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fatherdaughterAmongst the many family dynamics issues that the Muslim community is beginning to address, one of the least-discussed subjects remains that of father-daughter relationships.

In the Muslim community especially, this is an issue which has been overlooked, ignored, and generally treated with a sense of discomfort. Particularly amongst immigrant families, the relationship between a father and his daughter(s) is often a distant one; girls are encouraged to spend the majority of their time with their mothers and other womenfolk.

A girl might be “Daddy’s Little Princess” as a baby, a toddler, a child, but as she grows closer to puberty she will often find herself left at home instead of taken to the masjid, attention deflected from her and turned towards her brothers instead (if she has any).
Unfortunately, this is a practice which has extremely negative repercussions… for the fathers, the daughters, and indeed the Ummah at large.

Psychologists refer to father-daughter relationships as having an importance too often overlooked, despite the incredible impact that it has on both parties. Indeed, much of the time the effect of this relationship isn’t even noticed until much later in life, when patterns have already been set and are unlikely to change.

The role of a father in his daughter’s life is pivotal: he is the first man in her life; the one who teaches her what he, a male, thinks of her, a female; and thus shapes her sense of self-worth in the eyes of other men; the one whose behaviour and mannerisms will influence her mental image of “the perfect man” and her choice of life partner (i.e. husband).

In Islam as well as in psychology, the father is meant to be the daughter’s guardian, protecting her from harm, teaching her life skills and strong values. Yet despite all this, far too many fathers play a distant, secondary role in their daughter’s lives. There is a misconception that a father is merely the breadwinner, the supporter of the household, that his role is primarily that of financial provider rather than nurturer. After all, isn’t it the mother’s job to raise the children? Isn’t it the mother’s job to teach her daughters what it is to be a girl, a woman?

Yes, it is – but the mother is not a child’s only parent. She is equally the man’s progeny. His genes are present in her DNA, his flesh and blood are hers. When she looks at him, he is seeing a part of himself; in her behaviour is a reflection of his own attitude and mannerisms.
How then can any father willingly minimize his role in his daughter’s life?

Mistakes Fathers Make

  • Not being actively involved from the beginning (birth). Hold your daughter. Carry her. Change her diapers. You can’t expect to develop a bond between yourself and your child if you don’t make the effort to create it.
  • Not getting involved because you think you’re unprepared. Considering that you’ve already had experience with females thanks to your mother/ sister/ wife, you’re not as unprepared as you think you are, so relax.
  • Distancing yourself from her as she grows older. Girls become women. They change physically. It’s a fact of life, get used to it. Yes, puberty is uncomfortable for everyone involved, but denying it or ignoring it – or worse, ignoring her – just makes things worse. Nobody’s suggesting that you chat with your daughter about the details of her menstrual cycle, but it’d be a lot more helpful if you grabbed the Tylenol and handed her a hot water bottle instead of walking straight past her when you clearly know that she’s in pain. This is just one example of fathers’ denial about their daughters growing up; in truth, there are many ways that fathers demonstrate distance from their daughters.
  • Having little to no physical contact. The idea that hugging, kissing, or having any other positive physical contact with your daughter is “wrong” or “not manly” is absolutely ridiculous. Not only that, but it’s extremely harmful to your daughter’s development as she grows older. Whether your daughter is five or fifteen, both of you should be comfortable enough to turn to each other for a hug (that lasts longer than five seconds) at any time.
  • Little to no emotional communication. “Pass the salt” does not qualify as real communication. Make an effort to be involved in your daughter’s everyday life, whether it has to do with school and friends or just how she’s feeling on any given day. Building this bond will create a feeling of security and trust, and your daughter should be able to turn to you for help at times of emotional hurt and conflict.
  • Not expressing pride in their daughters. Girls crave their father’s praise and approval just as much as boys do. Nothing can thrill a daughter more than knowing that her father sees his own good qualities in her, that he is really and truly proud of her and her accomplishments.

The greatest, most perfect example of father-daughter relationships can be found in the history of Islam. Has there ever been a father more devoted, a daughter more adoring, than our beloved Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Sayyidah Faatimah az-Zahraa’ (radhiAllahu anha)?

We all know the stories:

Young Faatimah, scarcely ten years old, wiping filth off of her father’s back and furiously berating the leaders of Quraysh for their behaviour.

Faatimah, who used to weep at the sight of dust that was thrown upon her father’s head, and would be comforted with the words “Do not cry, my daughter, for Allah shall protect your father!”

Faatimah, the apple of her father’s eye, of whom he said: “Whoever pleased Fatimah has indeed pleased God and whoever has caused her to be angry has indeed angered God. Fatimah is a part of me. Whatever pleases her pleases me and whatever angers her angers me.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3437; Muslim, 4483)

Noble Faatimah, one of the four greatest women in the world: “The best women in all the world are four: the Virgin Mary, Aasiyaa the wife of Pharoah, Khadijah Mother of the Believers, and Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad.”

Faatimah, of whom A’isha (radhiAllahu anha) commented, “I have not seen any one of God’s creation resemble the Messenger of God more in speech, conversation and manner of sitting than Fatimah, may God be pleased with her. When the Prophet saw her approaching, he would welcome her, stand up and kiss her, take her by the hand and sit her down in the place where he was sitting.”

The entire Muslim Ummah has benefited directly from this unique father-daughter relationship. How many lessons have been derived from the Seerah, from incidents pertaining to this father and to this daughter?! How much knowledge, how much wisdom, was transmitted from father to daughter, and from that daughter to her own sons, al-Hassan and al-Hussein (radhiAllahu anhum)?! Yaa subhanAllah! How can we ever belittle, neglect, forget the importance of such a bond?

O Muslim fathers, will you follow in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayi wa sallam)? Will you do what you can to help your daughter become the Faatimah az-Zahraa’ of today?

Or will you keep ignoring her, neglecting her, passing her off to ‘womanly influences’? And in the process, compromise, minimize, and even destroy the potential of someone who could become the next Maryam, Aasiyah, Khadijah, or Faatimah?

O Muslim men… be men! Be fathers. Be fathers of the greatest Muslim women this Ummah has ever known!

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Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    March 3, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    The article makes some good points. It is unfortunate that muslim men have the best role model but yet many fail to follow him (peace be upon him).
    References to the hadiths used would have been appreciated.

  2. Avatar

    Y.S.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:23 AM

    I am blessed to be a Muslim woman who has enjoyed her father’s love throughout the years. I am the apple of my father’s eyes. He constantly tells me he loves me and shows respect for my opinions. He hugs and kisses me and gives me everything I want. He makes me feel beautiful and intelligent and only wants the best for me. He asks for my opinions on many things and talks about nearly everything with me. I have indeed shaped many of my criteria for marriage on some of my father’s qualities. Thanks to this strong support, and that of my brothers, I do not need to seek approval from othe rmen. I do not yearn to be flattered and I believe it has protected me from many wrong choices in life, alhamdulilah. This is just to say that it is very important for fathers to love, respect and cherish their daughters.

    • Avatar

      karmarisa

      November 21, 2009 at 5:22 PM

      i am glad that you know you are blessed to have a unique father-daughter relationship. i think that it is so cool that ur dad asks for your opinions, and share/talk about a lot of things. at 16, i still don’t know what having a father daughter relationship is like. i just realized the importance of a fathers love.
      some day, soon hopefully, i would know what it feels like to have a father daughter reationship. i’m still working on it. wish me luck!!! :)

      • Avatar

        Estrella

        June 5, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        How are you working on it? :O

        This article was quite painful to read. The message it renders is beautiful and I couldn’t agree more with it. I only wish I could be blessed like all those girls with affectionate fathers *sigh*

      • Avatar

        Jeem

        November 19, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        Good luck! Im having some issues with my father too….it all started on my birth… I had a fatherless childhood….He never looked at me or said anything to me…but now he wants my attention(something that I can’t give him).

