QuestionTo print this letter click here.

The Canadian Society of Muslims wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail (a national newspaper in Canada) regarding a letter they published Aug. 29, 1998. They refused to publish our rebuttal, so we decided to publish it here. We have removed the name of the original letter writer and inserted "xxx" for privacy considerations.

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To: The Editor --  Globe and Mail 

Included here is a rebuttal to xxx's letter entitled "Islam's Disingenuous Defenders" published by The Globe and Mail on Aug. 29/97


Oh please! It sounds very much like xxx has bought into the media portrayal of Islam as a "violent and medieval belief system." 

Mr. xxx seems to assume that the media is portraying Muslims accurately and that Muslims cannot convincingly defend their faith in light of this. When the first statement of an argument is false, it follows that the supporting arguments and conclusion are also false. We have all been fed a steady diet of junk food about Islam from the media. The media is unable to see its own distortions because it first needs to educate itself in an objective and unbiased way. 

The media does not portray all Christianity as a 'violent and mediaeval' belief system when atrocities are perpetrated in the world today by Christians. The media does not condemn all Christians because of the IRA bombings both on and off Irish soil. The media does not condemn all Christians and all Christianity when far-right Christians murder and attack doctors who perform abortions or bomb public buildings in Ohio. Yet the media singles out Islam as the cause of corruption and violence in 'Muslim' countries while never blaming Christianity in 'Christian' countries (i.e. Mexico). They do not characterize all Christians as potential terrorists from the behaviour of organized 'Christian' groups such as the IRA, the neo-Nazis, the Bosnian Serbs, the Aryan brotherhood, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. 

The reason the media does not condemn Christianity is because it is clearly not Christianity which causes these problems. The media recognizes this because they live within a predominantly Christian society. However, the media will not be able to portray Islam with any sort of accuracy until it steps back and looks at the forest instead of the trees. The media would do well to educate itself first before trying to inform the public. 

As to Mr. xxx's assertion that the "Qur'an itself is filled with references to holy war, and the Prophet Muhammad was a warrior who used military power to establish the supremacy of his religion," I do not know how Mr. xxx could possibly make such an unfounded and ridiculous statement. Even a cursory examination of the historical facts will show that less than 500 people (all soldiers and no civilians) were killed in all the 'wars' during the Prophet Muhammad's lifetime (250 non-Muslims and less than 250 Muslims). The use of the word 'war' had a different connotation then than it does now. In the time of the Prophet 'war' meant what we would understand today as hand to hand combat staged on a battlefield. His battles were certainly not on the level of the two World Wars or even the Persian Gulf war. Using the word 'war' in this context is extremely misleading for the reason that to the modern day person it conjures up a mental image of the kinds of inhuman scale of mass murder of innocent civilians witnessed in recent times. For example 1) WW1 = 8,500,000 deaths; 2) WW2 = numbers vary from 35,000,000 to 60,000,000 deaths -- the statistical difference is of no small import! These numbers do not include the number of injuries or wounded because the numbers are impossible to compile. 

All war is forbidden in Islam unless it is waged for a just cause ordained by the Divine law. The life of the Prophet provides reference to only three kinds of war: 1) defensive 2) punitive and 3) preventive. In his famous correspondence with the Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium, (in connection with the assassination of a Muslim ambassador in the Byzantine territory) the Prophet offered him three alternatives: 1) Embrace Islam 2) if not, then pay the tribute 3) if still not, then the Emperor should not interfere with his subjects if they wished to embrace Islam. This then, is the 'holy war' of Muhammad, and his followers. His sole object was to provide the conditions whereby the Word of God would prevail and freedom of conscience would be established for all times. All else was and is illegal. There is absolutely no question that it is forbidden to wage war in order to force people to embrace Islam or to "establish the supremacy of the religion," as Mr. xxx puts it. That would be an 'unholy war'. 

How faithfully the Muslims of later generations have followed these principles in running their governments is a matter of history. History will also judge Christian governments of later generations on their adherence to their principles. 

If during the two world wars, European Christians were never blamed by the media for the monumental destruction which occurred, then how can anyone justify the media's blame on the religion of Islam and its teachings for the breaches committed by delinquent followers of Islam? When people like Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden, who (through their actions are clearly disobeying Islamic law) are analysed by the media, they are portrayed as somehow representing all Muslims and the end result of following the Islamic faith. This is absurd. That would be like saying that the sexual indiscretions of Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and others somehow represents all Christians and is the end result of following the Christian faith. Come on now, nobody believes that. 

