Answers to Everyday Issues – Part 40: Female imams, tarawih, reciting basmalah aloud when leading salat, odd numbers, Allah’s pronouns, levels of Paradise and universal salvation

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Guidance regarding basic Islamic issues – which Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa has given on various occasions in his written correspondence and during MTA programmes – is being officially published below for everyone’s benefit

hafizah leading male relatives in tarawih prayer

female imam

A female memoriser (hafizah) of the Holy Quran sent some questions to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa. She asked: 

“1. Can I lead my father in tarawih prayer?

2. If the recitation of the Holy Quran is to be started from its beginning in [tarawih] prayers, will the recitation of Surah al-Baqarah be started after reciting Surah al-Fatihah twice in the first rak‘ah?

3. Should an imam recite the basmalah out loud before reciting any Surahs during audible prayers (as-salawat al-jahriyyah)?”

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 25 July 2021, provided the following reply to the questions:

“In Islam, only men are obligated to observe salat in congregation. Women’s observing salat in congregation has the status of a supererogatory act of worship. Therefore, in the presence of men, a woman cannot become their imam and lead them in congregational prayers. Neither the Holy Prophetsa nor any of his successors after him ever assigned a woman to the position of an imam of men. Likewise, whenever the Promised Messiahas, who is the Hakam ‘Adl of this age, used to offer his prayers at home due to some illness, he used to lead the prayers himself despite being unwell.

“Thus, whether it is a case of nafl or fardh prayers, if both men and women are present in a place and a congregational prayer is to be offered, then the imam of that salat must be a man.”

Surah al-Fatihah during the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan

“The usual method would be adopted even when starting the recitation of the Holy Quran from its beginning when [leading] the [tarawih] prayer; that is after reciting Surah al-Fatiha, which is usually recited in every [rak‘ah of] salat, the recitation of Surah al-Baqarah would be started immediately without repeating Surah al-Fatihah. However, the Islamic jurists [fuqaha] have allowed that when finishing a complete reading of the Holy Quran [at the end of the tarawih prayers in the month of Ramadan], if a person wants to recite some earlier part of the Holy Quran again after Surah an-Nas, he may restart [the recitation of the Holy Quran] with Surah al-Fatihah and then recite a portion of Surah al-Baqarah. There is nothing wrong with that. However, the repetition of [the complete] Surah al-Fatihah [by an imam], at the beginning [of a complete reading of the Holy Quran], is even considered by some fuqaha to warrant sajdatai as-sahw i.e. the two prostrations due to forgetfulness.”

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Loud or silent recitation of the basmalah by an imam

“Both the practices i.e. reciting the basmalah aloud or quietly before starting the recitation of a Surah in salat are correct and validated by the practice of Allah’s Messengersa. Hence, Hazrat Anasra narrates, ‘I observed prayer along with Allah’s Messengersa and with Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (may Allah be pleased with all of them), but I never heard any one of them reciting the basmalah aloud.’ (Sahih Muslim, Kitab as-salat, Bab hujjati mun qala la yujharu bi l-basmalah)

“Nu‘aim al-Mujmir narrates, ‘I prayed behind Hazrat Abu Hurairahra and he recited, بِسْمِ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬الرَّحْمٰنِ‭ ‬لرَّحِيمِ (aloud). Then he recited Umm al-Quran (Surah al-Fatihah) and when he reached‭ ‬غَيۡرِ‭ ‬الۡمَغۡضُوبِ‭ ‬عَلَيۡهِمۡ‭ ‬وَلَا‭ ‬الضَّاۤلِّينَ, he said, ‘amin’ and the people also said, ‘amin’. And every time he prostrated he said, ‘Allahu Akbar’ and when he stood up from sitting after two rak‘ahs he said, ‘Allahu Akbar’. And after he had said the salam he said, ‘By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! My prayer most closely resembles the prayer of Allah’s Messengersa.’’ (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Kitab al-iftitah, Bab qira’ati bi-smillahi r-rahmani r-rahim)

“Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa used to recite bi-smillahi r-rahmani r-rahim out loud. (Al-Mustadrak ‘Ala al-Sahihayn by Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri, Kitab al-imamati wa salati l-jama‘ah, Bab at-ta’min)

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira states, ‘It is permissible to recite the basmalah in both ways; aloud or quietly. Our Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Kari m Sahib (may God forgive him and have mercy on his soul) was of an energetic nature. He used to recite the basmalah aloud. Hazrat Mirza Sahib [i.e. the Promised Messiahas] did not use to recite it aloud. I also recite it quietly. Among the Companionsra there are two schools of thought in this regard. I advise you not to quarrel over how anyone recites it. The same is the case for amin; it too is permissible to be said in both ways. In some places, the Jews and Christians used to dislike the Muslims’ saying amin. So, the Companionsra used to say it very loudly. I enjoy both methods. One can recite it aloud or quietly.’ (Badr, No. 32, Vol. 11, 23 May 1912, p. 3)

“Hazrat Mian Abdullah Sanaurira narrates, ‘I never once observed the Promised Messiahas practising raf‘ al-yadayn i.e. the raising the hands during prayer, nor heard him saying amin audibly, nor did I hear him reciting the basmalah out loud.’ This humble one [i.e. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra] submits that the practice of the Promised Messiahas was exactly the way Mian Abdullah Sahibra has described. However, our practice as Ahmadis since the time of the Promised Messiahas and even after that until now has been that nobody picks anyone up on this matter. Some recite Amin out loud, others do not. Some practice raf‘ al-yadayn, but the majority abstains from it. […] Some people recite the basmalah audibly but the majority do not. The Promised Messiahas used to say that, in reality, all these ways can be found in the practice of the Holy Prophetsa. However, the practice that the Holy Prophetsa adhered to on more numerous occasions is the one that was also the practice of Hazrat Sahib [i.e. the Promised Messiahas].’ (Siratul Mahdi, Vol. I, pp. 147-148, narration no. 154, [February 2008])”

Odd numbers (witr)

A lady asked Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa the following: 

“1. Why does Allah the Exalted like odd numbers?

2. Why has Allah the Exalted used masculine pronouns for Himself in the Holy Quran?

3. Is it true that people at higher levels in Heaven will be able to meet those at lower levels than them, but those at lower levels will not be able to meet those at higher levels than them?”

4. How can one explain to an atheist that Allah the Exalted will ultimately forgive humans and grant them entry into Paradise?”

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa replied: 

“The answer to your first question is also stated in a hadith, namely that since Allah is One and the digit of one (1) is odd, therefore Allah likes odd numbers. Hence, it is narrated by Hazrat Abu Hurairahra that the Holy Prophetsa said: 

إِنَّ‭ ‬اللّٰه‭ ‬وِتْرٌ‭ ‬يُحِبُّ‭ ‬الْوِتْرَ

“‘Verily, Allah is One [witr] and He loves witr.’ (Sahih Muslim, Kitab az-zikri wa d-du‘a’i wa t-tawbati wa l-’istighfar, Bab fi ’asma’i-llahi ta‘ala wa fadli mun ’ahsaha)

“Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra elaborates on this subject in the following manner: 

“‘We observe this in Allah’s law that He likes odd-numbered things.  The Holy Prophetsa always used to say that Allah loves odd-numbered things. He Himself is One and He likes things that are odd-numbered. Hence, we see this wisdom everywhere.  However, this is a separate and vast subject which cannot be explained at this time. Otherwise, the fact is that Allah the Exalted has established singularity in all the laws of nature: It dominates every one of His laws. We also learn from the idioms of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophetsa that the number seven is particularly associated with perfection. Hence, it is mentioned in the Holy Quran that Allah the Exalted created the world in seven days. Similarly, there are seven periods of human spiritual development. Then, for the heavens too, the phrase سبع‭ ‬سموات [seven heavens] appears in the Holy Quran, which is an odd number. So, the odd number has special wisdom in the sight of Allah the Exalted and we see its demonstration in all the laws of nature.’ (Daily Al Fazl, Qadian Dar al-Aman, 7 April 1939, p. 5)”

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Allah’s pronouns in the Holy Quran

“In the different languages of the world, masculine and feminine pronouns are used to differentiate between the sexes. However, Allah the Exalted, Who is One without any partners, is above such distinctions. It is to only help us understand, that Allah the Exalted has used certain phrases to describe Himself, but they are all metaphors. Otherwise, Allah the Exalted is neither male nor female and He is above all kinds of gender.

