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Beyond Exorcism: Black Magic Spells, Pieces of Sihr (Talismans/Amulets), and the Disease of Hasad (Envy)

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Please note that wherever I refer to magic in this post, it is of course referring to black-magic, not trickery.

A while back, MM posted an article sharing my experiences with exorcism in Pakistan. I mentioned in the post that whenever I get a chance, insha Allah, I will write about sihr (magic) and why it has become so common in Pakistan. A few months back, I made another trip to Pakistan and new experiences prompted me to write the long-overdue sequel to that exorcism post!

In my previous trip to Pakistan, I went (not alone of course) to different graveyards in my attempt to help the possessed girl with whom I was working. To my surprise, I noticed hundreds of ripped pieces of cloth hanging on the trees in each of the graveyards that I visited.  When asked about those pieces of cloth, the graveyard caretakers almost always seemed fearful of them, essentially saying that these were works of magicians and they didn’t want to “mess with them.” Obviously, these pieces of sihr contained magic spells, impacting the lives of an untold number of people.

After I returned from Pakistan, I regretted not destroying as many of those objects of sihr as I could, and perhaps thereby helping to break magic spells cast upon husbands, wives, sisters and brothers. However, I promised myself that whenever I returned to Pakistan, I would try my best to dispose of as many such items as I could. Since this wasn’t exactly a woman’s job, especially due to the prohibition of females visiting cemeteries (although there is an ikhtilaaf, it is not the goal of the discussion here), for this purpose, I recruited my poor husband to help me with this “mission.”

Thus, my husband made the trip to his ancestral graveyard with his cousin and brother (for added “protection”). However, he could only destroy a handful of these sihr-cloths for a number of reasons: Firstly, it was a time consuming process, since each one preferably needed to be read over before destruction. Secondly, trying to “mess with” them is made very complicated by the graveyard groundskeepers, as they are afraid that somehow their destruction is sacrilegious. Almost always, the groundskeepers were uneducated and wore tons of talismans themselves. They truly believe that some “museebah” (calamity) will befall them once those objects of sihr are “messed around with!”

To make a long story short, you can see the film of what my husband accomplished, while his brother and cousin watched/videotaped (SEE all the way at the bottom). Photos of the pieces that are being destroyed in the movie shown here

Notice how the groundskeeper provided constant commentary (in Punjabi) in the background, almost begging my husband to stop before he started taking them apart, because he feared some “evil omen,” I’yaadhobillah! Also notice the animal sounds (no one noticed these sounds until we watched the movie together—of course, it may be a pure coincidence), particularly the crow’s cawing and the donkey’s loud braying as soon as the sihr-cloths are lit up.

All of these pieces of sihr were composed of pieces of paper with grids drawn upon them that contained strange numbers, which is almost always used in magic. These papers were then meticulously wrapped up in pieces of plastic (to prevent moisture from entering), tied up with tons of string, and then wrapped up in pieces of cloth. On one of the papers, I noticed what appeared to be traces of blood, which could be from a woman’s menstrual blood (and Allah knows best) because that is the most common ways of doing magic on females. Also one of these pieces of sihr had the names of an entire family written upon it, along with the Urdu words “laraiee jhagra” (translated as fighting/argumentation). Quite obvious what the purpose of this one was, and Allah knows best.

While in Pakistan, I also helped a family member with some of her personal issues. Apparently, her in-laws had given her an amulet to wear, which she didn’t trust to wear, but kept with her. It was sealed in a small, light-weight metallic silver box. After a bit of maneuvering, I managed to open it, only to find two pieces of papers wrapped up in plastic. One paper had about 7 needles inserted in it (see first couple of photos above) and the other one had some strange language written on it, although it started with “bismillah!”

These and similar incidents make all of us wonder: Why have people, Muslims in particular, become so involved in these acts of disbelief and kufr?

