How to Send a Responsive HTML Email from Outlook on the web and Gmail

  1. Open the email in a browser and copy it’s source code
  2. Inline the CSS using a tool such as https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/tools/css-inliner/
  3. In Outlook on the web or Gmail, create a new email message
  4. In the body of the email, type some text that can easily be found, e.g. a bunch of hash symbols.
  1. Inspect the text you just typed and in your inspector, edit it by replacing the text you typed with the CSS-inlined email source code.
  1. Your email body will now show the HTML email. Click send.

Easily Clean Oven Window

Oven windows can get really dirty with baked-on grease. This makes it really hard to clean. Instead of manually scrubbing and wasting your time and energy, I found that using a steamer works pretty well. I use the Bissel Steamer.

You will it with water, wait for it to heat up, attach the hard bristle brush attachment, then pull the trigger to release steam as your gently melt and scrub the grease off.

The steam, which is really hot, will detach the dry grease from the glass but you’ll still need to remove the grease off the glass. For that, I use Clorox or Lyson disinfectant wipes. In general, these wipes are great for cleaning glass.

Now, when I make roasted tomatoes and turn on the oven light, I can actually see through the window again 🙂

Replace Batteries with DC Power Supply

I have some fairy lights used to light up some lanterns at home.

The lights are battery powered. I’m using rechargeable batteries but it’s still a hassle replace the batteries when they die. I decided to replace the batteries with a DC power supply which I can just plug in to an ordinary electrical outlet. I could then use a smart outlet to programmatically turn on the lights whenever I want.

To convert the batteries to use a DC power supply, here’s what I did.

  • Since the lights take 3 AA (1.5V) batteries, the total voltage I need the DC power supply to provide is 4.5 V. I an AC (120V) to DC (5V) power supply on Amazon with barrel to wire connector adapter for $9.
  • 1/2″ diameter round wood dowel from Home Depot (3 ft for ~ $3)
  • Speaker wire

I cut the wood dowel to the length of a AA battery. Drill a hole in one end. Partially screwed in a screw. Stripped the end off of a bit of speaker wire. Wound up the end of the wire around screw and screwed the screw in.

I then identified the positive and negative terminals in the battery pack and inserted my fake batteries in them. The wires from each fake battery were then connected to the corresponding positive and negative terminals to the DC power supply. Everything works.

Circuit Breakers, Electrical Wiring and Device Wattage

I need to install an electric fireplace but I’m not sure if the circuit can handle the load with other devices on. Here’s an explanation of device load, electrical wiring and circuit breakers.

In a typical residential home, you’ll have two types of circuits:

  • 15A (amp) circuit using 14 gauge (thin) electrical wire (usually white) connected to a 15A circuit breaker. Based on the formula P (watt) = V (volts) x i (current), the max wattage this circuit can handle before tripping the circuit breaker is 120 V x 15 A = 1800 W. This circuit is usually used for general lighting.
  • 20A (amp) circuit using 12 gauge (thick) electrical wire (usually yellow) connected to a 20A circuit breaker. This circuit can support a total load of 120V x 20A = 2400 W. This circuit is usually used for kitchen devices.

You can’t just replace a 15A circuit breaker with a 20A one since the wires going into the 15A circuit breaker are likely 14 gauge (thin) wires. If these wires carry a load greater than 1500 watts, the wire can burn, catch on fire, and burn the house down. When installing new circuits, just always use 12 gauge wiring even if connected to a 15 amp circuit breakers.

In the example above, I have these devices

  • electric fireplace (1500 W)
  • LG OLED 65″ TV (150 W)
  • 2 x LED lamps (2 x 15 W = 30 W)

Total power consumption = 1500 W + 150 W + 30 W = 1680 W. Since this is less than 1800 W (the max wattage for a 15 A circuit), I should be okay, although it would be preferable to put the fireplace on a 20A circuit.

Muslims Are Performing the Hajj Wrong

Table of Contents

  • Is the Hajj only during 10 days or any time within 4 months?
    • The purpose of Hajj
    • The duration of Hajj
    • Known days
    • Counter-argument #1: Hajj versus believers
    • Counter-argument #2: Comparison to Ramadan
    • Zhu al-Hijjah
    • 4 “hurum” months
    • Consecutive “hurum” months
    • The beginning of the Hajj period
    • The Islamic calendar
    • The Hajj months
    • Solution to current problems
  • The correct rituals of Hajj
    • Perform the Hajj during any of the 4 hajj months
    • Perform the Hajj for at least 2 days
    • Commemorate God throughout the Hajj
    • Hunting
    • War and fighting
    • Sexual intercourse, misconduct and arguments
    • Abstaining from cutting the hair
    • Visit the Kaa’ba (Ancient House) and circumambulate it at least 1x (once)
    • Walking between Safa and Marwah are optional
    • Commemorate God at the Masjid al Haram
    • Animal offerings
    • Convenient offering
    • Optionally pray at the Station of Abraham
  • The man-made rituals of Hajj
    • The Hajj garments
    • Miqat Locations
    • The “Black Stone”
    • “Zamzam” water
    • The ritual of stoning Satan
    • Women not allowed to perform Hajj without a “muhrim”
    • Women during menstruation forbidden from completing Hajj
    • Visiting Prophet Muhammad’s tomb during the Hajj
    • Performing hajj for someone else

Is the Hajj only during 10 days or any time within 4 months?

The purpose of Hajj

We see in verses 6:162-163 that all worship practices must be dedicated to God alone.

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ۖ وَبِذَٰلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.” (6:162-163)

The same applies to the Hajj. There are many verses that indicate that the only purpose of the Hajj is to “commemorate God”.

And proclaim the Hajj to the people …… to commemorate God’s name during the known days. (22:27-28)
You shall commemorate God for a number of days. (2:203)
When you disperse from Arafat you shall commemorate God at the Mishaar Al-Haram. (2:198)
Then once you have completed your rituals, you shall commemorate God. (2:200)

The duration of Hajj

Many Muslims believe that there is only one 5 day period each year during which they can perform the hajj. However, the Quran makes it clear that the hajj can be done any time during the four months beginning from Dhul-Hijjah. The fact that the hajj period lasts for multiple months is proven in verse 2:197.

الْحَجُّ أَشْهُرٌ مَّعْلُومَاتٌ ۚ فَمَن فَرَضَ فِيهِنَّ الْحَجَّ فَلَا رَفَثَ وَلَا فُسُوقَ وَلَا جِدَالَ فِي الْحَجِّ
Hajj is [during] well-known (specified) months (Arabic: ashur), so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein (in those months), there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. … (2:197)

Notice how the verse uses the Arabic word “ashur” which means “months” (plural). “Shahrun” is Arabic for one month. “Shahrain” is Arabic for two months. “Ashurun” is Arabic for three or more months.

Some may argue that the use of the plural “months” was used to describe a regularity that occurs every year. However, this argument is unsupportable as the verse clearly indicates that the months refer to certain months of a year.

