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Organ Donation: Something to think about?

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Recently, the UK PM, Gordon Brown, proposed that in order to tackle the problem of organ donor shortages, the current “opt-in” system should be replaced with an “opt-out” one, whereby all British citizens would automatically be placed on the donor register, unless they objected during their lifetime, or their family members refused permission after death. The “presumed consent” proposal has been welcomed by some, and rejected by others, including several patient groups.

I’d almost forgotten about the issue, until I came across this comment by Lord Sheikh, in a House of Lords debate on the Kidney Transplant Bill:

To my knowledge, the five major faiths in the United Kingdom do not object to the principle of organ donation. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have all endorsed organ donation and transplantation… My understanding is as follows.

A Christian who chooses to donate an organ is following the example set by Jesus of demonstrating love. Sacrifice and helping others form a key part of Christianity and, in the Bible, Christians are invited by St Matthew to “freely give”.

Jews are required to obtain consent from a competent rabbinic authority before any organ donation procedure can commence, but nothing in principle in Judaism conflicts with organ donation in order to save lives. Jewish law prevents the unnecessary interference with the body after death and requires immediate burial of the complete body.

In Islam, violating the human body is normally forbidden, but it is permitted to save another person’s life. Indeed, the Holy Koran states in chapter five that, “whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind”.

“Daan” is a word in Sanskrit for donation, which means selflessly giving to a Hindu. That is the third of the 10 niyamas, which are virtuous acts of the faith. Actions that sustain life are accepted and promoted as dharma, which means righteous living. Hindus believe that the soul is invisible, and that it is wrong to grieve for the body.

A key feature of Sikhism is the requirement to put the needs of others ahead of one’s own requirements. As with most of the other religions, the soul of an individual is separate from the physical body, and Guru Nanak taught, in the Guru Granth Sahib, that: “The dead sustain their bond with the living through virtuous deeds”.

Discovering this “common ground” between five very different religions, made me realise that, as a Muslim, I’ve never really thought much about the idea of becoming an organ donor before. I had some inkling that it was permissible in Islam, but had not yet embarked upon a serious quest to decide whether or not I should carry a donor card. In light of this recent debate, and the fact that I don’t know how long I have left on this Earth, I think it is about time that I did.

So, what does Islam really have to say about organ donation? Referring to Sheikh Google, I discovered a leaflet published by the NHS Transplant website titled “Islam and organ donation“, which states:

One of the basic aims of the Muslim faith is the saving of life. This is a fundamental aim of the Shariah and Allah greatly rewards those who save others from death.

Violating the human body, whether living or dead, is normally forbidden in Islam. The Shariah, however, waives this prohibition in a number of instances: firstly in cases of necessity; and secondly in saving another person’s life. It is this Islamic legal maxim al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat (necessities overrule prohibition) that has great relevance to organ donation.

Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. Holy Qur’an, chapter 5 vs. 32

[…]

Muslim scholars of the most prestigious academies are unanimous in declaring that organ donation is an act of merit and in certain circumstances can be an obligation.
These institutes all call upon Muslims to donate organs for transplantation:

  • the Shariah Academy of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (representing all Muslim countries)
  • the Grand Ulema Council of Saudi Arabia.
  • the Iranian Religious Authority
  • the Al-Azhar Academy of Egypt

In addition, according to a fatwa on Islamonline.net:

“Organ donation is permitted in Islam if it is done within the permissible limits prescribed by the Shari`ah.

The following are the conditions scholars have stipulated for donation:

Conditions associated with a living donor:

1. He/she must be a person who is in full possession of his/her faculties so that he/she is able to make a sound decision by himself/herself;

2. He/she must be an adult and, preferably, at least twenty-one years old;

3. It should be done on his/her own free will without any external pressure exerted on him/ her;

4. The organ he/she is donating must not be a vital organ on which his/her survival or sound health is dependent upon;

5. No transplantation of sexual organs is allowed.

Conditions associated with deceased donors:

1. It must be done after having ascertained the free consent of the donor prior to his /her death. It can be through a will to that effect, or signing the donor card, etc.

2. In a case where organ donation consent was not given prior to a donor’s death, the consent may be granted by the deceased’s closest relatives who are in a position to make such decisions on his/her behalf.

