Can we perform Eid Salat (prayers) at home?

Yes, and furthermore, I believe we should!

Here I’d like to distinguish between two things:

  1. The communal Eid prayer
    offered in an open space (or mosque) with the subsequent sermon,
  2. Offering two units of
    prayer for the special occasion of Eid.

Now of course, for those living under lockdown, unfortunately
the first is unfeasible. But this does not preclude the second, and I believe it
is virtuous to perform two units of prayer for the special occasion of Eid, and
it is what God wants from believers.

How so?

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Has God forbidden a faded haircut?

I have been asked this question profusely over the past couple of years, and so I have written these few points to provide some clarity to the confusion caused by laymen who have taken it upon themselves to circulate uncontextualised/mistranslated hadith, and anonymous rudimentary responses (fatwas). It is offensive to God and such responses consistently demonstrate an absence of competency in the law. Even beyond this issue, I advise believers to take their faith consistently from those they trust and pay no attention to what floats about on the internet, irrespective of whether a verse or hadith is quoted, or an ancient scholar cited. If it was that easy, there would be no need for anyone to actually study.

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Can we hold a mushaf and perform tarāwīh/qiyām?

Yes, certainly.

I strongly believe it is perfectly permissible to do so.

Al-Bukhārī relates that A’ishah b. Abī Bakr, the wife of the
Prophet, would have her servant Dhakwān lead her in prayer from the mushaf.
There also doesn’t seem to be any explicit prohibition from doing so.

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Is there one or two calls to prayer for Jumu'ah?

It's a widespread practice to perform two adhāns (calls to prayer) along with an iqāmah (call to stand), but many take two adhāns to be an obligation.

This is incorrect and the following briefly outlines why:

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Amidst the noise

Today, everything is porous and transient. For many, everything is understood as being subjective, and resultantly this has led to major instability - not only within communities and amongst them, but also with individuals themselves. What is truth, and what is falsehood? A lot of the time, what we intuitively know to be inconsequential issues (such as the unfrutiful debates on the nature of God, or traditionally sectarian topics) still manages to take up much of our time, and that's in between the bouts of mild depression or deep frustration evoked by our presence on social media.

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Coronavirus: What should mosques do?

The issue of social distancing is complex because there are a number of factors at play. The key is to correctly understand those factors, something which almost all of the fatwas promoting mosques access fail to do. What’s a fatwa meant to be?

Neither a scholar nor a judge can issue a ruling in reality unless he understands two things: First, understanding the context with an analytical cognisance, and deriving the reality of what's happening through operative variables, indicative factors and inferential signs until he comprehensively knows the situation. Second, understanding obligations related to the context which is to understand God's dictates expressed in His Book or in the prophetic sayings regarding the situation.
Ibn al-Qayyim, I’lām al-Muwaqqi’īn

This article addresses whether mosque leadership should temporarily restrict congregational prayers.

Despite its brevity, I aim to comprehensively cover the salient points by summarising the context, the key shar’ī directives, and relevant factors – the minimum required for competent decision making. This article does not aim to be exhaustive but even the simplified arrangement here is compelling enough to urge temporary restrictions.

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Should mosques remain open for congregational prayer? Countering a poor fatwa

To read a comprehensive article on the issue, click here.

Some friends sent me a fatwa that represents the position of major Deobandi figures in the Midlands and North, asking me to comment on it (given the serious nature of the affair). The fatwa is dangerous (especially where it encourages 60 year olds to attend congregational prayers) since it pertains to matters of life and death, as well as poorly reasoned. And this is not to mention that it's predicated on folk religion – an outlook that represents a village mentality that takes God’s deen as magical or a superstitious way of thinking. Yes, the masājid’Allāh are safe spaces where believers congregate, but they’re not mystical buildings that keep out physical harms or devils, nor does a building become consecrated merely because we call it a name.

A mosque is an assigned place where believers gather, when and if they need to gather. And when it comes to prayer, the Prophet said: “The earth was made a masjid and purifying for my mission.” (al-Bukhārī) As long as it is clean, a believer connects to God anywhere. We really need to get that subservience to God will not collapse because some mosques in some parts of the world are temporarily closed.

None of the points mentioned in the fatwa are compelling. It is unworthy of consideration, and as I quickly pick apart each point, you’ll see how bad it is. As believers, we are called to employ our intellects and revelatory guidance. Unfortunately, this fatwa does neither soundly.

So these are the (fallacious) variables provided to argue mosques should remain open for congregational ṣalāh:

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Shaking hands, hugs and kisses

I was asked by some people about the culture of Muslims hugging every time they meet, both men and women. Although I’m not sure exactly how frequent it is amongst women, in some circles Muslim men will hug when greeting one another on every occasion, even where they see each other every few days. To a large extent, even where it is unsaid, many assume it is either religious or the ‘Muslim’ thing to do.

Here I’m not trying to explicate the entire fiqh issue, but simply raise some basic conclusions that need considering.

So what’s the story?

Saying ‘Assalamu alaikum’ is explicitly mentioned in revelation, along with the advantages in doing so (such as spreading sentiments of peace in communal living). God says, "When you are offered a greeting respond with a better one, or at least return it." (4:86) Ibn al-Qayyim, the Hanbali sage, wrote that this goes for all those who greet you with sincere wishes, including both Muslims and non-Muslims. Thus if someone greets you with ‘good morning’ it is a moral duty (according to Quranic sentiments) to respond with the same or better. Similarly, Ibn Muflih in his work Adab al-Shar’iyyah stated that it was prophetic practice to say (what today’s equivalent would probably be) “Good morning” instead of salam.

