Virtual Magazine of Witness-Pioneer

Volume 9 Issue 1 - April-June 2009: Social Relations: Islamic Perspective (in PDF)


Exclusive Interview Shah Abdul Hannan by Shakil Abdullah
Relations at Work Place Rizwana Kursia
Dilemma of a Daughter Rehnuma Bint Anis
The New Man and Woman Fetullah Gulen
The Muslim Women and Her Sons and Daughters in Law Asiyah


“On the day when the wrong-doer gnaweth his hands, he will say: Ah, would that I had chosen a way together with the messenger (of Allah)! (27) Alas for me! Ah, would that I had never taken such an one for friend! (28) He verily led me astray from the Reminder after it had reached me. Satan was ever man's deserter in the hour of need. (29) And the messenger saith: O my Lord! Lo! mine own folk make this Qur'an of no account.” (Al-Furqan: 27-30)

In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful Islam, as a complete code of life, provides guidelines for different aspects of human life. As social beings, we maintain social relationships with a wide range of people. However, the degree of commitment, responsibility and accountability in a relationship vary depending on the type of the relationship. Sometimes we find it difficult to maintain a fine balance in our relationships, which creates tension and generates animosity and hatred among us. Thus, we consider social relationship as an important topic and we believe it is important to know what Islam says about social relationship.

Social relationship is a vast topic and it is not possible to cover different dimensions of social relations in one magazine. In this issue, we primarily focus on relationships in family and work environment. We hope you will benefit from the articles Insha'Allah and we humbly request you to spread the message among other people. In future, we intend to address other related issues i.e. parent-child or husband-wife relationships.

We express our gratitude to all the contributors of this magazine. We also appreciate your assistance in spreading the news of this magazine. Your feedback and comments are most welcome. Please send your articles, comments, feedbacks, etc. to our email address and keep visiting our webpage for updated information.

Please write for this magazine to and visit the webpage of this magazine. Also keep your eyes on for a free course to start soon!

Editorial Board

N.B.: Respective authors are responsible of their writings or interviews; the editorial board or Witness-Pioneer is not responsible of anything.
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Exclusive Interview: Shah Abdul Hannan
Interviewer: Shakil Abdullah

"Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than fasting, charity and prayer?" On receiving the reply, 'Certainly', he said, "It is putting things right between people, for to incite people to dispute is like a razor." (Hadith reported by Al-Tirmidhi and others)

Shah Abdul Hannan,
President, Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought, Dhaka, Bangladesh

What should be the nature of communication between men and women from Islamic perspective?

Shah Abdul Hannan (SAH):
Communication between man and woman or boys and girls is an extremely sensitive issue. The west has neglected this issue and I believe or Islamists believe that they are suffering. One of the reasons for western suffering is their carelessness in this matter. Islam takes a very careful approach about it. It thinks about the possible effects. Islam gives attention to the integrity of family. It wants clean sexual life. It doesn't want any mix-up of paternity or maternity. It doesn't want single mother or too many divorces etc. So naturally Islam has taken a very careful approach in communication or even mixing with men or women. While communicating between the two genders or between the two sexes, the maximum care should be taken at the vulnerable age. It should be minimum at that age. The vulnerable age before marriage or teens or school life or college life is the period when communication has to be very careful. I would suggest that the communication whether it is direct or through telephone or through present day mobile phones, should be minimum in this vulnerable age. Only normal and natural discussion may take place in public. I cannot define here what is normal or natural because there can be many opinions about it. But generally we understand what is normal or what is natural. And this normal and natural communication may take place, nothing more than that. Moreover this should take place in public, not in privacy or not in secrecy. Islam feels that while communicating, if a man or a woman feels at a point of time that lust is overtaking him or her, bad emotions are overtaking him or her, he or she should give up this communication. So this is a very touchy issue. People have many opinions. There are people who want total blockage of this communication and there are people who want total communication. But if you look at the golden time of prophet (SAAS) you would find that social communication between man and woman was there. In the six volumes of the book “Freedom of women at the time of Prophet (SAAS)” by Dr. Abdul Halim Abu Shukkah, any person will find out many examples of such communications between them. So prophetic time it was not total blockage. It was also not total freedom that you discuss everything in private. There may be different opinions. But I feel communication cannot be avoided. But this should be minimum in the vulnerable age. If they study in co-education then their communication has to be minimum and only the natural ones only the normal ones may be allowed nothing beyond that. If they study in co-education system, for example in west where there is no other option but to study in the co-education school, there also they should feel that it should be normal and natural only. I may require something from a boy I just ask for that or I have to give something I give that. No regular contacts and mix-ups. This is the Islamic objective. But the real situation may demand something less or something more - that is I am not tackling.

Co-education has become accepted norms through out the world. Do you consider it acceptable from Islamic perspective?

