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Bittersweet: A Spiritual Perspective on Special Needs Parenting

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My son Khalid was born with autism, a neurological disorder with complex genetic causes and no known cure. He woke up crying every two hours from the day he was born until he was almost three.

He learned how to talk just last year and he occasionally freaks out if you laugh loudly in his vicinity. He used to bang his head against windows and walls and cry until he threw up. He’s made wonderful progress, Alhamdulillah, but at the end of the day, he still has autism, and we still have our daily challenges.

It’s hard to understand autism from the outside, and to be fair, no two people are affected in the same way. On the severe end of the scale, there’s our friend Dan, who does not talk, cannot walk properly and was in diapers until 13. His parents put him in leather gloves to prevent him from biting his hands to the bone when he is frustrated.

On the other end of the spectrum is our friend Zaina, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism that Hollywood likes – she’s extremely intelligent, is physically normal, but so socially impaired that she barely talks, cannot make eye contact, and cannot even begin to understand the complexities of interacting with other people. My son Khalid is somewhere in the middle. He has his funny quirks, but he can pass for physically normal unless he’s spinning in circles or flapping his hands. He’s no genius, and his mental age may be behind his physical age, but he’s slowly learned his ABC’s and even attempts to play with other children. Alhamdulillah, his autism is moderate.

In the two years since his diagnosis, I’ve learned more about patience and trust in Allah than I had in my entire life before that.

Having a child with autism has been a blessing that I cannot imagine living without. I’m sure there’s more to learn still, but I know that once upon a time, I thought waiting for an hour was a long wait.

Until a few months ago, putting Khalid to bed took an average of an hour and a half every night – sometimes less, often more. I would sit next to him, or lie down next to him, and wait for the screaming, bouncing, kicking, pinching and crying to fade into silence. And I had to sit quietly, and not move or talk, and do my best to imitate some sort of maternal rock as the storm of Khalid battered against it.

I didn’t do a very good job at first, I would yell at him to lay down, and he would become scared and cry. So I would yell more, and he would scream, and I would yell more, and it would escalate until he would be shaking with fear and I with rage and at some point it occurred to me that my own son was genuinely terrified and couldn’t understand why he was being yelled out. And then, Allah gave me sabr, and then a diagnosis, and then the understanding that Khalid wasn’t disobeying, he just had no idea what was going on.

Even today, when Khalid is having a weird night and half an hour turns into an hour and a half, I just sit in the dark and do dhikr, or plan the next day, or think, and if he’s still not tired after about two hours, we just get up and go play for a bit. I’ll have a glass of water and maybe even a cookie. Khalid will get on the computer (yes, he uses the computer) and play games for as long as is takes for him to start looking tired, after which we’ll go back to bed again.

And I’ll sit next to him in the dark, and he’ll roll around and count his toes, or sing quietly to himself, and occasionally he’ll sit up to make sure I’m still there, but eventually he will doze off and I can finally get to bed, sometimes three or four hours after we “went to bed.” And before you accuse me of being exceptional, Aal’s mother spends three hours just feeding him, three times a day. And he still hits himself.

Yes, I have a lot of stories. We autism moms tend to gravitate towards one another, not because we have a manifesto or a secret handshake, but because at the end of the day when your child took off their dirty diaper in the mall and got lost in the parking lot and wouldn’t eat their lunch because some of the carrots were too orange, no one else will understand you except for another autism mom.

Another mother, Noura, called me a few weeks ago, and she had that quiver in her voice that we all get from time to time when we need to break down a bit so that we can put ourselves back together. She had been trying to get her daughter into a school, and no school would take her. She had been trying to get her daughter into a swimming class, but when she went for her first trial, the instructor refused to accept a child with “such behaviors.”

Noura had been running desperately from one place to another to get her daughter accepted into social and educational programs of any sort, because her daughter will be turning eight and has never been to school. She told me these things crying over the phone, frustrated and burnt out and just needing to hear something to keep her going. “I just don’t know,” she kept saying, “I don’t know what else I can do.”

I didn’t know what else she could do either, except for what I do, which is to ask Allah for help. We have been told that a child’s Jannah is beneath his or her mother’s feet, but in some cases, a mother’s Jannah may be beneath the feet of her special needs child. And perhaps the father’s too, Allahu Aalim. The tables get turned on both parents, and those who were relying on their grown children for care in their old age are instead preparing to care for grown children who cannot feed, bathe, or even clothe themselves. Instead of looking forward to retirement, parents dread the time when they can no longer earn an income to support their children.

We have been told that a child’s Jannah is beneath his or her mother’s feet, but in some cases, a mother’s Jannah may be beneath the feet of her special needs child.

If you want to see an adult cry, ask a father or mother what will happen to their special needs daughter or son after they die. If you could see inside of their head, you would see an exploding matrix of questions, fears, worries, and desperate plans. You would re-read every news story you’ve ever read of neglect or abuse, or even rape, of special needs adults by paid caretakers who take advantage of individuals who do not know how to defend themselves or even speak.

You would hear the point and counterpoint of a mind divided between wanting more children who could potentially care for the child, versus not wanting to risk having another child with the same genetically linked condition. You would see mental excel sheets tallying savings and money spent on current treatments versus saved for future life-long care, and money not saved for the education of the other children, and you would see a lot of figures in red.

Special needs parenting is expensive and scary. But here’s something unexpected – it’s also beautiful, and humbling, and when undertaken with trust in Allah and faith in His decisions, it is the catalyst for spiritual evolution.

Recognizing that our special-needs children are a trial as well as an opportunity to earn blessings, we are able to change the stories we tell ourselves. When we look at our children, and Shaitaan whispers “Why you? Why your child? How could God do this to you? It’s not fair,” we can bravely answer back. Allah chose me for this because He knew I could handle it, and He never gives anyone more than they can bear.

I am not Khalid’s Rabb, Allah is, and when I die, He will look after Khalid with a love seventy times greater than my own. I can only save so much money and teach his sister to look out for him only so much. Khalid’s care is with Allah. His rizq is with his Lord. And he may never learn how to work and he may never get married or hold a job, and he may die alone, or he may die before I do, but he will be raised as an innocent – one who will be exempt from the fear of judgment because he never knew what sin was.

If he never had a job, then he will never be asked about his wealth. If he never speaks, he will not be asked about lying. And these things are terrifying for me to think of, to type even, but I know that Allah has given my son autism for a reason, and all of Allah’s reasons are good reasons.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said,

“The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allaah loves a people He tests them. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasure but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2396) and Ibn Maajah (4031); classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2999).

Sometimes, when I look at Khalid I wonder what life would be like if he were ‘normal.’ He has the most enormous, beautiful brown eyes. He skin is a light olive, he has silky dark hair and a smile that could melt the polar ice caps. Perhaps normalcy would be too dangerous for Khalid. Or maybe he would be fine, maybe the autism is for me. I know with absolute certainty that if my son did not have autism, I would not have been a dedicated parent and a desperate Muslim. If I had not been pushed through fear for his future and hardship through the present, I would never have understood what it really meant to pray. My trust in Allah and acknowledgement of his Rububiyya (Lordship) would never have moved beyond the superficial. Can you dread for your child’s future without losing hope in Allah’s mercy? Is your taqwa greater than your fear?

It has taken me some time, but I can finally thank Allah for Khalid’s autism. It may save him from accountability , and it has definitely saved me from living in the unreal world – one where I care more about my child’s postgraduate degree than his iman. And while I have an entire lifetime of challenges to look forward to, I am keeping faith that Allah intends nothing but good for Khalid and I. If that means waiting until the resurrection to see my son as a normal young man, then so be it. Khalid and I will meet again at Al-Kauthar, and sit in Jannah with an eternity of ease to make up for one small lifetime of hardship.

May Allah have mercy on all Muslims, and ease whatever difficulties they are facing, and strengthen their iman and increase them in sabr, and reunite them with their loved ones in the company of the righteous. Ameen.

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Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.



  1. Avatar

    Roxann Breazile

    July 21, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    This article is lovely…honest and heartfelt. So glad “Peterbrownpsy” tweeted it. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Avatar

      mahani talib

      August 9, 2010 at 8:27 AM

      My autistic grandson is now fifteen. I have been raising him since he was two weeks old. And, every minute has been a delight, full of blessings. His future!
      Truly, he is the love of my life.
      I also care for my eldest son, who is bi polar. Their future? HASBIALLAH!
      May Allah reserve abodes for us all, right by His side in the hereafter and beyond.
      I have learned not only to bear, but also to take pleasure in every moment of my life with my first son, and first grandson.
      I love them without qualification, and I love my other children and grandchildren likewise.

      • Avatar


        September 21, 2010 at 3:02 AM

        Mdm Mahani,

        I’d like to get in touch with you via email if possible, my brother have bipolar too and I’m trying to understand more about his condition as well as write about it. As I read this inspiring entry here, stumbling upon your comment is a good coincidence, I’d appreciate it if you could email me at

        thanks :)

        and Abez, thank you for this sharing your inspiring thoughts with us, made me look at things, through a different ‘lens’ on this issue.

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    Hassan Adnan

    July 21, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    JazakAllah, SubhanAllah May Allah strenghten you in your motherhood and the consequent Iman in Allah SWT you are gathering from it. SubhanAllah if we realize this one bit that Allah SWT Loves us so much, it would make our lives and the hardships in it so much easier to pass. And if realize this one bit that Allah SWT is all-knower, we would certainly humbly submit to all difficulties of life knowing that there is much good in it for me that only Allah SWT knows of. I pray for all mothers who are doing Jihad against their Desires for their Children. How beautiful this system of Allah SWT is, that it is only the mother who can go to such extent for their children, imagining the Children that are brought up in such motherhood one can only expect them to be the sweetest fruit to this life. The Seed of Love one mother sows is reaped by many generations, for child has now learnt the love he has to give to his children when he grows up. SubhanAllah.

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    abu Rumay-s.a.

    July 21, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    May Allah, The Exalted, enter you and Khalid and your family into the highest level of Paradise near Him and the prophets. ameen.

    After reading your article, the tears cannot stop flowing and you have humbled us by your gratitude and patience to Allah ta`ala..truly, I understand this to be one of the highest ranks of eeman, may Allah keep you and your family steadfast upon His path and increase you in knowledge, faith, and every goodness…ameen..

