“Please refrain from bringing little children to the mosque in order to maintain its sanctity,” reads a poster on the wall of the women’s section at a local mosque in Karachi nowadays, i.e. during Ramadan – the month during which women flock to the mosques for praying taraweeh. Although those young mothers, who nevertheless bring their wards along in complete disregard of the sign, are not denied entry, a stern eye is still kept on their children’s behavior. Any rowdiness is immediately curbed by the mosque’s female caretakers, who also intermittently issue reminders to the praying women to keep their rows straight.
I find this quite preposterous, and not just because I have young children. I remember how, when I would pray at Masjid Al-Nabawi during my Hajj journey a few years ago, as the imam would start obligatory prayer in congregation, the whole women’s section would start resounding with the collective bawl of infants as their mothers stood up and left them lying on the carpet. Toddlers would whine at their mothers’ feet, clinging to their abaya’s and crying in protest at seeing her loving attention turn into indifference, and her embrace suddenly disappear into thin air.
At the start of this Ramadan, I couldn’t wait to pray taraweeh in congregation again. That is because, for the last two years, my second born was initially just 2 months old and the following year, a sprinty 14-month-old toddler prone to run off recklessly if left unsupervised. This year, however, when I asked my husband to keep one child with him at the local street mosque, intending to pray there in the women’s section while keeping the other child with me, he gave a shocking response.
“The mosque has denied entrance to children under the age of 7. They just announced this.”
I could not believe my ears! This was not just any mosque. It is one of the more reputed mosques of Karachi, with a solid foundation based on the Quran and Sunnah. It also runs an authentic program of Islamic education in its intrinsic madrassah (Islamic school). I decided to give them a call to make sure. The Imam who answered the phone confirmed the news.
“But both my children are under 7. I live nearby and it will cause me some difficulty to go farther away to pray taraweeh,” I protested.
“If it were up to me, I would never disallow children from coming,” he reassured, “It is on the repeated complaints and requests of the women in the women’s section that we have enforced this restriction.”
“I am sure you know that our Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] never stopped children from coming to his mosque. In fact, he led the prayer with his granddaughter Umaamah held up in his arms.”
“Yes, but have you heard of the narration in which he sternly reprimanded his grandsons from running in the mosque? If children are rowdy inside, they can be reprimanded.”
Since I had heard of no such narration, I kept silent. I also reminded myself that since its Ramadan, arguments should be avoided, particularly with custodians of mosques; he hung up.
What saddened me was the revelation that it was the repeated complaints of women in the mosque that children under 7 had been disallowed entry during taraweeh.
I was reminded of a similar incident during taraweeh a few years ago, at the congregation held in the lawn of a private home where Al-Huda classes are held, which I attended diligently every year. After the witr ended, as the women in the separate ladies’ section were still sitting in tashahhud and making dua, an elderly lady sitting on a chair suddenly started shouting to the crowd, turning her head from side to side, “Alright, that’s enough! Where are the mothers of these rowdy children that have disturbed my whole prayer? Please stand up. Why don’t you all control your children? Their running around and screaming has disturbed me throughout! Here….this boy, whose son is he?”
I, unmarried then, looked down in embarrassment and thought, “Oh boy. May Allah help the mothers of these children now.” I recognized an acquaintance of mine as she stood up, her eyes lowered with humiliation, admitting in a low voice, “He’s mine.” She walked calmly to her son, who was standing still, wide-eyed with embarrassment, and took him away, as the elderly lady went on:
“I will complain to the imam and ask him to stop these children from coming to the taraweeh. They are uncontrollable. Please don’t bring your children if they can not behave themselves.”
The next night, during break in taraweeh, the imam addressed this issue in an unexpected manner that took the women’s congregation by surprise. He said, “I have a point of view about children coming to prayer that is very different from others. I say: let them come and listen to the Quran, and watch everyone pray. The Quran will enter their hearts and they will have fond memories of Ramadan and taraweeh when they grow up. Please practice patience like our Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] did, who would not lift up his head from sujood if his grandson sat on it during prayer.”
This advice by the imam was very similar to that given by Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda in his recent post on taraweeh, in which he claimed how his regular yearly visits to the mosque for taraweeh during childhood, became the incentive behind his eventually wanting to memorize the entire Quran. Today, he leads taraweeh every year during Ramadan, alhamdulillah.
It Takes Two To Tango
Although I, by no means, endorse negative reactions towards having children at taraweeh (which, in my experience of observation, usually come from older women), I can see where they are coming from. An unruly, rowdy child that has not been trained on how to behave at the mosque, definitely becomes a nuisance for those praying there, making them lose out not just on their patience but also on their khushoo during salah.
