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Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 4

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

III. Why Muslims are in Debt – Money Myths!

The statistics from the previous section are important to keep in mind to realize how slippery of a slope it is to be involved in debt (whether it be halal or haram debts). Just last night I saw a statistic on the Fox Business network that American credit card debt is over $1 trillion.

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The truth is, Muslims and non-Muslims are very much alike in issues of debt – except that ribaa [interest] has been made haram (and not just haram, but “haram haram“) for us, so the issue is compounded greatly. People simply do not have education on finances. I certainly do not ever remember being taught in school how to budget money, how to manage household finances, the best way to purchase big items, the benefits of car leasing vs. buying, etc. We learn how to calculate compounded interest in math class, sure, but we do not learn how to actually manage money. Would America be in the shape it is in if it was taught?

Dave Ramsey [can you tell I really like this guy?] has a great saying that money is only 20% knowledge, and 80% behavior. I can sum up the entire series on debt for you right now:

Make sure your expenses are less than you make, save the rest, and don’t buy anything unless you have cash for it.

That is, in reality, all the knowledge you need. The 80% behavior comes in because people simply do not know how to do that. Seemingly well educated people are completely clueless on how to handle money. Another Ramsey quote that cracked me up the first time I heard it is referring to this as ‘Stupid with zeros at the end.’ Thomas Stanley wrote a book called the Millionaire Next Door that shows in detail that this is, in fact, how the wealthy live (really, no payments?).

If you apply the principle in the quote box above, insha’Allah you already know everything you need. Applying this principle should save us from at least 80% of the fatwas we end up asking and are still looking for solid answers to. But, life isn’t that simple is it? We don’t live in a society that is conducive to this ideal, so we fall into the traps and myths laid out for us.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Do not jump into this series assuming you are doing ok. Even if you are not in debt, there is a good chance that you probably will be (even if it is “just” a car or house). And if you are in debt, but think you have it under control, don’t. It does not take much to spiral out. Everyone knows the analogy. If you throw a frog in boiling water, it will jump out. If you put it in cold water and slowly keep turning up the heat until it reaches boiling, it will never notice.

Myth: Debt is a tool to buy what you aren’t able to.

Let’s say this again. If you aren’t able to buy it, then don’t.

This is perhaps the greatest myth out there. Everyone simply thinks, that debt is ‘just the way of doing things.’ If you want to buy a car, well, you take out a payment. If you need a mattress, only an idiot pays $500 up front when they can split it up into easy monthly payments over 24 months. And one more example, that honestly I would think was a joke if I myself did not witness this: I was working as a cashier at an uppity clothing store a few years back before starting college, and I remember that about 2-3 times in a span of 6-8 weeks, people would come and buy $60 clothes on layaway. Sixty bucks!! This is society. People are so utterly desperate to get something they can’t afford right now that they just keep taking debt here, debt there, even for relatively small amounts!

The following from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (we’re going to cover this book in detail in the how to get out of debt section) is a great insight on this issue,

My contention is that debt brings on enough risk to offset any advantage that could be gained through leverage of debt. Given time, a lifetime, risk will destroy the perceived returns purported by the mythsayers….I have even sold rental property that was losing money to investors by showing them, with very sophisticated internal rates of return, how they would actually make money. Only after losing everything I owned and finding myself bankrupt did I think that risk should be factored in, even mathematically.

Islam has taught us that debt is not a tool, but a last resort. And then on top of that, Islam has taught us not to involve ourselves in interest at all, may Allah (swt) protect all of us from it.

Myth: I need a Credit Card to Build ‘Credit’

Credit score is usually the domino that starts the downfall. Get a credit card in college, and establish your credit. For what? To get higher credit limits on credit cards you shouldn’t have? To get a better APR on your car purchase? Really, what it boils down to is establishing good credit so you can get a good mortgage. The reality is, you only need good credit in order to enable you to take on more debt so that you can get more stuff – stuff you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like (quote credit for that to Sh. Abdulbary Yahya :) ).

Seriously though, why do you need credit? Ask yourself that question honestly. Come up with a list of reasons it is necessary to build good credit. Utilities? The first time you are doing this, you may need to make a cash deposit if you don’t have good credit. Once you have done this though, the deposit is usually refunded back if you maintain a good payment history, and now they have you on record as being in good standing. We’ll cover house and car buying towards the end, but really unless you are trying to get something outside of your means, you don’t need great credit for it, and you can establish it without the use of a credit card.

What’s that? Establish credit without a credit card? It’s called a debit card. Gives you all the same ‘benefits’ like being able to check into a hotel and rent a car, while at the same time taking money straight out of your account every time you use it. But since it is usually a Visa, or at the least can function as a credit card, it gets reported to all those same credit agencies to factor into your magic number! Most banks offer a free checking account with a Debit/ATM card with unlimited use. I have heard of some smaller banks charging fees if you swipe your debit card as ‘credit’ a certain amount of times, or for a certain dollar amount, but I don’t think that most do. At the least, I know that Bank of America and Wachovia don’t. I swipe my debit card as ‘credit’ all the time, especially when getting gas since I am paranoid about typing my pin number in public. And yes, I have used my debit card to purchase things online – from books on Islamic websites (funny that this is our benchmark for “less secure” online transactions ;) ), hotel reservations, and even plane tickets!

Myth: Credit Cards – It’s Not Interest If I Pay On Time, and 0% is Same as Cash!

This is probably the most contentious issue we face day to day in regards to our finances. Putting things on our credit card, and buying things we can’t yet afford at 0%. Now let’s get one thing straight. If you don’t use a credit card, and you buy everything with cash/debit – then you don’t need to worry about any of this! If you follow the principles laid out earlier, you have just saved yourself a lot of headache. For the other 95% of us though, we have to look at it in more detail. Oh, and don’t forget you massively reduce the risk of identity theft by getting rid of your credit cards :)

First we’ll take a look at whether or not it is even halal to use a credit card even if you pay it off every month and never give a single penny in interest. According to Sh. Ghassan Barqawi, an expert in Islamic Finance, it is not. The ribaa mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah is exactly the same as that of a current credit card contract. [Please refer to his lecture on 0% Interest which is the basis for the majority of my notes that follow here. He is the same one who did the CD series on how to buy a house Islamically referenced in an earlier comment on this series.]

