imam Ahmad in the Musnad, this hadith is also in Sahih Muslim but with a slightly different wording

[10] Collected by Bukhaari.

[11] Collected in the Mustrad’rak of al-Haakim, and in the Sunan of al-Baihaqi

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab [Fadaa’il Rajab] by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

“BEHOLD, the number of months, in the sight of Allah, is twelve months, [laid down] in Allah’s decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; [and] out of these, four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of Allah]. Do not, then, sin against yourselves with regard to these [months].”[1] According to the shariah[2] of Islam, years are properly reckoned by the cycles of the moon and not the sun; “They ask you concerning the crescent moons; say: they are time determinants for people and for the Hajj.[3]

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha’ban
3. Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi’ I) 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi’ II) 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I) 11. Dhu al-Qi’dah
6. Jumada al-thani (Jumada II) 12. Dhu al-Hijjah

The Muslim Hijri calendar was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 628 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thus we have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of May 11th 2013. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

There are many areas of ah’kaam (jurisprudence) related to the month of Rajab. Some of the reported traditions of Rajab trace back to the days of jaahiliyyah[5] (pre-Islamic period) and continued after the dawn of Islam.  Others were prohibited by the Prophet (SAWS). Scholars differ as to which of these traditions continued after Islam. So in response to a question by one of the sisters about the month of Rajab and what are the recommended actions of the month, I have prepared the following.

  1. Animal Sacrifices: During the days of jaahiliyyah, people used to make animal sacrifices of sheep and called it al-ateerah[6]; scholars differ whether the practice is still permissible.  It was reported the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “There is no far’a[7] and no ateerah[8].  Other scholars say that the practice of ateerah is permissible, among them is ibn Seereen and it was related about Imam Ahmad that the people of Basra used to do it. It was related that the Prophet (SAWS) said while standing of the mountain of Arafat:  “each year, every household should slaughter a sacrifice and that is what they call al-ateerah[9]. In another tradition it was reported about Abu Razeen[10]; he said: “I said:  O Messenger of Allah, we used to perform animal sacrifices during the days of jaahiliyyah (during Rajab), we would eat it and feed whoever came to us” the Prophet (SAWS) replied: “there is nothing wrong with that.”[11] In another tradition reported by ibn Abbaas, he said: “The Quraish sought permission from the Prophet (SAWS) continue the ateerah and he said: “You may do the sheep slaughter of jaahiliyyah; however, if you sacrifice for the sake of Allah and want to eat it and give some away as charity then you may do so.[12]” scholars of Islam reconcile the prohibition in the hadith of Abu Hurraira and the permissibility of the practice reported in the other hadith by saying that the prohibition relates to the pre-Islamic practice of offering sacrifices to gods other than Allah. Sufyaan ibn Uyyaina says that what’s meant by the prohibition here is the removal of wujoob (obligation). Other scholars say that the hadith of Abu Hurraira is the most authentic narration available on the topic and should provide the standard on how the action is mitigated[13].  It was related about Hasan al-Basri that he said: “There is no ateerah in Islam. Ateerah is something that existed in jaahiliyyah. Some of them used to fast the whole month of Rajab and perform an ateerah during it and the sacrifice would resemble a religious rite or holiday.[14]” it was related about ibn Abbaas that he used to dislike that people take Rajab for a holiday. [15] The conclusion is that if a person wants to slaughter a sheep during the month of Rajab for the sake of Allah and eat some and distribute or feed some to others; that is permissible. However, they shouldn’t take a specific day or make into a holiday occasion for that would not be consistent with the Sunna.  And Allah knows best.
  2. Prayer on particular days of RajabThere are no authentic narrations about the Prophet (SAWS) regarding a specific prayer designated for the month of Rajab. There are several narrations regarding ‘salaatul raghaa’ib’ during the first Jum’ah night of Rajab but they are weak narrations with no validity.  Such a prayer is considered an innovation by the majority of scholars but not all of them. Ibn Jawzee[16] and Abu Bakr as-Sam’aani are amongst the latter-day scholars who mention this. The rulings on salaatul raghaa’ib were not mentioned by earlier scholars because the practice did not appear until about the fifth century of the Hijra.
  3. Fasting during Rajab: There is nothing authentic reported directly from or about the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions regarding fasting during specific days of the month of Rajab. However, there is a report about Abu Qalaaba that he said: “There is a castle in paradise for those who fast during the month of Rajab.” According to al-Baihaqi, Abu Qalaaba being one of the luminaries of the taabi’een would not have said such a thing unless he received it from one of the companions.[17] It was reported in a narration Mujeeba al-Baahiliyyah about her father that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.[18]” Some of the Salaf[19] used to fast the entirety of the sacred months; among them Abdullah ibn Umar, and al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Is’haaq as-Sabee’i. Ibn Abbaas and Anas ibn Malik used to dislike that people fast the entire month of Rajab and in another narration about ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas; they used to prefer that if people fasted Rajab, they break their fast at least some of the days. It was also reported about imam Ahmad, Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Imam Shaafi’ee that they used to dislike that people would fast the entire month of Rajab. Imam Shaafi’ee was reported to have said in a former opinion; “I dislike that people complete the fast of Rajab like they would the fast of Ramadan.” His argument for this was the hadith of Aisha; “I never saw the Prophet (SAWS) complete a month (of fasting) ever, except for Ramadan.[20]” Some of the Hanbali scholars view that fasting the complete month of Rajab is not disliked if they also fast another month before or after it in its entirety as well.  I already mentioned that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the entirety of all the sacred months. There is no harm for a person to fast the entirety of the month of Rajab if it is incorporated as part of a perpetual fast (siyaamul dahr[21]) Some fasts are customary in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and can and should be incorporated into Rajab: Such as fasting three consecutive days of the month, as reported in the hadith of Aisha, she reported: “the Prophet (SAWS) used to fast three consecutive days out of each month.” Or fasting Mondays and Thursdays as recorded in the Sunna.  According to Imam Nawawi; “Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawud, the Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best”.[22] I also like the statement of my late Sheikh, Sayyid Saabiq; “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunna that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.” Thus fasting during Rajab particularly has no special bearing in Islam but fasting during the sacred months is acceptable and was practiced by some of the companions. Fasting three days of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays is a Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and a praiseworthy act.
  4. Zakaat during the Month of Rajab:  Some Muslim countries and communities have become accustomed to collecting and paying zakaat during the month of Rajab. Such a practice is permissible as the zakaat is due annually and needs to be paid. However, here is no basis for singling out Rajab for zakaat in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). This alone does not make it prohibited to do so because zakaat is due annually and its payment is based upon reaching the nisaab of a year and not a particular date.    However it was reported about Uthmaan ibn Afaan that during his term as Caliph that he ascended the pulpit and said: “Oh people, this is the month of your zakaat, so whoever amongst you has a debt, then he should pay his debt.[23]” Other scholars say that zakaat should be paid in the month of Muharram because it marks the beginning of the year and some of the jurists say the Muharram is the time when the imam should dispatch the people to collect the zakaat. Others say that zakaat should be paid during the month of Ramadan because of the sheer virtue of Ramadan and the virtue of charity during the month of Ramadan. The fact of the matter is that zakaat is due after the nisaab has reached a year. According to Abu Saud, the basic definition of nisaab is that amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year. In some modern Muslim countries, nisaab is often interpreted to equate a governmentally determined poverty threshold. Once a person’s holdings have reached the level of nisaab, the zakaat is due on that wealth, regardless of the month. The issue of zakaat is a lengthy subject and not the central topic of our discussion. Please refer to the books of fiqh for more detail.
  5. Umrah[24] during Rajab: Once ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) performed umrah during Rajab, Aisha was present and repudiated what Ibn Umar said, he heard her repudiate it and didn’t object[25]. Umar ibn al-Khattaab and other companions used to like to perform umrah during Rajab. Aisha used to do it as well as Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Seereen reports that the Salaf used to do it. Thus there is no harm performing Umrah during the month of Rajab or any other month.

