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Responsibility to the Masaajid

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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 anonymouse@muslimmatters.org She is is no longer a writer for MuslimMatters.org.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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.

  2. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    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.

    -Mouse

  3. Avatar

    iMuslim

    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

  4. Avatar

    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 :)

  5. Avatar

    nuqtah

    March 28, 2007 at 5:16 PM

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

  6. Avatar

    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.

  7. Avatar

    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.

  8. Avatar

    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

    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.

  10. Avatar

    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.

  11. Avatar

    Moiez

    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! :)

  12. Avatar

    BintMuhammed

    March 29, 2007 at 1:30 PM

    Assalamualaykum
    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
    wasalamualaykum

  13. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    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!

  14. Avatar

    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.

  15. Avatar

    Pendarth

    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

    UmmTaymiyyah

    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.

  18. Avatar

    khawla hurayrah

    April 2, 2007 at 8:39 AM

    Assalamu’alaikum
    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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#Life

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

covery islam story
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2

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“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.

Conclusion

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. 

dardir

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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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

will you marry me?
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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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