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Responsibility to the Masaajid

Zainab (AnonyMouse)



broom.jpgHow many people have walked into their local Masaajid or Islamic centers, and then either fallen over backwards or scrambled for the door immediately, repulsed by the smell? Or stood horrified in shock at the disgusting state of the musallah? Unfortunately, too many. It is sad how common it is to find a Masjid or Islamic center in bad conditions.

However, it is even sadder that people complain about it, use it as an excuse to not go to the Masjid, but don’t do anything about it. The Masjid does not belong

to any one person or organization; it is a trust from Allah to the entire Muslim community.

The problem is as follows:

people who go to the Masjid – men, women, and children alike – go there, make a mess, don’t clean up after themselves, and then have the gall to complain about it the next time they walk into the Masjid and find it littered with crumbs, wrappers, and certain unidentifiable substances – or when the washroom is filthy with dirty sinks and unflushed toilets.
But you know what? We are those people. WE are the one who goes to the Masjid. WE are the ones who do not put his/her shoes on the rack; the ones who don’t flush after using the toilet; the ones who don’t wipe up after ourselves after making wudhu; the ones whose children are running around unchecked, making a lot of noise and disturbing other people and leaving food crumbs lying around.

So don’t complain. The next time you see that your Masjid is a mess, why don’t you clean it up? It’s not going to kill you, you know. And please, don’t have that, “It’s not my mess!” mentality. If you see wrappers lying on the floor, pick them up and throw them in the garbage. If the floor has crumbs all over it, ask for a vacuum and vacuum it. If there is no vacuum, why don’t you donate a vacuum to the Masjid? It doesn’t have to be a new vacuum or anything; any old one in working order will do. If the bathroom is filthy, take the time to clean it up. It will not hurt you. In fact, it will be a benefit to you, because insha’Allah you will be rewarded for that act of Sadaqah (charity), for the Prophet said: “Each person’s every joint must perform a charity every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; every step you take to prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Reported by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim.)
Also: Abu Hurairah narrated that: “A man or a woman used to clean the mosque.” (Most probably a woman according to a sub-narrator). According to another hadith, the Prophet offered her funeral prayer at her grave. [Sahih al-Bukhari: Vol. 1, #450]

What we must realize is that each and every one of us has a responsibility to the Masjid. It is Allah’s House, where we gather each day to worship Him. Should we not, then, care for it more than we care for our own houses? How many of us are concerned by the state of our houses – floors must always be clean, everything put away neatly, air smelling nice and fresh. Yet we let the Masjid rot and we don’t care. We don’t even notice. And when we do notice, we place the blame on others and wash our hands of responsibility. This is wrong. It shouldn’t be like this at all. The Masjid should be more beloved of us than our own homes, and we should be caring for it more than we do our own homes. When we go to the Masjid, after our first duty, the Salaah, has been fulfilled, then take another five minutes to look around and see what you can do. Vacuum, clean up the washroom, bring some perfume to cleanse the air of that sweaty food smell that’s always hanging around. Even better, go to the Imam or director of the Masjid or Islamic centre and ask about the cleaning crew. Is there even a cleaning crew? If not, why don’t you start one? Volunteer to come to the Masjid an hour or two once or twice a week to clean up. Bring some friends to help! Make it sparkling clean and smelling fresh.

In fact, make it an occasion! Bring your children along to teach them the importance of the Masjid and show them just how much we should care for it. If they’re old enough and capable enough, give them a task to do – such as vacuuming a room or area, washing the sink, cleaning the floor – and then praise them and let them know what a good thing they did in the eyes of Allah. If the children are still young, then you can still get them to help by doing simple things like picking up toys, or helping you by giving you what you need. Make the Masjid as nice as possible. It doesn’t matter that after a couple days it’ll be messed again; the point is that you’ve done your part in caring for the House of Allah and that you have done it for His sake.

However, besides this, there is another thing. Whenever a Masjid or Islamic centre holds an event (whether or not it includes food), there is always a mess once it’s over. Unfortunately, as soon as it’s over everyone hightails it out of there, leaving the event organizers – who by that time are already sporting massive headaches – to clean up. I am sure that you have no idea just how grateful those organizers would be if you only offered to stay for even half an hour to help them clean up. Seriously, even one extra hand is appreciated by those hard-working event organizers. So, the next time you attend a fundraising dinner, an educational program, or any other event, ask the organizers if they need help (they usually do). When the program is finished, offer to help with the cleaning up.

