MuslimMatters.org http://muslimmatters.org Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life Thu, 30 Oct 2014 04:30:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 This Islamic New Year Pay Off Your House http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/30/islamic-new-year-pay-off-house-debt/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/30/islamic-new-year-pay-off-house-debt/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 04:30:17 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=52138 By imam Tahir Anwar This message is for people who are homeowners and make good money. I've never understood why people don't pay off their homes. I've never understood why people only make the minimum monthly payments, so they are enslaved to the financial institution for the entire period of the loan at times for […]

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By imam Tahir Anwar

This message is for people who are homeowners and make good money.

I've never understood why people don't pay off their homes.
I've never understood why people only make the minimum monthly payments, so they are enslaved to the financial institution for the entire period of the loan at times for 30 years.
I've never understood why some senseless people have barakah-free interest only loans?

The tech industry is an unforgiving industry. Once you reach a certain age, and there are younger people who can replace you at half your cost, you will be out of a job. Over the years, I've witnessed many people lose their homes after periods of unemployment; they lose their well-paying jobs and often cannot find another one. These are people who made good money, but were busy spending it on cars, vacations and God knows what else.

[A few months ago], I spent between Maghrib and Isha with an uncle, who has earned a large amount over the year—on occasion in access of a million dollars annually.
A generous man, who supported his entire family overseas—purchased each of them homes— and assisted widows for many years.
He's been out of a job for over a year, and can't find another. He lives in a large home, which he now must sell. He's having a hard time selling it.
He was in tears, fearing that he would be on the street with his wife and (young) kids.

I reassured him that it would not happen, but honestly I was asking myself: Why didn't he use some of his money to pay off his home that he's lived in for almost 20 years? This way, one of his largest monthly expenses could have been avoided. He could have rented the house and moved into a smaller place, providing him with income in hard times.

This is the story of many people in our communities.

Lynnette Khalfani (The Money Coach) in her book “Zero Debt,” says that: “Debt is the longest-lasting economic curse, the most heinous financial plague, and the least recognized form of modern slavery afflicting Americans (and others around the World) this millennium.”

My advice, let's call it an investment strategy, is at the least, secure your home. This is your best investment, not your 401K, not your stocks and not even your rental properties, if your primary residence isn't paid off. This is a faith-based principle of building wealth.

A small home that you own is far better than a larger home that the bank owns. The peace of mind that accompanies this, especially for your family, is priceless.

Some will point out the tax advantages they enjoy on the interest/profit they pay. However, these advantages often aren't all they are touted to be (if the interest on your mortgage is less than the standard deduction, you aren't even getting an additional tax benefit) and there is always talk in every administration of taking away the home mortgage interest deduction. Plus, imagine the benefits you will enjoy from Allah, when you are debt-free, and for many, interest-free.

I end with 2 du'as that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us.

1) One he taught to Abu Umamah Ansari, who recited it, and said that Allah removed his worry and relieved him of his debt.

“Say, in the morning and evening, '“Allaahumma inni a'oodhu bika min al-hammi wa'l-hazani, wa a'oodhi bika min al-'ajzi wa'l-kasali, wa a'oodhu bika min al-jubni wa'l-bukhli, wa a'oodhi bika min ghalabat il-dayn wa qahri al-rijaal (O Allah, I seek refuge with You from worry and grief, and I seek refuge with You from incapacity and laziness, and I seek refuge with You from cowardice and miserliness, and I seek refuge with You from being heavily in debt and from being overcome by men).”

2) Allahumma ikfini bi halalika 'an haramik, wa aghnini bi fadhlika 'amman siwaak. (O Allah, save me from haram and make the halal sufficient and by your favor, make me free from others)

These words were spoken by Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) when a person expressed a shortfall in his wealth to Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), he said: Shall I not show you what the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught me, even if there is a debt equal to that of a huge mountain, Allah will pay it. Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) then recited this du'a.

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Domestic Violence | Living Islam for Today’s Women http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/30/domestic-violence-living-islam-for-todays-women/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/30/domestic-violence-living-islam-for-todays-women/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 04:00:14 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55680 This video is addressed to women in a domestic abuse situation, especially those who are advised to stay in situation misusing the concept of tawakkul and du'a. Men, who are also facing abusive situations, may also benefit. Domestic Violence: Was Aasiyah ('alayha salam) tolerating martial abuse? Part of a video series on issues related to […]

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This video is addressed to women in a domestic abuse situation, especially those who are advised to stay in situation misusing the concept of tawakkul and du'a. Men, who are also facing abusive situations, may also benefit.

Domestic Violence: Was Aasiyah ('alayha salam) tolerating martial abuse? Part of a video series on issues related to females and teens, presented by Umm Reem, exclusively for MuslimMatters.org.

You may also find the following of interest:

The End to Hitting Women: Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence | imam Abdullah Hasan

Nour Domestic Violence Awareness Week | Abdullah Hasan

Domestic Violence: Why Women Endure?

