The Items of Wajib Zakat

by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi (Toronto, Canada)

“Zakat, as we Shia calculate, is payable on 9 items only. These items were the measure of wealth in those times and therefore should we not apply the principle to our wealth in general, as the Sunnis do, and not just to those 9 items?” The Islamic shari’a (code of laws) is based on a system within which they are formulated and worked out.

In Shi‘a Islam, the two main sources of laws are the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet and Imams (may peace be upon them all).

The Qur’an, while ordering us to pay zakat, has not outlined the items on which zakat is applicable. Interestingly, the case of salat is also the same. While the Qur’an has ordered us to say the daily salat in more than 25 verses, nowhere does it tell us how to perform the daily salat. In these cases, we have to refer to the sunnah for further details.

When Shi‘a jurists refer to the sunnah, after studying and analyzing all the authentic ahadith on this subject, they reach to the following two conclusion conclusions:

a) Zakat is wajib (obligatory) on the following nine items: Coins: silver; gold Cattle: cows; sheep and goats; camels Crops: wheat; barley; dates; raisins

b) Zakat is mustahab (recommended) on other items that can be weighed or other things that grow from the earth.

In conclusion, the jurist (mujtahid) is bound to follow the sources; if the sources clearly con?ne the items of compulsory zakat to nine, then they cannot go by their personal inclination and extend that list. In order to extend that list, they need clear proof in the religious sources to suggest that these items were only applicable to those days and maybe increased in the future. But there are no such indications in the ahadith.

One of the decisive ahadith on this issue is presented here as an example in which Muhammad atTayyar asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) about the items on which zakat is wajib. The Imam (a.s.) listed the nine items as ?xed by the Prophet himself and then said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) exempted the zakat from other items.” A person then asked the Imam, “May Allah protect you; we have an abundance of grain (not listed by you) with us.” The Imam asked, “And what is that?” The person replied, “It is rice.” The Imam remarked, “Yes, it is plentiful (in your area).” Then the person asked, “Is there zakat in it (i.e., in rice)?” Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) scolded him by saying: “I am telling you that verily the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) has exempted the zakat from other items and you are still saying ‘We have abundance of a grain; is there zakat in it?’”

The statement of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) is clear that there were other items such as rice and other grains known to the people of that time and area as “wealth,” but still he insisted that you cannot include those in the list of items for wajib zakat.

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Stereotypes of Success

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Young people of this time face some acute challenges, never seen before in history. For once, the emphatic African adage of ‘Can the tail ever lead the head?’ is being subjected to a tensile test and the orderly structure of society is rapidly shifting, or dare I say, worsening.

To start with, it is strongly contended that today’s child knows more than his or her parents, and this alone could mean so many different things. After all, this is the information age that is relentlessly propelled by information, communications and technology, now very much within the reach and command of all individuals, big and small. Naturally, how ca one contest this theory when we witness day in and day out, how comfortable the younger generation is in the laps of is most coveted paramour – the smart phone and the tablet.

But before one scurries away with this thought, awarding premature accolades to the young individual living today, take a moment to comprehend the burden that they now face, almost brutally. The difficulty of growing up in this era is that there are no barriers – a good thing n a sense and a bad one otherwise. The time that preceding generations took to receive, understand and apply knowledge passed on to them and as per their age requirement, has now been replaced by an unbelievable universal code, where every information is available to everyone at any time. The predisposition to this mammoth cache of information, predisposes younger people to fall prey to myths and stereotypes that the formulators of these platforms purport to process, and now there is no intermediary to explain or interpret a life occurrence.

Members of the elder generation suddenly understand that this change in how we bring up our children, has been part of a larger design, that essentially takes away the proprietary rights one has within their family. The power that technology and the associated instruments give to the younger generation, abruptly places them in a very isolated place, and the winds of globalisation disperse mindsets, values and thought processes to places and people it was not supposed to reach.