3. It must be an organ or tissue that is medically determined to be able to save the life or maintain the quality of life of another human being.

4. The organ must be removed only from the deceased person after the death has been ascertained through reliable medical procedures.

5. Organs can also be harvested from the victims of traffic accidents if their identities are unknown, but it must be done only following the valid decree of a judge.”

But what about the permissibility of donating organs to non-Muslims? Islamonline.net says:

Islam is a universal message of love, mercy and compassion towards all the inhabitants of this globe. It is because of this that it permits a Muslim to donate an organ to a non-Muslim in case he/she is in need. Of course, priority is given to a Muslim in case the donating Muslim is offered the choice.

So, thus far, it seems that there is little stopping me from adding my name to the organ donor register. In fact, another answer suggests that I might be dumb not to:

“Organ donation to save the life of another or to help another lead a better life is considered a meritorious act that entails great rewards. This has been the view of the Islamic jurists who have discussed this issue. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us: “Whosoever of you can render any benefit to his brother should do so.” It is not hard to imagine that no benefit is greater than saving someone’s life by giving him the gift of an organ or tissue donation. Therefore, this would fall under the category of a most charitable act.

Organ donation is also reckoned as a sadaqah jariyah (ongoing charity) from which the donor will continue to reap rewards after his/her own death, so long as the organ he/she has thus donated continues to function in the body of another human being.”

After reading all this, and especially considering that my own ethnic group is in dire need of more donors, I strongly suspect that it becomes my Islamic duty to register asap.

I encourage everyone to think deeply about becoming an organ donor; discuss the issue with trusted knowledgeable people, and most importantly, with your next of kin, because, in UK law at least, organs cannot be harvested if any close family member objects, in spite of any consent given by the deceased during their lifetime.

To find out more about what it means to be a registered organ donor in the UK, please refer to the NHS FAQ. If you have already made your decision, you can even sign up online. I invite readers from other countries to deposit the relevant info for how to become a donor in their locality, in the comments section below.

Finally, I ask Allah to forgive me for any errors I have made in writing this entry, and ask for guidance on this crucial topic, which has the potential to earn such great rewards. Ameen.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    January 20, 2008 at 4:51 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    Great issue to highlight, and one that we need to discuss openly.
    My main concerns would be:

    1) How do we know or control what will be done to those organs after we die? Can we guarantee that it will be used in a patient for a life-threatening situation?

    2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework?

    3) Our eschatological beliefs of the after-life tells us that angels question us at the point of burial, and then the souls experience pleasure or punishment in the grave itself. No doubt those bodies that are somehow deprived of a burial due to circumstances beyond their control (e.g., drowning) will be an exception that God will deal with in His power, but the question is: should a person willingly ‘give up’ his body and a shot at a decent burial? The Shareeah places an obligation upon us to respect a dead body, for a hadeeth states, “Breaking the bones of a Muslim’s corpse is as if one broke them while alive.”

    I’m not saying that organ donation is prohibited; it is clearly not. My concerns are with the Islamic conditions coupled with the reality of the medical systems around us.

    Allah knows best…

    • Avatar

      Afia Baig

      September 15, 2014 at 1:18 AM

      Walaikumassalam wr
      By law at least in the western world an organ can only be used for the purpose it is donated to Also donors can place any condition they want on their donation after death for example the condition of only women doctors looking at or handling a Muslim women cadaver ,and by law the conditions have to be met .At the moment these conditions can be written in the will or mentioned to family members as by law organs are not taken witIhout having a conversation with the family. i have personally asked all these questions to the relevant people Thus the organs are not donated to science but to save life of another in need of it Further a person is listed for a transplant only when his/ her survival depends on it i know these facts by having a medical background and being a mother of a child waiting for a transplant
      jazakallahukhiarn

  2. Avatar

    iMuslim

    January 20, 2008 at 5:20 PM

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

    Great questions. I think it is best to consult your own transplant authority to answer some of them.

    For those in the UK, the NHS website says:

    Can I agree to donate some organs or tissue and not others?

    Yes. You can specify which organs you would wish to donate. Simply tick the appropriate boxes on the NHS Organ Donor Register form or on the donor card, and let those close to you know what you have decided.


    Will organs or tissue that are removed for transplant be used for research purposes?

