Muharram Wedding: Q. Could you please explain whether any function, particularly weddings, could be held in the month of Muharram?
M. Khalid, Amsterdam
A. Some people hold a notion that it is not permissible to arrange a marriage or make a marriage contract in the month of Muharram, particularly its first ten days. Some extend this to even arranging the waleemah, or the dinner after marriage, in this period. There is nothing in the Qur’an or the Sunnah to confirm this. The Muharram month is the same as the rest of the year. Muslims do not allow any aspect of omen to interfere with their arrangements or plans. They rely on God in all matters, and reliance on God is sufficient to remove any thoughts of bad omen. The Prophet (peace be upon him) in fact spoke against notions of bad omen. They have no substance.
Hence, it is perfectly permissible to arrange a marriage in the month of Muharram and also to arrange the waleemah or any other function. In fact marriage can be contracted and organized at any time, except when a person is in the state of consecration, or ihraam, during his pilgrimage or his Umrah. Other than this, there is no restriction.
When a Child Is Born
Q. There is a tradition about shaving a newborn’s hair after 7 or 40 days of birth, in addition to the aqeeqah, which means sacrificing a sheep for the newborn child if it is a boy. Please clarify if these customs are correct.
Shahbaz Khan, New York
A. What you term as tradition is indeed a Sunnah. It involves shaving the child’s head and weighing its hair, and giving the equivalent of the weight in gold or silver to the poor. Needless to say, such charity is rewarding both to the family and the poor who receive the money. It is done on the seventh day of the birth, not the 40th. As for the aqeeqah, it is a sacrifice of one or two sheep, whether the child is a boy or a girl.
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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?
(Name and address withheld)
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 the 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 (peace be upon him) 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.