This sort of thing is the responsibility of us all, and we all have to stand up and take responsibility for it individually. You can’t have the ‘someone else will do it’ mentality because if we all waited for someone else to do it, no one would do it. So take the time: half an hour, an hour, two hours, whatever; and donate it Fee Sabilillaah – for the Sake of Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aalah. Insha’Allah, it will benefit you in this life and in the Next.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young Canadian Muslimah, originally from the West Coast of Canada. She writes about whatever concerns her about the state of the Muslim Ummah, drawing upon her experiences and observations within her own local community. You may contact her at She is is no longer a writer for



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    Mujahideen Ryder

    March 28, 2007 at 1:33 PM

    Our masjid has a paid cartaker, who mashaAllah keeps the masjid really beautiful. Like I actually want to use the bathroom there. hahahaha. sorry might be a nasty joke.

    But other masjids I been too, especially in the city, are not community centers they are just places where ppl go to pray during there break for work or etc. This masajid are pretty dirty. It’s hard becuase majority of the Muslims who go to these masajid just want to pray and go back to work. So people won’t even care if its dirty or not, cuz technically speaking its not ‘there’ masjid. there masjid would be where ever they live.

    thats just nyc though. it prob doesnt apply to other places.

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    March 28, 2007 at 2:02 PM

    Perhaps I should’ve mentioned that I originally wrote this sometime last year, for my local Muslim newspaper, and was primarily addressing the ‘dirty masjid’ issue of my city… I didn’t have the time to write something new, so I was going through some of my old stuff and thought this was general enough to post here.


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    March 28, 2007 at 3:46 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah

    Wow, i was thinking of this exact, same topic, today! Most likely because someone made a mess in our hospital’s prayer room.

    Our prayer room is quite, er, ‘cosy’, so it doesn’t take much to keep it clean, mashallah. Funnily enough, it is the brothers who usually give it the once over, on Jumuah, i believe. It is only a prayer room for people like me, but for some brothers, it is their local masjid, because they live opposite the hospital.

    The problem we have is an awful smell. This is because we have a washroom connected to the prayer room, which has two sinks for making wudhu (no toilet, thank Allah!). However this washroom does not have an extractor fan, or a window that can be opened. Usually we just keep a normal fan running, to try and get an air flow going. In Summer, it is fine, because we keep the fire escape door open, and that keeps the air circulating and fresh. However, in Winter, we can’t really do this, not for long periods, anyway, and that’s when we tend to suffer!

    Canned air fresheners are only a temporary solution, and the continuous release perfume plug-ins tend to build up in the atmosphere, and become overpowering! What we really need is decent ventilation, but because it is NHS property, we can’t do what we like… so we must continue to strive in our olfactory jihad! hehe

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    abu h

    March 28, 2007 at 4:06 PM

    Remind me of my old Masjid/musalla… the women side was always very clean. They get all the new carpet, and put nice setup. But when it came to ramadan iftaar… the whole place would stink of food. During the month the woman side get worse, and it seems sisters too hungry in the month to clean up :)

    It was nice finger pointing between brothers and sisters, who has cleaner side, and who cleans up afterwards?

    Why people don’t think of the masajids like they take care of their home (should be even better for masjid), I dont understand? It is sad but true. They come, they pray and the leave as if servants will clean after they left.

    The bathroom is worse thing in masjids usually. Esp. sometimes we have our tabligi brothers, esp if they come from like overseas pakistan, india, etc… they have different way of using toilets… They dont do delibrately, but there is big mess sometimes. But we still love them… they are very nice :)

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    March 28, 2007 at 5:16 PM

    Humm, our masjid is quiet clean actually, minus the bathroom- which can be nasty sometimes.

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    Aidan Qassim

    March 28, 2007 at 5:33 PM

    I have a question, being from Southern California, I get the sense that the Muslim community out here is a bit more “liberal” and “professional” and “progressive”- just using those words in a loose fashion- but none the less, it does seem like we have a different approach to maintaining and running masajids, as well as the way the community functions.

    I think the last time i got this feeling as written in this post was in the late 1990’s like 1998 or something, I have not gone to a masajid and felt that way for a long time…unless….yes-UNLESS- it was some where in the outlying areas, outside the state or a small start up community mosque trying to get established.

    Is that why some of the mosques are this way? Have not travelled outside the West coast to much, but have been around to get this feel, and its not like I have regional pride or anything.

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    Umm Layth

    March 28, 2007 at 9:10 PM

    In our community, the main masjid really is taken care of by a dear sister, may Allaah make her affairs easy on her, aameen.

