بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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Viewed from within the Veil (Part One)


The following is a Japanese woman’s account of her journey to Islam. She explains, in detail, the various phases that she went through as a new Muslimah and the various misunderstandings that she initially had regarding the position of hijaab and niqaab in Islam. From a simple headscarf, she progressed until she was covered from head to toe, embracing hijaab and niqaab in its entirety.

In the beginning of the 1990’s, when I embraced Islam in France, the controversy surrounding the wearing of hijaab in school was an extremely heated issue. The French were faced with economic problems which had resulted in high unemployment and social insecurity. This was predominantly felt in the big cities. The immigrant population, especially from Muslim countries, was seen as one of the causes of unemployment. The sight of hijaab in their towns and schools aggravated already negative attitudes towards Muslims. The majority of people thought that allowing students to wear hijaab was against the public education system’s principle of neutrality on religion. I had not yet become a Muslim, and I did not understand why the schools were so concerned over a mere piece of cloth worn on a student’s head. Observing the hijaab from the outside, I also did not understand its significance to Muslims. But I considered that in maintaining neutrality in matters of religion, the schools should still respect a student’s beliefs and his performance of religious duties. As long as this expression did not disturb the school’s discipline, it should not be prohibited.

The French, along with most westerners, expected that the hijaab would pass away into history as westernization and secularization took root. However, in the Muslim world, especially among the younger generation, a great wave of returning to hijaab was spreading through various countries. This current resurgence is an expression of Islamic revival. It is part of the process of restoring to the Muslims their pride and identity, which had been repeatedly attacked through colonization and economic exploitation.

I come from Japan. In our history we experienced the first contact with western culture during the Meiji era (In the 1860’s when Japan was closed to foreign countries). During this period, the Japanese reacted against western lifestyle, including western dress. So to my people, the adherence of the Arabs and others to Islam could be compared to the conservative traditionalism or anti-westernization that the Japanese themselves experienced. Man seems to have a conservative tendency and consequently rejects and reacts ignorantly against the new and unfamiliar. He seldom stops to investigate or understand whether it is good or bad.

It is exactly the same with non-Muslim people who judge the hijaab as a sign of oppression. They believe that Muslim women are enslaved by tradition and are unaware of their “lamentable” situation. These people think a Muslim woman’s salvation will come through a woman’s liberation movement or some other type of socio-economical uplift which will give her independence, awaken her mind, and release her from the bonds of tradition and hijaab.

This naive point of view is commonly shared by those who have little knowledge about Islam. Accustomed to secularism and religious eclecticism, non-Muslims are simply unable to comprehend why anyone would want to mold his or her life to conform to a religious system established many centuries ago. They do not understand Islam’s strength and appeal, which is universal and eternal. They are disturbed by the fact that an increasing number of women of divergent nationalities all over the world are turning to Islam and covering themselves. They feel uneasy about this “strange object” – a material which not only covers the woman’s hair but also hides something special to which their eyes can have no access. From the outside, a non-Muslim can never effectively see what is behind the hijaabNeither could I. Many books dealing with the subject do so simply from a point of external observation. Their authors cannot grasp what a female perceives from behind the hijaabAnd only after I became a Muslim in 1991 did my vision become clear.

I have no country, tradition or social identity to defend through the hijaabIt upholds neither social nor political significance to me. It signifies only religious conviction.

During the process of deciding whether or not to embrace Islam, I neither seriously contemplated my ability to perform the required five daily prayers nor deeply thought about wearing the hijaabMaybe I was afraid I would discover within myself a negative response which would affect my decision to become a Muslim. I had lived in a world which had no connection to Islam. I was not at all familiar with prayer and Islamic cover, and I could hardly imagine myself ever performing these duties or adopting those ways. Yet something happened within me, and my desire to enter the fold of Islam was so strong that I did not really worry about what awaited me following my conversion. Indeed, it seems remarkable, but I was guided into Islam by the grace of Allah Ta‘ala.

The First Step

After my conversion, although I was not accustomed to wearing hijaabI soon began to realize its benefit. A few days after my first attendance of an Islamic lecture, I bought a scarf to put on when I attended the next lecture. No one told me to wear a scarf – I just wanted to do so out of respect for the lecture and the other Muslim Sisters there. I was impatient for the day to come because the lecture had inspired me with a spiritual elation I never experienced previously. My heart, so hungry for spiritual nourishment, absorbed every word of the lecture like a dry sponge absorbs water. Before going to the lecture room, I made wudhu and put on the scarf. After the lecture, I prayed along with other sisters in a room filled with solemn silence. The few hours I spent at the program made me feel so happy and content that I kept my scarf on even after leaving, in order to preserve this happiness in my heart. Due to the cold weather at that time, my scarf did not attract attention. This was my first public appearance in hijaaband I sensed a difference within myself I felt purified and protected. I felt closer to Allah Ta‘ala.

