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Mr. Mom Returns to the Kitchen

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Background

Last Saturday, Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala blessed our family with our latest addition to the family, our daughter Taymiyyah.  I’m home this week to help my wife with her chores while she adapts and recovers and among the duties I’ve shouldered is cooking.  Flipping through my healthy eating books, I found this amazing recipe for chili.  I made it yesterday, and it came out really well, so for anyone that wants to make 10 servings of chili and not cook again for 3 – 4 days, try the recipe below.

Required Tools

  1. Extremely huge pot, or two large pots.
  2. Knife for chopping veggies
  3. Blender
  4. Stirring spoons
  5. 3 or 4 medium sized tupperware containers to store chopped veggies
  6. 1 TableSpoon and 1 Teaspoon
  7. Your scrubbiest clothes, you will likely smell like an onion after this is done.

Ingredients

  1. 4 lbs Extra Lean Ground Beef
  2. 4 Cans of Kidney beans (15.5 oz per can) – make sure to drain and rinse thoroughly
  3. 2 large onions, chopped (prepare to cry)
  4. 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  5. 1 lb of carrots, peeled and sliced into smaller pieces
  6. 4 bell peppers, any combination of colors will do (green, red, yellow, orange)
  7. 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  8. Two 46 fl oz bottles V8 Vegetable Juice, Spicy Hot
  9. 1/2 lb Cashews
  10. Spices
    • 4 tbsp Chili Powder
    • 1 tsp Cumin
    • 2 tsp Paprika
    • 1 tsp Celery Seed
    • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Peppper

Directions

  1. Combine 1 lb ground beef, the onions, and the minced garlic and brown the beef on high heat.  When this is complete, continue adding 1 lb of beef, browning it, and keep doing so until all the beef is added and browned.
  2. Now add all the spices and continue frying the beef while stirring for 3 minutes
  3. Add the kidney beans, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and V8 Juice.  Stir it all up, and keep the heat high until it’s boiling.  If it becomes too much, lower the temperature slightly, but let it keep going.
  4. While the meat cooks, blend the cashews in short bursts (not all at once, don’t want it to become butter, just grainy) – this is how you make the cashew meal.  Add this to your chili and stir.
  5. Keep the chili cooking until the carrots are soft (could be between 30 – 60 min).  Once the carrots are soft, your chili is good to go.

Lessons Learned

  1. Cutting onions makes you cry and your clothes stink.  Don’t wear nice clothes when cutting them.
  2. V8 is a weird ingredient, but it really works.  Trust the process.
  3. If the portion proposed is too big, cut all the ingredients needed in half and go from there.
  4. Anyone can make an amazing chili, even a kitchen dunce like myself.  I wish I had this recipe in college.

Let me know if you try it out, I’ll be happy to answer any questions if you do.  If you decide to use this recipe, tell me how it works out, insha’Allah.

Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Avatar

    UmmOsman

    November 3, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    Assalamo elikuim
    Jazak Allah khair Brother for the wonderful recipe – my kids will love it.

    “Cutting onions makes you cry and your clothes stink”

    So true. Being a Desi we use onions in everything , except desserts :).
    What I ussually do is cut the onions in half and leave them for 5-10 min before I need to slice them- this takes the edge off it and when you slice them , no tears Inshallah.

    Wasalam
    UmmOsman

    • Avatar

      abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

      November 3, 2009 at 1:48 PM

      Onions can be sweet, too, alhamdolillah: sweet/spicy onion jam. I tried it, and it is the most amazing jam you’ll ever try (at least in this world).

      May Allah subhanahu wata ala cause your daughter to be a great blessing for your family.

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      November 5, 2009 at 8:28 PM

      JazakAllahu Khair for the tip

  2. Avatar

    Farhan

    November 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    I expect to cook a little less than ~50% of the time for my fiancee-to-be-wife, in sha Allah. I’ve been looking for recipes online.
    http://www.desicookbook.com !!!

    • Avatar

      Ahmad AlFarsi

      November 3, 2009 at 9:20 AM

      weak :) … akhi, by such statements, ur giving our wives unhealthy ammunition. stop. :)

      • Avatar

        ummaasiyah

        November 3, 2009 at 9:38 AM

        Sometimes we like food that ISN’T cooked by us…it can get a little boring after a while…after all, variety is the spice of life! (pun intended) :D

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        November 3, 2009 at 10:55 AM

        I also take responsibility of cooking food, and always I outsource it to some restaurant.

