Monthly Archives: February 2009


Anger is one of the evil whispers of Shaytaan, which leads to so many evils and tragedies, of which only Allaah knows their full extent. For this reason Islam has a great deal to say about this bad characteristic, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described cures for this “disease” and ways to limit its effects, among which are the following:

(1) Seeking refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan:

Sulayman ibn Sard said: “I was sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and two men were slandering one another. One of them was red in the face, and the veins on his neck were standing out. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, 

‘I know a word which, if he were to say it, what he feels would go away. If he said “I seek refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan,” what he feels (i.e., his anger) would go away.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 6/337)

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 

“If a man gets angry and says, ‘I seek refuge with Allaah,’ his anger will go away.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, no. 695)

(2) Keeping silent:

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 

“If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/329; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 693, 4027).

This is because in most cases, the angry person loses self control and could utter words of kufr (from which we seek refuge with Allaah), or curses, or the word of divorce (talaaq) which would destroy his home, or words of slander which would bring him the enmity and hatred of others. So, in short, keeping silent is the solution which helps one to avoid all that.

(3) Not moving:

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 

“If any of you becomes angry and he is standing, let him sit down, so his anger will go away; if it does not go away, let him lie down.”

The narrator of this hadeeth is Abu Dharr (may Allaah be pleased with him), and there is a story connected to his telling of it: he was taking his camels to drink at a trough that he owned, when some other people came along and said (to one another), “Who can compete with Abu Dharr (in bringing animals to drink) and make his hair stand on end?” A man said, “I can,” so he brought his animals and competed with Abu Dharr, with the result that the trough was broken. [i.e., Abu Dharr was expecting help in watering his camels, but instead the man misbehaved and caused the trough to be broken]. Abu Dharr was standing, so he sat down, then he laid down. Someone asked him, “O Abu Dharr, why did you sit down then lie down?” He said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: . . .” and quoted the hadeeth. (The hadeeth and this story may be found in Musnad Ahmad, 5/152; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 694).

According to another report, Abu Dharr was watering his animals at the trough, when another man made him angry, so he sat down . . . (Fayd al-Qadeer, al-Manaawi, 1/408)

Among the benefits of this advice given by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is the fact that it prevents the angry person from going out of control, because he could strike out and injure someone, or even kill – as we will find out shortly – or he could destroy possessions and so on. Sitting down makes it less likely that he will become overexcited, and lying down makes it even less likely that he will do something crazy or harmful. Al-’Allaamah al-Khattaabi, may Allaah have mercy on him, said in his commentary on Abu Dawud: “One who is standing is in a position to strike and destroy, while the one who is sitting is less likely to do that, and the one who is lying down can do neither. It is possible that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told the angry person to sit down or lie down so that he would not do something that he would later regret. And Allaah knows best.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, with Ma’aalim al-Sunan, 5/141) 

(4) Following the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him):

Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, reported that a man said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “Advise me.” He said, “Do not become angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and each time the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told him, “Do not become angry.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Bari, 10/456)

According to another report, the man said: “I thought about what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, and I realized that anger combines all kinds of evil.” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/373)

(5) Do not become angry and Paradise will be yours (a saheeh hadeeth, see Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7374. Ibn Hijr attributed it to al-Tabaraani, see al-Fath 4/465):

Remembering what Allaah has promised to the righteous (muttaqeen) who keep away from the causes of anger and struggle within themselves to control it, is one of the most effective ways of extinguishing the flames of anger. One of the ahaadeeth that describe the great reward for doing this is: 

“Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allaah will fill his heart with contentment on the Day of Resurrection.” 

(Reported by al-Tabaraani, 12/453, see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6518).

Another great reward is described in the Prophet’s words: 

“Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allaah will call him before all of mankind on the Day of Resurrection, and will let him choose of the Hur al-’Iyn whoever he wants.”

(Reported by Abu Dawud, 4777, and others. It is classified as hasan in Saheeh al-Jaami, 6518).

(6) Knowing the high status and advantages offered to those who control themselves:

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 

“The strong man is not the one who can overpower others (in wrestling); rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself when he gets angry.”

(Reported by Ahmad, 2/236; the hadeeth is agreed upon). 

The greater the anger, the higher the status of the one who controls himself. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 

“The strongest man is the one who, when he gets angry and his face reddens and his hackles rise, is able to defeat his anger.” 

(Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 5/367, and classified as hasan in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3859)

Anas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) passed by some people who were wrestling. He asked, “What is this?” They said: “So-and-so is the strongest, he can beat anybody.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, 

“Shall I not tell you who is even stronger then him? The man who, when he is mistreated by another, controls his anger, has defeated his own shaytaan and the shaytaan of the one who made him angry.” 

(Reported by al-Bazzaar, and Ibn Hijr said its isnaad is saheeh. Al-Fath, 10/519)

(7) Following the Prophet’s example in the case of anger:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is our leader and has set the highest example in this matter, as is recorded in a number of ahaadeeth. One of the most famous was reported by Anas, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said: 

“I was walking with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he was wearing a Najraani cloak with a rough collar. A Bedouin came and seized him roughly by the edge of his cloak, and I saw the marks left on his neck by the collar. Then the Bedouin ordered him to give him some of the wealth of Allaah that he had. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned to him and smiled, then ordered that he should be given something.” (Agreed upon. Fath al-Baari, 10/375)

Another way in which we can follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is by making our anger for the sake of Allaah, when His rights are violated. This is the kind of anger which is praiseworthy. So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) became angry when he was told about the imaam who was putting people off the prayer by making it too long; when he saw a curtain with pictures of animate creatures in ‘Aa’ishah’s house; when Usaamah spoke to him about the Makhzoomi woman who had been convicted of theft, and he said “Do you seek to intervene concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allaah?”; when he was asked questions that he disliked, and so on. His anger was purely for the sake of Allaah.