Conclusion: Rajab is indeed a sacred month and on should increase acts of goodness during the sacred months as in other months. It was reported in the hadith of Anas that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Oh Allah, bless us in our Rajab and Sha’baan for they deliver us into Ramadan.” The hadith although it has weakness in its chain, shows that it is permissible to ask Allah to prolong your life to a more blessed time so that you can perform good deeds during that time. It’s like saying; oh Allah keep me going until Ramadan. The Salaf used to like that when they died, it would happen at the end of a good deed; right after Ramadan, or on the way back from hajj and they used to think that if someone died in that manner their sins would be forgiven. It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “verily deeds are reckoned according to one’s final acts”. And Allah knows best. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center

Sacramento, California, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

[5] Jaahiliyyah refers to the period that existed before Islam. It also refers to practices which contradict Islam and the principles of Islam.

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

[7] Far’a: the first born of a she camel which during the days of jaahiliyyah they used to slaughter n the name of the pagan gods.

[8] A sound hadith (sahih) collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

[10] His name was Laqeet ibn Sabira, a well known companion of the Prophet (SAWS)

[11] A sound hadith collected by Al-Nissa’i

[12] Collected by Tabaraani with his own chain except that the chain of this particular hadith contains Ibrahim ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Habeeba, who was considered trustworthy by Ibn Ma’een but a weak transmitter by most others.

[13] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, page 207

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

[15] Collected by Abdul-Razaaq with a broken chain

[16] Abu Faraj Ibn Jawzi; his name was Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad, one of the great Hanbali scholars of Baghdad; he died in the Hijri year of 597.

[17] This alone does not validate the hadith as authentic, but it does according to some scholars lend marginal credence to the narration.

[18] A weak hadith collected by Abu Dawud and others.

[19] Righteous people and scholars of the frst three generations of Islam.

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[21] Perpetual fast; this is when you fast every single day perpetually.

[22] Imam Nawawi, Explanation of  Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

[25] This story is related in sahih al-Bukhaari.

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab: فضائل رجب

rajab1
The Virtues of Rajab: Fadaa’il Rajab by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

“BEHOLD, the number of months, in the sight of Allah, is twelve months, [laid down] in Allah’s decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; [and] out of these, four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of Allah]. Do not, then, sin against yourselves with regard to these [months].”[1] According to the shariah[2] of Islam, years are properly reckoned by the cycles of the moon and not the sun; “They ask you concerning the crescent moons; say: they are time determinants for people and for the Hajj.[3]

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha’ban
3. Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi’ I) 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi’ II) 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I) 11. Dhu al-Qi’dah
6. Jumada al-thani (Jumada II) 12. Dhu al-Hijjah

The Muslim Hijri calendar was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 638 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thuswe have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of June 3rd  2011. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

There are many areas of ah’kaam (jurisprudence) related to the month of Rajab. Some of the reported traditions of Rajab trace back to the days of jaahiliyyah[5] (pre-Islamic period) and continued after the dawn of Islam. Others were prohibited by the Prophet (SAWS). Scholars differ as to which of these traditions continued after Islam. So in response to a question by one of the sisters about the month of Rajab and what are the recommended actions of the month, I have prepared the following.

  1. Animal Sacrifices: During the days of jaahiliyyah, people used to make animal sacrifices of sheep and called it al-ateerah[6]; scholars differ whether the practice is still permissible. It was reported the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “There is no far’a[7] and no ateerah[8]. Other scholars say that the practice of ateerah is permissible, among them is ibn Seereen and it was related about Imam Ahmad that the people of Basra used to do it. It was related that the Prophet (SAWS) said while standing of the mountain of Arafat: “each year, every household should slaughter a sacrifice and that is what they call al-ateerah[9]. In another tradition it was reported about Abu Razeen[10]; he said: “I said: O Messenger of Allah, we used to perform animal sacrifices during the days of jaahiliyyah (during Rajab), we would eat it and feed whoever came to us” the Prophet (SAWS) replied: “there is nothing wrong with that.”[11] In another tradition reported by ibn Abbaas, he said: “The Quraish sought permission from the Prophet (SAWS) continue the ateerah and he said: “You may do the sheep slaughter of jaahiliyyah; however, if you sacrifice for the sake of Allah and want to eat it and give some away as charity then you may do so.[12]” scholars of Islam reconcile the prohibition in the hadith of Abu Hurraira and the permissibility of the practice reported in the other hadith by saying that the prohibition relates to the pre-Islamic practice of offering sacrifices to gods other than Allah. Sufyaan ibn Uyyaina says that what’s meant by the prohibition here is the removal of wujoob (obligation). Other scholars say that the hadith of Abu Hurraira is the most authentic narration available on the topic and should provide the standard on how the action is mitigated[13]. It was related about Hasan al-Basri that he said: “There is no ateerah in Islam. Ateerah is something that existed in jaahiliyyah. Some of them used to fast the whole month of Rajab and perform an ateerah during it and the sacrifice would resemble a religious rite or holiday.[14]” it was related about ibn Abbaas that he used to dislike that people take Rajab for a holiday. [15]The conclusion is that if a person wants to slaughter a sheep during the month of Rajab for the sake of Allah and eat some and distribute or feed some to others; that is permissible. However, they shouldn’t take a specific day or make into a holiday occasion for that would not be consistent with the Sunna. And Allah knows best.
  2. Prayer on particular days of Rajab: There are no authentic narrations about the Prophet (SAWS) regarding a specific prayer designated for the month of Rajab. There are several narrations regarding ‘salaatul raghaa’ib’ during the first Jum’ah night of Rajab but they are weak narrations with no validity. Such a prayer is considered an innovation by the majority of scholars but not all of them. Ibn Jawzee[16]and Abu Bakr as-Sam’aani are amongst the latter-day scholars who mention this. The rulings on salaatul raghaa’ib were not mentioned by earlier scholars because the practice did not appear until about the fifth century of the Hijra.
  3. Fasting during Rajab: There is nothing authentic reported directly from or about the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions regarding fasting during specific days of the month of Rajab. However, there is a report about Abu Qalaaba that he said: “There is a castle in paradise for those who fast during the month of Rajab.” According to al-Baihaqi, Abu Qalaaba being one of the luminaries of the taabi’een would not have said such a thing unless he received it from one of the companions.[17] It was reported in a narration Mujeeba al-Baahiliyyah about her father that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.[18]” Some of the Salaf[19] used to fast the entirety of the sacred months; among them Abdullah ibn Umar, and al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Is’haaq as-Sabee’i. Ibn Abbaas and Anas ibn Malik used to dislike that people fast the entire month of Rajab and in another narration about ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas; they used to prefer that if people fasted Rajab, they break their fast at least some of the days. It was also reported about imam Ahmad, Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Imam Shaafi’ee that they used to dislike that people would fast the entire month of Rajab. Imam Shaafi’ee was reported to have said in a former opinion; “I dislike that people complete the fast of Rajab like they would the fast of Ramadan.” His argument for this was the hadith of Aisha; “I never saw the Prophet (SAWS) complete a month (of fasting) ever, except for Ramadan.[20]” Some of the Hanbali scholars view that fasting the complete month of Rajab is not disliked if they also fast another month before or after it in its entirety as well. I already mentioned that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the entirety of all the sacred months. There is no harm for a person to fast the entirety of the month of Rajab if it is incorporated as part of a perpetual fast (siyaamul dahr[21]) Some fasts are customary in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and can and should be incorporated into Rajab: Such as fasting three consecutive days of the month, as reported in the hadith of Aisha, she reported: “the Prophet (SAWS) used to fast three consecutive days out of each month.” Or fasting Mondays and Thursdays as recorded in the Sunna. According to Imam Nawawi; “Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawudthe Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best”.[22]I also like the statement of my late Sheikh, Sayyid Saabiq; “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunna that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.” Thus fasting during Rajab particularly has no special bearing in Islam but fasting during the sacred months is acceptable and was practiced by some of the companions. Fasting three days of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays is a Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and a praiseworthy act.
  4. Zakaat during the Month of Rajab: Some Muslim countries and communities have become accustomed to collecting and paying zakaat during the month of Rajab. Such a practice is permissible as the zakaat is due annually and needs to be paid. However, here is no basis for singling out Rajab for zakaat in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). This alone does not make it prohibited to do so because zakaat is due annually and its payment is based upon reaching the nisaab of a year and not a particular date. However it was reported about Uthmaan ibn Afaan that during his term as Caliph that he ascended the pulpit and said: “Oh people, this is the month of your zakaat, so whoever amongst you has a debt, then he should pay his debt.[23]” Other scholars say that zakaat should be paid in the month of Muharram because it marks the beginning of the year and some of the jurists say the Muharram is the time when the imam should dispatch the people to collect the zakaat. Others say that zakaat should be paid during the month of Ramadan because of the sheer virtue of Ramadan and the virtue of charity during the month of Ramadan. The fact of the matter is that zakaat is due after the nisaab has reached a year. According to Abu Saud, the basic definition of nisaab is that amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year. In some modern Muslim countries, nisaab is often interpreted to equate a governmentally determined poverty threshold. Once a person’s holdings have reached the level of nisaab, the zakaat is due on that wealth, regardless of the month. The issue of zakaat is a lengthy subject and not the central topic of our discussion. Please refer to the books of fiqh for more detail.
  5. Umrah[24] during Rajab:Once ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) performed umrah during Rajab, Aisha was present and repudiated what Ibn Umar said, he heard her repudiate it and didn’t object[25]. Umar ibn al-Khattaab and other companions used to like to perform umrah during Rajab. Aisha used to do it as well as Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Seereen reports that the Salaf used to do it. Thus there is no harm performing Umrah during the month of Rajab or any other month.

