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Hijrah: Utopia or Dystopia

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suitcase.jpg  A guest submission by Bint Imam

Hijrah! That’s the buzz word of the decade. Interestingly, the term is also associated with romanticism in some minds, while for others, it conjure up stories of shattered illusions. Why this disparity?

Steven R Covey, the author of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ said:  “We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.” To a large extent this theory hits the bull’s eye in explaining the contrasting views regarding hijrah. We look at the examples of two families, who emigrated from the West to the U.A.E. & how, due to their own “lenses” they view their new adopted destination in very different light.

Mr. & Mrs. Ahmad (not their real name) reverted to Islam in the US & immediately decided to move to ‘dar-al-islam’. U.A.E. was their destination of choice, as it was in the Arabian Peninsula & close to the heart of Islam’s sacred places. What further tipped the scale was the tiny nation’s economic growth that generates vast job opportunities & many thumbs-up from well-meaning friends.

They landed in Dubai wearing rose-tinted glasses. This was their stumbling-block. To their surprise, the air was not saturated with piety & there were no sahabah-like people walking the streets. It didn’t take long for their bubble of idealism to burst & disappointment to set in. Everything from “the insincere people” to the “westernized environment” disillusioned them. Nothing came up to their expectations of how a Muslim country would (or should) be. Their zealousness in enjoining good & forbidding evil in public embittered & frustrated them. Mrs. Ahmed recounts her experience with a Muslim manager who played music at his store:

I called the manager to raise that issue & he fought with me even though I told him that there is proof in the Quran & Sunnah that music is haraam. He said that he is a Muslim & he doesn’t believe in it. He said, people of different religions are coming here (i.e. the shop) and we should respect all beliefs… that faith is private and between him and Allah. Astaghfirullah! And such people are shouting loud that they are Muslims but have no fear of Allah and no practice! May Allah protect us from their fitnah and guide us.

For the same reason, they would inadvertently pick fights with strangers.

I saw a sister with hijab standing in the Islamic bookstore & speaking flirtatiously with the store-keeper. I took her aside & reminded her to fear Allah. She rudely told me to mind my own business!!”

They searched around & decided that there was no suitable scholar in the country who was upon the right manhaj to seek ilm from, and no Islamic centres were teaching the right Islam. They married their teenage only daughter to the first suitor that came their way & he turned out to be less than “righteous” – something that compounded their disappointment.

The tough government laws that apply to expatriates added to their anxiety. There was tension in finding a job environment that suited them. They reached a point where they were so overwhelmed by “all the fitnah every where” that they decided to socially isolate themselves. But, since man is a social creature, he can’t happily survive in isolation for too long. “We feel like strangers here. No one cares,” laments Mrs. Ahmad, summing up their hijrah experience.
Today, they are searching for greener pastures i.e. better Islamic countries to relocate to.

The opposite picture of hijrah is painted by Mr. Adam Shabber Mohammad (real name) & his family.

Born & raised in UK, he started practicing Islam during university. Marriage & a kid soon followed. It was not too long before he started studying & analyzing the social situation around him with the eyes of a Muslim father. Then, he made a conscious decision to do hijrah & moved with his young family to live in the U.A.E.

When he first arrived, he admits, that the glitz & glamour of Dubai got them side-tracked – for a while. Then, an umrah trip inspired them to refocus on their initial reason for hijrah – “to save themselves & their family from the fire.” They found a great scholar living in another part of the small country & decided to leave their posh villa & high life in Dubai to be closer to him & be in a (considerably) fitnah-free environment.

Allah tests all His servants to see if they waiver on His path. Mr. Shabber was tried with the difficulty of joblessness for two years. He & his wife used that time to start their own educational institute. He does not regret his decision of hijrah & loves his new life. He admits that there is a lot of fitnah in Dubai but he “would still prefer it to any non-muslim country.” Why? He gives a comprehensive answer:

You have to go & search for the fitnah. You can live in areas where you’ll never see it. Yes, the work environment is like the west, but still there are more Muslims than non-Muslims. There are mosques everywhere.
Yes, there is alcohol and night clubs, but I have been in the UAE for 8 years and I still have to see someone drunk or a shop selling alcohol. If anyone is drunk in public or even gives a simple kiss, it’s off to the police station.
You can get involved in dawah activities in Arabic & English. You can drive to Makkah in 18hrs…

His main aim behind hijrah is the seriousness of responsibility he feels towards his children.

Now I have children who have rights over me. Yes I could bring them up in the west and instill Islam and goodness in them, but Allah is the one who guides and if it is written for any of my children not to be guided I can inshallah say, in front of Allah, that I made hijrah to a Muslim land to protect my children from the fitnah. Take a simple example: alhumdulilah my children do not see posters in the UAE advertising Wonder-bra! But when I went back to UK 2 years ago, this was in plain site on big bill-boards. Do we really think this has no effect on our children? Or us men?…

This [clean environment] is what I wanted for my children, which I know I can only attain in this part of the world. There are always exceptions but we do not base our decisions on the exceptions.

Today Mr. Shabber lives a content life with his supportive wife & five children, and highly encourages hijrah for people living with young families in the west.

Thus, it seems that the Ahmad & the Shabber families used different lenses to view the same scene. Our attitude greatly affects how or what we search, see & perceive. Depending on the viewing lens, positives or negatives can appear magnified or shrunken.

To be honestly fair to the Ahmads, there is no denying the problems & negative aspects of this country. Every single complaint they have is valid to varying degrees. There is increasing social immorality, lessening of (apparent) Islamic spirit, rising materialism, government policies amounting to discrimination, endless red tape, economic inflation & lack of structured support system for new immigrants.

The Muslim world is not perfect. Period. But the positives more than balance them out: Muslims are a majority (even if all of them may not be practicing); you hear the azaan fives times a day; you can never miss a prayer for a lack of masjid; hijabis & ‘beardies’ are a norm & do not stick out as on the street; halal food in all eateries & markets; easy access & wide choice for children’s secular & Islamic education; tax-free incomes; Islamic financing; personal safety & security etc.

Therefore, perhaps, if the attitude is right our lens will magnify all that is good, & coupled with the determination & strength to face what may come, it could be a win-win situation, inshaAllah. That Islam extols hijrah is not unknown.

“Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s Religion) and have striven hard in the Way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s Mercy. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.”

(Quran 2:218)

Prophet Muhammad (Salulaahu alihi wasallum) is reported to have said:

“I have nothing to do with any Muslim who settles among the mushrikeen.” [Abu Dawood 2645; classed as saheeh by Al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood]

The scholars have explained it to mean that it applies to Muslims who are not able to practice their Islam openly. This evaluation & decision is subjective. It’s a difficult issue with no simple or single answer. The scholars divided people into three categories with regards to hijrah:
(a)   Those who are obliged to migrate: they are those who are able to migrate and who cannot practice their religion openly in non-Muslim countries.
(b)  Those who are not obliged to migrate: they are those who are unable to do so, either because of sickness or because they are forced to stay in the non-Muslim land, or those who are weak, such as woman and children.
(c)  Those for whom migration is mustahabb but not obligatory: they include those who are able to migrate but are also able to practice their religion openly in non-Muslim lands.   [Al-Mawsooah al-Fiqhiyyah (20/206)]

Major decisions are never easy. And taking a step like migration is one riddled heavily with fear & uncertainty. But taking certain steps will help ensure that you arrive at your decision & destination with peace of mind.

First, analyze thoroughly if & how hijrah is beneficial for your deen & the deen of your family. Consult people with knowledge & experience. Once you do arrive at the conclusion that this is what you need or want to do, then carry out meticulous research on the country you intend to migrate to. It is best to visit the country first to really ‘see’ what its like, to gauge the cost of living & see if your credentials will secure you a job decent enough for you to sponsor & support your family as an expatriate. Get in touch with people, who are already based there, to gain valuable info & friendly support upon arrival. Don’t imagine perfection & do expect hurdles on the way.

Things take time to settle & eventually they do smooth-out, inshaAllah. Last & certainly not the least, do Istikharah at every step. This will ensure that your intention is continuously rechecked, you will have the peace of mind that your move is good for your deen, dunyah & aakhirah & will also give you the strength & determination to face the obstacles on the way. InshaAllah.

Finally, Mr. Shabber’s parting advice sums it all,

Be sincere. Base your decisions on saving yourself and your family. And if it means making hijrah, then plan and DO IT. Set it up as a goal to achieve and inshaAllah, Allah WILL give you a way.”

The author of the post, Bint Imam, is a UAE born & based expatriate. She resides in ‘muslim-friendly’ Sharjah (Dubai’s conservative neighbour) & happily admits to have never seen alcohol in her life.

71 Comments

71 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hidaya

    November 26, 2008 at 1:32 AM

    If there is a Muslim country where I think I can live/migrate then it would definitely be Dubai and I would never even dream about moving anywhere else in Muslim land. So I hope I can get married to someone who is willing to move to Dubai …LOL

  2. Avatar

    Faiza

    November 26, 2008 at 2:29 AM

    Alhamdhulillah, I am very happy to read this post. :)

  3. Avatar

    islam blog

    November 26, 2008 at 2:39 AM

    A very objective view of the issue.
    Nothing beats recounting actual experiences..
    You could go on and on about the fiqh of hijrah
    But actual people doing it…
    and then sharing their experiences is what we need

    It can begin with sharing experiences..
    And then setting up support groups..
    This could go a long way in removing the difficulties the ‘Ahmads’ faced

    • Avatar

      Nathan Linley

      December 11, 2015 at 4:11 AM

      As salaamu alaikum. I’m working on a project to help with this type of knowledge sharing. I would like to invite everyone with experience in making hijrah, as well as those interested to help contribute their knowledge. http://www.makinghijrah.com

  4. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 26, 2008 at 2:52 AM

    Isn’t this article on another blog? Suhaib Webb?

    Siraaj

  5. Avatar

    J

    November 26, 2008 at 5:53 AM

    As-Salam Alaykum.

    This is an excellent article, masha-Allah.

    I just wanted to point out that the article is not limited to the issue of hijrah. There is another issue, which is about people being obnoxious. The revert couple described in the article sounded very obnoxious. I know they probably had good intentions, but nonetheless, those kind of people really irritate me.

    This one time I was having dinner in Pakistan with a very religious friend. This beggar came to our table and he had a musical instrument in his arm, which he would play to receive money. Immediately, my religious friend condemned the beggar (to his face), saying “This is haram” and “Prophet Muhammad [s] forbade this”, etc. Bear in mind that the beggar can barely find enough money to eat, and yet here my friend was trying to take away the musical instrument.

    The beggar responded by saying “a big sufi scholar told me it is ok”. I strongly believe that music is haram. But that beggar was obviously incapable of investigating evidences; he thought music was halal from what that scholar told him. He was completely ignorant of any rulings forbidding music. And we, Ahl as-Sunnah, believe that ignorance may be forgiven by Allah [swt].

    I just want to clarify that my religious friend is a great guy. I just found this particular action of his to be obnoxious. The proper way to have dealt with the beggar would have been to invite him to eat dinner with us, talk with him, find out his worries and concerns, educate him on tawheed, invite him the mosque, build a relationship with him, monitor his status, keep in touch with him, etc. Slowly we could teach him about the religion, and we could also help him out with his financial affairs. Before we blast him with hadeeths forbidding music, we could make sure that we could find a suitable alternative to playing music to make a living.

    I have found that if you educate people in matters of tawheed and build a base of firm imaan first, then people will themselves become strict ON THEMSELVES with regards to Islam’s prohibitions. But in Pakistan (and elsewhere) we have reduced Islam to a bunch of prohibitions, halal and haram, or rather–haram wal haram! So suddenly it’s a much bigger deal that someone listens to music, and the fact that he calls on other than Allah [swt] becomes a minor issue. Although both aqeedah and fiqh are important, there is no doubt that aqeedah takes precedence. Yet, we unfortunately just start blasting people on fiqhi issues, without first building their aqeedah and strengthening their imaan so that dealing with the prohibitions would come from the heart.

