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Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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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!

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.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 24, 2007 at 1:37 PM

    Bismillah hirahma niraheem

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah

    If what you say in your entry is accurate, i cannot see it as being anything other than abuse, full stop.

    To be honest, if we put all the hoo-ha of the blog round up “discussion” aside (and that includes the hoo-ha i made), it is clear that no-one is against smacking, which in my understanding, is light physical discipline that may be required when a child is misbehaving, and ignoring all warnings. This type of discipline doesn’t leave scars, or bruising, internal injury, or cause long-term psychological problems. It’s just a smack, and we’ve all had one them before, no doubt.

    But abuse is clearly different, and beating (my definition of beating, which is extreme) children is different to smacking. If you cannot beat a Muslim adult (Hadd punishments excluded) who can defend themselves, how can you beat a weak, defenseless child?

    Wrt what should be done about the school, the community should try to deal with it sternly, within their own circles. It cannot go unchallenged, but to bring outside forces such as government agencies may cause more harm than good – Allahu ‘alim. Community leaders should challenge the school board, cut funding if necessary. If children are being abused, then it is an injustice and it cannot be tolerated by any decent human being. However, one must be absolutely sure that things are as they seem, before accusations are made. From what you say, it seems there are plenty of witnesses available to testify against the school.

    I pray that the problem is resolved swiftly, with the minimum level of disturbance to the community, and families involved. Ameen.

    Wa’salam

  2. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 24, 2007 at 1:40 PM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    I have a practical question… more for Houstonites (Sr. Ruth, Br. Amad, Sh. Yasir, et al.)…

    How are the Islamic institutions of learning for children in the Houston area? Are there any? I dont mean a simply Islamic elementary school… I mean a place where kids go to memorize Qur’an, etc. How are they over there? How are the teachers? Do they employ this kind of unnecessary, mentally-disturbing form of discipline at all? (e.g. hitting for mistakes in recitation is abuse, whereas hitting (lightly) for disciplinary problems after repeated attempts with other forms of discipline is acceptable).

    I don’t want to send my (future) kids (inshaAllah) to hifz school to have them come back with mental trauma everytime they hear the Qur’an! My goal is to have them CRY from hearing the Qur’an for the opposite reason (LOVE for the Qur’an) inshaAllah… rather than out of mental trauma.

    Any thoughts? Jazakumullaahu khayran.

    Wassalaam,
    Ahmad

  3. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 24, 2007 at 2:17 PM

    Just remembered the ayah:

    O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that ye do.
    ( سورة النساء , An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #135)

    And hadiths i just read, which seems to be applicable to the difficult situation you face:

    “A person should help his brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed. If he is the oppressor he should prevent him from doing it, for that is his help; and if he is the oppressed he should be helped (against oppression).” [Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6254]

    “A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands. And an Emigrant (Muhajir) is the one who gives up (abandons) all what Allah has forbidden.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

    And two Q&A answers on disciplining children:

    Islam Q&A
    SunniPath

  4. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 24, 2007 at 3:42 PM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    Br. Musa, your (hypothetical) anger is certainly understandable, and I think that mine would be even greater. But, I would put aside my emotions and think of the greater impact such an action (involving the police, etc.) would have on the ummah. I think the best way to resolve it would be internally. And if he (hypothetically) roughed my (hypothetical) kid up… I would just go and give him a good rougin up myself (at least when there is no Islamic justice system).

  5. Avatar

    Ruth Nasrullah

    May 24, 2007 at 4:04 PM

    Walaikum asalaam.

    I see the point of not involving the authorities, but silence for the sake of saving face has kept women and children in abusive situations for a long time.

    What if the media or the authorities found out about a situation in which kids were being abused? They would blame Muslims all the more for covering it up.

    (BTW, the story about this madrassa doesn’t make sense. If a governmental authority had investigated the school, I wouldn’t think they would only take action if someone pressed criminal charges. But the larger question of whether or not we go to civil government for help is a separate issue.)

  6. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    May 24, 2007 at 4:19 PM

    @ sis Ruth: Apparently (and Allah knows best), the charges were dropped and the investigation closed when the people in charge of the school promised to change things. The sister of one of the students says nothing has changed, though.