As a Japanese woman in a foreign country I was sometimes uneasy in public places when men stared at me. Yet, with my hijaab I felt protected. I no longer perceived myself as an object of impolite stares.

Whenever I went out thereafter, I dressed in hijaabIt was a spontaneous and voluntary act which no one forced upon me. The meaning of the word “Islam” is submission to Allah Ta‘ala’s will and obedience to His command. For a person such as I, who had lived many years without a religion, it was difficult to follow any command without reservation. But Allah Ta‘ala’s orders are without fault, and the correct Islamic attitude is to accept and implement them without questioning. It is only man’s understanding that is faulty. And I, like many others, only believed in my own power of reasoning and continuously questioned the need to adhere to any existing authority or system of values. However, at this point in my life my will spontaneously conformed to Allah Ta‘ala’s will, and I was able to fulfill my Islamic duties without any feeling of having been compelled – alhamdulillah.

I became content in my new covering, which was not only a sign of my obedience to Allah Ta‘ala but also an open manifestation of my faith. A Muslim woman who wears hijaab is clearly recognized as a Muslimah. In contrast, it is often only through verbalization that a non-Muslim’s faith can be known. With the hijaab on, I do not need to utter a word. It is a clear expression of my belief, a reminder to others that Allah Ta‘ala exists, and a reminder to me of my submission to Allah Ta‘ala. My hijaab prompts me, “Be careful, you should conduct yourself as a Muslim.” Just as a policeman in uniform becomes more conscious of his profession, my hijaab strengthens my identity as a Muslim.

The Second Step

Two weeks after my conversion, I returned to Japan to attend my sister’s wedding. Embracing Islam, I had discovered what I was searching for. As a result, I was no longer interested in obtaining a doctorate in French literature. Instead, my passion turned to learning more about Islam, so I decided not to return to France.

Remaining in a small Japanese town was certainly a test. I was a new convert with very little Islamic knowledge and completely isolated from other Muslims. Yet this isolation intensified my Islamic consciousness. Accomplishing the five daily prayers and wearing a scarf helped to confirm my Islamic identity and strengthened my relation with Allah Ta‘ala. In my solitude I turned often to Allah Ta‘ala.

The manner in which I dressed now went through its first major change. In public, Islam prohibits women from revealing the shape of their bodies; therefore, I had to abandon many of the clothes which accentuated my shape. Miniskirts, pants and short sleeved blouses do not conform to hijaabso I made myself a Pakistani style pants and top. It did not bother me when people stared at my “strange” new fashion.

The Third Step

Six months after my conversion, I traveled to Egypt. In Cairo, I knew only one Japanese person, and no one spoke English where I was staying. I was extremely surprised at the first sight of the lady at my residence. She was covered in black from head to toe, including her face. Previously, in France, I had seen a woman in a black dress and her presence among the other Muslims, who were wearing colourful dresses and scarves, appeared very strange. I recalled (incorrectly) thinking to myself, “This is a woman enslaved by Arab tradition, unaware of the real teachings of Islam!” At that time, my Islamic knowledge was very limited and I wrongly believed that covering the face stemmed from ethnic tradition, having no foundation within Islam. A similar thought came to me as this woman in Egypt led me into her home. I wanted to say to her, “You are exaggerating! This is unnatural!” Her attempts to avoid any contact with men also seemed abnormal.

Shortly thereafter, this sister informed me that my attire was unsuitable to wear in public. Although I believed my apparel satisfied the requirements of Islamic dress, I was flexible enough to adapt. I sewed a long black dress and a long headcover called a “khimaar”. Thus, I was completely covered, except for my face, and I even considered veiling. It seemed like a good idea in order to avoid the continual dust in the air, but the sister said that there was no need, perhaps thinking that I would not be able to do this in Japan or that my intention was not correct. These sisters firmly believed and correctly knew that covering the face was a part of their religious duty. Most of the sisters with whom I became acquainted were veiled. However, they constituted only a small minority within the huge city of Cairo. Some people were apparently shocked and embarrassed even at the sight of my black khimaarAverage westernized Egyptians kept their distance from the covered Muslim women, calling them “Al-Akhawaat” (the sisters). Yet, at the same time, men treated them with a special respect and politeness. These “sisters” seemed also to share a special bond. Generally speaking, the women who completely veiled were more conscientious of their Islam. Those who wore simple scarves or none at all appeared unconcerned with their religious obligation.

Before my conversion, I had preferred an active pants style to a feminine skirt. But now my new long dress pleased me very much. I felt as exquisite as a princess. Besides, I found it to be more comfortable. I did not dislike wearing black. On the contrary, I found that my black wear was quite suitable in a dusty city like Cairo.

