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Meeting and Greeting: Keys To Relationship Success

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Bismillah

Each Eid, families get together and have dinner, or individually go to meet relatives both close and distant. There is socializing on a communal level, especially in Muslim majority areas, as people rekindle old ties, call up those of their kin they haven’t spoken to in a while, mail greeting cards, and attend corporate Eid gala’s and banquets. Sometimes, however, not all Muslims are able to successfully obliterate old grudges from their hearts and they find it difficult to visit someone who once wronged them or who’s certain habits they find decisively off-putting. At times like this, they are faced with few options about what to do.

heart-networkFor the unmarried girl in her late twenties or early thirties (and perhaps more so for her mother), the greatest dread awaits her on Eid in the form of ladies’ incessant questions about proposals and whether she has snagged any eligible bachelor yet – and if not, why. Then ensue the endless suggestions, from threading her eyebrows right to fixing her weight and gait in order to fulfill this monumental goal as soon as possible.

For the young man who has recently changed jobs or has not been promoted yet, he must deal with questions about his career and why he is not moving abroad or pursuing a job at a larger company.

“There is nothing left in this country, young man! Get out as soon as you get the chance.”

For the young mother, it is her children’s “screen test” that must be passed at each gathering; from their hair, to their complexion, to their outfit, to their manners – everything is under observation on Eid by the onlookers.

“Why is her hair thinning? Do you give her a balanced diet?”

“She’s darker this year, for some reason. She used to be so fair.”

“Why is he not eating rice? Do you not give him any?”

Her parenting skills could be instantly judged if something is lacking; and if all is perfect i.e. her children are judged to be downright adorable, then she is asked when the next baby is on the way, and advised how necessary it is for mothers to have them all at once.

Mostly, therefore, its all about the kind of questions that are asked, and the comments that are made during small talk and casual conversations on Eid, and the way they are put forward, that cause the greatest offense or pleasure, whichever way they are presented.

I ponder a lot on what exactly it is that makes relationships with others successful, given that we all – without exception – possess weaknesses and bad habits that turn others off. How can all the parts of a motor come together despite their individual shapes and sizes to function smoothly towards a common objective?

Whatever the enormity of our desire to do so be, we can definitely never change others’ behavior towards us – at least not directly and immediately so – because that is just not possible. There is no way we can change their actions, or some of their offensive and disturbing personal habits. In fact, the more we try to change someone else, the more frustrated we get, because our tries our bound to be futile.

Maybe we do have the option to politely request a person not to act in a certain way around us, or to not say certain things to us that hurt our feelings. However, in my personal experience, if that action of theirs is a habit or an innate weakness (in particular, if they are grown adults, not younglings “passing through a phase”), it is bound to crop up again after a few weeks, months or years. Then we’ll be back to square one, will we not?! Examples? A colleague with a ‘sense of humor’ makes a loud jibe at your bald spot or paunch before everyone else twice or thrice during every gathering; a lady with a penchant for others’ family matters asks young wives outright whether they are using birth control or not; older cousins still extend their hands for a handshake and do not hesitate to jokingly slap you buddy-style on the back as they did in bygone childhood days, despite it being a few years since you started your demure hijab etc. What about that person who possesses a tendency for nameemah, and your squeaky protests of “Please, let’s talk about something else!” are ignored by a “Are you saying that I am doing gheebah?! But everyone must know what they did to that poor girl!” followed by a detailed, nitty-gritty account of the said divorce, peppered with suspicion-laced conjectures that could put a saucy soap opera script to shame!

It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Shall I not tell you what is falsehood? It is nameemah (gossip), transmitting what people say.” [Muslim]

Let’s not forget that sometimes it is the antics of visiting children and their manners that could easily tick off the host family. Leaving a trail of you-know-which-liquid on the floor when they go use the washroom; touching pastel cloth sofas with chocolate-cream covered hands (despite being offered plastic spoons to eat the gooey cake, they didn’t take up the offer!); entering the adults-only study or home library, turning on the host “Uncle’s” computer to play games, or rummaging through “Aunty’s” dresser without even asking, let alone feeling an iota of guilt! Children can become one of the prime reasons for some families no longer being eagerly invited to an Eid party.

Whilst we have been endorsed to forgive and forget, overlook and ignore, and repel negative emotions with positive ones, we should keep in mind the instructions of the Quran regarding making one’s enemies one’s close friends. The secret to changing someone’s hurtful behavior towards us is suggested in the Quran:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! He, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” [Surah Fussilat 41:34]

Therefore, the best way to succeed at relationships in general i.e. to be well-liked and respected, and to have many friends and devotees, with few or no enemies, is to always ignore or counteract anything that is negative or disliked with positive and good behavior or action. Even if we correct someone or stop them in the act when they are doing wrong, it should be done in a beautiful (ahsan) way. One way of repelling bad behavior with good, is to embody the kind of actions you wish others to emulate. If done consistently, eventually everyone takes notice of this and, human nature being inclined towards what is divinely endorsed, they try to adopt the same in their own lifestyle.