Another argument is that the 5 days of Dhul-hijjah fall within the well-known months and therefore that is why the plural “months” is used in the verse. This argument is non-sensical since the verse states very clearly that hajj can be done during months (Arabic: ashurun) that are well-known (Arabic: ma’lumatun). In verse 2:197, notice the Arabic words “farada feehinna”.

  • “farada” means “he made obligatory”
  • “feehinna” is a conjunction of two words: “fee” which means “in” and “hinna” which means “them” in the feminine gender form.

Therefore, that section of the verse means “whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein (in those months)” proves that God is telling you that you can perform the Hajj at any time during those months.

Known days

Some people argue that the Hajj is restricted to the first 10 days of the 12th month by citing verses 22:28 and 2:203.

… mention the name of Allah on known days … (22:28)
You shall commemorate God for a number of days. … (2:203)

They claim that the words “known days” and “a number of days” indicate that the Hajj can only be performed during a 10 day period.

Counter-argument #1: Hajj versus believers

In verse 2:197, we see that God is addressing the “hajj’ itself when He describes the “specified months”. In other words, the hajj itself can be performed during the multiple months of Hajj. In contrast, in verses 22:28 and 2:203, God is addressing the “believers” when He speaks of the “number of days”. In other words, the believers who perform the Hajj go for a number of days and not for several months.

Counter-argument #2: Comparison to Ramadan

In verse 2:185, we see that God indicates that the month for fasting is the (single) month of Ramadan. In the same verse, we see a reference to “a number of days”. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you must only fast for a few days in the month of Ramadan but rather that if you miss some days, you must make up for them later.

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ …
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. … (2:185)

A month, or months, can be spoken of as days because a month is made up of days. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that they are still months. This is similar to someone describing the years of his childhood by saying “they were the best days of my life”.

Zhu al-Hijjah

The 12th month of the Islamic calendar is called Zhu al-Hijjah which means “that (month) of the Hajj”. It would make sense that this month would be one of the Hajj months and the beginning of those months.

4 “hurum” months

In verse 9:36, we see that there are 12 months in a year and that 4 of them are called “hurum”.

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ …
Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are “hurum”. . … (9:36)

The word ‘Hurum’ does not mean sacred as some have translated, for the word used in the Quran for sacred is ‘muqqaddas’, see 20:12, 79:16 and 5:21. The word ‘Hurum’ (adjective) is the plural of the word ‘Haram’ which is also associated with the months of Hajj. Both words come from the noun ‘Ihram’ which means abstention. Abstention is one of the requirements during Hajj, abstention from war, hunting and so on.

As a result, we know that the number of months that God designated for Hajj is four (2:197).

Consecutive “hurum” months

In verses 9:2-5 we see that 4 months are specifically granted to those with whom obligations were removed as they continuously broke treaties and invoked hostilities against the Muslims. Respite was then granted from the Day of Pilgrimage and extended 4 months in succession. The statement that respite was granted from the Day of Pilgrimage until the hurum months have passed indicates that the hurum months are in succession.

(Paraphrasing 9:2-5) So go about in the land for four months (9:2)… And an announcement from God and His Messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage (9:3)… So when the hurum months (in succession) have passed … (9:5)

In verse 9:5, the word that indicates a consecutive set of months is “insalakha” which means “withdrawn in succession”. The word literally means “skinned”. When you skin something, e.g. an onion, you remove its layers consecutively one or more layers at a time. You can’t remove the outermost layer (skin) and then the 5th inner layer (skin) before removing the layers (skins) in between.

The same word “salakha” is used in verse 36:37 which denotes a gradual and successive transition. In this verse, the transition is from day to night (sunset).

The beginning of the Hajj period

Verse 2:189 gives us an indication as to the beginning of the Hajj period.

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ ۖ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ …
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.” …(2:189)

Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the sighting of the first crescent signals the beginning of each month. Just as the sighting of the first crescent in the month of Ramadan signals the beginning of the fasting, the sighting of the first crescent in the month of Zhu Al-Hijjah, which means “that (month of Hajj) signals the beginning of the Hajj period.

The Islamic calendar

The Islamic lunar calendar in use today is

  1. Muḥarram محرّم (or Muḥarram al Ḥaram)
  2. Ṣafar صفر (or Ṣafar al Muzaffar)
  3. Rabīʿ al-Awwal (Rabīʿ I) ربيع الأوّل
  4. Rabīʿ al-Thānī (or Rabīʿ al-Ākhir) (Rabīʿ II) ربيع الآخر أو ربيع الثاني
  5. Jumādā al-Ūlā (Jumādā I) جمادى الأولى
  6. Jumādā al-Thānī (or Jumādā al-Ākhirah) (Jumādā II) جمادى الآخرة أو جمادى الثانية
  7. Rajab رجب (or Rajab al-Murājab)
  8. Shaʿbān شعبان (or Shaʿbān al-Muʿaẓẓam)
  9. Ramaḍān رمضان (or Ramaḍān al-Mubārak)
  10. Shawwāl شوّال (or Shawwāl al-Mukarram)
  11. Dhū al-Qaʿda ذو القعدة (or Dhū al-Qiʿda)
  12. Dhū al-Ḥijja ذو الحجة (or Dhū al-Ḥajja)

The Hajj months

From the verses above, we know that

  • there are 4 hurum months
  • the 4 hurum months begin with on Day of the Pilgrimage
  • the hurum months are in succession

If the beginning of Dhul-Hijjah is taken to be the beginning of the Day of the Pilgrimage, which would make sense, then the 4 hurum (and Hajj) months would be

  1. Dhul al-Hijja
  2. Muharram
  3. Safar
  4. Rabi al-Awwal

Solution to current problems

If these 4 hurum months are the months during which people can perform that hajj, as suggested in the Quran, then the following problems resulting from restricting the hajj to a mere 5 days of the year would be reduced if not eliminated.

  • Intense congestion from millions of people being packed in one place
  • Extreme congestion during tawaaf (circumambulation)
  • The difficulties of finding accommodation and resulting exorbitant costs
  • The long delays
  • Some women may not be able to perform or complete the hajj as their menstrual cycle may fall
  • within the 5 days
  • Deaths from human stampedes due to overcrowdedness
  • Being hit by flying stones during the Stoning ritual
  • Unsanitary (to say the least) washing and cleaning facilities
  • Concerns of being robbed by petty thieve or getting lost from your group
  • Inability to focus due to the issues stated above

For details on actual tragedies, mostly taking place during the Stoning ritual, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidents_during_the_Hajj

The fact that the Hajj is limited to 5 days severely limits how many people can perform the Hajj each year. As such, there are visa quotas set for visitors from each country. The Quran says that the Hajj is the duty of every Muslim, provided he can afford it, not if he is lucky enough to get a visa!

The current situation of performing hajj clearly is inconvenient, expensive, and burdensome to many and even dangerous to some. Many pilgrims now believe that enduring hardships to perform the hajj would reap them higher rewards. Some travel agents conveniently take advantage of this by providing decrepit services while saying that pilgrims shouldn’t complain as it is better for them to endure.

