Guide of the Believer – NEW BOOK

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Purification and Prayer in Islam

Authored by Mustafa Umar

This work presents the essential details of purification and prayer which should be known by every serious Muslim. Avoiding hypothetical and unlikely cases, it deals with issues that are likely to arise in the life of the average urban Muslim. Among the main features of this book is that it balances legal issues with healthy doses of spirituality and addresses contemporary issues such as wearing nail polish, holding a digital Qur’an without purifying, using hormones to delay menstruation, praying on an airplane, etc. Guide of the Believer is like a modern instruction manual which can be read independently or studied in detail with an expert in the field.

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Is Breathable Nail Polish Sufficient for Wuḍū’?

UPDATE 8-11-13: Inglot finally releases an experiment with a hygrometer:

UPDATE 07-16-13  For those who are skeptical about using the Inglot polish because of the variance in experiments conducted by various people, I recommend checking out the Tuesday in Love brand of water permeable polish:

UPDATE: 04-03-13 I have been contacted by quite a few people from different parts of the world who are claiming that they attempted their own experiments on the nail polish and it isn’t working for them. Here are links to two well-documented experiments performed by others: one and two. Here is a video of another experiment that worked. I am open to feedback and appreciate comments, but please: if you are going to criticize my article, make sure to actually read it first and then specify which part you don’t agree with and why.

UPDATE: 03-25-13: Inglot has conducted tests which may reveal that not only water vapor but even a droplet can permeate a single layer of O2M polish. The results are unofficial and will be finalized soon. In the meantime, here is some information which explains how and why the polish works: download here

UPDATE: 02-25-13: Mr. Inglot, the founder of the company, just passed away on Feb 23. We were scheduled to meet this week and he was going to share his research on some tests being performed on the O2M polish. The tests will now be delayed for a while. You may download his preliminary findings here

UPDATE: 02-07-13: The permeability may be affected by wearing more than one layer [e.g. a base coat, top coat, etc.] so make sure to either test permeability or wait until Inglot releases the tests that they are currently conducting before using multiple layers.


One of the most common questions asked by Muslim sisters is whether or not they are allowed to wear nail polish. The frequent query about whether nail polish is ḥalāl [lawful] or ḥarām [prohibited] is worded incorrectly. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wearing nail polish.[1] The real issue is that this substance forms an impermeable barrier over the nails preventing water from getting underneath. So when a sister needs to perform wuḍū’ in order to pray, it cannot be completed without first removing the nail polish.

Many Muslim women have found a solution: wear the nail polish during their period since they don’t need to pray during those days. Yet many sisters will admit that they wish it would be somehow possible to wear nail polish at any time of the month. First, it is highly fashionable nowadays. Second, wearing nail polish usually indicates to another person that a sister is undergoing her period, which can be very embarrassing for others to know.

Now there is a solution. No, I’m not talking about wearing henna. Most scholars advise it as a substitute while failing to realize just how different henna is from nail polish in the world of fashion and beauty. The urge to wear nail polish on a regular basis has even led some sisters to wear a ‘peelable’ variety which can be scraped off without any chemicals. But what if there was a nail polish that allowed the water to seep through?

Good news. Inglot Cosmetics, a company from Poland, has released a new line of polish called O2M that it has labeled “breathable nail enamel”. [2] It borrows a polymer used in some contact lenses which allows oxygen and moisture to penetrate to the nail. [3] One sister wisely decided to call the company and was told that water vapor reaches the nail but not water in its liquid form.[4] The question then arises about whether water vapor reaching the nail suffices for wuḍū’. Let’s look at the issue in detail.

Reasoning Behind the Necessity of Washing

There are several sisters who don’t know that nail polish prevents wuḍū’, and probably just as many who don’t care and will wear it anyways. But for those who do care, this analysis might help clarify things.

Muslim scholars have analyzed the issue of impermeable substances in the following manner. The verse of the Qur’an [al-Mā’idah 5:6] which prescribes the wuḍū’ says “…wash your faces and your arms…” The points which require investigation are: what is meant by ‘arms’ and what is meant by ‘wash’. Mention of the word ‘arms’ [which includes the hands linguistically in Arabic] indicates that every part must be washed and not a single spot should be left dry. Scholars arrived at this conclusion both through linguistic analysis as well as by analyzing reports from the Prophet which emphasize that the body parts must be washed thoroughly. From this they concluded that anything which prevents water from reaching any of these parts must be removed. For example, if someone had dried paint, dough, or wax on their hand while performing wuḍū’, the water would not permeate that substance and the hand would not have been properly washed. The same is true with nail polish which, when dried, forms a solid impermeable layer on the nails. This is why women are instructed to remove their nail polish when performing wuḍū’. Other substances which do not form an impermeable solid layer such as henna, oil, ink, and lotion are allowed due to the ability of water to penetrate through, especially when rubbing over the wet area.[5]

