Ramadhan Mubarak!

Salaam alaykum and Ramadhan mubarak to all my brothers and sisters in Islam!  I pray that Allah will make the long hours of fasting easy for you and give you strength to get through these long, hot summer days (for those of you in the northern hemisphere!). 

Ramadhan is a month in which we abstain from food and water to not only purify ourselves physically, but also to constantly remind ourselves to work toward purifying ourselves spiritually.  In light of that, I have some goals in mind for this month that have become apparent to me recently.

Goal 1: Speak up with a smile. 

I’ve recently been mulling over my concept of “being nice” and have concluded that perhaps my definition is incorrect.  Since childhood, thoroughly ingrained into my mentality is the Christian standpoint of “turn the other cheek” and “if someone takes your cloak, give him your shirt also” (Matthew 5:39-40), and therefore now instinctually don’t defend myself or stand up for myself when dealing with others – instead, I just let it go.  But, what happens over and over again is that people, acting on instinct, respond by just running right over me and crossing boundaries without hesitation.  I’ve realized that as social – and imperfect – creatures, we are constantly bumping up against each other, so it is completely natural to bump back in order to maintain your position and standing with everyone around you.  If you offer no resistance when bumped, and instead easily fall down, people will simply step right over you and continue bumping into everyone else.  Thus, naturally – and Islamically – we need to assert ourselves and hold firm when others push up against us.  Islam is very specific about upholding the rights of God, of ourselves, and of others.  We must uphold our own rights.  If we don’t, no one else will.  Someone once told me that a mo’min (a believer) might let it go the first time something happens, but not the second time (which falls in line with the English saying “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”).  In reading the Quran and listening to lectures, I’ve been noticing that indeed it is true – prophets and upright companions were regularly met with resistance and would usually SAY something in response.  They weren’t rude, they didn’t have an attitude, they calmly spoke the truth.  Essentially, my concept of being nice or polite is simply ignoring and avoiding conflict.  Defending myself and pushing back is not something I ever associated with religion or as something “good”; I associated it with being dramatic, concerned with trivial matters, and rude.  Thus, my current project is attempting to change my mental definition and actively put it into practice.  Assert myself, speak up – but with a nice facial expression and calm tone of voice.  I need to gracefully look after my rights, while taking care not to tread on the rights of others –  A delicate balance which requires great attention and skill. 

Goal 2: Use good words

As a Christian, I would never utter swear words or even the words that represent swear words – my family was very strict about this (for instance, we also couldn’t say crap, heck, or dang), so even in college I continued to refrain from bad language.  Despite prolonged, humorous attempts from friends to get me to say some of the less offensive words, I refused.  Yet, due to linguistic awareness (that words are given power and meaning by the society that uses them and are not inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’, but are simply means of expression) and the decreasing grip that Christianity had on my life, I began letting some of these words in.  Yet as Muslims, we too should refrain from using offensive words and should keep our speech clean and uplifting to others.  If we use certain words, people automatically associate certain qualities or characteristics to us that we wouldn’t want to be known for, and we certainly wouldn’t want people connecting those associations with our religion!  So, while I still don’t use such words around others – mostly to myself – I still want to make a concerted effort to get rid of them and replace them with something more fitting and appropriate to who I am. 

I’ve thought about adding a few more goals, but I think these two will be more than enough to keep me occupied!  It’s easy to type something out, but much harder to act on it every single moment of every single day.  I pray that God will help me in my efforts to improve myself, and that He will help all of you as well to work toward self-improvement and giving to others during this blessed month.

For more on specific rights in Islam: http://www.iec-md.org/IECE/religious/treatise_on_rights.html

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Abortion: The Islamic View

Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, abortion was always something denigrated and preached heavily against as it constitutes the murdering of innocent children.  I have participated in Pro-Life rallies and protests, holding signs and shouting with everyone else.  I believed very earnestly that the mother made the choice to have sex – it was not the choice or the fault of the unborn child, who does have a soul (as David (as) says in Psalms that God knew us while we were still in the womb, and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”).

Yet this narrow view of abortion only accounts for some of the reasons why women choose to have abortions: some have abortions to save the mother’s life, or because the mother was raped (which was certainly not a choice on the mother’s part!), and so on.  Some of these women are in fact married and are not engaging in pre- or extra-marital sex, which may be shocking for some to realize (something never ever talked about at any of the churches and protests I went to!).

Upon converting to Islam, I automatically assumed these same beliefs held true for Muslims as well: no abortion whatsoever.  Yet, I was very surprised to learn that actually, Islam takes a contextual, realistic view of abortion, unlike the black and white stance of Christians.

In fact, the Quran even weighs in on the ever-contested debate of when (or if) a human fetus has a soul: derived from Surah Mo’mineen, Islamic jurists have ruled that abortion before the 4th month is permissible IF the mother’s life is in danger.

Why favor the mother’s life  over the baby’s life?  Well, Islam follows the principle of choosing “the lesser of two evils.”  When you’re faced with only two choices, both of which are bad, you have to go with the ‘least’ bad.  In the case of a pregnant woman whose life is in danger, saving her life is better because she may have other children dependent on her, a family, a spouse, relatives, loved ones.  She is already well-established and known in this world, so to lose her would cause a great deal more heartache and trauma than that of the unborn, still unknown baby.  Plus, if we favor the baby’s life over the mother’s, then who will care for the baby?  The baby will be an orphan, and runs a very high risk of having a difficult life.

Some Islamic jurists have even ruled that abortion to save the mother’s life can take place at any time during the pregnancy, even after the 4 month time frame.  In fact, I’ve been told that this is the case in Saudi Arabia: a pregnant woman can go to a hospital and have an abortion upon discovering that her life is in danger, at any time during the pregnancy.

I’ve also read that some jurists have stated that a woman who has been raped may also abort the baby, although not everyone agrees, as opponents believe that baby falls into the same category as a baby with defects or handicaps (for which abortion is not allowed).

The issue of abortion is yet another clear example of the Islamic emphasis on logic and reason working in harmony with faith.  It is not a stark black and white issue; rather, just like all else in life, it is an issue that requires context and logic.  Religion should not stand in opposition to logic and intellect – God is the Creator of reason, so most certainly, His religion would not oppose His natural system.  SubhanAllah (glory to God).