Opinion Editorials, November 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
The Crescent as an Islamic Symbol
Edited by Adil Salahi
Arab News, 11/28/03
Q. What is the basis of the crescent being an Islamic symbol placed on minarets and in mosques? Is there some religious idea behind it, or is it merely a cultural concept? If so, how come it is so widespread in the Muslim world?
M. C. Abdulrahman
A. From the Islamic point of view, we have the Qur’anic verse which speaks of the new moons. It says: “They ask you about the new moons. Say: They are signs for people to mark fixed periods of time, and for the pilgrimage.” (2: 189) It does not give any direct answer on the nature of the new moon, or why the moon is born in this particular way. It refers to the usefulness of the moon and its different stages as an indication of the passage of time. To Muslims, the crescent as a symbol of the moon remained such until the time of the Crusades when Muslims made the crescent a symbol they put on their flags to counter the cross symbol which the Crusaders placed on their flags, shields and clothes. Later, the Ottoman government made it a symbol and placed it on its flag. It was later extended to be placed on minarets. But it does not signify anything religious, and it is not associated with any religious concept. It is all an administrative matter. To suggest otherwise is to invent something that has no basis. A mosque that shows no crescent on its minaret or its wall is as good a place for prayer and worship as one with such symbols.
Ghosts and Evil Spirits
Q.1. Are there ghosts or evil spirits hovering over our heads? Can they cause us harm at will?
Q.2. What happens to the soul after one’s death? I heard that the souls of bad people also die, while the spirit goes up to heaven?
A.1. Ghosts are an invention of the human imagination. They have no substance, and they do not have anything to do with us. They simply do not exist.
God has given us some information about the jinn, a type of creature given the same measure of free will as human beings, and are required to believe in the divine message given to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as they were required to believe in the message given to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Like humans, most of them do not believe. Those of them who believe are good ones, and those who turn away from faith are bad ones, or satans. Their world is different from ours. They do not harm us as we do not harm them. We cannot see them, although they see us.
A.2. A verse in the Qur’an addresses the Prophet in this way: “They ask you about the spirit. Say: ‘(Knowledge of) The spirit belongs to my Lord.’ You have been given but scanty knowledge.” (17: 85) Commentators explain that the spirit and how it functions are part of the realm that is beyond the reach of human perception. Hence, it is wrong for people to spend much time trying to obtain information when there is no reliable source to which they can resort.
Guided by this verse, I do not like to speak about the spirit, except within the limits of what we are told in the Qur’an or in authentic Hadiths. What we know is that a human being’s spirit splits from his body at the time of his death, and goes into a different stage of life. Where this takes place is unknown to us. However, the spirits of good believers are in a happy state, and those of unbelievers are in a miserable state.
Marriage in Muharram
Q. In some parts of the world, people say that it is not permissible to arrange a marriage in the month of Muharram. Is this correct?
A. No, it is not correct. There is absolutely no harm in arranging marriage at any time during the year, except when one is in the state of consecration, doing the Umrah or the pilgrimage. Apart from this, marriage could be arranged and the marriage contract made at any time.
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