(8) Knowing that resisting anger is one of the signs of righteousness (taqwaa):

The righteous (al-muttaqoon) are those praised by Allaah in the Qur’aan and by His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Paradise as wide as heaven and earth has been prepared for them. One of their characteristics is that they (interpretation of the meaning) 

“spend (in Allaah’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, [they] repress anger, and [they] pardon men; verily, Allaah loves al-muhsinoon (the good-doers).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:134]

These are the ones whose good character and beautiful attributes and deeds Allaah has mentioned, and whom people admire and want to emulate. One of their characteristics is that (interpretation of the meaning) 

“. . . when they are angry, they forgive.” [al-Shooraa 42:47]

(9) Listening to reminders:

Anger is a part of human nature, and people vary in their anger. It may be difficult for a man not to get angry, but sincere people will remember Allaah when they are reminded, and they will not overstep the mark. Some examples follow:

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that a man sought permission to speak to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him), then he said: “O son of al-Khattaab, you are not giving us much and you are not judging fairly between us.” ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) was so angry that he was about to attack the man, but al-Hurr ibn Qays, who was one of those present, said: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, Allaah said to His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) (interpretation of the meaning): 

‘Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish’ [al-A’raaf 7:199]. 

This man is one of the foolish.” By Allaah, ‘Umar could go no further after al-Hurr had recited this aayah to him, and he a man who was careful to adhere to the Book of Allaah. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 4/304).

This is how the Muslim should be. The evil munaafiq (hypocrite) was not like this when he was told the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and one of the Companions said to him, “Seek refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan.” He said to the one who reminded him, “Do you think I am crazy? Go away!” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 1/465). We seek refuge with Allaah from failure.

(10) Knowing the bad effects of anger:

The negative effects of anger are many; in short they cause damage to one’s own self and to others. The angry person may utter words of slander and obscenity, he may attack others (physically) in an uncontrolled manner, even to the point of killing. The following story contains a valuable lesson:

‘Ilqimah ibn Waa’il reported that his father (may Allaah be pleased with him) told him: “I was sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when a man came to him leading another man by a rope. He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, this man killed my brother.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him, ‘Did you kill him?’ He said, ‘Yes, I killed him.’ He asked, ‘How did you kill him?’ He said, ‘He and I were hitting a tree to make the leaves fall, for animal feed, and he slandered me, so I struck him on the side of the head with an axe, and killed him.’ . . .” (Reported by Muslim, 1307, edited by al-Baaqi).

Anger could lead to less than killing, such as wounding and breaking bones. If the one who caused the anger runs away, the angry person turns his anger in on himself, so he may tear his clothes, or strike his cheeks, or have a fit, or fall unconscious, or he may break dishes and plates, or break furniture.

In the worst cases, anger results in social disasters and the breaking of family ties, i.e., divorce. Ask many of those who divorced their wives, and they will tell you: it was in a moment of anger. This divorce results in misery for the children, regret and frustration, a hard and difficult life, all as a result of anger. If they had remembered Allaah, come to their senses, restrained their anger and sought refuge with Allaah, none of this would have happened. Going against the sharee’ah only results in loss.

The damage to health that results from anger can only be described by doctors, such as thrombosis, high blood pressure, tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat) and hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing), which can lead to fatal heart attacks, diabetes, etc. We ask Allaah for good health.

(11) The angry person should think about himself during moments of anger:

If the angry person could see himself in the mirror when he is angry, he would hate himself and the way he looks. If he could see the way he changes, and the way his body and limbs shake, how his eyes glare and how out of control and crazy his behaviour is, he would despise himself and be revolted by his own appearance. It is well-known that inner ugliness is even worse than outer ugliness; how happy the Shaytaan must be when a person is in this state! We seek refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan and from failure.

(12) Du’aa’:

Du’aa’ is always the weapon of the believer, whereby he asks Allaah to protect him from evil, trouble and bad behaviour and seeks refuge with Him from falling into the pit of kufr or wrongdoing because of anger. One of the three things that can help save him is: being fair at times of contentment and of anger (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3039). One of the du’aa’s of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was: 

“O Allaah, by Your knowledge of the Unseen and Your power over Your creation, keep me alive for as long as You know life is good for me, and cause me to die when You know death is good for me. O Allaah, I ask You to make me fear You in secret and in public, and I ask You to make me speak the truth in times of contentment and of anger. I ask You not to let me be extravagant in poverty or in prosperity. I ask You for continuous blessings, and for contentment that does not end. I ask You to let me accept Your decree, and for a good life after death. I ask You for the joy of seeing Your face and for the longing to meet You, without going through diseases and misguiding fitnah (trials). O Allaah, adorn us with the adornment of faith and make us among those who are guided. Praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds.”

Islam Q&A 
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

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Ihsan: The Pursuit of Excellence



I read a great post on the blog Raggiungere written by Cassandra Rochelle Williams. Masha’Allah it was very well written and I wanted to share it with others. 


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Ihsan….just saying the word in my head has a special ring to it, brings a certain unique, inspiring feeling to my heart. This word, this topic moves me. I hope it has that effect on you as well.

Our religion, our way of life is composed of three parts:
(1) Iman
(2) Islam
(3) Ihsan

To discuss ihsan, I must briefly go through the first two, iman and Islam.

Iman must be mentioed as the first part of our deen because iman serves as our roots. For many years of the Prophethood, Allah revealed nothing except the concept of taqwa, ikhlas, and iman. It was not until the hearts of the first Muslims were saturated and strong with true iman did Allah (swt) begin introducing the next concept – Islam, to the ummah.

