MuslimMatters.org http://muslimmatters.org Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:07:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Confessions of a Muslim Skeptic http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/20/confessions-muslim-skeptic/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/20/confessions-muslim-skeptic/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55528 Questioning Faith The other day, a Muslim teen asked me the purpose of prayer. Why should we believe in God? Why do bad things happen to good people? As it turns out, this barrage of questions only represented the tip of a big, ominous iceberg. There are a whole host of questions like this that […]

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Questioning Faith

The other day, a Muslim teen asked me the purpose of prayer. Why should we believe in God? Why do bad things happen to good people? As it turns out, this barrage of questions only represented the tip of a big, ominous iceberg.

There are a whole host of questions like this that are festering in our community and causing many crises of faith. The unfortunate reality is that Muslims are leaving Islam due to these unanswered questions, a trend that is exacerbated by the decreasing popularity of organized religion in society at large.

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

How do we address this challenge?

As someone who grew up as an American teenager in the 90s, the questions I had then, only 15 years ago, were mere child's play compared to the soul-swallowing issues that Muslim youth are struggling with today. Topics like gay rights, the war on terrorism, scientific proof for the existence of God, the value of modesty, the merits of sexual abstinence, human evolution, the importance of family, etc. — anything and everything is up for debate, analysis, and, ultimately, disavowal.

In sum, religion is seen as lacking any intellectual credibility. The only way to restore that credibility in the minds of the doubting masses is to address these questions head on.

Skepticism Defined

Whether in the academic or professional sphere, the most effective way to address complicated, controversial questions is to take a step back and pinpoint the hidden assumptions that underlie those questions. This way, one can problematize (or undermine) the question itself and, thus, proactively address it on one's own terms.

Traditionally, this tendency to problematize and undermine common beliefs has been associated with skepticism. In the sense I am using the term, a skeptic is someone who will pause to deconstruct and critique a thought system in order to judge its intellectual merit (not to be confused with philosophical skeptics, who question the possibility of knowledge entirely).

Oftentimes, it is religious beliefs that are the target of skeptical questioning: Why should we believe God exists? Why should we believe the Qur'an to be the word of God? Why should we believe Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the messenger of God? Skeptical questioning of this nature originated with atheists and opponents of religion but, over time, has spread to all corners of the globe. Nowadays, even the faithful ask themselves these questions, and, when they cannot find answers, they either abandon the religion or ignore the questions entirely.

But there is another way.

themuslimskeptic

Intellectual Hypocrisy and Bill Maher

From my experience, skeptics of religion often are hypocrites in that they do not attack all thought systems equally. They save their most rabid lines of critique for religion, especially Islam, but give certain non-religious beliefs a free pass.

For example, someone like Bill Maher, a self-proclaimed liberal, has no shortage of animosity in critiquing Islam. But does he take that same critical, skeptical mindset to his evaluation of, say, liberalism? Has he spent any time on TV delving into the many different critiques and questions plaguing liberal thought? Has he dedicated any of his programming to contemplating the amount of violence and death modern liberalism has wrought?

Maher portrays himself as an objective, neutral analyst using the power of rational thought to discover the truth, but, in actuality, he is a propagandist, as detached from objectivity and rationality as the fervent Bible-thumpers he lampoons. The only difference is he proselytizes liberalism instead of Christianity.

The Muslim skeptic, then, is someone who gives such hypocrites a taste of their own medicine.  Why can't Muslims turn the tables by expressing skepticism about liberalism, the nation-state paradigm, scientism, humanism, progressivism, and the rest of the unquestioned modernist dogmas of our times?

Turning the Tables

Consider this small sample of “controversial” or “tough” questions:

  1. What is the scientific proof for the existence of Allah, angels, the afterlife, the soul, etc.?
  2. Why does Islamic Law require women to wear the hijab but not men?
  3. Why would an all-merciful God allow evil to exist?
  4. Do we have free-will to make our own choices?
  5. Why does Islamic Law prohibit homosexual acts?
  6. Why do many Muslims not accept the evolutionary theory of man's origins?

What we often fail to realize is that these questions do not arise in a vacuum. Most of these are not questions that troubled or even arose in the minds of Muslims 30, 40, or 500 years ago. These are questions that are characteristic of our time and intellectual culture in the 15th/21st century. As such, there are complex, deeply ingrained assumptions that underlie each of them. The only reason they may seem “tough” to address is that we are blind to those assumptions and take them for granted.

The Muslim skeptic must dig out these assumptions in order to scrutinize and interrogate them. In this way, rather than resolving such “tough” questions, the Muslim skeptic aims to dissolve them.

Given the number of such questions threatening the faith of our community, there is a pressing need for such a skeptical approach.

Skepticism in Action

As a brief example, consider the question of God's existence. Some modern Muslim commentators concede that there is no objective evidence for the existence of God, and it all boils down to a “leap of faith.” The Muslim skeptic's approach, in contrast, would be to first investigate the word “objective.” (Yes, the concept of “objectivity” itself has a convoluted and interesting history that we cannot take for granted.) Then, the Muslim skeptic would reflect on widely accepted standards of evidence used to undermine belief in God, e.g., scientific evidence, and evaluate them for consistency. For example, if we are supposed to reject the existence of God due to an alleged lack of scientific evidence, should we also reject the existence of things like the passage of time, human consciousness, mathematical entities, etc., that similarly lack scientific or physical modalities? Clearly, most people are not extreme enough to deny such things that clearly have a reality, despite a lack of scientific evidence. And so on.

In this way, the Muslim skeptic is not afraid to question widely held, cherished beliefs, such as the authority of science, in order to unpack hidden assumptions that cloud the issue and confuse people.

Conclusion

To be sure, skepticism is a negative, deconstructive exercise. Its purpose is to use rational argumentation to topple false idols so that the light of Truth has a chance to shine through. One of the greatest Muslim skeptics then, in these terms, was Prophet Ibrahim ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who cleverly undermined the idolatry of his people, as related in the Qur'an (6: 75-80). By pointing to a star, the moon, and the sun, saying, “This is my lord,” Ibrahim imitated the discourse of his detractors in order to reveal the internal inconsistency of their beliefs.

Muslim intellectual history is full of Muslim skeptics who employed all manner of rational stratagem to evaluate, undermine, critique, and overturn philosophies they deemed dangerous or subversive. This is a lost art Muslims today should be keen to revive, especially given that we find ourselves in an intellectual climate that has proved time and again to be hostile to our worldview. As Sayyidina `Umar once asked, rhetorically, “Are we not on the Truth?” It is time for us to start acting like it.


 

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, TX. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity as well as the intersection of western philosophical thought and Islamic intellectual history.

 

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What’s The Matter? | Postpartum or More? http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/16/whats-the-matter-postpartum-or-more/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/16/whats-the-matter-postpartum-or-more/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 04:00:22 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55512 Question: Salams I think I have postnatal depression as I've just had a baby 2 weeks ago and I'm extremely emotional, overwhelmed, teary and so lonely. My husband does not understand and is getting cross that I'm not staying on top of my house chores and giving my other 2 children enough attention. He thinks I'm being […]

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Question:

Salams
I think I have postnatal depression as I've just had a baby 2 weeks ago and I'm extremely emotional, overwhelmed, teary and so lonely.

My husband does not understand and is getting cross that I'm not staying on top of my house chores and giving my other 2 children enough attention. He thinks I'm being lazy and when I try to explain I can't control my feelings and feel a emotional wreck he blames me for being too emotional and says this is just a 'modern day' mother excuse to be lazy.

I feel awful and his insensitive words are depressing me even more to the extent I'm questioning if its just me who needs to get a grip or this is actually a problem. I don't have anyone else to turn to except my husband and feel so let down.

