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Questions and Answers – General Question and Answer Session/July, 2009Answered by Selma Cook

 
Sofi  UK

 
Salam alaikum, Why does Islam have so many rules and why is it so strict? It sometimes makes me feel like I am a bad person because I can’t keep up with all the rules. Please help.

 

Answer:

 

Salam alaikum, many thanks for your question.  Perhaps it will help if we look at the situation from the other way around, and say: ‘Life is so complicated, why don’t I have guidelines to help me find my way through it?’

 

It is true. Life can be very complicated and we often find ourselves at a loss; not knowing what to do next. We are aware that we do things wrong, that sometimes we are unjust to others or even to ourselves, that we lack knowledge and so on. At the same time, we struggle with our relationships, try to develop ourselves and find our place in the world. All this at the same time! Moreover, we might be ill, anxious, confused, addicted or unsure. Ask yourself: Can I face life alone? Can I dare to think that I could overcome all this; against all these odds? The answer is simply – no you can’t face life alone because it is just too difficult.

 

The good news is that we are not alone. The message of Islam tells us that Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein, that He encompasses all things in His knowledge, that He is compassionate, merciful and wise and that He created all things with compassion and love. This might sound strange when we recall the difficulties we face in life, but we should also keep in mind that our experiences in the world are a training for our inner selves. We can only grow if we know Allah, know ourselves and experience life with all its ups and down. Only then can we become strong, wise, loving and compassionate human beings as we see our strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the people around us.

 

We perceive things; understand things from our own individual point of view and sometimes we choose to see things in certain ways. For example, we can choose to see Islam as a bunch of rules; something that is restrictive, or we can look at Islam in its essence – a message from the Creator reminding us to know Him, acknowledge Him, love Him and obey Him and thereby, understand ourselves and the world around us. This is the basis of Islam; recognizing that Allah is the creator and the one to whom we turn for help when we face life and try to deal with it. Also, remember that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said (what means) that we should practice Islam as much as we are able. Take things slowly and remember that Allah is merciful and does not put on us more than we can bear. Do as much as you can and never lose sight of the message of Islam which Allah tells us about when He describes the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) that he is a ‘mercy to the worlds’. Everything we say and do should be covered with gentleness, mercy and a desire to build up and heal the people and place around us, wherever we are.

 

In His mercy, Allah taught us the characteristics we should develop within ourselves so that we can find success in every aspect of life. These are things like humility, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, insight, gentleness, compassion and love. One of Allah’s beautiful names is Al-Wodood (the source of love) and He implanted this wonderful feeing within each of us and it is manifest in many different ways. The guidelines Islam offers us are meant to remove injustice and harm and to provide an environment where we can develop, form solid relationships and discover the world in safety and peace.

 

Try not to have a narrow vision when you look at anything in life; there is always more than what is obvious. I pray that you will learn to see Islam as the pulse of life, the way we can develop our personality and character in every good way, a way to spread peace and justice in the world and to learn, with every step we take, to see Allah’s mercy and compassion in ourselves and all around us.

 

 
Kadija  South Africa

 

Salam alikum, I got married recently and my husband’s family practice Islam differently to how I was brought up. For example, they do not allow women to pray the Eid Prayer or to go to the mosque generally. I was brought up the opposite of this. I want to get along with my family, what should I do?

 

Answer:

 

Salam alaikum, many thanks for your question. Cultural differences between people can enhance their life together and make it rich, or sometimes, it can make things complicated. The problem arises when certain practices that contradict the message of Islam become an inherent part of culture and are then practiced and even enforced.

 

In this situation, however, you have the means with which to make change. You have the knowledge that Allah gave us; that women are allowed to go to the masjid and that especially for the Eid prayer, she must attend! It is her right to see and experience the joy of Eid and share this with the people around her. It is also her right to attend the masjid and all the benefits of doing so.

 

A lot of these cultural expectations come from the basic way people think; how they see the role of woman in the family and society and whether or not they see her as on the same footing as the man. We know, in Islam, that Allah created man and woman from a single soul and that the only way any human being, man or woman, can be greater in the sight of Allah is to be more God-conscious (taqwa). We also know that Allah is Just and loves justice. So the problem here seems to be lack of knowledge on the part of the people who are enforcing this cultural bias, or stubborn determination not to change because they do not wish to change the way they consider woman and her role in life.

