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Parenting Series | Part I: Swimming Against the Current

Part I Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | | Part V(b) | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

We are living in a strange time of rat races, struggling to keep up with others around us. This race is not only limited to our wealth, status, or any other type of materialism, but also includes the way we carry out many of our daily roles in life, especially as parents. The way we raise our children and the values/goals we set for them has become a matter of competition. The definition of a good parent, in our world, revolves around how comfortably our children are raised, how much money we are able to collect and spend on them, the amount of good, fresh food that is provided daily, and what “type” of secular education we are able to provide for them. The more we are able to provide of these worldly things, the better we are perceived as fulfilling parents.

As bound by our nature, we follow the herd, meaning the norm of our society. Similarly, we pass on the same goals and priorities to our children. Even if someone desires to live a different lifestyle, it is very easy to succumb to the daily grind because of our surrounding environment.

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However, as Muslim parents we are entrusted with responsibilities beyond the success of this world. Hence, we cannot afford to go with the flow if we do not know where this flow will ultimately take us. Therefore, it is binding upon a Muslim parent to know:

  • What our goal is as parents
  • Who our role models should be

If our ultimate goal is strictly bound to the benefits of this world, then we can follow the trends of this world and our worries are limited; wishing only for our children a good education, a college degree, and a STDs/drug free life. On the other hand, if we have the next world in mind, then we must set ourselves additional values and goals which probably require swimming against the current, which is an extremely challenging and almost impossible task, unless stimulated by a solid motivation.

Why Set Superior Goals?

Why do we have to be the odd parent struggling to move against the current and creating more trouble for ourselves and complications for our child/ren? In a nutshell, remember we are alive not to focus on this world but rather to aim for the next world.

In my humble opinion, a loving parent is not one whose only focus is to fill his/her children’s stomachs, find them the best clothing, provide them with a comfortable place to live, and concentrate on their higher education.  I believe that TRUE love is reflected in how much attention is paid to the real purpose of their existence and to their final destination.

I was told about a young Pakistani man who had recently graduated with a Master’s degree from abroad and then returned to his motherland. He was an only child and his parents had “done it all” for their only son from the time he was born; they provided him with a luxurious upbringing and the best education of their time. However, and unfortunately, it didn’t include any religious guidance as that did not seem to be of value or importance. Disappointing to say, the young man fell sick and was diagnosed with cancer in its last stages. When he was hospitalized, he met an old man who talked to him about life after death, heaven and hell, and his last journey. That day, the young man cried like a little baby for he was not prepared for his journey, and he had nothing to take to his real destination. He questioned his parents about their negligence, looking at his degrees and achievements in dismay. How can his Master’s help salvage him? His parents realized their error but could only rue their heedlessness. Nevertheless, he was blessed during his final hours with a teacher who helped him learn salah, the Qur’an, and more of the basics of Islamic knowledge. I do not know if this young man lived or if he rests in his grave now, but I do hope and pray that Allah‘azza wa jall accepted his efforts, grants him Jannah, and forgives him and his parents.Ameen.

Let’s keep in mind that not everyone gets a last minute opportunity to make up for life-long negligence. Death comes unannounced and at the least expected moments; it is a reality that we can all be assured of. The question is, how many of us are preparing our children for that inevitable moment?

My daughter is fatally allergic to peanuts. A few years back, she had an accidental exposure to peanuts, causing an extremely dangerous reaction. On our way to the ER, she was throwing up, breathing abnormally, and her lips were turning blue. As I held her head in my arms, she whispered to me, “It’s okay mama, everyone has to die some day!” Her eyes rolled backwards (I will never forget that sight), and I thought we were going to lose her before we made it to the hospital. She was in indescribable pain, and as a mother I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything for her.  All I wanted was for her to stop hurting, but I couldn’t take her pain away. To make a long story short, alhamdulillah no ill became of her; a short stay in the ER of the hospital and we were able to return home the same night. Still, that day I realized my limitations as a parent. When I thought I would lose her, I was willing to exchange my soul for hers, but it was a useless and absurd bargain to even think of. I realized that if those were her last moments, nothing would have benefitted her except her preparations for her final destination. My children might travel on their last journey before I do, and it is a journey they have to take alone. I will not be able to help them at this time and can only help them get ready for their meeting with the angel of death.

So, dear parents, while we prepare our children for their interview at an Ivy League school or for a big job, we cannot and must not forget about their ultimate interview and meeting with the angel of death. And with this in mind, we must aim to raise our children in a way appropriate and safe for their akhirah as well as their dunyainsha’Allah.

Having said this, I am not undermining secular education by any means. I am a firm believer that a secular education is very important for our children, particularly during this era. They must know and understand the world they live in, which is for their benefit; they must also be educated to secure a good job and be self-sufficient as a Muslim should be.

Yet, we must find a balance when we raise Muslim children while aiming for the akhirah, all the while doing well in this dunya. Our children study at school for 8 hours a day and come home with tons of homework, so where do we “fit in” Islam into their lives?  This is the question posed in every Muslim parent’s mind whose kids are not homeschooled or are not attending an Islamic school.

I wish I had a step-by-step guide for every parent according to their child’s type and age. Unfortunately, I don’t. And although I am not an expert in this field, I have a few suggestions to offer parents, some based on my own experience as a parent, some from counseling teenagers and other parents, and some based on simple observations.