Contrary to reality, God states in verse 22:78 that He imposes no difficulties in religion.

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ
… and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty … (22:78)

Based on the analysis above, it appears that people or so-called Islamic scholars are unnecessarily placing difficulty in religion by misinterpreting the Quran and restricting the number of days during which to perform hajj to a mere 5 each year.

The message of not being a burdensome religion is also mentioned elsewhere as follows:

  • 2:185 With regards fasting, God desires for you ease; He does not desire any difficulties or hardship for you.
  • 5:6 With regards Wudu (ablution) in which God wishes to place no difficulty
  • 73:2-3 God instructs the Prophet to abate a little and regulate his night long worship so that it imposes no hardship for him and the believers.

The correct rituals of Hajj

Perform the Hajj during any of the 4 hajj months

As stated above, the hajj months are Dhul al-Hijja, Muharram, Safar and Rabi al-Awwal.

Perform the Hajj for at least 2 days

And remember Allah during [specific] numbered days. Then whoever hastens [his departure] in two days – there is no sin upon him; and whoever delays [for more days] – there is no sin upon him – for him who fears Allah . (2:203)

Commemorate God throughout the Hajj

The primary purpose and goal of the Hajj is to commemorate God.

And proclaim the Hajj to the people …… to commemorate God’s name during the known days. (22:27-28)
You shall commemorate God for a number of days. (2:203)
Then once you have completed your rituals, you shall commemorate God. (2:200)

Hunting

Hunting is prohibited during Hajj as per the following verses:

You shall not permit hunting while you are hurum. (5:1)
Once you are no longer in abstention you may hunt. (5:2)
O you who believe, do not kill any game while you are hurum. (5:95)

War and fighting

All warfare is prohibited during the Hurum Months of Hajj except in self defence:

They ask you about the Haram Month and fighting therein: say, “Fighting therein is a grave matter.” (2:217)

Sexual intercourse, misconduct and arguments

These abstentions are given in verse 2:197

Whoever executes the Hajj in them (the known months) shall refrain from sexual intercourse, wickedness and arguing during Hajj. (2:197)

Abstaining from cutting the hair

Note that some people claim that the hair must be cut or shortened at the end of Hajj. However, nowhere does the Quran say this. The Quran only states that you can’t shave or cut your hair during the Hajj.

You shall complete the Hajj and Umrah for God. If you are prevented, then make a convenient offering, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches its destination. (2:196)

Visit the Kaa’ba (Ancient House) and circumambulate it at least 1x (once)

Then, they shall end their state of unkemptness, fulfill their vows and go around / circumambulate (yatawwaffa) the Ancient House. (22:29)

Note that there is no mention that you must circle the Kaa’ba seven times, as is commonly believed. Therefore, you are only required to do it once. Obviously, the purpose of performing the hajj and umrah is to remember and focus on God. Trying to keep track of how many times you’ve circled the Kaa’ba, especially when it’s overly crowded, would only deter your from the primary goal.

Walking between Safa and Marwah are optional

Indeed, as-Safa and al-Marwah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs ‘umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them (yatawwaffa bihima). And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and Knowing. (2:158)

Note that there is no mention that you must walk between Safa and Marwa seven times, as is commonly believed.

Commemorate God at the Masjid al Haram

The Mishaar Al-haram is the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca because it is the only House called “Haram” in the Quran.

When you disperse from Arafat you shall commemorate God at the Mishaar Al-Haram. (2:198)

Animal offerings

You must offer an animal

The animal offerings are among the rites decreed for you by God. In them there are benefits for you. So mention God’s name on them while they are lined up, then, once they collapse on their sides, you shall eat therefrom and feed the poor and the needy. It is thus that We have ordained them for you so that you may be thankful. (22:36)

This animal offering isn’t to be confused with the pagan concept of animal sacrifice for some gods. The animal offering is for human benefit, as indicated in 22:36, and not for God, as indicated in 22:37.

Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. … (22:78)

Convenient offering

For people who progress from Umrah to Hajj, they shall make a convenient offering (to the poor and needy). If they can’t, then they can fast.

… whoever performs ‘umrah [during the Hajj months] followed by Hajj [offers] what can be obtained with ease of an offering (hadye). And whoever cannot find [or afford an offering] – then a fast of three days during Hajj and of seven when you have returned [home]. Those are ten complete [days]. This is for those whose family is not in the area of al-Masjid al-Haram. … (2:196)

Optionally pray at the Station of Abraham

Verse 2:125 indicates that one should pray at the Station of Abraham. However, this is in the context of what people did during the time of Abraham. To expect everyone nowadays to all pray at the Station of Abraham could be a logistical nightmare.

And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].” (2:125)

The man-made rituals of Hajj

The Hajj garments

Most Muslims believe that men must wear two seamless white clothes similar to beach towels. There is nothing in the Quran that mandates this dress code. Furthermore, having to wear nothing but two pieces of cloth could easily defocus your attention on commemorating God as you would likely be worried that your clothes would fall and everyone would see you naked, including making women.

In verse 7:31 we see that God instructs people to bring their “zinah” to every masjid (mosque). Zinah means adornments or any item that is worn to make oneself beautiful. The command is to dress nicely at “every” masjid. Since the Masjid Al-Haram is a mosque, then this verse instructs people to dress nicely in it.

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ
O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess. (7:31)

Many Muslims justify the wearing of the Hajj garments (two white pieces of cloth) to equalize everyone so the rich and poor look alike and the poor don’t feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. If that were the case, why is that belief not applied to the Friday congregational prayer? During the Friday prayers, no one poor appears embarrassed or uncomfortable to be there. Furthermore, a poor person would be better off going to the Hajj in whatever clothes they have rather than be burdened to spend extra money on special towels, sandals, belts, and what not.

Miqat Locations

The miqat is a location from where pilgrims are required to start wearing the “ihram” garments and enter into a state of “ihram”. The common understanding is that “ihram”garments are two unstitched white pieces of cloth for men and loose-fitting white clothes for women. There are 5 miqat locations:

  1. Dhul Hulaifah
  2. Al-Juhfah
  3. Qarn-ul manazil
  4. Yalamlam
  5. Dhatu `Irq

Pilgrims typically put on their “ihram” garments at one of these 5 locations and then proceed to Mecca to perform Umrah or Hajj. Needless to say, none are such rules in the Quran. The Quranic state of “ihram” is to abstain from war, hunting, sexual activity and bad language and begins when pilgrims enter the Masjid Al-Haram to commence their Hajj. Like the so-called “ihram” garments, the miqat locations are yet another man-made innovation.

