Age of Jahiliyah

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Archive for the category “Sunnipath”

Does licking the lips more than once invalidate the fast?

From SunniPath

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad


Does licking the lips more than once invalidate the fast?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


If one licks the lips once, and then immediately licks them again, this does invalidate one�s fast.

It says in the Reliance of the Traveller, i1.18:

�Each of the following things invalidates the day�s fast when one knows they are unlawful (A: during an obligatory fast) and remembers one is fasting (A: but does them deliberately anyway); and they obligate one to both make up the fast-day later and fast the remainder of that day:

11) swallowing saliva that has left the mouth, such as when threading a needle and one moistens the end of the thread, and then remoistens it, swallowing some of the saliva, that the thread had been previously wetted with;�

And Allah knows best.

Shazia Ahmad

Does using toothpaste invalidate one’s fast?

From SunniPath

Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed


Does using toothpaste invalidate one�s fast?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


Using toothpaste does not invalidate one�s fast unless some of it reaches the body cavity.

[Thus, one should exercise due precaution, and try to avoid using toothpaste while fasting. If one uses it, one should rinse out one�s mouth properly.]

Amjad Rasheed

[Translated by Sr. Shazia Ahmad]


السؤال : هل استعمالُ معجون الأسنان مبطلٌ للصوم ؟ الجواب : استعمال معجون الأسنان لا يبطل الصومَ إلا إذا وصل منه شيءٌ إلى الجوف .

Swallowing food that was between one’s teeth

From SunniPath

Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed


Has a person� fast broken if some food goes down his throat from what was between his teeth?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


If some food has passed through one�s teeth and he wasn�t able to distinguish it and get it out before it went down his throat, his fast has not been broken, for he is excused.

However, if he was able to distinguish it and get it out, and he didn�t, then his fast is broken. For this reason, a fasting person should clean between his teeth at night, as is stated in the Tuhfa and its super-commentaries.

Amjad Rasheed

[Translated by Sr. Shazia Ahmad]


السؤال: هل يفطر الصائمُ بما ينـزل جوفه من بقايا الطعام بين أسنانه ؟ الجواب : إن جرى الطعامُ من بين أسنانه ولم يمكنه تمييزُه وإخراجه حال جريانه فلا يفطر ؛ لأنه معذور . أما إن أمكنه تمييزه وإخراجه فقصَّر بطل صومه ، ولذا يتأكدُ للصائم تخليل أسنانه ليلاً كما تجد التصريح بذلك كله في “التحفة” وحواشيها .

The Fast of Pregnant and Nursing Women

From SunniPath

Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed


A group of sisters want to know the rulings related to the fasting of pregnant and nursing women, and what’s required of them in terms of expiation, etc.


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


The discussion of a pregnant (or, similarly, nursing) woman�s fast is divided into:

1. the legal ruling regarding her fasting or breaking her fast,

2. what is required of her in terms of making up missed fasts,

3. what is required of her in terms of monetary penalty (Ar. fidya) if she breaks her fast, and

4. the amount of the monetary penalty.

The Legal Ruling of Fasting or Breaking the Fast

It is obligatory for a pregnant or nursing woman to fast Ramadan as long as she does not fear harming herself, such as if she fears:

1. falling ill, or

2. worsening an existing illness, or

3. delayed recovery from an existing illness.

[m: In the above cases,] it is permissible for her to break her fast. Similarly, it is permissible for her to break her fast if she fears for her child, meaning that, for example, [h: she fears that] she will miscarry or that her milk will decrease, thereby causing her child to fall ill or increase in illness.

Making Up Missed Fasts

If a pregnant or nursing woman breaks her fast, it is obligatory for her to make up each missed day, irrespective of whether she broke her fast out of fear for herself or her child.

When the Monetary Penalty is Required

The monetary penalty is only due if she breaks her fast purely out of fear for her child. If, however, she breaks her fast:

1. purely out of fear for herself, or

2. out of fear for herself and her child,

then no penalty is due.

The Amount of the Monetary Penalty

The amount of the penalty is a mudd of the main staple of the area (such as wheat or rice) for every day missed. A mudd equals 0.51 liters. In our school, it is not permissible to give the monetary value of the food; rather, one must give the food itself. The Hanafi scholars permit giving the monetary value. It is permissible for one to adopt and act upon this opinion if one chooses.

