Islamic Polygyny vs Western Mistresses

Once in a while I come across certain non-Muslims who love to pick on the topic of polygyny, having multiple wives at a time, in Islam.  And as expected, they attack the religion with it and try to show how degrading Islam is towards women by allowing him to be with more than one woman in a marriage.  However, if someone were to really think about this topic in detail, you would realize how hypocritical and misinformed the west is towards this particular issue.

Polygyny in Islam

There is no doubt that Islam allows up to four wives maximum at a time as evident by the following Qur’anic verse:

Marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one (An-Nisa 4:3)

As clarified by the verse above that the default is just one and more than that are permissible provided one can be just.  And contrary to popular belief, having more than four wives at a time is not permissible in Islam.  This is further evident due to a narration by Imam Ahmad in which he recorded that Ghilan bin Salamah Ath-Thaqafi had ten wives when he became Muslim, and the Prophet said to him, “Choose any four of them (and divorce the rest)” (Tafsir ibn Kathir). So, what is it mean to be just?  Well let’s look at how the prophet of Islam (pbuh) defined “just” as he is the ideal implementor of the Qur’an by unanimous agreement of all the scholars and Muslims.

Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever has two wives and favours one of them over the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides leaning.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1141), Abu Dawood (2133), al-Nasaa’i (3942) and Ibn Majaah (1969). Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb (no. 1949).

One of his wives, Aisha, said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not favour one of us over another with regard to division of his time and how long he stayed with us, and there was rarely a day when he did not go around to all of us, and he would draw close to each wife without having intercourse, until he reached the one whose day it was, then he would stay overnight with her. Narrated by Abu Dawood (2135); al-Albaani said in Saheeh Abi Dawood: (it is) hasan saheeh.

What the above narrations show is that a man should be able to treat them fairly with regard to spending, staying overnight and providing accommodation. If he knows that he is unable to do that or that it is most likely that he cannot do so, it is not permissible for him to marry more than one wife.  In Islam men are obligated to spend on their wife’s clothing, housing, food, medical expenses and Islamic education.  Even if she has her own job and makes more money than him, he has no right to demand anything from her of it except if she gives it to him out of her own free will without force.  Therefore, even if she is richer than him, he still has a duty and an obligation in Islam to spend on her basic living expenses without her needing to spend even a penny of her own wealth.  This is so important that once the the Prophet (pbuh) told a woman to refuse a proposal because the man was too poor:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advised Faatimah bint Qays, when Mu’aawiyah (may Allah be pleased with him) proposed to her, not to marry him. He said, “He is a pauper and has no money.” Narrated by Muslim, 1480.

So in Islam polygyny is not a form of womanizing but a great responsibility on the man.  He has to be able to make sure that he can treat them equally with justice especially when it comes to their basic living expenses.  And he must “live with them in kindness” (An-Nisa 4:19) as mentioned in the Qur’an.

Mistresses in the West

Every now and then there comes a news story of some public figure having affairs outside of their marriage.  These figures include political figures as well as entertainment stars.  Just like the recent Tiger Woods story where many voices in the west were calling to leave the story alone as this is his personal life and we should simply not get involved.

What is a mistress really?  What is her role in a married man’s life?  Generally, a mistress has no role whatsoever except a secret extramarital sexual relationship with the man.  He is not obligated to pay for her food, clothing, housing, medical expenses or take care of her in any form except what is necessary for him to continue or engage in the affair.  It is a relationship based purely on lust and desire and asks for no responsibility on his part towards this mistress.

Link Between the Two?

How is there a link between these two very opposite ways of life?  In the former case, the man is obligated to take care of her, provide for her and treat her with justice, fairness and live with her in kindness.  It demands a sense of responsibility towards his wives to the extent that if he thinks that he will not be able to do so, then he should marry just one woman.  In the latter case, the man is not obligated to take care of her, provide for her or even feel any need to be responsible for his mistress.  The relationship only demands the responsibility to be able to engage in the sexually exclusive affair without getting caught.  As evident to anyone with a rational mind, the two have completely opposite roles and goals.

Seeking Islamic Knowledge: Tips and Resources

  • The student should be mindful of his/her intention and try his/her hardest to make it for the sake of Allah alone and for His Pleasure.  Our main goal should always be to come closer to Allah through this knowledge and not to show off, be praised, debate or look down on others.  As the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever seeks knowledge in order to compete with the scholars, to prove himself superior to the ignorant, or to make the people look up to him, he is in the Fire” (al-Albani graded it authentic in ‘Sahih Ibn Majah’ (205)).
  • A student needs to have a sound approach to acquiring knowledge. His desire for knowledge should not let him get carried away collecting information randomly. This may afford him some measure of “culture”, but it does not lead to any real knowledge.  You want to make sure that you have a structured approach to seeking knowledge that brings benefit, result and moves you forward.
  • A student of religion should not indulge himself/herself into advanced or secondary issues until and unless he/she has learned the basic primary issues fully with comprehension.  The fundamentals of religion should be the first thing a student learns.
  • A student needs to focus first and foremost on learning the obligatory (wajib)duties in Islam before moving into the recommended (mustahab) duties.  Similarly, a student should focus first on the prohibited (haram) actions before indulging into the disliked (makruh) ones.
  • A student should hasten to learn that which the scholars agreed upon first and foremost before moving into that in which they differed.  Otherwise, it will only cause a student to be lost and confused.
  • A student of religious knowledge should take his knowledge from trustworthy scholars. He should sit before them in humility and show them courtesy and deference so he can learn from them both knowledge and proper conduct.
  • The first two things a student should focus on in the beginning of his quest are aqeedah and fiqh.  These two branches of Islamic knowledge are a result of all other sciences.  They are the goal of all the other sciences and are sought for their innate nature.  The other sciences are studied in order to arrive at the knowledge of aqeedah and fiqh.
  • A student should know that as with all sciences, in order to become proficient and have a strong comprehension of a subject, he/she will need to make time, be patient, be consistent, read numerously and listen (ideally attend) to lectures continuously from authentic and qualified sources.
  • A student should not start reading a new book in a particular science while still engaged in a previous book.  A good student first completely finishes one book and then moves on to a new book.  The student should try to focus his energy on thorough comprehension of the first book before moving forward.