    “Allah does not decree something for the ‘believer’ except that it is good for them” (meaning of a hadeeth)

    • Avatar


      July 21, 2010 at 4:42 AM


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  5. Avatar

    Ibn Muhammad

    July 21, 2010 at 6:24 AM

    Salam Alaikum Sister Abez,

    Jazakallah for the extremely moving and heart-softening account of your son’s condition and the correct way to approach it from an Islamic perspective.

    May Allah (swt) reward you, Khalid and your entire family abundantly for being patient and steadfast through this sever test. I ask Allah (swt) with His Most Glorious names to have Mercy on you and your family, and I will be making special dua for you and Khalid inshaAllah when I go for ‘Umrah this Ramadan. Dear sister, never lose hope and keep praying to Allaah and seeking His Mercy; Indeed He (swt) is the Most Merciful, the Ever-Merciful. I read somewhere that Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) developed blindness in childhood and his mother prayed for him non-stop for a long time until Allah (swt) cured her son and he went on to become the most famous scholar of hadith ever in our history.

    Your story will have made a lot of people cry and I ask Allah(swt) to reward you for your eemaan and sabr and for sharing this with us to allow us to be grateful to our Lord for his infinite favors and to develop true sabr when faced with trials and tribulations.

    May Allah (swt) grant you and your son the highest ranks of Firdaws in the company of the Prophets, the Shuhadaa, the Siddiqeen and the Saaliheen, and what a beautiful companionship that is. Ameen.

    • Abez


      July 21, 2010 at 12:11 PM

      Ameen, Ameen, Ameen. JazakAllahuKheiran, and may your Umrah, and all the duas you make in it be accepted. :)

  6. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    Have we ever wondered why does Allah gives us children like this? …..Because he has given us patience in abudunce to weather this storm, Alghamdoelilah.

  7. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    may allah cure khalid and give you a place of sabirinn in jenna inchalla . i understnad your situation you always remember that there are those who have worst situation than this. i hade a nighbour who have one 7 years old with heart attack just die after surgery and one chile paraliz and when i had some worry in life i just see her or talk to her and i feel strong . her daily life is full of difficulty. her son use to tell her i do not want to do surgery please mam and the doctor promise her that there is hope and she ignore that and now it is not his death it is regreat that is killing her. she lost hope in this world bec she is not muslim. we muslim had stong faith that we know everything happen by allha will and we know what we will have after bec of our sebr. so this made us more stronger.

    i am not a doctor or alim but try reading or putting cd before bed quran and every night warm a little pure olive oile and give him massage while reading ayatul kurs while tuching his head every part of his body read fatiha more open suratu nas felek iklas every day if u can when he walk up and before bed. and i will pray for khalid inchalla to cure him. Allah subhanehu wetala can change everything if he wish. sorry about my english is not good. try to understand and lots of sedeka will help. even if it is 1euro .

    and ya allah give us sebr and jenna for all muslim around the world. we are facing difficulty .
    the good news is .this is dunya any way. it is temporary. we can deal with it. with sebr like our best deen al islam tougt us. and proud to be muslim.

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    July 21, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    parents, regardless of their kids normalcy or lack thereof worry abt their future..Allah is up there to take care of us. I’ll keep your family in my prayers inshaAllah.

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      July 21, 2010 at 7:45 AM

      i dont mean to invalidate your sentiments but i think your son is lucky to have a mother like you. I have noticed that when kids suffer from some form of disability, parents tend to pay more attention to them than they normally would. Alhamdulillah i dont have any physical disability but somewhere in my heart i feel my parents never understood me. Maybe if i was born deaf or blind, my parents would have paid more attention to my feelings. Dont get me wrong, i love my parents and i know that they will never do anything to hurt me intentionally, but deep down, there’s this little girl in me who wants to open up to her parents and knows she cant. alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli haal

      • Avatar

        Umm Yousuf

        July 21, 2010 at 10:10 PM

        Unfortunately, you’re right…at least with me. Some parents need to be reminded of the importance of their children’s existence. Of course, I loved them and tried to be a good parent but many times I would give in to my emotional stress and just do what would fix a problem right then through yelling and spanking…even though deep down I felt it was sooo wrong. When Yousuf got sick I had no choice but to be patience because not only was he just acting like a child but a sick child and me being the one person in the world who can give him the best support, love and patience….his mother. Then I realized that healthy or not it’s still equally as important. This is why articles like these are very much needed. It is a reminder to all of those with healthy kids (and sick kids) to pay attention to the responsibility and importance that a parent must remember. What a child says about his parents when they get older reflect greatly on the manners of the parents…and we will be asked about this.

    • Avatar


      November 7, 2016 at 2:40 AM

      i have a 4 year old with Autism. And yes my main worry is what is going to happen when I die? I am not at that place where I believe Allah will automatically do well for my child once I die. There are so many orphans in Palestine, in syria in iraq, who’s parents have been brutally murdererd. And are these kids now living a protected by Allah life? Recent trips have reviewed that is not the case.
      Ofcourse what else can we do. So we hope Allah will keep them safe after we die. But there is no such guarantee anywhere. And if you look around muslims in the world you can see that it is not how this works.
      So I have no solace in that kind of thinking.

      I really don’t mean to sound like a pessimist. But really we don’t really know what will happen to our kids.
      Our religion an teachings talk about jannah for having gone through trials so I have solace in that. But that he will be OK in this world after I die, no I don’t know. And I have to live with that pain in my heart and die with it too.
      May allah give us all hidaya.

      Thank you for sharing, I share most of your emotions. I wish I could rely on Allah again for my sons care after my death, but I don’t see it.

  9. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    Many blessings to you and your family. It takes a lot of courage to write something like this and every word was heartfelt. My eyes welled up reading it, and please don’t take it as pity, you are a strong woman, with astounding Iman. You just tugged my heart, and InshaAllah, you and your family will be in my prayers. Life as a way on unfolding itself, and believe that everything placed in front of you will work out. God Bless.

  10. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    I’m at a loss for words sister Zeba. Jazaaki Allahu khayran for such an amazingly heartfelt and beautiful article. ‘Ajaban li-amril Mu’min. I ask Allah ta’ala to bless you and your family in this life and the next, purify you through this trial and make you among His Awliyaa.

  11. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Assalamualykum dear sister,

    May Allah reward you and your family immensely in this duniya and in aakhiraa.Mashaallah you have strong tawakkul and imaan.Allah tests more whom he loves more. So terrified of future yet complete trust in Allah.Hasbunallahee wa nemal wakeel.

  12. Abez


    July 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    I agree very much with the comments left- Allah does everything for a reason, and there is nothing but good in our situation. We have hard days and we have easy days, but we try to always have good days. And we’re not perfect, but we’re trying.

    The decision to be at peace with Allah’s will is a conscious one to make, and whatever the situation, it is the only way to bring peace to a heart in turmoil. JazakAllahuKheiran for all the duas and kind words, and may Allah bless us all with patience and understanding and acceptance of His will.


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  14. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    I barely ever cry reading articles/news but your article is so real, so humbling mash’allah that the tears are certainly flowing as I type this.

    I wish you all the best in your efforts. I’m so happy for you that you have come to terms with your situation and decided to be content and thankful! I’m so touched. I’m speechless.

    May Allah gather you with your son in jannah. ameen.

  15. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Subhan’Allaah. Thank you for a beautiful post.

  16. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Subhanallah. After reading your article I’ve been sitting here in front of my lap top wondering what to type. cuz this was not only a very moving an inspiring article but it definitely was a wake up call to me to say that I have been living a life of luxury yet i have not been thanking Allah the almighty enough for the favors he has bestowed on me. You remind me of how beautiful the life of a Muslim is. May Allah make it easy for u sister May he reward u with the highest Jannah and may he endow me and bless me with the patience that he has blessed u with. Innallaha Ma’as Saabireen

  17. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    Thank you sister for writing such a touching and honest piece (and thank you MM for publishing it), I was sincerely moved by what you wrote. I have very little personal experience with special needs children, but this article opened my eyes to the level of sabr and unfaltering faith in Allah (SWT) that one must have in order to do what you are doing. I am no one to pass judgement, but I feel that there must be a great reward for parents such as yourself that are tested in this manner, and prevail through their faith in Allah (SWT).

    We all have our individual tests, but I have often wondered why some people are faced with greater difficulties than others. Of course Allah (SWT) knows best, but for many, knowing this does not make their hardships any more bearable. I commend and admire you for your ability to grow spiritually through this experience, many people (including myself) would not be nearly as strong. Reflecting back on hardships in my own life, I’am ashamed to say that some times my faith wavered during those times rather than grew. Next time I am confronted with any difficulty, I will try to remind myself that Allah chose that difficulty for me because He knew that I was capable of handling it.

    May Allah bless Khaled and your family in this life and the next.

  18. Avatar

    Umm Yousuf

    July 21, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Beautiful article, masha’Allah. May Allah (swt) make this as source of strength and a way to benefit others who have similiar struggles. Though my son is a bit different having cancer and not a disabilty, I can still relate. In the beginning it is very tough but then you find a way to turn the situation around into something positive. We do this out of trust in Allah as well as deep love for our children, subhan’Allah. The connection I have for all mothers with sick children or even special needs chidlren is so strong. I feel when I make dua for them or help in any way it’s as if I am doing that for my own son. Maybe it’s bad but I also have a special love for them as well. JazakaAllah khair for such a wonderful article and reminder of the responsibility of being a ood parent!

  19. Avatar

    Arif Kabir

    July 21, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    Khalid’s care is with Allah. His rizq is with his Lord. And he may never learn how to work and he may never get married or hold a job, and he may die alone, or he may die before I do, but he will be raised as an innocent – one who will be exempt from the fear of judgment because he never knew what sin was. If he never had a job, then he will never be asked about his wealth. If he never speaks, he will not be asked about lying.

    SubhanAllah….This statement really struck home. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) give you and your family Jannatul Firdaus for all of the hard work throughout the countless days and nights that you had to pour into Khalid.

    Very inspiring post. Please continue on writing such powerful pieces, Insha’Allah.