Please help and advise me how I can get out of this dark pit and become mentally healthy and normal again. I have no on to talk to and I don't wish to talk to my husband as I end up feeling worse due to his insensitive response. I cry all day and at night and feel guilty… because I feel guilty and worry that maybe I'm being ungrateful for my blessings and these feelings are from shaitan. Is feeling so negative and down a sign of ungratefulness? Weak iman?

Right now I feel like a failure…a bad mother…a bad wife and a bad Muslim for being ungrateful and lazy.

Please help me clarify my thinking.

I'm so confused.

Jazaka Allahu Khair,

Postpartum or More?

Answer:

Walaikum assalam wa Rahmatullah,

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant you strength and help you through this difficult time. Ameen.

You are so brave to reach out regarding this issue. So many mothers experience this but hesitate to seek help due to feelings of shame and guilt. You have nothing to feel guilty about and we are privileged to be able to offer a little bit of support at this difficult time.

Having a baby is life-changing- whether it is your first child or your tenth- and every birth is a different experience. It can be incredibly confusing to feel a sense that you “should be grateful” while still feeling miserable and being unable to push past these emotions. After taking the baby home, women often wonder, “How can I possibly take care of this tiny human being who is dependent on me for everything on top of all my other tasks? Plus, I hardly feel able to take care of myself right now!” It's incredibly overwhelming.

We often hear the birth of a child described in picturesque terms. New mothers expect to feel “complete” and to feel as though “everything is suddenly right in the world” once their new baby is placed in their arms. This concept is very misleading and it causes mothers who experience normal anxiety and stress to feel inadequate and as though they are ungrateful for their children.

As hormones shift drastically after delivery, it's absolutely normal to feel what is commonly known as the “baby blues” in the weeks following birth. Nearly 80% of women experience this within the first two weeks after giving birth. You may experience mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration and trouble sleeping. If after two weeks you are continuing to struggle and this interferes with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. One in eight women suffer from this. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

(Via Mayo Clinic)

There are a lot of reasons that this happens and none of these reasons include being ungrateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for blessing you with a child or suffering from weak iman. Depression, postpartum depression and baby blues are all issues that are impacted by a variety of factors and there is no reason to feel guilty for these emotions since they are beyond your control. There are many examples of very righteous people in the history of our faith, including Prophets, who experienced feelings of sadness. Prophet Yaqub grieved for his son until his, “eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.” {Qur'aan 12:84} After the death of his child, Ibrahim, our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) held his son in his arms and said “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.” This shows that feeling sadness does not mean that you are not strong in your faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) since the most righteous who ever walked this earth also experienced this emotion.

After childbirth, your body endures a drastic drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When we go through hormonal changes, our emotions also change and this may contribute to postpartum depression. You are also very likely sleep deprived as you have a newborn who wakes up every couple of hours. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious about balancing all of these new tasks along with caring for your other children, and feeling a lack of control over your emotions can also contribute to postpartum depression.

I know that it must be so hard to feel unsupported by your husband, particularly because you feel as though there is no one else to turn to right now. Now, when you need support more than ever, it can make you feel so lonely not to get it from the man you love so much. Oftentimes, people struggle to understand what is going on for someone else internally. Depression is not as visible as a cut, burn or broken leg and, therefore, can be difficult for some to grasp. However, after birth you have not only experienced an intense physical change but also an emotional and mental one. Therefore, you need as much support as possible. Show your husband some articles (from a credible source) regarding the causes of postpartum depression. Simply because this is “invisible” to others does not mean it doesn't exist. It can be difficult for your husband to see you suffering like this and he may not know how to react. Perhaps denial that anything is wrong is the way he is currently coping with this change. Although he is currently struggling to be supportive, this does not mean he does not love you or care for you. Let him know that you understand that it is difficult for him to see you feeling emotional and give him concrete suggestions regarding ways that he can be supportive (i.e. make du'a for you, validate your emotions, give you a hug, do an activity with the kids while you nap, etc.).

Also, please make sure that you speak with your doctor about your symptoms. If you are still feeling this way, it is very likely you have postpartum depression, which can be treated. Medication as well as therapy may be prescribed. It can make a world of difference to get treatment early to prevent the depression from deepening insha'Allah. Therapy as a component in treatment can be very helpful to allow you the opportunity to talk about your emotions without feeling judged. This is particularly important in your situation since you mentioned that you do not have anyone to confide in. Postpartum Support International (http://www.postpartum.net/) is also a great resource through which coordinators provide support, encouragement, and information about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and can help you find resources in your community. If you experience the urge to hurt yourself or your baby (this can be a symptom of postpartum depression), make sure to place the baby in a safe spot and seek help immediately. You can call your local emergency services to ensure immediate assistance.

Remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose you to be the mother of your children and there's no one better for that role than you despite how you feel right now. Do not underestimate the power of du'a. When you feel as though there is no one to turn to, turn to Him and pour out your sorrows. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created human beings with difficult emotions and, although this is a very hard test, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows how strong you are and will never give you more than you can handle. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) acknowledges the hardship mothers endure when He says, “And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.” (Surah al-Ahqaf: 15)

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant you a full recovery from this struggle and reward you tremendously for all that you do for your family. Ameen.

 

You can read about one sisters struggle here in Six Stories Down: When It's More Than Just The Baby Blues

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US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/15/us-muslim-jurists-resolution-on-islamic-finance-companies/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/15/us-muslim-jurists-resolution-on-islamic-finance-companies/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:37:06 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55458 The issue of purchasing a house through Islamic financing has been written about in detail by experts and intellectuals for the past decade or so. However, it appears that majority of American-Muslims are either in doubt or are misinformed about the validity of the actual practice (buying homes through 'halal mortgages' or loans). Many prospective home owners dismiss all […]

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The issue of purchasing a house through Islamic financing has been written about in detail by experts and intellectuals for the past decade or so. However, it appears that majority of American-Muslims are either in doubt or are misinformed about the validity of the actual practice (buying homes through 'halal mortgages' or loans). Many prospective home owners dismiss all Islamic home loans as problematic or interest based loans candy coated in Islamic terminology.

This led the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) to invite a group of 230 Imams from all over the United States to its annual Imams' Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 2014 to discuss current Islamic finance companies and their contracts from theoretical and practical perspectives (read about the conference here).

After discussing and debating various clauses of the contracts, AMJA announced that it will take a few months to further discuss their concerns with the named companies and then issue a final verdict with regards to their contracts. This declaration was released yesterday.

What is AMJA

AMJA stands for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. It's a nonprofit established in 2002 with the goal of conducting research about contemporary issues facing Muslims in the West and issuing Islamic verdicts with the findings. This research is conducted and supervised by the Resident Fatwa committee (RFC), which comprises of scholars with Doctorates of Philosophy in various Islamic Sciences.

Their website finds a long list of publications and research papers (mainly in Arabic) covering various subjects including interfaith, youth, food and nutrition, careers and arbitration. Over the years this organization has built a reputation of scholarly work and has shown dedication to tradition and authenticity through their research. You can find more about their published research papers here.

The Findings

AMJA requested and received copies of the contracts of various Islamic home finance companies and studied them. Their conclusion was divided into two main categories: (a) three classes of Islamic home finance companies and (b) ruling on individual companies. I have included both below:

The Three Classes:

(1) Companies that use interest-based loans: AMJA's description of such companies is that they are using contracts that are an offshoot of traditional interest-based loans. AMJA's ruling with regards to these companies is that it is not allowed to deal with them.

(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law. Generally speaking, these companies are of very little reach and are not supported by government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac etc.). This means that they do not receive funds from such enterprises, which permits them the freedom to control their contracts without any restrictions or regulations from the government (loosely speaking- obviously there are government regulations but they are nowhere close to those imposed by Freddie Mac, for example). The downside of such companies is that they don't have enough funds to sustain a large operation when compared to those who have the support of government-sponsored enterprises.