 

Either way, this needs to change. The question now is: How should we make this change?

Some people might be very strong and daring and challenge the status quo. A friend of mine in South Africa (who is not South African herself) was traveling with her new inlaws and husband and the time for prayer arrived. The men found a masjid and went in to pray. She wanted to pray too but the women in the car told her that they (the women) will pray when they get home. This made her feel angry because she could not understand why the women would accept to oppress themselves. She answered that by that time the time of the prayer will have ended. The women insisted and she insisted too. She wanted to pray. She searched the masjid but there was no place for women. She found herself getting agitated and then the men came back to the car. She told them that she wants to pray and they told her the same thing; that she can pray at home. At that moment, she had a choice to either follow the status quo (which was unjust) or to stand her ground. She stood her ground and quietly, calmly but firmly told them that she is going to find a place to pray. They all protested but she continued and found a secluded place in the street, put down her prayer mat and prayed. Some people called her a trouble maker. What would you call her?

 

From that time onward, it became known in her family and circle of friends that she will not be quiet when it comes to her God-given rights. It might be on a very small scale, but a change is coming and she was part of it.

 

Many times, people will give out as much nonsense as we are willing to take. There comes a time when we have to stand our ground (calmly, politely but resolutely) and stand up for our rights and those of others.

 

In your case, because you are dealing with your inlaws, it is vital that you get your husband on your side and make him understand the gravity of the situation and our role as individuals in making positive change. In my friend’s case, she had her husband’s support and this was difficult for him because he found himself pulled between her and his family but he recognized that she was seeking to do something right and he (also gently and kindly) worked on his family.

 

May Allah open the best of ways for you and your family. May He make your steps firm and your manners kind and may you be determined in doing what is right.

 
Jamal UK

 

Salam alaikum, what can a young couple do if they have differences of opinion all the time? I know it’s normal to have some but this is getting too much.

 

Answer:

 

Salam alaikum, many thanks for your question. You are right. It is normal to have differences of opinion, especially in the marriage relationship and this can, in fact, be a means of strengthening the relationship. The problem is not the differences, but how the couple chooses to cope with them.

 

The basis of marriage is love and hopefully, friendship. If the couple is best friends to each other, this will help them to communicate when the romantic feelings might slide for a while. It is a safety net for them; an ability to chat and discuss and see things from the other person’s point of view. It will also enable them to laugh things off and make a fresh start.

 

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and think that our way or opinion has to be followed. Sometimes we are too afraid to give a little and compromise so as to make peace. Sometimes we become self-engrossed and completely fail to look at things from the other person’s point of view. If this happens there is no more communication and without communication, a marriage will slowly and very painfully dissolve. People may be living together in the marriage bond but they may have not yet learned how to be married; how to share, forgive, listen properly, compromise and start again.

 

If you and your wife are disagreeing a lot, it might be helpful to analyze things a bit. What are the recurrent issues that keep popping up? Is there something underlying these issues? Do you both feel free to discuss anything and everything? You should be able to. Try to pinpoint the main issues and narrow them down to two or three important things, then make a date with your wife, take her out, have dinner and sit somewhere quiet – away from the house! And just talk. Make the atmosphere relaxed, jovial and refreshing and I am sure, insha Allah, that any issues that are lurking beneath the surface of your relationship will emerge and you will have the chance to deal with them. But be ready.

 

Your best chance of dealing with them is to be prepared and tell yourself: I will not get angry, no matter what! I will not get defensive! I will not blame! I will not drag up the past! I will not……. And stick to that.

 

Also, maybe too much time is being spent talking about issues. How about spending time just talking about why you love each other. Tell each other how you feel. What your wife does for you and how she makes you feel. Tell each other those feelings you have but which you think the other person knows, so you don’t talk about them. Say what is in your heart and say it sincerely. Talk about your dreams and your fears. Open up!

 

I pray that you and your wife will find a space between you where you can find rest in each other; a haven from this world and its troubles.

First Published on www.islamonline.net


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