Even though spiritual purification is important seclusion and neglect of worldly responsibilities are not condoned by Islam.
Islam is a way of life that teaches Muslims to focus on bettering themselves by following the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and the teachings of the final Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Prophet Muhammad once said, “Truly I was sent as a Prophet for the purpose of perfecting human character.” (Ahmad) This prophetic tradition defines a very important aspect of Islam: self-improvement through spiritual and physical purity.
An old Arab proverb aptly states: “The one who lacks something cannot give it to others.” This saying establishes the fact that in order for one to spread “good” in terms of his or her character, manners, words or actions, he or she must first strive to possess it. One should not neglect to improve one’s own faults even as they attempt to assist others.
Of course, this does not mean that one has to be perfect in order to be of benefit to others; for instance, some people think that they cannot spread knowledge because they are not scholars. Instead, this adage goes hand in hand with the English saying, “Practice before you preach.” As Prophet Muhammad said, “Who are the learned? Those who practice what they know.”
In Islam, it is of utmost importance for Muslims to seek self-improvement in regards to every aspect of their lives. As a result, one’s good character will impact others and therefore improve society as a whole. This dynamic change all begins at the individual level. In this regard, God says:
Truly God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Ar-Ra`d 13:11)
Before an individual consciously embarks on this journey, he or she must define and cleanse their intention. A pivotal teaching of Islam is derived from the prophetic statement, “All actions are judged by their intentions, and each person will be rewarded according to his or her intention.”
Hence, a desire to genuinely improve oneself, please God, and provide benefit is paramount. On the other hand, having impure intentions such as seeking the admiration of other people or showing off is counterproductive. For these reasons, purifying one’s intentions is critical to the success of one’s pursuit of self-development.
Cleansing of the heart is also a large component of self-improvement because it directly impacts one’s actions. God says in the Qur’an:
God did confer a great favor on the believers when He sent among them an apostle from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the signs of God, sanctifying them, and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error. (Aal `Imran 3:164)
This verse demonstrates the role of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the importance of self-improvement in Islam. Prophet Muhammad taught the pagan Arabs of Makkah to believe in the One God and to live righteously; he implored them to renounce idolatry and their impulsive lifestyles. Over the course of 23 years, his message uplifted the status of women, brought God-consciousness among people, and safeguarded the poor and needy.
In doing so, not only did he help individuals to attain self-improvement, he rehabilitated an entire society: racial discrimination was practically eliminated, tribal warfare was replaced with united ties of brotherhood, usury and alcohol were completely forbidden.
Self-development begins at the individual level and requires a vast amount of discipline. Along with striving to become more physically pure by maintaining a healthy and clean body, it is equally important for an individual to maintain his or her spiritual health through righteous actions. Purification of the soul allow an individual to become closer to God and exhibit more positive behavior which will translate into his or her deeds.
In order to purify and enhance oneself, Islam outlines several pragmatic steps:
Core worship, such as prayer, fasting, supplication, etc. Performing these allows Muslims to draw closer to God by increasing the individual’s awareness of God throughout the day.
This will, in turn, decrease his or her likelihood to commit acts that would displease God, enabling people to raise their moral and ethical standards.
Smiling, being kind, and staying positive when interacting with others. This leads to mercifulness and forgiveness, which are attributes which God loves in human beings.
Prophetic traditions mention that smiling is an act of charity and removing obstacles from the road is a sign of faith; others encourage people to spread good news and exchange gifts as a way of increasing love between people.
Having self-discipline and managing one’s time so that the person is more productive throughout the day:
By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy. (Al-`Asr 103:1-3)
Lending a helping hand to those in need. Once Prophet Muhammad was asked: “What actions are most excellent?” He answered: “To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.”
Striving to increase one’s knowledge whether it be religious or academic. Working towards becoming an informed and proactive citizen.
According to Prophet Muhammad, “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” (Ibn Majah)
Maintaining good company and friends that will influence the individual in a positive manner.
Prophet Muhammad has stated, “It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words.”
Performing sincere repentance for one’s sins and seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God. Feeling guilty for transgressions that one has made, and then making an active effort to learn from one’s mistakes and never repeat them again:
Your Lord has inscribed for Himself (the rule of) mercy: verily, if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented, and amend (his conduct), lo! He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-An`am 6:54)
As you may have noticed, many of these steps involve interacting with others. Even though spiritual purification is important, it is critical to note that seclusion and neglect of worldly responsibilities are not condoned by Islam.