The “Black Stone”

The Black Stone is a stone located at one of the corners of the Kaa’ba at the Masjid Al-Haram. Muslims tend to congregate and push themselves towards it in an effort to touch and kiss it with the hope of getting some sort of blessing. Clearly, this is an idolatrous behavior similar to what the statue worshippers during the time of Abraham did. As such, it should come as no surprise that there is no mention of this ritual anywhere in the Quran. This ritual originates from the hadith which claims that the stone descended from Heaven during the time of Abraham and that Prophet Muhammad used to kiss it. As we know from the Quran in verse 21:66, Abraham destroyed all of the stones and statues that people were worshipping and asked them if they worship something that cannot benefit nor harm them instead of God.

قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ
He (Abraham) said (to the idolaters), “Then do you worship instead of Allah that which does not benefit you at all or harm you? (21:66)

Similar verses are found at 5:76,10:18 and 25:55.

“Zamzam” water

Zamzam water is water that comes from a particular well. The water is available at the Masjid Al-Haram and is considered sacred by most Muslims. Many also believe that it can cure ailments. Muslim historians claim that the well of Zamzam was made to flow for Hagar and her infant Ishmael when the two of them ran in desperation between the hill tops of Safa and Marwah in search of water. This story is nowhere to be found in the Quran but rather comes from the Bible (Torah). Genesis 21:14-21 describes the story of Abraham’s slave wife Hagar when she was sent away to the desert with her child Ishmael. In desperation and fear of dying out of thirst, Hagar ran back and forth between two hill tops in search of water, at which point God mercifully produced for her a gushing well from which she and Ishmael drank. As this story is not in the Quran, it’s likely that hadith writers borrowed this story from the Bible and modified it such that the Zamzam well would be located at the Masjid Al-Haram. The Bible, however, indicates that the event took place at Beer Sheba which is located south of Jerusalem, between Gaza and the Dead Sea.

Regardless of this story, the Quran makes it clear that we should not idolize and hold sacred any object, whether it is the water of Zamzam or the Black Stone, thinking that it could “benefit” us. On the contrary, doing so would be a direct violation of 5:76,10:18 and 25:55. At the end of the day, Muslims must believe that all cures are ultimately from God.

The ritual of stoning Satan

Another commonly practiced Hajj ritual is the stoning of Satan. This ritual, according to the historian Al-Arazi, originates from Abraham’s journey to perform the Hajj. The story has it that when Abraham left Mina, Satan appeared to him. Then, Gabriel appeared and told Abraham to pelt Satan. Abraham threw 7 stones which made Satan disappear. Satan reappeared at the Middle Stone-Heap and the Little Stone-Heap and Abraham where Abraham threw more stones until Satan finally withdrew. These 3 locations are called the “Jamaraat” and are meant to represent the devil.

There is nothing in the Quran mentioning this Hajj ritual.

Some scholars quote verse 38:77 and 15:34 to justify the stoning of Satan practice.

قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ
He (God) said, ‘Then, get out of it, for you (Satan) are ‘rajeem’ (expelled). (38:77)

They use the word “rajeem”, which means “expelled” or “outcast”, to mean “stoned”.

As you can imagine, believers of this non-sensical and unauthorized ritual probably think that they are hurting Satan as they passionately throw stones at something they can’t even see. However, what is more likely to be happening is that Satan is sitting behind them laughing for having succeeded in deviating millions of Muslims from the sole purpose of Hajj, which is to praise and commemorate God (22:27-28, 2:203, 2:198, 2:200). By tricking clueless Muslims who don’t pay attention to the Quran and its clear instructions, Satan has succeeded in wasting 3 days of each pilgrims’ Hajj days in his name instead of for God.

Interestingly, most of the fatal tragedies during the Hajj occur during the Stoning ritual. Could it be that these tragedies are related to the fact that this ritual is completely counter to the purpose of the Hajj? Throughout the entire Quran, God never tells people to attack the devil. His command is only to stay away from and not follow the devil.

Women not allowed to perform Hajj without a “muhrim”

A “muhrim” is understood to be any male who is unlawful for marriage to the woman in question, e.g. a woman’s father, brother, son, grandfather, etc. As such, Muslim women believe that they can’t perform the Hajj unless one of their “muhrims” accompany them. This belief originates from hadith that says that no man shall be in the company of a woman alone and in seclusion. With millions of Hajj pilgrims visiting Mecca every year, being in a state of “seclusion” is quite the opposite of what actually occurs. This belief is common in male-dominated cultures such as in Saudi Arabia where the rule is clearly one-sided as the restriction does not apply to men. Needless to say, there is such law in the Quran which prohibits women from performing the Hajj without a “muhrim”.

Women during menstruation forbidden from completing Hajj

There is no restriction in the Quran that prevents a woman from completing the Hajj if they are menstruating. Likewise, women are not forbidden from fasting and praying while menstruating. Menstruation is a bodily cycle designed by God Himself. It’s non-sensical to believe that God would forbid His own creatures from praying and worshipping Him 7 days a month. The only restriction placed on women during menstruation is from having sexual intercourse with their husbands for the benefit of both of them (2:222). See chapter “Are Menstruating Women Required to Fast?” for details.

Visiting Prophet Muhammad’s tomb during the Hajj

Many Hajj pilgrims visit Prophet’s Muhammad’s tomb during the Hajj. The tomb is located in Medina at the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid Al-Nabawi). The Quran only speaks of one “Haram Masjid”, which is the one in Mecca. Nevertheless, many Muslims consider there to be two Haram Masjids (Al-Haramayn), the second being the Prophet’s Mosque.

First of all, the practice of visiting Muhammad’s tomb is not an authorized Hajj ritual per the Quran as it is nowhere to be found in it. On the contrary, visiting Muhammad’s tomb would constitute a violation of Hajj requirements which has as its primary goal of praising and commemorating God alone (22:27-28, 2:203, 2:198, 2:200).

Secondly, many Muslims pray in front of Muhammad’s tomb which, if they are praying with Muhammad in mind, is an act of shirk (idol worship). And if they are there only to pray to God, then it would seem suspicious for choosing that particular mosque. As verse 72:18 states, all mosques are solely for God and calling on anyone else in them is strictly prohibited.

وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَدًا
And the masjids are for God, so do not invoke with God anyone. (72:18)

Thirdly, most of these Muslims who believe in and follow the hadith yet, unsurprisingly, since most people just blindly follow the masses, don’t realize that the hadith prohibits taking graves of the prophets as places of worship. Considering the following so-called “sahih” hadith.

Jundub reported: I heard from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) five days before his death and he said: I stand acquitted before Allah that I took any one of you as a friend, for Allah has taken me as His friend, as he took Ibrahim as His friend. Had I taken any one of my Ummah as a friend, I would have taken Abu Bakr as a friend. Beware of those who preceded you and used to take the graves of their prophets and righteous men as places of worship, but you must not take graves as mosques; I forbid you to do that. Sahih Muslim 532In-book reference: Book 5, Hadith 28USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 4, Hadith 1083 https://sunnah.com/muslim/5/28

Lastly, many Muslims believe that by visiting the Prophet’s tomb, they are just following the religion the way Prophet Muhammad did. Funnily, this is purely non-sensical as Muhammad could not have visited his own grave when he was alive and performing the Hajj. Furthermore, the whole Hajj ritual began way before Muhammad was even born, originating with Prophet Abraham who, obviously, could not have visited Muhammad’s tomb when he was alive.