(3) Companies that use contracts that avoid explicit Riba in their contracts, however their contracts contain some components that are forbidden from an Islamic prespective. The contracts offered by such companies usually utilize one of the following three modes of finance: Ijarah (Lease-to-purchase), Musharakah (Declining Balance co-Ownership) or Murabah (Cost plus profit). Within these contracts there might be some clauses that are in violation of the essence of Islamic rule, according to AMJA.

Some of the clauses that you might want to pay attention to include, but are not limited to, what happens when one defaults or is late in making their payments? Is the arrangement of paying taxes, maintenance and other costs considered fair (since the majority shareholder in any company is expected to pay according to their shares, the loaning company in a Musharakah contract should participate in such costs and not only the minority shareholder)? What happens in the case of eminent domain? Other examples of the components indicated above include invalid clauses, inequity, undue risk, unknown quantities and the like. For more information about the fiqhi debate as why such components are forbidden in Islam, please consult with your local imam or contact AMJA directly. It is highly encouraged that you request a copy of the contract before signing, read it and inquire about any unclear or ambiguous aspects of it. It's also highly recommended that you speak to your local imam/scholar or reach out to AMJA for more clarification.

The concept of “Need” and “Dire Need”

Although there are some violations in the aforementioned contracts, AMJA views owning houses to be a general need of the Muslim population in America. AMJA defines need as:

that which is desired by an individual or society to make things easier on them and remove constraints. If one is lacking what is determined to be a “need,” then the individuals or the society face hardships and difficulties that go above and beyond the customary efforts required of individuals by the Islamic Law. People may differ in estimating those hardships.

As for determining the level of need for specific individuals, this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

What I found interesting about this definition is that although AMJA believes that there is a general need for Muslims to own a house, it leaves the determination of such need to the individual(s) interested in buying the house. This indicates that even though there is a general need that allows for using imperfect contracts, the individuals' situation is still a critical factor to decide the actual level of need.

Another interesting aspect of this definition is following statement:

…this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

How can rent be without causing harm? Financially, obviously those who choose to rent are not worried about property taxes or devalue of the property and more importantly aren't responsible for any major maintenance or insurance. However, renters do not take advantage of any equity or tax incentives. Moreover from a social perspective, owning a house may encourage home-owners to sustain long term relations with their neighbors, the Muslim community around them, and even the grocery stores in the area. Children in the family increase the chances of  having the same friends, attend the same schools and masjids which helps in cultivating a stable childhood.

AMJA also used the terms “need” and “dire need” in what appears to be an attempt to create a distinction between the contracts below with regards to how islamic their contracts are. There was no definition as to what a “dire need” constitutes. The natural consequence of such distinction is the advantage it lends to certain companies over others. This might be a way (a good way) of placing pressure on companies whose contracts have more violations than others. This also will decrease the competition between companies (given that people actually follow AMJA's recommendations), which might backfire with regards to consumer protection. Only time will tell.

Rulings with regards to the Individual Companies:

Disclaimer: It should be noted here that the opinion below is that of AMJA and that neither MuslimMatters.org nor the author of this article have an opinion on this matter. The AMJA declaration can be found on their website here. It also should be noted that Guidance Residential advertises with MuslimsMatters, however they were not consulted with about the actual content of this article.

Before listing the rulings per each company and their contracts, AMJA highlighted the following two very important points:

– The current verdicts apply only to the version of the contracts that were presented at the time of issuance of the verdict as well as the manner of execution of the contract. This makes sense as such contacts are often edited and updated.
– AMJA requested more clarification from some of the below mentioned companies with regards to their relationship with federal financing institutions such as Freddie Mac and others. However a detailed clarification was not received.

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contract is sound in general. However, it contains some Shari'ah violations with respect to maintenance, taxes and insurance, as these expenses are not distributed in a just manner according to percentage of ownership.

The ruling of the RFC Committee concerning Guidance Residential is that it is permissible to deal with them in the face of need. The representatives of this company are advised to review those defective portions of their contract.

Ameen Housing:

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contracts are not sold to the federal institutions [such as Freddie Mac]. They also avoid explicit interest in their transactions. However, their contract does contain some Shariah objections glitches, such as unfairness in the percentage that they discount in the rent to take care of basic maintenance, expenses that be more or less than that discounted amount. Additionally, they have just introduced a late payment fee [which is another violation of Shariah principles].

The ruling of the RFC Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this company in case of need, although one should do one's best to make one's payments on time in order to avoid the late payment fee. The Committee also encourages the company to abstain from those aspects pointed out by the Committee.

Devon Bank:

This company has two types of Islamic contracts:

The first contract is Murabahah a cost-plus purchase. This contract is surrounded by doubts concerning whether the bank truly owns the property before it is readied for sale. In addition, this contract also contains some defective or problematic conditions or aspects of great unfairness, such as with respect to (a) the bank having exclusive benefits from insurance payouts while requiring the purchaser to pay for the insurance, (b) the bank's right to freeze the purchaser's account simply on the suspicion that he will not be able to make his payments, (c) the bank's right to declare the purchaser in default if he does not use the property as a residence or due to his death although heirs have the right to continue the contract after his death, in fact the cost-plus purchase contract states that the heirs are bound by the contract.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [Murabahah contract of] this company in the presence of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee advises the Bank to correct these aspects and to affirm the ownership of the property before selling it and to avoid the other invalid conditions as much as possible.

The second contract is a rent to own contract. This also contains a number of Shariah violations and invalid conditions, including having two different contracts (sale and lease) at one time, about one item during one time period. Various Fiqh councils have ruled that this model is not permissible as the legal effects of the two types of contracts are contradictory. This may be corrected by separating the two contracts by making them independent of each other time-wise, such that the sale contract is done after the lease contract, which must be a true lease and not something meant to simply hide the sale. Or, they [may replace the sale] with a promise of handing over ownership at the end of the lease.

From among the defective or void stipulations that this contract embodies are the fact that the bank can evict the lessee upon default but the bank still holds him responsible for the rent until they can find a new renter, the fact that the bank does not pay for the basic maintenance of the property and the fact that the lessee is required to pay insurance while the bank retains the right of any payments from the insurance, allowing the bank to benefit while the lessee bears the cost.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [rent to own contract of this] company when one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee emphasizes its recommendation to the bank to rectify the current model by separating between the two contracts and avoiding the defective or void stipulations as much as possible.

University Islamic Financial (UIF)

The same comments concerning their cost-plus model and lease-to-own models as were stated concerning Devon Bank can be repeated here. Thus, their models have the same rulings and the Committee offers them the same advice. There is an exemption to deal with this company only if one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor.

Ijara Loan:

This company starts by directing the purchaser to get a standard interest-based [mortgage] loan and then creates a trust with the purchaser a partner in the trust, in order to borrow from the bank and then get ownership of the property. After that, the trust will sell the house to the purchaser with a rent-to-own contract. The purchaser is alone in getting the interest-based loan at the beginning and then shares in it at the end.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.

LaRiba:

The contract of this company does not differ from a traditional mortgage that interest-based banks provide. This is the overriding contract between this company and the purchaser and what they present as an Islamic form to it actually has no existence in reality and has no legal authority in case of dispute.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.

In Conclusion

As one of the fortunate individuals who witnessed this journey of how this resolution transpired,  I have come to appreciate the amount of work it takes to build these contracts. It was inspiring for me to see that even though our scholars disagree with each other, they show respect and honor to each other. Observing scholars debate over some of the most detailed aspects of these contracts assured me that our Muslim faith is in good hands. It assured me that Allah has blessed us with scholars who differ in opinion but are united in their quest for the truth. I ask Allah to have mercy on our scholars, to cover and forgive their sins, and to make them amongst the people of paradise.

Ameen.

