Punctuality is respectful of people’s time
You might think that because the day of a Muslim is built around prayers which need to be performed at specific times, that Muslims would be fairly punctual people as a rule.
But this seems not to be the case, even though I’ve heard several scholars remind listeners of the importance of being on time. I remember Sheikh Yaser Birjas indicating to students at a seminar that they should arrive for class like a muezzin arrives for prayer. (He has to arrive early enough to be ready to call as soon as the time for prayer comes in.) This suggests that Muslims should be acutely aware of time as part of their preparation for prayer, or class, or anything else.
After becoming Muslim, though, I started hearing plenty of jokes about a tendency of Muslims towards tardiness. Although, the observation relates mostly to religious and social functions as late arrivals to work or school often result in disciplinary action. I find American society generally to be less tolerant of tardiness than Muslims (so kudos to the Muslims for being so forgiving) but this can result in some confusion for the American Muslim community.
I heard the story of a convert who made the observation, on his first visit to Jumu`ah (Friday) Prayer, that when he arrived- at the indicated time- only a few people were present, but during the sermon people continued arriving until the hall was filled by the time of the prayer. Yet I don’t think this experience is rare.
Similarly, I’ve noticed that when attending Islamic lectures and classes, most respected teachers endeavor to begin and end on time. While helping to organize a 4-week da`wah training program a few years ago, I learned an important lesson regarding punctuality.
The class was supposed to begin early on a Saturday morning, and though a few people showed up early, there were crowds coming through the door even after the ‘start’ time. I wanted to wait for the students to settle in, and that was a mistake. The imam of the masjid (mosque) told me that even if some people were still arriving, I should still start on time, and end on time.
To start with, punctuality is respectful of people’s time; if they showed up on time, they shouldn’t have to wait for the program to begin. Moreover, ending on time allows people to leave for other engagements they may have planned, instead of detaining them longer than they expected. And also, if an event fails to start on time, what incentive is there to arrive on time?
Since my own lesson on punctuality, I’ve made a point of observing when speakers (scholars, imams, community leaders, teachers, etc.) deliberately start on time- or as best they are able, when faced with logistical delays- and end on time.
I understand it to be a part of the etiquette of being a speaker; of being a teacher, or an imam, and have found that the more knowledgeable, respected, and elder teachers usually strive for punctuality, even when students are late. For that reason, I don’t accept that tardiness is religiously appropriate behavior since it’s not from the etiquette which I have witnessed from religious scholars.
I’ve even seen some scholars who seem to be as strict about punctuality as my high school band director. For us, it was an enforced rule. Students late to rehearsal would have to perform push-ups or run laps. Arriving late for a trip would mean getting left behind; nobody would wait. And if our rehearsals ran over schedule, even by as little as five minutes, the director would shorten the next day’s rehearsal by the same amount. Breaks came regularly, and if they were delayed, then they were extended also. (Noting that breaks were usually barely 3-5 minutes, enough time to sit and drink water.)
When I’m in a class or a lecture where the speaker goes on- beyond an hour, sometimes beyond two, I find myself becoming irritated and even resentful towards the speaker, while my concentration plummets, especially when scheduled breaks have been neglected by the speaker.
How is a student supposed to feel after arriving on time and waiting over an hour or more for an instructor, who then proceeds to lecture for an hour or two without giving students a break? I think the only way a student can feel, in that situation, is that the instructor lacks respect for his time, leading the student to not respect the instructor.
So I’ll emphasize again why tardiness is not something seen in the most erudite of scholars, and why I don’t believe that it is religiously appropriate. And I maintain that view despite the prevalent disregard for time in some Muslim cultures.
Unfortunately, punctuality can even be an inconvenience in a culture with more lenient and flexible schedule. My husband stresses the importance of arriving promptly to dinner parties, that is, he wants to arrive at the time indicated on the invitation. However, I find myself stalling our departure in order to avoid inconveniencing the hostess. Since most guests tend to arrive 30 minutes or more late, she might not be fully prepared for guests if we arrive ’on time’, and she might struggle trying to make conversation with me while still cooking and cleaning, leaving me in an awkward position while he goes off to another room with the host.
On the other hand, an American crowd might be expected to arrive 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time. That’s why there can be some confusion.
Of course, punctuality should be the norm for all events, but I’m not sure what it would take for people to accept that on a wide scale. It’s not easy to enforce it with other people, but the least we can do is enforce it on ourselves and make punctuality a fixed attribute for which we are known.
It is duty of we Muslims to shoulder the responsibility of showing the utmost care to those people
Man’s life is a full record of hardships and tribulations. In this sense, Allah says:
We create man from a drop of thickened fluid to test him. (Al-Insan 76:2)
When man looks upon these tribulations and afflictions as being a test from Almighty Allah to see his true colors, he will come to know that there is a great divine wisdom behind all these tests. This is surely an absolute fact, whether we know it or not.
