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Flat Tire Epidemic: Why Muslim Volunteers Quit After Marriage – Part I

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Fatima and Omar were “hard-core” volunteers.  They volunteered at Islamic events, lectures, their local masaajids- you name it!  If something needed to get done in the community, everyone knew that they could count on these two young and active Muslims.  It was only logical that these two would hear about one another through a mutual family friend and discover that they shared the same values.  Before you could say “Mabrook,” the details were finalized and Fatima and Omar were on their way to marital bliss.  Everyone was thrilled and expected great things from this Muslim Power Couple; I mean, two super active single Muslim volunteers should result in a super duper active Muslim volunteer couple, right?  WRONG!  Flat Tire Syndrome kicked in and Fatima and Omar were nowhere to be found.  What happened?!

The story of Fatima and Omar is one that we witness quite often in our communities.  Two young Muslims who are very active in their volunteer efforts, and constantly contribute to the betterment of the lives of their fellow brothers and sisters, get married and are suddenly no longer involved in Islamic activities.  We hope to elucidate some of the root causes of this phenomenon.

The Causes of the Flat Tire Epidemic:

Psychological Changes

A husband is necessarily different from a single brother and a wife is necessarily different from a single sister. Studies have shown that, psychologically, marital relationships result in a sense of well-being, a stronger sense of having a meaning in life, and additional emotional support.  All of these can contribute to a feeling of security and satisfaction. So why would this be a reason behind a decrease in volunteer involvement?  If people get a “warm & fuzzy” feeling from their spouse and gain a sense of satisfaction through marriage, they don’t need to seek these positive feelings through other activities, such as volunteering.

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Also, the reward that comes from volunteering is something termed as delayed gratification.  Often volunteers do not always receive appreciation for what they do.  Of course the reward for working for the sake of Allah awaits volunteers and this should be enough motivation but human beings are naturally inclined to prefer instant gratification.  In comparison: In a marriage, the norm is instant gratification as opposed to delayed gratification.  If a wife does something nice for her husband, she usually receives the appreciation she desires immediately through a smile or a hug.  Once a person becomes accustomed to this, it is difficult to content oneself with delayed gratification.

This does not imply that the intentions of these volunteers are in question; rather, it is a human instinct to naturally feel more motivated by results. So, if the result of making your spouse happy is immediate, which is the case in most scenarios, then one of the major driving forces behind being an active volunteer is already being satisfied by your interactions with your spouse.

Life Changes

A mental and emotional shift can occur when people get married because they have now been placed in a life role that is entirely different from anything else they have ever experienced.  This can definitely require an adjustment period.

Before marriage, Fatima and Omar were able to juggle a variety of their life roles.  Before they met each other, they were volunteers, a son or daughter, siblings, friends, students, employees… the list goes on.  Once they got married, another role was added to the list: spouse.  And this role was something very different for both of them.

Marriage comes with a new set of responsibilities, a new person with whom you spend the majority of your time, and a need to reprioritize. Every other portion of your life receives its due and, before marriage, most of your extra time can go towards your volunteering efforts.  However, after marriage it is necessary to reprioritize and give your spouse the attention that he or she deserves, which can cut into the time that you have available for volunteering.

Excitement and Lack Thereof

Marriage is a life-changing experience and is, naturally, more exciting than the other, more routine aspects in your life.  It captures your attention and, therefore, you dedicate more time to it.  Since you have been volunteering for several years, this becomes redundant and you prefer to dedicate your attention to your new and exciting marriage.  This is one of the reasons why, after the “newness” of marriage has expired, volunteers suddenly reappear and want to be involved once again- marriage is no longer providing the excitement it used to so attention can now be redirected to volunteering again.

Compare this excitement to the typical Muslim volunteer in the typical Muslim organization. They, the volunteers, tend not to grow within their organizations unless they are amongst the few core volunteers.  As a volunteer grows- in sense of responsibility, recognition, and position- excitement grows as well. This is, indeed, a major variable that affects the level of excitement within any individual. When this excitement goes away, psychologically, the level of creativity diminishes thereby resulting in a decrease in commitment.  This then results in a decline in dedication and consequently, the volunteer drops out of his/her assigned post.

Struggle Between the “Old School” and the New Generation of Volunteers

 

Just as technology is racing forward at an unprecedented speed, the gap between each generation and the next is continually grower wider than before.  One can clearly see the vastness of new ideas coming from younger and “hipper” crowds. There are plenty of examples, but consider: If you speak to a 35 year-old about Twitter and the marketing capabilities of Facebook, his/her answer will be remarkably different from the answer of a 25 year-old. With respect to volunteers, those who graduate from college, obtain a job in the corporate world and get married, have to take into account factors that are very different from the factors important in the life of a single college student with 12 credit hours. Therefore, the ingenuity of the younger generation is usually more optimal.

This creates a power struggle between the old school volunteers and the newer generation, causing both to become frustrated and discouraged. The difference is that the younger generation is more motivated and has less responsibility while the old school volunteer has family and work responsibilities that take precedent. Hence, the easy way out of this frustration is disappearing from the face of volunteerism.

Simply Put: Bad Management

Since amateur managers and leaders run most Muslim organizations, they usually lack the proper skills regarding how to keep those who are worth retaining as volunteers. This article was written to encourage both the management and the volunteers of Islamic organizations to realize why the loss of married volunteers is occurring and, hopefully, to attempt to fix it.