Choosing a Teacher

Ibn Jama’ah said:

The student should look forth and consult Allah in regards to who to learn from, and he should seek to gain good manners and character from whoever he chooses. If he can, he should find one who is completely qualified to teach, concerned with his students, displays manhood, is known to be pure, has a good reputation, has a good teaching style, and is easily understood. The seeker of knowledge should not just seek out the one who is most knowledgeable, and who might lack caution, piety, and good manners. Some of the Salaf said: “This knowledge is religion. So, look who you take your religion from.”

You should also beware of restricting yourself to those who are famous, as al-Ghazzali and others counted this as arrogance towards knowledge, and considered it to be from the lowest of traits. This is because knowledge is the prize of the believer, and he should take it from wherever he finds it, and should take the blessing from whoever wants to give it to him. He runs from ignorance just as he runs from a lion, and the one running from a lion will accept help from whoever offers him a way to escape.

So, if one is not well-known and you can still expect good from him, he will be more beneficial and helpful. If you read about the lives of the Salaf, you will find that none of their students would benefit from a shaykh unless he had a fair share of taqwa, and his concern and advice to his students was a clear proof of him having this. Likewise, if you look through the various books, you’ll find that you gain more benefit from the author who has more taqwa and zuhd, and will spend more time reading and gaining from his books.

Make sure that your shaykh is fully aware of all of the Shar’i sciences, and is known to havestudied at length with the trustworthy scholars of his time, and did not merely study from the depths of the pages of a book. ash-Shafi’i said: “The rulings will slip away from whoever gains knowledge from the depths of books.” And some of them said: “From the greatest of tests is that one gains knowledge just from books.”

Ettiquettes of the Seeker of Knowledge, 54

We would like to conclude with advice from Shaykh Uthaymeen:

It is obligatory upon the student of knowledge to seek assistance from Allah, then from the people of knowledge, and seeking assistance from that which they have written in their books because confining oneself to sheer reading alone requires a lot of time, which is contrary to sitting with a scholar who explains and sheds light upon matters to him.

I am not saying he will not attain knowledge except by taking from the scholars, since a person is able to attain knowledge by reading and researching, however, in most cases if he does not persevere day and night and is not blessed with understanding, then he is liable to make many mistakes, and because of this it is said: One whose guide is his book, then his mistakes are more than his accuracies; having said this, in reality this is not always the case.

However, the most exemplary way is to take knowledge from the scholars.  I also advise the student of knowledge not to “grab” from every scholar knowledge of the same subject.  For example, to study fiqh with more than one scholar, since the scholars differ in their techniques of inference from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and they also differ in their opinions.  So assign yourself a scholar from whom you can take knowledge in fiqh or balaaghah (poetry) and the like, i.e. take knowledge in one subject from one scholar.  If the scholar has more than one field of knowledge, then continue with him, for if you took knowledge of fiqh for example from such-and-such and then such-and-such, and they differed in their opinions, what would be your position since you are still a student!?  Your position would be that of confusion and doubt!  However, your continuance with one scholar in a particular subject will lead to peace of mind, insha Allah.

The Book of Knowledge, 86-87

This can be done in the west by taking classes at your local mosques or online from a trusted shaykh (teacher), attending Islamic conferences, listening to audio/video lectures, attending Islamic institutions in the west, etc.  For those who are far away from scholars, they should refer to their commentaries, writings and audio formats (CDs, tapes, etc.).

Resources on How to Seek Knowledge


  1. Advice to Students of Knowledge by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  2. Creating and Sustaining North American Muslim Scholarship by Yasir Qadhi and Faraz Rabbani (video)
  3. Islam and Ego by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  4. Beyond Ilm Summit by Yasir Qadhi, Yasir Birjas, and Waleed Basyouni (video)
  5. Intellectual Humility by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  6. People of Pure Mind by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  7. Lofty Intentions: Having Noble Visions and Goals by Yasir Qadhi (video)


  1. Keeping it Real: Student of Knowledge Superstars by
  2. Classical Advices on Knowledge by
  3. Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know by


  1. The Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge by Salman Fahd al-Oadah
  2. Manners of the Knowledge Seeker by Muhammad Raslan
  3. How to Read the Books of the People of Knowledge by Saalih Aalush-Shaykh
  4. The Excellence of Knowledge: The Virtue of the Salaf Over the Khalaf by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
  5. Knowledge Mandates Action by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaaddee
  6. The Book of Knowledge by Imam An-Nasaa’i
  7. The Book of Knowledge by Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen

Islamic Studies Options in the West

Many young Muslim students in the United States who aspire to learn Islamic sciences have a strong desire to travel overseas in order to learn their religion.  However, for most of them it is not a possibility due to personal, work, or university obligations.  Many of them hold on to a false hope that they will eventually travel overseas to master the sciences of their religion and return as qualified Islamic da’ees or instructors.  This leads them to become lazy and neglectful to do anything to further their knowledge of the religion with the resources that are available in their lands.