Based on my personal observation in the cases where I have witnessed the use of magic, I believe that the main cause of the use of magic is hasad (jealousy). It’s true that the majority of the population is ignorant of the facts about magic and the shar’eeh rulings about it, however, jealousy is a very strong emotion and at times it blurs even the minds of knowledgeable people. That is why the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) said:

“Jealousy eats away at good deeds, just as fire eats away at firewood.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

In general, I noticed a strange sense of competition among the folks there. In many cases, people were just not well-wishers of each other, even to close family members. I noticed that people don’t like anyone passing them in worldly status (wealth, career, etc.), especially within their own family or friends. Everyone seemed so curious and so much into each other’s business. Sometimes talking to different ladies reminded me of the warning of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam):

“Do not harbor envy or ill-will; and neither spy nor be inquisitive about other persons’ faults nor make bogus offers of prices to spoil a bargain, and O Allah’s servants! Be brethren to each other.” [Bukhari]

Everything turns into a “status symbol.” The more wealth a family has, the more they like to show it off, whether it is a worldly affair or even a religious one. People have even made the udhiya (sacrifice) of Eid a means to flaunt their wealth: the more money one has, the bigger or more animals they sacrifice. Children’s education is sought in schools that are judged by the amount of tuition, and not necessarily by the standard of education! Wedding parties, engagement ceremonies, and even normal gatherings are but a race to compete with others and to show off. When a marriage proposal is described it starts and ends with how much wealth the suitor has. In such circumstances, people not only tend to forget the real purpose of life, but they also forget the worldly harms of this rat race. Forget about stress, psychological tension, and depression; two of the most malicious consequences faced in this world are, Ain bil hasad (evil eye) and sihr (magic).

In most cases, people are negligent about reading their daily adhkaar. Moreover, those who deliberately flaunt their blessings have no recognition of these adkhaar. There is a reason why the morning and afternoon adhkaar are called “the fortress of a believer.” They literally are a wall between a believer and an evil eye, but only when recited regularly. When this wall is absent, however, the evil eye finds an easy and smooth way to the person and causes damage and harm. As Ibn al-Qayyam explains in Ziyaad al-Maad:

“The evil eye is like an arrow… sometimes it hits him [the target] and sometimes it misses. If the target is exposed and unprotected, it will affect him, but if the target is cautious and armed, the arrow will have no effect and may even come back on the one who launched it.”

An evil eye can be given by anyone. When a person likes something and looks at it, either with jealousy or with sincere appreciation, but does not invoke Allah’s blessings over it, the shayateen/jinn voluntarily fly over to harm the one being appreciated.

The Prophet (sallallahu alihi wasalam) traveled with Sahl ibn Haneef towards Makkah, until they were in the mountain pass of al-Kharaar in al-Jahfah. There Sahl ibn Haneef did ghusl, and he was a handsome white-skinned man with beautiful skin. ‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah, looked at him whilst he was doing ghusl and said: “I have never seen such beautiful skin as this, not even the skin of a virgin,” and Sahl fell to the ground. They went to Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alihi wasalam) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, can you do anything for Sahl, because by Allah he cannot raise his head.” He said, “Do you accuse anyone with regard to him?” They said, “‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah looked at him.” So the Messenger of Allah called ‘Aamir and rebuked him strongly. He said, “Why would one of you kill his brother? If you see something that you like, then pray for blessing for him.” Then he said to him, “Wash yourself for him.” So he washed his face, hands, forearms, knees and the sides of his feet, and inside his izaar (lower garment) in the vessel. Then that water was poured over him, and a man poured it over his head and back from behind. He did that to him, then Sahl got up and joined the people and there was nothing wrong with him. (Ahmad, Nisaa’i)

If the person invokes Allah’s blessing (by saying Allaahumma barik), the shayaateen cannot cause harm, or if the one being appreciated has his/her adhkaar recited then he/she stays protected, by Allah’s will. However, if people are not well-wishers and are jealous of the blessings of the other person (such as beauty, wealth, education, children, a happy marriage or any type of success), then we can be assured that they will never invoke Allah’s blessings. And the dangerous harm that they cause from their evil eye can even be life-threatening!

“Most of those who die among my ummah die because of the will and decree of Allah, and then because of the evil eye.”
“The evil eye is real and if anything were to overtake the divine decree, it would be the evil eye. When you are asked to take a bath (to provide a cure) from the influence of the evil eye, you should take a bath.” (Muslim)

However, since the jealous ones, in most cases, are not spiritual enough to know the harm they are capable of causing simply by looking with the eye of hasad, their jealousy eventually leads them to the magicians. They need something more “concrete” to satisfy the fire of jealousy in their hearts. With the help of the magicians they try to achieve that satisfaction, however little do they realize that it only adds to their distress, unhappiness and failure to this dunya and akhira (may Allah protect us from hasad and haasid).

In all honesty, the first time I ever truly appreciated the ayah in Surah Falaq, “wa min shari haasedin idha hasad (and from the evil of the jealousy when he starts envying),” was after my observation and hearing the stories of many unfortunate people that had been affected by magic.

