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

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)



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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!

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:

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:

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.

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.



  1. 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..

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      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.

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        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.

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          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.

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            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

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            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.

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        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.

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      August 26, 2010 at 4:59 PM


      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


        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.

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          August 27, 2010 at 4:11 AM

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          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


            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.

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            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 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”… 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.

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            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.

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          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.

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      August 29, 2010 at 6:00 AM


      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.


      • Amad


        August 29, 2010 at 6:32 AM

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

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          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


            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


            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.


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      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 :)

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      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


    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.

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      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


        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.

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        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


          August 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM

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

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      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.

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    August 26, 2010 at 6:34 AM

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

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      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 :)

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    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.

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    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?

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    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!

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    August 26, 2010 at 11:30 AM

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

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    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

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      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

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    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.

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    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

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    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


      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


      August 27, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      I prefer clothes to smell like Lenor detergent :D

  13. Avatar


    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.

  14. Avatar


    August 27, 2010 at 5:37 AM


    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.


    • Avatar


      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


    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…


    • Avatar


      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


    August 27, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Salaam Bushra

    This is tragic and not my idea of public debate.


  17. Avatar


    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


      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


        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


          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


            August 27, 2010 at 4:23 PM

            very true.

      • Avatar


        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


          August 27, 2010 at 4:24 PM

          sorry my comment is repetitive.

  18. Avatar


    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


    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


    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


      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


    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


    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


    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


    August 29, 2010 at 6:00 AM


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


  26. 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


    August 29, 2010 at 6:59 AM


    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.


  28. Avatar


    August 29, 2010 at 11:54 AM


    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

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

    And Allah knows best.


    • Amad


      August 29, 2010 at 3:34 PM

      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.

  29. Avatar


    August 29, 2010 at 4:04 PM

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


  30. Avatar


    August 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM


    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.



  31. Avatar


    October 30, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    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.

  32. Avatar


    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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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet


Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people may be to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high-quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?Click To Tweet

1. Work on yourself

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Admit any wrongs you may have done to them and make amends to improve ties if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterward. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a professional. Bottom line is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only things you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on your everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, inability to multitask, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it

Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for a new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find the most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility for someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Click To Tweet

5. Work to bridge religious differences

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgment about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partner’s; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s

If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no barakah in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying to dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft cited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learned. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties, and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with the person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.

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Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #6: Is it Taboo to Talk About Sex?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)



Is talking about sex a taboo in Islam? Religiously, not at all. Culturally though, that's a different story.Click To Tweet
On one hand we are completely stone-walling sex or anything related to sex any issues that people can have with sex, and on the other hand we still live in this country, we still have TV, we still have books, we still have the internet, I don’t understand how these two, almost diametrically opposed philosophies on sex can co-exist in one person’s mind. Click To Tweet
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash

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