    She’s Jamaican and a revert and an older sister. She does such a great job in keeping the entire Masjid clean, masha’Allaah, but it saddened me that people would complain even after she started working there. She did such an awesome job and still had to work other jobs to take care of herself and so if she fell behind for just a day, you would hear sisters saying, “Why is it so nasty?”

    I taught my son that he needs to clean up after himself every single time but I swear that it upsets me when the girls come in there to make wudhu’ for salah and they just leave it a mess. The sandals are all over the place, the paper towels are all over the floor and what not. I would have the younger girls clean up after themselves when I was in there but why couldn’t these teenagers or older sisters apply it without being told? Why would you complain about a mess that you are to blame for?

    I remember my son saw some pictures of animals drawn on the bathroom walls and he even got angered and goodness the child is 3. He told me, “Mama, we aren’t supposed to draw animals or draw on the walls!!!” and I felt proud but at the same time so disappointed.

    I asked this sister if I had her permission to post a big sign that says, “CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELVES AS THAT IS A PART OF IMAN” but she said she preferred not and that she would just do her job. But she was irritated at the behavior. And this is just some of the stuff – there is even nastier stuff that you would expect people would know – sort of like ABC’s of cleanliness.

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    Tariq Nelson

    March 29, 2007 at 6:43 AM

    I really can’t say that the masjid closet to me is filthy either as it also has paid staff to clean it, masha Allah.

    Nonetheless, this is excellent advice Jazak Allah khair

  9. Amad


    March 29, 2007 at 6:57 AM

    Hmm… so it seems from the experiences here:

    Paid/Hired Caretaker = Clean Masjid

    Do-it-yourself-depend-on-us = Dirty Masjid

    I bet though that those who have paid caretakers (esp. if they are old Masajids) used to depend on us Muslims before they recognized that it wasn’t happening, so they hired help; probably a good move.

    So, really, what does that say about us? What does that say about our attachment to the Masjid? I am asking everyone, including myself, to think about this sincerely. If anything, this post picks up on the desired connection with the Masjid, so perhaps next time, when the Masjid admin or even the paid caretaker asks for a hand, we will run forward with not one, but both hands.

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    Ruth Nasrullah

    March 29, 2007 at 8:33 AM

    I would add that if we compare our masajid to churches or synagogues we should be ashamed.

    In some masajid the greater issue is money management. If the books aren’t being kept properly and responsibly and if there isn’t accountability for money coming in and how it’s spent there won’t be money to pay a caretaker’s salary. If physical improvements are made with no plan for maintaining them the place will fall apart eventually anyway.

    I have recently been going to my masjid far less because of the chaos that reigns there. Ironically, if I want to go to a house of worship that’s clean and quiet, where you can leave food out without fear of people taking it for themselves, where the kids aren’t running and screaming and damaging things, and where the women really participate in how the masjid is run I’d have to go to a church.

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    March 29, 2007 at 8:55 AM

    Subhanallah the point is clean up after yourselves and stop criticizing people. Suck it up and just do it. Inshallah I’m gonna increase my efforts even if I see something small and hopefully everyone else will too. Lets go Muslims! :)

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    March 29, 2007 at 1:30 PM

    Wow wat an interesting topic, I am reading this just as I was about to get out of the house and go clean the masjid. Our masjid is new and doesnt have any caretakers/janitors so I guess they depend on the people to clean it. No one ever asked me to clean it, I just took it upon myself to do it, and walah if i missed one day then I doubt anyone would clean it.

    It drives me nuts when people think that cleaning after themselves is the hardest thing they ever had to do. Another thing is when mothers bring their children to the masjid and dont look after them and dont care what havoc and mess their children create. They think that there is some imaginary care taker who will clean it.

    For the person who mentioned churches are cleaner, I would agree with you. Churches are cleaner because their usually only full one day of the week and if their is mess created on that day the well paid janitor cleans it. Plus churches dont ask anyone to take off their shoes, i think thats where the havoc usually starts. When was the last time wudu was made at a church, one of the reasons why washrooms are soo dirty, no one knows how to make proper wudhu.