Unspoken for: The Unheard Victims of Domestic Violence  Part 1

Domestic Violence Series: Protecting Yourself from a Violent or Abusive Spouse

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Ottawa Shootings: Time to Reexamine The Collective Muslim Psyche http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/29/ottawa-shootings-time-to-reexamine-the-collective-muslim-psyche/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/29/ottawa-shootings-time-to-reexamine-the-collective-muslim-psyche/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55608 Canadians are still recovering from the horrific shootings which took place in Parliament Hill last week. There's a lot that can be discussed as we try to make sense of this tragedy; much has already been said: the potential motives of shooter Micheal Zehaf-Bibeau, the growing trend of lone-wolf terrorism, the commendable news coverage by […]

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Canadians are still recovering from the horrific shootings which took place in Parliament Hill last week. There's a lot that can be discussed as we try to make sense of this tragedy; much has already been said: the potential motives of shooter Micheal Zehaf-Bibeau, the growing trend of lone-wolf terrorism, the commendable news coverage by the CBC, the contrast with the attacks in 1984 or the need for better support structures in mosques.  One area which I believe deserves mention is the response of the Muslim community in the wake of these events, and more importantly, the need for reevaluating the reactionary attitude taken by Muslims in such circumstances.

Canadian Muslims went into 'panic mode' soon after the shootings made headlines on news networks. Statements of condemnations were released immediately by all major Muslims organizations ranging from the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) to the Canadian Council of Imams. Friday sermons of the week were dedicated to addressing terrorism across the country and we were told repeatedly to report any 'suspicious' activity. Mosques beefed up security and braced themselves for a backlash; some Muslims felt too embarrassed and fearful to face fellow Canadians the next day.

All this took place at a time when we had little information about Bibeau; early reports weren't even clear on whether the shooter was Muslim, some alleged he was a recent convert.  A clearer picture later emerged of a deeply troubled man with serious mental issues, a drug-addiction and a well developed criminal history. So unstable was his state that his mother suspects this rampage could have been him lashing out at the government for delaying to issue his passport for travel to Saudi Arabia – not Syria, as earlier reports claimed.

It was also found that Bibeau had no links to ISIS or other organized militants – he was a lone-wolf who acted alone. This became quite evident when video surveillance of the attack was released; he appears in it very much like a character from the violent video games he used to fervently play. Islam did play a role in the shooter's life, but early reports suggested his faith was merely incidental.

As expected, right-wing Prime Minister Harper immediately framed the shooting as a terrorist attack to advance his pro-war agenda and strengthen terrorism laws that sacrifice civil liberties. When Justin Borque killed three RCMP officers this summer for being 'government officials', the PM never bothered with any such measures of course. However, by Muslims also releasing pre-mature condemnations of terrorism and apologizing after every such event, are we not enabling false narratives and inadvertently linking ourselves to the attacks?

The reactionary attitude of Muslims in Canada has followed this same pattern with other high-profile cases such as the Toronto 18 and the Shafia murders; the latter of which wasn't even terrorism related. This is strategy is not specific to Canada of course. We saw a similar response in Norway after Andres Brevick shootings, in the US after the Fort Hood shootings and in Britain after the Woolich murders.

Ottawa's Muslims should be commended for maintaining a strong public presence following the shootings; it was clearly needed and solicited powerful emotions. My goal is not to question the obligatory public relations exercises Muslim organizations have had to do post-9/11. I believe that the atmosphere necessitated it and I am glad our leaders stepped up to do so – we are heavily indebted to them.

But how much longer are we to continue doing this? How can we live as a healthy community if we become overwhelmed with guilt and fear every time a lunatic decides to commit a barbaric crime? How much longer should we pander to the unfair expectations laid out for us to meet?

A decade past 9/11

It is evident that 'Islamic' fundamentalism and global jihadism aren't going anywhere, Western military intervention in Muslims lands isn't coming to an end, and neither will these instances of 'home-grown' terrorism come to pass anytime soon. As a part of the cultural tapestry of this nation, we have to come to terms with the fact that there will always be someone from our faith, somewhere, committing abhorrent crimes. We need to be in a mode of existence which is aware and cognizant of that; not one that freaks out and is guilt ridden every time it happens.

A decade of condemning terrorism and participating in public relation exercises has done us little good. The events of this past summer have put us back to square-one; our image in the public eye is the same as it was on 9/11 – arguably worse. Our current strategies have clearly failed; it is evident we need to take a new path forward.

For starters, we need to stop thinking like immigrant minorities and demand that people treat us like we belong here. On a day following some national tragedy, or any day for that matter, we must firmly stand up to anything that falls short of dignified treatment—instead of bracing up for hate speech or snide remarks at the office. When we do encounter hate crimes, we too have to be strong and recognize that the perpetrators represent a fringe minority – instead of becoming disillusioned with society at large.

We must start holding others to a higher standard and assume they're also intelligent enough to distinguish fringe Muslim extremists from the normative majority. If they fail to do so, we need to strongly point out their lunacy – instead of getting into apologetics. We can no longer entertain ludicrous questions about whether we condone honour killings, FGM or domestic violence – would a catholic ever be asked whether they condone pedophilia and child molestation?

We shouldn't be surprised when we see 'social experiments' of people standing up for Muslims – it is assumed that civilized people anywhere would defend an innocent bystander; shame on them if they don't. We need to stop obsessing over how others perceive our faith and focus instead on how we are treating them.

