Muslim Superheroes and Villains

Muslim superheroes(Image credit)

What are the uses for deep, untapped creativity?

Muslim superheroes…

Named the 99, as each possesses one of Allah’s 99 attributes, the characters include a burka-clad woman named Batina the Hidden and a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type man named Jabbar the Powerful.

They have proved a hit from Morocco to Indonesia and were recently named as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the world by Forbes magazine.

Now they are being brought to British television by Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, with a mission to instill Islamic values in children across all faiths.

According to the source, they finally made the crossover from comic books to TV. But of course, not all are too pleased. For instance, the female character are drawn up comic-style curvy – relatively – and not fully covered up. Anyway, here’s The 99 website.

…And villains

TWO Indonesians have been arrested for attempting to smuggle from Cambodia heroin hidden inside a copy of the Koran, an official said on Thursday.

Customs officers’ suspicions were raised when a routine X-ray revealed holes in the book after it arrived at Jakarta’s international airport on Tuesday in the form of an express mail delivery.

(Source)

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The Epitome of Interest

courts(Image credit)

The image above is from a blog posted last year. The picture notes the clear difference in the marketing strategy to attack attract the Malay demography. While the national standard seems to be “know the full price before you commit”, the Malay standard have been condensed to “$xx only per week”.

Pity the Malays. The vast majority of whom are Muslims, are also the milked cows for the profit of corporations. True, the religion teaches them to spend within their means, warned them against idolizing trivial trends, and prohibits them from getting involved in riba: usury or interest, be it on items borrowed or purchased.

Different what is being preached, different what is being practiced. The issue of borrowing money to finance some purchase or necessity has been long in existence. Circa 1400 years ago, the final Prophet ﷺ had warned against getting involved in such interest when borrowing, giving its ruling as forbidden. But after 14 centuries, we see the same thing giving problems to those who ill-manage their money.

Interest, usury, or riba, all are of the same name. The Qur’an has stated its prohibition clearly

الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لا يَقُومُونَ إِلا كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا

““Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the devil by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: Trade is like usury. But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury…” (2:275)

Recently, community leaders have mentioned – while understandably sidestepping the issue of riba – another factor closely related to similar financial interactions, which is the long-term monetary commitment. Such commitments may lead to other, more important priorities being rendered peripheral, such as education.

…Concerned Malay MPs and community leaders are taking unusual steps this year to get a simple message across: Spend within your means, save for your children’s education.

A series of radio advertisements encouraging families to ‘Bijak Belanja’ (spend wisely) will air during the Ramadan fasting month, which starts on Aug 22, at the time of the morning call to prayer and the evening prayer ahead of breaking the fast.

For those who are unfamiliar, the same source lined out the attraction behind monthly installments.

Under such schemes, buyers pay by instalments instead of a lump sum. Big-ticket items are more affordable because of the lower monthly payments but overall, a buyer ends up paying more for the item because of interest payments.

The proliferation of purchasing the latest non-essential items has turned into a sarcastic Malay joke; if the home of some Malay doesn’t have an LCD television or some kind of home theatre system, then it is not a “true” Malay home. The importance of having the latest big-screen TV and entertainment system, which has now evolved into the obsession for the latest car accessories and handheld gadgetries, epitomizes the sad state of affairs for those who find pride in such items.

Sadly, I’ve been to a gathering where the homeowner was engaged in the discussion of why he proudly chose a Samsung Series 6 TV (or whatever it is called) as opposed to other TVs; this, bearing in mind that the homeowner still owe his audience a considerable amount of money.

While not understanding that their actions are being the butt of jokes, the trivial understanding of the issue is further compounded by the their showering of PSPs and handphones to their offsprings, and the purchase of jewelleries on installments (famously heard on radio: “pakai dulu bayar kemudian” – wear now pay later). While it is still very much a family affair, such irresponsible spending of money claims newer, weaker victims through peer pressure and the fear of being looked down upon.

Within Grasp

One factor of the problem is due to the availability of financial instruments to fulfill one’s desires. Such instruments, with banners promising payment starting in 2010 and $0 downpayment, is but a marketing gimmick which has been in existence for ages. But the increasingly so-called affluence of the Malays makes the instruments freely available within their reach.

Previously, lack of higher education means that the annual yearly income hover below the $30,000-per-annum standard to obtain credit. But now, after obtaining the diploma or degree, the $30k.p.a. isn’t really a rarity. The hand grabs what the heart desires. And the thirst Son of Adam will never be fully quenched.

