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Do You Understand Yourself? Psychology in the Light of Quran and Sunnah

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MuslimMatters is excited to welcome Haleh Banani on board, a trained and experienced psychologist and practicing Muslim sister. She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston, and over 10 years experience in diagnosing mental and emotional disorders and administrating programs of treatment.  She has given inspiring lectures in the U.S., Dubai, Jordan and Egypt. Read more of her biography here. Haleh will be helping MM take the next great leap in helping our communities and families by providing information that will help the healing process where psychological disorders or social problems are taking a toll. We are formulating a column where Haleh will answer selected reader questions on a periodic basis. If you have suggestions of what you would like to see, feel free to add them here.

Join us in welcoming Sr. Haleh!

Do You Understand Yourself? Psychology in the Light of Quran and Sunnah

If you are breathing and interacting with others you need psychology!  You may think that psychology is just common sense and not really a necessity.  But I beg to differ.  Limiting beliefs and cultural taboos of “shrinks” may be hindering you from seeing the value of what this field has to offer.  Now, I’m not suggesting for all of you to run out and make an appointment with the nearest therapist, but what I am asking from you is to have an open heart and an open mind while reading my articles.  If your cup is full or turned upside down you will not be able to receive any benefit.  Knowledge of psychology can either simply enhance your life or completely transform it. In my practice, I have worked with many suicidal clients that had lost their will to live.  Using psychology in the light of Quran and Sunnah, they not only choose to live, but they are living with purpose celebrating life, Alhamdulillah.  Psychology can help you to understand yourself, which will affect every aspect of your life.  By understanding yourself you will be much more capable of relating to others.  That means having a better relationship with your spouse, raising your kids with ease and deliberateness, learning to be a better friend, and achieving success at school or work.

Learning psychology can help you to understand yourself on a whole new level.  It’s absolutely fascinating to learn how your psyche works – what makes you tick, what motivates you, how to overcome fears and phobias.  Once you know how your mind works, you can start programming yourself for success. You no longer have to stumble upon  success  – you can aspire, plan and achieve while putting your complete trust in Allah. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him (Surah Al-Imran 3:160). You will no longer be at the  mercy of other peoples’ approval or validation because you can learn to accept yourself and in accepting yourself you can accept others.  In learning about behavior modification, you can learn how to motivate yourself and others to make that oh so necessary change; like shedding 20 pounds, giving up bad habits, forgiving others, controlling your anger and getting organized.  Allah will never change the state of the people until they change themselves (Surah Al-Anfal 8:53).

If it’s not motivation you are lacking, you can learn to cope better with all of life’s challenges. Learning coping skills can be a matter of life or death. Thousands of people die due to heart attacks and strokes because they never learned to cope with the daily stresses. Your outlook on life can become optimistic by becoming aware of your internal conversation which is called self-talk and you can even reinvent yourself by vigilantly avoiding negative thoughts the way you would avoid a poisonous snake. The pursuit of happiness has to begin within.  If you don’t like yourself, you can’t expect others to make you happy.  Once you like yourself, you will be able to embrace the people around you and focus on giving to them on a deep, emotional level.  Each one of these concepts I have mentioned requires an article to explain; however this is an introduction to the psychological material I will be covering insha’Allah.  Consider this article as a preview of coming attractions!

When you start becoming happier with yourself, the first people who will notice the change will be your friends and family.  Your relationships with them will improve significantly because you will no longer be consumed with your inadequacies.  Learning to accept yourself with all your shortcomings and imperfections will make you less judgmental of others.  You will be able to be more tolerant and respectful of people even if they are not your ideological clones.  Many times we classify differences in others as flaws and we quickly dismiss them.  This way of critically judging everyone prevents us from achieving a higher level of empathy and insight.  Many times in hearing different perspectives, we broaden our understanding and become more compassionate.  This compassion is essential within families. Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) (Surah 2 Al-Baqarah:263). Genuine acceptance, sympathy and forgiveness creates an environment conducive to effective communication and conflict resolution.  Learning the fine art of expressing your needs and resolving problems could drastically improve the quality of your family life.

As you nurture yourself  and improve your family life, you will become more at peace, exuding  happiness and confidence which will make you  more appealing. But all the appeal in the world cannot compensate for a lack of interpersonal skills with your spouse.  Having the skills to nurture this vital relationship and the diplomacy to resolve conflicts will transform your married life.  He grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and whoever is granted wisdom is indeed given a great wealth (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:269). When you acquire the necessary tools  and wisdom to nourish your relationship, serenity will descend and difficulties will become more manageable.