    Neways thats my two cents

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    March 29, 2007 at 3:53 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    To tell the truth, I was pretty surprised to see the responses! From this I’ve concluded that larger masaajid, which cater to larger Muslim populations, are the cleanest because they can afford to pay caretakers; whereas smaller masaajid (like the one in my old city *and* my new one) which depend upon volunteers tend to be a little, erm, messier. This is, of course, just a generalization…

    iMuslim: LOL @ olfactory jihad! :D

    Abu h: Heehee, at my old Islamic centre it was always the women who made the biggest mess, but who also cleaned up the best! We definitely enjoyed pointing that out to the men, who always moaned and groaned about the slightest things… :D
    Eurgh, I agree – bathrooms are generally the worst place in the masaajid! My father and I both have low tolerance for dirty bathrooms, so either we’d clean the place up first, or go somewhere else altogether! Now that we have our own place for the madrasah, though, we’re quite strict about the bathrooms… before every class, it’s thoroughly cleaned – toilet bowl, toilet seat, and Lysol on all surfaces! Man, the cleaning supply companies are probably making a killing out of us…
    But guess who has to do all the cleaning?! Yup, yours truly! :P

    Aidan Qassim: Hmmmm, interesting point! Maybe it goes back to being able to afford a caretaker… in both my old and new city, the masjid is pretty small, and the people who attend are generally poorer immigrants, and volunteers are required for pretty much everything.

    Umm Layth: Yes, from what I’ve find out, it’s an older sister who undertakes the enormous task of cleaning out the women’s musallah area here as well… and it’s extremely sad to see people complain about the state of the area (before and after cleaning), when they don’t bother to do anything about it themselves. Awwwww, masha’Allah about your son! At least *he* knows what’s right and what’s not…

    Ruth Nasrullah: That’s a good point about managing finances, although I think that would apply more to the larger masaajid…

    Moiez: Al-Hamdulillaah! :) I know from experience that even just ONE person doing something small to help out with the cleaning actually makes a pretty big difference!

    BintMuhammad: One of the things that annoy me the most is when you ask someone to help you clean up, maybe by picking up even just ONE candy wrapper or something small like that, and they give you this look and go, “That’s not mine!” Then they turn their back on you before you can explain that it doesn’t matter whose mess it is, it affects all of us.

    D’you think it might help if someone asked the imam of the masjid to mention this issue to the congregation at some time? I think it’s a good idea, but not sure how effective it’d be because I’ve seen waaaaay too many times how someone will tell the people something, and the people all nod and go, “Yes, that’s a good point, etc.” but then never follow it up with actions!

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    Umm Layth

    March 29, 2007 at 11:51 PM

    It is a good idea to mention it. I personally know it has been mentioned in previous khutbahs in this specific masjid but to no avail.

    Muslims tend to hear but allow it to go in through one ear and out the other.

    We are a sad Ummah.

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    March 30, 2007 at 1:54 AM

    As salaam alaikum,

    Interesting topic and suggestions.

    In my opinion, finances and paid-caretakers are not the way to go. Although they may expedite the resolution of the problem in the short term — for it is not the sunnah of the prophet s.a.w.

    The solution, for this and many other ills, lies (imho) in encouraging the ummah with targheeb of the virtues of cleaning the masaajid – “those who clean the masjid of allah s.w.t., allah will clean their hearts,” the rewards of picking up just one piece of “garbage”, the status of the khadim of the masjid on the day of qiyamat, etc… If only we truly “knew” (and realized) the rewards of the acts that allah s.w.t. has proscribed for us – for our own benefit – I doubt there would be any who would forego such a great service.

    I am sure the ulema in the local masajid would know a lot more about the promises of allah s.w.t. and his prophet s.a.w. on the rewards for those who help keep the house of allah s.w.t. clean and presentable – I am not an ‘alim. They, would – I should think – be more than happy to devote one fridays khutba to it’s benefits and virtues.

    Was salaam,
    Taalib duaa.

  16. Avatar

    ِAbu Bakr

    March 31, 2007 at 11:17 PM

    Subhanallah, its sad to see the state Muslims are in today when even the Houses of Allah, the most beloved of all places on the Earth to Allah are not respected. Even the mushrikin used to boast about being the caretakers of al-Masjid al-Haram. May Allah forgive us and guide us all

  17. Avatar


    April 1, 2007 at 5:25 PM

    BintMuhammad: Alhamdulilah i think you do a beautiful job cleaning the Masjid May Allah Reward you for it.

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    khawla hurayrah

    April 2, 2007 at 8:39 AM

    May Allah forgive us!!!
    Clealiness is half of Imaan. This shows that we are lacking this half. Want to know the state of the Ummah? Look at piles of trash being left in the Masjid al Haram AND in Mina, AND in Arafat, AND in…… during Hajj time. Simple etiquette of cleaning up after ourselves should start from early childhood….i.e. it all boils down to good parenting.
    May Allah grant us righteous children and make us grateful parents.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




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.


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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Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor



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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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware





Modeling Mindfulness


“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.


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.
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences.
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association:

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

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