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Interfaith Dialogue (21 Sep 2014 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslims and Christians Can Learn From One Another


By Victor Edwin SJ, New Age Islam

21 September, 2014






A group of first year theology students from Vidyajyoti college of Theology visited Ms. Sheeba Aslam Fehmi to listen to her views on Islam, Muslims and Women in Islam. Ms Fehmi is one of the Islamic Feminist Writers & Journalist. She has edited political monthly Headline Plus and Mission and has been the managing editor of a daily newspaper and a magazine. She has also written in major dailies and magazines. She writes regularly on gender-just understandings of Islam.

The conversation started on familiar notes. The students asked Fehmi to explain to them the central beliefs of Islam. Fehmi explained that the fundamental beliefs of Islam as Tawheed- oneness of God and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad.  She further said that Islam teaches “living a balanced life”. She added that “the best of things cannot be overdone.” Both extremities: austerity and extravagance should be avoided. She gave an example: “one cannot fast on the day of  Eid.  Fasting is good. But one should not over do it. Keep Fast, when it is asked …do feast when it is due”.  This idea of balance has its roots in the Qur’an and the traditions of the prophet. In her opinion, the Qur’an gives every instruction needed for a fulfilled life on earth. There is no ‘perhaps’ … ‘may be’ … in Islam, she said. Clarity is the hall mark of Islam, she told her visitors.

As a student-scholar of Muslim-Christian relations (hence forth M-C relations), I have heard these explanations often. My attitude is that Muslims should explain as they understand and live their faith. I have learnt to listen to them with much respect. I think one of the key issues in M-C relations is listening patiently with full respect without getting tempted to bring about a critical observation. Critical questions need to be raised when there is relationship established. I follow a standard instruction that I learnt from Fr Paul Jackson. “Ask questions … do not argue”. Asking questions will confirm your open attitude to learn from a Muslim. Any slight trace of argument will confirm that you have come not to listen but to argue and find fault with Muslims. I have gently instructed the students before visit. I should say happily they asked a number of interesting questions on the fundamentals of Islam.

On asked what Christians could learn from Muslims, she said that Christians can learn from the idea of equality and brotherhood-sisterhood from Muslims. Though I personally felt their commitment to prayer and fasting are pointers of challenge for their Christian neighbours. However, in open ended conversations, one needs to ask some hard questions.  How does one account for the sectarian violence that engulfs West Asia including Pakistan. In Pakistan Shia and Ahmedi mosques are regularly bombed by extremists. Fehmi replied, “Though the violence is committed in the garb of sectarian feud but its purely a struggle for power. Particularly in the Middle East its due to the abundance of natural resources and the question that who owns its booty. Its a war for control on Petroleum. There are many other Muslim countries like Malaysia and Turkey that inhabit all sects of Islam but you do not see any violence in the name of Sect there”.

Fehmi was asked: what Muslims could learn from Christians? She unhesitatingly stressed that Muslims should learn from Christians that art of selfless service. The service institution in education, health and social sectors rendered great service to nation building, she said, “personally I feel indebted to the Christian ethos for establishing the institutions of Hospital, Nursing, Caring. This is one of the biggest contribution of Christianity to the world and I bow my head in gratitude for this”.  However, as a feminist thinker, she found it strange that the Catholic Church do not allow ‘divorce’ of estranged couples. One sister student who has worked for long in the diocesan centre for counselling women in distress due marital conflicts explained in greater detail the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and a number of ways in which marital conflicts are handled in the Church. It is important to clarify issues. I listen with great joy how someone who knows the teachings of the Church well and have applied that in concrete situations are enhanced to present the teaching and practice of the Church on critical issues clearly and calmly. Knowledge and the wisdom that is gathered from applying the knowledge certainly equip one with the facility to help others to see the issues from a new angle.

One student asked: what aspect of Islam is misunderstood by Muslims themselves? Fehmi said Islam gives equal importance to both Worship (Ibadat) and Way of life, the way interacts with the other (Muamlaat).  One could say, Ibadat is how one connects with God and Muamlaat is how one connects with fellow human beings. Fehmi complained that her fellow Muslims give so much emphasis on Ibadat but forget about Muamlaat. She believes if the community lacks in Muamlaat that is the ideal, humane behaviour with fellow human beings, then Ibadat will remain futile. 

She further said that Muslims often forget the value attached to the Prophet’s behaviour and teachings (Sunnah), but simply imitate his actions bereft of the value that was the soul behind that particular action. As an example, she said the Prophet had dates and some water to break his fast. Dates were the most common and easily available food to him in the Arabian deserts. Now a Muslim sitting in Japan or Canada would insist upon breaking fast with Arabian dates only forgetting the Prophet’s idea of living within available means and not creating fuss about food at the time of breaking the fast. Some even insist that dates should be Arabian Dates only! Is it not too much! she exclaimed.

