HRH Haram

by Mary Jackson (May 2011)

I read, a taqiyya-free website, to learn about Islam. It was there that I picked up the invaluable Hadith about the shoelace of fire:

It is narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: “A man gave as a gift to the Messenger of Allah a slave who was called Mid'am. Whilst Mid'am was bringing down a saddle for the Messenger of Allah an arrow came out of nowhere and killed him. The people said, “How fortunate he is! Paradise is his,” but the Messenger of Allah said, “No, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, the cloak which he took from the war-booty on the day of Khaybar before the booty had been shared out will burn him with fire.” When the people heard that, a man came and brought one or two shoelaces to the Prophet  and said, “A shoelace of fire” or “Two shoelaces of fire.” Bukhari & Muslim

I later read about the Ahkam Sharia, a “toolkit”, as management consultants might say, for categorizing one's actions:

1. Fardh (obligatory): The one who performs the action will be rewarded by Allah and the one who neglects it will be punished. Example: the five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan and paying the Zakat.

2. Mandoob (recommended): The one who does the action will be rewarded and the one who neglects it will not be punished. Example: praying the Sunnah before Dhuhr or fasting on Mondays and Thursdays.

3. Makrooh (undesirable): The one who refrains from the action will be rewarded and the one who does it will not be punished. Example: drinking water while standing and eating onion before coming to the masjid.

4. Mubah (permissible): An action that does not incur a punishment or earn a reward. It is neither encouraged, nor is it discouraged. Example: sitting, standing, walking, and so on.

5. Haram (prohibited): The one who performs the action will be punished and the one who refrains from doing it will be rewarded. Example: murder, dealing in riba (interest), adultery, drinking alcohol and gambling.

I am intrigued by Number 4 Mubah, which is neither good nor bad. Beg leave to stand, sit or walk, and Mohammed (SAW) and Allah (SWT) would shrug their (SWT, SAW) shoulders and say “Whatev-ah”.

But if standing, sitting and walking are neutral acts, what about lingering and loitering? Keats' knight at arms loitered palely to no purpose, but these days loitering is usually done with intent, sometimes near public lavatories. Is loitering mubah, or is it haram? Lingering must surely be haram, since it is the domain of lovers, poets, dreamers and artists.

Muslims sit – in cafés or in “government” offices – doing nothing, but lounging, is, I suspect, an infidel pleasure. And Muslims walk, cetainly, widdershins round the black stone. But do they saunter? Sauntering seems to me a most un-Islamic way of getting from one place to another:


Talking of which, how very un-Islamic was Friday’s Royal Wedding. Haram in so many ways. Here’s a dozen:

  1. Beauty. Westminster Abbey, full of crosses, statues, stained glass windows, dead poets and other haram horrors. Built to the glory of God, the Abbey gives man, especially the English kind, a fair bit of glory. It is also a Royal Peculiar, something that cannot possibly be halal. Then there was the beautiful bride, a grown woman, not a child, and not hidden in a niqab.
  2. Christ. The service was unapologetically Christian, with no multi-faith muddying of holy waters. Dean and Chapter, Chapter and Verse, no Imam, no sura and no hint of an inshallah.
  3. Trinity.  This has to be number three. The Archbishop of Canterbury, for all his faults, performed his office with dignity. Father, Son and Holy Ghost all present, three in one, in all their threefold, onefold infidelity.
  4. Music, music and more music. Hymns, motets, fanfares, anthems, national and otherwise, and, as the couple emerged, the full peal of bells – a bubbling up and outpouring of the human spirit. Islam forbids musical instruments except drums, the most primitive and belligerent kind. As for the bells, a “perfected religion” cannot ring the changes.
  5. “Free mixing”, as the fatwas call it. Women sitting with men as equals rather than kneeling behind them. Men and women together – sometimes talking to their spouses, sometimes to other men and women – as nature, and civilisation, intended.
  6. Colour. Hats of every hue, fascinators to tickle your nose and your fancy, but not a niqab in sight. A riot of colour, from the Queen’s yellow suit to the queen’s pink tie.
  7. Celebration. Happy crowds, there of their own free will, singing, cheering, carousing, dressing up in silly clothes. Strangely enough, no firing guns into the air, no shrieks of “allahua ackbar” or scrabbling for severed body parts.
  8. God Save the Queen – the only one not singing the National Anthem, because “God Save Me” wouldn’t scan. A female ruler – pace Bukhariand her husband or “consort” a mere prince.
  9. A kiss on the balcony, then another on the lips.
  10. Joy, joy and more joy. There is no fun in Islam, as Khomeni said.
  11. A marriage of equals. Much was made of Kate Middleton’s “humble” birth; too much, for her family is more than comfortably off, even if they are, as a Jane Austen character might say, in trade. Much was made, too, of the fact that she was a commoner – no royal salute on the way to the Abbey, only on the way back. And the “for poorer” part of the marriage vow is unlikely to bite. Nevertheless, the two are equal in more important ways: education, intelligence, age (unlike the poor child brides of Afghanistan), and – unlikely as it may seem – in power.

In a sermon that could not have been delivered at an Islamic wedding, the Bishop of London spoke of power and its abuse:

There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase: “Whan maistrie comth, the God of Love anon, Beteth his wynges, and farewel, he is gon.”

The quotation is from the Franklin’s Tale, and it continues:

Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
Wommen, of kynde, desiren libertee,
And nat to been constreyned as a thral;
And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.

Compare and contrast Koranic verses too numerous to mention. “Maistrie”, enforced by beating if “necessary”, is a man’s Allah-given right, but there is no Allah of love to bid farewell.

12. A cartwheeling verger. Admittedly cartwheeling was not in the official Order of Service; he was just  moved by the spirit, delighting in a job well done.  Watch:

Even on a Friday afternoon, flushed with fatwas and raring to get stoning, your average scowling Mullah can only manage that nose-to-floor, backside–to-ceiling manoeuvre.

Is my twelfth, cartwheeling, really haram or merely makrooh? You’ve forgotten already? A reminder:

Makrooh (undesirable). The one who refrains from the action will be rewarded and the one who does it will not be punished. Example: drinking water while standing and eating onion before coming to the masjid.

And cartwheeling. He who cartwheels is not mindful of Allah. Verily he putteth the cartwheel before the horse. Curses upon his hands and feet, and a shoelace of fire to boot.

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