Society

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

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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

The Qur'an teaches us to look at the civilizations that came before us, consider their rise and fall, and take lessons from that so we make the best decisions in our own lives and societies. We should also look at previous civilizations to be humble: we should not assume that just because our society is at an apex, it must last forever. If our society is prosperous, we should thank Allah for that and not assume it is all under our control, since those people who started to attribute blessings to themselves instead of Allah soon fell. 

The Qur'an and hadith give a sense that there are some metaphysical laws underpinning civilizations. Positive spiritual and ethical practices of societies lead them to flourish, whereas negative spiritual and ethical practices lead them to decay or destruction. This is part and parcel of natural law and is often connected to natural causes but is also part of divine justice. 

Some Muslims see the process of history as a gradual unfolding and en route to an ultimate victory of tawhid - that is, a meaningful process of history - although others may not agree with that. 

The main criticisms in the Qur'an of pre-Islamic societies are of idolatry, superstition, tribalism, and depotism. In some cases, flagrant violations led Allah to rain down destruction on some places, as in the Old Testament. In other cases, they just led to the decline of the civilization.

Pre-Islamic Abrahamic monotheists are also sometimes criticized for deviation, self-glorification, and so forth. 

Individual people in ancient societies are presented in accordance with their acts. For instance, the husband of Zulaykha in Egypt is presented as neutral, whereas Firawn is presented as evil. The Queen of Sheba is overall presented as a good ruler but as starting out with an incorrect theology due to worshipping the sun. There are also some specific criticisms of specific places/times such as the people of Lut. 

Mesopotamia was a large region with many peoples and dynasties, so one cannot give a single view for the whole civilizational phenomenon. Similarly, ancient Egypt had a long reign of dominance and so one cannot make sweeping views about everything. This is apart from the obvious fact that both Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt contributed to the the development of later civilizations and so we retain some of their legacies, such as some ideas or technologies.

Babylon gets a bit of a bad rap in the Qur'an due to the Harut and Marut situation, and also the story of Ibrahim (A). Ancient Egypt is also associated with magic. But neither place is discussed extensively. This is different from the Biblical tradition, in which Babylon is personified and condemned. 

On the other hand, Shi'i hadith speak of the sanctity of Karbala from ancient times, and Karbala is in Mesopotamia. There are also Shi'i hadith speaking of Adam being created from the clay of the Euphrates. So there is a sense of a portrayal of this region as part of the cradle of civilization. 

Muslims have had various views about the ancient heritages. Some Muslims found benefit in reading ancient philosophical texts like those from Greece or in wisdom from things such as the Code of Hammurabi or traditional Chinese medicine. Other Muslims opposed ancient things because they belong to pre-Islamic times and civilizations.

Insofar as the hadith says to seek knowledge even from China, and China obviously was not a Muslim-majority or Abrahamic civilization, one can assume that Islam does not have an objection to seeking beneficial knowledge from ancient civilizations. 

Today, some Muslims are very focused making a full break from the ancient past and fear anything from the ancient times as bid'ah or shirk. So they reject anything ancient, on the grounds that it is pre-Islamic, although ancient things - like modern things - can sometimes have wisdom and sometimes have error. Other Muslims have an interest in studying the past, such as literature or archeology, or preserve some ancient holidays and customs. 

Conversely, some modern secular nation-states in the Middle East where the government felt threatened by Islam or Islamic movements have tried to build a national identity based on the pre-Islamic heritage or promote a sense of national arrogance based on a pre-Islamic heritage. It is nice to respect and appreciate and know about the good things from the past. However, it is wrong to deploy pre-Islamic identity as a tool to whip up nationalism, strengthen dictators, suppress Islam, and inflame wars with other nation-states. So this is an example of wrong usage of pre-Islamic heritages in the modern era. They do not relate to the ancient civilizations but rather wrong things that occur in our own time. 

So there isn't a unilateral view on these civilizations or the ancient world in general, but these are some aspects of how history has been understood in an Islamic context. 

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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

Social institutions have changed, but human nature and the soul have not changed. The basic challenges that human beings face have not changed since ancient times. Then and now, people have dealt with inequity, tribalism, injustice, social harmony and disharmony, family challenges, and so forth. The fundamental principles of ethics also have not changed. This is why one can find wisdom and inspiration in literature from a long time ago.