When you sign up for a credit card, you agree to pay off the amount due at the end of every billing cycle (i.e. every month). If you are unable to pay the full amount due at the end of the month, you pay interest on the amount and delay the full payment. By merely signing up for the credit card, you agree to these terms and conditions (otherwise, obviously, they would not issue it to you).

This contract existed in the time of jahiliyyah. The only difference now is the plastic.

According to Sh. Ghassan, any contract mentioning interest in any way, shape, or form is unequivocally haram.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran (the meaning of which is),

O you who believe! Eat not Riba (usury) doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful. (3:130)

Many people make the mistake of thinking that our contemporary system did not exist at those times, therefore something else is mentioned. However, a look at what our scholars have stated over the centuries shows the opposite.

Ibn Battaal al-Maliki (died 449 AH) said,

The ribaa of Jahiliyyah is that they used to lend a dirham (silver currency) for 2 dirhams, or a dinaar (gold currency) for 2 dinaars for a certain period of time. When the time of payment became due, they would say either pay us back or we will increase the money (so instead of 2 dirhams, they increase the amount). Every time they would delay payment, they would increase the interest on the interest, until it multiplies over.

In Muwatta Imam Maalik there is a saheeh narration from Zaid b. Aslam, a tabi’ee who died 136 AH,

During the time of the Sahabah, the ribaa of Jahiliyyah was that a man would have money lent to him from another man on the condition that it would be paid on a certain date. When the date would come, the lender would say either you pay now, or we increase the amount. If he paid what was due, there was no extra charge, and if he didn’t the full amount was delayed but the payment increased.

Does this sound any different from a modern credit card contract? Just because people don’t know that it didn’t exist before doesn’t meant that it didn’t.

Despite having the intention to pay on time, according to the Qur’an and Sunnah it still constituted interest.

Imam al-Jassaas al-Hanafi (d. 370) said,

The ribaa of Jahiliyyah was a delayed loan with a conditional interest, and the interest was payment for the time [i.e. that of inflation, or ‘renting’ the money and adding value to keep the ‘purchasing power’ of it the same], and Allah made this compensation for the time haram.

There are numerous statements from the classical scholars indicating this, but this should be sufficient for purposes of this article, you can always refer back to the original lecture for more.

Also regarding some of the ‘ulemma who have ruled it is ok to deal with such credit cards, Sh. Ghassan mentioned that many of them unfortunately are not fully aware of the technicalities of the contract.

Many fataawa have been issued regarding the use of credit cards, for instance, Dr. Ali al-Salous – AMJA, and Ibn Uthaymeen (rh). I’d also like to mention that some of the fataawa I found that allowed for them were based on questions building up that it is a hardship not to have it. However, as will become evident throughout this series, I do not feel that there’s a legitimate case of hardship that requires the use of a credit card in this country (not to the extent that I read in one such fatwa that not using a credit card would prevent the person from using many services and cause “unbearable” hardship), especially when a debit card can be used for everything a credit card is needed for. Even for online purchasing, you can get an alias number that will still deduct from your debit card. The only exception I can think of may be renting a car [you can read the debit card policies of major car rental agencies here]. The only limitation of a debit card is that it will prevent you from taking on any debt. In any case though, regarding that exception there is a good answer from Sh. Ibn Uthaymeen on this.

There are many Americans living without credit cards, and not just the wealthy either. This quote from a fatwa by AMJA was inspirational,

There are many Muslims who live in the USA and avoid usury. Our persistence in observing our religion will lead us to prosperity in this life and the hereafter. There are already many attempts at accommodating the needs of Muslims in various areas of financial transactions. I just read that Caribou Coffee, the second largest coffee house in America, promised its shareholders that they will not sell porn or pork, nor will they charge or pay interest. This was understood by the observers as a clear indication of their interest in attracting Muslim investments. “Victory is but the fruit of patience for one hour.”

Practically speaking for day to day there is no real need for it. All ‘services’ such as phone, utility, cellphone can all be set up to pay from deducting from your bank account, or they will accept checks as payments. Personally, I use online banking (sending electronic checks) for all such utilities.

Then comes the question of 0%.

Essentially, the 0% contract is the same as a credit card contract. The only difference is a longer grace period, maybe 90 days instead of 30 days. The other type of 0% contract is one in which interest accumulates for the ‘grace period.’ So for example, you buy $1000 furniture with 5% interest, but 6 months “same as cash.” If you pay the 1,000 within the 6 months fine, but if you don’t pay it, they go back and calculate the interest for the first 6 months as well.

In Dave Ramsey’s book, he mentions a statistic that 88% of these types of contracts are converted to debt because people do not pay them on time. If you get involved in this, you are playing with fire (literally). Also the 0% is not the same as cash. Realistically speaking, if you went to buy a fridge, and they are offering 12 months 0%, and you said you are willing to pay cash, they would probably give you a discount!

All this comes down to is saving your money and waiting to get what you want to buy. Of all people, Muslims should be most familiar with enduring some hardship to get a bigger reward later. If 90 days is the same as cash, then save your money for 90 days that would have gone to they payment, and then buy what you need. If you need it earlier, use money from your savings (more on establishing this later).

And how can anyone say with 100% certainty that they can predict the future, and know they will pay it off? How bad would it be to die 2 months into a 90 day “same as cash” debt that you shouldn’t have been in, and be held hostage from Jannah because of it?