Even though traveling to a Muslim country to learn from numerous Islamic scholars is probably the best option, it should not hinder a true student of knowledge from fulfilling his thirst for Islamic sciences if going abroad is not an option for him/her.  There have been many efforts made to make the goal of learning Islam easier for those Muslims who cannot travel overseas to study.

Following is a list of some options currently available (there may be others as well):

  1. Islamic Online University
  2. Bayyinah Institute
  3. Mishkah: Islamic University of North America
  4. Foundation for Knowledge & Development
  5. Jamaal Zarabozo’s Website
  6. American Open University
  7. Tooba University
  8. AlMaghrib Institute
  9. Knowledge International University
  10. Islamic University of Minnesota
  11. Arees Institute
  12. New Muslim Academy
  13. Zaytuna
  14. Al-Salam Institute

The Role of ‘Urf (Custom) in Islamic Law

Islamic law is primarily derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah according to the consensus of the Muslim scholars.  However, there is a difference of opinion among the scholars on how to approach issues that are not explicitly and directly mentioned in these two sources.  In other words, there is no indication from the Qur’an and Sunnah on how to approach the issue.  This opens the door for ijtihaad, for a highly qualified group of scholars, to give rulings on these issues based on principles derived from the two primary sources and to utilize secondary sources, as a form of tool, in deriving Islamic law.  The authority of these secondary sources in deriving Islamic law is disputed among the scholars.  Therefore, a scholar may reject a particular secondary source while accepting another and so on.  ‘Urf (Custom) is among these disputed secondary sources.  Mohammad Hashim Kamali defines ‘urf as “recurring practices that are acceptable to people of sound nature.”[1]  Hence, this definition will exclude “recurring practices among some people in which there is no benefit or which partake of prejudice and corruption.”[2]  One of the reasons for the scholars’ hesitancy in accepting ‘urf as a proof is because of its instability.  It can change based on time and place at any given period.  This means a ruling of Islamic law will not be constant but changing based on time and place.[3]  However, the scholars, in general, have adopted it in one form or another and have based rulings on it.

The Proof of ‘Urf

Mohammad Hashim Kamali states, “The Shari’ah has, in principle, accredited approved custom as a valid ground in the determination of its rules relating to halal and haram.”[4]  There is no explicit text in the Qur’an and Sunnah which tells us that ‘urf is allowed to be used as proof in Islamic law, however, we do have certain implications from the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions that show the permissibility of its usage.  For example, some of the companions used to practice a type of birth control popular in that period called ‘azl:

We used to practice coitus interruptus (‘azl) during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) while the Qur’an was being revealed.”[5]

This report signifies that the Prophet approved of this custom among those not wanting to have children.  For if it was wrong, Allah would have sent down a command through His Prophet prohibiting this practice in Islam.

At other times, Islam allowed a custom to be practiced but put conditions on it in order to bring “them into line with the principles of the Shari’ah.”  Slavery is an example of such a custom.  Before Islam, slaves were treated like animals and there was no compassion or value for them.  When Islam came into the picture, it allowed the custom of slavery to continue, though strongly encouraging to free them, but it put certain rules in place to regulate their treatment. For example, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said, “It is essential to feed the slave, clothe him (properly) and not burden him with work which is beyond his power.”[6]

There were also times in which Islam wanted to completely eradicate a particular custom.  In such instances, either Allah would send down a verse from the Qur’an or the Prophet (pbuh) would state a hadith prohibiting such custom.  An example of this is when Allah commanded His Messenger (pbuh) to marry the divorcee of his adopted son Zayd.  In the Arabian culture at that time, an adopted son was considered the same as a real son; hence, the father marrying his adopted son’s ex-wife was inconceivable.  However, Allah wanted to show that there is nothing wrong with this practice because they are not their blood relatives through the example of His Messenger (pbuh).  So, Allah sent down the following:

When Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. (Qur’an 33:37)

What all of the above shows us is that “The basic principle with regard to customs is that they are permissible, unless it is narrated in sharee’ah that they are forbidden”[7] or regulated.  And this is rightly so because in general, asking people to go against the custom, which neither constitutes oppression, corruption, lewdness, etc., is a form of hardship on them which is not one of the aims of Shari’ah as Allah stated in the Qur’an, “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (Qur’an 2:185)

Types of ‘Urf

‘Urf is divided into several categories and subcategories.

The first two categories are the general divisions which cover all other subcategories:

Approved or Valid Custom (al-‘urf al-sahih)–   “One which is observed by the people at large without there being any indication in the Shari’ah that it contravenes any of its principles.”[8]

Disapproved Custom (al-‘urf al-fasid) – “Also practiced by the people but there is evidence to show that it is repugnant to the principles of Shari’ah.”[9]

The approved custom category above is divided into two types:

Verbal (qawli) – “Consists of the general agreement of the people on the usage and meaning of words deployed for purposes other than their literal meaning.  As a result…the customary meaning tends to become dominant…the original or literal meaning is reduced to the status of an exception.”[10]  Examples of this are the words salah, zakah, hajj, etc.  They are understood based on their custom meanings and not their literal meanings.