  3. Avatar

    Arshada

    March 3, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    as salaam alikuim

    Jezkallah khair. I always intended to research the stories between the beloved Prophet Muhammad and Fatima. Jezkallah khair for giving me a glimpse into their relationship.

    Arshada,

    as salaam alikuim

  4. Avatar

    Good article

    March 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    Ma sha Allah, excellent article.

    I must say, from personal experience, my father was nicer to my sister than to me or my brothers. She could, and still can, get away with ANYTHING, whereas I’d get the hanger (how they spanked me). Now, she goes on tantrums, gets angry easily and is generally mean spirited.

  5. Avatar

    Ibrahim Z Mohammad

    March 3, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

    Jazaak Allaah khayr for this article which makes some good points. As a father of a toddler girl, I feel affection and interaction comes naturally to a father. Coming home after work everyday I always look forward to her running to the door saying ‘baba, baba!’ and insisting I pick her up and swing her around a few times.

    But I do anticipate that the level of physical interaction I have with her will decrease over time as she grows older. Please excuse my criticism, but I feel your advice regarding this issue has a tilt coming from a western upbringing. The extent of physical contact thats considered appropriate I’m sure varies from culture to culture, family to family and person to person. This does not mean that a girl who grows up in a culture where the father interacts less physically with his daughters should necessarily be at psychological disadvantage. As long as she feels confident in her fathers love and support, I do not think it matters to her how he manifests it to her.

    Also, please see this article on islam-qa where the shaykh mentions hugging between mahram relatives (of the opp. sex) as being something disliked. http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/12879

    May Allaah reward you for your efforts.

    Jazaak Allaah khayr

    • Avatar

      talia

      May 14, 2015 at 8:48 AM

      Please be more selective about what you choose to look to as a source on the internet. Islamqa can be extremely unreliable … Also, the article doesn’t say anything about it being disliked …

  6. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 3, 2009 at 11:19 AM

    i agree with everything except this point:

    … Change her diapers. …

    :) I still reluctantly change poop though :)

    • Amad

      Amad

      March 3, 2009 at 1:06 PM

      Agree with Ahmad. Sorry, can’t… boys or girls.

      • Avatar

        matata

        February 17, 2010 at 8:33 AM

        As a woman I “can’t” change diapers either. I don’t want to change diapers. But that’s a part of life that you and i both have to get used to after becoming parents. It’s all in the package :) you CAN do it.

  7. Avatar

    Hassan

    March 3, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    Ahmad AlFarsi (Author) said:

    i agree with everything except this point:

    … Change her diapers. …

    :) I still reluctantly change poop though :)

    I put diapers, I just do not take off diapers :D

    There is nothing better (in the worldly affairs) than daughters. There is nothing like it

    • Amad

      Amad

      March 3, 2009 at 1:08 PM

      Agree with Hassan (today is agreement day): girls (until they start turning “womanish” which is the point of your post ;) ) are much more lovable and love-seeking than boys.

  8. Avatar

    iMuslim

    March 3, 2009 at 1:32 PM

    Great article, sis, masha’Allah. I do agree with brother Ibrahim on the cultural aspect though. As long as the love is manifested in a tangible way: words, gestures, acts of kindness, etc, I think it’s all good, insha’Allah. Of course, there is balance in everything. No-one should be spoilt (speaks the only child!).

  9. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    March 3, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    Salam

    Sr. Anonymouse, great article…for some.

    However, I fear that in my case I have the opposite problem: that of being overly strict with the boys and overly-lenient with the daughter. I still play with her more than the boys (cuz she is the youngest and cutest!) and always get criticized (by the other women of the family, *ahem*) for treating her too nicely.

    :(

    Yasir

  10. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    March 3, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

    References to the hadiths used would have been appreciated.

    Thank you for the reminder – I’ll update the post in a minute, insha’Allah. They are all authentic narrations which can be found in Saheeh al-Bukhari (and which are quoted in the IslamQA links I added at the bottom of the post).

    @ Ibrahim
    I agree with you that the level of physical interaction between fathers and daughters varies depending the individuals, family, culture, etc. but I do think that many fathers do withdraw significantly from their daughters as they (the daughters) grow older. Again, if we look to the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), we see that he used to hug and kiss his daughters even when they were grown women. It’s like any other relationship, really – it depends on the individual but the greatest of examples lies always in the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

    And to show that it’s alright:
    The ruling on a father kissing his daughter

    @ Sheikh Yasir
    :)

  11. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    March 3, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    I think that’s the exact point Anonymouse is trying to make is that little adorable girls get a lot of attention from the father but once they start developing into young women, father detach themselves by giving them less time and taking less interest in their activities…

    i can understand that father will naturally have more interest in “boyish” activities but I think that’s what they need to realize that they might not feel bit but their daughters do…

    i read stories of some female scholars in the past, who were directly taught by their father scholars, and had an excellent relationship with their fathers..i wonder how they managed to do that..

    Females are naturally very sensitive, so what happens when they see their fathers doing stuff with their brothers (when they grow older) but not them, then what happens?

  12. Avatar

    Ibrahim Z Mohammad

    March 3, 2009 at 3:04 PM

    Again, if we look to the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), we see that he used to hug and kiss his daughters even when they were grown women.

    Without doubt the Prophet (saw) is the best example in all affairs. Could you please provide a reference that shows the Prophet (saw) would hug his grown daughters? Also would he hug or kiss them in public (ie. in front of non-Mahrams)? I couldn’t find any such references myself and would appreciate any direction.
    Jazaak Allaah khayr.

  13. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    March 3, 2009 at 3:13 PM

    Could you please provide a reference that shows the Prophet (saw) would hug his grown daughters? Also would he hug or kiss them in public (ie. in front of non-Mahrams)?

    The narration of A’ishah (radhiAllahu anha) regarding how the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to greet his daughters by kissing them is recorded in Fath al-Bari (8/135), Kitab al-Maghaazi, baab maraduhu wa wafatuhu; Abu Dawud 4/480, Kitab al-Adab, baab ma ja’a fi’l qiyam.

    Also, note that I have never said that he used to hug/ kiss his daughters in public in front of non-Mahrams; I figured that it was generally understood that all these displays of affection would take place in the privacy of the family home.

  14. Avatar

    ilmsummittee

    March 3, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    Good article, I generally agreed with it overall.

    Alhamdulilah, my experience like sister Y.S. is the same. My father is truly one of a kind, he has always been a very strong presence in my life and supportive in all areas. His qualities are something that definitely makes him who he is, mashallah and as has been said this too has shaped my “criteria for marriage”. I can go on and on about his qualities and akhlaaq, but I will keep to it……….but for future parents know that an Islamic upbringing coupled with a sensitive, compassionate undertaking really makes for awesome tarbiyah.

    And having great parents is one of the most underestimated, glossed-over, and best ni3aam ever.

    On a minor note, I believe that some people differ on the degrees of affectionate and the way it is displayed, I think it plays a crucial role in defining a child’s identity and nurture. Parenting is something children reflect upon, and often mirror as they grow older.

    I find that as men may seem lenient towards their daughters, to be cautious in how the ‘boys’ see it. My father is more prone to side with us, but he’s always open-minded when it comes to being ‘equal’ and respectful of everyones’ feelings. My advice (as I have seen this many times with Muslim fathers in and around my community) is to be careful in not SPOILING your daughter or treating her as too ‘special’ at the expense of her brothers or vice versa. Alhamdulilah, though its very nice to see a great connection in that Muslim Father-daughter bond, a beautiful sight to see.

