Amina Inloes

Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the Islamic College in London and also the Managing Editor of the Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies.

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 2 days ago

I'll be happy to drop a few thoughts on this.

First, it can be challenging to discuss "music in Islam", because the English-language word "music" covers anything that is tonal/rhythmic. For instance, someone who speaks English as a native language might consider a Qur'anic recitation to be "music", whereas many Muslims would find that horrifying. That being said, I can gather that by "certain music" you mean, well, certain music that we all know what it is.

Second, of course, when discussing the reasons behind shariah, unless the reasons are clearly stated in the source texts, any explanation for why it is the way it is is simply a guess. 

Third, the experience of music today is far different than it was at any other time in human history. (As indeed is the case for many things) In the past, music was a human activity; it required a musician (the self, a family member, a professional performer, a slave, etc.). It wasn't a physical commodity that could be bought and sold. It was almost unheard of to be able to listen to music on demand or 24 hours a day or on repeat.

Lastly, when we discuss reasons for things in Islam today, we often focus on material or physical effects only. While one can also discuss the physical and material effects of music (for instance, the music industry), seeing as sound/chanting is used in almost every world religion (if not every world religion), it stands to reason that different types of sound/music/chanting also have spiritual or invisible effects that are typically not addressed.

With respect to music in the time of the Prophet (S) and Imams (A), it seems that the main concerns were (a) morality, in that music was associated with immoral acts, (b) extravagance and wastefulness, since it was often associated with excesses by the elite, perhaps (c) slavery and the buying and selling of slave-musicians, and (d) filling the mind with vain diversions distracting one from more important things. However I would not negate other possibilities such as spiritual or other effects.

This was then. However the world today is far different from what most people would have imagined .As for music today, I would say the following. First, people are much more likely to accept the words and ideas that they hear in a song as opposed to hearing the words on their own. Many of the profane things that are in songs today would have been completely unacceptable to be said in polite company even a few decades ago. Over my lifetime, and the lifetimes of people older than me, there has been a gradual decay in what is acceptable to discuss in public that directly correlates to newer and more "shocking" explicit or other things said in music. Along the same lines, in some societies, there has been a corresponding decline in public morality. Correspondence doesn't prove causality but I think there is something to that. 

This is not to say that all songs have bad lyrics, as indeed some songs have very thoughtful or socially beneficial lyrics, but - for various reasons - there has been a strong move towards music promoting things which are not good from the viewpoint of Islamic ethics. (I'm sure I don't need to give examples!)

Perhaps a similar example to bring up here is the Qur'anic discussion of wine. It doesn't say that wine is entirely bad; it says there is a little good and much evil. For that reason, wine is forbidden - because the bad outweighs the good, individually and socially. 

Second - and this is something much more relevant in the modern world - music is addictive. It does affect the brain, and it is not uncommon for people to suffer addictions to music of various kinds.

At the same time, it occupies the brain and prevents you from thinking about other things. It can distract one from the reality one is living in so that it acts more as a drug that masks our circumstances rather than encouraging us to improve them. 

Third, it actually has been shown that different types of music actually do significantly affect the way that the brain functions in ways that are positive or negative (here, we are talking about music that is negative). That is, there is something about the input that causes the brain to mimic its patterns and then this affects both our thoughts and our actions. This is not to say that this is always bad; for instance, listening to Mozart has been shown to improve mathematical reasoning temporarily. However, in many cases, this effect is undesirable. (Again, I'm sure I don't need to give examples!)

Lastly, we usually look at these things only from the perspective of the listener (that is, the consumer) of music; one has to keep in mind that the music also needs to be produced. The professional music industry is fraught with all sorts of problems and, at the least, one can say it is not an environment that ethically uplifts most people who have to deal with it. So, one should keep the good of the performers in mind as well.

These are just a few thoughts, I am sure others will contribute as well!

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 2 days ago

It doesn't matter whether they are Muslim or not Muslim.

All children, regardless of their families' religions or what religion they identify as, are closer to the pure/uncorrupted/sinless nature known as the fitrah that recognizes and acknowledges the truth, the unseen, and good and evil. (Perhaps this is why children are often quite wise!)

At the same time, all children are still developing the psychological capabilities that are necessary to make solid moral judgments and act on them (for instance, empathy, the ability to put the good of the group above the good of the individual, self-restraint, an understanding of cause and effect, an understanding of the permanency of death, etc). 

This is not to say that children cannot make good and bad ethical decisions, or that children do not have authentic religious experiences and beliefs or even conversions. All of that happens; it depends on the child and the age. However, they are not held responsible in the same way that mature people are.

So, children go to barzakh (the intermediary realm after death before the final judgment) and then to paradise. It is said that they skip some things that they are not mature enough for, such as some of the questioning. 

