Opinion, September 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
Birth, Upbringing and the Choice of Religion
Adil Salahi, Arab News, 9/5/03
Q. Birth and upbringing greatly influences one’s way of life and beliefs. Most people stay with what they have been familiar with since their childhood. When on the Day of Judgment people face the reckoning, could those who follow other faiths protest that their birth and upbringing prevented them from following the right faith?
A. It is true that people are greatly influenced by their upbringing and what is familiar to them. But this is not an argument to be advanced in justifying the rejection of faith.
To start with, God has placed in our nature, at the time He created us, a tendency to seek Him and to believe in His oneness. Moreover, when a person believes, even vaguely, in God as the one creator, he or she experiences a feeling of happiness with the world they live in. This feeling is denied to those who deny God altogether and profess atheism. So, the desire to believe is inborn in human beings. Moreover, God has given us minds to think. It is perfectly natural that He expects us to use them, particularly in the most important issue of our existence, which is the knowledge of how we are created and for what purpose. If we do not use our minds, we drift with the society we live in. It is true that most people do so, but this is not the proper way for the creature God has honored and favored with the blessing of free choice. Every human being should use his or her mind in order to determine what to believe in and what religion to follow. This applies to Muslims as well. If you are a Muslim because you are born in a Muslim community, and your parents are Muslims, then you have not done your duty of believing in God as a matter of choice, rather than upbringing.
On the other hand, there are people who turn out to be unbelievers despite being born Muslim and living in a Muslim environment. They may have very religious parents, and they may receive sound religious education and upbringing. Nevertheless, they choose to be unbelievers. You only have to look at the people around you to find such cases. Here the choice they make is in the opposite direction. It proves that birth and upbringing are not sufficient on their own to make a person a believer. Personal effort and choice also have their very important effect.
The other point which I would like to make in this connection is that on the Day of Judgment we are all gathered to God and He rewards us according to what we have done in this life. He is the most just of judges. He does not deal unjustly with anyone. Every one will receive their fair reward. Therefore, there is no need to worry about what happens to this person or that person. None will suffer injustice.
Need for Ablution
Q. If I am cleaning my four-year-old son after he has been to the bathroom and I wash his private parts or touch some impurity, do I have to renew my ablutions when I want to offer my prayers?
A. No, touching an impurity requires only that the impurity be removed by washing with water the part of the body that comes in contact with the impurity. Washing off an impurity means that it should leave no trace or color. So, when you have cleaned your son, all you need to do is to wash off any impurity that you might have touched and wash your hands thoroughly.
The Witr Prayer
Q. Could you please explain whether the witr prayer is considered Sunnah or nafl.
A. The witr is the last prayer of the day. It is offered in minimum of one rak’ah and a maximum of 11, but most people offer it in 3 rak’ahs, either together in one bout or separately in 2 and 1 rak’ah. Schools of fiqh differ as to the classification of this prayer, but they agree that it is the most important non-obligatory prayer of the day. The Prophet used to pray it even when he traveled. It was his habit not to pray the Sunnah prayers when traveling with the exception of the two rak’ahs before dawn or Fajr prayer, and the witr which follows Isha prayer. Therefore, it is the most confirmed of sunnah prayers.
One school of fiqh considers it as wajib, which is a degree in between Sunnah, which is voluntary or recommended, and Fardh, which is obligatory. However, the witr is certainly not obligatory.
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