Opinion Editorials, July 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: www.aljazeerah.info
Obligatory Bath and Risk of Illness
Arab News, 7/4/04
Q. If one needs to take an obligatory bath, but the weather conditions are such that he fears developing an illness, what is the alternative available?
A. An obligatory bath is needed to remove the state of ceremonial impurity, or janabah, which is the result of ejaculation when accompanied with desire, as in the case of a wet dream, or intercourse with one’s wife. The same applies to a woman on finishing her period, or finishing her postnatal discharge. In all these cases, taking a bath or a shower is required to remove this state and be able to pray.
As we all know, there are situations where people may not have access to hot water, or to a bathroom. If it is winter time and one needs to have a dip in a pool in order to fulfill this requirement, this could represent a serious health risk. In this case, the possibility of doing dry ablution, or tayammum, could be considered. When some of the Prophet’s companions did this on a journey, because the weather was exceptionally cold, he approved of their action. What should be remembered is that Islam always provides an easy way out in a situation of difficulty. This, however, is subject to certain rules that need to be observed.
Your other question about observing prayer times in polar areas, where there are periods in the year where the day or the night extends for more than 24 hours is easy. Based on authentic Hadiths, a way of estimating the times of regular prayers has been shown by scholars. The idea is that people in these areas should offer the five obligatory prayers over every 24-hour day.
Q. A man died in a car accident leaving behind his wife and a 6-year-old son. Should not the child’s custody be given to his mother rather than the child’s grandfather?
A. In Islam, children’s custody is always granted to women. The child’s mother has the overall right of custody in the case of divorce. She forfeits her right only if she marries someone other than the child’s father. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told a woman who asked him about her right to her child’s custody: “You have this right as long as you do not marry again.”
When the mother relinquishes or loses her right, the child’s custody does not pass to the father; it goes to her mother, i.e. the child’s maternal grandmother. If she is not alive or unable to look after the child, then custody is granted to the child’s paternal grandmother. There is a list which defines the order of relatives who take over the right of custody, but these are always women. If the child has none of these relatives, or they are unwilling to take custody of the child, then the right passes to the father.
This custody is mentioned normally in the case of divorce, because there may be conflicting claims. In the case of the death of child’s father, the right of custody belongs to the mother. Only if she gets married her late husband’s relatives may claim custody of the child.
In the case the reader is asking about, the mother has the paramount right to the child’s custody. The child’s grandfather should not be deprived of the chance to care for the child and share in his upbringing, but this should be done amicably, with no one trying to deny the other party’s rights.
One Hand or Both
Q. After obligatory prayer, is it appropriate to use both hands to count the number of God’s glorification we say? Must we use only the right hand?
A. We may use either one hand or both. There is no problem with either way. We count on our fingers, three glorifications for each finger, to make up 15 per hand. As we need to count 33, then if we use one hand, we repeat the count twice and add one more finger. Or we use both hands once and add three glorifications. It is up to the individual to choose what suits him or her best.
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