Prolonged seclusion for the purpose of spiritual purification is in fact inconsistent with Islamic teachings. A large component of self enhancement involves treating others with compassion and respect, and helping the less fortunate. This is not possible if one leads the life of a recluse.
One of the prophetic traditions encourages people to look at those less privileged when making worldly comparisons with others: “When you see a person who has been given more than you in money and beauty, look to those who have been given less.”
This advice is very important because it enables us to be grateful for the blessings we have and be less greedy or miserly. Such an attitude allows one to remain focused on the quest of attaining self-improvement and eternal success in the hereafter rather than the transient materials of this temporary life.
The Virtues of Selfishness!
Self-improvement plays a significant role in the lives of Muslims also due to another key Islamic concept: that every individual will be held accountable for only him/her self in the hereafter. On the Day of Judgment, God will question each soul on its actions, and how it spent time on earth. On that day, each person will solely be concerned about the magnitude of his or her deeds.
The importance of self-development cannot be overemphasized in Islam although it may seem like a selfish endeavor on the surface. However, such “selfishness” may actually be considered a virtue rather than a vice. When one is constantly struggling for self-improvement, he or she becomes more willing to help others and disperse the good that he or she has gained to society at large.
As a result, one person’s efforts contribute towards collective development. Such commitment is not possible in the individual who is self-absorbed for the sake of self-gratification. Therefore, “selfishness” for the purpose of self-improvement and the greater good is the first step to selflessness.
Indeed, the essence of all good deeds stems from a pure and tranquil soul.
That is what worship is all about: your purification and elevation in iman (faith) and taqwa (piety).
Good Deeds Will Get You Closer to Allah
But had they done what they were exhorted to (do), it would have been better for them; and would have strengthened/stabilized their (faith). (An-Nisaa’ 4:66)
Narrated Abu Hurairah that Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Allah said: ‘Whoever harms a wali (a friend or a supporter) of mine I will declare war against him. And my servant has not drawn closer to me with anything more beloved to me than what I made obligatory on him (faridah). And he continues to draw closer to me with nawafil (the preferable non-obligatory deeds) until I love him; And when I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks, and if he asks Me, I will give him, and, if he seeks refuge in me, I will protect him and, I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer for, he hates death and, I hate to sadden him’” (Al-Bukhari)
Why We Worship God?
In fact that is what worship is all about: your purification and elevation in iman (faith) and taqwa (piety), for Allah will not benefit from your worship. In a hadith qudsi (divine hadith) Allah said:
“O my servants! I have made unlawful oppression upon myself and I have made it unlawful between you. So do not oppress each other. O my servants! All of you are astray except the ones whom I have guided, so seek my guidance and I will guide you. O my servants! All of you are naked except those of you whom I have clothed, so seek clothing from me and I will clothe you. O my servants! All of you are hungry except those of you whom I have fed, seek food from me and I will feed you. O my servants! You make errors in the night and in the day and I forgive all sins. Seek forgiveness from me and I will forgive you. O my servants!
You will never be able to harm Me and you will never be able to benefit Me. O my servants! If the first of you and the last of you and the jinn from among you and the men from among you, were to fear Allah as the best among you, that would not increase in My Majesty/Mastership any. O my servants!
If the first of you and the last of you and the jinn among you and the men among you, were to perform the worst forms of crimes, that will not decrease from My Majesty/Mastership any. O my servants! If the first of you and the last of you, the jinn of you and the men of you, were to stand on one side and ask Me, I will give each one of you what you ask and still this will not decrease from My Majesty/Mastership; as if you dip a needle into the ocean.” (Muslim)
So when fasting was prescribed for you, it was to bring you closer (i.e., closer to Allah), Allah said:
O you who believe Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
And when you make Hajj and slaughter the sacrifice it is that you may get closer to Allah. Allah said: It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah but, it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus, have We made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings to the good doers. (Al-Hajj 22:37)
And when you give charity it is to get closer, Allah said:
Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it, and invoke Allah for them. Verily! Your invocations are a source of tranquility for them; and Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (At-Tawbah 9:103)
The article is an excerpt from the paper “Acts of Worship as a Means to Strengthen the Attachment between the Servant and his Lord” by Dr. Hatem Al-Haj which was prepared for a conference in Austin, Texas, 2002. It first appeared at drhatemalhaj.com.