No doubt that it is always helpful to understand the underlying causes of an issue but it is even more useful to consider solutions for the issue at hand.  A treatment approach for the Flat Tire Epidemic (from an individual and organizational standpoint) will be provided in the upcoming issue… stay tuned!

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Sarah Sultan is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic interventions and has worked with several age groups including children with special needs, adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues, families undergoing difficulties and survivors of trauma and domestic violence. Sarah is currently working as a therapist at a residential treatment center for teens in crisis, where she works with adolescents dealing with suicidality, trauma, self-harming behaviors, aggression and a variety of other issues. She is also an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersection between Islam, psychology and counseling. She has been actively involved in serving the Muslim community over the course of the past 10 years through providing lectures, halaqas and workshops.

76 Comments

76 Comments

  1. Shiraz

    September 27, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Yeah I remember all those guys back in the day that used to run the events and programs. Don’t see them around much now.

    There was a thread on the Almaghrib forums on this.

    • midia hassan

      February 9, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      you say in this article: instant gratification is the norm in marriage….i guess you are not married! or maybe you’ve been married a week! a woman usually gets a smile or hug if she does something? excuse me? maybe you should check all the marriage advice articles all over the web that deal with the reality that this is not true at all!

      • Sarah Sultan, LMHC

        February 11, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        Dear Midia,

        It can be so difficult when your efforts are not appreciated or reciprocated. However, I believe it is a fair expectation of one spouse to express appreciation to the other. If this is not happening in a marriage, it is something that should be discussed and preferences should be communicated to build a stronger bond. When no appreciation is given, most people stop putting forth effort to maintain a relationship and things continue to go downhill from there. Another way to instill appreciation in a relationship is to begin by expressing appreciation to your spouse, who may, in turn, begin to do so as well insha’Allah.

        I ask Allah (swt) to place barakah, love, happiness and appreciation in your marriage.

  2. MR

    September 27, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    You can add me to this group of people.

    But I’m also burnt-out of volunteering. I even tried to get back into it and I was tired physically and spiritually. I think I over-volunteered myself during my “single unemployed student” days and now busy with my “married employed family” days.

    (Sorry to all the organizations I failed to volunteer for post-marriage, post-real job)

    • Shiraz

      September 27, 2010 at 10:33 AM

      I think one of the reasons people drop out after marriage is that they don’t change their volunteering according to their condition. They keep trying to do the same thing.

      When I started working I stopped coming to campus for the MSA and QNasr meetings, because I would go there and just sit. I would be like, man this is a total waist of my time.

      I keep volunteering now that I’m working full time, but I change what I do.

    • Sarah S

      September 27, 2010 at 8:25 PM

      She’ll let you insha’Allah lol :)

  3. HydTech

    September 27, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    “Marriage comes with a new set of responsibilities, a new person with whom you spend the majority of your time, and a need to reprioritize.”

    Agree

  4. Bushra

    September 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    I have to say, my experience has been quite the opposite. I’ve become MORE active since I got married and that’s mainly down to my husband who has, alhumdulillah and masha’Allah, been incredibly supportive.

    Prior to marriage, being the youngest child of protective parents meant that I was limited in my ‘freedom’ to go out and volunteer or seek knowledge. They’re parents, they worry, especially as they get older…and guess what? They still worry. But I didn’t marry just so that I could obtain that freedom. I married cos it happened at the time decreed by Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’ala). And it couldn’t have been a better time.

    I must admit, marriage does get in the way of certain things, and it really is dependent on your spouse. If you both share the same goals, then no doubt you’ll re-enter the volunteering scene not too long after. However, with regards to the article, this is the only part that bothered me:

    Since you have been volunteering for several years, this becomes redundant and you prefer to dedicate your attention to your new and exciting marriage. This is one of the reasons why, after the “newness” of marriage has expired, volunteers suddenly reappear and want to be involved once again- marriage is no longer providing the excitement it used to so attention can now be redirected to volunteering again.

    I totally disagree. Most of the time, people disappear for a few months to a year purely because they’re caught up in getting settled into marriage, both emotionally and logistically. It can be quite crazy, for both husband and wife, as not only are they now fully responsible for themselves, but also responsible for each other. The newness of marriage only expires when you stop giving it the care and attention it needs to keep it exciting. It takes couples a lot of time to settle into marriage, into their new families, getting to know each other, attending post-wedding dinners and just generally finding some sort of routine and consistency. Often, it may also be the case that they’ll be keeping up with their career, whilst using the weekends to move house or redecorate during the early stages. All this can take its toll and volunteering tends to take a backseat. And let’s not forget, when newly married couples are trying to understand each other, this also involves some arguments, which could be based on why one thinks the other should or shouldn’t volunteer or be active in their community. These things take time and that’s partly why people disappear for a year or so.

    From what I have seen from my friends, they disappeared from the sisters’ social scene for about a year after getting married, because they were settling in and sorting out a routine. However, I know about some brothers who were hardcore volunteers in their early 20s, got married, and then all the volunteering fizzled out in their 30s once their kids were getting older and their responsibilities increased even more so.

    So I wouldn’t blame the excitement of marriage becoming, well…less exciting. It’s just that things are so busy when you’re newly married that it takes a lot of time to find some sort of normality and hence volunteering becomes less important at that moment in time. However, these people do reappear, not because marriage isn’t exciting them anymore, but because they have settled into their new life and know what their weekends look like, as opposed to not knowing at all.