Actual (fi’li) – “Consists of commonly recurrent practices that are accepted by the people.”[11]

The two categories above are each subdivided into two types:

General ‘Urf (al-‘urf al-‘aam) – “One which is prevalent everywhere and on which the people agree regardless of the passage of time.”[12]

Special ‘Urf (al-‘urf al-khaas) – “[It] is prevalent in a particular locality, profession or trade…it is not a requirement…that it be accepted by people everywhere.”[13]

Conditions of Valid ‘Urf

Mohammad Hashim Kamali lists four requirements for a valid form of ‘Urf from which Islamic law may be derived:[14]

  1. Custom must be a common and recurrent occurrence.  It must be dominant to the point that it is upheld in most of the cases to which it applies, otherwise, it does not hold any authority. Also, the practice of a few people in a large community is not sufficient; rather, it must be a regular occurrence among the masses.
  2. In contracts and commercial transactions, custom must still be in existence at the time of the conclusion of the transaction.
  3. Custom must not violate a clear stipulation of an agreement. Contractual agreements take preference over custom. Latter will only be resorted to in absence of the former.
  4. Custom must not go against the definitive principles (nass) of Islamic law.  If it does so, custom will be given no consideration.  In case “the custom opposes only certain aspects of the text, then custom is allowed to act as a limiting factor on the text.”[15]



Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2003.

[5] Bukhari Book 67, Hadith 142

[6] Muslim Book 27, Hadith 64


How Muslim Scholars Deal With Perceived Contradictions in Islamic Texts

Methodology of the Majority of Scholars of Islam

The perspective that guides each step of the process [for them] is maintaining the validity and viability of the evidence as far and as much as possible.

  1. Reconciling where possible – the justification is that the Lawgiver only provided the evidence in order to guide humanity to the rules He intends for them; therefore, to use all the evidence on an issue is preferable to rejecting some of it; and it is the best method for preserving the Shari’ah from charges of imperfection.  Therefore, if two seemingly contradictory pieces of evidence from the text can be understood in a way where both can be harmoniously followed, it is the first and most preferred way for the majority.
  2. Tarjih where possible – to give preponderance to one evidence over another, to consider it weightier. That is because the evidence which is overridden can be resurrected under changing circumstances; for example, the position that stoning the Jamaraat before the zenith during the Days of Tashreeq [at the pilgrimage to Mecca] is lawful, based upon the lack of stipulation of a specific time by the Lawgiver is worthy of resurrection in an era of intense crowding; whereas previously, precedence was given to the practice of the Prophet (pbuh), i.e., he stoned each day after the zenith.
  3. Naskh (Abrogation) – it comes after the first two choices above cannot be applied because the abrogated evidence is permanently disabled.  It is determined through chronology of the evidence.  The earlier text is abrogated by the later text.
  4. Disqualifying both pieces of evidence – it comes [as a] last [resort], because it causes the permanent loss of the two pieces of conflicting evidence. In such circumstances, one returns to the starting assumption (al-bara’ah al-asliyyah – everything is allowed unless evidence that it is prohibited [in worldly matters], there is no obligation unless there is evidence to indicate that it is so, etc.)

Methodology of the Hanafis

  1. Naskh – Unlike the majority, they turn to it first.  Their reasoning is that, if you know the date, you have to go with the later of the two  evidence.  They say that this was the practice of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh).
  2. Tarjih – When it is impossible to determine the dates of the evidence, they turn to tarjih. The argument they use to give it precedence over reconciliation is that all rational people agree that a weaker evidence cannot be treated on a par with a stronger evidence; therefore tarjih is warranted.  The majority’s response to the Hanafis: One compares the relative strength of two pieces of evidence to disqualify one of them when they conflict; but if it can be shown that they do not conflict, then there is no need for that.
  3. Reconciliation – Same concept as discussed in the section of the majority
  4. Disqualifying both pieces of evidence – Same concept as discussed in the section of the majority

Methodology of Some Hadith Scholars

  1. Reconciliation
  2. Naskh
  3. Tarjih
  4. Disqualifying both pieces of evidence

Above is what I gathered from the notes of Sh. Riaz Ansary that he provided to us during a lecture on Usul-ul-Fiqh (Fundamentals of Islamic Jurisprudence) at IOU.  I found it quite enlightening and thought it would be useful for many students of this sacred knowledge.  What shows above are his notes (mostly) and a few of my own comments where I felt clarification was needed.

How Islamic Insurance Works – The Thinking Muslim

The discussion below is in two parts. First part briefly discusses the Islamic concept of insurance and the second briefly highlights why commercial insurance is forbidden in Islam. There is also a good discussion of Islamic Insurance here.

Part 1 – Islamic Concept of Insurance

Source: Economic Doctrines of Islam by Afzal-ur-Rahman, p. 147-149

The basis of insurance in its original form seems to be the spirit of self-help and mutual security against a common danger. People organised such institution or groups to protect the interests of their members from any danger or loss. It signifies a feeling of self-help and mutuality among the members. All the members co-operate in safe-guarding the interests of its individual members. If any individual member is faced with a calamity beyond his means, all the members contribute to meet his loss. It is organised from within and not from outside as in case of commercial insurance.

It is formed to cover its members for specific risks which arise out of some trade or profession. There is no profit motive at all. The policy-holders are themselves the organisers, controllers and managers of the entire business of the association. They distribute the loss of a member inflicted with any calamity among all the members and make no profit. It is thus organised by the members, who are also the policy-holders, on a non-profit basis.

A mutual insurance society may be defined as an unrestricted union formed by the insured themselves who undertake to pay, on an agreed scale, periodical contributions for the purpose of covering losses sustained by some of them in the cases of stipulated future contingencies, such losses being pre-rated periodically among all members.

The term mutuality is used in two senses, “first, as a method of distribution of income, and second, as a method of joint guarantee. In the first sense, it deals with the distribution of income over a given period of time. Pure mutuality affects such a transfer of income between the members in each year.” Pigou says, “that the deviation of collective consumption in each year from average collective consumption is spread evenly among them. By saving collectively instead of individually, a group of people can greatly lessen the amount of saving that is required, in order to reduce the variability of the representative man’s consumption in any given degree.”