 

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The Invitation http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/15/the-invitation/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/15/the-invitation/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 04:00:23 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55451 By Umm Zakiyyah a short story PART ONE   I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my third-floor apartment window. It was all I could do to steady my trembling and think of something besides the torn envelope and embossed card next to me on the crumpled sheet of […]

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By Umm Zakiyyah

a short story

PART ONE

 

I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my third-floor apartment window. It was all I could do to steady my trembling and think of something besides the torn envelope and embossed card next to me on the crumpled sheet of my bed.

I was upset. I knew that much. But there was something deeper knifing at my heart.

Your attendance is requested at the wedding celebration of

I gritted my teeth until my jaws hurt.

Betrayal. The feeling sliced through me so suddenly that for a moment I stopped shaking.

 

Fourteen Years Before

Life as I knew it ended a week after my ninth birthday. It was late May, right when a month of school felt like a year, and the days dragged on until the desire for summer drove everyone, even the teachers, to a mixture of madness and dejection. Schoolwork was no longer displayed on classroom walls. Decorations were slowly and surreptitiously removed from bulletin boards, and the hall monitors turned a blind eye to students lingering in the corridors without a pass. And even failing students held a flicker of optimism because teachers no longer had the energy or concern to hold students back.

Later, I'd find myself wondering if my life would have turned out differently had my mother's energy or concern for my future mirrored the pity teachers had for hopeless students…

I came home aggravated as usual. I was tired of the rushed homework assignments that I had to cram into my schedule every night because yet another teacher wanted to finish the book before the year ended.

“Faith! Is that you?”

I threw my backpack on the tiled floor of the foyer and groaned as I shut the front door. Who else would it be? “Yeah, Mom!” I yelled back.

“Come here, sweetie.”

I groaned. I already knew something was wrong because my mother never called me “sweetie” unless there was bad news or she wanted me to do something I loathed, like clean the bathroom.

“Mo-om,” I whined before I even dragged myself into the den, where I was certain she was sitting in front of some stupid soap opera.

I was surprised to find her on the couch in front of a darkened television screen. She forced a smile when I entered, and I saw the thinly veiled sadness on her face. I kept my arms folded, and my face twisted only because it didn't make sense to change my stance or soften my pout. But I sensed my mom was trying to cheer me up to lighten the blow, and that's when a sick feeling came over me and I knew something was wrong. As awkward as it sounds, this was the first moment I actually saw my mother, I mean really saw her.

In retrospect, I should have known. I know I was only nine, but really, let's be frank here. My mom was a fiery redhead with blue eyes, and my dad, who shared my mom's eye color, was so blond that he was often mistaken for an albino. And they both shared that pale, colorless complexion that the sun blotched instead of tanned, not to mention their straight, limp hair that wouldn't curl even when it grew long. I, on the other hand, had dark brown eyes, kinky black hair that only braids and thick ponytail holders could keep in place. And my skin looked like latte with a generous portion of milk.

Yet stupidly, I'd thought nothing of how my playmate and neighbor, Paula, was often mistaken for my parents' daughter and I her best friend, instead of the other way around. It was something we'd laugh about. But in that moment before my mother spoke aloud what I should have known all along, I saw my parents for who they were: two middle-aged, White people who had everything they could want in life, except the hope of ever having a child of their own…

 

Five Years Before

“I'm so happy for you!” Paula squealed as she drew me into a brief hug as I stepped into the foyer of her parents' home. I wore a smug grin as I shrugged off my coat and stepped out of my muddy boots. I usually didn't bother taking off my shoes when I visited, but I didn't want to soil the plush carpet.

“But are you sure?” Paula said, drawing her eyebrows together as she regarded me.

I looped my arm through hers as we walked toward the stairs leading to her bedroom. “Mm hm,” I said, giddy as a kid who'd won a trip to Disney World. “Positive.”

“Oh my God,” she said as she hurried up the stairs, almost dragging me beside her. “You have to tell me everything! How are they?”

I laughed as she ushered me into her room and closed the door. “I don't know yet…” A tightness formed in my throat, and a twinge of sadness weakened me. What if my birth parents didn't want to meet me? Just because I was eighteen now and had a right to find them without my adopted parents knowing didn't mean my birth parents would want me to find them. But I had found them. Or at least the agency I'd paid with the money from my part-time job at the mall had found them. Now it was just a matter of waiting to see if they wanted to be found.

“But John is really supportive,” I offered, a smile plastered on my face as I sat down on the edge of her bed.

“That's good.” Paula's tone was distracted as she sat beside me, one leg folded between us. I hated the way she acted whenever I mentioned my boyfriend. He was the first boy I met that I really connected with, and although I'd only known him for a few months, I really felt like he was “the one.” I'd never felt like that with anyone else. Why couldn't she be happy for me? She knew how much anxiety I usually felt around guys. That's why I was still a virgin while most of my classmates debated whether or not “respectable girls” could have one-night stands.

Paula herself would often tease me about being so “compulsive” about intimacy with the opposite sex. She went through boyfriends like most girls went through lipstick. In a way, I envied her. I wanted to feel that freedom with myself and my body, but I just couldn't. Paula had all these radical ideas about feminism and women opposing patriarchal oppression, especially with regards to the female body, and to be honest, it sounded really convincing. But it just wasn't me. I wasn't sure if I was backwards or just old-fashioned. But if I gave myself to someone, it would have to be someone special, someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And I was beginning to feel like John was that person…

“I'm sorry, Faith,” Paula said with a sigh. “I'm really happy for you and John. It's just…” Her voice trailed as her eyes stared at something beyond my head. “…I wish I could find someone too.”

 

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The Role of a Step-Parent http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/14/the-role-of-a-step-parent/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/14/the-role-of-a-step-parent/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 04:00:47 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55444 By Olivia Mounet   How do you define yourself? A Muslim? A student? A brother or sister? Daughter or son? Mother or father? Typically how we define ourselves is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we rarely take the time to think about who we are and what defines us. However, if you were to […]

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By Olivia Mounet

 

How do you define yourself?

A Muslim? A student? A brother or sister? Daughter or son? Mother or father? Typically how we define ourselves is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we rarely take the time to think about who we are and what defines us. However, if you were to take a few moments to really think about what roles are important to you and where you fit in within these relationships, you'll realize just how important they are to you. If we dig a little deeper within ourselves we'll also realize that each of these relationships and definitions have key factors. For example, if you are an older sibling like myself, you might think of being an older sibling as being protective and caring of your younger brother or sister and your role in that relationship is clearly defined. The same goes for if you are a husband or a wife. Not every marriage is the same but we are aware of what we do within each of these relationships and what our responsibilities are.

 

The role of a mother

In the Hadith of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) we are taught: “Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother” (Ahmad, Nasai). We are also taught that we should obey and respect our mothers and take care of them as they age: “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood'” (17:23-24).

If you are a mother, then you know how much you would give up just to see your child grow to be happy and healthy and to be a loyal servant of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). If you are not a mother, you can surely think of something your mother did to help you, regardless of how close you are to her or the type of relationship you have with her. This mother-child relationship is clearly defined both in our own minds and in the beauty of the Qur'an.

 

The role of a step-parent

However, what about step-parents? How can one define this role? After much thought and internal struggle the only way I can define my personal role as a step-parent is: CHALLENGING. Now this isn't to say that being a biological parent is easy by any means, but the challenges are different. As a step-parent the hardest thing to accept is that, no matter how much you love your spouse's child, they aren't your own and therefore the rules are different for you whether you like it or not.

First let me take the most “ideal” situation for step-parents: you've married your spouse who has an infant child from a previous marriage and his or her ex-spouse is 100% out of the picture and your spouse views you as his or her child's mother. The child grows up viewing you as his or her rightful mother with all powers and responsibilities bestowed upon you as a mother and everyone lives happily ever after. This situation almost never happens.

