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Ramadan Fragrances: Of Body Odors and Perfumes & the Person Praying Besides You

Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

Alhamdullilah Allah azzawajal has allowed us to witness yet another blessed month of Ramadan. Many of us are also blessed to be able to pray our salat-ut-taraweeh in the masjid enjoying varieties of beautiful recitations from different imams.

Last year I prayed taraweeh in the Middle East. I was impressed with the way the masajid are taken care of  over here. So far I have not found one masjid that was not well-maintained, cleaned and incensed, and even when I make sajdah the carpets smell fresh!

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Unfortunately though, the problem arises when the people who attend the masajid do not take care of themselves, their clothes and their body odor. Let me politely explain my dilemma without offending anyone. I have had days when I really wanted to pay attention to the recitation but couldn’t do so because the person standing next to me had a stench of sweat or food!

I am not sure how common this problem is amongst the brothers, but I know it exists because my husband, too, has complained at times about the same issue.

Obviously, the brothers do not have any excuse for smelling bad, but as for the sisters, some of them think that since they cannot wear perfume outside their homes, they cannot smell good at all!

It is true that sisters have to be extremely careful when they leave their homes and must avoid wearing strong perfumes on themselves lest they be smelled by the men they pass by, but let us be a bit more rational and use our common sense to figure out the difference between having an aroma oozing out and blowing away anyone’s mind who passes by and not being malodorous.

There is nothing wrong if a sister wears a light perfume on her body (especially if she is wearing abaya) and knows that she will not be mingling with men so her perfume will not be smelled by other men. We meet different sisters at the masjid, get in close body contact, hug them and especially during salah we stand shoulder to shoulder, closer than we would ever stand next to men even when intermingling with them. In such circumstances it is especially advisable that a sister takes care of herself and removes any foul smell from herself or from her clothes. If it is needed, perhaps she should carefully apply a very light perfume so she doesn’t offend anyone at the masjid. Please see point 4 here:  http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/102329/smell

Here are a few precautions that can be taken before leaving the house for taraweeh:

  1. If you are wearing an abaya, please make sure it is does not have a sweat odor or food smell.
  2. Please realize that in summer abayas get dirty faster, and it is best to not use the same abayas twice without washing them first.
  3. If you are not wearing an abaya, please make sure that your clothes don’t smell like sweat or food! Please change your clothes especially if you were wearing them while cooking.
  4. Please wear deodorant.
  5. If you haven’t had a chance to take a shower that day, or if you are not sure if your clothes smell or not, please apply a light perfume or ‘itar (fragranced oil) on your body IF you are only going to the women’s section of the masjid and will not be encountering men before or after.  Again, please refer to the fatwa here:  http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/102329/smell

Please be considerate of others, and try not to become a source of distraction during salah.  Remember the advice of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam):

“Whoever eats garlic, onion, then keeps away from our masjid because the angels get offended from what offends the children of Adam.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

When the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) warned against a foul smell coming from one’s mouth so as to not offend anyone attending the masjid, then imagine how much more we have to be careful of any foul smell coming from our clothes or our bodies!

Muslims should really be in a habit of wearing clean clothes and taking a shower every day. If not, then at least whenever they sweat, they should wash themselves off to not only avoid being malodorous but to also feel fresh themselves.

On the contrary, I have also witnessed sisters who wear such strong perfumes that even the masjid‘s hallways are filled with their aroma! Again, they must be reminded that it is not allowed for women to wear perfume in such a way that it can be smelled by other non-mahram men. And the ruling is the same whether they are wearing the perfume or if their clothes/abayas are perfumed with fragrances like bukhoor or the likes of it.

This is just a friendly reminder to myself first, and then to anyone else who reads it. I hope and I pray that we all can benefit from each other and learn to take advice without being offended.

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance."Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam.She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

74 Comments

74 Comments

  1. Amad

    Amad

    August 26, 2010 at 5:06 AM

    For men, this is a huge issue. There have been times where I had to turn my face in a 45 degree angle away from the musallee next to me, as I could not stand the strong body odors emanating from him.

    Where I live in the GCC, the concept of deodorants is not particularly known among the expats from South Asia. And you have a lot of blue-collar labor, drivers & laborers, who can ill-afford fresh, laundered clothes or perfumes, and definitely no deodorants. Locals, on the other hand, are very much into perfumes and oud. So, while I feel a bit racist, but I prefer standing between two thowbs than two salwar kameezes. I’d rather focus on the prayer, than minding the direction of my nose!

    I almost wish there was a door perfume sprinkler that would lightly flower all entrants with a bit of good smell..

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 26, 2010 at 6:00 AM

      I think South Asians generally don’t shower more than once a week (if that!), mainly because it’s not a common practice over there. Due to places like India and Pakistan suffering from severe poverty, the people there are not accustomed to using water for showering unless absolutely necessary. Somebody who showers everyday is considered to be wasteful with water, because clean water is so scarce.

      Naturally, it’s hard for these people to get something like that out of their mind and have probably become desensitised to their own body odour. That said, however, it’s not that difficult to take a shower even if you can’t afford perfumes and deoderant. Soap is part of the usual essentials and should be used as much as possible.

      When it comes to women, like Umm Reem mentions, I have seen some of them wear tonnes of perfume or none at all. Whilst I understand both sides of the story, I believe a balance needs to be struck and that balance has been struck beautifully by the IslamQA article.
      For those that can afford it, there are some deodorants that are strongly scented and ones I stopped using when I fully understood what it means to perfume oneself. And then there are those whose scent is so light that you can only smell it if you sniff yourself really hard.

      I have experimented with a variety of deodorant scents to strike the correct balance for public use and the best light-smelling anti perspirant I have found is Garnier Mineral. Its scent is so light, you can barely smell it on yourself. And it actually does last 48 hours!
      Another deodorant is by Simple. This one is fragrance-free.

      Coming back to the real issue, I find that at the masjid, people don’t have just body odour issues, but also smelly clothes after having cooked food with onion and garlic. It is for this reason washed clothes should be a requirement when heading out anywhere, esp. to the masjid.

      • Avatar

        SM

        August 27, 2010 at 2:27 PM

        “I think South Asians generally don’t shower more than once a week (if that!), mainly because it’s not a common practice over there. Due to places like India and Pakistan suffering from severe poverty, the people there are not accustomed to using water for showering unless absolutely necessary. Somebody who showers everyday is considered to be wasteful with water, because clean water is so scarce.”

        Just because some people of those countries are in poverty doesn’t mean they shower once a week and think water is scarce and a thing to ‘waste’ if showered every day. I know a lot of families who live there shower every day, even the poorest people are clean. Why? It is a common practice to shower every other day, BUT this ranges from family to family, village to village. Is this not in every other country? To say such a general comment about South Asia is pretty harsh. The people who are well off and are NOT showering often should be looked down upon, not these types of people you are describing. Nor is this a way to give generalizations about poorer countries and hygiene.