Moderation is a separator between excessiveness and remissness, between extremism and extravagance, and between normality and abnormality.
By Editorial Staff
What Is Moderation?
As we discuss the concept of moderation and its implications in Islam, it is essential to examine the places where the concept of moderation or any of it uses is highlighted in the religious texts. The importance of this review stems from the fact that the religious texts stand for the source of rulings and concepts shaping the Islamic view of principles and codes of ethics. But, before going on it is worthy to mention that moderation means to adopt a middle way between both extremes, in all the various walks of life. Moderation is a separator between excessiveness and remissness, between extremism and extravagance, and between normality and abnormality. Islam stresses moderation and equity in everything; in relationships, acts of worship, customs, transactions, social life and human desires.
Direct References to Moderation in the Qur’an
Moderation has been reiterated in the Qur’an whether explicitly or implicitly, but in all its uses it confirms equitable and balanced situation in beliefs, conduct and even worship. It covered the man’s relationship with God, people and universe as a whole. In the following lines, we will review the Qur’anic use of the term moderation which is expressed by the term wastiyyah and its derivatives. We will discover how the Qur’an manifested the concept of moderation as being an essential characteristic and element of the Islamic Shari`ah and creed.
First: Almighty Allah says:
Thus We have mad you a wasat (middle) nation… (Al-Baqarah 2:143)
This verse was explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself as narrated by Al-Bukhari from Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Noah will be called on the Day of Resurrection and he will say, ‘Labbaik and Sa`dayk, O my Lord!’ Allah will say, ‘Did you convey the Message?’ Noah will say, ‘Yes.’ His nation will then be asked, ‘Did he convey the Message to you?’ They will say, ‘No Warner came to us.’ Then Allah will say (to Noah), ‘Who will bear witness in your favor?’ He will say, ‘Muhammad and his followers. So they (i.e. Muslims) will testify that he conveyed the Message. And the Prophet (Muhammad) will be a witness over yourselves, and that is what is meant by the Statement of Allah:
Thus We have made of you a wasat (middle and just) nation that you may be witnesses over mankind and the Prophet (Muhammad) will be a witness over yourselves. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)
Imam At-Tabari said, “I believe that ‘wasat’ here refers to the center of the thing that lies between its two ends such as the center of the house… I think that Allah gave them this description because of their being of a middle approach in religion; neither they went to extremes like Christians who innovated monasticism and exaggerated in the appreciation of Jesus taking him as a God, nor they show negligence towards their religion as the Jews did when they distorted the Scriptures of God, killed His Prophets, and disbelieved Him. Allah characterized Muslims by moderation and equity because they adopted a moderate way between these extremes of exaggeration and negligence.
Second: Almighty Allah says,
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah , devoutly obedient. (Al-Baqarah 2:238)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained this verse in his saying on the battle of the Trench as he said, “They have diverted us from (offering) the middle prayer, the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer. May Allah fill their bellies and their graves with fire, or he said: May Allah stuff their bellies and their graves with fire.” (Muslim)
Third: Allah says,
So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. (Al-Ma’idah 5:89)
The Qur’an asks the person who pays expiation for breaking his oath to offer food to the poor as one choice. However, this food must be an average food that is not too bad or too expensive. It should be a moderate one; an appropriate food.
Fourth: Almighty Allah says,
The most moderate of them said, “Did I not say to you, ‘Why do you not exalt [ Allah ]?’” (Al-Qalam 68:28)
The verse makes mention of the middle one from among the group referring to the one with better reason and opinion or the best or the fairest one from among them.
Indirect References to Moderation in the Qur’an
These verses cited the term moderation explicitly with its uses that do not overstep the linguistic meaning of the origin of the word, namely moderateness. This meaning is approved by the Shari`ah and coincides with other related Qur’anic texts. However, there are many other texts that shed light on the meaning of moderation through other words that refer to this meaning within a Qur’anic approach with clear and established proofs. We will mention some of them as follows:
Almighty Allah says,
Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Al-Fatihah 1:6-7)
The verse states that Allah has described the path with two things: being straight and inconsistent with the path of those who have evoked the anger of God (the Jews) and also the way of Christians who went to extremes in monasticism and worship until they overstep the boundaries of their religion, not only in worship but also in conviction. Thus, since the straight path is contrary to the way of those who committed negligence or extremism, it must be a moderate path. This indicates that the straight path which God has enacted is free from extremism and negligence, which is the core of the Islamic approach of moderation.