  7. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 24, 2007 at 5:21 PM

    I see the point of not involving the authorities, but silence for the sake of saving face has kept women and children in abusive situations for a long time.

    Hmm.. you are correct. It is difficult. I mean, it’s not just about saving face, but rather, preventing something worse. Can the authorities be trusted to deal with the matter in a just manner, without any kind of prejeudice? I think, if the school does not respond to calls from communtiy leaders to shape up, they should be threatened with criminal prosecution. They cannot be allowed to get away with this.

  8. Avatar

    nuqtah

    May 24, 2007 at 6:46 PM

    Yes, the problem is real, and the abuse is real. However instead of playing the ‘blame the madrasah’ game, where the holy institution itself is scapegoated, why not talk about how such a problem can be rectified?

    The problem with most people today is that they rant on and on about how bad islam or muslims are, yet they dont offer any solutions?

    We need to shift the way we think about these issues. Talkin about how bad some madrassah is, isnt going to help much. What would be useful is to discuss how we can change such a problem.

  9. Avatar

    Umar Lee

    May 24, 2007 at 6:52 PM

    There is a tendency in the Muslim community to try and cover up problems and not talk about them and when something does arise to hush-up. I will give you two examples of this from the past.

    There is a a masjid in Brooklyn that has a mostly Arab congregation and there were repeated instances of sisters being beaten and abused by their husbands and when they would go to the masjid and complain they got ZERO help from the masjid. The brothers who were beating the sisters were more than likely friends of the the people running the masjid and brothers stick together.

    So what happened? The Muslims never gave the sisters any help so a local womens organizations, comprised of mostly liberal Jewish women, started hiring Arabic speakers per the request of the local police precinct who didn’t have anyplace to refer these battered women to who didn’t speak English.

    Another example is when a Muslim boy was reportedly sexually abused by a teacher at a school in the Midwest. As soon as this was found out, and I mean that very moment, Muslim brothers began attacking the kid and his family and defending the brother and making all kinds of crazy allegations without even having the most basic facts.

    Thats how the Muslim community tends to settle the problems internally; by ignoring it or blaming the victim!

    If you want to take care of it yourself that is understandable; but understand as Musa said, that will more than likely mean you will be getting locked-up.

  10. Pingback: New Blog and Thought Prooking Piece and Discussion « Umar Lee

  11. Avatar

    Baba

    May 24, 2007 at 8:53 PM

    As salaamu alaykum involving the police isn’t a good idea,but we can not sit by an let this take place if what is said is the truth.I wanted to take my sons alhamdulillah over seas to study an they are young.For this reason I can’t unless i go an stay as well.By me being Muslim American I don’t take kindly anyone putting there hands on my children until they have proved to me that they love them as much as I do for the sake of Allah(swt).If you don’t want the police involved people have to step up before someone get hurt an it get to the police an the media anyway.Allah(swt)knows best

  12. Avatar

    sister

    May 25, 2007 at 12:30 AM

    Assalam w alaikum wr wb wm
    This IS NOT a waste of your time. check the websites for urself!
    Please send this message to all your contacts!!!
    If you dont…. A Muslim(s) around the world could be receiving false information about Islam which you know about, so I would send this messages as soon as u have read it.

    Beware of the following websites:

    websites removed

    moderator note – i have removed the website and publication names because the only way they get publicity is when we pass them around and give them attention. In any case, this is a chain email that was probably created so that Muslims can help, ironic how that may sound, market for the websites.
    -ibnabeeomar

  13. Avatar

    Anon.

    May 25, 2007 at 5:37 AM

    I’m being serious here (please don’t make fun of me for it)- what is wrong with beating women, islamically? Not saying I would necessarily do it, but I’ve never read anywhere it’s haram. Please, no knee-jerk reactions: Abu Bakr, maybe you could explain things to me?

  14. Avatar

    Hamdi

    May 25, 2007 at 8:48 AM

    Maybe someone with more knowledgeable should answer that question, but obviously you shouldn’t beat your wife. The Prophet sall Allahu ‘aleyhi wa sallam never did it according to a hadith and the only thing that is allowed is to do the kind of thing where you jokingly push/shove someone when he/she says something shocking or funny (I hope it’s clar what I mean), in terms of how much hurt you are allowed to inflict I mean. And even this has conditions.
    So doing what I presume happened in the case, which is abuse, obviously isn’t right.
    I hope someone can elaborate.