We need stop issuing condemnations of terrorism and declarations of heresy when our fanatical brethren have run-ins with the law. Like other faith groups, we should instead offer public prayers, statements of condolences and expressions of solidarity. We must express equal outrage when people outside our community commit heinous crimes – not doing so hints at our disingenuousness and self-interest.

Malcolm X hit a turning point when he stopped seeing himself as a member of a maligned minority. He took his dignity into his own hands and refused to be at the mercy of the opinion of others – 'ni–er' became a slur too small and meaningless for him. Western Muslims need to collectively do the same. We need to get over our insecurities, stop pandering to the double standards others have constructed for us and demand our place as full-fledged citizens of this society.

Waleed Ahmed is a Canadian Muslim writer and activist based out of Toronto. 

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The Invitation – Part 2 http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/29/the-invitation-2/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/29/the-invitation-2/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 04:00:18 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55631 By Umm Zakiyyah a short story PART ONE | PART TWO After the summer internship, Paula and I went our separate ways. We kept in touch, but we had our own lives to focus on. I went to college close to home to be near John, and Paula went to college in another state. When […]

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By Umm Zakiyyah

a short story

PART ONE | PART TWO

After the summer internship, Paula and I went our separate ways. We kept in touch, but we had our own lives to focus on. I went to college close to home to be near John, and Paula went to college in another state. When we talked, which was usually about once a month, Paula talked mostly about her burgeoning spirituality and all the different Islamic awareness activities Sommer was organizing. Though Sommer herself lived far from us both, Sommer was active nationally in several Muslim youth organizations and ran a pretty successful blog that focused on sexism amongst Muslims and the need for feminist interpretations of long-held patriarchal interpretations of the Qur'an and prophetic traditions.

Once Paula had even called to tell me that I absolutely had to turn on the TV “at this moment” because Sommer was being featured on a CNN special about Islam's alleged oppression of women. John was due any minute to pick me up and take me out to dinner, but I was curious enough to turn on the TV while I waited. John rang the doorbell while I was still watching and I asked if he could give me a minute, and he stood in the front room of my apartment watching snippets of the show himself as he waited for me.

“That's the girl who taught you about Islam?” John remarked after we were in the car.

“Yeah,” I said, smiling to myself as I buckled my seatbelt in the passenger seat. I was proud to have personally known someone who was so prominent.

“Good thing you only knew her for a few weeks.”

My eyebrows shot up as I regarded John. “What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “I don't know, Faith. She just sounds a little too opinionated for her own good.”

I smirked. “You know what Paula would call you now?”

He grinned knowingly. “A sexist?”

“And maybe a racist too.”

We both laughed.

“Why racist?” he said, humor still in his tone.

“Because it's obvious you think Arab-Pakistani girls don't have a right to their own minds.”

We chuckled, shaking our heads. It was a bitter joke because John was White, and he often said he felt reluctant to share his opinions about anything objectionable that a non-White did because he feared he would be labeled a racist.

“But I do agree with one thing she said.” John's tone was serious.

“What's that?” I asked, curious.

“That people who are gay and lesbian have a right to worship God like everyone else.”

I grew silent and looked out the passenger side window. The day I became Muslim Paula had asked Sommer if a gay person could be Muslim. When Sommer said yes (albeit reluctantly), Paula said, “That's all I wanted to know. Because I think I want to be Muslim too.” Then she became Muslim herself.

More than a year had passed since that conversation, and I couldn't get it out of my head. What did Paula mean by that? Did she consider herself gay? But that didn't make any sense. In high school, she'd had more boyfriends than most of the girls we knew. Was this because she was confused about her sexuality? Or maybe she was putting on a façade to hide who she really was.

“Yeah,” I agreed noncommittally, but I continued to stare out the window next to me. “We all sin. Nobody should be prevented from worshipping God just because their struggle is different from other people's.”

“I'm ready, Faith,” John said seconds later.

I turned to him, my forehead creased. “Ready for what?”

“To become Muslim.” He smiled flirtatiously then added, “And to marry you.”

I brought a hand to my mouth in surprise. “Are you serious?”

“If you are,” he said as he slowed to a stop behind a line of cars.

“Is this your idea of a proposal?” I teased. “Asking me to marry you at a stoplight?”

“It's more than an idea actually,” he said, smiling at me before turning his attention back to the road. “I want us to make it reality.”

 

Married Life

John and I eloped a week later so that we could enjoy each other's company before making any official announcements of a formal wedding to our friends or family. Though I wanted to tell Paula, John convinced me that we should keep the decision to ourselves.

“What if she doesn't approve?” he asked one day as we lay awake in his apartment. “It would crush you, and I want the memories of this time to always be special for us.”

“I think she'll be happy for me,” I said, but I detected hesitance in my tone. Sommer had practically become a spiritual mentor to Paula, and though I wanted to believe that was a good thing, Paula's rants about male patriarchy in religion were increasingly more passionate than they were before she accepted Islam. I could only assume her views on early marriage (I was only nineteen and John twenty-one) did not mirror mine.

The mere possibility of hearing Paula criticize me for “dishonoring my womanhood” by giving myself to a man before I even had a college degree made my stomach churn in dread. John was right. We should keep this between ourselves for now. Besides, I was beside myself in happiness to be with John right then, and I didn't need anyone else's opinion, dissenting or otherwise, to make that feeling any more genuine.