    But of course all of this would take time! How much easier it is to just say “HARAM HARAM HARAM!” Indeed, it was very easy for my religious friend to do that, but how hard was it on the heart of the poor beggar? It must have created a great burden on his heart that he is not only pathetically poor in this life but he’s also going to go to hell-fire for his career choice.

    The Shari’ah was expounded in stages so that it would not be burdensome on the people. We should also be wise when we approach non-practicing or new Muslims. As I say over and over again, there is an axiom in dawah which is that “everything that is known does not need to be spread”. The Prophet [s] said certain words to his Sahabi, but he forbade that Sahabi from telling that to others because he feared that they would rely on it too much. So we see that there is a place in our deen for ‘controlling’ what knowledge we give to someone. We do not dump on them all the prohibitions; rather, we slowly and gradually move them in the right direction.

    Anyways, my point is that the revert couple should chillax on the condemning non-practicing Muslims. If you REALLY want to make them change, then change their HEARTS and the rest will follow insha-Allah. I have a lot of respect for this brother who went to my uni…he used to hold weekly sessions, and he made it so ‘non-condemning’ that even sinful party people started attending, and you could see their hearts softening over the weeks.

    Let’s please move beyond the Pakistani version of Islam that is ‘haram haram haram!’ It’s funny that some overzealous reverts can also become this way.

    May Allah [swt] give us wisdom.

    Fi Aman Allah

  6. Avatar

    Omar

    November 26, 2008 at 8:02 AM

    Dubai, of all places? Doesn’t that miss the point of hijra completely?

  7. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    November 26, 2008 at 8:02 AM

    Jazaakillaah khayr sister! This is a nice change to the usual articles I read that just bash hijrah and concentrate on the positives of the West vs. the evils of the East as opposed to looking at the total picture (I remember one brother who was seriously trying to argue that it was easier to practice Islam in America than Saudi Arabia!).

  8. Amad

    Amad

    November 26, 2008 at 8:38 AM

    Isn’t this article on another blog? Suhaib Webb?

    Siraaj

    Believe not Siraaj. Should be an original, unpublished article.

  9. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    November 26, 2008 at 8:46 AM

    I have dozens of stories of people leaving for overseas for religious reasons. In my own circle of friends and acquaintances, I would estimate roughly 80 % fall into the first category of being idealistic and searching for utopia. Most of these people come back or become very bitter where they are. The remaining 20 % have mixed stories, but all were more pragmatic and realized the harms before they went. They merely wished to live in ‘those’ harms in the East versus ‘these’ harms in the West, and felt it was better for their religion.

    And as I said in my lecture ‘Towards Formulating a Vision for Muslims in the West’, while I do not believe it is obligatory to move overseas, I do believe that people need to make up their minds about this issue and then get on with their decision, with all of its consequences. And there is good in both insha Allah, if one’s attitude and intention is correct.

  10. Avatar

    asad

    November 26, 2008 at 8:49 AM

    jazakallh khair for the article.
    I would like to ask my fellow brothers and sisters: how does one actually go about hijrah to another country. Is there an agency we can contact? And is there somewhere we can turn to to find out which country would satisy our needs?

  11. Avatar

    Jessica

    November 26, 2008 at 9:08 AM

    Mashallah, this article is fair and looks at the issue from both sides. There is a real truth to the really wonderful positive things and the really awful negative things in most “Muslim countries.”

    However, I was absolutely shocked by one part of the article – “The Muslim world is not perfect. Period. But the positives more than balance them out: Muslims are a majority (even if all of them may not be practicing); you hear the azaan fives times a day; you can never miss a prayer for a lack of masjid; hijabis & ‘beardies’ are a norm & do not stick out as on the street; halal food in all eateries & markets; easy access & wide choice for children’s secular & Islamic education; tax-free incomes; Islamic financing; personal safety & security etc.”

    Where Is This Place??????

    Jessica

    (living in egypt for last seven years)

  12. Avatar

    Dubai-in

    November 26, 2008 at 9:19 AM

    I agree with Sheik Yasir, i never rally formulated a vision before thinking of moving to dxb for education purposes but I been living in dxb for 6 years now as a medical student, born an raised in US. so i myself was disillusioned, thinking how perfect Dubai was until i actually lived it. Then only i began to see the problems an became really frustrated. Its the society i think because the country has all to offer but the people are not practicing muslims..the temptations are the same as in the west which i think is the govt fault allowing alcohol,clubs..prostitutions all types of fitnah and then there a mix of cultures from arabs to south indians to nigerians to morrocans…. So i believe there needs to be more efforts of dawwa and confrences here that would help change this society bringing everyong together. I think thats wat UAE lacks. They been trying to change this country from east to west so we should also par take more islamic bringing more western scholar these lands….

  13. Avatar

    Abu Rumaysah

    November 26, 2008 at 9:57 AM

    Bismillah
    I don’t know what is the background context of this article, but I find it quite interesting, as Umar alluded to, that hijra was made Dubai of all places? I am no scholar, but I remember reading that there are some conditions about the “place of hijra”…when the prophet (saws) selected abysinnia, it was for a good reason, it could have also been other neighboring areas to the north or south, but in fact it was “west”..

    I have been to Dubai several times, I can honestly tell you that I felt I was in a European city, I did not feel any “islamic” culture in particular, it is more of a business hubb and everything else that follow that type of hubb…and perhaps most of you may have recently read the article about the foreign couple who were caught having intercourse at the beach there…

    therefore to make comments about hijra to such a location is in itself questionable since i really dont know it would qualify as “hijra” in the 1st place, the scholars who are familiar with those regions would be best to determine such issues..

    I am not arguing for or against ppl making hijra from the west, but we know from the sacred texts that hijra has a very high station with Allah ta`ala and this is why it is mentioned so many times in the Qur`an and the ajr attached with it is very lofty as the ayat clearly state as well as the prophetic traditions…i believe that hijra is meant to facilitate worshipping Allah ta`ala and if that objective is not achievable (or atleast not better then where you are currently residing) in that place then I would question its selection as a place of hijra…

    ppl should do some serious homework and research, consultation, istikhara, etc. before making such important decesions as it is not an easy thing to do since it is sort of a “displacement” and we know that from the leniency the muhajiroon were given by the prophet (saw) when the first arrived in Madina ..

    As a muhajir from the states to Saudi for the past 4.5 years, I can honestly say that it is difficult (to say the least) but at the same time very rewarding (specially here)..I tell most ppl that these years have been some of the most toughest years of my life while at the same time the most “blessed” time for me and my family…(just to give you examples from the circle of our ‘western” friends, some of our children have memorized the whole Quran by Allah’s grace in these few years, some of our brothers themselves started memorization and recently finished the whole Qur`an, some of mothers have learnt to read and write Arabic, most of the all of the children speak Arabic fluently, etc..)..but all of it did not simply come about by living here, it took a lot of hard work but the soceity makes it easier to acheive such goals..

    in the end, i believe that everyone innately yearns to live in a socially and spiritually healthy environment, but realistically everyone cannot do that…so I’d say that individual families need to weight the benefits gained vs. harms resulting considering all practical issues of one’s life…and if you dont know what those issues are, just talk to a trustworthy source who has lived there who can give you objective advise…

  14. Avatar

    Abu Hossan

    November 26, 2008 at 10:41 AM

    Jazaak Allaah khayr for an excellent artice. This is the kind of stuff I look up to muslimmatters for. (no more Obama neo-romanticism please)

    The best definition of hijrah that I’ve come across, is ‘migrating from a place that is worse to that which is better’. Everyone has to make that decision for themselves. Shaykh Ali al-Timimi’s lecture on this topic is an excellent discourse.

    I was born and raised in Dubai, though I haven’t been there in 7 years. I know its changed a lot, but if you look at the UAE as a whole, you’ll still find plenty of places where one can find a good Islamic environment. Even in Dubai itself, its still pretty easy to avoid the fitnah places.

    I’ve heard Shaykh Salah Bukhatir runs a very good school in Sharjah. And there’s are good shyuookh there, Shaykh Salem al-Emry being one of them. My mother tells me lots of masajid have programs for teaching Qur’aan etc. where teachers are appointed by the govt. Ajman and the other emirates are pretty conservative.

    So sure, the UAE is not its no Utopia, its no Saudi Arabia, but its still a Muslim country.

  15. Avatar

    Hassan

    November 26, 2008 at 11:56 AM

    Having lived first 21 years of my life in east, in muslim countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, Sharjah, UAE and Pakistan, and then living in west in USA, I am very well aware of pros and cons. The world is not perfect, no place is perfect, every place has its benefits and harms.

    But my question to shyookh has always been one, and what to do of my guilt? How can I live in a country that is killing lots of my fellow muslims? Am I asking for mass migration? No! I am just talking about me as individual. Sure, life in UAE, Saudia, Pakistan is not rosy, in fact, at personal level, I would have set back financially and career wise, but i would at least feel good about not having my hands bloody?

    Can a sheikh help?

  16. Avatar

    LearningArabic

    November 26, 2008 at 12:40 PM

    Interesting article.

    I am a bit surprised that people would recommed Dubai of all places to make hijra. Personally, if the condition in America got bad enough (not being able to practice deen freely) then I would go to Malaysia. Its not perfect either, but there are definitely many things to like about it. It is a muslim country, modern, good economy, and safe.

    And from what I’ve seen, Malaysian people have wonderful akhlaaq. You don’t have the type of corruption that exists in other parts of the Muslim world. Not to mention that there are many institutions that offer higher Islamic learning. In my opinion, I think it is a good place to go for a practicing Muslim that is coming from a more Western and modern environment.

  17. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    November 26, 2008 at 12:44 PM

    The job economy stinks here in the US. I should make Hijrah to Canadia. I heard they have good halal wings there. :)

  18. Avatar

    Umm Omar

    November 26, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    Salams

    Very nice article, I myself wanted to move to Egypt my husband’s homeland, but…. we decided to stay in the U.S. and visit every year. When the kids were not of school age I would go for 3 months in the off season and then when they became school age we would bear the hot weather and go in the summer time for about 2 months. It has worked well for us and our kids speak arabic and love their extended family. Now they are college age and take advantage of the school break and go to Egypt to improve their arabic and connect with the family. Whatever people decide should be based on their own personal preference, because what might be good for them may not be good for someone else, we are all different .Aalso by staying in the U.S. it is very clear what is black is black and what is white is white where this may be a problem in the middleeast where things can be in the grey area. Insha’Allah may we all be guided to live in the best place possible.

  19. Avatar

    Islamist

    November 26, 2008 at 2:10 PM

    Assalammou’alaikum.. Alhamdulillah this is a nice topic about which muslims do not talk nowadays.. But the question is if there is a place where muslims can go to live their true islam? Maybe it can be saudi arabia or some other islamic state. Concerning dubai, its nice to live there but it is corrupted by evil with its niteclubs and other activities. When the sahabas and the prophet (saw) did hijra, many placse were uninhabited and they could easily settle down. But nowadays u need a visa and other things to enter a country. But this doesn’t mean we have to abandon the idea of hijra specially if you live in a country where it is hard to practice ur full islam n u r sometimes discriminated. May Allah guide us n make us live in the best place.

  20. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    November 26, 2008 at 2:16 PM

    Although I’ve never made hijrah (yet), from what I’ve read and heard, there seems to be two major factor that are against the average Muslim in their effort to make hijrah (esp. long-term): finances and beauracracy.