  15. Avatar

    veiled_muslimah

    May 25, 2007 at 12:28 PM

    Assalam Alaykum

    Interesting post [and blog]. Maybe if the community got together and did something about it as a whole, it would make a difference? I do not know how things happen in that part of the World, but if something like that were to happen [I’m in Dubai] in any of the Schools here or to any of the Students, the School would be closed down and the teachers would be questioned.

    There is a difference between abuse and discipline in Islam.

    I know a family, where the Father would beat his Sons for absolutely no reason, or for little things. And this was not just light beating, he would use belts. Now the Sons have reached a point where they are not afraid of getting beaten. Infact, they do whatever they want to do and when their Father threatens them with beatings, they are not really bothered so it is become ineffective.

  16. Avatar

    Cafe Alpha

    May 25, 2007 at 1:48 PM

    People have it exactly backwards when they try to avoid publicity and public condemnation of the problem.

    If you solve this problem without public awareness, then you’ve only solved it for your own child if that. The problem will come back, unless there is public pressure to keep the institution running well.

    Embarrassment isn’t your enemy, it’s a tool that you use.

    The absurd result of worrying about “the reputation the ummah” is that only kafir can solve their problems and thus the the ummah get a reputation for being too backward to solve it’s problems.

  17. Avatar

    Anon.

    May 25, 2007 at 4:43 PM

    ‘The Prophet sall Allahu ‘aleyhi wa sallam never did it…’

    Simply isn’t sufficient proof that it is wrong. He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) never beat a slave, but we know that it is OK to do so under certain circumstances.

  18. Avatar

    Hamdi

    May 25, 2007 at 5:16 PM

    I didn’t say that it’s sufficient proof. Just look up the tafsir of the ayah where this issue is discussed and see what the mufassirun said about how much damage you are allowed to inflict and you’ll see that it’s not allowed to abuse someone. Again, if I’ve understood it correctly, we’re talking about hurting someone as much as you do when you playfully shove/push a person while joking around. It’s not supposed to cause damage.

  19. Avatar

    UmmZahra

    May 25, 2007 at 8:12 PM

    Well I think the issue goes deeper then just this school or a school. The question is how do Muslims value their children? What is the proper way of parenting or caring for children?

    I’ve seen Muslimahs shout, hit, and slap their children like it was nothing. In fact, I’ve seen some hitting their infants over trivial things (a baby pushed a folded chair down, one incident in a masjid no less).

    What are realistic expectations of children? I was at a friends has and we had a lengthy debate on spanking. We placed a simple scenario. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter drops a glass and it shatters. A month later, she does the same. She said she’d spank a child. I find that absurd. A child is still developing coordination at this age. Is it realistic to expect a child not to accidentally break a glass ?

    This same 2 1/1 year old playfully kicked the mothers leg. (You know the way kids fidget while standing infront of someone). The father immediately shouts at the child.

    I have other friends who would say “Yes we beat our children. We were beat as children and look at me now.” Or the most common, “It’s just our culture.”

    I see Muslims (not all of course) belittling, humiliating, and physically punishing (to the extremes) their children. I really think we need to be educated on raising our children. How do we educate them, discipline/guide, and really what can we expect? Is it really realistic to expect a child to sit still for long periods of time? to not have mistakes while learning something new?

    Sorry to keep rambling, but I really think we need to learn how to be better parents and care givers for our children.

  20. Avatar

    Umm Reem

    May 25, 2007 at 8:48 PM

    “I was at a friends has and we had a lengthy debate on spanking. We placed a simple scenario. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter drops a glass and it shatters. A month later, she does the same. She said she’d spank a child.”

    hmm…so what happens when an adult breaks a glass….OOps cuz I break a lot :)

  21. Avatar

    UmmZahra

    May 25, 2007 at 9:08 PM

    Exactly Umm Reem!

    We also had the topic of another sister who’s 9 year old always forgets the lunch. The same sister said…well I forget my lunch to so it’s okay.