    From my personal experience, I’ve been married nearly 2 years, and it took me 6 months to settle into marriage, but even now I have very busy weekends and so I can’t physically volunteer anywhere. Having said that, I have found some sort of routine in my life and know what my weekdays and weekends look like about 3-4 weeks in advance.

    • Sarah S

      September 27, 2010 at 7:49 PM

      Jazaaki Allahu khairan for your thoughtful comment Sr. Bushra! You definitely make a very valuable point. I agree with the idea that one of the main issues that causes a fizzle in volunteerism is simply the adjustment period when someone is newly married. Schedules, adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle, etc. can definitely have an impact.

      At the same time I do think that one of the emotional undercurrents that results in a decrease in volunteerism is the feeling that marriage is super exciting. Of course the excitement doesn’t have to fizzle out after a few years of marriage, but the newness of this relationship and the lifestyle change that comes with it does… and that allows volunteers to get back into the swing of things.

      May Allah (swt) place immense barakah and happiness in your marriage :)

  5. Amir (MR)

    September 27, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    Some serious reasons:
    1) Children
    2) Job
    3) Family issues (focused on dawah to the family)
    4) Burn out like me

    Some funny reasons:
    1) Became part of the masjid board (ie – show up for jummah to announce about parking properly and meetings to argue)
    2) Starcraft 2

    • Sayf

      September 27, 2010 at 7:27 PM

      I challenge you to sc2

      • sayf is going down

        September 28, 2010 at 11:59 AM

        mandazi 922

      • Nadeem R.

        September 30, 2010 at 2:08 PM

        I knew sc2 was coming…i knew it MR

  6. 3ala bala6a

    September 27, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    I suffer from this. It’s called laziness and loving women and food.

  7. Adam

    September 27, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    JazakumAllahukhairan for the article…..much needed.

    I think another angle to look at this as well is the danger of lacking these “hip” Muslim couples as core volunteers in Islamic Orgs. Lets face it, there will always be single volunteers that volunteer so that they can no longer be “single” and as an effect, take their new spouse and no longer be volunteers….(im not saying there is anything wrong for looking for a spouse within volunteering efforts:)

    As for the new couples though, they tend to be more mature, more focused, and now have that extra trait of being married which should insha’Allah allow them to have a better understanding of the needs of the Muslim Community..seeing that they are now starting a family, etc.

    In addition, when the couples take the exit offramp, we lose core volunteers and that means the transition to new leadership that can address relevant issues will take longer.

    Oh Muslim couples..come back to your masajid/orgs! Your efforts are needed more than ever. That masjid/org should mean more to you since it will directly affect your new and blessed family.

    I have more to say but this is just a response…not a post:)

    • Sarah S

      September 27, 2010 at 8:46 PM

      Stay tuned for our proposed solutions to this issue in our upcoming sequel to this article insha’Allah!

    • MR

      September 28, 2010 at 12:05 PM

      We need to have a Amir and vice-Amir or something. vice-Amir is the one in training to take over in the future.

  8. Ihab

    September 27, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    Maybe it’s because they realize that some organizations are banking and they realize that it’s not worth it to work hours on end for free when they now have responsibilities with their families to fulfill.

    8-5, or 7-6 with commute, you barely have a few hours to spend with your family.
    I don’t think anyone REALLY wants to waste that time running Almaghrib’s marketing division for free (regardless of how many ”brother think of the ajr” they get from these organizations)

    • Ihab

      September 28, 2010 at 12:51 AM

      I agree bro, that smaller organizations need volunteering, and that we should step up.

      But the married couple might not see it as bonding if they’re separated the entire time they volunteer.

      • Shiraz

        September 28, 2010 at 8:39 AM

        Shouldn’t married couples then be given jobs that fit their new life style. We always send the married guys over to the sisters side to get stuff. They have “The Pass”.

        • Ihab

          September 29, 2010 at 12:18 PM

          Yeah, cause sending a bro to get something from his wife for 2 seconds will be a huge chance for bonding between the couple…

          And god forbid a single brother gives something to a single sister, the world might implode…

      • Ex Volunteer

        September 30, 2010 at 12:32 PM

        This was very funny and I totally agree with you. “And god forbid a single brother gives something to a single sister, the world might implode…”

  9. darthvaider

    September 27, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Jazak Allah khayr for the article bro.

    I believe that much of the volunteer burn out also stems from a lack of institutions that target that demographic.

    It appears that most active Muslim organizations set up an apparatus which is conducive to attracting youth ages 16-28 (give or take a few years), but doesnt necessarily resonate with an older demographic. A flashy flier or cool program name does wonders when speaking to college crowds or high schoolers, but when you’re 35 with kids, those same aspects of an organization can appear childish. I have a number of friends who used to be very active locally with Muslim orgs, but once they got married, advanced in their careers, and became parents, spending weeknights on teleconferences discussing logistics for a program with a group of 20 year olds no longer holds the same appeal.

    The natural transition for those brothers and sisters is to get more involved locally- helping out at the masjid, attending classes once in a while, teaching weekend schools, and other volunteer activities along the same vein. The problem is that many Muslim communities are overly-bureaucratic and dispirit otherwise willing volunteers from getting involved. Volunteer opportunities become limited and the only real way to affect change in the community is getting on the board, which, in certain communities, can be nearly impossible (I’ve heard of some communities that have had the same board for the past 20+ years lol). So what you end up having are middle-aged Muslim men and women who were born and raised in America, were previously active in Muslim organizations in managerial capacities, are successful in corporate America, but have few opportunities to assist with anything locally.