“No it's not. No it's not!” My eyes fluttered open in the darkness, and I found John sleeping next to me, his breathing soft and rhythmic. My heart pounded with the same frustrated conviction that it had the first time I'd seen the dream. I sat up in bed, confusion and worry lingering where grogginess should have been.

The dream was unchanged. I had no idea what I was arguing about, and I didn't even know whom I was arguing with except that she was some girl with a faded red-heart tattoo on her lower back. I felt close and distant from myself at once, and the more I yelled, the farther the girl was out of my reach and the closer to myself I felt. There were black snakes and lizards coming toward the girl, but she didn't see them because she was so happy and content with whatever she was telling me. “No it's not!” I kept telling her in response, growing more desperate with each moment. And right before I woke up, I was in a green pasture alone, far from the girl, but I was losing my voice yelling at her though I knew she couldn't hear me.

“It means you're going to find the truth,” Sommer had said, interpreting the dream. “And after you find it, you're going to be tempted by yourself or someone you love to give up your faith, but you won't insha'Allah.”

Unable to sleep, I tossed aside the comforter, causing John to stir in his sleep. I went to the bathroom then washed my face. John and I were scheduled to have breakfast with my birth mother at nine o'clock the following morning, so I really needed to sleep.

Was I getting cold feet? Was that what this was about? I'd asked John to come with me because I thought it would make things easier. But now I wasn't so sure. I'd suggested to John that accompanying me might be the inspiration he needed to find his own birth parents. Like myself, John was adopted. But unlike myself, John didn't have the slightest inclination to find his real mother and father.

“What if they're drug addicts or something?” he'd often say.

“So what if they are?” I'd retort.

“It's different for African-American families,” he'd said once. “You all have closer bonds with your parents.”

“What? That's not true.” I don't know why, but I was deeply hurt by that comment. I guess in a way I felt that this was John's pathetic attempt to avoid facing his past. Unlike my own experience as the brown child of two White parents, John's outings with his adopted parents never incited questions or suspicions as to who his “real” parents were. Like my own adopted parents, John's were White, as was John, so people naturally assumed that John was their biological son. Apparently, other than close family and John himself, they'd never told anyone that John was adopted, and I sensed that in a bizarre case of wishful thinking, John believed that if he kept quiet about his true background, it would disappear. He didn't even want to accompany me when I met my birth mother for the first time. I suppose even that was cutting too close to home for him.

After leaving the bathroom, I felt a sudden need to read the Qur'an before trying to go back to sleep. I was still a bit unsettled by the dream, mainly because I could find no reason for having seen it a second time. I'd already found the truth. I was Muslim now, so what was I supposed to get from the dream this time around? Would my birth mother oppose my decision to be Muslim? But how would she find out in the first place? I didn't wear hijab, and I certainly didn't plan on telling her about my conversion, at least not during our first meeting.

I removed a copy of the Qur'an from a bookshelf in our bedroom, and I carried it to the kitchen, where I decided to put some water on for tea while I read.

“We have explained in detail in this Qur'an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude. But man is, in most things, contentious.”

Al-Kahf, 18:54

This is the verse that would stay with me as I drifted to sleep the night before I would meet my birth mother.

 

A Life Changed Forever

The door to my apartment bathroom banged against the sink counter as I rushed inside. I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet and hung my head over the bowl as my stomach heaved and the contents of my breakfast exploded from my mouth. I clutched the porcelain seat as I vomited twice more and gagged on the bile burning the back of my throat. I spit into the commode one last time before reaching up to flush the toilet. I collapsed onto the tiled floor with my back against the porcelain bowl as the rush of water sucked the putrid contents down the pipes even as the stench of vomit lingered in the air.

I covered my face with my hands and my shoulders shook as I moaned and tears spilled from my eyes.

“I'm coming right now,” Paula said when I called her minutes later. I didn't want to tell her what had happened because, technically, my marriage to John was still a secret. But I really didn't know who else to turn to. After John, she was the only person I considered a good friend. I wanted to talk to my mother (my adopted mother) but I hadn't even told her I was Muslim or that I had found my birth mother—or that I'd run off and married John without her knowledge. And I knew now wasn't the time to divulge this, especially after what had happened at breakfast.

It was late at night when Paula stepped inside my apartment and found me sitting in the dark living room, staring off into space with my legs folded pretzel-style in front of me on the couch.

“You left your door open,” she said, playfully scolding me as she closed the front door and locked it. A second later light flooded the room.

I managed a tightlipped smile, but I didn't look in her direction. She put her arms around me and pulled me into an embrace, and I laid my head on her shoulder. The tears welled in my eyes again, but I blinked to keep myself from breaking down again.

We sat like that for some time in silence before she asked, “Faith, are you sure? Maybe there's some mistake…”

I drew in a deep breath and exhaled. I'd said the same thing over and over to myself the whole day, and I didn't even want to imagine what John was telling himself. I'd rushed out of the restaurant without him and took a taxi alone to my apartment. I still had a couple months left on the lease before I was supposed to move out and live with John full time.

“He recognized her too, Paula,” I said, dejected, my voice scratchy as I spoke into the cloth of her shirt.