    Getting a job anywhere in the Middle East (and even Malaysia/ Indonesia) is incredibly hard. Companies that are hiring foreigners are often looking for a very specific set of qualifications, which of course not all Hijrah-bound Muslims have.
    Then there’s the paperwork. Visas, work permits, and all the rest of it… even IF you get a job, it’s not guaranteed that the government will let you in the country! And when you get in, there’s another issue: how long are you allowed to stay?
    For example, students at Islamic universities (as in Saudi) can only stay until they’ve graduated; after that, they’re often booted back home.

    So even for those who desperately want to make hijrah, who are being pragmatic and realistic… sometimes it’s almost impossible for them to do it. May Allah accept their intentions and make their affairs easy, ameen.

    In the meantime… if you’ve got any contacts who can help us out, hook us up! :)

  21. Avatar

    muslimah

    November 26, 2008 at 2:29 PM

    nice article! wow i have so much to say, i live in the uae, and i love it here! suer there’s fitnah, ashratul sa’a are everywhere but in the end IT”S STILL A MUSLIM COUNTRY. i can walk around completely covered, ppl stare (niqab is not common in uae) but no one can dare call me a terrorist or throw insults.
    dubai is full of fitnah- i hardly go there..i mean you can see the rocking fitnah right from the airport. the best thing abt living here for me personally is that I have a choice. you can go completely practicing or get lost to the dunya- it’s all upto you. then again you cant get wayy too lost simply cos we still didnt dont have fitnah right on the streets and bill boards, and everywhere you go.
    the masajids here are awesome, my mom attends one- and the teachers are great mashaAllah. as far as Islamic education goes, well, havent lived in the UAE for long, but i believe it’s all upto you. if u are hungry for ‘ilm, you will try and seek it ..somehow anyhow. not that we dont have islaic centres here. we do but the no. is not so great considering this is supposed to be a muslim country.
    i can go on and on..so i’ll shut shut up now lol

  22. Amad

    Amad

    November 26, 2008 at 2:48 PM

    I was raised in Dubai (from age 2 to 17)… II left in the 90s,while Dubai was still THE place to raise a family.

    Then hell (development) broke loose. And Dubai rulers felt that the only way to make progress is to allow free flow of wine, pork and prostitution. So, in addition to economic progress, they welcomed immorality progress. Now, a quarter of Dubai is a huge red-light district, with the rest not much better. Great big malls is where “action” takes place all the time. In fact, I lived in a nice part of the town, called Deira, which I hear is one of the worst parts for prostitution. *Sigh*

    I think Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are much more desirable locations. Though I do agree that you can get what you want there.

    Actions are by intentions, so may Allah reward all those who moved for the sake of Allah. And reward all those who didn’t move also for the sake of Allah. And those who didn’t move should busy themselves with dawah so that IF the opinion that its wrong to live here is right, at least we have an excuse inshallah.

  23. Avatar

    ummabdullah

    November 26, 2008 at 4:33 PM

    This article is good mash’allah. Alhamdulillah I fall into the second category. But let me explain.

    We moved from the US just a few months ago to Egypt, Cairo to be more specific. In a few words: I love it.

    We knew for several years that we wanted to move overseas. Towards this goal, my husband picked a profession that would make it easy for him to do that. Note: he actually made a career change. He did his masters. He got some experience in the same field masha’llah.

    Then with much istikhara, dua and really sort of out of the blue, he got a decent job offer and we took it. And alhamdulillah moved to Cairo.
    Inside my heart, I had fears even though I had much that was encouraging me about egypt: the fact that its more ‘modern’ so it would be easier to swallow having lived in the US for so long.

    We both knew that it wasn’t a perfect country. We were both prepared for this.

    Really, when I got here…I just can’t explain it. I look back to the muslim communities in the west and I can’t help but feel that it is a bubble. You can have the islamic school and the masjid and the conferences, but ultimately when you go outside to the local library or the local eatery or what have you, YOU ARE DIFFERENT. Sure you grow up dealing with it and dealing with it becomes a part of you. Explaining why you are wearing that or being extra nice becomes a part of you.

    But once I’ve come here, I never wana go back!!!! Insh’allah. Not because Egypt is some 100% holy pious country because as Jessica said it’s not lol. Even in egypt, there’s people who either love it or hate it. Alhamdulillah I’m someone who loves it (so far and insh’allah I hope it will be the same)

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t love everything but when I compare the US to Cairo, I would pick Cairo every time. Let me see if I can explain:

    1-Islam is the dominant religion and culture. Sure there’s churches. Sure there’s people flirting and not wearing hijab or what have you. But the DOMINANT RELIGION IS ISLAM. I am not weird or a TERRORIST or anything here. I am a RESPECTED MUSLIM LADY. No one will dare to tell me to go back home. And get this: im not egyptian n i’m not originally american. So i’m a foreigner here too. (my husband however is egyptian)

    2- The people here are so nice. I was raised for the most part in the US. I speak perfect english but every time i step out of the house i’m the ‘other’ in the US. The slogan in the US is that ‘we accept everyone’ but the truth is that if you don’t conform to “society” then you are weird. In Cairo, my culture I feel is respected. I’m not expected to mutate into an egyptian. I am respected and WELCOMED. The people here are SUPER FRIENDLY. and I feel like I am mainstream. I’m not a fringe of society. My kids insh’allah wil grow up here as mainstream. that’s a far cry from how they would feel in the US.

    3- Conveniences: we didn’t really know of this but found out once we got here. You can literally order everything here from medicine to groceries. You can order from pharmacies anytime of day or night. This actually makes for a very good effect on family life. In the US, my husband used to do groceries and a million other errands and myself as well but here things are just so much more convenient in that day. You also have a ‘bawab’ someone who lives in the building and basically does chores and other things for the people living in the building. He will wash your car for you for a price, do your groceries if you want,etc.

    Yes it is unfair that some have more than others here. It is true in the US but it is ‘MORE TRUE’ here in that people are far more poor. As a muslim who Allah has blessed, in my situation all i can do is share that blessing and try to work to eradicate it.

    4- Even though our financial situation did jump upward when we moved, we could have worked hard to be more comfortable in the US as well. We had access to free parks there. Here we have access to sporting clubs (which unfortunately the majority of egyptians do not have access to). I far prefer the ‘naadi’ as we call it here compared to the parks in america. Why? In the naadi, I can eat out, pray, clearly be respected and mainstream.

    5-Education : the US is great for graduate level education but for everything below it isn’t necessarily superior. I have access to so many islamic and secularly good schools here, far more than the choice of a few islamic schools run by people not qualified and with teachers with no education degrees. I do not need to be running around like a headless chicken dropping my kid off and picking up from school. I have vans and buses here that can do that for me.

    As evidence for this education claim, both my parents got their education ‘back home’, yes from good schools. Now in their 50s they both have high end executive positions in america so don’t be fooled into thinking that the education in america is the best. Even now, my mother can do math calculations faster and remembers more calculus formulas than i do at my age of 20 something. why? because starting from highschool in the US, we were encouraged to learn how to use calculators while they were asked to memorize things. So much for superior education in the US :-)

    I feel like I don’t alhamdulilah have a complex in terms of moving back here and living here even though i’m not super duper rich here. I feel like i’ve experienced the ‘best of the west’ and I’ve realized that its not all that and then some the WAY we MAKE it out to be. And I hope I can pass on that feeling of confidence to my children.

    6- Materially everything is available here.

    Overall, the feeling of being a mainstream muslim is really something I can’t put a dollar value to. And I can’t lie and say that the malls and the naadi(it helps tremendously) don’t help. I’m not someone who likes to stroll in malls all the time but if I need something or want to ‘get out’ I know they exist and I can do there.

    Basically, alhamdulillah I don’t feel like IVE LOST by coming here. Alhamdulillah I feel like i’ve gained the best of both worlds insh’allah.

    (sure the driving here sucks but u work your way around it. we’ve gotten an automatic car to try to make that easier for ourselves..)

  24. Avatar

    Faiez

    November 26, 2008 at 4:37 PM

    Eye-opening article about dubai posted on Danish’s website:

    http://purepundit.com/2008/10/08/the-modern-day-muslim-mirage-dubai/

    Modern day slavery.

  25. Avatar

    Abu Abdullah

    November 26, 2008 at 5:12 PM

    JazakAllahu khayran for this great article.

    I agree with everything the sister said. From my personal experience, I grew up in Muscat, Oman and attended an American school there. Our school organized parties, discos, the prom etc (you name it and we had it) and I almost had a “western” upbrining there. Then I moved to the US for my college and that’s when I became a practising Muslim. Now when I go back to Muscat for my vacation, all I see is the masajids, hear the adhan, watch muslim brothers and sisters dressed conservatively and attend the halaqahs!

    My point is that Oman didn’t change at all in the 8 years that I’ve been away butwhat changed is the lens through which I view it and lead my life.

    Unfortunately you hear a lot of western muslims talking bad about the Middle East. They need to remind themselves that there were muslims sinning at the time of Muhammad (saw) in Madinah! Not the mention the high number of munafiqs as well. So what can one expect now?

    I strong feel that the middle east is still A LOT better for the muslims than the west is and one has to be realistic in their expectations!

  26. Avatar

    MR

    November 26, 2008 at 5:35 PM

    I want to make hijrah to NY!

  27. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 26, 2008 at 6:25 PM

  28. Avatar

    Al-Madrasi

    November 26, 2008 at 6:31 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum wr wb,

    I heard the following consistently from many peoples (even from a sheikh and a person who lived in Dubai untill his graduation) that, In muslim countries, one gets picked up by the police if you consistently pray 5 times day in jamaah or having a long beard etc, I am sorry to say that this turns me oft completely.

    Wiith (or IF) that being true I do not think, a country is hijrah-qualified. I also heard that airports in muslim countries are worst in terms of treating muslims than in the west.

    Allahu Azzawajal knows the best.

  29. Avatar

    Al-Madrasi

    November 26, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    btw, needless to mention about the abuses of muslims from third world countries (like india, pakistan, indonesia, etc) who work as a maid, driver or some low profile jobs. Muslims are almost treated as slaves if not worst, I have heard many stories from indians and have seen some videos in youtube or somewhere where how one gets beaten up etc.

    Coupling with the hardships about the beaurocracy, One of my friend said, if one is over 60 who is not a citizen and lives in Dubai, he has to pay some money to the government every year even no matter how long one works (or worked) in Dubai. I do not think these supposedly muslim countries are hijrah-eligible.

    Also, one gets kicked out of the country if your job ends.

    I would like to bring an event that happened during the search of a base in Prophet’s (saw) Makkan time. When Rasool SAW when to meet delegates of Banu Shu’aiba, one of the delegates Al-mudhanna said, we can protect you from the arab side and we cannot help protecting you from the persian side (land of Banu shu’aiba was bordering the lands of arabs and persians). Rasool SAW responded by saying, your reply is in no way bad (of course other tribes rejected Rasool saw) for you have spoked truthfully and eloquently, but Allah’s religion can only be engaged in by those who encompass it completely.

    Here Rasool SAW rejected the half deals even when he was searching for place to do hijrah. Even though those were the times which was worse for muslims in makkah, even then Rasool SAW rejected the half deal. Even in the abyssenia, Negas accepted muslims without any restrictions.

    Having noted that, lives of muslims is no way comparable to the times of lifes of muslims in makkah. It is some of us, who think/made our life is harder. I have seen people praying in airports and even in public places and people having no problems of practising islam here in our west. If all the muslims were to be practising islam and show religiosity in public, we would not have all these stereo types and staring issues (some of us are even very reserved replying to salam in public). It is us, who has to make some change. It is saddening and unfortunate to see some practising muslims departing from here.

    Believe it or not, if their laws were friendly for hijrah, muslims from india and some parts of the world would have flooded there. In reality, there are thousands of muslims if not millions were working alone leaving their family in their home countries for decades (I know personally n-number of muslims who are like that from india).