I feel, there is no problem in co-education till the age of ten or twelve, what we call primary level up to grade five. And this is happening in our country for a long time and of course in the west also. There after, in the high school or college level that is I mean up to grade ten or grade twelve, I feel this is the vulnerable period of the life of boys and girls. So it is much better to have separate educations - colleges and schools and this will help us in avoiding the bad consequences of the west. We have just seen in the American election that the vice-president nominate of the Republican Party, Governor Palin had her daughter pregnant and she had to face the situation. Lots of criticism and discussion came and her daughter was in school only. So I think this is the difference between Islam and the modern western system. Islam gives high priority to family, high priority to sexual purity and they think sex is like commodity or women are like commodity or men are like commodity. So this is one of the borders of Islam and Gayer Islam (non- Islam) I would say. And I believe that Islamic position is much better and we have to defend it very strongly and we should not feel weak about it. I have said about school (high school) and college. As regards Universities, we find today in some Muslim countries, they have separate campuses. For example in Saudi Arabia women have separate campuses in their University education and female students are now equal to men even in Saudi Arabia . In Pakistan at least in one University, they have separate campuses. There are two three other women universities also in Pakistan now. It is one side. On the other side as I have said that majority Universities, for example in Bangladesh all universities, are having combined classes except Islamic University of Chittagong and in their Dhaka campus, where they have separate women campus and I do not know any other university who has done it yet. I have seen International Islamic University of Malaysia. This university has been built up by the Islamic scholars, very high level Islamic scholars, like Sheikh Taha Jabir al Alwani, Sheikh Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman. They thought for a long time and finally decided to have co-education. So this is the situation. Two more Islamic Universities have come up in Malaysia but with co-education. This is the situation we have now. But my view is for separate campuses, it is the preferable option. I consider it preferable option if every university ultimately over 10, 20, 30 or 100 years in a Muslim country has separate campuses for men and women. But I will not say that co-education is Haram (not permissible). I will not say that because part of Islamic scholarship thinks that in the present day realities with due caution and due dress pattern, there can be co-education. But my own preference is for separate campuses. And if there are no separate campuses women have to study in the present system. I must add another thing that life is a test. Whole life is a test and Allah says “Khalakal mawta wal hyata liyabluakum”, in Suratul Mulk (chapter - 67 of Holy Quran), that means He “has created death and life that He may test you” (67:2). Test is everywhere in your village there are tests. Test is not only about gender issue, tests are in all respects of life. Life is a test and even in gender issue there are some tests. Prophet also said that women are tests for men and men are test for women. We cannot avoid all tests. So I would say that if our boys and girls study in co-education institutions as it is the general practice or if things go like this then they should be prepared to face the test with Iman (faith) and knowledge. We should prepare them with care and caution because we cannot wait for when it will change. We have to face this test. And we have to make them conscious and aware of this test.

Do you think all types of jobs are suitable for women?

First of all, most jobs are open to all; I cannot say Tahrim (illegitimate). I cannot say it is Haram (not permissible) to be a combat soldier, because in Islamic history there are cases when Muslim women fought as combat soldiers. In fact Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was defended in Uhad (2nd war in Muslim history) by only 5 or 7 people among them was one great woman. The women have fought with Khalid bin walid (a great warrior in Muslim history) in battle of Yarmuk (a battle fought in 636 at the valley of Yarmuk , the eastern tributary of Jordan ). In Qadysia (a battle fought in 637 at al- Qadisiayah, not far from al-Hirah which was an ancient city located south of al-Kufah in south central Iraq) women were there in the battlefield and they tugged the grave. But even then now I feel, some heavy jobs should not be taken by women, for example heavy duty truck driving or very tough work in mining industry below the pits. Why I say this? I say this because this may injure their internal organs which are necessary for reproduction. This will most likely injure their internal organs and that is an option which we cannot say afjal (good), it is at least a Makruh (disliked) to go for a job where organs will be affected. If the scientists say that they will not be affected then I have nothing to say. Otherwise it's a big concern for Ummah. Similarly, I personally feel, by my study of Islam, the current situation and the reality also and I am not blind to the reality, that now if unmarried women go in the navy and live in seas with men as marines or if they become combat soldiers or combat pilots and get arrested, it may cause serious trouble for them because we know in the wars the soldiers around the world are not so morally trained. So I feel it is for the good of women rather not to go for these jobs. Actually this is not an issue of competition really, that I have to compete in everything. We men should compete in everything with women or women should compete in everything with men, it is not like that. It is the issue of suitability, it is the issue of need and it is the issue of harm that may cause to any gender. So keeping in view all these things I would say that there should be military training for all, every citizen including women if possible. But women can be called upon only when the whole nation has to fight against an aggressor. Otherwise they should not join the infantry or the navy or the air force as regular combatants. But I must agree as I said in the beginning that I cannot give a Fatwa (legal opinion of scholars) of Tahrim (illegitimacy) that it is not legal to go for these kinds of jobs, I cannot say that. I also agree that there can be different opinions. But these are my views.

How women should do Dawah (preaching Islam) work among themselves and among the men?

In the light of Quran and Sunnah, I think Dawah work or preaching Islam or conveying Islam is obligatory for every Muslim men and women. In Surah Al Tawbah which is a Surah (chapter of Quran) that revealed during the last time of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there is a Ayah (verse): “wal mu'minuna wal mu'minatu ba'duhum awliau ba'din ya'muruna bil ma'ruf wa yanhaw hum 'anil munkar” that means “The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helper, supporter, friends, protector) of one another, they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil” (9:71). All Muslim men and women are supposed to do Amr bil ma'ruf (enjoin what is just) and Nahi 'anil munkar (forbid what is evil). This is Dawah really, this is not only Dawah this is politics also. This is social activism. This term Amr bil m'aruf and Nahi 'anil munkar is the politics. It is the social activism. It is all possible movement for change in the world. So every Muslim men and women should take part in it. But the issue is whether there should be some norms about it. Now there are women who are in public life, let us say in politics, in private sector jobs, in pubic sector jobs, in the university jobs etc. This is one kind. The other kind is those women who are living in houses; they are doing great work of managing the family, managing the children, educating them and may be some other social work. So keeping these two I would say those who are in family they should mostly concentrate on their relations or their neighbors. If they join in any Islamic group, they should work through them. They may do some writing; they may do some speaking also through television channels, as they do now. On the other side, those women who are in offices and in administrations or in the universities, they are exposed to men. They are everyday mixing with men this is a necessary situation almost necessary condition. In situation, there to say that you speak everything but don't give Dawah is unthinkable. Now that they are in the offices if there is an opportunity to give Dawah they should do it. If there is a university lady professor why should not she give Dawah to her male colleagues or give them some books or give them some articles or point out some TV channel programs which are good? I think those who are involved in public life they should work among their colleagues whether men or women. There the situation is like that and I feel they should do that. Of course the general limitations of men and women relationship should be kept in view. There are some limits which should be followed.