“But he was a baby when he was adopted. How could he even remember?”

I shook my head, but that felt like too much effort. I sat up and Paula released me so I could look at her while I spoke. “I was eighteen months, and John was almost four.”

Paula averted her gaze. “But he's…”

“We have different fathers,” I said, already knowing what Paula was thinking.

I groaned aloud. “Why is this happening?” I blurted, a surge of anger overtaking me. “I love him.”

“But he's your brother, Faith,” Paula said softly.

As if I didn't know that! I wanted to slap her right then.

Paula drew in a deep breath and exhaled, the sound painfully empathetic. “Maybe this is a test from Allah. I know it must be hard, but—”

“Hard?” I glared at her. “No, Paula. Getting through high school was hard. Learning how to pray was hard. Saving myself for marriage was hard.” I shook my head and stood up, my arms folded over my chest as I struggled to keep my composure. “This isn't hard, Paula. This is…” My mind frantically searched for the term that could aptly explain my fury. “…f—ed up!”

I usually didn't use profanity, but right then I really didn't care. No words, not even profane ones, seemed heart-wrenching enough to accurately describe what I felt right then.

“Why would God even let this happen? Why did He make me and John fall in love?” I said, angry gasps between my questions. “He could've stopped us. He knew we weren't allowed to be together.”

I clinched my jaws and balled up my fists. “This is so unfair,” I said, speaking under my breath. “This is so f—ing unfair.”

“No it's not,” Paula said softly, but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking at her hands. I could tell she hated being in this position. She didn't want to be the one to tell me I couldn't be with the only man I loved. She didn't want to be the one to tell me there was no way for me and John to remain married. She didn't want to tell me that I'd saved myself, prizing my chastity and virginity all throughout my youth, only to give my heart and body to someone I was never allowed to be with in the first place.

“It is unfair,” I said, raising my voice as I glared at her.

“No it's not,” she said, raising her voice as she met my gaze. Her eyes filled with tears as her jaw trembled in tortuous compassion for me. She wanted to take away my pain, but she couldn't. I looked away.

“It's a test from Allah,” I heard her say, but I couldn't look at her. Tears filled my own eyes as her words pierced my heart. I knew she was right. But I didn't want her to be. “You're being tempted to give up your faith,” she said.

At that, I jerked my head around to meet her gaze and found that she and I were thinking the same thing. She apologized with her eyes, but I sensed she felt that, for my own good, I needed to hear what I already knew.

“It's like what Sommer said about your dream.”

 

Moving On

“Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe'

And that they will not be tested?”

Al-'Ankaboot, 29:2

John and I eventually annulled our marriage, and we mutually agreed to go our separate ways and avoid communication with each other except online via Facebook and Twitter. But we kept even that to a minimum. A year after the annulment, John left America to study Arabic and Islamic studies in the Middle East, but I remained where I was.

Paula and I grew closer as friends, and as she had the day I'd called her distressed, she periodically drove six hours to our hometown to visit me. She eventually opened up to me about her own personal and spiritual struggles and admitted that she was in fact attracted to women, not men. But in high school, she'd tried to fight it.

“I thought I just needed to meet the right guy,” she said. “But it turns out there was no right guy.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked her one day as we spoke on the phone. I wondered if Sommer knew, but I didn't feel comfortable asking.

“I'm hoping for a miracle,” she said jokingly. But I detected a sense of resentment in her voice. “Maybe I'll start a convent for Muslim nuns. You know, vowing celibacy for the sake of Allah and all that.”

We both laughed.

“I'll make du'a for you,” I said more seriously, letting her know I would pray for her. “I know it must be hard.”

“In a way,” she said, her voice somber, “you and I are the same.”

I grunted laughter. “I guess so.”

But I didn't want to think about John. Even now, three years later, he still had a hold on my heart. I'd tried to talk to other Muslim men for marriage, but nothing ever worked out. There were times that my heart and mind would search frantically for a way for me and John to be together. I searched fatwa after fatwa, asked scholar after scholar, and read all the Islamic material I could in hopes of finding something, anything, to justify me and John getting remarried. I'd even found a couple of religious loopholes that seemed plausible justifications for arguing that, technically-speaking, John and I were not officially brother and sister—by law or Islam. And since our mother never married my father or John's father, weren't John and I technically “illegitimate children” who were not mahram (legal relatives) for each other?

“Be careful,” Paula told me one day after I explained to her what I'd learned. “You don't want to do like that story in the Qur'an where the people were forbidden to fish on Saturday, but they put out the net on Friday so they could collect their fish on Sunday.”

I sighed in agreement, but my heart fell in defeat. I missed John so much that my heart literally hurt for him. Why couldn't I just move on?

“But there are so many different interpretations of things,” I said, desperate for any justification for what I wanted. “Maybe the laws forbidding mahram's from marrying don't apply to illegitimate children.”

Paula laughed, but I could tell she wasn't trying to be mean. “Oh please, don't go there,” she said. “You start doing that reinterpreting thing, and you might interpret yourself right out of the religion.”

“Maybe you're right,” I muttered.

 

The Invitation

I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my 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 Paula Smith and Sommer Khan.

