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.
Imam Rida (AS) is the eighth infallible Shiite Imam and successor of the final holy Prophet (PBUH&HP). His name is Ali, and among all his other names and titles the most famous honorary one is “Rida,” which means ‘satisfaction’. But why was he called this name?
According to his son, Imam Jawad (AS), “The Almighty Allah named him Rida because He was pleased with him in the heavens and the Prophet of Allah (PBUH&HP) and the Imams of guidance (AS) were pleased with him on earth” . In fact, Imam Rida (AS)’s moral qualities and virtues were so high that even his enemies were attracted to and admired him. You might wonder what these traits are!
Imam Rida (AS) was the exemplar of a patient man. There were times when he was treated disrespectfully, but he would not react and preferred to remain silent. It has been narrated that when Caliph Mamun[i] tried to degrade Imam Rida’s (AS) position through scientific and theological debates with the contemporary scholars of other religions and opponents, Imam would patiently make the best use of those meetings and introduced the true religion of Islam to the world.
While having a meal alone, Imam Rida (AS) would invite all his slaves, servants, including the Blacks, to have the meal with him at the same place. And when he was told to make separate eating arrangements for the servants, he would refuse and say: “We are all created by God, our parents (Adam and Eve) are the same, everyone will be dealt with by God according to their deeds” .
Once a man said to Imam Rida (AS): “By God, you are the best in the world,” but Imam replied: “Do not swear by the name of Allah. Anyone who is more pious than me can be better than me.” Then he recited the following verse of the Quran:
“O, humankind! Verily, We created you all From a male and female [Adam and Eve] and appointed for your tribes and Nations to be known to each other [by Specified characteristics] Verily, in Allah's Sight the most honorable of you Is the most pious of you; and Allah is The Informed Owner of Knowledge” (49:13) .
Imam Rida (AS) would never hurt anybody with his words; He treated people as respectfully and kindly as possible; he would never talk badly to anyone or interrupt someone when speaking; he never stretched his legs or lean upon something in front of people. He always smiled instead of laughing loudly .
One night while Imam Rida (AS) was talking to his guest, there was a problem with the light. The guest wanted to fix it, but Imam did not let him do so. He started fixing it himself and said: “We are the ones who do not put our guests to work.”
Also, it frequently happened that Imam called a servant for some work, and he was told that the servant was busy having a meal; then Imam would say: “Let him finish his food” .
One day a foreign traveler came to visit Imam Rida (AS). After saying hello and expressing his love and affection towards Imam Rida (AS), his fathers and ancestors, he said he had come back from Hajj and had run out of money. He asked Imam to give him some money to go back home and promised to spend the same amount there on charity and giving alms (Sadaqah).
Imam stood up and went to another room. Then he came, stretched his hand from behind the door, and said: “Get this 200 Dinar and spend it for your journey, there is no need to pay the same back as alms.” The man got the Dinars and left. Imam later was asked for the reason for his secret help, and he answered: “Because I did not want the man to feel ashamed” .
Also, whenever Imam Rida (AS) wanted to have his meal, he would bring a large plate and put the best of the food on it to be given away to the poor. If he afforded to help, he would always give alms to the destitute at nights.
In another account, One of Imam’s companions narrated that One day after he arrived home, he saw his servants busy repairing the house. Imam noticed a stranger among them and asked about him. They answered he was there to help them and they would pay him. Imam asked if they had defined the amount of payment.
The answer was no. Imam became disturbed and said: “when one works without any contraction, he thinks that you have paid him little, even if you give him three times more. But if you contract and pay him according to the contraction, he will be pleased with receiving his right. Now if you pay more even just a little, he will understand you have paid more and will be thankful” .
Imam Rida (AS) had inherited the divine knowledge from his ancestor, our Holy Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
He was the wisest man of his time and all his contemporaries. His knowledge was so rich in all religious matters and other realms of knowledge that the people of various tribes in their language would turn to him when they had questions, and he provided them with the best answers. Ma'mun, the ruling caliph, summoned the knowledgeable scholars in an attempt to defeat Imam Rida (AS) in several scientific debates and to discredit him in public. Nonetheless, Imam succeeded in all of them, and no one was capable of overcoming his power of knowledge.
Whoever dared to challenge Imam Rida (AS) ended up yielding to his unique power of reasoning. It has been confirmed by historians that Ma'mun, who was himself a celebrated erudite, pointed out the following statement, in his official charter for the appointment of Imam Rida (AS) as his immediate successor:
"I do not know any person superior to this man [Imam Rida (AS)] in the whole world" .
The life of Imam Rida (AS) and our other infallible Imams (AS) contains countless anecdotes of this sort, which reveals how they teach us the correct way of life both by their sayings and behaviors.
In a famous tradition or saying (Hadith) called the Golden Chain (Selselah al-Zahab), Imam Rida (AS) said that he had heard from dignified ancestors quoting from Gabriel and Almighty Allah that: “The word of La Ilaha Illallah -there is no god but Allah- is My stronghold (then whoever acknowledges this has entered My stronghold) and will be saved from My punishment”. After reciting this saying for his companions, Imam paused for a while and then continued, “Few conditions are entitling this entrance, and I am one of its conditions.”