        • Avatar

          Bushra

          August 27, 2010 at 3:22 PM

          SM, please note that I also said this:

          That said, however, it’s not that difficult to take a shower even if you can’t afford perfumes and deoderant. Soap is part of the usual essentials and should be used as much as possible.

          As Br. Amad said below, most of us here are from South Asian backgrounds and there are several people from South Asian countries that live where we reside, who ARE well able to afford soap, deodorant and perfumes, but don’t take the adequate measures to ensure they don’t smell strongly of food or other odours for reasons x, y or z.

          Note to all commenters on here – please refrain from nitpicking on sentences. Please read comments carefully, take the overall gist of the comment and then reply adequately.

          • Avatar

            Sm

            August 27, 2010 at 3:58 PM

            I read the whole comment and still stand by what I advised about generalizing because it is still a statement of stereotyping in its entirety, in my opinion. (No matter what class we attack).

            May Allah swt protect and guide us. Ameen

          • Avatar

            smee

            August 28, 2010 at 8:02 PM

            I have to agree with sm, it’s not nitpicking, it’s just that your first two paragraphs have come across as being derogatory…whether that was meant or not.

      • Avatar

        SF

        July 8, 2013 at 1:32 AM

        I completely agree with ‘Sm’ and ‘smee’. It is not fair or right to generalise and make such statements about people that you obviously don’t know anything about.

    • Avatar

      Muslimah

      August 26, 2010 at 4:59 PM

      Salaam,

      I completely agree that we all need to take better care of our hygeine. But the line ‘i’d rather stand between two thawbs than two salwar khameez’ is absolutely out of line and racist. We are muslims and it is extremely important to remember that Islam transcends all nationalities. I was offended when reading that line; I know many muslim men within my own family who where the salwar khameez and groom themselves and take care of themselves. They apply itr and smell nice constantly.

      • Amad

        Amad

        August 27, 2010 at 2:31 AM

        ws… sorry it was offensive, but I can hardly offend anyone when I too am a Pakistani-American, and ALSO wear salwar kameez on and off. I am just giving you my feelings and I know many locals have the same, and I am sure people are concerned about standing next to me when I wear salwar kameez also… I understand… It’s not like a disaster. It’s something that’s unfortunately a problem. And of course not all have this issue.

        • Avatar

          Muslim

          August 27, 2010 at 4:11 AM

        • Avatar

          SM

          August 27, 2010 at 2:17 PM

          If people want to be “concerned” about the people who wear shalwar kameez and how they smell then let them be concerned. That doesn’t give us a right, no matter what ethnicity we are, to be racist and say who we prefer to pray next to. That is beyond your control, and saying such a statement that most south asians are like this is not of the akhlaq of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam. I am pretty saddened to read these statements and I really think we should all look at ourselves and make sure we smell decent. Allah will not ask you whether or not you risked your life not praying next to someone who didn’t wear a shalwar kameez because in the Quran and Sunnah we learn about mannerisms and about not judging others based upon our preconceived notions.

          If some people do smell next to you, it’s great we can have a discussion about it, but this outright bashing of other cultures or ethnicities, it’s really sad.

          I just want to advise you all that that one of the best things about Islam is that there is no superiority in Race, Gender, etc. There is only superiority in how pious you are. I think we should all not generalize about this and especially run away from those wearing shalwar kameez as if they’re carrying a bomb. I think it’s sad we can’t give everyone a chance, who knows what level they are at. Only Allah knows and He knows best.

          • Amad

            Amad

            August 27, 2010 at 2:36 PM

            This is nothing about superiority of race… that’s pure misreading.

            Some people pay attention to hygiene and perfumes more than others. Consider the penetration of deodorant in India. This report (see page 10), though 4 yrs old, points a 2% penetration, a superior 6% in urban areas!

            There is nothing INHERENTLY or intrinsically wrong with South Asians, it’s just that many haven’t gotten with the program. When you talk about superiority of races or racism, then the issue is about something one is “born with”. That is not what we are talking about.

            Most of us on this thread have a South Asian background, and generally the upper middle to affluent class (in terms of wealth) are used to deodorants and DONT smell… its as simple as that. On the other hand, most nationals (at least where I live) are well above poverty levels, and there is a strong culture of fragrances here. And that’s not racism, just a fact.

          • Avatar

            Sabz

            August 27, 2010 at 3:23 PM

            Okay this is in reply to Brother Amad.
            Your last line sounds exactly how most racisim is rationalized….”its not racisim its a fact”…..the thing about stereotypes and racisim is that its NOT a fact. its just what has been portaryed to us by people who don’t like a group of people and we have chosen to accept it.

            I went to an all Pakistani masjid onec during taraweeh and guess what? no smell anywhere..in fact the women were dressed very nice and not one of them smelled and there were ALOT of women. in fact the masjid smelled of incense and so did the women. it was beautiful.

            Deodrant is not the only way to “get with the program”…..in pakistan they have powders mostly and i haven’t seen one man in my family and extended family in pakistan be not obsessed with nice perfumes and good smell. and i don’t come from an upper middle to affluent class family.
            So your comment about affluent to middle class family NOT smelling and the poor to lower middle class smelling is once again a grand generalization and a stereotype and it is not a fact.

            In the month of ramadan we should be working on having better iklhaq towards each other…do you really think someone who “smells” will read this thread and put on some deodrant.

            if any of you have a problem with someone in the masjid and usually its just one or two person…you should take them aside and advise them. Not write a whole article about them and generalize a whole culture and class.

          • Avatar

            Sm

            August 27, 2010 at 4:06 PM

            If there was nothing about feeling superior to another race, why are we all bashing on one specific one? Why are we going out of our way to find articles on one area? Wallahu alam.

        • Avatar

          Muslim

          September 3, 2010 at 5:16 PM

          Imagine if someone said that I won’t stand in the prayer with a colored muslim, because they smell, will this be accepted? Everyone would be calling the person who said it a racist and such stereotyping would never be accepted. However saying such things about south asians is being taken lightly because the person who said it is one of them. What kind of logic is that? It is similar to the moderate muslims who criticize Islam and the Shariat, and are approved by the media because they belong to the muslim community. Hence stereotyping must never be tolerate no matter who said it. And I thing our main intention about prayer should be to stand in the first row and not about in between whom we are standing.

    • Avatar

      zaib

      August 29, 2010 at 6:00 AM

      Salam

      We are all Muslims Alhamdulillah and believe that “Cleanliness is half of the faith”. I agree to what you said about those blue-collard people as their sweat is unable to produce a Dune, Safari or a Dunhill. I don’t know why all of the honorable friends call it generalization and racisms as we can see that “Crow is black – Crow is a bird – so all birds are black”. Apology to all but why should we stick to old fashioned prayer theory, we have every right to switch to modern prayer style based on classes and prudence where the lines should be named as “reserved for white-collard” & “reserved for blue-collard”. After all prayer is only a way to please Allah and not ask a Muslim brother of what is happening to him.

      May Allah guide us all towards the right.

