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Family Questions & Answers

Find answers to your questions about family life, dating, marriage and parenting. 

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Speed dating

Q There are a number of speed dating programmes set up for Muslim professionals. Is this something that is allowed in Islam?

The answer is yes but within certain limits. Within Islam there is no fixed way of finding a spouse. The reason why I think programmes like speed-dating have become popular within Muslim communities is because the traditional methods like arranged marriages are not working as well in a country like Britain.

Dating, however, with no intention of marriage is frowned upon within Islam because this might lead to promiscuity.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

I think the important point in all of this is that you've got to do your homework before launching into it. It is important to get to know the other side thoroughly and this is where I think the arranged marriage is quite good, where your parents and family get involved.

I'm not sure if speed dating is the best way to get to know your future partner properly and in some cases could be too fast.

Answered by: Dr. Musharraf Hussain

You need scholars to back up the project, decide the framework, and to supervise it. I was a supervisor for one of these projects a couple of times and it worked well, I was very keen to make it happen in the right way. Through supervising, you can tell people about the concept behind it and that it's in a safe environment.

At a couple of events which I have attended people were accompanied by the parents, which added to the feeling of security. It's not something fishy, it's something which is needed in the community. We need to open up new links, new ways to find the right match, but it has to be in an Islamic way.

Marriage is the first cell of your community, the husband and wife, then family, then community, then the whole country. This concept is encouraged and supported by many verses and by the Sunnah. In this day and age it is difficult to find the right partner. The traditional way of organizing a marriage isn't always suited to our time today. The older generation want the younger to continue the same practice they had fifty years ago - in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, or elsewhere - with a particular kind of arranged marriage. It would rarely work here.

Answered by: Shaykh Haytham Tamim

I believe that Islam would permit for the arranging and meeting, in a controlled environment, between two individuals who have the intention of getting married. However this has to be done under strict supervision with no room for any incorrect acts to take place. If they are engaging for reasons other than marriage then that would not be permitted.

It's recommended that a mahram, a guardian, is present but not an absolute condition, as there are other people at the event.

Islam teaches that when an individual reaches the age of marriage then one should not delay getting married if they have the means to do so. The Blessed Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) said that a man marries a woman for four reasons: for her wealth, for her beauty, for her family status and for her religion. He recommended choosing one who is religiously inclined so that one can be happy and prosperous in life. If the other three qualities are present in the woman then good but otherwise one should not be worried too much.

Answered by: Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

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Chaperones

Q When meeting a potential marriage partner, are Muslims required to have a chaperone or can they meet in private?

In a modern British context, it is fine for men and women to meet in a public place, such as a café for instance, without a chaperone.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

If a man and a woman meet in a public place then there is no need for a chaperone - Islam has no objection to this. So it's fine if the meeting takes place at a university or café but we must be aware of the purity of the intention.

Being open with your parents is also important, especially if you decide to take it forward - this can minimise a lot of hassle and heart-ache. Ultimately, it has to be within the right frame, the right space and place. However the customs and traditions of community should also be taken into consideration so that the reputation of both the male and female are not ruined.

The Islamic way of finding a partner ensures that the female is always protected and given security, and so she is not taken advantage of.

Answered by: Shaykh Haytham Tamim

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Refusing offers of marriage

Q Can women refuse offers of marriage against the wishes of her parents?

You can say no to your parents. They should definitely advise as they will have more experience but they can’t force their children into marriage. Parents should always be respected but you should only marry someone of your own free choice.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

Yes absolutely. This is one of the conditions of marriage - without the consent or permission of the bride and bridegroom there can be no marriage.

Answered by: Dr. Musharraf Hussain

A traditional arranged marriage will be proposed by the parents but the woman should have freely given her consent before the marriage can go ahead. Her parents can make recommendations, but the final decision should be hers.

Forced marriages are however forbidden for both women and men. During the time of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh a young woman called Khansa came to the Prophet to ask his advice. She said: ‘My father is trying to get me to marry someone against my will’. Taking the Prophet’s advice she refused to marry and highlighted the right of women to choose their husband in Islam. It was a very courageous act and was supported by the Prophet.

I recently replied to a long email from a woman suffering in her marriage, which she had been forced into 15 years ago. She said ‘I love Islam, but I don’t want to dislike my Lord because of the practices of people – is what they are doing really Islamic?’ I replied that in fact this is a cultural practice that has been wrapped in an Islamic wrapper. All the packaging is supposedly Islamic but I can open it up and show you that inside it’s fake. These things have nothing to do with Islam, as Islam respects your choice.