It is also a great thing that Almighty Allah, when depriving a person of a certain ability or gift, compensates him for it, by bestowing upon him/her other gift, with which he excels others. That is why we see that those people who are deprived of sight, have very sensitive ears that they can hear very low beats or movements around them. They are given excellence in many other abilities to compensate their imperfection.
If a person adopts this view, he will surely find rest and get contented with the test posed on him by Almighty Allah. Every person should bear in mind that he can never change his inability or escape Allah’s fate and thus he should try his best to make his life better and turn this sore lemon into sweet honey.
This inability should be a motive to creativity and excellence in any field of life. A disabled person should make his condition an impetus towards being distinguished and prominent in the society.
How to Overcome Disability, Become an Active Member in the Society
In order to be an active member in the society, a disabled person needs to be fully aware of his surroundings and the nature of his disability. In addition, it is incumbent on the society to offer a helping hand to all those people.
Islamic history has a shining record of many examples of people who, while having some kind of disability, occupied very excellent positions and prominent status in the society. `Atta’ ibn Abi Rabah, who was known of being black, lame and paralyzed person, was the greatest Mufti in Makkah. He was highly honored by `Abdul-Malik ibn Marawan, the Muslim caliph of that time. His vast knowledge earned this prestige.
Also, we know the story of the great Companion `Amr ibn Al-Jamuh, who was also lame. His four sons, when participating in Jihad, said to him: ‘You have an excuse to remain at home, for you are old and you have a kind of disability.’ With full confidence and trust in Allah, he said to them: ‘Nay, for I hope to walk in Paradise with my lame foot.’ Commenting on this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to them: ‘Leave him! He is a man who seeks martyrdom.’
Almighty Allah guides all Muslims not to leave those disabled in isolation lest they fall a prey to despair and psychological ailments. They should be welcomed to the open society and be dealt with in the kindest way.
Society’s Duty towards People with Disabilities
In Islam, we are commanded to show mercy to everything in this world.
Now, it is the duty of the whole society to establish schools for those persons and secure them due care so that they become good members of the society and that they benefit themselves and their families. In the West, great care is shown to the disabled.
It is duty of we Muslims to shoulder the responsibility of showing the utmost care to those people, for, according to the teachings of our religion, those persons are sources of divine mercy and blessings being showered on us now and then. They are the weak for whose sake we are given sustenance and made victorious.
In his hadith, our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “You are given sustenance and victory for the virtue of those who are weak amongst you.” (Abu Dawud)
If those Westerners show mercy and care to the disabled out of human motives, we, Muslims should do so out of both human and religious motives. In Islam, we are commanded to show mercy to everything in this world. Remember the words of the Prophet:
“Show mercy to those on earth so that He Who is in the heavens (i.e., Allah) bestow mercy to you.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Islam is a spiritual reality that when embraced should be expressed quite naturally with no confusion.
We have all witnessed the declaration of faith administered to a new Muslim and it is generally accepted as a compelling occasion. Naturally, some will be surprised by my usage of the phrase ’generally accepted as compelling‘ to describe the administering of the declaration of faith.
Don’t get me wrong, someone being guided aright is indeed a blessed and joyous occasion, but that phrase is indeed the subject of this article. That’s why we attempt to challenge accepted norms of practice here in the West regarding the Arabization of our identity. When judging anything, we should undoubtedly look to the pristine legacy of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and the distinguished tutelage of his noble companions.
In the time of the Prophet, there were multitudes of men, women, and children who were graced by divine light in embracing the absolute truth of our very existence, ‘I declare that there is no deity other than God and that Muhammad is His messenger’.
But the question is how did that take place? Did it ever happen that someone who indicated their interest in Islam would come to the Prophet or his Companions and then be brought in front of the people and be administered word for word the declaration of faith? The answer of any student of the Prophet’s biography and the early history of our lofty predecessors is no.
This article is not by any means attempting to call the declaring of faith in front of a crowd an innovation. Rather the hope is to reform the practice to make it in line with the example of the Companions of the Prophet, about whom Almighty God has stated:
God is pleased with the early Muslim immigrants, their helpers in Madinah and those who follow them to the best of their ability and God is pleased with them… (At-Tawbah 9:100)
Islam is a spiritual reality that when embraced should be expressed quite naturally with no confusion. It should appear as a sincere conviction coming from the heart of the person. The current process of the declaration of faith has an element which takes away from its glory. It brings down the person taking that great leap of faith, especially in today’s world.