Having a strong and stable relationship with your spouse should be a prerequisite to having children because of the impact it has on their personalities and their lives.  Not only do people lack the skills or role models in having an efficacious relationship, they also believe they can just improvise on parenting without any prior training or knowledge.  Ask people of knowledge if you do not know (Surah Nahl 16:43). It’s disheartening  to know that a person is required to take courses and seek training from experts in order to drive or hunt, but when it comes to becoming a parent and raising the future generation there are absolutely no criteria.  Seeking knowledge within psychology regarding effective parenting and applying the beautiful example of our beloved Prophet (peace and salam upon him) will enable us to have a map which will guide us in the rugged and unpredictable terrains of parenting.

Empowered with the knowledge of psychology within the Islamic framework will have you parenting with ease and deliberateness, while reaping the rewards of gratifying relationships. You will introspect and understand your emotions, which will enable you to be more accepting of yourself and others.  Aspirations will be achieved with simple guidelines when accompanied with perseverance and trust in Allah.  It is my hope that this article has wet your appetite for learning more about psychology in the light of the Quran and Sunnah, insha’Allah.

Haleh Banani has a Master degree in Clinical Psychology with 20 years of experience working with couples and individuals. She was a featured expert on Al-Jazeera international, Huda TV, Islamic Open University, Mercy Mission and Bayinnah TV. Haleh is an instructor for Ilmflix and Qalam Institute. She is an international speaker and writer.

96 Comments

96 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Arif Kabir

    May 24, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    JazaakAllahu Khayran for this – can’t wait to read your articles explaining the topics mentioned above in more depth! Mabrook on joining the MM Staff!

    On a side note, it says on your biography, “psychoanalyzing everyone”. It sounds lighthearted, but is this part of what you do as a psychologist? I didn’t know psychoanalysis was a method used by Muslim psychologists (a lot of Freud’s theories practices seemed unusual to me) so I was just curious.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 25, 2010 at 3:48 PM

      Thanks – I was just joking about psychoanalyzing – should of just said analyzing.
      I’m a cognitive-behavior therapist that does solution- based, short term therapy
      so I don’t delve much into psychoanalysis.

      • Avatar

        DR.NISAR AHMAD WANI

        May 29, 2016 at 11:27 AM

        Assalamualikum there is the need of scholars who will high light n relate the psychology with holy quran and hadith

      • Avatar

        irshal

        August 25, 2016 at 4:01 AM

        i got birth in religious family but i am facing lots of problems .all time bad sexual thoughts are coming to my mind.if there any solution in the light of quran if anybody can please.and i am not able to do the namaz properly.i am also a dippression patient.

  2. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 24, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    Welcome to the family Sr. Haleh! I’m very excited to read insightful pieces from the world of clinical psychology. A really awesome addition to the already stacked author lineup. Excellent work MM!
    May Allah accept the strife in his cause and shower us in blessings! Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 25, 2010 at 3:49 PM

      Thank you for the warm welcome!

      • Avatar

        Omer

        November 2, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        Asalam o Alaikum, Sister did you also get religious education in order to co relate Islam with secular psychology.

  3. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    May 24, 2010 at 2:00 AM

    jazak Allah Khayr. barak Allaah feek. salamualaikum.

  4. Avatar

    Zeba Khan

    May 24, 2010 at 2:31 AM

    I am really looking forward to some articles that address mental health issues from an Islamic perspective. I’ve always thought that ‘Don’t be Sad,’ and ‘There is no such thing as depression in Islam’ are two very flawed statements that prevent Muslims from seeking spiritual and psychological help by outright denying the problem.

    So sister, any advice for young mothers out there struggling with post-partum depression? I know a few myself, and would love to refer there to Muslim Matters rather than a secular or un-Islamic source that may not have relevant solutions.

    JazakAllahuKheiran!

  5. Avatar

    Muslim

    May 24, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    Mashallah a great idea to add to this already awesome website! Can’t wait to read those articles sister. Welcome to MM

  6. Avatar

    Sister

    May 24, 2010 at 3:11 AM

    Masha’Allah how exciting! I am a sister who plans to be a psychologist one day InshaAllah in order to please Allah and then serve the community (and yes, our community has a lot of issues! subhanAllah walhamdulillah!). It’s SO encouraging to see a sister writer here who I can look up and hopefully be in touch with about my future ambitions. Good work for bringing Sr. Haleh on board, MM!

    Is there any way I can personally reach sr. Haleh?

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 25, 2010 at 3:51 PM

      Thanks for your enthusiasm! I’m glad that there is such an interest in my topic. I get excited when Muslims enter the field of psychology. It is so needed! Insha’Allah you will be successful. You can contact me at: psychology@muslimmatters.org

  7. Amad

    Amad

    May 24, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    I think the addition of Sr. Haleh is an incredibly important step for MM, and we are so glad and thankful that she chose to join our team.

    • Avatar

      Haleh

      May 24, 2010 at 3:59 PM

      Thanks everyone for your support. It’s wonderful to be a part of this team! Insha’Allah that it will be empowering!