Below are a few tips to help achieve respect and acceptance when visiting people, and to avoid conflicts or offence. More importantly, these tips will, insha’Allah, help avoid those situations that facilitate major sins of the tongue, such as gheebah, nameemah, slander, gossip, rumor-mongering and fun-making.

Watch and learn:

Whenever you meet someone at their home, or get initially acquainted with them, observe their habits and personal preferences keenly. Do they place coasters for their glasses on the table? Are shoes taken off in their home at the front door? Do they dislike being visited at home without a prior phone call? Are there times during the day at which they dislike receiving phone calls and visitors? Does the lady of the house appreciate or dislike others sauntering into her kitchen, keen to help her, opening up her cabinets and fridge to comment on the contents?

Some families love to have “open house” type of social get-togethers – in which their entire house is a free-for-all for their guests, with the children running amuck and the guests thronging all indoor rooms and the backyard; others have strict boundaries in their house which they prefer their guests to respect. Usually, bedrooms, private attached baths, the study and kitchen might be strictly off limits. Find out by observation before assuming anything about your host.

Being empathetic of other’s preferences goes a long way in ensuring mutual cordiality and long-term friendship and respect. You do not want to be the irritating person/family on their contact list, do you? Empathy is the best way to ensure that that does not happen.

Keep it “short and sweet”:

Joining relationships i.e. “Silah Al Rahm” can be done over the phone too, nowadays, if visiting is not possible, or by keeping the meeting short and sweet. When the guests overstay their welcome, tension is bound to arise. It follows the cycle of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly, thus:

  • The Good: Small talk before dinner or refreshments, followed by a delicious dinner or snacks, and the rounding-off dessert that everyone enjoys.
  • The Bad: Some unnecessary joking, backbiting and gossip starts over post-dinner kahva or coffee. The hosts’ bedtime approaches and they start feeling uncomfortable, glancing at the clock often. The children start yawning and asking their parents when they will go home., or to bed
  • The Ugly: The guests literally lie back on the couches, putting their feet up and their hair down, settling in for a “good”, heart-to-heart repartee. A couple of hours pass with the conversation venturing into the no-no zone: all-out ill humor, gossip, drudging up bygone embarrassing incidents, and exchanging dirty jokes amid loud guffaws that make the wives exit the room in shame. The children have dozed off on the carpet or on sofa cushions. [Note: this can happen even in the homes of practicing Muslim families, if they allow some of their not-so-practicing guests to have their way therein. I have personally experienced that after some time goes by, or after dinner is over, some guests wander into the sitting area designated for the opposite gender, on the pretext of talking to someone there, and then settle down for a tête-à-tête after the preliminary exchange of greetings. There go the host family’s carefully planned arrangements for gender segregation!]

Keeping it ‘short and sweet’ means that the meeting ends after the first [“good”] stage, with everyone praying `isha in their own homes, if possible.

Practice what you preach: “Do not do unto others what you do not like being done unto you.”

What is most important is to never stoop to someone’s level if they strike you ‘under the belt’, so to speak. This is what the Quran’s verse implies by advising us to “repel evil with that which is good”. Do not allow someone’s jokes or vile comments to affect your mood – in such situations, I usually try to remember the wise phrase: “the one who angers you, controls you”. Eventually, your tight-lipped but tenacious politeness in return for insults, probing questions and/or insensitive comments will make the oppressor (and even the others in the gathering witnessing the conversation) realize that he or she is not getting anywhere with you, and they will leave you alone.

Make excuses for others:

Last but not least, if someone does something that you do not like, try to make excuses for their behavior seventy times before jumping to any conclusion or even discussing the matter with someone else. Usually, if someone is in a bad mood, they might not be very cordial with you. Being patient will ensure that the relationship does not turn sour, and your patience will entice them to feel guilty about brushing you off and they will try to make amends.

However, if over a few years, their behavior does not change (and your excuses for them have long crossed well over the seventy mark), you should re-evaluate how you can stay in touch with them without jeopardizing your peace of mind and/or personal privacy. You can switch to just intermittent phone calls or virtual messaging (emails etc.) to join relations with such people.

As long as we, as Muslims, practice mutual respect for others and be empathetic enough to take well-dropped hints and wisely understand others’ gestures, our relationships can remain at the level at which we can be on each other’s “wanted for company” list of social contacts, instead of “run the other way if spotted” list.