      Zaib

      • Amad

        Amad

        August 29, 2010 at 6:32 AM

        That was a dishonest and presumptuous comment. I think your sarcasm isn’t well served here.

        • Avatar

          zaib

          August 29, 2010 at 1:40 PM

          Dear Brother Amad

          I don’t know your intention behind these words but if you can focus on what you wrote, you will find exactly what I said. As you know that words can hurt you bitter than swords.
          You may be far more better a Muslim than me but sorry your words are really misleading.
          An element of pride made Iblees losing Paradise and eternal condemnation.

          May Allah bless us all.

          • Amad

            Amad

            August 29, 2010 at 3:25 PM

            Here you go with your insinuations again. It was your comment that was sarcastic, not mine. I found your comments as I stated… they assumed something in the intentions of those you were replying to, which we did not have. Husne dhan is as much part of good manners as avoiding arrogance.

            And I didn’t mean to be arrogant in any way, I am sorry if you felt that way. I am nothing in my worldly status or my akhira status to have any arrogance.

            Perhaps I misunderstood. So why don’t you please explain what you meant in your comment without resorting to between the lines meaning?

          • Avatar

            mimi

            August 30, 2010 at 3:14 PM

            Speaking as a South Asian, those who can afford to keep proper cleanliness & hygiene do so as an utmost priority so I don’t agree with the gerenal statement that it’s a common practise among South Asians to bathe just once a week. People whom you would not want to stand next-to during prayer are either a) not taught to care for themselves in this way or b) cannot afford to due to poverty. So I guess the solution would be to 1) educate, as this article seeks to do and 2) help eliminate poverty so individuals can live a decent life Insha’Allah.

            Here are some things I’d like to add:
            -If you can afford it, take a shower/ bath EVERYDAY (it’s great for health too!)
            -Keep a separate set of clothes for cooking and do not wear these clothes outside the home
            -Keep all clothing away from the Kitchen area if possoble. (If your bedrooom is close to the kitchen, close the bedroom door when cooking & always close closet doors
            -try to create a good air circulation in the home (eg., open windows, if you have a central heating/AC system then keep the fan running regardless of the season.

            Wassalam

    • Avatar

      aar

      January 2, 2011 at 6:48 PM

      perhaps it might be a good idea to pay the smelly south asians enough so that they can afford deodorizers and develop a much needed concept :)

    • Avatar

      Denise Davis

      June 24, 2016 at 11:25 AM

      I work with 2 guys from Pakistan and they are so saturated with cologne it gets in my throat and burns my eyes! It is a daily awful experience! To make matters worse one guy who works in very close proximity and we work in cubicles with no windows, he sprays air freshener! I don’t at all get the impression that he is unclean but he is very hairy. I “tolerate” his overwhelming cologne but then I draw the line with spraying stuff! When he first came to work at our office he hung air fresheners from the door closers and I thought this we weird! Who says the scents you like are preferable to others. He is also very arrogant and doesn’t get along well with others!

      Then there was a guys I dated the first time he came to my house his cologne was so strong I almost puked…literally! Finally I had to say something and he started explaining it was oil or something. Whatever it was I had to convince him not to wear it or stay away from me!
      He showered constantly so I don’t think he was unclean either.

      Man I’m glad to find blogs because I was beginning to think it was me and that my sense of smell was skewed!

  2. Avatar

    farwin

    August 26, 2010 at 6:31 AM

    Thank you for letting the cat out of the bag umm reem. In my experience it’s not just the body odor that becomes an issue with the sisters (and the two extremes- from garlic to givenchy!). It’s the abaya itself. Here in the GCC it’s now fashionable to wear abayas that trail (sometimes waaaaay behind) the wearer, as a result the bottom of the abaya has more brown than black. I really hate to be standing behind a sister with an abaya and it’s collection of dust & dirt, simply because when I put my head down for sajda I end up laying it on that dirty, trailing part of the abaya. And it’s so distracting.

    • Avatar

      amad

      August 26, 2010 at 8:10 AM

      Some abayas are so bad and “revealing”, that it would be much better for the woman to disband it and wear trousers and loose shirts… The abayas are “fitted here”… wife tells me that women give fitted measurements, and they are fitted so well that there is nothing left to imagination!

      A lot of it is because the abayas are cultural practice for many. I have talked to Qatari women at work and they flat out admit they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for cultural practice… no religious inclination.

      And a couple of these women come in to work and leave a trail of aroma behind them that spans an entire lobby!

      Anyway that’s a different topic … for another day :)

      • Avatar

        Mainoooo

        August 26, 2010 at 3:24 PM

        I believe in big and small abayas. I’ve seen sisters who wear abayas TOO fitted. And I have seen sisters who wear abayas that are too big and even admits themselves that they are a bit uncomfortable, hard to walk in, and makes them look bigger than they already are.

        To make an abaya fitted, the best thing to do is not get one too long (otherwise it’ll drag on the floor and get dirty easily), and make it at least 3~4 inches bigger than your chest, and so on.

      • Avatar

        farwin

        August 26, 2010 at 8:32 PM

        Ok Br. Amad,
        this one is so out of the topic…pls excuse me, my curiosity has go the better of me. In your repsonse to my last post you said ‘Salaams neighbor’ I really thought you were just being nice….you know…you live in US, I live in the ME and we’re all children of Adam (a.s) kindda thing. Now you’re talikng about Qatari women and GCC…do u live here, in Qatar I mean? If u do I have heaps of questions for you….:)

        • Amad

          Amad

          August 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM

          Cat’s out of the bag… yup I moved to Doha last year…

    • Avatar

      Mainoooo

      August 26, 2010 at 3:21 PM

      I had this same problem. NYC is not the cleanest place, and the smell is never bad in the masjid, but the fact is a lot of sisters wear stuff that are dirty. And because I do not know them, I would not say anything. I have seen a sister who wears full black, with niqab, gloves and covers even her eyes which was beautiful until you see her abaya… it was VERY long. It was as long as a traditional big wedding gown and the back was dragging on the floor all over the streets. If you look down, you could see dust, dirt and some leaves hanging from it.

      Looks shouldn’t matter, and I am not being mean, but that is just not good.. to see that. Who knows what it dragged into.. a puddle of urine, or even hard-to-see dog feces because people here have a habit of not cleaning up after their dogs yet have one (subhanAllah) And the fact that most abayas require you to put it over your head in order to take it off, it would be kind of gross to have all that dirt rub over your body, then your face, and hair….

      Might I also point out that the majority of people here that I know, who have bedbugs are actually Muslims! And because of that, some masjids do not accept clothes donations during Ramadan because they fear bedbugs will spread from the clothing. Hygiene issues always seem to wander, but because we are Muslims, we should care more about cleanliness for the good of ourselves, and to please Allah, and also so non-Muslims do not think we’re dirty.

      I was not happy to see that some sisters’ homes I visited have bedbugs, rats, roaches, sick cats (could not afford medication), oily and sticky, and sometimes I do not know how to tell them, so I avoid visiting overall.