      • Avatar

        zahid arif

        October 16, 2015 at 2:24 AM

        wow….very learning article about psychology and islam

      • Avatar

        Abdul Qaadir

        August 24, 2016 at 1:03 AM

        Salaam Alaikum, I have a strong passion for psychology & cognitive research, Alhamdililah , Subhana Allah Wa Ta alaa for his BARAAK & allowing me to be Muslim. Islam & Psychology. Is very much needed for not just the Ummah but for humanity as a whole so much Fitnah around us. Shukran for your long hours & dedication in your field it isn’t easy but Allah Azza Wa Jalla gave you a gift & your using it well BARAAK Allah u Feek. Salaam Alaikum.

  8. Avatar

    Sally

    May 24, 2010 at 4:05 AM

    Welcome! I am excited to read your writing. I’ve always felt that psychology and Islam complement each other so well. So many ayat and ahadeeth talk about the “nafs” and the “heart” and really directly address the psychological components of our human experiences. Take, for example, the morning and evening athkar. All those beautiful duaas are like daily affirmations of the abundance in our lives, and the protection of Allah for us while we work, and our satisfaction with Allah (swt) and prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as our prophet. It’s very powerful and simple way to appreciate the blessings of Allah. The Quran and Sunnah explain in clear terms how to think and act to be successful human beings (aka psych of how to be exemplary role models for humanity) and so much benefit can be reaped from this “divine counseling” =)

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 25, 2010 at 3:44 PM

      Your so right! I always say that there is so much psychology embeded in the Quran and
      everything in the sunnah guides us to being more mindful. I like what you said about the
      the athkar being a daily affirmation and the divine counseiling – so true :)

      • Avatar

        Iqra

        August 31, 2015 at 4:59 AM

        Assalam o alaikum.. I want some more info about self respect in islam with Islamic verses and hadith. can u please help me.??

  9. Avatar

    sister

    May 24, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    assalamualkum sister,

    welcome .Jazakumallahu khairaan for sharing.

  10. Avatar

    Ahmed

    May 24, 2010 at 5:07 AM

    Salam,

    Very nice article, I have been trying to find books on this subject. Especialy related to the the way the Prophet taught people and its psychological explanation. The few books I found in Arabic were disapointing they were too technical, rather than providing fine exposition of psychological explanations of the Quran or Prophetic way of teaching. The books I have come across so far are:

    Al-Quran wa Uloom Al-Insaan,
    Quran Kareem Aur Ilmul Nafs , Usman Najati
    Marifatu Nafs Al-Insaaniy Fi Al-Quran wa Al-Sunna , Sameeh Atif Zain

    If you know of any good resources on this subject it would be appreciated !

  11. Avatar

    Farooq

    May 24, 2010 at 7:16 AM

    Raising children, dealing with misbehaving teens, how to attract your enemies, how to create and understanding between parties that refuse to compromise or budge are things that I would like addressed.

    Congradulatins to Heleh Banani and MM. This is a lacking department amongst Muslim communities.

  12. Avatar

    Um Nuh

    May 24, 2010 at 7:18 AM

    Asalamu alaikum,

    This is a topic of great interest to me, Alhamdulilah. I have personally experinced mental health issues within my family. Would be interested to know if you will be covering any particular illnesses such as depression, Bi Polar etc.

  13. Avatar

    Amatullah

    May 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    Welcome to MM sister Haleh, looking forward to your column! may Allah increase you in beneficial knowledge and deeds.

  14. Avatar

    A Single Mom

    May 24, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Ma sha Allaah, Psychology in the Light of Qur’an and Sunnah starts to put teeth to Sister Zainab’s article The Lost Boys (and Girls): Bringing Back Young Muslim Teens. Like Brother Farooq, look forward to future articles on dealing with misbehaving teens. In particular, I would like guidelines on: 1) how much we can impose; and, 2) how much bandwidth do we give teenagers in the hope and prayer that they will eventually find As-Sirrata Al Mustaqeem for themselves.

  15. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    May 24, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Welcome to MM, I’ve been thinking about going into clinical psych, I’d love to hear more from a fellow Muslimah on issues pertaining to psychology. It’s not unusual to find myself the only one in class disagreeing with a statement from one of my psych professors, arguing instead from an Islamic framework or belief.

  16. Avatar

    FearAllah

    May 24, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Awesome, would love reading more on this topic inshaAllah!

  17. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    May 24, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Salam Alaikum

    Mabruk Sr. Haleh, I’m really happy that you’ve joined our team, and look forward to reading your articles!

    Yasir

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 25, 2010 at 3:55 PM

      Shokran Sheikh Yasir, masha’Allah you always inspire us all to do more for the deen!