Let us keep in mind that Islam is not a “subject” that we teach as a second-language or like sports training for soccer or football where we train/educate for a few hours during the day and then forget all about it until the next class. Rather, it is our religion, a way of life, and should be dealt with and taught like any daily ritual of our lives. In other words, instill our religion in their everyday lives, so it is indigenous to them.  It obviously requires a lot of effort from us as parents but be assured our good effort is never wasted:

“…then Allah surely does not waste the reward of the doers of good.” (12:90)

Better yet, we will thus achieve our goal, insha’Allah, and our children will become asadaqah jaariyyah (ongoing charity) for us, not to mention that they will secure theirakhirah, by the mercy of Allah.

“When a person dies, all his deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge (which he has left behind), or a righteous child who will pray for him.”

Let us be assured that it is, perhaps, the bare minimum requirement of being a “Muslim” parent, for the Prophet of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasalam) said:

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The imaamis a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for her flock. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for his flock…” (Bukhaari; Muslim)

Our children are entrusted to us by Allah ‘azza wa jall, so we must set proper values for them and direct their lives in the correct direction. If we neglect our responsibilities, then not only do we become partially responsible for spoiling our children’s akhirah (if they go astray), but we also subject ourselves to punishment. Remember the Day when we will flee from our children; it will not be for any other reason but out of fear that they might question us about their neglected rights:

“That Day shall a man flee from his brother, And from his mother and his father, And from his wife and his children. Every man, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others.” (80:34-37)

After all this, how can we not have the akhirah as the ultimate goal for our children, and how can we not aim for Jannah for our children? How can we neglect their akhira and not prioritize their deen in their lives?

Dear parents, it is strange that when it comes to this world, we always have high goals for our children and our expectations know no bounds, but when it comes to their real destiny, we aim for the bare minimum. We never settle for just high school, but rather from the time of their birth we remain ever consistent with the hope of at least a Bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, when it comes to their akhirah, we are pleased with ‘as long as they pray’, ‘fast Ramadan’, or ‘fulfill the fundamental 5 pillars’ for the entirety of their existence!

The upcoming articles in this Parenting series are a brief summary of “The Parenting Workshop” I have given in the US and in Doha to a Western audience. Henceforth, let us proceed to practical steps of achieving our goal, insha’Allah.

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

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

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.

#Society

Our African American Siblings Are Speaking, Are We Listening? Here Are 15 Things African American Muslims Want You To Know

African American Muslimss

In the Fall of 2018, we surveyed Muslims of Hispanic/Latino descent and asked what is the one thing they would want the Muslim community to know about them. We gathered 25 responses and released an article called, “25 Things Latino Muslims Want you to Know.” The purpose of the piece was to educate the general Muslim body about the Latino Muslim community and its dynamics, to debunk common stereotypes about Latinos, and to lend a voice to a marginalized sector in the Islamic community and in the United States.

Now, with the current climate of racial tension in the U.S. and the revival of the national movement for Black rights, I thought it not only imperative, but seriously overdue to put together a similar list of reactions from our African American brethren. Moving away from the obvious fact that there should be no racism in Islam, we want to open up about the racism and anti-blackness that unfortunately does exist within the Muslim community and how that affects our relationships with each other and hinders the struggle for change.

When I was collecting responses for this article what I found was that, unsurprisingly, Latino Muslims and Black Muslims have similar messages to send to the general Muslim community. Our shared experiences fuel a mutual call for justice and equality in society and within our own places of worship. I also had a difficult time gathering the same amount of feedback, because I began at a time when images of the murdered Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks were still circulating social media as a constant reminder of the injustice happening all over the country, specifically the targeting Black men and women. These wounds, so deep and raw were gaping in the collective psyche of African Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim, fueling sentiments of anger and mistrust, and rightfully so. Many people refused to comment while others could not find the right words to use to address the Muslim brothers and sisters who have often failed them, as well.

The following is a list of 15 things the African American community, not only want you to know, but have been saying for decades. Are we listening?