What would be the social relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim?

To tell about relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims first of all I think in this relationship there are some confusion that I cannot remove in here. But I would say that it is not true that we should not have good relations with them. Islam says everybody is honorable. In Surah Al-Isra' (Chaper. 17 of Holy Quran) Allah says “Walakad Karramna Bani Adama” that means “And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam” (17:70). That is everybody is dignified. So you must deal with them in a dignified manner. The first point is that they are also dignified. Secondly, Allah very clearly says in Surah Al Mumtahina that “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes” (60:8). That is we should behave very well with those who do not fight with us and do not exile us from our residences or from our countries. In other places in Quran for example when there is an issue of justice is there Islam says do justice. Allah says “Wa iz hakamtum bainan nasi an tahkumu bil adl” which means “And that when you judge between men, you judge with justice” (4:58). So it is wrong to say that Christians or jews are not friend. They have human rights. OIC document gives human rights to all. This is the Ijma (consensus) of Ummah (Muslim community) or Ijma of Ulama (scholar). Human right is for all. Pakistan Islamic constitution that was made by of the agreement the Ulama and the politicians says that fundamental right is for all.
It is true that if some are enemies you cannot make them friends. Who makes an enemy a friend? If a Muslim turns an enemy, do you make him a friend? So I would say this is a misunderstanding that they cannot be our friend. We should know Islam prohibits that you condemn any nation as a group. In Surah Al Hujurat Allah says that “La iajkhar Kawmun min kawmin 'asa ai-iakunu Khaira” which means “Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former” (49:11). So we should not belittle a Qawm (community or group) or condemn a Qawm. So I think we should have a balanced judgment on the Quranic position. Quranic position is that if some non-Muslim and even present day nominal Muslim becomes enemy we cannot make them friends. But even if they are not friend they will get human rights. Even those enemies would get water, electricity and all facilities. And as I have said according to Surah An Nisa (4:58) when we judge between man and man we should judge with equity. So I think this misunderstanding must be removed that our behavior should not be equal with non- Muslim or should not be same with non-Muslim. Allah has not said that.

WPI: Thank you very much for your time.

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Relations at workplace for Muslim men and women
by Rezwana Kursia

"Do not be envious of each other, nor backbite nor hate one another, but become brothers in the service of Allah." (reported in Bukhari, the book of tradition of the Prophet)

Everyday we usually spend a good amount of time for our job at workplaces. That is why it is very important for Muslim men and women to know what kind of relationship to have with different group of people in the job environment and how to maintain those relationship to please Allah and remain a practicing Muslim at the end.

A job has a great effect on an individual as well as on the whole society for human beings. The job environment, relationships among employees, organizational needs represent the social and ethical condition of a country. The famous Islamic psychologist Ali said –

“Work is an obligatory activity and a virtue in the light of the needs of man and the necessity to establish equilibrium in one's individual and social life. Work enables man to be independent and is a source of self-respect, satisfaction and fulfillment. Success and progress on the job depend on the hard work and commitment to one's job. Commitment to work also involves a desire to improve the community and social welfare. Society would have fewer problems if each persona were committed to his work and avoid unethical methods of wealth accumulation. Creative work and cooperation is not only a source of happiness but are considered noble deeds too.” (Ali, 1988 : 577)

There are several distinguished professional and social relations in a job environment. For example, relationship with the human resource people, colleagues, superiors and subordinates and so on. All these relationships are very important to live in a peaceful society and we have to be very careful about these interactions. Fortunately, Islam has given us all the useful guidelines to act accordingly.

Relations with the Human Resource and Superiors
As the implementation of organizational rules and management depend a lot on these people, an employee has to be very careful while dealing with them. In many non- Muslim countries, it is a great problem for a Muslim employee to maintain the prayer time and place. But if he can prove himself as a responsible and dependable employee then it will be easy for him to get a break time and even manage a place for prayer inside the working premises. Besides, the creativity and uniqueness of a Muslim employee can increases the honor and interest towards Islam among others.

Muslims know that their thoughts, words and actions are being constantly observed by Allah SWT. When a man is at work, he has to dedicate himself to complete all his organizational duties as well. He must be careful about all his commitments and try to fulfill them perfectly. He should also be sincere, honest and always speak the truth. We know the story of truthfulness of our prophet (PBUH) and how even the non-Muslims could depend on him. He was a great business man also. We can get a lot of valuable tips from his life to apply in our professional life in the job environment.

In practice, some times people may find ethical conflict with the organization. They have to handle those situations very wisely. If an employee encounters a mistake done by his superiors, he is advised to address the issue wisely to perfect department. If the boss keeps on insisting the mistake or misuses his authority for that, then the employee has the right to address this issue with the superiors to his boss. In this case, the employee should honestly report the case with the intention of protecting the interests of the organization. The relationship between a superior and an employee should be based on cooperation and piety. While an employee is required to observe his duty toward Allah SWT by doing his or her best to excel at work, a supervisor is also asked to do the same. He should practice leadership honestly and professionally.