We should ask ourselves some key questions to see where we stand: do pious people like to meet us, or not? When they see us, do they look the other way, or do they enthusiastically rush forward with their hand outstretched, their faces lighting up with glee? Do we receive more invitations than we send out? If, as an individual or as a family, you answer “yes” to these questions, then rejoice; because you are on the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم]. If not, try to follow the tips above to ensure long-term relationship success and, insha’Allah, you’ll be there in no time at all.

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Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan.11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette.Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'.For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ameera

    October 21, 2009 at 2:29 AM

    *sigh* How true!

    I think I’d like to add something to it: When you stay and chit chat for too long, whether in your own home or when you’re visiting others, your own guard can slip. Really, for people who’re talkative (like me), it’s very easy to slip and indulge in gossip under different disguises. That’a why I’ve begun to find short phone calls and short visits are what is best.

    Also, with many people, I find it hard to find things to talk about… such as when a cousin will only talk of the latest fashion scene and music videos, it’s not really possible to carry on a conversation even on “neutral” topics such as the weather, common family events, etc. Your advice about keeping it short and sweet then is very helpful… in fact, to some, this principle is a “life-saver” when it comes to Silah-Rehmi (joining ties).

    I’m going to try and implement all of these InshAllah.

  2. Avatar

    Aurora

    October 21, 2009 at 2:42 AM

    *so reading this when I have time* JazakAllah khair for the indirect motivation.

  3. Avatar

    Yousuf

    October 21, 2009 at 5:58 AM

    Very good article!!

  4. Avatar

    I Love Hadith

    October 21, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    Masha’Allah, very nice article.

  5. Avatar

    tabassum

    October 21, 2009 at 9:14 AM

    very nicely written, enjoyed reading it :)

  6. Avatar

    Sh

    October 21, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    great article. Much needed reading for me =) Jazkallahu khayir!

  7. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    October 21, 2009 at 4:26 PM

    How about being the first to question them? Keep questioning them till they don’t have to time to question you and then after you hear their answers, make an excuse and go over to the next… ? :P

    Ask them about their jobs, families etc n make du’a for them.

    When Arabs meet the first five minutes is only greeting and du’a. Kaifa Haaluk, baarak Allahu feek, Allah usallim alayk, Allah hayyeek, ish ikhbarak, kaif baba, kaif aulad, kull tamaam? Alhamdulillah…

    (trans: How r u? May Allah bless u… may Allah send blessings on u,,, may Allah increase ur life.. what’s new… hows dad, children… every1’s ok? alhamdulillah… n so on).. n that’s just one person… the other person will be trying to say more than the first. lol.

    it’s difficult when ur in a hurry or when ur phone bill is going up…

  8. Avatar

    ursister

    October 22, 2009 at 9:15 AM

    Asalamu Alikum,
    MashaAllah, very nice article. Jazaki Allah khair.

  9. Avatar

    Muslim007

    October 23, 2009 at 8:11 AM

    jazakAllaah for your kind contribution. The problem for me is the mixing up sexes and the handshakes. Also I’ve have noticed that about 90% of our talk during the conversations is usually trash. We go nowhere with it and if you keep silent and not to talk unnecessarily, people start remarking what is wrong with you and so on. May Allaah azza wajal show us the right path and cleanse our hearts and eyes and make it pure from all the falsehoods taht it contain. Amin

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      October 24, 2009 at 12:08 AM

      Ameen.
      I agree. Its about time duration. The longer a gathering goes on, the more it moves towards the impermissible kind of talk. Another thing that happens when you stay too long is that people start asking personal questions about your family matters. So I suppose the “short and sweet” methodology is best. Find out if your hosts/guests are well, talk a bit with them, and then end the meeting to save everyone’s time.

  10. Avatar

    Umme Ammaarah

    October 23, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Assalamu-alaikum wa Rehmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu sister …. love ur articles…each one more than the other… Jazaakallahu khair…

  11. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    October 24, 2009 at 12:09 AM

    I am very grateful to you all for your encouargment, and above, all your gracious dua’s. :)

  12. Avatar

    Olivia

    October 24, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    I really enjoyed this article! It was practical, straight-forward, and much-needed (especially with the next Eid in one month). Thank you so much for sharing! I pray it gets the attention it deserves =)

    By the way I just read your bio for the first time. “Computer Scientist gone wrong”–I love it! I’ve “gone wrong” (or shall I say gone right!) in so many ways myself! =) May Allah bless you and your family.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      October 25, 2009 at 5:29 AM

      :) Jazakillahu khairan! Alhamdulillah, that I “went wrong”. Hehe!
      Leaving my professional field paved the way for gaining knowledge of, and serving Islam; I’d do the same again if I was given the same choice.

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#Society

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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#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator
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It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

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