“Moreover, in almost all societies of the world, the female is thought of as weaker than the male. At the time of the advent of Islam, the same concept was prevalent in Arabia. Hence, in the Holy Quran, Allah the Exalted says about the disbelievers that they prefer sons for themselves but daughters for Him, referring to how they used to call the angels by feminine pronouns and used to call them the ‘daughters of God’. Allah the Exalted says about this that it is a very unfair division that they do. Thus, he states: 

اَلَكُمُ‭ ‬الذَّكَرُ‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬لَهُ‭ ‬الۡاُنۡثٰي‭ ‬تِلۡكَ‭ ‬اِذًا‭ ‬قِسۡمَةٌ‭ ‬ضِيۡزٰي

“‘What! for you the males and for Him the females! That indeed is an unfair division.’ (Holy Quran, Surah an-Najm, Ch. 53: Vs. 22-23) 

“Thus, from the beginning of creation, ‘feminine’ has been perceived as weak whereas ‘masculine’ has been viewed as supreme and powerful. In the Arabic language too, the masculine pronoun denotes perfect strength and power. That is why Allah the Exalted, Who is the Source and Master of all powers, including those that are transcendent, has used that pronoun for Himself which is considered the most befitting of His nature even in the eyes of humans. Otherwise, all the similes described in the Quran and the Hadith about the Being of Allah the Exalted are allegorical, because the Being of Allah the Exalted is لَيۡسَ‭ ‬كَمِثۡلِهٖ‭ ‬شَيۡءٌ i.e. not whatever like anything, as He states:

فَاطِرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ جَعَلَ لَكُمۡ مِّنۡ اَنۡفُسِكُمۡ اَزۡوَاجًا وَّ مِنَ الۡاَنۡعَامِ اَزۡوَاجًا ۚ يَذۡرَؤُكُمۡ فِيۡهِ ؕ لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهٖ شَيۡءٌ ۚ وَ هُوَ السَّمِيۡعُ الۡبَصِيۡرُ

“‘(He is) the Maker of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you pairs of your own selves, and of the cattle (also He has made) pairs. He multiplies you therein. There is nothing whatever like unto Him; and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.’ (Holy Quran, Surah ash-Shura, Ch. 42: V. 12)

“The Promised Messiahas interprets this verse as follows:

“‘Keeping to the middle in relation to God means that in expounding Divine attributes one should not lean towards negating Divine attributes nor describe God as resembling material things. This is the way that the Holy Quran has adopted with reference to Divine attributes. It affirms that God sees, hears, knows, speaks; and as a safeguard against His being understood as resembling His creation it also affirms:

لَيۡسَ‭ ‬كَمِثۡلِهٖ‭ ‬شَيۡءٌ

“[…] Meaning there is nothing like unto Him.’ (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam [English], pp. 101-102 )

“He also stated: 

“‘God has two [overarching] attributes since eternity and since there was nothing. One attribute is that of similitude [tashbihi], while the other attribute is transcendent [tanzihi]. And since it was necessary to describe both the attributes in the Word of God, i.e. the tashbihi as well as the tanzihi attributes, therefore God described the attributes of his hand, eye, love, anger, etc. in the Holy Quran to express the tashbihi attributes and then when a misgiving about [a misbelief in true] similitude arose, He used the phrase لَيۡسَ‭ ‬كَمِثۡلِهٖ [i.e. there is nothing like unto Him] in some places.’ (Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 23, p. 277)”

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Interaction between the people at different levels of Paradise