During my stay in Cairo, I was happy in black. However, I reacted negatively to my Egyptian sister’s recommendation that I remain so even when I returned to Japan. I became angry with what I considered anachronism and ignorance of the circumstances. Due to my lack of knowledge, my understanding was that Islam commands women to cover their bodies and conceal their figures. As long as this is accomplished, one may adopt any style of cover she pleases. Each society has its own fashion. I assumed that if I appeared in a long black dress on the streets of Japan, I would be considered a lunatic. I argued with my Egyptian sister, explaining that my apparel would shock the Japanese and that they would not listen to me. They would reject Islam on appearance alone, never trying to hear or understand its teachings.

By the end of my stay in Egypt, however, I had become accustomed to my new long attire and even considered wearing it in Japan. However, I still regarded wearing black in my country a bit shocking, so I made some light coloured and white khimaarsDressed in this manner, I once again returned to my homeland.

(to be continued insha-Allah) 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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Viewed from within the Veil (Part Two)


The Fourth Step

The number of Muslims in Japan are few and are therefore seldom seen. Yet the response of the Japanese to my white khimaar was encouraging. I encountered neither rejection nor mockery. People assumed that I belonged to a religion, but they did not know which one. I overheard a young girl whispering to her friend that I was a Buddhist nun. Once, on a visit to Paris, I was in the same subway car with a Catholic nun. The Catholic nun’s covering and veil is a symbol of her devotion to God, and Christians respect and recognize her for this. Likewise, the hijaab is a symbol of devotion for every Muslim woman. I wonder why people who respect the nun’s covering criticize the hijaab of a Muslim, considering it instead a symbol of extremism or oppression!

A person once asked me why I was dressed in such a peculiar fashion. I explained that I was a Muslim and that in Islam, women are required to cover their bodies in public. Weak men have difficulty in resisting the temptation of a woman’s charm and beauty. Look at the tremendous amount of sexual harassment and sex-related crime occurring in many societies. We cannot expect prevention of these occurrences by only appealing to man’s morality and self-control. The solution is the Islamic way of life, which orders women to cover themselves and avoid all contact with strange men. Just as a short skirt might be interpreted to mean, “If you want me, you may take me,” a hijaab clearly states, “I am forbidden to you.”

Within my family, my father felt sorry for me because I was fully covered, even on the hottest day. Everyone is hot in the summer, but I found the hijaab a convenient means to avoid the direct sunlight on my head and neck. Perhaps my relatives felt awkward around me, yet I felt uneasy looking at the thigh of my younger sister dressed in shorts. Even before my conversion, the sight of a woman’s shape outlined by skintight thin clothes bothered me. I felt as if I had seen something not to be viewed. If this embarrassed me, a person of the same gender, it is not difficult to imagine how it affects men.

Some wives only get dressed up when they go out, not caring how they appear at home. But in Islam, a wife tries to be beautiful for her husband. A husband also tries to look pleasant for his wife. This consideration for each other makes conjugal life pleasant and joyful. Why would a wife want to attract another man’s attention? She is a married woman! Would she like other women to entice her husband? So one can see how Islamic dress even helps to maintain the stability of a family.

It is not only women who are commanded to cover their bodies, but men must observe modesty as well. Even during sporting activities, males must cover themselves from at least the waist to the knees.

Non-Muslims may think that Muslims are overly sensitive and even backward in their efforts to cover themselves. They may ask, “Why hide the body in its natural state?” Some people feel no shame swimming in bikinis or attending nudist beaches. Yet, in Japan, fifty years ago, it was considered vulgar even to swim in a bathing suit, and in medieval times, a knight trembled at a brief sight of his adored lady’s shoe. This shows that the socially acceptable standards of what should be concealed can and has changed. If you keep something hidden, it increases in value. Keeping a woman’s body hidden adds to its charm, as is evident within various cultures of the world. If moral standards can be affected by time, it is not improbable to imagine people in the future walking on the street without clothes. There would be nothing to prevent it. As for us Muslims, the criterion is fixed for all times by Allah Ta‘ala. We follow His order because we are aware that He is the Creator who knows what is best for His creation.

If a man only seeks to fulfill his bodily desires and functions and does so openly and publicly, he is no different to an animal. Is this the direction in which modern man is going? Who is to determine the boundaries of proper dress and behavior – man himself (whose values change with the wind) or Allah Ta‘ala? Only He, in His wisdom, knows man’s condition at all times and has therefore defined the correct way for him to appear and act in public.

The Fifth Step

Three months after my return to Japan, my husband and I traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he obtained employment. I had prepared a small black facecover called a niqaabIt was not that I had begun to think like the sister in Cairo i.e. that a veil was a required part of a Muslim woman’s dress; rather, I still thought that uncovering the face and hands was allowable. Yet I was eager to go to Saudi Arabia and wear the face cover as I was curious to know how I would feel behind it.  

Arriving in Riyadh, I discovered that not all women covered their faces. The non-Muslims nonchalantly wore a black outer garment over their shoulders without covering their heads. Many foreign Muslims did not wear veils. Yet all the Saudi women seemed to cover completely from head to toe.