Here's what really happens: you fall in love with your spouse for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and you convince yourself that it can't be that hard to take care of his or her child since at some point in life you want children of your own, (and you've taken care of your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.) so how hard can it be? Oh and that ex-spouse? Well he or she will move on and we'll all be friends and everything will be wonderful. Then, you and your spouse get married and you've spent lots of time with the child or children and insha'Allah they have accepted you into their family either because they are too young to understand what's happening or you've spent painstaking hours explaining to them that you could never replace their mother/father, even though very deep down within yourself, that's exactly what you want to do but you refuse to admit that to yourself.

Typically, at least within the western world, the child lives primarily with one parent while the other has visitation every other week or so. That means, that as a step-parent, one week it's just you and your spouse living as a couple, and then the next week you're a mother or father… kind of. And then the next week you're not. And so on for the next 18 years of your life.

 

The different relationships that a step-parent is face with

Now while mothers have that 1 relationship with their child, a stepmother or stepfather has 3 relationships to worry about: their relationship with the child, their relationship with their spouse regarding the child, and their relationship with their spouse's ex-husband or ex-wife.

  1. Relationship with the child

I'll start with the relationship with the child, which for me was the easiest. My husband's child was only 1 year old when we got married (he's almost 3 now alhamdulilah). This relationship was the easiest because I learned to love him quite quickly and he was too young to really understand why suddenly he has “2 mommies.” The key word here is I “LEARNED” to love him. As much as I wish I could say “and then I looked in his eyes and that unconditional love took over me,” I can't. I did not create this baby with my husband, I did not carry him for 9 months, I did not give birth to him, and I had not been around to see his first year of life. Furthermore, as much as I hated myself for thinking it, I really did not like having him around at first because he was a constant reminder that my husband had wanted to have him with someone else. These feelings continued for quite some time until the child began calling for me. Suddenly I was the only one who could put him to bed, make his food, or give him a bath. He didn't want his daddy to do it, he wanted me… his stepmother to do it. That's when I fell in love. When he needed me like a mother, I felt like a mother and suddenly things weren't as difficult. I knew my role with him and I could define it to myself and I stopped introducing him to people as “my husband's son” and started introducing him as “my stepson.”

  1. Relationship with your spouse

The second relationship you have as a step-parent is the one you have with your spouse regarding the child. This is very different to the relationship you have with your spouse as a husband or a wife. The hardest aspect of this relationship is trying to figure out how your spouse wants you to act toward their child. Alhamdulillah my husband was more than willing to step aside and let me handle bed time, meal time, and bath time, and let me take the child out by myself, or stay alone in the house with him. In time he even let me discipline his son when he was having a tantrum, as most 2 year olds do. However, this is not the case for many stepmommies or stepdaddies. A type of power struggle typically evolves as a result of this complicated relationship. Some parents don't want their spouse to discipline their child or take over certain roles because they feel they are being pushed out. A normal human response to losing control is to fight back and try to take control of everything. It is not unusual for spouses to fight over their roles in the child's life and for the biological mother or father to tell the step-parent that it's “not their job to do that” when it comes to a responsibility they feel is rightfully theirs as the biological parent. In this situation typically the step-parent will withdraw completely and want nothing to do with the child because they don't want to upset their spouse. In addition, it's mentally exhausting and emotionally draining to check yourself at every step and have to wonder “is this my responsibility or my husband's/wife's?” There is no outlined way in any psychology book or therapy manual to tell you how to resolve this issue. It normally takes an inordinate amount of patience from both sides and strong communication skills in order to overcome this challenge.

  1. Relationship with spouse's ex

The third and final relationship you have as a step-parent is your relationship with your spouse's ex-husband or ex-wife. This can either be the most frustrating, enraging, and downright painful relationship you'll ever have, or it'll be the easiest. If, on the rare occasion, the divorce was amicable and both parties accepted that the relationship between them did not work and have both moved on and accepted that each will most likely remarry and their child will have two mothers and two fathers, then this relationship for the step-parents is relatively simple. However, more likely than not, the divorce was not pleasant for either party and some hostile feelings remain. Since both parties are normally told by family and friends to ignore each other and just move on with their lives, those hostile feelings need to come down on someone. So why not the person that your ex-spouse marries and is trying to “move in on your child?” It's easy to understand the logic behind it: they're resentful of the fact that they will always be tied to the one person they don't want to remember, they're angry that their ex has moved on which makes them feel replaced, they don't have the typical nuclear family and often get uncomfortable or even rude comments from others in the community, and their child is calling someone else mama or dada. I can't say that I would feel or act any differently if the roles were reversed.

However, that justification gives little solace to step-parents. Typically in our lives if there is someone we don't particularly care for, we can keep him or her at a distance and limit communication with them. This doesn't work in this scenario. The person that is taking their frustrations out on you is the mother or father of your stepchild for whom you care very deeply. In turn, you have to accept that the child loves this individual and you cannot let your own personal feelings for their mom or dad show in front of them. Furthermore, this ex-spouse is a constant, never-ending reminder that the man or woman you married and love did not choose you first. You are second. You might be the “right one” but you will never be the “first one.” You'll never be his or her first spouse or first mother or father of their child. Never. And their ex-spouse will always be there, either through that 6am angry text message or at pick-ups and drop-offs or when your spouse has to make that direct deposit into their ex's bank account for child support. They will never go away and you just have to accept it.

 

Other challenges

Besides these 3 relationships you'll have as a step-parent, there's a whole host of other challenges. What do your parents say about you marrying someone who already has children? What does the community think? How do you comfort your spouse when they have to drop-off their child every other week to their ex-wife or ex-husband and they don't realize that it hurts you just as much? What do you say when someone asks you if you have children? What do you do when you disagree with something that the child's parents have decided to do? How do you reconcile having absolutely no legal authority over a child that you consider to be your own? How do you define being a step-parent?

The hardest part for me about being a step-parent is that no matter how much I love my stepson, no matter how supportive my husband is, and no matter how well I control my feelings towards his ex-wife, I will always have to put “step” before “parent” and that will never get any easier. I make du'a for all the step-parents out there that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes it easier for you and that you achieve Jannah for everything you go through and everything you sacrifice as a step-parent. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) bless all the stepmoms and stepdads out there who work twice as hard for half the credit. Take solace in pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and turn to Him when it get's too hard.

If Allah helps you, none can overcome you; and if He forsakes you, who is there after Him that can help you? And in Allah (Alone) let believers put their trust. (Qur'an, Surah Aal-e-Imran, 3:160)

 

Olivia Mounet spent her early childhood in Scotland and then London before moving to the United States. Upon graduating high school she moved to Germany where she completed her Bachelors degree in Integrated Social and Cognitive Psychology. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology for Children and Adolescence as well as her Certification in School Psychology. Upon graduating she is planning to work as a School Psychologist to assist students with learning disabilities. She currently works with The Building Blocks of NJ, a non-profit agency, to provide one-on-one counseling with sisters in the area.

 

 

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So You Want To Go To Medical School? Demystifying the Journey http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/13/so-you-want-medical-school-demystifying-the-journey/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/13/so-you-want-medical-school-demystifying-the-journey/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:28:35 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55420 By: Uzair Sarmast and Eman Rashed   This article is the first in a series intended to provide guidance to those who are interested in fulfilling every uncle and auntie's dream; namely, becoming a doctor. (that was a joke) Before we begin we feel it is important to remind you to honestly decide if medicine […]

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By: Uzair Sarmast and Eman Rashed

 

This article is the first in a series intended to provide guidance to those who are interested in fulfilling every uncle and auntie's dream; namely, becoming a doctor. (that was a joke)

Before we begin we feel it is important to remind you to honestly decide if medicine is the right career for you (not your parents).  If you're already decided, then that's great. However, if you're on the fence, remember to carefully weigh the challenges of the career, namely the longevity of training, countless hours of work/studying, and the personal sacrifices that inevitably accompany such an undertaking, with the pros: the self-satisfaction of helping and treating people, working in a riveting and exciting career, etc. These aspects will all be addressed in detail in future articles.  For now, view this article as a road map clarifying all the major stops of the journey. Of course, there are multiple ways to get to each destination, each of which possess their own validity and will also be addressed subsequently in the series.