  • I think people should know that civility (avoidance of controversial topics for the sake of being polite and getting along) undermines anti-racism work. Anti-racism demands frank discourse, active listening, and reflection. None of that can take place if we cannot clearly define the problems we face. – Candice Elam, Nurse, New Jersey
  • Our culture is not the antithesis of Islam. We do not come from broken homes. Umm Layyan Zainab, Mental Health Counselor/Recovery Specialist, Brooklyn, New York
Our culture is not the antithesis of Islam. We do not come from broken homes. – Umm Layyan Zainab, Mental Health Counselor/Recovery Specialist, Brooklyn, New YorkClick To Tweet
  • We are not your religious underlings. Many foreigners, especially Arabs and Indo-Paks, feel as though they have religious and cultural superiority over us. Just to list a few reasons they may feel this way: Firstly, they never really took the time out to learn and understand the history of oppression the indigenous people have been going through for over 500 years. But when it comes to them and their people back home, it is a top priority and the world must hear about the tears of the people of Palestine, Yemen, etc. This mentality is counterproductive to our religion of Islam because our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a mercy to mankind, not just one nation, but all nations. Secondly, we are viewed as guests in their religion so, therefore, we should follow and adhere to their way, like somehow, we lack the ability and capability to understand and apply the teachings of Islam. I have always said that the slave master said we were 1/3 of a human, but now in the eyes of some Muslim foreigners, we are 1/3 of a Muslim. Our shahadahs are not truly recognized in their eyes. Thirdly, I believe some foreigners have the disease of racism in their hearts and it is present in their own countries towards dark-skinned people. What I am saying is based on what I and others have experienced. Abu Taahir Jalal, Islamic teacher/Youth Advocate/Mental Health Coach, Yonkers, New York
  • One thing I would like non-black Muslims to know is that not all African Americans are the same.  We have differences in culture depending where we are from.  I grew up in the Midwest. Our culture is vastly different from those who grew up in the South compared to those who grew up in the North. Then you have those who are Muslim compared to those who are not.  Lifestyles are different.  People do not realize this. – Zaneta Trent, Homeschooler/Health Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
  • All Black Muslims are not African American. There are also Afro-Latinos, Caribbean Muslims, etc. Halleemah Munoz, Educator, Atlanta, Georgia
All Black Muslims are not African American. There are also Afro-Latinos, Caribbean Muslims, etc. Halleemah Munoz, Educator, Atlanta, GeorgiaClick To Tweet
  • I would like the immigrant and/or non-Autochthonous Muslim community to understand that the Indigenous/Autochthonous “Black American” community facilitated the changes in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization laws through the Civil Rights Movement and we are the reason why your family was able to immigrate and prosper here. Therefore, we should be acknowledged and respected for our struggle for equality that led to your presence. Additionally, you need to understand that your opportunities here lie solely on the U.S.’s agenda to make us a permanent bottom caste and to deny our right to equal opportunity, reparations for chattel slavery and upwardly mobility. This is called the racial wealth gap inequality where, through structural racism, we have been denied equal opportunity and access to wealth accumulation and resources. Please do not conflate our poverty with lack of drive, lack of self-determination, laziness, or apathy. Please do not believe that we are criminals and vagabonds. On the contrary, we built this country and through our blood, sweat, tears, struggle, and resistance, you have benefitted. – Elenia Norman, disabled, former Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
  • All black Muslims are not converts/reverts to Islam. – Shareefa Carrion, Designer/Entrepreneur, Atlanta, Georgia Designer/Entrepreneur
  • We did not become, and we do not remain Muslim to switch slave-masters. We do not “convert to Islam in jail/prison en masse.” We do not aspire to be Middle Eastern/Arab, Desi, African, Asian, etc. via our religious adherence to al-Islam. We support #Blacklivesmatter. – Gareth Bryant, Chaplain, Muslim Afro-American, New York
  • I want all Muslims, and people in general, to know and understand that Islam and Muslims are not “new” or “foreign” to America. In fact, Muslims have been in America since BEFORE it was even a nation by way of over 400 years of the African Slave Trade. Some scholars have estimated that between 30%-40% of the Africans brought to this country were Muslim. Slave traders actually identified those who were Muslims and sold them for higher prices because they were educated. Therefore, African American Muslims were the first Muslims in the United States of America. So, there are African American Muslims who have been Muslim for generations here. Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • Another thing we would like everyone to know and understand: Just because we are African American, and not from a “Muslim country,” do not assume we know nothing about Islam. Do not think that our knowledge is somehow “less than” someone from a “Muslim country” or that of our Arab and southeast Asian brothers and sisters. Many of us are well educated in Islam; many times even more so. Especially when it comes to areas of how to navigate being Muslim in America. We are way more equipped to answer these questions than someone coming from outside who does not understand the subtle ins-and-outs of this country, its laws or its history. The majority of African American Muslims, mainly those of us who have slave-trade ancestry (not with an African homeland e.g. Nigerian, Somalian etc.), don’t get caught up and lost in semantics, culture and traditions considering the Quran and Hadith. Therefore, we take the message as it is. Islam is Islam period. No cultural or traditional baggage attached. No matter what time you live in whether it is 6th century, present, or future.  Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • We are not new to Islam. Our ancestors were the vanguard of Islam in the Americas, starting with the Spanish occupations of the Caribbean in the 1500’s to the mass exodus of African Americans into Sunni Islam in the 70’s due to the influence of Islamic leaders such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, W. Deen Muhammad, and even members of the Black panthers. Abu Yazid Dumas, IT Tech, student of religious studies, Detroit, Michigan
We are not new to Islam. Our ancestors were the vanguard of Islam in the Americas, starting with the Spanish occupations of the Caribbean in the 1500’s to the mass exodus of African Americans into Sunni Islam in the 70’s due to the influence of Islamic leaders such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, W. Deen Muhammad, and even members of the Black panthers. Abu Yazid Dumas, IT Tech, student of religious studies, Detroit, MichiganClick To Tweet
  • I want people to know that Whites, Pakistanis, Indians, and Arabs do NOT speak for me as a Black American Muslim Woman. I have my own voice. WE have our own voices. Furthermore, I am tired of news outlets and reporters thinking that THE ABOVE ETHNIC GROUPS, especially Arabs, Pakistanis, and Indians are the ONLY voices of Islam. Moreover, NOT every Black American MUSLIM embraced Islam via the Nation of Islam or the Warith Al-Deen community. Barbara L., Islamic & ESL/EFL Teacher, Chapman University Graduate Student, Anaheim Hills, California
  • If you are truly sincere about helping in the battle against oppression in this world (and only Allah knows the hearts of His servants), I’ll say this: Whatever you do, understand that truly standing up against oppression has two battlegrounds. your internal world, and your external world. There is no standing up for justice in the truest sense without both of these aspects working together, and simultaneously—at all times. This is true for all social justice work, anti-racism or otherwise, and it is true irrespective of your “work experience” and ethnic background. If a single one of us—whether Black or non-Black, privileged or underprivileged—subtracts any one of these two components in our fight against oppression, then our efforts are false, insincere, or steeped in harmful self-deception. There really is no exception to this rule. Not a single one. This rule applies to every ethnic group, even amongst those who are underprivileged and oppressed, but it applies most especially to those who are benefiting from the system of oppression, even if they wish to live in self-denial about this. Umm Zakiyyah, Author/Educator, Baltimore, Maryland (Read more about how you can help fight oppression and anti-blackness in “First, Remove the Chains from Your Heart” on her blog: uzauthor.com)
  • Because our people were once enslaved, does not make us “less than” and somehow not worthy of marrying your son or daughter. Which, unfortunately, is how many of our other immigrant “Muslim brothers and sisters” view and treat us. Many of our Muslim “Brothers and Sisters” need to go back and read the last sermon of our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAWS) where he touches on many points, one of which is race relations, where he says plainly, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab…a white person has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” (Agreed upon) Kyosanim J., Assistant Martial Arts Instructor and NASM-CPT, Maryland, USA
  • As Autochthonous American Muslims, we deserve respect because our struggle has carved out a space for you among a predominantly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christian hegemony that would otherwise reject your Muslim immigrant identity. Join us now in the fight against anti-Black racism, anti-Muslim bigotry, White Supremacy, and Imperialism. Help us reach White Americans in the academic and medical institutions we have been locked out of with the message of la ilaha illallah instead of choosing the decadence of wealth acquisition, suburban comfort, and cozy seating  at the banquet table of White Supremacy. – Elenia Norman, disabled, former Educator, Baltimore, Maryland
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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, non-Hispanic or mixed-race black people accounted for 20% of the Muslim population in the United States, meaning 1 in every 5 Muslims is Black, and that is not counting Afro-Latinos or Americans of mixed-race backgrounds. Just a little under half of that 20% are converts to Islam, and this also highlights the obvious fact that Black Muslims are not newcomers to our communities. In fact, they are pioneers who have been here since before the establishment of this country and paved the way for immigrant Muslims to migrate here to settle and build Islamic centers and schools. To deny our brothers and sisters fair treatment, companionship, or support based on the color of their skin is delusional and self-destructive.