Conclusion: Rajab is indeed a sacred month and on should increase acts of goodness during the sacred months as in other months. It was reported in the hadith of Anas that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Oh Allah, bless us in our Rajab and Sha’baan for they deliver us into Ramadan.” The hadith although it has weakness in its chain, shows that it is permissible to ask Allah to prolong your life to a more blessed time so that you can perform good deeds during that time. It’s like saying; oh Allah keep me going until Ramadan. The Salaf used to like that when they died, it would happen at the end of a good deed; right after Ramadan, or on the way back from hajj and they used to think that if someone died in that manner their sins would be forgiven. It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “verily deeds are reckoned according to one’s final acts”. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com.


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

[5] Jaahiliyyah refers to the period that existed before Islam. It also refers to practices which contradict Islam and the principles of Islam.

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

[7] Far’a: the first born of a she camel which during the days of jaahiliyyah they used to slaughter n the name of the pagan gods.

[8] A sound hadith (sahih) collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

[10] His name was Laqeet ibn Sabira, a well known companion of the Prophet (SAWS)

[11] A sound hadith collected by Al-Nissa’i

[12] Collected by Tabaraani with his own chain except that the chain of this particular hadith contains Ibrahim ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Habeeba, who was considered trustworthy by Ibn Ma’een but a weak transmitter by most others.

[13] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, page 207

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

[15] Collected by Abdul-Razaaq with a broken chain

[16] Abu Faraj Ibn Jawzi; his name was Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad, one of the great Hanbali scholars of Baghdad; he died in the Hijri year of 597.

[17] This alone does not validate the hadith as authentic, but it does according to some scholars lend marginal credence to the narration.

[18] A weak hadith collected by Abu Dawud and others.

[19] Righteous people and scholars of the frst three generations of Islam.

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[21] Perpetual fast; this is when you fast every single day perpetually.

[22] Imam Nawawi, Explanation of Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

[25] This story is related in sahih al-Bukhaari.

How Political Islam Undermines Islam, An American Imam’s Perspective

political-islam-capture

By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Islam, as a religion, is not toxic; it is light, it is enlightenment, it is guidance. Political Islam on the other hand is very, very toxic. We need to realize that, because it is at the core of modern Muslim civilizational catastrophe.

Islam is the only major religion in the United States of America where political and advocacy organizations eclipse its religious institutions (Mosques and congregations) in size, influence, financial strength, and representation of its American adherents. Muslim political organizations and advocacy groups exert an ominous and unhealthy influence over the American Muslim psychic. Since they dominate the American Muslim leadership matrix, and continue to be the chief architectural forces behind shaping the domestic American Muslim agenda and identity, successes are measured in political currency instead of moral value based upon scripture.

Political Islam and the well financed political islamic strategists and organizations in the United States, do more in my opinion, to victimize and demoralize Muslim Americans, than any of our domestic antagonists. Anti-Islamic sentiment may hurt our feelings and make some of us uncomfortable, even paranoid, in mixed company. However, the godless strategy that Muslim political leaders advocate in dealing with it hurts us where it really matters; at the core of our morality. Arguably, islamophobia can get in the way of our achieving the American dream, although for most Muslim Americans, the evidence would suggest the contrary. The political islamist, public relations solution to islamophobia, on the other hand, will without a doubt, get in the way of our practicing our faith correctly.

Orthodox islamic theology holds that Allah will not change the condition of a people unless they change within themselves. Somewhere, somehow, an islamic political strategist, perhaps blinded by his own brilliance, came up the idea that any problem that Muslims have in the west, has nothing to do with any potential moral deficiency or dysfunction on our part; our problems can all be squarely blamed on Islamophobia and the dreaded islamophobes.  Before we knew what hit us, this concept was packaged, financed and sold to the American Muslim public as doctrine. Thus, we now find ourselves fully engaged in the absurdity of defending Islam with greater passion than we practice it.  You can get more bodies to a protest march than you can get to the prayer line. Many American Muslims are reluctant to criticize, or even exercise any critical discernment or objectivity when it comes to the Islamic political organizations and their secular approaches to our moral challenges as a people of faith. We are capitulating to the tribal mentality that our group is always right, and impervious to error.

In American political Islam, the enemy is no longer the devil, the struggle is no longer against our nafs (lower self), and the goal is no longer salvation.  The enemy is islamophobia, the struggle is against any dissent or criticism, no matter how constructive, and the goal is to get them to like us, and stroke our ego, no matter what it costs. Whenever a prominent American says anything good or positive about Islam, islamic political advocacy and civil rights groups immediately urge that we inundate them with gratuitous letters and emails of thanks and praise.. In the bizarre world of modern political Islam, how our Lord views us is irrelevant; what matters most is how other Americans see us. Now here’s where it gets real funky folks. By declaring islamophobia, the number one threat to Islam and Muslims in the United States, we effectively bypass the central doctrines of self accountability, and moral fortitude; principles upon which our faith is founded.

Muslim Americans are notoriously divided over race, ethnicity, and a multiplicity of doctrinal minutia. African American, Muslims, a third of our demographic, are treated as third class citizens in our own country. The absence of Muslim unity and cooperation across racial and ethnic lines remain at the top of the list of our internal grievances. Prioritization of anti-Muslim bias as a premiere issue over Muslim intra-religious hostility and sectarianism, and over moral self-cleansing, transposes the divine contractual assignment of Islamic law. It creates a reverse moral assumptive whereas intra-religious sectarianism, and islamic political extremism is an acceptable paradigm while anti Muslim bias is not. The latter is declared intolerable to the degree of public protest, indignant response, and central billing in Friday sermons, while the former warrants no such attention, although it ranks amongst the categories of major sins in Islam. Patience, forgiveness and stoicism in the face of verbal invective are virtues in Islam, yet we seem to discourage these, while sectarianism, disunity and obsession with status, are cardinal sins according to our faith, yet we hardly address these issues domestically.