Previously, I had wondered how easily sisters could breathe under a veil. It seemed to be a matter of habit; once accustomed to it, there was no inconvenience. The first time I wore the niqaab, I felt nice, in fact extremely wonderful, as if I had become a special person. I felt like the owner of a masterpiece who enjoyed its secret pleasure. I had a treasure which no one knew about and which strangers were not allowed to see.

During the first few months in Riyadh, only my eyes were uncovered. But when I made a winter outer garment, I included a thin eye cover. My garment became perfect and so did my comfort. I no longer felt uneasy when I was in public. I felt as if I had become invisible before men. Before my eyes were covered, I was sometimes uncomfortable when my glance accidentally met a man’s. This new covering prevented, like dark eyeglasses, the visual intrusion of strangers.

A non-Muslim might notice a bearded man accompanied by a woman covered in black. Such a couple might be considered a caricature of the oppressing-oppressed or possessing-possessed relationship thought to be characteristic of that between a husband and wife in Islam. But the fact is that the woman feels respected and guarded by one who really cares for her. A woman covers herself in obedience to Allah Ta‘ala for the sake of her dignity and pride. She refuses to be possessed by the stare of a stranger or to be his object. She feels pity for western women who are displayed as objects of desire.

It has been over two years since I became a Muslim. My hijaab has changed five times with the change of both my surroundings and my religious understanding. Soon after my conversion in France, I wore fashionable matching dresses and scarves. Now, in Saudi Arabia, I cover completely in black, from head to toe, understanding my duty to Allah Ta‘ala. Thus, I have experienced the hijaab from the most incomplete form to its most complete form.

Many years ago, when a Japanese Muslimah appeared with a headcover in Tokyo, she was told by another Japanese Muslimah to reconsider the matter of her dress because it shocked people. Very few Muslim women in Japan covered their heads at that time. Now there are more and more Japanese women who are embracing Islam and wearing the headcover in spite of difficult situations. All of them acknowledge that they are proud of their hijaab and that it strengthens their faith.

Viewing hijaab from the outside, one can never perceive what is observed from within it. We see the matter from two completely different perspectives. To a non-Muslim, Islam looks like a prison with no liberty or freedom. But living within Islam, we feel a peace, freedom and joy which is known in no other way. One might claim that a person born into Islam believes it is best only because it is a way of life with which he has always been acquainted – that he grew up without experiencing the outside ·world. But I   am convert. I abandoned the so-called freedom and pleasure of modern life and chose Islam. If it is true that Islam is a religion which oppresses women, why are so many women in Europe, America, Japan and elsewhere embracing Islam today? If only people would reflect upon this.

A person blinded by prejudice may not be able to see the beauty of hijaab. The Quraan Majeed describes such people as being blind. How else can we explain their lack of understanding towards Islam?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

LIVE LIKE A KING!

 

As we all pass through life looking at people and materialistic things around us, we often tend to look at people above us and desire to be like them in worldly gains. This is better known as discontentment with what we already have-a quality which dominates the life of almost every human being today.

 But Islam advises us to look at those below us and show gratitude at what Allah Ta’ala has given us. Listed below would be some practical suggestions on achieving this contentment and repelling the greed of want of more.

Note: Contentment is the neuro-physiological experience of satisfaction and being at ease in one’s situation. It is said that a man complained about his old shoes until he saw a man who had no feet.

“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”

Greed for More: A Fact of Human Nature

Contentment is one of the most important prerequisites forhappiness in life, and, unfortunately, many of us don’t have it. We have a good car that meets our needs, but we always want a nicer, more expensive one – a Mercedes or a Jaguar perhaps. We have a nice house, but we always want a bigger, fancier, more expensive one. More jewellery, fancier clothes, a boat. The list goes on. We always think about more rather than saying, “Alhamdulillah,” for what we already have.

The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam prescribed a remedy for discontentment when he advised us with the words “Remember death repeatedly. This will save you from longing for the worldly pleasures. Show gratitude frequently and this will increase the graces upon you. Pray to Allah Ta’ala so recurrently, because you do not know in which time Allah Ta’ala will respond for your prayer. Beware of tyranny, for Allah Ta’ala has ordained that HE will support those whom are oppressed.”

And then the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam also gave us an insight of the nature of man when He said “If a son of Adam (as) possessed a valley of gold, he would wish for a second valley of gold and nothing will fill him up except the sand of his grave.”

The world is like water of the sea, the man who is thirsty, the more he drinks water of it the more he becomes thirsty, until the water kills him in the end!”

Things that drive away Contentment

A good rule for developing contentment is to always look at the people who have less than us, not the ones who have more. In the times we live in full out marketing of goods and gadgets makes imbibing the quality of contentment even more difficult. In fact, almost all advertising is geared toward showing us people who have more than us and enticing us to want it. They show us beautiful cars, beautiful houses, handsome men, and beautiful women. And we can get it all with a credit card. If our lives don’t match the ad, we should make a change – buy a new car, get a new wife, give her a bigger diamond!

