Opinion Editorials, May 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: ww.aljazeerah.info
A Son’s Prayer for Deceased Parent
Arab News, 5/3/04
Q. My father died recently. Could you please let me know what should I do to increase his reward with God. When we visit the grave of a deceased relative, and recite the Qur’an, does the soul of that relative hear us or know what we are doing? Do souls roam around to know what the living are doing?
A. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has made it clear that when a person dies, he can no longer do anything about his future life except in one of three ways: “a continuous act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge, and a dutiful child who prays for him.” This defines the way for children to benefit their deceased parents. They should pray for them as often as they can, requesting God to have mercy on them. Hence, the Prophet’s Sunnah encourages us to conclude every obligatory or voluntary prayer with the supplication: ‘My Lord! Forgive me and my parents. Bestow Your mercy on them as they took care of me when I was young.’ This prayer reads in Arabic: “Rabbi-ghfir li wa liwalidayy. Rabbi-rhamhuma kama rabbayani sagheera.” It is strongly recommended to say this prayer just before we finish any obligatory or voluntary prayer we offer, at the end of the Tashahhud. A deceased man may find his position with God improving, and he asks about the reason. He is told by God that it is through his child’s prayer for him. Needless to say, this applies to both mothers and fathers, through the prayers of both their sons and daughters.
I have explained more than once that the best thing to do for a dead person is to offer the pilgrimage and the Umrah on his or her behalf, or to spend in charity on their behalf. We should also pray God to forgive them and have mercy on them. We may also recite the Qur’an and request God to credit the reward of our recitation to them. All this counts in the same way as prayer for them.
Visiting graveyards and praying for the dead is recommended. They cannot hear us because God states clearly in the Qur’an: “You cannot make those in the graves hear you.” (35: 22) But God may inform a dead person of what is being done on his behalf and by whom. As for the notion of the soul roaming the earth, we can say that this is alien to Islam. The Arabs held this notion in pre-Islamic days, and it is found in some other cultures, but it is un-Islamic. We have been told in the Qur’an not to enquire about the soul, because its knowledge belongs to God alone and He has not given us information on this issue. Therefore, we do not speak about it without basis.
Different Approaches to Prayer Timing
Q. In our small community, we have two mosques, one following the Hanafi and the other the Shafie school of thought. In the first mosque, the imam starts the congregational Maghrib prayer immediately after it is called. One person wanted him to wait a few minutes to allow others to come to the mosque. He also says that he would have a chance to offer the recommended prayer of mosque greeting. The imam says that all Hadith collections stress the importance of attending to Maghrib prayer immediately. Should we not ask this person to go to the other mosque if he wants to have his way?
A. No, he should not be asked to go to the other mosque. All Muslims may offer their prayers in any mosque, because all mosques belong to God and He alone must be addressed in them. To ask someone to leave is to be presumptuous and to give ourselves an authority which does not belong to us. At the same time, if one wishes to make a suggestion, he should have the opportunity to explain it. If it is in the interest of the community, then it should be adopted.
To start with, it is wrong to assume that the man is making the suggestion because of self-interest. He may genuinely believe that it is better for the community to have this short delay in order to allow people to arrive in the mosque. On the other hand, he could easily join his prayer of mosque greeting to his obligatory prayer, earning its reward, without difficulty. He does not need to offer it as a special prayer.
Having said that, it is wrong of the imam to insist that the congregation must start immediately, without a few moments wait. Hadiths that warn against delaying prayers refer to a longer delay, so that prayers are offered at the end of their time range. The time range for Maghrib is from sunset to the start of Isha time, but it is very strongly recommended to offer it at the beginning of its time. Therefore, while we try to do that, we may be rather flexible in trying to accommodate what people may need or suggest.
Q.1. I have always been a teacher. For the last few years I have been running a small education center at my place, in which young children, both boys and girls, are enrolled. We do not take older girls due to several factors. Now I want to expand my center. Could you suggest the best way to do so while observing Islamic regulations.
Q.2. What about a gift given by an air hostess to a male passenger?
A.1. If the school or education center is for young children only, there is nothing wrong with its being co-educational. Yet care should be exercised in order to ensure that the children do not only receive good education, but they are instructed in the best values and practices. As you are aware, children at a young age are very impressionistic. Should they be given the wrong ideas through any means of instruction or observation, they may embark on behavior that could lead to undesirable results.
It is clear that the reader has had no problem as a result of his small school being co-educational. Indeed boys and girls may benefit from being together at nurseries and pre-school establishments. It is when they are on the verge of adolescence that the situation may involve great risks. Therefore, it is in the interest of children, parents, teachers and society as a whole that boys and girls should have their separate schools.
Having said that, I realize that a person in your situation may not be able to organize his school to cater separately for boys and girls. It is better to start with one or the other. If this is not feasible, then strategies should be adopted so as to give the children the proper Islamic values and ensure that they adopt them in their behavior. As for the time of instruction and breaks, there can be a variety of arrangements to ensure the best results. There may be separate classes, or separate ranks in class, or separate breaks. Whatever the situation, teachers and helpers of the right caliber should be employed so as to ensure that the school is run on proper Islamic lines.
A. 2. I am not quite sure what the reader means by his question. If the air hostess is giving something that does not belong to her, i.e. the property of the airlines, then certainly the passenger must not take it. If the gift is personal, that is subject to circumstances. Indeed the intention behind it should determine whether the passenger should accept or refuse the gift.
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