Performing hajj for someone else

Some Muslims believe that they can perform the hajj for someone else, e.g. a dead relative who never performed the hajj. However, Quran verses 53:39 and 6:164 make it clear that no one will be credited with or be responsible for the good or bad deeds of anyone else.

وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ
And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives (53:39)
… وَلَا تَكْسِبُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ إِلَّا عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ …
… And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. … (6:164 part)

Related articles

Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (see picture below – available at Costco)
  • Italian Seasoning (see picture below – available at Costco)

Instructions

  1. Slice tomatoes in half
  2. Optionally spray olive oil on the flat sides
  3. Sprinkle the seasoning on the flat sides
  4. Broil (heat from above) for 20 – 40 minutes at 350 F

Muslims Are Wrong About Zakat

Zakat (tax) vs sadaqah (charity)

Most Muslims believe that zakat is only a required payment in the amount of 2.5% on their income primarily for people in need and that it is only required by Muslims. However, the Quran seems to suggest that zakat is more like a government tax required by all members of society, whether Muslim or not, and is not limited to 2.5%.

The word zakat

Zakat is an Arabic word that literally means “that which purifies”. Many Muslims agree that zakat is named as such because Muslims are obligated to pay zakat in order to remain spiritually pure.

Zakat (tax) and salat (prayer)

People familiar with Quranic verses will often note that zakat is almost always mentioned together with salat (prayer). For example, in verse 2:43 we read

… أَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ …
… and establish prayer and give zakat … (2:43 part)

This verse, and many others, make it clear that zakat is mandatory among Muslims.

Sadaqah and zakat are not the same thing

Even though sadaqah and zakat may have some similarities, verse 58:13 proves that sadaqah and zakat are two different things.

أَأَشْفَقْتُمْ أَن تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ نَجْوَاكُمْ صَدَقَاتٍ ۚ فَإِذْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَتَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
Do you fear that you will present charities (sadaqaat) before your consultation? Then when you do not (give charity) and God has forgiven you, then establish prayer and give zakah and obey God and His Messenger. And God is Acquainted with what you do. (58:13)

Do non-Muslims have to pay zakat?

Non-Muslims also had to pay Zakat

According to verse 41:6-7, disbelievers and polytheists must also pay zakat.

… وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كافِرُونَ
“…and woe to the polytheists (41:6) who give not the ‘Zakat’ and in the Hereafter they are disbelievers. (41:7)”

The verses above make it clear that the obligation to pay zakat was not necessarily a “religious” obligation but rather a societal obligation.

Jews also had to pay Zakat during the time of Prophet Muhammad

According to verses 2:43, the Jews were told to also pay zakat among doing other things. The commandment is mentioned in verse 2:40 which addresses the Children of Israel.

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُوا مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ
And establish prayer and give zakah and bow with those who bow [in worship]. (2:43)

The fact that the Quran requires Jews to also pay zakat further supports the argument that paying zakat was required among everyone and not just Muslims.

People paid zakat long before Prophet Muhammad was even born

Many Muslims assume that the requirement to pay zakat began with Muhammad. However, the Quran proves that the payment of zakat began very long before Muhammad was even born. The following verses indicate who was expected or ordered to pay zakat.

19:31Prophet Jesus (Isa)
19:55Prophet Ishmael ordered his people to pay zakat.
2:83, 7:156, 5:12The Children of Israel (Jews)
21:73Prophet’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
4:162The Jews (referenced as “hadu” in 4:160)
98:5Zakat was a fundamental aspect of the true religion of God even to people of previous revelations and scriptures from prophets before Muhammad.

Is zakat based on income or savings?

Some Muslims believe that zakat is based on their savings. However, according to verse 6:141, we see evidence that zakat is based on income and that zakat is due as soon as you get paid. The verse uses the example of a farmer who harvests fruit. When the fruits are ready, they can be harvested. On that day, the farmer must pay his due (zakat) since that is the day the farmer can sell the fruit and get paid.

And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess. (6:141)

Nowadays, most people don’t work as farmers. Nevertheless, the point of the verse above is that one has to pay his dues (zakat) when they receive an income, whether it is every 2 weeks, once a month, or yearly.

Who should manage zakat money?

Many Muslims today pay zakat by giving 2.5% of their income to a mosque for distribution or they manually distribute it themselves to whoever they think deserve it. However, according to verse 22:41, it seems to suggest that governments should establish a system of zakat.

الَّذِينَ إِن مَّكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلِلَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ
[And they are] those who, if We establish them in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to God belongs the outcome of [all] matters. (22:41)

Notice how verse 22:41 mentions “if We (God) establish them (people) in the land”. Obviously, people who are established in a land are people who live in an organized society with a system managed by a government.

Pay zakat to people individually or to a central authority for distribution

Aside from the amount of zakat or tax distributed to those in need, it should be obvious that having a centralized system for collecting, spending and distributing this money would be far better than if people individually decided who to give some of their money to.

If people individually give zakat money to the needy, then

  • only certain individuals would receive zakat money and possibly, only Muslims
  • many people who qualify for zakat money may not receive any at all
  • benefits received by recipients would strictly be limited to money and no other form of help
  • zakat recipients would only receive cash which could be misused, e.g. for drugs and alcohol
  • the overall welfare of everyone would be severely limited as zakat money would strictly be used for distributing money to the poor and needy

If people give zakat money (or tax) to a central government, then

  • some of the money can be distributed to all needy people, not just some people
  • everyone, both Muslims and non-Muslims, can receive financial help fairly and equally
  • some of the money can be used for social programs as well as public services such as free or subsidized transportation, healthcare, education, and so on
  • recipients can’t abuse tax / zakat benefits because governments can issue food stamps, for example, which can’t be used for drugs and alcohol
  • the overall welfare of everyone would improve

Who can receive zakat money?

Most Muslims believe that zakat money is strictly for people who are poor or in need. Many Muslims also believe that zakat money is only for Muslim recipients. Many Muslim scholars quote verse 9:60 to determine 8 categories of people who can receive zakat money. Below is the correct English translation of verse 9:60

“Charities (Arabic: Sadaqaatu) are only for the poor (Arabic: Fuqara) and the needy (Arabic: Masakin), and those who collect them (Amalina Alayha), and those whose hearts are to be reconciled (Mu-alafati qulubuhum) and to free the captives (Arabic: Fil-riqabi) and the debtors (Arabic: Gharimina), and for the cause of God (Arabic: Fi-Sabili-llahi) and (for) the wayfarer (Arabic: Sabili);- a duty imposed by God. God is Knower, Wise” (9:60)

It is very clear from verse 9:60 above that it addresses charities (sadaqaat) and not zakat. And, as we have proven above in verse 58:13, and as most Muslims would agree, charity and zakat are two different things. While the Quran is absolutely clear as to who can receive charity (sadaqah) money, the Quran does not state who can receive zakat money. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that zakat money is strictly limited to the poor and the needy or just Muslim people.