The responsibility of children’s behavior at mosques rests totally on the parents’ shoulders. Parents of young children should train the latter on how to behave at a mosque or congregational prayer, if they want to bring them along. They should come amply prepared for any worse case scenarios that can occur wherever there are little kids. Such preparation can help prevent the extreme reactions of others, whose irritation with the antics of little children entices them to instigate banning their entry into mosques. Here are a few tips:
- Train children to take off their shoes and place them properly at designated places in the mosque. It is very irritating for someone who is praying to have a child with shoes on, walk or run over their clean musallah (prayer rug).
- Never let your child take up space in the rows designated for people to pray in. Instead, you can occupy the latter rows that are usually empty on either side, or the corners of the first rows, so that your child can sit or lie next to a wall or the end of the prayer hall, with you on his or her other side. This will ensure that your baby or child does not create gaps in the saf (prayer row), which affects the validity of congregational prayer.
- Do not feed a child a large meal or lots of drink before coming to the mosque; this will inevitably make a trip to the toilet, or a diaper emergency, imminent, causing distractions during prayer. Check and put on a fresh diaper just before leaving for taraweeh.
- Although basically I am not a big fan of making children snack at places designated for other activities, parents can bring along light snack-type finger food, which will not crumble or leave a stain e.g. diced carrots, nuts, stick cheese, or dates. This should be done as a contingency measure, in case hunger overcomes the child; as all parents know, a hungry child is a cranky child. Parents can also bring along water or milk in tightly sealed bottles or sippy-cups that are spill-proof, to deal with children’s thirst brought on by the heat.
- If any wrappers are left after snacking, teach your children to place them back into their food box or bag. Note: if the mosque prohibits food, you should obey instructions and not bring any; rather, feed your child a light snack just before leaving; one that is enough to prevent hunger for an hour or two.
- Teach your children, however young they may be, about “amanaat“: i.e. things which belong to others are ‘trusts’ that should not be touched, taken or used. This applies especially in the mosque, as people are praying, and hence they cannot immediately stop a child from handling their handbag, mushaf, cell phone or other personal belongings. An older sibling can be made in-charge of ensuring that the younger ones do not touch others’ things.
- Bring along some crayons and a coloring book for older children to scribble on. Again, ensure that there is no clutter on the mosque floor as a result of their activities.
- If your infant/toddler has a favorite toy, security blanket or pillow, bring it along so that s/he stays pacified, or even dozes off during prayer next to you.
- If the mother’s infant starts crying, she should pick it up to stop the bawl, and if that doesn’t work, she should take a break from her prayer and nurse it. Do not wait until the imam’s tasleem to pick him or her up. This will cause chagrin to the others who are praying.
- If your toddler comes crying to you during prayer for some reason, pick him up during prayer to pacify him.
- Teach your children, as soon as they are able to understand it (which, in my experience, is after the age of two) that no one should speak when the Quran is being recited. The best way to do this is to not respond verbally to your child, no matter how much he or she prods you to, when the Quran audio is playing; if you need to speak, turn off the audio first, when an ayah ends, then do so. Eventually, children will start to imitate this behavior of their parents i.e. they will automatically stop talking when they hear the Quran recitation commence. At the mosque during taraweeh, the same children will therefore, only speak when the imam and congregation is in tashahhud, rukoo or sujood. Shouting and talking during the recitation of the Quran is of course, something that should not be undermined or left unchecked. Again, as I said, if the parents never talk during Quran recitation, only then will the children also remain silent, likewise.
As for those of my sisters in Islam who, for whatever reasons, can not attend taraweeh at the mosque or in other privately-held congregations, and who, after reading this article, might be feeling that they are missing out on the rewards of night prayer during Ramadan by praying supererogatory prayers at home on their own, I can leave them with no reassurance better than the one below:
Narrated by Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: “Do not prevent women from mosques, even though their prayer at home is better (for them).” [Abu Dawud]
And the best advice for their menfolk:
Narrated Salim from his father, Abdullah Bin Umar, the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: “When women ask permission for going to the mosque, do not prevent them.” [Sahih Muslim]
In the end, I’d just like to say that as a mother of two children, aged 4 and 2, I can testify that it is indeed possible for mothers to train their children to follow proper mosque etiquette, and to be strict with them regarding rules of behavior, and its do’s and don’ts. Believe me, you can make them behave well; all it needs is some wisdom and tact; some privileges which you can threaten to take away (“No more pineapples for you!”)….…..and a pair of eyes that can shoot daggers at the drop of a hat! :)
Take a look:
Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj
This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.
Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.
Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.
In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.
Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.
Based on the above, here are some recommendations:
In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.
Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad . Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved .
Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.
Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”
Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.
This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad , masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)
In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.
Use illustrated books and field trips.
Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.
Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.
Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.
Who Can We Trust?
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.
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 , 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 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 outward 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.
Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure
How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?
If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.
My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.
On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.
I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.
When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand. Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?
I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.
That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.
I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:
Host an open house
Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.
Expand your circle
Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.
You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.
Outsource Eid Fun
If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.
It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend. If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.
The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.
Get out of your comfort zone
If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.
Try, try, try again…
Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.
While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.
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