As to the definition of ‘washing’, it means that water flows over the surface of every body part which must be washed during wuḍū’.[6] The bare minimum amount of water that must be used in order to suffice has been a matter of contention among scholars. Some stated that the part being washed must drip off at least one drop of water.[7] Other scholars held that water must have reached every area of that body part, but dripping off is not necessary.[8]

The important thing to realize is that these scholars were trying to precisely define a minimum point at which the body part in question has had water ‘flow’ over it. The first opinion did not imply that drops of water must drip from any particular area but rather from any area of one body part. For example, while washing the arm with the hand elevated above the elbow, it is likely that the water would drop off near the elbow area due to gravitational forces. For our case concerning the fingernails, this opinion [which is the stricter of the two] does not necessitate water having to drip off the fingernails. This makes sense because water usually drips from a small area when it has completely flowed over that region.

Based on this difference of opinion concerning the definition of washing, scholars have differed concerning whether rubbing snow over the body parts suffices for wuḍū’ if no drops fall off.[9] At first glance, it might appear to a student of Islamic Law that this example serves as a good analogy to apply to the issue of breathable nail polish. However, upon further inspection the analogy fails because the case of snow involves no drops falling whereas the case of the fingernails does involve drops falling, even if not from the nail area. Keeping this in mind, if the entire hand was immersed in water and water vapor permeated through to the nails, it would not matter whether or not an actual drop of water in its liquid form reached the nail. The entire hand would still be considered to have been washed since water reached every area.

A Test Case

One of my students[10] decided to perform a test to see whether or not water actually seeped through when using the Inglot O2M nail polish. As a test case, she applied standard pink nail polish and purple O2M on a coffee filter and allowed both to dry. She then placed another coffee filter below the painted one, squeezed two drops of water over the polish, and applied some pressure with her finger.[11] After about ten seconds it was clear that the water was prevented from seeping through [even to the back side of the first filter] on the standard polish but clearly went through the O2M and even wet the second filter. This is sufficient to show that the claims made by the manufacturer are correct and water does indeed permeate through to the nail.


It is imperative that issues such as the legitimacy of wearing breathable nail polish while performing wuḍū’ be properly researched both on the scientific level as well as the fiqhī [Islamic Law] level. It appears to me that there is a sound basis for believing the water seeps through to the nail when wearing O2M breathable nail polish. Perhaps not every brand which claims to be breathable meets this criteria and perhaps the nails need to be soaked in water for a few seconds. Nonetheless, the basis exists for permissibility. As for the questions concerning whether or not nail polish should be used by Muslim women in public, which colors may potentially cross the boundaries of modesty [ḥayā’], and whether these cosmetics are an extravagant use of one’s wealth are all beyond the scope of this article and not directly related to the issue at hand. Sisters must consider all those variables before using any cosmetics, but after they have done so, the research on breathable nail polish points to its permissibility.

[1] This is according to the widely-held opinion by several Muslim scholars that cosmetics containing alcohol are allowed to be worn. Also, cosmetics should not be tested in a cruel manner on animals or contain any pork products such as gelatin. The Inglot brand discussed in this article is free from these deficiencies. See

[5] It is interesting to note that Ibn ʿĀbidīn [ḥanafī] argues this is not the real reason but substances like henna are allowed due to necessity. See Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār, 1:154.

[6] Al-Samarqandī, ʿAlā’ al-Dīn, Tuḥfah al-Fuqahā’, 1:8.

[7] Ibn al-Humām, Kamāl, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 1:15.

[8] Ibid. This is the opinion of Imām Abū Yūsuf.

[9] Kāsānī, ʿAlā al-Dīn, Badā’iʿ al-Ṣanā’iʿ, 1:3.

[10] Shabana Haxton lives in California and is an RN, MSN, and CNL.

[11] The extra drop on the filter paper seen in the picture was an accidental misfire from the dropper and was not taken into consideration during the experiment.


Do I Have to Perform the Friday Prayer [Jumʿah] if ʿĪd [Eid] is on Friday?

I begin in the name of Allah, the most kind and merciful:

Summarized Answer

Scholars, past and present, have differed over this issue, so it should not be turned into a matter of dispute. It appears to me that Muslims should pray both the ʿĪd and Friday prayer. However, whoever decides to follow the other opinion must pray Ẓuhr and will not incur any sin, since this is a legitimate opinion based on proper reasoning and evidence as well. Mosques must organize the Friday prayer for those people who would like to attend.