    I personally do not think, there is any place better to do hijrah. All these rhetorics about hijrah (being obligatory, musthahab, not obligatory) should be made after these less than half, double standard deals removed from those muslim-countries-in-paper.

  30. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 26, 2008 at 8:52 PM

    I think Hijrah to escape fitnah for more islamic environments is silly – it’s no better overseas (and many times worse) than in the west.

    My question – my tax money goes to fund the wars overseas that are killing our brothers and sisters – shouldn’t I move to a neutral nation (Muslim or nonMuslim run) to avoid contributing? If not, why not?

    Siraaj

  31. Avatar

    muslimah

    November 26, 2008 at 9:16 PM

    i found this really interesting. not about the UAE but something similar.

    http://saudijeans.org/2006/11/09/the-view-what-do-we-look-like/

  32. Avatar

    Umm Reem

    November 26, 2008 at 9:32 PM

    Very interesting artilce indeed!

    I am also amazed at Dubai being a “safer” place then the west…my brother in law lived in dubai two years ago and did NOT recommand that place for us (however he did mention that “good” people live there and it depends what you look for outside), but now he is living in Abu Dhabi and recommends that place for us…
    good friend of mine moved from houston to sharjah and was happy…she found a huge converts’ community there, started halaqat, became an “activist” for those who think we cannot do “dawah” in middle east!!

    do i want to move overseas to avoid fitnah? i would have to say define “fitnah” then because it definitely can NOT be to avoid the fitnah of women, fahash etc. but it is definitely to avoid many other fitan BUT i will not be moving there with a “utopia” in my mind but to take advantage of the good available there and i do understand that i will have to “give up” something in order to gain something.

    one thing that i want to mention, in an effort to raise good children perhaps it is wiser to move around and give them a taste of both cultures and environments. this was something recommended by sh. muhammad alshareef too (if i understood it right from one of his lectures) and now that i myself am helping out some teenage daughters/mothers i realize the importance of it…

  33. Avatar

    talib

    November 26, 2008 at 10:10 PM

    what a great article…

    i just had a comment on the readers posts…the fitnah is everywhere in a muslim/non muslim land…whats different in the muslim countries are the masajids..adhan out loud..not to have to worry when eid is…halal food everywhere…these are just a few benefits and if you have children its way better in any of the muslim countries than the west to be brought up..

    so if it was upto me..a muslim country supersedes living in NY or Canada

  34. Avatar

    muslimah

    November 26, 2008 at 11:21 PM

    dubai sucks in terms of the fitnah level. any other emirate is better. Abu Dhabi is great-when i went there i saw so many niqabis masha’Allah. anyway i wont recommend moving to the uae unless your rich. it’s very expensive making a life over here.
    i’d like to remind everyone-there’s fitan everywhere. didnt our Prophet salAllahu’alayhee wasallam say (in my own words) there’ll be a time when a man will have no option but to to escape to the jungle to protect his deen? i feel the time’s almost come.just remember wherever you are, try to be the best muslim/muslimah you can be. of course the envt does have an effect on you, but in the end i guess you have to decide what kind of a life you want. it’s a different experience living int west and having to deal w/ fitnah and a totally different thing to face it in the muslim countries. Allahul mustan.

  35. Avatar

    J

    November 27, 2008 at 12:06 AM

    In muslim countries, one gets picked up by the police if you consistently pray 5 times day in jamaah or having a long beard etc, I am sorry to say that this turns me oft completely.

    I doubt this is true. Wallahu Aalim.

  36. Ali Shehata

    Ali Shehata

    November 27, 2008 at 12:26 AM

    Salaam alaikum

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and ask Allah to bless the sister who wrote it. It was concise yet very informative. I also appreciate a number of the comments written by those people actually living in Muslim populated countries. They have reflected my own positive experiences alhamdulillah. I know a family that moved recently to Egypt from Europe to preserve their deen and they have been very happy about life in Egypt alhamdulillah.

    I have observed something though that I found rather impolite while reading through the many comments posted. The Prophet (saas) has been authentically recorded in al-Sahihayn as saying, “Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent.” There are a number of negative posts written about life outside of the “West” among these comments and I found it curious that the vast majority were written by people living outside the Muslim populated countries or comments based on hear-say.

    I would like to remind myself and those who care to stop and listen, that it was Allah Himself and His Messenger who recommended Muslims to migrate and to live in Muslim lands where they would be majorities and not as minorities in non-Muslim lands. For those who paint the Muslim populated nations in such negative brush strokes, I would like them to remember that Allah and His Messenger know best and Allah was certainly aware of the circumstances we as an Ummah would come to face in this day and age and yet the ayaat and ahadith still stand and are not abrogated.

    If Allah has not blessed us to understand the wisdom behind His commands then it would be good manners with Him to remain silent about why we think living as a minority in non-Muslim lands is better than living as a majority in a Muslim land. How many a person has obeyed Allah and His Messenger only later to find out the great blessing in that act of obedience, and what blessings and honor in the eyes of Allah might we be missing out on by not acting on this important deed – be it mustahabb or waajib?

  37. Avatar

    Adam Shabber

    November 27, 2008 at 1:25 AM

    Assalamalakum,

    This is the brother mentioned in the article, Adam Shabber Mohammed.

    Reading some of the replies I get the feeling we need to look at our own individual situation and be sincere in our advice and actions, very important point the sister made was the lens you look through.

    Remember: There is no perfection in this world, our vision is to go to Jannah, so what do we need to do as a team to get there, remember you can not fight shaitan by yourself, if we work together we can build the communities and environment to help us to get to jannah.

    I posted the post below in a yahoo group for people who want to make hiji.

    Assalamalakum,

    Al humdulilah some good points and sincere advice from everyone. I would like to add some observations in general from my own experience. I made hijrah al humdulilah with my family from the UK to the UAE. I came on a job and then the organization I was working for got down sized after 4 years. I and my wife decided to start a small education institute, and just getting the approval took 1 year, at all obstacles we would talk about packing our bags and going back to the UK.

    Al humdulilah we are still running our business and still in the UAE, it pays the rent and puts food on our table, al humdulilah, inshallah I am sure the business can do a lot more.

    Over the past 8 years in the UAE I have observed the following:

    • Non-Muslims and deviant Muslim groups are more successful in large business because:
    o When they start their business their community helps them
    o They will live husband and wife with 2 kids in one small room to help the business start
    o Everyone in the business will be happy they have a roof over their head and food on their table, they will forgo all other luxuries for the benefit of the business
    o They will work 12 hour days for at least 2 to 3 years
    o They will not go on yearly holidays
    o They will struggle for their collective good

    And after only 5 years they will reap the benefits, and if they want to retire!!!

    • The problems with the Muslims
    o Lack of Patience
     With people
     With work
     With Business
     With tests and difficulties
    o Jealousy for others successes
    o Working together as a successful team
    o Laziness
    o No calculated risk taking in business
    o No sharing
    o Suspicion
    o No Real trust in Allah(swt) for their rizk – we say it, but do we follow it.

    Remember these are general observations not specific. But everything we read about in the Quran and Sunnah, its like it goes in one ear and out the other, the Muslims are far away from practicing what they preach. We are very good at the physical practices, but do not understand how to really change ourselves from inside to out, where as we have been trying to change ourselves from outside to in. This is one problem we have if we only read books and just listen to lectures we have to get up and live with the scholars and students of knowledge meet them and see how the act and behave to change from within.

    Look at Allah(swt)’s creation do we really find something that is weak inside and looks great outside, think of flowers if a flower is beautiful from the outside it must be strong in the inside, good stem, good roots, etc, u can not get a strong beautiful plant without a strong inside.

    Where as with humans we can look the part but be rotten inside……

    We as the best of the nations should not be looking and running around trying to work for others, but working together and building large successful enterprises, multi-million dollar enterprises.

    So let me give everyone some advice, put your heads together start working together, sacrifice for each other like the al ansar did for the al muhajiroon, real sacrifice.

    Here is my practical suggestion: What do you have that people will pay you cash in the Muslim countries for?

    Your English accent, people in these countries will pay for you to teach them and their children English, so this is what you do:

    • Get four families together, husband and wife who can teach English at different levels – staff of 4:
    o TEFL – Level
    o Teach English to children
    o Understand and keep yourself updated on ways to teach languages, think of how you tried to learn Arabic.
    • At least 2 of the staff should obtain or have business skills
    o Basic accounting
    o Marketing / advertising
    o Office management
    • Rent a 4 bed en-suite 2 hall villa
    o Each family has a room
    o Each family takes turns to cook
    • Rent or buy a minibus – 15 seater
    • Setup your education institute
    o Small to begin with enough for 50 children or 25 adults
    • 3 adults work at the institute while one stays home and looks after all children and house
    o You can rotate this
    • Design and print flyers
    o Go to local schools to offer English after school help
    • Give yourself 2 to 3 years inshallah to build up the business
    o Be prepared for ups and down
    o Within the 3 years you will generate money to:
     Hire a full time driver
     Hire a full time maid /cook
    • Hire a Quran and Arabic teacher for your children
    o Start home schooling them if school fees are too expensive
    • Setup a time for everyone to study Arabic and learn their deen
    • Setup a time for leisure activities
    • After 5 years of building a name and reputation
    o Open another branch 2 families can move to the new branch, new city
    o But this time you employ teachers on bonus schemes
    • When you open your third branch you franchise it out to another 2 families who want to make hijrah
    • By your 5th branch you will be just managing it, no need to teach.

    Working together we will be a lot more independent and strong then to go solo every time, the sunnah is to work together to build our Muslim communities.

    Just think of all the Muslim cities in the world where you can do this.

    For all the Muslims in the west, get together and build communities around the likes of Yasir Qadhi, Mohammed Shareef, and others, work together to build the business that will support the communities.

    May Allah(swt) unite us on the truth and give us the strength and patience to work together and implement the truth, ameen.

    Walakum as salam

    Abu Abdullah ibn Adam Shabber

    • Avatar

      ummabraar

      September 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM

      Asalamualaikum,
      I would like to know where your educational institute is situated,brother abu abdulla ibn adam shabber.
      plz do reply fast.
      jazakillh kahir,wsalam

  38. Avatar

    Islamist

    November 27, 2008 at 2:43 AM

    Assalammou’alaikum wa rahmatullah.. I completely agree that wen u live in a muslim country even though there is the presence of fitnah, u can practice ur islam openly and if u have a beard or a sister is wearing niqaab, no one will stare at her like an alien. U may have a strong imaan and taqwa but if u evolve in a non islamic atmosfer, it decreaes this taqwa. That,s y it is imprtant to hav an islamic atmosphere and i think it is on that basis principally we shud do hijra. Of course there are other aspacts like job,residence,etc.. But if we practice our islam as we must with our heart full of taqwa, zen inshaAllah evrythng will bcome easy..

  39. Avatar

    muslimah

    November 27, 2008 at 2:56 AM

    I completely agree that wen u live in a muslim country even though there is the presence of fitnah, u can practice ur islam openly and if u have a beard or a sister is wearing niqaab, no one will stare at her like an alien

    that’s not true. wearing a niqab is difficult anywhere in the world and you get stared at like crazy everywhere except in saudi, yemen, and some parts of asia where many women observe niqab. i guess the thing here is you can get stared but no one will try to assault you mentally/physically.

  40. Avatar

    Islamist

    November 27, 2008 at 6:03 AM

    Yea u r rite qbt wat u r saying sister, the reason y people r becoming like zat is imply bkoz islam is becoming a strange religion or some muslims feel shy to show their islam. But for the case of physical n mental assult its mainly in the european countries but not evrywher. For example,if u hav a beard n u enter the airport, there are security officers following u. In other countries it is not like that but still they are doing all they can to harass the muslims. In an islamic country, there is no open persecution but u get discouragemen and comments frm people but we should hold fast to the Qur’an and the sunnah, we shudn’t care abt the odd comments. This the mistake that many muslims r doing nwadays..