After our roots are firmly in place and take hold within rich soil that is watered and nourished continually, we can begin understanding and encouraging the practice of Islam or submission to the will of Allah. This Islam, or submission, is like the trunk of the tree, sturdy, reaching up to heights. Children are not required to pray until they are 7. Why? Because these first seven years are to be used by parents to plant the seed of iman and help this seed to grow strong roots by teaching their child about Allah (swt), about jannah, about the miracles and the angels and preparing them to have a strong, balanced character. The “rules” of Islam come more easily to those who have prepared their hearts with iman.

This is the forgotten, the neglected 1/3 of our deen. Yet, it is like the “cherry on top.” Ihsan is the fruit, the blossoms of our tree that show up when the roots and nourished and the trunk is free from disease and harmful insects. If we fail to nourish our iman or practice our submission to Allah, we will bear no fruit and our soul will die. But look into our history. It is rich with ihsan. All the achievements in art, science, architecture, literature, geography, politics, economics, social movement, philosophy, medicine and more came from the Muslims’ desire to attain ihsan. Ihsan is our lost treasure that we must unearth and revive.

When a man says I cannot, he has made a suggestion to himself. He has weakened his power of accomplishing that which otherwise would have been accomplished.”
Muhammad Ali

Ihsan….what does it mean? Like so many other Arabic words that I have mentioned, it has a vast array of meanings. It cannot be summed up prettily in one English word or phrase. Ihsan is excellence. It is perfection. It is beauty. It is balance, harmony, discipline, good character, softness, gentleness, improvement, drive, will power. Ihsan is a human reflection, a human attempt to achieve a high level in the areas covered by the 99 beautiful names of Allah (swt).

In Surat Ar-Rahman, one of my favorite surahs, Allah (swt) uses one of the most powerful and difficult to use literary devices – the rhetorical question. If you have studied literature to any extent, you will know that the rhetorical question can only be used in very special, particularized situations and it can only be used when the author has much confidence and much leverage in the answer and the motivation for asking the question. The rhetorical device is amazing because, as it gives the answer to the question away, it leaves the reader to contemplate deeply on the meaning of the question, the profound reasons behind the obvious. Allah (swt), in Surat Ar-Rahman, conquers this literary device and uses it in truly miraculous ways.

In Surat Ar-Rahman, the most frequent rhetorical question asked is, “then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” which is asked 31 times out of a total of 78 verses. However, stuck in between 2 of these 31 rhetorical questions is another, more subtle, yet incredibly powerful ayah. It reads, “Is there any reward for ihsan except ihsan?”

This rhetorical question is amazing on myriad levels. I would like to share three levels of meaning for this rhetorical question:

(1) Those who sincerely strive in Allah’s Cause and attain ihsan in both their worship and their everyday activities will be rewarded for this excellence by being blessed by Allah (swt) with the sweetness of faith. They will be some of the few people who have walked the face of the earth and tasted this level of faith. God-consciousness will be continuous, and everything these few do will be geared for a higher purpose. They will have attained ihsan and in return, they will feel ihsan in their hearts.

(2) Those who sincerely strive in Allah’s Cause and attain ihsan in both their worship and their everyday activities will be rewarded for this excellence by being blessed by Allah (swt) with success in this dunya. This can be seen in our history, in our Golden Age. The Muslims of that time attained ihsan in their rituals and in their other activities. Allah rewarded this ihsan with ihsan – the excellence in this dunya that we read about – the amazing art, architecture, philosophy, medical advances, etc.

(3) Those who sincerely strive in Allah’s Cause and attain ihsan in both their worship and their everyday activities will be rewarded for this excellence by being blessed by Allah (swt) with the ultimate success, the ultimate ihsan – that of jannah in al-akhira.

So in summary, that one little rhetorical device in 55:60 is hidden, but it packs a huge punch. Those who realize the value of ihsan, who reach and strive and work for ihsan, who nourish their roots and groom their trunk in order to bear plentiful, amazing fruit will be rewarded with Allah’s forms of ihsan – the sweetness of faith, success in the dunya, and the ultimate success in al-akhira.

So how does this relate to us right here, right now? We’re high school, college, grad students. We’re young people in the workforce. We’re newly married, engaged, or waiting our turn. We’re brothers and sisters and aunts, uncles, cousins, and children. We’re youth group leaders or mentors or committee heads in MSA/MSU. What does ihsan mean in our lives?

It means that every day, when you’re in a boring class or you get handed an assignment for a 15 page paper or you learn about a comprehensive final exam or you get a huge project from your boss or your mom asks you to make dinner or clean your room or your brother or sister asks for help with homework or to play with you outside – that you stop…that you stop the immediate negative reaction that we’ve been trained to play over and over again when it comes to these sorts of things.

We stop, and we realize that this is our opportunity for ihsan. That this is another opportunity for us to make our intentions for Allah (swt), to please Him. That this is a chance for us to add something to our Life’s Book that Allah (swt) will open on the Day of Judgment and look upon us with joy and be proud of us. For, as Yusuf al-Qaradawi has mentioned,

Allah loves when one of you is given a task, that he or she does it in the most excellent manner.

Sheikh al-Qaradawi didn’t say that Allah “likes” when you do things with ihsan. He didn’t say that Allah thinks it’s “ok” or “cool” or “alright.” One of the greatest scholars of Islam says that Allah “LOVES” when we do things with ihsan. Allah LOVES. Think about that for just a second and let it set in. Think about the last time someone you respected/admired told you that they loved something you did. How did that make you feel? You were beaming for days, most likely. You remembered what they said and how they reacted and you kept replaying it in your head again and again. Imagine then, how amazing it would feel to do something that Allah (swt) LOVES. Imagine standing in front of Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment and having Him tell you all the things that you did that He LOVED. Imagine how you would feel.