Abrogating the Islamic rule of self accountability by hiding behind islamophobia, completely lacks merit according to any moral standard of Islam. Someone else’s fear of Islam has nothing to do with our ability to practice it. In fact, Islam pre-empts anti-Islamic sentiment by exhorting the Muslim to not concern himself with it, and to leave it in the hands of God The Almighty.  Thus from the very outset, political Islam, and the misguided approach to diagnosing and addressing anti-Islamic sentiment, by attempting to manipulate a sanitized, angelic image of Muslim Americans, while refusing to even acknowledge our own ills, is doomed to fail.  Islam may be a perfect religion, but that does not mean we are perfect people. Muslims are human beings with human shortcomings. Islam is a path, not a destination. The sooner we wake up and take an intrepid and honest look at ourselves, the better.

One of the distressing consequences of politics dictating morality is that Muslim Americans are raising a whole new generation of youth who may find it difficult to distinguish between Islam as a faith of which politics is a branch, and Islam as a political ideology of which morality and moral fortitude are mere afterthoughts. Lastly, I find it incredulous that many of us are in an uproar over pushback against a one-hundred million dollar Masjid (Mosque) a stone’s throw away from ground zero when most mosques frequented by indigenous American Muslims are little more than converted houses and storefronts, many in dire need of repair. Subhaanallah![1] How about that for an irony!

Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a Philadelphia native, a writer, founder of Mosque Without Borders, the creator of the new intra-religious dicipline of: “American Muslim Civilizational Dysfunction”, That pints to areas where American Muslim rhetoric fails to keep up with our reality. Currently he delivers the Friday sermon (khutba) at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the new book “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Glory to God

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab: Fadaa’il Rajab

rajab1
The Virtues of Rajab: Fadaa’il Rajab by Imam Abu Laith Lqman Ahmad

“BEHOLD, the number of months, in the sight of Allah, is twelve months, [laid down] in Allah’s decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; [and] out of these, four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of Allah]. Do not, then, sin against yourselves with regard to these [months].”[1] According to the shariah[2] of Islam, years are properly reckoned by the cycles of the moon and not the sun; “They ask you concerning the crescent moons; say: they are time determinants for people and for the Hajj.[3]

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha’ban
3. Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi’ I) 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi’ II) 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I) 11. Dhu al-Qi’dah
6. Jumada al-thani (Jumada II) 12. Dhu al-Hijjah

The Muslim Hijri was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 638 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thuswe have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of June 13th 2010. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

There are many areas of ah’kaam (jurisprudence) related to the month of Rajab. Some of the reported traditions of Rajab trace back to the days of jaahiliyyah[5] (pre-Islamic period) and continued after the dawn of Islam.  Others were prohibited by the Prophet (SAWS). Scholars differ as to which of these traditions continued after Islam. So in response to a question by one of the sisters about the month of Rajab and what are the recommended actions of the month, I have prepared the following.

  1. Animal Sacrifices: During the days of jaahiliyyah, people used to make animal sacrifices of sheep and called it al-ateerah[6]; scholars differ whether the practice is still permissible.  It was reported the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “There is no far’a[7] and no ateerah[8].  Other scholars say that the practice of ateerah is permissible, among them is ibn Seereen and it was related about Imam Ahmad that the people of Basra used to do it. It was related that the Prophet (SAWS) said while standing of the mountain of Arafat:  “each year, every household should slaughter a sacrifice and that is what they call al-ateerah[9]. In another tradition it was reported about Abu Razeen[10]; he said: “I said:  O Messenger of Allah, we used to perform animal sacrifices during the days of jaahiliyyah (during Rajab), we would eat it and feed whoever came to us” the Prophet (SAWS) replied: “there is nothing wrong with that.”[11] In another tradition reported by ibn Abbaas, he said: “The Quraish sought permission from the Prophet (SAWS) continue the ateerah and he said: “You may do the sheep slaughter of jaahiliyyah; however, if you sacrifice for the sake of Allah and want to eat it and give some away as charity then you may do so.[12]” scholars of Islam reconcile the prohibition in the hadith of Abu Hurraira and the permissibility of the practice reported in the other hadith by saying that the prohibition relates to the pre-Islamic practice of offering sacrifices to gods other than Allah. Sufyaan ibn Uyyaina says that what’s meant by the prohibition here is the removal of wujoob (obligation). Other scholars say that the hadith of Abu Hurraira is the most authentic narration available on the topic and should provide the standard on how the action is mitigated[13].  It was related about Hasan al-Basri that he said: “There is no ateerah in Islam. Ateerah is something that existed in jaahiliyyah. Some of them used to fast the whole month of Rajab and perform an ateerah during it and the sacrifice would resemble a religious rite or holiday.[14]” it was related about ibn Abbaas that he used to dislike that people take Rajab for a holiday. [15] The conclusion is that if a person wants to slaughter a sheep during the month of Rajab for the sake of Allah and eat some and distribute or feed some to others; that is permissible. However, they shouldn’t take a specific day or make into a holiday occasion for that would not be consistent with the Sunna.  And Allah knows best.
  2. Prayer on particular days of Rajab:  There are no authentic narrations about the Prophet (SAWS) regarding a specific prayer designated for the month of Rajab. There are several narrations regarding ‘salaatul raghaa’ib’ during the first Jum’ah night of Rajab but they are weak narrations with no validity.  Such a prayer is considered an innovation by the majority of scholars but not all of them. Ibn Jawzee[16] and Abu Bakr as-Sam’aani are amongst the latter-day scholars who mention this. The rulings on salaatul raghaa’ib were not mentioned by earlier scholars because the practice did not appear until about the fifth century of the Hijra.
  3. Fasting during Rajab: There is nothing authentic reported directly from or about the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions regarding fasting during specific days of the month of Rajab. However, there is a report about Abu Qalaaba that he said: “There is a castle in paradise for those who fast during the month of Rajab.” According to al-Baihaqi, Abu Qalaaba being one of the luminaries of the taabi’een would not have said such a thing unless he received it from one of the companions.[17] It was reported in a narration Mujeeba al-Baahiliyyah about her father that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.[18]” Some of the Salaf[19] used to fast the entirety of the sacred months; among them Abdullah ibn Umar, and al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Is’haaq as-Sabee’i. Ibn Abbaas and Anas ibn Malik used to dislike that people fast the entire month of Rajab and in another narration about ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas; they used to prefer that if people fasted Rajab, they break their fast at least some of the days. It was also reported about imam Ahmad, Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Imam Shaafi’ee that they used to dislike that people would fast the entire month of Rajab. Imam Shaafi’ee was reported to have said in a former opinion; “I dislike that people complete the fast of Rajab like they would the fast of Ramadan.” His argument for this was the hadith of Aisha; “I never saw the Prophet (SAWS) complete a month (of fasting) ever, except for Ramadan.[20]” Some of the Hanbali scholars view that fasting the complete month of Rajab is not disliked if they also fast another month before or after it in its entirety as well.  I already mentioned that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the entirety of all the sacred months. There is no harm for a person to fast the entirety of the month of Rajab if it is incorporated as part of a perpetual fast (siyaamul dahr[21]) Some fasts are customary in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and can and should be incorporated into Rajab: Such as fasting three consecutive days of the month, as reported in the hadith of Aisha, she reported: “the Prophet (SAWS) used to fast three consecutive days out of each month.” Or fasting Mondays and Thursdays as recorded in the Sunna.  According to Imam Nawawi; “Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawudthe Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best”.[22] I also like the statement of my late Sheikh, Sayyid Saabiq; “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunna that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.” Thus fasting during Rajab particularly has no special bearing in Islam but fasting during the sacred months is acceptable and was practiced by some of the companions. Fasting three days of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays is a Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and a praiseworthy act.
  4. Zakaat during the Month of Rajab:  Some Muslim countries and communities have become accustomed to collecting and paying zakaat during the month of Rajab. Such a practice is permissible as the zakaat is due annually and needs to be paid. However, here is no basis for singling out Rajab for zakaat in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). This alone does not make it prohibited to do so because zakaat is due annually and its payment is based upon reaching the nisaab of a year and not a particular date.    However it was reported about Uthmaan ibn Afaan that during his term as Caliph that he ascended the pulpit and said: “Oh people, this is the month of your zakaat, so whoever amongst you has a debt, then he should pay his debt.[23]” Other scholars say that zakaat should be paid in the month of Muharram because it marks the beginning of the year and some of the jurists say the Muharram is the time when the imam should dispatch the people to collect the zakaat. Others say that zakaat should be paid during the month of Ramadan because of the sheer virtue of Ramadan and the virtue of charity during the month of Ramadan. The fact of the matter is that zakaat is due after the nisaab has reached a year. According to Abu Saud, the basic definition of nisaab is that amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year. In some modern Muslim countries, nisaab is often interpreted to equate a governmentally determined poverty threshold. Once a person’s holdings have reached the level of nisaab, the zakaat is due on that wealth, regardless of the month. The issue of zakaat is a lengthy subject and not the central topic of our discussion. Please refer to the books of fiqh for more detail.
  5. Umrah[24] during Rajab:Once ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) performed umrah during Rajab, Aisha was present and repudiated what Ibn Umar said, he heard her repudiate it and didn’t object[25]. Umar ibn al-Khattaab and other companions used to like to perform umrah during Rajab. Aisha used to do it as well as Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Seereen reports that the Salaf used to do it. Thus there is no harm performing Umrah during the month of Rajab or any other month.