لو كان لابن آدم واديان من مال لابتغى واديا ثالثا ، ولا يملأ جوف ابن آدم إلا التراب

“If the Son of Adam had two valleys of riches, he would ask for a third, for the cavity of the Son of Adam cannot be filed except with dust (i.e. he will never be satiated until he is dead).”

-Narrated by al-Imam Muslim

So as long as visitors and friends give that polite compliment, it’s worth it?

Buffet Spread

Another factor – even more vital perhaps – is the lack of religious education, combined with the lack of emphasis on the importance of spending within their means, aka the aspects concerning what some would term the  “essence of the religion” – matters which are taught not as rules and regulations, but mentioned as the attributes of the wise or characteristics of the scholars. But really, it’s actually just common sense.

While Islam has a holistic approach on life and lifestyle, ranging from everything to what to eat, wear, and spend, its followers still focus on the “regulation aspects” and decide to pick-and-choose which part of it they want to follow.

A non-Muslim friend commented that she always see Muslims abstain from pork and observe the Ramadan fast. But she doesn’t understand why they still do not cover up their ‘awrah, or refuse to perform the five daily prayers, or consume alcohol after dinner.

Giving the benefit of a doubt, I would say: “Well, maybe these people are new Muslims; perhaps they are just starting to learn about their religion.”

Confused, she would say: “But I thought Muslims believe in Allah? If they do, why don’t they follow His rules? You know, it’s not like God needs to reason his commands.”

Maybe she’s right. The religion we see now, after being practiced by our elders for so long, is increasingly being seen as a culture. While culture is usually more inclusive to others while at the same time giving some sense of belonging, the caveat is that – unlike religion – it can be changed, plucked, mixed and matched at whim.

The famous ketupat can be changed with lontong, the rendang with another dish, the pelita (candle lights) with electronic ones, and the list goes on. That’s culture for you. For religion, no mix and match dicated by fickleness; it must be based on religious basis and canonical principles.

Nevertheless, some Muslims are most known for abstaining from pork, but apparently not drinking. Most observe fasting, yet forget the five daily prayers. Almost all solemnize marriage religiously, even in mosques, but not all cover their ‘awrah.

Such is the epitome of the interest. The prohibition of riba and usury is clear, and interest is just another name. Perhaps as it is not both religiously and culturally inculcated in Malay-Muslims like the prohibition on consuming pork, it leads to most still being unaware that they need to give away the monthly interest in their bank account. Many still see fixed-deposits as nothing wrong, just as buying the shares of conventional banks, and profiting from their generous dividends.

Perhaps more focus needs to be given to educate Muslims on these issues. True, basic understanding of the religion starts with the five tenets such as solat (prayers) and zakat (tithe), but other aspects of the religion shouldn’t be neglected too.

Religion is not like a buffet spread.

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White gold dilemma

In my culture, it is customary for the bride and groom to exchange rings on the wedding day.

The norm that most people go to is just to purchase a “couple ring” wedding band, a matching pair of rings which is made for both the bride and groom. For the female, there is no objection whatsoever to the kind of ring that she wants.

Well, except for budget, and a concious consideration of tabzir or wastage due to the cost of the ring. If it costs 8k, definitely the money can be put to beter use than a piece of overpriced rock which price is controlled by cartels. (At least according to some. Read: Have You Tried to Sell a Diamond?)

For me, the male, I have only one requirement: No gold. Numerous hadiths, which provides the backbone for Islamic legal rulings as we know it today have mentioned its prohibition, and together with ijma’, it is a definite no-no.

Among the hadith is one narrated by ابن زرير الغافقي, from Sayyidina علي رضي الله عنه who said:

أَنَّ رَسولَ اللهِ صلّى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسلَّم أَخَذَ حَريراً فَجَعَلَهُ في يَمينِهِ وَأَخَذَ ذَهَباً فَجَعَلَهُ في شمالِهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ: إِنَّ هذَيْن حَرَام عَلى ذكُورِ أُمَّتي

“The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) took a silk with his right hand, and took a gold withhis left hand, and then said: These two are haraam for the men of my ummah.”

– An-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah

Furthermore, Al-Nawawi said:

وأما خاتم الذهب فهو حرام على الرجل بالإجماع

“Rings of gold are haraam for males, with ijma’ (consensus of the scholars).”

Deciding to get one of those “couple rings” wedding bands, it was dissappointing to find that these rings come in white gold.