  20. Avatar


    July 21, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Assalam Alaikum sis.
    Jazaakiallahu khairan for such an amazing ,heartfelt real article. As I am reading this my eyes are flowing with tears and I can’t stop thinking about your strength and iman to be able to write. I really admire you for your love and patience, Khalid is one lucky boy to have such a loving and faithful mom. Personally this is a learning article to all of us how to be thankful to Allah (SWT) and accepting his wills with seber. SubehanAllah my imman is so weak as I went through different trials instead praying and accepting I was complaing to allah why me? but by reading this allhamdulilah I learn to be thankful.I will pray for khalid and you inshallah.May allah give you saber, iman and strength and grant you and your family the highest jenatel ferdus next to prophet mohammed salellahu alihuwaslem.

  21. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 12:27 AM


    Masha’Allah and shukran for sharing.
    It is a reminder to ALL of us to be patient with our children and to put our and their lives in Allah (SWT)’s care.

    Much love and respect

  22. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    SubhanAllah, this brought me to tears. May Allah raise your ranks in akhirah and enter you, your family, and all the true believers into Jannah bi ghayri hisaab. Ameen.
    Love all your articles, please continue to write! :)

  23. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    The only ayah thats in my mind after reading this is :
    ((..Innama yuwwaf-al-sabiroon ajarahum bi ghairi hisaab))…
    …Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.” Surah Zumar
    the day everyone will be despearately waiting and fearing their destinantion …the “sabiroon” will have the honour of entering jannah without Allah azzawajal …taking their deeds into account…subhanAllah!!

  24. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Assalamu alaikum, dear sister… have touched a raw nerve I myself have. The lessons you have learned are ones I have been trying to teach myself for the past two years, having one child with a rare genetic disorder that causes global developmental delay and another whose complex medical situation led to significant delays as well…….they have made good progress over the past few months Alhamdulillah…..the only thing that’s pulled me through again and again is telling myself repeatedly that we are in this situation because Allah knows we are strong enough to handle it even in times when we may not know it ourselves……when people tell me, ‘I don’t know how you do it’ , how do I tell them it’s not me? That if Allah has willed this challenge on us, then He will see us through it as well, Insha’Allah.

    Jazakallah, you have opened my mind to this other perspective of their Akhirah, I honestly had never thought about it that way. We worry endlessly about him reaching the milestones ‘normal’ kids are expected to reach and realise we still have a lot to get used to about this different kind of normal we deal with from here on. We have learned to be happy about his achievements as they stand on their own and not in relation to what other kids his age are doing. We have learned to respond intelligently and not emotionally to people who look on piteously at our situation. (I can’t stand the pity!!!)

    Jazakallahu Khairan. You have given me plenty to think about.

  25. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Beautiful…anyone can forget about all their hardships after reading this article. Hats off to you Mom.

    Jazakullah Khair for sharing this … not to mention there is no one above Mom except Allah.

    Take care

  26. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Salam dear sister i can absolutely relate your story i have a one year old son Kabir who was born with Microcephaly also a neurological disorder where his brain stopped developing while he was still in growing in my stomach,He has alot of seizures and was just recently diagnosed with Diabetes Insipidus and he got a G Tube put in for feeding , he can’t sit ,roll.crawl or walk it has being a struggle especially having three other boys that are older that also need me.Alhamdullilah my faith and prayers plus prayers from my family keep me going
    It is not easy but the little progress you get from all the hard work we do with them is very fulfilling ,Alhamdullilah.for sabr.

    • Avatar


      July 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

      Salma may Allah bless you for your dedication and increase you in faith, and fill your heart with the hope and joy of knowing that you will meet your son one day, InshaAllah, free from handicap or illness or imperfection of any and every sort, InshaAllah, from the Mercy of Allah. >>>hugs<<<

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      February 12, 2020 at 9:41 PM

      Assalamu alaikum sister… my baby girl also born with same condition.. now she is one month… I dnt have strength to face it in my future… may allah bless all with sabr and strength… now how is ur son … how he is doing

  27. Avatar


    July 22, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum

    May Allah make it easy on you, and your family. May allah give Khalid Sakina and warmth of love, affection and acceptance.
    Our daughter of 2 has recently been suspected of being in the ASD range, (she exhibits some but not all ASD traits, does not comprehend, communicate or gesture and is terribly afraid of peers touching her or playing with her) it is such a hard test to accept the decree of Allah when it effects someone whom you hold dear. It is a lesson in patience, It is a lesson in emaan and how to remain steadfast, and it is such a humbling experience, it makes us realize every moment the blessings of Allah. It has personally taught me what it means to Love Allah and his Messenger more than anything. Inshallah, the reward is with Allah and it is only to Allah we turn.

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      July 24, 2010 at 2:58 AM

      SubhanAllah, you’re blessed to be getting an early diagnosis- your daughter has hope, Alhamdulillah. :) Get her into an intensive ABA therapy program, and don’t listen to anyone who wants to put her on drugs to ‘control behaviours,’ because those are quick & easy & harmful solutions.

      You’re family is in my duas, and if you have any questions or you or your wife just want to talk to someone who’s been there, please email me- just contact MM and they’ll put you in touch w/me. MaÁssalam!

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        July 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM

        Assalaamu alaikum

        Jazakumallahu khairan, Inshallah my wife would love to get in touch with you.

        We have scheduled an EI test tomorrow, and most probably a full test for a complete diagnosis sometime in the coming weeks.

        Jazakumallahu khairan once again.

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          July 27, 2010 at 11:43 PM

          Alhumdulillah, we just came back from the EI. The complete report might take a few days, but the initial assessment conveyed to us is that my daughter does not fall on the ASD. She has a language delay but not on the ASD. Alhumdulilllah.

          In all this, What we experienced is that those whom we consulted from amongst our Muslim social circle viewed our daughter in a different light, ‘the look’ as I call it, and that was something unexpected. May Allah make us from those who care, understand and show compassion in the best possible manner.

          Jazak Allah khair Sr. For your experience gave me strength. Though we have a set of twin boys after our daughter, she is my favorite and is a blessing.

          We tried to reach you through a MM associate, have not hear back from him yet.

          wassalaamu alaikum

          • Avatar


            July 29, 2010 at 2:04 PM

            My apologies for being out of touch brother Junaid, and I share your relief in hearing that your daughter doesn’t fall on the ASD spectrum, Alhamdulillah! If you, or anyone else in this thread, would like to reach me, please email me at zhkhan at gmail dot com

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        April 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

        I will also contact MM I hope you dont mind. I would love to have a Muslim sister friend who is in my situation. Most days I am ok with it, but some days I just totally despair. My child has a rare gentic syndrome, the challenging behaviours and communication problem are the same as autism, but some people think its due to deafblindness, because on top of autism, my baby is also deafblind, cant smell, and has many other medical problems that are requiring lots and lots of surgeries. He is tube fed. we always thought we were going to name our second son after my father, but when I got pregnant, I was so inspired by the life and trials of Ahmad bin Hanbal and I prayed for a boy who would be as pious and knowledgable as him. I prayed for a Hafidh of Quran and a Scholar of Islam. Someone who is completely detached from the Dunya and only focussed on Akhira. So we named him Ahmad. My son has limitations / absence of each single one of his senses. everything that connects him with his environment is impaired. Nobody could be closer to Allah than him. I usually thank Allah for him, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed with sadness that I myself prayed for him to be this way, so ill. Some days I really need someone to remind me in Allah’s mercy. I look forward to talking to you, I’ll leave my email with MM…

    • Abez


      July 24, 2010 at 3:12 AM

      Inna lillahi wa inna ileihi rajioon. May Allah have mercy on us all.

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    July 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    MashAllah thank you for writing this, it’s something close to my heart too. I’m a behaviour therapist working with Autistic children and they are all my beautiful, amazingly complex babies. Every step you take for granted in a typically developing child is a massive milestone, you really appreciate the beauty of Allah’s creation.

    I’ll never forget reading an article by an alimah who called her Autistic child ‘her jannah baby’. SubhanAllah, look into the eyes of a person with special needs and remember that their eyes are guaranteed to see jannah..we should hold onto them tightly and keep them close to us, not shun them or be wary.

    May Allah swt give your family sakeen and sabr in dunya and reward your family in the akhirah with being guided into paradise with your jannah baby, Ameen.

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    July 23, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    As-salamailaikum Sister,
    May Allah continue to give you sabr and hikmah with all the hardships you face daily. I am also a special needs parent. My daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome two weeks after she was born. At first my favorite pictures of her were the ones she had before we got the diagnosis. It was just a happier time. In my face I didn’t have raw pain, fear and anger but instead that motherly innocent blissful glow you get when you hold your new child. After the diagnosis, instead of thinking of her all I thought about was myself and how my life and the life of my husband and other daughter would change. Your fears of money, care, school, job, siblings and social life all hit home to me and moved me to tears. My family would just tell me not to worry too much about the future. Just live one day at a time, but we’re moms so we can’t help but worry about the future. They too were ignorant. They’ve made ignorant comments and they are my FAMILY so what do I do about others?

    My child wears her diagnosis on her face. My fear was her never making a friend. People staring at her funny. Even though alhamdillah her facial features are mild we all want our children to be included. As a Muslim with a child with Special Needs, I felt really lonely and I know you do too. I still feel lonely. I don’t know any other Muslimeen with DS left alone a special need. We are an exceptional family with an exceptional child. Maybe even a point of interesting conversation at a dinner party. But nobody so far has asked me how I’m dealing with it. My daughter is almost a year. Yes it is overwhelming but alhamdillah allhamdillah Allah has given a moderately faithful woman like me the hikmah and patience of 10,0000 of the most pious Muslims out there. She is the light of my life and honestly Allah protected me from a superficial life. She gives me direction.

    One point that hits a soft spot for me is the “jannah baby” comment. I never ever appreciated a comment from well-intentioned people when they said that my child is my “ticket to jannah” and that I was so blessed and lucky because that’s not what I’m thinking. It is not fair for my daughter to say that, and again that is making our mothering directed toward our selfish desire to seek jannah. Our children with special needs are WORTH our UNCONDITIONAL love, no matter what reward we may or may not get. I hope other parents see that special light I get when I hold my daughter, and it is not based on sympathy or fear but pure love.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I know how hard it is to put it down complicated emotions into words sometimes.