At the centre of his saga, is the Almighty media that controls information flow to the masses, ensuring that desired results, favourable to an elitist group, are well served. But then that is the big picture we are looking at. What about the condition at our level?

As we sat down to listen to some young diploma individuals from different backgrounds, we were stunned to listen to this particular presentation by a community girl who was trying to make the case for same-sex alliances. Her research and presentation was well done, but she was failing to align with her native value systems, faith and dictates of the divine scripture. Many of us may have experienced such culturally shocking episodes at different junctures, but the particular take-home lesson for me was how hard mainstream media comprising of the entire jukebox of movies, news, shows documentaries, print, social media, et al, was rubbing hard on every other culture, even ours, chipping away the last remains of shame and religousity.

Perhaps, our families are not doing enough, and resigning too quickly to the invasion that has wreaked havoc in homes. But that would be utterly cowardly to say the least, for we are part of the problem having failed to ourselves understand the changing times, the robustness of this anti-thesis message and finally that, when the dust settles, we ought to have equipped ourselves with the right knowledge and the right practices. Instead, we remain shallow to this day. Our squabbling about leadership, who is right and who is not, about nyaz, our over indulgence on ritualistic performance of religion, all these have subjected us to this plight, from which there seems to be no way out.

in the midst of these crises, we burden our children with more magma. Our gatherings are filled with talk about the who’s who of society. More often tan note, we rally around the monied class of society, reward them for their every little donation and generosity, we even qualify their talk as being the right advise. And whereas this as well may be true, for it is incorrect to postulate that the rich are not worthy of respect and honour, but to insinuate that only they are, falls within the ambit of what is known in psychology as the Survivorship Bias.


James Clear writes in his 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.

There might be thousands of athletes who train in a very similar way to LeBron James, but never made it to the NBA. The problem is nobody hears about the thousands of athletes who never made it to the top. We only hear from the people who survive. We mistakenly overvalue the strategies, tactics, and advice of one survivor while ignoring the fact that the same strategies, tactics, and advice didn’t work for most people.

Another example: “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.”

It’s entirely possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not because of it. For every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs with failed projects, debt-heavy bank accounts, and half-finished degrees. Survivorship bias isn’t merely saying that a strategy may not work well for you, it’s also saying that we don’t really know if the strategy works well at all.”

It is time we introspect – spending too much time judging and talking about others, leaves us with absolutely no time to improve ourselves. If we keep passing the spirit of survivorship bias to our children, we may as well have deceived them the most, more than the monstrous media we all claim to be behind the moral massacre of our times.



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MIRACLE OR MIRAGE? THE PARADOX OF MIRACLES & SCIENCE – PART 3

By Sheikh Mansour Leghaei


What are miracles? Do they exist? Are miracles a form of magic? What is the scientific take on miracles? This and more in this very educative and thorough text.

Are Miracles Possible?

Three different concepts of possibility:

1. Rational Possibility
2. Scientific Possibility
3. Historical Possibility
4. Religious Possibility

1. Rational Possibility

In order for a statement to be rationally impossible it has to eventually lead to the Principle of Contradiction.
The principle of contradiction is a law of thought stating that a thing cannot ‘be’ and ‘not be’ at the same time. The principle of contradiction usually develops itself on three specific forms known as the “Three Logical Axioms” which are:
• A is A.
• A is not ‘Not-A’
• Everything is either ‘A’ or ‘Not-A’.

For a miracle to be logically and rationally impossible, it should result in the principle of contradiction. If for instance the concept of a miracle is like a ‘triangle square,’ then it is rationally impossible. Then we are obliged to conclude that what happened was not a miracle or whatever is a miracle does not happen.

Here we can certainly assert that the claim of Christians on the deity of Jesus and the concept of trinity as a miracle is wrong, for it is rationally impossible and hence their claim must be rejected.