In the second sense it is used as a method of joint guarantee against loss of any of its members. “The members of a group guarantee jointly that if any of them suffers a disaster, he will receive a certain sum of money to help him to meet the loss.” The mutuality theory has taken stock of the fact that in its early stage insurance was organised to a great extent on a mutual and semi-mutual basis. This theory emphasises the social value of insurance and defines it “as a brotherhood of men who unite against the all-destroying effects of the unfettered forces of nature.”

The few writers of the Utilitarian School, who devoted some attention to insurance, came very near the definition of the mutuality theory. They thought that the great advantage of insurance lay in the fact that “when applied in its natural and most common way, it considerably alleviates the misery of mankind”. The gratification of human needs and wants can, to a great extent, be fostered by insurance, which they describe as “a kind of hedging against extreme misfortune by an agreement between a certain numbers of persons, namely those who take policies in the same office, that those who are fortunate shall support those who are unfortunate.”

Commercial insurance as practiced in modern times is totally different from normal or co-operative insurance in many respects. Firstly, it is organised by members of an outside party who are not themselves the policy-holders. Secondly, it is not controlled by the insured, thirdly, there is no conscious or active participation by the insured, fourthly, the risk is transferred to an outside group of persons and is not shared by the insured, fifthly, there is no self-help or humanitarian nature in it, sixthly there is no element of mutuality and co-operation in this form of insurance; and seventhly, there is “nothing of a collective nature because the combination and offsetting of risks by the underwriters concerns only the insurer and not the insured”.

It seems, therefore, unreasonable to emphasise the existence of mutuality or conscious participation in commercial insurance. It is different form of insurance and does not possess the basic elements of co-operative or mutual insurance. “How can all forms of insurance be mutual when this mutual character is actually unknown to the insurer and insured? What is the value of an economic interdependence between all the insured, and between the insured and the insurer, of which neither of them is aware? Such unconscious mutuality is of no use or value because it finds no manifestation in economic action. Only where it becomes a conscious expression of organised co-operative or mutual effort, only when it is expressed in a new form of social organisation, only then can mutuality become a real force in insurance and in other spheres of human economic activities.”

Part 2 – Why Commercial Insurance is Forbidden in Islam

Source: Economic Doctrines of Islam by Afzal-ur-Rahman, p. 140-141

Modern commercial/conventional insurance is prohibited because it consists of four unlawful elements:

Interest (Riba)

Riba is present in the commercial insurance business in all stages of its business, from the calculation of the premium to the compensation to the sufferer of a calamity. The entire funds of the insurance company are invested in fixed-earning (i.e., interest) investments and all the benefits paid to the insurees who have suffered a peril contain an element of riba. There is no denying the act that most, if not all, of the earnings, of the insurance company come from interest. On average, insurance companies invest over two-thirds of their funds in fixed-interest stock and about 11 percent in property, most of which bring interest.

Gambling (Qimar)

The entire basis of the insurance contract is on the happening of an uncertain event which may happen or may not happen at all. It is exactly like betting or lottery. The nature of premium money in commercial insurance is exactly like the stake money in gambling or betting. Likewise, the amount of compensation is as illusive as premium money. In spite of great progress in the science of statistics and the theory of numbers, the element of probability (i.e. gambling) cannot be eliminated from commercial insurance. Calculations in gambling are based almost on the same principle as in commercial insurance in order to ensure profits for the house (or bank). And insurance company, like the house in gambling, is rarely the loser.

Furthermore, insurable interest has and will always remain an enigma, especially in life insurance or the insurers as well as for the insurees. The nature of insurable interest will always present problems of the same kind as gambling or wagering.

Many eminent economists do agree with the view that commercial insurance is a form of gambling. And gambling is clearly prohibited in the text of the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, and all Muslim jurists are also in full agreement about this.

Uncertainty (Gharar)

The element of Garar (risk probability leading to uncertainty of the final outcome of the insurance contract) is very dominant in commercial insurance. This risk probability is present in the total business of commercial insurance involving premiums, indemnity and the insurable interest. The element of doubt and uncertainty will always over shadow these variables because their fate is finally dependent on events which may or may not happen. If the event happens, the nature and extent of the damage has to be estimated.

Thus, both the parties in the contract are totally in the dark with regard to their obligation and liabilities to each other owing to the uncertain nature of the risk. The presence of an element of Garar therefore is evident in insurance business.

Ignorance (Juhala)

The insurance contract also contains an element of Juhala. As explained under Garar, the element of uncertainty is also very predominant in the commercial insurance business. As the basis of the insurance contract is the probable peril which cannot be predicted an element of uncertainly is unavoidable. No amount of progress and development in the science of statistics or theory of probability can assure us that the nature and extent of the peril is determinable before the happening of the event.

Again, an element of unspecified quantity both in respect to premiums and compensation is present in the insurance contract. The nature of insurance business is such that the element of uncertainty is indispensable and cannot be avoided under any circumstances. Thus it can be said that all the four unlawful elements prohibited by the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet i.e. riba, qimar or maiser, garar and juhala are present in the insurance contract.

In addition, elements of exploitation and unfair dealings are also present in the commercial insurance business. As has been explained earlier, there is plenty of evidence that suggests considerable exploitation and unfair play in the business of commercial insurance.

Studying Islamic Sciences in Western Universities Not a Good Idea – Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Some Muslims, wanting to understand their faith and increase their spirituality, enroll in Islamic studies courses in Western universities. Dr. Yasir Qadhi, who has studied Islamic sciences both in the Eastern and Western institutions explains why one should be cautious of taking such a step.