    Organs and tissue that cannot be used for transplant will only be used for medical or scientific research purposes if specific permission has been obtained from your family.


    Does being a donor cause delays to funeral arrangements?

    No. The donation operation is performed as soon as possible after death.

    So it seems that donating your body for organ transplantation does not automatically mean it will be used for scientific research, and that the body will be returned for burial soon after the operation, insha’Allah.

    One point i have just read about in the FAQ, that needs to be addressed:

    Can I agree to donate to some people and not to others?

    No. Organs and tissue cannot be accepted unless they are freely donated. No conditions can be attached in terms of potential recipients. The only restriction allowed is which organs or tissue are to be donated.

    […]

    Patients entitled to treatment on the NHS are always given priority for donated organs. These include UK citizens, members of Her Majesty’s forces serving abroad and patients covered by a reciprocal health agreement with the UK.

    Although we are allowed to donate organs to non-Muslims, I have read a clause that says organs cannot be given to anyone fighting against the Muslims. So i would think “members of Her Majesty’s forces serving abroad” would be a big no-no, right?

  3. Pingback: Organ Donation: Something to think about? « iMuslim

  4. Avatar

    Shahrzad

    January 20, 2008 at 7:02 PM

    Organ donation in Iran is very common. I wrote an article about it here:
    http://shahrzaad.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/when-brain-dies/

    I am also member of the organ donation institute. Mean if i get brain death, they’re allowed to use my organs. Anyway there is this condition that parents must accept it after brain death.

    I think it is good act. Based on :
    “And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.(5:33)”

  5. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 20, 2008 at 7:12 PM

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework?”

    I understand that in the UK (or in Scotland at least) donors for medical school etc have to opt into a system and actually volunteer themselves to be used for teaching after they die. Plus I wouldn’t underestimate the benefits: yes the students are inexperienced but I’d rather they got their experience dissecting cadavers than starting with surgery – apparently a lot of the donors feel (well, felt) positively about helping train the next generation of doctors.

    We had a talk from the organ donation service when in school, I think they said that donors have to have died a brainstem death, like if you’re in a car accident and get turned into a vegetable? I’m not sure on that though.

    The thing about donating to some people and not others… I would hate to think of my liver going to some alcoholic who’ll probably just go ruin it. There’s no way around it though really, is there?

    Anyways, I think this was a great topic to bring up. Loads of Muslims would be perfectly happy to accept donated organs that would save their lives, but don’t even consider donating. Same goes for blood.

    Give blood!

  6. Avatar

    Irum Sarfaraz

    January 20, 2008 at 9:40 PM

    With due respect to the opinion of all those who have written the post and the ones commenting on it, my personal stand is that our body is the amanah of Allah and not ours to ‘give’ away at our discretion. Whatever a Muslim can do whilst still alive to save the life of others, he or she should do but after the soul has been taken, he or she has no right to further use his or her body or its organs according to their desire or wish. Wallahu Alam.

  7. Avatar

    Organic Muslimah

    January 21, 2008 at 12:28 AM

    Great post! I agree with you, so long as my body won’t be used to experiment on. I will donate my organs for a good cause. It wouldn’t matter to me anymore, I will surely be in a better place, God-willing!

  8. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 21, 2008 at 1:42 AM

    Great post…

    There is a book that I would encourage you to read, if I remembered the name of it…regarding donating your body to “science” (not necessarily organ donation) since it is related.

    In short it’s research about how donating your body to medical science doesn’t mean it will be used to save lives. Some end up being used for hair stylist school or worse in cosmetology (cosmetics!). Other bodies end up being used for military uses in testing firearms and practice (i think) for soldiers.

    Yeah, desensitization sucks.

  9. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 21, 2008 at 1:50 AM

    The book is called Stiff by Mary Roach! I haven’t read it but a friend was telling me all this. Wow can’t believe I remembered the name after so long!

    Google it and you can get a preview of it. There’s something in there about also using corpses for reenacting the crucifixion… :S

    La howla wa la quwatta illah billah

  10. Avatar

    H. Ahmed

    January 21, 2008 at 3:53 AM

    Asalaamualaykum wr wb,

    In response to:

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework? ”

    Gross Anatomy Labs and the dissection of cadavers is crucial to medical education. Moreover, medical students hold the bodies that we dissect and study with great respect. At the end of each first year anatomy class my school (along with many others) holds a ceremony in respect of those bodies we dissected all year. Many family members of the cadavers (of those who volunteered that their bodies be used for education) attend the ceremony. So to address your question, yes, many people in fact, are proud of the fact that their bodies helped in the education of future physicians.