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      July 23, 2010 at 8:07 PM

      The intention on the ‘jannah baby’ comment should be not that your child is a ticket to jannah for you, but rather that your child is guaranteed jannah..what more can any parent or person want for someone they love. Know that Allah has secured their future in dunya and akhira. It’s important for the Muslim community to hear the voices of family’s like yours and those I work with. Be the pioneers inshAllah :)

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      July 24, 2010 at 1:11 PM

      As Salaamu Alaikum;

      Dear Sister Nour – I am a single mother and have 2 children- one of them, my son, has Down Syndrome. He is 11 years old and also the light of my life and of those around him. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him, 5 minutes after that the midwife told me she thinks he has Down Syndrome. I couldn’t see it then, and don’t really see it now. All I see is my son. But when I see other children with Down Syndrome, in my selfish love I think, “Aww, they look just like my son.” lol

      I keep deleting what I write because it ends up being a short book on how great my son is. lol But I really love him and feel bad when I see other parents struggling with their special needs children.

      There have been major hurdles and difficulties – multiple surgeries(including open heart surgery), multiple hospitalizations due to illnesses – so much that every cough or runny nose I worry if we’ll have to go back, and that’s on top of the usual delays and behaviour issues that can go along with the diagnosis. But in all of this, for some reason, the thought never occured to ask, “Why me?” I don’t imagine my son without Down Syndrome because I already find him perfect how he is and know that Insha Allah, in Jannah, he won’t have it so I’ll get to see it then. I just know that I have wonderful little boy who needs more time, help, and care then some other children. But the reward in this life is worth it. Allah SWT knows best what the reward is in the Hereafter, but I have a hard time imagining something more wonderful than hearing my little guy FINALLY call me “mommy” after 10 years!!! :-) Allahu Akbar!

      If you or another sister with special needs children would like to contact me, please let me know. I don’t know if we can publish email addresses here? If we can Insha Allah, I’ll give you mine.

      Jazak Allah sister for the article.

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      July 29, 2010 at 2:33 PM

      This reply is for both sister Nour and Umm Sakina- And seeing as how you both are DS mothers, I do think you should exchange email addresses. :)

      Nour- your comment hit me, we are blessed that Khalid can “pass” for normal (if he’s holding still and being quiet) but your daughter wearing her diagnosis on her face, SubhanAllah- may Allah protect you from unkind glances and pitying eyes. I see them too sometimes, when I try to explain Khalid to someone for the first time. There’s a change in the face, and a change in body language that implies that the listener is uncomfortable and wondering how to put a bit of distance between us and them. Not that autism is contagious, but having your eyes opened to children who aren’t normal does force a person out of their comfort zone, and not everyone takes it well the first time.

      Alhamdulillah though, I do find that most people are concerned, and caring, and want to know more about Khalid and what his autism means and how they can interact with him better. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and treat them all like uninformed but well-intentioned friends. Of course, I’ve had nearly two years of experience as an ‘autism mom,’ so I’m an old hand at doing Khalid’s PR. There are a lot of strangers out there who just wanted to say hi to the cute little boy in the elevator, and when he didn’t respond, they got a documentary from his mom about autism. When we go to play areas, I walk up to the attendants and say “Hello, this is Khalid! He has autism! This is Joy, and she is his therapist and will be accompanying him inside, are you familiar with autism?” *grin*

      I’m sorry that ‘jannah baby’ is a sore spot for you, but I understand that it may mean something different to you than it does to me, likely as well to the woman who wrote it. Calling Khalid my jannah-baby would, to me, be a reminder that this beautiful child is an opportunity for me to earn jannah through patience, faith, and learning to be content with what Allah wills for us both. And, I think it’s far more kind to the child to think of him or her as a jannah-baby rather than as a punishment-baby, or a dear-God-why-me-baby. It sounds awful, but you know there are parents out there who look at their children and see nothing but unfair cruelty, unjustly heaped on them by an uncaring God. Just look at the link posted a few spots above this comment- a Muslim mother killed both of her autistic children. Auzubillah. You don’t have to be happy with the term jannah-baby, but if your daughter is the light of your life, you can praise Allah and call her whatever you want. :)

      (personally, I call my daughter boo-boo.)

      Wow, this is a long comment- UmmSakina- I loved your reply, and I can imagine how amazing it must have been to hear your son call you Mommy after so long- ten years! I only had to wait three, and I was in tears, crying out of overwhelming happiness the first time Khalid called me ‘a-ma. (He couldn’t pronounce the first m, but I knew what he meant, because he climbed in my lap and said ‘a-ma, ‘ug! (Momma, hug!). May Allah bless you with much more joy and lots of happiness, and increase the amazing love you have for your son. Ameen

  30. Avatar


    July 24, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    Umm Yousuf, MK, Salma, Junaid, Nour JazakAllahuKheiran for all the humbling posts- there are Muslim families out there dealing with Cancer, Down’s Syndrome, Microcephaly, Global Development Disorders and much, much, much more- Allah tests us all for a reason, and though it may be hard to see now, there is good in all things, even those things that seem to hurt our children.

    None of us are alone, Allah is with us, and it’s hard to accept, but He may be saving our children from judgment by exempting them from accountability. Much love and prayers to everyone. I would love to read about your special needs stories, and I think other parents would benefit as well. Even those with “normal” kids can benefit, to increase Iman, awareness, and their ability to empathize with and help other parents.

    JazakAllahuKheiran and Ameen to all of the duas from everyone. :)

    The Messenger of Allah (saw) also said, “The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” [Muslim]

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    July 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    Assalam alaikum. Sister Abez. I am so glad you wrote this article because I have not seen this topic expressed much from an Islamic point of view.It really gives everyone perspective that there are people out there whose problems extend beyond finances or anything material. My brother, while does not have a specific disorder, did lose oxygen to the brain while my mother was giving birth to him therefore he has a low IQ and does have a mild form of autism. He’s 18 now and mashallah I’ve seen so much improvement in him from when he was younger.My parents worry about the fact that he doesn’t understand the purpose of salat but he will still do the movements of the prayer.I like to see the silver lining in situations like this that we can become even closer to Allah SWT and be reminded that Allah tests those he loves. I will pray that Allah grants your family and all others patience in all hardships.

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      July 29, 2010 at 1:50 PM

      Ameen Noma, and may Allah grant you the same. :)

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    July 26, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum dearest Sister

    I read your story word for word and it was like reliving an almost mirrored story to mine. I too have a much loved and adored child with autism in a moderate to mild form but autism just the same. I hated the word I hated hearing it, I hated everything about it….. this was in the early days of it being suggested he may have had it…… I for one was ignorant on the topic.

    When he was diagnosed my husband and I were in denial, this is just another “label” a label on a child that Allah created this way, a label on a child that does not “fit in the square” a label on our beautiful son that we adored who had some symptoms that is on the spectrum. Every time I felt anxious about it I’d read the Quran and it would calm me and remind me that everything is a test from Allah and I had comfort in the fact that Allah does not gives us more that what we can bear.

    Masha Allah my son has improved so much just in the last 6 months, knowledge is power because then we knew how to help him inshalla, but mostly it has bought me closer to Allah and given me more sabr (patience).

    Autism will bring us many challenges and successes inshalla but I know one thing for sure and that is I thank Allah for my son and family and all the blesses he has bestowed on us, but especially that he opened my heart to the perfect deen that is Islam, I am a proud revert to Islam. If it was not for my faith in the truth I know I would have fallen to pieces.

    I am part of a mothers support group with a group of Muslim sisters masha Allah it feels great to be with them. I also go to a support group of Mums through my sons pre school whom most of which are non muslim and the experience is a far cry different I feel for them and do dua for Allah to open their hearts because they suffer so much coz of the lack of guidance and trust in the truth and Allah (swt).

    Truly truly Alhumdullila for our deen.

    May Allah protect all our children in particular those with special needs. Amen

    Certainly no one despairs of Allah’s mercy, except the people who disbelieve. [Quran 12:87]

    Jazakarallah Khayran for sharing your story and may Allah bless you and your family in helping create awareness to this ever growing concern in our industrialized world, so it seems.


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      July 29, 2010 at 1:51 PM

      If it was not for my faith in the truth I know I would have fallen to pieces.

      I fell to bits, and then Allah put me back together again. What a blessing Autism has been for both of us, SubhanAllah

  33. Avatar


    July 27, 2010 at 3:23 AM


    I’m an ABA therapist working in England, if you’d like any advice on therapy or diagnosis please feel free to get in touch.

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    Tamara Elassal

    July 27, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    Salam Alaikum,

    Jazakhum Alllah Kheer for such a beautifully written article, it brought tears to my eyes, but not as much because of it’s beauty but for the rememberence of my own pain raising a child with Cerebral Palsey who is now 15. I never knew another Muslim family with a special needs child when he was young, having friends to relate to is also something to be grateful for.

    When we discovered that his CP was a result of a doctors mistake, I only pondered this briefly as I immediately understood that his condition was never a “mistake” it was the will of Allah and he would have been this way no matter who was present (or not present) at his premature birth where his twin brother came out first kicking and screaming, a lovely shade of pink, while he came out a pale shade of grey/blue without even trying to take in air to fill his lungs, his first breath was through “bag recesitation”. He didn’t try to live or breathe and I was told he had “failure to thrive” but medical science kept him alive in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for the first month until he could live without machines. He was always sweet and special and one of the joys of my life! As his twin excellerated into walking and talking he didn’t take steps until 3.5 and used some signs to communicate until he could talk at 5, he was in diappers until he was 8 and developed epilepsy (as a result of the brain injury) at 9. Now his IQ is around 50, he will never read or write, but ilhumdAllah, he walks and has some verbal skills. Recently we went through a round of seizures with him having about 300 seizures in one week. He begged me to make it stop in between, “Mama, make it stop”, it is the most helpless feeling that I have ever experienced, to watch my child suffer having seizure after seizure, day after day as he becomes weaker and weaker but he cannot sleep because the seizures won’t stop. I wonder “why” at times but I have always believed, as you have said, that he is not “less”, he is not “broken”, he is the biggest blessing that Allah can give anyone because he allows the best in humanity to spring forth! He will always be the perfect Muslim, never having a bad intention throughout his entire life! His mind just doesn’t work this way. He is a beautiful, perfect creation of Allah (SWT)!