Relation with colleague
People need a good relation with his co-workers to pass a peaceful time in job environment. He has to maintain a balanced relation with them. He will not expect any reward from them and not care much about pleasing them. He should always try to prove himself as a helpful person and never find others fault. Allah SWT says:

"O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion (against others), for surely suspicion in some cases is sin; and do not spy (into other people's affairs), nor let some of you backbite others." [49:12]

When a person follows this ayat , does his duty perfectly and respect others opinions then eventually respect from others goes toward him as well. His co-workers begin to like him, depend on him and discuss different issues with him. In this way a good Muslim employee can show the right direction to others. He can do some dawah work also. The best dawah can be performed by showing kindness to co-workers and treating them with respect. He should speak in a gentle voice with genuine humility. He should not try to defeat anyone by disputing and debating. The primary goal in a dawah is to please Allah SWTby trying to win hearts through one's positive attitude. He must bear in mind the advice that Allah SWT provides:

“Invite all to the Way of thy Rabb with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: For thy Rabb knows best who has strayed from His Path and who receives guidance.” [16: 125]

In some work-places in non-Muslim countries, people sometimes have to face some undesirable situations like joking with headscarf and Islamic dress, criticizing for not doing hand-shake with opposite gender and so on. But if a person can make himself a model of an efficient worker following the above way (shown by Allah SWT) then he can overcome all those difficulties. Some of the people surrounding him may become curious about his custom and religion. Whenever Muslims comes in the press news, they may feel comfortable to know his opinions and Islam may not be misunderstood.

Relations with subordinates
As the development of a good relationship remains in the hand of the superior, he can maintain a peaceful relationship with his subordinates. He can make a good and sustainable relations which are based on ease, forgiveness, overlooking the mistakes of others, courtesy, happy and smiling attitude and many other good characteristics. These can take away a lot of difficulties, pain, mental and physical sufferings. Maintaining such relationship he can also gain a lot for his life after death. Holy Prophet (PBUH) said in Mishkat that "It is an act of charity to meet your fellow with a cheerful face."  

For example, if we consider the teaching profession, the teacher-student relationship is the best one to build an ideal society. As students usually try to follow the teacher, it is a great opportunity for a teacher to show them the light of life. To do so teachers must be polite with students, get their opinions and give importance to them. He may know individuals clearly, listen to their problems and show them the right way. He may arrange some special classes for moral teachings and can discuss the contemporary issues with them also.  

In a work place we can see some people who are entitled to serve others. The employees should be very kind with them and build a good relationship with them. Sometime these entitled groups' work loads are not considered and they have to work over time. People should develop a practice to serve their won needs by themselves and decrease others work load. We know our prophet (PBUH) used to do all his works by himself. If those service personnel do not have enough education, people may arrange a way to give them proper knowledge in the leisure time. If their service needs payment, people should not make any delay. `Abdullah ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (PBUH)said, “Give to the workers their wages before their sweat dries (meaning as soon as their work is finished)”  

A good relationship with others is as much important in Islam as are the Five Pillars: the declaration of faith, five daily Prayers, Zakah (Charity), fasting during Ramadan, and Hajj (for those who can afford it). Actually, none of the five main duties of Islam can be properly performed without good relations with mankind. In a job environment we have to meet a lot of people of different nature. Islam recognizes these distinguishable types and puts forth clear guidance on how to maintain good relations among one another amidst these differences. So, we may develop and maintain good relations with people of all types by keeping in mind that the Holy Prophet has told Muslims that, the best among them is that person who shows the best behavior towards other people. In a Hadith Qudsi Allah SWT says:  

“He who maintains good ties with you, I maintain good ties with him; and he who severs your ties, I sever ties with him".  

Contributor: Rezwana Kursia is a Computer Engineer, currently residing in Montreal with her husband and daughter. She can be reached at
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The Dilemma of a Daughter
by Rehnuma Binte Anis

“Those who spend (in Allah's cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress their anger, and who pardon men, verily, Allah loves the al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).”[3: 133-134]

One of the most precarious social positions must be that of the daughter in law, especially in the context of the Indian Subcontinent. It has been discussed and rediscussed without anyone reaching the root of the problem or trying to find a way out. I wish to contribute my own part in the discussion from experiences, first hand and second, and try to figure a way out by consensus from the readers. The article by no means reflects those privileged few who have been fortunate to be exceptions but discusses the wider range of social practice prevalent in the region.

It is seen as a widespread practice that the future in-laws ruin any possibility of success for the future daughter in law even before she has been seen or heard. Speculations about the expected traits of the future daughter begin as soon as the groom declares his readiness for a search. The future in-laws create an enormous list of the expected traits of a daughter in law fit for their family which includes all qualities imaginable plus leaves space for any extras that may have fallen off the list by some chance. As no human being is perfect, the chances are slim for any mortal to make those criteria. As for the groom it does not matter what qualities he possesses apart from the fact that he is male.

If any girl makes about half the list the future in laws condescend to come and see her. From my observation, this is often done in much the same way as the cows for slaughter are bought for Eid ul Azha, with much festivity but no considerations for the cow. The groom may or may not attend and even if he does, may or may not talk to the bride and even if he talks his opinion does not matter. Alas! The two people who are to spend a lifetime of partnership through thick and thin, the two most important persons Islam says need to see each other and decide, have no role in the play. Guardian opinion, without a doubt, is of paramount importance but so is the opinion of those who will have to make it together at the end!

What we see as a general practice is that the preview is mainly about the shape and size and complexion of the prospective bride rather than any other quality she may possess. It is okay for the groom's people to take as much or as little time they wish to let the girl know the result for they are free to change it whenever they wish for whatever reason or unreason. Her features are carefully considered, the color of her skin is subject to discussion, whether she is an inch taller or shorter is a point of debate. Then comes the points like whether she has a wealthy father or comes of a great family or how much dowry her family can afford to give, etc. Education may or may not be important. What qualities the man has to be her match is not a subject of discussion. I wonder if they know the Hadith of Rasul (PBUH) about the four qualities to be seen in searching for a bride (for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character) - according to a Hadith from Bukhari and Muslim) or whether they know about the conditions of ‘kufu' (equality between the two parties) in fixing a match.