    For anyone interested here’s a very nice and cute nasheed video about a father’s love for his daughter by none other than Abu Ali:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWGFtrYCL6w

    To end, I just want to remind all that there are a few ahadith about how fulfilling the amanah and good care of daughters can lead one to paradise or protection from hellfire (please forgive my weak translations) :

    فعن أبي سعيد الخدري أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : ” من كان له ثلاث بنات أو ثلاث أخوات أو ابنتان أو أختان فأحسن صحبتهن واتقى الله فيهن دخل الجنة” .رواه ابن حبان في صحيحه
    (Hadith: Whoever had three daughters or sisters, or two daughters or sisters and they perfected their companionship, fearing Allah in them enters paradise)

    وعن عبدالله يعني ابن مسعود قال سمعت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول من كانت له ابنة فأدبها وأحسن أدبها وعلمها وأحسن تعليمها وأوسع عليها من نعم الله التي أوسع عليه كانت له منعة وسترا من النار
    (On the authority of Abdullah bin Masood, he said I heard the prophet (saw) say: Whoever had a daughter and he disciplined/raised her well, and perfected in raising her, and educated her perfecting in educating her, and opened for her from the provisions & blessings of Allah (swt) that Allah (swt) had opened for him, she became a barrier & covering between him and hellfire.)

    وعن أبي هريرة أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال من كن له ثلاث بنات فعالهن وآواهن وكفهن وجبت له الجنة قلنا وبنتين قال وبنتين قلنا وواحدة قال وواحدة

    (On the authority of Abu Hurariah: The messenger of Allah (saw) said: “he who looks after three daughters and takes care of them, he is deserving of paradise. We asked, and two daughters? He (saw) said and two daughters. We asked, one daughter? He said (saw) and one daughter. )

    وعن عوف بن مالك أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ما من مسلم يكون له ثلاث بنات فينفق عليهن حتى يبلغن أو يمتن إلا كن له حجابا من النار فقالت امرأة أو اثنتان قال وثنتان
    (On the authority of Awf bin Malik, that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, ” There is not a Muslim who had three daughters whom he spends on until they are independent or die, except that they are made as a cover/barrier from hellfire for him. And a woman asked, or two? He (saw) said: And two.)

    And Allah knows best.
    Wa Allahu’ A3laam.

  15. Avatar

    Ibrahim Z Mohammad

    March 3, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    I figured that it was generally understood that all these displays of affection would take place in the privacy of the family home.

    Jazaak Allaah khayr for clarifying your point.

  16. Avatar

    my h-town

    March 3, 2009 at 10:31 PM

    Good article mashallah. My husband, alhumdulilah, is great with our toddler daughter. He’s very affectionate and playful with her, which would be expected at this age I guess. Although, I would appreciate some poopy diapers being changed every now and then! But sometimes it concerns me when I think about how he would interact with her when she is older. I am from the US and my husband is from abroad so we both have slightly different opinions when it comes to raising girls. My father is still affectionate with my sister and myself. He’ll hug us and kiss us on the head. But according to my husband’s culture (whether it be the culture of his country or his familial culture), this is kind of taboo. He even thinks its strange that my older brother hugs me (for like 1.5 seconds, but still). But only time can tell. I think every man is different and each family has their own culture. I don’t want to assume that my husband will not hug his daughter when she is older or give her a peck on the cheek or on the head. What father could refuse to reciprocate this affection if the daughter were to initiate it??

    Lastly, there is one point I do not totally agree with. Some people have mentioned above that the author has a cultural ‘bias’ (for lack of better terms). Being from the same culture as the sister, I however, do not agree with the attention a daughter should get from her father while on her cycle. My father would steer clear of us if we were on our menses. We liked it that way, honestly. Although being born and raised in the US, we still liked this ‘traditional’ reaction from our father. I think I would be royally embarrassed if my father ever addressed me about my menses. :S

    Jazakallah khair for posting this article!

  17. Avatar

    BintH

    March 3, 2009 at 10:48 PM

    SubhanAllah, after reading this article I realized how overlooked this topic really is!
    MashaAllah I enjoyed the article.

    Being the youngest of four girls, I’ve seen in my family and families around me that fathers’ hearts often get really softened when they have daughters, it just makes them a little different than if they had all boys. I don’t have any brothers, but I have a great dad mashaAllah., and sometimes I wonder if I did have brothers, then if my dad would be like Sh. Yasir Qadhi in treating the boys a bit differently (but not on purpose of course), than me, in a good way. :D
    I agree that with cultural differences, there is sometimes distant relationships between fathers and daughters, and this is solely because of the way people were raised and the culture around them. Hmm, although it says that we should talk about personal stuff with him, with me, the point is that I’m happy with my relationship with him, so I might not have to incorporate all the above points as other people might. It’s all about balancing in raising your children I guess. Wallahu Alam. It gets hard as you grow up and slightly uncomfortable, but overall, it’s great Alhamdulillah.

  18. Avatar

    Al-Madrasi

    March 4, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    Jazakillah for the article,

    can somebody write an article about mother-son relationship?…

    Barakillahu feek.

    • Amad

      Amad

      March 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM

      can somebody write an article about mother-son relationship?…

      You want to try, Al-Madrasi? :)

  19. Avatar

    Umm Ismael

    March 4, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    Asslam ualaikum wr wb Sr
    MashaALLAH , there are some good points that you raised in this article. My father alhamdulillah has been one of a kind. I am closer to him than his boys. I suppose the reason being that daughters generally hold more affection with respect to their parents once all the children have entered marital lives. It is for this reason that Ive ended up being more like my father than my mother (which has its pros and cons :) ). However I don’t totally agree to some aspects. Every person is prone to display different emotional reactions. My mother is not physical at all (she rarely kisses or hugs us) while my father is the opposite. Albeit my mother displays her affection through other acts. Anyhow good article on the whole.
    It is partially because of this estranged relationship that we find that within the rural areas, abuse from fathers is not a very uncommon phenomenon.

  20. Avatar

    Alima

    March 4, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    Brilliant post, mashaAllaah!

  21. Avatar

    bintwadee3

    March 4, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    @Good article: “whereas I’d get the hanger (how they spanked me)”

    LOL I thought we were the only ones!!! I still stand by my conviction that the white ones hurt the most. We used to hide them when we didn’t do our Qur’an :) . Good times.

    Masha’Allaah an excellent post. Alhamdulillaah I haven’t had that problem with my dad. He’s really awesome masha’Allaah and I agree 100% that you will look for a husband with certain characteristics that your father had later on down the road.

  22. Avatar

    Azizur Rahman

    March 4, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    As-Salamu `Alaykum,

    I agree with this article. I think we are at the stage where we are learning what we should have known all alone.

    We need more piratical guide to build the kind of relationship mention here. We also need to focus on the issue of the generation gap that most people use as an excuse for not being able to build this kind of relationship.

    Given that most teenager these days uses email to communicate for example how many of parents actually know how communicate with email? We have to educate ourselves on effective means of communications and not: “I am the father and everything goes as I say or else”.

    We need our local imams taking an active role in educating the people.

    Also other thing this article missed out on “shura” at home. If the fathers are not doing a shura at least once a months and not including the children it can have the kind of result as see today.

    May Allah guide all the guardian of future generations, and bless them with knowledge and wisdom.

    wa `Aleykum As-Salaam,
    Azizur Rahman

  23. Avatar

    Interesting

    March 4, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    Great Article!

    I would like to point out that not every daughter would appreciate her father taking a keen interest in their menstrual cycle. I am sure that has been relayed by another sister here as well.

    Also, not to get all health nazi here, but Tylenol is NOT a method of relief I would choose when in pain, considering the health effects.

  24. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    March 4, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    can somebody write an article about mother-son relationship?

    That was next on my list, but Allahu a’lam if I’ll be getting around to it anytime soon… not being a son, or a mother, I don’t think I’m ready to write about it. But everyone else is welcome to take a stab at it!

    I would like to point out that not every daughter would appreciate her father taking a keen interest in their menstrual cycle.