    I too fear the day when we will pass away and he will be here without anyone to care for him. Perhaps becomming the responsibility of his twin who is still so connected to him in every imaginable way! SubhanAllah!

    There were times where people would tell me to believe in miracles and to hope for him to get better but there was a day when he was about 3 years old where I became comfortable with exactly who he was and what Allah had given me and I was comfortable accepting Allah’s will for his life (and mine) and that made all the difference, while there was still pain at the “loss” of one of my twins, all the memories of these two little boys that would be like two little peas in a pod and would do everything together, I became happy and content with exactly the way things are through faith in Allah and His infinite wisdom for our lives! The memories I envisioned of two little twin buddies were replaced with two little twin buddies that were not exactly alike but were still just as close and loved to do things together, just in a different way!

    Jazakhum Allah Kheer, again, for the lovely article.

    Tamara Elassal

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      July 29, 2010 at 1:55 PM

      JazakAllahuKheiran sister Tamara for sharing your story- and now it’s your turn to make me cry. May Allah bless you for your Iman and your patience, and grant both of your sons righteous lives, and when he grants them death, let it be as Muslims in a state of submission, and when He resurrects you, let it be with the company of those you love and in the shade of He Who is testing you. Ameen and lots of hugs.

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    Dustin Shramek

    July 29, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Thank you so much for your honesty. Your motherly love exudes every sentence and really blessed me.

    May God give you strength as you care for Khalid. And may he give all those in your community eyes to see how special Khalid is. He is a gift from God made in the image of God. I am happy for him that his mother sees this so clearly.

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    August 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Subhanallaah!, May Allah give you endless sabr and shower his Rahma on you and your family ameen.
    I care for my sister who is 23 yrs old and has severe developmental delay and acts and behaves like a toddler and everytime I’m about to loose my mind I remind myself that this dunya is darul bala wal imtahan the world is but a state of suffering and trails. May Allah give us the patience to bare it all and make it with our Imaan.
    Our children and siblings who are disabled in this world will have the upper hand on the day of qiyam, the trails that await us are not waiting for them. They didn’t have their share of this world but this world is fleeing we will leave our wives, husbands,children,work,money everything that is beloved to us behind everything will disappear. They will go to Jannah straight without a trail Insha Allaah.

    Salamu alaykum.

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      August 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM

      InshaAllah, and may you and your sister be in Jannah together. :)

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    August 13, 2010 at 4:47 AM

    Alhamdulillah, Allahumma Ameen to all your duas. Please consider reading Surah Yousuf. Insha ALLAH it will only strengthen your Iman even more than it is, Masha ALLAH.

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    August 13, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    Mashallah, very well written. I would read MM all day if it were articles like these. May Allah help us, make us patient, and enter us into the highest parts of Jannah.

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    August 15, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Well written article. I often feel the needs of special needs children and adults are not addressed in Islamic articles and lectures.

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    August 26, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Great post. Very touching. You’re so right to say that its hard for non-special needs parents to get it. There are great books out there, like There’s Something About Daniel by author Robyn Stecher, that can help them to get a theoretical perspective, but its not the same.

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    September 21, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    MashaAllah…thank you so much for sharing this beautiful piece. Raising a son with autism of my own, I am deeply moved by this lovely post. Truly inspiring. I am not sure if i could be as strong as you, but I would do anything possible for my son. Inshaallah…

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    September 21, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    Shukran to all of your’ll..I was slowly loosing it..that is the faith I had in myself and my ALLAh in making it possible for my children to learn, My 12 yr old has ADHD /mild Authism my 9 yr old Dyslexia/Autism and my 3 half yr old Autism/ADD mild, I homeschool them and up until recently everything was going Allhamdulilla, then my mum was diagnosed with cancer and I had to shelve everything to be there for her and my family, in the process I left my 2 bigger children with my inlaws.. unfortunitly they came back to me as different people. My whole life are my children and when I gave my time away from them, everything came down.. I blamed everyone and myself for this…BUT after reading these wonderful articles , I now understand that maybe my children just missed my attention and they were acting out but I reacted wrongly which caused the problem to just get bigger…SHUKRAN to all of your’ll for making me see my error..My children are my life[my husband too] but I have not told them this in a very long time….

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    Jyoti Khan

    September 22, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    Assalam-u-alaykum sister,

    May Allah accept all your hardship and give you patience and happiness. May He enter you, Khalid and all your family members to a high level of Paradise. Ameen.

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    gladys christina ewell

    September 23, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    salaams sis.

    I wanted to thank you for putting this up. I understand what you are going through. I have seven children and two of them have Autism. I possibly have a third. the third is being tested now. I know that it is rough but time does get better. You do gain an immense amount of patients as time goes by. You will also see the beauty in it all because the thing about our children is that we learn to appreciate the simple things in life that other people might not take advantage of because Allah has blessed them with what society call normal kids. Well I tell you what my kids special and not are all normal to me. I love them all and they all have there strengths. My oldest who is 18 is Autistic and he didn’t speak until he was around 7 or so and he never slept. He doesn’t really sleep still but he graduate from high school with an academic scholarship and he speaks all the time and has is website and is trying to write a book. I think these kids are great. They teach us soooo much. My other child is 4 and he is Autistic but with him he is very outgoing and funny you really can’t tell until you pay close attention. So every child is unique in there own way

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    October 12, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    MashAllah, i am glad my wife showed me this article, my daughter has PDDNOS, which is a spectrum of autism. it puts her right on the border of normal and autistic, however she still has her behavioral issues in which some of the disciplinary techniques i have tried are not working. i can never fully understand what is going on in her brain, i do know however that she Loves her mother and myself. She loves being muslim Alhamdulilah and is always eager to learn.

    This issue with her though makes things harder on my relationship with my wife. Especially us both being reverts we have lots to learn. but Alhamdulilah, we are learning well…Allah has given us patience and understanding as now we dont get upset, or as upset when she acts up. we jsut redirect her and find other things to grab her interest. we have now chosen to homeschool her for many reasons. Mainly because her speach is really delayed and she has a hard time understanding complex questions…things like, she can tell u what something is but have a hard time understanding what its used for…even though she knows, she doesnt understand when u ask her…anyways, i can go on all day, but for now, i just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience. JAzakallau Khair

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      October 14, 2010 at 5:00 AM

      You’re welcome, and remember- Allah chose this for you because He knew you could handle it and the challenges before you- if you maintain sabr and trust in Allah while seeking His help- will make you better parents, better Muslims, and InshaAllah better companions for one another, InshaAllah, in this life and the next. :)

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    November 29, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    salamualiakum sister

    your article has given words to my emotions….and im thankful to Allah for giving me the opportunity to read this. You have been blessed with a beautiful heart and i thank you for letting me see things from a positive perspective :)
    i feel very alone at times…’s comforting to know there are other sisters in my position…although i do not wish it for anyone.
    May Allah watch over Khalid and you, and may He unite us all in jannah :)
    warmest thoughts from NJ :)

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      January 6, 2011 at 1:04 AM

      JazakAllahuKheiran, and Ameen :)

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    December 5, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    I was looking for printable autism cards online for my son when i came upon your article. I too am a mother with a 10 year old son with autism. He was a perfectly normal child, reaching all his milestones on time. Then at age 2 he began to change, he lost all verbal communication, stopped playing with his toys, lost eye contact and became aloof and in his own world. It was as if my loving, playful full of life child was replaced with sadness, emptiness, and hurt. i would not hear Mama from his lips again until 6 yrs later. My son is now 10 yrs old, he communicates thru pictures and is able to say words.He is still far from a typical 10 year old but he has come along way from when he was diagnosed. I have all the same concerns about his future and his life after we are gone. I was very touched by your article. My son has receive services for Early Intervention till age 3, and is still receiving a multitude of services provided by the state. There are a lot of resources out there for parents like us, and valuable information about special needs trust. You can check out Autism Speaks website for more info, just google them.
    I believe Allah has given us these special children so that we can learn acceptance, patience, and love and in the process we become better human beings and much better muslims.
    I hope that you will communicate with me so that we can continue to share thoughts and help eachother


  51. Avatar

    Rafiq & Zarina

    December 19, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    My Son Altaf has the Nuerological disorder. Born in Houston, Texas. He is 18 but his brain is at the age of 4-6. He looks normal. Hi is a very social person. Wants meet everybody and talks to every body he meets.
    This is the first time he want to pray Tarabih al,ost evryday and prayed with the Zamat al 20 Rakats.
    He is in school in the 10 grade. The Public School is the best think happed to him. His present and all past teachers and fellow students Love him and respect him a lot.
    Altaf has the most loving family, his mother (My wife) is like a slave to him and has dedicated her life for him. His two sisters just love him and take him to mosque, movie, shopping, friendly get together.
    Sister Tamarah I can understand what you are going through and reading your article has given us the strength and courage to prepare us for the future. May Allah help us all.

  52. Avatar


    January 5, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum,
    AlhamduliLlah for coming to this page and reading this post. It’s a tear-jerker for me – I’m also a special needs mom. Of my four children, three have diagnosed special needs. My oldest was born with spina bifida and we’ve gone through multiple surgeries to deal with associated brain, spinal, orthopedic and urological concerns as well as therapies for her developmental issues. Our second and third child have ADHD and PDDNOS, respectively. And our little one – he’s following suit with speech delay which we plan to have evaluated soon and also see if it’s part of something else.
    MashaAllah, so many have made absolutely beautiful points, points that I intend to carry forward with me, inshaAllah. So many times I’ve been asked – how do you do it? – and my answer is always ‘How can I not ‘do’ it?’ As in, this is Allah’s decree – there is no way to go with this but forward in the best way that I can. You rise to the occasion, advocate for your child, and do the best you can, forgiving yourself a little each day that you did not do a,b,c or that you missed x,y,z of the ideal for your child.
    What a great service to the ummah this post as been. Jazaakum Allahu khairain. Wassalam ~ Hibah

    • Avatar


      January 6, 2011 at 1:03 AM

      JazakAllahuKheiran, Hibah- for sharing as well. SubhanAllah, may Allah increase you in sabr and ajr and open the gates for Jannah for you and your very special children. :) At the very least, any time we think we have it hard we can always find someone who has it harder, and is probably doing better, too!

      Lots of hugs, Sister Abez

    • Avatar


      May 4, 2011 at 6:12 AM

      Salam Sister Hibah.