The experience of children in the afterlife will likely be different from that of mature adults since part of our job in this life is to learn more about spiritual and other realities. So, they may have some catching up to do, or maybe their experience will just be different, just as different adults will also have different experiences. 

On the other hand, we should not underestimate children's souls (in the same way that people often underestimate children and confine them to things that are "childish"). The soul is a noble and honourable creation of Allah and this is the same for children or adults. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 5 days ago

According to Ayatollah Seestani, it is acceptable.

Insofar as it is not an act of worship which requires intention (such as salat), it is not necessary to make any intention at all before saying it. 

I don't think there is a benefit to interrogating other people's intentions, since people vary widely in understanding, learning, and their capability to self-reflect on what their intentions actually are, and people often do things without a specifically formulated intention out of custom/habit or as a reflex at a time of danger. 

However, in terms intention, one cannot go wrong with sincerity, trying to adhere to what one knows to be true, or respect for the Prophet (S).

That is to say, to say things according to one's own understanding of what it should mean in accordance with what one knows of Allah, theology, etc. Of course, it isn't necessary to say it at all if one chooses not to.

(If you would like a more common answer regarding shirk, tawassul, etc, you can see here: https://www.al-islam.org/organizations/AalimNetwork/msg00322.html)

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 5 days ago

No.

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 1 week ago

There is historical evidence that some people practiced it in ancient times. I'm sure you can find some reliable historical sources on this subject using the Internet!

(It is good to avoid the temptation of making generalizations about the past, people have lived in many places for many thousands of years, and in many cases we have little or no written/archaeological evidence about how they lived. What can be said is it is recorded or alluded to in some places.)

Many things are not discussed directly in the Qur'an as much of the Qur'an is about general principles and not specifics. The Qur'an also does not discuss male circumcision. Perhaps one could apply the general principle of not causing harm. 

There are some Shi'a hadith indicating that circumcision is for males only and not for females.  

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 1 week ago

Hajj is prescribed for both men and women in Islam and is obligatory one time on anyone who is able to perform it.

If she is not able to perform hajj (because she cannot afford it, because it would cause hardship, because she is physically unable to, because she cannot get a visa, or for other reasons), then it is not obligatory right now. 

Sometimes we are not able to do things in life because of our circumstances, and this is part of life. We are not responsible for the things we cannot do. 

As the Qur'an says, Allah does not intend to burden us!

If she is not able to go, it is good for her to pray for Allah to grant her the opportunity to go in the future and to have the intention to go if it becomes possible. How often are prayers to go to hajj answered!

If her circumstances change so that she becomes able to do it, then it becomes obligatory.  

However the intent behind Islamic law is that everyone who can perform hajj does so regardless of whether they are a homemaker or not. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 1 week ago

Insofar as it is possible, it is good to try to adjust your environment to avoid triggers (for instance, avoiding online or television material with indecent content, looking away from certain advertisements or behaviour outside). I know that this can be difficult in some places which have become quite explicit! It is related from the Prophet (S) - and I am sure you have heard this - that if you lower your gaze, you will see wonders.

As for thoughts, to some degree we have control over our thoughts, you can try to change what you are thinking about and focus on something else if you find your thoughts wandering.

If you are a male and really struggling with this, fasting has been recommended too and may be helpful (as long as you do not do it to excess). 

Anyway this is part of being a normal human being, all you can do is your best and be compassionate with yourself while trying to navigate the straight path. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 1 week ago

It is not forbidden insofar as the celebrations do not involve anything forbidden (for instance, there is no alcohol). 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 2 weeks ago

There are three types of knowledge:

* The genuine unseen. This is what Allah knows only.
* Knowledge that is restricted but not completely unknown. For instance, when the Prophet (S) went on the mi'raj, he saw things that are generally inaccessible to living human beings. Most human beings also do not directly see or hear the angel Jibra'il. Etc. 
* Knowledge that is conventionally accessible. For instance, a book in a library - it can be read by anyone who can read the language and access the book.

This question seems to hinge on the second and third types of knowledge.

Shi'is have held a range of views regarding the knowledge possessed by the prophets and Imams. It is not necessary to adhere to a specific view on this in order to be a Shi'i, although a general bare minimum view for the Ithna Ashari tradition is that the prophets and Imams do not make mistakes and always offer correct guidance, especially although not only on religious matters. 

However, my understanding of Ithna Ashari Shi'i texts is that the Prophet Muhammad (S), the twelve Imams (A), and Fatima al-Zahra (A) possessed or had the ability to access all the knowledge possessed by the previous prophets, and also had a comprehensive knowledge of the world and worldly matters, religious law, the true meanings of the Qur'an, metaphysical matters (as much as is possible), and knowledge of the past and future. Therefore, they would not make mistakes or misguide people or lose people's confidence by saying something wrong. This persists in their otherworldly condition, although perhaps, since Allah is infinite, their knowledge of metaphysical realities can continue to expand.