If we are not pained and haunted by the images of African American victims of police brutality and hate crimes, then we need to take a long look in the mirror and really check ourselves. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, clearly defined true brotherhood when he stated, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Right now, we should all be breathless, we should all be restless. Until anti-Blackness is eradicated from our own families and communities, we should not feel comfortable to worship freely and go on about our lives. We may not be able to extinguish the ugly flames of racism worldwide, but we can start with ourselves.

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#Life

Drowning In Bottles: My Muslim Story Of Addiction And Substance Use Disorder

I want to talk about a topic that I haven’t been able to discuss openly for most of my adult life; alcohol addiction and acute substance use disorder. I’m an African American Muslim and I grew up in the Washington, DC area. My intention is mainly to discuss my alcoholism, how it began, why I felt so secretive, and how I pulled myself out of it. I want this to be a source of strength and support for others like me who may feel hopeless or helpless in the face of such a situation.

I was addicted to alcohol. It wasn’t because I liked drinking, it’s because being drunk made me forget the things that made me sad and anxious. I drank to calm my nerves in social situations or because I didn’t know how to say ‘no.’ Or maybe because I felt I couldn’t say no. Additionally, if I became embarrassed in public or anything, drinking was my way out. Right before you lose your balance and your inhibitions, being intoxicated is like being at a carnival. 

When I was drinking, my tongue was looser and my jokes funnier. I was the life of the party. I sucked up the oxygen in the room until there wasn’t anymore. And then I kept going. It’s as though my stomach was bottomless. I drank until a trapdoor opened and all the contents of my stomach dropped out onto the floor; along with the bile and my guts. It’s a painful experience. But then, so is alcoholism. 

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I remember taking sips of my parents’ wine from their glasses at holiday parties as a teen, feeling like I was doing something wrong, but excited at the same time. I loved holding my father’s mugs and thinking I was as adult as he was. 

He kept his liquor in a cabinet on our entertainment center, right above his records. The cabinet made a creaking sound when you opened it. The pull of alcohol was really strong. I liked how it made me feel and how it numbed my emotions. I felt ashamed that I was taking something that didn’t belong to me; something I didn’t have permission to consume. But regardless, it became a routine. 

Beginning in 9th grade, I often slept through my classes, because of poor mental health and exhaustion. Even as an athlete, I felt rundown on a constant basis. I later found out I have excessive daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy. It took years of tests to receive a proper diagnosis but by then, my life had been so disrupted by sleeping that I’d become severely overwhelmed. This caused me to feel worse about myself. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I drank as a result of how I perceived my health status. Drinking was my escape. 

There were a few times where I got blackout drunk. This kind of thing started in my third year of high school. I wanted to numb my feelings and feel happy, but I’d drink too fast and too much. I’d consume alcohol until I got physically ill. Drinking like that is extremely dangerous. I realize now that I was passively suicidal and severely depressed. I was also dealing with many impulsive behaviors and had no safety net. 

At my mom’s house I used to collect bottles of beer in large plastic trash bags in my room. I was ashamed for anyone to discover I was drinking, so I hid it. I’d finish a six-pack and shove the empty bottles into the bag hoping that somehow hid my ‘crime’. Eventually when the bag got too full, I’d sneak outside when no one was looking and stash it in the trash can. I got tired of that routine and I got tired of thinking people would find out. Sometimes I’d keep the bags in my room. I would hoard 3 and 4 bags of bottles at a time. I was drowning in my alcohol addiction. I couldn’t see my way out. 

By college, my narcolepsy got much more debilitating. It was exacerbated by bipolar depression, anxiety and my response to trauma. I was bullied so much throughout childhood that my self-esteem suffered. No one knew how much I hated myself, and they didn’t know I had been molested and sexually assaulted at least three times in my life. My mom suspected something, but wasn’t sure who the culprit was. I couldn’t talk to my father or other family members because I was too shy and introverted; though my father was always supportive. So I drank to hide my pain.  