So when you have a test or a paper or you have to mow the lawn or you are going to the gym or playing football or doing an MSA event, do it with ihsan! Don’t just “be,” don’t just get by, don’t just pass. Be EXCELLENT, strive for PERFECTION, be the BEST in your class, show the world how Islam inspires you to attain ihsan!

We are given just a few moments in this dunya. Each breath is a priceless jewel and when it passes it never returns….make this moment, this breath, this heart beat one that resounds with ihsan!


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Has Islam Failed? Not by Western Standards

Sent to me by Tamim, aka “Muscles” 


We hear over and over again that Islam has failed, that it is in crisis. The claims always involve comparing Islam to something else, though to what is often unclear. If ‘failed’ just means ‘hasn’t kept up with the West’, Islam has indeed failed. So has every other culture, except to the extent it has Westernized. And if a culture fails whenever it falls behind the economic or technological front runners, Italian culture has failed in relation to Japanese or American culture.

But if ‘failed’ means something else, what is that? Bernard Lewis says: “In the course of the twentieth century it became abundantly clear that things had gone badly wrong in the Middle East–and, indeed, in all the lands of Islam. Compared with Christendom, its rival for more than a millennium, the world of Islam had become poor, weak, and ignorant.” He also tells us that “Arab” nations rank poorly on a scale of “economic freedom”.

Even if we knew whether we were comparing the West or Christendom with The Middle East or the Arab World or the Muslim World, the terms of the comparison would be uncertain.

It is almost as if any parameter will do, as long as Islam comes out on the bottom: should my heart really swell with pride if I hear that my country has lots of ‘economic freedom’? Sometimes Islam seems to have failed primarily in areas where there is no consensus that it is good to succeed.

Should Egyptians envy the Americans their fine electoral system and the impressive leaders it produces?

Ought Tunisians to learn criminal justice from US courts and prisons?

Should impoverished Iranians yearn for the medical care they would get in America?

We needn’t be relativists when we compare civilizations. But it is one thing to insist on applying ‘Western values’ to practices such as slavery or female genital mutilation. It is quite another to suppose that Western values are whatever today’s ideologues declare them to be– economic freedom, for instance, as opposed to equally Western values like asceticism, environ-mentalism, socialism and communism. And it is something else again to compare Islamic realities, not with Western ones, but with America as it looks to patriotic bar-stool warmers after six beers.

Suppose, then, that we retain ‘Western values’, but spare ourselves the ideological claptrap about democracy and economic freedom. One Western value, I think, is that one should attempt some degree of objectivity when comparing cultures: if one cannot entirely avoid applying one’s own values, one can at least rely only on their most nearly uncontroversial, universal elements. This means avoiding even such apparently undoctrinaire measures as ‘average annual income’ (also a Lewis yardstick). What’s more important, after all, the average or the minimum? What if the average rises only because the rich get richer, despite immense suffering at the bottom of the scale? Western values oblige us to measure the success of society in genuinely moral rather than ideological terms.

If we insist on judging a whole civilization, three constraints might curb our arrogance. First, we should be looking at the basics–poverty, health, exposure to violence. For all the critics of Islam praise freedom and democracy, they offer as proof of their ideological pudding the allegedly superior capacity of non-Islamic societies to deliver these basics. Second, we should measure the success of society by how things are at the bottom of the social scale. Delivering the basics doesn’t mean much if you don’t deliver them to everyone, and even a dazzling civilization can’t be counted successful if it’s built on misery. Third, any judgements delivered must be strictly comparative. The issue isn’t whether Islam has failed to meet certain standards, but whether its failures are worse than those of Christianity.

The comparison, in this form, defines two civilizations by their adherence to two religions. Islam is being compared, not with the West–not with a region–but with Bernard Lewis’ ‘Christendom’. We could, it is true, compare the Islamic Middle East with Western Europe and the US. That would lead only to the unsurprising truth that the West, which actively colonized or occupied the Middle East for many years, did better. We would draw exactly the same conclusions if we compared the West with Latin America, or sub-Saharan Africa, or the Indian subcontinent. To compare regions is not to compare civilizations, and to single out a lagging Islamic region when there are many lagging non-Islamic regions is just plain dishonest. So a comparison of Lewis’ “all the lands of Islam” with ‘all the lands of Christendom’, which focuses on civilizations rather than regions, seems more likely to transcend particular regional problems and advantages. We will say something about the Middle East versus the West later.

To make the comparison, let’s look at some numerical indicators of well-being, as well as some recent history: you can’t very well assess well-being within a culture or society without looking at the wars they have experienced. The idea is to see whether Islam is worse than Christianity at protecting people from the worst things in life. I’ll base the initial comparison on UN statistics. These seem to be the best available, though they have one drawback: for each parameter, the UN figures offer information on a slightly different batch of countries.

The UN offers some ‘millennium indicators’ of material well-being, including health. (There are 48 indicators in all, including HIV incidence, condom use, malaria incidence, educational indicators, market access, internet use, and so on. I have selected some of the ones most directly related to material well-being. The reader can readily verify that my selection is not slanted to favor Islam.) The figures will be integrated with information about the religions of the countries listed, compiled from the Information Please Almanac and the CIA World Factbook. To start, take infant mortality rates for the latest year available, 2000. Do these figures make Islam look worse than Christendom?