Fatwa vs. Taqwa

In fairness, it should be mentioned that there is no doubt fatawa exist on the permissibility of using credit cards if they are paid off on time. Obviously, what is presented here is what I feel to be the stronger side of the issue. In either case though, whether it is halal or haram technically speaking, a believer should strive their utmost to fear Allah in all aspects. In part 2 of this series, the seriousness of debt was discussed. Even if you consider taking a credit card halal, stop and ask yourself, why do you need it? Even speaking from a strictly fiscal perspective, chances are you are only using it to get something you cannot immediately afford, or don’t need. Think about going to the mall with $100 cash in your wallet, and going with a credit card that has 0% on purchases for the next 12 months. See how much stuff you buy. This is where the taqwa comes in. Don’t get the credit card if you don’t need it, otherwise you are putting yourself on a path to destruction, and I mean that even just primarily from the perspective of your dunya affairs. If you don’t have the cash, it means you can’t afford it.

With that said, if you are going to use a credit card for renting a car, buying things online, or any of those other scenarios that I am sure are going through your head, then at the least make sure that you immediately take the money out of your account and pay the credit card right away. I know there are certain circumstances where it is easier to use the credit card, but what I hope you can take away from this is to treat those exceptions as exceptions and take care of them immediately. Don’t make credit cards your day to day standard :)

Lastly, one more reminder on what can happen to you even if you are paying off your balance on time:

Even if you make your credit card payments on time, the credit card bank can raise your interest rate automatically if you’re late on payments elsewhere — such as on another credit card or on a phone, car, or house payment — or simply because the bank feels you have taken on too much debt.

This practice is called the “universal default” clause and increasingly is becoming a standard clause in credit card agreements. According to credit card executives, the logic behind universal default is that the bank is not being unreasonable in raising rates when it has reason to believe that the risk of being repaid by the customer has increased. [PBS Frontline Documentary ]

Coming up next – The evils of interest, and debt freedom.

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

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. Avatar


    January 16, 2008 at 11:58 AM

    Bismillah ArRahman ArRaheem

    Someone once debunked the idea that paying off credit card debts on time makes them Halal as follows: If the credit card contract stated that for every late payment, you would have to drink a glass of alcohol, would you sign that contract too?

    The point, of course, being that even *signing* such a contract is in and of itself wrong, even if the eventuality in a clause does not come to pass.

  2. Avatar


    January 16, 2008 at 1:35 PM


    Mashallah, you have a strong basis in knowledge in islamic and finance matter. You should consider doing this full-time to help Muslims, as well as non-Muslims. Consider becoming a finance coach, through some program like DiscoverU

  3. ibnabeeomar


    January 16, 2008 at 3:33 PM

    deendriven jazakallahu khayr for your comments. doing something like that would take a long time, and require advanced education here (something like an mba) as well as dedicated time in studying shar’iah as well – like sh. ghassan barqawi has done.

    i believe its important to have some muslims get into the field of debt counseling and financial planning alongside a good shari’ah background, and start programs for muslim communities across america – much like dave ramsey has done in the christian community.

    • Avatar


      February 10, 2010 at 12:46 PM

      Assalam-0-alaikum brother,

      I’m very much interested about the Islamic views on debt and interest. Unfortunately me and my husband have become a victim of this vicious curse and would do anything to come out of it as soon as possible. We pray and work hard every day to become debt and interest free but unfortunately it will take some time as we have predicted due to our current financial situation.

      I’m studying CPA and I’m almost done with my qualification. Inshallah soon I will complete my CPA certification. I have a good understanding of finance and accouting and I would like to ( after completing my education) work for the betterment of Muslims in this regard. I would like to make our lives free from debt and interest and help thousands of other Muslims who are caught in the same vicious circle like us. If you know any organization who are giving such education or are wiling to help people in attaining financial freedom and using their education and knowledge to help others please please let me know. I think that every hardship in life has a lesson to it and I want to do something for Allah and His religion and since I have an accouting and finance background, I want to use this knowledge to help myself and my husband as well as help all the other Muslims.

      Jazakallah khair.

      • Avatar


        February 10, 2010 at 12:53 PM

        I would highly appreciate your comment on this as soon as possible.

        Thanks again

  4. Avatar

    Abu Hudayr

    January 16, 2008 at 5:02 PM

    what about using cash back credit cards? where they give you 1%, 3%, 5% cash rebates for your purchases… you could actually make money (if you are disciplined enough) ;)

  5. ibnabeeomar


    January 16, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    thats the same reasoning. why would they give you money back unless they were making money off of it? also, the rebates aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.. you have to spend at least a few thousand dollars on your card to get up that high. i will be quite honest here, it was precisely because of those types of rewards and cards that i started using more cards – 5x points back on grocery and gas, etc etc. it doesnt end well :)

  6. ibnabeeomar


    January 16, 2008 at 5:09 PM

    plus i’m not sure if the cashback constitutes interest or not.. from what i was able to find it seems there’s some leniency on getting gift cards for redemption, but i dont know about cash back.

  7. Avatar


    January 17, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    Salaam, this is a fantastic series and much needed it seems, from the statistics you’ve given.

    Alhamdulillah, I’ve never been in debt (I would have had no excuse anyway since I don’t ever have to spend my own money, really), but using a debit card is excellent advice and I don’t know why people don’t do that instead of using credit cards. I use my debit card in shops and online all the time and alhamdulillah I’ve never had any problems with it, and there’s no headache of remembering to pay it off since it’s your own money anyway.

    I used to watch this program called Spendaholics, it was about people who were in loads of debt. It was quite good actually, it went into the roots of people’s emotional dependency on spending money as well. But the advice was pretty much the same simple concept: spend less than what you earn.

  8. Avatar


    January 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    Oh I also have a question: do you have any advice on investing money – or is it better to just leave it sitting there?

  9. Avatar

    khawla hurayrah

    January 18, 2008 at 7:07 PM

    MashaAllah, very good series. This is what we need to be aware about and to let our children know the perils of Riba.

    May Allah protect us from being overcome by debt. Ameen

  10. Avatar


    January 23, 2008 at 1:26 AM

    Ma sha Allah, this is an outstanding article. May Allah reward you tremendously br. ibnabeeomar.

    One point: I don’t think that the option of using your debit card as credit card is available in Canada. Not that I know of anyway.

  11. Avatar


    January 23, 2008 at 4:20 PM

    Great series, great article.