The Canadian Society of Muslims

Question To print this letter click here

My name is xxx and I'm a new Muslim. I was looking through your web site and found it really impressive. I do have two questions though: 

I was wondering how I could get involved with your organization? I would like to be of service. 

My next question may sound a bit dumb but please bear with me.  As a new Muslimah, I do get harassed by other Muslims about the length of my hair. I wear it short, primarily for convenience. Is it okay for a Muslim woman to wear short hair? I mean it is a ladies hairstyle.

I do hope Insha Allah  that I'll hear from you soon. Keep up the great work! 

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Thank you for your kind offer and comments about our web site. A useful way for you become involved with our organisation would be to give us ideas and suggestions on how we could improve our website and also for you to inform others about it. We would be very grateful to you for this. 

As to your specific question, under the general guidance provided by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah in his book Introduction to Islam, Dr. Hamidullah says, 

"548. Muslim women should wear a dress which covers their body in a proper manner, avoiding high jumpers, décolleté and transparent materials which show parts of their body. They should not try to resemble men in dress and coiffure and avoid all that is characteristic of glamour girls. Further, when they celebrate the service of worship [the Islamic prayer], they should cover their head. The Prophet recommended that women wear pantaloons. Their gowns should never be higher than the middle of the tibia, preferably down to the ankles (as we read in a Hadith reported by Abu Da'wud, Tirmidhi, lbn Hanbal, and many others.)

Now, depending on what country you live in, the length of one's hair is not an issue, it's the style and fashion and cultural norms in each era that are important. For example, some styles are definitely masculine, whereas other styles are definitely feminine -- and both have less to do with length than with style. The main idea then, is that men should not imitate women so as to appear effeminate in their general appearance, and likewise women should not imitate men. Therefore, so much depends on the local cultural norms of a place one happens to live in. If a woman lives in a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia or Iran, etc. where the headscarf (hijab) is a norm, then her hairstyle would not really matter because, obviously the scarf covers her whole head and hair. 

A similar  question was answered quite nicely by a Muslim scholar in the USA. (Unfortunately, and I am sorry but I don't recall his name at the moment -- or the URL where he posted this answer.) :

"One of the rules of the Shari'ah [Muslim Law] in the matter of dress and personal appearance is that men and women should not imitate each other. Men should not try to look like women and women should not try to look like men. This is indicated by the Ahadith of the Prophet on this subject quoted in al-Bukhari and other books of Hadith.  In one Hadith, it is reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, cursed men who imitated women and women who imitated men. It seems to me that what is meant here by 'imitation' is fraud, deception and hiding of one’s personality. If there is a dress that conceals a man’s identity as man, and a woman’s identity as woman, then it is haram [forbidden] to wear that type of dress. However, there are many outfits that are common to both men and women. For example in India and Pakistan both men and women wear the ‘shalwar.' Yet there is not much difference between the shalwar of men and the shalwar of women. Likewise, both men and women wear blue jeans, pants or slacks. Actually there are special jeans and pants or slacks for men and women. They cover very well the parts of the body that must be covered. So like wearing the shalwar for men or women, I do not see anything wrong with jeans and pants or slacks. However, Muslim men and women should not wear tight fitting jeans and pants or slacks. 

I would also like to remind Muslim youth in America not to wear excessively  baggy jeans either, not because there is anything wrong in those baggy jeans, but because they resemble some gangs’ form of dress. Muslims should avoid wearing the special clothes of people who become known in any society as wrong doers or criminals. 

As far as hair is concerned, women should not cut their hair too short so as to resemble men. But I am not aware of any general prohibition of trimming or shortening of the hair for the purposes of beautification or for the purposes of healthy growth of a woman’s hair. It is not haram for men to have long hair. The Prophet, peace be upon him, used to have long hair reaching all the way to his shoulders. He used to divide them in two locks (du’abatain). At the time of the conquest of Makkah, when he entered the city, it is reported that he had four locks. 

Men should not wear earrings, because that is both an imitation of women and also an imitation of a people with queer characters and an un-Islamic life style. May Allah protect us and our youth from it." 

Question To print this letter click here

Hello, I am studying Islam and wonder if you might be able to help me find where in the Qur'an exactly Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is described as God's final messenger. Thank You

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We are pleased to refer you to the following Quranic verses for your reference: 3:144; 33:40; 47:2; 48:29. 

Q 3:144 
Muhammad is no more than a messenger. Many were messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.

Q 33:40 
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things. 

Q 47:2 
And (as for) those who believe and do good, and believe in what has been revealed to Muhammad, and it is the very truth from their Lord, He will remove their evil from them and improve their condition. 

