According to Islam, do women have the independent right to choose their marriage partners? Can a woman be forced to marry someone against her will?

In a well-known tradition documented by Imaam Bukhari, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "A previously married woman shall not be married without being consulted and a virgin shall not be married without her consent." This statement clearly establishes the principle of the female's right to choose a marriage partner.

The decision to marry and the process of selecting a spouse are perhaps the most serious choices we makes in life. It is therefore important to consult our parents or guardians, to seek their guidance, and to consider their advice. A guardian can only intervene if there exists a strong Islamic objection--one that would be acceptable to a qadi (judge). An example of a valid Islamic objection would be a marriage to an alcoholic or to a drug dealer. Differences in culture, age, ethnicity, or nationality are never acceptable objections in Islam.

Neither the guardian nor anyone else can coerce a female to marry against her wishes, since Islam emphatically disallows forced marriages. This is clear from an incident in the life of the Prophet documented by the traditionist Nisaa'ie. The Prophet's wife `Aishah reports that a young female came to consult the Prophet, saying," My father has married me to my cousin to raise his social standing and I was forced into it." The Prophet sent for the girl's father and then in his presence gave the girl the option of remaining married or rescinding the marriage. She responded; "O Messenger of Allah, I have accepted what my father did, but I wanted to serve a lesson to other women (that they could not be forced into a marriage)."

Is chatting on the Internet with members of the opposite sex forbidden in Islam?

Islamic etiquette demands that any communication, especially between males and females, comply with the highest standards of hayaa' (modesty). Decency and purity of intention are of paramount importance. You should seriously consider the purpose and intent behind every form of communication.

Qur'anic and prophetic precepts clearly require that the mode, tone, and content of the communication not be seductive, lewd, crude or suggestive. Any expression of vulgarity, profanity and impropriety would be considered indecent and unacceptable.

A Qur'anic example of proper communication between a man and a woman is of the communication between the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) and Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba (Chapter 27 verses 28-34).

Communication per se is therefore not the problem. Rather, the manner and its purpose are. Since Internet chatting (and e-mail) does not allow for any aural or visual contact,), the kind of information exchanged will determine whether the chatting is permissible or not. If chatting involves the the exchange of cordial, important, or required information, then certainly there is no prohibition. If the communication is to find potential employment then there is also no harm. If, on the other hand, the chatting is related to finding a life partner, then due caution should be exercised to avoid impropriety. Why should Muslim male babies be circumcised? Where did this practice originate? Is it an obligation? It seems so cruel. To believe that a child needs to be circumcised implies that God made a mistake, which I do not accept. What benefit is there in it?

The practice of circumcision originated when Allah made a covenant with Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham), promising him that he would be father to many nations and that he (and his progeny) would be mighty leaders. The sign of that covenant would be that every newborn male among his followers would be circumcised. Circumcision therefore implies a continuity of our bond with Prophet Ibraheem, as we are part of the millat (community of faith) of Ibraheem.The Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet in a line of leadership that resulted from the descendants of Prophet Ibraheem.

Male circumcision, or khitaan, is a symbol of being Muslim. It is considered one of the rites of Islam and is one of the characteristics of fitrah (natural dispositions). In a tradition documented by Bukhari, the Prophet is reported to have said: "Among the characteristics of fitrah are the following five practices: circumcision, removing pubic hair, trimming the moustache, clipping the fingernails, and cleaning the armpits." Circumcision therefore is a sunnah (a practice encouraged and performed by the Prophet), not an obligation. Your status as a believer is not affected by it.

Circumcision must be performed by a qualified and experienced person. Only the foreskin covering the glans of the penis be removed. This should only be performed if there is no danger to the health or safety of the circumcised male. Whether we circumcise the child, or for that matter shave its hair, does not in any way indicate any mistake on the part of the Creator.

Circumcision improves hygiene in terms of urination, sexual relations, and the preventing of infections. In his research work on circumcision, Dr M.A.al-Baar, member of the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK, states that "circumcision of newborn boys brings numerous health benefits." Included among the benefits areprotection against local infection in the penis which may lead to retention of urine or infection of the glans. Studies showed that 95% of children who suffered from infection of the urethra were uncircumcised.

These health and medical benefits mentioned further validate the need for such a practice. Since Islamic laws are intended to serve as a high standard of physical, mental and spiritual well being, such scientific information endorses the practicality and utility of circumcision, even in the 21st century.

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