Answered by: Shaykh Haytham Tamim

Islam teaches that we should be obedient to our parents; we should honour and respect them, especially when they tell us to do something that is lawful. Islam also says that if our parents or others tell us to do something that is haram, we don't have to obey even our parents.

When it comes to a marriage partner we have every right to let our parents know of our approval or disapproval. If we disapprove of the choice, we should do it for good reasons not just because it is our parents who have chosen that partner. If you feel that the individual is not religious enough and therefore will harm your own religious chasteness or if you are aware that they are involved in bad habits and they are not showing any signs of changing themselves then these are valid reasons to disagree with your parents.

But at no point should you feel obliged to go ahead with a marriage if you are not happy because it is your right to be happy with your marriage partner and no one should force you to marry someone you don't want to marry.

Answered by: Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

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Circumcision

Q Is circumcision for boys compulsory in Islam?

The jurists differ on whether it is compulsory or highly recommended. It is a tradition following on from the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the Old Testament the prophet Abraham was circumcised at the age of 80 years old.

I think there is no reason why newborn babies shouldn't be circumcised, but it is not obligatory for male converts. Although not obligatory (especially for adult male converts) it is highly recommended.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

It is regarded as the sunnah al fitra, the natural lifecycle, and the sunnah of the profit Ibrahim, and we as Muslims also follow that sunnah, that life-pattern. We would say that it is 'highly recommended'.

Answered by: Dr. Musharraf Hussain

Circumcision for boys is a sunnah of all the messengers of Allah. The blessed messenger Muhammad (pbuh) said that there are ten things that people do that are the natural things to do and one of them is for male children to be circumcised. It is not obligatory but it is a strongly emphasised sunnah. Adults who revert to Islam are not required to have circumcision. But if they are able to have it done then they would be practising an important sunnah. They will not be sinful if they do not.

Answered by: Shaykh Haytham Tamim

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Parental responsibilities

Q What are the main responsibilities of being a parent?

Bring your children up well with a good education as well as teaching good values. A good spiritual upbringing is also important, as is learning the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood. It is also important to teach our children how to respect people and not harm them.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

The first and foremost responsibility is to take care of the physical, personal, moral and spiritual needs of your child. Every child has these needs and it is very interesting that the law makes it compulsory in schools to make sure they provide all those needs; the personal, moral, social, spiritual, development of a child, in addition to the cognitive, that's the academic development.

These are very important needs and the Quran says: "Protect yourself and your families from hellfire; you must care for their spiritual and moral needs". The Prophet (pbuh) said the best thing a parent can give to their child is good education and manners. These are the most important requirements as well as looking after their physical wellbeing.

Answered by: Dr. Musharraf Hussain

There is an Arabic proverb, "you can't give something which you do not have." So if you want to deliver good ethics, good morals, and good character to your children, you have to have these characteristics as well. The first step is to educate yourself, to improve your character, to improve your understanding of your obligations and duties as an individual. And then you can talk about discipline and behaviour in the family; it won't come if you are not a disciplined person yourself. If you don't have something you can't give it.

Many verses in the Quran talk about the importance of responsibility for children - you have to save them from harm and prepare them for the Day of Judgement. The main responsibilities towards your children include giving them good names, educating them, disciplining them and giving them good character. I'm definitely against pushing children to do things without understanding. We need to help them understand themselves, understand why they should pray, and why they should be good to their parents. Asking your children to do things for the sake of doing them is not going to work. There has to be a moral reason behind it.

At the Utrujj Foundation we have developed what we call a ‘virtuous circle'. We want people to live Islam, breathe Islam, think Islam. The virtuous cycle says that we need to learn Islam, to understand Islam, and then by learning and understanding, you will love Islam and move into the final stage, which is to live Islam. Trying to live Islam without the other stages is impossible. You need to learn and understand Islam, and then you will love it. You might be able to make your children pray in your presence, but when you are not there they won't pray unless they learn to love Islam first.

Answered by: Shaykh Haytham Tamim

The main responsibilities of being a parent are to raise our children to become upright and decent individuals, who are honest, kind, courteous, respectful, caring and loving as well as to teach them Islam and the worship of Allah and the obedience to Him and His Messenger. They have a responsibility to provide a safe environment, a balanced diet, appropriate clothing and footwear and medical treatment when they need it. Also, to send them to school and madrasa and when they are old enough to help then find a suitable marriage partner.

Answered by: Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

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Domestic Violence

Q What does the Qur'an say about Domestic Violence?