“Where the people of Paradise and the people of Hell are mentioned in the Holy Quran, there is also the mention of a barrier between them, which is proof that the people of Paradise and the people of Hell will not be able to meet each other. However,  in the same place, there is mention of them being able to observe each other, the purpose of which seems to be that, upon seeing the inmates of Hell, the dwellers of Paradise may express gratitude for the favours of their Lord, Who kept them on the right path and made them the heirs of the blessings of Paradise, and so that the people of Hell may feel envious of the blessings received by the people of Paradise and therefore sorry for the evil deeds they committed during their worldly lives. This subject has been elucidated in detail in Surah Al-A‘raf, verses 41 to 51.

“However, as far as the meeting of people from different levels of Paradise is concerned, different places and stages of Paradise have been mentioned in the Quran and the Hadith, but there is no mention of any obstacles in the meeting of those who live in these different places and levels of Paradise. On the contrary, Allah the Exalted says in the Holy Quran that ‘those who believe and whose children follow them in faith — with them shall We join their children. And We will not diminish anything from (the reward of) their works.’ (Surah at-Tur, 55:22)

“Likewise, it has been mentioned in a hadith that those whose three young children die, Allah will have mercy on those children and will admit their parents into Paradise along with them. (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-jana’iz, Bab fadli mun mata lahu waladun fahtasab)

“Apart from this, it is also worth mentioning that the separation of the permanent residence of the people of different levels in Paradise is another matter, and it is another thing for those of different levels to mix with each other, about which there is no mention of any kind of obstacle in the Quran or the Hadith. Rather, the Holy Quran has stated the following fact about the people of Paradise:

لَهُمۡ‭ ‬فِيۡهَا‭ ‬مَا‭ ‬يَشَآءُوۡنَ

“‘They will have therein what they wish for.’ (Surah an-Nahl, Ch. 16: V. 32)

“It further states: 

لَهُمۡ‭ ‬مَّا‭ ‬يَشَآءُوۡنَ‭ ‬عِنۡدَ‭ ‬رَبِّهِمۡ

“‘They will have with their Lord whatever they desire.’ (Surah az-Zumar, Ch. 39: V. 35)

“It also states: 

وَ‭ ‬لَكُمۡ‭ ‬فِيۡهَا‭ ‬مَا‭ ‬تَشۡتَهِيۡۤ‭ ‬اَنۡفُسُكُمۡ‭ ‬وَلَكُمۡ‭ ‬فِيۡهَا‭ ‬مَا‭ ‬تَدَّعُوۡنَ

“‘Therein you will have all that your souls will desire, and therein you will have all that you will ask for.’ (Surah Ha Mim as-Sajdah, Ch. 41: V. 33)

“Thus, these verses prove that if the heavenly dwellers of different ranks want to meet any of their loved ones, then their wish shall be fulfilled in Heaven.”

Universal salvation and the finite nature of the punishment of Hell

“Every day, we observe that if a person makes a mistake, his punishment is not permanent, rather it ends at some point as well. When this is the case with us humans and the laws we have made, then how can we ever reconcile ourselves to the idea that God would continue to make people suffer from the punishment of Hell for their mistakes and sins forever? He is God in Whom are found all the most excellent, pure and praiseworthy attributes, Who is the Most Exalted, Who manifests Himself on the highest station of holiness and Who has made a promise about Himself that: 

إِنَّ‭ ‬رَحْمَتِي‭ ‬غَلَبَتْ‭ ‬غَضَبِي

“Verily, My mercy prevails over My wrath. (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab bad’i l-khalq, Bab ma ja’a fi qawli-llahi ta‘ala wa huwa llazi yabda’u l-khalqa thumma yu‘iduhu wa huwa ’ahwanu ‘alayh) 

“Moreover, He is the One Who loves his servants far more than a kind mother. [Thus, how can we even think of Him in that way?] 