Q 48:29 
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. 

Question To print this letter click here

I recently saw the following quote on another website. I am quite confused as to it's meaning so can you explain it to me:

“Early Muslim jurists considered abortion lawful for a variety of reasons until 40 -120 days after conception (first trimester). This was based on interpretation of Qur'an (22:4 and 23:12-14) and hadith that implied that ensoulment or "life" did not exist until after that time. Contemporary thinkers, considering available technology that allows visualization of the embryonic heartbeat at four weeks of gestation, are of the position that life begins much earlier than previously thought, and therefore to terminate would be to take a life illegally.” 

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This quote seems to make the sweeping assertion that the opinion of "contemporary thinkers"  is accurate without indicating, among other considerations, how many or who these "contemporary thinkers" are.  One must be very careful when consulting these self-styled "contemporary thinkers" because more often than not, they are clearly not qualified and lack the adequate understanding to be able to make pronouncements of this kind. [Click here for information on Ijtihad (interpretation through the legal process of deductive analogy) etc. of a mujtahid (interpreter of law) and a discussion of the problems associated with this type of situation. For example, some so-called "contemporary thinkers" patently decide that they are 'experts' because they have a little bit of information. They delude themselves into thinking that 'information' is 'knowledge.' Thus in this way, not only have they deceived themselves, but they also deceive others with their incompetent advice, which can be seen in the above quote.]

With regards to this quote, which you find confusing, it would seem to me that this opinion is obviously the result of confused thinking on both the part of the writer and also the “contemporary thinkers” referred to. These "contemporary thinkers" (unlike the early jurists) don’t seem to understand or appreciate the very basic fact that ensoulment or “life” is a spiritual phenomenon –  a miracle, if you like –  rather than a physical occurrence or a mere physiological accident.

Therefore, I would suggest that these “contemporary thinkers' ” viewpoint is not correct because the embryonic heartbeat is something completely different from "ensoulment or life" which was envisaged by the early Muslim Jurists. The crucial point, or the heart of the matter, is that the physical organ known as the ‘heart’ (which is a muscle composed of flesh which performs the function of pumping the blood etc.) is not the same as the "spiritual" heart. This "spiritual" heart is the seat of life where ensoulment takes place. It is actually a celestial entity and, as such, is invisible to the human eye, whereas the physical heart is quite visible. The scholars of the esoteric sciences, such as Sufis, who acquire a deep insight into understanding the 'inner' dimensions of human life, and such other people who are adept in matters that are of a spiritual nature, (e.g.. Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi, alaf-sani, r.a., a well-known Naqshbandi saint) actually describe the location of the spiritual heart to be at a distance of the width of two fingers below and a little to the left of the cone of the heart.

The following Quranic quote and Hadith will further explain in detail the development of the fourth stage (ensoulment): 
[Qur'an 23:14 Translated by Yusuf Ali] :

Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create! 

The well-known scholar, Yusuf Ali, in his translation of the above Quranic verse added this footnote of explanation:
Note 2873
The growth in the foetal stage is silent and unseen. This fetus is protected in the mother's womb like a king in a castle . . ."

Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549:

Narrated Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(as regards your creation), every one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for the first forty days, and then he becomes a clot for another forty days, and then a piece of flesh for another forty days. Then Allah sends an angel to write four words: He writes his deeds, time of his death, means of his livelihood, and whether he will be wretched or blessed (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into his body. So a man may do deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and so he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise and enters Paradise. Similarly, a person may do deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and he starts doing deeds of the people of the (Hell) Fire and enters the (Hell) Fire."

Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8 book 77, number 593:

Narrated 'Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle, the truthful and truly-inspired, said, "Each one of you collected in the womb of his mother for forty days, and then turns into a clot for an equal period (of forty days) and turns into a piece of flesh for a similar period (of forty days) and then Allah sends an angel and orders him to write four things, i.e., his deeds, his provision, his age, and whether he will be of the wretched or the blessed (in the Hereafter). Then the soul is breathed into him. And by Allah, a person among you (or a man) may do deeds of the people of the Fire till there is only a cubit or an     arms-breadth distance between him and the Fire, but then that writing (which Allah has ordered the angel to write) precedes, and he does the deeds of the people of Paradise and enters it; and a man may do the deeds of the people of Paradise till there is only a cubit or two between him and Paradise, and then that writing precedes and he does the deeds of the people of the Fire and enters it."