During beach week I drank until I passed out, but before I blacked out, I went canoeing at midnight. I could have fallen overboard. I want this to be a lesson for my kids and other youth. When I woke up, there was so much vomit on my shirt and on my face. I was crying. My friends said they couldn’t stop me from getting sick and they didn’t know what to do. They tried turning me over during the night, but I still woke up on my back. 

What they don’t tell you about an alcohol overdose is that it hurts. By that I mean it’s physically painful. It’s as if you can feel your cells shrinking, trying to get away from the poison of the alcohol. I’ve felt this too many times to count. When you OD or have alcohol poisoning you first feel really bad, like something is going to happen. It’s an aura, of sorts. You know you went too far with the drinking, and you wish you could take it back. 

But it’s too late at that point. You feel queasy and you start sweating. You feel hot and dizzy. Your skin gets clammy too; first your hands, your upper lip, and then the rest of your skin. You start to experience a cold sweat even if you’re hot. Then your stomach starts to hurt. Like all the way at the bottom. You realize the vomiting is inevitable.

It took me two days to fully recover and sober up. My parents didn’t know where I was or who I was with. I’ve never felt that awful before. Unfortunately, even after that, I still drank. This cycle is how substance use disorder and addiction work, and it’s deadly. I went through this painful ordeal many more times in college and even afterwards, subhanAllah. 

I always found a liquor store or a beer and wine place wherever I lived. I knew exactly where to go and what time they closed depending on what part of the area I was in. You become a slave to your addiction. People think you’re a low life or you’re just a bad person if you drink. They think you have poor character and that your parents raised you wrong. I hate that mentality. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t a character issue. It’s about trauma and a lack of proper coping skills. It’s about connection, and for some of us it’s also about impulsivity and self-will. And an underlying mental illness makes things more complicated. 

Religious Conversion

I was 21 years old when I converted to Islam. I felt as though I didn’t have anyone to turn to in order to share my past. I was scared that people would find out how chaotic my life had been, so I didn’t tell them anything. That left me feeling like I couldn’t trust anyone in my Muslim circles early on. 

I think this was irresponsible, even if unintentional. I think I should have been counseled by a licensed therapist and Imam, screened for mental health concerns and substance use disorders, and formally welcomed to a community.Click To Tweet

When I converted, people told me to forget my old life. They said it wasn’t necessary to think about what had happened and that Allah had forgiven my past mistakes, but nobody asked me if I had any trauma, addictions,or  mental health issues. I think this was irresponsible, even if unintentional. I think I should have been counseled by a licensed therapist and Imam, screened for mental health concerns and substance use disorders, and formally welcomed to a community. And furthermore, I should have been guided in what to do if I developed any of these issues subsequently. That would have been ideal anyway. 

Since none of that happened, I ended up trying to quit alcohol cold turkey, several times, and trying to manage my addictions and substance use issues without professional help. I tried to hide my trauma and anxiety and was not forthcoming with clinicians when I did finally find them. This was dangerous and proved almost deadly to me on multiple occasions. 

I thought quitting cold turkey was best for me and my Iman. For some reason, I thought Islam distinguished me from other addicts because I’d only ever heard of recovery from a Christian perspective. 

I remember my first Ramadan when I was in college. I stopped drinking so I could pray and fast, but I didn’t have guidance, so I didn’t know how to taper and pray as a dry alcoholic. I’d go back and forth, wrestling with my alcohol addiction. I’d stopped going to parties of course, but memories of the alcohol kept attacking my psyche. I still had strong cravings and some withdrawal symptoms. It was so hard to put the bottle down, metaphorically speaking. Sometimes, I’d make a mistake and take a drink. 

When I met my future husband, I’d pushed all this down and forgotten it happened. I’d repressed memories of the abuse, my visits to the psychiatrist, my sexual assaults, the alcoholism, and so on. Anything I did remember, I kept to myself out of fear of judgment and shame. We didn’t have marital counseling; in fact, it wasn’t even recommended to us. At that time, there was no counseling center at the masjid, and of course, no place to discuss addictions or alcoholism. My marriage was set up to fail, in a way. 

Going Without Alcohol 

The first few Ramadan’s were peaceful for me. I forgot my old life and never told anyone about my addictions. I didn’t seem to need any additional support. I was in a kind of mental health remission, but then I had my son and it triggered something in me. The stress exacerbated my symptoms and my addiction resurfaced. 

I had kids back to back, every two years. The hormones and stress of being a new mother made my bipolar disorder and anxiety return with a vengeance. I developed poor coping skills as a result. I wanted to drink, but couldn’t. I wished I had told someone that I’d been a heavy drinker in college, so I’d know what to do. When my midwives asked me about alcohol and substance use, I wasn’t honest. I also didn’t remember or realize the importance of the emotional issues I was dealing with. 

I found other ways to soothe my pain and anxiety. When my husband wasn’t home, if there were pills in the house, regardless if they were mine or not, I’d take them. I was right back into my addictive behaviors before I knew it. I didn’t know how to reach out for help. I realized later I was substituting one addiction for another. So quitting alcohol cold turkey, without a support system, didn’t do anything positive for me at all. I began to use my husband’s work tools to cut myself, resorting to a teenage coping mechanism I used to employ. Self-harm was something I indulged in when I needed help managing tough situations. I’d cut, scratch my face, wring my hands, wrap things around my neck, injure my limbs, or re-injure them. I did anything to feel pain or hurt myself. I still have scars on both arms.