We should always remember that no matter what we cannot spoil what we have by desiring what we do not have; remember that what we have now was once among the things we only hoped for.

Muslims Falling Prey to Materialism

Despite countless warnings in Qur’aan and Hadeeth, sadly even Muslims have fallen into this trap. Many drive expensive cars far beyond their needs, not just for dependability, but for prestige or to make people say, “Wow!” These Muslims have been deceived, duped by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry – the chief enemy of contentment, the chief advocate of a lifestyle of constant wanting.

Many children are the same. They have grown up surrounded by advertisements on Television and other forms of media, on the radio, and on billboards. They want everything they see, and they expect to get it now! But how can we teach them to be content, if we are not content ourselves? Instead of wanting everything we see, we need to learn to resist. Instead of letting our children have everything they want, we need to teach them to be thankful for what they have. We need to inculcate in them the concept of gratitude by always showing them those children who are less fortunate than them.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

 

There can be no better example of contentment than in the lives of the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa sallam and the early Muslims. The story is told of the time Prophet Muhammed Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam saw his beloved daughter Faatima Zahra Radiyallaahu Anhaa wearing a dress made of camel hair. Although tears welled in his eyes at the sight, he is reported to have told her, “O Faatima, today endure the hardships and poverty of this world with patience so that you may acquire the comfort of Paradise tomorrow on the Day of Judgment.”

On another occasion, Umar bin Khattab saw the simple life of the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam and said: O Messenger of Allah! While kings sleep in soft, feather beds, you are lying on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of Allah Ta’ala and thereby deserve more than any other people to live an easy life. The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam replied: O Umar! Do you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs but those of the hereafter ours? (Bukhari) There can be no doubt that our beloved Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa sallam and our pious predecessors – some of the greatest heroes of Islam – lived very simple lives with contentment. This was indeed true piety!

Practical Suggestions in Developing Contentment

The following are some principles that, if remembered, will help us develop this type of contentment in our own lives.

  • As previously mentioned, we should look at the people who have less than us, not those who have more.
  • When purchasing something, we should consider if it serves the purpose more than   how glamorous or prestigious it is.
  • We should feel empathy for the poor and know that they have rights on our excess money.
  • We should look at what we already have and be grateful to Allah Ta’ala.

Many people possess the material goods of the world and are not happy. In fact, they are often the most miserable people. With everything they have, they still feel they want more. This unfilled desire, along with the constant nagging in their heart for more, makes them unhappy. Those who have little but feel no need for more do not experience this nagging in their heart. They can relax and find peace. Indeed, the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who is content with what he has.

The Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam is reported to have said: “Be content with what you have and you will live like a king.”

Riches does not mean having a great amount of property; real wealth is self-contentment.

 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Uswatulmuslimah.co.za | Role Models for the
Muslimah

Pleasant in Speech


(Tie the Tongue Series – Part 2)

Did you ever see a wealthy person emerge from the business-class lounge empty handed? Similarly, did you ever see a wealthy person decline when offered a free gift with a purchase? The answer is that most wealthy people, as well-off as they may be, will take something when leaving the business-class lounge (even if it’s just Voss water) and will never decline the chance to get something for nothing. The reason for this is simple – one will benefit at a 0% or minimum cost.

This very same mindset should be applied in our Deen. We should try to identify the areas where we can easily benefit and gain as the effort and cost is minimal. In this regard, one of the most ‘profitable’ avenues is that of pleasing people. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbaas (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Indeed (among) the most beloved of actions to Allah Ta‘ala after fulfilling the faraaidh (obligatory acts of Deen) is bringing happiness to a Muslim.” (Tabraani – Majma‘uz Zawaaid #13718)

Among the easy methods that we can adopt to please people is for us to speak to them in a kind and pleasant manner. Often, a person’s heart can be won with just a kind word, or to the contrary, a person’s day may be spoilt and ruined with a harsh word. Furthermore, over and above the reward for pleasing a Muslim is the effect that speaking kindly and pleasantly has on the person. It is for this reason that when Nabi Moosa (‘alaihis salaam) and Nabi Haaroon (‘alaihis salaam) went to speak to Fir‘aun and give him da’wah, then despite him being a tyrant and cold-blooded killer, Allah Ta‘ala instructed them to speak to him kindly as harsh speech would not affect him in a positive manner.

Hence, even if we are forced to tell a person something which he may not like (e.g. if we have to correct a person who is committing a sin), we should ponder over the approach that will be most effective. If we shout and yell at him, we may silence him and vent our anger, but at the same time, we may have lost the person as he will feel hurt and insulted. Very often, the very same message can be delivered in a pleasant and palatable manner.