  41. Avatar

    Al-Madrasi

    November 27, 2008 at 7:59 AM

    @J

    In muslim countries, one gets picked up by the police if you consistently pray 5 times day in jamaah or having a long beard etc, I am sorry to say that this turns me oft completely.

    I doubt this is true. Wallahu Aalim.

    I heard this from couple of people who lived in so-called-muslim-countries. I even heard that, kids (students) gets reported if they do not raise their hands (or whatever you are supposed to do) during the pledge at schools.

    Wallahu A’lam.

  42. Avatar

    Bint Imam (Author)

    November 27, 2008 at 9:13 AM

    Asalaamualaikum,

    When I first wrote this piece for MM, I knew & expected that (some) readers would pounce on the word, ‘Dubai’ (& all that it is notorious for) & use it to snub hijrah altogether.
    Let me offer a few clarifications regarding the objective of my article (& Dubai).

    1. To show that our attitude makes a world of a difference on how we perceive our environment. I have listened to the Ahmad’s(the first couple) issues for over a period of a year. I sympathize with them & truly wish that they find contentment in the next country they are moving to inshaAllah, but, I feel it’s going to be uphill for them anywhere they go – owing to their attitude. And Allah knows best.
    2. This is not meant to discount the positive elements in the West or the negative ones in the East.
    3. To those who don’t know (as I can gauge from some of the comments), Dubai is not a country. It is one of the city/emirate in the country called U.A.E.
    4. I do not advocate a particular country or city as a hijrah destination. Rather I encourage the readers to do their research & find out what suits ‘them’ as individuals, if & when they choose to migrate.
    5. Dubai, no doubt, is no longer the family-friendly city it used to be back in the 80s & 90s.
    6. My descriptions are not representative of Dubai, but sum up the general picture of the UAE & other Middle Eastern countries (GCC). To be fair, I devoted a paragraph to throw light on the negatives and the positives.
    7. The two families, I cited as examples, initially did live in Dubai when they arrived in the UAE. But after a while they moved to other cities. Alhumdullilah, the other cities like Sharjah, Ajman, Abu Dhabi, etc continue to be good places to live with families.

    asad & AnonyMouse
    The job market is very competitive but a ‘Western’ degree does lend more weight than others’. So that is an advantage.
    Unfortunately, there is no structured support organization to facilitate hijrah. Some efforts are being made in this direction, but it is still too early to announce them. You will need to search online for people, groups who have experience.

    Also, don’t base decisions on other people’s experience. Talk to them in specific terms. For example, instead of asking, “Is it worth it?” or “Is it good living there?”, ask specific practical questions related to things that you need to know: “How much would it cost to rent a 2 BR apartment in the city center?”; “Is it possible to live in Sharjah & work in Dubai?” or “Is the public transport service dependable if I don’t buy a car within the first year of migration?”; “Is it practical to pack my household appliance or buy them there?” etc.

    Please read some very practical (including visa, employment, legal formalities) information on Hijrah to UAE & Saudi & Malaysia on the following:
    http://muslimexpat.wordpress.com/
    http://desertdiaries.wordpress.com/
    http://www.hijra.net/
    http://suhaa.myminaret.com/category/hijrah/

    Jessica
    Alhumdullilah, that was, without exaggeration, the description of the place I live in.

    Abu Rumaysah & LearningArabic
    As I explained above, this was not an advocation of hijrah to Dubai. Rather, it was about our ‘lens’ in context of hijrah stories of two families. You are correct that the place of hijrah needs to fulfil certain conditions. WaAllahuAlim, if Dubai fulfils those. Both families who moved to Dubai initially, shifted to other cities within the same country after a while. The other cities are, alhumdullilah, quite good.

    al-Madarsi
    “picked up by police for praying or beard?”
    That is absolutely incorrect! Alhumdullilah.

    bro Ali Shehata
    JazakAllahkhair. You’ve stated the validity & weight of the injunction of Hijrah better than me.
    I especially refer to your point, “to live in Muslim lands where they would be majorities and not as minorities in non-Muslim lands.”
    Whether we realize it or not, a minority status of any community affects the collective psychology of its members in general & weak members in particular.

    UmmAbdullah & Adam Shabber
    JazakAllahkhair for sharing your experience & hopefully inspiring others inshaAllah.

  43. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    November 27, 2008 at 9:48 AM

    Assalamualaikum

    JazakAllah khair for the amazing article and comments. Much appreciated :). It’s good to get an article on this issue from time to time.

    I too think that too many brothers and sisters think that Muslim countries should be (or are for those who are wishing to do the hijrah) the most pristine Islamic states ever. But that’s being too idealistic, the fitnah does not only exist in non-Muslim countries but also in Muslim countries. I made a decision a few months ago (having lived in both places) that I’d rather face the ‘hidden’ fitnah of some Muslim countries, as opposed to the open environment of Non-Muslim countries. And I have nothing against those brothers and sisters who choose to stay in non-Muslim countries because frankly, I see their point even though I don’t agree with it.

    And it’s hard, but hey, a test is a test. :)

  44. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    November 27, 2008 at 10:11 AM

    I think Hijrah to escape fitnah for more islamic environments is silly – it’s no better overseas (and many times worse) than in the west.

    With all due respect, this is a ridiculous and false sweeping generalization.

  45. Avatar

    Mezba

    November 27, 2008 at 10:43 AM

    I think brothers and sisters should read on Hazrat Abu Dharr Ghifari (r ). He was a Sahabi who became dismayed at what he termed corruption of morality and too much wealth in Medina (during the time of Umar (r )) and emigrated to live in what he termed as a more sincere and Islamic environment.

    And of course nowadays’s Medina cannot hold a torch to Umar (r )’s Medina in terms of Islamic environment!

    So it’s all relative. And there is no right and wrong of emigration – ultimately it’s individual.

    Still – I find the naivety of some Muslims who go off to live in “Islamic” lands very frightening. Dubai is the lord of racism.

  46. Avatar

    Islamist

    November 27, 2008 at 1:19 PM

    ”Still – I find the naivety of some Muslims who go off to live in “Islamic” lands very frightening. Dubai is the lord of racism.” Well bro mezba it may be that thre is racism but you shud see where it is more easier to practice deen. For me, the basis of hijrah shud be going to a place where i can become a bettr muslim,of course evrywhere there is fitnah but the fact that u can practice islam as it shud be without being seen differently or being critisied, this wud help a lot… Just imagine you lived next to the ka’ba, just the atmosfer is sufficient 2 increase ur taqwa…

  47. Avatar

    Abu Akhhal

    November 28, 2008 at 12:18 AM

    As Salamalaikom Shaykh’s and Shakes,

    I am not much knowledgable but I think the article clearly spells it out, Dunya vs Aakhirah. The intention leads to an action that leads to satisfaction/dis-satisfaction based on your original intention.

    I lived in desi country for 26 years and am living here in US for 12 years now, I have seen the filth and the beauty in both countries. What matters to me the most is how strong my Eeman is in Allah SWT to appreciate the beauty in any land and fight the filth/fitn/faheeshat in any land. If we feel its geting harder-and-harder to be able to KEEP AWAY from evil then our heart will tell us we need to do “something” about moving from this land we are in at that moment in time. Like my parents always say when you have to decide between Dunya or Aakhirah, Always take the everlasting choice that might seems objectively tough, painful, foggy yet if Allah SWT is on your side, with you and you feel the connection every-day ( that only that individual can underdstand, and yes objectively) then their is no fear, doubts or pesimism. Just do it- (not promoting nike). Hijra will never end till the day of judgement. Lot of verses on Hijra preceed Jihad, I wonder why?

    Allahu Aalam,

    Abu Akhhal

  48. Avatar

    J

    November 28, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    Just imagine you lived next to the ka’ba, just the atmosfer is sufficient 2 increase ur taqwa…

    It has been stated by more than one classical scholar that living next to the ka’abah has potential downfalls. The way the human being has been created, he gets ‘used to’ whatever is close to him. Whatever is close to the human being loses its significance and becomes mundane. In other words, he becomes ‘immune’ to it. So you will find that the man who has traversed long distances to reach the ka’abah will have more emotion when he reaches it than the one who lives right next to it.

    This is not only true with the ka’abah but really any place. Those people who live next to Disneyland barely ever go because it’s ‘same old, same old’ , whereas people from all over the world love to go to Disneyland.

    I believe one of the classical scholars who said something like this was Imam an-Nawawi, amongst others. Wallahu Aalim.

  49. Avatar

    Abu Akhhal

    November 28, 2008 at 1:00 AM

    You live only once.
    Life is too short (long for me).
    and very busy in west, now in east too.
    West- Its easy to be happy but hard to stay simple.
    East- Its easy to stay simple but hard to be happy.

    So, lets mend our diferances and settle in Middle-east (or Mid-west) says what Shake Siraj and Sheykh Yasir?

  50. Avatar

    miscellany101

    November 28, 2008 at 2:35 AM

    What a topic! Hijrah to wherever should be to increase your faith in God and your adherence to the Law and the spirit of the Law as embodied by Muhammad, pbuh. That can be done anywhere in the world! The concept of social justice is exemplified better in the US than in any other country at the moment. Arab countries are too full of tribalism and a clan mentality where citizenship is built on birth right and not loyalty to the rule of law as is found in North America. Sure there are individual moments of religious practice, such as going to the masjid or wearing the clothes of your choice, but compared to societies where the ruling class feels no obligation to honor, respect and treat equally its residents and rather makes distinctions between those from a certain family or clan and those not a “Muslim” would feel much more comfortable with the former, I would think, than the latter. There’s a reason Islam has flourished in the West and particularly the North American continent and why violence and corruption has wrecked the traditional Muslim world. I just hope those Muslims coming from the latter don’t infect Islam found in the West with the same disease which they suffer from back home.

  51. Avatar

    Islamist

    November 28, 2008 at 6:31 AM

    To J, well i dnt really thnk i would get bored or lose any enthusiasm if i lived nxt to the ka,bah. Its a sacred place, where u feel somethng different, another kind of feeling. Just imagine u do ur 5 prayers in al-haraam, u see the ka’bah 5 times daily.. Its extraordinary n personally i wud never get bored of just a place. I can get bored of evrythng but not at looking at the ka’bah and living in its surroundings!

  52. Pingback: Open Thread Sunday - Nov. 30, 2008 | MuslimMatters.org

  53. Avatar

    May

    November 30, 2008 at 11:58 AM

    In response to the comments here claiming that one feels like an outsider in Western countries, i will relate my own experiences:

    A few years ago I went back with my family to our home country during the summer. They were all shocked to find me wearing hijab, praying 5 times a day, and declining to shake hands with male cousins. I was different to them. In the streets my female cousins and I were cat-called, looked up and down and (almost) physically harassed by shopkeepers. Is this the great Islamic environment you speak of? This has never happened to me in the UK, not so much as a discrepectful look. Sure non-Muslims are often ignorant of my religious practices, but what excuse do I have for the Muslims in the ‘Muslim’ country? They were more preoccupied with watching music videos and getting their nails done. They had no intellectual capacity, and no deeper meaning to their lives.

    The issue of harassment of women is something that concerns me greatly. No one can deny that this is a HUGE problem in the Middle East. The majority of women in Egypy admit to being harassed on a daily basis. What good will that do to someone who has supposedly left to ‘protect their deen’. I can hear the athan, pray at the mosque, buy hijabs and eat halal food just as easily in Whitechapel, London, and at least here my sanity is intact.

  54. Avatar

    talib

    November 30, 2008 at 2:45 PM

    sister may..you can hear the athan from your home…?

  55. Avatar

    May

    November 30, 2008 at 4:14 PM

    The East London mosque gives out athaan out loud.

