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Flat Tire Epidemic Part II: Treatment Solutions

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Just as in the case of a medical epidemic, the root causes must first be explored before a treatment approach can be presented. Once the origin is understood, solutions can be presented.

Flat Tire Epidemic: The apparent cause of this plague upon the Muslim community appears to be marriage, however deeper investigation into this issue has found that there are several key factors that must be considered. Our analysis of this subject can be found in Part I of this series.

The Flat Tire Epidemic can be treated in two ways and a combination of these treatments is more effective than either on its own. One treatment approach is derived from the core – that is, the treatment of each individual suffering from this syndrome. The second is more systemic in that it targets key issues within Islamic organizations.

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(Many of these points were inspired by MM reader comments on the previous post so jazakum Allahu khairan to everyone who offered their input and insight!)

Treatment: Individual Perspective

  • Why Are You Doing This: Intentions

The first and most important aspect that a volunteer needs to consider is his/her intention. Why are you devoting so much time and energy to this work? If you’re doing it to get married, you’re what we would deem to be at “high risk” to contract the Flat Tire Epidemic. Once you get married, you will have achieved your goal.

If you are volunteering to gain the admiration of people then that won’t last long either. People are not usually easy to please. As we mentioned earlier, in marriage, a spouse may receive instant gratification from his/her spouse but this is not the norm in volunteering. Relationships with people tend to shift, therefore, those who seek rewards and gratification from others may not be the most stable volunteers.

Those who volunteer for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) – to improve the community, to gain reward from Him, to spread da’wah – are those who are most likely to maintain a link to volunteering even after marriage. This directly penetrates the root of this issue; if your reason for volunteering is something constant, then your emotional attachment to this cause will remain regardless of changes in your life circumstance.

  • Marrying the Right Person

Young married couples are amongst the most valuable members of volunteer organizations. They have youthful energy yet also have a substantial connection and dedication to the community and its betterment since they realize that what they are doing will directly impact the next generation – their children. Newly married couples tend to gain a new appreciation for responsibility, commitment and the work involved in maintaining a strong relationship with their spouse.

If volunteering is a priority for you while you are single, you should seek a spouse who has similar interests and who will encourage this part of your life. Continue to make this a priority in your new stage of life. When considering someone for marriage, make sure you address your priorities, how you expect to live your life, including your expectations of your own and your spouse’s contribution to the community. Also, maintain open lines of communication with your spouse regarding volunteerism – have an open discussion about any concerns that may be faced during the course of volunteering (e.g. your perception of your spouse’s interaction with the opposite gender). Ensure that you both agree about the type of volunteer activities each of you is comfortable engaging in.

Many view volunteerism as taking away from precious time that newly married couples should be devoting to one another. You work all week, have to see your families and friends on the weekends, plus now you have another person in your life who deserves your attention. So in the midst of all this, how can you find the time to volunteer without detracting from strengthening your relationship with your new spouse? Choose activities that allow you to work together. For example: If you both enjoy working with the youth, work on your halaqat together – you may be in different parts of the masjid while delivering this information but prior preparation and discussion afterwards are a great bonding opportunity. If you prefer to be side-by-side while volunteering, why not help out at a soup kitchen or participate in a neighborhood cleanup activity? This is not only an excellent form of da’wah, but it is also a great way to grow closer to your spouse.

  • Embracing Your New Role

Each of you has many roles in life – you are a slave of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), a son/daughter, a brother/sister, a friend, a student, an employee, the list goes on. When you started your current job, did you feel the need to cut out one of your current life roles in order to be a successful employee? Why, then, do so many volunteers, after gaining a new life role as a spouse, tend to give up a part of themselves? Adding a new role does not necessitate dropping another one – you just need to reprioritize, reorganize, and recreate the balance in your life. These roles can all coexist in harmony; some may take precedence over the others, but each one should be given its due right.

Embrace your new role as a spouse to the fullest! Just realize that you don’t need to give up the other aspects of your life in order to embrace your role as a husband or a wife; rather, these roles are what make you who you are and the person your spouse chose to marry so allow them to enrich your married life as they enriched your single life!

Treatment: Organizational Perspective

Just as individual volunteers need to assess their susceptibility to the Flat Tire Epidemic from a personal standpoint, Islamic organizations need to assess themselves as well. We compiled a list of suggestions organizations should consider putting into effect for the sake of the longevity, efficiency, and efficacy of their efforts.