Water Reaching Inside of the Ear during Fasting

From SunniPath

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Karim Yahya, SunniPath Academy Teacher


Zayd, while fasting an obligatory fast of Ramadan, is performing and obligatory wudu and washing his face for the third time. During this third washing, water accidently reaches the inside of his left ear. He immediately takes measures to ensure that it exits. Is Zayd’s fast nullified?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


In The Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Zayd’s fast is not broken.

The jurist’s axiom concerning water accidentally entering the body cavity during purification is that water which inadvertently goes down from something which is requested by the Sacred Law, even a sunna, does not invalidate the fast and water that goes down from something which is not requested does.1

Washing the ears along with the face is sunna, so this water should not break the fast. And Allah knows best and he alone gives success (tawfiq).

1. Muhammad Shatta, I’anah al-Talibin (Beruit, Dar al-Fikr, 1998), 2:367.

Reciting Qunut in Witr During Second Half of Ramadan

From SunniPath Answers

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher


Recite the du`a of qunut during Witr Prayer in the Second Half of Ramadan


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


It is recommended to make the standing supplication (Ar. du’a al-qunut) in the last rak’ah of witr after rising from ruku`, during the second half of Ramadan. This practice starts on the night of the sixteenth (i.e. the night before the sixteenth day) of Ramadan. If one forgets, it is recommended to prostrate out of forgetfulness.

The qunoot is a main sunna (or “sunna mu’akkada”) in the fajr prayer and in the witr during the second half of Ramadan. [Mostafa Elqabanny]

The specific du’a mentioned in the fiqh books (allahumma-hdina fi man hadayt wa ‘afina fi man ‘afayt etc.) is not required to fulfill the main sunna. One may confine oneself to any dhikr that comprises:

(1) a supplication (du’a)

(2) a praise of Allah ( thana ‘)

(3) invocation of blessings (salat) and peace (salam) on the Prophet (nabi), his folk (aal) and companions (sahb).

(al-Yaqut al-Nafis, p. 37)

The formula: “allaahumma-ghfir lee yaa ghafoor allahumma salli ‘ala sayyidina muhammad wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sahbihi wa sallim” meets the above requirements and is therefore sufficient.[1] (Fath al-‘Allam, 2.251)

Note that the Reliance does not fully specify requirement (3) above. I have reproduced the relevant section from the Reliance below and added comments to clarify the intent of the text.


f8.53 (…) The words of this supplication are not set and (h: the main sunna of the qunut) may be accomplished by pronouncing any supplication (O: and praise) or Koranic verse containing a supplication, such as the last verses of al=Baqara (Koran 2:285-86), though the above words (h: meaning the famous du’a most often recited in qunut) are better. After this, one invokes blessings (h: and peace) on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) (h: and also on his folk and companions. Sending blessings and peace on the Prophet, his folk, and companions is also a main sunna whose nonperformance calls for the forgetfulness prostration).


If one omits (whether forgetfully or otherwise) the qunoot in the fajr prayer or the witr prayer in the second half of Ramadan, it is sunna to repair the damage with the forgetfulness prostration. [Hamza Karamali]

And Allah knows best.

[1] The formula means: “O Allah, O Oft-Forgiving One, forgive me! O Allah, send blessings and peace on our Master Muhammad, his folk and his companions”

Requirement (1) is fulfilled by “forgive me”,

Requirement (2) is fulfilled by “O Oft-Forgiving One”,

Requirement (3) is fulfilled by “O Allah, send blessings and peace on our Master Muhammad, his folk, and his companions”.

The Basics of Fasting

From SunniPath Answers

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher


What are the basics of fasting according to the Shafi`i school?



In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate


The Basics of Fasting according to the Shafi’i School

(An abridged and edited version of a pamphlet written in Arabic by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed.)

1. The Ruling of Fasting Ramadan

2. Integrals

3. Recommended Measures

4. Excuses that permit one not to fast

5. Making up Missed Fasts

6. Payment

7. Expiation


Allah be praised, Lord of the Worlds.  Blessings and peace on our master Muhammad and on his folk and companions, one and all.


The following rulings about the fast should be known, applied, and taught to one’s family and whoever does not know them.


1.  The Ruling of Fasting Ramadan


Fasting Ramadan is personally obligatory for every Muslim who has reached puberty, is sane, and is able to fast.  It is not obligatory for a non-Muslim, a child, an insane person, or someone unable to fast (such as someone of advanced years or someone who is continuously [muzmin] sick).