Additionally, it is our hope that this series will inspire people in other fields to write similar guides for their respective professions.  By serving as mentors for our communities, insha'Allah we can help people pursue fields that they will enjoy, and ultimately excel in, for it is rather difficult to excel in something you do not enjoy.

Road Map

4 years undergraduate/premed

4 years medical school

3-7 years residency

1-3 years fellowship (may or may not be required)

11-16 years of education/training

Undergraduate/Pre-med

(4 years)

You often hear people saying, “I'm doing pre-med,” or, “My son/daughter is pre-med.”  What exactly is “pre-med?”  Pre-med in the simplest sense refers to a group of courses (i.e. Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and their respective labs) that are pre-requisites for preparing for the MCAT, and for entering medical school.  “Pre-med” isn't a degree, nor does it mean you have been accepted to medical school.

While many students planning/hoping to attend medical school will often major in a science related field (i.e. Biology), by no means is it a requirement.  You can major in any field you desire (i.e. business, humanities, etc), and still get in and excel in medical school.  It is essential that you maintain a competitive GPA, which would be greater than a 3.6 (based on the schools you are applying to it may be higher). Keep that in mind as you choose your major and select courses. Your ability to excel in undergraduate classes will be used as a barometer of your future performance in medical school.

MCAT

MCAT stands for Medical College Admissions Test. Depending on your timeline of application, the MCAT can be taken whenever you complete your required prerequisite pre-med classes. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the MCAT is, “a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.” [i]

The MCAT, in addition to other factors which we'll discuss elsewhere, is an integral part of your medical school application.  Generally speaking, like any admissions test, a higher MCAT score will garner your application higher consideration.  In fact, there are certain scores below which some schools may not even review your application.

You can learn more about the MCAT (and its changes for 2015) here: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/

Medical School

(4 years)

Medical school is a 4-year program which consists of 2 years of coursework (“basic sciences”), and subsequently 2 years of clinical rotations (“rotations,” “clinicals,” or “clerkships”).  The basic sciences curriculum is a rigorous study of Anatomy, Histology, Biochemistry, Immunology, Physiology, Microbiology, Behavioral Sciences, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Genetics.  After the completion of these courses, you will then take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1).

The next two years of medical school will be comprised of clinical rotations which include Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Surgery, as well as elective rotations in specialties which you are interested in learning more about or are considering pursuing beyond medical school.  After completing the aforementioned core rotations, you will take the USMLE Step 2, usually in your fourth year of medical school. Clinical rotations are designed to introduce you to the practical application of the basic sciences knowledge which you learned during the first two years.  Completing rotations, however, does not make one proficient in the practice of medicine; that is part of the next stage.  By your fourth year will have selected a specialty and will spend the majority of fourth year taking electives in your chosen field. You will complete a 1 month Acting Internship where you will act as an Intern in the field you have chosen and will be afforded more responsibility and entrusted with more patient care matters. During the first half of your fourth year, you will focus on collecting letters of recommendation, writing a personal statement, and applying/interviewing for your residency of choice.

Residency

(length varies by specialty; generally 3-7 years)

While medical school provides a general overview of medical theory and a limited experience in its clinical application, residency provides in-depth training in a specific specialty (i.e. Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, etc) with extensive experience in the practice of medicine in a hospital and/or outpatient clinic setting.  You can think of residency like “on-the-job training.”

Residency is by no means guaranteed; rather it requires a dedicated application/interviewing process (“the match”), a large part of which is dependent upon your medical school performance and USMLE performance. Your letters of recommendation and any research experience you may have will also play a role in the selection process. Programs that are interested in you as a potential resident at their program will select you for an interview. Many desirable specialties are among the most competitive to get into, therefore, simply your desire to pursue a certain specialty will not be sufficient if your academic performance does not meet the field's standards.

View a complete list of specialties & sub-specialties here: https://www.aamc.org/cim/specialty/list/us/

Fellowship

(length varies by program; generally 1-3 years)

Fellowship is additional, optional training (on-the-job) to further specialize within a specialty (i.e. sub-specialize).  You will focus on becoming particularly knowledgeable/experienced in a specific aspect of your specialty.  For example, a Cardiology fellow trains in matters of the heart.  Or a Neuroradiology fellow trains in advanced imaging/procedures related to the nervous system.

Similar to medical school and residency, fellowship also requires an application process and is reserved for qualified candidates.

 

That brings us to the conclusion of this overview article outlining the stages of becoming a physician.  In subsequent articles, we will discuss each stage in detail, such as specifics with regards to MCAT & USMLE preparation/scores, extracurricular activities, research, away rotations, interviewing, and more.

In the meantime, we invite you to speak with someone who's already gotten into or completed medical school, residency, or fellowship through IMANA Connect, a free community mentorship initiative under the Islamic Medical Association of North America.  If you're anywhere along this journey and would like to help guide others, I encourage you to register as a mentor.

 


 

Uzair works with the IMANA Student/Resident Committee and is someone who believes in sharing resources to empower one another. In his words, “Given the plethora of healthcare professionals in our community, not a single person should have to stumble around in the dark on their journey to a career in medicine. No matter what your situation is, there's someone who's already been there, done that, and can guide you.” This belief is what inspired the development of IMANA Connect.

[i] https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/about/

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MuslimKidsMatter | In Sacrifice is Abundance http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/12/muslimkidsmatter-in-sacrifice-is-abundance/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/12/muslimkidsmatter-in-sacrifice-is-abundance/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 11:46:37 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55416 by Sheikh Rehmatullah Sacrifice is a motif for many people in this world. It is recurrent, an almost indispensable part of their lives in which progress is preceded and many times succeeded by sacrificing things that one holds closely to the heart. A father quelling dreams in favor of his child is common, as is […]

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by Sheikh Rehmatullah

Sacrifice is a motif for many people in this world. It is recurrent, an almost indispensable part of their lives in which progress is preceded and many times succeeded by sacrificing things that one holds closely to the heart. A father quelling dreams in favor of his child is common, as is the selfless sacrifice of a mother who goes through the 9 month ordeal to deliver a new life.

While pursuing education in one's land is difficult, more difficult is the choice of leaving the comforts of a house. The knowledge of benefits is not hidden, but the fruits are still not ripe for a mind to comprehend. The benefits of a sacrifice are the fruits, but only the best of men have the courage to sow the seeds.

Verily, one of the best of those men was Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He did not agree to sacrifice seeking the material benefit of a fruit, rather he was the obedient creation who did what was asked of him by his creator. His agreeing to give up Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) at the command of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is one of the greatest testaments to the literal test of faith – submission to the Almighty.

It was not a test that merely entailed trivial jubilation from the father, but the eventual slaughter of a sheep in place of Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is where the blessing for the whole Ummah lies – the celebration of Eid al-Adha, which recently came upon us.

In sacrifice there has been abundance, not just for the valiant father and son in Islam, but for every Muslim who testifies the Shahadah and takes cognizance of its meaning in full. Very few of us on even fewer occasions understand the context and story behind the feast that fills our dining tables on the blessed day of Eid.

It is not something to be ashamed of anymore if we stop for a moment and try to understand the stories of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the ones who came before and after him. It's certainly not embarrassing if we devour delicious Eid meals until our hands have extended out to the poor with the meat of sacrificed animal.

MKM YELLOW

The first 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijjah have been blessed. The events that fill these days are witnessed by the entire world, the most significant of them being the pilgrimage of Hajj. The pilgrimage is not a sacrifice any less. Many Muslims wait for their turn in for years and often save every penny from scratch to finance this journey to Mecca. The sacrifice of hair is just one of them in the wider scheme of sacrifices – leaving the comforts of their abodes, the luxuries of personal life to interact with the communal congregation and sacrificing the certainties of travel for a greater journey of the spirit and heart.

