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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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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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

Laura El Alam

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The vicious terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15 were a punch to the gut for peace-loving people all over the world.  Only the most heartless of individuals could feel nonchalant about 70 innocent children, women, and men being killed or maimed mercilessly as they prayed. However, even a brief glimpse at comments on social media confirms that among the outpouring of sadness and shock, there are, indeed, numerous sick individuals who glory in Brenton Tarrant’s deliberately evil actions. White supremacy, in all its horrific manifestations, is clearly alive and well.  

In an enlightening article in The Washington Post, R. Joseph Parrott explains,  “Recently, global white supremacy has been making a comeback, attracting adherents by stoking a new unease with changing demographics, using an expanded rhetoric of deluge and cultivating nostalgia for a time when various white governments ruled the world (and local cities). At the fringes, longing for lost white regimes forged a new global iconography of supremacy.”

“Modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.” (link)

Many people want to sweep this terrifying reality under the rug, among them the U.S. President.  Asked by a reporter if he saw an increase globally in the threat of white nationalism, Trump replied, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

However, experts in his own country disagree.  A March 17 article in NBC News claims that, “The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in a 2017 intelligence bulletin that white supremacist groups had carried out more attacks in the U.S. than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years. And officials believe they are likely to carry out more.”

Although they may be unaware of — or in denial about –the growing influence of white supremacist ideology, the vast majority of white people do not support violent acts of terrorism.  However, many of them are surprisingly, hurtfully silent when acts of terrorism are committed by non-Muslims, with Muslims as the victims.

When a shooter yells “Allahu akbar” before killing innocent people, public furor is obvious and palpable.  “Terror attacks by Muslims receive 375% more press attention,” states a headline in The Guardian, citing a study by the University of Alabama. The perpetrator is often portrayed as a “maniac” and a representative of an inherently violent faith. In the wake of an attack committed by a Muslim, everyone from politicians to religious leaders to news anchors calls on Muslim individuals and organizations to disavow terrorism.  However, when white men kill Muslims en masse, there is significantly less outrage.  People try to make sense of the shooters’ vile actions, looking into their past for trauma, mental illness, or addiction that will somehow explain why they did what they did.  Various news outlets humanized Brenton Tarrant with bold headlines that labeled him an “angelic boy who grew into an evil far-right mass killer,” an “ordinary white man,” “obsessed with video games,” and even “badly picked on as a child because he was chubby.”  Those descriptions, which evoke sympathy rather than revulsion, are reserved for white mass murderers.

The media’s spin on terrorist acts shapes public reaction.  Six days after the Christchurch attacks, millions were not currently taking to the streets to protest right-wing extremism.  World leaders are not linking arms in a dramatic march against white supremacist terrorism.  And no one is demanding that white men, in general, disavow terrorism.

But that would be unreasonable, right? To expect all white men to condemn the vile actions of an individual they don’t even know?  Unreasonable though it may be, such expectations are placed on Muslims all the time.

As a white woman, I am here to argue that white people — and most of all white-led institutions — are exactly the ones who need to speak up now, loudly and clearly condemning right-wing terrorism, disavowing white supremacy, and showing support of Muslims generally.  We need to do this even if we firmly believe we’re not part of the problem. We need to do this even if our first reaction is to feel defensive (“But I’m not a bigot!”), or if discussing race is uncomfortable to us. We need to do it even if we are Muslims who fully comprehend that our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,  “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

While we might not hold hatred in our hearts individually, we do hold the power, institutionally.  If we truly care about people of color, peace, and justice, we must put our fragile egos aside and avoid “not me-ism.”  The fact is, if we have white skin, we have grown up in a world that favors us in innumerable ways, both big and small. Those of us with privilege, position, and authority are the very ones who have the greatest responsibility to make major changes to society. Sadly, sometimes it takes a white person to make other white people listen and change.

White religious leaders, politicians, and other people with influence and power need to speak up and condemn the New Zealand attacks publically and unequivocally, even if we do not consider ourselves remotely affiliated with right-wing extremists or murderous bigots.  Living our comfortable lives, refusing to discuss or challenge institutionalized racism, xenophobia, and rampant Islamophobia, and accepting the status quo are all a tacit approval of the toxic reality that we live in.  