    I’ve had my head in the sand about these issues for quite some time, and wanting to learn more, these series have provided just what I was looking for.

    Keep it up.

  12. Pingback: » Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 5

  13. Avatar

    Abu Ilyas

    February 4, 2008 at 6:14 AM

    Masha’allah, this is a very good read.

    I read recently how ‘EGG’ which is an Internet bank based in the UK withdrew credit card facilities from thousands of its customers on the pretext that they had bad credit and were therefore too risky. It later emerged that in fact many thousands of these customers had excellent credit ratings and had always paid off their outstanding balances before any interest was accrued, i.e the bank was simply getting rid of customers who were not paying them interest or late charges.

  14. Pingback: » Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

  15. Pingback: How to live a life being Halal-Muslim Matters-discusses how to buy, or not buy a car and house « Shariah Finance Watch

  16. Avatar


    February 20, 2008 at 6:06 AM

    I dont think Canada allows you to use your Debit card as Visa, so unfortunately it does become a bit of a hardship, for e.g. signing up for a phone, or broadband access etc requires the use of a credit card.

  17. Avatar


    February 22, 2008 at 4:08 AM

    as salamu`alaykum Br Omar,

    MashaAllah very nice series. I started reading backwards ;) (i.e. I have read 5 and 4…still need to read all the other parts). A few points I’d like to mention:

    * even to rent, you need to have a credit history. Would ‘visa -debit’ cards be sufficient to get your scores in the high 700 range?
    * These are the incentives I see for using CC:
    – It gives me a yearly summary of all my expenses and which category they fall in. It’s really helpful…but I guess not necessary.
    – Mileage plus points…but I guess that can again be argued it’s just a trap.

    Honestly though, I’m now seriously thinking of getting rid of my CC inshaAllah :) [alHamdulillah I have never been in debt and pay off my CC out on time]

    In terms of saving money as someone asked. Here are my suggestions:

    * if you get a paycheck, most companies (at least major companies) allow you to split your check into multiple bank account. So for example, if you get a check of $1000, you can say that I want $700 to go in my checking account and $300 to go in another checking account. And that could be your saving…and you can make it a rule not to touch that money at all.
    * secondly, put your excess cash in Amana Mutual Funds. I have asked Sh Muhammad AlShareef about it and he also invests in Amana. Also, you can discuss your option with Br Monem Salam from Amana…he was at TDC as well.
    * Consider also getting a Rollover or Roth IRA account with Amana…this was you can save on taxes and save this money for retirement in case you don’t have a 401k account (I know most muslims don’t)


  18. ibnabeeomar


    February 22, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    wa alaikum assalam,
    jazakallahu khayr.. i dont know anymore about it than what was posted above that i got from ramseys book regarding the credit score thing. i do recall on the financial call with muhammad alshareef and monem salam that br. monem mentioned they have to report debit card usage to the same reporting agencies as a credit card, but i’d have to listen to it again to verify.

    no idea about what kind of score you would get though :)

    btw if you have been using a credit card and paying it off, your score should already be really good.

  19. Avatar


    February 22, 2008 at 12:32 PM

    Br Kamran, doesnt saving account have interest on it?

  20. Amad


    February 22, 2008 at 12:58 PM

    I have only had american express (does go into credit report) and a check card (does not go into report, hasn’t in mine) for the last 10+ yrs. No problem getting my new car on lease (required credit chk). My score isn’t great but to be honest, if u are not going to be in the market looking for an interst based investment or property, I am not sure you are ever going to need that great score. Keep bad stuff out of the reports, and everything else will work out i/a.

  21. Avatar


    February 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM


    This is what I said:
    “you can say that I want $700 to go in my checking account and $300 to go in another checking account.”

    I didn’t mention savings account. I said “checking” account…so you just have two checking accounts. And the way I usually do it is that I get a credit union checking account cuz some of them don’t charge ATM transaction fee ANYWHERE in the world. So alHamdulillah, like when I went overseas last time, I was able to withdraw cash from my account without having to pay the extra “$3” for ATM transaction cost. (or if you’re stuck somewhere with a Seven Eleven ATM, you can use this card there)

    hope this helps.

    ibnabeomar, yes alHamdulillah my credit score is excellent and therefore I guess I can’t really justify keeping the CCs other than the reasons I mentioned.


  22. Avatar


    February 22, 2008 at 9:23 PM

    My fault, i have no clue how i read saving accounts there (well my dad has been pressuring me to get one so it has been in my mind =)

    ”I get a credit union checking account cuz some of them don’t charge ATM transaction fee ANYWHERE in the world. ”

    JazakAllahu Khairun for this, ill see in my bank has this option as well =

  23. Avatar


    April 1, 2008 at 12:45 PM

    I have a partnership with a Muslim brother.
    His business is totally based on Riba(interest based business)
    Is it haram for me to do business together.
    It is against Islam to do business with somebody whose way of doing business is toally against islamic laws.

  24. ibnabeeomar


    April 1, 2008 at 1:41 PM

    Shahid – you’d need to consult an imam or maybe use a fatwa service such as AMJA who can go into the details of your situation with you.

  25. Pingback: Pay Off Your Debt - Khutbah by Muhammad Faqih |

  26. Avatar


    July 18, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Sukran for spreading the message and truly enlightened me not to vie for the things I am not capable to acquire.

  27. Avatar


    November 26, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Hi !
    i have a question regarding cash back with credit card ,my bank basically can give customers cash back if they sign up for a program which is buying items through their card with certain companies such as walmart ect is that halal?to have a cash back from buyng an item ?or is it considered a discount?
    i also have another quesion: i want to go to school but basically i don’t have money for it and i want to study because it’s always being improtant to me ….so what’ the fatwa in getting a loan for education purposes ?i know loan with interest is haram, is there islamic bank in usa ?if so please list them if they loan money for education.