In our era, there are some new "social technologies" to try to grapple with age-old problems - for instance, democracy and the nation-state system - but our challenges as human beings remain the same. Furthermore, all human beings must grapple with mortality, consider what happens after death, and find meaning and purpose in our lives and in the universe. People also often want to know how to improve themselves ethically and spiritually and how to transcend the baser aspects of their existence or avoid being controlled by their lower desires. 

Science, technology, access to knowledge, and mass institutionalized education have benefits. However, they do not always make people into kinder or better people. You meet some people who live very simple lives and very little formal education but who have a very good family life and who are generous and treat others well. And, of course, vice versa. In fact, one can say that places which have had the most technological advances and where there is a strong consumerist culture also have more isolation and alienation. So the advances that the modern era has brought to the world are not all things that relate to some of the fundamentals of human existence such as how to coexist with others. Rather, they operate in other areas of life; for instance, curing physical diseases. 

So, the challenges of being a human being, and of having a society, are areas where religion provides guidance. Islam, being rather comprehensive, provides a rather lot of guidance on both spiritual and social matters.

As for Islam itself, it is both flexible and inflexible. It is inflexible on some points; for instance, some requirements specified in the Qur'an. At the same time, it has an inherent adaptability to different cultures and situations. Otherwise, it would not have spread to so many different cultures and flourished. We can see in our era that there are various ways Muslims have looked to Islam to solve new problems, whether they be individual or communal. So there is a scope of adaptability that does not confine it to 7th century Arabia and which has allowed it to flourish today, even in places where other organized religions have lost ground.

As for whether society is not as barbaric as it used to be without Islam... looking at the events of the past couple hundred years, such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the world wars, crippling economic sanctions, and the deployment of chemical and nuclear weapons... I would not agree with that. There may be more focus in public discourse on individual freedoms, human rights, and the value of a human life, but at the same time there are large masses of people who are dispossessed and suffering due to the current global power structures, and there is more institutionalized inequity than at any other time in the past. Not all lives are treated as having the same worth, as we see in attention given to current conflicts. We also have the capability to do much more horrible things to each other than at any time.  So there are some ways that the jahiliyyah Arabian society was barbaric, and there are some ways that the world is barbaric now. In any case, the question of which era is better or worse than another cannot really be answered; just pointing out another side of the question. 

So here are a few thoughts. I am sure others will have some excellent insights! 

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Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answer updated 4 months ago

Remembering the deceased and praying for them or feeding or reciting Quran or arranging a Majlis on their behalf is always good, whether it is done in yearly basis or monthly or weekly or even daily. Attending such gatherings is good specially when you are invited by a relative of a Momin friend to attend. You will have then the reward of accepting the invitation of your relative or a Momin as well as gifting a reward to the deceased. Wahhabism object on such gatherings because of their misunderstanding  and narrow-mindedness. 
Wassalam. 

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Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 5 months ago

Lowering the gaze has been emphasized upon in Quran very explicitly as we read the order of Allah to the Prophet (Tell the believing men to lower their gaze) Sura Al-Noor, verse 30. Same order was given for the believing women to lower their gaze (Sura Al-Noor, verse 31).

Those who remember Allah and obey His orders as obligatory order, Lowe their gaze and protect themselves from looking at sinful scenes.

We have many authentic Hadeeths in this regard which also emphasize on lowering the gaze and the punishment of those do not lower their gaze.

Wassalam.

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Sayyed Mohammad Al-Musawi, Sayyed Mohammad al-Musawi is originally from Iraq and heads up the World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League in London. Other than being involved in various humanitarian projects, he frequently responds to... Answered 10 months ago

It depends on your circumstances. If you are surrounded by people who can harm or might harm you if you speak out the truth, then you need to be careful and don't disclose any thing which can harm you or harm any other believer.

in general, political matters which are controversial should be avoided.

Our responsibility is to convey the message of real Islam to those who don't know it, avoiding any issue which can be rejected or create difficulty which does not help spreading the message of the truth.

Wassalam.