The same meaning is also shown clearly in Allah’s saying,
Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path. (Al-Baqarah 2:213)
The above mentioned verses prove and lay the grounds of the moderate approach established by the Qur’an.
However, the whole verses and chapters of the Qur’an call to moderation, justice, equity and other related concepts. Almighty Allah says,
Indeed! This Qur’an guides to that which is straightest. (Al-Israa’ 17:9)
The word ‘straightest’ refers to the safety valve of the Muslim nation, the nation of the Qur’an, which protects it from swerving from the straight path. It is the guidance of the Glorious Qur’an with its proper commands and regulations that conflicts not with sound minds and natural inclinations. Rather, the discourse of the Qur’an, in all its issues, goes in line with the soundest views and theories and observes both the material and spiritual sides on equal levels.
By Editorial Staff
If you read our previous article, you will learn that Islam does not deny intercession. We have provided evidence to the contrary. However, in the Hereafter, making intercessions with Allah requires some prerequisites the most important of which is Allah’s permission.
Permission must first be granted to the intercessor so that he or she can intercede on behalf of those who deserve it, namely, those who get permission confirming that they deserve it.
On the other hand, Intercessions, in general, may be divided into three kinds: intercessions made in the Hereafter, living persons making intercessions on behalf of the departed, and intercessions made in this life. Let us consider these kinds in some detail.
The kinds of Intercessions
As for the Greatest Intercession, the intercessor with Allah will be only Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) after obtaining Allah’s permission.
A. ِِIntercessions made in the Hereafter
1. The Greatest Intercession
As for the Greatest Intercession, the intercessor with Allah will be only Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) after obtaining Allah’s permission.
On the Day of Resurrection, people will suffer anguish and affliction to the extent that they will not be able to bear. They, then, will ask some of the prophets (peace be upon them) to intercede to alleviate their sufferings. Praying to Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) will be granted the right of the Greatest Intercession. Moreover, he will have the right to admit some people into the Paradise and save others from the Hellfire.
The Hadith that tells the story of this Great Intercession.
Abu Huraira reported:
“Meat was one day brought to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and a foreleg was offered to him, a part which he liked. He sliced with his teeth a piece out of it and said:
“I shall be the leader of mankind on the Day of Resurrection. Do you know why?
The setting of this real, yet unseen story
Allah would gather in one plain the earlier and the later (of the human race) on the Day of Resurrection. Then the voice of the proclaimer would be heard by all of them and the eyesight would penetrate through all of them and the sun would come near.
People would then experience a degree of anguish, anxiety and agony which they shall not be able to bear and they shall not be able to stand. Some people would say to the others:
“Don’t you see in which trouble you are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken you? Why don’t you find one who should intercede for you with your Lord?”
Prophet Adam (peace be upon him)
Some would say to the others: “Go to Adam”.
And they would go to Adam and say: “O Adam, thou art the father of mankind. Allah created thee by His own Hand and breathed in thee of His spirit and ordered the angels to prostrate before thee. Intercede for us with thy Lord Don’t you see in what (trouble) we are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken us?”
Adam would say: “Verily, my Lord is angry, to an extent to which He had never been angry before nor would He be angry afterward.
Verily, He forbade me (to go near) that tree and I disobeyed Him. I am concerned with my own self. Go to someone else; go to Noah.”
Messenger Noah (peace be upon him)
They would come to Noah and would say: “O Noah, thou art the first of the Messengers (sent) on the earth (after Adam), and Allah named thee as a ‘Grateful Servant’, intercede for us with thy Lord. Don’t you see in what (trouble) we are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken us?”
He would say: “Verily, my Lord is angry today as He had never been angry before, and would never be angry afterwards. There had emanated a curse from me with which I cursed my people. I am concerned with only myself, I am concerned only with myself; you better go to Ibrahim (peace be upon him).”
Allah’s Beloved Friend and Messenger, Abraham (peace be upon him)
They would go to Ibrahim and say: “Thou art the apostle of Allah and His Friend amongst the inhabitants of the earth; intercede for us with thy Lord. Don’t you see in which (trouble) we are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken us?”
Ibrahim would say to them: “Verily, my Lord is today angry as He had never been angry before and would never be angry afterwards. And (Ibrahim) would mention his lies (and then say): I am concerned only with myself, I am concerned only with myself. You better go to someone else: go to Moses.”