Reason for the Difference of Opinion

Pieces of Evidence

A: The verse of the Qur’an stipulates that Friday prayer is an obligation: “You who believe: When the Prayer is called for Friday, hasten toward the remembrance of Allah and leave your business. That is better for you, if only you knew.”[1]

B: There is a report that the third khalīfah, Uthmān ibn ʿAffān, gave permission for some people to skip the prayer: “…then I witnessed the ʿĪd with Uthmān ibn ʿAffān, and that was on Friday. He prayed before the sermon [khutbah], then gave a speech and said: ‘People. This is a day where two ʿĪds have fallen on the same day. So whoever from amongst the people of the outskirts[2] of Madinah wants to wait for the Friday Prayer, they may; and whoever wants to return [home], I have given them permission.”[3]

C: There are reports that the Prophet allowed people to skip the ʿĪd prayer.

  • Zayd ibn Arqam reported that the Prophet performed the ʿĪd prayers early in the day but then offered an exemption for Friday prayer and said, “Whoever wants to may pray it.”[4]
  • “Two ʿĪds were on the same day during the time of Ibn al-Zubayr [a Companion]. He delayed people from coming out until the daylight had spread. When he came out and gave a sermon, he made it long. Then he descended and prayed but the people did not pray the Friday Prayer on that day. This was then mentioned to Ibn ʿAbbās who said: ‘He has acted according to the Sunnah [the way of the Prophet].’”[5]
  • Abū Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said, “Two ʿĪds have synchronized together on this day, so whoever prefers, it may suffice for Friday prayer. We will soon gather.”[6]

D: There is a report that the Prophet himself performed the Friday prayer on ʿĪd day: “The Prophet used to read surah al-Aʿlā and al-Ghāshiyah in the two ʿĪd Prayers and the Friday Prayer. When the day of ʿĪd and Friday would come together on the same day he would still read both of them in both prayers.”[7]

First Opinion

Only people living in isolated areas [who are normally exempted from attending the Friday prayer] coming from out of town to attend the ʿĪd prayer are exempted from the Friday Prayer. This is the opinion of Abū Ḥanīfah[8], Mālik[9], and al-Shāfiʿī[10].

Reasoning Behind the First Opinion

  • Verse A cannot be overridden by any report which indicates something different unless it is of the highest authenticity. It must also be reported by several different people because this is not something that would only be heard/observed by one or two people only.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any rational reason why one obligation should be dropped due to another being performed. This is similar to the way people must still pray Ẓuhr after praying ʿĪd.[11]
  • Report B indicates that the leader of the Muslims exempted only a specific group of people [who normally don’t need to pray the Friday prayer because they don’t live in a city] and none of the Companions objected to his decision. This implies they understood that it was in line with the practice of the Prophet.
  • Evidence C may be general in wording but should be understood as being confined to a specific group of people based on the other evidence.
  • Much of evidence C is of doubtful authenticity.
  • Report D indicates that the Prophet himself prayed it and he obviously had other people with him.

Second Opinion

Whoever performed the ʿĪd prayer is exempted from the Friday prayer[12], but must still pray Ẓuhr. This is the opinion of Aḥmad[13]. It is also the opinion of later scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah[14], al-Shawkānī, Ibn Bāz[15], and Sayyid Sābiq.

Reasoning Behind the Second Opinion

  • Evidence C is sufficiently authentic to prove that the Prophet made an exception to the rule in order to make life easier for the Muslims.
  • The sermon for Friday prayer is an addition to the prayer of Ẓuhr. Since one set of sermons was already heard, there is no need for another set later in the day.
  • Friday prayer is a type of ʿĪd and there is no need for two of them in one day. When two acts of worship of the same genre combine together, one of them drops, the way wuḍū’ is not needed when taking a bath [ghusl].[16]


There is clearly a legitimate difference of opinion due to both the clarity and authenticity of the two reports in question.

[1] Qur’an 62:9.

[2] The word used is “al-ʿawālī” which refers to people living about one or two miles from the mosque in Madinah. See al-Laknawī, ʿAbdul Ḥayy, al-Taʿlīq al-Mumajjad.

[3] Bukhārī 7:103 #5572, Muwaṭṭa’ 2:249 #613.

[4] Abū Dāwūd 1:281 #1070, Al-Nasā`ī 3:194 #1591. Scholars differed over the authenticity of this report.

[5] Al-Nasā`ī 3:194 #1592.

[6] Abū Dā`ūd 1:281 #1073. Scholars differed over the authenticity of this report.