2.  Integrals of the fast


Fasting has only two integrals: (1) the intention and (2) abstention from the nullifiers of the fast.


2.1  Integral #1: Intention


The intention is to intend to fast.  Its location is in the heart, but it is sunna to say it with the tongue.  One optimally says, “I intend to fast tomorrow as a current performance of the obligation of this year’s Ramadan for Allah Most High.”


For the obligatory fast, it is obligatory to make the intention during any part of the night (from sunset until just before dawn).  A practical way to avoid forgetting the intention is to intend to fast the following day immediately after breaking one’s fast at sunset.  Whoever forgets to make the intention, or sleeps before sunset and does not wake up until after dawn must abstain from the nullifiers during that day and then make it up after Ramadan.


For the supererogatory fast, it is permissible to delay the intention until just before the noon prayer [zuhr], provided that that one has not already done something that nullifies the fast.


It is obligatory to repeat the intention to fast for every day of Ramadan.  It is good practice to intend during its first night to fast the whole month, so that one’s fast will still be valid in the school of Imam Malik (Allah have mercy on him) if one forgets the intention on a particular day.


Related Issues:


  1. It is permitted to eat, drink, and have intercourse with one’s wife after making one’s intention until just before true dawn (the second call to prayer).  Such actions do not void the intention to fast.
  2. It is valid to intend to fast while in major ritual impurity [janabah] and then perform the purificatory bath [ghusl] after dawn, although it is better to perform it before dawn.


2.2  Integral #2: Abstention from the Nullifiers


The following seven things nullify one’s fast.


2.2.1  Nullifier #1: A substance reaching the body cavity through an open orifice (substance: this excludes mere traces such as mere taste or smell without any actual substance; body cavity: like the stomach, throat, head, and inside of the ear; open orifice: like the mouth, nose, ear, and anus)


If one deliberately and willingly allows food, drink, or anything else (even if inedible) into the body cavity through one of the aforementioned orifices, and one knew that this was unlawful, one’s fast is nullified.  If one does this forgetfully, under coercion, or in ignorance of its unlawfulness, one’s fast is not thereby nullified.


Related Issues:


  1. Someone whose gums bleed must obligatorily wash his mouth thoroughly with water.  Spitting is not sufficient.
  2. It is permissible to swallow one’s saliva and one’s fast is not thereby nullified unless it is admixed with something else such as blood from the gums or food that remains in one’s mouth, in which case one invalidates one’s fast by swallowing it deliberately.
  3. The ruling of mucus and phlegm is that if one is able to spit it and take it out, it is obligatory to do so, but if it inadvertently reaches one’s body cavity and one is unable to take it out, the fast is not thereby nullified.
  4. If one rinses the mouth during ablution [wudu] without exaggeration and some water reaches the body cavity, one’s fast is not nullified.  But if one rinses the mouth for other than the ablution (such as to cool off or for cleanliness) and water reaches the body cavity, one’s fast is nullified even if one did not exaggerate.  Similarly, if one rinses the mouth during ablution and exaggerates in doing so (by gargling, for example), one’s fast will be nullified if any water reaches the body cavity.
  5. If one performs an obligatory purificatory bath [ghusl] (such as for major ritual impurity or menstruation) or a recommended one (such as for the Friday prayer) and water reaches the inside of the ears, one’s fast is not nullified.  But if one’s bath is neither obligatory nor recommended (such as to merely cool off or to remove sweat) and water reaches the inside of the ears, one’s fast is nullified.
  6. There is no harm in swallowing saliva after rinsing the mouth even if moisture from the water remains in one’s mouth and one’s fast is not nullified because it is difficult to avoid.
  7. It is permissible (although disliked) to taste food with the edge of one’s tongue, provided nothing reaches the body cavity.
  8. There is no harm in smelling food, incense, or flowers.
  9. Smoking nullifies the fast.
  10. If street dust, flour chaff, or car smoke reaches the body cavity, or if one is standing beside someone else who is smoking, one’s fast is not nullified.
  11. Nose-drops nullify the fast.  Scholars have disagreed regarding eye-drops and ear-drops and it is superior to be precautious by delaying them until after sunset for whoever is able.
  12. An anal suppository will nullify the fast so if one is able to delay it until after sunset, it is obligatory to do so.  If one needs it during the day, however, and is unable to delay it, one may take it and it is obligatory to perform a make up fast instead of that day.
  13. Scholars have disagreed whether or not the syringe nullifies the fast.  Some have said that it does not nullify it and others have said that it does, and there is mercy and ease for Muslims in their disagreement, although it is superior to delay it until after sunset if one is able to.  Whoever is unable to delay it may take it and his fast will not be nullified, in-sha’Allah.
  14. Entering a stick in order to clean the inside of the ear nullifies the fast according to the Shafi‘i school if one is aware of this ruling.  If one was unaware of it or did it forgetfully, one is excused.
  15. It is permissible to put Vicks in one’s nose or to enter into one’s nose a tube [unbubah] that has a scent that one inhales in order to open one’s air ducts.  As for opening them by inhaling a powder (such as snuff, for example), one’s fast is nullified if it reaches the body cavity.
  16. The inhaler used by asthma patients nullifies the fast because particles like drops of water come out of it and mix with his saliva, after which the patient swallows it, causing him to break his fast.