Similarly, the law of cause and effect is a rational law and hence for miracles to be in violation of any rational law, it has to be rationally impossible. If a prophet for instance claims that the total of the angles of a triangle miraculously equals to 190 degrees, then his claim is rationally impossible.

Our claim is that miracles are rationally possible for it is not against the principle of contradiction nor is it against the law of cause and effect.

In order for something to be rationally possible, it is enough that it cannot be logically proven wrong. Presumably no one can rationally prove that there cannot be any other influencing force to nature beyond ordinary human knowledge.

If the concept of miracle is like saying this object is a triangle square, then it is irrational.

Miracles are rationally impossible if they happen without any cause. But if the natural cause that we are aware of is replaced with another cause – which was not known to us, it is not irrational.

For instance, we have discovered a relation between Nurofen as a painkiller and a cure for headaches. If one claims that, ‘My headache was miraculously cured,’ meaning that it was cured without any cause whatsoever, then he is talking irrationally and only then we can say that either a miracle did not occur and he is wrong in his claim, or what happened is not miracle.

The claim in a miracle is that perfect humans such as prophets, due to their access to divine knowledge, have access to other causes of healing a headache different from ordinary known medical methods. Thus, the cause is there, though it is a different cause to the one known to ordinary humans.

Moreover, the correlation between a cause and its effect is also present in a miracle. Because what the necessary correlation between a cause and its effect is that the cause must enjoy what it wants to give to the effect. For instance, ice does not enjoy the heat to burn the wood. Again, the claim in a miracle is that the extraordinary cause by far enjoys the properties required, for instance to cure a person who was born blind.

Therefore, our claim in miracles is the substitution of one cause with another; be it a known physical cause to us, or a metaphysical.

Parapsychology

There are many phenomena that appear to contradict physical laws but today parapsychologists suggest the possibility of their causation by mental processes such as telepathy, clairvoyance and psycho kinesis that are inexplicable by science.

Dr. V. Frankle; the founder of logotherapy claimed that he could even cure an asthmatic by the method of logotherapy. Does it mean his claim is irrational?

In religion we are taught of some causes that otherwise would have been unknown to us. For instance, paying charity, visiting the first of kin, and praying for others are introduced as possible methods of prolonging one’s life.

Statistics today show that people with strong religious faith react better to fatal diseases such as cancer and enjoy more chance for recovery. (See the chapter on the Power of Faith)

2. Scientific Possibility

Is a miracle scientifically possible?

In order for us to understand whether miracles are scientifically possible or not, we ought to get acquainted with some of the characteristics of natural science.
Some Characteristics of Natural Science:

1. Nomological (Newtonian): That means according to the Newtonian natural concept of the world, the scientific laws are general based on our observation.

2. Repetition: (See the article: Miracles and Modern Scientific Thought)

3. Statistical (Quantum Physics): That means according to quantum physics, what we call a natural law is in fact the most possible option, not the absolute one.

4. Natural laws are conditional not absolute. That means the relation between a natural cause and its effect is not absolute and limited and hence there are scientifically more possible methods to achieve the effect. For instance, one of the ordinary known methods of splitting the water of a river is to construct a damn. But is this scientifically the only possible method? Science has no negative answer for it. Thus, though perhaps exceptionally there is a natural phenomenon of making a path amidst a sea in Korea which is one of the most surprising sights in Korea.

Internationally renowned, “Chindo’s Sea Way” is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the waters around the island of Chindo recede to reveal a long path connecting Hoedong-ri with the neighboring Modo-ri. The seaway is formed because of the great difference between the ebb and flow of the tide. The path is 10 to 40 meters wide and 2.9 km long.

This phenomenon occurs regardless of the speed of the tide or waves. Every year, around half a million foreign tourists and local tourists come to witness this marvelous phenomenon in February of the lunar calendar.

