26th December 1997 Q & A

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1. What is the meaning of the Hadith that the devil is chained up during Ramadhan? In most peoples' experiences, evil persists all year round.

The Hadith may be referring specifically to the Muslim Ummah, that is, the absence of sedition and evil thoughts from the minds of Muslims in the holy month. For the Prophet (s.A.w.) said: "The devil runs through veins like blood. So tighten your veins to stop him entering into your thoughts and deeds."

Fasting is a means of self-discipline and recognising that the devil exists inside and outside of us. He whispers to us and incites us constantly to commit sins. But fasting is like a lock against Shaitan, closing up his access to the inside.

That is why when we look into the Muslim community during Ramadhan, evil appears to be very much reduced. Muslims work to improve themselves during Ramadhan. Their spiritual awareness is so intense that the devil finds it harder to get the better of them.

(99 - Hadtith 1)

2. The Qur'an is very clear about the Hadd (punishment) for murder, adultery, slander etc. Yet there are no clear Hadd for smoking, eating pork, drinking alcohol, etc. Please clarify.

The reason why there are strong actions against things like murder and adultery is because these are crimes against society. But you cannot expect Islam to be a religion that carries a big stick for everything. There has to be an area for the moral and spiritual upbringing of the person in these circumstances, to let him or her become familiar with the avoidance of things which are prohibited, and to develop moral perception.

Smoking in the way we know it was not around at the time of the Prophet (s.A.w.). It has been developed in the last two centuries or so. So it is a new development for the Muslim community and it took the Muslim scholars great deal of time and effort to consider the harmful effects of smoking, until they came to the conclusion that it is Haram (prohibited). Once again, abstention from smoking is left to the moral sense of the person. About eating pork: it is not allowed for a Muslim to do so. The early Muslims were not familiar with eating pork and the prohibition applies now to deter Muslims from divulging in that. As for drinking alcohol, there is a specific Hadd for that. In the early days of Islam, people who had stopped drinking prohibited others and those who committed the offence were lashed 40 times. They use to flail the drinker with anything that came to hand - a piece of cloth, a shoe, a stick - just to let the person feel that he or she had indulged in something prohibited. Later on when there was a complaint that people were returning to the old ways of drink, Sayyidina Umar (may God be pleased with him) was consulting the Muslims around, and Sayyidina Ali (may God be pleased with him) said 'I think that if a person drinks he will lose his mind and he will start abusing other people and utter false accusations against other people, and I think we have to punish him. The punishment for a person who is accusing falsely other persons (Qadhif) that is 80 lashes" and that became the standard of punishment for drinkers to stop them from falling into that. As for slander and others which are prohibited, once again people were left to their moral upbringing as Muslims, and the moral pressure of the community as such, and that was a great deterrent against falling into these things.

(112 - Social Issues 7)

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