As suggested by verse 22:41, if a government is to manage zakat money, then it would make sense that the Quran would not specifically state how zakat money should be used since different countries have different needs. For example, in the United States, according to Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the 2015 federal spending by category was

33.26%Social Security, Unemployment and Labor
27.42%Medicare and Health
15.88%Military
5.97%Interest on Debt
4.19%Veteran’s Benefits
3.54%Food and Agriculture
2.67%Education
2.22%Transportation
1.6%Housing and Community

All of the categories above, except for “Military”, “Interest on Debt” and “Veteran’s Benefits”, support the poor and people in need by providing financial support for the elderly (social security) and the unemployed, providing medical assistance to the poor and people in need (Medicare and health), providing food for the poor and the needy, providing education to low-income students, providing subsidized or free public transportation for the poor and the needy, and providing housing assistance for the poor and the needy.

As you can see, even a non-Islamic government such as the government of the United States ends up spending much of its money on social programs that benefit the poor and the needy because it makes sense to do so.

Why should non-Muslims receive zakat money?

Some, if not many, Muslims believe that only Muslims are entitled to receive zakat money. There is no such restriction in the Quran. As a matter of fact, the Quran makes it clear that polytheists (41:6-7) and Jews (2:43) had to pay zakat during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, if those non-Muslims had to pay zakat, it would only be fair if the poor and needy among them could also receive zakat money. Unfortunately, many Muslims are quick to judge non-Muslims as predestined people who will surely go to Hell. However, it is not unreasonable for a non-Muslim to eventually convert to Islam. Obviously, not everyone is born into a Muslim family and not everyone has the same circumstances in life.

How much should zakat be?

Most Muslims believe that zakat is 2.5% on savings or income to be paid once a year. Muslims scholars have decided that the 2.5% comes from some relatively vague hadeeth. However, there is no mention of zakat being strictly limited to 2.5% in the Quran. As suggested by verse 22:41, if a government is to manage zakat money, then it should be a percentage that is necessary for the government to do its job and support the people. Obviously, every country has different circumstances and needs. Oil-rich Gulf countries with small populations such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have plenty of valuable natural resources that they don’t need money from their residents in order to run the country and provide for the poor and the needy. Consequently, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have a 0% tax on their people. On the other hand, the United States needs to charge an average 25-30% tax on its residents, with an exemption for low-income people, of course. Considering the different circumstances of different countries, it would make sense, then, that the Quran would not limit how much each country must charge for zakat (tax) so that each government can decide how much it needs to best help its people.

2.5% zakat versus government tax

It should be obvious that most governments use a portion of their tax revenue to support the poor and needy. As mentioned above, the United States government spent more than 50% of its 2015 tax revenues on social programs. Assuming a US taxpayer had an effective tax rate of 30%, then at least 15% of that taxpayer’s tax money would go towards the poor and needy in one way or another. That is already 6 times the 2.5% zakat that most Muslims pay for the same cause, and that’s only for federal tax – it doesn’t include state tax. Since most governments charge much more than 2.5% for income tax, then by paying your income tax to the government, you are already paying much more from your income for the same purpose as the 2.5% zakat most Muslims pay. Since most of a government’s tax revenues support the poor and needy, then it should be easy to see how your government income tax is really no different than zakat – it’s just not called “zakat” because “zakat” literally means “that which purifies” whereas the Arabic word for “tax” is “dareeba”.

Zakat and taxes in Muslim countries

Many Muslims living in Muslim countries complain about poverty, lack of government support, expensive healthcare, and low quality of life. These same people admire non-Islamic countries such as the United States, Australia, and Western European countries for offering much support to their citizens such as free healthcare, education, and financial support for the poor and needy. If we compare these two groups of countries, we quickly realize that a large percentage of the population in non-Islamic countries pay taxes whereas in Islamic countries, an extremely small percentage of the population pays taxes, even though many of them still hand out 2.5% of their income to the poor and needy. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the government tax rate is between 7.5% and 35% however, only 0.57% of the population pays taxes. Assuming everyone paid 2.5% of their income for zakat, it’s clear that, considering the quality of life in Pakistan, their 2.5% zakat money doesn’t appear to make much of a difference in the general welfare of the people.

Tax evasion

Some Muslims, whether living in a Muslim country or not, are extremely disciplined when it comes to paying 2.5% of their income for what they call “zakat”. These same people receive support from their government which obviously comes from taxpayer money. Ironically, however, when it comes time to pay their income tax to their government, they either complain or, worse yet, avoid paying it as much as possible. Furthermore, there are some Muslims who withdraw state benefits when they are clearly not eligible for them. While it may not seem like stealing, what these Muslims are doing is, in effect, stealing taxpayer money, regardless of how little, that could be meant to support people who are actually poor or in need.

How much is enough zakat (government tax)?

Low tax revenues means that a government can only fund basic services such as policing, the courts and the armed forces. In order to provide universal healthcare, education, and a social safety net for all of a country’s residents, higher tax revenues are required. According to the UN, this can be achieved if a country’s tax revenues are at least 20% of its GDP [1]. If achieved, this would result in an increase in a society’s quality of life. The Human Development Index (HDI) [2] is a ranking of a society’s quality of life by country. The index groups countries into 4 categories. Following is a 2016 listing of those categories with a sampling of countries. The listing also shows each country’s 2015 tax revenue-to-GDP ratio [3]. Each country’s estimated 2017 GDP per capita per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also listed to give an idea of the average individual’s annual income for that country [4]. In addition, I note whether a country is an Islamic country.

[1] Why developing countries need to toughen up on taxes

[2] List of countries by Human Development Index

[3] List of countries by tax revenue to GDP ratio

[4] List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita

In the table below, CPI (Corruption Perception Index) is a measure of how corrupt people perceive a country to be. Of course, paying more taxes to a corrupt government is pointless.