  3. Avatar

    Khan

    August 26, 2010 at 6:34 AM

    With men the over eating also causes problems along with those who smoke heavily.

    • Avatar

      amad

      August 26, 2010 at 8:12 AM

      yeah, tell me about the “I haven’t quite digested my iftaar” syndrome. People feel that their burps are odor-free, as if they are spreading itr in the masjid!

      I wish the imams would talk more about this and that the tablighi jamaah would give a talk on yaqeen and iman that revolves around taharah :)

  4. Avatar

    Bushra

    August 26, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    Also, let’s not forget that one of the preconditions of prayer is to pray in a place that is free from bad smells.

  5. Avatar

    Uthman

    August 26, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    I just met Imam Suhaib Webb and another Shaykh in the masjid. I shook their hands and when I came back home my hand was full of this wonderful smell mashAllah tabarakAllah.

    One thing that we really need to work on, is serving healthy food during iftar. Foods containing raw onion or garlic, hydrogenated oil etc. should be a big no no.

    Instead we should serve, boiled food, light snacks and fruits. This is much healthier and much better in the long run. Much healthier, causes people to burp but doesn’t disturb the person next to you and since you had something light keeps your attention focused in prayer. And the last one, eat less. The focus should not be living to eat rather eat to live.

    Perhaps MM could work on a post about eating habits in Ramadhan? Perhaps?

  6. Avatar

    Mr. Muslim

    August 26, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    For men in the middle east, it’s a little bit more understandable, and many do indeed have excuses for smelling bad.

    A lot of the men who pray in the masjid near my home are laborers and at practically every salah have more than likely come from working in extreme heat so even though sometimes they smell a bit iffy it’s sort of understandable. Some work before and after tarawih also and so don’t have time for a shower.

    Even if they’re not day laborers, if they have to walk to the masjid 5 times a day when it’s always hot, by the end of the day it’s going to take it’s toll on them.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      August 26, 2010 at 3:01 PM

      that is understandable, but the problem is not limited to the labor class muslims…

      i am talking about sisters in the west who don’t take care of this issue while they don’t have to walk to the masjid…I remember at times some sisters, in US, would walk in and the whole sisters’ section would start smelling like food!

      Over here in the middle east, I have encountered this problem more amongst south asian sisters and the ones i know are not from any labor class poor background…
      Most of the time, sisters don’t walk to the masjid here neither do they work outside the air conditioned buildings, they can easily take care of themselves IF they want to!

  7. Avatar

    Reem

    August 26, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Baba Ali says some really funny stuff about the smell in Taraweeh:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixN0qhN39k0v

  8. Avatar

    Moosa Ali

    August 26, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    The Middle East is a fairly large land mass – you sure it’s fair to generalise like that??

    Was in Saudi concluding a legal contract; the Saudis wouldn’t (or perhaps couldn’t) stop burping and farting throughout almost every meeting we had. Was pretty embarrassing and the colleagues with me weren’t too impressed with Arab hygiene (which of course they conflated with Muslim hygiene).

    That being said, i too prefer Arab jama’ahs, on the whole, to South Asian ones, for many reasons……one of which is odor but also generally more attention to the aesthetics of worship

    • Avatar

      Mr. Muslim

      August 26, 2010 at 3:26 PM

      I don’t think it’s fair to generalise by country either. I live in Jeddah and have never encountered any Saudis like that.

      But the reminder is of course a good ‘un, and doesn’t really necessitate pointing the finger at who the smelly ones are. If you can sort yourself out before attending the masjid, do so.

      I even made sure I brushed my teeth before tarawih tonight! haha

  9. Avatar

    Mainoooo

    August 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    I do not think a lot of brothers and sister know they smell bad, and sometimes a lot of us do not want to hurt their feelings. I know a lot of Pakistanis who smell a bit like food and spices and when they walk past you, you can still smell it lingering in the air. It is not the best smell… but they do not realize it. And I only point it out to those I am extremely close with.

    As of washing clothes, I am suffering hardship and discouragement from a non-Muslim home, so washing my clothes is a bit more difficult. I bring them to a friend’s house to wash every month or two. It sounds dirty, but I do not wear clothes that smell or have stains.

  10. Avatar

    anonymous

    August 26, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    JazakAllah khair,
    Honestly I feel like this is one of the most relevant and most beneficial of articles on this entire website. We have to take the commands and prohibitions seriously, not lightly. May Allah guide us all to what pleases Him. And I hope you get rewarded for every application of ithaar, spray of cologne/perfume, and what is more and less than that.

    People would think I’m being a jerk if I said it. LOL . JazakAllah Khair

  11. Avatar

    ironie101

    August 26, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    I just have one question.. if someone next to you in the mosque smells bad (and, no.. they’re not of the class that can’t afford deo), what do you do – as a concerned fellow muslim?

    Of course, you could just move to another place, far away from the offending smell. But, maybe the person in question has no idea he/she smells that bad.

    If the offending person is a friend, I would be upfront about it. I’ve been in situations like this, where I’ve just bought the friend some good deo, and then we’d laugh over it. But, you can’t do that with everyone.

    In the interest of commanding the good and forbidding the evil, can you actually say something to them? If so, how can it be put across? I really believe the people reading this post or writing these comments are not a part of the percentage of people who actually are oblivious to these problems.

    My question is, how do we reach out to the rest of the people – those who really have no clue..?

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 27, 2010 at 8:50 AM

      Do it tableeghi style.. keep a small bottle of itr with you and offer it to the person :)

      I just wish the TJ would use it more often too :)

  12. Avatar

    Sadaf S

    August 27, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    BarakAllahu feeki Umm Reem for bringing up this topic!

    I agree with all the points you made in your post.

    What I’ve noticed amongst very few(!) sisters here is that their freshly washed clothes emanate the smell of their laundry detergent. It’s so refreshing to pray next to a sis who smells like Tide ;D

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 27, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      I prefer clothes to smell like Lenor detergent :D

  13. Avatar

    Muslim

    August 27, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    Why can’t we deal with this problem instead of labeling and dividing muslims? Also there are certain conditions that an individual may suffer from that make him have a bad odor despite his/her best efforts, hence we cannot start assuming the reasons behind the bad odor such as not taking a bath regularly.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sweating-and-body-odor/DS00305

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hyperhidrosis/DS01082

  14. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 27, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    Salaam

    I know I stand next to lots of strong smelling adults when on the underground, particularly but not solely at the height of Summer. They come in all shapes, genders and hues.

    I know I stand next to lots of strong smelling teenagers when I’m working with schools, particularly but not solely at the height of Summer. They come in all shapes, genders and hues.

    Hygiene in mosque is a relevant issue and adds value to raise, definitely. Is it relevant and does it add value to pinpoint a particular ethnic community in the process? I feel far less definite here.

    Is my view influenced by my own south asian heritage? Definitely, maybe.

