Index of Questions:

    Do we need an imam to be married?
    I'm a university student in Turkey. My boyfriend and I want to get married, but it is legally impossible because we are students, and because our families won't allow it. So our friend married us (he read aloud all the necessary prayers) because we couldn't find an imam. I'm anxious about whether this marriage is accepted by God. Is an imam necessary for marrying?

    Under Hanafi law, which is the Sunni school of jurisprudence dominant in Turkey, an unmarried woman is qualified to offer herself in marriage. The core requirements [under all schools of jurisprudence] are the offer and acceptance by each of the parties, namely the bride-to-be and the groom, and the payment by the groom of a dowry [mahr or sadaq] acceptable to the bride.

    The Prophet Muhammad urged his followers to marry their children upon their achieving the physical capacity to do so; the difficulty that you, and many others, have today is the social mores and societal rules that seek to postpone marriage until a threshold degree of material and financial capability are attained. Muslim societies need to address this tension between theological correctness and societal rules.

    How does Islam explain the Ark of the Covenant?
    Do Muslims believe Moses was given the stones on which Allah wrote with his own hand the Ten Commandments? How does Islam explain the Ark of the Covenant?

    The Qur'an affirms in chapter 7:150-154 that Moses was given the Ten Commandments, which Muslims believe contain guidance for God's people. The Qur'anic reference to the Ark of the Covenant occurs in 2:248 as a sign to the Children of Israel, carried by their then-appointed King Saul.

    The Qur'an does not detail the contents of previous revelations, except to authenticate them as genuine sources of guidance, and to state that they contained guidance and mercy. The Qur'an's theme is that the teachings given in the Qur'an itself are theologically identical and sufficient for those who choose to follow it in order to achieve personal salvation; and that the specific contents of earlier revelations are included in the Qur'anic directives.

    Does the Qur'an confirm the New Testament?
    I am aware that the Holy Qur'an confirms the Old Testament. But is it correct to say that that the Qur'an does not accept all or part of the New Testament? If so, please explain.

    The Qur'an confirms both the Old and New Testaments as they were originally revealed by God to Moses and Jesus Christ. The Qur'an, however, also asserts that as time went on, certain additions and changes were made that were not authorized by God. This position is not that different even from that of modern Biblical scholarship that has pointed out differences between certain books.

    The key thing, however, is to remember that the two major commandments are identical in all three religions: namely, to love the Lord our One God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength; and to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves. This is the Divine Intent and mandate for all human beings.

    The differences in our liturgy and forms of worship are means to increasing closeness and intimacy with God, and each human being may select the method that suits him or her best. But there can be no difference in our ethics, the notions that collectively embody our understanding of the common good.

    With whom does the husband's first responsibility lie?
    My question is, with whom does a husband's first responsibility lie? The wife or the mother? Does the husband care for his mother's home before he takes care of his own responsibilities in his own home and with his own family? What do I do when I know my husband's mother is wrong and overstepping her boundaries and meddling in our marriage and private life, without sounding rude or disobedient to my elder?

    Islam is primarily about justice in all areas--social, moral and economic. Every child shares in a parent's estate, not the oldest alone. It is also a religion that emphasizes balance. Your challenge is to point this out to your husband and to make your claim clear, based on the issue of balance and justice. It is not about positioning one party against another.

    Can Muslims eat shellfish?
    Can Muslims eat crab? Lobster? Mussels? Clams? Catfish? Rabbit?

    Per Qur'an 16:14, Muslim jurists have deemed it permissible to eat any "meat" that comes from the sea. All seafood is therefore deemed halal, permissible.

    Rabbit is a land animal, and is also halal as long as it is slaughtered according to the rules.

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