Here are figures for the 27 countries whose infant mortality rate is a horrific 10% or more, i.e., at least 100. (This cutoff doesn’t skew anything; the next three countries are not Islamic.)

Infant mortality rate (0-1 year) per 1,000 live births (UNICEF estimates), 2000


Sierra Leone 
Islam 40%, Christian 35%,
Other 20%

Roman Catholic 47%, 
Protestant 38%, Other 15%

Islam (167 in 1990 
under secular ruler Najibullah)

Islam 80%, Animist 
and Christian 20%

other 40%, Christian 40%, 
Islam 20%



other 65%, Islam 30%, Christian 5%

Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%,
Kimbanguist 10%, Islam 10%

other 60%, Christian 30%, Islam 10%


Islam 44%, Christian 33%, other 23%

Ethiopia [from

Christian 75%, Islam 20%

Central African 
Christian (other influence) 50%, 
Islam 15%, other 35%

Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%, 
other 32%

Islam 85%, other 7%, Christian 8%

Christian 50%-75%, Islam and 
Hindu 24%-49%, other 1%

Islam 50%, Christian 40%, 
other 10%

Burkina Faso 
Islam 50%, Christian (mainly Roman
Catholic) 10%, other 40%


Christian 40%, Islam 33%

Equatorial Guinea 
predominantly Christian 
with pagan practices

Cote d’Ivoire 
other 60%, Islam 23%,
Christian 17%


Christian 60%, other 40%

Roman Catholic 56%, Protestant 18%,
Islam 1%, Other 25%

Certainly the Islamic religion figures prominently among those states with high infant mortality, but Islamic civilization does not. Sierra Leone, for instance, was not only a British colony from 1808 to 1961, but also a seat of British administrative and education institutions for the region. Its current misery is due largely to the “reign of terror” (Infoplease) of Catholic-educated Johnny Paul Koroma, now a born-again Christian. Afghanistan’s infant morality rate was even worse under the secular, Western rule of Russian-backed Najibullah; Iraq’s is a result of Western sanctions policies and Saddam Hussein’s secular, Westernized rule. Otherwise, every single state on the list with a substantial Islamic population has been a Christian colony or protectorate for much of its history. More purely Islamic states, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lybia, are nowhere to be found. Nothing here suggests that the worst infant mortality rates are found in the Islamic rather than in the Christian world.

Suppose then we look at something perhaps even more basic: nutrition, specifically those undernourished as percentage of total population. For simplicity’s sake we’ll consider only the worst ten cases. Again, readers can easily consult the original source to verify that this abbreviated view doesn’t distort the comparison.

Nutrition, undernourished as percentage of total population (FAO estimates 1998-2000 average)





80% Islamic population: anti-Islamic government

not predominantly Islamic; long Christian rule

not predominantly Islamic; long Christian rule



mainly Christian

Nothing here suggests that Islam is particularly bad at nourishing its people.

What of poverty? There are UN figures on the percentage of population who consume less than $1 a day.

‘Poverty, percentage of population below $1 (PPP) per day consumption (WB)’ (1998 figures when available, otherwise 1999, indicated with *)


Mainly Christian


Christian 41%, 
Islam 7%, other 52%

Islam 30%, Christian 24%, 
other 38%



El Salvador 




Again the figures give no support whatever to the ‘failure of Islam’ hypothesis. (Admittedly the list is very incomplete–where are the poverty-stricken Christian states of Haiti and Ethiopia?–but not, I believe, unrepresentative.)

Sanitation is another relatively uncontroversial indicator of how well a society is doing. This time I’ll list the twelve worst, because the last three on the list are tied.

Sanitation, percentage of population with access to improved sanitation, total (WHO-UNICEF 2000)




[from 1993] 

not predominantly Islamic; 
long Christian rule




Christian 15%, Islam 15%, 
other 70%

Central African 
Christian (animist influence) 50%, 
Islam 15%, other 35%


predominantly Hindu

predominantly Hindu

Islam is certainly no standout in this hall of shame.

Note that for individual countries, these indicators work very well. Haiti, Burundi, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Ethiopia would, as expected, score much lower on all of them than Britain, France, Switzerland, and the US. Pretty much anyone, regardless of religion or culture, would agree that the low scorers are doing worse than the high scorers. If we were comparing democracy, or freedom, or ignorance, we couldn’t get anything like the same consensus: Cuba or Saudi Arabia are doubtless less democratic than Mexico or Argentina, but not everyone would be sure which are the failed societies.

So on these non-ideological measures of well-being, Islam is no failure in comparison with ‘Christendom’. Indeed Christendom, with its economic dominance and technological superiority, might well be considered more reprehensible in its failures to provide for its poor. Another relatively unbiased but somewhat less materialistic measure would be the degree of violence in a society. One indicator is the murder rates, and the countries with high ones are overwhelmingly Christian. But since murder statistics are debatable, we might also want to survey the propensity of these two civilizations to generate wars. In recent times, if there any failure, it is Christianity. It is not just(!) that ‘Christendom’ has produced two world wars, and Hitler. The postwar period is hardly more encouraging. There is the Korean war, in which Christians but not Muslims played a central role, the Vietnam War which accounts for the deaths of as many as four million people, and terrible civil or colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola. Nor are the death tolls simply a function of Western technology: the horrendous low-tech killing in Rwanda and now in the Congo are thoroughly Christian. On the Islamic side, not much is in the same league. There is the Iran-Iraq war, instigated by secular, Westernized, Iraq. The Lebanese civil war involved both cultures, as does Algeria’s colonial past and, to a lesser extent, its present. So Islam, compared either to the West or to Christianity, has far less killing on its conscience.

