Are Elections Haram?
Says Who? And Based on What?
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
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(2) What Exactly Is Haram?
- Human Bondage
- Islam Rescues Humanity
- Fat’h, not Conquest
- Conquest of Compassion
- A Revolution of Mercy
- Abolishing Religion
- Ending Tyranny
- Consent of the Governed
- Social Empowerment
- Haram – Inherently Evil or Harmful
- Fatwa-Happy Few
- Questions to Ask
(3) What Is a Fatwa, anyway?
- Binding on Muftis, not on others
- Effects of Fatwas
- Lack of Alternatives
- Worth Considering
2. What Exactly Is Haram?
Haram this, Haram that, Halal something else!
Here we are, running around, happily calling things Halal and Haram, and still not too many of us seem to be clear in our minds about what Haram or Halal really is.
Let me put it this way: Haram and Halal are two of the most beautiful contributions of Islam to human welfare and progress in this world – and of course in the next world. For, whenever Islam does something to make our earthly life better, that same thing ends up being a valuable asset in our next life as well. That is the nature of things Islamic.
That is the nature of things that God Almighty does – things that we know to be truly from God. They simultaneously improve for human beings the prospects of a good life in this world, as well as the prospects of eternal bliss in the next world. Allah calls it Hayaat Tayyibah – Life Beautiful – in the Qur’an. People may use this criterion as an indication of what may or may not be truly from God.
It is all part of that unbounded mercy, love, grace and compassion of our creator to which we are introduced right at the outset in the Qur’an: Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim. Halal and Haram are thus a reflection of that superabundance of mercy (Rahmat) with which God Almighty sent his beloved prophet, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, to all the worlds.
Before him – before Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that is – the world was a daunting and difficult place for the faithful. The smallest of sins often required the toughest of penances. The quality of mercy was severely strained.
Forgiveness, compassion and absolution from sin were meticulously measured out by those who were supposed to possess special powers and qualifications not available to ordinary human beings. And human lives and liberties were firmly held in human hands – often selfish, cruel and greedy hands – some religious and some not so religious.
In some cultures, menstruating women had to be banished from home for the duration of their periods. Elsewhere, even the youngest and prettiest of widows were consigned to a lonely single life without any hope of remarriage.
Christian monks and Hindu rishis endured superhuman hardships and privations in the pursuit of penance and self-purification. The world everywhere was under the complete autocratic control of the royalty, clergy and the noblemen.
The overwhelming majority of the human race – common men and women – often had no rights, recourse or status. They were mostly at the mercy of the whims and fancies of their religious and secular overlords and masters.
Women from East to West and from North to South were mostly chattel – used as property and denied the right to own property. They were often treated in the cruelest and most humiliating manner and were attached to their men by their names, who also owned all property in the family.
In a practice reminiscent of the female infanticide prevailing in some parts of the world today, female infants were buried alive by their own fathers out of shame and rage.
In an environment rife with political bondage and religious tyranny, kings were kings by divine right – and so were many religious leaders and practitioners. Not because any of them had done anything noble or great to deserve the title.
Humanity was in bondage and suffering everywhere. In such a lopsided world, right was what the kings, the clergymen and the nobles said it was. And wrong was what they declared to be wrong. Generally, there was neither justification at the start nor recourse at the end.
Islam Rescues Humanity:
It was in such an unequal and unhappy world that Islam came and immediately set about rescuing humanity and transforming the world into a better and a more congenial and conducive place for all. It pronounced all human beings to be equal of one another – regardless of race, color, gender, birth-place or status.
Said the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam:
“Kullukum Min Adam – You are all from Adam.
Wa Adam Min Turab – And Adam was from dirt.”
This is as clear, complete, emphatic and categorical a declaration of human equality and commonality as there has ever been or there can ever be. And yet its simplicity and compactness is nothing short of miraculous.
Usury – exorbitant interest the rich charged the poor for loans the poor often desperately needed – was one of the primary means by which the rich controlled and dominated the lives of the poor in society generation after generation. The Qur’an declared interest not only forbidden but an open declaration of war upon God and his prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
On the day of the final Hajj at Makkah, the Prophet, Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam, said he was taking all outstanding interest and putting it under his feet and stamping upon it.
What a revolution it was that Islam, the Qur’an and this unlettered man Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, had unleashed upon the world! Right when the world most needed it. And how thorough and profound that revolution was – socially, economically, politically, morally and in every other way!
It is this most thoroughgoing of all sociopolitical and economic revolutions that some naïve followers of Islam – and some equally naïve or misguided people outside the fold of Islam – tend to brand as “religion,” which they then try to consign mostly to the margins of life.
Fat’h, not Conquest:
Shakespeare would have said Islam came; Islam saw; and Islam conquered. And Shakespeare would have been right – except perhaps for one small detail: the concept, culture, language, behavior and consequences of what the world knows as “conquest” were entirely alien so far as Islam and Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, were concerned.
That means Islam – under the guidance of the Qur’an and under the direct leadership of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, did not “conquer” anything or anyone. It just went about being Islam – the true, sweet, beautiful and all-round savior of everyone everywhere – and Allah then, out of his infinite grace, “opened” people’s hearts, minds, lives, lands, villages, towns and cities to the indomitable beauty and charm of Islam and Muslims.
Fat’h – a miraculous divine opening – is what the Qur’an called it and a miracle and divine opening – “Fat’h” – is indeed what in every way it was – an opening that came directly from God. And it was a blessing and a boon from the Almighty to everyone involved – “the victor” as well as “the vanquished,” if you want to call them that.
But this Fat’h, coming from Allah as it was, was very different from anything the world has known before or since as “conquest.” The world has seen many a “conqueror” before and since Islam and Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. But not one of them bears the slightest resemblance to Islam and Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Julius Caesar, for example, was a famous “conqueror.” Alexander was a “conqueror” who was called great in large part due to his “conquests.” Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand “conquered” Granada in 1492.
Napoleon was a “conqueror” who burned down two-thirds of the houses in Moscow when he invaded Russia. The British were “conquerors” of Delhi’s last bastion of the Mughal Empire in India. Hitler killed millions of Russians in his nearly 900-day siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Russian invasion.
The Allies were “conquerors” of Germany and Japan in World War II and soon thereafter the French and then the Americans were out to “conquer” Vietnam. George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are “conquerors” of Afghanistan and Iraq in our own time.
The world knows only too well what these “conquerors” and their “conquests” brought to Moscow, the Middle East, Delhi, Jallianwala Bagh, Leningrad, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hanoi, Afghanistan and Iraq – and how these “conquerors” acted and conducted themselves through every stage and aspect of their invasions and “conquests.”
Nor can the world easily forget the horrors of the Inquisition that the “conquering” state and the Christian church together unleashed on the Muslims, Jews, scholars and scientists of 15th and 16th Century Europe.