Conclusion: Rajab is indeed a sacred month and on should increase acts of goodness during the sacred months as in other months. It was reported in the hadith of Anas that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Oh Allah, bless us in our Rajab and Sha’baan for they deliver us into Ramadan.” The hadith although it has weakness in its chain, shows that it is permissible to ask Allah to prolong your life to a more blessed time so that you can perform good deeds during that time. It’s like saying; oh Allah keep me going until Ramadan. The Salaf used to like that when they died, it would happen at the end of a good deed; right after Ramadan, or on the way back from hajj and they used to think that if someone died in that manner their sins would be forgiven. It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “verily deeds are reckoned according to one’s final acts”. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad


[1] Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

[5] Jaahiliyyah refers to the period that existed before Islam. It also refers to practices which contradict Islam and the principles of Islam.

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

[7] Far’a: the first born of a she camel which during the days of jaahiliyyah they used to slaughter n the name of the pagan gods.

[8] A sound hadith (sahih) collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

[10] His name was Laqeet ibn Sabira, a well known companion of the Prophet (SAWS)

[11] A sound hadith collected by Al-Nissa’i

[12] Collected by Tabaraani with his own chain except that the chain of this particular hadith contains Ibrahim ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Habeeba, who was considered trustworthy by Ibn Ma’een but a weak transmitter by most others.

[13] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, page 207

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

[15] Collected by Abdul-Razaaq with a broken chain

[16] Abu Faraj Ibn Jawzi; his name was Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad, one of the great Hanbali scholars of Baghdad; he died in the Hijri year of 597.

[17] This alone does not validate the hadith as authentic, but it does according to some scholars lend marginal credence to the narration.

[18] A weak hadith collected by Abu Dawud and others.

[19] Righteous people and scholars of the frst three generations of Islam.

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[21] Perpetual fast; this is when you fast every single day perpetually.

[22] Imam Nawawi, Explanation of  Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

[25] This story is related in sahih al-Bukhaari.

Fighting Over Weak Hadith

By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

It has been prophesized that the Muslim Ummah would follow the path of those that came before us, i.e., the Jews and the Christians. “You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, … much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would follow them[1].Nowhere has this been more apparent than in our differing with each other in matters of religion.  “The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them.´3:19. In today’s times, differences amongst Muslims frequently take on an air of hostility and acrimony.  As Muslim Americans become more familiar with principles of hadith methodology, we find ourselves at odds over many issues relating to statements attributed to our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Historically, such topics were the exclusive realm of legitimate scholars, their students and people who had great familiarity with the disciplines of sacred knowledge. Nowadays, as the lines between teacher and student have become blurred, some Muslims find themselves in vociferous contention over amongst other issues, weak hadith.

People dispute over weak hadith to a degree that some people repudiate others, not for the way they practice religion, but in the hadith they read. I have seen where people have virtually vilified scholars for using weak hadith in their books, or Imams who quote weak hadith in their sermons,  or suggested that we throw books out into the garbage pile because they  contained weak hadith or that we avoid this or that book because of the presence of weak hadith in them. Of course, all of this in nonsensical; It is incredulous that Muslims fight and argue over the use of weak hadith in unprecedented ways. However, these types of disputes are becoming commonplace amongst American Muslims.

We should all understand that as Muslims, we should strive to be accurate in what we report about the Prophet (SAWS), and that indeed amongst the volumes of prophetic traditions reported about the Prophet (SAWS) there are reports that are authentic (sahih or hasan), and there are reports that are not authentic, otherwise known as da’eef (weak). In any matter relating to deen, authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) are first and foremost, and form the basis and foundation of our religion along with the Quran. However, weak hadith are not going to be expunged from hadith literature and people will continue to encounter them in books, read them and transmit them to others.  Thus, it is helpful to understand they way weak hadith are used in our religion.

 A weak hadith does not necessarily mean that the Prophet (SAWS) did not say, or sanction a thing; it simply means that the hadith does not meet the standard of authenticity set by hadith scholars.  Weak hadith contribute to the overall understanding of the religion of Islam, and its auxiliary sciences   of knowledge, such as tafseer (exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence), and history. This issue of weak hadith is not simply a matter that all weak hadith are bad and need to be trashed as some Muslims are suggesting. There are different categories and variants of weakness ranging from 50 types according to ibn Habbaaani, to seventy something categories according to ibn Kathir, to over one-hundred and twenty categories of weak hadith according to Sharfud Deen al-Manaawi. A hadith can have multiple chains of transmission, each with the same or slightly different wording. Sometimes a hadith is weak when related through a particular chain of transmission but strong when related to another chain.

Generally speaking, there is nothing inherently wrong with quoting weak hadith, otherwise scholars like Imam Ahmad, Imam an-Nawawi, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, as-Shawkaani, and so many countless others, would not have done so. Even Imam Bukhaari uses weak hadith in his book ‘Adab al-Mufrad’ (Muslim Manners). Imam Ahmad and Imam Shaafi’ee both consider weak hadith as a legitimate evidentiary resource used in arriving at rulings. It is not in the best interest of Muslims to argue about whether or not a person should read or use weak hadith. In fact, doing so only exposes a person’s ignorance of Islamic procedural law (usul al-fiqh).

It is important that people understand how to use or not to use hadith, both weak and authentic. Some people have advocated reading only hadith from Bukhaari or Muslim since they are two collections of prophetic tradition that scholars consider to be completely authentic. However there are other collections of hadith that are authentic as well; such as the Sahih of Ibn Khuzaimah, the Sahih of Ibn Habbaani, the Sahih of Abu Awaanah, and others. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in his explanation of the classical work on hadith methodology; “Nakh’batul Fikr fee Mustalihaat Ahlul Thikr”, says, “Scholars agree that it is incumbent to act upon every sound authentic hadith, even if was not produced by the two sheikhs (Bukhaari and Muslim)[1].


[1] Qawaa’id at-Tah’deeth, Jamaaluddeen al-Qaasimee, p. 90. In my opinion, a person should not restrict themselves to reading only certain books of hadith as there are dozens of hadith collections and they all have benefit. Muslims should not engage in any campaign against weak hadith, although it is necessary to distinguish between the authentic and the not authentic, as many of our illustrious scholars have done for us.