Note: It is unlawful to present food to someone if one knows that he will eat it during the day of Ramadan (and he is not excused from fasting), to buy it for him, or to sell it to him, even if the one eating is a non-Muslim or one of one’s parents, since it constitutes helping someone to commit an act of disobedience, which is unlawful.


2.2.2  Nullifier #2: Vomiting deliberately.  Deliberately inducing vomit from one’s stomach nullifies the fast.  If, however, vomit overcomes one and exits without one’s choosing, the fast is not nullified. 


2.2.3  Nullifier #3: Sexual intercourse even if there is no ejaculation.  Both the man and the woman thereby nullify their fast, provided they remembered that they were fasting.  One’s fast is not nullified by kissing and touching without intercourse unless one ejaculates (even if little). 


Related Issue: If one is having intercourse with one’s wife and dawn enters and one immediately disengages, one’s fast is valid even if one ejaculates afterwards (since its cause was permissible).  If one continues having intercourse, one’s fast is nullified even if one is unaware of the entrance of dawn.


2.2.4  Nullifier #4: Ejaculation caused by masturbation using the hand nullifies the fast even if done from behind a barrier (note that masturbation is unlawful even when one is not fasting).  As for kissing and fondling, if one fears that it will result in ejaculation, it is unlawful to do so and if one subsequently ejaculates, it nullifies the fast.  If one knows that one will not ejaculate, it is better not to engage in kissing and fondling, although they are not unlawful.


2.2.5  Nullifier #5: Menstruation or post-natal bleeding during the day of Ramadan.  The fast of a woman who begins the morning in a state of purity and then begins menstruation or post-natal bleeding is nullified.  It then becomes unlawful for her to abstain from the nullifiers with the intention of fasting.  It is not, however, unlawful if she abstains from them without intending to fast.  A woman who begins the morning in menstruation or post-natal bleeding and then becomes pure during the day is not obliged to abstain from the nullifiers for the rest of the day, although it is sunna for her to do so.


2.2.6  Nullifier #6: Insanity.  If the fasting person becomes insane during the day of Ramadan (even if only for a slight moment), his fast is nullified.


2.2.7  Nullifier #7: Unconsciousness.  Whoever is unconscious before dawn and remains unconscious until sunset, his fast for that day is invalid and it is obligatory for him to make it up.  But if one is conscious at the beginning of the day and later becomes unconscious, or if one is unconscious at the beginning of the day and later regains consciousness during it (even if only for a slight moment), one’s fast is valid.


Note:  If someone sleeps all day from dawn until sunset, his fast is valid even if he does not wake up during the day, as opposed to the one who is unconscious, as mentioned above.


