Every day we meet several people at work, in the shops, at the university, in the neighborhood, or at parties and gatherings with whom we communicate and interact. Talking, telling jokes, shaking hands, touching or kissing usually happen in these interactions; but, is a Muslim allowed to do all these with whoever he/she wants? Or is he/she permitted to be exposed to such acts? These and many similar questions are answered in Islam.
To clarify and form the relations among people, Islam has presented the concept of Maharim and the two categories “Mahram” and “non-Mahram” which sometimes serve as conditions, requirements, or the basis of several Islamic laws. Regarding the Islamic rules on marriage, these categories define who a person can and cannot marry. Likewise, when dealing with the Islamic dress code, i.e., explaining whom one must cover specific parts of a body in front of, the concept of Maharim is required.
One’s Mahram is anyone whom it is permanently forbidden to marry because of blood ties, marriage ties or breastfeeding. However, a woman does not need to cover her hair and put on Hijab when she is in their presence. A woman's male Mahrams fall into three categories plus her spouse . Mahrams for a man are derived similarly. The Maharim for both, extracted from the verses of the Holy Quran (4:22-23) and (24:31), are listed below , and all other people and relatives are considered as non-Maharams.
Permanent or blood Mahrams, with whom one is Mahram through blood ties:
parents, grandparents, and further ancestors;
children, grandchildren, and further descendants;
siblings of parents, grandparents, and further ancestors (cousins and their children are not Mahram);
children and further descendants of siblings;
In-law Mahrams, with whom one becomes Mahram through marriage ties:
stepfather (mother's husband) if their marriage is consummated, stepmother (father's wife) even if their marriage is not consummated;
stepson (husband's son) even if their marriage is not consummated, stepdaughter (wife's daughter) if their marriage is consummated[i];
Rada or "milk-suckling Mahrams," with whom one becomes Mahram because of being breastfed by her. When a woman breastfeeds an infant that is not her child for a certain amount of time under certain conditions, she becomes the child's rada mother and everything concerning blood Mahrams apply here, such as rada father/mother, rada sister/brother, rada aunt/uncle and so on. In English, these can be referred to as milk-brother, milk-mother, etc. [ii].
It is forbidden (Haram) to marry Mahrams, but one can marry non-Mahrams who have reached puberty. As explained above, Married couples are Mahram to each other. But unlike other Mahrams, the limitations and rulings on looking and touching do not apply to them; i.e., married couples are the only ones allowed to touch and look at the whole body of one another; even the private parts.
Regarding social interactions, there are some rules according to the concept of Maharim:
Women and men are both required to keep their gazes downcast and should not stare at the other person when facing non-Mahrams or talk to them. Even Mahrams are not allowed to see certain parts of the body of each other (this will be discussed more under a separate topic “the Islamic rules on looking“);
When talking to non-Mahrams, the tone of voice should be serious, and the dialogues should be direct and as much as necessary. One should also avoid telling jokes and laughing loudly [iii];
Any physical contact (i.e., shaking hands, hugging touching) with non-Mahrams is forbidden (haram), except for curing patients. In this case, if a doctor of the same gender as the patient exists and can cure, then it is forbidden to refer to a non-Mahram doctor.
When being sole in a closed room (where no one else can enter, i.e., locked place), it is forbidden for a non-Mahram man to remain alone in the company of a non-Mahram woman. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) said: “No man is alone with a woman except that Satan is the third one present ” ;
It is required (Wajib) to cover specific parts of a body in the presence of a non-Mahram according to the Islamic dress code. For men, this includes from navel to knee. For women, the clothing should cover their hair and body, but covering the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, is not mandated .
[i] sister-in-law and brother-in-law are not Mahram.
[ii] Refer to your source of emulation (Marja’ Taqlid) for more details and the rulings.
[iii] See the article on modesty.
- Mahram and non Mahram
- S. H. al-Amili, “Wasail al-Shia”, vol. 20, p. 131.
- A. Aroussi Howayzi, “Tafsir Noor al-Thaqalayn”, vol. 3/589, T. 105.
We know leaders, kings, and queens by their power and might and sometimes feel terrified hearing their names. Those in power, usually, being occupied with many apparently vital matters, forget about those beneath them, the deprived ones. But, looking at the life of Imam Ali (AS), the commander of faithful and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) rightful successor, we find a leader whose manner was incomparable to the ones we've seen or heard about so far. He was the father of orphans, a provider for the needy, and the defender of justice.