      I am so inspired by you. The fact that you have three special needs children and what strength you have to endure such difficulty SubhanAllah. I would love to hear from you. My daughter of 2 months has spina bifida also, diagnosed at 20 week ultrasound. She is doing well Alhumdulilah but like your daughter we have been told she is to endure help from ortho, urology, physio. Allah knows best. Is is possible to email you? my add is:

  53. Avatar

    Norsyeila Abdullah

    February 3, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Assalamualaikum. My husband and I have a child who has autism and she is blind too. She can’t take care of herself. She does not walk on her own.She holds one’s back when she walks and she refuses to hold anything which can assist her to walk. She is very strong though. She refuses to listen to anything we tell her. We feel if only she listens it will make things easier. The blind school refuses to accept her saying she is incapable of looking after herself and the spastic school refuses her because she is blind. So, we just teach her at home.
    In the early stage, my husband refuses to accept that she is blind. He always was positive that she would see. i on the other hand accepted fate. I teach her to recite her A,B,C’s ,name’s of animals, fruits,things, vehicles,planets,months ,days,numbers and so on. She learns fast.At three years old she recites her surah well. She sings well and she has a very sweet voice. She can recite “YAASIN” and we love to listen to it. Alhamdulillah for such wonder.
    But then when she grew older, when she was ten she stopped singing or reciting. She would start a few lines and ask me to continue. If i pretend not to listen she will repeat the words again and again and again until i continued. And this is going on until now.
    Now she is sixteen years old. A sweet, beautiful and wonderful person who is always smiling and making others laugh at her words. Although we go through problems like she does not let us sleep at night and she repeats words all the time and she still users diapers and we have to feed her, bathe her, bring her to the toilet, wait with her while she finishes her business and we are pretty handicapped like she is because we cannot go to a wedding or a movie or a gathering, we are still very happy. We will never give her away even for millions and millions of dollars.
    She brings great joy into our family especially in me and I thamk ALLAH for it

    Thank you sister Abez for your wonderul sharing. I am so blessed to come across it.Syukur Alhamdulillah..

    • Avatar


      February 8, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      May Allah bless you and your husband and your beautiful daughter and keep you happy and strong in Iman in this life, and reunite you with sight and peace of mind and joy in the next. :) Ameen!

  54. Avatar


    February 8, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum,

    Wow. Jazakallu khayr for this excellent post. Your thoughts are thoughts that rattle in my mind as well about the personal fitan I have experienced in my own personal life. Fitan can last forever or as long as you live..subhanAllah.

    What’s more is that I had a student with autism in my class. His mother could not control him in the home while the teachers could control him in school, I see how desperate she is for help and how hard these parents are judged. May Allah make it easy for you and others inshaAllah. I can tell that you will do a fine job sister inshaAllah.

  55. Avatar

    Shiblee Mehdi

    May 25, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    “We have been told that a child’s Jannah is beneath his or her mother’s feet, but in some cases, a mother’s Jannah may be beneath the feet of her special needs child. And perhaps the father’s to.” – it gave me a different feeling.

    [When we look at our children, and Shaitaan whispers “Why you?
    Why your child? How could God do this to you? It’s not fair,” we
    can bravely answer back. Allah chose me for this because He knew I could
    handle it, and He never gives anyone more than they can bear. I am not
    Khalid’s Rabb, Allah is, and when I die, He will look after Khalid
    with a love seventy times greater than my own. I can only save so much
    money and teach his sister to look out for him only so much.
    Khalid’s care is with Allah. His rizq is with his Lord. And
    he may never learn how to work and he may never get married or hold a
    job, and he may die alone, or he may die before I do, but he will be
    raised as an innocent – one who will be exempt from the fear of judgment
    because he never knew what sin was. If he never had a job, then he
    will never be asked about his wealth. If he never speaks, he will not
    be asked about lying. And these things are terrifying for me to think
    of, to type even, but I know that Allah has given my son autism for a
    reason, and all of Allah’s reasons are good reasons.] – this whole paragraph also gave me chance to think on my issues. Thanks sister for writing in this way. May Allah give us peace.

  56. Avatar

    umm lost

    November 16, 2012 at 12:09 AM

    Today i was very depressed ,I go through bouts of hope and depression quite frequently .I have no friends or families that would hear or understand so i stopped talking about me long time back .I talk to Allah instead . I fight, i complain , i thank and i ask .. all to Him. Today, was a bad day for my Autistic child and that means lots of screaming , slapping , throwing stuff at me . After years of therapy one would hope we could moove forward . But as Allah wills.
    I am pretty much sure Allah wanted me to read your post ,cos i stumbled upon it out of nowhere Alhamdolillah . Does all special needs mom goes through same thoughts :.. so it seems . May Allah grant your family Jannah.
    I raised in a home of bipolar & schizerphrenia and this much i can tell you , Allah taking care of those family memebers of mine , who cannot take care of themselves .while we all the healthy and ‘taking LIFE for granted ones’ moved out to our own life . I am never worried about my baby;s rizk Alhamdolilah … its just that , i am tired . May Allah forgive me and give me strength & understanding..

  57. Pingback: Bittersweet: A Spiritual Perspective on Special Needs Parenting

  58. Avatar

    Ali and Rabia Khan

    April 9, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    Jazak Allah Khair Sister for putting your thoughts into writing and lighting a candle of hope and direction in peoples’s lives specially of those blessed with special needs children. Allah swt have blessed me with 3 beautiful children, a daughter age 15 and 2 sons age 13 and 11…….. Both my sons are diagnosed with PDD’ NOS on Autism spectrum…….. My sister in law have forwarded me this article and I thank Allah swt and jazak Allah khair to her for this great reference since it REFRESHES our IMAAN and remind us of the great gifts of SABR and TAWWAKKUL on Allah swt mercy and wisdom. May Allah gives us the ISTAQAMAT to pass his tests in this DUNIYA and unite us all in JANNAH in the company of his loved ones. Ameen

  59. Avatar

    Sumaya Um Sara

    April 13, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair for writing this article. I had tears flowing by the end. May Allah protect our children and give us what is best.

  60. Avatar


    October 20, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Asalaamu Alaykum, I found myself perfectly composed while reading your article. But when I got to the paragraph about what would happen to your son after you are gone I started crying. Everything from that point on just rung so true for me. My daughter was diagnosed with moderate autism at the age of two, she is three now.I went through is it my fault, the vaccines fault….the whole shebang. Now each pregnancy I have(I’m expecting my third now) I am wondering will they have it; or will they just have to take on the burden of caring for their big sister. But as you have mentioned perhaps this is Allah’s way of saving my daughter from falling into sin, and this is His way of trying to impart patience and understanding to me, and have absolute faith and trust in Him.

    I still have my bad days/low eman days as you have mentioned but I am striving for Paradise and Insha Allah my kids might just get me there. Jazkallah Khairn for sharing your story,

  61. Pingback: A Dollar or a Dua for the Philippines |

  62. Avatar

    Umm ubaydah

    December 9, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum ukhti,

    I came searching for muslims with special needs and found your article. Maa shaa Allaah this really got me emotional subhan Allah you described life so well to those who have normal children. My son has a very rare genetic disorder, so rare we may never find anyone with the same thing. Since a week from his birth i feel like i have been emotionally tested beyond belief and left emaciated. Generally most the time i am ok Alhamdulillah but when the future worries start….like i am feeling down thinking will i ever have a good relationship with my son? Will he understand jokes and sarcasm? Will he be able to learn Arabic and recite quran? How severe does a childs special needs have to be to remove the islamic obligations upon them? Subhan Allah

    • Avatar


      January 4, 2017 at 11:41 AM

      Hi please leave a reply if you read my msg. I also have a daughter with rare disorder. Please contact me.

      • Avatar


        January 4, 2017 at 11:43 AM

        Um ubadyah. Please leave a reply.

  63. Pingback: Look who’s coming out, but it isn’t what you think: Part I | altM

  64. Avatar


    August 24, 2016 at 6:07 PM

    Asalam u alaikum you read my mind I am a Muslim mum with three severe and lifelong special needs.

  65. Avatar

    Rabiya Woodiwiss

    August 27, 2016 at 11:01 PM

    Subhan’Allah the most beautiful and moving article I have ever read on autism. I also have a 4 year old non verbal autistic child. I can relate to your struggles and share many sentiments. May Allah SWT make our children out means to enter Jannat Al Firdous and may He help us become the best, most understanding and
    patient parents.. Ameen (I could not see past my tears reading this).

  66. Avatar


    October 31, 2016 at 12:39 PM

    Salam sister, I am doing a show on looking after children with Down’s syndrome on Islam Channel this Wednesday 02/11/16 at 11am. It is on a Womens discussion show titled Women’s AM. After reading your post I would love it if you would appear on the show to raise awareness and share your experiences inshaAllah.

    Are you based in the UK? We can conduct a skype broadcast if it suits you better.

    Please reply for more information.

    • Zeba Khan

      Zeba Khan

      November 8, 2016 at 9:59 AM

      Walaikum Assalam sister! I apologize, it looks like November 2 has passed already. I would be happy to help but since my child has autism, I don’t think I would be the best person to talk to regards the experience of raising a child with Down’s Syndrome. If there’s any other way that I can help do let me know. Jazakillahkhair!

  67. Avatar

    Hozami Helwani

    February 28, 2018 at 5:57 PM

    I’d like to thank the writer for such a beautifully sentimental article. Nevertheless; I’d like to draw the attention of readers to the facts of Autism. I myself am blessed with a son who is on the Autism spectrum. Autism is a condition that requires the caregiver to give love, attention and constant engagement. Our children are suffering from lack of emotional connectivity. Please, take away all the screens from their lives and stand by to see a miracle happening. For more information, please visit

  68. Avatar


    April 13, 2018 at 12:23 PM

    My two year old son Zakariya just got diagnosed with autism. Wallahi readi g what you wrote felt like you read my mind. Everything was spot on. Mau Allah swt give us all strength and patience to deal with and care for our children, and may he protect them always.