I gritted my teeth as I glanced at the folded ivory-colored card. On the front of the card was a faded red heart, and beneath the heart was the calligraphic quote, “It's about love.”

No it's not, I protested in my mind. No it's not.

Part of me wanted to pick up the phone and confront her. I'd seen the link on her Twitter page to the article by Sommer entitled “It's About Love” that defended the rights of gays and lesbians to fully participate in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faith traditions. But I'd thought nothing of it. Same-sex marriage was discussed in the article, but I would have never imagined that Sommer was implying that our “faith tradition” should treat these unions as Islamically acceptable.

“It's about love,” Sommer kept repeating throughout the article.

“No it's not,” I said aloud as I snatched up the invitation card from my bed and ripped it in half right through the faded red heart.

It's about Allah, I thought to myself, reflecting on the tremendous lesson I learned from my own struggles. And it's about whether or not you'll accept Allah's invitation to choose Him over your desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel Muslim Girl is now available.

To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

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21 Lessons in Leadership From the Prophet Muhammad | Part 1 http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/28/lessons-in-leadership-from-the-prophet-muhammad-saw/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/28/lessons-in-leadership-from-the-prophet-muhammad-saw/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 04:00:39 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55589 “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is a quote made famous by America's top leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell, in his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The first time I read this quote was in 2002, when I was a rookie teacher at an Islamic school. I remember staring at […]

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“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is a quote made famous by America's top leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell, in his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The first time I read this quote was in 2002, when I was a rookie teacher at an Islamic school. I remember staring at that statement and thinking, “what does he mean by that?” To find the answer, I kept reading the rest of the book, and my life has never been the same.

I started to look at everything from a leadership lens. The good and bad of every school, masjid, organization, family and even country were directly related to the quality of their leaders. I was so fascinated by this topic of leadership that I went on to study it in graduate school. I also implemented as many good leadership principles as possible in my classrooms as a teacher in public, private, charter and international schools, and as a principal in private Islamic schools in the Virgin Islands and in Houston, Texas. Now, I teach these leadership principles day in and day out in companies, schools, non-profits and masjids internationally, because I know the kind of positive impact that great leadership can make.

When leadership is great, success inevitably follows. Likewise, when leadership is poor, failure inevitably follows. Think about it: give me some examples of successful countries, businesses and masjids and I will point you in the direction of the strong leader that orchestrated their success.

This is the first in a series of articles about leadership in which I discuss why all of us need to understand and live out the principles of great leadership. It doesn't matter whether we are teachers, parents, CEOs, doctors, imams, engineers, sons or daughters; we are all responsible for being leaders.

Abdullah bin Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. An imam is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care. A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for those in his care. The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband's house and is responsible for what is in her care. The servant is a shepherd in respect of his master's property and is responsible for what is in his care. All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.”

image

What is the modern-day equivalent to the work shepherd in this hadith? IT'S LEADER! So reread the hadith above, but this time, replace the word shepherd, with the word leader.

I believe that it is our responsibility to become leaders, because that's what our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to be, and that is what he was. He exemplified leadership in all areas of his life, and, if we are truly followers of his example, then we will seek to do the same. Also, by looking at the life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through this lens of leadership, my hope is that we will gain an even greater appreciation of how incredible he was, and our love for him will increase.

So let's take a look at the life and leadership of the greatest leader in the history of the world, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) from the lens of the 21 Irrefutable Laws. As you're reading, be sure to contemplate on how we all can follow in the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) example and live out these laws in our lives.

Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person's Level of Effectiveness

The Law of the Lid states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person's level of effectiveness; the lower an individual's ability to lead is, the lower the lid on his potential. Likewise, the higher an individual's ability to lead is, the higher the lid on his potential. In other words, if your leadership ability is judged on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being completely ineffective and 10 being extremely effective – your potential will coincide with your level of leadership. So, if your leadership ability is a 9, you're going to get incredible results, but if your leadership is a 2, your results will be less than stellar.

Let's look at this law based on the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) . How effective was the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in his mission? What was his level of effectiveness?

The fact that I'm writing this article on this blog is proof of how incredibly effective the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  was as a leader. Based on the definition of the law provided earlier, the Law of the Lid proves clearly without a doubt that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  was the most impactful human being to ever walk the face of the earth. His leadership ability was through the roof; therefore, he was able to change the course of human history forever. He was a perfect 10!

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • So what is your leadership lid? If we're not striving to be 10's, then we're not striving to be like the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) .

Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

The Law of Influence states that leadership is measured based on a person's ability to influence others; nothing more, nothing less. Let's look at the influence of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) :

Only a few short years after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his followers were forced out of their hometown of Mecca, he came back accompanied by 10,000 others and became the ruler. Within the next 100 years, the Islamic Empire stretched from Morocco to China. Fourteen hundred years later, Muhammad is the most popular name in the world, and there are over 1.3 billion Muslims spread out across the entire globe. His name is being repeated across the globe millions of times daily. His life is being studied in homes, masajid and universities across the globe. Whether you walk into a mosque in Tokyo, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Bogota or Sao Paulo, you will hear Surah al-Fatiha recited and see people praying the way that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to pray.