In what follows, we will have a glance at the life of this exceptional Islamic figure of all time.
Imam Ali (AS) was born inside the Ka'ba in Mecca on September 28, 600 CE . He was from Banu Hashim branch of Quraysh. His mother was Fatima bt. Asad and His father, Abu Talib, a respected man by various Arab tribes, was the uncle and guardian of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and was of the most celebrated personalities of the Quraysh .
When he was six years old, a famine took place in Mecca. Since Imam Ali's (AS) father had a large family and providing for them in that situation was a difficult job, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his uncle, al-'Abbas, decided to help him. Therefore, they offered to take care of his children. So, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) took Imam Ali (AS) under his own guardianship . Imam Ali (AS) recounted those days as such:
"When I was a young child, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) took care of me. He would bring me to his chest and I would sleep in his bed, so close to him that I could even smell his scent. He would chew food for me and then feed me with it. He found no lies in my speech, nor any shortcomings in my actions" .
When the prophethood assigned to Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in 610 A.D in Hira cave through Gabriel sent by Allah, Imam Ali (AS) was the first man, and Khadija (AS) was the first woman to acknowledge his call and believed in him. The ten-year-old Ali (AS) at the time would pray with the Prophet (PBUH&HP) on the mountains around Mecca . He also supported Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he was ordered to announce his mission publicly, starting with his close relatives. In return, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) declared him as his brother, executor of his will (Wasi), and successor .
In 615 A.D, Polytheists besieged Muslims in a valley called Abu Talib, where they were prohibited from trade and were under severe sanctions. During this challenging time, Imam Ali (AS) and his father Abu Talib, devotedly helped Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). To save the Prophet's (PBUH&HP), which was under the threat of polytheists, Imam Ali (AS) risked his own life and even slept where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to sleep. The most well-known account of this sacrifice is when after Abu Talib's demise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) decided to immigrate to Medina. He was informed of the secret plan of polytheists to murder him on the night when he was ready to start his journey to Medina. As a counteract, Imam Ali (AS) slept in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) place, so that he could secretly leave his house to Medina . A few days later, Imam Ali (AS), along with his mother and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) daughter, lady Fatima (AS), joined the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in Medina.
In 632 A.D, Imam Ali (AS) accompanied Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) on his last pilgrimage to Mecca . After the Hajj, on his way back to Medina in an area called Ghadir Khum, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) proclaimed Ali (AS) to be his successor and the executor of his will . This event is known as the Event of Ghadir Khum and is celebrated by many Muslims around the world.
Imam Ali (AS) asked Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) daughter's hand in marriage. He consulted this request with his daughter, lady Fatima (AS), and after realizing her willingness to marry such an honored and pious man, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) consented to their marriage.
There is a disagreement on the exact date of their marriage; however, the most accepted one is on May 25, 624 A.D . Together, they had five children named Hasan, Hussain, Zaynab and Umm Kulthum  and also Muhsin, who was aborted before his birth.
After Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) demise and despite his speech in the incident of Ghadir, while Imam Ali (AS) and the Prophet's (PBUH&HP) family were busy with his burial, a group of the heads of Medina gathered in a place called Saqifa Bani Sa'ida to choose a successor for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) from themselves . As a result, Abu Bakr was chosen as the caliph of Muslims, which was followed by Umar ibn Khattab's caliphate and then Uthman b.Affan.
Finally, in June, 656 A.D and after the assassination of Uthman, Imam Ali (AS) became the caliph and the leader of the Muslims. Two days after the beginning of his caliphate, in his first sermon, Ali (AS) urged that all the wealth and properties that had been unjustly taken must be returned, and emphasized justice concerning the distribution of public properties and wealth .
As George Jordac, the Lebanese Christian writer puts:
"In the eyes of Ali son of Abu Talib rulership and caliphate did not mean that the ruler should sit on the throne of dignity, strengthen his power and make his position the means of enslaving the people… Caliphate does not mean that people should be subjugated at the point of the sword, and by means of bloodshed and force, or that they should obey the caliph on account of fear or covetousness. Ali was a man who did not worship God because he desired forgiveness or because he feared punishment. On the contrary, he worshipped God because He deserved to be worshipped. He wished that the people should obey the caliph on account of his being worthy of obedience and not because of fear or greed of gain" .