Is touching upon greeting and meeting merely a cultural expression, or religious?

Imam Malik disliked shaking hands or hugging as related by Ibn Wahb and Ibn Abdil Barr, and a position taken by Suhnun et al. Qadi Ibn al-Arabi wrote that this was because Malik didn’t view it as a general stipulation nor decisively from revelation like the saying of salam, for if it were, Malik would have regarded them saying salam and shaking hands the same. However, al-Qurtubi seems to have disagreed with Malik, quoting the hadith of Bara b. Aazib (al-Tabarani) where Bara said to the Prophet who shook his hand, "I thought shaking the hands was something foreigners do?!’ He replied: "We are worthier of doing so; if two Muslims shake hands with one taking the hand of another out of love and sincerity between them, their sins are shed." (The foreigners he was referring to was probably the Yemenites.) What we might note from this narration is:

Firstly, that shaking hands is between two people who know one another. Secondly, that the reward (and concomitantly the encouragement, or nadb) is based on doing it out of love and sincerity between two people - the reward is for the heartfelt sentiment and not from the mere act of hand-shaking, since it wasn’t widespread amongst the Companions previously (as intimated by Bara). Perhaps it was for this reason that Qatadah enquired from Anas b. Malik whether the Companions would shake hands. Whilst other hadiths also speak of how hand-shaking removes sins, the hadith of Bara contextualises the reasons behind it. Other hadith such us "shake hands for it removes enmity" (al-Muwatta') should also be contextualised by the above, and this is probably where Imam Malik was coming from in his antipathy towards establishing shaking hands and hugging as a religious practice.

However, most jurists were of the view that it is a religiously encouraged act based on numerous reports. Whatever the case, there is no problem with shaking hands and it is certainly a decent thing to do between people who know one another. Bara is also quoted in Adab al-Mufrad as saying: "a complete greeting is to shake the hands of your brother" which is also narrated by Ibn Mas'ud elsewhere.

As for those who don’t know one another well, the lowest common denominator between all jurists is that they may do if they wish, but it isn’t a must, and if someone doesn’t seem inclined to do so, no offence should be taken nor should they be taken to task out of a misplaced sense of religiosity. However, we must also consider that in certain circumstances, normal societal customs will dictate the thing to do, just because there is no explicit shar'i declaration doesn't mean it's not rude, and it does not befit the believer to come across as such. I guess there has to be a balance between a cognisance of pervading social norms and the right to bodily autonomy.

To be clear, what I'm saying is that the actual physical contact is inconsequential in itself - the reward is in the expression of the heartfelt sentiment (which can be achieved without actually touching). Shaking hands is not a ritual act but a means by which the sentiment is expressed. Shaking hands on its own is a cultural gesture, and merely for being the cultural ‘thing to do’ doesn’t accrue the rewards mentioned the hadiths.

As for repeated hugging, it is narrated by Anas b. Malik that a man asked the Prophet whether people should hug and kiss when they meet. The prophet said "no". But when he was asked about shaking hands the Prophet replied in the affirmative. (al Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah) However, there is some nuance to be had here. al-Sha’bi relates that the Companions would shake hands when they would meet, and hug when they returned from a journey. (al-Tahawi) It is also reported that the Prophet hugged Ja’far b. Abi Talib when he returned from East Africa. What this tells us is that hugging is a cultural practice, and general appropriateness in the Prophet’s time used to limit it to significant occasions (such as journeying) or a notable circumstance, but not as a general norm of greeting.

This is particularly important in our (British) context. I believe general appropriateness still limits it to specific occasions, and in particular contexts such as a viral pandemic (like SARS or the coronavirus) it is something that we need to avoid. But even beyond this, many who do not ascribe to certain cultural norms (converts or otherwise) do not hug so frequently nor feel very comfortable with such frequent bodily contact. With a culturally plural religious community there must be some acknowledgement that we’re not all the same, and thus, it is wise to demarcate between what is religious and cultural, so as not to impose such norms on others or unnecessarily put them in an uncomfortable situation.

And God alone has complete knowledge.

Women dancing at celebrations

This brief article has been motivated by a frequent notion I've heard over many years, particularly when people ask me about, or comment on, women dancing at gender-segregated weddings. The idea that dancing is haram is somewhat of a widespread notion, and whilst it can be held as a view that relates to both men and women, there seems to be particular disapproval of women dancing. This isn’t simply a matter of misogyny; women are often the most trenchant in their criticism of other woman.

Here I unpick much of the conversation around this issue and shed light on the basis of erroneous misgivings, that they namely come from two things: incorrect shar’ī understanding, conflations, and/or the imposition of cultural norms on others. The point I’m making in this brief post is that to regard dancing as intrinsically offensive to God and hence impermissible is not only incorrect, but that the antipathy of most tends to be cultural which are substantiated by conflating issues. Of course, if an individual doesn’t like dancing then that's fine. But as long as the context of dancing doesn't exceed certain boundaries, some of which I'll explain, then there's no legitimate basis to make claims of impermissibility, let alone condemn others for it.

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Can we wish a "Happy New Year"?

5 min read

I've written this post in anticipation of the most absurd arguments that are used every year, with a brief comment for each. What I hope to show is how a skewed outlook, identity politics on steroids, and ignorance about the shari’ah can all combine to crystallise inane opinions. I’m using this mas’alah (shar’i issue) simply as a case study.

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