Hadith: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4 Book 54, Number 430:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mus'ud:

Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature's) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into him. So, a man amongst you may do (good deeds till there is only a cubit between him and Paradise and then what has been written for him decides his behaviour and he starts doing (evil) deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire. And similarly a man amongst you may do (evil) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and the (Hell) Fire, and then what has been written for him decides his behaviour, and he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise."

The Hanafi scholars (whose adherents consist of the overwhelming majority [i.e., over 80%] of orthodox Muslims) permit abortion until the end of the four months (120 days).

Quite a few of the Maliki jurists describe abortion as completely forbidden. In their view, it seems that although life does not begin at conception (i.e., when semen settles in the womb) it is expected to develop into a living baby and so it should not be disturbed by anyone. According to Ibn Jawziyyah, when the womb has retained the semen, it is not permitted for either the husband or wife, or one of them to induce an abortion. After ensoulment, however, abortion is prohibited absolutely and is akin to murder.

Many Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars agree with the Hanafis in their tolerance of the practice, although some put an upper limit of forty days for a legal abortion, whereas others gave eighty days or even 120 days.

Therefore, if you are a Hanafi, you must follow the Hanafi school of law and if you are Shafi'i, Hanbali or Maliki, then you must follow your own particular school of law in this regard. To learn more about the reasoning as to why Muslims should follow a Madhab (i.e., a particular school of law), here are five articles: One | Two | Three | Four | Five

Question To print this letter click here

... As a new  Muslim, it seems like I had fallen victim to the Salafis quite early. Only now do I realize the influence that they have on this ummah. I had been attracted to Islam through the amazing artistic traditions from various Muslim countries. After I embraced Islam 14 months ago, all of a sudden I was thrust into this world devoid of images. Any picture/art was seen as "Bad". Another thing I noticed was that I was discouraged from following any of the four madhabs. Is this a Salafi tactic?

But when it comes to Sufism, there is something that still bugs me. What is the position of going to the graves of Saints and praying to them? I seem to get conflicting answers. I know the Salafis say that excessive praise and love for the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) or  any righteous person or saint is haram. Also is it ok for me to have art on my walls? ...



Visiting the graves is a practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet. For instance, he used to visit the graves of the martyrs of the Battle of Badr, especially on the anniversary of their deaths or martyrdom and pray for them at their gravesides. He also used to visit the graves at the Medina cemetery (in the present time this is adjacent to the Prophet's mosque) after Friday prayers and he used to pray for the departed souls of dear ones who were buried there. What the Sufis and all Muslims do is to follow the Prophet's practice (Sunnah) in this respect. With regards to your question of "going to the graves of Saints and praying to them," we do not worship nor do we 'pray' to the saints or the people in the graves; what we do, for sure, is to pray to Allah, not to the saints or objects which are other than Allah. Period. However, those who have been slain 'in the way of Allah,' (commonly referred to as martyrs) i.e., while striving in the way of Truth and for the 'cause of Allah,' according to the Qur'an itself are not dead, but they are living, but we do not see/perceive them as such. [Qur'an 2:154, 3:169]



For a better understanding of the underlying issues and related matters, it would be appropriate to reproduce here below, the translation of these verses from the Qur'an along with the commentary and footnotes by the translater/interpreter Abdul Yusuf Ali.


O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.

And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead." Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not. 

Commentary/Footnote 158
The "patient perseverance and prayer" mentioned in the last verse, is not a mere passivity. It is active striving in the way of Truth, which is the way of God. Such striving is the spending of one's self in God's way, either through our property of through our own lives or the lives of those nearest and dearest to us, or it may be the loss of all the fruits of a lifetime's labour not only in material goods, but in some intellectual or moral gain, some position which seemed in our eyes to be eminently desirable in itself, but which we much cheerfully sacrifice if necessary for the Cause. With such sacrifice, our apparent laws may be our real gain; he loses his life may really gain it; and the rewards or 'fruits' that seem lost are mere impediments on our path to real inward progress. These extreme sacrifices must be made under the orders and instructions of a righteous Imam, who can see the whole field of spiritual and physical warfare and judge justly of their necessity. Otherwise, there is no inherent virtue in mere sacrifice as such or when exercised at the whim of an individual. Courage (the resistance to the test of Fear) and Self-denial (the resistance to the test of Hunger or Desire) are also, if they are to be virtues, subject to similar conditions.


Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; 

Commentary/Footnote 477
A beautiful passage about the Martyrs in the cause of Truth. They are not dead -- they live -- and in a far higher and deeper sense than in the life they have left. Even those who have no faith in the Hereafter, honour those that die in their cause, with the crown of immortality in the minds and memories of a generation unborn. But in Faith, we see a higher, truer, and less relative immortality. Perhaps "immortality" is not the right word in this connection, as it implies a continuation of this life. In their case, through the gateway of death, they enter the true real life as opposed to its shadow here. Our carnal life is sustained with carnal food and its joys and pleasures at their best are those which are projected on the screen of this material world. Their real Life is sustained from the ineffable Presence and Nearness of God.  cf ii. 154 and see how the idea is further developed here.

They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.


They glory in the Grace and the bounty from Allah, and in the fact that Allah suffereth not the reward of the Faithful to be lost (in the least). 

Commentary/Footnote 478
The Martyrs not only rejoice at the bliss they have themselves attained but the dear ones left behind are in their thoughts; it is part of their glory that they have saved their dear ones from fear, sorrow, humiliation, and grief, in this life even before they come to share in the glories of the Hereafter.

Note how the refrain, "on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve," comes in here with a new and appropriate meaning. Beside other things, it means that the dear ones have no cause to grieve at the death of the Martyrs; rather have they cause to rejoice.

In this context it would be pertinent to discuss briefly another favourite point of the Salafi literalist scholars. In their literal interpretation or the text or terminology of the holy Qur'an or Hadith, such people do not seem to appreciate the simple fact that giving outlandishly simplistic superficial connotations to the meaning of those words, without taking into account the larger context in toto and the true spirit underlying those textual words or phrases, destroys the whole sense and its real meaning. Unfortunately, even the well recognized, essential literary devices and rules of rhetoric and good prose are completely discarded and therefore, more often than not, result in arriving at conclusions which are exactly the opposite of the real, true, and sensible meaning. In this connection, the main argument put forward by the literalist scholars is that it is "shirk" (polytheism or associating others with God) to seek help from anybody or anything other than God, on the grounds that the holy Qur'an commands in chapter 1:5:


"Thee do we worship and thine aid do we seek

The ridiculous nature and the detrimental effect of such literal interpretations, for instance, flies in the face of other Quranic verses. e.g. ch 2 v 153, which contains the commanding verse: 


"O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. "

This verse, in fact, precedes immediately the verse about martyrdom. Such a literal interpretation also completely ignores the fundamental truth and the basic principle of tawhid (belief in the oneness/unity of God) that the Real Agent or the Source of all actions is ultimately none other than God alone and that all Power belongs to Him alone and that consequently all help comes from none other than God Himself. However, in the divine scheme of things, man has been given limited, delegated, power and authority by God. Within these parameters, as human beings, we all help each other and also seek help from, or even subjugate all kinds of forces of nature. In doing this, we always accept and remain conscious of the fact that all such help originates from God alone and that He alone is the real Source and the real Power behind it all. It saddens me to see that any person claiming to be a Muslim can possibly imagine that another person claiming to be a Muslim could bring himself to believe that he himself is the real source of power and authority or that the other person helping the first person believes that he alone has the real power and authority himself!

This being the case, obviously, we can address those who are honoured by the Grace of Allah to be included in the 'martyr' category and request the Auliya Allah /Friends of Allah (Saints) because of their high spiritual position in their piety (Taqwa) to pray to Allah for us on our behalf. Just as we are free to seek help from our fellow human beings who are still living and breathing in this phenomenal world. For a better understanding of the potential hazards of literal interpretations of Hadith literature (as well as Quranic texts) click here

As to your question about art, Dr. Hamidullah (ch. 13) discusses this issue quite nicely. We suggest you read paragraphs 478 to the end (488).

Since images created by employing the techniques of modern photography do not involve "creating images of human beings or living creatures" directly with the human hand as would be the case if one were indulging in hand-drawn portraiture, pictures, paintings, sculptures of the animal or human form like in wood carvings, etc. Therefore, legally speaking, there should be no objection to photographic reproductions or the hanging of photographs of the animal or human form on walls etc.

The rationale for its lawfulness lies in the fact that images that have been impressed upon photographic film or plates are just like images one may see, for instance, in a mirror or the surface of clear water or any other such shiny material. The only difference between these reflective images and photographic images is that the photographic image is 'frozen in time,' so to speak, whereas, reflections on shiny surfaces are transitory in nature. Mind you, there are scholars, particularly those who go for the literal interpretation of legal injunctions, (e.g.. Wahhabis or Salafis) who may have a much different opinion about this. Even so, in countries where Wahhabism or Salafism are known to be commonly followed, photographs of people -- particularly kings, princes, and other prominent people -- seem to be displayed in all manner and fashion, like on posters, currency notes, magazines, journals, television, etc.