  22. Amad

    Amad

    May 25, 2007 at 9:25 PM

    ASA… I didn’t read all the comments thoroughly so excuse me if I am repeating any of what I am about to say…

    Being on the outside, I feel that there are two alternatives available for those that can influence/affect the situation from the “local-outside” i.e. outsiders who are in proximity, like for instance Sr. mouse’s dad and other concerned parties:

    1) The “Low-Key” approach: Give them a time-line, may be a month or so to clean up their act (literally) or face the music of authorities. Then FOLLOW-UP on the the ‘threat’ IF the follow-up is not satisfactory.

    2) The “Heavy-Key” approach: In this approach, the “local-outsiders” get more involved and requires more of their time but keeps Muslims more involved and a greater part of the solution. So, the committee of “local-outsiders” write up a summary report, perhaps even a page, with a list of milestones at certain interval levels. So, for instance:
    a) Hygienic improvements to ‘acceptable’ specs. as determined by a follow up visit by the committee by XX date.

    b) Standards improvements to ‘acceptable’ standards by YY date (later than XX)

    & and so on and so forth.

    The milestones should be reasonable and achievable. In the absence of an acceptable goal achievements, the authorities would be notified and follow up action passes on to them.

    As for authorities, let’s get this straight: we are in a country not run by Muslims… We pay taxes for protection by police, firefighters, etc… it is our right to expect and use such services; nothing wrong with it IF the benefit exceeds the harm).

    IMHO, it is much better to shut such a school than to cause psychological and even health scars on the lives of children. Perhaps if we leave them like this, a few of them may turn out like our friend Isaac Schrödinger, the never-was-really-a-Muslim-qadiani-apostate who has linked to this post to show how ‘bad’ our madrassas are. I guess Columbine must have been a great place since no Muslims ran it.

    Anyways, not to get off on tangents– we do NOT need to be afraid of petty ‘hide our dirty laundry’ motivations. We need to be MUCH MORE concerned about OUR CHILDREN than OUR REPUTATIONS. In fact, instead of throwing a negative light about squalid conditions in the school, a proactive response by the Muslim community may throw positive light in that Muslims were engaged in reporting it. I think Br. Ahmad, if someone broke into your house, even if he was a Muslim, you would be not be thinking about ‘Muslim community reputations’ to prevent you from dialing 911 immediately.

    I hope someone will take action sooner than later before these kids get hurt further.

    Br. Ahmad forgive me if I was a little edgy… May Allah forgive me for any mistakes.

  23. Avatar

    Cafe Alpha

    May 25, 2007 at 10:08 PM

    In fact, I’ve seen some hitting their infants over trivial things (a baby pushed a folded chair down, one incident in a masjid no less).

    A german psychologist named Alice Miller studied a few of the worst monsters of Nazi era and came to the conclusion that corporal punishment of babies and very very young children can create evil.

    She alo suggested these practices were common in Germany at the time and contributed to the country being willing to commit atrocities in WWII.

    “Am Anfang war Erziehung”, 1980
    English translation:
    “For Your Own Good”

  24. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 26, 2007 at 2:18 PM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    I think my point was greatly misunderstood… it is not about “hiding dirty laundry” at all. I will write a more detailed reply later inshaAllah when I have time.

    Wassalaam,
    Ahmad

  25. AbdulHasib

    AbdulHasib

    May 26, 2007 at 3:19 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatAllah,

    Um.. just a helpful suggestion.

    Can the people who are trying to make a point, actually go ahead and make their point.

    It’s almost a task trying to sift through all the superflous, seemingly didactic, and tacit sentence structure to actually find, much less decode, your respected points.

    My point: Just get to the point -).

    JazaakumAllahukhairan

  26. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    May 26, 2007 at 8:06 PM

    Sorry about not having responded to any of the comments yet; I’ll get to that tomorrow, insha’Allah…

  27. Avatar

    Didi

    May 26, 2007 at 10:55 PM

    If you sent your children to a non-muslim school and they were subjected to this level of abuse, you would alert the school board immediately. The same should apply to muslim schools. These people are beating your children. Alert the authorities.