    LOL… that was just an example I used… not necessarily applicable to everyone :)

  25. Avatar

    Musafira

    March 4, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    Jazak Allah khairfor a timely reminder, Sister Zainab

    Some fathers show their affection and love in ways other than physical; some of these ways are from my experience.

    1. Whatever she cooks is fantastic – daughter is told to advise her mother how to cook :)
    2. She can drive but father insists that she be ferried about
    3. As the time for marriage approaches, no man is good enough for his princess
    4. After marriage, father wants daughter to live next door, or at least on the same street
    5. He shows the physical love to his grandchildren unabashedly whilst he may just pat his daughter on the head
    6. He scolds his wife when the daughter is unwell, unhappy, out of sorts
    7. When he comes home, he looks for his daughter first and calls for her
    8. Whatever she wants, she can have – no limits – he can’t say no to her; the mother has to do that!
    9. He looks miserable when there is a mother-daughter moment / outing

    Anyone want to add anymore?

  26. Avatar

    S.B.

    March 4, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    Mashallah, once again MM has brought up a topic I always talk about! Seriously it’s getting creepy now, almost everything that I wish there was more exposure on is brought up on this site. May Allah reward you all and keep this site successful!

    I have often noted as I grew up (not that I am old or anything) that all of my friends or peers who were more into getting attention from the guys or even more likely to experiment with them (from flirting to dating) were almost always those who did not have a good relationship with their father. While, it was very often that those who did have a good relationship were less interested and it was easier for them to stay away from haram.

    On top of creating a good relationship and lessening the chances of the daughter falling into haram the father is instrumental in forming her self-esteem and self-worth and even self-development. When dads start ignoring their girls and expect them to only be worthy of cooking dinner and looking pretty, do you think she will amount to much? But when a father encourages her daughter to further her education (and I use this term broadly), follow her passions, dream big, give her responsibility, teach her how to be a productive member of society – then this girl will develop the backbone that she needs to carry the world. They say women are the foundation of society, so it’s imperative that the foundation is strong.

    AlHamdulillah my dad was always very supportive, loving, and affectionate (while still laying down the law when needed) and I KNOW it made a difference as I grew up. Of course a girl/young woman/woman wants to hear she is smart, beautiful, special, worthy, important, responsible, trustworthy, and not only hear it but believe it through the actions of the person saying it. I can almost guarantee that if she isn’t getting that from someone at home then she will seek it out. Even if she doesn’t realize she is seeking it out, as soon as there is someone there providing it, she will eat it up.

  27. Avatar

    Imam Zia

    March 4, 2009 at 5:23 PM

    Excellent theme for a khutba, inshallah will use it one day….jazakallah khair

  28. Avatar

    Sadaf

    March 5, 2009 at 4:03 AM

    Masha’Allah, Sisters Musafira and S.B – your input is fabulous. Got me thinking and I realized how right you are.

    Umm Ismael – hmm, let’s just say, do I know you? :-)

    As for myself, I know for a fact that it was my father who was the most, the MOST, concerned when I went through childbirth – both times. He kept calling and asking about how I was long after most of the women (mothers – both, aunts etc.) had assumed I was alright. He thought of me when everyone else thought only about the baby’s well-being. I know that his love for me is not found in anyone else’s heart — it might not be as much as my mother’s, but it is definitely different than hers as well. It is unique and fatherly. He thinks of me when others do not.

    Aren’t we lucky to have fathers, mothers, husbands and other close relatives who care for us and love us at every moment in our lives? May Allah guide us to give the Haqq of shukr and gratitude to the One Who created these relationships, put them there in our lives, and inspired love for us in their hearts, to support us in our trying, sad times.

    Jazaakillahu Khairan Anonymouse for writing this inspiring article.

    Allah knows best.

  29. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    March 5, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    About the only thing I don’t do with my daughter is change her diapers (she no longer wears them, but when she did, I didn’t, same with my son), but I do help her clean up in the bathroom when she yells out to me, “I THINK I’M DUUUUUUNNNN!”

    We read stories and play Wii together, but her favorite activity with me is playing, “Rough”, which includes lots of tickling and spinning around, sometimes at the same time!

    We also play dodge ball occasionally, and we have a fun time when we play. I usually have between a half hour to an hour set aside for the kids (including eating dinner, though), and more often than not, we read good night stories before she sleeps.

    I have to admit, though, a lot of my own good behavior comes because her mom is active in making sure our kids are raised in a healthy family environment and when I slack because I get busy, she’s always there to keep reminding and encouraging me so I don’t take my eye off the ball, so to speak, so in my experience, it’s good to have a mom who really cares about her kids well-being and understands the importance of a father in a kid’s life, even if the father forgets sometimes and the kids don’t know it til it’s too late =)

    Siraaj

    • Amad

      Amad

      March 5, 2009 at 2:26 PM

      I have to admit, though, a lot of my own good behavior comes because her mom is active in making sure our kids are raised in a healthy family environment and when I slack because I get busy, she’s always there to keep reminding and encouraging me so I don’t take my eye off the ball, so to speak, so in my experience, it’s good to have a mom who really cares about her kids well-being and understands the importance of a father in a kid’s life, even if the father forgets sometimes and the kids don’t know it til it’s too late =)

      Mashallah, stocking up on brownie points? It is always good to store some of these goodies for the occasional rainy day… Marriage 101 :)

  30. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    March 5, 2009 at 3:41 PM

    Mashallah, stocking up on brownie points? It is always good to store some of these goodies for the occasional rainy day… Marriage 101 :)

    Well, all that I said was true, I was just giving credit where credit is due (+10 brownie points) to the bestest and most beautifulest wife in the whole world (+20 brownie points) whom I have oppressed by not all the laundry recently (-20 brownie points for missing the laundry, +5 brownie points for admitting I’m wrong).

    Once you’ve been married as long as I have, you get to understand how the mind of a woman works (-25 brownie points for acting like a know-it-all on an internet blog, even if it’s true [-5 brownie points for snide parenthetical remarks]), and I’ve come to the realization that because they know your every weakness, they know exactly what buttons to push to break you down.

    So make sure all posts that contain some virtue of yours, after Allah giving you guidance, make sure to include your wife somewhere in there (-30 brownie points for facetious, backhanded remarks).

    Siraaj

    • Amad

      Amad

      March 5, 2009 at 4:05 PM

      So Siraaj, let’s do the math here = +10+20-20+5-25-5-30 = -45. I think you have already exhausted your + points from the previous comment. Sorry dude, start collecting again.

  31. Avatar

    Olivia

    March 5, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    Masha’Allah, Siraaj, that was the best blog post I’ve ever read =)

  32. Pingback: Friday Links — March 6, 2009 « Muslimah Media Watch

  33. Avatar

    shahgul

    March 8, 2009 at 7:24 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    May Allah give my father jannah, ameen. When my mom had my sister, my father became my caregiver. I used to sleep in his cot (char pai). I was a bed wetter. If I wet the mattress he would just toss the mattress and sleep on bare rope. All this without a word of complaint. May Allah raise his station for that alone, and give him the most comfortable bed in Jannah, Ameen.

    As a child I remembering not eating dinner and waking up hungry in the middle of the night. I would go wake him up and tell him I was hungry. He would get up, sneak over to the kitchen (so as not to wake up my mom) and make pancakes for me. Those were the most delicious pancakes I ever ate. This fun activity, though ended when my mom woke to the smell of food and disciplined me.

    Once I remember, we had just sat down to lunch and my little sister demanded to eat an egg. Only there were no eggs in the fridge. He got up from the table, his food uneaten and bought her some eggs.

    As teenagers, we felt safe discussing everything with him. If you told him the truth, there were no consequences, just advice for the future. This kept lines of communication open. It was a relief discussing everything you had done wrong, with your parent. If had told those things to my mom, I would have got a good hiding. I remember, telling him about the first time I smoked, when I was in high school. The only thing he said was “Yo did not do the right thing. Don’t do it again.” I later found out from my mother, how concerned he was, but grateful that I came home and told everything.