  11. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 21, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    H. Ahmed, despite having done dissection I would still think twice about donating my body for it, it’s horrible to think about even for the least squeamish. We did the head & neck… sawing the face in half was probably the worst bit.

    Did get us all thinking of our own mortality though.

  12. Avatar

    iMuslim

    January 21, 2008 at 11:37 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah all

    Methinks the thread has got a little sidetracked. There is obviously a big difference between donating one’s organs for transplantation, and donating one’s body for medical research. My entry was about the former… and i don’t have a clue about what the scholars say about the latter!

    Irum, I also respect your personal opinion, though I hope you understand that my entry wasn’t about expressing my own opinion on organ donation, but rather trying to investigate the position of some of the ulema; i’m not sure if there is a complete consensus on the issue.

    However, if i were to give a personal opinion from the perspective of the body being an amanah from Allah, i would add that one’s wealth is also amanah from Allah. After death, we have no claim to it anymore, and it should be distributed to the heirs as Allah has commanded, because wealth was never ours to own, but rather ours to manage for a short time.

    However, Allah has allowed the believer some control over his wealth, even after death, whereby up to one third of the estate can be given away to a non-heir of their choosing, via the will. They don’t have to – it’s a voluntary act of sadaqah, and in fact, sometimes it’s best not to so that the true heirs receive a greater share.

    The heir of the body is the grave. However, if we choose, we can donate a part of this wealth (and what is the best form of “wealth” other than good health itself?) to non-heirs, in the form of organ donation. You don’t have to, just as you don’t have to bequeath your estate to anyone other than your heirs – it’s a voluntary act of sadaqah.

    That is my personal opinion. Wa Allahu ‘alam.

    Islam doesn’t seem to forbid organ donation – though obviously it is a matter of ijtihad, as it is a modern day advancement in Medicine, not directly covered by the Qur’an & Sunnah. However it seems that there are some conditions placed on who can receive the organs, which i would like clarified, especially the point about not being allowed to donate to enemies of Islam/Muslims. Something slightly hard to define when you’re living as a minority in a non-Muslim land, whose soldiers happened to be stationed in Muslim-majority countries…

    May Allah guide us.

  13. Avatar

    Bilal

    January 22, 2008 at 12:28 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum,

    Also in response to:

    “2) Is it true that cadavers that are used in med schools are also supplied from the very same pool of people who ‘donate their organs’ to science? If this is the case then one really needs to ask himself/herself: do you want a group of inexperienced med students gawking and groping your dead body, sawing bits and pieces off for there mid-term homework? ”

    For your body to be used in the gross labs of medical schools you have to specifically donate your body to science which is different from being an organ donor. If someone wants to donate their body to science (i.e. having medical students dissecting it), they have quite an extensive amount of paperwork to fill out (versus just having it labeled on their drivers licence). Actually, the person wanting to donate their body to science has to personally pay for their body to be transported to the medical school at which it will be dissected. (This is the case for the state of Florida. Every state has its own rules). The people who donate their bodies to science are generally very committed as its quite a hassle to donate your body for medical education.

    I have to admit after having gone thru Gross Anatomy last semester, I don’t think I could donate my body to science (yes, sawing off a leg was quite disturbing). I think there’s definitely less than 1,000 people who do such a thing here in Florida every year.

    However, it should be noted that there is a huge difference between donating your body to science (and having medical students study it) versus being someone who is an organ donor (and it’s not very hard to become one, that’s for sure).

    Does anyone know what Shaykh-ul-Islamqa says about this matter.?

    Wa Allahu Alim.

  14. Avatar

    Anonymous

    January 22, 2008 at 12:59 AM

  15. Avatar

    mcpagal

    January 22, 2008 at 1:47 PM

    Sis Irum: “… my personal stand is that our body is the amanah of Allah and not ours to ‘give’ away at our discretion. Whatever a Muslim can do whilst still alive to save the life of others, he or she should do but after the soul has been taken, he or she has no right to further use his or her body or its organs according to their desire or wish. Wallahu Alam.”