This morning, I opened my nightstand drawers. They were a mess. I had pill bottles everywhere and drugstore receipts. I found a few loose trileptal pills (for mood regulation) too. Tops to empty bottles. Nail clippers. Trash galore. This is also a part of my addiction. It’s called hoarding and ocd. It’s a part of my ADHD and anxiety disorder, and it’s representative of my hectic life. I don’t drink anymore, but I’m disorganized. So I bought a lockbox, a pill minder, and pill pouches to organize things and it helped. 

I still have a long way to go though. I don’t know how to take my meds properly, therefore my behavior still mimics addiction. I have the lockbox, but I don’t yet use it properly. I can’t figure out how to tell my doctors I need help with this entire process. I want to make a difference for others, and I wish I’d met someone like me along the way. I wish I’d been to a place like the women’s shelter I was at in Texas much sooner. What I miss about that area is someone coming to my room and asking me to go to a meeting. It was such a nice feeling. 

Funny enough, when I was in Senegal, it felt much the same way. My family members would come to my door to give me attaya (Senegalese tea) or something. It’s about camaraderie and connection. 

People often tell someone like me to reach out for help when we’re struggling with mental ill health or having an addiction problem. Often hotline numbers are passed around as well. This is helpful, but only to a point. The person who is in need isn’t always ready or able to ask for help when they need it the most. And the people who need to help don’t always know instinctively to reach out to their loved ones and check on them without prompting. This causes a disconnect. Maybe instead of all of us simply saying “reach out” to one another and “take care of your mental health,” we can direct these phrases and make them more meaningful. We can explain how we want people to connect with one another, that way we’re working on community building skills and creating better experiences. 

They say addiction stems from a lack of connections. I’m noticing throughout my narrative, that what I’m often missing is a connection to family and friends, and a lack of a genuine connection with myself and to Allah. 

When my iman is higher, I don’t want to drink or give in to my addictions. My impulse control issues, even if they do come up, are easier to manage, and I’m less apt to reject help than when my iman is lower. When I’m away from my deen, though, this isn’t the case. 

It’s summertime as I’m writing this and getting pretty hot. I live close to two alcohol establishments. I don’t feel compelled to buy anything at the moment. But in the past I would have. I would have been so tempted to go grab an alcoholic beverage. I wouldn’t have been able to control my cravings. At times like this, it feels like my veins are reaching for the haram, day and night. I can feel it like I feel my heartbeat. It calls to me. 

With alcohol, I’ve experienced acute intoxication, extreme drunkenness and poisoning. I don’t like to think about how many times I’ve had alcohol poisoning because my behavior was so self-sabotaging.. Hopefully now I’m taking much better care of myself. And I don’t have the need to tempt fate or see how much punishment my body can handle.

Overdosing hurts. And I’m never sure if the last time will be my “last time”. I don’t want to keep thumbing my nose at Allah’s mercy without realizing how many times I’ve been saved before. 

When I notice a craving, I think back to the mindfulness steps I learned in therapy. Though a trigger can produce powerful results, I’m often able to get control quickly. Depending on where I am, I’ll sit down and meditate for a few minutes and notice my breathing and my body. I’ll sometimes close my eyes and just try to focus my attention on what may have happened to bring about the feeling of anxiety in that moment. By then, the craving has usually passed and I feel better. If not, I take steps to alleviate it. Thankfully I have a good community with whom I feel safe and comfortable and I can communicate when my needs properly. And I have a mentor who always reminds me about my prayer. This helps tremendously. 

I don’t think about drinking alcohol much anymore. By this, I mean I don’t fantasize about drinking when I’m alone. But sometimes when I’m out, I do get tempted. I don’t know what to do in those moments and sometimes I get nervous. The idea of getting drunk makes my stomach turn in knots, but when I pass a liquor store, I do check to see if it’s open. If I see the window sign flashing, my heart pounds. I actually feel butterflies in my stomach. I wonder if I’ll get the urge to go inside. 

I wouldn’t want people to see me walk into a liquor store as a Muslim and as a muhajjaba. So I think about altering my appearance. I’m sure people think that means I unequivocally know right from wrong, I sometimes do. But what they’re missing is the impulsivity and the compulsive disorder outside of my control, with mania and psychosis both significantly altering perception and judgment. You cannot consent to anything in those kinds of conditions. 

The first khutbah I ever heard was about depression and anxiety disorder. The Imam said if you need to take medication to stabilize your brain, you should feel free to do so. I enjoyed that lesson. But I didn’t think much about it at the time. I moved on with my life as a Muslim and forgot his words of wisdom. Years later, I remembered that sermon and regretted I hadn’t taken heed much sooner. Remembering that  khutbah might have saved me from heartache and turmoil. 

I want others in this situation to know it’s ok to embrace your feelings and own your relationship with alcoholism. It helps me keep going when I remember Allah’s mercy and ask my friends for help. A sober network can also be helpful. My long-term goal is to be a successful mentor for those with substance use disorders in our communities, particularly the youth and anyone dealing with trauma/anxiety.

Having Islamic resources for Muslims with addiction issues is important, because faith and spirituality can connect directly with recovery. I would like people to know that alcoholism is a lifelong illness which can affect people of any age. Someone can be an occasional drinker, a binge drinker or only indulge in social settings. As Muslims we need to educate ourselves about this issue and make sure those who need support feel safe to reach out to us.