    Jzk

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 27, 2010 at 8:35 AM

      Um…Greengrass3, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. The article doesn’t pinpoint an ethnic community, it addresses women that come to the masjid smelling strongly of either perfume or food. This varies from person to person.

      Some of the comments have mentioned certain ethnicities based on their own experiences. These are valid points in and of themselves. However I, too, am from a South Asian background, and I haven’t taken any of the comments to offence. I can say that some of these things occur mainly with the first generation Muslims who come to the masjid smelling of oil and fried onions.

      But if we are going to speak about hygiene here, why stop at the masjid? Why not talk about the state of the toilets near the European tents in Mina on Hajj? Or even the state of the toilets at a service station near Makkah? These have been my personal experiences that haven’t been limited to just the South Asian community, but the Muslim community as a whole. I shudder when I think back to my experiences (although I would love to do Hajj again!).

      But certain ethnic communities, whether you are on the underground or at the masjid, smell a certain way and should take care to ensure that they are not distracting others with their strong smells before leaving the house for the masjid. They should ensure that they are clean, wearing washed clothes and are not smelling too strongly of anything.

      And why not? Why shouldn’t they? They are coming to have a lengthy conversation with Allah(swt) in His house. When people go for an important meeting with their boss, they ensure that they are smelling OK, but when it comes to attending the prayer at the masjid for a meeting with their Lord and Creator, few people want to make an effort. And that’s sad.

  15. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 27, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Salaam Bushra

    I do hope you are well.

    ‘The article doesn’t pinpoint an ethnic community,’ Bushra

    I did not specifically refer my comment to the article.

    ‘However I, too, am from a South Asian background, and I haven’t taken any of the comments to offence.’ Bushra

    Nor did I, had I been offended by the comments I would have expressed this. You found the comments ‘valid’, I, less so. I felt some concern at where that line of enquiry can end up going despite good intentions, hence my note of caution. However, I did wonder if I was letting my ethnicity make me sensitive ie quick to react and so acknowledged the possibility. But, I wasn’t offended then, nor am I now.

    ‘But certain ethnic communities, whether you are on the underground or at the masjid, smell a certain way’ Bushra

    I am genuinely baffled by this remark and find it unsettling. It also contradicts my own experience as I said in the previous post. Clearly this is my experience being conveyed and I accept your own is rather different.

    ‘And why not? Why shouldn’t they? They are coming to have a lengthy conversation with Allah(swt) in His house.’ Bushra

    Indeed, my previous post did express support of this topic being raised by MM in the first instance. Respect of Allah (swt) home should be practical as well as symbolic, especially if we want to encourage more people to frequent it.

    ‘I prefer clothes to smell like Lenor detergent’ Bushra

    I agree with the Lenor ‘softness’ adage from the ads but also found ‘Surf with essential oils, tropical flowers and ylang ylang’ leaves an almost feminine prettiness to the scent of clothing. The freshness of the scent instinctively makes me smile. Though in fairness to men, I’m not sure how they would feel if their clothing was scented just so…

    Jzk

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 27, 2010 at 1:42 PM

      ‘But certain ethnic communities, whether you are on the underground or at the masjid, smell a certain way’ Bushra

      I am genuinely baffled by this remark and find it unsettling. It also contradicts my own experience as I said in the previous post. Clearly this is my experience being conveyed and I accept your own is rather different.

      I wouldn’t be so unsettled by it if I was you. Generally, I find that people from the subcontinent smell of fried onions, because their homes are full of these smells from cooking (even if they do have a good extractor fan!). It’s normal. They don’t smell like this ALL the time, but in confined places such as the underground or the masjid, you will find that your sense of smell is heightened and the smell becomes more potent.

      Also, why you felt the need to quote my Lenor comment is beyond me. It wasn’t even a reply to you.

  16. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 27, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Salaam Bushra

    This is tragic and not my idea of public debate.

    Jzk

  17. Avatar

    MuslimGirl

    August 27, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    One word: BACKBITING
    against a whole nation of a people..that’s right backbiting…now it wouldn’t be backbiting if you had said one particular person from a particular community smelled like this or what not..but consistently you guys are generalizing all south asians whether you say u are or aren’t.This was suppose to be a word of advise for ALL MUSLIMS.
    May Allah swt forgive our arrogance.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 27, 2010 at 4:12 PM

      MuslimGirl – whether it’s backbiting one person from a community, or the entire community itself, it’s all the same. There is no difference.

      • Avatar

        MuslimGirl

        August 27, 2010 at 4:18 PM

        I meant without pointing out who that specific person was..for example when you say “I know a person who..” and u don’t point out any specifics as to give away the person’s identity.
        and yes i agree it’s all the same.

        • Avatar

          Bushra

          August 27, 2010 at 4:21 PM

          Depends, really. Some people might give away enough detail to almost identify that person. That comes under backbiting.

          Same if one was to say ‘there are some ethnicities that come in smelling like they’ve been frying samosas or something.’

          Here, you’ve also given them away, because everyone knows that it’s mainly South Asians who eat samosas. I don’t know of any other ethnicitiy that consumes samosas as much as us Indian/Pakistanis do.

          • Avatar

            MuslimGirl

            August 27, 2010 at 4:23 PM

            very true.

      • Avatar

        MuslimGirl

        August 27, 2010 at 4:22 PM

        i meant when u are trying to talk about one particular person you know but others don’t so you say ” i know of a person who…” not giving away any specifications.

        • Avatar

          MuslimGirl

          August 27, 2010 at 4:24 PM

          sorry my comment is repetitive.

  18. Avatar

    Bushra

    August 27, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Wow. Just wow.

    A few clarifications here.

    1. This article written by Sr. Umm Reem has been written with sincerity and good faith. She has not targeted any person, race or community. She has spoken about sisters going to extremes with the way they smell – some smelling strongly of food and therefore distracting others in prayer and some smelling strongly of perfume and, again, distracting others in their prayer, as well as smelling good to men with the latter being outright haraam. There is no mention of race or ethnicity in her article.

    2. Any comments here may well have been generalised, and we, as MM writers, apologise for causing offence to anyone. If anyone feels that the way we have stated our comments could be better or that we have been racist, etc, then the CORRECT adhab is to email us instead of rebuking us in public. We, too, are humans and are prone to error and any friendly naseeha would be most welcome via email in private, not in public. These are the manners of the Prophet(salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and therefore the manners of the true Muslim.

    3. Calling people backbiters, arrogant, rude, racist and other names is just as bad as those who are doing it themselves. If one exposes the sins of their fellow Muslim, then Allah(subhaanahu wa ta’ala) will not hide the exposer’s sins on the Day of Judgement.

    4. Please read comments carefully before you jump in all guns blazing. Try to appreciate the real gist of the argument/discussion. It’s really not fair to nitpick and take things out of context. What difference then is there between the nitpickers and the media?
    And if you do find something offensive, but do not wish to send an email, then please politely explain your sentiments.

    Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.

    May Allah forgive us and guide us all in this beautiful month of Ramadan. Ameen.