Institutional power is the backbone of racism.  Throughout history, governments and religious institutions have enforced racist legislation, segregation, xenophobic policies, and the notion that white people are inherently superior to people of color.  These institutions continue to be controlled by white people, and if white leaders and white individuals truly believe in justice for all, we must do much more than “be a nice person.” We must use our influence to change the system and to challenge injustice.  

White ministers need to decry racial violence and anti-immigrant sentiment from their pulpits, making it abundantly clear that their religion does not advocate racism, xenophobia, or Islamophobia. They must condemn Brenton Tarrant’s abhorrent actions in clear terms, in case any member of their flock sees him as some sort of hero.  Politicians and other leaders need to humanize and defend Muslims while expressing zero tolerance for extremists who threaten the lives or peace of their fellow citizens — all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, immigration status, or ethnicity.  New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an excellent role model for world leaders; she has handled her nation’s tragedy with beautiful compassion, wisdom, and crystal clear condemnation of the attacker and his motives.  Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstrated superb leadership and a humane, loving response to the victims in Christchurch (and Muslims in general) in his recent address to the House of Commons.  

Indeed, when they put their mind to it, people can make quite an impactful statement against extremist violence.  In January 2015 when Muslim gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, there was an immediate global reaction. The phrase “Je suis Charlie” trended on social media and in fact became one of the most popular hashtags in the history of Twitter.  Approximately 3.4 million people marched in anti-terrorism rallies throughout France, and 40 world leaders — most of whom were white — marched alongside a crowd of over 1 million in Paris.  

While several political and religious leaders have made public statements condemning the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, there is much less activism on the streets and even on social media following this particular atrocity.  Many Muslims who expected words of solidarity, unity, or comfort from non-Muslim family or friends were disappointed by the general lack of interest, even after a mosque was burned in California with a note left in homage to New Zealand.

In a public Facebook post, Shibli Zaman of Texas echoed many Muslims’ feelings when he wrote, “One of the most astonishing things to me that I did not expect — but, in hindsight, realize that I probably should have — is how few of my non-Muslim friends have reached out to me to express condolences and sorrow.” His post concluded, “But I have learned that practically none of my non-Muslim friends care.”

Ladan Rashidi of California posted, simply, “The Silence.  Your silence is deafening. And hurtful.” Although her words were brief and potentially enigmatic, her Muslim Facebook friends instantly understood what she was talking about and commiserated with her.   

Why do words and actions matter so much in the wake of a tragedy?  

Because they have the power to heal and to unite. Muslims feel shattered right now, and the lack of widespread compassion or global activism only heightens the feeling that we are unwanted and “other.”  If 50 innocent Muslims die from terrorism, and the incident does not spark universal outrage, but one Muslim pulls the trigger and the whole world erupts in indignation, then what is that saying about society’s perception of the value of Muslim lives?

To the compassionate non-Muslims who have delivered flowers, supportive messages, and condolences to the Muslim community in New Zealand and elsewhere, I thank you sincerely. You renew our hope in humanity.

To the white people who care enough to acknowledge their privilege and use it to the best of their ability to bring about justice and peace, I salute you.  Please persevere in your noble goals. Please continue to learn about institutionalized racism and attempt to make positive changes. Do not shy away from discussions about race and do not doubt or silence people of color when they explain their feelings.  Our discomfort, our defensiveness, and our professed “colorblindness” should not dominate the conversation every time we hear the word “racism.” We should listen more than speak and put our egos to the side. I am still learning to do this, and while it is not easy, it is crucial to true understanding and transformation.

To the rest of you who have remained silent, for whatever reason:  I ask you to look inside yourself and think about whether you are really satisfied with a system that values some human lives so highly over others.  If you are not a white supremacist, nor a bigot, nor a racist — if you truly oppose these ideologies — then you must do more than remain in your comfortable bubble.  Speak up. Spread love. Fix problems on whatever level you can, to the best of your ability. If you are in a leadership position, the weight on your shoulders is heavy; do not shirk your duty.  To be passive, selfish, apathetic, or lazy is to enable hatred to thrive, and then, whether you intended to or not, you are on the side of the extremists. Which side are you on? Decide and act.

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case, he is justly accountable to them for their injury.”  — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.  

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.

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