The Arabic language, which is the language of the Holy Qur’an as well as the
sayings and practices of the Prophet (PBUH) , differs from English and other languages
in that it has two grammatical genders: the feminine gender and the masculofeminine gender, which addresses both males and females at the same time, unless
a specific qualification exempts women from inclusion. In other words, unless
clearly specified, all forms of masculo-feminine gender apply to both males and
females. For example, when God addresses the believers on the issue of managing
the affairs of the community: And who conduct their affairs through consultation
and mutual consent among themselves [42:38], He is explicitly including both
males and females in the voting and election process. Even the Arabic word rajul
which means “man” is used in Arabic like “man” in English or “homme” in French
or “Uomo” in Italian… etc., to mean a human being and not necessarily a masculine
subject.
Other terms that are used frequently in the divine and prophetic texts and also
mean “a human being” are the terms “Muslim” and “believer”. When we come
across them in a Qur’anic verse or a saying of the Prophet (PBUH) speaking of the
Islamic community, they do not exclude non-Muslims who are citizens in the Islamic
society, as they are expected to be treated exactly on the same footing as Muslims.
This was clearly specified in the Islamic “Magna carta” or the constitution of the
Islamic state in Madinah, where the Jews who chose to join this state were granted
equal rights and full support.
The only practices that are considered in accordance with Islam after the death
of the Prophet (PBUH) are those of the rightly-guided Caliphs. This is stated clearly in
the following saying of the Prophet (PBUH) : “Whomever of you lives [long enough] will
see great controversy. So follow my practices and the practices of the rightlyguided Caliphs, and stick to them firmly. Beware of wrongly-invented supplements,
for each of them represents a deviation that leads astray”1
. Thus, it is those rightlyguided Caliphs who set for us a practical example to follow. As for the practices
of Muslims of later generations, be it the practices of rulers, leaders or even religious
scholars, they cannot be set as an example except in as far as they follow the
Qur’an and the Prophet’s (PBUH) sayings and practices. If they do not, then they belong
to the class of wrongly-invented matters which could only be described as deviant.
Unfortunately, the practices of the Muslim generations after the period of the rightlyguided Caliphs have been, for the most part, too far removed from Islamic teachings
to be considered as sound Islamic practice. The Prophet (PBUH) has set for us a criterion
to judge such practices as he says: “He who does something which is not in
agreement with our directives, it will be considered as null and void”2
.
Many people, even Arabs and Muslims, are unaware of these observations, which
leads to misunderstanding and misbehaviour

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