  • Grace Period

Islamic organizations should grant volunteers a grace period when they are planning their upcoming nuptials. This would be put into effect beginning a few months before the wedding and continue until several months afterwards. Allowing volunteers the time they need to prepare for and get adjusted to married life is essential. This preemptive step may help to prevent the loss of married volunteers, thereby reducing the impact of the Flat Tire Epidemic.

Volunteers who get overwhelmed with trying to reestablish a balanced life after marriage may feel guilty about being unable to fulfill their duties within the organization. They may end up quitting due to their feelings of guilt; they may learn to associate negative emotions such as feeling overwhelmed with volunteering, thereby resulting in leaving the organization. Rather than allowing this to happen, organizations should take preemptive measures. One suggestion: Initiate shadowing. When a core volunteer is headed towards marriage, recruit a newer volunteer with potential to shadow him/her. This volunteer will be trained thoroughly by the time the newlywed volunteer’s grace period begins. This will alleviate anxiety since the newlywed volunteer will already have enough to think about at that time! Also, ensure that each core volunteer has someone who is actively being trained just in case he/she needs someone to fill in. These suggestions will allow for a smooth and seamless transition, thereby maintaining the structure and efficiency of the organization.

  • Role Change

Just as priorities in life and lifestyles change, so too should our roles as volunteers. Although you may be content in one volunteer role for some time, as you evolve, you may want your role to evolve with you. Your role as a volunteer should allow you to express your creativity and should be tailored to your specific skill set.

The natural transition for more experienced volunteers is to bring the knowledge, experience and skills they have gained over the years to their local communities. Halaqat, teaching weekend schools, getting more involved in masjid activities, etc. are all excellent options. After being involved in a certain organization for an extended period of time, volunteers should transition to other activities in order to effect the most change and reinvigorate themselves.

  • Family Involvement

Inviting families, rather than strictly individuals, to participate within Islamic organizations is essential if we hope to retain volunteers who have recently become parents, as well as those who are newly married. A volunteer who has recently become a mother or father can assist with arranging for babysitting or a special room designated for mothers and their children (or fathers and their children) at Islamic events and lectures. These volunteers will have a vested interest in ensuring parents can continue to gain knowledge, particularly when they are striving to raise their kids to love our deen.

There is room to strike a balance between giving back to the community and being there for your family. 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. If children witness parents contributing to society, the future of the ummah immediately brightens. Children model the behaviors of those around them so if you aspire for your children to become integral parts of our community, you must do this first yourself. Build the foundation for your children and the future generation – the benefits reaped will be seen for years to come (and in the hereafter as well) insha’Allah!

  • Volunteer Appreciation

Islamic organizations need to provide a gratifying experience and environment for their volunteers. Being a volunteer can be a high-stress position; a frequent pick-me-up is very beneficial in ensuring the longevity of volunteers and helping them to resist burnout. Although we do this work to gain the pleasure of Allah (subhanhu wa ta’ala), it is very difficult to maintain our stamina if we feel as though our efforts are being belittled or we are unappreciated.

A gesture of gratitude for the hard work of volunteers who have taken time from their busy schedules to ensure that an event runs smoothly goes a long way. Some of our volunteers actually miss out on many opportunities to listen to speakers because they are taking care of the “behind-the-scenes” action. The least that can be done for someone so dedicated is to send him/her a personal email thanking him/her for these efforts. Volunteer dinners or fun excursions should occur on a regular basis – at least twice a year – to show appreciation for all of the hard work being put into the organization. Never underestimate the value of sincerely thanking a person; if volunteers feel appreciated, they will excitedly continue to contribute to the organization.

We pray that this mini-series has spurred some positive thoughts regarding the backbone of our organizations: a sincere intention to strive for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and the volunteers who act upon this everyday. Jazaakum Allahu khairan to all of the volunteers out there! Please continue to contribute to your communities – you are truly appreciated!

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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.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Arif Kabir

    January 3, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    Very nicely put, mashaAllah.

    I’ve seen many ‘couples’ in my community that have been working together at the Masjid for many years, and subhanAllah, you sometimes feel like they never age in their relationship; they seemingly have the same youthful exuberance after all of those years, and it shows in the work that they do together in the community.

    • Sarah S.

      January 3, 2011 at 5:45 PM

      I definitely agree with you, Br. Arif. I think that if one is passionate about the work that he/she does, that will naturally be expressed. If one loves volunteering and contributing then it is always means of providing him/her with energy and excitement.