  56. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 30, 2008 at 7:42 PM

    bismillah. mashaAllah, they do the adhan outdoors, no mikes, in Arlington, Texas, too. and there are Muslims whose homes are nearby the masjid so that they hear the adhan.

  57. Avatar

    Adam Shabber

    December 1, 2008 at 1:02 AM

    Assalamalakum,

    It was mashallah excellent of sister Bint Imam to introducing her article with the idea of the lens, which I feel most of us have not really thought about. for example my lens is not the lens of what I feel paradise on earth should be, as some of us are looking through.

    What is the description of my lens?

    My description is what I saw of certain examples in my life, in general terms when I was in University I saw two types of Muslims coming from the Muslim lands to study.

    1. This type was finally free and could indulge in all their desires without feeling the guilt of disgracing their families. There was no one to see them in this new Western land, where their desires where ignited at every turn with bill boards, revealing magazines and newspapers. They got very excited learning in the great educational institutes of the west or they got excited with the mixed education, any way they were excited.

    2. The second type of Muslims that came, humbled me, they had memorised Quran, they had learnt Arabic and understood hadith and fiqh, they married before they came and bought their wives, they not only were successful in their studies but also were leading in the local dawa.

    I wanted to know how two types of Muslims came from the same Muslim country but were so different, so I wanted from my children the environment the 2nd type of Muslims were bought up in.

    From my basic research this environment DOES NOT EXIST in the western countries, if it does someone please let me know.

    I found this type of environment only in Muslim countries, so far UAE, Saudi and Egypt and to some extent Pakistan. I have not been to other countries so I can not comment on them.

    The environment I am referring to is where the 2nd type of Muslim lives, for example let me describe one such place:

    1. Special ladies only parks and walkways – Sisters go out to walk at midnight and ealry morning without fear
    2. The norm is niqab, not just hijab but niqab
    3. No pubs, no night clubs
    4. Adhan out loud for every salat. – (from my last visit to the UK East London Mosque does not give adhan for Fajir, it might just wake up a few non-Muslims – we wouldn’t want that would we now)
    5. Breads are normal even for the youth
    6. Imam’s that are tested for their tajweed, recitation before they can lead the prayer and teach
    7. Quran schools for children
    8. Adults can easily find brothers / sisters to teach Quran and Arabic
    9. Safe and security – your children can actually play outside
    10. No need for car alarms or making your house into fort nox
    11. No indecent bill boards or advertising

    Remember you are making hijr to a place that us limited humans can digest, we are not making hijr to countries or cities, how many people live in the US and UK and never stepped out side their area? How many have gone to Dubai and never left the comfort of the area around their hotel? – and then gone back and say Dubai is just like London or New York. – Yes it is if you limit yourself – Allah(swt)’s earth is vast.

    One thing I do not understand from the western Muslims including myself, is that we see the non-Muslims and Muslims will move from one area in their country to anotther so they can be closer to good schools, but do we see Muslims making hijr within their country to build good strong Muslim communities? or rather we see Muslims building great Pakistani, Somalian, Morrocon, etc communities.

    One point I would like to add is that I made hijr because of my children, I wanted them to be like the 2nd type of Muslim, for myself I would have stayed in the UK only becuase I wanted the reward for working in the dawa, because I had grown up as a non-practicing Muslim so enjoyed the freedom to follow my desires, i.e. been there done it, but now I wanted Jannah, I started practicing Islam with all the kufr around me, it made me raise my defences, and Allah(swt) made me firm, but I know, what I was like as a male youth, and after knowing and experiencing it, do I really want that for my sons? – Can I really stand infront of Allah(swt) and say I didn’t know what the youth get up to in the UK?

    Guidance is with Allah(swt) all we have to do is prepare our children in the best way – that is what YOU ALL have to deciede where is that best way. Remember the outcome you want – look for examples, we have had mashallah great examples in our life times, like, Sh bin Baz(ra), Sh Uthameen(ra), and many others – as it stands now, the likes of these scholars will not appear in the west. – even if your children become students of scholars like these – that would be awesome.- and one of the most important things everyone is missing here is not how much knowledge these scholars have but it is how they live their daily lives, their adhab, you need to live in and around them to get a taste of the barakah they have.

    Ask yourself a simple question – if the scholars are the successors of the Prophet(saw) and if you were alive at the time of the Prophet(saw) why are you one of the ones hearing about the Prophet(saw) but still nice and cosy in your house in bahrain (east side of Arabia) and did not decide or try to move to live in Medianh next to the Prophet(saw). -Now think of one of the successors of the Prophet(saw), alive today you would like to live near then make it happen. – if you want to move closer to Sh Yasir then make it happen :)..

    walakum as salam

    Jazakallahu khair

    Adam Shabber.

  58. Avatar

    unknown

    December 1, 2008 at 5:38 AM

    Assalamualikum,well in the emirates…..not Dubai but alhamdulillah Sharjah(where i reside) is an excellent city which allows you to practise your deen….there are atleast 2 masjids in every street…almost every masjid has halaqaz for memorisation of quraan for free…both in the morning and evening…for men, women and children….there are friday khutbaz in urdu and in english…..by sheikhs graduated from madinah university…sisters wearing hijaab are highly respected…both by muslims and non muslims.. there are malls that dont play music…and have the supplication to be read for markets higlighted at the entrance…..may Allah (swt) reward the shaikh ruling this country….and protect this country.

  59. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    December 1, 2008 at 1:11 PM

    BaarakAllaah feekum Adam. It’s really nice to get a balanced comment as opposed to the usual nitpicking (e.g. racism exists in a certain Muslim country therefore forget all the other good and lack of evil that exists there) or sweeping generalizations (e.g. a certain evil exists in a certain area within a Muslim country and therefore the whole of the Muslim World is bad, or at least worst than the West). People who have a Utopian vision of the Muslim World, nay, of Makkah and Madeenah, are wrong, but the fact that those cities/countries are not Utopia does not in of itself mean that they are not better for you and your family than non-Muslim countries (and I say that while recognizing all of the good that exists here).

    Regarding those brothers who come from overseas and indulge in their desires, in my experience a lot of them return to being religious after a while. And even for those who don’t, they still recognize that they’re sinful and fully intend to make tawbah later on, moreso than the natives who are like that.

  60. Avatar

    shahgl

    December 1, 2008 at 11:39 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    My husband went to Dubai about 15 years ago, and his story was that ‘women’ kept knocking on the hotel room all night to offer services. I have not seen that happen in Houston yet. If it happens, I will consider Duabi for Hijra.

    My Hijra was from Pakistan to the US.
    I remember, in Pakistan, I had to ‘pay’ 5000 rupees just to get my car registration. The Pakistani passport was another some thousand rupees. My mother used to have an annual marathon with the tax people. They would assess 30,000 rupees for property tax on our home, or she could pay about 10,000 to the assessor, and he would assess it at a lesser value. She refused to pay him up and had to fight her case all year, every year.

    In Pakistan we were involved in all kinds of fitna that came with culture. In the US I had an opportunity to meet ‘real’ Muslims. I realized that I had been a Muslim in name only. I took my shahadah again. I never want to go back to Pakistan again.

  61. Avatar

    muslim

    December 2, 2008 at 12:33 PM

    shahgl, i understand where your coming from. moving from a desi country to the west is a huge change and for the better but its not the same if you move from a muslim country to the west.

    “I have not seen that happen in Houston yet. “- i am yet to see couples making out or gays in dubai.

    “In the US I had an opportunity to meet ‘real’ Muslims”- ouch. its not for us to judge whose a “real muslim”, let’s leave that for Allah shall we?

  62. Avatar

    shahgl

    December 4, 2008 at 1:22 AM

    Muslim said:
    “In the US I had an opportunity to meet ‘real’ Muslims”- ouch. its not for us to judge whose a “real muslim”, let’s leave that for Allah shall we?”

    I leave that to Allah. It is, though, acceptable to praise your brother’s good iman, good practice, good ikhlaq.
    When I came to the US, I was befriended by African American Muslims. Getting to know African American Muslims was a big eye opener for me. Their belief and practice was so pure, so earnest, I was humbled. I was forced to acknowledge I was a fake Muslim and they were for real. It was African American Muslims who tweaked my love for Islamic knowledge. It was they who inspired me to strive for an Islamic way of life, just like they were. It was they who shed light on what monotheism really was.
    How can I not call them ‘real’ Muslims? I suggest if anyone is having an Iman problem, go sit with AA brothers, and feel the freshness of their Iman.

  63. Avatar

    Muslim4life

    December 7, 2008 at 7:24 AM

    I have been living in middle east (KSA & UAE-DUBA) for around 10 years, and Alhamdulillah the environment is much better than it is in the west. Last time I saw someone drunk was in US. There are religious activities but you have to be living in those neighborhoods, as we have a lot of non muslim expatriates over here, and if your living amongst them and ask for an Islamic environement, not possible.

  64. Avatar

    Algebra

    December 7, 2008 at 1:05 PM

    Aslamu-alaikum;
    I also stayed in DUBAI at one time it was in RAMADAN and i ABSOLUTELY LOVED it.
    it definitely is a wonderful experience.
    salam

  65. Avatar

    khawla

    December 11, 2008 at 4:16 PM

    Anyone interested to hook up on Hijrah group from all over the Muslims world may join this group on Muhaajir at yahoogroups.com
    There are tonnes of info and logistics about paperworks, jobs, housing, schooling or transportation provided by it’s members.

  66. Avatar

    Muhejir

    December 26, 2008 at 12:33 AM

    To avoid the hihgly unnecessary and unproductive..” I think.. I feel ..I believe” attitude some have expressed here, we need to remember ourselves who we are sacrificing all the niceties presently around us for. Check out Awlali’s serious talk. Islam is for theserious minded and its not a fun ride

    http://www.anwar-alawlaki.com/2008/09/22/hijra-for-the-sake-of-allah/

  67. Avatar

    Outcast

    January 19, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    Everything we do is based on intentions, so you will be rewarded accordingly and according to his statement “he admits, that the glitz & glamour of Dubai got them side-tracked – for a while.” explains a whole lot about so many Muslims who choose either Saudi or Dubai (rich countries) as the only hijrah destination, when there are so many other Muslim countries one can make hijrah to.

    Another issue I would like to address is when someone chooses to make hijrah, they should at least do a bit of research first. Hijrah is a very big and important decision and should be handled with care, so that we don’t get disappointed, when all we needed to do was research.

    Imani A.
    Muslimsrus.wordpress.com

  68. Avatar

    Oum fulan

    November 1, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    As salam’aleykoum

    could you give us the name of the emirate ‘s brother mentioned in his testimony ? one in which he ‘s gone after dubai ?

    BarrakAllahoufiki

  69. Avatar

    AbdulWahid

    December 28, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    Subhanallah, I sit here in the west lol in 2016, actually two days to 2017. I am amazed at how time flies. These responses that were done in 2008 and in this day and age are upto date in most cases and you can see why hijrah wont stop until the day of Judgement. I myself tried to do hijrah twice to Kenya. I came back to the west in a bid to try again but this time humbled at the fact that it will take a lot of time unless Allah wills. From what I have seen in my personal life in the West, it is enough to know that Hijrah is mandatory upon me. In fact now that the socalled west is out to attack islam and muslims directly its even more poignant. I have seen brothers beg for prayers doing slavery type of work. I have seen how hard it is to find a job as a muslim and how hard it is to keep a job especially since the first time you need to go for wudhu and pray, the kaafir is automatically displeased. I have seen all of this. And of course this article is really correct in that everything is not the same for everyone. I have seen that the pleases that Muslims are majority and that you can hear lectures and adhan out loud sometimes has a lot of fitnah perhaps on some levels even more fitnah than the west but just being in an environment where your identity as a muslim is not questioned is to me worthy of hijrah to lands of the muslims. My only exception is if in some rural areas there is sufi dominance and that the only islam that people know is sufi grave worship then, it is completely different then. Also the brother Adam raised beautiful advices for muslims in that they should work hard and get organized and be a jamacah not only in the masjid but also in all areas of life.