What about internal repression? The great killing of Communists in predominantly Muslim Indonesia took place, not as part of some fundamentalist upsurge, but within the context of ongoing American cold-war interference. As for Syria and Iraq, Bernard Lewis himself says that

If you look, for example, at the regimes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, of the late Hafez el-Asad in Syria, these are not part of the Islamic or Arab tradition; they are the results of European influence and the Europeanization of the Middle East, sometimes also called modernization or Westernization. (Truman News, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Volume V, Issue 1 March 1, 2003)

Iran is certainly Islamic, but it inherited its brutal secret police from its very Westernized and US-sponsored Shah. Though undeniably horrible cruelties are perpetrated throughout the Muslim world, Christianity–even forgetting that Hitler business– easily matches these in the recent past of Haiti, Greece, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Africa, Peru, Ethiopia, and many only slightly less vicious Christian dictatorships. And though none of these ‘Christian’ régimes deserve to be called Christian, their crimes are entirely the product of Christian civilization. The crimes of ‘Islamic’ régimes, by contrast, have in most cases important links to non-Islamic, indeed to ‘Christian’ influences.

So compared to Christendom, Islam doesn’t seem to have failed. What if it is instead compared to the West? Certainly on most measures of material well-being (but not of violence), the West triumphs. Yet virtually no one claims Christianity enabled the West to come out ahead, because the rise of the West coincides with the often violent fragmentation of Christianity and the spread of secularism.

‘Experts’ and pundits prefer to attribute Western dominance to democracy. But the West did not exactly elect itself into the lead: it triumphed largely because of its progress in science and technology. And it is a bit odd to see Western success as a failure of Islam, as if Muslims had contracted some strange mental disease: every other civilization fell equally far behind. In any case, can the West’s progress be attributed to democracy? Not likely, because its scientific and technological dominance came first.

The first major advances that put the West ahead included the astronomy of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, and Kepler, the explorations of Columbus and Magellan, and the mathematics of Pascal and Fermat. All these occurred before there was the slightest hint of democracy. The English provided the impetus for a second wave of discovery and invention. It developed when the power of the monarchy had been reduced, but certainly before England could be called democratic: the vote excluded women, a large segment of the lower classes, and was in any case so corrupt and manipulated that no one considered it even remotely representative. This only began to be corrected with the First Reform Bill of 1832. Even by 1867, less than 10% of the adult population could vote, and real democracy came only in the early 20th century. Yet before 1832 we get Napier’s logarithms, Snell’s law of refraction, Harvey’s work on the circulation of the blood, the calculus of Newton, the economics of Adam Smith, Herschel’s discovery of Uranus, Hutton’s uniformitarianism, Priestly’s discovery of oxygen, Jenner’s smallpox vaccinations, and Dalton’s laws. In technology, we have Hargreaves’ spinning jenny, James Watt’s steam engine, Cartwright’s power loom, Whitney’s cotton gin, Fulton’s steamboat, Stephenson’s locomotive engine, and the first railroad. This activity is complemented on the not even nominally democratic continent by Bernouilli’s work on probability and fluid mechanics, Michel and Montgolfier’s hot air balloon, Berthollet’s chemical nomenclature, Volta’s battery, Ampère’s work on electricity, Gauss’ and Lobachevsky’s mathematics, Avogadro’s chemistry, and Ampere’s force law.

All the subsequent progress of the 19th century and beyond, up to and including the theory of relativity, occurred before the institution of women’s suffrage (1919) and truly universal suffrage (1928), and therefore before the existence of any ‘democracy’ in the modern sense of the term. (This fact weakens another claim, namely that Islam’s treatment of women was a contributor to its relative underdevelopment.) It is also worth noting that when England eliminated famine in the 1620’s and France around 1709, both countries were securely in the grip of absolutism. (As for literary and cultural achievement, no one claims that the West first flowered in its democratic phase.) So if the comparison is between the Middle East and the West, it is far more plausible to attribute the West’s lead to the formation of cohesive, undemocratic nation states than to the progress of democratic societies. This certainly fits the story of Germany, a scientific and technological giant throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, known otherwise for the conspicuous failure of its democracy.

So if Islam has fallen behind the West, it is not because of either Christianity or democracy, and in this respect Islam is no different from any non-Western culture. Whatever caused the West’s incredible technological surge in the 17th and 18th centuries, the reasons are bound to be big, complex, and, well, un-American. This is not at all the sort of ‘going wrong’ Lewis and others are after. But suppose we make the comparison Lewis may really want us to make: the Islamic Middle East with the West. Suppose too that we look, not at whether democracy accounts for ‘Western success’, but simply at whether Islam has done as well as the West. Can we then say that Islam has failed?

Only, I think, if we resort to a subterfuge in defining “The West”. Certainly if the expression is restricted to Western Europe and the United States, Islam will fare poorly by many standards of well-being, though not, once again, by measures of violence. And Eastern Europe might be excluded because it was so long under ‘non-Western’ Soviet rule. But there is certainly another part of the world that should be counted as belonging to the West, and that is Latin America. It was under Western (mainly Spanish and Portuguese) rule for centuries. It has been a declared sphere of US influence since 1823, a major focus of 19th century British investment, a thoroughly Christian region, and the beneficiary of Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Almost all its countries, at some points in their histories, have been democracies. Its cultural outlook is overwhelmingly Western, as are its languages. But once it’s included, things don’t look so good for the West. Minimal levels of well-being in Middle Eastern countries are on the whole higher than in, say, Colombia, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, and now Argentina. In the recent annals of violence and repression, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Paraguay, Brazil, El Salvador, and Guatemala figure as prominently as Algeria, Iraq, or Iran, and much more prominently than that perennial favorite of liberal head-shakers, Egypt. And, since we’re considering the IslamicMiddle East, note that the most repressive Middle Eastern countries have all experienced long and pervasive Western influence: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the former French colony of Algeria, Westernized Turkey, and the erstwhile US client, Iran. The same may be said of Afghanistan, perhaps the worst-off Middle Eastern country in material terms. The much ‘purer’ and often fundamentalist Gulf states come out much better than the West (including Latin America), even if we look at averages rather than minima. So once again, the failure of Islam has slipped away.