Messenger Moses (peace be upon him)
They would come to Moses (peace be upon him) and say: “O Moses, thou art Allah’s messenger, Allah blessed thee with His messengership and His conversation amongst people. Intercede for us with thy Lord. Don’t you see in what (trouble) we are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken us?”
Moses (peace be upon him) would say to them: “Verily, my Lord is angry as He had never been angry before and would never be angry afterwards. I, in fact, killed a person whom I had not been ordered to kill. I am concerned with myself, I am concerned with myself. You better go to Jesus (peace be upon him).”
Messenger Jesus (peace be upon him)
They would come to Jesus and would say: “O Jesus, thou art the messenger of Allah and thou conversed with people in the cradle, (thou art) His Word which He sent down upon Mary. And (thou art) the Spirit from Him; so intercede for us with thy Lord. Don’t you see (the trouble) in which we are? Don’t you see (the misfortune) that has overtaken us?”
Jesus (peace be upon him) would say: “Verily, my Lord is angry today as He had never been angry before or would ever be angry afterwards.” He mentioned no sin of his. (He simply said:) I am concerned with myself, I am concerned with myself; you go to someone else. You better go to Muhammad (ﷺ).”
The Last Messenger, Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace)
They would come to me and say: “O Mahammad, thou art the messenger of Allah and the last of the apostles. Allah has pardoned thee all thy previous and later sins. Intercede for us with thy Lord; don’t you see in which (trouble) we are? Don’t you see what (misfortune) has overtaken us?”
I shall then set off and come below the Throne and fall down prostrate before my Lord; then Allah would reveal to me and inspire me with some of His Praises and Glorifications which He had not revealed to anyone before me. He would then say:
“Muhammad, raise thy head; ask and it would be granted; intercede and intercession would be accepted.” I would then raise my head and say:
“O my Lord, my people, my people.”
It would be said: “O Muhammad, bring in by the right gate of Paradise those of your people who would have no account to render. They would share with the people some other door besides this door.”
The Prophet then said: By Him in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, verily the distance between two door leaves of the Paradise is as great as between Mecca and Hajar, or as between Mecca and Busra. (Muslim)
The matter of intercession is of great importance because it is part of the Islamic Faith or ‘Aqidah. To reach a proper understanding of this matter, one must first study all the verses of the Gracious Quran and the authentic Hadiths that speak about it. Adopting an opinion according to a specific text without taking into consideration the other texts may lead to misunderstanding.
Al-Shafa’ah (intercession) is an Arabic term taken from al-Shaf’ which means two, even or couple. Two antonyms of al-Shaf’ (couple) are single and odd. It may be defined as speaking to or asking someone to bring about benefits or to save or protect another one from harm. If the intercession is accepted, this becomes a sign of the high status the intercessor enjoys in the eye of the person who accepts it.
Scanning the verses of the gracious Quran, one finds out that there are some verses that negate al-Shafa’ah (intercession) while there are other verses that confirm it. Of course, there is no problem here as scholars provide some ways of reconciliation between the two apparently contradictory kinds of verses.
Intercession may be defined as speaking to or asking someone to bring about benefits or to save or protect another one from harm.
Some verses which absolutely negate al-Shafa’ah(intercession):
There are some verses that deny intercession. It will be sufficient to quote a few of them.
1. Allah says,“Then be ever fearful of a Day (Hereafter) when no soul shall indemnify any other soul against anything (from God). Nor shall any intercession be accepted from it (for its salvation). Nor shall any compensation be taken from it (in atonement for its sins). Nor shall they (who have disbelieved) ever be helped (against God’s Judgment).” (Quran 2:48)
2.“O you who believe! Spend (charitably) out of what We have provided you, before there comes a Day (Hereafter) in which there shall be no (gainful) trade nor (availing) friendship, nor intercession. Then (as to) the disbelievers (who embrace false gods) _ it is they who are the wrongdoers, (godless in heart).” (Quran 2:254)
3.“Hence, forewarn with (this Quran all) those who fear being gathered before their Lord (that) they have no patron apart from Him, nor any intercessor, so that they may become God-fearing.” (Quran 6:51)
As for intercession to take place, there are some conditions regarding all the parties involved. The above mentioned verses can be understood to refer to the people who do not meet the requirements necessary for them to intercede on behalf of others or have others intercede on their behalf.
Some other verses which confirm intercession:
On the other hand, the following verses mention some prerequisites so that the intercession can be accepted. Allah’s permission and pleasure are but a few examples. A few examples of these verses will also be sufficient.