After seeing few potential candidates, it becomes a lottery to find out who is the winner in the match. Father likes one, mother likes another, brother likes another and sister likes yet another not to mention the other important people in and outside the family. The groom plays a silent role as he hardly knows anything about any of the prospective brides and even if he does, his only job is to marry not take part in decision-making. If he cannot live with her in the end, he can divorce her and get another!

Ultimately the semi precious (not precious because she cannot fulfill half the criteria) gem is decided upon with as much deliberation as investing in a large property. Only the deliberation is more concerned about how much property is coming in with the gem rather than the actual features of the gem. This is what happens when Islamic principles are not adhered to. ‘Hadya' (gift) from the daughter's family is not forbidden but it cannot be extracted by psychological blackmailing as is often the case which destroys the sense of respect between two families about to become allied. The groom rather, from the Islamic point of view, is supposed to honor his father in law with a gift for raising his wife and honor his wife with a gift for consenting to be his partner in the business of life; from my observation, though, neither is made. The marriage is marred from the beginning by bargain hunting and a lack of consideration on the qualities of the bride and groom that can actually make it a success.

The bride and her accompanying objects arrive in the midst of a lot of pomp and ceremony. Often it includes showcasing the bride and the objects that will go with her to her new home as in an exhibition or sale. Even before it is time for her to leave the marriage hall, in laws are getting hurt left and right by things the bride's party may or may not, should or should not have said or done or some injury that they may have supposed or some slight they may have imagined.

As a consequence, by the time she arrives to her new home, only the innocent children are happy to welcome her and few are willing to help her feel, literally, at home. As soon as she goes to her room and sometimes before, open discussions take place as to whether the wedding was a win or a loss. They sift through everything she brought as a dowry or gift and they no longer remain hers but become public property for her in-laws. They can help themselves to anything they like, no permission required. We all know what that is called if it happened the other way round!

The newly-wed bride, as is seen to be a common practice, is expected to lend a hand form the very next day though no one is expected to lend her a hand. It makes us wonder if this is the lesson Islam teaches us about hospitality. If the household could run for years before her arrival, could it not run a few days more without thrusting a new bride headlong into it? Relatives take great pains and incur huge expenses in order to keep track of when she wakes up, how much work she does, how much she eats, how her character is, what time she goes to sleep and to admonish her in-laws to keep her in strict supervision and control. Often these well-wishers are women. They forget that they are women too and should have fellow feeling for a sister who has left everything she knew and loved to be with strangers and is trying her best to carve her own niche in a strange family.

If the daughter-in-law works at a job outside the home, she is not bound to contribute to the family financially for allowing her to work so what Islam says:

“…To men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn…” (Al Qur'an, 4:32)

And as she spends so much time outside the home, it is only natural that she should join the taskforce at home as soon as she returns from work! A man has twice the energy of a woman but he is expected to rest after his long day's labors and she only goes out in nice dresses, so she should pay for it by making up in household chores! Doing her room or looking after her children is no one's responsibility. But keeping everyone happy is certainly her responsibility.

Keeping everyone happy is an impossible task, because we are human. Allah gives us everything from the life we enjoy to the air we breathe, form the food we eat to the water that quenches our thirst and still we are not happy and do not feel the necessity to thank Him. What chance does a frail woman stand in comparison? None.

Because if she does anything for her in-laws, she is only fulfilling her responsibilities, what is so great about it? But if by any chance her in-laws do anything for her they have done her a favor that she should be eternally grateful for. As if she has only responsibilities and no rights.

One of my friends was telling me the other day how her husband never brought her any gifts as it would displease her in-laws and he would have to hide it in his briefcase to smuggle it in. They both worked and both contributed generously to the family. Yet neither the family gave her any gifts nor created a congenial environment for her husband to do so. How sad when people do not want to exchange hadya for improvement of relationship, even if it is a kind word or a supportive attitude.

Some women I know have suffered from lack of food and rest and ill treatment and the multitudes of women who are tortured and killed have become so commonplace that the news neither shocks nor moves us to action any more. But Islam emphasizes good treatment so much that Rasul (PBUH) said:

"By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer.'' It was asked, "Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?'' He said, "One whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil". [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

This does not mean the folks next door, or men talking about other men. Our nearest neighbors are those given to us, our families.

Doesn't it make us think whether we are being good Muslims in the way we treat our daughters?

It is a difficult, one of the most difficult, task to love someone with whom you have no longstanding memories or with whom you share little in common due to a different background that moulds her attitudes differently. But if only for a moment we try to imagine that this girl has left everything she knew and loved for my family, she is trying to fit in and my cooperation can make her my sister not just sister in law, she is the woman who will mother my future generation and for my family's sake she needs to be educated and cheerful – could we behave the way we usually do? If she has deficiencies and mistakes, why I have thousands for every hundred I can count of hers! Besides, is it not the elder who is supposed to forgive and mend? As long as we wish to ignore our responsibilities, girls will keep changing from the docile to the rebellious.

That is why I was not surprised to hear the best and most polite girl she knew went after her mother-in-law with a knife! Well, she is a human being and a human being can only take so much! She would have died from a burst appendix and her mother in law was cursing her for pretending to be in pain! Would she have behaved differently if it were her own daughter who was in pain? I wonder. We cannot all be motherly but we can be humane!

How sad is it when I ask a lady about her relationship with her highly educated mother in law in a noble profession and she says, ‘I have given up trying to make my in-laws happy'. It is our callousness that disillusions girls who came with all good intention. This is what makes little girls say, ‘I wish to marry an orphan'.

Do you wish your daughter to marry an orphan for fear of in laws? I don't. And I know exactly what I have to do. I have to treat my daughter in law well so that Allah Himself will take responsibility that my daughter is treated well.

You see, it it's the simple principle of what goes round, comes round.

Do you agree?

