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CAIR: NY Times Dispatches a Warning Flare

Amad Abu Reem

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I am somewhat surprised that it took NY Times, the ‘liberal’ media giant, to throw a light one at CAIR in an article that appeared in today’s paper. Here’s the heading: “Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S.”. Now, if there was any doubt as to how the paper wanted to color this story, the title takes care of dispelling itl.

You see CAIR has been a constant nemesis, a thorn in the neck of the Islamaphobes in America. CAIR really represents the last hope for Muslims, as the defender of our civil rights. When any Muslim in America thinks rights, we think CAIR. I guess perhaps I should qualify that. Any ‘average’ Muslim who is not part of the small, yet vocal, progressive CAIR – is – too – conservative – for – us side of the coin.

So, for the average Muslim in America, CAIR is synonymous to the NAACP for African-Americans or the ADL for Jews. And while these organizations are pretty much ‘untouchable’, as well as the fact that Jews and African-Americans have other organizations to help, CAIR’s position continues to be very fragile. And one of the reasons that it is fragile is that a strong CAIR means a strong Muslim voice. And a strong Muslim voice means a viable, even if limited, opposition to the status quo. And of course that is unacceptable to the neo-con, right-wing establishment. So, not surprisingly, the problem that CAIR’s critics have with CAIR is not even home-based. Most of it is directly or indirectly funded by the Israeli-Zionist supporters. This would include Spencer of Jihadwatch, Joe Kaufman, Investigative Project, Middle East forum, Daniel Pipes, and all the other on the who’s who list of Islamophobes in America.

It is also amusing to find these Islamophobes calling for ‘moderate’ alternatives to CAIR, which is just a tricky way of saying we don’t need any Muslim voices. Because there is NO alternative to CAIR at this moment folks! For a good laughter, you could suggest “Free Muslim Coalition”. An organization run by a weasel called Kamal Nawash; see this interview he had with the Muslim-basher, Glenn Beck where among the many ludicrous statement, he tells Beck that the only person, he is afraid of is his “ex-girlfriend”. Talk about dropping to new levels of pandering to the Islam-bashers of the media. Everyone knows that this group is another ridiculous attempt by the so-called progressives to water-down Islam and get some free press while they are at it. Everyone loves a Muslim-bashing-Muslim these days.

Back to the article then: you see the article itself is not that bad. The problem is the title is incriminating, “Scrutiny Increases…”; scrutiny by who? Shouldn’t the article have instead been labeled, ‘Muslim Group Finds Itself Target of Hate Groups’… yeah, keep dreaming Amad. NY Times may be the liberal champion, but these days liberals sometimes compete with their conservative counterparts on who panders to the right.

Some other interesting points from the article, and how it may appear to the common American:

  • “[CAIR is] an organization partly financed by donors closely identified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments”: Right smack in the first paragraph… a hot-button issue. Common Americans reading it are thinking “organization funded by terrorist Arabs, out to get Israel and America”.
  • “Yet a debate rages behind the scenes in Washington about the group, commonly known as CAIR, its financing and its motives.” The impression for the common American will be that it is a large-scale ‘debate’, even though the very next line states “A small band of critics have made a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah”. Why not state that a debate, led by a small band of critics, is raging. Specify the qualifier with your assertion, rather than post-assertion. And merely mentioning Hamas and Hezbollah, will surely help deepen the suspicions.
  • House Republicans demanded that a recent panel session with CAIR on Islam and West not be held. So, did the small band of critics convince the ‘entire’ Republican party to oppose this, or was it just a ‘small band of Republican critics’ who opposed this? Another clarification that NY Times conveniently didn’t make. I won’t be surprised though that the Grand Old Party has taken to Likud-like ways in opposing all discussions with Muslims; after all they are more beholden to AIPAC than Israel itself!
  • ““Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares,” said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.” So, what is the story about then, why does it even deserve coverage in NY Times? If your journalists could not find a single solid claim of ‘anti-American activities’ by CAIR, and furthermore finding that “There were no charges linked to CAIR in any of the cases involved, and law enforcement officials said that in the current climate, any hint of suspicious behavior would have resulted in a racketeering charge.” , then why publish a story with a title that says something else? What is all the fuss about??
  • Furthermore, what is the point of this paragraph, The cloud kicked up by the constant scrutiny is such that spokesmen at several federal agencies refused to comment about the group and some spoke only on the condition of anonymity.” What is the implication here? That something is going on, but we can’t talk about it?
  • “Several federal officials said CAIR’s Washington office frequently issued controversial statements that made it hard for senior government figures to be associated with the group, particularly since some pro-Israeli lobbyists have created what one official called a “cottage industry” of attacking the group and anyone dealing with it.” Is there any need to say more about who’s responsible for the ‘suspicions’ and the “scrutiny”? I will keep reminding the readers to see this video about Israeli lobby’s influence in America to recognize what CAIR is dealing with.
  • “Some Muslims, particularly the secular, find CAIR overly influenced by Saudi religious interpretations, criticizing it for stating in news releases, for example, that all Muslim women are required to veil their hair when the matter is openly debated.” If I had to guess, I would say this statement came right out of the Progressives pocket-book, from such ‘luminaries’ as Khaled Abou Fadl or perhaps from the ‘enlightened’ thinkers at Eteraz. “Openly debated”? By who? By ten Muslims in America who think they have uncovered some new Islamic principles that have escaped 1400 years of scholarship and every mainstream scholar from all the ‘accepted’ schools of Islamic thought? If we go by this new ‘test of faith’, we can probably declare EVERY single Islamic subject as debatable, and I mean EVERY. Go read some of the progressive (or as Dr. M calls it pro-regressive) debates on the internet and you will not find hardly any absolutes left in the faith according to these Progressives, instead the mantra is ‘everything’s relative’. I must add though that some are more regressive than others, but the basic premise of opening up established Islamic principles to debate is a premise that is common to all, and is also a premise that leads down a very slippery slope to Islamic anarchy.