        Same goes for cleaning home, sometimes I clean, by bringing cleaning services.

        I think both should be credited for me delivering what is needed.

        • Amad

          Amad

          November 3, 2009 at 11:56 AM

          Hey it doesn’t matter who does it, as long as it’s done. Especially the thought of eating food made by Hassan, esp. after you read a post from me on terrorism, is quite scary. Shalamar zindabad anytime.

          Mashallah Hassan, I am glad that you have progressed in your marriage. The last time I checked you counted your contribution thus: “My wife cooks, I eat. My wife washes, I dirty. My wife irons, I wear”.

  3. Avatar

    no more tears

    November 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    let the onions soak in a bowl of water before cutting, it will take the cry out of them
    u can also keep them in thge fridge, cold onions make u cry much less than regular ones

  4. Avatar

    Sista

    November 3, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    I clicked on the title expecting a mouth watering picture.! lol
    nice recipe, will try it soon InshAllah :)

  5. Amad

    Amad

    November 3, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    Btw, Siraaj, how many brownie points have you earned via MM? We should start charging all husbands per brownie point earned here.

  6. Avatar

    ilmsummittee

    November 3, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    Subhanallah, what a coincidence! Just coming across this, after our first time cooking chili yesterday and it turned out to be great! walhamdulilah

    Especially with the cold coming…..chili is a very warming bowl.

    For the recipe I used, it called for : ground beef, onions, green and hot peppers, packet of chili seasoning, cilantro [optional], freshly cut tomatoes, can of kidney beans, and can of tomato sauce (or V8); but again there are like a million different ways of cooking this.

    By the way, Barakah Allahu lakuma fee Taymiyaah, May she grow up to be a pious and obedient daughter and a coolness to both your eyes. Ameen :)

  7. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    November 3, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Akhi Sirraj, BaarakAllah for you and your family in your new daughter Taymiyyah, and may Allah make her grow up into a righteous Muslimah.

  8. Avatar

    Iesa Galloway

    November 3, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    Mabrook Bro!

    May Allah protect your family and make them a source of blessing for you in this world and the next, as well as you a source for them! – Nice start BTW!

    I am a HUGE chilli fan… a Texan can convert, but we still love TX-Mex! (Halal that is :))

    Iesa

  9. Avatar

    LILayla

    November 3, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    As Salaamu Alaykum…

    May ALLAH bless you brother. I didn’t notice if anyone suggested it but if you like the chili so much try making a double batch and freezing half. It will be great on those days that both of you are just floored and can’t imagine cutting up an onion. Just let it cool and place it in a freezer bag. It should keep for a couple months, inshaaLLAH.

  10. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 3, 2009 at 4:08 PM

    Salaam alaykum everyone,

    Jazakallaah khayr for the du’aas on my new daughter Taymiyyah, ameen to all of them :D I will also take all suggestions about cry free onions and try them for the next time I make this recipe, insha’Allah.

    Amad, most men do not acquit themselves well when it comes to brownie points – what they do artificially, I do naturally, and not due to a subconscious whip ;)

    Siraaj

    PS – my daughter was born 10/10, this article written a little after that, so it really wasn’t “last week”.

  11. Avatar

    Masculinist

    November 3, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    You woman.

    • Avatar

      Holly Garza

      November 4, 2009 at 9:11 AM

      for wanting to eat? Man I certainly hope you never become woman-less! You’d surely starve

  12. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    November 3, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    How sneaky… I imagine you want your grandson to be called ‘Ibn Taymiyyah’

    • Avatar

      Ahmad AlFarsi

      November 3, 2009 at 6:37 PM

      lol, i was thinking that too :)

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      November 4, 2009 at 2:14 PM

      Can’t sneak anything past you, that’s for sure :D

      Siraaj

  13. Avatar

    UmA

    November 3, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    Mabrook on the birth of another girl ma sha Allah. Do you have a biography of the original Taimiyyah?

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      November 4, 2009 at 2:14 PM

      Don’t have a biography, only know that she was named Taymiyyah because her father thought she looked like a woman from Taym.