  18. Avatar

    Muhammad

    May 24, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Jazakillah. I’m taking Psychology 101 this year and I really really like it. Like you said, I can know myself better. Alhamdulillah.

  19. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 24, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    And we were just talking about better role models for the youth….hehe.

  20. Avatar

    Umm Reem

    May 24, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    welcome aboard…looking forward to working with you once again :)

  21. Avatar

    faisal siddiqi

    May 24, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    Salaam, welcome Sr. Haleh! Mubarak on joining the team! As someone who has been in therapy with psychiatrists and psychotherapists, I’m really looking forward to your articles and your insight on psychology from an islamic perspective Insha’Allah!

  22. Avatar

    Mar

    May 24, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Asalaamu Alaykum,

    I just want to say that I’m REALLY excited about this topic and very much looking forward on reading more about it! :) Insha’Allah

    Barak Allahu Feek.

  23. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    May 24, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Your outlook on life can become optimistic by becoming aware of your internal conversation which is called self-talk and you can even reinvent yourself by vigilantly avoiding negative thoughts the way you would avoid a poisonous snake.

    My sentiments exactly!

    Welcome abroad Haleh. Psychology is one of my interests, particularly as Allah has alluded to human psychology so often in the Quran.

    I really look forward to reading your articles, insha’Allah!

  24. Avatar

    disturbed muslim

    May 25, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    Assalamu’alikum

    Recently in a fit of anger, I hit my mum quite badly. The other week I said the most disgusting thing to her. I am known amongst the circles as someone ‘practising’ doing hifdh wa dawah – I just don’t understand why I did it and it is killing me. I fear Allah is going to debase me in this life and as I type my tears are flowing knowing that I have done bad. Just a warning to you all that shaytan can get you to do some evil things. Hows does someone make sense of this?

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 26, 2010 at 2:44 PM

      Wa alaikomos salam,
      When there is a lack of congruency between what we believe and our actions we will feel a great amount of pain, confusion and remorse. You obviously know what’s right and wrong or else you would not feel so down. Focus on creating congruency between your image and your authentic self by not altering your behavior when your at home. It may require you to imagine a respected person being next you – this will deter you from doing shameful acts. In order to overcome your feeling of guilt you have to do 2 things: Ask Allah to forgive you and kiss your mother’s hands and feet beg her to forgive you – for she is your way to heaven. It is through forgiveness that you will ease your heart. You obviously have anger issues that you need to address. Get help before you do more things that you will regret. Join an anger management class – seek a Muslim therapist. This problem will not just go away – you need to take massive action to make a change. You definitely have repressed issues with your mother – regardless of your past there is no justification for what you have done. The sooner you understand your issues with your mother – whether there are feelings of anger, resentment, abandonment or rejection you need to come to terms with it, understand it, correct it and move on.

      May Allah help you to overcome these issues & gain congruency in your life.

      Haleh

    • Avatar

      Ikhlas

      May 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM

      This might help you in softening your heart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CYyfiEMNBk

  25. Avatar

    Fozia

    May 25, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    Excellent article, this part stood out:

    Once you know how your mind works, you can start programming yourself for success. You no longer have to stumble upon success – you can aspire, plan and achieve while putting your complete trust in Allah. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him (Surah Al-Imran 3:160). You will no longer be at the mercy of other peoples’ approval or validation because you can learn to accept yourself and in accepting yourself you can accept others.

    For too long in my life, I have been too stubborn to give in to what is expected of me. But not strong enough to make a solid decision – almost always because I have sought acceptance from my mother and family. I have come to a stage in my life where I have realised that if I don’t try to change my mind set myself, I will waste the rest of my life in seeking acceptance.

    All I want to know is that Allah(swt) will not be displeased with me and that will give me strength the go forth inshaAllah.

    JazakhAllah Sr Haleh, may Allah reward you for inspiring words. Do keep me in your duas.

  26. Avatar

    elham

    May 25, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to know themselves better. Psychology interests everyone!.

    BarakAllahu feeki Sr Haleh, may Allah increase you and us in knowledge that will bring us closer to Him.

  27. Avatar

    Muslim

    May 26, 2010 at 1:51 AM

    Mashaa Allah, Rabena yebarek Sr Haleh. Looking fw to read your articles. Is there a possibility to include ones speaking to the teens because they really need it.

  28. Avatar

    Mona

    May 26, 2010 at 2:41 AM

    Salam Alykum Haleh
    I am thankful to Allah for this blessing. I am looking forward to all the insights you will shed a light on. Whoever is reading this, get ready for an enlightened discourse. This makes up a bit for what we miss Haleh.!!!
    May Allah light your way and guide your steps in this wonderful endevour.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      May 26, 2010 at 2:04 PM

      Wa alaikomos salam Mona,
      Thank you for the beautiful dua – may Allah light ALL our paths!
      Your very generous in your compliment – I’m looking forward to
      getting your feedback :)

  29. Avatar

    Farweez

    May 26, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    MashaAllah. this was one article I wished there was more to read. please keep writing. Jazakumullah Khair

  30. Avatar

    africana

    May 27, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    we should not discount the possibilty that we may be afflicted by jinn disturbances or even partial or full body posession sometimes, as a result of black magic, either. this is well documented in the quran and hadith.