A summary of an analysis by Usama Hasan:

 

1. There is a verse (ayah) of the Qur’an (Surah al-Nisa’ or Chapter: Women, 4:34)  that may appear to condone domestic violence against women. 

2. Domestic violence is a problem in most, if not all, communities and societies.  For example, current statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 British women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Although the overwhelming majority of cases of domestic violence in Muslim households are due to wider human factors such as difficulties with relationships and anger-management, a handful of cases involve the husband feeling justified in using violence against his wife on the basis of this Qur’anic text. 

3. Such an attitude is not uncommon amongst socially-conservative Muslims who are “religious” in a formal sense: for example, a conservative leader of Indian Muslims is said to have given a public statement in 2010 denouncing a new law in India that criminalised domestic violence, thus: “They are taking away our divine right to hit our wives.” 

4. This fundamentalist misinterpretation of the Qur’an is sometimes sanctioned by the legal system in Muslim-majority countries, for example, as in the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court ruling of October 2010. 

5. A large number of hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) contain the explicit, emphatic prohibition, “Do not beat your wives!” 

6. These hadiths may appear to contradict the Qur’an, if the latter is read in a superficial, fundamentalist way. 

7. A holistic reading of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadiths, taking into account the socio-historical context of the revelation of the Qur’an and of the Prophetic guidance preserved in authentic hadiths, shows clearly that God and Muhammad wished to ban wife-beating and domestic violence completely.  As a temporary measure, and as a step on the way, an extremely limited, reluctant concession was given that only allowed minimal violence as a symbolic gesture of displeasure on a husband’s part.

This was in a strongly patriarchal society that used to bury baby girls alive because of their gender and where sons would inherit their fathers’ wives.  Such practices were outlawed by Islam, which also granted rights to women in 7th-century Arabia that were only achieved by European women in the 19th century, such as the independent right to own their property upon marriage. 

8. The evidence for this interpretation is overwhelming, from the 8th-century AD Mufti of Mecca who ruled that “a man may not hit his wife” to the 20th-century Mufti of the Zaytuna in Tunis who ruled that the State may ban domestic violence and punish any man who assaulted his wife. 

9. The “gradualist” approach of the Qur’an and Sunnah described in this case is a common feature in Islam.  Other examples are the prohibition of wine, gambling, fornication and adultery.  Modern reformers that the same principle applies to the abolition of slavery and the principle of gender-equality. 

10. Recently, a number of Muslim thinkers and scholars, unfamiliar with the holistic approach to the Qur’an, Hadith and Shari’ah embodied in the universalist Maqasid theory of Islamic law, have attempted to re-translate the “wife-beating” verse to mean something else. Alternative translations and interpretations include temporary separation of husband and wife, travelling and even making love as a way of solving marital disputes. A prominent example of this is Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s recent translation, The Sublime Qur’an (2007) that is largely-promoted precisely based on her translation of the wife-beating verse. Although well intentioned, such interpretations and translations are either grammatically unsound or far-fetched, or both.  Furthermore, they ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the Hadith traditions and simply do not placate the critics of Islam. The normative, orthodox account of the issue in this study provides a thorough, honest and principled solution to the difficulties apparently posed by the wife-beating verse. 

11. The presence of hadiths with weak isnads (chains of narration) that would otherwise justify wife-beating may be evidence that some early Muslims themselves misunderstood the issue and either fabricated or misreported traditions on the subject. The value of the work of expert Hadith scholars throughout the ages who meticulously sifted genuine narrations from the weak ones, may be seen to be crucial. The work of al-Albani, a 20th century Hadith scholar, is especially valuable, for example his gradings for every hadith in the four famous Sunan collections of Sunni Islam. Albani concentrated more on the chains of narration than the meanings of the traditions, but nevertheless confirmed that all the hadiths banning wife-beating or only allowing a limited concession are authentic whereas all those justifying it absolutely are weak.  

12. This study highlights a fundamental problem with the way many Muslims, including some scholars and clerics, read the Qur’an.  Rather than being read as a “textbook” or “instruction manual” as some superficial, populist, fundamentalist or Hadith-rejecting preachers advocate, it should be remembered for what it is: a collection of divine signs, guidance and wisdom revealed to the heart of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by God via the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril), the Holy Spirit, peace be upon him. This guidance was always supposed to be manifested by people of piety and the remembrance of God, taking their situation and socio-historical contexts into account. A critical awareness of hadith and history has always been required, along with worship of God and service of humanity, to be guided towards the true way of following the Qur’an.   

 

Read the full paper here.

Answered by: Dr. Usama Hasan

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Find answers to your questions about family life, dating, marriage and parenting.