[7] Muslim 2:598 #878, Nasā`ī 3:112 #1424.

[8] Al-Shaybānī, Muḥammad, al-Muwatta’.

[9] Ḥāshiyah al-Dassūqī 1:391.

[10] Nawawi, al-Majmūʿ.

[11] Ibn Qudāmah, al-Mughnī 2:265.

[12] With the exception of the imām, unless no one shows up.

[13] Ibn Qudāmah, al-Kāfī fī Fiqh al-Imām Aḥmad 1:338, Ibn Qudāmah, al-Mughnī 2:265.

[14] Majmū’ Fatāwā Ibn Taymiyyah 24:211-213.

[15] Majmūʿ Fatāwā Ibn Bāz 13:13. His opinion is that it is preferable to pray the Friday prayer.

[16] Majmūʿ Fatāwā Ibn Taymiyyah 24:211.


Am I allowed to cut my nails and hair during the first ten days of the month of Dhul Ḥijjah?

I begin in the name of Allah, the most kind and merciful:

Summarized Answer

Scholars, past and present, have differed over the issue of whether or not there are any restrictions on cutting nails during the first few days of Dhul Ḥijjah, so it should not be turned into a matter of dispute in the Muslim community. It appears to me that it is not necessary to refrain from cutting/removing any hair or nails on the body during this time, even for those who intend to sacrifice an animal. However, whoever refrains from doing so has a basis in the Islamic intellectual tradition and should not be criticized.

Reason for the Difference of Opinion

Pieces of Evidence

A: The prophetic report narrated by Umm Salamah states: “Whoever sights the crescent for the month of Dhul Ḥijjah and intends to sacrifice an animal should cut neither his hair nor his nails.”[2]

B: The prophetic report narrated by ʿĀ’ishah that: “…the Prophet sent a sacrificial animal to the Kaʿbah [while residing at Madīnah] but did not abstain from anything [that a person performing Ḥajj would abstain from]…”[3]

First Opinion

Scholars who said it is forbidden for a person who intends to slaughter to cut their hair or nails during this time: Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyib, Rabīʿah, Aḥmad ibn Ḥambal, Dāwūd, Ibn Ḥazm, Isḥāq, some Shāfiʿī scholars, and Ṭaḥāwī [of the Ḥanafī school].[4] Among the later scholars who upheld this opinion: Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Ibn Qudāmah, al-Shawkānī, Ibn Bāz, and Ibn al-Uthaymīn.

Reasoning Behind the First Opinion

  • Report A is authentic.
  • Report B is confined to only those who send a sacrificial animal, not those who sacrifice within their own city.[5]
  • Report A must be taken literally because even if it was considered to be disliked and not prohibited, the Prophet would never do something which is disliked.[6]

Second Opinion

Scholars who said it is disliked but not prohibited: al-Shāfiʿī and some of Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal’s students [such as Abū Yaʿlā].[7] Among the later scholars who upheld this opinion: al-Nawawī.

Reasoning Behind the Second Opinion

  • Both reports A and B are authentic and appear to be contradictory because they are speaking about the same issue.
  • It is best to reconcile both reports by saying that report A is not to be taken literally but rather as something disliked but not prohibited.

Third Opinion

Scholars who said that there is nothing wrong with cutting the hair or nails: Abū Ḥanīfah and his students, Mālik and his students, and Sufyān al-Thawrī.[8]

Reasoning Behind the Third Opinion

  • Report A has some weakness in it so report B takes precedence over it.
  • Report A doesn’t make sense because it is contrary to analogy. If a person was supposed to refrain from cutting their nails and hair, they should have also been instructed to refrain from certain clothing, perfume, and intimacy because that is what people who are performing Hajj must also do.[9]


There is clearly a legitimate difference of opinion due to both the clarity and authenticity of the two reports in question.

[2] Muslim 3:1565, Abū Dā’ūd 3:94, Tirmidhī 4:102, Nasā’ī 7:211.

[3] Bukhārī 7:102, Muslim 2:957.

[4] al-Tirmidhī 4:102, Tuḥfah al-Aḥwadhī 5:99-100, Sharḥ Mushkil al-Āthār 14:141-143.

[5] `Awn al-Maʿbūd wa Ḥāshiyah ibn al-Qayyim ʿalā Sunan Abī Dāwūd 7:346, al-Istidhkār 4:84.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Tuḥfah al-Aḥwadhī 5:99-100, `Awn al-Maʿbūd wa Ḥāshiyah ibn al-Qayyim ʿalā Sunan Abī Dāwūd 7:346.

[8] Tuḥfah al-Aḥwadhī 5:99-100, al-Istidhkār 4:84.