  69. Avatar


    June 1, 2018 at 8:32 PM

    Salaams sis,
    I just recently come across you’re article when searching “are parents to blame for disabled child”. Awful I know but I had been told directly that my child has autism due to a mistake I may have made. Even though I look at my child and see the biggest blessing Allah has ever given me, reading this just made me feel better. I pray for your son and your family, may Allah help you all through this trial. Ameen
    Please remember us all in your duas

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Black Youth Matter: Stopping the Cycle of Racial Inequality in Our Ranks

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

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As we joined the rest of America in celebrating Black History Month and commemorating the legacy of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., with tweets, infographics, and sharing famous quotes, racism and colorism continue to plague the Muslim community. 

When we hear of a weekend course about the illustrious muadhin of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Bilal Ibn Raba’ah, may Allah be pleased with him, or a whitewashed cartoon movie based loosely on his life, we flock to the location. When the imam retells his story during a Friday sermon, we listen intently and feel inspired, we smile in awe upon hearing about his fortitude in the face of incessant torture. We cry while reliving the part where he enters the city of Makkah alongside the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) victorious, and calls the adhan atop the Ka’aba. 

Then, we leave. 

We return to our homes and all but forget about it until the next time he is brought up— unless we are Black Muslims. Like King, his impact comes in waves, maybe once a year like MLK Day or like Black History Month, for many of us. Yet, there were more Black companions and renowned Black Muslims in our history, just as there were countless civil rights leaders who fought for racial equality in America. For many of us who are not American of African descent, we live our lives unperturbed by the implications of ignoring the racial disparities that exist within our own places of worship.

However, it is our youth that bear the brunt of this injustice. 

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an incident that made me reflect deeply on the effects of racism and fear on our youth and the Muslim community. After picking up my son from middle school in Baltimore County, I drove to a nearby 7-Eleven for some snacks. While I was standing in line to pay for my groceries, I noticed that the man behind the counter was Muslim. From his outward appearance, accent, and name tag, I guessed he was South Asian. We greeted each other with salaam, a smile, and a head nod of camaraderie.

As he was ringing up my items, a group of chattery students still in school uniforms, approached the entrance of the convenience store. The cashier looked up horrified, and in mid transaction swung his arm back and forth as if swatting a fly. I turned to look at who he was gesturing to and saw the children were swinging the door open to enter. They were about 6 African American children from the same public middle school as my son. In his school, each grade level wears a different color polo with khaki pants as part of their uniform, so I could tell that most of them were in his same grade level.

“No! No! No!” the cashier cried harshly, “Out!”

I turned to him grimacing in disbelief, surprised at his reaction to the kids and then I noticed his expression. He had a look on his face of fear coupled with disgust.

One child cheerfully told him, “I got money, man!” My head turned back and forth from the students to the cashier. He reluctantly said, “Fine,” but as more students followed, he added sternly, “Three at a time!” I wondered if this was a rule when one of the girls in the group said, “Yeah, three at a time y’all,” and the majority stayed back, as if they were familiar with the routine. Some of them rolled their eyes, others laughed, but they remained outside the door. The cashier followed the ones who entered with his eyes intently as he finished bagging my items. He looked genuinely concerned. I tried to make light of the situation and get his attention away from the children, asking, “The kids give you a hard time, huh?” He smiled and nodded nervously, but I was not satisfied with his answer. 

As I swiped my debit card to pay, I felt troubled. My maternal instincts were telling me that I should defend these children. I felt anger and helplessness at the same time. These kids were tweens or barely 13 years old, yet they were being judged because of the color of their skin. There was no other logical explanation. They were not rowdy or reckless, not any more than any other child their age. They did not look menacing; in fact, they were all smiling and joking with one another.

Yet, this cashier, my Muslim brother, was looking at them as if they were a threat. The same way some white American may look at a Muslim sporting a beard and thobe boarding a plane.  

I tried to find excuses for his behavior. Perhaps he had a bad experience, or he was having a bad day. Could some of the kids from the middle school have stolen something before and this prompted his apprehension? There is some crime in this neighborhood located in the southwestern part of Baltimore County, on the outskirts of the City. Could he have suffered from some type of trauma that led to his anxiety? Maybe there was a fight in his store one day? Yet, even if any of these assumptions were true, I still felt like he was overreacting.

After all, these were just kids.

In Dr. Joy Degruy’s book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, she mentions that policing continues to represent one of the most pervasive and obvious examples of racial inequality; one that even the youth are unable to avoid. She cites an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, highlighting a study by UCLA, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston, Massachusetts, Penn State, and University of Pennsylvania that investigated how black boys were perceived as it related to childhood innocence. They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. 

They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. Click To Tweet

On November 22, 2014, a 12-year-old African American child, like my son and his middle school peers, was fatally shot by police while he played with a toy gun in a playground. The child, Tamir Rice, was just a young boy playing cheerfully outdoors, but police officers regarded him a threat, demonstrating the ghastly reality of the above-mentioned study. After hearing about this atrocity, I remember telling my own children that they can never play outside with nerf guns or water pistols, out of fear of this happening to them. This is the type of world our children are living in. As Muslims, why do we choose to be part of the problem and not its solution?

Black youth

Junior football team huddling together

As I walked through the door and past the group in front of the 7-Eleven, all I could think about is that the kids were no different than my son who was sitting in the car, hungry, waiting for me to bring him some food. The only difference was that I was there to defend him, if need be. The children did not have an adult to stand up for them against the discrimination to which they were being subjected. I felt guilty for not saying more. I also remembered an incident where a group of African American youth were turned away from the tarawih prayers at a local mosque, not too far from the 7-Eleven, during the month of Ramadan, because they were perceived to be “too rowdy.” This prompted me to write about this incident; to speak up for them now, and to remind myself and other Muslims that the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us compassion. 

He said, “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Even when a bedouin came into the masjid, the House of Allah – a place much more sacred than any convenience store – and urinated, yes urinated there, he still treated him with dignity. (Muslim)

The students standing at the door of the 7-Eleven were just going in for a snack. Even if they had been misbehaving, the gentleman at the counter could have addressed them with kindness. Similarly, the youth at the local mosque just wanted to pray tarawih. Now imagine the impact it had on them to be turned away from praying with their brethren during the month of Ramadan. 

I sat in the car where my son was waiting and found him looking out the window, unaware of what was happening. We were parked far from the entrance.

“Do you know any of those kids?” I asked him. “Yeah, the girl on the right is in my gym class,” he said.

My heart sank more and as we sat in the car, I wondered, what would have been the cashier’s reaction if the kids had been white? More than likely, he would not have treated them the same way. This racial profiling leads to devastating consequences. A recent news report by WUSA9 revealed that the state of Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young black men, according to experts at the Justice Policy Institute. Their November Policy Briefs for 2019 entitled, Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland, revealed that disparity is most pronounced among emerging adults, or youth ages 18-24, where, “Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.”

“Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.” Click To Tweet

What was most troubling about the incident at the 7-Eleven was that the students had been conditioned; they were already used to being treated that way. It was routine for them and business as usual for the Muslim cashier. While he may believe that he is doing the right thing, by averting a potential “problem,” the harm that he is causing has greater ramifications. He is adding to the trauma these children are already experiencing being black in America. Black students in Baltimore County were not even allowed by law to earn an education past 5th grade in 1935, and 65 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, the county’s schools are still highly segregated. Local and federal leadership in America have continuously failed African Americans, and it is disheartening to think that the immigrant Muslim community is headed in the same direction. 

I was haunted by this incident and returned to the 7-Eleven a week later to ask the cashier or the owner of the store about their (mis)treatment of the middle schoolers. I parked directly in front of the glass doors of the entrance and it was there where I saw a sign typed in regular white computer paper that read, “AT A TIME NO MORE THAN THREE (3) SCHOOL KIDS ARE ALLOWED IN THE STORE & please do not bring bags inside the store. Thanks.” I had not seen the sign before, maybe I overlooked it the day of the occurrence. Nevertheless, I went inside and spoke with the owner of the franchise, a Muslim gentleman who greeted me with salaam. I asked him about the sign outside the door and the reason why the middle schoolers were treated like would-be criminals. He explained that students from local schools have stolen goods from the convenience store on many occasions. To prevent this, they established a rule that only three unaccompanied school children could enter at a time and they were not allowed to bring their backpacks. The owner further added that crime and vandalism were prevalent in the area. Unfortunately, because this side of town is predominately African American, the blame falls disproportionately on this group. 

Nevertheless, patrolling and intimidating the African American youth in the area is not the solution. As Dr. Degruy stated in her book, “The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity.”

A thirty-four-year veteran police officer named Norm Stamper wrote a book about racism in the criminal justice system entitled, Breaking Rank, (2005) and he mentioned that, “It is not hard to understand why people of color, the poor, and younger Americans did not, and do not, look upon the police as ‘theirs’… Do the police protect ‘the weak against oppression or intimidation’ or do they oppress and intimidate the very people they’ve sworn to protect?” Likewise, this young generation will begin to see Muslims of all colors as no different, if we take the role of the oppressor. 

When Abu Dharr insulted Bilal ibn Rabah, may Allah be pleased with them, by calling him, “O son of a black woman!” and the Prophet, peace be upon him heard of this, he rebuked Abu Dharr and said to him, “By the One who revealed the Book to Muhammad, no one is better than another except by righteous deeds. You have nothing but an insignificant amount.” We may have read or heard this and other narrations before, however, we fall short in implementing these teachings.

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

Sometimes it takes one person to stand up and point out the wrong to set the right tone. The sign at the 7-Eleven in my neighborhood has been taken down.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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No-Nuptial Agreements: Maybe Next Time, Don’t Get Married

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

 “Nikah is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me.”

–Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Narrated by Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)

Many Muslims have experienced marriage, then suffered a subsequent divorce as a financial, emotional, and social meat grinder. Some critics have noted the divorce system seemingly exists primarily to benefit itself; the lawyers: mental health experts, investigators, forensic accountants.

They form an entire industry dedicated to extracting the wealth of a disintegrating family, often forcing the middle class or working class into poverty and bankruptcy. All of this happens without any noticeable benefit to society. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

For many, divorce happens multiple times. A divorced person who gets remarried is more likely to get divorced again.

While men often complain about how the “family court” system is against them, the reality is that women often bear the financial brunt of divorce. Divorce is more likely to drive women to bankruptcy than men.