    I understand that you’re concened about putting muslims in a bad light, but if this is how you treat your children, you deserve all the negative publicity you get. All the media is going to do is report the truth, and if you’re so concerned about that, then maybe you should abandon your medieval ways and move into the 21st century, where people don’t feel that they have the right to beat each other senseless for tiny things like having imperfect diction.

    If you live in western countries, you have to abide by western laws. It’s illegal in western countries to beat children, so these people are breaking the law and should be locked up. QED.

  28. Avatar

    Um Abdullah

    May 27, 2007 at 9:01 AM

    Bro. Amad an excellent comment.

    Its completely about hiding dirty laundry. Its also about not trusting outsiders which is common in many insular communities. But we live in 21t century. Commenters here sound like the mafia.

    How about the culture of sexual abuse in Madrassas, which is real. It still exists because no one wants to talk about it or get anyone in trouble. Well its a pathetic excuse and when we see our children leaving Islam left and right (as many are although we are in denial about it) we will know why. More importantly we as a community we will be held accountable on the day of judgment for not protecting children, who are given to us as a trust from Allah.

  29. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 27, 2007 at 2:54 PM

    I dont think it can or should be salvaged: the men who are running this school have amply proven they cannot be trusted to take care of children.

    My point: shut it down

  30. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    May 27, 2007 at 5:22 PM

    JazakAllahu khair to everyone who commented… this is such a serious matter, and I fully intend to do something about it (whatever it is that I can do).

    Please make du’aa that we’re able to stop this injustice and cruelty, and that we have the strength, patience, courage, and faith to withstand the numerous obstacles we’ll face in doing so…

  31. Avatar

    Umm Layth

    May 27, 2007 at 6:48 PM

    as-Salaamu `alaykum

    Stand strong. Replace the trouble makers. Tell parents to take care of their children and not to whine when they are to blame for leaving them there.

  32. Avatar

    doobiedoo

    May 29, 2007 at 3:34 PM

    I definitely disagree with solving this probably “internally” and I don’t buy into the argument of not airing the dirty laundry because it’ll give people something else to complain about muslims. Embarrassment and public humiliation work wonderfully when it comes to solving problems caused by adults. I think the public authorities like social services should be notified and involved. The Catholic Church is a prime example of what happens when you attempt to solve your problems without notifying the proper authorities because they don’t want to air their dirty laundry. And look how well that worked :sarcasm:

  33. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    June 13, 2007 at 6:05 PM

    I would also take the “board of directors” to task—those who established the school and brought such teachers from Pakistan or wherever. I agree with people that this school should be shut down to stop such abuse and to prevent this from becoming a fodder for those who would love to make this an “example” of Islam.

    Also, I just want to point out to people to read some sentences of the post with caution. Some, especially people born and raised in the West, could get the idea that the “Pakistani model” of a madrasah is what that has been described here. Yes, abuse is real and that happens in some madaaris back in Pakistan, but the level of abuse and other filthy conditions described here is exception rather than a rule. So, be careful how you word the post. If I weren’t from a Muslim country, I would think shoot, this is how Islamic schools are run there. These madaaris serve a noble mission and almost all people come out of them respecting and loving Islam and Quran and sunnah and not being scared of reciting the Quran! If that weren’t the case, many people who come out of these madaaris in Pakistan would despise reading Quran and following Islam, which isn’t the case.

    I can bet the teachers running this madrasah are villager/’arabi/non-worldy and in fact illiterate. Yes, they might know some Quran and tajweed and some rudimentary stuff on Islam, but they don’t have proper understanding of this religion—the education, the knowledge, the mannerism, the maturity that Islam helps develop. People who have lived in Pakistan would know what I mean.

    And, just to clarify—this is not a discriminatory remark on villagers. But, even in hadith books you read that an ‘arabi came and started relieving himself in the masjid, etc. etc. The point is if you come from an uneducated environment (like most villages might) and you only stay at the fringes of knowledge of Islam (like learning to read Quran (not understanding), some basic stuff about how to pray, etc.) you can end up with a distorted understanding that can lead to applying old, uncivilized mannerism in teaching Islam, such as the case here.

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Assalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

Jannah Wall Art

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MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

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“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/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Culture

Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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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.[1]” 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? [2]

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

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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