  31. Avatar

    ivoryTower

    May 27, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    It is my hope that this article has wet your appetite

    This should be:

    It is my hope that this article has whetted your appetite

    Could the admins or someone proof reading the articles please correct these types of errors before publishing? It detracts from an otherwise fine article.

    Jazakallahukhair

    • Avatar

      ramin

      November 4, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      “has wet” is correct
      wet has two forms of past participle: wet & wetted

  32. Avatar

    Mumin

    May 27, 2010 at 10:16 PM

    Alright then sister, let me throw this question in the ring, and see if you can answer it:

    What is the proper balance for Muslims, when it comes to being serious, and when it comes to being more relaxed, and warm to other people?

    Because we all know, when you are deep in concentration, (like planning your life to die as the most obedient slave to Allah you can be) you are not in a very playful mood and must utilize every brain cell of the body to support this thought. It’s like immersion.

    So, is it permissible to not be so friendly in these times?

    • Avatar

      Eddie

      January 15, 2016 at 2:01 PM

      Always smile for it is a (sadaqqah) charity. Our Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.) was the friendliest creation in this world.If you are not perseveringly and moderately friendly to humans and creations, you are not following one of the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.)…What is the reward of following the Sunnah? Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” 3:31

  33. Avatar

    Najat

    May 29, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    Dear Haleh,

    Thank you for posting this article. All the points you highlighted about accepting oneself and thus being less judgmental of others and being compassionate, nurturing oneself and improving family life, the importance of having a strong and stable relationship with your spouse as prerequisite for becoming a good parent are all matters we strived with throughout our lives. However the part you where you mentioned “The pursuit of happiness has to begin within”, hit a cord. It is so true as I experienced it first hand when I was struggling with my grief. Looking forward to the rest of your articles.

    Jazaki Allah kheir my friend.

    Truly informative and inspiring just like yourself.

  34. Sarah

    Sarah

    June 1, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    Masha’Allah! Jazaaki Allahu khairan for this excellent article! :)

    I am beginning to delve into a career in the field of psychology so your input and insight based on your experiences are most appreciated! May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) reward you for your contributions to the Muslim community as well as Muslim Matters and allow these efforts to weigh heavily on your scales on the Day of Judgment. Ameen!

  35. Avatar

    Kaltham

    June 1, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Masha Allah tabaraka Allah… I loved reading this article and definitely am looking forward to more insha Allah. This is very similar to the path I want to take my career to so I’m inspired in many ways. May Allah bless your efforts, guide you and guide others by you ukhtah!

    The topics you addressed in the article have been things I’ve been wondering about and realizing lately. Specifically speaking about loving yourself and forgiving yourself and others. Sometimes we don’t realize that the problems we might have with others is not coming from them, rather coming from within ourselves and that we actually have the power to eliminate them if we are willing to stand up to ourselves and correct ourselves. It takes a lot of courage to do this. It takes a lot of honesty with ourselves. We must be willing to analyze ourselves and reflect on our feelings and emotions. And when we open our hearts and minds to the book of Allah and the sunnah of His beloved messenger salla Allahu alayhi wassalam, we find an abundance of cure to that which we struggle with at a deeper level. The beautiful part of all of this is when you actually recognize your inner weakness, it becomes a struggle to get better… and this is what rasoolu Allahi salla Allahu alayhi wassalam called alJihad alAkbar: Jihad Annafs! May Allah increase us all in beneficial knowledge… I’m so happy this started on MM!

    Fi Amaani’Laah

    P.S. Someone mentioned the morning and evening adhkar… subhanna Allah, they are like a shot of spiritual, emotional and physical energy twice a day! I honestly feel the difference in how I feel when I miss them… May Allah grant us all consistency in our worship.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      June 2, 2010 at 5:10 PM

      Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed it. The characteristics that bother us in others are usually our own shadows-the side of ourselves we dislike and try our best to suppress. When we realize this we are less harsh on others and more forgiving.

      Your right that it does take a lot of honesty and courage to conquer our shortcomings. Beautifully said. May Allah strengthen us all to overcome our weaknesses and to be empowered as an ummah!

  36. Avatar

    Abdullah

    June 2, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    Asalaam alaikum warahmatulah wabarakatuh sister Haleh Banani.

    I’m thinking of studying Psychology in university in the UK.