      Siraaj

  14. Avatar

    i heart kraft

    November 4, 2009 at 3:47 AM

    The BEST website for a beginner or even an experienced cook is the kraft foods website. It not only has delicious recipes but plenty of times they have a demo video showing you exactly how its done step-by-step. The website has recipes for everything from desserts, main courses, appetizers, health conscious meals, budget friendly meals, to holiday meal planning guides & Money saving tips when grocery shopping. It literally has everything covered. Plus, if you sign up for their email list, they’ll occasionally send you coupons for their products as well.

    I can honestly say that it has saved me time and time again. When I have to make something and I need a little inspiration, I go on there and browse through all the options for numerous ideas. Dont know what you want to make or eat? thats fine too…just check it out. It’s such a great website. (I sound like I’ve been paid to endorse the product, hah!)

    check it out for yourself: http://www.kraftfoods.com/kf/Pages/home.aspx

  15. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    November 4, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    Asalaamu Alaikum Siraj I love this recipe post. I make my own chili as well but I never tried to add the cashews and V8 so I’m glad you added the bit about ‘trusting the process’ because I may not have been encouraged. JazakAllah Khayer for sharing

    Also JazakAllah to all the brothers and sisters who gave tips on the onion stentch and crying avoiding. It’s really Helpful as a woman, a picky one, I feel there is nothing worse than smelling. I have to not stink nor do I like teary eyes in the kitchen so Thanks for sharing everyone.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      November 4, 2009 at 2:13 PM

      As it so happened, the day I cooked was the night I totaled my car, and I didn’t realize how bad I smelled til I got out of the house, so I kept apologizing to the medics and nurses for smelling like an onion (otherwise, it’s just bad daw’ah).

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Holly Garza

        November 4, 2009 at 5:11 PM

        what?! You totaled the car! Are the kids, Liv, and you okay? well obviously….I wouldn’t worry about it, I’m sure rescue has seen worst

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          November 5, 2009 at 11:45 AM

          Alhamdulillaah, wife and kids were NOT in the car when it happened, just me alone, and alhamdulillaah, no harm done. Here’s a souvenir:

          http://twitpic.com/ljzfx

          • Avatar

            Holly Garza

            November 5, 2009 at 11:59 AM

            SubhanaAllah, Thank God you came out fine and the wifey and babies were not in there.

  16. Avatar

    Omar

    November 4, 2009 at 4:55 PM

    So InshaAllah you want to have a grandson called Ibn Taymiyyah … nice

  17. Avatar

    Abu Rumaisa

    November 5, 2009 at 12:36 PM

    Keep water running or a large bowl of water nearby when cutting onions.

  18. Avatar

    Abu AbdurRahman

    November 6, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    With all this fitnah Siraaj is spreading, I’m gonna inshaAllah make sure my future wife hasn’t read MM….

    • Avatar

      Umme Ammaarah

      November 7, 2009 at 6:28 AM

      :) I’m sure if a girl read this, she wouldn’t wanna BE ur future wife….. what say?

  19. Avatar

    abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    November 7, 2009 at 12:46 AM

    I reread the recipe — all the salt seems to come from the V8. Since most varieties of V8 are very high in salt, I was wondering if any of you have ever cooked with low-sodium V8? If it worked just as well, that would allow a cook to add as much salt to the recipe as taste required.

  20. Avatar

    Amatullah

    November 7, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    I’m a little late in sending out the congrats but mubarak Siraaj on the new addition to your family :) I hope your wife is doing well. May Allah bless you and your family and grant you all that is good in this life and the next. Ameen.

    I love the name you’ve picked mashaAllah, and your older daughter and I have something in common :D even though mine is kinda fake.

  21. Avatar

    Umm Uthmaan

    November 8, 2009 at 4:47 AM

    Mabrook on the latest addition. Keep these recipes coming. Do u have one for meatloaf?

  22. Pingback: Some Advice for Muslim Husbands on Giving Your Wife a Break | MuslimMatters.org

  23. Avatar

    Zeshan

    March 22, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    JazakAllahu Khair for the tip. I will must make food for my wife. Thats why iam following this Pakistani Food site https://www.sooperchef.pk/. They providing us recipes as well as quick cooking videos

  24. Avatar

    saba

    March 22, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    Nice recipe I will try this one for my husband. Thanks for effort for us.

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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