    The best thing I learned from him was the ability to say “sorry!” He always apologized, even to his children when he realized he was wrong. He would beg apologies, till you said you forgave him. May Allah forgive his sins, Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Hala

      February 17, 2010 at 4:29 PM

      im proud and happy and grateful that such amazing fathers excist and wish people would talk about the good points of muslim men (i,e, how fathers like yours excist), rather than point out only the bad points
      im sick and tired of muslim men being made out to be like nazi villians or something and this proves to me that they are most definetly not
      allah grant your father jannah
      ameen
      salaamz
      your sister
      hala

  34. Avatar

    Z

    March 8, 2009 at 11:02 PM

    And what advice would you give young girls who don’t have fathers that give them love and attention?

  35. Avatar

    shahgul

    March 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    Dear Z,

    Our dear father passed away when my baby sister was only 8. We shored her up with the stories of the great father we had. We repeated the good things he said to us. We related to her how much he loved her. I still tell her and her husband the story of how Baba got up from lunch to go buy her an egg. She grew up to be just fine. She still does sometimes show anger at having lost her father so early, but cheers up when we tell her the stories.

    Some little boys and girls have no stories to fall back on. Our dear prophet, may Allah bestow his peace and blessings upon him was born after his father died, and lost his mother soon. For such a child, strength can come from other sources. An aunt, an uncle, a brother, a sister, a mentor. It takes a village to raise a child, and that is who should be recruited. When Allah closes one door, he opens several in its place.

  36. Avatar

    Muslima

    March 9, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    Thank you Shahgul for sharing the beautiful experiences with your late father. It brought tears to my eyes and made me realize the blessings of having my loving parents. Alhumdulillah.
    May Allah have mercy on your father and raise his levels.

  37. Avatar

    Z

    March 11, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    Shukran Shahgul for sharing your insight :) but what I had meant was dealing with negativity, criticism, and everything else Anonymouse mentioned above coming from the father…

  38. Avatar

    areenuz

    March 11, 2009 at 6:59 PM

    asalamoalaikum

    i must say this article was one i was really hoping to read, and was well written, mashaAllah. i totally agree on all fronts, i think if i had a good relationship with my father, which i don’t, my emotional upbringing would have been better. I don’t have a normal day without crying because of this inadequacy in my life (from both my parents). Due to my dad’s extreme lack of respect for my mom, i have gotten such a horrible image of what a husband is like and would be like, which always comes to haunt me when i think about marriage.

    Also, i never have communication with him because he hates to be at home. He tries his best to stay away from home and stay and work which is where he finds his bliss. My mom goes through so much at home raising three kids, two being disabled. If she had a man to help her, like my father or brother (who turned out the same way as my father), our lives would be much better. I have been emotionally hurt through both my parents, but what relates to this article is my dad’s behavior.

    No matter what, if a father doesn’t give attention to this special bond a father and daughter should have, it will damage the daughter in a major way that may or may not have been intended. May Allah make the brothers of our Ummah fathers, and great fathers at that. Ameen.

  39. Avatar

    Secrecy

    October 16, 2009 at 4:50 PM

    Bismillah,

    — And this post reminds me that…. I LOVE MY DAD!

    On that note,

    I think at times, fathers may have grown up without much affection, cuz they’re boys and they need toughening up, this MAY have been their upbringing, so when they do have their little girls, as they grow up, they may find it hard to be affectionate with them. Then starts their own struggle, of spending that quality time with them and keeping up with their onn personality.

    I have found that as a daughter starts to reach that marriagable age, the father does become wary and his love is much more evident.

    I have loads of uncles (all with cool personalities mashaAllaah!) and let’s just say they’re all different and mashaAllaah the way they handle their daughters is great, all different and unique in their own ways.

    I repeat… “O Muslim men… be men! Be fathers. Be fathers of the greatest Muslim women this Ummah has ever known!”

    — You have no idea what a gem of daughter you have and the more you give her time, the more she will be THE greatest women this Ummah has seen and you will see the fruit of you work. If your sincere… Allaah ‘azza wa jal will not let you down inshaAllaah!

  40. Avatar

    layla

    December 26, 2009 at 3:38 AM

    Interesting to some extent, but blandly superficial, and fails to ask more interesting questions about the roles of Muslim American women. What about only female Muslim children of immigrants? How do impossible expectations–or perhaps vaguely defined, or nonexistent ones–subtly shape a woman’s relationship to her community? I am one of the unfortunate few who, despite having had varying degrees of contact with other Muslims during childhood, as well as going to mandatory Sunday school, found that most contact with the Muslim “community” (scare quotes refer to my hesitancy to say this word for reasons I can’t go into here) for the most part reaffirmed my sense of isolation, ill-fittedness, and inability to develop a healthy Muslim identity without guilt or shame over internal conflicts that were for the most part taboo.

    I think my point stems larger than this article, which cannot fill in all of the gaps or account for all of the blind spots inherent in “Muslim American” literature, and that perhaps my frustration points to something larger–that the prevalence of Islamaphobia makes a community less willing or able to address the intricacies of Muslim American youth that, at least in my case, happens to also be relevant to social and behavioral problems that contribute to eating disorders, substance abuse, codependent relationships, but–perhaps most importantly–a sense of bafflingly anxious, inferior sense of self in respect to the ability to connect with progressive Muslim potentiality. Not an entirely new topic, but one that I believe is still inchoate, and makes me wonder if I have the guts, or steadfastness, to explore such topics on my own.

    • Avatar

      Hala

      February 17, 2010 at 4:27 PM

      huh? we are talking about improving father daughter relationshiops not fixing all the problems of the muslim community worldwide
      if you think you cant say the word muslim community because of a lack of community
      tell me if you can say christian community or hindu community or whatever without the marks
      salaamz

  41. Avatar

    Hala

    February 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    salaamz
    let me repeat what everyone said and say “this is an amazing post”, because it actually is mashallah and a great issue to highlight , i felt i could always talk to my father about everything you know besides the menses stuff, he didnt seem to even notice when i had it because we always pray together in the living room like a jamaat and whenever im not praying id be wondering round the house and hed be calling me wondering why i was suddenly interested in “praying upstairs”, the same for all my sisters too, but apart from that we could talk to him about everything, i wasnt scared of voicing my opinions on things and he was always the one who kinda spoiled everyone , i actually think my mum was more strict then my dad because she obviously had to tell us wrong from right whereas he saw everything we did as sweet or innocent etc, i think my father was a great dad and probably a great husband since my parents stayed together for all their lives so far, i never saw him yell or argue with my mother, he doesnt even shout at us, he does give advice though, if he saw something bad he would tell us about it and express why he wouldnt want us to do it, once my older sister said, “besides allah, i would abstain from doing bad things in order to never shame my fathers name”, because he truly did not deserve any shame or embarasement, he is respected by everyone who knows him and sometimes we gave him trouble thats what happens when you have a million kids and 5 of them are girls :O,he never allowed anyone to hurt us, never hit us (the girls) and never allowed our brothers to hit us . he normally just used to call everyone some nights turn off the television the computer the phones and talk about us about education about islam, i always apreciated him and we all agree wallah he is a role model for me, if i can be as great a mum/wife as he was a dad, and even as relgiious a muslim itd be mission acomplished but im doing alright as i aint even married yet
    so yeah be nice to your daughters theyll always love you irregardless
    xxx
    hala

  42. Avatar

    KhadijaK

    February 17, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    I’m 17 and have both parents in my life, Alhamdulilah, but its like my father is only there physically, I speak to him once in awhile like maybe for one day a week/month here and there a small conversation, and then it stops suddenly.

    I haven’t spoken to him in weeks now, we dont even look at eachother. Sometimes I want to talk to him but something just holds me back so I just stay silent. He has 7 children,in total, four daughters but he doesn’t talk to any of his daughters, my younger sisters (15, 13) can’t even be in the same room as him, when he enters they leave. I wonder if he actually notices. Most times it’s like we don’t exist to eachother.