Lowering the Gaze: An Example of How Islamic Law Coincides With Human Nature (Fitrah)

Islam is the religion of the fitrah, which is often translated as natural disposition, nature, or innateness. In other words, Allah sent down a religion which conforms to our nature in which we are created. It is compatible with it and does not contradict it. He did not send us a religion which goes against our fitrah. As Allah Says in the Qur’an [meaning of which is]:

So stand firm and true in your devotion to the religion. This is the natural disposition [fitrah] Allah instilled in mankind – there is no altering Allah’s creation – and this is the right religion, though most people do not realize it. [Qur’an 30:30]

And it is reported in a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“No child is born except on Al-Fitrah and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian, as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?” [Bukhari]

There is an excellent explanation of this hadith provided by Dr. Yasir Qadhi here.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is also reported to have said:

“Five practices are characteristics of the Fitrah: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, clipping the nails and cutting the mustaches short.” [Bukhari]

All of Islamic laws and guidelines conform to our natural disposition whether we understand them or not. They somehow benefit us in one way or another. Sometimes Allah in the Qur’an or a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explicitly mentions this benefit but many times they do not. The scholars in later times took it upon themselves to try and explain the wisdom behind some of the rulings. This topic is often studied under Maqaasid Shari’ah [the objectives of Islamic law]. At the end of the day, these are just opinions on their part, hence, it is not uncommon to find differences among them.

Not everything in our nature is positive or beneficial. For example, it is quite natural to be angry but it does not mean that we should not try to control it. Therefore, Islam encourages restraining our anger and not letting it get out of hand. Similarly, it is natural for us to have desires for worldly possessions, but Islam encourages keeping them under control and not letting them become the sole purpose of our lives at the expense of the afterlife. Our Creator understands our nature, thus, He sent us a religion with some rulings which are there to diminish the negative and harmful aspects of our nature. At the same time, He made certain other rulings in the religion which enhance the positive and beneficial aspects of our nature. For example, being generous, kind, merciful, desiring justice, etc. are all natural things in human beings and Allah encourages us to expand these attributes. It is no wonder that some Muslim scholars concluded that the whole purpose of the Divine law is to keep away harm and bring benefit.

Among the things in Islamic law which is quite controversial in our times but conforms to our fitrah is the issue of women’s bodies and how they influence men. It is well known that in Islam, there are more restrictions on the woman’s dress than that of a man, however, there are more restrictions on men’s gazes than that of women. Islamic law is far more stricter on men lowering their gazes in front of women who are not their wives nor their immediate relatives [sister, mother, daughter, etc.], especially if they find them attractive, than it is on women. For example, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said:

“O young men! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.” [Bukhari]

In another hadith, it is reported by the companion Jarir that:

I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about an accidental glance (on a woman). He (pbuh) said “Turn away your gaze [from her].” [Abu Dawud]

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised Ali, his son in law, that:

“O Ali, do not follow the first look [at a woman] with another. There is no blame on you for the first but you have no right to the second.” [Abu Dawud]

The meaning above is that he should immediately look away as soon as he realizes that he’s looking directly at her. Of course, there are exception to this in Islamic law. For example, looking at a potential spouse before marriage, addressing a crowd of people which include women, helping a sick or injured woman, identification, brief glances without intending to look when talking directly to a specific woman, etc. are all exceptions to the general rule. General glances that take place throughout the day without intending to look, such as, when walking down the street, market, etc. are also exceptions due to necessity. The point is that a Muslim man should not look towards a woman who is not his wife nor an immediate relative without necessity.

An incident is reported in another hadith when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) happened to pass by a group of men sitting on the road talking. One of the people sitting in that group reports:

While we were sitting in front of the houses and talking amongst ourselves, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) happened to come there. He stood by us and said: “What about you and your meetings on the paths? Avoid these meetings on the paths.” We said: “We were sitting here without (any intention of doing harm to the passers-by) ; we are sitting to discuss matters and to hold conversation amongst ourselves.” Thereupon he said: “If there is no help (for you but to sit on these paths), then give the paths their rights and these are lowering of the gaze, exchanging of greetings and good conversation.” [Muslim]

This issue even comes up in the Qur’an when Allah Says [meaning of which is]:

“Tell the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their private parts: that is purer for them. Allah is well aware of everything they do. [Qur’an 24:30]

Then immediately in the next verse, Allah Says [meaning of which is]:

“And tell believing women that they should lower their gazes, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what [it is acceptable] to reveal; they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines and not reveal their charms except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their womenfolk…” [Qur’an 24:31]

It is interesting to note here that Allah first addresses the men and then the women. Since men naturally are visual and easily aroused by women, especially if she is naked or barely clothed, they are encouraged to lower their gazes to diminish this negative aspect of their nature. At the same time, women are encouraged to cover themselves in front of men also in order to diminish the harm caused by this natural phenomenon. Some scholars also argued that not lowering the gaze from unnecessary glances can spiritually corrupt the heart.

I came across a short video online done by a non-Muslim organization which I found very informative. It argues that men are much more visual and easily aroused by seeing women than vice versa. It is purely natural, the video argues. It is very well done and proves to us that the reasoning behind Allah’s ruling of covering for women and lowering of men’s gazes has a lot to do with our fitrah.

This does not mean, however, that it is acceptable for men to sexually harass or ill treat women who do not dress according to Islamic law. Men are commanded to control themselves and they cannot blame their harassment on the woman. Ludicrous statements such as “she was asking for it” are completely unacceptable. The man is responsible for his own action and the woman her own in front of Allah on the day of judgement. Therefore, whether a woman is dressed appropriately or not is not our concern. We as men have to do our part in following the commands of Allah to the best of our ability and treating others respectfully and kindly even if they are wrong is a virtue in Islam.