  28. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Islamic Finance and the Mortgage Crisis |

  29. Avatar

    Umm Karimah

    June 29, 2015 at 11:15 PM

    As-Salaamu alaikum. I have an unusual question. A non-Muslim relative has offered a credit card for a poor Muslim to use for emergencies. The Muslim did not apply for the card, nor will they pay the bill – so they will not be paying interest. They simply use the card when needed. Is this still haraam? Is it still participating in riba?

    • Avatar

      Umm Karimah

      June 30, 2015 at 6:24 PM

      UPDATE: I learned that the non-Muslim relative pays the full amount at the time of the bill, paying NO interest. So the Muslim is removed further from Riba. Does that matter?

      • Avatar


        September 11, 2016 at 3:12 PM

        Yes, I believe this also is haram.
        My reasoning is this – if by my actions, I encourage or facilitate someone else, whether a believer or not, to act in an unGodly way, then I am knowingly encouraging someone tu undertake sin. That, I believe, incurs sin upon me.

        As example, I have at times mistakenly bought food, that I have later found contained pork gelatin. I have no doubt that it would be entirely wrong for me knowingly to have eaten it. I have the option of throwing it out, a wrongful waste, or giving it to my neighbour, who is non muslim.

        However, by giving it to my neighbour, I am “feeding” him pork, knowingly and purposefully. When he clearly does not understand that it is wrong. That sin I feel lies more heavily upon me, than upon him, even though he is the one eating it.

        And so it is with your credit card example. “I will benefit from someone else’s sin, even though I know it is sin they will be committing, and they do not understand it to be sin, and worse yet, they are undertaking that sin for my benefit.”

        That would be wrong.

  30. Avatar

    Hesham Abdullah

    December 10, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    Alsalamo Alikom Brother,
    I would like to thank you for sharing the knowledge you have in finance in Islam. I am a Muslim student living in the USA, and I do have similar and related issues. That I do open 7 credits, and I rarely used any of them. I will close the ones I never use very often Inshallah. Currently, I am in a situation that I urgently need to buy another car because my wife is using my car for her work outside the town where we live, and I need to pick up/drop off my son from school every day. I can’t do it without another car. I have only $4500 cash, and this money is not enough to buy a good car that we can keep for so many years without mechanical issues. I am thinking day and night for either to take an Auto loan from my school or to buy a car from a dealer and deposit the $4500 I have in my hand while paying the rest as monthly with interest. Which I don’t want to do. I wonder if you guide me what is the best way to avoid usury in this deal. I can pay up to $400 monthly to reduce the interest as possible. Can you help me to figure it out?

  31. Pingback: Why Muslims are in Debt – Money Myths! |

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Living During a Pandemic, Plan for Death in Your Lifetime

Plan for death, Islamic will

Panic over the global public health steamroller COVID-19 has many of us in the Muslim community thinking about the future: specifically a future without you, the reader, in this world, amongst the living.

There are many articles about how you should not touch your face or how to make bootleg hand sanitizer with vodka to avoid death for the time being. This article will do none of those things. Let’s just assume that no matter your big-box shopping habits or travel plans, you are going to die eventually. Panic is a reflection of our sense of mortality and the care we have for our loved ones and communities.

When you die, you leave behind people, possessions, and often real estate and businesses. You have responsibilities to deal with when you are no longer here, to your family, your customers, lenders, employees, and others. Of course, you can’t deal with these responsibilities yourself, since you will be dead. The purpose of this article is to help you sort out how your responsibilities will be carried out.

Inheritance in Islam

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Everything in the heavens and the earth and all that it contains belongs to Allah. Everything you have that you cannot take with you has been entrusted to you while you are here. Though this is rarely the topic of khutbahs on Jummah (back when we used to do that kind of thing) Islamic Inheritance is fard on all Muslims who have stuff they won’t take with them. Your property is not your own.

Everything in the heavens and the earth and all that it contains belongs to Allah. Everything you have that you cannot take with you has been entrusted to you while you are here.Click To Tweet

Allah has ordained inheritance in the Quran. That means inheritance is not distributed based on your sense of vanity and what you think is better but based on the command of Allah.  This is different from the way we usually do things in the United States. Doing inheritance right is obeying Allah. It is an essential act of worship most American Muslims seem to ignore, to the extent we are familiar with it at all. Inheritance is a bigger deal than most Muslims seem to realize. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the Quran prescribes hellfire for those who disobey Allah’s command. If you go without obeying Allah’s command on inheritance, that is your parting shot, a legacy of injustice and disobedience to Allah.

Doing inheritance right is obeying Allah.Click To Tweet

There are a great many Muslims I have come across over the years who are offended by Islamic Inheritance; just the notion makes them sick. I don’t know what to do for them.

Islamic Inheritance is fundamental to our society and for maintaining peace in our families and communities. It is a bulwark against intra-family oppression and conflicts, protects orphans while uniformly apportioning rights. It is a remarkable system that benefits humanity. You can read this comprehensive guide on Islamic Inheritance if you want further exposure to the subject. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said: “learn fara’id (Islamic rules of inheritance) and teach it to the people.”

So if you gain anything from your current bout social isolation, learn about Islamic Inheritance.


Many people translate “wasiyyah” to “last will.”  This is fundamentally wrong, at least when it comes to the American understanding of what the last will is.  While both are written instructions, the last will and wasiyyah have unique limitations that have no relationship with each other.

You can give up to 1/3 of your estate for beneficial purposes. You could give to charity or those who do not already inherit from you. It is common for beneficiaries of the wasiyyah are poor relatives overseas or grandchildren not entitled to inheritance.  You should read this guide for how the wasiyyah works.

If you go without obeying Allah's command on inheritance, that is your parting shot, a legacy of injustice and disobedience to Allah.Click To Tweet

Guardianship for minor children

For those with minor children, guardianship is often an urgent yet often ignored concern. You should have a solid understanding of what could happen in the event your children become orphans, and there is no living parent. Will they go to child services? Would grandparents fight over them? Might that weird uncle will attempt to get custody and try to convert them to atheism? Do you have family overseas, but they cannot travel to the United States because of a global pandemic?