2.2.8  Notes regarding the nullifiers:


  1. Whoever does one of these nullifiers forgetfully, under coercion, or in ignorance of its unlawfulness, his fast is not nullified, although ignorance of the rulings of the sacred law is not an excuse for someone who has access to scholars and muftis.
  2. It is obligatory to abstain from these nullifiers starting from true dawn.  The moment the muezzin says, the first “Allahu akbar” to signify the entrance of dawn, it becomes unlawful for someone legally responsible to perform a nullifier.  If there is food or drink in his mouth, it is obligatory for him to spit it out.  Some of the unlearned continue to eat and drink until the end of the adhan and this is a grave mistake that nullifies the fast.
  3. Whoever obstinately [muta‘addiyan] nullifies his fast through eating, drinking, or another nullifier without excuse is sinful and it is obligatory for him to abstain for the remainder of the day.  He must make up a day in place of the one he nullified, provided it did not happen through intercourse.  If he nullified it through intercourse, it is obligatory for him to make up the day he nullified and to also perform an expiation, as explained later on.
  4. Whoever eats, drinks, or has intercourse thinking it merely probable that the sun has set without attaining confidence that it actually has set, must obligatorily make up that day.  Whoever eats, drinks, or has intercourse thinking it probable that it is still nighttime and it subsequently learns that dawn had entered, his fast is nullified and he must abstain from the nullifiers of the fast for the rest of the day and make up the missed fast.  If he does not come to learn that dawn had actually entered, his fast remains valid.


3.  Recommended Measures while Fasting


  1. To hasten to break the fast once it has been established that the sun has set.  If one doubts whether or not it has set, one should not hasten to break the fast.
  2. To break the fast with three or more moist dates [rutab].  If one is unable to do so, then with dry dates [tamr] and if one is unable to do even that, then with water.  If one cannot break it with water, then it is recommended to do so with something sweet like raisins.
  3. To eat the predawn meal.  It has a great blessing in it.  It is sunna to delay it until just before dawn as long as delaying it does not result in doubt regarding the entrance of dawn.
  4. To abandon vulgar speech such as lying, backbiting, and tale-bearing.  These things are unlawful even if not fasting but they become even more so when fasting.  If someone abuses one, one should say three times, “I am fasting” (either with the tongue or in the heart).
  5. To give much charity.
  6. To break others’ fasts even if only with a sip of water.
  7. To perform much worship such as praying, learning sacred knowledge, reciting the Qur’an, making remembrance of Allah, and performing the spiritual retreat [i‘tikaf].
  8. To keep good relations with kinfolk and visit others for the sake of Allah Most High.
  9. To take a bath [ghusl] every night of Ramadan, especially if one attends the group prayer.


Warning:  Let the fasting Muslim who is avid for his religion and the pleasure of his Master beware lest he conclude his day of fasting by breaking it with smoking, having finished off his good work with an unlawful act that Allah is not pleased with.  Whoever prefers Allah, Allah will prefer him.


4.  Excuses that Permit one not to Fast


  1. Sickness during which fasting causes extreme hardship (meaning that one fears a worsening of the sickness, loss of limb, or loss of life).  If one begins the day fasting and then later becomes sick in the manner described above, it is permissible for one to break the fast.
  2. A long trip (81 km. or more), provided one begins traveling before dawn.  If one travels after dawn, one is not excused from fasting unless one experiences extreme hardship such as extreme hunger or thirst.
  3. Pregnancy or nursing when the woman fears for herself or her child.  Note that mere pregnancy without any legitimate fear of harm for herself or for her child does not excuse her from fasting.


5.  Making up Missed Fasts


All missed fasts must obligatorily be made up later on, regardless of whether they were missed with a valid excuse (such as sickness or travel) or without an excuse, except a child when he reaches puberty, an insane person when he regains sanity, an original non-Muslim when he accepts Islam, an old person who is unable to fast, and someone who is continuously sick.  These people are not obliged to make up their missed fasts.


Related Issue: If, while fasting, a child reaches puberty, a traveler ceases his travel, or a sick person recovers, it is obligatory for them to complete their fast.  If they were not fasting, it is recommended for them to abstain from the nullifiers for the remainder of the day.


6.  Payment [fidya]


Payment [fidya] is due from four:


  1. An old person who is unable to fast.
  2. Someone continuously ill.
  3. Whoever delays making up missed fasts until the following Ramadan without being excused in this delay.  Payment [fidya] is due for every year.
  4. The pregnant or nursing woman who doesn’t fast purely out of fear for her child.  If she fears purely for her own self or for both herself and her child, payment [fidya] is not due from her.


According to the Shafi‘is, payment is a handful (about 275 grams) of food from the main staple of the area, such as wheat, barley, or rice.  It can be paid to any deserving recipient of zakat. 


7.  Expiation [kaffara]


Expiation is only due on someone who deliberately and willingly has intercourse during the day of Ramadan in full knowledge of its unlawfulness when he has not already nullified that day’s fast by eating or drinking.