Here is the video:

Instilling Islamic Values into Muslim Children

I was at the masjid today before Fajr and I observed that some of the fathers had brought their children with them throughout the whole night. There was one particular sight which caught my attention. There was one father who had assigned his son pages from the Qur’an to read during the last part of the night. Even though I could tell that his son was tired and sleepy, nevertheless, he sat in the corner of the masjid quietly reading his father’s assigned pages. I found this as a beautiful thing because this father was literally applying the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) about waking up the family to worship the last 10 nights of Ramadan.

These are some of the best ways to instill strong Islamic values into your children. By making your children experience Islam through acts of worship leaves a deep impact on the child. I know one other father who drags his son to Fajr and Isha prayers almost every single day. I’ve seen with my own eyes his son sometimes is half asleep but his father still drags him out of bed to bring him to the masjid to pray Fajr. He is connecting him to his faith and the Muslim community. And this kid has one of the most gentle personalities I’ve ever seen. Some people may see this as a little too strict, but many kids react the same way when they’re awakened for school. I certainly used to be. So isn’t that a bit too strict as well?

The point being that we need to set our priorities straight. Just as we wake our kids up everyday and force them to go to school so that they can have a better future, similarly, we should enforce religious values into our children at a young age so that they can have a better future and afterlife. Unfortunately, most Muslim parents pass on baseless superstitions that have no textual evidences in our religion. Worst of all, they pass this off as “Islam” to their children. So things which are clear as day, such as the five daily prayers, are neglected while made up superstitions are passed on as religion.

I’ve also observed that in most cases sons tend to be, more or less, a reflection of their fathers, whereas, daughters tend to be a reflection of their mothers. So if the the father is religiously apathetic, then in many cases the son follows suit. Similarly, if the mother is apathetic, then so is the daughter. Of course, there are always exceptions to this general rule. Children learn best by example not lecturing. Fathers should do their best to be the best role models for their sons not just in the worldly sense but also in spirituality and religiosity. The same goes for the mothers for their daughters and of course both spouses should support and help each other. Kids grow very fast and you do not want to lose that window of opportunity to instill proper moral and religious values into your children. After a certain age, your kids are not really going to care what you have to say. So teach them proper religious values and practices while they still care and internalize what you have to say.

May Allah grant us righteous children and family members.

And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein.” [Qur’an 20:132]

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” [Qur’an 66:6]

Origin of the Idea of Rejecting the Islamic Veil As a Religious Obligation

Following is an excerpt from our much larger essay entitled: Evidences for the Obligation of a Muslim Woman’s Headscarf (Khimar) & Outer Garment (Jilbaab).

If there has always been a consensus over the obligation of a Muslim woman’s headscarf (khimar) and outer garment (jilbaab), then where does the idea of rejecting the Islamic veil as a religious obligation come from among some Muslims? It seems to have two root causes for its existence. First, during the reign of Western imperialism in Muslim lands, they used to look down on the practice of veiling for Muslim women and thought it should be abolished (Campo 2009, 297). Second, some Muslims, who had developed a sort of inferiority complex towards the West, thought it would be wise to adopt Western ideals in order to achieve the same success as their colonial rulers (Ahmed 1992, 148). Thus, it was an imported idea brought in Muslim lands from the outside in the 19th and 20th centuries.

During colonialism, in order to justify the practice of conquering other lands, they would dehumanize the inhabitants of those lands and would argue that their inferior practices demand control of their lands. Juan E. Campo, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, writes, “Non-Muslim imperialists often used hijab as an example of the “inferiority” of nations they wished to conquer, claiming it was a discriminatory practice that should be abolished” (Campo 2009, 297). The colonial powers felt that such practices were one of the main reasons that Muslims were so backwards and that if only such customs “were cast off could Muslim societies begin to move forward on the path of civilization” (Ahmed 1992, 152). Thus, they began to view themselves as the liberators of these degraded women. Even Christian missionaries opined that “Muslim women needed to be rescued by their Christian sisters from the “ignorance and degradation” in which they existed, and converted to Christianity” (Ahmed 1992, 154).

The colonials saw their own ways of life as superior to their conquered subjects. In their minds, the “Victorian womanhood and mores with respect to women, along with other aspects of society at the colonial center, were regarded as the ideal and measure of civilization” (Ahmed 1992, 151). Missionary school teachers would encourage their Muslim female students to defy their parents and abandon the veil. One of these missionaries “openly advocated targeting women” because they mold future generations (Ahmed 1992, 154). Since that time [and even before that during the crusades], the idea of Muslims, as a civilization, oppressing and degrading women have carried on until today even though it was originally developed to justify Western colonization and to eradicate cultures of the conquered in favor of the conqueror’s.

Perhaps all this is what led to Turkey and Iran in early 20th century, as supporters of Westernization, to ban the hijab “as a symbolic way of demonstrating that their nations were modern and progressive” (Campo 2009, 297-98). This is because the Muslim political leaders of these nations “had accepted and internalized the Western discourse” (Ahmed 1992, 168). However, these “reforms” did not last very long especially for Iran. As Leila Ahmed, an Egyptian American writer on Islam and Islamic feminism, argues, “reforms pursued in a native idiom and not in terms of the appropriation of the ways of other cultures would have been more intelligible and persuasive” (Ahmed 1992, 168).