Of course, you don’t know what will happen. All planning is about creating a rule book for an indeterminate time in the future where you have no idea about the circumstances of the people you will leave behind. You can read an article at MuslimMatters from a few years ago called “how to raise your children when you’re dead.”  I have also prepared a more comprehensive guardianship guide for Muslims.

Guardianship is either addressed through a last will or separate writing in states that allow this. You do not name guardians in a living trust.

Incapacity Planning

This part is not technically planning for death, but it is commonly included in estate planning.  Many people end up living longer lives but are dependent on others. There is a process in every state for the government to take away a person’s liberty, not for a crime they committed, but to protect them from exploitation and financial elder abuse, leading to poverty. Scammers, both online and offline, tend to target people who fit a particular profile.

This legal protective process is called “conservatorship,” and it is costly, and the hearings and documents are public. Part of estate planning is to protect the dignity and privacy of people while their families make decisions.

It is common for people who do their estate planning to have both a living trust and power of attorney. Incapacity provisions in a living trust only cover assets that are registered the living trust. Certain kinds of property, like IRAs, are not owned by a living trust.

Healthcare Directives

States generally have their forms for making healthcare decisions. These are recognized by hospital staff for those times when a patent cannot give them consent to do things. You need to name someone you trust that can make decisions for you.

Healthcare Directives ask questions beyond naming proxies. For example, they will ask about your preference when if you have an incurable illness, in a coma, and doctors are saying you have no reasonable chance of getting out.

These directives may also ask about your organ donor preference. Do you want to be a donor at all? Are you ok donating for organ transplants? Would you mind if medical students dissected your body and posted the pictures on Instagram? Such minutiae won’t necessarily be in these forms, but that’s what they could mean, depending on the permission you give.

Healthcare decisions can be an extraordinarily complex area, with much written about the subject. Your planning documents cannot account for future medical conditions. Whatever you write, other than who has decision-making authority is going to be necessarily vague. Reading these things may leave you wondering about things like what is an “incurable illness”? What is “a reasonable period of time”?

Focus on the concrete, who you trust to make these decisions, rather than potential hypothetical scenarios around your medical care.

These are situations where loved ones face painful choices. You can make it clear who makes decisions; however, no document makes medical treatment issues less difficult for loved ones.

Will or a Trust?

A question for many is, what do you do, living trust or a will? What that question means is should the main provisions of an Estate Plan, which is the overall plan for organizing your affairs, be in a trust or a will, which are both different kinds of documents. When you have a living trust, you almost always have a last will as well. Those who have last will- based plans could have several trusts inside them.

Wills, trusts, powers of attorney and everything else you do in service of organizing your affairs are pieces of paper.  The specific documents you create are ways of fulfilling your goals, they are not the goal by themselves. A trust is a form of a contract with usually no judicial supervision. A last will is similar, but there are instructions for a judicially supervised process called “probate.” The main difference between a will or a trust is a judge’s oversight.

For most everyone with property, we will typically recommend a trust-based estate plan that includes several documents. Like any contract, what a trust says and does can vary widely. To learn more about trusts, especially Islamic Living Trusts, read this article.

A lawyer or no lawyer

Lawyers are expensive. Most people would rather not spend thousands of dollars on something if they could avoid it. Lawyers just produce pieces of paper, right? Why not just do it yourself? Just go to a website that fills out blank spaces in a template and pay far less than a lawyer?

As an Islamic Estate Planning Lawyer myself, I will attempt to avoid saying anything that sounds self-interested. My advice to anyone who asks is that while inheritance is fard in Islam, nothing you do is worth it unless you have peace of mind from doing it. You may be the person that strives to pray, read the Quran, and give in charity and deal with your family with excellence because that is what gives you peace of mind. Do any of these things in a way that makes you uneasy, well, you don’t have peace of mind.

If going to a form filling website or writing a will by hand gives you peace of mind, do that. If getting advice from an experienced attorney gives you peace of mind, then do that.

Merely going to a lawyer, even an especially experienced one, should not give you peace of mind by itself. The lawyer needs your active engagement in the process to make sure you are doing right by everyone. Educate yourself about Islamic Estate Planning to make sure that elements specific to your family and business are the way you want. Estate Planning is one of the most important things you will be doing for your family, and you should attend to it with the seriousness it deserves.

You hire a lawyer because of his or her knowledge of the law, Islamic rules, and experience in developing solutions. You should never hire a lawyer in any situation to act as your substitute brain.

Selecting a lawyer

Estate Planning is a field most lawyers know little about. Many state bars will certify “specialists” in the field.  \However, it is possible for you to find an attorney well-versed in the area but not a board-certified specialist.

Your planning involves contractual, state, and federal law elements. Ideally, you will have a lawyer in your state who is a Muslim and knowledgeable about both estate planning and Islamic rules. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

Arizona Attorney Yaser Ali and I (California and Texas licensed) wrote a “Practice Guide” for lawyers called “Estate Planning for the Muslim Client” (2019, American Bar Association). The idea behind this project was to give lawyers, regardless of creed or state of residence, an understanding of Islamic Inheritance and how Islamic rules figure into various established estate planning strategies for Muslim clients.

The book also provides templates and examples. We intended the book to be useful for such lawyers to help their Muslim clients plan. Of course, it is common for lawyers also to get help or co-counsel across jurisdictions. The lack of a lawyer with expertise on Islamic Inheritance rules in your local area should not be an excuse.

For people with few assets

The biggest problem with hiring lawyers is that they usually charge for their services. Many Muslims with relatively modest assets might not think it’s worth it.  However, a woman with a few thousand dollars in assets may want to do something, like name guardians for minor children, name an executor and provide instructions on how to divide her modest estate without giving most of it to a lawyer. In such instances, a “do it yourself” approach may make sense, or at least it’s better than doing nothing.

Islamic will templates are freely available all over the internet, with varying levels of usefulness and value. Attorney Yaser Ali has created a template and form filling website where anyone can create a last will and calculate inheritance and a state-specific will for free. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you should take a look at this resource. It does not replace a lawyer, however.