Contributor: Rehnuma Binte Anis is a former Assistant Professor of Department of English Language and Literature at International Islamic University Chittagong. She is currently residing in Calgary, Canada with her family and is available at
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The New Man and Woman
by Fetullah Gulen

"And do not obey any despicable man, ready with oaths, a slanderer, going among the people with calumnies." (68 : 10-11)

History has carried us to the threshold of a new age that is open to the manifestations of divine favor. Despite, or in parallel with, advances in science and technology, the last two or three centuries have witnessed a global break with traditional values and, in the name of renewal, an attachment to different values and speculative fantasies. It is our hope, strengthened by promising developments, that the next century will be the age of belief and moral values, an age that will witness a renaissance and revival for the believers.

Among wavering crowds that lack sound thinking or reasoning, a new type of people will appear. They will rely equally on reason and experience, but give as much importance to conscience and inspiration as they do to the former. They will pursue the perfect in everything, establish the balance between this world and the next, and wed the heart to the intellect.

The coming to be of such people will not be easy. All births are painful, but these blessed births will take place and provide the world with a new, brilliant generation. Just as rain pours out of slowly gathering clouds and water wells up from underground, so too will the "flowers" of this new generation one day appear among us.

These new people will be individuals of integrity who, free from external influences, can manage independently of others. No worldly force will be able to bind them, and no fashionable ism will cause them to deviate from their path. Truly independent of any worldly power, they will think and act freely, for their freedom will be in proportion to their servanthood to God. Rather than imitating others, they will rely on their original dynamics rooted in the depths of history and try to equip their faculties of judgment with authentic values that are their own.

They will think, investigate, believe, and overflow with spiritual pleasure. While making the fullest use of modern facilities, they will not neglect their traditional and spiritual values in building their own world.

If changes and reforms are linked to and dependent on eternal universal values, they may be welcomed eagerly. Otherwise, there will be a plethora of speculative fantasies that are appealing because of their novelty and modernity. Standing on the firm ground of those eternal values, the new man and woman will always look to the future to illuminate the darkness enveloping the world.

They will be completely truth-loving and trustworthy and, in support of truth everywhere, always ready to leave their families and homes when necessary. Having no attachment to worldly things, comforts, or luxuries, they will use their God-given talents to benefit humanity and plant the seeds of a happy future. Then, constantly seeking help and success from God, they will do their best to protect those seeds from harm, just as a hen protects its eggs. Their entire lives will be dedicated to this way of truth.

To stay in touch and communicate with people's minds, hearts, and feelings, these new men and women will use the mass media and try to establish a new power balance of justice, love, respect, and equality among people. They will make might subservient to right, and never discriminate on grounds of color or race.

These new people will unite profound spirituality, diverse knowledge, sound thinking, a scientific temperament, and wise activism. Never content with what they know, they will continuously increase in knowledge: knowledge of self, of nature, and of God.

Equipped with the good morals and virtues that make them truly human, these new men and women will be altruists who embrace humanity with love and are ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of others when necessary. As they shape themselves in the mold of universal virtue, they will simultaneously strive to illuminate the way of others. They will defend and support what is good and recommend it to others, while seeking to challenge, combat, and eradicate all evils.

These new people will believe that the Almighty gave them life here so that they could know and worship Him. Without discriminating between the Book of the Universe (where the divine names are manifested and which is therefore full of signs of Him and acts as a "stairway" leading to Him) and the Divine Scripture (the translation of the Book of the Universe), they will see science and religion as two manifestations of the same truth.

They will never be reactionary. They will not pursue events, for they will be the dynamism of history that initiates and shapes events. With due perception of their age and surrounding conditions, and in devotion to their essential values and with utmost reliance on God, they will be in a state of continuous self-renewal.

These new people will conqueror their selves, thoughts, and hearts, and those of others, and they will discover the unknown. They will regard any time spent in not taking a new step into the depths of the self and the universe as being wasted. As they remove, through faith and knowledge, the veils covering the face of reality, they will become even more eager to advance further. With the messages and answers received from the heavens, the earth, and the seas, they will continue to journey until they return to their Creator.

Contributor: Fetullah Gulen is an influential Turkish Muslim intellectual who inspired a series of social activities, including a transnational education and business network, interfaith dialogue forums, and multicultural encounters. This article originally appeared in Zamann Altn Dilimi [The Golden Slice of Time], Kaynak, Izmir, 1998, pp. 157-160.
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The Muslim Woman and Her Sons and Daughters in Law
by Asiyah

"O you who believed! Avoid (indulging) much suspicion: truly some suspicion are sin." (49 : 12)

The Muslim woman who understands the teachings of her religion and who is of a high character, regards her daughter-in-law as she regards her own daughters. Fate has made this woman the wife of her son, and she has joined the family and become one of its members. Similarly, when the young Muslim woman who has been brought up with Islamic values and attitudes leaves her parents' home and goes to live with her new husband, she regards her mother-in-law as she does her own mother.

She knows how to make a good choice in selecting a daughter-in-law:
Thus before any marriage takes place, it is very important for both parties (both potential mothers-in-law and potential daughters-in-law) to be very careful in making the right choice. When seeking spouses for her sons and daughters, a mother must examine each candidate's religious commitment and character, and good reputation.

When the wise Muslim woman looks for a wife for her son, she always bears in mind the fact that this will be a new daughter joining her family, one who should enjoy the same respect and love as her own daughters, and who will share their duties within the framework of the greater family. She should want for her new daughter-in-law nothing but success, happiness and stability in marriage. So the wise mother will not be attracted by those girls who appear pretty and cheerful on the outside only; she will also require her future daughter-in-law first and foremost to be strong in her commitment to Islam, and to be of a good and balanced character. This is in accordance with the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

"A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty or her religion; choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust!" [1]

She knows her place
On the basis of this correct understanding of the daughter-in-law's position in marriage and her position in her new family, the mother-in-law treats her daughter-in-law properly and fairly in all circumstances and at all times.