    The feeling is one of being between a rock and a hard place- completely out of place with Muslim youth half your age, or feeling inhibited from contributing in orgs where you’re in the same boat as many contemporaries. The natural tendancy is to align yourself with friends, and as the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, so they end up being masjid members, praying, attending classes, and the like, but the days of aspiring to become the ‘super volunteer’ are over.

    There are obviously many exceptions to this- I know of a number of brothers who’ve kept up volunteering and activism well into parenthood, but it is an exception and not the norm. I’d also add that its easy to be critical when you’re younger (I’m young myself lol), but I imagine that as I grow older inshaAllah, those same feelings will be something that I’ll have to contend with, working to carve out my role within a community as it relates to my own competencies, what I like to do, and where needs exist. And Allah Knows Best.

    • Sarah S

      September 27, 2010 at 10:38 PM

      Excellent response masha’Allah! I absolutely agree- once volunteers hit the stage when their current roles are not as exciting, they have to move onto a different role that allows them to use their unique skill set.

      Teaching in the community, spreading the knowledge that we often gain through our years of being committed volunteers within Islamic organizations, is an excellent way to utilize our skills and reinvigorate ourselves!

    • Darthvaider Admirer

      September 28, 2010 at 8:38 AM

      Darthvaider is the man, MM should use him…really.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      September 28, 2010 at 8:43 AM

      As usual, DV is wrong on all counts.

      Forgive me, haram police, for watching star wars.

      -MM author.

    • MR

      September 28, 2010 at 12:03 PM

      This is a legit comment.

  10. n

    September 27, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    I was very active before I got married. After I got married, things changed. Hub and I had only one car first year and he worked long hours so I wasnt exactly going to leave him and run out to volunteer at an event that i knew many sisters were avialable and volunteering for.

    Once you have young children, and especially once they hit school years, its hard to be going out on weekdays and volunteering.

    There’s just a lot of responsiblities that come with raising a family. On weekends, you do have time. But guess what, you also have inlaws/your own family to visit, and things your kids need or are involved with (quran/sports).

    I think married people can volunteer but it definitely can be a big challenge. It has to be something, maybe just one thing, that the whole family is supportive of.

    I’m not saying its impossible .. its not. It is hard though especialy for those with children.

    I think what we need to focus on is having muslim ‘families’ involved instead of having older married individual volunteers.

    another thing is that after yur married and have children, you arent focusing on volunteering for hte same type of stuff any more. You begin to realize the other unmet needs of the community you never maybe realized before.

    ex. before sister x gets married, she’s volunteering for all the events. after she gets married, has kids and realizes that her family wants to homeschool the kids, she is now focused on that activity and her life, her days will necessarily revolve around that. So this sister might be super active in the homeschooling circle but in the regular evening events or the weekend events.

    you know what i mean? its kind of more nuanced….

  11. Fathimah

    September 27, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    What about:

    am I not more responsible for the tarbiyah of my family and kids than of the community?

    I m just voicing brothers and sisters who have said this before

    • Sarah S

      September 27, 2010 at 10:41 PM

      I think this is an important point. There have been many sad situations in which da’ees and hard-core volunteers focus on helping the youth within the community and forget about their own children. However, I don’t think this is black & white… there is room to strike a balance between giving back to the community and being there for your family. And, likewise, engaging in both these roles instead of choosing one or the other, can actually improve you as a parent and as an active member of the Muslim community. WAllahu ‘alam.

      • MuslimahCA

        September 28, 2010 at 7:03 PM

        Excellent point Sarah.
        This is definitely not black and white.

        MashaAllah Fathimah and her family do exactly what you say, they try their best to balance the two and do so much for our community. May Allah reward you for it Fathi ;)

        In fact, if more married couples with children did this, it would instill in their kids that giving back to the community is a must. Unfortunately I have ran into more than a few parents and youth who dont see the need to volunteer and even worse, ask me why I do what i do if i am not going to get paid for it. Allahu Musta’an.

        It’s a cycle if you ask me, if your kids don’t see you contributing to society in one way or another, the future of this ummah is not going to look good- It doesnt look good as it is today.

        • Aideh

          October 10, 2010 at 12:17 AM

          “It’s a cycle if you ask me, if your kids don’t see you contributing to society in one way or another, the future of this ummah is not going to look good- It doesnt look good as it is today.”

          mm HMM! thats right! Parents are the kids biggest role models at least until they become teenagers, but then they become your role models again post-ugly-teenybopper-phase. Alhamdulillah. Parents really do set the standards.

          An auntie put it to me this way, that each generation should build upon itself. A mom who strives to better herself, will have a daughter who has that good basis of self-betterment and thus can reach for higher goals, and the next kid has an even bigger and stronger foundation and can now reach another step higher, and so on and so forth. insha Allah khair. I visualize it like a pyramid, each generation gets a step higher to the top of the pyramid. insha Allah.

          • ummousama

            October 10, 2010 at 3:19 AM

            Assalamu alaikum,

            I wish this was true what the auntie said. However, history doesn’t support that as only few offsprings of great scholars are scholars themselves. Also, if this was the case, the world would become a better place too, which is not the reality.