As for the one who merely touches his wife without actual intercourse, or has intercourse not remembering that he was fasting, or under coercion, or out of ignorance of its unlawfulness, or has already nullified his fast before intercourse by eating or drinking, he does not need to perform an expiation.


Expiation is only obligatory for the husband; it is not obligatory for the wife.  An expiation is due for every day of Ramadan that one nullifies through intercourse.


One performs the expiation by freeing a believing slave.  If unable, then one must fast for two consecutive months and if unable to do even that, then one must feed 60 people who are short of money (see Reliance, h8.11) a handful (about 275 grams) of food from the main staple of the area (such as wheat, barley, or rice).


Warning: Some newlywed youths ignorantly have intercourse during the days of Ramadan, preferring to satisfy their lusts rather than obey Allah Most High.  They should fear Allah and know that in addition to the expiation they have to perform for every fast nullified through intercourse, they are also falling into Allah’s wrath and anger during this tremendous [mu‘adhdham] month.

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SP Answers: Can Muslim Women Study in a Non-Muslim University Environment?

From SunniPath

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher


Is it permissible for Muslim women to seek education in medicine in a non-Muslim environment where non-Muslim men do not lower their gazes?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.

Dear Sister,

I pray this message finds you in the best of health and iman. Thank you for your question.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Seeking knowledge is encumbent on every Muslim.” [Ibn Majah]

As Muslims, we are required to learn what is necessary to make our faith and worship valid, sound and proper.

According to Reliance of the Traveller, a book of Sacred Law according to the school of Imam al-Shafi’i, there are three types of knowledge.

The first type, personally obligatory knowledge, is required of every Muslim male and female who has reached puberty and is of sound mind.

Personally obligatory knowledge includes knowing the basic tenets of faith, such as the attributes of Allah Most High, His Oneness, His transcendence and His absolute dissimilarity to created things. One must also affirm the fact that Allah Ta’ala sent prophets and messengers, and that Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the Seal of Prophethood. One must believe in the books of Allah, the angels, divine decree, and the Last Day.

In matters of worship, one is required to know enough to make one’s prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage valid, sound and proper.

In matters of interpersonal relationships and business dealings, one is required to know what makes these relationships valid and invalid. For example, if one is seeking to marry, then one should learn the rulings of marriage and divorce and understand the scope of one’s obligations to one’s spouse.

The second type of knowledge is communally obligatory. If some members of the community undertake this responsibility, then the obligation of seeking this knowledge is lifted from the rest.

However, if no one seeks this type of knowledge, then the entire community is accountable. Examples of communally obligatory knowledge include specialized disciplines of Sacred Law such as Qur’an memorization, hadith classification, the science of methodological principles, and Arabic grammar.

Reliance specifically mentions,

“As for learning which is not Sacred Knowledge but is required to sustain worldly existence, such as medicine and mathematics, it too is a communal obligation.” [Reliance, a5.2]

The third type of knowledge is recommended. It is the type of knowledge which extends beyond the communally obligatory and involves, for example, “in-depth research into the bases of evidence…” [Reliance, a6.1]

To reiterate, learning medicine is considered a communal obligation. What this means in your case, dear sister, is that some members of the Muslim community must seek this knowledge, otherwise the entire community is remiss.

With so many Muslim communities widely dispersed across North America, each community should, ideally, have individuals who are pursuing this type of knowledge. As Muslims, we have a responsibility to serve our own communities, as well as the society at large.

In your case, if you truly feel that there is a need in your community for a Muslim woman physician, then, by all means, you should pursue your goals. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Muslim community is in serious need of sisters who are in the health care professions, including — but not limited to –doctors, midwives, nurses, psychiatrists, therapists, and natural practitioners.

Another very important consideration is that Sacred Law requires persons seeking medical treatment to be treated by same-sex health care providers. Many Muslim sisters end up going to male doctors because there are simply no female doctors available. In some cases, cultural taboos restrict women from going into higher education, thus further contributing to the lack of qualified female health care professionals.