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Zoheir Ali Esmail, Shaykh Zoheir Ali Esmail has a Bsc in Accounting and Finance from the LSE in London, and an MA in Islamic Studies from Middlesex University. He studied Arabic at Damascus University and holds a PhD... Answered 1 year ago

Bismillah

Thank you for your question. God-consciousness is a spiritual state which arises from the recognition of God within a person's being. As such God-consciousness is individual. It is true that if many individuals in a society are God-conscious then the society as a whole will benefit, but godly individuals have rarely had the luxury of such an environment.

The way to strengthen God-consciousness is through useful knowledge and action, trust in God, and a positive outlook in all that concerns Him. Taking time to reflect on how to build your relationship with God and the Infallibles (as) and continually taking positive steps towards that goal.

May you always be successful.

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Zaid Alsalami, Shaykh Dr Zaid Alsalami is an Iraqi born scholar, raised in Australia. He obtained a BA from Al-Mustafa University, Qom, and an MA from the Islamic College in London. He also obtained a PhD from... Answered 1 year ago

Bismihi ta'ala

If you are asking if it is jurisprudentially allowed, then the simple answer is yes, if she was to perform temporary marriage with a Shi'a male it would be valid. 

However, is it socially advisable for her to do so. I would encourage her to think for the future and focus on long term relationship, settling down and marrying someone. This would be better for her on many levels.

Her getting involved in mut'ah, and not knowing how long it will last, and whether the man will respect her reputation, etc, will be more socially damaging for her. 

As for the taboo of remarriage, this is something we must all fight against, and reclaim what our religion favours for us as a society.

With prayers for your success. 

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Seyed Ali Shobayri, Seyed Ali Shobayri is of mixed Iranian and Scottish descent who found the path of the Ahlul Bayt (a) by his own research. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies from Middlesex University through the... Answered 2 years ago

Bismaillah, 

Asalamu Alaykom, 

God is most powerful and could easily do such an action. However, poverty exists due to man’s greediness. If everyone had paid their Islamic taxes correctly such as zakat and khoms, the situation of poverty would look much different. 

We find that Imam Ali (as)  was strongly against poverty, and gave us an example on eradicating it. This was even towards non-Muslims such as the famous story below which alludes to his conduct towards a Christian beggar: 

‘One day Ameer ul Momineen (Commander of the Faithful) Imam Ali (AS), passed through the lane and saw the beggar in that condition. Imam Ali (AS), out of his concern for others, enquired about the old man. He wanted to know the factors which led him to that condition. “Has he has no son to support him? Or, is there no other way for him to live a respectable life in his old age?”

The people who knew the old man came forward and informed Imam Ali (AS) that he was a Christian and had worked hard so long as he had his eyes, and when young and strong.

Now that he had lost his youth as well as his eyes, he was unable to do any work; also he had no savings, so it was natural for him to beg. Imam Ali (AS) said, “Strange! Till he had strength, you extracted work from him and now you have left him on his own?”

His story shows that he had worked when he had the strength. Therefore, it is the duty of the Government and the society to support him while he is alive. “Go, and give him a life pension from the State Treasury (Baytul Mal).” 

Also regarding the rich and poor, Islam in fact encourages the rich to help the poor and act in a humble manner with them. The Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) were known for this as well as helping the slaves or servants with hard work. It is the corrupt society and governments which create poverty and enforce a system which discriminates between the rich and poor. Islam has been given to us to deal with this issue in addition to all of society’s problems. 

May Allah grant you success

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Abbas Di Palma, Shaykh Abbas Di Palma holds a BA and an MA degree in Islamic Studies, and certifications from the Language Institute of Damascus University. He has also studied traditional Islamic sciences in... Answer updated 3 years ago

The Qur'an says: "Allah prescribes for your children: for a male is equal the portion of two female" (4:11). Since the husband is obliged to spend for the maintenance of the family, his share of inheritance amounts double of that of the woman. The Qur'an also seems to indicate that such a rule is not subject to change in relation to the wife's job by saying: "These are the limits set by Allah" (4:13). A woman can decide if she wants to work, and if she does, she can spend all of her money for herself without sharing it with her husband because of the obligation of the maintenance. The husband, however, cannot abandon his duty to provide for his family. Therefore it is not unreasonable that sons receive more inheritance than daughters. Obviously a good and pious family is bound also by mutual understanding, love and cooperation, and it is up to the husband and wife to reach agreements and divide their financial support and daily tasks according to their situation.

With prayers for your success.