Another interesting question was: what aspects of Islam the way Muslim preachers are difficult to come to terms with? She noted that how “life-after” is preached in orthodox Muslim discourses unsettle her. Many Islamic preachers emphasize the notion of sexual pleasure with many heavenly maidens and wine to one’s heart content available in heaven. She asked if wine and sexual pleasure with many women is despicable in this world, how come, that becomes noble in the life-after?  Secondly, what are the rewards reserved for women in Jannah (paradise)? Finally, she gave emphasis to approach the authentic texts of Islam and also keep in mind the critique of Muslim Clergy that Islamic-Feminists are doing world over, and find your balance, she told the students.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/victor-edwin-sj,-new-age-islam/muslims-and-christians-can-learn-from-one-another/d/99182



  • Muslim Women’s reward in paradise

    We were asked this question a number of months ago and gave what we thought was a reasonable answer but it has now become clear that more explanation is needed. What was the question? What is the reward of Muslim women in paradise?

    Partly due to the inflated responses of some men, we have been compelled to write about this issue and I shall endeavor to clarify any misconceptions. Some men seem to think that it is absolutely fine to boast about the reward that they will get in paradise then put down any females by assuming that their reward is little. They say that they are going to get seventy two virgins and the woman will receive very little reward. A woman who asked us this question almost questioned if there was any reward for women in paradise. This came as a shock to us and we had to start to search to find answers.

    Ponder these Quranic passages:
    “Men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” (The Clans 33:35)

    “Whoever acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily we shall revive with a goodly life.” (The Bee 16:97)

    Gender has no relevance when striving for paradise. Also note that the women here are included in the vast reward. So what could we get in paradise? The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “In paradise there are things that no ear has heard, no eye has seen and no one could contemplate.” (Muslim 2825)

    “For men there is a share of what they earned, and for women, a share of what they earned. Pray to Allah for His grace.” (The Women 4.32)

    So women like their male counterparts will get their share of what they have strived for in the world and this will not be lost.

    “So, whoever does the smallest good act will see it.” (The Earthquake 99:7)

    What about in Paradise?

    “For them, with their Lord, there is what they wish. That is the reward of those who are good in their deeds.” (The Troops 39:34)

    We do not need to emphasise that this is for all the inhabitant of paradise; that they will have whatever they wish for and if they do not want something then it is their choice. It is your paradise and you can choose to have whatever you wish.

    It is also narrated that the believing women of paradise are superior to the maidens of paradise by seventy degrees. (Tafsir As-Sharbini Vol 4 p. 181)

    Note that in another hadith it states that if one of the maidens of paradise were to spit into the oceans that they would turn sweet. If this is the beauty of the maiden what then would be the beauty of the Muslim woman in paradise?

    Hut Full?

    They said that they will have a ‘hut of women’ and whatever their wills desire of carnal pleasures. They based their claim on this hadith:

    وقال عبد الله بن وهب: أخبرنا عمرو: أن دراجاً أبا السمح حدثه عن أبي الهيثم عن أبي سعيد عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال"أدنى أهل الجنة منزلة الذي له ثمانون ألف خادم، واثنتان وسبعون زوجة، وتنصب له قبة من لؤلؤ وزبرجد وياقوت كما بين الجابية وصنعاء "
    الترمذي من حديث عمرو بن الحارث به

    Abu Sa’eed narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The lowest station of the inhabitants of Paradise will attain eighty thousand servants, seventy two spouses and erected for him is a dome of pearls, chrysolite and ruby, similar to the distance between Al-Jabiyyah and San’a.” Narrated Imam At-Tirmidhi with a sound chain – Hassan Gharib.

    Whenever I get a question that confuses me I try to look at the original sources and then use this as a base for my answers. Now their claim is that men get this reward and not the women. My first problem is that the hadith says ‘Ahl Al-Janna’ which we have translated as the inhabitants of paradise. Does this not include women? It must and it must also include Jinn. Note the hadith is Hassan Gharib which is a hadith that has a sound chain but has come to us from two chains of narrators. The next problem is the word ‘zawjah’ or spouses, which has been translated as women. We can understand this but if you look towards the rules in Arabic for the use of the number seventy, which precedes it, what follows must be a feminine singular noun. This leads us to say that this hadith includes women and Jinn, for the above reasons, to have multiple partners in paradise.

    We can also examine the Quranic chapter the Heffer (2:25) which states, “They have purified partners, in there, and abide therein forever.” Partners (azawaj), as Zaynab Ansari rightly pointed out, is not gender specific.

    Final Remarks

    I would like to say this issue is somewhat a distraction to the concern that we should have which is what are we doing to make ourselves worthy of attaining it. That is what we shall be concerned with.