During his four-year rule, he never did injustice to a soul, and he distributed wealth among people fairly, was observant of the poor, orphans, and the homeless. He was more like a compassionate father to people than a mighty unapproachable ruler. He lived a simple life, as he thought his life had to be like the poorest in society. He never favored any of his relatives over others in his government and refused to give them what they didn't deserve or had not any right to. In short, his government was the best instance of an ideal Islamic political and social system.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said in a narration Imam Ali's (AS) virtues and merits are impossible to number . Nevertheless, we will try to mention some of his most significant characteristics.
His Unbound Compassion and Generosity
Kindness and compassion was an inherent characteristic of Imam Ali (AS). Poor or rich, young or old, Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman, all would enjoy his regard and profound generosity. It is said that he used to water the date gardens of Jews in Medina with his own hands . Jordac describes this characteristic of him as such:
"Ali was more kind to the people than anyone else and refrained from harming any person. He became oblivious of his own self in order to assist others and considered this self-abnegation to be part and parcel of his life. His entire life was dedicated to the support of the oppressed and the helpless so that he might realize their rights from the tyrants who considered themselves entitled to usurp the rights of others on account of noble descent and racial discrimination." 
This noble character was so kind that he refused to take revenge from the person who attacked him while praying in the mosque, which caused his martyrdom a few days later. He forbade his children to bring any harm to this person and commanded them to give him food and drink instead and treat him respectfully.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: "I am the city of knowledge, and Ali (AS) is its gate, whoever wants to enter this city, has to pass the gate first." . Allah had endowed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) a breath of His divine wisdom, so when he calls Imam Ali (AS) as "the gate" to this divine wisdom through which people can enter, he is considering Imam Ali's (AS) wisdom as the prerequisite for reaching out to this vast knowledge.
As Jordac puts: "Ali was brought up by his cousin. He became his disciple and adopted his habits and conduct. The Prophet's heritage became implanted in his heart and brain. He reflected over the Qur'an with the intellect and eye of a sage and learned its latent realities" .
Imam Ali (AS) himself used to invite people to ask him their questions before they lost him since he was sure he would answer them in the wisest manner possible .
Imam Ali (AS) used to fast during the day and give away his food to the poor at night and slept hungrily. Based on an account, he and his family fasted for three days, and each night gave away their Iftar to one needy person who had come to their door. Some interpreters of the Quran believe that this act of Imam Ali (AS) and his family was followed by revealing this verse of the Quran :
"Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve" (2:274)
He also gave away the money he earned through labor and tied a stone to his stomach to fight off his hunger. Whenever he gained a considerable amount of money, he informed the poor and the needy of it and divided it between them and then gave thanks to Allah through performing Salat .
According to some hadiths, one day a beggar entered the mosque and asked for help; but, no one gave him anything. He raised his hands toward the sky and said, "O God! Witness that I asked for help in the mosque of Your Prophet (PBUH&HP) and no one gave me anything." When he said this, Imam Ali (AS) was performing ruku' in prayer and pointed to the small finger of his right hand which had a ring on. The beggar went near and took the ring off from Imam's (AS) finger. Some exegetes believe  that this verse of the Quran referred to this incident: "Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down" (5:55).
He loved Allah, and his love was not tainted by fear or expecting a reward. His worships and prayers were purely for His sake and with the intention of His satisfaction; "The basis of this worship is reason, conscience, and spiritual perfection" . This deep and pure faith that had penetrated his very bones turned him into a self-aware and pious man who aligned his every action with Allah's will and commands. As Jordac puts:
"Ali's piety was not the outcome of circumstances like that of other pious persons, who engage themselves in worship on account of the weakness of their souls, or to escape the vicissitudes of life and to keep aloof from the people, or in imitation of their ancestors, and the effects of the events of life confirm it because as a rule, people accord respect to ancestral customs and traditions… His worship was, in fact, a continuous effort and a campaign against mischief for the sake of human life and prosperity… According to Ali, the essence of piety is to sacrifice one's life for the sake of truth and justice" 
He was born in the house of Allah, Ka'aba, and martyred in his dwelling, the mosque. As if Allah had destined him to always be in His arms.
Imam Ali (AS) said: "Your faith should be at such a level that you should prefer truth to falsehood even though it may cause you loss and falsehood may bring you gain" . And he did so in practice. He would choose truthfulness no matter what the result and never surrendered to injustice.