    Can you tell me what Clinical Psychology consists of? How did you find it as a course and as a job? Does it consist of memorizing studies (i hate that)? Or is it more about implementing psychological skills acquired?

    What does your job consist of?

    I just want to know more about your study in University, and then your job role as it evolved from beginner stages to more advanced. And how much benefit it could have in poorer countries?

    Jazakillah khayr. I hope you can answer my questions.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      June 2, 2010 at 4:53 PM

      Wa alaikomos salam wa rahmatulahe wa barakatu,

      Clinical psychology consisted of 60 hrs. credit in the masters program – I chose it because it was the most challenging and it required double the amount of credit hrs. Educational psychology and family therapy only require 30-32 hrs. Some of my fondest memories are from grad school – I found
      it very stimulating and insightful. There is of course some level of memorization, but the majority of the classes are hands on. The final year in Grad school there is a 6months -1 year internship where you can choose from various places to practice being a therapist. I did my studies in the states so it may differ in the UK.

      My job varies from helping people live to their highest potential to preventing them from taking their own lives. There are times I help couples overcome their difficulties and other times I help individuals cope with their fear, anger and stress. It is always mentally stimulating and no two cases are ever the same.

      The information I have learned as a therapist has helped me to be a much better mother and spouse alhamdulillah. It has given me insight into others which I find to be invaluable. I think that knowledge of psychology is helpful
      in all circumstances. In poorer countries, you can use your skills as a therapist to help individuals cope with their hardships and traumas.

      Insha’Allah that you will be successful!
      Haleh

      • Avatar

        Brother

        June 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM

        Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraakathu,
        What about operational psych? I want to do something in between applied and clinical psych. Please Advise

  37. Avatar

    abbasi

    June 8, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    thank you so much for such a nice publication it proved helpful to me as am student of psychology

  38. Avatar

    abbasi

    June 8, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    interesting to know hat so many students of psychology are are replying to this info……….nice so many

  39. Avatar

    zarnaz

    June 9, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    aasalam u alekum
    im a house wife…mother of two…..im suffering from anxiety and panic attacks i dont want to got to a shrink as i feel that if we have faith in A llah we can work our way and that is the reason why im still have a not so normal life but i really wanted to talk to someone who has a religious background can u help me plzzzzzzzzzzzz

  40. Avatar

    Haleh Banani

    June 11, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Wa alaikomos salam,
    Anxiety and panic attacks are very disturbing and they can make you feel as if you are going to die.
    Why don’t you send me an email so I can find out more details from you.
    Psychology@muslimmatters.org

  41. Avatar

    Ain

    July 5, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    i’m now studying in international islamic university malaysia majoring in psychology
    u should collaborate with my lecturer, Alizi Alias….
    he’s a psychology lecturer….he always talks about psychology from islamic perspective

  42. Avatar

    ANSHAD SALEEM

    January 16, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Mr.Haleh Banani,

    Am a new one in this website.Actually am a paranoid and i was searching hot to avoid my delusionsor unwanted thoughts by islamic way.Then i saw your article its helping me to referesh myself..but still am not cured 100%..but i have changed myself a lot…i have done a lot of sins and now am totally aware of my sins..so if you can help me to cure from paranoid you can sendme in my e-mail…Insha allah may it will help me a lot…

    Thanks & Best Regards

  43. Avatar

    Monica

    January 27, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    i was so excited to read ur article, thinking, subhanna Allah, i have found help! Also reading what you had written……” It is my hope that this article has wet your appetite for learning more about psychology in the light of the Quran and Sunnah, insha’Allah.” and ” Consider this article as a preview of coming attractions!”

    Now i am saddened, once again, now that i have learned you haven”t posted any of the follow up articles to your introduction article. You wrote the teaser in May 24,2010 and it is now Jan 27, 2011.

    InshaAllah please assist me if i am incorrect, and somewhere within this site are the follow-upatricles to this one, where elaboration on each of you key concepts mentioned is available.

    I desperatley need help, and your article was as if it were written for me. I bought it, hook, line, and sinker….but now that i am in agreement and believing in this approach to psychology with Islamic approach, i am left dangleing here.

    Thanks, Monica

  44. Avatar

    Ahmad

    March 14, 2011 at 4:55 AM

    I have been suffering from lack of confidence, self-respect, and deep pessimism for a very long time. Most of it is a direct result of a medical condition I have which gives me very foul bad breath. I know I should go out. I know I should get an education. I know I should work. It’s these ‘internal conversations’ or self-talk that you have mentioned in your article which keeps me down and prevents me from accomplishing my goals and ambitions in life. Reading articles like this inspires me. Looking forward to reading more from you, insha-Allah. Jazakallahu Khairun.

    I found the following very comforting:

    Once you know how your mind works, you can start programming yourself for success.