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Challenges of Identity & Conviction: The Need to Construct an Islamic Worldview

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He squirmed in his seat as his Middle East history professor–yet again–made a subtle jab about Islam, this time about the jizyah.  This professor claimed to be pro-Arab and pro-Islam and was part of a university department that touted itself for presenting history and narratives that are typically left out of the West’s Eurocentric social studies sequence. Still, she would subjectively only present an Orientalist interpretation of Islam. Ahmad* sighed. He felt bad just thinking about what all his classmates at this esteemed university thought about Islam and Muslims. He was also worried about fellow Muslims in his class who had not grown up in a practicing household-what if they believed her? He hated how she was using her position as the “sage” in the room to present her bias as absolute truth. As for himself, he knew deep down in his bones that what his professor was alleging just could not be true. His fitrah was protesting her coy smile as she knowingly agitated the few Muslims in her class of one-hundred-fifty.  Yet, Ahmad had never studied such topics growing up and felt all his years of secondary education left him ill-equipped as a freshman in college.  He tried to search for answers to her false accusations after class and approached her later during office hours, but she just laughed him off as a backward, orthodox Muslim who had obviously been brainwashed into believing the “fairy tale version” of Islam. 

***

Asiyah* graduated as class valedictorian of her Islamic school. She loved Biology and Physics and planned to major in Engineering at a top-notch program. While both family, friends, and peers were proud of her (some maybe even wishing they were in her shoes), they had no idea of the bitter inner struggle that was eating away at her, tearing her up from the inside out. Her crisis of faith shook her to the core and her parents were at their wits’ end. While she prayed all her prayers and even properly donned her hijab, deep down she felt……..sort of….……atheist.  Physics was her life–her complete being. She loved how the numbers just added up and everything could be empirically proven. But this led to her greatest anguish: how could certain miraculous events during the time of the Blessed Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have occurred? How could she believe in events that were physically and scientifically impossible?  She felt like an empty body performing the rituals of Islam.

*names changed

***

An Unwelcome Surprise

Islam is a way of life. Its principles operate in every avenue of one’s life. However, English, History, Science and Mathematics are often taught as if they are beyond the scope of Islam. It is commonly assumed that moral teaching happens, or should happen, only in the Islamic Studies class. Yet, if we compare what is being taught in the Islamic Studies class with what is being taught consciously or unconsciously in other classes, an unwelcome surprise awaits us. Examining typical reading material in English classes, for example, reveals that too much of the material is actually going against Islamic norms and principles. Some of the most prominent problems with traditional English literature (which directly clash with Islamic moral and ethical principles) include: the mockery of God and religion, the promotion of rebellion against parents and traditional family values, the normalization of immoral conduct such as lying and rude behavior, and the condoning of inappropriate cross-gender interactions. Additionally, positive references about Islamic culture are either nonexistent or rare. Toxic themes of secularism, atheism, materialism, liberalism, and agnosticism are constantly bombarding our young Muslim students, thus shaping the way in which they view and interact with the world.

Corrective Lens: The Worldview of Islam

We need our children to develop an Islamic worldview, one that provides a framework for Muslims to understand their world from the perspective of the Qur’an.  It is impossible for the Islamic Studies classes alone to successfully teach Islamic behavior and nurture moral commitment unless the other classes also reflect the Islamic worldview- an outlook that emphasizes the idea that all our actions should be focused on pleasing Allah and doing good for ourselves and others. Therefore, the majority of what is taught in all academic disciplines should be based on Islamic values, aiming to improve the life of the student by promoting sublime ethical conduct. The unfortunate reality is quite the opposite: a typical child in a school in the West spends a minimum of 576 periods (16 periods of core classes/week * 4 weeks/month * 9 months) of classroom instruction annually on academic subjects that are devoid of Islam and contain minimal teaching of morality that aligns with Islamic principles. How much Islam a child learns depends on whether their parents choose Sunday school, Islamic schools, and/or other forms of supplementation to provide religious knowledge. However, rarely does that supplemental instruction undo the thousands of hours of the atheistic worldview that children soak in by the time they finish high school through the study of secular subjects. By not having an Islamic worldview and not having Muslims’ heritage and contributions to humanity infused into the teaching of academic subjects, we witness the problems experienced by the likes of Ahmad* and Asiyah*–problems that plague modern Muslim youth.

Identifying the Unlikely Suspect

This realization is perhaps the missing piece in the puzzle when it comes to our bewilderment: how are large swaths of youth from some of the kindest, sweetest, practicing Muslim families going astray and getting confused? When we shepherd our flock and find one or more of our “sheep” lost and off the beaten path, we think of the likely suspects, which include negative influences from peers, family, movies, social media, etc. We may even blame the lack of inspiring role models. We are less likely to suspect that the very literature that our children are consuming day in and day out through our well-intentioned efforts to make them “educated” and “sophisticated” could cause them to question Islam or fall into moral abyss.

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.”

Islamic Infusion in Academic Study as a Solution

There have been efforts across the globe to infuse Islam into academic study of worldly subjects. Universities such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia(IIUM), which has a dedicated “Centre for Islamisation (CENTRIS),” is an example. At the secondary school level, most brick and mortar Islamic schools do offer Arabic, Qur’an, and Islamic studies; however, few Muslim teachers are trained in how to teach core academic subjects using principles of Islamic pedagogy.

How exactly can educators infuse an Islamic perspective into their teaching? And how can Muslim children have access to high quality education from the worldview of Islam, taught by talented and dynamic educators?

Infusing Islam & Muslim Heritage in Core Academic Subjects, According to the Experts:

  • Dr. Nadeem Memon, professor of Islamic pedagogy, states that for a pedagogy to be Islamic, it should not contradict the aims, objectives and ethics contained in revelation (Qur’an) and should closely reflect an Islamic ethos that is based on revelation, the sunnah of the Prophet(pbuh), and the intellectual and spiritual heritage of his followers. It should also effectively develop the student’s intelligence (`aql), faith (iman), morality and character (khuluq), knowledge and practice of personal religious obligations (fard ain) and knowledge, skills and physical abilities warranted by worldly responsibilities and duties (Ajem, Ramzy and Nadeem Memon, “Prophetic Pedagogy: Teaching ‘Islamically’ in our Classrooms”)
  • Dr. Susan Douglass, expert in Social Studies, promotes a panoramic study of the world by global eras–emphasizing the interdependence of nations–rather than an isolationist civilizations approach (which in Western societies focuses only on Western civilization). Such study includes Islamic history and Muslims’ contributions to humanity throughout the ages.
  • Dr. Freda Shamma, pioneer in promoting culturally inclusive and ethical literature, emphasizes that English classes should carefully select literature aligned with Islamic moral values and include works by both Western authors and those from other cultures, i.e. literature that 1-features Muslim main characters and 2- is authored by Muslims.
  • Dr. Nur Jannah Hassan at CENTRIS, stresses that Science classes should be designed to awaken the student’s mind, to inspire a complete awe of and servitude towards the Creator and Sustainer, to instill the purpose of creation, vicegerency and stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, to enable students to decipher God’s Signs in nature and in the self, to infuse responsibility in sustaining balance and accountability, and should include Muslims’ legacy in the field.
  • Dr. Reema alNizami, specialist in Math Education, advocates that Math classes should instill creative thinking, systematic problem solving and an appreciation of balance; include a survey of Muslims’ contributions to the field; and utilize word problems that encourage charitable and ethical financial practices.

Technology Enables Access to Islamically Infused Schooling for grades 6-12

Technology has now enabled this Islamic infusion for middle schools and secondary schools to become a reality on a global scale, alhamdulillah. Legacy International Online High School, a college preparatory, online Islamic school serving grades 6-12, whose mission is “Cultivating Compassionate Global Leaders”, offers all academic subjects from the Islamic worldview. Pioneered by leading Muslim educators from around the globe with background in Islamic pedagogy and digital learning, Legacy is the first of its kind online platform that is accessible to:

  • homeschooling families seeking full-time, rigorous, Islamically infused classes
  • Public school families looking for a part-time Islamic studies or Arabic sequence
  • Islamic schools, evening programs, and Sunday schools that are short-staffed and would like to outsource certain courses from the Islamic worldview
  • Schools and entities needing training/workshops to empower Muslim educators on how to teach from the Islamic worldview

Alhamdulillah, Legacy IOHS is an accessible resource for families with children in grades 6-8 who are seeking curriculum and instruction that is Islamically infused.

Strengthening Faith & Identity in College and Beyond

For those seeking supplementary resources to address the most prevalent hot topic issues plaguing young Muslims of our times, Yaqeen Institute, whose initial publications were more targeted towards a university audience, is now working to make its research more accessible to the general public through both its Conviction Circles initiative and its short videos featuring infographics.

Another online platform, California Islamic University, offers a comprehensive course sequence which allows college students to graduate with a second degree in Islamic studies while simultaneously completing their undergraduate studies at any accredited community college or university in the United States. Qalam and AlMaghrib Institute also offer online coursework in Islamic studies.

What We Hope to Avoid

While volunteering at his son Sulayman’s* public school with ten student participants, Ibrahim* was saddened when he met a young boy named Chris*. When Chris met Ibrahim, he piped up and eagerly told Ibrahim, “my grandparents are Muslim!” Through the course of the conversation, Ibrahim realized that he knew Chris’ grandparents, a very sweet elderly couple (and currently very practicing) who had not made the Islamic worldview a priority early on in their children’s lives. A mere two generations later, Islam is completely eliminated from their family.  *names changed

Our Resolve

Legacy IOHS recommends the following to Muslim families/educators and Islamic schools:

  1. Instill in our children a strong grasp of the foundational sciences of Islam, while preparing them with the necessary contemporary knowledge and skills
  2. Teach our children in their formative years to view the world (including their “secular” academic study) through the lens of Islam
  3. Follow this up with relevant motivational programs that assist them in understanding challenging issues of today and coach them on how to respond to the issues in their teenage years.

We pray that with the above, we will have fulfilled our duty in shepherding our flock in a comprehensive way, with utmost care. It is Allah’s help we seek in these challenging times:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us. Grant us Your mercy: You are the Ever Giving. [Qur’an 3:8]

 رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’. [Qur’an 25:74]

يَا مُقَلِّبَ القُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِيْ عَلَى دِيْنِكْ

“O turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion.”

Freda Shamma has a M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Ed.D. from the University of Cincinnati in the area of Curriculum Development. A veteran educator, she has worked with educators from the United States, South Africa and all over the Muslim world to develop integrated curricula based on an Islamic worldview that meets the needs of modern Muslim youth. She serves as Curriculum Advisor for Legacy International Online High School.

An avid student of the Islamic sciences, Zaheer Arastu earned his M.Ed from The George Washington University and completed his training in Educational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. his experience in Islamic education spans over 15 years serving as both teacher, administrator, and dean of innovation and technology. He currently serves as the Head of School for Legacy International Online High School.

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Grit and Resilience: The Self-Help vs. Islamic Perspective

Omar Usman

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I don’t really care about grit.

Persevering and persisting through difficulties to achieve a higher goal is awesome. High-five. We should all develop that. No one disagrees that resilience is an essential characteristic to have.

Somehow, this simple concept has ballooned into what feels like a self-help cottage industry of sorts. It has a Ted talk with tens of millions of views, podcasts, keynote speeches, a New York Times best-selling book, and finding ways to teach this in schools and workplaces.

What I do care about is critically analyzing if it is all that it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: I don’t think so), why the self-help industry aggressively promotes it, and how we understand it from an Islamic perspective. For me, this is about much more than just grit – it’s about understanding character development from a (mostly Americanized) secular perspective vis-a-vis the Islamic one.