It never crosses the mind of the Muslim mother-in-law who is filled with Islamic values, that this woman has stolen the son whom she spent long years bringing up only to be taken away, when he reached the age of manhood and became able to work and make sacrifices, by a wife who would lead him into a happy home where he would forget everything that his mother had ever done for him. Such evil thoughts never occur to the righteous Muslim woman, because she understands the laws of Allah (SWT) that apply in this life, and she knows that her son, to whom she taught Islamic values from early childhood, cannot be made to forget his mother by his beautiful wife, just as the daughter-in-law whom she chose for her son from among the good, believing young women, would never accept for her husband to forget his mother in this way, which is precisely that disobedience which has been forbidden by Islam.

If she feels any stirrings of jealousy at some moment of human weakness, she seeks refuge in her faith and fear of Allah (SWT), and so she sheds these hateful feelings and returns to a proper opinion of her daughter-in-law. This is the attitude of the righteous believers, men and women alike, when they are struck by some evil thought they turn to Allah (SWT):

”Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring Allah to remembrance, when lo! They see [aright]!” (Qur'an 7:201)

Hence a balance is struck between the daughter-in-law, the mother-in-law and the husband, and matters may run their natural, peaceful course unaffected by misguided whims and desires and governed instead by religion, reason and wisdom.

She gives advice but does not interfere in their private life
From the moment her daughter-in-law is brought as a bride to her son, the wise Muslim woman remembers that her daughter-in-law has the right to live her married life in all aspects - so long as it remains within the limits of Islamic teaching - and that no-one has the right to interfere in the private life of the spouses except in cases where it is essential to do so, as every Muslim is required to give sincere advice in accordance with the Prophet's (PBUH) words: "Religion is sincere advice (nasihah)..." [2]

The Muslim mother-in-law's standard in her behavior towards her daughter-inlaw is her behavior towards her own daughter: just as she wants her daughter to have a happy, successful and independent marriage, undisturbed by any interference in her private life, so she wishes the same for her daughter-in-law, with no exceptions.

She respects her and treats her well
The good Muslim mother-in-law respects her daughter-in-law and treats her well; she makes her feel that she is loved and appreciated; she listens to her thoughts and opinions, approving and encouraging those that are good, and gently correcting those that are mistaken. In all of this, the mother-in-law's aim is to be fair and just, so she judges her daughter-in-law exactly as she would judge her daughter if she were in her place giving her opinion to her mother, in accordance with the words of the Qur'an:

”O you who believe! Fear Allah, and [always] say a word directed to the Right.” (33:70)

She does not omit to express the joy that she feels from time to time, when she sees that her son is happy with his wife, and this adds to the best feelings that her son and daughter-in-law feel. Similarly, she does not forget to include her daughter-in-law on various occasions, just as she thinks of her daughters, so she lets her accompany them, and makes her feel that she is one of them, and that she is a beloved member of the family since she is married to her beloved son. In this way the mother-in-law becomes dear to her daughter-in-law; because she shows that her daughter-in-law is dear to her. This is in direct contrast to the practice in those backward, jahili (ignorant) societies that have deviated from the guidance of Allah (SWT), where hatred and despicable plots between mothersin- law and daughters-in-law are the norm, to such an extent that this enmity has become a traditional, inevitable phenomenon, about which there are many folk sayings and popular songs. None of this could have happened if both mothersin- law and daughters-in-law had really respected one another's rights as outlined by Islam, and had stayed within the limits prescribed by Allah (SWT). This is why the traditional enmity between the mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law disappeared in those societies that truly embraced Islam and adhered to its teachings and values.

She is wise and fair in her judgment of her daughter-in-law
A mother-in-law may find herself being tested by a daughter-in-law who is not of good character, one who does not treat others well. Here we see the need for the mother-in-law to exercise wisdom and sophistication by repelling evil with something better, as stated in the Qur'an:

”Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel [Evil] with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint – none but persons of the greatest good fortune” (41:34-35)

One way in which a mother-in-law may repel evil with something better is by concealing her daughter-in-law's negative qualities and mistakes from her son as much as possible, advising her daughter-in-law on her own and explaining how keen she is for the marriage to continue on the basis of love and good works. The mother-in-law should continue to advise her daughter-in-law until she rids herself of those negative qualities, or at least minimizes them. Thus the daughterin- law will feel that she has a sincere, loving mother-in-law, not a fearsome enemy who is just waiting for her to stumble.

The wise Muslim mother-in-law remains fair and just when she judges between her daughter-in-law and her son, if she sees her son mistreating her daughter-inlaw. Her awareness and fear of Allah (SWT) prevents her from being with her son at the expense of the truth, so she does not support him in oppressing his wife or in doing wrong. This is in accordance with the words of the Qur'an:

“…Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned…” (6:152)
”…And when you judge between people, that you judge with justice…” (4:58)

The Muslim woman who is truly following this guidance will never commit the sin of oppression, and will never be content to give any judgment except that which is fair, even if this means judging in favor of her daughter-in-law and against her son.


The attitude of the truly-guided Muslim woman towards her sons-in-law is no different than her attitude towards her daughters-in-law. She treats her daughter-inlaw as if she were one of her own daughters, and similarly she treats her son-in-law as if he were one of her own sons. Just as she wants her own son to be one of the best of people, so she also wants her son-in-law to be one of the best of people too.