          • Aideh

            October 10, 2010 at 9:20 AM

            Wa Alaikum asalaam ummousama, you’re right unfortunately. :(

            That is why she said “should” build upon itself, and not “does”. Should is the ideal. Yet, her point was that it starts with the parents. Just like Maryams mother could not have a fantastic son until she had a fantastic daughter who would be that fantastic mother. May Allah be pleased with all of them. Not that Maryams mother wasn’t fantastic, actually she was beyond amazing, but still, the standards had to be higher before Eesa alayhis salaam could come along.

            But I don’t know that many parents take advantage of that foundation they have with their children. Allah knows best.

            and i apologize for the off topic post.

  12. Zakariyya

    September 27, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Personally, as a male college student who grew up in the States, I’ve wondered about a number of these same problems concerning marriage: how religiously practicing of a spouse would I look for, what demands would provided for a family add to my responsibilities, but also would marriage best way for me (and the community, if my time to volunteer would be affected) a few years after I graduate?
    And upon reflection, and considerations such as my family now and the economy I’m apparently graduating in the midst of, I’m thinking I should get used to fasting.

  13. nayma

    September 27, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    Assalamu alaikum. I believe it has a lot to do with how supportive both the partners in a marriage are.
    First both the husband and wife has to help each other in their respective responsibilities. Then they have to inspire each other to volunteer.
    Both my husband and I love the volunteer for different projects. But at times I will be downright just tired and burdened down with responsibilities. Then my husband will come in with a endless supply of energy and ideas for a different project to get the community involved and vice versa.

    I believe we have to keep “encouraging each other to do good and and to have patience in it” and follow sura Asr in our family and community life.

  14. ummousama

    September 28, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    You do different things at different times in your life and you have different priorities.

    Shall I remind you of an incident that took place at the time of Rasulullah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam)? When they went back from one of the battle (cannot remember if it was Badr or Uhud), Jabir bin Abdullah (radhi Allahu anhu) tried to race back to al-Madina. Rasulullah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) asked him if he got married and he answered in the affirmative. He had something to look for. He did his “duty of volunteering”, yet he couldn’t wait to go back home.

    When you are a student and you live alone or with your parents, you have lots of free time. You don’t miss your parents nor do the parents miss you unless either of you have gone on holidays. When you get married, your wife might have been waiting all day or all week for you at home. So, it is courtesy to spend some time with her, isn’t it?

    When volunteering in an Islamic environment, you also do not spend time with your spouse. The husband is with the brothers, the wife with the sisters except for some communication here and there. You might be working towards the same goal, yet you are not spending time with your spouse in this.

    Another thing is that, more often than not, kids usually come early in marriage. That means that, as soon as the wife gets pregnant, she feels tired and this is the least symptom she can have. Has she got energy then to volunteer?

    Life changes constantly. Life as a single student is not the same as a married student is not the same as a single married either. Every new event in the family changes the dynamic of our lives. Volunteering will change accordingly with some very active phases and less active ones. My non-Muslim father is taking in a new project at the tender age of 80 :) Does it mean he has always been that active? No, even though my parents have been known to volunteer a lot in their lives. But each age comes with its challenges, its priorities and its pitfalls. Volunteering comes and goes and changes over time.

    May Allah guide us and keep striving in His path. Ameen.

  15. Sarah A.

    September 28, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    Oo its Sarah S. I shall leave the embarrassing comments aside (ahem sabanikh ahem.) Great article masha Allah.
    One thing that had been on my mind for a few yrs but I’m not quite sure how why it is so. The article brings up the idea of active volunteers.. I have seen some not quite so (yet still somewhat active) folks who have gotten their bachelors or masters … get married.. start a family… then that’s the end of them. I think volunteering comes in many forms, there are many ways to give back without being super active like they once were.

    I don’t mean this in a critical way, I really don’t understand it since I’m not at that stage in life. Just the idea of putting in so much money for school and degrees then stay home and not give back to the community with what they benefited. Allahu a’lam maybe this is my own inaccurate observation. Barak Allahu feekum I look fwd to reading the next part in the series.
    Wassalam alaykum

    • Sarah S

      September 28, 2010 at 11:21 AM

      Sarah! Don’t bring sabanikh onto MuslimMatters!

      I agree- there needs to be a balance… maybe you are not as capable of volunteering as many hours as you once were pre-marriage/pre-children/etc but it’s not necessary that there be an “either-or” ultimatum. There are ways to continue volunteering while still maintaining your duties as a spouse and parent.

  16. Hafiz SP

    September 28, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    A volunteer who is not married but still dropped out – ok its slightly deviated from the title but the lesson still stands i believe.

    Havin been a core member of a volunteer group working in the field media, public awerness and dawah (slightly changed the titles to avoid giving away the name of the group i was involved with). The project was backed by prominant aalims nationwide and also activitists. The recipe for success was in place or so I and a few others thought. But as time went on we realized more and more the manager (who was very very succesful as the CEO of his business – May Allah give him more success and barakah in his wealth) was not very good at managing volunteers which was very disheartening and the executive board were quick to take any accolades but we also quick to blame us volunteers for things that went wrong. In my opinion managers and managment should be trained to be managers of volunteers. The board were also ignoring any attempts to raise issues from volunteers to such an extent many of us just left.

  17. Faiez

    September 28, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    I think people volunteer to find someone to marry. Once they get married the goal is accomplished and there’s no need to volunteer anymore.

    Sincerely,

    Faiez PharmG

    • MR

      September 28, 2010 at 12:10 PM

      That’s excellent. Better than other places.