The appeal of grit in a self-help context is that it provides a magic bullet that intuitively feels correct. It provides optimism. If I can master this one thing, it will unlock what I need to be successful. When I keep running into a roadblock, I can scapegoat my reason for failure – a lack of grit.

Grit encompasses several inspirational cliches – be satisfied with being unsatisfied, or love the chase as much as the capture, or that grit is falling in love and staying in love. It is to believe anyone can succeed if they work long and hard enough. In short, it is the one-word encapsulation of the ideal of the American Dream.

Self-help literature has an underlying theme of controlling what is within your control and letting go of the rest. Islamically, in general, we agree with this sentiment. We focus our actions where we are personally accountable and put our trust in Allah for what we cannot control.

The problem with this theme, specifically with grit, is that it necessitates believing the circumstances around you cannot be changed. Therefore, you must simply accept things the way that they are. Teaching people that they can overcome any situation by merely working hard enough is not only unrealistic but utterly devoid of compassion.

“The notion that kids in poverty can overcome hunger, lack of medical care, homelessness, and trauma by buckling down and persisting was always stupid and heartless, exactly what you would expect to hear from Scrooge or the Koch brothers or Betsy DeVos.” -Diane Ravitch, Forget Grit, Focus on Inequality

Focusing on the individual characteristics of grit and perseverance shifts attention away from structural or systemic issues that impact someone’s ability to succeed. The personal characteristics can be changed while structural inequalities are seen as ‘fixed.’

Alfie Kohn, in an article critical of Grit by Angela Duckworth, notes that Duckworth and her mentor while studying grit operated under a belief that,

[U]nderachievement isn’t explained by structural factors — social, economic, or even educational. Rather, they insisted it should be attributed to the students themselves and their “failure to exercise self-discipline.” The entire conceptual edifice of grit is constructed on that individualistic premise, one that remains popular for ideological reasons even though it’s been repeatedly debunked by research.

Duckworth admitted as much in an interview with EdSurge.

There was a student who introduced himself having written a critical essay about the narrative of grit. His major point was that when we talk about grit as a kind of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ personal strength, it leaves in the shadows structural poverty and racism and other things that make it impossible, frankly, for some kids to do what we would expect them to do. When he sent me that essay, of course, I wanted to know more. I joined his [dissertation] committee because I don’t know much about sociology, and I don’t know much about this criticism.

I learned a lot from him over the years. I think the lesson for me is that when someone criticizes you, when someone criticized me, the natural thing is to be defensive and to reflexively make more clear your case and why you’re right, but I’ve always learned more from just listening. When I have the courage to just say, “Well, maybe there’s a point here that I hadn’t thought of,” and in this case the Grit narrative and what Grit has become is something that he really brought to me and my awareness in a way that I was oblivious to before.

It is mind-boggling that the person who popularized this research and wrote the book on the topic simply didn’t know that there was such a thing as structural inequality. It is quite disappointing that her response essentially amounted to “That’s interesting. I’d like to learn more.”

Duckworth provides a caveat – “My theory doesn’t address these outside ­forces, nor does it include luck. It’s about the psychology of achievement, but because psychology isn’t all that matters, it’s incomplete.” This is a cop-out we see consistently in the self-help industry and elsewhere. They won’t deny that those problems exist, they simply say that’s not the current focus.

It is intellectually dishonest to promote something as a key to success while outright ignoring the structures needed to enable success. That is not the only thing the theory of grit ignores. While marketing it as a necessary characteristic, it overlooks traits like honesty and kindness.

The grit narrative lionizes this superhero type of individual who breaks through all obstacles no matter how much the deck is stacked against them. It provides a sense of false hope. Instead of knowing when to cut your losses and see a failure for what it is, espousing a grit mentality will make a person stubbornly pursue a failing endeavor. It reminds me of those singers who comically fail the first round of auditions on American Idol, are rightly ridiculed by the judges, and then emotionally tell the whole world they’re going to come out on top (and then never do).

Overconfidence, obstinance, and naive optimism are the result of grit without context or boundaries. It fosters denial and a lack of self-awareness – the consequences of which are felt when horrible leaders keep rising to the top due, in part, to their grit and perseverance.

The entire idea of the psychology of achievement completely ignores the notion of morality and ethics. Grit in a vacuum may be amoral, but that is not how the real world works. This speaks powerfully to the need to understand the application of these types of concepts through a lens of faith.

The individual focus, however, is precisely what makes something like grit a prime candidate to become a popular self-help item. Schools and corporations alike will want to push it because it focuses on the individual instead of the reality of circumstances. There is a real amount of cognitive dissonance when a corporation can tell employees to focus on developing grit while not addressing toxic employment practices that increase turnover and destroy employees physically and emotionally (see: Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer).

Circumstances matter more than ever. You’ve probably heard the story (of course, in a Ted Talk) about the famous marshmallow test at some point. This popularizes the self-help version of delayed gratification. A bunch of kids are given a marshmallow and told that if they can avoid eating it for 5 minutes, they’ll get a second one. The children are then shown hilariously trying to resist eating it. These kids were then studied as they grew older, and lo and behold, those who had the self-discipline to hold out for the 2nd marshmallow were far more successful in life than those who gave in.

A new study found that a child’s ability to hold out for the second marshmallow had nothing to do with the ability to delay gratification. As The Atlantic points out, it had much more to do with the child’s social and economic background. When a child comes from a well to do household, the promise of a second marshmallow will be fulfilled. Their parents always deliver. When someone grows up in poverty, they are more attuned to take the short term reward because the guarantee does not exist that the marshmallow would still be there later. The circumstances matter much more than the psychological studies can account for. It is far easier to display grit with an entrepreneurial venture, for example, when you have the safety net of wealthy and supportive parents.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post that grit discourse is driven by middle and upper-class parents wanting their spoiled kids to appreciate the virtues of struggling against hardship. Unfortunately, this focus on character education means that poor students suffer because less money will then be spent on teaching disadvantaged students the skills they need to be successful. Sisyphus, she notes, had plenty of grit, but it didn’t get him very far.

Strauss asks us to imagine if a toxic dump was discovered near Beverly Hills, and our response was to teach kids how to lessen the effects of toxins instead of fixing the dump.

The grit discourse does not teach that poor children deserve poverty; it teaches that poverty itself is not so bad. In fact, hardship provides the very traits required to escape hardship. This logic is as seductive as it is circular. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is seen as a virtuous enterprise whether practiced by Horatio Alger’s urchins or Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs (bootstrapping is a common term in technology finance circles). And most importantly, it creates a purported path out of poverty that does not involve any sacrifice on the part of the privileged classes. -Valerie Strauss

This approach is a way to appear noble while perpetuating the status quo. It provides the illusion of upliftment while further entrenching the very systems that prevent it. We see this enacted most commonly with modern-day Silicon Valley style of philanthropy. Anand Giridharadas has an entire book dedicated to this ‘elite charade of changing the world’ entitled Winners Take All.

The media also does its fair share to push this narrative. Stories that should horrify us are passed along as inspirational stories of perseverance. It’s like celebrating a GoFundMe campaign that helps pay for surgery to save someone’s life instead of critically analyzing why healthcare is not seen as a human right in the first place.

Islamic Perspective

Islamically, we are taught to find ways to address the individual as well as the system. Characteristics like grit and delayed gratification are not bad. They’re misapplied when the bigger picture is not taken into account. In the Islamic system, for example, a person is encouraged not to beg. At the same time, there is an encouragement for those who can give to seek out those in need. A person in debt is strongly advised to pay off their debts as quickly as possible. At the same time, the lender is encouraged to be easygoing and to forgive the debt if possible.

This provides a more realistic framework for applying these concepts. A person facing difficulty should be encouraged to be resilient and find ways to bounce back. At the same time, support structures must be established to help that person.

Beyond the framework, there is a much larger issue. Grit is oriented around success. Success is unquestionably assumed to be a personal success oriented around academic achievement, career, wealth, and status. When that is the end goal, it makes it much easier to keep the focus on the individual.

The Islamic definition of success is much broader. There is the obvious idea of success in the Hereafter, but that is separate from this discussion. Even in a worldly sense, a successful person may be the one who sacrifices attending a good school, or perhaps even a dream job type of career opportunity, to spend more time with their family. The emphasis on individual success at all costs has contributed to the breakdown of essential family and community support systems.

A misapplied sense of grit furthers this when a person thinks they don’t need anyone else, and they just need to persevere. It is part of a larger body of messaging that promotes freedom and autonomy. We celebrate people who are strong and independent. Self-help tells us we can achieve anything with the right mindset.

But what happens when we fail? What happens when we find loneliness and not fulfillment, when we lack the bonds of familial solidarity, and when money does not make us whole? Then it all falls on us. It is precisely this feeling of constriction that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.” (2:155-157)

Resilience is a reflex. When a person faces hardship, they will fall back on the habits and values they have. It brings to mind the statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that patience is at the first strike. He taught us the mindset needed to have grit in the first place,

“Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him, and if he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him” (Muslim).

He also taught us the habits we need to ensure that we have the reflex of grit when the situation warrants it –

“Whoever would be pleased for Allah to answer him during times of hardship and difficulty, let him supplicate often during times of ease” (Tirmidhi).

The institution of the masjid as a community center provides a massive opportunity to build infrastructure to support people. Resilience, as Michael Ungar writes, is not a DIY endeavor. Communities must find ways to provide the resources a person needs to persevere. Ungar explains, “What kind of resources? The kind that get you through the inevitable crises that life throws our way. A bank of sick days. Some savings or an extended family who can take you in. Neighbours or a congregation willing to bring over a casserole, shovel your driveway or help care for your children while you are doing whatever you need to do to get through the moment. Communities with police, social workers, home-care workers, fire departments, ambulances, and food banks. Employment insurance, pension plans or financial advisers to help you through a layoff.”

Ungar summarizes the appropriate application of grit, “The science of resilience is clear: The social, political and natural environments in which we live are far more important to our health, fitness, finances and time management than our individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”

The one major missing ingredient here is tawakkul (trust in Allah). One of the events in the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that epitomized grit, resilience, and perseverance was the Battle of Badr. At this occasion, the Companions said, “God is enough for us: He is the best protector.

“Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’“ (3:173)

This is the same phrase that Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), while displaying the utmost level of resilience, said when he was thrown into the fire, and it was made cool.

There is a core belief in Islam about balancing between fear and hope. Scholars advise when a person feels despair, they should remind themselves of the traditions that reinforce hope in Allah’s forgiveness. When a person feels themselves sliding further and further into disobedience to Allah, then they should remind themselves of the traditions that warn against Allah’s punishment. The focus changes depending on the situation.

Grit itself is a praiseworthy characteristic

There is no doubt that it is a trait that makes people successful. The challenge comes in applying it and how we teach it. It needs a proper level of balance. Too much focus on grit as a singular predictor of success may lead to victim-blaming and false hope syndrome. Overlooking it on the other hand, enables a feeling of entitlement and a victim mentality.

One purpose of teaching grit was to help students from privileged backgrounds understand and appreciate the struggle needed to overcome difficulty. Misapplied, it can lead to overlooking systemic issues that prevent a person from succeeding even when they have grit.

Self-help literature often fails to make these types of distinctions. It fails to provide guidance for balancing adapting the advice based on circumstance. The criticisms here are not of the idea of grit, but rather the myopic way in which self-help literature promotes concepts like grit without real-world contextualization. We need to find a way to have the right proportionality of understanding individual effort, societal support, and our reliance on Allah.

Our ability to persevere, to be resilient, and to have grit, is linked directly to our relationship with Allah, and our true level of trust in Him.

To stay up to date with more articles from Omar, sign up for his email list at http://ibnabeeomar.com/newsletter

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Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

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Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outright uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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