“Hell is a hospital where the sick will be treated and discharged after their recovery. This is the reason why Allah the Exalted has also used the word umm, i.e. mother, in relation to Hell in the Holy Quran, as He said, فَاُمُّهٗ‭ ‬هَاوِيَةٌ (Surah al-Qarai‘ah, 101:10), which means that Hell will be his mother. One does not live in the mother’s womb forever. Rather, when the development of the fetus is complete, it comes into the world from there.

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira, while explaining the interpretation of this verse, says:

“‘To refer to Hell [hawiyah] as mother [umm] points to the fact that one is attached to the mother until one is fully developed and trained. After having received the training, one is separated from the mother. This word [umm] indicates that the inmates of Hell will be delivered from it after having lived in it for a long period of time.’ (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, Vol. IV, p. 446)

“Similarly, it is also mentioned in the Hadith that there will come a time upon Hell that there will be no human being left in it and the gates of Hell will make a rattling noise on account of the blowing winds. (Kanz al-Ummal, Vol. 14, Hadith No. 39506)

“Hazrat Ibn Mas‘udra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa while describing the condition of the last person to be taken out of Hell, said: 

“‘The person who will be the last to enter Paradise will come out of Hell, falling, stumbling and crawling while the fire of Hell will be burning him. Then, once he is out of the hell, he will look back towards the hell and address the hell and say, ‘Blessed is He Who has saved me from thee. Allah has given me something He has not given to any one of those in earlier or later times.’ 

“‘Then a tree would be raised up for him and he will say, ‘O my Lord! Bring me near this tree so that I may take shelter in its shade and drink of its water.’ Allah, the Exalted and Great, would say, ‘O son of Adam! If I grant you this, you will ask Me for something else.’ He would reply, ‘No. my Lord.’ And he would promise Him that he would not ask for anything else. His Lord would excuse him because He sees (such bounties of Paradise) what he cannot help desiring; so He would bring him near it, and he would take shelter in its shade and (quench his thirst) by drinking of the water (and the nectar of its fruits). 

“‘Afterwards, a tree more beautiful than the first would be raised up before him and he would say, ‘O my Lord! bring me near this tree in order that I may drink of its water and take shelter in its shade and I shall not ask Thee for anything else.’ He (Allah) would say, ‘O son of Adam! If I bring you near it you may ask me for something else.’ He would then promise Him that he would not ask for anything else. His Lord will excuse him because He would see something (of the blessings) he cannot help desiring. So He would bring him near it and he would enjoy its shade and drink its water. 

“‘Then a tree would be raised up for him at the gate of Paradise, more beautiful than the first two. He would say, ‘O my Lord! bring me near this (tree) so that I may enjoy its shade and drink from its water. I shall not ask Thee for anything else.’ He (Allah) would say, ‘O son of Adam! Did you not promise Me that you would not ask Me anything else?’ He would say, ‘Yes, my Lord, but I shall not ask Thee for anything else.’ His Lord would excuse him for He sees something (of the blessings of Paradise) the temptation of which he could not resist. He (Allah) would bring him near to it, and when He would bring him near it he would hear the voices of the inhabitants of Paradise. He would say, ‘O my Lord! Please admit me to it.’ He (Allah) would say, ‘O son of Adam! What will bring an end to your requests to Me? Will it please you if I give you the whole world and a like one along with it?’ He will reply, ‘O my Lord! Art Thou mocking me, though Thou art the Lord of the worlds?’

“At this, the narrator of this hadith, Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘udra, laughed and said to the audience, ‘Why don’t you ask me why I laughed?’ The people asked, ‘Why did you laugh?’ He replied that the Holy Prophetsa also laughed in the same way and the Companionsra asked him, ‘O Allah’s Messengersa! Did you laugh for some reason?’ Upon this, he replied, ‘I laughed because of the laughter of Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. When that person will say, ‘You are mocking me despite being the Lord of the Worlds’, Allah will say, ‘I am not mocking you but I can do whatever I will.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-iman, Bab akhiri ’ahli n-nari khurujan)”

(Compiled by Zaheer Ahmad Khan, Head of Records Department, Private Secretariat, London. Translated by Al Hakam)

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