The conversation over at the Blog Roundup post, on the subject of physical abuse, has reminded me about something that’d been on my mind for quite a while: if there’s a major issue going on within the Muslim community, and it happens to be a very sensitive issue, what do we do?
Take for example this situation: In my province there’s an Islamic boarding school/ madrasah, set up and run by Pakistanis in the model of Pakistani madrasahs. Quite a few people have sent their children there, usually for around a year or so – but those we know, parents of students at our own Madrasah, have inevitably pulled their kids out of the school within the space of a few months. Why? Because the place is, to put it bluntly, a hellhole.
According to several parents, and to my own dad
who went there once to check it out, the place is squalid and filthy. There is a rigorous, perhaps even cruel, system in place; and when it comes to discipline, the stories are awful. One mother (whose sons now attends our Madrasah) relates how teachers would literally beat the kids senseless for the most trivial of errors – stumbling over the pronounciation of Qur’an would merit being boxed in the ears; students would be screamed at rather than spoken to; major discipline came in the form of being whipped by belts until
they bled – first by the teacher, and then by fellow students. Their injuries were not attended to, so much so that severe infections were contracted and they became so sick they couldn’t move. The son who now attends our Madrasah still bears scars from his ordeal.
Mental abuse was also common; another mother said that for months after her son came back home, he would flinch, cringe and shake if anyone spoke to him in a slightly raised tone of voice, and he would cry when made to read or recite Qur’an – such was the result of his ‘Islamic education’.
As mentioned above, the place was also filthy. My father came back from the school looking pale – he said that he couldn’t stop gagging until he got off the property and away from the stench. The bathrooms were smeared with feces; there was no access to showers or baths, and the students – and their clothing – were coated in grime and stunk like outhouses; and pretty much every room in the buildings looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned in years.
Now, this school was actually under investigation by the government after some people reported them, but apparently the charges were later dropped, reasons unknown (but guessed at).
When I asked my dad why someone would drop these charges if they knew them to be correct and not to be lies, he said that it was a pretty big issue, that it was a matter of getting fellow Muslims into trouble, causing more problems and fitnah in the community. He said that if the media got involved, they’d just use it as another excuse to show how bad Muslims are.
Herein arises my question and concerns: When we know that something wrong is going on, when our own people are involved in it… what do we do? Especially when it’s a sensitive issue, when the consequences will be serious and the effects far-reaching within the community?
Something else that bugged me was, seeing as how so many of the parents know just what’s going on at the school, why don’t they do anything about it? My parents’ answer shocked me: apparently, some parents WANT their kids to experience that, because they think it’s actually good for them. HOW it’s good for them, I have no idea, considering how a bunch of students emerged from the school only to turn away from Islam entirely – and my dad’s had plenty of personal experience dealing with other results of the school: parents would come to him with their sons in tow, sons who had come back from the school with atrocious behaviour: loud, aggressive to the point of violence, and otherwise suffering from the effects of abuse. It would then be up to my dad to counsel the parents and their sons and try to undo the damage (extremely hard to do, not to mention not quite successful).
From the discussion we had below in the Blog Roundup thread, I’ve realized how touchy this whole subject of physical discipline is… taking into consideration what others have brought forth on the subject, I personally maintain that it’s one of those things that changes depending on time and societal context. In this case, I think that discipline is one thing; but what was going on at the school is ABUSE! I honestly don’t think whipping a child bloody, and then getting other kids to continue whipping him, is discipline. How on earth is being beaten senseless going to benefit the child? Is it going to teach him to love Islam and Muslims? Is it going to teach him how to behave? Is it going to give him a love of learning? I’m pretty sure we all know the answer to those questions: absolutely not!
So again: taking into consideration the sensitivity of the issue, what the reactions of the people might be (e.g. people would be angry about getting fellow Muslims into trouble), what the consequences of taking major action would be (being ostracized within the Muslim community; having the media get hold of it and use it as an excuse to show how bad Muslims are, etc.)… how do we, as individuals and as a community, react?
May Allah grant us the wisdom to deal with such issues in the best way possible; and the strength and courage to fight for what’s right even when we face huge opposition, ameen!
Jannah Wall Art | MuslimKidsMatter
Assalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh
Jannah Wall Art
We thought long and hard about what to focus on this Ramadan. We decided it would be motivation! The desire to do pray has to spring from motivation. Being obedient to parents has to spring from motivation. Racing to do any good deed has to spring from motivation. Children love rewards and what better reward and motivator to focus on, than Jannah itself, the best and ultimate reward.
Each day in Ramadan, the challenge is to read a description or two of Jannah, cut out a petal, and write the description in a few words on the petal. Children then need to stick the petals next to each other to make a flower. By the end of Ramadan, the children will have made a beautiful flower containing the descriptions of Jannah to hang up on their walls to remind them why they need to pray, be good to their parents, give charity and accumulate as many good deeds as possible.
Everything has been provided for you including the descriptions of Jannah, the petal template, a sample of what the flower should look like and step by step instructions. You just need to print and execute!
GET YOUR FREE RESOURCE NOW
May Allah allow us all to witness Ramadan and make us from those who excel in worship throughout the blessed month.
The Ilmburst Family
MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims
The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction
“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide
As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.
The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.
The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.
The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.
As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.
Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.
“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.
You can find the #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/
Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change
Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.
When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.
We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.
Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.
One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.
“اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”
“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? ”
The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.
Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.
A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.
My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”
Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.
*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind
Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.
 Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.