A variety of lively festivals take place to mark the occasion such as Kanggangsuwollae (Korean traditional circle dance), Ssitkim-gut (a shaman ritual, consoling the souls of the dead), Dul Norae (songs people sing while working in the fields), Tashiraegi, Manga (songs of consolation sung at burial ceremonies), and Puknori (drum performance). A French Ambassador, who visited Chindo Island in 1975, first introduced “Chindo’s Sea Way” to the world, by contributing an article to a French newspaper saying that he has seen Moses’ Miracle in Korea.

In 1996, the Japanese popular singer Taentoyosiri sang about Chindo’s Sea Way, which was a great hit. This song motivated a lot of Japanese tourists. To visit the site:
www.happytour.co.kr/english/set_seaway.html

5. Possible Alternatives. Ibn Sina suggests that miracles and other extraordinary events occur because some humans enjoy a powerful soul that can influence nature. He argues as any human soul can influence his own body, they have the power to exceed this power to other materials. Levitation, thought reading, hypnotism and evil eyes are ordinary examples of this influencing power.

Imagine you are a plant. In the world of plants it is impossible in the natural movement of a plant to move from one continent to another. But a human can interfere and move a plant thousands of miles away just in a few hours.

Therefore, our senses can only claim the relation between two phenomena but cannot scientifically claim that A is the only cause of B. Thus, a miracle is not the violation of a natural law; it is introducing a new cause to a particular effect.

As a matter of fact, given the scientific progress of the last two centuries in medicine for example, diseases that were considered mysterious are now understood without appeal to supernatural powers. Thus, if today’s medicine cannot cure a born blind, it is not rational to assert it is rationally impossible to cure a born blind.

Postmodernism

Dr. Paul Feyeraben: Against Method (1924-1994)
The Austrian physicist and scientist who perhaps due to a personal experience of his health problem not only lost his faith in western medicine but in science in general and promoted the school of postmodernism or decentralism.

In his book ‘Against Method’ he argues that there is no scientific method and as such we can’t justify science as the best way of acquiring knowledge. The truth, he argues, is that: “Science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best.”7

6. Descriptive or Prescriptive. We were told that natural laws differ from national laws in that the first is descriptive and hence cannot be changed. One can claim that natural law is descriptive to us since we do not make them, we only discover them, but for the Maker of the natural laws it is possible to be prescriptive. For instance, national law for any ordinary citizen is descriptive as he cannot change it, but for the members of the parliament it is prescriptive. Similarly, natural laws for us as humans are descriptive, but for God who made these laws, it is prescriptive and He can order fire not to burn or harm His Prophet Ibrahim.

‘It is a miracle!’ Many physicians have experienced situations during their careers whereby something out of the ordinary and contrary to their medical knowledge had happened; they call it a miracle. We have witnessed many patients diagnosed with fatal diseases, who without any scientific explanation, and ironically ‘impossible,’ were cured. The Shrines of our Imams (a.s) have cured many miraculously.

3. Historical Possibility: Fact or Fable

Could strong historical evidence prove the occurrence of miracles?
First of all as Swinburne8 stated, it is unfortunate that Hume was so bigoted in his views by refusing to face facts, in that he claimed even if there is ample historical evidence for the occurrence of miracles, we cannot accept them.

Secondly, there can be three different ways of finding the occurrence of an event in the past:

a. By the means of remembering it.
b. The ample and excessive number of eye witnesses narrating it,
c. From the remaining physical impacts

Any of the above methods are acceptable so far as they do not report a rational or scientifically impossible event.

Does testimony of the followers of different religions on their miracles destroy their testimony as Hume claimed?

The fallacy of his argument is that a miracle is a proof for the truth and authenticity of prophet-hood of a prophet not a proof for all the present teachings of those religions.

From the Islamic point of view, all previous prophets are true and we believe in them as well as their miracles unless its narration contradicts the fundamental teachings of religions. The difference between Islam and today’s Christianity is about the wrong concepts imported and fabricated doctrines of churches.