  18. UmmMohamed

    September 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    I think for the volunteer to continue the work even after the marriage both husband and wife needs to be in the same level and with the same goal iirespective of what type of work they do.

    A sister/brother who used to volunteer to have tables during jummah khutbahs or MSa events cannot carry on the same task after they get married/have kids. But they can definitely manage/monitor a team of 3-5 sisters/brs and give them direction of “To Dos” and “What not to do”. The experience that they have gained and the insight they have are very valuable and will help a lot for the new team.

    But even to do that task the br/sr needs to be in the phone or meet with the team for a short while to plan everything out. But if one of them isnt at the same level of their volunteer spouse to support them in what they do then it will slow the volunteer down and eventually he/she will stop volunteering.

    Whether its a 30 minute phone conference or a short meeting or a short drive to handover the material.. irrespective of what the task is the spouse needs to be supportive for eg: watching the kids while the volunteerism is going on or doing their personal workout or do groceries etc.

    If they feel they are left alone to deal with the kids/kitchen/groceries while their spouse is doing dawah work, then it will reflect on their actions sooner or later and thereby it will have impact on the spouse who is volunteering and it will slow down and unless things are cleared the “volunteering” would become abnorm.

  19. nahla

    September 28, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    its quite simple…time. you get married, have a measly one week honeymoon, then back to school and work and now you both have two families who still want their son/daughter visiting every weekend, and you don’t want to cut your friends out of your life so you need to find time for them too. And there are all those marriage-y chores: grocery shopping, laundry, cooking…things which neither were probably doing all that much before.

    And somewhere in between all those things you realize Im married yet I need to get to know this person! And one “date night” a week for newlyweds, who obviously had very limited interaction before they were married, well I don’t know about anyone else, but it ends up being you spend less quality time with the new person in your life and more time just going all these places with them. I mean, grocery shopping is not exactly quality time.

    In short, I think people need to give the newlyweds time to themselves and a chance to figure out how to balance their time. While this article is wonderfully analytical, I think whats wrong if the volunteers reappear after the newness of marriage has faded? Give them the time they need to get to know each other and to build a foundation for a strong marriage. Be understanding and not condescending.

  20. Siraaj

    September 28, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Very good topic, I think what impacts involvement will depend on the couple. Some were volunteering for just marriage, some both marriage and daw’ah, and some just for daw’ah. After marriage, I think there’s the difficulty of managing new responsibilities, emotional changes, and the possibility of children simply knocks volunteer work way down on the priority list.

    I also it’s also important to point out that while some couples drop out of our orgs, they may find meaning and get involved in others.

    Siraaj

  21. 1MuslimNation.com

    September 28, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    very good analysis. can’t wait to read the next post. jazakallah

  22. random brother

    September 28, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    does anybody find it strange that this article was written by a single guy?

    • MuslimahCA

      September 28, 2010 at 8:36 PM

      Um rude?

      He is now happily married to the co-author Sarah S.

    • MR

      September 29, 2010 at 10:35 AM

      You didn’t even read the article. He’s married. His wife co-wrote it with him.

  23. umm.esa

    September 28, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    This is a blatant generalization of my community:

    Young practicing Muslims in suburban America do not tend to take up responsibilities at home. Parents bring in the money and food. Stomach is satisfied alhamdulilah. In order to expend energy and time in something useful, one has the luxury of “volunteering”. Once a person’s married he/she’s got a full time job, i.e. marriage, which might bring along a fussy and finicky spouse, sick or rowdy child etc.

    My mommy gets sick she still lets me volunteer for xyz org. My baby gets sick…guess what?
    I’m stuck at home.

    • Amatullah

      October 1, 2010 at 2:03 AM

      Umm Esa, I totally agree with you on the responsibilities part. I feel like with our society nowadays, we do not give the youth specific roles to do or give them responsibilities so they never really ‘grow up’. Their parents do everything for them, and they never learn how to take care of anyone other than themselves.

      I also feel that this is one of the reasons for the ‘marriage crisis’. Sisters and brothers do not know how to take care of a house and a family.

      Allah knows best.

    • Aideh

      October 10, 2010 at 12:37 AM

      lol guilty as charged. but thats my past. (ok fine im not totally rehabilitated hence me posting at past midnight :/

      Although I had responsibilities, it was mostly shared.. I didn’t feel the full burden and I still don’t. Although it is difficult, being away from my mom and having new and different responsibilities on my own, its still not even close to being a parent and spouse.

      Therefore, I feel it is important that spouses come to an agreement on some shared responsibilities to relieve some of the burden and gain some of that time back to put their respective skills back in the community wheel.

      Also a lot of the times, women feel the brunt of taking care of the family, even to the point of neglecting her own well-being while the husband although well-meaning is focused predominantly on his own job and workload–unsure or even unaware of his wife’s degeneration/burnt-outness. There is no doubt that this couple has to work out their family arrangement first before being able to step back into the activity and bustle of community volunteerism . Simply put, they must help themselves before they can help others.

      This was a really good post and insha Allah, i’m looking forward to reading part two from this power couple. :) BarakAllahu feekum.