There was once a king who had a dream in which he saw that all his teeth were broken. When he summoned a dream interpreter, the interpreter told him that the dream meant that all his children and family would die before him. Intensely annoyed at this interpretation, the king commanded that he be executed. Thereafter, the king summoned another dream interpreter. This interpreter said, “Sire! The dream means that you will enjoy a long life and even outlive your family!” Hearing this, the king was extremely happy and showered gifts on the interpreter, even though his interpretation was essentially the same.

When trying to please people, whether through speech or any other method, then it is vital to bear in mind that we cannot please people at the cost of displeasing Allah Ta‘ala as our allegiance to Allah Ta‘ala is always first. Hence, even if someone who is near and dear asks us to lie, make any statement or behave in any manner that will displease Allah Ta‘ala, we will not compromise our Deeni standards by obliging them. Similarly, kind and pleasant speech is only meant for those who Deen has allowed us to communicate with. Hence, if we answer the phone and hear the voice of a non-mahram on the other side, we should cut out the pleasantries and get straight to the point as courtesy, in such a case, could potentially cause fitnah.

Finally, the importance of kind, pleasant speech can be understood by the fact that speaking unkindly and harshly to people is so severe a sin that even if a person has abundant nafl deeds to his account, he will still be made to undergo punishment (unless he secures the forgiveness of the one who was hurt). In this regard, let us consider the following narration:

A Sahaabi (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) once spoke of a certain woman to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), mentioning the abundant nafl salaah, charity and fasting that she would carry out. He thereafter mentioned that this woman had the bad habit of speaking to her neighbours in a hurtful manner. Hearing this, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “She will be punished.” Thereafter, another woman was mentioned, and the fact that her nafl deeds were very few was also mentioned. However, she had the habit of giving pieces of cheese in charity (i.e. her charity was very little), and she would not hurt her neighbours with her tongue. Hearing this, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “She will go to Jannah (without punishment).” (Musnad Ahmad #9675)

May Allah Ta‘ala assist us all to speak kindly to people and abstain from hurting people in any way.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Uswatulmuslimah.co.za | Role Models for the Muslimah

Blinded by the Log


(Tie the Tongue Series – Part One)

Associating and interacting with people is a basic need of human nature. When meeting and interacting with people, the chosen method of communication is normally that of speech. However, what is the topic that we choose to discuss? Some may discuss the news and political landscape, others may discuss the latest sport results, while mothers may discuss children issues, recipes or even the latest fashions and trends.

Whatever the topic may be, in many instances the conversation eventually drifts to a person being discussed. Thereafter, depending on the nature of the personality, his praises may either be sung or his ‘laundry may be hung out to dry’ with all and sundry free to spectate and participate in the backbiting ‘feast’.

The severity of the sin of gheebah lies in a few aspects; the backbiter will not be forgiven unless he secures the forgiveness of the one who was the victim of his gheebah (backbiting). If he fails to secure his forgiveness in this world, he will be made to recompense him by giving him his good deeds or bearing his evil deeds in the Hereafter. Another aspect is that all those who happily spectate, even though they do not actively participate, are party to the sin. Also, most people who indulge in gheebah do not regard their action as a sin.

Often, when the person backbiting is told that he is indulging in gheebah (backbiting), he replies, “But the person really does have these faults!” In this regard, it is imperative for us to understand that gheebah is for us to say something about another person or even indicate or gesture (e.g. a gesture showing that he is fat, short, etc.) that is true, but is such that if he knew about it, he would not like it. In the case where the statement made is not true, then the statement was not gheebah but was rather buhtaan (slander) which is even worse!  

Tying one’s tongue and abstaining from gheebah is vital at all times – but more so in the month of Ramadhaan as gheebah has the potential to rob one of all the benefits and rewards of his fast. Hence, Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) once said, “Fasting is a shield, provided that one does not tear it.” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was then asked, “How does one tear the shield?” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied, “By lying or indulging in gheebah (backbiting).” (Tabraani – Majma‘uz Zawaaid #5012)

Hence, the next time gheebah takes place, let us either put a stop to it, or if we are unable to do that, excuse ourselves and leave so that we do not become implicated. Furthermore, if we ever feel the impulse to indulge in gheebah, then let us ponder over this statement of Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu): “You take note of the speck in the eye of your brother, yet forget the log in your own eye!” (Kitaabus Samt wa Aadaabil Lisaan #195)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Sunnah With Regard to Siwak

Siwak means cleaning the mouth and teeth with a Siwak, which is the name given to the tool used. The Siwak is a stick or twig used for this purpose. Siwak is a method of cleaning the mouth which also earns the pleasure of Allah, as is proven in the Hadith of A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: The Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: 

“Siwak cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.” [Bukhari, Ahmad and An-Nasa’i]

Use of the Siwak is repeatedly encouraged, as in the Hadith of Abu Hurairah, who reported that the Prophet said: 

“Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my Ummah (nation), I would have commanded them to use the Siwak at every time of prayer.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

According to another report narrated by Bukhari, he said: 

“…at every time of making Wudu.”