Perhaps Islamic civilization, like Christian civilization, has failed according to some more or less objective standards. But in relative terms, it has not. It does no worse than Christendom in providing for its own. In its most degraded impulses, it has no cruelties to teach the civilization responsible for Auschwitz and Hiroshima. And if the comparison is between Western technological success and the relative backwardness of Islam, nothing suggests that democratic or Christian values are involved. More likely, the civilization that almost took Vienna in 1683 simply rested on its wealth and laurels until it was too late. That Islam ‘has failed’ in some morally significant and comparative sense is an illusion induced by looking at the world in the fun-house mirrors of free-market demagogues.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann’s views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He can be reached at: 

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Sahaba: ‘Umayr ibn Wahb



I have decided to start a series of posts that narrate the  lives of the Sahaba. This is first and foremost for myself, because I have felt for a long time that I need to learn more about their lives, who they were, the sacrifices they made for Islam, and understand why they were the best generation of mankind. Also, instead of simply reading about them, actually writing down what I read helps me greatly to remember the narrations and be able to teach them to others. I’m taking the stories from the book ‘Portaits From the Lives of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’. Insha’Allah others will benefit from these as much as I do. 


“Umayr b. Wahb has become more beloved to me than a son.” Umar b. al-Khattab.


‘Umayr b. Wahb returned safely form the battle of Badr, but he left behind him his son, Wahb, captive in the hands of the Muslims. ‘Umayr feared that the Muslims would exact revenge upon the young boy, because of his own evil deeds. He feared they would treat him with cruelty, as a punishment for the harm which he, ‘Umayr, had caused the Blesses Prophet, and the torture he had inflicted upon the followers of the Blessed Prophet.

 One morning, ‘Umayr set forth for the masjid, to walk around the Ka’bah and pay respects to the idols. There he found Safwan b. Umayyah sitting next to the sanctuary, and so he saluted him, saying:

            “Good morning, master of Quraysh.”

            “Good morning, Abu Wahb. Come sit and talk for a while, for nothing passes time like conversation.”

 ‘Umayr sat facing Safwan b. Umayyah, and they took to recounting the great losses of Badr, and the number of captives who had fallen into the hangs of Muhammad and his companions. They grieved over the lords of Quraysh who had fallen to the swords of the Muslims, and lay now in the depths of the well of Qulayb. Safwan b. Umayyah sighed and said:

            “Life is not worth living, with them gone,” ‘Umayr assented, then after a brief silence said:

            “I swear by the Lord of the Ka’bah, if it were not that I have debts which I cannot pay, and children for whom I fear if I were to die, I would go and kill Muhammad, and rid us of him once and for all.”

Then, lowering his voice, he continued:

            “Besides, the fact that they have my son Wahb captive makes it appear perfectly normal for me to travel to Yathrib, Nobody would suspect anything…”

Safwan b. Umayyah saw in ‘Umayr’s speech a golden opportunity, and seized upon it. He turned to him saying:

            “ ‘Umayr, consider you debts to be mine, and I shall pay them no matter how heavy they be. And consider your children to be mine, and I shall provide for them as long as they and I live. I have enough money to ensure that they live in luxury.”

            “Then keep our talk secret, and tell nobody of it,” said ‘Umayr, and Safwan agreed.

‘Umayr left the masjid, his heart raging with his hatred of Muhammad (pbuh). He started making preparations to carry out his resolution, and had to fear that nobody would find in is journey a cause for suspicion. Many of the people of Quraysh had relatives who were captives of war in the hands of the Muslims and were in the habit of traveling to Yathrib, seeking to ransom them. He had his servant bring his sword, and had it sharpened and coated with poison. Then he called for his mount, and it was prepared and brought to him. He climbed on its back, and set forth for al-Madinah, his heart churning with hatred and spite.

When he reached al-Madinah, he headed towards the masjid in search of the Blessed Prophet. When he came close to its entrance, he made his camel kneel, and dismounted.

At this time, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (ra) was sitting with some of the Companions near the entrance of the masjid. They were recounting the battle of Badr, and the losses of Quraysh as well as the prisoners which the Muslims had taken. They retold the heroic actions of the Muslims on the battlefield, the Muhajirun here, the Ansar there, and how Allah had honored them with victory and abased their enemy. ‘Umar happened to turn, and to see ‘Umayr b. Wahb dismounting, and striding towards the masjid with his sword tucked into his belt. He sprang up in alarm, saying:

            “That dog, that enemy of Allah, is ‘Umayr b. Wahb. He has come intent on evil. In Makkah, he used to incite the pagans against us, and he was their spy against us just before the battle of Badr.”

Then he told his associates:

            “Go to the Messenger of Allah, and station yourselves around him. Take care that no treachery is done to him by that vile schemer.”

Then ‘Umar sought out the Blessed Prophet, and said to him, “Oh, Messenger of Allah! This enemy of Allah, ‘Umayr b. Wahb, has come wearing a sword, and I think he comes only to do evil.”

The Blessed Prophet said, “Bring him to me.” So ‘Umar went forth to ‘Umayr b. Wahb, seized him by the sash, and collared him with his sword belt. In this manner he brought him before the Blessed Prophet, who upon seeing him, said to ‘Umar,

            “Release him, ‘Umar, release him!”