  43. Avatar

    Shakura

    February 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    MashaAllah great article.

  44. Avatar

    Farhad

    February 18, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Thank you for the article. We were thinking the same thing – check out MuslimFathers.com.

    We also have an active facebook page.

    Farhad

  45. Avatar

    Zaynab Ameen

    March 12, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    Salam,

    I didn’t realise until now just how much my father has affected my personality, the way I interact with others, the way i protray myself and the decisions i make in life. You see, my father is what i would consider a ‘control freak’. He is overprotective of my mother, myself and my sisters. We comes from a middle-eastern ‘back-home’ mentalilty and he seems to always want to be in control. I hate to talk about it, but he has somewhat of a big ego. He finds it very difficult to communicate with us all and that’s why he tends to get very angry, shout and sometimes say abusive things to me. He was always the ‘man of the house’ and controlling everything we did and i feel that i was never able to build my ‘own identity’ and i have developed alot of his attributes.

    – i find it difficult to communicate
    – i find it difficult to express myself
    – i find it difficult to make my own decisions

    Unfortunately this has gone as far as to affect the relationship i am having with my husband at the moment. we are not communicating well and i think it is as a result of the negativity from my father; who was always reluctant to marry me to someone else outside our culture. i think this is a lifetime of nurturing that i and my husband must come to terms with and except. i do love my father, but in all honesty, i am happy my husband has none of those characteristics. He is very gentle and caring and always willing to listen and if it wasn’t for his patience, i don’t think he could cope with my (a mirror of my fathers’) personality!

  46. Avatar

    sid24

    March 10, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    My dad dislikes me. I understand I am not perfect, but I come from a conservative family so I rarely do anything without my father’s permission. Whenever he calls my name it is added with a curse word or insult. He is always disgusted with me, but likes my brothers. Whenever he calls their name he says it with love or says dear child. I am always stressed when I talk to my father, because if I disagree with something he says he becomes furious to the point of throwing something. For a long time I thought this is how fathers in Islam had to be. I am an adult woman and am treated like a child. How do I make my father like me and have a healthy relationship with him?

  47. Avatar

    Annisa

    June 12, 2015 at 1:52 AM

    Since young, my father has always been biased between my older brother and I. My father shows more affection to my brother until this date even after he is married (my father paid for all his marriage expenses for him and his wife, but made me repay every single cent that he paid for my ceremony). I can still vividly recall hurtful things that my father did during my childhood like joking and laughing with my brother but totally shunned me aside whenever I came over to “join in the fun”. It was not once or twice but it occurred almost every other day. I am now in my 30s but those memories are still fresh in my mind, just goes to show how much hurt had been caused to make those experiences so significant and memorable in my entire life. I grew into adulthood seeking attention from other male figures whom I crave for affection which I have never felt since young. I committed numerous sins as a result of that just to receive attention and affection from boys/men who took advantage of my situation. Only after I got married, I redha and accepted the life that has been granted to me and I have started to change towards being a better Muslim in sha Allah.

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#Society

Black Youth Matter: Stopping the Cycle of Racial Inequality in Our Ranks

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

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As we joined the rest of America in celebrating Black History Month and commemorating the legacy of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., with tweets, infographics, and sharing famous quotes, racism and colorism continue to plague the Muslim community. 

When we hear of a weekend course about the illustrious muadhin of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Bilal Ibn Raba’ah, may Allah be pleased with him, or a whitewashed cartoon movie based loosely on his life, we flock to the location. When the imam retells his story during a Friday sermon, we listen intently and feel inspired, we smile in awe upon hearing about his fortitude in the face of incessant torture. We cry while reliving the part where he enters the city of Makkah alongside the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) victorious, and calls the adhan atop the Ka’aba. 

Then, we leave. 

We return to our homes and all but forget about it until the next time he is brought up— unless we are Black Muslims. Like King, his impact comes in waves, maybe once a year like MLK Day or like Black History Month, for many of us. Yet, there were more Black companions and renowned Black Muslims in our history, just as there were countless civil rights leaders who fought for racial equality in America. For many of us who are not American of African descent, we live our lives unperturbed by the implications of ignoring the racial disparities that exist within our own places of worship.

However, it is our youth that bear the brunt of this injustice. 

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an incident that made me reflect deeply on the effects of racism and fear on our youth and the Muslim community. After picking up my son from middle school in Baltimore County, I drove to a nearby 7-Eleven for some snacks. While I was standing in line to pay for my groceries, I noticed that the man behind the counter was Muslim. From his outward appearance, accent, and name tag, I guessed he was South Asian. We greeted each other with salaam, a smile, and a head nod of camaraderie.

As he was ringing up my items, a group of chattery students still in school uniforms, approached the entrance of the convenience store. The cashier looked up horrified, and in mid transaction swung his arm back and forth as if swatting a fly. I turned to look at who he was gesturing to and saw the children were swinging the door open to enter. They were about 6 African American children from the same public middle school as my son. In his school, each grade level wears a different color polo with khaki pants as part of their uniform, so I could tell that most of them were in his same grade level.

“No! No! No!” the cashier cried harshly, “Out!”

I turned to him grimacing in disbelief, surprised at his reaction to the kids and then I noticed his expression. He had a look on his face of fear coupled with disgust.

One child cheerfully told him, “I got money, man!” My head turned back and forth from the students to the cashier. He reluctantly said, “Fine,” but as more students followed, he added sternly, “Three at a time!” I wondered if this was a rule when one of the girls in the group said, “Yeah, three at a time y’all,” and the majority stayed back, as if they were familiar with the routine. Some of them rolled their eyes, others laughed, but they remained outside the door. The cashier followed the ones who entered with his eyes intently as he finished bagging my items. He looked genuinely concerned. I tried to make light of the situation and get his attention away from the children, asking, “The kids give you a hard time, huh?” He smiled and nodded nervously, but I was not satisfied with his answer. 

As I swiped my debit card to pay, I felt troubled. My maternal instincts were telling me that I should defend these children. I felt anger and helplessness at the same time. These kids were tweens or barely 13 years old, yet they were being judged because of the color of their skin. There was no other logical explanation. They were not rowdy or reckless, not any more than any other child their age. They did not look menacing; in fact, they were all smiling and joking with one another.

Yet, this cashier, my Muslim brother, was looking at them as if they were a threat. The same way some white American may look at a Muslim sporting a beard and thobe boarding a plane.  

I tried to find excuses for his behavior. Perhaps he had a bad experience, or he was having a bad day. Could some of the kids from the middle school have stolen something before and this prompted his apprehension? There is some crime in this neighborhood located in the southwestern part of Baltimore County, on the outskirts of the City. Could he have suffered from some type of trauma that led to his anxiety? Maybe there was a fight in his store one day? Yet, even if any of these assumptions were true, I still felt like he was overreacting.

After all, these were just kids.

In Dr. Joy Degruy’s book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, she mentions that policing continues to represent one of the most pervasive and obvious examples of racial inequality; one that even the youth are unable to avoid. She cites an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, highlighting a study by UCLA, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston, Massachusetts, Penn State, and University of Pennsylvania that investigated how black boys were perceived as it related to childhood innocence. They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. 

They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. Click To Tweet

On November 22, 2014, a 12-year-old African American child, like my son and his middle school peers, was fatally shot by police while he played with a toy gun in a playground. The child, Tamir Rice, was just a young boy playing cheerfully outdoors, but police officers regarded him a threat, demonstrating the ghastly reality of the above-mentioned study. After hearing about this atrocity, I remember telling my own children that they can never play outside with nerf guns or water pistols, out of fear of this happening to them. This is the type of world our children are living in. As Muslims, why do we choose to be part of the problem and not its solution?