This view is based on narrations in books such as al-Kafi with respect to the discussions of their knowledge in this life as well as things such as the world of pre-creation. Of course, in the afterlife, all of our knowledge will expand because we will see new realities and will become aware of the truth of some things that were hidden from us or which we were confused about in this world. 

Here is a short treatment of the subject with some narrations: https://www.al-islam.org/imamate-and-leadership-sayyid-mujtaba-musavi-lari/lesson-21-sources-imams-knowledge

However, if someone is genuinely committed to following the Imams, I think it is good for them to think this over personally rather than to just to take someone's word for it; it is good to spend time reading and pondering over what is narrated, asking Allah for guidance, and coming to their own understanding. We live in an age where these materials are readily available to us. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answered 2 weeks ago

Many signs have been related signifying the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (A). Some of these signs are considered more fixed than others, and some of these narrations are considered more correct than others. In any case, the underlying theme is that the natural and political order of the world will be turned upside down, there will be chaos beforehand, and when he arises, it will be clear with no doubt. (Therefore, people who go on TV or online today and say they are the Mahdi are not really the Mahdi since they are not accompanied by signs.)

Some of the signs are:
* The rise of the Sufyani
* A solar eclipse the middle of the month of Ramadan and a lunar eclipse at the end of Ramadan
* Some of the land being swallowed up
* The sun rising from the west
* Black flags marching from Khurasan
* The killing of the "pure soul" and the killing of a Hashemite near the Ka'bah
* A star as bright as the moon
* A fire in the sky
* The Euphrates flooding into Kufa
* False prophets
* The revolt of the Yamani
* The people of Egypt will kill their ruler and destroy Syria, and three standards will fight over it.
* Locuts at the usual and not usual times destroying the food
* Two groups of foreigners will dispute and much blood will be shed
* A cry from the sky that all will hear
​​​​​​​* A face in the sun. 

There are a number of books on Imam Mahdi (A) including on this website and you can read more signs there. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 2 weeks ago

Possibly. Reciting nikah over the phone with the intention to conduct a marriage in and of itself is valid, insofar as it is done properly and seriously and there are no factors that would invalidate the marriage. In Shi'i law, witnesses are not required to solemnize a marriage. 

However, there are a lot of questions here. Were you both serious about marrying each other, or was it just a sort of joke? Were you able to understand what he said and confirm that he actually recited the marriage formula on your behalf correctly? (If you don't speak Arabic, or if he was mumbling, for all you know he could have been reciting a grocery list.) Was it a first marriage for you, which would generally require the consent of your father or grandfather? What about serious matters, such as mahr and maintenance? Do you even want to be bound to him, or are you trying to find a way out of this? 

Might I suggest that this wasn't the best plan. Given that there are so many uncertainties, it would be good to ask a specialist in Islamic law (such as a local alim) to intervene and sort it out. 

In the future, might I suggest that if you want to contract an Islamic marriage on the spur of the moment over the phone, it might be wiser to stick with temporary marriage, which leaves you with far fewer complications. 

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Amina Inloes, Amina Inloes is originally from the US and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter on Shi'a hadith. She is the program leader for the MA Islamic Studies program at the... Answer updated 2 weeks ago

What is beneficial for one person may be different from what is beneficial from another. However, my own thought is that it may be good to start from the middle of the Qur'an (really you could just open it to the middle and see what catches your eye). The reason for this is that the earlier surahs contain more passages related to the historical situation of the Muslim community at the time, and the later surahs contain more metaphorical language. 

If you have a particular interest in the story of Jesus or the Virgin Mary in the Qur'an, you could also start with Surah Maryam (Surah 19) and Surah Al-i Imran (Surah 3), although you should keep in mind that these surahs cover other topics as well. 

You could also consider starting with the following surahs:
* Surah Yusuf (12), which contains the Qur'anic treatment of the story of Joseph and is strongly focused on that narrative.
* Surah al-Qasas (28), which discusses Moses and Pharaoh
* Surah al-Kahf (18), which tells of the seven sleepers of the cave

These might be good choices to start with because they are strongly narrative-focused and there is shared material between the Christian and Islamic traditions, although there are some differences in the Qur'anic treatment of these narratives.  

In any case, the most important thing is to have a good translation. I have been very impressed by _The Study Qur'an_, ed. S. H. Nasr. It is the best translation I have seen, and also has excellent footnotes. It is a bit heavy due to the essays in it, but one should not be intimidated because the actual text of the Qur'an is not that long. 

Happy reading! If you have specific questions on specific verses, you could ask here.