    It really annoys me when some men deem deen to be a ‘man’ thing and that the women should stay at home. This is one of the reasons why men are no longer what they used to be because we have no women who can teach them the religion! If there are facilities for women then use them and accommodate them because other groups will get them and then where would we be!

    So please brothers do not make Muslim women’s life harder by pointing out how many partners you will have and remember that they will have what they wish for as well. Paradise is for everyone and in paradise women will be rightly rewarded for putting up with us men!! Hmm, that reward could be endless if they are anything like me!

    I would like to finish this post with this hadith:

    Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) once said, "Whoever enters Heaven shall find comfort and no distress; his garments shall not grow threadbare, neither shall his youth ever come to an end. In Heaven there shall be that which no eyes has seen, no ear has heard and which has never occured to mortal mind."

    (Ibn Al-Mubarak, 512; Al-Bayhaqi, Ba'th from Remembrance of Death translation by Abdul Hakim Murad p.241)

    There is no distress, no pain, no sadness in Paradise.

    By Mamoon - 9/23/2014 6:45:58 AM

  • Women always pose many questions about their status and conditions in Paradise and about what is waiting for them there. So, I thought it would be useful if I compile all the relevant issues concerning this subject along with their authentic proofs from the Quran and Sunnah in addition to the opinions of reliable scholars to clarify the subject.