Specifically, Reliance tell us,

“A Muslim woman needing medical attention must be treated by a Muslim woman doctor, or if there is none, then by a non-Muslim woman doctor. If there is none, then a male Muslim doctor may treat her, while if none of the above are available, then a male non-Muslim doctor.” [Reliance, m2.10]

On to the issue of lowering the gaze:

Lowering the gaze is an injunction from Allah Ta’ala to believing men and women. [Surat an-Nur, 24:30-31]

As far as non-believers are concerned, one must deal with them with the same etiquette as when one deals with believers. This means lowering one’s gaze even if they do not reciprocate. This also means refraining from idle conversation, which is a common occurrence in mixed-gender settings, and, when unchecked, can lead to innuendo and flirtation.

For sisters especially, it is best to exercise caution when dealing with non-Muslim men. Be aware of your surroundings and your environment. If someone makes you uncomfortable, leave the room or put some distance between you.

Know your rights in the workplace. You don’t have to tolerate sexually suggestive or explicit language being used in your presence. Likewise, you don’t have to put with people denigrating your religion or religious practices.

The most important point is to maintain professionalism. Be courteous to those around you. Hopefully, if you develop a respectful professional relationship, then it will be easier to educate others about various aspects of Islamic etiquette.

Finally, remember the example of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, who was the most excellent of us in conduct.

Lowering one’s gaze and refraining from idle conversation does not give one the license to be discourteous. Rather, one should observe the limits of gender interaction, while maintaining a polite, pleasant demeanor. Remember that one’s behavior can be powerful da’wah.

And Allah alone knows best.

SP Answers: Non-Muslim Courtesy

From SunniPath

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher


I am a non-Muslim living in America. I am studying the history and culture of Islam and find myself overwhelmed by the intricate social interactions. What greetings and phrases should I, as a non-Muslim, refrain from using when conversing with Muslim friends and students? What topics are taboo to speak of with Muslims, either male or female? And finally, what customs should I be sure to observe to be confident I will not inadvertently offend through my ignorance?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.

Dear Questioner,

I pray that this message finds you in good health and spirits.

Thank you for your sensitivity to issues of social etiquette. This is an important question.

First of all, please don’t be overwhelmed. Islam’s social structure, particularly in the area of gender relations, might appear very complicated. However, in reality, if you just stick to a few basic rules, then you should have no problem interacting with Muslims.

1. Greetings and phrases:

You are free to use any greeting you wish. Some non-Muslims like to use the Muslim greeting of peace when interacting with Muslims. If you would like to try this, just keep in mind that some Muslims are surprised to hear salaams from non-Muslims, and might not respond automatically. Others, however, will have no problem with this.
Ultimately, use whatever greeting you are comfortable with.
I can’t think of any particular phrases or expressions to avoid. Consider the way you would speak to someone with whom you are getting acquainted. Normally, you would avoid overly familiar or casual speech. I think this is a rule that would apply to everyone, no matter their religion.

2. Taboo topics:

Again, the context is important. When I studied Islam in Syria, the Shaykh (religious scholar) who founded our school, Ahmad Kuftaro (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), spoke frequently about the concept of hikma, or wisdom. He defined wisdom as the ability to do what is appropriate at the time when it is appropriate, and in the manner that is appropriate. He said that this was the hallmark of the Prophetic Sunna, the living tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Muslims try to apply this concept of wisdom to their social interactions, particularly with members of the opposite sex.
If you are conversing with Muslims, and especially with Muslim women, then you will want to steer clear of topics that are antithetical to a pious Muslim life, such as premarital or extramarital sex, drinking, drugs, partying, etc. I bring these things up because I have been in situations where non-Muslim classmates have revealed details of their lives that I would rather not have heard. A good rule of thumb is this: is this a topic you would want your little sister discussing with a guy? If not, then it’s better to avoid it.

3. Customs:

Again, the only customs to observe when interacting with Muslim women (and I’m assuming that you’re male) are to avoid shaking the women’s hands or making any sort of physical contact. Observant Muslims avoid the sort of casual physical contact with the opposite sex to which we’re accustomed here in America, such as shaking hands, hugging, etc.

Also, in terms of eye contact, you’ll notice that observant Muslims will avoid staring at members of the opposite sex. This lowering of the gaze facilitates modesty and respect for the other person and shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of confidence or unfriendliness.

To conclude, gender etiquette among Muslims is not as complicated as you might think. As long as you avoid explicit or suggestive conversation, don’t make physical contact, and maintain a respectful and modest demeanor, then interacting with Muslims of the opposite sex should not be a problem.

And Allah knows best.

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