Three Living Miracles

If one persists to argue about the authenticity of historical miracles, we can still prove the possibility of miracles by the virtue of the still present living miracles of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And the best proof for the possibility of something is its occurrence.

1. The Qiblah of Masjedul-Nabi
2. The Quran
3. Al-Mobahala
4. Religious Possibility

Any reported miracle from Prophets is religiously possible in so far as their occurrence is not contrary to the sublime teachings of divine religions. Thus, although the Christian narration of the miracle of Jesus, that he had supposedly changed water to wine without any known catalyst, is not rationally or even scientifically impossible, but religiously is impossible and hence cannot be historically agreed upon either.

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Tarbiat e Aulad Lesson 5

Dr. Mirza Abbas Ali Khoyee (Pakistan)

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MIRACLE OR MIRAGE? THE PARADOX OF MIRACLES & SCIENCE – PART 2

By Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

What are miracles? Do they exist? Are miracles a form of magic? What is the scientific take on miracles? This and more in this very educative and thorough text.?

Miracle, Magic & Keramat

Some Examples of Miracles

The literature of religious traditions is filled with stories of strange and mysterious events. Muslims, Christians and Jews have all reported many different types of miracles from the Prophets. Here are some examples of the miracles performed by the Prophets as reported by the Bible or the Holy Quran.

1) Moses: It is mentioned in the book of Exodus as well as in the Quran, that when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites and caught up to them at the Red Sea, the Israelites panicked. Moses, by the will of God, split the sea and they crossed it to a dry land. The Egyptians pursued them into the sea and at God’s command, Moses stretched his hand forth over the sea and its water closed up again and the Egyptians were drowned.3[]

2) Jesus: According to the Bible and the Quran, Jesus was born of a virgin mother, healed a person born blind, raised the dead and ascended to heaven. The present Bible also narrates that he turned water to wine, walked on water etc. The miracle of his virgin birth is considered in Christianity the greatest miracle.

3) Prophet Muhammad: In spite of the false assumption of many orientalists who denied that the Prophet of Islam enjoyed any miracle, there have been many miracles reported from the Prophet of Islam too. As for now an example of his miracle was glorification of the pebbles in his hand. As I shall deal with his miracle in a separate chapter, I will not further discuss any details on it for the time being.

Since these events cannot be explained in ordinary terms, they can then only be explained in terms of some supernatural power, which means God caused them to occur. Thus, it proves the existence of God and the credibility of His messenger in whose hand the miracle has taken place. Imagine you see a shepherd stretch his hand over the sea and the sea splits into two parts and immediately a dry road opens amidst the sea! What other than a supernatural power could explain that?

There is however, a problem that the miracles as narrated seem contrary to the laws of nature that we know of. This created a question about the validity and credibility of the reported miracles.

In other words, if you believe in God and His messengers, then you are needless of any miracle and should it happen, it does not give you any more knowledge. But if you don’t believe in God and his messengers, then the narration of miracles prove nothing to you as they are contrary to your universal observations and hence sound more like fairy tales.

According to Newtonian’s concept of nature, the natural laws are fixed and immutable. In an empirical view we always observe physical objects fall in accordance with Newton`s law of gravitation. There are no known exceptions. But a miracle would be an exception. Hence, miracles are contrary to universal scientific observation.

The Jewish-born philosopher of the 17th century – Spinoza – has put this argument that can be summarized as follows:

• Miracles are violations of natural laws.

• Natural laws are immutable.

• It is impossible for immutable laws to be violated.

• Therefore, miracles are impossible.4

David Hume: After Spinoza, David Hume, the Scottish philosopher and developer of skepticism in the 18th century, continued the arguments in chapter 10 (Of the Miracles) of his book; An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

David Hume said of his argument: “I flatter myself that I have discovered an argument . . . which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion and consequently will be useful as long as the world endures.”5

In short Hume’s argument about miracles is as follows:
1. A Miracle is a violation of the law of nature.

2. No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony is of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, even in that case there is a mutual destruction of argument.