Magic is a step further then evil eye. If an evil eye can itself be so evil, just imagine the effects of magic on people. By Allah, I have seen people suffer, and this suffering is far worse than a fatal disease. It is not only damaging to the person’s body and sanity, but even damaging to the people around them and in many cases may break up marriages and divide families.

So my sincere advice and reminder, firstly to myself and then to everyone else is to read the morning and evening adhkaar. In addition to Ayatul Kursi, Surah Falaq and Naas, read the following:

  • A’oodhu bi kalimaat-illaah il-taammati min sharri ma khalaqa (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from the evil of that which He has created).
  • A’oodhu bi kalimaat-illaah il-taammati min ghadabihi wa ‘iqaabihi, wa min sharri ‘ibaadihi wa min hamazaat al-shayaateeni wa an yahduroon (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from His wrath and punishment, from the evil of His slaves and from the evil promptings of the devils and from their presence).

Whenever you praise someone, or you notice something nice about someone, please make sure you follow it up with, preferably, “Allahumma barik” or “masha Allah.” Even if you don’t verbalize your praise, know that the shayaateen are sharply observing your sight. There is a reason why the evil eye is called an “evil eye”:

“And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes (through hatred)” (68:51)

Also, in my humble opinion, it is not wise to mention to others about our specific blessings. Not everything needs to be mentioned to everyone or in every gathering. I understand that it is tempting and a way of carrying on a conversation among friends, but it is for our own safety and protection. Especially sisters, who like to discuss the details of their new clothes, shoes, makeup etc., please remember that not every shopping trip to the mall, or gifts from husbands need to be mentioned. Not to say that our friends are not sincere, but it could be that one of them cannot afford what we can afford, or she may be having problems in her marriage and may feel some element of jealousy, or she may forget to say “masha Allah”, and the evil eye befalls us.

One of the ways that is becoming quite common is to write a Facebook status mentioning specific blessings or good about oneself. Some sisters like to write blog entries about their everyday interaction with their husbands, or happily married life in general. May Allah (azzawajal) bless all the sisters with happy and successful marriages, but I want to remind them that they may be opening a door to bringing the evil eye upon themselves. Don’t be mistaken. I am not saying that we should not be thankful, or that we be miserable in front of others, I am just advising that the details of a happy life or everyday blessings do not need to be mentioned to every friend. The true thanks should be given to the One who blesses us with the blessings and by being content, but every happiness doesn’t need to be verbalized in front of others, wa Allahu ta’ala ‘alam.

At the same time, we should not become paranoid either, and mistake every mishap with an evil eye or magic. Rather we should try to keep a balanced approach. This has been my observation. I realize that there are some other problems for which people approach magicians other then jealousy, but I wanted to remind all of us about evil eye and the necessity of reading our adhkaar. Another major reason for using magic is lack of Tawakkal and people seeking the solution to their problems through magicians, but insha Allah that will be the topic for another article.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZvvX01oEEA[/youtube]

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within the Muslim community.

The first in this series, the MuslimARC Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. It is a tool and resource for engaging in conversations about racism and provides guidance in how to truly be a good ally to Muslims of color in this anti-racism work.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

We cannot always be aware when we say or write something that reflects our own white privilege and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of color. In our own experience in developing this Guide, we worked to practice that approach when we received feedback from other MuslimARC members and incorporated their analysis to strengthen this work.

My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of color especially women, when I had to not only check my white privilege, but also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you. As one behavior the Guide suggests we avoid, “Don’t assume what People of Color need and try to swoop in to deliver. Instead, ask what you can do.”

For the white Muslim audience of the Guide, in reading this you will automatically feel defensive either that others may do these things but not me or that none of this behavior is based on racism or white privilege. Our advice is to examine that defensiveness and take the opportunity not to act on it, but instead, consider some of the alternative approaches we recommend in the Guide. 

The Guide provides a review of our role in addressing racism in the ummah; description of some of the ways white Muslims perpetuate racism; and specifically, how to be actively anti-racist in our work. A list of educational resources is provided including available training; articles on white Muslims and allyship; and guides to anti-racist parenting. A last and very important part of the Guide is organizations like MuslimARC that you can be involved in to do this anti-racist work.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” (49:13) One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” the different races and groups Allah has put us in, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire self-knowledge about our white privilege as Muslims and help us to get to know how to be better allies to our brothers and sisters of color.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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