In conclusion, I believe this article is what is a to be thought of as a ‘warning flare’ at CAIR, similar to another article in a much-less reputable online paper targeted at AlMaghrib. It is just saying to the folks in these organizations, and ‘conservative’ (normal) Muslims, that “we are watching you, and waiting to pounce on any little mistake”. And this is why Muslim organizations and Muslims in general need to be extremely careful in what they say, how they say it and when they say it. The Dispatches hit-job on UK TV was a good reminder of this as well.

Nevertheless, all this ‘scrutiny’ and articles make precisely for another good reason why CAIR is indeed CLEAN, because if they weren’t, they would be locked up by now. And this is also precisely another reason why we need to stand behind our mainstream Muslim organizations, regardless of whether we agree with them 100% of the time or not. I know CAIR hasn’t done everything we want, but it is doing so much for so many. If we cannot see it, then we are either blind or simply unjust.

As a sign of our support, let’s send in a small donation right now online, whatever you can or are willing to. Let’s work with CAIR to establish that Muslims indeed matter, that our matters indeed matter, and that we CARE about CAIR.

Imad Shaykh is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Imad is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mujahideen Ryder

    March 14, 2007 at 5:36 PM

    You did a good job tearing apart that article. It’s a shame that CAIR is struggling like this. We need to support CAIR or else our future is at stake.

  2. Amad

    Amad

    March 14, 2007 at 8:31 PM

    CAIR is what we can all care about! If only for our own self-interests.

  3. Avatar

    Mujahideen Ryder

    March 14, 2007 at 8:55 PM

    You should sell that to CAIR hahaha

  4. Avatar

    abu ameerah

    March 15, 2007 at 12:15 AM

    i’m sorry….but i don’t understand CAIR at all…

  5. Avatar

    abu abdillah

    March 15, 2007 at 1:20 AM

    assalamu alaikum,

    I agree that in times such as these it is vital that we stand up and defend fellow Muslims from the plots and machinations of people who blatantly hope to eradicate Islam.

    However, I don’t believe that some statements and actions made by CAIR can be overlooked for the sake of unity and because of all the good they do.

    On more than one occasion CAIR has taken positions that clearly contradict Islam and honestly speaking do a great deal of harm to “conservative” Muslims. One such example is the stance they took regarding the Islamic ruling on someone who apostates from al-Islam. This is well documented and I don’t think we need to rehash the whole subject.

    Another issue that comes to mind is the rebuilding of churches in the middle east after they were destroyed in response to the Pope’s comments. Although we are obliged to maintain churches, the permissibility of building churches is not something legislated in our Shariah.

    Also, since CAIR is a civil rights group looking to protect the rights and liberties of Muslims, what help and aid did they offer in the high profile cases of Sh. Ali al-Timimi, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, and the Virginia jihad cases. Honestly, it seems that CAIR will stand up for civil liberties as long as they don’t have to go anywhere near the “extremist” Muslims.

    I also wonder about CAIR’s dealings with various law enforcement agencies that have a proven track record of abuse and maltreatment to Muslims not only in prisons, but during raids and interrogations.

    My goal in bringing up these issues is to shed light on what I believe CAIR is lacking, standing up for people who are “unpopular” or “extremist”, and shunning away from Islamic principles that aren’t PC

    And Allah knows best

  6. Avatar

    abu abdillah

    March 15, 2007 at 1:39 AM

    assalamu alaikum

    the brother sh. muhammad al-hanooti was kidnapped and murdered in Iraq. May Allah (SWT) forgive Hamed al-Hanooti his sins and give patience to his family during their trying times.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    March 15, 2007 at 9:01 AM

    I’d like to add three general points here:

    (1) No organization is or will be perfect; no organization will exist with which each individual will agree with 100% of the time.
    (2) Large organizations such as CAIR will have a diversity of people, with different views, different opinions, and different methodologies. This ultimately implies that different people will agree with CAIR at different times. And that is fine as long as the organization as a whole stays ‘mainstream’.
    (3) Every organization recognizes or should recognize their capabilities. Even though CAIR is ‘large’, its budget is still small compared to the other civil rights organizations. Hence, even though we may be emotionally and probably rightfully attached to a person or an organization that is being targeted by the government, we have to recognize that CAIR is not in a position to get involved in anything that significantly sucks up its limited resources of manpower and of money. The analogy for this is that CAIR still has baby-teeth, and can only chew on so much. If it tries too hard, the teeth may break. Instead, let them grow ‘adult teeth’ with time and support.