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#Life

Muslim Adulting 101: Tips And Tricks For Every Young (And Not So Young) Muslim Adult

Social media is rife with complaints about how young Muslim men and women today aren’t ready for marriage, aren’t responsible enough for marriage, and are barely capable of keeping themselves alive without frantically calling their mothers or Googling how to make avocado toast. Having once been such a person (I got married at 18 and was incapable of making more than scrambled eggs), and having had around a decade’s worth of practise at adulting (I am now fully capable of making several egg dishes, though I have yet to achieve a round roti), it dawned upon me to help out the current generation of hapless almost-adults by providing a list of useful survival tips – not just for marriage preparation, but for life preparation.

I learned roughly half these things in the year before marriage, and the rest during first year of marriage. I do not claim to be an expert. I was married at 18, had a kid at 19, and was adulting at a semi proficient level by 20… although yes, I still frantically text my mother even now. I learned most of this while living in Egypt (with occasional stints in the village) and in Kuwait (as a broke non-Kuwaiti, not as a spoiled Khaleeji). You learn a lot of things the hard way, like how to toast bread on the stove when you can’t afford a toaster.)

Know How to Feed Yourself

Whether male or female, you should know how to make at least 3 breakfast items (toast and frozen items don’t count) – depending on your culture, there will be many different options to choose from, but they should be basic and easy, e.g. scrambled eggs, oatmeal, fool mudammas, za3tar and laban, etc.

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The same applies for lunch and dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you need to know the basics. Get up and go learn from your mom or dad or Pinterest or a YouTuber – as long as you just learn to do it instead of daydreaming about your spouse cooking for you. IT’S CALLED SURVIVAL SKILLS. (I learned from Canadian Living, before Pinterest was a thing. My mother still hasn’t forgiven me.)

Always, always, always remember: eat halal and tayyib food. I mean this completely seriously, and not just in a zabihah vs non-zabihah way (although, yes, zabihah is extra halal and you should definitely eat zabihah only). The simplest of foods, if you have the intention to eat that which is beneficial, will provide incredible satisfaction. 

 

Cleaning supplies

Cleanliness and Household Basics

Know how to clean your own bathroom. That means scrubbing the toilet at least once a week, the bathtub a few times a month, and generally sanitizing all surfaces. Flylady.com has some great tips

There is nothing nastier than leaving a mess in your bathroom and doing nothing to clean it. (And no, gender stereotypes about men leaving messes on toilet seats will not be tolerated. Fiqh of Taharah, people!)

Know how to clean your kitchen. When you do something in the kitchen, clean up after yourself as quickly as possible. Give your kitchen a deep-clean about twice a month. Clean your fridge, your microwave, under your toaster, and the top of your stove, which will accumulate a nasty layer of stickiness if you don’t wipe it down immediately after frying samosas. 

Learn how to operate a vacuum, how to sweep effectively, and how to mop. 

Never underestimate the importance of Tupperware. And by ‘Tupperware,’ I don’t mean the brand name – I mean washing out and using every yogurt tub, jam jar, and pasta bottle you use. You will indeed understand the wisdom of your foremothers. Make du’a for them when you reach this point of enlightenment. 

Do your own laundry. Know the difference between hot water wash (and what items to use it for), and cold water/delicates. DON’T MIX A RED ITEM WITH WHITE. (Yes, I ruined my own delicates and my infant’s brand new onesies. Ugh.) When something says “dry clean only”… for the love of your wallet, dry clean only. (As a general rule, avoid buying dry clean only items.)

Learn how to iron. I hate ironing, I avoid doing it as much as possible, I still don’t always have the hang of ironing men’s shirts (although I can starch a ghutrah like no one’s business), but LEARN THE BASICS OF IRONING and how not to burn your brand-new abayah.

Men: this still applies to you. Learn to iron your own clothes. Also learn to iron women’s clothing. (Especially hijabs and abayas.) My grandfather ironed my grandmother’s clothes every day, and she always looked like she’d just stepped out of a Desi granny fashion mag.

Learn how to sew a basic stitch in case of emergencies. I’m not asking you to embroider a tapestry or tailor make a suit, but knowing how to thread a needle and mend a tear or rip is super duper handy. (I failed every sewing class my mother put me in, and my current pile of torn clothing is at her house, but yes, I can technically mend a tear.)

Most importantly, remember that as a member of a family unit – or any unit, including living with roommates – you must actively seek to be interdependent rather than selfishly and self-centeredly independent. Just as the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spent his day serving his family, so too should we strive to be contributing positively to our households, being considerate of others, and even going out of our way to serve them. Service to those around us is neither humiliating nor offensive; rather, it is the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet.

If you are not doing these things in your/ your parents’ home, you do not deserve to have a marital home.

Hisham ibn ‘Urwa said that his father said,

“I asked ‘A’isha, may Allah be pleased with her, ‘What did the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, do in his house?’ She replied, ‘He mended his sandals and worked as any man works in his house.'” 

Hisham said,

“I asked ‘A’isha, ‘What did the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, do in his house?’ She replied, ‘He did what one of you would do in his house. He mended sandals and patched garments and sewed.”

(Al Adab al Mufrad)

 

Manage Your Money

Know how to make a budget, and how to stick to it. Be aware of bills, how and when to pay them. Learn how to avoid debt under all circumstances.

Yes, this means being frugal.

Yes, this means couponing.

Yes, this means not spending $5 every day at Starbucks if you can’t afford it (and avoiding doing so every day even if you can afford it).
Yes, this means buying things on clearance.

Yes, this means putting aside money for sadaqah, and udhiyah and zakah if you required to distribute it according to your savings.

Most importantly, this means knowing how to organize and prioritize your expenses, how to cut down on the big bills and costs, and how to incorporate self-care without blowing out your wallet. 