Then he said, “Stand away from him.”

When, ‘Umar had moved away, the Blessed Prophet drew close to ‘Umayr, and told ‘Umayr to do the same. ‘Umayr said:,

            “Good morning.” (This was a greeting of the heathen Arabs.) The Blessed Prophet answered,

            “Allah has honored us with a salutation better than ours, ‘Umayr. He has honored us with, ‘Peace,’ which is the greeting of the inhabitants of Paradise.”

            ‘Umayr answered:

            “By Allah, you are not far from our greeting. Until very recently, you used to use it yourself.”

Ignoring the rudeness of ‘Umayr, the Blessed Prophet said to him,

            “What brings you here, ‘Umayr?”

            “I have come to plead for the release of a prisoner you have taken Do me kindness through him.”

            “Then why do you carry a sword with you?”

            “May Allah curse it among swords! It did nothing for us at Badr!”

            “Tell me the truth, what have you come for, ‘Umayr?’

            “I have already told you.” Then the Blessed Prophet said:

            “No. You sat at the sanctuary with your friend, and recounted those of Quraysh who are now buried at al-Qulayb. Then you said:

            ‘If it were not for my debt and my dependents, I would go and kill Muhammad.’ Then Safwan said that he would bear your debts and provide for your dependants, if you would kill me. But Allah shall prevent you from that.”

‘Umayr was stunned, then pronounced:

            “I testify that you are the Messenger of Allah.”

Then he added:

            “We disbelieved you, Messenger of Allah, and what you brought us from Heaven, and the revelation which you received. But my story with Safwan b. Umayyah, nobody knows if it but he and I, and I am sure that none save Allah has informed you of it. Praise be to Allah Who has brought me here to you, to guide me to Islam.”

Then he formally testified that there is no go but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and became a Muslim. The Blessed Prophet said to his companions,

            “Teach your brother about his religion, teach him the Quran, and release his captive.”

The Muslims were overjoyed at ‘Umayr b. Wahb’s acceptance of Islam. Even ‘Umar b. Khattab (ra) said:

            “When ‘Umayr b. Wahb came to the Blessed Prophet, I would have preferred a pig to ‘Umayr, and today I have com to love him more than if he were one of my children.”

‘Umayr spent his time purifying his soul with the teachings of Islam, and filling his heart with the light of the Quran. These were the richest, most meaningful days of his life, and they slipped by, with Makkah and all whom he knew there far from his mind. Meanwhile, Safwan b. Umayyah was full of hope, and would pass by gatherings of Quraysh, saying:

            “Be of good cheer, for soon you will receive great tidings which will make you forget the losses of Badr.” When Safwan b. Umayyah felt that his wait had become overly long, anxiety crept info his heart. He reached the point where he was in an agony of worry, so he started asking passing caravans if they had any news of ‘Umayr b. Wahb. He received a satisfactory answer from none, until finally a traveler gave him the news that ‘Umayr had entered Islam. Safwan was thunderstruck, for he had thought that ‘Umayr would never become Muslim, even if all of humanity were to accept Islam.

After ‘Umary b. Wahb had become proficient in the Quran and learned what was necessary in practical matters of religion, he went to the Blessed Prophet got permission to return to Makkah to spread the deen. When he reached the home of Safwan b. Umayyah, he went and addressed him:

            “Safwan, you are one of the masters of Quraysh, and certainly one of the most clear-thinking of them. Does it make sense that you should spend your life worshipping and sacrificing to stone idols? Is this the religion of a sensible man? As for me, I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Then ‘Umayr began preaching Islam in Makkah and obtained many converts. May Allah grant him an abundant reward and fill his grave with light. 

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Sh. Kamal el Mekki – Why the Scholars need to be used to fight Extremism


This is an extremely important topic in which Sh. Kamal el Mekki explains why Muslim scholars need to keep Muslims in check. He defends Sh. Tawfique Choudhury’s article explaining it further. Click here for the lecture. 

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Sh. Kamal el-Mekki: Strengthening One’s Memory



My former teacher, Br. Kamal, giving a lecture on strengthening your memory. 


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Beautiful Recitation of Surah Ali-‘Imraan





166. And what you suffered (of the disaster) on the day (of the battle of Uhud when) the two armies met, was by the leave of Allâh, in order that He might test the believers. 

167. And that He might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: “Come, fight in the Way of Allâh or (at least) defend yourselves.” They said: “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to Faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allâh has full knowledge of what they conceal. 

168. (They are) the ones who said about their killed brethren while they themselves sat (at home): “If only they had listened to us, they would not have been killed.” Say: “Avert death from your ownselves, if you speak the truth.” 

169. Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allâh as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. 

170. They rejoice in what Allâh has bestowed upon them of His Bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. 

171. They rejoice in a Grace and a Bounty from Allâh, and that Allâh will not waste the reward of the believers. 

172. Those who answered (the Call of) Allâh and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) after being wounded; for those of them who did good deeds and feared Allâh, there is a great reward. 

173. Those (i.e. believers) unto whom the people (hypocrites) said, “Verily, the people (pagans) have gathered against you (a great army), therefore, fear them.” But it (only) increased them in Faith, and they said: “Allâh (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).[]” 

174. So they returned with Grace and Bounty from Allâh. No harm touched them; and they followed the good Pleasure of Allâh. And Allâh is the Owner of Great Bounty. 

175. It is only Shaitân (Satan) that suggests to you the fear of his Auliyâ’ [supporters and friends (polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh and in His Messenger, Muhammad SAW)], so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are (true) believers.

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