Yet, this too is not a sacrifice in vain. It is a sacrifice that adds another pillar to one's faith, that propels the believer to the soil of Madinah and the hills of Arafat so that his prayers are responded to, that transports him to the largest congregation in this world where the rich and poor brush against each other to defeat the devil of racial differences. In this sacrifice, as we see again, is abundance.

While the Hujaaj sweat it out in Mecca for the eternal musk of blessings, we too did our part even from the comforts of our homes. Increasing our remembrance of Allah [SWT] through dhikr, recitation of the Qur'an and fasting on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah were a few of the sacrifices we attempted to make. Another method was offering the Tahajjud prayer in the depths of the night.

While we made the lesser sacrifice of sleep to prostrate to our creator, we hoped to seek a fraction of the blessing that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) received that night. That night, when he woke up from sleep to sacrifice something far more beloved than sleep, that night when Allah willed something else to be sacrificed so that in it we find our abundance.

Beyond the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, we should continue to turn to Allah through sacrifice in abundance.

 (Attention, writers!  Muslim Kids Matter is a regular feature at Muslim Matters.  New articles for kids are posted every other Sunday.  You're welcome to send in your entries to muslimkidsmatter@muslimmatters.org.)

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Beautiful Child by Shahroz http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/09/beautiful-child-by-shahroz/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/09/beautiful-child-by-shahroz/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 00:42:15 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55400 A new spoken word piece by Shahroz Beautiful child, beautiful child Whoever told you that you weren't beautiful is a liar Every man and woman judges you, putting you on trial it's wild, you're just a girl and they're treating you so foul Man, i'm sick of this society blinding our eyes entirely modifying our […]

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A new spoken word piece by Shahroz

Beautiful child, beautiful child
Whoever told you that you weren't beautiful is a liar
Every man and woman judges you, putting you on trial
it's wild, you're just a girl and they're treating you so foul
Man, i'm sick of this society blinding our eyes entirely
modifying our women – a plastic, silicone, irony
We say we hate the fakeness, but that's what we're steady chasing
Yeah we started from the bottom, and we're still stuck in the basement
I want you to embrace it…you really don't need makeup
Instead you're so worried about the likes on your facebook
And I'm so sorry about the music you have to listen to
Women degrading women, and men are just trying to limit you
They don't care about your mind, only focus on the physical
So please tell me how they're a role model to the youth?
Self-esteem shattered cuz we don't care about what matters
Now she's taking off her clothes on instagram just to matter
It's so sad and pitiful, we made this world cynical
Somehow we wore a lens that made everything sexual
Bridge:
(Hey) Beautiful child, don't cry
I'll make everything alright (2x)
We took our boys and we stripped them of their innocence
All they watch is a bunch of vivid pornographic images
And that's how they really think a woman is
so they stay getting it, until it boosts their male ego to the infinite
Let me pause right there and just say: Thats not what makes you a man!
Please understand, we are not animals without a conscience
You have hearts and minds that can stop you from being monsters
Corporations are pushing products, where the body is just an object
I blame the consumer more for purchasing without a problem
It isn't hard to change your heart, inspire people all around you
and if they think there's something wrong with that…they don't belong around you
Now back to you child, don't ever let anyone tell you you're not beautiful
Outer appearance is just a mere part of an individual
Focus on your character, be a symbol of kindness and compassion
And if they love you for that, then that's what really matters
You don't have to live up to any pressure to look a certain way
So look in the mirror, smile, and everything will be okay

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Bill Maher, the Mother Lode of Lies http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/09/bill-maher-the-mother-lode-of-lies/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/09/bill-maher-the-mother-lode-of-lies/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:38:45 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55366 Bill Maher is once again on his tirade against Muslims. For a standup comedian who's made a living out of mocking all things sacred, it's hard to understand why anyone would believe the misinformation he spreads. His vitriol against Muslims and Islam are well-known; he has declared quite openly that he's alarmed with a growing Muslim […]

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Bill Maher is once again on his tirade against Muslims. For a standup comedian who's made a living out of mocking all things sacred, it's hard to understand why anyone would believe the misinformation he spreads. His vitriol against Muslims and Islam are well-known; he has declared quite openly that he's alarmed with a growing Muslim population in the West and fears a 'take over by Islam'.

Maher pretends that he's labeled as a racist for being a simple critic of Islam. Any honest observer, however, would recognize that he has a clear track record of launching baseless attacks on Muslims. He does this repeatedly by misconstruing facts, making unsubstantiated claims and cherry picking radical interpretations that support his pre-conceived notions of the faith.  Couple this with his condescending attitude and vile speech and you've got yourself a text book case of bigotry.

Take for example, his recent claim that 'vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person'. Maher makes these profoundly inaccurate and unsupported statements and passes them as facts on national television with no consequences.  This isn't mere criticism – it is a clear attempt to incite xenophobic sentiment with the intended goal of demonizing Muslims.

Maher often states there are 'polls' and 'research' to support his view that large swaths of Muslims are a violent and intolerant people – it's not just a few bad apples he argues. Actual research, however, has repeatedly shown that Muslims overwhelmingly reject violence; in fact they are more likely to oppose violence than other religious groups. As for religious freedom, Muslims yet again show near perfect support for it.

Another example of Maher's flagrant misconstruction of facts was on the recent flare up with Ben Affleck on his show. He again tries to give us the impression that Muslims are largely an uncivilized people by quoting a Pew poll which supposedly states that 90% of Egyptians support the death penalty for leaving Islam. The Pew poll he's referring to is most likely the 2013 edition- and he forgot to mention one important piece of information: the poll offers no direct statistics on Muslims who support capital punishment for apostasy.

Instead, the poll offers statistics on people who support such apostasy laws as a percentage of those who support the adoption of Shariah as the official law of their country. It excludes Muslims who prefer to restrict the Shariah to the private sphere, who are opposed to the idea of a theocratic state or those that don't have strong views on the subject. As a result, the numbers are misleading since the sample population for the survey doesn't represent the total population. When this is taken to account through extrapolation, the poll actually indicates that as a whole, most Muslims oppose penal codes for apostasy – something Ben Affleck deduced from common sense.

Bill Maher quotes the disproportionally high numbers for Egypt that stand out from the survey – as if the country represents the entire Muslims world. In fact, the numbers he mentions are completely wrong since the poll never offers figures for the country's complete population. Even if they were to be extrapolated (which introduces an error), the support would be at 64% – not the 90% he so forcefully claimed.

Maher also fails to mention the significant disparity Egypt has with other Muslim majority countries on this issue: Indonesia (13%), Lebanon (13%), Tunisia (16%) and Turkey (2%). Why single out Egypt and not mention the world's largest Muslims country, Indonesia? Clearly, Bill has an agenda to make overarching simplifications about Muslims that are rooted in nothing but misinformation.

As an aside, an important question to consider is that why it's only Muslims who seemed to be polled on such controversial questions? What would the stats be if similar question were posed to Israeli Jews, Christian Arabs, Indian Hindus, Catholic Filipinos and American evangelicals? If you ask questions outlandish enough to any population, there's bound to be support for it from a particular segment. More importantly, to what extent can we use polls to understand a population on such matters? These are important questions to consider.

Despite the contextualization I've offered to Bill Maher's lunacy, one would argue that sizable Muslim minorities still support apostasy laws and this doesn't explain the main grievance. I think that's a fair point and agree that the contentious issue of these penal codes still needs addressing by Muslim scholarship. How is traditional Muslim governance to adapt to the modern nation-state? What is the relevance of exacting classical penal codes when they are unable to uphold justice and their implementation leads to more harm than good?

Muslims are working through these issues and these need to be addressed from within; Tariq Ramadan's moratorium call is an example of this. There's no denying that the Muslims world is facing a multitude of problems, but mocking these from a Hollywood studio is not going to get us anywhere, unfortunately.