    Your outlook on life can become optimistic by becoming aware of your internal conversation which is called self-talk and you can even reinvent yourself by vigilantly avoiding negative thoughts the way you would avoid a poisonous snake.

    Aspirations will be achieved with simple guidelines when accompanied with perseverance and trust in Allah.

    • Avatar

      Haleh

      May 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM

      I have a few suggestions to help with your bad breath:
      Make sure you floss after each meal
      Use a tongue scraper to rid your mouth of all the bacteria
      Gargle with 3% hydrogen peroxide (kills all the bacteria)
      Try to freshen your breath with cardimon- just pop a few in your mouth and bite down

      Hope that helps!

      Haleh

  45. Avatar

    Haleh

    March 14, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    Having a medical condition which causes you to have a foul breath can make you feel very self conscious. It’s more challenging to socialize and it’s always on your mind. First, I wonder if here is anything you can do medically to improve or illiminate your issue?

    If there is no cure you need to accept this test and make the best out of your life. Even though it can be troubling, you need to look at people who have much harder tests. There is a girl that I know who can’t move any part of her body except her fingers and face and yet she is an active part of society – she goes to neighborhoods that are drug infested in her wheelchair to encourage them to stop taking drugs!

    It all has to do with your attitude, your willingness to accept your test and your ability to reframe and do great things with your life despite this challenge.

    Focus on saying only positive things to yourself and stop beating yourself up. Capitilize on your strengths and talents.

    Haleh

  46. Avatar

    Iram

    March 14, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Wooww this article is amazing mashaAllah!!

    Im studying psychology at university and have never seen it in this light, the way the article discribes.
    Jazakallah Khairun for this, it was really motivated me to carry on with my study and see it linking with Quran and Sunnah. Cant wait to read the other articles.

    ws

  47. Avatar

    Hazem

    April 29, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    Assalamu Aleikom, Sister Haleh.

    Thanks you for your all beneficial articles and May Allah the Almighty reward you on that.

    Recently I’ve been suffering from a psychological uncertainty , and so I would like to show you my case to overcome this Issue.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Hazem
    Gaza

    • Avatar

      Haleh

      May 1, 2011 at 4:06 PM

      Wa alaikomos salam,

      Thank you for your comments. Send me a brief email describing your situation and we can discuss the different options.

      Haleh

  48. Avatar

    Meraj Shaikh

    February 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    JazakAllah Khayr, could you please suggest some books for a beginner on human psychology.

  49. Avatar

    JT

    April 23, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Thank you for your posts – though I know this was an older post I hope you may still have time to respond. I am currently confronted with a student who desires to speak to a mental health specialist but her parents regard mental disorders or mental illness as nothing but fiction and the work of the devil. The parents are devout Muslims and I believe all they need is to see how Islam is compatible with Psychology. Do you have any other posts or publications that attempts to answer this dilemma? Thank you for your wisdom!

  50. Avatar

    Sauda

    August 27, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    alhamdulillah.

    i was so happy. its very interisting,mashallah:)

  51. Avatar

    Sauda

    August 27, 2012 at 11:09 PM

    i need ur advise because i have personality disorder… im always negative thingking and some disorders,so i need your help

  52. Avatar

    fatima

    December 10, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    i m a research scholar doing research in psychology. want to know about the strategies to reduce stress and mental health problem in the light of quran and hadith.

  53. Avatar

    Zahirah

    December 22, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Wow MashaAllah! this article is just superb! I really love psychology..I have emotional disorders and at times I can’t even understand what I want. I really have problem communicating my needs with my family and now its even more difficult,I’m getting married soon but at times I feel I can’t communicate my needs to my husband to be also. I really want to read all your articles.
    May Allah help you and grant you courage to continue with your great work..

  54. Avatar

    ashraf

    July 31, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    very attractive and useful

  55. Avatar

    Dr.Kadar ali S H

    November 30, 2013 at 5:54 AM

    Sr.Haleh, Assalamualaikum,May Allah give you more Psy.knowledge to serve the human on the earth.InshaAllah.

  56. Avatar

    Sumiyah

    February 7, 2014 at 6:53 AM

    AA Sr.Haleh and a warm welcome to MM. I am very interested in learning about Quranic Psychology are there any books/resources that you can recommend?

  57. Avatar

    nazish

    February 27, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    I am a counsellor and Psychologist by profession.Beside that I am running an Islaimc supplementary school called Al jannah Academy based in UK. I am researching impact of Islamic believes on human psychology and finding very little resource and previous research. Only the related video I found on you tube was
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBfD9rawLd4
    Recently I am conducting workshops and seminars. I will Insha Allah upload them on youtube and will send you the link.