Through this account, Imam Rida (AS) confirms that the belief in monotheism (Tawhid) will be counted as perfect when it is based on the obedience of the infallible Holy Imams (AS). In fact, Imams’ lifestyle and traditions were so good that if we idolize them and follow in their footsteps, we will certainly be able to move through the stages of spiritual perfection and win Allah’s satisfaction. Insha’Allah!
[i] The Abbasid caliph in power at Imam Reza’s (AS) time.
- Bihar al-Anwar, V.49, P.4.
- Osool al-Kafi vol.8 p.230.
- Oyoun Akhbar al-Reza, v.2, p.236.
- Al-Fadl ibn al-Hasan Tabarsi, Aa’lam al-Vara p.314.
- Osool al-Kafi vol.6 p.383 & 298.
- Managhib vol.4 p.360.
- Osool al-Kafi vol.5 p.288.
- Al-Irshad, v.2, p. 261.
While we are waiting for Christmas to come, it seems impossible to ignore Halloween in the meantime. It is full of fun and excitement which is why it is so popular among many people around the world. But, have you ever thought about why you are celebrating this day? Or, as a Muslim is it compatible with your Islamic values? Let’s find out.
Halloween which is held on 31st of October annually marked “the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter”  for the pagan Celts of Samhain. They also believed that on this day “spirits from other worlds (such as the souls of the dead) were able to visit earth…and roam about” .
Therefore, they would wear some costumes and light bonfires to keep the ghosts away. They would also worship their idols and pagan Gods on this celebration.
Just the same as Celtics who worshipped their pagan Gods on this day, the Christians who entered the British Isles, tried to adopt this celebration with their tradition and replaced the pagan Gods with their Saints. So, Halloween turned into the day on which the Christian saints were commemorated, and became the All Saints Day. However, “the customs of Samhain survived anyway, and eventually became intertwined with the Christian holiday” .
In 1966, Anton LaVey who founded the false cult of “Satanism” declared Halloween to be one of its official holidays. Besides, the inappropriate and sometimes horrifying costumes that are used on this celebration include signs or symbols that are identified with Satanism.
However, since Halloween has been practiced long before this association was made, we cannot accuse anyone who is celebrating Halloween of being a Satanic. But, it is necessary to be aware of the ones who are taking advantage of this celebration for their ends.
Islam Respects Traditions, not Superstitions
As we have seen above, Halloween roots back to the rites and rituals of ancient pagans of Celtic origin and then continued to be celebrated by Christians along with some adaptations. While nowadays no one thinks about the reason for this celebration or the rituals practiced on it anymore (such as trick-or-treat, wearing scary costumes, etc.), they still represent the superstitions in which Celtic pagans believed.
As Muslims, if we want to find out about Islam’s attitude toward Halloween, we should look at Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUHHP) way of reacting to such traditional celebrations. At the time of the emergence of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) respected most of the traditions and all monotheistic religions that existed at that time. However, he tried to reject the superstitions that had no rationale behind them and were based on false beliefs. So, he decided to wipe away the superstitious traditions that were practiced by pre-Islamic Arabs through informing them of their falsehood.
Of course not. However, there are three points that we should observe when we are having fun:
Many reports reveal the dangers that threaten people, especially children, on the Halloween’s eve; these include car accidents which have a high rate on this night . As Dr. Rebecca Parker, chairwoman of the American College of Emergency Physicians' board of directors, puts, “ This is a time when we see an increase of kids being hit and killed by cars” .
Also, according to the tradition of this day, people would wear scary costumes to send the ghosts coming from the other world away. But, as a person who lives in the twentieth century, we know that such a belief is entirely superstitious and irrational. So, what is the use of scaring other people and our children with a weird and sometimes disgusting look? Doesn't it result in a psychologically adverse effect?
As Muslims, we should always be observant of our actions, even if we are having fun. It is essential to keep in mind that our activities, whatever they are, do not prevent us from what Allah has commanded (prayer (Salat), fasting (Sawm), etc.). Nor do they invite us toward committing what He has forbidden (e.g., drinking alcohol, dancing, participating in inappropriate parties, observing modesty, etc.)
Islam always recommends us to be aware of what we are doing and think about our intention before any action. Even when we are having fun, there should be something behind it that makes it worthwhile. When enumerating the characteristics of a faithful person in Quran, Allah also mentions those who avoid vain actions (23:3); i.e., those activities that have no use for us and would only waste our time.
As mentioned above, Halloween roots back to Celtic pagan’s worship of their idols and many Gods. It can be argued that today we don’t celebrate Halloween with the intention of worshiping idols or performing a Satanic holiday. The rituals are still the same and still represent the Celtic culture and tradition – as we said Christians had a very limited influence upon Halloween and the way it is celebrated- which was polytheistic.
A Muslim’s life should mirror his beliefs in every aspect. So, if an action even in appearance, represents what is against Islam or far from its teachings, then it should be avoided by Muslims.
So, if you are a Muslim and wonder what to do on Halloween’s eve, make sure that you know enough about the reasons behind this celebration. And make sure it has no danger toward yourself or others, you do not commit any action against Islamic laws (e.g., drinking alcohol, wearing immodest clothes, etc.), you don’t waste your time in doing them, and you won’t contradict your belief in Islam through looking like an atheist.