    Thing is, if you or a loved one were in the position of accepting an organ donation or dying, which would you choose? If you deny it, it’s like choosing death. If you accept it, it would be somewhat hypocritical and selfish since you’re taking from the pool but not contributing to it. Some parents even have to make this decision for their child.

    • Avatar

      Btru2u

      April 14, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      i would like to know your situation in the Grave. i read in a hadith somewhere that beaking the bones of a deceased person will be as if you broke them while he/she was alive. Some are of the opinion that the body still feels pain after it is dead. I think this is another factor lingering in the back of muslims minds before they decide to donate

  16. Avatar

    Suhail

    January 23, 2008 at 7:02 PM

  17. Avatar

    nurjannah

    February 24, 2008 at 7:39 AM

    Assalamu’alaikum w.b.t

    firstly, i would like to express my gratitude to iMuslim and others for helping me to understand more about organ donation from islamic point of view..
    i am a medical student and now i had already do the dissection to the cadaver for the hand..i still have to dissect the leg and need to complete the task before this saturday.. at my place, we only had non-muslim as the cadavers, i do not know that in other country, they use muslim body as cadaver.. can we actually do that as a muslim? use another muslim’s body? is there any hadith related to that? there’s still a lot of things that i do not know, i really appreciate if any of you would like to help explain it to me… syukran…wassalam..

  18. Avatar

    Kaneta

    January 28, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Came across this oooold thread, searching for clarification with the upcoming legislation in Wales which will assume consent for organ transplantation after death. I’m a registered organ donor, however my parents have both decided that they will be opting out from the donor register.
    The rationale being that organs may be harvested from a brain dead individual, however brain dead is not equivalent to cardiac dead. Furthermore, they also have concerns regarding the sanctity of the human body.

    Re. the point raised by Brother Qadhi (love your book the Etiquette of Dua btw :-)_Organ donation does not mean that you are donating your body .

    My

  19. Avatar

    Salma

    March 12, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    To be able to use vital organs, the human body is kept alive in order to keep oxygen flowing through the organs so the organs remain viable, ie alive. The doctor may pronounce the person “brain dead”, but there is no absolute certainty – it is left to “expert OPINION” of other human beings (doctors). If the organs are then harvested while the person is allegedly “brain dead”, perhaps with the body kept alive using life support, then once the vital organs are harvested that person will well & truly die.

    1. Only Allah knows when the brain is truly “dead”. Sometimes people in a coma suddenly “wake up” years later.

    2. When organs are harvested from a body that is not dead – even on life support – removing those vital organs will cause that person’s death, rather than Allah determining that person should die.

    There is also the issue of financial and other incentives for declaring one “brain dead” in order to harvest the organs!

    These are serious ethical concerns surrounding organ donation.

    Here are a couple interesting webpages, though I can’t attest to the reputation of these websites:

    “Brain Death” – The new “pretend death” is not real death
    and
    Organ removal is done while (live) patient given only paralyzing agent but no anesthetic
    http://www.truthaboutorgandonation.com/factsaboutbeinganorgandonor.html

    Brain Death as Criteria for Organ Donation is Deception
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brain-death-as-criteria-for-organ-donation-is-a-deception-bereaved-mother

  20. Avatar

    Salma

    March 12, 2015 at 12:43 AM

    See also this article from New England Journal of Medicine

    Written by pro-organ donation doctors, questioning the definitions of brain death for organ transplants
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474?query=TOC&

  21. Avatar

    Ateeb Ahmad

    September 26, 2017 at 11:15 PM

    Assalamoalaekum,

    Great topic; I actually just came across this leaflet which came in mail with my drivers license renewal about organ donation. To Shaikh Yasir Qadhi point in the form I have from province of Ontario, Canada you can opt for your organs to be only used for transplant and not for research. Also you can choose if you wish to donate all of the organs or you can take an exception that you don’t want your kidneys or heart or eyes etc. to not be used for transplant. Ontario residents for further information please go to ServiceOntario.ca/BeADonor or BeaDonor.ca/about-donation.

    General information for all Canadian residents could be found in the following link
    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/blood-organ-tissue-donation.html

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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