  19. Avatar

    MuslimGirl

    August 27, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    This is in response to Br. Amad’s post of the report on soaps in India.
    Unilever is a Corporation based in England that not only sells soaps but skin whitening products…that report is probably gonna be biased in some ways……

  20. Avatar

    Apricot

    August 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    Although I am not of South Asian heritage, I found the comments about South Asians inappropriate and offensive. One can simply discuss the topic by listing the elements of good hygiene and not mentioning a specific ethnic group.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      August 27, 2010 at 4:50 PM

      Jazakallahu khair for pointing this out. Your commented is noted and appreciated.

  21. Avatar

    South Pakistani

    August 27, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    I happen to be in Pakistan. We stand in the open area outside the masjid (I don’t know why!) without any AC (obviously) or fans. It’s hot. Everyone’s sweating. The smell is so bad that the head-turning is more like 60 degrees here. It’s a tough experience. I’ve thought about the possible solutions for this and I think the only way we could avoid this is people simply took a shower every day. Hey .. over here, they can just walk into a masjid and shower. It’s not about poverty. People just need to be taught these things. If they mention this on the pulpit nicely (or maybe even not so nicely). This whole thing would be solved.

    We could even try giving out a nice little tarawih etiquettes flyer or something.

  22. Avatar

    Humility

    August 28, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    Asalamu Alaikum,
    This article was simply written to inform people of a problem that anyone can have at any given moment. However, it turned into a discussion about who smells the worst. There’s really nothing to talk about because the author is simply stating that before going out just check yourself. And in this blessed month of Ramadan I noticed people instead of simply taking the advice quietly and pondering on how they themselves can help with the small issue, there are discussions going on about who smells the worst.
    If you really think about it, people standing next to you smelling of food or body odor may be exhalted on the Day of Judgment and the hard work and labor they did may cause them to smell the freshest. And the person looking down on them in this dunya may be the one who stinks in Allah’s eyes due to their deeds and ends up looking bad in front of the one who matters..Allah (swt). Bad smell in our mouth is sometimes created in Ramadan due to having no food throughout the day and Allah (SWT) loves that smell the most is similar to the smell our deeds create that no one else can smell.
    Our deeds need to smell as beautiful as our clothes. there’s no use of the perfume or clean clothes if our mouths shout out belittled speech to our beloved brothers and sisters. I believe Shaykh Yasir Qadhi mentioned this but I could be wrong….”Allah (SWT) may forgive their ignorance and choose not to forgive your arrogance.” Think about it before you rush to hit that reply button

  23. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    August 28, 2010 at 4:19 AM

    salam,

    I’m just gonna say it one last time because I don’t have too much time, in Ramadan, to spend restating what I said in the article:

    No one is being judged on the level of their taqwa or piety, if they smell like food or ‘ood. The point of the article was to remind everyone to please check themselves before they go out to the masjid if they smell bad because that can be a cause of distraction for the person praying next to them, especially the sisters who think that they cannot wear any perfume outside AT ALL out of fear of it being haram…

    This is not a manufactured problem rather well recognized in our sharee’ah as well…and THAT IS WHY i mentioned the hadeeth:

    “Whoever eats garlic, onion, then keep away from our masjid because the angels get offended from what offends the children of Adam.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

    No need for anyone to get offended…just ponder upon the advice of the Prophet, sallalau alihi wasalam.

  24. Avatar

    Mozlem

    August 28, 2010 at 5:34 AM

    From my experience, wearing perfume on very sweaty/reused garb is a bad idea. It makes B.O. more evident.

    Taking a shower maybe the best bet :)

  25. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 29, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    Salaam

    I am reassured to have my sentiments echoed. I found these comments heartening.

    Jzk

  26. Amad

    Amad

    August 29, 2010 at 6:29 AM

    Let me make something clear. How a person smells (or doesn’t smell) has nothing to do with the person’s taqwa or his/her closeness to Allah. There were poor people in the time of the Prophet (S) as well and we don’t hear stories of people smelling.

    I never look at people through the lens of their status or wealth, but when I go into a Masjid and see someone who just came from a long laborious day with body odors gushing, you cannot blame me for wanting to not stand besides him (if I have a choice of course). There is a possibility that the guy didn’t have a chance to shower or change (perfumes are not necessary, showers can do the trick too), and there is no earning more halal than out of the sweat and blood of these laborers. But it doesn’t mean the need/desire for good smell can be just dismissed. I am sure those who want to appear the most noble in these comments will equally move next to someone who is in good, clean clothes. Let’s be honest to ourselves. Perhaps if we were, one thought would be to distribute free low-priced perfumes to folks who need them.

    Now if we were in a party or we were just hanging out, then the smell issue wouldn’t be as important and distracting so I have no problem being in the company of ANY Muslim.

    Why folks are conflating worldly class with akhira class is beyond me. Views are shaped by experiences, and people are sharing theirs. If yours doesn’t match with it, thats fine. But pls dont condemn others for it.

  27. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 29, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    Salaam

    I can only speak for myself in saying I have no desire to ‘condemn’ anyone.

    My initial interest in this website was the tagline for MM:

    ‘Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life.’

    It has been an unusual experience.

    Jzk

  28. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 29, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    Salaam

    I thought I would reiterate my keen interest in:

    ‘Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life’

    I am always keen to be stimulated and learn from varied sources and should fellow Muslims have any literature they would wish to pass on to me personally, I would be delighted.

    I can be reached at http://www.sobiamalik.com

    I feel learning will remain a lifelong passion for me, insha’Allah.

    And Allah knows best.

    Jzk

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 29, 2010 at 3:34 PM

      Sobia,
      One article defines not the blog, just like one characteristic defines not a person.
      Pls read the “About Us” section, and it discusses in more details what MM is about. We talk about all sorts of issues. I am sure you’ll find something that interests you more if you look for it around the blog. Read the articles by Abu Aaliyah, they probably fit better with the one line you mentioned.
      w/s

  29. Avatar

    Siraaj

    August 29, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    On the bright side, at least you’re not fighting about the moon during Ramadan…

    Siraaj

  30. Avatar

    Greengrass3

    August 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    Salaam

    Amad, I will reflect upon your recommendation.

    Siraaj, hope you are well. Granted I am not always a shrinking violet but I had not come on this website for ‘fighting’, I want to add that for the sake of clarity. Yet, it is true, if something feels wrong I find it difficult to walk on by – text book psychology of a teacher I’m a fraid…

    I’m digressing, what I actually wanted to say was, thank you, for the levity and cordial intention in your remark.

    Jzk

    Sobia

  31. Avatar

    Tarannum

    October 30, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    ASA,
    Excellent article! Masha’Allah! There have been alot of sisters saying they don’t wear perfume coz it has alcohol. Also they are talking about halal makeup coz it doesn’t have pig in it!!
    I have tried to explain to them that as long as you are not ingesting it, its ok to put it on your body but can you give me a daleel of some sort that I can help them with. Although I did say please ask the sheikh at our masjid, not sure if they will remember.
    JAK

  32. Avatar

    Tarannum

    October 30, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Ofcourse I am not telling them to put makeup when they go out but when they do put it at home.