Black youth

Junior football team huddling together

As I walked through the door and past the group in front of the 7-Eleven, all I could think about is that the kids were no different than my son who was sitting in the car, hungry, waiting for me to bring him some food. The only difference was that I was there to defend him, if need be. The children did not have an adult to stand up for them against the discrimination to which they were being subjected. I felt guilty for not saying more. I also remembered an incident where a group of African American youth were turned away from the tarawih prayers at a local mosque, not too far from the 7-Eleven, during the month of Ramadan, because they were perceived to be “too rowdy.” This prompted me to write about this incident; to speak up for them now, and to remind myself and other Muslims that the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us compassion. 

He said, “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Even when a bedouin came into the masjid, the House of Allah – a place much more sacred than any convenience store – and urinated, yes urinated there, he still treated him with dignity. (Muslim)

The students standing at the door of the 7-Eleven were just going in for a snack. Even if they had been misbehaving, the gentleman at the counter could have addressed them with kindness. Similarly, the youth at the local mosque just wanted to pray tarawih. Now imagine the impact it had on them to be turned away from praying with their brethren during the month of Ramadan. 

I sat in the car where my son was waiting and found him looking out the window, unaware of what was happening. We were parked far from the entrance.

“Do you know any of those kids?” I asked him. “Yeah, the girl on the right is in my gym class,” he said.

My heart sank more and as we sat in the car, I wondered, what would have been the cashier’s reaction if the kids had been white? More than likely, he would not have treated them the same way. This racial profiling leads to devastating consequences. A recent news report by WUSA9 revealed that the state of Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young black men, according to experts at the Justice Policy Institute. Their November Policy Briefs for 2019 entitled, Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland, revealed that disparity is most pronounced among emerging adults, or youth ages 18-24, where, “Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.”

“Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.” Click To Tweet

What was most troubling about the incident at the 7-Eleven was that the students had been conditioned; they were already used to being treated that way. It was routine for them and business as usual for the Muslim cashier. While he may believe that he is doing the right thing, by averting a potential “problem,” the harm that he is causing has greater ramifications. He is adding to the trauma these children are already experiencing being black in America. Black students in Baltimore County were not even allowed by law to earn an education past 5th grade in 1935, and 65 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, the county’s schools are still highly segregated. Local and federal leadership in America have continuously failed African Americans, and it is disheartening to think that the immigrant Muslim community is headed in the same direction. 

I was haunted by this incident and returned to the 7-Eleven a week later to ask the cashier or the owner of the store about their (mis)treatment of the middle schoolers. I parked directly in front of the glass doors of the entrance and it was there where I saw a sign typed in regular white computer paper that read, “AT A TIME NO MORE THAN THREE (3) SCHOOL KIDS ARE ALLOWED IN THE STORE & please do not bring bags inside the store. Thanks.” I had not seen the sign before, maybe I overlooked it the day of the occurrence. Nevertheless, I went inside and spoke with the owner of the franchise, a Muslim gentleman who greeted me with salaam. I asked him about the sign outside the door and the reason why the middle schoolers were treated like would-be criminals. He explained that students from local schools have stolen goods from the convenience store on many occasions. To prevent this, they established a rule that only three unaccompanied school children could enter at a time and they were not allowed to bring their backpacks. The owner further added that crime and vandalism were prevalent in the area. Unfortunately, because this side of town is predominately African American, the blame falls disproportionately on this group. 

Nevertheless, patrolling and intimidating the African American youth in the area is not the solution. As Dr. Degruy stated in her book, “The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity.”

A thirty-four-year veteran police officer named Norm Stamper wrote a book about racism in the criminal justice system entitled, Breaking Rank, (2005) and he mentioned that, “It is not hard to understand why people of color, the poor, and younger Americans did not, and do not, look upon the police as ‘theirs’… Do the police protect ‘the weak against oppression or intimidation’ or do they oppress and intimidate the very people they’ve sworn to protect?” Likewise, this young generation will begin to see Muslims of all colors as no different, if we take the role of the oppressor. 

When Abu Dharr insulted Bilal ibn Rabah, may Allah be pleased with them, by calling him, “O son of a black woman!” and the Prophet, peace be upon him heard of this, he rebuked Abu Dharr and said to him, “By the One who revealed the Book to Muhammad, no one is better than another except by righteous deeds. You have nothing but an insignificant amount.” We may have read or heard this and other narrations before, however, we fall short in implementing these teachings.

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

Sometimes it takes one person to stand up and point out the wrong to set the right tone. The sign at the 7-Eleven in my neighborhood has been taken down.

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No-Nuptial Agreements: Maybe Next Time, Don’t Get Married

marriage
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 “Nikah is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me.”

–Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Narrated by Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)

Many Muslims have experienced marriage, then suffered a subsequent divorce as a financial, emotional, and social meat grinder. Some critics have noted the divorce system seemingly exists primarily to benefit itself; the lawyers: mental health experts, investigators, forensic accountants.

They form an entire industry dedicated to extracting the wealth of a disintegrating family, often forcing the middle class or working class into poverty and bankruptcy. All of this happens without any noticeable benefit to society. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

For many, divorce happens multiple times. A divorced person who gets remarried is more likely to get divorced again.

While men often complain about how the “family court” system is against them, the reality is that women often bear the financial brunt of divorce. Divorce is more likely to drive women to bankruptcy than men.

After one or two divorces and a few lost years of retirement savings or a decade or more of home equity, another “marriage” starts to look downright irrational. My advice to such people: stop getting married, at least under state law. Get a nikah and a “no-nuptial agreement” instead. Allow me to explain.

Fun with Words

It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about virtually anything unless we have a common understanding of the meaning of words we are using.

In law, even ordinary words have definitions that defy conventional understanding or even common sense. Basic familial terms like “son,” “daughter,” “father,” and “mother” have state law definitions that are different from what those words mean in Islam or our understanding. Under state law, “parents” can adopt adult “children” a similar age to them or even older, and have the same status as a biological child. In Islam, an adopted child is not the same as a biological child and does not have rights to inheritance in Islam.

In law, even words like “life” and “death” don’t always mean what you think they mean. A living person can go to court to dispute his death, demonstrate he is living, breathing, speaking, and everyone agrees he is the “dead person” in question, yet, he is ruled legally dead. Famously, corporations are legally people and are immortal.

Law is not the same thing as truth.

Similarly, it is folly to conflate nikah, the thing that exists in Islam, with marriage under state law. In different states, rules for who and under what circumstances people can get married can vary. One thing that all the state law definitions have in common is that they are not marriage in Islam.

What is Marriage?

For marriage, there is a state law definition, there is an Islamic definition, and there is the definition that the individual married couple has. Under state law, two men can be married to each other, but three men cannot be. In Islam, marriage (let’s call it nikah to be more precise) is a halal social and sexual relationship, and there are rules in the fiqh that are different from state law.

Under some state laws, “secret marriages” with no witnesses or publicly available registration are part of the law and commonly used. In Islam, there is a witness requirement for nikah. None of the rules in Islam require the state’s approval for nikah.

The third definition is how each couple sees their marriage. It is a flexible institution. To the extent it is an economic, social or familial partnership can vary widely. Couples may live together or apart. They may have one income or two.  They may share the same social circles or share none of them. The variations are endless.

Domestic Partnerships

For most of the history of legal marriage in the United States, marriage can only be between one man and one woman. States started allowing for “domestic partnerships” to give some “benefits” of marriage to same-sex couples, like employer health benefits and hospital visitation.

In many instances, these were available almost exclusively to same-sex couples, even after same-sex marriage became part of the law in all states. However, as of January 2020, California opened up domestic partnerships to everyone, including different-sex couples.

As a practical matter, domestic partnerships are simply state-sanctioned marriage by another name. It is notable though some jurisdictions may have limited domestic partnerships that are something less than marriage. In most states that have it, the same family law system, for good or ill, that comes with marriage under state law is also true of domestic partnerships.