What is needed in my view is that we campaign against general ignorance of religion. Weak hadith are not the main issue; it is in how people use hadith, weak or authentic which seems to cause so many problems. People’s mis-use and misunderstanding of authentic hadith is a greater problem than people’s use of weak hadith. The important thing is to correctly understand the deen of Islam as a whole, so that it can be practiced properly. For example, the hadith “He who memorizes forty hadith will enter paradise and be raised alongside the scholars“, although it has many variations and different chains of transmission, is itself a weak hadith. However, scholars have used this hadith as an inspiration to compile collections of forty hadith, such as the forty hadith compiled by Imam Nawawi. Another example are mursal (incompletely transmitted hadith). A hadith can have a sound chain of reputable narrators but omit the name of the companion of the Prophet (SAWS) from whom the hadith was taken. Imam Shaafi’ee used to use mursal hadith attributed to Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib, who was a taabi’ee[2], since the latter was considered one of the Imams of the taabi’een, and it was extremely unlikely that he would lie about the Prophet (SAWS) or lie about having heard a hadith from a companion of the Prophet (SAWS).  Thus when a personage such as Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib would say; “the messenger of Allah (SAWS) said so and so”, its understood by scholars that he (Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib) got the information from a companion of the Prophet (SAWS) although he does not mention the companion by name. It’s like an otherwise trustworthy person saying; ‘my grandfather used to say this and that, and although the person never met his grandfather, it is understood that he got the information from someone who did hear it from his grandfather, such as his parents. A mursal hadith is considered by definition to be a weak hadith. However as we have shown, its weakness is due to omission, and not deception.

ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani has set what I consider to be intelligent guidelines for the use of weak hadith and they are as follows:

  1. That the hadith does not have extreme weakness. (There can be over fifty reasons that a hadith is weak)
  2. That the hadith is not used to make something haraam, or to make something that is haraam, halal
  3.  That the hadith is not used to confirm a certainty, but instead only as an affirmation of a possibility
  4. That acting upon a weak hadith is used only in the support of a confirmed act of goodness.

It’s more advantageous in the long run to be rounded in Islam as a religion. When people take it upon themselves to read hadith on their own and try to come up with fiqh rulings as many people do, it creates individual discord, each person arguing his or her point in an open court, with no ruler, no judge, no decorum and no civility. Reading hadith, authentic or not is one thing; practicing Islam according to the Prophet’s way (SAWS) is something entirely different.

Many hadith, just like verses in the Quran, require explanation in order to understand it correctly.  Most of the mis-informed opinions derived from hadith that I have encountered in my 15 years as an Imam has been through mis-understandings people have about authentic hadith by not understanding the hadith itself, mis-using it or emphasizing hadith without understanding fiqh application, or a combination of all the above. The hadith about the seventy-two sects of Islam is in authentic, yet so many people misunderstand it, that some actually believe that if you call yourself a certain type of Muslim, you are automatically saved.

The current problems with new Muslims and old, straying off the path, bordering extremism and getting confused has more to do with the near leaderless structure of the umma in its current form, the multiple spheres of influence, and the degeneration of spiritual intuitiveness that comes with diseases of the heart, than it have to do with people following weak hadith. And Allah knows best. Imam Luqman Ahmad


[1] Bukhaari

[2] A taabi’ee is a Muslim who met a companion of the Prophet (SAWS) but never met the Prophet himself (SAWS).

Civil Marriages Versus Islamic Marriages

 By Imam Luqman Ahmad

 Recently, I entertained a notion that I never before expected would enter my mind. I have always passionately maintained that an imam should contract Muslim marriages in the United States with no civil marriage license involved. Furthermore I argued that with respect to civil legitimacy, we as Muslims in America should demand that the local, state and federal governments accept Muslim marriages contracted in a masjid as valid and legitimate for all purposes. Furthermore, I felt that Muslims in America should establish their own courts to deal with marital disputes, divorce and adjudication. I even used to cast a disdaining eye at people who sought the city hall stamp of approval for their marriages. I still hold some of these positions. However, I do not foresee any of these happening in the near future.

Now, after 20 years of witnessing utter disregard for the sanctity of marriage, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the off-handed informal way in which marriages and divorces are handled needs to be revised to better reflect the reality of the times while still maintaining, even enhancing the adherence of islamic law. It is painfully clear that more and more often, the sacredness of marriage has been replaced by an almost casual indifference to its sanctity.

Civil and Islamic marriages have taken on connotations of real and make-believe. A person will say: “lslamically I’m married to so and so but legally I’m still married to so and so.” Or they will say, “We are married in Islam but we are not legally married.” Too often a person will display a prima fascia disregard for a civil marriage as if it doesn’t matter because it’s not “islamic”. However when a legal dispute arises such as death of a spouse who was divorced islamically but not civilly, the former spouse will rush to claim that, hey, I’m the legal spouse therefore I deserve the inheritance or the insurance money or whatever is left behind. Then they seek the full backing of the law.

In virtually every case, a civil marriage solemnized islamically carries the full applicable weight of legality and sanctity. On the other hand, an Islamic marriage by itself in many cases only carries limited weight not extending too far beyond the boundaries of the masjid. That’s why in an Islamic marriage, women for example, may still keep their former husband’s last name, never change any of their identifications, (drivers licenses, work I.D., passports etc.) to reflect their status as married women. In some cases a woman may be married to a man islamically and still carry their former husbands last name. On the other hand, when there is a civil marriage certificate involved, signed by the imam, legal issues are adjusted across the board, names are changed to reflect the new status, real names are used on the certificate, identifications, and drivers licenses are changed, parents are notified (and believe they are married), and a realization evolves amongst couples that yes, we are married in every sense of the word.

Marriage is a serious matter. The prophet (SAWS) considered it half of one’s faith. It is arguably the single most important social institution in our religion. The marital status amongst Muslims needs to be explicit and unambiguous. Either you are married or you are not. Either you are divorced or you are not. The idea of a legal netherworld between Islamic and civil is absurd. Unfortunately, Muslims in the United States do not possess the power, influence, or organizational congruence, to establish a nationwide or even a local system of marriage and divorce. This is why men are able to go from city to city and marry as many times as they like in the Muslim community without anyone even knowing their real names, or have multiple wives without the others even knowing about it! It is also why men and women are more likely to abandon the marriage by simply walking away because the Islamic marriage in their eyes carries no real validity. It may at its inception but when things get rough as they often do, they know they can just simply walk away with no legal ramifications.

 

Often there is no documentation of marriage, or divorce, no reference to past marriages, to any marital history, no information regarding previously abandoned children, wives or husbands. Pretty soon we can expect that brothers and sisters may be marrying each other without knowing it. Think it won’t happen? Well think again. I know of at least two instances where it did happen. In one case the marriage was prevented in time. In the other case, incest had occurred before anyone knew better. One place to start remedying this madness would be for masaajid in any given city to share all information about marriage and divorce and establish a computer network that connects them to one another. However, that is unlikely. Masaajid are very reluctant to share information. They would rather share information with amazon.com before they share it with another Masjid.

A stable networking system of marriage and divorce in the Muslim community may be years away. In the meantime, I advocate utilizing a civil marriage certificate signed by an imam until we get our act together. This way there will be a modicum of regulation and reference and it may help stem the tide of reckless marriage and runaway divorce. Granted, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve. There are fundamental differences between marriage and divorce laws in Islam and those in secular law. The downside of marriages employing the civil system is that it subjects people to the inherent injustices of the American divorce process, which tend to unfairly (from a Muslim perspective) favor women. One positive note is that some cities are open to the idea of incorporating Islamic principles into the civil system for Muslims, which still would require that the Muslims in that city be of one accord on the fiqh of the issue. This may be an area that warrants further exploration and advocacy. I realize that the idea of allowing the government to license Muslim marriages may be distasteful to some Muslims. I do not fully endorse the notion myself. However, in light of the tragic consequences of having no system at all, I believe this is the lesser of two evils. And Allah knows best.

