Q.1. Many friends who are non-Muslims wonder why they are not allowed to visit Makkah and Madinah while Muslims are allowed to visit their holy cities and shrines. Please comment.
Q.2. Is it obligatory for a person working in Jeddah to do the tawaf of farewell every time he travels home on his annual leave?
S. M. Ahmad, Jeddah
A.1. To start with, the restriction on entry to Makkah and Madinah is not made by any political or human authority. Thus it cannot be questioned as though it is something that a government or a leader has put it in place. Nor can the argument of equal treatment be given here. Moreover, Muslims have not asked the authorities of any religious place to make that place open to them. They decide to invite visitors or prevent them. Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the Vatican authorities decide to ban non-Catholic people from visiting their city. Will anyone have the right to question them? It is their city and they do in it what they like.
Having said that, we may add that the prohibition gives a clear indication that God wants to keep Makkah a city for worship and security. As such it cannot be transformed into a tourist resort. That is totally unacceptable.
The same applies to Madinah which has been restricted to non-Muslims by none other than the Prophet himself. When God and His Messenger decree something, the only thing open to us is to obey their decree.
A.2. No, that is not required. The tawaf of farewell is required at the end of the pilgrimage. So, if a resident of Jeddah offers the pilgrimage, he or she should do the tawaf of farewell at the end of their pilgrimage, like all pilgrims who come from outside Makkah. When a person leaves Jeddah to go home, he leaves it without having to visit Makkah. If he fears that he may not come back and wishes to make his final day in Jeddah one of worship, and he goes to Makkah for tawaf or Umrah, that is a highly rewarding action, but it is a matter of his own choice.
Islamic duties and un-Islamic traditions
Q. I married against our local traditions, which are influenced by the Hindu faith. My marriage was in line with Islamic requirements. My parents, however, dislike the fact, as my marriage did not bring me the privileges expected, while my sisters have to follow the local tradition and their marriages are expected to be very costly to my parents. I have been sending my parents all the money I could save to help with the demands of our large family. Now my wife is saying that I should be attending more to my own family’s needs, sending my parents what they need for their own living. Is this correct?
A. If you are supporting your parents with their living expenses and looking after their dependents, i.e. your sisters and young brothers, then you have fulfilled all that Islam requires of you. If you can provide for your sisters’ marriages and you are willing to do so, that is very kind of you and you stand to earn great reward for it, but this is not required as a duty of yours. It is something you do out of love and dutifulness to your parents who have educated you and given you the means to have a decent job.
There is no doubt that the demands made on the bride’s parents in some parts of India and Pakistan are not only too heavy, but also un-Islamic. Islam makes it the duty of the bridegroom to look after his wife, providing her with a decent home and standard of living, according to his means. Moreover, he pays her dowry, which becomes her own property. In the Hindu tradition, which is unfortunately followed by some Muslims, it is the reverse: the bride has to pay a large dowry and provide a family home. This means that a family with a couple of daughters is at a great disadvantage. Now if all such expenses are to be paid for by one brother, and if his own means are not that good, then that is totally unfair. Our reader should realize that what he did with his marriage is the correct Islamic practice. He should not yield to any pressure on this point. Moreover, what his parents want to do with the marriage of his sister is not Islamic, but they may have to follow the local tradition. Unfortunately people do not realize that when more and more of them rebel against un-Islamic tradition the sooner these ill-conceived and unfair traditions will collapse.
Our reader is wondering whether the fact that his parents are now suffering because he has reduced what he sends them will nullify his good deeds. The answer is that dutifulness to parents is one of the most important deeds a person does in life after believing in God and Islam. But I understand that he was in the habit of sending them every last riyal he earns, retaining only what he needs for himself and his wife. That is extremely dutiful. As I have already explained, his responsibility is to provide for his parents’ and sisters’ living expenses. Nothing nullifies his past, exemplary kindness and dutifulness.
He also asks whether he has to pay zakah on his salary. What zakah? According to what he says, he does not own anything. Therefore he is not liable to any zakah. Zakah is payable only when a person owns the threshold of zakah, which is around 4000 riyals. If he saves this amount then when he has saved it, that date becomes his zakah date. He should make a note of it. The following year, and every subsequent year, on the same date he calculates what he has. If it is above that amount, he pays zakah on what he owns at the normal rate of 2.5 percent. But according to the information he has written, he is not liable to zakah at the present moment.
Private answer to Mr. A.Z. Shukoor
What you have asked about is permissible between a man and his wife. Needless to say, if it is outside marriage, then both actions are strictly forbidden.
When Islam is not known to people
Q. What is the position of people who do not get to know about Islam, and as such die non-Muslims, such as those tribes in the middle of jungles in Africa or Latin America? Are they still punished for not adopting the Islamic faith? Some people argue that Islam has addressed these people, and perhaps was known to their ancestors who might have rejected it. Now the present generation may not have known about it at all, due to the decline in the fortunes of the Muslims all over the world. Please comment.
S.Y.A. Shah, Pakistan
A. To start with I have a general rule which I abide by, and that is I am not prepared to outline the fate of any person or community, Muslim or non-Muslim, whatever they may be. What happens in the hereafter is determined by God, who is the most fair and just of judges and most compassionate and merciful to all His creatures. It is true that there is some criteria which we may apply in order to know the fate of those who take certain attitudes, but I feel that it is not the role of a human being to apply such criteria. It is enough to only know these criteria in order to avoid what incurs God’s displeasure.
Having said that, I may add that it is important that Muslims should fulfill their duty of conveying the message of Islam to all mankind, making it clear to them that God requires them to believe in His oneness and in the message He entrusted to His last Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). If Muslims do not do that, they fail in their duty and they will have to account to God for their failure.
Now, if Islam does not reach a certain individual or tribe or community in the way Muhammad (peace be upon him) addressed his people with it, such people cannot be treated as those who have learnt about it. This is what God has committed Himself to apply.
The important thing to realize is that this applies to individuals and communities alike. If one individual has not heard about Islam and did not have the means to learn its message, while his people did, he is judged differently by God, because God is most fair and just. Therefore it is not sufficient that former generations have learnt about Islam to condemn present ones which did not. The matter does not stop at that. The level of a person’s knowledge is also important. For example, people in the Muslim world who lived about 150 years ago had only very scanty knowledge of Islam. This might have led them to believe that certain practices, which are unacceptable from the Islamic point of view, are essential Islamic teachings. God judges all people according to what He knows of their situation. We trust to His justice, because, as the Qur’an says: “Your Lord does not deal unjustly with anyone.”