By giving him/her the idea that although you have ratified your innate knowledge of Islam through the Qur’an and prophethood of Muhammad, you can’t truly express that unless it is in Arabic. Of course since he or she does not know Arabic this is often the beginning of an inferiority complex that is thrust upon the fresh revert from the get go.
One time in Kuwait, I administered a declaration of faith in front of an audience at a large mosque. The audience was about 200, maybe a quarter of them spoke English fluently and the majority understood basic conversational English. So first, in Arabic I summarized for the crowd his story and that the brother was going to declare his newfound faith. Then I asked him to repeat after me in English, ‘I declare that there is no deity other than God and Muhammad is His Messenger’.
Many people were elated and came to embrace their new brother while you can hear some objections rustling through the crowd. The Imam of the Mosque took me aside and began telling me that it is a condition or obligation for the declaration to be in Arabic. I asked the sheikh for some evidence and he said that it is well known. Of course well known is not a proof of Islamic Law so I researched the matter and, until now, to my surprise, I have found no such claim in the books of Islamic jurisprudence. That said, it is confirmed by various sheikhs as being ‘well known’.
Of course it doesn’t make sense to have someone declare their faith in a language that they don’t have the slightest clue about, but we should be fair to our legal tradition and not use our logic as an indisputable gauge. That being said, with the absence of any text or juristic precedence, I will now suggest how and why it should be done differently than the ‘well known’ way we are accustomed to.
In the history of our pious predecessors we find that the people who declared their faith to the Prophet and his Companions did so without any coaching necessary. It came naturally as a result of the certainty of their heart. Since they were Arabs that declaration was in their own language.
As mentioned before, the scholars of usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) say: ’That which is significant is not in names or titles rather the meaning and implication behind them’. The meaning is completely rendered in the English translation and thus the intended action has been performed.
In reflection, the form which I followed in Kuwait is still faulty! The Prophet said something quite crux to this article:
“Anyone who declares that there is no deity other than God and that and that Muhammad is the messenger of God genuinely and sincerely from his or her heart will be saved from the Hellfire.” (Al-Bukhari)
It is my hope that when someone enters Islam they do so with conviction and sufficient knowledge and understanding. So if they feel comfortable with it, I would encourage them to stand in front of the Muslims and tell their story and make their declaration in confidence and clarity without the help of any Imam.
This would be keeping in line with the generation that carried and conveyed this message which is, after divine blessing, why we are all able to be Muslim in the first place.
All praise and gratitude go to our beloved Guide and may He bestow His peace and blessings upon the Prophet and the early generations!
Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah.
Some who do not know basic truths about Islam; whether, pseudo scholars, Orientalists or enemies of Islam, claim that Islam does not respect the legal rights of non-Muslims in the Islamic state.
Reply to the Misconception about Rights of Non-Muslims
The Islamic Shari`ah provides a different set of obligations and rights of the non-Muslim residents in the Islamic society. It may be sufficient in rebuttal of this misconception to quote the general ruling mentioned in the books of Islamic jurisprudence:
“Non-Muslims are entitled for that which Muslims are entitled. They are also obligated to do that which Muslims are obligated.” This is the general rule and from it emanates the just and equitable laws giving the non-Muslim residents in an Islamic state their rights to security, private property, religious observance, etc.
Islam permits religious discussions and dialogues with non-Muslims, commanding Muslims to adhere to the best methodology in any discussions and dialogues with the non-Muslims. Allah (the Exalted and Majestic) states in the Qur’an:
And dispute you not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’. (Al-`Ankabut 29:46)
Allah (Exalted be He) addresses those of other faiths and religions, saying in the Qur’an:
Say: ‘Do you see what it is you invoke besides Allah? Show me what it is they have created on earth, or have they a share in the heavens bring me a book (revealed) before this, or any remnant of knowledge (you may have), if you are telling the truth! (Al-Ahqaf 46:4)
Islam forbids forceful measures to convert people from other faiths, as stated in the verse of the Qur’an:
If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! (Yunus 10:99)
Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, (prophetic traditions of the Prophet) illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah. Muslim history has numerous examples of the tolerance shown to non-Muslim subjects, while many other societies were intolerant towards Muslims and even their own people.
Muslims must deal justly with all other humans who have not begun any hostilities with the Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:
Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)
Those who wage war against Islam, show enmity and force the Muslims into exile, have a different treatment according to Islam. Allah states in the Qur’an:
Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:9)
Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims are based on cordial and just manners. Commercial transactions are permitted with resident and non-resident non-Muslims of the Islamic society. A Muslim may eat the food of Jews and Christians. A male Muslim may marry a Jewish or a Christian woman as will be explained below. We must remember that Islam gives special attention and importance on raising a family. Allah states in the Qur’an:
This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Misconceptions on Human Rights in Islam”.