Burial Instructions 

One place the Muslim community excels at is burial. Most everywhere in the United States, there are volunteers and paid staff who quickly and efficiently deal with the entire process of ghusal, janazah prayer, and burial. We can often measure the time between death and burial in hours, not days. Sometimes there are reasons for a delay, however. In this kind of environment, people don’t look around for instruction documents, other than proof of ownership of a burial plot.

My advice on burial instructions, at least in the local area that I live, for most Muslim families is not to worry too much. Your family and friends will know what to do and don’t need your help in the matter. Sometimes, people want to include detailed instructions; things like women should not cry loudly. Don’t overthink these things.

There are solid reasons for detailed burial instructions, though. One that comes up regularly is for Muslims who do not have Muslim families. For such individuals, merely having burial instructions is not enough. Such a person should name a Muslim friend, or perhaps more than one, in health care documents. People from the Muslim community need to know when a Muslim is sick in the hospital and, of course, when he or she has died.

There is far more to preparing for death, but a whole lot of that involves life itself.

For more on that, attend Jummah khutba when they start offering it again, InshaAllah.

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Advice To Students Starting A New School Year


I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

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The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7)  

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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Highly Educated, Willingly Domesticated

Doctor.  Engineer.  Certified Nurse-Midwife. Writer and Literary Critic.  Lab Technician. Parliamentary Assistant. These highly-trained, respected careers are the culmination of years of intense study, training, and self-discipline.  Most people, upon achieving these esteemed positions, would happily dedicate the rest of their working years to putting their knowledge and expertise to use. They would gradually gain more experience, earn greater pay, and amass professional perks.  Most likely they would also, over time, assume leadership roles, earn awards, or become sought-after experts in their field.

What kind of person has all this at her fingertips, but decides to give it up?  Who would trade in years of grueling study and professional striving for an undervalued position that requires no degree whatsoever What type of professional would be willing to forgo a significant salary to instead work for free, indefinitely, with no chance whatsoever of a paycheck, recognition, benefits, or promotion?  

Who else, but a mother?  

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While certainly not all mothers choose to give up their careers in order to raise their children, there is a subset of women who do. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) may spend the majority of their days performing unglamorous tasks like washing dishes, changing diapers, and reading storybooks to squirming toddlers, but behind the humble job title are dynamic, educated, and capable women. They may currently have a burp cloth in one hand and a sippy cup in the other, but chances are, SAHMs have a mind and capabilities that reach far beyond the apparent scope of their household duties.  

What motivates a capable and ambitious woman to give up her career and stay home to raise children? Is she coerced into it, or does she choose it willingly? What is her driving force, if not money, status, or respect?  I had many questions for these women -my sisters in Islam and my stay-at-home “colleagues”- and some of their answers surprised me.  

For this article I interviewed seven highly-educated Muslim moms who chose to put successful careers on hold, at least temporarily, to raise their children. Between them, they hold PhDs, MDs, and Masters degrees. While the pervasive stereotype about Muslim women is that they are oppressed and backward, these high-achieving females are no anomaly. In fact, according to her article in USA Today, Dalia Mogahed points out that, “Muslim American women are among the most educated faith group in the country and outpace their male counterparts in higher education.”  Across the pond, The Guardian reports that more young Muslim women have been gaining degrees at British universities than Muslim men, even though they have been underrepresented for decades.”    


Ambitions and dreams

Every single one of the women I interviewed grew up in a household with parents who highly emphasized their daughters’ education. In fact, all of them were encouraged -either gently or more insistently- to pursue “top” careers in medicine, engineering, or science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the women I interviewed were at the head of their classes at university.

In their school years, before marriage, all of the women I spoke with considered their career to be their main priority; motherhood seemed far-off and undefined. “When in uni,” explains Neveen, an endodontist who eventually put her career on hold to be a SAHM and homeschooler, “I never, ever thought I’d homeschool (nor did I believe in it), nor did I ever think I’d be a SAHM. I was very career-oriented. I was top of my class in dental school and in residency.”

“I absolutely thought I would be a career woman,” agrees Nicole, a mom of three in California who holds a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. “I never considered staying at home with the kids, because they were totally out of my mind frame at the time.”

“I expected that after graduation I would follow a research-based career,” adds Layla*, another SAHM in California who holds a PhD in Computer Engineering. “I never thought I’d stay at home because I believed it was fine for kids to be in daycare. I also thought SAHMs were losing their potential and missing out on so much they could otherwise accomplish in their lives.”

As young women, many assumed that if they ever chose to start a family, they would have assistants, nannies, or domestic helpers to lighten their load. Several of them believed they would put their future children, if any, in daycare. However, the reality of motherhood made each of these women change her mind.  

“My child was highly attached to me,” explains Sazida, an Assistant to a Member of Parliament in England, “and I could not envision him being looked after by anyone else despite generous offers from relatives.”  

“After I had my first child all I wanted to do was be able to care for her myself,” concurs Melissa, a Certified Nurse Midwife from New York.  


Other Motivations

It turns out that maternal instincts were not the only factor that made women choose to drop out of the workforce. Dedication to Islam played an enormous part in their decision-making.

“After having my first child,” explains Layla, “I decided that he was far more precious than working. He is a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave me to protect and care for.”

“After I became Muslim,” shares Nicole, “My goals changed, and I hoped to marry and have children. I do think it was beneficial for my children to have a parent always there to depend on,” she adds. “I feel like I was the anchor in the family for them, and I hope to continue that role.”

“What’s important to me,” asserts Neveen, “Is to raise my kids as good Muslims who love -and are proud of- their life and deen.”

Another reason many highly educated women choose to stay at home is because they have the opportunity to homeschool some or all of their children.  Remarkably, out of the seven women who answered questions for this article, five reported that they chose to homeschool at least one child for a few or more years.  

“I really enjoy my homeschooling journey with my kids and I get to know them better, alhamdullilah,” states Layla.

The opportunity to nurture, educate, and raise their children with love and Islamic values is the primary reason why these talented women were willing to put their successful careers on hold. “Hopefully Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will reward us in Jannah,” muses Layla.