Qasim Amin (1863-1908)

The very first documented Muslim that this author could find who openly rejected the Islamic veil as a religious obligation for Muslim women was the Egyptian French-educated lawyer Qasim Amin. He was not a religiously trained scholar but a Western educated judge. He is often considered the first Arab feminist (Boles & Hoeveler 2004, 38). In 1899, he published his highly controversial book Tahrir al-Mar’a (The Liberation of Women) in which he argued that “Islam did not require women to veil and that veiling and seclusion had kept women from enjoying the rights Islam granted them” (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 15). He also advocated in the book education for girls and reform in polygamy and divorce laws. More than thirty books were written in response to his book criticizing his arguments (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 15). This may be because he attacks in it many aspects of Egyptian life and culture, but his “demand that was most vehemently and widely denounced was his call for an end to segregation and veiling” (Ahmed 1992, 160). His praise in it is only for the Europeans. This work of his is widely regarded as the beginning of feminism in Arab culture (Ahmed 1992, 145).

The question is where did Amin get this anti-veiling idea? There seem to be two factors which may have influenced his conclusion. Firstly, it is well accepted that Amin had a Eurocentric bias and supported the British occupation. Many of his arguments in his controversial book were the exact same used by European settlers and missionaries leading to a rumor at the time that he had written it due to the urging of Lord Cromer, British administrator and diplomat who ruled Egypt for 24 years as an agent and consul general (Ahmed 1992, 159). Perhaps after years of enduring colonial propaganda on the oppression of women in Islam especially with regards to veiling and segregation, he may have internalized these arguments and accepted them to be true due to his own inferiority complex. In fact, academic scholars today “criticize Amin’s Eurocentric bias in that he accepted the superiority of Western civilization and expressed contempt for Muslim society and Egyptian women in particular” (Boles & Hoeveler 2004, 38).

Princess Nazli Fazl (1853-1913)

Secondly, an Egyptian princess by the name of Nazli Fazl may have influenced his thinking as well. She also had a Western education, which she completed in Great Britain and France (Talhami 2013, 117). She is accredited with reviving the tradition of the literary salon in the Arab world. She hosted them from the 1880s until her death in 1913-14. She used to host them in her palace in Cairo. In these salons, the attendees “debated Egypt’s social and political crisis, as well as holding discussions on leading Arabic and European books of the day” (Talhami 2013, 117). Her salons were attended by some of the leading personalities of her day, such as, Muhammad Abuh, Jamal al-Din Afghani, and of course Qasim Amin. However, these were not attended by Egyptian women, rather, it was just “statesmen, politicians, writers, journalists, and intellectuals, both Egyptian and European” (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 143). It is said that “her input into these conversations influenced Amin’s seminal work, The Liberation of Women” (Talhami 2013, 117). It is highly likely that it was a combination of both of the above mentioned factors.

Amin’s book and the controversy that followed it led to some women, who were frustrated with certain aspects of Egyptian society towards women, to hold their own salons. One of the first of these women were Eugénie Le Brun, who was a French convert married to an Egyptian landowner and future politician Hussein Rushdi Pasha. Le Brun had been conducting her salons even before Amin’s book but its publication “further stimulated their efforts” (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 19). Moreover, her salon was open to regular Egyptian women in Cairo (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 143). Having grown up abroad as a feminist, she carried the European understanding of the veil into her conversion. For example, she “earnestly inducted young Muslim women into the European understanding of the meaning of the veil and the need to cast it off as the essential first step in the struggle for female liberation” (Ahmed 1992, 154).

Huda Sha’arawi (1879-1947)

Le Brun’s gatherings were highly influential and one of her regular attendees and a close friend was Huda Sha’arawi. She had an immense influence on Sha’arawi, who many years later after Le Brun’s death would publicly take off the veil in Egypt at a train station in 1923 after returning from an international feminist meeting in Rome (Shaarawi & Badran 2015, 5). This one act from Sha’arawi “began a radical activist phase of the movement” (Boles & Hoeveler 2004, 295) and “within a decade of Huda’s act of defiance, few women still chose to wear the veil” (Engel 2012). Sha’arawi also mentored Aminah Said, who was much more radically opposed to the veil (Talhami 2013, 286). When we reflect over all of the above, then perhaps Aduwig Adamec in his Historical Dictionary of Islam put it best:

“As a result of Westernization, women began to appear on the streets without a veil, and modernizing [Muslim] reformers tried with varying success to abolish the veil. The Islam revival, beginning in the 1970s led to the adoption of the ‘Islamic’ dress as a political statement in many parts of the Islamic world and even among Muslims in the West” (Adamec 2001, 115).

In conclusion, the concept of rejection of the obligation of the Islamic veil for Muslim women was imported from the imperialists reigning over the Muslim world. Some of the Muslims in Egypt, who were influenced by Western education, achievements and lifestyles, began to accept criticisms against the veil from their European rulers. This eventually led to a debate over the issue within Muslim society, especially after Qasim Amin’s book. The result was that the idea of it not being a religious obligation became well accepted among certain crowds until today. The idea began in Egypt but eventually spread throughout the Muslim world. What is interesting to note is that many of the arguments used against the Islamic veil have not changed since the colonial times. This author has heard some of them verbatim from Muslim liberals and non-Muslims.


Adamec, L.W., 2001. Historical Dictionary of Islam, Lanham  Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Ahmed, L., 1992. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Boles, J.K. & Hoeveler, D.L., 2004. Historical Dictionary of Feminism 2. ed., Lanham Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Campo, J.E., 2009. Encyclopedia of Islam. New York: Checkmark Book.

Engel, K., 2012. Huda Shaarawi, Egyptian feminist & activist. Amazing Women in History. Available at: [Accessed May 26, 2016].

Sha’arawi, H. & Badran, M., 2015. Harem Years the Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924, New York : The Feminist Press at CUNY.

Talhami, G.H., 2013. Historical Dictionary of Women in the Middle East and North Africa, Lanham Md.: Scarecrow Press.