[9] `Awn al-Maʿbūd wa Ḥāshiyah ibn al-Qayyim ʿalā Sunan Abī Dāwūd 7:347.


The Dangers of Science: Imam Ghazzali’s Advice on Philosophy

By: Mustafa Umar

About a thousand years ago, Imam Ghazzali wrote in his autobiography, ‘Deliverance from Error’: “a clumsy and stupid person must be kept away from the seashore, not the proficient swimmer; and a child must be prevented from handling a snake, not the skilled snake-charmer.”

This was his advice to students who studied philosophy, particularly the Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle which many Muslims took pride in at that time. The Imam was warning them of the dangers that could result from this type of study. But he didn’t stop at philosophy. He even warned people about studying mathematics and other natural sciences. Why?

So You Thought You Were Safe

What’s wrong with an innocent subject like math, you might ask? That has nothing to do with religion. Well, here is what the Imam had to say:

“The mathematical sciences…nothing in them entails denial or affirmation of religious matters…from them, however, two evils have been caused…”

He readily admits that there is nothing intrinsically harmful in such a science, which is generally disconnected from Islamic beliefs. Nonetheless, the study of this science resulted in two dangers which greatly affected the beliefs of many students.

The First Danger: Blind Conformity

The Imam continued: “One of these is that whoever takes up these mathematical sciences marvels at the fine precision of their details and the clarity of their proofs. Because of that, he forms a high opinion of the philosophers [who were the mathematicians at that time] and assumes that all their sciences have the same lucidity and rational solidarity as this science of mathematics. Moreover, he will have heard the talk of the town about their unbelief and their negative attitude… [they say]: ‘If religion were true, this would not have been unknown to these philosophers…’” What Imam Ghazzali was trying to point out is that students who read the mathematical works of Pythagoras, Ptolemy or Aristotle became so impressed by those authors that they followed them blindly even in their non-mathematical ideas on metaphysics and religion.

The Imam then expresses his deep regret over this sad state of affairs: “How many a man have I seen who strayed from the path of truth on this pretext and for no other reason!” He criticizes these students for blindly following these mathematicians even in their religious ideas under the false assumption that all of their ideas, from their belief/disbelief in God to their views on the purpose of life, must be based on the same strong proofs as their mathematical principles.

Not much has changed since then. How many times have I heard a Muslim doubting something about his own religion while saying: “but scientists say…”? One thousand years have passed and this danger persists. How many Muslims have doubted their belief in Allah simply because of the naturalist Charles Darwin, the psychologist Sigmund Freud or the economist Karl Marx propagated their atheistic/agnostic ideas? Even today, the popular writings of the zoologist Richard Dawkins and the physicist Stephen Hawking influence millions of people about what to believe concerning the purpose of life. Hundreds of intellectuals anxiously wait for Hawking to make up, or change, his mind whether or not he believes in God, as if he was the pope about to issue a decree or retraction.

Imam Ghazzali advised people to remember that a man skilled in one field is not necessarily skilled in every field. He also noted that the internal consistency in one field of study does not necessarily imply the same in another field. People must realize that just because someone may have the ability to process mathematical equations quickly in their mind or to figure out how certain chemicals work with one another doesn’t mean that they have all the answers to life.

The Second Danger: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater

The Imam points to another problem, which arises as a reaction to the first danger. When some well-meaning believers realized the danger resulting from studying these sciences, they began to form a hatred for the subjects themselves rather than differentiating between the science itself and its adherents. The Imam said, “The second evil likely to follow from the study of the mathematical sciences derives from the case of an ignorant friend of Islam who supposed that our religion must be championed by the rejection of every science ascribed to the philosophers…”

Imam Ghazzali noticed the excessive precautionary measures that some Muslim scholars advocated in his time and exposed the danger of such a view. If mathematics, philosophy, biology, physics, etc. are leading people away from Islam, should they be abandoned completely? Several Muslim scholars did incline towards such a view on the basis that it is not worth putting someone’s Islam in danger for a few worldly benefits that these sciences might bring. Imam Ghazzali, on the other hand, favored a more practical approach where those who are ready to master the subject and see it for what it is need not be afraid of falling into the pool.

The Solution

So what should Muslims do in such circumstances? Most high schools and universities require a student to study several subjects at the same time, even if they are not specializing in that field. It is unrealistic to assume that every student would have to master every subject that might put their Islamic beliefs in danger. Rather, a more practical alternative is to push for the development of an Islamic Studies curriculum that equips the student with answers to the most common attacks against Islam. Without such preventive measures, some Muslim students will continue to suffer from the venomous snake-bites while others will drown in the ocean of deviant ideas.