  24. susie b

    September 29, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    What a great article! As someone mentioned, time is a big obstacle, and one I’m facing in my relationship. I’ve been feeling like I barely have time to get all the cooking and cleaning done, while maintaining relationships with family and friends, and adding another “to-do” isn’t so appetizing. One solution I’ve wanted to try is to volunteer with my partner, so that we can spend quality time together while also being engaged in our community. It is difficult for me to want to leave him (instant gratification! and wanting to get to know him better and build our relationship) and go do something that may not be immediately rewarding.
    I also have to admit that another stumbling block for us is different values, and that volunteering is more important to me than to him, so while, to me, the best answer is for us to go together, that may not be his perspective! i am interested in finding activities that we would both enjoy.

  25. Naima

    September 29, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Your priorities change after marriage, you realize your family comes first… I was very active volunteer before marriage, volunteering was my life :), well it kinda was. After I got married I really wasn’t excited about volunteering anymore.. Before marriage I was one of the most active volunteers in my community, that changed overnight….

    • MuslimahCA

      September 29, 2010 at 5:34 PM

      If you want to do something, you will find the time to do it. We do it ALL the time for dunya related reasons, giving a hand to help our community should be a priority. A high priority if you ask me, because your laying the foundation for the kids/hubby/wifey you are so passionately helping and forgetting the world for ;)

      Two times a month is find, helping pass out food to the homeless is an hour tops, passing out fliers for a cause/class after jummah is 5mins.

      No excuses, just results.

      • F

        September 30, 2010 at 10:45 AM

        Bang on Muslimah CA.

        • MuslimahCA

          October 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM

          huh?

          • Siraaj

            October 2, 2010 at 12:43 AM

            He means he agrees with you, like, “You hit the nail on the head!”

            Siraaj

      • Naima

        September 30, 2010 at 11:15 AM

        I do agree helping the community should be high priority but your family is number one :)…

  26. MuslimahCA

    September 29, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    As a side note, I think we should really look into our intentions on why we are volunteering for xyz org/masjid. If its too keep you busy while your single, then of course you wont show up once your married and its perfectly fine if that’s so.

    If its because you see the community/society needs our help, then it wont be a single days “phase” or no children in the picture phase but this is a lifetime habit that you have made for yourself. Even if things are SUPER hectic in your personal life, little emails with your two cents helps, or even words of encouragement like “way to go team/masjid/org, your in my dua’s”. Nowadays I feel like all we get from the newly weds who aren’t so new, are not so constructive criticism.

    No excuses, just results.

  27. Dawud

    September 29, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Great post!! :D

    Love it!

  28. Abez

    September 30, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    I think it’s safe to say my tires had been flat since I was married, and only now am I getting some air back into them. Only now are my kids old enough to not require 24/7 care on my part, and I think that’s an important factor too.

  29. Ayesha

    September 30, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    I like this article :).

    I have some friends that volunteered for Almaghrib for many years, they quit because the institute wasn’t appreciating their hardwork and they took them for granted. These young volunteers were going to college and instead of working part time like many young people do they decided to help the institute for Allahs sake. If these guys sent email to the institute for any concern, they wouldn’t reply or if they did they would repl weeks later. The volunteers would pay full price instead of getting discounts.

    They got tired of this and decided to quit after marriage. In return the institute does not have as many volunteers as they did couple years ago, their forums is dead. I’ve spoke to many volunteers and not only my friends and they all agree the institute need to change or else they won’t have any more volunteers.

    Almaghrib should learn a thing or two from Bayyinah institute, that’s an institute that appreciates their volunteers and the community in general.

    Let the bashing begin :D.

    • An Appreciated Volunteer

      September 30, 2010 at 11:43 AM

      Do you feel better now? do you feel happy that you got that out of your system? Alhamdulilah

      Now go and copy paste that comment and send it to info@almaghrib.org
      This is Muslim Matters, not almaghrib, they cant do much for you here.

      I would like to even suggest to you that you dont send it out unless you have some constructive criticism with some tips on the side instead of that comment that you just posted. You obviously are one of those volunteers that you are talking about, your voice should be heard. AlMaghrib alongside every other org has its issues, dont ruin your deeds by being a bitter ex-volunteer who runs around the world wide web- go directly to them. If it doesnt work, move on with your life knowing that you did your best. Yes, and Bayyinah Rocks! :)

      Have a great day sis.

      An AlMaghrib volunteer that DOESNT feel like she is unappreciated.

      • Ayesha

        September 30, 2010 at 12:02 PM

        First you need to calm the heck down. If you read my post clearly you’ll see that I said they did email them but no one returns their emails. I didn’t say let the bashing begin for no reason.

        • Amatul Wadood

          September 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM

          Salam wrt wbrt!

          JazakAllah Khair for the article and may AllahSWT bless both of you with happy married life and bestow His Mercy in both the worlds! :)

          @Ayesha and An Appreciated Volunteer
          Hey calm down both of you… expect good only from AllahSWT….and dont let the shaytan cause problems and enjoy watching your good deeds getting washed away!

          Sister Ayesha…i dont think this is the right place to talk about this…maybe you should discuss this privately with someone responsible…you could have even mailed the main board members of MM maybe to let almagrib know about this…

          Anywayz… may AllahSWT help us all to help eachother in patience and righteousness! :)

    • Dude

      September 30, 2010 at 3:09 PM

      I find it amazing that you say “almaghrib should learn from bayyinah” since bayyinah is a for profit vs. almaghrib a non profit…

      very interesting.. talk about selling knowledge!