Bill Maher has no interest in actually understanding problems or offering solutions – he's an entertainer, and bashing Islam makes for very good entertainment. His formula is to take problems from one part of the Islamic world (or concoct them), exaggerate them greatly and then use it to dehumanize the global Muslim population. He caricatures an entire people with brush strokes of prejudice, using the ink of intolerance and his canvass of hypocrisy.

And his solution to problems of the Muslim world: abandon your faith, adopt sexual promiscuity and you'll be liberated. Clearly, Maher is a professional jester – it's a good trade for him, and he should stick with it.

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The Top Ten Mistakes Potential Home-buyers Make When Purchasing A Home http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/07/the-top-ten-mistakes-potential-home-buyers-make-when-purchasing-a-home/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/07/the-top-ten-mistakes-potential-home-buyers-make-when-purchasing-a-home/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 16:05:17 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55349 For most people, purchasing a home is the largest financial transaction that they'll ever make. The purchase decision is without a doubt, one that must be made with careful thought and attention to detail. A potential homebuyer has many things to consider when purchasing a home. A Muslim homebuyer has the added concern of finding […]

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For most people, purchasing a home is the largest financial transaction that they'll ever make. The purchase decision is without a doubt, one that must be made with careful thought and attention to detail. A potential homebuyer has many things to consider when purchasing a home. A Muslim homebuyer has the added concern of finding Sharia -Compliant financing. With the help of our Guidance Residential Account Executives, who have decades of experience working in the home-finance and residential real estate industries, we've compiled a list of the top ten mistakes homebuyers tend to make.

Learn more about how 

10. NOT USING A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL

Choosing the right professional for one of the most expensive purchases of your lifetime is essential. With the ease of access to tools like Google and Zillow unfortunately many people think they know it all. Don't fall into this trap! You need to have an expert who has your best interest in mind, since the listing agent is representing the seller(s).

Your real estate agent should be is equipped with all the modern tools and technology, should have the knowledge of the local communities, ability to write proper contracts, negotiate on your behalf and most importantly hold your hand and walk you through every single step of your transaction. A good real estate professional will protect his/her client from potential issues that could arise from appraisals, inspections, and financing contingencies. Your real estate agent's credentials are of utmost importance! It is a good idea to interview a few real estate agents before moving forward with one. Interview questions, such as the following can help you make the best decision for you and your family: 1) How many homes have you sold in the last year 2) How many clients are you currently working with and 3) Where have most of your clients purchased a home.

9. NOT HAVING A PLAN FOR WHERE YOU WANT TO PURCHASE A HOME

When looking for a home, the customer may not be fully aware of the characteristics of different areas. Start making a list of 'Make or Break Deals' for you in a home and those characteristics that are 'Icing on the Cake,' this will help narrow down your search list. Some common factors to consider include: School districts, ease of access, type of home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and Masjids.

When purchasing a home, also consider the expenses associated with the type of home you are purchasing. These expenses may be Homeowner Association Fees (HOA), Condo Fees, and insurance. Also, consider how long you plan on staying in the home because this will make an impact on your return on investment amount. You should ask yourself: “Are home prices in this area rising or declining?” “Do I plan to stay here for 5 or 10 years?” If you plan on residing in your home for a significant amount of time, consider improvements that are being made near your neighborhood, i.e. new developments or a new metro being built. These will (usually) positively impact your home value when you sell your home.

If you aren't familiar with where you want to buy, we recommend asking your local real estate agent to show you 5-7 properties in different neighborhoods so you can familiarize yourself with the kind of house your money can buy in different areas, you can then start narrowing down your search.

8. NOT KNOWING THE HOME'S PROPERTY TAXES

Don't forget about your real estate taxes! Property taxes can be a big game changer for a potential home buyers ability to qualify for financing. Even if you plan on paying your taxes separately from your mortgage, your monthly taxes will still be taken into consideration when you are applying for financing. Make sure to ask about the home's property taxes early on in the process!

7. NOT ORDERING A HOME INSPECTION

Some homebuyers tend to think that a home inspection is the same thing as an appraisal, and decide to skip out on ordering a home inspection. They are 2 different reports with 2 different purposes. The purpose of the appraisal is to give a market valuation of the home, while the purpose of a home inspection is to find out if there are any, hidden or apparent, defects in the home. Make sure to hire a licensed and reputable inspector who will explain things while going through the inspection!

6. NOT RENEGOTIATING AFTER A LOW APPRAISAL

It is vital that your purchase contract has an appraisal contingency clause that will allow you to back out of the contract and receive a refund of your earnest money deposit if the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price. It can actually be the cause of renegotiating the sales price and saving you some money! If the difference between the sales price and the appraised value of the home is significant you have strong grounds to argue that the seller of the home is overvaluing the home. If the seller is eager to sell the home then you as a home purchaser would be in a strong position to renegotiate the sales price.

On the flip side, if you and your family love the home and are willing to pay above market value for it, than the appraisal contingency does not have to kill the deal! Keep in mind, in a very competitive market or if you have a large down payment, it isn't uncommon for buyers to waive the appraisal in order to make their offer more competitive.

5. NOT MAKING A SIGNIFICANT DOWN PAYMENT. NOT CONSIDERING THE PROFIT RATE IN SHARIA-COMPLIANT HOME FINANCING

Unless unable to, a potential homebuyer should always try to make a significant down payment. The mark that every homebuyer should aim to reach is 20%. A 20% down payment will give the homebuyer the best rate and give them significant equity right from the start of their mortgage.

On the flip side, you also want to consider the profit rate in Sharia-Compliant Home Financing. Sometimes first time home buyers will want to save up 20% down, but at the expense of a higher profit rate. This ultimately will work against your original purpose of saving money. Consider all your options and speak to your local Guidance Residential specialist to determine the best option for you.

4. HAVING BAD CREDIT

One of the main criteria needed in order to receive any type of financing is to have good credit. Anybody who is thinking about buying a home will have to be mindful of their credit standing as it will play a major role in their qualification. It is important to remember that building credit does not have to be through paying interest. A potential homebuyer can build their credit through applying for secure credit cards, 0% car loans, and making sure bills are always paid on time!

3. NOT SHOWING ENOUGH INCOME ON TAX RETURNS (FOR BUSINESS OWNERS OR SELF-EMPLOYED INDIVIDUALS)

It can be very tempting for business owners or self-employed individuals to claim every expense under the sun in order to lower their taxable income. Unfortunately, that means that there's less money entering their pockets in the form of profits at the end of the year. When applying for financing, your gross income is irrelevant. What banks will consider is your profits, or your net income.

2. NOT KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHARIAH-COMPLIANT AND CONVENTIONAL FINANCING

Finance in general is a field that can seem intimidating and confusing. Unfortunately, financial literacy is not as prevalent in the United States as it should be. The Muslim community, being a part of the broader society is affected by this issue. It is important that you work with a financial institution that you trust, and are aware of all the ramifications of the type of financing that you choose. There are many important differences between Sharia-Compliant or Islamic Financing and conventional financing. The first and most important difference is the fact that Islamic Financing is not based on a system of borrowing and lending. Islamic Financing is nearly always asset-backed financing. Sharia-Compliant Financing can provide protections not available in conventional financing. Learn more here.

1. NOT KNOWING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TYPES OF ISLAMIC FINANCING

Not all Islamic financing options are created equal. When seeking home financing a homebuyer should consider whether the mode of financing they are choosing is non-recourse or allows the financier to take recourse against the homebuyer's personal assets. A potential home buyer also needs to consider whether this form of financing will allow them to refinance or restructure their contract. Another important consideration to make is whether the Islamic financial institution will take any risks along with the homebuyer.

Learn more about how 

Thank you to our contributors: Shabeer S., Omar J., Sami K., Abdessamad M., Salah E., Mohamed H., Riffat L. 

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