Imam An-Nawawi reported that the respectable scholars were agreed that the use of Siwak is Sunnah and is encouraged.

Times When The Use of Siwak is Recommended:

Siwak is recommended at all times of the night and day because of the general sense of the Hadith quoted above from A’ishah: 

“Siwak cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.”

The scholars have also mentioned situations where the use of Siwak is even more strongly encouraged. These include: When making Wudu and at times of prayer as already stated above. Other situations are:

1. When entering one’s home to be with one’s family: A’ishah was asked what the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) did when he first came home. She said: 

“When he entered his house, the first thing he would do was use the Siwak.” [Muslim]

2. When getting up from sleep: Hudthayfah Ibn Al-Yaman reported that:

When the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the Siwak. [Bukhari and Muslim]

3. When the smell of one’s mouth changes: Siwak is cleansing for the mouth, which means that it should definitely be used when the mouth needs cleaning, whether this is because of eating food with a strong odor, or because of not eating or drinking for a long time, etc.

4. When going to the mosque: Using Siwak is a part of the adornment that we are commanded to wear for every prayer, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“O Children of Adam! Take your adornment while praying…” [Noble Quran 7:31]

It is also important because the angels are present in the mosque, and one is going to meet with other worshippers there.

5. When reading Quran and joining gatherings in which Allah is remembered (Dthikr), because the angels are present on such occasions. 

Using Siwak When Fasting:

The scholars are agreed that there is nothing wrong with using Siwak during the day when one is fasting, but they differed with regard to using it after noon, which some of them disliked (regarded as Makruh). The correct view is that it is Sunnah for one who is fasting, just as it is for anyone else, because of the general sense of the reports that prove it is Sunnah.

The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) did not make any exceptions or state any specific time, and a statement that is general in nature should continue to be taken as general unless there is evidence to indicate that it is specific in application. 

What Should Be Used For Siwak (Cleaning The Mouth):

The scholars are agreed that the best thing for cleaning the mouth is the twigs of the Arak tree, because of its good smell, and because it has brush-like fibers which are effective for cleaning food particles etc. from between the teeth, and because of the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud who said: 

“I used to gather Siwak sticks from the Arak tree for the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him).” [Ahmad]

If Arak twigs are not available, the scholars recommended using palm-leaf stalks, or twigs of the olive tree. The Ahadith that have been narrated concerning this, however, are not sound. The correct view is that any kind of sticks that are cleansing and not harmful may be used instead of Siwak, if it is not available, to clean the mouth and remove dirt from the teeth. This includes modern toothbrushes, which are known to be beneficial in this regard. 

Things That May Not Be Used For Siwak:

The scholars have stated that it is forbidden to use poisonous sticks, things that are not pure, and anything that may cause bleeding, illness or any other harm. 

Attributes of Siwak:

The scholars have described the Siwak as a stick of medium length and thickness, no thicker than one’s little finger, and free of knots. It should not be so wet that it will twist, because then it will not remove dirt, nor should it be so dry that it will hurt the mouth or crack during use. No doubt this is describing the ideal; otherwise the reports do not specify any particular type of Siwak. It is permissible to use any kind of Siwak that will do the job. 

How to Clean The Mouth With Siwak: 

The scholars have differed as to whether Siwak should be done with the right hand or the left hand. One group – the majority – think that it is better to use the right hand, because of the general meaning of the Hadith narrated by A’ishah, who said: 

“The Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) liked to start with the right when putting on his shoes, dismounting (from his camel), when cleaning himself and in all things.” [Agreed upon]

They also say that Siwak is an act of worship and drawing closer to Allah, so it should not be done with the left hand.

Other scholars say that it is better to use the left hand for Siwak, because it comes under the heading of removing dirt. This is the well-known opinion of Imam Ahmad’s Madthab, and it is the view favored by Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah.

Some scholars have said that when a person is using Siwak with the intention of following the Sunnah, he should use his right hand, and if he is doing it to remove dirt, he should use his left hand. The fact of the matter is that this issue is open, as there is no definitive proof or report, and every opinion has a valid point.

The scholars suggested that when using Siwak, a person should start on the right, and use a side-to-side motion rather than up-and-down, as the latter may harm the gums.

Among the etiquette of using Siwak, they mentioned the following: That a person should not use the Siwak in front of others or in public, because this is impolite and that the Siwak should be washed after use, to get rid of any dirt that may be on it. A’ishah said: 

“The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) used to use Siwak, then he would give it to me to wash it. I would use it first, then wash it and give it back to him.” [Abu Dawud]

The Siwak should be kept in a clean place.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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Time is Money


We live in a world of import and export, a world in which most goods and commodities are available in most countries for most of the year. However, despite the year-round availability, there are many goods that enjoy a ‘peak season’. Astute businessmen are those who identify this period and utilize it to their advantage. For farmers, it may be the season in which their crops are harvested, while for shop owners, month-end and December are a few of the periods that deliver peak sales.