    • Siraaj

      September 30, 2010 at 4:27 PM

      Let’s not get into the “AlMaghrib vs Bayyinah” approach of doing things discussion. Each has their own take on how best to spread the ‘ilm, and we do ourselves no good by pitting one against the other. It’s counterproductive to daw’ah. Both have strengths and weaknesses in their approach, and so long as they’re successful overall and benefiting the community, I see no need to get down on either org, or pit one against the other.

      On a related note, I wrote an article yesterday on my personal blog about this topic tangentially, related to backbiting the leaders of these orgs because of the approach they’ve chosen here:

      http://muslimbestlife.com/blog/?p=1507

      Siraaj

    • Aideh

      October 10, 2010 at 12:47 AM

      that sounds like a managerial issue to me. Not a reason why someone would quit everything and leave. There are an array of organizations out there. I’m sure power volunteers can find other places to put their use if they are not satisfied with one (which is their right, no dictatorships in Amreeka sa7? ;P) Also, not to limit ourselves to organizations, there are many other ways of contributing to the community. Although some would argue that working with a group is better, but again people do what they think is best, what they feel is productive, and in line with their passions.

      • Aideh

        October 10, 2010 at 12:56 AM

        But you are right in the sense that organizations do affect the commitment and satisfaction of their volunteers. It is in the self-interest of any organization to motivate aka convince volunteers to put (and keep) their time, effort, and commitment with them. Volunteering is like teaching; the work is never done because of the pay. It is done out of passion and love for the work but reciprocated respect between management and the teacher is definitely a motivating factor that keeps teachers from applying to a different school.

    • Sakinah

      January 3, 2011 at 3:08 AM

      I agree fully and have seen the same thing happen amongst the people I know.

  30. Nadeem R.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    MashaAllah great article and amazing feedback. I wanted to touch on one aspect I find interesting which is the point of “not enough Tarbiyyah.” I do find it interesting that the volunteers that hang on after marriage and those who are the strongest in general were or are active members in other activist organizations.

    I think the key to defeating the flat-tire syndrome is a die-hard attitude deeply ingrained in people. When we study the Seerah we find that the Arab culture played a role in the success of Islam. Dr. Ali As-Sallaabbee argues in his Seerah that it was the strong character of the Arabs (and even their warring nature) that made them so strong once they became Muslims. I see it plainly that those brothers and sisters that have worked with organizations like MAS, ICNA and others are extremely dedicated when it comes to volunteering. They have a no-excuse mentality that carries them. Alhamduillilah for these organizations and others that instill in people the sense of burden that service to the Deen is not only obligatory but imperative to ones overall happiness. I know for sure, that no-one is happy being a flat-tire. So what should you do? Get yourself a pump, maybe some Syed Qutb, and get inflated again!

    Another point I wanted to make was a lack of full-fledged Tawheed in our lives. Imam Shamsi Ali of New York spoke of this in a brief lecture and I never forgot it. He said there is Tawheed with Allah (which every student of knowledge knows) but then there is Tawheed with ourselves. We need to learn to have one face, one worldview, and one vision that encompasses our entire life. It is only when we segregate our life into work, family, personal time, volunteer time, and so forth that one area suffers. However, if we can take grasp of our lives in a holistic sense saying that everything I do is truly for the sake of Allah then we won’t have this burn out. Everything will fit in its due place and get its due right. A simple example, of having this Tawheedic manner (as Shaykh Abdul-Hakim Quick says) is to analyze ourselves and find our niche. It could be as simple as a person being a web-designer but then using those skills for the Deen. Again, looking back at the early Muslims, that’s what they did. They took whatever good they had before Islam and simply redirected it afterwards. BTW: weren’t all the companions married? <~~ no flat tires there!

    Certainly roles change and room needs to be made for fresh blood and new volunteers. But we (the married folk) cannot lose our zeal and drive to serve the Deen. We are smart enough to meander our way around masjid boards and their bureaucracy. In New York, we've found our way into many Masaajid and Alhamdullilah we're creating new avenues for married volunteers and older volunteers. Work is there to be done, if only we feel the burden, we will make the time. Sh. Yaser Birjas told us, he still considers himself a volunteer as he serves his Masjid. His words alone should inspire everyone out there.

    May Allah (azza wa jaal) make us his tools for the propogation of this deen. May He make our hearts firm upon his Deen. And may He inflate us with Istiqaamah so we may continue to serve his Deen until our last breath.

    • Amatullah

      October 10, 2010 at 7:39 AM

      Ameen.

      +1, jazaak Allahu khayran for this wonderful comment.

    • Sarah S.

      October 27, 2010 at 12:41 PM

      Jazaak Allahu khairan for this awesome comment! (In case y’all don’t know, he’s the Ameer of Qabeelat Tayybah masha’Allah.) This was an excellent reminder.

  31. Daily Hadith Online

    October 1, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    This seems like an important insight. I know the local organizations here lose lots of volunteers this way.

    Thanks for the article!

  32. Munz

    January 6, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Mashallah this is such a nice article. I used to feel guilty for not being so active after marriage. But I think most people don’t realize that we don’t reflect on certain things which is why we feel bad for not being so active as before. The way we treat our spouse, do things for them, help them, teach them, etc… we get sadaka for it. Same way we would volunteer and inshallah hope for all the rewards just instead we recieve it for doing things in our marriage. And if you get a little extra time then volunteer somewhere, but either way you’re actually balancing things out. You just don’t realize it because we don’t really reflect on the stuff we do in our marriage, instead we count the stuff we did outside of it. I may be wrong or right, I don’t know, but that’s just how I think about all this. :)

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