The incredible ways Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) influenced the course of human history would require volumes upon volumes of books to enumerate.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How are we influencing or making a positive impact in the world?
  • How are we influencing our families, communities, co-workers, children, cities and countries?
  • If the Prophet's mission was about changing the world, shouldn't ours be too? Should we not also be people of influence?

Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day

The Law of Process states that growth in leadership happens every single day, not in a single day.

Have you ever heard the story about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taking a day off from his leadership responsibilities? Of course you haven't because it didn't happen! He worked tirelessly for the sake of humanity. He worked tirelessly for you and me. Every day was a new challenge for him; a new problem to manage; a new threat on his life or the lives of his followers; a new hypocrite to deal with; a new tribe to negotiate with; a new rumor about him or his family to quell; a new strategy to develop; a new leader to give da'wah to; a new Muslim to teach; and a new world to create. Day in and day out he faced the kinds of challenges that developed and sharpened his leadership skills, to the extent that he became the greatest leader ever.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What do we do to develop our leadership skills, day in and day out?
  • How can we intentionally follow the Sunnah of growing as leaders, day in and day out?

To be continued next week

Adnan Jalali M.Ed. is a former School Teacher and Principal/Head Master turned Leadership Trainer, Executive Coach and International Keynote Speaker. He has provided guidance, leadership and consultation for schools, non-profit organizations and corporations in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the United States. Adnan is the founder of The Jalali Group (jalaligroup.com), a Consulting firm focused on Leadership & Personal Development. The mission of the Jalali Group is to develop inspirational leaders across the globe.

Adnan received his Bachelor's Degree in Geography from Texas State University and a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston. He holds a Teacher's and School Director's License in Texas and is a certified Leadership Trainer, Coach and Speaker with the John Maxwell Team. He is currently working on a project to develop inspirational leaders in Colombia, South America

 

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A Sunni, a Shia, and a Pizza http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/27/a-sunni-a-shia-and-a-pizza/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/27/a-sunni-a-shia-and-a-pizza/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 04:30:52 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55579 Though we recognized that we were a practicing Sunni family and they were dedicated followers of Bhori-Shiism, we did not use our differences to set us apart as much as we used our similarities to come together.

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Perspective

Growing up as a kid in northern New Jersey in the late 90s, my family became good friends with a Bhori-Shia family who lived down the street from us. Though theological differences between Sunnis and Shias are seen throughout the world, setting both of these groups apart, our families clicked very well and became very close, not to mention that their son Murtaza was my age and went to school with me.

That wasn't the only similarity between us, rather, there were many. Both my father and Murtaza's grew up in Calcutta, India. Both families lived in similar socioeconomic circumstances. Our mothers became quite close from their initial conversation, both families had similar likes and dislikes, and both had an affinity to their faith groups. Though we recognized that we were a practicing Sunni family and they were dedicated followers of Bhori-Shiism, we did not use our differences to set us apart as much as we used our similarities to come together. When the time of prayer would come, our family would pray in one group while they would pray in their own. There were many areas of theology and worship which both of us differed on, but we were always very close regardless of those issues. We didn't agree on everything, but we also didn't fight to make the other conform.

After almost twelve years of not seeing each other, many failed attempts to hang out, and letting life play its role, I finally got a chance to go out and get dinner with Murtaza in September 2013. He had recently come back to the States after studying for seven years throughout the world. He went to a Bhori-Shia seminary in Pakistan where he memorized the Qur'an and completed a course at the same institution, spent time studying throughout the Middle East, and also became certified in various Islamic disciplines from institutions throughout his journey.  Murtaza is now finishing his undergraduate studies in Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Reminiscing

We laughed at all the good times our families had together back in the day. It was crazy how we hadn't spoken in years, but we both were on a similar track in life. We both memorized the Qur'an and had a humble knack for Islamic Studies in our daily lives, both planned to pursue higher studies, and both had a sense of involvement in our mosques. Much of our conversation of the night focused on our activism within our respective Muslim communities. Surprisingly, as I would explain various challenges that I had faced as a youth activist, Murtaza would tell me his community was going through similar social issues. Whether it was youth programs, addressing social ills, communication gaps between the old and young, general outreach, and more, we found that both of our communities were in the same boat when it came to Islamic activism.

Though jokes and memories were part of our conversation for the night as well, neither of us shied away from asking tough questions about our own theological differences. As a Sunni, I was seeking answers to issues pertaining to the companions of the Prophet, Iran's importance as a religious head, and more, while his questions were more about historical differences, community development, and the Sunni perception of Shias. These were just a few contentions we spoke about. We didn't debate; rather we had a dialogue over some pizza, sandwiches, and bubble tea. Though we both got our answers, we actually found something much more important than what we were seeking—we found realizations that could help our communities be more tolerant of each other.