1. Allah says, “Who is it that shall intercede with Him, except by His permission?” (Quran 2:255)
2. “So all those that they call upon apart from Him hold no (power of) intercession. Excepted are those (of God’s servants whom He permits to intercede, and) who bear witness to the truth and they know well “from Him for whom it may be made).” (Quran 43:86)
3. “For how many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession is of no avail (to anyone) in anything until God grants permission to whomever He so wills and is pleased with.” (Quran 53:26)
Ways to reconcile between the two types of verses:
1. The matter of intercession is entirely in the Hands of Allah (Glory be to Him). Allah says, “(Then) say (to them): Intercession is altogether for God (alone to permit)!” (Quran 39:44)
2. There is no intercession in favor of the disbelievers. Allah says, “So forewarn them of the Impending Day when hearts go up into choking throats – (when) there shall be no intimate friend for the wrongdoers, nor any intercessor to be heeded.” (Quran 40:18)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, Abraham will meet his father (on the Day of Resurrection) and will say, ‘O my Lord You promised me that You would not let me in disgrace on the Day when people will be resurrected.’ Allah will say, ‘I have forbidden Paradise for the disbelievers.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
However, Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, may be regarded as an exception. Although the intercession of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) will not save him from the Hellfire, the torment of the Hell-fire will be alleviated for him. This is because he used to defend and protect Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Moreover, Abu Talib did not use to call people to disbelief even though he was a disbeliever.
Narrated `Abdullah bin Al-Harith bin Naufal:
`Abbas bin `Abdul Muttalib said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Did you benefit Abu Talib with anything as he used to protect and take care of you, and used to become angry for you?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Yes, he is in a shallow place of Fire. But for me he would have been in the lowest part of the Fire. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3. The intercessor can intercede only by Allah’s permission. Allah says, “Who is it that shall intercede with Him, except by His permission?” (Quran 2:255)
4. The intercessor can intercede only on behalf of those whom Allah is pleased with. Allah says, “He (alone) knows what lies before them and what lies behind them. Nor do they intercede (with God) – except on behalf of those with whom He is pleased.” (Quran 21:28)
5. Idols, the sun, the moon and all the other things that were worshipped apart from Allah do not intercede with Allah on behalf of their worshippers. Allah says,
“Thus (all) those whom you call upon apart from Him hold no authority even over (so much as) a seed coat. If you call them, they do not hear your call. And were they to hear, they could not answer you. Thus, on the Day of Resurrection, they will utterly disavow your association of them (as gods) with God. And there is none to tell you (of the events of that Day) like the One who is all-aware. (Quran 35:14)
By Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan
Menstruation is the flow of a type of natural blood from the womb at specific times. This flow of blood occurs every month for six or seven days, and the period may last for more or less than that. In other words, a woman’s menstrual period may last for a fewer or more than seven days depending on the different nature of each woman as predetermined by Allah.
Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, ‘It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.’” (Qur’an: AI- Baqarah: 222)
Rulings Stated in the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah Concerning Menstruation
It is prohibited for a menstruating woman either to perform prayer or observe fasting.
1. Performing Prayer and Fasting
It is prohibited for a menstruating woman either to perform prayer or observe fasting. This is because the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said to Fatimah Bint Abu Hubaysh:
“Give up prayer when your menstrual period begins.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Thus, the prayer and fasting of a menstruating woman are deemed invalid, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has prohibited that. And the Prophet’s prohibition means it is invalid to perform what he has prohibited. Therefore, a woman who performs such acts of worship in that state of impurity is considered to be disobedient to Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace).
May women make up for the missed prayers and days of fasting?
When the menstrual period is over, a woman has to make up for the missed days of fasting according to the juristic consensus, without making up for the prayers she has missed. ‘A’ishah (Allah be pleased with her) said:
“When we menstruated during the life of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), we used to be commanded (by Allah’s Messenger) to make up for the missed days of fasting, but we were not ordered to make up for the missed prayers.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
What else is prohibited for a menstruating woman?
It is impermissible for a menstruating woman to make tawaf (circumambulating the Ka’bah), to recite the Noble Quran*, or to stay in a mosque. In addition, it is prohibited for her husband to have sexual intercourse with her until her period is over and she takes a ritual bath. Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, ‘It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you…” (Quran: Al-Baqarah: 222)
The phrase “…keep away from wives during menstruation” means not to have sexual intercourse with them within that period. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) also said:
“You can do everything (with your wives during menstruation) except sexual intercourse (or ‘copulation,’ as in another version).” (Related by the Group of Compilers of Hadith except Al-Bukhari)
A husband of a menstruating woman may enjoy her by kissing, touching, and the like, except for having sexual intercourse with her.