Preferred scenario:

“Yes, that couple ring in the display. The female ring should be white gold. Mine, please have it made in platinum or silver.”

Real scenario #1:

“…What? Add another $1,800 to have it made  in platinum?”

Real scenario #2:

“…What do you mean I can’t have it in silver?”

So I found out that platinum is way too over-priced for a piece of man-ring. Silver, ridiculously enough, isn’t available at major jewelry shops.

Even at my request, the choice that was given by these big jewelry shops is that it can only be made in another form of white gold, in which the mixture of gold is reduced.

Note that the white gold that I’m referring to here is made of gold + other alloys. While some people do refer to platinum as white gold, that’s not the case in the shops I visited, apparently. So you need to do your homework and ask the jeweller whether that ring you’re eyeing is either made of white gold white gold or platinum.

Choices

So I found that gold are rated in k, or carat. If an item is rated:

24k gold: 100% (or close) of its content is gold.

18k gold: 75% (or close) of its content is the gold.

12k gold: 50% (or close) of its content is the gold.

9k gold: 37.5% (or close) of its content is the gold.

Etc, etc.

The shops did give me the choice to have the ring made in 12k or 9k gold, reducing the gold content to 50%and 37.5% respectively. While I prefer not to have mine in white gold, I just really must know:

Can a Muslim wear white gold?

To answer this question, we need to differentiate the types of white gold according to the prohibited content, which is real gold.

To simplify, perhaps we can categorize it into two:

1. White gold which contains more than 50% gold.

2. White gold which contains less than 50% gold.

For the first one, i.e. items of white gold which has more than 50% of gold; the answer is of course to avoid them. Furthermore, the hukm or ruling of an issue always follows the ghaalib (aka الحكم للغالب), the issue/item/material of which overwhelms. Since gold overwhelms, and men can’t wear it, its kinda clear-cut that #1 should be avoided at any cost (or the lack of it).

But what about #2, which is items which consist of less than 50% gold? This, the answer is not so simple. If you’ve ever tried looking for answers on the net, you’ll realize that not only must you be a proficient googler, but also familiar with the websites which the  answer is found on. Some websites may be overly c0nservative, others liberal.

In this case, of course, there are the khilafs:

1. Opinions which say that if the content of gold is less than  50%, it is okay for Muslim men to wear it. This view is also shared by Imam al-Nawawi (in his book المهذّب). Ibn Hazm (in المحلى بالآثار) expands the argument by saying that when different minerals/materials are mixed, they form a new substance and thus it doesn’t matter what its content is. [citation needed]

2. However, there are also others which states that white gold is not permissible.

Why the difference?

Basically, those who say that it is permissible for Muslim men to wear white gold, is basing is basing their views on the reason stated above: the rule follows the dominant content in the mixture (الحكم للغالب).

Meanwhile those who disagree tends to take the general view on the issue. As the initial ruling states that male cannot wear gold, their decision stems from a much more cautions approach to deriving the ruling. Furthermore, gold in Islam have a function in the monetary system; it should not be hoarded and its intrinsic value remains even when the jewellery is melted. Islam has clearly made an exception for the ladies to enjoy gold as jewellery, and not for man.

Conclusion

So, in the weeks that followed, I was trying hard to decide whether to have my ring made in 9k white gold (37.5% gold content), or get that piece of exhorbitant platinum plating from some space shuttle and cheaply fabricate it into a ring (aka an attempt in fitulity). Finding a silversmith was unexpectedly near-impossible; weeks of search, calling up jewellery-crafting schools, and coaxing goldsmiths didn’t garner any result.

Then I came across quote by which goes something like: Know what is halal and what is haram, and by all means avoid that is haram, and Allah will help you.

And the killer, narrated by the Prophet’s own grandson الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب (RA), that the Prophet said:

دَعْ ما يُريبُكَ ، إلَى ما لاَ يُريبُكَ

“Leave what doubts you, to [take] what doesn’t doubt you.”

– al-Tirmidzi, al-Nasa’i

So I decided to have it made in platinum to avoid all the shubhah. But lo and behold, by Allah’s grace, I found me a nice silversmith at the last minute! She was kind enough to did it for a minimal fee, and even threw in a nice diamond!

Now, what about Muslim men and diamonds? We’re okay with it. The default ruling on anything is that it is permissible. الأصل في الأشياء هو الإباحة. Except if there are adillah which say otherwise. ;-)

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