  33. Avatar

    Bharat Sharma

    June 6, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    So Ramadan has started from today and while searching I found your article. I will not say that your article is awesome because it is really good and everyone is saying that but the way you use to show your idea is awesome.

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#Society

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks: An Obituary

This article was originally published at Al-Madinah Institute.

 

An internationally recognised Islamic scholar, who saw spirituality, justice, and knowledge as integral to an authentic religious existence.

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Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, who passed away on the 9th of July 2020 at the age of 64, was a scholar of international repute, able to communicate and engage on the level of state leaders, religious scholars and the broader public. As a scion of one of the most prominent Islamic institutions in South Africa and internationally, who also spent a decade studying at the hands of the most prominent of Makkan scholars, he not only inherited a grand bequest, but expanded that legacy’s impact worldwide. In particular, he upheld a normative understanding of Islam, embedded in a tradition stretching back more than a millennium – but deeply cognisant of the needs of the age, including the need to strive to make the world a better place.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying particularly at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa – as well as his father, Imam Hassan Hendricks.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, spending three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects, before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and usul al-fiqh in the Faculty of Shariʿa of Umm al-Qura University and graduated in 1992. Shaykh Seraj took ijazat from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qadir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf, as well as his extensive time spent with the likes of Shaykh Hasan Mashhat and others. These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

Additionally, he obtained a full ijaza in the religious sciences from his primary teacher, the muḥaddith of the Hijaz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawi al-Maliki, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamaʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars. Together with his brother, the esteemed Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, Shaykh Seraj and I wrote a book on this approach to Sufism entitled, “A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Sages of Makka”. Alongside his brother, he became the representative (khalifa) of the aforementioned muhaddith of the Hijaz.

Further to his religious education, Shaykh Seraj was also actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s, alongside the likes of figures like Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, comrade of Nelson Mandela, and the renowned journalist, Shafiq Morton. His commitments to furthering justice meant insistence on expressing constant opposition to injustice, while fiercely maintaining the independence of the institution and community he pledged himself to his entire life. At a time when different forces in Muslim communities worldwide try to instrumentalise religious figures for partisan political gain, Shaykh Seraj showed another, arguably far more Prophetic, model.

The shaykh also was keenly supportive of the rights of women, whom he saw as important to empower and cultivate as religious figures themselves. His students, of which there were many thousands over the years, included many women at various levels of expertise. I know it was his wish that they would rise to higher and higher levels, and he took a great deal of interest in trying to train them accordingly, aware that many unnecessary obstacles stood in their way.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Tasawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA), which is currently being prepared for publication as a book. He translated works of Imam al-Ghazali, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihyaʾ ʿUlum al-Din), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbdal Hakim Murad and Yahya Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He was a member of the Stanlib Shariʿa Board, chief arbitrator (Hakim) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and was listed consecutively in the Muslim500 from 2009 to 2020. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj was also appointed as professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Apart from fiqh and usul al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries. Shaykh Seraj taught a variety of Islamic-related subjects at Azzawia Institute in Cape Town, where he was its resident Shaykh, together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks. His classes showed an encyclopaedic knowledge that was rooted in the tradition, while completely conversant with the modern age.

But beyond his classes, he was a pastoral figure to many – a community made of thousands – whom he gave himself completely to, in service of the religion, and counselling them as a khidma (service), with mahabba (love), in accordance with the Prophetic model. Many urged him to restrain himself in this way, fearing for his health, which suffered a great deal in his final years as a result – but he saw it as his duty.

The Shaykh was an international figure, a teacher to thousands, and an adviser to multitudes. Many today ask the question as to why ‘ulama truly matter, seeing as it seems so many of them can be compromised by different forces in pursuit of injustice, rigidness and petty partisanship. Such a question will not be asked by those who knew Shaykh Seraj, for in him they saw a concern for spirituality, not paltry political gain, and a commitment to justice and wisdom, not oppression or slogans. In him, many saw, and will continue to see hope for an Islamic commitment to scholarship that seeks to make the world a better place, rising to the challenge of maintaining their values of mercy and compassion, and exiting the world in dignity.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

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#Current Affairs

Oped: The Treachery Of Spreading Bosnia Genocide Denial In The Muslim Community

The expanding train of the Srebrenica genocide deniers includes the Nobel laureate Peter Handke, an academic Noam Chomsky, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, as well as almost all Serbian politicians in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. One name in this group weirdly stands out: “Sheikh” Imran Hosein. A traditionally trained Muslim cleric from Trinidad and Tobago, Hosein has carved his niche mostly with highly speculative interpretations of Islamic apocalyptic texts. He has a global following with more than 200 hundred thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel, and his videos are viewed by hundreds of thousands. He has written tens of books in English, some of which had been translated into major world languages. His denial of the Srebrenica genocide may seem outlandish, coming from a Muslim scholar, but a close inspection of his works reveals ideas that are as disturbing as they are misleading.

Much of Hosain’s output centers around interpreting the apocalyptic texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah on the “end of times” (akhir al-zaman). As in other major religious traditions, these texts are highly allegorical in nature and nobody can claim with certainty their true meaning – nobody, except Imran Hosein. He habitually dismisses those who disagree with his unwarranted conclusions by accusing them of not thinking properly. A Scottish Muslim scholar, Dr. Sohaib Saeed, also wrote about this tendency.

In his interpretations, the Dajjal (“anti-Christ”) is American-Zionist alliance (the West or the NATO), the Ottomans were oppressors of the Orthodox Christians who are, in turn, rightfully hating Islam and Muslims, Sultan Mehmed Fatih was acting on “satanic design” when he conquered Constantinople, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a false flag operation carried out by the Mossad and its allies, and – yes! – the genocide did not take place in Srebrenica. Such conspiratorial thinking is clearly wrong but is particularly dangerous when dressed in the garb of religious certainty. 

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Hosain frequently presents his opinions as the “Islamic” view of things. His methodology consists of mixing widely accepted Muslim beliefs with his own stretched interpretations. The wider audience may not be as well versed in Islamic logic of interpretation so they may not be able to distinguish between legitimate Muslim beliefs and Hosain’s own warped imagination. In one of his fantastic interpretations, which has much in common with the Christian apocalypticism, the Great War that is nuclear in nature is coming and the Muslims need to align with Russia against the American-Zionist alliance. He sees the struggle in Syria as part of a wider apocalyptic unfolding in which Assad and Putin are playing a positive role. He stretches the Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings to read into them fanciful and extravagant interpretations that are not supported by any established Islamic authority.

Hosain does not deny that a terrible massacre happened in Srebrenica. He, however, denies it was a genocide, contradicting thus numerous legal verdicts by international courts and tribunals. Established by the United Nations’ Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivered a verdict of genocide in 2001 in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstić. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague confirmed, in 2007, that genocide took place in Srebrenica. In 2010, two more Bosnian Serb officers were found guilty of committing genocide in Bosnia. The butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladić, was found guilty of genocide in 2017.