This and other issues like it are indicative of our unpreparedness to do what it takes to take care of our own. When a single mother with children is in need of assistance, she doesn’t go to the masjid, she goes to the welfare office. When there is a violent dispute between spouses, they do not call the masjid, they call 911 and get a restraining order. When there are financial disputes between Muslims, we do not have a system for binding arbitration in the Muslim communities, they simply go to civil court. We file and pay taxes faithfully yet we ignore zakat and resign ourselves to having to put on fundraisers which are now starting to resemble rock concerts. The chronic divisiveness of the Muslim community only augments this difficulty. Muslim communities in America are going to have to start thinking as a group. At some point “organizational normalcy” needs to occur. Our lives and individual communities are simply too interconnected for us to continue acting as if they aren’t. America in the new information age is all about connectivity. It is high time for us to catch up.

The ideas of fully utilizing the civil system in contracting Muslim marriages should not be necessarily frowned upon. We are already entrenched in the American legal system in almost every aspect of our lives and in most legal matters it is the primary system used by Muslims in the United States. Even when making hajj, you need a U.S. Government issued or approved passport and you have to use your “legal name” not your Islamic name. About the only way in which we do handle our own is in death; we do wash our own bodies and bury our own. Are we prepared to change? Only the future will tell. My dear Muslims, when are we going to realize that sooner or later we are going to have to come together as one people? We need to wake up. Our survival depends upon it.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Northern California. He can be reached at imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com, or visit his blog at imamluqman.wordpress.com

The Islamic Ruling on Baby Showers in the United States

By Sheikh Luqman Ahmad, Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California

 Bismillahi Arrah’maan Arra’heem wal-humdu lillah wa salaat wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS)

Question: Are baby showers haram (prohibited ) in Islam?

Answer: al-Humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. The Baby shower is an indigenous cultural event practiced by Muslims born and raised and residing in the in the United States of America . No adequate Islamic ruling can be made upon it without understanding the nature of the practice, its benefit and its harms if any, a thorough understanding of the social and cultural minutiae of the indigenous American Muslims who practice it, and how the practice is viewed in light of the objectives (maqaasid) of Islamic law and the letter of the Quran and the Sunna of Mustapha (SAWS).Islam in America is at a critical crossroad. American Muslims increasingly find themselves caught between issues of American culture and their Islamic identity. Despite the valiant efforts of scholars to elucidate the lines between these two variables (culture and religion), a great deal of ambiguity remains about how to reconcile the two. Many rulings regarding cultural practices and habits of American Muslim are rendered without an intimate understanding of the nature of these practices, as well as the Muslim Americans who practice them, which are essential ingredient to any Islamic ruling placed thereon.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157. The answer to the original queery is as follows, wa billahi tawfiq

What is a baby shower?

A baby shower is a social practice whereas women gather in a home or designated place to honor and celebrate the pending birth of a child. The practice is accompanied by giving gifts, feeding food and congratulatory gestures such as cards to announce the birth of a child. It is generally a happy occasion and it is a reason for women to come together to support each other in goodness.

The basis for baby Showers in the Quran and Sunna

The essence of a baby shower is to congratulate the mother on the impending birth of a child. The basis of this is in the Quran: “Verily Allah gives you glad tidings of John.[1]” “Oh Mary verily Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him whose name will be Jesus the son of Mary[2].” Childbirth itself is considered a praiseworthy act in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) “Marry fertile easy natured women for verily I shall have the largest umma because of you on the Day of Judgment”. There is no dissension amongst the scholars of Islam that Muslims having children is a praiseworthy act that merits joy, and thanks to Allah tabaaraka wa ta’ala.

 The Permissibility of Baby Showers in the United States of America

 A baby shower, in which there is no accompanying prohibited activity such as prohibited music, displays of lewdness, alcoholic drinks, and vulgarity, is permissible in Islam and is an accepted practice for Muslims living in the United States . Baby showers are a cultural practice (aada) and not a religious one (ibaadah) by agreement of scholars familiar with the practice. The basis of cultural practices is permissibility unless there is compelling evidence from the Quran and Sunna which would make it otherwise. This is the view of the majority of Islamic scholars and of the Imams of the four schools of religious thought. Gathering and mixing with the people at their social events, at their gatherings, their joyous occasions, visiting the sick, attending sittings for remembrance of Allah, and attending peoples customary functions was the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and was the practice of the Salaf of our umma. It is especially desirable for people who are able to enjoin the good and forbid the evil[3].

Imam An-Nawawi says: Remember! Mixing with the people in the way I have mentioned earlier is the most desirable. This was the way of the messenger of Allah, the righteous Caliphs, the followers of the Companions[4], scholars and righteous people. The majority of the followers of the Companions and their followers[5] adopted it. Imam Ash-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad and the majority of other jurists followed it.”[6]  Thus baby showers which keep to the Islamic behavioral protocol are not only permissible, it is a recommended practice.

 Reasons for permissibility of baby showers:

 Baby showers by their very nature facilitate the practice of the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). Righteous deeds frequently find their delivery through cultural practices. You have to enter the kitchen in order to prepare the food. The fact that this issue requires clarification is a testament to the sad state of the umma and the preponderance of ignorance. It has become increasingly difficult for us to distinguish truth from falsehood, even if the truth slaps us in the face. Nevertheless, the only antidote to ignorance is knowledge. Below are ten reasons why baby showers are permissible in Islam. Wallahu al-Must’a’aan

  1. The majority of Islamic scholars past and present regard social and cultural actions which do not contradict the Quran, the Sunna or an agreement of the scholars, particularly the Salaf of our umma, as permissible until proven otherwise. This is based upon the principle: “Al-aslu fil ash’yaa al-ibaaha” (The basis of things is permissibility). Anytime a social or cultural action is deemed prohibited, the burden of proof is upon the one who prohibits it, not the one who deems it permissible.
  2. Helping the Muslimah to care for her child: “And help each other in righteousness and piety and do not help each other in sin and transgression.[7]” By the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah will be in assistance of His servant as long as the servant is in assistance of his brother[8].
  3. Visiting the Muslim: Baby shower require that you visit the person. In fact, it creates an opportunity to visit a Muslimah. The prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever visits an ailing person or a brother of his to seek the pleasure of Allah, an announcer (angel) calls out: ‘May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you be awarded a dignified position in Jannah.’”[9] No one can claim that they are not in need of additional blessings from Allah ta’ala. Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
  4. Responding to an invitation: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The right of the Muslim over the other Muslims is six” of those six, he mentioned; “If he invites you then respond.”[10]
  5. Feeding food: The Prophet (SAWS) was asked; which is the best type of Islam? He replied: “Feeding food and spreading salaams[11]
  6. Congratulating the family of the good tidings associated with a new birth: Allah says in the Quran: “Verily Allah brings you glad tidings of John
  7. Giving gifts: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Give gifts and you will love each other.” The giving of gifts is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) and a means for softening the hearts of the believers towards each other.
  8. Strengthening the bonds of sisterhood; Sisterhood in Islam is a praiseworthy pursuit based upon the verse; “Verily the believers are a single brotherhood[12] and by the hadith of the Prophet of those who will be under Allah’ shade on a day where there is no shade except His shade: “Two men who love each other for the sake of Allah, they come together based on it and they depart based on it[13]
  9. Encouraging marriage and childbirth; Childbirth and motherhood are both praiseworthy acts by agreement of the scholars of Islam. To consider them otherwise would be in contradiction to the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). From which many opportunities for good deeds abound; obedience to parents, honoring the mother, teaching children prayer and deen, opportunities for charities and the list goes on. Both childbearing and motherhood are considered to be good actions (ma’roof) by agreement of the scholars. Allah sub’hanahu wa ta’ala has commanded the believers to enjoin each other in acts of goodness (ma’roof). “Let there be from amongst you a group who calls to good and enjoins righteousness (ma’roof) and forbids evil.”[14]
  10. Allowance of maa’oon (neighborly needs). Diapers, bottles, baby blankets, baby cloths, wipes, pacifiers, strollers, basinets are all of the category of maa’oon, or neighborly needs which people routinely pass back and forth to one another on the basis of need. To prevent the practice of baby showers without just cause is to prevent the ease by which neighborly needs passes hands. Preventing the passing of neighborly needs is a major sin (kabeerah) and a loathsome act which angers Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. “And who to the worshippers; those who are neglectful of their prayers; those who pray to be seen and who prevent the passing of neighborly needs[15].  May Allah guide us all through these times of ignorance.

