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CAIR: NY Times Dispatches a Warning Flare

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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.

Abu Reem 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, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  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


    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


    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


    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


    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.


  10. Avatar


    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


    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: » Blog Archive » Washington Times’s Arrogance

  13. Avatar


    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


    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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Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.


While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.
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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

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I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

1. My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

3. Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 


4. People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

5. Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

6. It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

7. Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

9. Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people may be to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high-quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?Click To Tweet

1. Work on yourself

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Admit any wrongs you may have done to them and make amends to improve ties if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterward. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a professional. Bottom line is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only things you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on your everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, inability to multitask, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it

Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for a new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find the most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility for someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Click To Tweet

5. Work to bridge religious differences

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgment about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partner’s; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s

If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no barakah in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying to dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft cited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learned. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties, and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with the person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.

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