Another sign of his bravery was his disapproval of going into a war. Despite his strength and high physical power, he would rather peace and would not start a war unless it was inevitable. However, when he attended a battlefield, he fought courageously and never escaped from the enemy. Even on the battlefield, he was the forgiving man who pardoned his enemy when he found them defeated and defenseless.
On the morning of January 26, 661, Imam Ali (AS) was struck with a poisoned sword of Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi who was one of the renegades (Kharijites) [i] while performing Salat in the Grand Mosque of Kufa (today's Najaf in Iraq). He was martyred from this injury two days later and was buried secretly at his request .
Imam Ali, The Beacon of Justice and Humanity
Imam Ali's (AS) exemplary character and life can be a guiding light for all truth-seeking human beings. His deep affection for people, his care for justice and equality, his social and political insight, and his sincere devotion and faith in Allah made him a man whose fame reaches out to generations centuries later than his martyrdom.
[i] Khawārij or Kharijites were a group of Muslims who rioted against Imam Ali (AS) in the middle of, and after, the Battle of Siffin, as well as in the event of Arbitration. They then began the Battle of Nahrawan against the Imam (AS).
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 5.
- Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 1, p. 15.
- Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 162.
- Nahj al-balagha, Sermon 192, p. 222.
- Muṣāḥib, Dāʾirat al-maʿārif-i Farsī, vol. 2, p. 1760.
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol.2, p.331.
- Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 2, p. 131.
- Ayyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, vol. 1, p. 4.
- Mufīd, Masār al-Shīʿa, p. 17.
- Masʿūdī, Ithbāt al-waṣīyya, p. 153.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib Alī b. Abī Ṭālib, vol. 3, p. 133.
- Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon 15. , p.39.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.72. PDF.
- Yusuf b. Qazawughli, Tadhkirat al-khawas, p. 13.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.33. PDF.
- Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri, Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, vol.3, p. 126.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.40. PDF.
- Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik al-Hindi, Kanz al-Ummal, vo.13, p.165.
- Abbas Qomi, Muntahi al-Amal, vol.1, p.284.
- al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p.169.
- Ḥākim al-Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 209-239.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.29. PDF.
- ibid, p.28.
- Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.70. p.106.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 27-28.
We keep hearing arguments about Islam from different people. Some question Islam as a real religion, and others try to prove that Islam is the true religion sent by God. However, I think that there is a major problem with these types of arguments. In fact, many people who undermine Islam by questioning it are not usually in search of truth. Rather, their sole goal is to humiliate Islam and make themselves happy with whatever belief they have.
Although Islam encourages people not to accept anything without understanding, when it comes to the point where arguments and discussions have no learning point, and become only a waste of time, Islam orders Muslims not to argue with people who have no intention to learn and improve; “do not dispute concerning them, except for a seeming dispute”. (18: 22)
Therefore, in this text, I would not try to justify the validity of Islam for those who have no intention to consider Islam as a path in life. But I would like to share my amazing experiences of being a Muslim with those who are looking for a safe path in life. Also, I will explain why I believe that Islam is the most complete religion and guideline in the world.
Is that true to say all prophets from Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them) were Muslims? Or is it just a tool that Muslims use to justify Islam as the best religion? To find the answer to this question, we must first understand what Islam is.
The word Islam means submission, and Muslim is the person who is submitted to God and His divine orders. Now, let’s have a look at the following verses of the Quran that state all religions that have been sent by God were sent to make humankind submitted to God (Muslims).
In Chapter Baqarah when the story of Abraham and his son Ishmael (PBUT) is narrated, while they are making the house of God in the current city of Makkah, they pray God to make them Submissive (Muslim) to Him:
“As Abraham raised the foundations of the House with Ishmael, [they prayed]: ‘Our Lord, accept it from us! …. ‘Our Lord, make us submissive to You, and [raise] from our progeny a nation submissive to You …” (2: 127-8) And then in another chapter of the Quran, Allah informs believers that Islam first came from Abraham; “The faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘Muslims’.” (22: 78)
Also God orders the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to emphasize the fact that the religion he brought is the same as the religion of Abraham (PBUH): “(O Prophet!) Say, ‘Indeed my Lord has guided me to a straight path, the upright religion, the creed of Abraham, a Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.” (6: 161)
Prophet Josef (Yusuf) (PBUH) prays to his lord to take his soul while he is a Muslim: “Let my death be in submission [to You], and unite me with the Righteous.” (12: 101)
“And Moses said, ‘O my people! If you have faith in Allah, put your trust in Him, if you have submitted [to Him].’” (10: 84) The last part of this verse in the Quran is written as “if you are Muslims.”