She knows how to make a good choice in selecting a son-in-law
She makes a good choice when selecting a son-in-law, accepting none but one who is religious, well-mannered and has a good reputation, as the Prophet (PBUH) encouraged Muslims to do in the Hadith:

"If there comes to you one with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, then marry your daughter to him; if you do not do so, it will be a cause of fitnah and widespread mischief on earth." [3]

In seeking a spouse for her daughter, she is not attracted only by a smart appearance, high status or plentiful wealth, because she knows that by marrying her daughter to this man she is going to gain a son, to whom she will entrust her daughter's honor, life and happiness, none of which may be protected or properly taken care of except by a man who is well-mannered, religious, noble, chivalrous and moral.

She respects and honors him
Not surprisingly, her son-in-law is on the receiving end of her honor, respect and appreciation. At every opportunity she makes him feel that he has become a member of the family by marrying her daughter, so she wishes him and her daughter happiness and success in their life together. She lets him know that he is the one to whom she has entrusted the precious honor of her daughter, and in whom she places her hopes for the achievement of her daughter's fondest wishes. She makes him feel that she is a second mother to him, so she does not withhold any advice, or spare any effort to do whatever will bring happiness to him, his wife and his children.

She helps her daughter to be a good wife to her husband
The wise Muslim woman never ceases to offer advice to her daughter in ways that will be of benefit to her in running her household and taking care of her husband and children. She always points out to her daughter anything that will please her husband and make him happy, and encourages her to undertake the duties of a wife and mother in the best way possible. If she notices any shortcoming, negligence or carelessness on the part of her daughter, she hastens to correct and advise her, and helps her to make up for the shortcoming, so that there will be no reason for her son-in-law to look down on her daughter. She does not neglect to mention her son-in-law's good characteristics from time to time, so that her daughter will become more fond of him, and more content with what Allah (SWT) has given her. In this way, a mother becomes the greatest help to her daughter in consolidating her marriage and making it happy.

She is fair, and is never biased in favor of her daughter
The Muslim mother-in-law is always fair in her opinions and judgments if any misunderstanding arises between her daughter and son-in-law, or if she notices any failure on her daughter's part to be a good wife or to perform her domestic duties or to take care of her husband's legitimate desires. She does not stand by her daughter, rather she speaks words of fairness and truth, as commanded by Allah (SWT) in the Qur'an:

“...Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned...“ (6:152)
”...And when you judge between people, that you judge with justice...” (4:58)

If she notices that her daughter tends to take a lot of money from her husband or spends extravagantly, and that her words of advice to her daughter are not heeded, then she speaks out, explaining to her daughter the error of her ways and pointing out how she has transgressed the limits laid down by Islam with regard to spending, as has been outlined in the Qur'anic description of the honored, truly-guided servants of Allah (SWT):

”Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just [balance] between those [extremes].” (25:67)

If what she notices on her daughter's part is excessive power and a tendency to undermine her husband's honor and qawwamah, she hastens to explain to her daughter in the clearest terms that men are qawwamun over women, as the Qur'an says:

”Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means...“ (4:34)

and that men have been given this role of protecting and maintaining women for two essential reasons which women should never forget: the precedence given to men, and the wealth that they spend on women: . . but men have a degree [of advantage] over them. (Qur'an 2:228)

The mother-in-law who is adhering to Islam and who is wise and fair does not differentiate between her son and her son-in-law. Just as she wants her son to fulfil his role as qawwam over his wife and to conduct his marriage wisely, seriously and in a manly fashion, so she wants the same thing for her son-in-law too, even if that means that her daughter has to face some strictness, because justice demands that of every woman who believes in Allah (SWT) and the Last Day.

Just as the Muslim mother-in-law will criticize her daughter-in-law if necessary for any extravagance that she may notice, out of compassion towards her son, she will also criticize her own daughter if she oversteps the limits, in order to be fair and just, and in obedience to the words of the Qur'an:

“…Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned…” (6:152)

She deals with problems wisely
A son-in-law may be of a certain mentality with which his wife and mother-inlaw do not feel at ease, which may result in mutual dislike and arguments. In such cases, the duty of the mother-in-law who understands the teachings of Islam is to approach her son-in-law in a sensitive manner, taking into account his particular mentality and nature, to deal with him wisely, and never to despair of reaching her goal with a measure of patience and persistence.

She is always very careful never to exaggerate her son-in-law's negative points to her daughter; rather, so long as those negative aspects do not affect his religion or moral character and do not warrant the end of the marriage, she tries to make them look as small as possible, whilst striving to deal with them by legitimate means and wise methods.

Thus the mother-in-law who is truly guided by Islam becomes a blessing and a source of goodness for her daughter and her husband, offering solid support to their marriage and proving by her fairness and piety that she is indeed a second mother to the husband, not the traditional enemy of the couple, as she is often described in backward, jahili (ignorant) societies where comedians tell funny stories of that everlasting enmity which in fact is the result of the Muslims' failure to properly apply the laws and values of their religion.

We may well imagine the great happiness felt by both families - her son's family and her daughter's family - towards this wise, sensitive, pious mother-in-law, when she is sincere and loved by both her son-in-law and her daughter-in-law, and this love is reflected in the happiness of both families.

By virtue of her taqwa (piety), fairness and good to her son- and daughter-in-law, she increases the happiness of her daughter and son, and contributes to the comfort and tranquility of their families. How beautiful are the deeds of the intelligent, believing mother-in-law, and how great is the need of her sons' and daughters' families for her!

1. (Bukhari and Muslim), See Sharh al-Sunnah, 9/8, Kitab al-nikah, bab ikhtiyar dhat aldin.
2. Sahih Muslim, 2/37, Kitab al-iman, bab bayan an al-din al-nasihah.
3. A hasan hadith narrated by Tirmidhi, 2/274, Abwab al-nikah, 3; Ibn Majah, 1/633, Kitab al-nikah, bab al-akfa'.

Contributor: Asiyah

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