Unique Opportunity

The season presents a unique opportunity for one to secure tremendous profits in a minimal period of time. Hence, the farmer who diligently tends to his fields and ensures that he is present for the harvesting season will likely enjoy a bumper crop. Similarly, the shop owner will open his doors on time and remain behind the counter for the entire day in order to tend to the flood of customers.

During the season, even if the rest of the world is on vacation, it is practically unimaginable for one to find these businessmen on holiday. They understand the pivotal role that the season plays in their success; if they remain focused and committed, they will reap the profits, and if they allow themselves to become distracted or while away their time, they alone will suffer the consequences. 

Dynamic Effect

The dynamic effect of the season is such that if the farmer works hard in harvesting, he will make enough money to comfortably tide him over to the next season. However, if he neglects to harvest during the season, he will watch an entire year’s hard work go to waste. Likewise, it often happens that a shop owner who struggles to make ends meet for the entire year not only recovers his losses, but even profits handsomely in the crucial season.

Season of Taqwa

Just as other things have a special season; taqwa also has a special season – the month of Ramadhaan. From fasting during the day to performing Taraaweeh during the night, the entire month has been specially designed to assist a Believer in harvesting a bumper crop of fruit, from the tree of taqwa, that he will continue to enjoy long after the blessed month has expired.

However, just as with other seasons, this will only be possible if one avails himself for this blessed month and expends all his energies in striving to secure the bargains it has on offer.

Ready-Made Opportunity

During Ramadhaan, the reward of every fardh act is multiplied seventy times, and for every nafl act carried out, one receives the reward of a fardh act. The Shayaateen are chained and announcements of mass forgiveness are made. Du‘aas are readily answered and on account of sehri, it is easy to perform Tahajjud Salaah. In short, this blessed season provides all the ingredients that will assist us to acquire the commodity that can neither be imported nor exported, nor sold for that matter, as it can only be acquired through each individual manufacturing his own – the priceless commodity of taqwa.

However, this month is exactly that – a short period which will soon end. The window of opportunity is thus narrow, making time the greatest capital and asset that one could have.

More than Money

If the shop owner arrives at work two hours late, he will regret the business that he lost and lament the money that he could have made. For every minute of the two hours, he could have been serving customers and turning the numbers. We often hear the adage ‘time is money’. However, contrary to popular belief, time is NOT money – it is far more valuable than money. Whereas money can always be later recovered if lost, time can never be recovered – and it is for this reason that time is our single greatest asset. In the race to secure the rewards of Ramadhaan, it is those who are particular regarding their time that profit the most.

Destructive Distractions

In this regard, along with the ready-made opportunities to benefit are a host of ready-made distractions. Late night braais, meeting friends for a chat, a quick run to the mall, an ‘Eid bargain-hunting’ excursion – these are all seemingly innocent activities.

However, when thoroughly scrutinized, we realize that the braai ‘burnt’ two or three hours of our time, whereas a normal supper would have been concluded in a maximum of thirty minutes. The run to the mall for essentials ended in us being tempted into more stores than we intended, effectively dissolving our precious capital with every passing second. The excursion to purchase ‘Eid-goods at the best prices may have saved us a few valuable Rands but undoubtedly cost us invaluable hours and minutes. When time holds far more value than money, it is well worth spending more Rands if it will result in us saving precious time.

Even meeting friends can be detrimental as apart from killing our time with idle chitchat, these gatherings often culminate in backbiting and other similar sins.

Media ‘Mania’

In the opinion of many, the uncrowned yet undisputed champion of ‘killing time’ is social media in all its various guises and forms. The magnetic effect of the smartphone transcends metal and hence it is the human eye that remains fixated to the screen. Whether in the musjid, or while attending a programme for spiritual upliftment, or at the time of sehri when du‘aas are accepted – instead of maximizing and benefiting from these opportunities, there are many who become Media ‘Maniacs’ and while away the irrecoverable moments on their smart phones. Indeed, it appears as if the smart phone may have been named as such, since after it enters the hand of its user, it is the only one that seems to be ‘smart’.

With even the West sounding the alarm over addiction to social media and the innumerable ills that accompany it, it is high time that we ‘switch off’ our phones and plug into the spiritual current of Ramadhaan instead of our power banks.

For this purpose, just as we fast by shunning food and drink from dawn to sunset, let us make a resolution to ‘fast’ from all forms of media for all the 24 hours of every day in the Month of Ramadhaan. Be it remaining abreast with the news, keeping up to date with Instagram or following on Facebook – we should initiate a complete ‘fast’ from all these time-consumers during this blessed period and afterwards as well.

Thus let us make this Ramadhaan very profitable by correctly investing the capital of time that we have been blessed with. Insha-Allah we will reap the rewards in this world and the Hereafter.