  58. Avatar

    muaz

    March 1, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    i also want to be a social psychologist… pls i need ur advice

  59. Avatar

    Nabia

    January 14, 2015 at 4:55 AM

    Heleh banani please help me out i badly need you or i will die :( Im in deep depression

  60. Avatar

    Huda

    March 26, 2015 at 8:16 PM

    Salam Sister!

    Alhamdulillah for this opportunity to ask a senior Muslim sister with regards to Psychology and Islam. im currently an undergrad taking Psych as major!

    I would like to ask, what is, or what do you think are islam’s views on mental disorders and health? I’ve heard so much from muslim brothers and sisters that depressed people are probably those who are distant from Allah and/or from Islam. But in Psychology it is treated as a medical illness.

    Also, this might be a little far fetched, but, do you think there could be any relations between delusions/hallucinations (symptoms common in certain disorders) and being able to see otherwordly beings (i.e. Jinn)? Ive always been wondering that!

    JazakilLah Khair!

  61. Avatar

    Salami

    April 10, 2015 at 12:54 AM

    I really like to Muslims in the field of psychology. Am presently doing my phd in clinical psychology in Malaysia. My research centres on integrating the Islamic concept of hope and sense of gratitude into CBT in treating depressed patients. I will like to see more of this postings and also wish to be part of this team…MM

  62. Avatar

    Salami

    April 10, 2015 at 12:55 AM

    I really like to see Muslims in the field of psychology. Am presently doing my phd in clinical psychology in Malaysia. My research centres on integrating the Islamic concept of hope and sense of gratitude into CBT in treating depressed patients. I will like to see more of this postings and also wish to be part of this team…MM

  63. Avatar

    Ali

    May 29, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    Allahuakbar l thank Allah 4 the wisdom you are sharing with humanity

  64. Pingback: Understand Yourself Pscyhology in the light of Quran and Sunnah

  65. Avatar

    aliyu ahmad

    September 3, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    ALLAH BLESS YOU

  66. Pingback: Do You Understand Yourself? Psychology in the Light of Quran and Sunnah | Haleh Banani

  67. Pingback: Do You Understand Yourself? | Haleh Banani

  68. Avatar

    mohamed shafi

    August 17, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    any surah related to be yourself?

  69. Avatar

    MohamedPP

    October 11, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Please give valuable suggestions:
    I am PhD in Arabic and had 35 years of experience in teaching and Ednl Administration. Recently I completed MSc in Applied Psychology
    I would like to get more acquainted with Counselling in IslAmic Perspective What course ,training, workshops should I undergo for being a good counsellor.
    Pls advise me in the

  70. Avatar

    ABDULLAHI MOHAMED MUSA

    October 17, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    ASSALAAM ALEEYKUM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKATUHU.

    I have been studying psychology on my own on a mental framework of Islam as I plan to write on PSYCHOLOGY A TESTIMONY TO ISLAM.
    Your article is very beneficial and I request you to ponder on the below on cognitive aspects;
    In any psychology book, learning, cognitive aspects, epistemic curiosity and the likes usually make the first chapter. Here are the traditions of our beloved prophet Muhammad[PBUH]

    1 Learn knowledge from the cradle to the tomb.

    2 Be among the four but NOT the fifth, be learned or student or someone who listens to knowledge or helper[in knowledge] but NOT ignorant ie kun aliman au mutaaliman au mustamiul ilm au mainan wa LA ta kun Jahilan.

    3 The ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a matyrer.

    4 The similitude of the learned against the illiterate is like the moon against the stars[on light]

    5 Seek knowledge even if it is going to China[which was the furthest known by then].

    6 The legs which went for knowledge are the legs which went for Paradise.

    These are some of the sayings of our beloved prophet who was without any formal education in the desert of Arabia which was previously undistinguished in human annals. To add to the above I have not yet mentioned the Quran but the first word to be revealed was IQRA and the first thing to be created was the PEN. THANK YOU. I use dowlo@15 on my 3 emails hotmail gmail and yahoo

  71. Avatar

    Ritz

    October 20, 2016 at 2:15 AM

    As salaamu wa alaikum brothers and sisters. I must say that I am stunned by the sheer intrest paid in the field of psychology by Muslims since the quran has all the answers what makes a Muslim take interest in psychology that has been put together by disbelieving people. Read the quran with understanding and with the right intention and full your obligations to your lord.

  72. Avatar

    Ritz

    October 20, 2016 at 2:23 AM

    I don’t take knowledge from the one’s who don’t know the true purpose of their own existence and nor recognise the creator.

  73. Avatar

    Abdullahi M. Musa

    October 25, 2016 at 7:53 AM

    Please download and read this book which is very useful in this field of psychology in the Islamic context.

    Jami al saadat The collector of felicities. Author Muhammad Mahdi ibn abi Dharr al Naraqi. Download in pdf from Google.

    SHUKRAN

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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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