Lessons Learned

  1. Sunnis and Shias both hold dozens of misconceptions about each other that can be resolved through conversation. Obviously there will be many disagreements in creed, the narration of each side's history, and basic tenants of faith, so keep that in mind.
  2. Though Sunnis and Shias generally disagree in matters of theology and worship, there should be an ongoing intra-faith dialogue taking place. Yes, there are things which we obviously won't agree upon, but there are ways both groups can benefit their communities respectively. When there is room to work together to better everyone's situation equally, there should be a concerted effort to move forward – especially these days when Islamophobes and the like are attacking anyone that associates themselves with Islam.
  3. In the West, both of our communities are going through almost the same, exact challenges. Whether they are social issues, mosque integration, cultural stigmas, or youth integration, the struggles are literally mirrored. Most issues that affect us at the ground level are human issues, not religious ones. Religion steers the solutions, but a cocaine addict is not any better or worse if he is Sunni or Shia. He needs help like anyone else needs help.
  4. Just as most Sunnis do not ascribe to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the ultimate representative of Sunni Islam, similarly all Shias do not holistically ascribe to the Ayatollah, twelver-Shiism, or Iran as representatives of their faith group. This means that the belief system, theology, and ideology of Sunnism and Shiism is not respectively monolithic in the manner many media outlets and groups portray them to be. There are shades of gray.
  5. Politics motivates hate from the Sunni and Shia sides. Most of the disdain we have comes from political ideologies that have hijacked both denominations. Much of our hate stems from atrocities that have happened to each of us from extremist minorities and their twisted ideology. Suicide bombings, political death squads, and “honor” killings have nothing to do with being Sunni or Shia, rather they go back to an unstable political, economic, and social climate where these events are happening.
  6. With the various atrocities we see throughout the world amongst Muslims, we need to consider the ways we can preserve and cherish human lives. To have a conversation, both sides need to distinguish between religious tradition and politics, suppress emotions, and hear the other out. There is a lot to learn and accomplish if we simply start listening to each other.

 

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Living Islam for Today’s Women with Umm Reem http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/23/living-islam-for-todays-women-with-umm-reem/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/23/living-islam-for-todays-women-with-umm-reem/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:07:29 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55570 An introduction to upcoming video series on issues related to females and teens, presented by Umm Reem, exclusively for MuslimMatters.org.

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An introduction to upcoming video series on issues related to females and teens, presented by Umm Reem, exclusively for MuslimMatters.org.

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MuslimKidsMatter | Muslim Youth Helping Neighbors and Having Fun: Please Vote! http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/22/muslimkidsmattermuslim-youth-helping-neighbors-and-having-fun-please-vote/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/10/22/muslimkidsmattermuslim-youth-helping-neighbors-and-having-fun-please-vote/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 01:03:46 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=55560 Loud, friendly chatter fills up a large, brightly-lit room as people scatter about.  As they pass through the room into the next to make way for a large group of newcomers, a collective gasp of amazement suddenly issues forth.  The chatter and laughter miraculously die down as everyone stares ahead wide-eyed. An eight-foot sculpture appears, […]

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Loud, friendly chatter fills up a large, brightly-lit room as people scatter about.  As they pass through the room into the next to make way for a large group of newcomers, a collective gasp of amazement suddenly issues forth.  The chatter and laughter miraculously die down as everyone stares ahead wide-eyed.

An eight-foot sculpture appears, clearly in the shape of a water well with a bright orange bucket hanging from the top.  A low fence surrounds the well with the words “Water is Life” in front.  As the observers lean closer for a better look, they are startled when they realize that the bricks of the well and fence are actually food cans!  And the letters were clearly shaped out of juice boxes!  What is this amazing genius of engineering before their eyes, they wonder.  Can it really be that they are looking at a well made out of cans?

can well drama club pics 010

This sculpture has actually been in display at the Zakat Foundation Delaware Community Center for the past few days.  The youth can project team members have anxiously watched as amazed fans of our well continuously edge closer to the sculpture, a truly frustrating action that worries us to no end.  alhamdulillah, however, our well is still standing and has survived this past week to enter the judging phase of the DelawareCAN competition.

Having created a prizewinning masjid out of pasta boxes and tomato cans last year for the contest, we entered the competition a few months ago feeling a certain pressure this time around.  After our can sculpture from last year demonstrated the spirit of giving in Islam through the words “Feed the Poor” on our masjid, we felt compelled to again display a strong message in a magnificent sculpture for this year's competition.  Realizing that participating in the contest would not only give us a chance to gain the special honor of being a winning group, but also the opportunity to spread a positive message about Muslims, we had a big responsibility and a whole lot of work cut out for us.

Through weekly meetings, many back-and-forth emails, dozens of sketches and plans, we eventually reached our goal, creating a magnificent well, complete with a roof, bucket, and fence.  Oh, and grass, too.  After hours and hours of working on our sculpture, we finally had our finished product standing in front of us.  After all those arguments and complaints (what do you expect from kids of ages 5-16 all working together) and tiresome hours (re-stacking cans after they topple over gets annoying after about the third time around), we finally had our well.

We had a break for a few days to admire our sculpture, and now the next stage of our contest is on…

Time to collect votes!  Now we are asking you to help us out.  No matter where in the world you live, what kinds of cans you eat out of, or what your favorite color is, you can help us win the People's Choice Award.  All you have to do is click on the picture above or follow this link and like our well.  (Note: You will need a Facebook account.)  Please don't blunder and like the entire album or make another such error.  We need you to help us now, to be there for us and to show us you care.  Thank you for taking the time (which should be a total of about two seconds) to give Muslim youth your support.

Friday at 12 noon (USA Eastern time) is the deadline.delawa

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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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