After one or two divorces and a few lost years of retirement savings or a decade or more of home equity, another “marriage” starts to look downright irrational. My advice to such people: stop getting married, at least under state law. Get a nikah and a “no-nuptial agreement” instead. Allow me to explain.

Fun with Words

It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about virtually anything unless we have a common understanding of the meaning of words we are using.

In law, even ordinary words have definitions that defy conventional understanding or even common sense. Basic familial terms like “son,” “daughter,” “father,” and “mother” have state law definitions that are different from what those words mean in Islam or our understanding. Under state law, “parents” can adopt adult “children” a similar age to them or even older, and have the same status as a biological child. In Islam, an adopted child is not the same as a biological child and does not have rights to inheritance in Islam.

In law, even words like “life” and “death” don’t always mean what you think they mean. A living person can go to court to dispute his death, demonstrate he is living, breathing, speaking, and everyone agrees he is the “dead person” in question, yet, he is ruled legally dead. Famously, corporations are legally people and are immortal.

Law is not the same thing as truth.

Similarly, it is folly to conflate nikah, the thing that exists in Islam, with marriage under state law. In different states, rules for who and under what circumstances people can get married can vary. One thing that all the state law definitions have in common is that they are not marriage in Islam.

What is Marriage?

For marriage, there is a state law definition, there is an Islamic definition, and there is the definition that the individual married couple has. Under state law, two men can be married to each other, but three men cannot be. In Islam, marriage (let’s call it nikah to be more precise) is a halal social and sexual relationship, and there are rules in the fiqh that are different from state law.

Under some state laws, “secret marriages” with no witnesses or publicly available registration are part of the law and commonly used. In Islam, there is a witness requirement for nikah. None of the rules in Islam require the state’s approval for nikah.

The third definition is how each couple sees their marriage. It is a flexible institution. To the extent it is an economic, social or familial partnership can vary widely. Couples may live together or apart. They may have one income or two.  They may share the same social circles or share none of them. The variations are endless.

Domestic Partnerships

For most of the history of legal marriage in the United States, marriage can only be between one man and one woman. States started allowing for “domestic partnerships” to give some “benefits” of marriage to same-sex couples, like employer health benefits and hospital visitation.

In many instances, these were available almost exclusively to same-sex couples, even after same-sex marriage became part of the law in all states. However, as of January 2020, California opened up domestic partnerships to everyone, including different-sex couples.

As a practical matter, domestic partnerships are simply state-sanctioned marriage by another name. It is notable though some jurisdictions may have limited domestic partnerships that are something less than marriage. In most states that have it, the same family law system, for good or ill, that comes with marriage under state law is also true of domestic partnerships.

While domestic partnership combined with a nikah is available to Muslims in states where it exists, there is no real advantage to using it.

No-Nuptial Agreements

For decades now, in the United States, there has been no taboo against men and women openly having sexual relationships with each other, living and raising families together outside marriage. Courts have long recognized these people should have contractual rights with each other.

When a man and women live together, those involved may be gaining something and giving something up. So if a man promises a woman something, and the agreement is not founded merely on sexual services, the state should enforce those promises, not in family court but civil court.

Marvin started it all

The principle case that established this is the California case of Marvin v. Marvin in 1976. A couple broke up, but the woman wanted to enforce promises made to her by the man. The man felt such a commitment should not be enforceable because, among other reasons, he was legally married to a completely different woman when this non-marital relationship started. Under California law, at the time (abolished by the time the case got to the court), this was criminal adultery.

No-nuptial agreements (sometimes called cohabitation agreements or Marvin agreements) can be used by couples when they want to have enforceable contracts but do not want to subject themselves to the family court system or the family code. They can include provisions of mahar, sharing expenses, equity as well as dispute resolution processes like arbitration and mediation.

The couple can also document limits on what they agreed to to what is in writing. For example, during a breakup, one party may be able to claim an oral promise the other party never made and potentially have it enforced in court. A written agreement protects both parties and the understanding they had when they entered into the relationship.

These agreements have a broad utility for many different kinds of couples. However, for some couples, the main benefit would be documentation that nobody is under the illusion that this is a marriage under state law. It is a private contract between two individuals.

Example of a No-Nuptial Agreement

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren. Both want to put their adult children at ease that this relationship does not exist for predatory financial reasons – a common fear when parents marry later in life.

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren.Click To Tweet

Salma and Sheher Ali do not plan to live together, which is common for couples their age. They mostly pay for their expenses themselves. They may spend the night at each other’s homes whenever they want but will split time with their separate children, grandchildren and social circles. Sheher Ali pays for joint vacations and outings. He agreed to a mahar. Both agree in writing they did not marry under state law.

Sheher Ali and Salma can still call each other husband and wife, since that is true for them and everyone they know. Both keep all of their finances separate, and each does their independent estate planning where they name each other as partial beneficiaries of their estates as required in Islam. The two also complete HIPAA forms allowing each to see the other’s private medical information and name each other in Advance Healthcare Directives so they can make healthcare decisions for each other.

Legal Strangers

Unmarried couples are “legal strangers.” Doctors won’t share healthcare information. Islamic spouses don’t get an inheritance from a no-nuptial agreement spouse by default. They don’t get things like tenancy by the entirety, community property, or elective shares in places where such things exist. As I described above, though, this can be remedied. However, as I described in the example above, the “legal stranger” aspect of the relationship may be more of a benefit than a downside in some cases.

Some “benefits” of marriage under state law are against Islamic principles.  For example, some state laws that provide for “elective shares” are diametrically opposed to the Quran’s share of inheritance.  Muslims must follow Islamic rules of inheritance anyway, which are different from default state rules, so being under state law is no special advantage. Even with proper planning, the downsides of the “legal stranger” problem still may come up in extraordinary contexts, however, such as lawsuits.

Immigration and Taxes

Another concern is that employee benefits to spouses and dependents don’t generally extend to those with no-nuptial agreements. Immigration law does not allow a path to the United States through the “family unification ” process for those with a no-nuptial contract. Marriage under state law (or the law of a foreign country recognized in the United States) may be the most practical solution in such cases.

In some cases, state-sanctioned marriage may lead to lower taxes. Other legally married couples may experience the so-called “marriage penalty” and pay higher taxes than couples with a no-nuptial agreement. Couples may often find they will pay less in taxes with a no-nuptial agreement than they would if they were married under state law.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

One may wonder, to avoid the “meat grinder” of the family court system, why not just get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? It’s accurate that in general, having such arrangements are superior to not having them. These agreements offer greater certainty, though by no means total confidence, on how a divorce would end. There are disadvantages to such an agreement over no-nuptial agreements, however. A big one is that divorce is still in the family court system.

Many Muslim men, especially immigrants, may perceive cultural biases cause a stacked deck against them in family court. The nature of these agreements may make this perception worse. Sometimes, courts treat prenuptial and postnuptial agreements with a presumption of coercion. It is different from an ordinary contract. The family court system is often free to be more paternalistic and make a husband prove he did not force his wife to sign a document.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which will be worded differently in the different states that adopted it, provides for a process to make these marital agreements harder to defeat. However, the process is perhaps arguably more expensive, cumbersome, and awkward for a couple than a no-nuptial contract. Talking about a prenuptial agreement with a fiancé may be more uncomfortable than bringing up a no-nuptial arrangement and nikah. Without a state-sanctioned marriage, a written agreement is essential. Many people perceive the pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements as both optional and, perhaps unfairly, as a sign of mistrust.

Custody and Child Support

Unfortunately, there is no agreement you can come up with that will pre-settle child support and custody. A judge will decide those things.

It does not matter if you have a “plain vanilla” marriage governed entirely by your state’s family code, a prenuptial agreement, or a no-nuptial agreement. Children are not parties to such a contract. No court anywhere will subject a child’s care and welfare to such things.

For custody and child support, courts in family court will use the sometimes hard to define standard of “best interests of the child.” One Massachusetts family law attorney in a popular divorce documentary cryptically joked that she called children in the system  “little bags of money.” They are often a significant reason family law cases are so profitable for lawyers, mental health professionals, investigators, and everyone else.

No Protection for Poor Life Choices

A good rule to follow is never to do nikah with a person capable of having children unless you are sure she or he can be trusted to raise your future children, and you have made peace with making child support payments to this individual if your relationship ends. If you have a child, you may be suck with a child support order. There is no getting out of this one.

As an Islamic estate planning lawyer, the most important advice I can ever give anyone is not to get a proper estate plan. It is not to get a good lawyer. Of course those things are good, indeed no-brainers, but they have limits. The most important advice is to choose a spouse wisely. If you fail here, there is no law, no lawyer or document in existence that can turn back the clock. A no-nuptial agreement may make a future breakup easier than a family court divorce. There is still no guarantee it won’t be a complete mess anyway. Good documents are never a substitute for poor life choices.

“The Law of the Land”

Islamic institutions like masajid are conservative don’t like taking needless risks, as they should be. Many will not officiate a nikah unless there is a marriage license. They usually will not officiate bigamous marriages, on account of it being illegal.  Of course bigamy, like marriage, has a specific legal definition under state law. One almost universal refrain is that as Muslims we need to follow “the law of the land.”

No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the 'law of the land.' It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is. Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam.Click To Tweet

But what if that term did not mean what you think it means? No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the “law of the land.” It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is.  Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam. Recently, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, a large masjid in the Los Angeles area, changed its nikah officiating policy. Instead of always requiring marriage certificates, they will also recognize no-nuptial agreements.

Masajid Should Welcome No-Nuptial Agreements

Masajid should have standardized policies and procedures in place. Every masjid should have carefully considered policies to protect the vulnerable and the institution. No masjid wants to open themselves up to a “drive-by nikah” or other nonsense. One policy may well include mandating a no-nuptial agreement when there is no marriage certificate. There is no reason to believe one protects people and institutions better than the other.

Nikah is a vital sunnah for us. It is not something that should be in the shadows, secret, or something shameful. It is fundamental to how we organize our families and communities. When it’s done right, it helps us strengthen our iman, bring us closer to our communities and our loved ones. State definitions of words should not always be your guide to right and wrong.

It is appropriate that Muslims want to do the sunnah of nikah at the masjid, publicly and with friends and family watching.  We should recognize and celebrate every new couple that has done a nikah in our communities. Never mind the state has not sanctioned it.

The state statute book has its definition, we have ours.

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The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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