What is the legal ruling on divorce during menstruation?
Likewise, it is impermissible for the husband of a menstruating woman to divorce her before her menstrual period is over, as Allah says;
“O Prophet when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them at [the commencement of] their waiting period…” (Quran: At-Talaq: 1)
That is, when they become pure (from menstruation, sexual intercourse, etc.). Also, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) ordered a man who had divorced his wife during her menstrual period to take her back and to divorce her (if he insisted) when her period was over.
What must a woman do after the end of her menstrual period?
Once the menstrual blood stops discharging, a woman becomes pure and her menstrual period is deemed over. She must then take a ritual bath. After that, she is allowed to do whatever acts of worship which were prohibited for her during menstruation.
What is the legal ruling on secretion and yellowish discharge?
After blood stops discharging, a woman does not have to be concerned about any secretion or yellowish discharge. The following hadith supports this. On the authority of Umm ‘Atiyyah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said:
“We never considered yellowish discharge as a thing of importance (as menstruation)”
Al-Bukhari and other compilers of Hadiths related the above mentioned hadith. Moreover, it is deemed a marfu’ (Traceable) hadith, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) approved of its content.
When may women start performing prayer?
If the discharge of a woman in a state of menstruation or postnatal bleeding stops before sunset, she must perform both the Dhuhr (Noon) and the ‘Asr (Afternoon) Prayers of the same day. Likewise, if the discharge stops before dawn, she must perform both the Maghrib (Sunset) and the ‘Isha’ (Night) Prayers of the same night. This is because the time of prayer for the latter is a permissible time of prayer for the former in case of a legal excuse. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“So, the majority of scholars, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad view that if a menstruating woman’s discharge stops at the end of daytime, it is obligatory for her to combine performing both the Dhuhr and the ‘Asr Prayers of the same day. Also, if the discharge stops at the end of the night, it is obligatory for her to combine performing both the Maghrib and ‘Isha Prayers of the same night. This is because there is a legal common specified time for every two successive prayers to be combined due to a legal excuse.
To clarify, if a woman’s discharge stops at the end of the day, it is obligatory for her to perform the Dhuhr Prayer before the ‘Asr Prayer, for it is still a permissible time to perform the Dhuhr Prayer, i.e. she is still at the specified period of the Dhuhr Prayer. Likewise, if that was at the end of the night, it is obligatory for her to perform the Maghrib and the ‘Isha Prayers, as she is still at the specified time of the Maghrib Prayer. This ruling was narrated on the authority of ‘Abdur-Rahmdn, Abu Hurayrah, and Ibn “Abbas.”
What is the legal ruling if a woman do not perform prayer at the very beginning of its specified time and her period arrives before she can perform it?
If a woman starts discharging before she can perform an obligatory prayer at its specific time, the preponderant opinion is that she is not required to make up for such a prayer after her discharge stops. In this respect, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“The opinion of the Hanafi and Maliki Schools is the most cogent; as they maintain that a woman is not required to make up for such a missed prayer after her discharge stops. This is because making up for such a prayer necessitates a new legal command, and there is none in this case. Her delay of prayer is based on a legal excuse, so she is not to blame, as the delay is not out of negligence.
If a Muslim oversleeps or forgets to perform a prayer at its due time, though it is not out of negligence, the time of prayer starts for him when he gets up or remembers. Thus, his prayer is not considered a way of making up for a missed one.”
*: Some scholars hold the opinion that a menstruating woman may read the Gracious Quran. However, she may not touch or hold the Mus-haf (a written or printed copy of the Quran) with bare hands, namely, she can wear gloves or read from a smartphone, etc. Narrated `Aisha:
I was menstruating when I reached Mecca. So, I neither performed Tawaf of the Ka`ba, nor the Tawaf between Safa and Marwa. Then I informed Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) about it. He replied, “Perform all the ceremonies of Hajj like the other pilgrims, but do not perform Tawaf of the Ka`ba till you get clean (from your menses).” (Al-Bukhari)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence” with some modifications.
Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan is a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence, Member of the Board of Senior Ulema & Member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research.