    Finally, excellent points were raised in the previous comments. My 2-cents naseeha is that if we have ‘issues’ with CAIR or any other organization, let us become part of the solution, more so than becoming part of the discussion. Wallahu alam.

    P.S. Inna lillahi wa inna alehi rajioon re: Sh. Honooti’s brother.

  8. Avatar

    UmmZaid

    March 15, 2007 at 11:39 AM

    Salaam ‘Alaikum

    // “[CAIR is] an organization partly financed by donors closely identified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments”: Right smack in the first paragraph… a hot-button issue. Common Americans reading it are thinking “organization funded by terrorist Arabs, out to get Israel and America”. ///

    Amad, there is this too. One of the people who gave them money was Prince Waleed. He’s given money to one of the Bush scholarship funds, the Louvre, and Harvard… yet they would never say “Harvard is a university partly financed by donors….” or “The Louvre is an internationally renowned art museum partly financed by…” I mean, give me a break. The words “wealthy Persian Gulf gov’ts” was thrown in there to raise the spectre of “Wahabism” without actually saying it (b/c it probably can’t factually be said).

    I think the bottom line is this: CAIR has made blunders in the past, and they’ve made missteps. CAIR is also blamed by Muslims and non-Muslims for things they haven’t done. And CAIR is also the group that has most consistently fought for the civil rights of Muslims, to educate law enforcement, to educate masjid leaders about masjid security, and so forth. No one else is stepping up to the plate to do this stuff. Muslims should be fair to CAIR and acknowledge what they’ve done, even though we may not agree with statements or positions of theirs.

  9. Avatar

    Persevere

    March 15, 2007 at 2:09 PM

    Salam Alaikum,

    I am not a blogger. However, after reading Ammad’s critique and comments posted by others, I wanted to share my 2 cents.

    Ammad has dissected the NY Times piece pretty well. Overall, though, it’s a good article that goes to show that there are vicious attempts to silence speech, especially Muslims’, when the discourse isn’t confined to certain parameters.

    Like any individual and organization, CAIR has its strengths and shortcomings, and I hope it will listen to the community’s suggestions to improve itself. If we all strive to be part of the solution, I think our community will go to a whole new level, insha Allah. Remember, other groups had it way worse than us.

    Peace.

  10. Avatar

    editor

    March 15, 2007 at 4:00 PM

    Ammad good piece.

    please correct the name of the weasel organization to

    Free Muslims Coalition

    I don’t even like to type it, now i have to go disinfect my keyboard and screen.

    MM: Error Corrected. Thanks.

  11. Avatar

    Aidan Qassim

    March 15, 2007 at 8:51 PM

    Salaam,

    Thanks for the piece, it was fairly interesting. I had the oppurtunity to read it, but i didnt get the same sense of “attack” that you got.

    I saw it as a way to bring up the bogus charges, and then debunk them with reasoned and principled examples of what CAIR was doing or working toward. Overall i thought it was a good piece highlighting the neo-con right wing agenda to marginalize muslims by marginalizing muslim organizations.

    similar to efforts recently launched against Al-maghrib institute or even random garbage i have seen on Islamic relief on fringe bloggers websites posted on random individual sites.

    As for the “Free Muslims Coalition”- I am quite surprised there is such vile feelings toward them. I dont think they have any principled stance on any issue, the fact is if they do they should be debunked immediately, and thats where bloggers come into the picture. If you hear that guy quacking his crap on CNN Paula Zahn, then put him in his place because the total number of people he represents is him and his oversized ego!

  12. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » Blog Archive » Washington Times’s Arrogance

  13. Avatar

    Nasir

    October 12, 2007 at 3:45 AM

    CAIR is a fairly moderate organization and I don’t see why anyone would criticize them. The only reason I can think of is Islamophobia, hatred, and bigotry.

    Muslim people and organization in the west are going to face criticism no matter what they do.

    The objectives of organizations like CAIR is to make sure the anti Islamic sentiments don’t reach a level of oppression or discrimination. (some schools in the US for example prevented sisters from wearing hijab and jilbab to school)

    CAIR has been active in opposing and condemning Anti Islamic actions and statements. So its only natural they become a target.

  14. Avatar

    Nasir

    October 12, 2007 at 3:51 AM

    And I agree with the brother that some of their methods aren’t correct. But they are doing a lot to help muslims. And it wouldn’t do justice to completely ignore that.

    For example if a muslims is sinful, would it be right to ignore the fact he bears witness La Ilaha Ill Allah?

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#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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#Society

Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor

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muslim led institutions

Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.

Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.

The Organizational Light

As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have

Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.

Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.

Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.

The Personal Imperative

What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.

When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.

We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.

The Collective Affect

When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.

These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.

And Allah always knows best.

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#Life

Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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