While domestic partnership combined with a nikah is available to Muslims in states where it exists, there is no real advantage to using it.

No-Nuptial Agreements

For decades now, in the United States, there has been no taboo against men and women openly having sexual relationships with each other, living and raising families together outside marriage. Courts have long recognized these people should have contractual rights with each other.

When a man and women live together, those involved may be gaining something and giving something up. So if a man promises a woman something, and the agreement is not founded merely on sexual services, the state should enforce those promises, not in family court but civil court.

Marvin started it all

The principle case that established this is the California case of Marvin v. Marvin in 1976. A couple broke up, but the woman wanted to enforce promises made to her by the man. The man felt such a commitment should not be enforceable because, among other reasons, he was legally married to a completely different woman when this non-marital relationship started. Under California law, at the time (abolished by the time the case got to the court), this was criminal adultery.

No-nuptial agreements (sometimes called cohabitation agreements or Marvin agreements) can be used by couples when they want to have enforceable contracts but do not want to subject themselves to the family court system or the family code. They can include provisions of mahar, sharing expenses, equity as well as dispute resolution processes like arbitration and mediation.

The couple can also document limits on what they agreed to to what is in writing. For example, during a breakup, one party may be able to claim an oral promise the other party never made and potentially have it enforced in court. A written agreement protects both parties and the understanding they had when they entered into the relationship.

These agreements have a broad utility for many different kinds of couples. However, for some couples, the main benefit would be documentation that nobody is under the illusion that this is a marriage under state law. It is a private contract between two individuals.

Example of a No-Nuptial Agreement

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren. Both want to put their adult children at ease that this relationship does not exist for predatory financial reasons – a common fear when parents marry later in life.

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren.Click To Tweet

Salma and Sheher Ali do not plan to live together, which is common for couples their age. They mostly pay for their expenses themselves. They may spend the night at each other’s homes whenever they want but will split time with their separate children, grandchildren and social circles. Sheher Ali pays for joint vacations and outings. He agreed to a mahar. Both agree in writing they did not marry under state law.

Sheher Ali and Salma can still call each other husband and wife, since that is true for them and everyone they know. Both keep all of their finances separate, and each does their independent estate planning where they name each other as partial beneficiaries of their estates as required in Islam. The two also complete HIPAA forms allowing each to see the other’s private medical information and name each other in Advance Healthcare Directives so they can make healthcare decisions for each other.

Legal Strangers

Unmarried couples are “legal strangers.” Doctors won’t share healthcare information. Islamic spouses don’t get an inheritance from a no-nuptial agreement spouse by default. They don’t get things like tenancy by the entirety, community property, or elective shares in places where such things exist. As I described above, though, this can be remedied. However, as I described in the example above, the “legal stranger” aspect of the relationship may be more of a benefit than a downside in some cases.

Some “benefits” of marriage under state law are against Islamic principles.  For example, some state laws that provide for “elective shares” are diametrically opposed to the Quran’s share of inheritance.  Muslims must follow Islamic rules of inheritance anyway, which are different from default state rules, so being under state law is no special advantage. Even with proper planning, the downsides of the “legal stranger” problem still may come up in extraordinary contexts, however, such as lawsuits.

Immigration and Taxes

Another concern is that employee benefits to spouses and dependents don’t generally extend to those with no-nuptial agreements. Immigration law does not allow a path to the United States through the “family unification ” process for those with a no-nuptial contract. Marriage under state law (or the law of a foreign country recognized in the United States) may be the most practical solution in such cases.

In some cases, state-sanctioned marriage may lead to lower taxes. Other legally married couples may experience the so-called “marriage penalty” and pay higher taxes than couples with a no-nuptial agreement. Couples may often find they will pay less in taxes with a no-nuptial agreement than they would if they were married under state law.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

One may wonder, to avoid the “meat grinder” of the family court system, why not just get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? It’s accurate that in general, having such arrangements are superior to not having them. These agreements offer greater certainty, though by no means total confidence, on how a divorce would end. There are disadvantages to such an agreement over no-nuptial agreements, however. A big one is that divorce is still in the family court system.

Many Muslim men, especially immigrants, may perceive cultural biases cause a stacked deck against them in family court. The nature of these agreements may make this perception worse. Sometimes, courts treat prenuptial and postnuptial agreements with a presumption of coercion. It is different from an ordinary contract. The family court system is often free to be more paternalistic and make a husband prove he did not force his wife to sign a document.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which will be worded differently in the different states that adopted it, provides for a process to make these marital agreements harder to defeat. However, the process is perhaps arguably more expensive, cumbersome, and awkward for a couple than a no-nuptial contract. Talking about a prenuptial agreement with a fiancé may be more uncomfortable than bringing up a no-nuptial arrangement and nikah. Without a state-sanctioned marriage, a written agreement is essential. Many people perceive the pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements as both optional and, perhaps unfairly, as a sign of mistrust.

Custody and Child Support

Unfortunately, there is no agreement you can come up with that will pre-settle child support and custody. A judge will decide those things.

It does not matter if you have a “plain vanilla” marriage governed entirely by your state’s family code, a prenuptial agreement, or a no-nuptial agreement. Children are not parties to such a contract. No court anywhere will subject a child’s care and welfare to such things.

For custody and child support, courts in family court will use the sometimes hard to define standard of “best interests of the child.” One Massachusetts family law attorney in a popular divorce documentary cryptically joked that she called children in the system  “little bags of money.” They are often a significant reason family law cases are so profitable for lawyers, mental health professionals, investigators, and everyone else.

No Protection for Poor Life Choices

A good rule to follow is never to do nikah with a person capable of having children unless you are sure she or he can be trusted to raise your future children, and you have made peace with making child support payments to this individual if your relationship ends. If you have a child, you may be suck with a child support order. There is no getting out of this one.

As an Islamic estate planning lawyer, the most important advice I can ever give anyone is not to get a proper estate plan. It is not to get a good lawyer. Of course those things are good, indeed no-brainers, but they have limits. The most important advice is to choose a spouse wisely. If you fail here, there is no law, no lawyer or document in existence that can turn back the clock. A no-nuptial agreement may make a future breakup easier than a family court divorce. There is still no guarantee it won’t be a complete mess anyway. Good documents are never a substitute for poor life choices.

“The Law of the Land”

Islamic institutions like masajid are conservative don’t like taking needless risks, as they should be. Many will not officiate a nikah unless there is a marriage license. They usually will not officiate bigamous marriages, on account of it being illegal.  Of course bigamy, like marriage, has a specific legal definition under state law. One almost universal refrain is that as Muslims we need to follow “the law of the land.”

No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the 'law of the land.' It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is. Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam.Click To Tweet

But what if that term did not mean what you think it means? No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the “law of the land.” It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is.  Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam. Recently, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, a large masjid in the Los Angeles area, changed its nikah officiating policy. Instead of always requiring marriage certificates, they will also recognize no-nuptial agreements.

Masajid Should Welcome No-Nuptial Agreements

Masajid should have standardized policies and procedures in place. Every masjid should have carefully considered policies to protect the vulnerable and the institution. No masjid wants to open themselves up to a “drive-by nikah” or other nonsense. One policy may well include mandating a no-nuptial agreement when there is no marriage certificate. There is no reason to believe one protects people and institutions better than the other.

Nikah is a vital sunnah for us. It is not something that should be in the shadows, secret, or something shameful. It is fundamental to how we organize our families and communities. When it’s done right, it helps us strengthen our iman, bring us closer to our communities and our loved ones. State definitions of words should not always be your guide to right and wrong.

It is appropriate that Muslims want to do the sunnah of nikah at the masjid, publicly and with friends and family watching.  We should recognize and celebrate every new couple that has done a nikah in our communities. Never mind the state has not sanctioned it.

The state statute book has its definition, we have ours.

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The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

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Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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