If you weren’t raised by frugal Desi parents who taught you every budgeting trick there is, then go read a book, listen to a podcast or look up online how best to budget. Don’t just budget for your immediate needs – anticipate future expenses, create a savings account (for school, Hajj, wedding), and always have something stashed away for emergencies. In this economy, you need to scrimp as much as possible.

Pro tip: Do not discount barakah as a major factor in your day to day living expenses. If you insist on only pursuing halaal rizq, if you make a point of avoiding interest-bearing student loans and mortgages, you will have barakah in your wealth. You will discover that a meager grocery shopping trip will leave you with food that lasts you for twice as long as you expected. You will learn that giving in sadaqah on a regular basis, no matter how minuscule the amount, will result in blessings in every aspect of your life. You will be happier, live better, and succeed in your daily living. In a culture where making money is considered the single most important aspect of one’s life, it is necessary to reorient ourselves as Muslims. Allah is ar-Razzaaq, and not a single penny will come our way unless He decrees; not an ounce of our wealth will benefit us unless we seek that rizq in a manner that is pleasing to Him. 

Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said:

“Verily Allah the Exalted is pure (tayyib). He does not accept but that which is pure. Allah commands the believers with what He commanded the Messengers. Allah the Almighty has said: “O you Messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously”. And Allah the Almighty also said: “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with. Then he (the Prophet) mentioned (the case of) the man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty and who stretches out his hands to the sky (saying): “O Lord! O Lord!” (while) his food was unlawful, his drink was unlawful, his clothing was unlawful, and he is nourished with unlawful things, so how can he be answered?” [Muslim]

 

Hospitality

Learn how to be a good host/hostess. Almost every Muslim culture is known for its generosity towards guests, and for good reason: the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) repeatedly emphasized the rights of guests over their hosts, and of the rewards of hospitality. 

Abu Shuraih reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honor his guest and recompense him.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, what is his recompense?” The Prophet said, “It is for a day and a night, as good hospitality is for three days and after that it is charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Being a good host and hostess means knowing the adab (etiquettes) of having guests over, no matter how unexpected or informal. Offer everyone from the delivery person to the snootiest masjid aunty water or other drinks when they come in, seat them in the best place in the house, know how to turn half a package of Oreos and cheese sticks into a presentable snack tray, and so on. 

As well, if guests come to your home bringing a dish, make sure not to return that dish empty-handed! Always include something with it, whether homemade or even just a small package of treats. 

Growing up, I always saw my parents being extremely generous hosts, even when completely unprepared, and they trained my brothers and I without even realizing it. Having frozen samosas or a stash of “guests only” treats in your pantry is incredibly useful when you find yourself with a crowd of unexpected visitors in your living room. It’s a shame that so many people today have neglected the art of hospitality, when it has always been a traditional hallmark of Muslims.

Beautiful Scents

Good scents are from the Sunnah, and it is a habit that one should make regular for the household. There’s nothing quite like walking in through the door and inhaling beautiful incense.

(Unless you or others in your home are allergic to perfumes and strong scents, in which case, never mind.) 

Whether it’s bukhoor, agar bhatti, Yankee candles, or even scented diffuser oils, make it a habit to have your home (and yourself!) smelling beautiful. Your friends and family will always appreciate it! 

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was known for his love of good scents, as in the hadith “Beloved to me of this world is […] perfume...” (Nasa’i). Repeatedly, Muslims have been encouraged to cleanse themselves regularly, to use good scents, and to avoid offensive odours. (It should go without saying that one should always ensure to bathe daily, wear fresh clothing, and not to douse themselves in cheap cologne in an attempt to mask the reek of fried onions or stale sweat.)

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported:

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever eats onions, garlic, or leeks should not approach our mosque, for the angels are offended by whatever offends the children of Adam.” (Muslim)

Muslim-Specific Adulting Pro Tips

Be the person who wakes everyone up for Fajr (or sets enough alarms that eventually, *someone* will wake up). In Ramadan, be the person who helps with suhoor and iftaar, instead of being a lazy bum who drags their butt out of bed to stuff their faces and then crawls back into bed until Fajr. 

Be the person who reminds the rest of the household to fulfill the sunan of Jumu’ah – doing ghusl, wearing the best clothes, reading Surah al-Kahf etc.

Call the adhaan for every salah and encourage everyone at home to pray together; do dhikr often, especially the daily adhkaar; remind yourself and your loved ones to recite Qur’an often in the home, and have it playing regularly on audio instead of playing background music. 

Abu Huraira reported:

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Do not turn your houses into graveyards. Verily, Satan flees from the house in which Surat al-Baqarah is recited.” (Muslim)

Keep standard Sunnah foods in hand and well in stock: honey, dates, black seed and black seed oil, olive oil. Make it a habit to ruqya-fy honey & oils (i.e. recite ayaat used for ruqya over your water, honey, olive and black seed oils. It is a means of protection and benefit, regardless of whether you have ayn or sihr issues; it is beneficial even for physical ailments. Pro tip: buy big jars/bottles and recite over them.)

And that, folks, is a 101 to Basic Muslim-y Adulting. If you aren’t married yet, this will at least prepare you for some basic survival as you establish your own home; if you are married but don’t know or do these things… well… hopefully it’s not too late for you yet. I cannot emphasize enough that this entire checklist applies equally to men and women; the vast majority of these points can be found as sunan from the life of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

May Allah make us all of those who uphold their responsibilities with Ihsaan, and establish households based on the best of Islamic values and ethics, ameen.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

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

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

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