Although none of the women I interviewed regrets her choice to be a SAHM, they all agree that it is a challenging job that is actually harder than their former career.  

One obstacle they must overcome is the negative perception others have about successful women who make the choice to put their career on hold.  “I soon learnt that casual clothes, a toddler, and a buggy don’t give you the same respect as suits and heels,” says Sazida.

One would expect, given their faith’s emphasis on the dignity of mothers, that Muslim SAHMs would enjoy the support of their family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

One mom explains, “My in-laws offered to look after my child, and my father-in-law couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay at home when there was perfectly good childcare that they were offering. After two and three years passed, he got more and more disheartened that I was not earning and complained about the lost potential income.”

“My non-Muslim mother told me that I wasting my education,” confides Nicole. “She did not support me staying home, though I think she appreciated that I was there for my children and have a good relationship with them.  She was a SAHM as well, so I am not sure where that was coming from, actually.”

Melissa’s mom was similarly skeptical of her daughter’s decision. “My mother didn’t love me being fully dependent on my husband,” she admits.  

“I was not at all supported by my family or friends,” laments Radhia, a Lab Technician with a BS in Microbiology with a Chemistry minor.

Other than being doubted and blamed for their choice, there are other challenges that SAHMs face. Accustomed to mental stimulation, exciting challenges, professional accomplishments, and adult interaction, many former career women find staying at home to raise youngsters to be monotonous and lonely. The nannies, assistants, cleaners, and other workers they had envisioned often never materialized, since hiring these helpers was usually too expensive. Husbands who spent the day working as the family’s sole breadwinner, were usually too tired to help with household duties.  A few women admitted that they felt guilty asking for help in the home when their husband was already exhausted from work. To exacerbate the problem, most of the women I interviewed lived far from family, so they could not rely on the help one normally gets from parents and siblings. That means the bulk of the childcare and housework fell onto their laps alone.  

“The main challenges for me,” states Nicole, “were boredom, and finding good friends to spend time with who had similar interests. I was also very stressed because the raising of the children, the housework, the food, and overall upkeep of our lives were my responsibility, and I found that to be a heavy burden.”

“I think the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity about whether I was a good enough mother and housewife was difficult,” shares Melissa. “All my sense of worth was wrapped up in the kids and home, and if something went wrong I felt like a failure.”

“It was not as easy as I thought it would be,” confesses Radhia. “It was overwhelming at times, and I did miss working. Emotionally and physically, it was very draining.”

“Staying home has been harder than I expected,” adds Summer*, a Writer and Literary Critic from Boston. “I didn’t realize how willful children could be. I thought they’d just do what I said. I’m still trying to get used to the individuality! It’s harder than my job was, only because of the emotional load, and the fact that the effort you put in doesn’t guarantee the results you hope for.”


Money Matters

Giving up their salary also put women in a state of financial dependency, which can be a bitter pill to swallow for women who are used to having their own resources.  

“I felt very dependent on my husband, financially,” says Radhia.

“Alhamdulillah, my husband does not refuse if I ask him to buy anything,” explains Layla. “However, I felt like I was losing my power of deciding to buy something for someone else. For example, if I want to buy a gift for my mother or my sister, he never refuses when I ask him, but still I feel internally it is harder for me.”

“Alhamdulillah my husband’s personality is not one that would control my financial decisions/spending,” shares Neveen. “Otherwise I would never have chosen to be a SAHM.”

“Giving up my career limited my power to make financial decisions,” asserts Summer. “I could still spend what I wanted, but I had to ask permission, because my husband knew when ‘we’ were getting paid, and how much. He paid the bills, which I didn’t even look at.”

“Asking permission,” Summer adds, “is very annoying.”

Re-entering the workforce was difficult for some women, while not for others.  The total time spent at home generally affected whether women could easily jump back into their profession, or not.  Some of the moms felt their skills had not gotten rusty at all during their hiatus at home, while others felt it was nearly impossible to make up, professionally, for missed time.  


Words of Wisdom

Although all of the women I interviewed firmly believe that their time at home with their children is well-spent, they do have advice for their sisters who are currently SAHMs, or considering the position.  

“If I could go back and speak to myself as a new mum, I would tell myself to chill the heck out and just enjoy being a new mum,” says Sazida.

Melissa offers, “I wish people understood how talented you have to be to run a home successfully. It’s a ton of work and it requires you to be able to do everything from snuggle and nurture, to manage the money, budget, plan precisely, be a good hostess, handle problems around the home, manage time, and meet goals all while trying to look cute.

“I would always recommend that women have their own bank account and money on the side,” advises Nicole. “You never know when you are going to need it.”

“Once their kids are in school,” adds Radhia, “I would suggest SAHMs start something from home, or take on part time work, or courses, if necessary.”

“For moms choosing to stay at home,” Layla suggests, “I would say try to work part-time if your time permits, and if you have a passion for working. Trust that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will protect you, no matter what. Remember, you are investing in your kids, and that is far more important than thinking ‘I need to keep money in my pocket.’”


Support, don’t judge

As a Muslim ummah, our job is to support one another as brothers and sisters.  It seems people forget this oftentimes, and erroneously believe that we are entitled to gossip, speculate, and sit in judgement of each other, instead.  In our lives we will all undoubtedly encounter women who choose to continue their careers, and those who put them on hold, and those who decide to give them up completely. Before we dare draw conclusions about anyone, we must keep in mind that only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows a person’s entire story, her motivations, and her intentions. Only He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is allowed to judge.  

We must also remember that some women, for a variety of reasons, do not have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. They must work to the pay the bills. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their intentions and will reward their sacrifices as well.


It is my hope that this article will not cause more division amongst us, but rather raise awareness of the beautiful sacrifices that many talented and intelligent women willingly make for the sake of their children, and even more so, for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  They are the unsung heroes of our ummah, performing an undervalued job that is actually of utmost importance to the future of the world.


*Name has been changed



For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam. Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism. A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

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