Very High human development

Rank Country Islamic? HDI Tax Revenue-to-GDP Ratio GDP per capita CPI
1Norway0.94954.8$70,59085
2Australia0.93943.4$49,88273
3Switzerland0.93927.8$61,36084
4Germany0.92644.5$50,20680
5Denmark0.92550.8$49,61388
5Singapore0.92514.2$90,53185
6Netherlands0.92439.8$53,58282
7Ireland0.92330.8$72,63274
8Iceland0.92140.4$52,15074
9Canada0.92131.7$48,14174
10United States0.92026.0$59,49567
19Israel0.89936.8$36,25036
30BruneiYes0.865?$76,743?
33QatarYes0.8562.2$124,92731
38Saudi ArabiaYes0.8475.3$55,26352
42UAEYes0.8401.4$68,24569
47BahrainYes0.8244.8$51,84642
51KuwaitYes0.8001.5$69,66943

High human development

Rank Country Islamic? HDI Tax Revenue-to-GDP Ratio GDP per capita CPI
59MalaysiaYes0.78915.5$28,87148
69IranYes0.7746.1$20,03025
71TurkeyYes0.76724.9$26,45338
86JordanYes0.74121.1$12,48749
90China0.73820.1$16,62445
97TunisiaYes0.72514.9$11,98744
102LibyaYes0.7162.7$9,79217

Medium human development

Rank Country Islamic? HDI Tax Revenue-to-GDP Ratio GDP per capita CPI
111EgyptYes0.69115.8$12,99433
113IndonesiaYes0.68912.0$12,37838
123MoroccoYes0.64722.3$8,61239
139BangladeshYes0.5798.5$4,56126
147PakistanYes0.55011.0$5,35428

Low human development

Rank Country Islamic? HDI Tax Revenue-to-GDP Ratio GDP per capita CPI
168YemenYes0.4827.1$2,30016
169AfghanistanYes0.4796.4$1,88916
187Niger0.35311.0$1,15331

One thing of note is that all Islamic countries in the “Very high human development” category are oil or natural gas-producing countries. These countries do not collect much, if any, tax from their residents because they don’t need to as they’ve been lucky enough to have a very valuable natural resource. These are mostly small countries with small populations and lots of oil and gas.

Based on the table above, most Islamic countries have a tax revenue as % of GDP value of less than 20%. And as you can see, the top 10 countries with the highest quality of life are the countries that collect the most tax from their residents. Not a single one of these top 10 countries is an Islamic country.

If we take the average tax revenue as a % of GDP for all countries in each category, we get the following table.

Country GroupAverage Tax Revenue as % of GDP
Top 10 Very High Human Development36.75
Very High Human Development31.92
High Human Development22.08
Medium Human Development17.09
Low Human Development15.08

Based on the two tables above, it appears that, in general, the more taxes a country collects (higher tax revenue as % of GDP), the higher the quality of life of its residents.

Quite ironically, the requirements of a society based on an inclusive tax system seem to be better understood in non-Islamic countries than in many Muslim countries that cannot often fulfill the basic demands and needs of their citizens.

Conclusion

It should be clear now that Islamic zakat is actually government taxation which is mandatory for everyone, not just Muslims, and for the benefit of everyone, not just Muslims. In Islamic countries, since many Muslims think that zakat is not government taxation, it may be helpful to change the term “income tax” to “zakat” since, as I have explained above, the two terms are synonymous.

Is charity or zakah only for Muslims?

Some Muslims refuse to give charity to non-Muslims as they consider all non-Muslims as infidels (kafir). First of all, the Quran never says you may only give charity to Muslims. Secondly, not all non-Muslims are kafir because to be a kafir, you have to intentionally reject God. If you were raised in a Hindu family and you worship statues, then you are an idolater (mushrik), but not necessarily an infidel (kafir). You are, however, wrong in thinking that a statue is God and, unless you use your brain to think about that to discover the truth, as required of you in verse 8:22, you may very well end up in Hell.

إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason. (8:22)

As stated in verse 9:6, idolaters are people who simply don’t know that the statues they worship are not god(s).

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْلَمُونَ
And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. (9:6)

If they do not reject God, then they can get guidance so as to see their mistakes and discover the real God. In the meantime, they deserve financial help just like anyone else. Not everyone is born into a Muslim family but everyone can convert to Islam at any time in their lives. To refuse to help someone based on their current belief is not only inhumane but counter to the spirit of Islam. Who knows? The person you refuse to give charity to based on their current belief may end up converting and becoming a more righteous Muslim than you.

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Lailat Al-Qadr Is Not What You Think It Is

Many Muslims believe that they will reap some huge reward or all of their sins will be washed away if they perform lots of worship during one unknown night near the end of the month of Ramadan. However, there is no statement in the Quran that tells people to try and find Lailat Al-Qadr.

According to verses 97:1-5, we know that God revealed something in the Night of Decree (Laylatul-qadr).

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِوَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Indeed, We sent it down (Arabic: Anzalnahu) during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn. (97:1-5)

The Arabic word “anzalnahu” means “we sent it down”. This most like means that the Quran was sent down. If we look at verse 44:2-4, we find that the same word (anzalnahu) was used to describe the Quran being sent down.

وَالْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ
By the clear Book (Quran), Indeed, We sent it down during (Arabic: Anzalnahu) a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind]. (44:2-4)

According to verse 2:185, we find that the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan.

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْ…
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. … (2:185 part)

And according to verse 17:106, we find that the Quran was not revealed all at once or only during the month of Ramadan but rather a little at a time throughout prophet Muhammad’s ministry.

وَقُرْآنًا فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَىٰ مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنزِيلًا
And [it is] a Qur’an which We have separated [by intervals] that you might recite it to the people over a prolonged period. And We have sent it down progressively. (17:106)

Based on the facts about Laylatul-Qadr described above, we see that the Quran never tells people to seek the Night of Decree (Laylatul Qadr). The revelation of the Quran began on the Night of Decree (Laylatul Qadr) and the rest of the Quran was revealed throughout the remainder of Muhammad’s life.

Lastly, the purpose of fasting in the month of Ramadhan is to guard against evil and learn self-restraint (Arabic: tattaqun) as described in verse 2:183.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may learn self-restraint / guard against evil – (2:183)

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Most Muslims Start & End Fasting At the Wrong Time

Do we begin fasting at the time of fajr or some time afterwards?

Many Muslims believe that fasting begins when it’s time for fajr prayer. However, careful analysis would prove that fasting begins some time after when fajr prayer begins.

The Quran in verse 2:187 indicates that fasting begins when “the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread.”

وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ
… And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from its black thread. …(2:187)

In order to determine when fasting should begin, we need to understand a few concepts.

Fajr Prayer Period

Fajr is an Arabic word that means dawn. Therefore, the fajr prayer means the dawn prayer which means the fajr prayer time period is from the beginning of dawn until the end of dawn.

What is dawn?

By definition, dawn begins when the sun starts to lighten the sky and ends when the sunrise begins. Scientifically, there are 3 stages of dawn:

  1. Astronomical Dawn
    Astronomical Dawn is when the geometric center of the Sun’s disk is 18 degrees below the horizon. At this point, twilight is so faint that it is generally indistinguishable from night, especially in areas with light pollution.
  2. Nautical Dawn / First Light
    Nautical dawn is when the geometric center of the Sun’s disk reaches an angle of 12 degrees below the horizon. The sunlight reflected by the atmosphere is now generally sufficient to distinguish the sky from land or water in clear weather conditions. This is also called “first light” because it’s the first point of dawn when the sun’s light (not the sun itself) is noticeable to the human eye.
  3. Civil Dawn
    Civil dawn is when the geometric center of the Sun’s disc is 6° below the horizon.

Sunrise

Sunrise is when the geometric center of the Sun’s disk is at the horizon.