In spite of this, and displaying his ignorance on nature and definition of genocide, Hosain stated in an interview with the Serbian media, “Srebrenica was not a genocide. That would mean the whole Serbian people wanted to destroy the whole Muslim people. That never happened.” In a meandering and offensive video “message to Bosnian Muslims” in which he frequently digressed to talking about the end of times, Hosain explained that Srebrenica was not a genocide and that Muslims of Bosnia needed to form an alliance with the Orthodox Serbs. He is oblivious to the fact that the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the former Yugoslavia stem not from the Bosniaks’ purported unwillingness to form an alliance with the Serbs, but from the aggressive Greater Serbia ideology which had caused misery and destruction in Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo. 

Hosein’s views are, of course, welcome in Serbia and in Republika Srpska (Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia), where almost all politicians habitually deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. He had been interviewed multiple times on Serbian television, where he spewed his views of the Ottoman occupation and crimes against the Serbs, the need to form an alliance between Muslims and Russia, and that Srebrenica was not a genocide. His website contains only one entry on Srebrenica: a long “exposé” that claims no genocide took place in Srebrenica. Authored by two Serbs, Stefan Karganović and Aleksandar Pavić, the special report is a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories, anti-globalization and anti-West views. Karganović, who received more than a million dollars over a six year period from the government of the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska for lobbying efforts in Washington, was recently convicted by the Basic Court in Banja Luka on tax evasion and defamation. The Court issued a warrant for Karganović’s arrest but he is still on the loose. 

True conspirators of the Srebrenica killings, according to Hosain, are not the Serbian political and military leaders, and soldiers who executed Srebrenica’s Muslims. The conspirators are unnamed but it does not take much to understand that he believes that the massacres were ultimately orchestrated by the West, CIA, and NATO. Hosain even stated on the Serbian TV that if people who knew the truth were to come forward they would be executed to hide what really happened. Such opinions are bound to add to an already unbearable pain that many survivors of the Srebrenica genocide are experiencing. It is even more painful when Bosniak victims – who were killed because they were Muslims – are being belittled by an “Islamic” scholar who seems to be more interested in giving comfort to those who actually perpetrated the heinous crime of genocide than in recognizing the victims’ pain. These views are, of course, welcome in Serbia, Russia, and Greece.

It is not difficult to see why Hosain’s views would be popular in today’s day and age where misinformation and fake news are propagated even by the world leaders who should know better. A conspiratorial mindset, mistrust of established facts, undermining of international institutions – these are all hallmarks of the post-truth age. In another time, Imran Hosain would be easily exposed for what he truly is: a charlatan who claims religious expertise. Today, however, his opinions are amplified by social media and by the people who already question science and established facts. For these reasons, he needs to be unmasked to safeguard the very religious foundations which he claims to uphold but ultimately undermines. 

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#Life

A Festival Amidst a Pandemic: How to Give Your Kids an Eid ul-Adha to Remember

Eid ul-Adha is less than 3 weeks away!  This year, more than ever, we want to welcome Eid ul-Adha with a full heart and spirit, insha’Allah, despite the circumstances we are in with the global pandemic.

If you follow me on social media, you probably know that my husband and I host an open house brunch for Eid ul-Adha, welcoming over 125 guests into our home. It’s a party our Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors, friends, and family look forward to being invited to each year. It’s a time to come together as a community, share heart-felt conversations, have laughs, chow down lots of delicious food, and exchange gifts. Kids participate in fun crafts, decorate cookies, and receive eidi. The reality is that we cannot keep up with the tradition this year.

Despite social distancing, we have decided that we will continue to lift our spirits and switch our summer décor to Eid décor, and make it the best Eid for our family and our child. We want to instill the love of Islam in my daughter and make the Islamic festivals a real part of her life. We want to create warm Eid memories, and COVID-19 isn’t going to stop us from doing that. I really hope you plan to do the same.

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Here are 4 ideas to inspire you to bring that festive spirit alive for your family this Eid ul-Adha:

Hajj and Eid ul-Adha themed activities and crafts

There are so many activities to keep the little ones engaged, but having a plan for Eid-ul-Adha with some key activities that your child will enjoy, makes the task so much easier.

Kids love stories, and for us parents this is a great way to get a point across. Read to them about hajj in an age appropriate way. If you don’t have Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha related books, you can get started with this Hajj book list. Read together about the significance and the Islamic traditions of hajj, and the story of how zamzam was discovered. While you teach them the story of the divine sacrifice of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), ask relatable questions. As a lesson from the story, give your child examples of how they can sacrifice their anger, bad behavior, etc. during this season of sacrifice for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ask your children how they would feel if they had to give away their favorite toys, so that they can comprehend the feeling.

Counting down the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah to Eid ul-Adha is another fun activity to encourage kids to do a good deed every day. Have different fun and education activities planned for these 10 days.

Family memories are made through baking together. In our household, Eid cannot pass without baking cookies together and sharing with friends and family. Bake and decorate Eid ul-Adha themed cookies in the shape of a masjid, camel, or even lamb, and share with the neighbors one day, and color in Islamic wooden crafts the next. This DIY Ka’bah craft is a must for us to make every year while learning about the Ka’bah, and it’s an easy craft you can try with your family. Have the kids save their change in this cute masjid money box that they can donate on the day of Eid.

Decorate the main family areas

We are all going to be missing visiting friends and relatives for Eid breakfast, lunch, and dinner this year, so why not jazz things up a bit more at home than usual?

Start decorating the areas of your home that you frequently occupy.  Brighten up the living area, and/or main hallway with a variety of star and masjid-shaped lights, festive lanterns, and Eid garlands, to emphasize that Eid has indeed arrived. Perhaps, decorate a tent while you tell your children about the tent city of Mina.

Prep the dining room as if you are having Guests Over

Set up the breakfast table as if you are having family and friends over for Eid breakfast.

These times will be the special moments you spend together eating as a family. Now, with all hands on deck, plan to get everyone involved to make it a full-on affair. What specific tasks can the little ones take on to feel included as part of the Eid prep and get excited?

While the Eid table set-up itself can be simple, the moments spent around the table sharing in new traditions and engaging in prayer will insha’Allah be even more meaningful and memorable.

 An afternoon picnic

Family picnics are a perfect way for family members to relax and connect. If Texas weather permits, we may take advantage of a cool sunny day with a picnic at a nearby, shady park. With the heat wave we are experiencing, it may either not happen or will be an impromptu one.

Out of all the picnics, it’s the impromptu family meals on the lawn or at a park that I love the most. The ones where we grab an old quilt, basket, light meals, fresh fruits and venture out into the backyard or a nearby park. It’ll be a perfect socially distanced Eid picnic.

Eid ul-Adha comes around just once a year, so let’s strive to make the best of it for our children, even amidst this global pandemic.

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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.

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