3. There is not to be found in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves.

4. There are many instances of forged miracles and prophecies, which in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence or which detect themselves by their absurdity which begets a suspicion against all relations of this kind.

5. The fact that such prodigious events never happen in our days, shows that ignorant and barbarous nations in the past would relate any event they had no scientific explanation for to a supernatural power, such as famine, sudden death and miracles is of the same nature.

6. Man’s inclination to the marvelous has given full opportunity to propagate miracles.

7. It is impossible for all religions to be established on any solid foundation. Thus, their testimony on their miracles destroys their testimony.6

I may add two more provisional points to the list of Hume which puts the religious people in a serious dilemma.

8. The law of cause and effect is one of the basic laws by which we prove the existence of God. That means for instance fire is always the cause of burning. Miracle, however, means fire sometimes doesn’t burn- as in the story of Ibrahim when thrown to the fire-. Thus, for a miracle to be true, the causative proof of God is wrong and if the law of cause and effect is not universal and necessary then no miracle can occur.

9. There must also be compatibility between a cause and its effect or else ???? ?? ?? ??? ?? ??? that means water does not boil by any cause, thus ice cannot cause water to boil. Therefore, there is a necessary relation between a cause and its effect, the lack of which results in the lack of the other. However, in the instance of miracle it is claimed that the cause is missing, but the effect exists!

The great problem of modern theology therefore is the place and value of miracles.

Now after all, is there any reason to suppose that miracles do exist? Is there any answer to the questions without a prior commitment to a general metaphysical position?

Suggested Answers

1. Naturalism V. Supernaturalism

C.S. Lewis the well-known 20th century’s Christian writer maintains in ‘Miracles’ that in order to assess whether miracles exist, it is first necessary to decide between naturalism and supernaturalism.

He argues:” It by no means follows from Supernaturalism that Miracles of any sort do in fact occur. God (the primary being) may never in fact interfere with the natural system He has created. If we decide that Nature is not the only thing there is, then we cannot say in advance whether she is safe from miracles or not. But if Naturalism is true, then we know in advance that miracles are impossible: nothing can come in to nature from the outside because there is nothing outside to come in, Nature being everything…our finest choice therefore must be between naturalism and supernaturalism.

Comment

Obviously, if Lewis is correct, then the existence of miracles could not provide any independent support for the existence of God, since in order to establish the existence of miracles one would already have to assume supernaturalism.
Moreover, even if we assume Supernaturalism, still one ought to be able to have a rational explanation for the miracles.

2. It’s Symbolic

Paul Tillich; the famous Protestant German-born U.S. theologian and philosopher, died in 1965, based on his opinion on religious language, suggests that the language of the Scripture is symbolic. Thus, passages such as ‘Jesus healed a born blind’ are more symbolic than narrating a historical event.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdu; the author of the Al-Minar interpretation of the Quran also suggests that when Jesus – as quoted in the Quran – says that he will create a bird with the permission of God, does not imply that he really did create a bird. He is rather informing them of the possibility of it, should God will so.

Comment

This explanation is rather disclaiming the validity of miracles and is not a solution to the problem.

3. Simultaneity of Two Events

Al-Ashaera denoted the law of cause and effect and believed that there is no real causative law in the universe. According to them, the observed order in the world is solely due to the fact that we are used to simultaneously seeing them together and hence assume that one is the cause for the other. For instance, we are used to always seeing fire burning, and hence by mistake assume that fire is the cause of burning. In other words, in reality fire burns not because it’s the cause of burning, but because it is the habit of God to burn wood when it is next to the fire.

Thus, God can change His habit and although fire is associated with wood, it may not burn, such as in the situation of Prophet Ibrahim.

Comment

Without the law of cause and effect one of the principle proofs of God will be missing. Also, this explanation is based on the assumption of faith in God which the miracle is claiming to prove. Also, ??????????????????????????????

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