Beginning of fajr prayer time period

Muslims usually take astronomical dawn to be the beginning of the fajr prayer time period even though the sky is still dark to the human eye and light is only visible in certain conditions and possibly using scientific equipment.

Beginning of fasting

Since verse 2:187 indicates that fasting begins at the point when sunlight first becomes visible to the human eye, then based on the stages of dawn described above, the beginning of fasting would be at the beginning of the nautical dawn stage, aka “first light”.

Conclusion

Since Muslims consider the fajr prayer to begin at astronomical dawn and since we have just proven that the beginning of fasting begins at nautical dawn (first light), then fasting begins some time after the fajr prayer. In order to determine when nautical dawn or first light occurs in your area, you can visit https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/dawn.html

Do we end fasting at the time of maghrib (sunset) or night (layl)?

Many Muslims believe that the time to break their fast in Ramadan is at Maghrib (sunset). However, the Quran makes it very clear that you must fast till night time (layl) which is as soon as there is no more sunlight in the sky, not when the sun is setting and it’s still bright outside. This is proven in verse 2:187.

وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ
…and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread. Then complete the fast till the night (Arabic: layl)… (2:187)

At no place in the Quran is ‘layl’ (night) the same thing as sunset.

What is sunset?

The description of “sunset” is clearly defined when we look at the following verse:

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِبَ الشَّمْسِ
Until, when he reached the setting of the sun (Arabic: Maghriba-l-shams) … (18:86)

The word ‘maghriba’ comes from its root word ‘Ghurub’ (G-R-B) which means to retire, to depart, to be hidden from view or to be absent. Used along with ‘shams’ (sun) it refers to sunset, or the west which is clearly the setting place of the sun.

Verse 2:187 does not instruct people to fast until the ‘ghurub’ of the ‘shams’ (setting of the sun). Rather, it informs people to fast till ‘layl’ (night).

In verse 20:130 and 50:39, we see another reference to “ghurub” which clearly indicate the setting of the sun, aka “sunset”.

فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا
So be patient over what they say and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; … (20:130)
فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ
So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting, (50:39)

As you can see, the term “ghurub” which means “sunset” is well known in the Quran. If God wanted people to end their fast at sunset, He could have just used the word “ghurub” but He didn’t. Instead, God wanted people to end their fast at night which is why He used the word “layl”.

Following are some dictionary definitions of “ghurub”.

OMAR, A M, Dictionary of the Holy Quran, Arabic Words – English Meanings, Noor Foundation – International Inc, First Edition May 24, 2003, Reprint used February 26 2010, Page 400

LANE. E.W, Edward Lanes Lexicon, Williams and Norgate 1863; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1968, Volume 3, Page 971

What is “layl” (night)

Layl (night) is when there is no more noticeable sunlight in the sky. In other words, it is when twilight has ended and the sky is dark.

In verse 91:1-4, we see that “layl” or night is when both the sun and its light can no longer be seen.

وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَاوَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا
By the Sun and its brightness (splendour, brightness, brilliance – duha) and the moon when it follows it and the day (Arabic: nahar) when it displays it (sun’s glory) and the night (Arabic: layl) when it covers / conceals it. (18:86)

If the sun is below the horizon and hidden from view but sunlight is still seen in the sky, that’s still sunset (ghurub) and not layl (night).

In verse 10:067 we see proof that daytime (nahar) is contrasted with nighttime (layl) in that daytime is when you can see things / things are visible.

هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَالنَّهَارَ مُبْصِرًا
It is He who made for you the night to rest therein and the day, giving sight. (18:86)

Obviously, at sunset or maghrib time, you can still see things outside because there’s still plenty of sunlight in the sky. That’s because it isn’t nighttime (layl) yet.

Following are some verses that reference the word “layl” which clearly indicate it to mean nighttime and not sunset.

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا وَالنَّوْمَ سُبَاتًا وَجَعَلَ النَّهَارَ نُشُورًا
And it is He who has made the night for you as clothing and sleep [a means for] rest and has made the day a resurrection. (25:47)
وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ الْقُرَى الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا قُرًى ظَاهِرَةً وَقَدَّرْنَا فِيهَا السَّيْرَ ۖ سِيرُوا فِيهَا لَيَالِيَ وَأَيَّامًا آمِنِينَ
And We made between them and the towns which We had blessed, towns easy to be seen, and We made stages of journey between them easy, (saying): Travel in them safely both by night (Arabic: layliya) and day. (34:18)
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُومُ أَدْنَىٰ مِن ثُلُثَيِ اللَّيْلِ وَنِصْفَهُ وَثُلُثَهُ وَطَائِفَةٌ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ مَعَكَ
Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two-thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. … (73/20)

It would be hard to believe that the reference to the word “layl” in the above verses means sunset.

In verse 79:29, we see one more reference to “layl” which indicates that it is when there is darkness as opposed to brightness.

وَأَغْطَشَ لَيْلَهَا وَأَخْرَجَ ضُحَاهَا
And He darkened its night and extracted its brightness. (79:29)

When does layl (night) begin?

The Quran refers to certain periods of nighttime as being totally dark. For example, ‘al-layli muzliman’ (10:27) or ‘ghasaq al-layl’ (17:78). The Quran in verse 12:16 also refers to “night” as “isha” to describe the night prayer (salaat al-isha). However, the Quran doesn’t use any of these terms to describe the time at which to end fasting. Therefore, it would be reasonable to understand the beginning of night to be the end of sunset when there is no more light in the sky.

Twilight

The twilight phases in the morning are often called dawn, while the twilight phases in the evening are referred to as dusk. However, unlike the term twilight, which describes a time span, the terms dawn and dusk refer to moments during the transitions between day and night.

Civil dawn is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon in the morning. It is preceded by nautical twilight.

Similarly, civil dusk is the instant when the geometric center of the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the beginning of nautical twilight.

Following is an example of the different parts of a day (and night) for San Francisco on June 5, 2017.

Black is nighttime, light blue is daytime. The darker blue shadings represent the twilight phases during dawn (left) and dusk (right).

As you can see, sunset / dusk / ghurub begins at 8:28 PM. This is also the beginning of civil twilight and corresponds to the time when Muslims pray Maghrib. However, you’ll notice that when you step outside at Maghrib, there’s still plenty of sunlight in the sky. Obviously, this is not night (layl). Complete night (total darkness), in this example, begins at 10:21 PM. The beginning of night should, therefore, at least, be at the end of civil twilight which, in this example, is at 8:59 PM. According to Weather Underground (https://www.wunderground.com/), last light is at 8:59 PM. If you step outside at this time, you’ll notice that the sky is dark. Therefore, it is reasonable to take the beginning of “layl” (night) to be at the end of civil twilight.

You can also use the Golden Hour app. The screenshot of Golden Hour below shows last light (beginning of night) in Hayward, CA, USA on Dec 27, 2021 to be at 5:26 PM.

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