    It is permissible for women to ask about their reward in Paradise, as the human soul is fond of thinking about its destiny and future. The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), accepted such questions from his Companions. For example, they asked himabout the buildings of Paradise and he,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said:"It is built from bricks of gold and bricks of silver placed alternately…”
    They also asked him if they wouldhave intercourse with their women in Paradise andthe Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), told them that this would happen.
    Hearing about Paradise and its pleasures delights one’s heart and soul and there is no difference between men and women in this regard. In principle, this behavior is good as long as it is followed by righteous deeds. Allaah The Almighty Says to the believers (what means): {And that is Paradise which you are made to inherit for what you used to do.}[Quran 43:72]
    So, they were truly longing for Paradise, and they worked to fulfill this wish.
    Paradise and its pleasures are not for men alone; rather, it is {prepared for the righteous.} [Quran 3:133] The righteous here include men and women, as Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer -- those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged}[Quran 4:124]
    Women should not preoccupy themselves with inquiring about the details of their entering Paradise, what they will be doing there, where they will go, and so on. It is enough for every Muslim woman to know that once she enters Paradise, she will forget all the misery and hardships she ever faced, because her life in Paradise will be one of endless happiness.
    It is enough for the Muslim woman to know that Allaah The Almighty Says (what means):
    ·         {No fatigue will touch them therein, nor from it will they [ever] be removed.}[Quran15:48]
    ·         {Circulated among them will be plates and vessels of gold. And therein is whatever the souls desire and [what] delights the eyes, and you will abide therein eternally.}[Quran 43: 71]
    ·         {Allaah being pleased with them, and they with Him.}[Quran 5:119]
    All the pleasures of Paradise that Allaah The Almighty mentions in the Quran; such as kinds of food, beautiful scenes, houses, and clothes, will be equally for men and women. The only thing that is for men alone in Paradise is the Hoor (Maiden). Some women may inquire why women are not promised the same.
    The answer is summarized in the following points:
    • Allaah The Almighty {Is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.}[Quran 21:23]. Nonetheless, there is no harm if we attempt to find out the rationale based on the texts of Sharee‘ah and the principles of Islam.
    • It is known that women are shy by nature, thus, Allaah The Almighty did not motivate them with something that would embarrass them. 
    • Women’s longing for men is not as strong as men’s longing for women. That is why Allaah The Almighty motivates men by referring to the women of Paradise, as the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said: “I never left behind a temptation more harmful to men than women."[Al-Bukhaari] 
    • With regard to women, they long for adornment and jewels more than men, because they are naturally disposed for this, as Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {So is one brought up in ornaments…}[Quran 43:18]                                                          
    • Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “Allaah The Almighty mentioned the wives of Paradise because men naturally seek them, which is not the case with women. Therefore, Allaah did not refer to the husbands of women in Paradise, but this does not mean that they will have no husbands there; rather, they will have human husbands.”
    In this world, all women who will eventually go to Paradise fall under one of the following categories:
    • A woman who died before marriage
    • A woman who died after divorce and before a second remarriage
    • A married woman whose husband will not enter Paradise with her (may Allaah protect us)
    • A woman who died after marriage
    • A woman whose husband died and she remained unmarried until her death
    • A woman whose husband died and she married another one
    Each of these women has a special condition in Paradise:
    • A ‎woman who died before marriage: This woman will marry a man (male human) in Paradise, as the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said, “There will be no unmarried person in Paradise.”[Muslim] Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said, “If a woman died before marrying in this world, Allaah The Almighty will provide her with a husband who will delight her heart. Bliss in Paradise is equally for men and women, and it certainly includes marriage.”
    • The former condition also applies to the woman who died after divorce.
    • This also applies to the woman whose husband will not enter Paradise. Shaykh ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “If a woman entered Paradise without being married in this world, or married but her husband did not enter Paradise, Allaah The Almighty will provide her with a husband from among the unmarried men in Paradise.”
    • A woman who died after marriage ‎will be with her husband in ‎Paradise.
    • A woman whose husband died and she remained unmarried until her death, will also be with her husband in Paradise.
    • A woman whose husband died and she married another one, will be for the last husband regardless of their number, as the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention )said: “The woman will be for her last husband in Paradise.”[Al-Albaani]
    Huthayfah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said to his wife, “If you want to be with me in Paradise, do not marry anyone after my death. The woman will be for her last husband in Paradise, and that is why Allaah The Exalted forbade the wives of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) from marrying after his death, because they will be his wives in Paradise.”
    However, some people may wonder why the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), taught us to supplicate for dead women, saying: “O Allaah, provide her with a husband who is better than hers”, if it was true that the husband of the woman in this world will be her husband in the Hereafter.
    Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “If the dead woman was unmarried, then the meaning would be, ‘O Allaah, provide her with a husband better than the one she would have married if she had remained alive.’ With regard to the married woman, the meaning would be, ‘Provide her with her husband after improving his manners and attributes.’ This is because replacement means either replacing an entire item with another one or replacing the attributes of an item with other attributes. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {[It will be] on the Day the earth will be replaced by another earth, and the heavens [as well]} [Quran 14:48] The verse says that the earth and heavens will be replaced, while the earth itself will remain after being extended, and the heavens themselves will remain after being cloven.”
    In an authentic Hadeeth, the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said to women: “I have seen you constituting the majority of the dwellers of Hell …”In another Hadeeth, the Prophet, sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said: “The least in number among the dwellers of Paradise are women.”[Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
    However, it was narrated in another authentic Hadeeththat each man of this world will have two wives from this world in Paradise.
    Therefore, there are three opinions regarding the coordination between these Hadeeths, i.e., whether women will form the majority in Paradise or in Hell:
    • Women will form the majority of the dwellers of Paradise and Hell, because they outnumber men (Al-Qaadhi ‘Iyaadh).
    • Women will form the majority of the dwellers of Hell as proved by abovementioned Hadeeths, and they will also form the majority of the inhabitants of Paradise and outnumber men when they are added to the Hoor (ladies of Paradise).
    • Women will be the majority in Hell at the beginning, and then will form the majority in Paradise when the Muslim women leave Hell (after receiving the due punishment for their sins). Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him commented on the Hadeeth in which the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “I have seen you constituting the majority of the dwellers of Hell”saying, “This may apply to the time before intercession and mercy of Allaah The Almighty who will not leave anyone from those who had said, ‘There is none worthy of worship but Allaah’ in Hell.”
     What we want to stress here is that every Muslim woman should be keen not to be among the dwellers of Hell.
    Women who enter Paradise will be restored their youth and virginity, as the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ), said: “…Old women will not enter Paradise… when Allaah The Almighty admits them to Paradise, He will make them virgins.”
    According to some traditions, the women of this world in Paradise will be far more beautiful than the Hoorbecause they worshipped Allaah The Almighty.
    Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “It is prohibited for any man in Paradise to come near the wives of any other man therein.”
    Thus, Paradise has been adorned, waiting for women as well as men. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {In a seat of honor near a Sovereign, Perfect in Ability.}[Quran 54:55]
    Beware not to miss this opportunity, because one’s life in this world will soon end and nothing will be left except the eternal life; either in Hell or in Paradise. Endeavor to be among the dwellers of Paradise and know well that Paradise is obtained only through Faith and good deeds; rather than false hopes and negligence. Remember always that the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention )said: “If a woman prayed the five daily prayers, fasted the month of Ramadan, maintained her chastity and obeyed her husband, it would be said to her, 'Enter Paradise from whatever gate you like.'”
    Beware of the protagonists of dissolution and so-called ''women’s liberation'', because they want nothing but to spoil your morals and distract you from the bliss of Paradise. Do not let those dissolute writers and propagandists fool you, because Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {they wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike.}[Quran 4:98]

    By Mamoon - 9/23/2014 6:43:21 AM

  • I think joke of the year is best told with regard to the attitude of christians and service. 


    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.

    Christians are 99.% in nagaland and the fight is not to allow muslims or hindus there will tell the true colors of christian missionaries.  What they are doing is a diabolic demography war and i would say atleast isreal is open to accept but not the christian missionaries in india. 

    By satwa gunam - 9/21/2014 10:12:40 AM

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