“Say, ‘We have faith in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that which Moses, Jesus, and the prophets were given by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.” (3:84)
According to what we discussed so far, we release that “all Prophets irrespective of the fact whether they had or did not have an independent code of law, had the same mission and preached the same message.”  The prophets came with the same message from God to guide human beings to the right path, and the nature of human beings in all eras are the same; “So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering Allah’s creation; that is the upright religion, but most people do not know.)” (30: 30)
And in another verse, it is explained that: “Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam, and those who were given the Book did not differ except after knowledge had come to them, out of envy among themselves...” (3:19)
Therefore, the guideline that is sent for human in all eras should be the same, as the nature of human beings in all periods has been the same. There are some rulings in the Quran that may change according to the conditions of the time. Since, Islam is a universal religion, not a contextual one.
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.” (3: 85)
Now that we discussed all the prophets were Muslims, and the only religion sent by God was Islam, why do we say that the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be followed, not the religion of Prophet Moses (PBUH) or Prophet Jesus (PBUH) or even prophet Abraham who was the father of Muslims?
It is said in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was a role model for humankind: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Apostle of Allah—for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day.” (33:21)
While it is also stated in the Quran that Prophet Abraham and his followers such as Prophet Lout (PBUT) were role models for mankind: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in Abraham and those who were with him, when they said to their own people, ‘Indeed we repudiate you and whatever you worship besides Allah.” (60: 4)
As mentioned before, Islam started with Prophet Abraham (PBUH), and he is named in the Quran as the father of Muslims. While in the above verse he is mentioned as a role model for Muslims. The same is with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who is called a role model for Muslims. Therefore, one can conclude that the only thing that makes the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the last and most complete religion is the growth of this religion throughout the time.
People’s intellectual immaturity was the main reason why God renewed his message and developed it over time. However, by the advent of Islam and revelation of the holy Quran, humanity had passed the period of its childhood and had become mature enough to preserve its intellectual heritage, i.e., the religion of God .
There are many scientific points in the Quran that has been mentioned about 1400 years ago. These issues have been discovered by scientists only during the past 200 years. I would mention a few examples and will leave the rest for you to study in the Quran.
Issues regarding embryology have been mentioned in the Quran: “Certainly We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him a drop of [seminal] fluid [lodged] in a secure abode. Then We created the drop of fluid as a clinging mass. Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue. Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones. Then We clothed the bones with flesh. Then We produced him as [yet] another creature.” (23: 14) and in another chapter, it is said: “created man from a clinging mass.” (96: 2)
With regards to Big bang as the start of this universe, Allah says: “Have the faithless not regarded that the heavens and the earth were interwoven and We unraveled them, and We made every living thing out of water?” (21: 30)
Many years ago people believed that the shape of the earth was flat and they had a fear of falling down the edge of the earth at a point when the earth is finished!  While 1400 years ago in the Quran Allah says: “It is He who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon, each swimming in an orbit.” (21: 33) “Thereafter He spread out the earth” (79: 30), but He mentions that although the earth is not flat, we have created in a way that you can walk on it without the fear of falling down: “Allah has made the earth a vast expanse for you.” (71: 19)
One of the reasons that some people stand strongly against Islam is that they say there are some rules in the Quran that are against human rights. In answer to such arguments, one should ask ‘Who defines human rights?’
Human rights that we have in our era is created by human beings and does not go any higher than human understanding. When a human mind tries to create human rights, with the best considerations, they may always forget about some other aspects of human being and the atmosphere around him. Therefore there is no doubt that in many cases, human rights that are written by human beings may be against real human rights.
Having discussed all the above points, I sometimes come to a point where I cannot understand some points of the Holy Quran according to my logic. What to do at these times?
I assume that a sound mind would say that when most of something makes complete sense to you and amazes you for its incredibility, then for that one percent, maybe I should think that the problem is not with the book, but with my understanding.
In the end, I would like to invite people to wisely think about their way of life, their goals, and aims in life. I would like to ask every human to read the Quran as a book that would definitely have many pints for human growth in it; shall it be scientific, moral, social or lifestyle points, it can help all of us to experience a better personal and social life.