 

 Previous misinformed rulings about baby showers:

 There have been several rulings by various imams and councils which prohibited baby showers in the United States . The intentions behind these rulings were admirable in sha Allah. However, because of the unfamiliarity of many imams to the nature of local customs in America , the nature of fataawa, and the nature of baby showers, some of the prohibitive rulings have obvious flaws and errors. The reality is that there is no evidence in the Quran or the Sunna or in the words or actions of the Salaf of our umma which would conclusively or even remotely render baby showers haram or even makrooh. The practice of baby showers is that it contains many Sunna acts. It has traditionally been in the United States a source of good tidings, gift giving, bonding, and softening of the hearts, all of which are desirable actions, encouraged or commanded by our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Additionally, the ruling of any imam or council does not take precedence over the actions of our Prophet (SAWS). Prohibition of an act in Islam requires conclusive proof. Uninformed opinion is not enough to render that which is permissible into that which is prohibited.  

Is the Baby Shower Imitation of the Infidels?

 Some well meaning scholars have proclaimed the baby shower a prohibited act based upon the sound hadith; “Whoever imitates a people then he is of them[16]. They regard the practice as an imitation of the kuffar (non-Muslims) and therefore not permissible. This view although it has marginal rhetoric merit and emotional plausibility, has no basis in the shariah. This is for seven reasons.

  1. The hadith is specific, not general and refers to practices that have religious significance. This is explained clearly by ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in Fat’h al-Baari. The Prophet (SAWS) continued cultural, ethnic and region specific practices and allowed such, even though the majority of those doing it were non Muslims in the Meccan period. As in the case of clothing; he (SAWS) continued to wear the clothes of the pagan Meccans after he received revelation. He also allowed the Muslims to continue the literary practice of poetic expression as long as it didn’t contain undesirable prose. Umar ibn al-Khattaab instituted the diwaan for pension and salary distribution which was a practice of the Persian Kings. Anyone who thinks that the Prophet (SAWS) contradicted his own statements and performed blameworthy actions is himself an unbeliever.  Thus, the meaning of the hadith cannot mean non religious, cultural actions.
  2. The Baby shower is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Anyone who views it otherwise is obviously unfamiliar with the practice and unqualified to speak on the matter since Allah has prohibited discussion of religious matters without knowledge. “And delve not into that which you have no knowledge of.”[17]
  3. Imitating the kuffar (unbelievers) requires performing actions which are specific to kuffar only.  In other words, it is a religious action not a socio-demographic one. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims born in America by Allah’s will and decree. Many of them have baby showers. Thus, the practice is not only exclusive to non-Muslims; it is a practice of Muslims as well.
  4. Baby showers are an imitation of American culture and not an imitation of a particular religious group especially since all Christians around the world do not engage in the practice. It cannot be prohibited for American Muslims to imitate Americans since they themselves are Americans. That’s like saying it is prohibited for an Egyptian to behave like an Egyptian!  No human being is born in a state of prohibition or sin according to the creed of Ahlus Sunna (Islamic Orthodoxy) since all people are born in a state of fitra[18]
  5. American Muslims should not have to repent for being born American, or behaving as Americans as long as their actions are not prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. To suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy! People are born in a state of fitra, regardless of where they are born. A person cannot be considered morally or spiritually deficient by virtue of their country of birth. You can’t make being born and raised in a particular country prohibited as some have suggested. This argument, simply does not stand up ti scrutiny.
  6. If the practice of baby showers is prohibited for the reason of imitation. The same logic would have to apply to basketball, baseball, grade school show and tell, football, soccer, using a garbage disposal, tennis, bowling, and high school graduation, none of which were practiced by the Prophet (SAWS) and all of which are practiced by Muslim young and old after having been first been practiced by non-Muslims.
  7. The fact that a non-Muslim does an act does not make it prohibited. Blindly referring to actions and practices of non-Muslims as haram has caused many problems in the Muslim community and has been a source of much confusion. Furthermore, no one has the right to prohibit a Muslim from giving gifts, feeding food or visiting the home of another Muslim when there are no prohibited acts being committed. These are all actions enjoined upon us by the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). No scholar’s or council’s authority exceeds that of Allah and His Messenger (SAWS).
  8. The name of the event has little bearing on the permissibility or non-permissibility of what takes place at the event. In the shariah you cannot prohibit the musammaa (named action) by its ism (name). For example a person can have a barbeque in his or her back yard. You cannot prohibit it simply because it is called a barbeque and this is not a name used during the time of the Prophet (SAWS)! A barbeque is judged by its content not its name. If it contains intoxicants, nudity, profanity and loud unislamic music as some barbeques do, it is prohibited. If it has halal food, good company, the prayer times are observed and there is no unlawful mixing, there is no prohibition. The same applies to a baby shower, a picnic, a graduation dinner, and many other cultural affairs about which doubt has arisen.

 Does the baby shower replace the aqeeqah?

No. Sunna is never replaced by culture. However, it is permissible in Islam that a sunna can be enconced inside of a cultural practice. For example, maintaining relationships with one’s relatives is a command from Allah and it is the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). If a person achieves that by attending a family picnic or barbque, that is permssible. If one has to choose between a cultural practice and a Sunna of Rasollillah, (SAWS) the Sunna takes precedence every time. However in the case of the baby shower, it is different in practice and purpose from the aqeeqah. The aqeeqah is a post birth event commanded by the Prophet (SAWS) which has religious significance and specific measure. The baby shower is a pre-birth event, all together different in nature. One action does not replace the other and both can be performed in its own time and place. A baby shower does not suffice as an aqeeqa sacrifice. Similarly, an aqeeqa is a sunna, and has its merit and reward; however, it does not serve the purpose of a baby shower, nor is it meant to be. The two are totally separate actions and are connected only in that both have something to do with childbirth. One is not a condition for the other nor do they affect each other. A similar example is Hajj. A person may make Hajj and visit Cairo on the way there. The Prophet (SAWS) made Hajj for sure but he was never reported to have visited Cairo on the way to Hajj. However such an itinerary does not nullify the Hajj or place the person in spiritual jeopardy, since the visit to Cairo is totally separate from the Hajj and does not affect it. .

A baby shower is an event, and the aqeeqa is another separate event. One event does not supplant the other. The former is a cultural tradition; the latter is a religious obligation. This issue is a matter of fiqh and right guidance and not a matter of street corner lawmaking. What we have explained herein should clear up the issue of baby showers once and for all. We should keep in mind that the truth is with the dalil (proof) and Allah knows best wa bihi tawfiq.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sheikh Luqman Ahmad is the imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California ; he is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also Executive  Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California .  You may contact him at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Quran: 3:39

[2] Quran: 3:45

[3] With proper knowledge and adaab.

[4] Taabi’een

[5] Taabi taabi’een.

[6] Riyaad us-Saaliheen; Chapter 70, section on Excellence of Mixing with People and Attending their Social Activities. The practice of participating with the people in their everyday social affairs and events was the practice of the people of knowledge from amongst the Salaf of our umma in spite of modern day statements to the contrary.

[7] Quran; 5:2

[8] Collected by Muslim

[9] Good authentic hadith, collected by at-Tirmidhi.

[10] Collected by Muslim

[11] Collected by Muslim

[12] Quran: 49:10

[13] Collected by Muslim

[14] Quran: 3:104

[15] Quran: 107:4-7

[16]

[17] Quran, 36:170

[18] Natural submissive disposition based upon the hadith; “Each child is born in a

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