  2. Algebera

    January 3, 2011 at 2:09 AM

    Aslamu-alaikum:
    Sarah and Haythem:
    First I would like to sincerely congratulate both of you on your marriage. Haythem, I am SINCERELY HAPPY for you that you have indeed found your soul mate, MashAllah. Sarah, my sister had many good things to say about you when she went to Ilmsummit, and my sister has very high standards indeed. Coming from her was indeed a complement. I enjoyed reading your article, and i so AGREE with you that one has to marry the RIGHT PERSON who is in sync with your life vision. So true. Also I loved this assessment of yours
    “If children witness parents contributing to society, the future of the ummah immediately brightens. Children model the behaviors of those around them so if you aspire for your children to become integral parts of our community, you must do this first yourself. Build the foundation for your children and the future generation – the benefits reaped will be seen for years to come (and in the hereafter as well) insha’Allah!. I see how my siblings and i have followed in so many ways our parents and uncles footsteps in so many ways………
    Beneficial points and analysis.
    salam

    • Sarah S.

      January 3, 2011 at 5:48 PM

      Walaikum asalam wa Rahmatullah,

      Jazaaki Allahu khairan Algebera! And barak Allahu feeha to your sister :).

  3. AnonyMouse

    January 3, 2011 at 5:51 AM

    Very nice, masha’Allah, and accurate as well. BarakAllahu feekum.

    I second the point about involving families; alHamdulillaah, my brothers and I spent most of our childhood at the Islamic centre my father directed, and volunteering during each and every event was a given. As we grew older we used to provide suggestions for activities and give feedback about how successful an event was during our meetings (i.e. dinnertime :) ).
    My parents inculcated a strong sense of responsibility and giving towards our community no matter where we were, with extra emphasis on doing it for the sake of Allah (especially when we’d be grumbling about messes, complaining parents, etc.). It has truly stood us in good stead, alhamdulillah :)

    • Sarah S.

      January 3, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      SubhanAllah- that is beautiful to hear that your parents have provided you with a strong connection to the community and benefiting it. Masha’Allah! May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) continue to allow you and your family to contribute to the Muslim community and reward you all immensely for your efforts. Ameen!

      This is also an excellent example of parents respecting the input of their children. It really gives children a feeling of empowerment and a sense that their efforts are really appreciated, thereby making it much more likely that they will continue to contribute even after their parents are no longer the sole motivating factor.

  4. Enough!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Blah Blah Blah =D

    Its not about being flat rather you find a role which is more suitable to your current life style. Just cuz someone stopped attending double weekend seminars , it doesnt mean they are not active anymore. Maybe they found other Halaqas that are more more fitting to their current role (i.e Islamic Relief, local schools etc).

    We need to stop thinking that ours is the only organization out there.

    • Sarah S.

      January 3, 2011 at 6:02 PM

      A person no longer being able to volunteer with one particular organization does not necessitate that he/she is going to give up volunteering all together. Rather, after continually seeking knowledge, a person should begin to disseminate that knowledge to his/her community- leading halaqaat, teaching at a Sunday school, etc. are all wonderful opportunities.

      I agree with your statement in that volunteerism is not associated with one particular type of activity, rather it is versatile and, based on your lifestyle, you can choose the way you’d like to contribute to your community– the key is always trying to offer a contribution, no matter your life circumstance.

  5. n

    January 4, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    don’t be discouraged by the lack of comments here. I think your article is mash’alalh so comprehensive and gives really practical down to earth solutions that i think do work in reality mash’allah and therefore we are all left speechless :-)

  6. Nayma

    January 4, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    The first and most important aspect that a volunteer needs to consider is his/her intention.

    I believe this aspect is soooo important. I think we need to regularly reevaluate why we are doing a certain voluntary act. That will get rid of any ill feelings, ego, etc. while volunteering. Also it will help us to see if we are also getting closer to Allah through the action.

    Jazak allahu khairan for your tips! I esp. liked the idea of rewarding the volunteers with get togethers. We should not forget them after an event, but rather show them that they were truly appreciated.

  7. Olivia

    January 4, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    What an interesting topic! Reading these two articles, I feel some conflicting emotions and am recalling incidents in my own life.

    I think my main thought on it is this: life cannot be simply defined as married or single. There is not just “before marriage” and “after marriage” as categories of being. The authors touched on this when they mentioned the “newlywed/adjustment period” and giving pause from volunteering to cater to that, but that phase is often just one of many phases of marriage.

    For example, you have the “honeymoon phase”, the angsty “adjusting to communicating with the opposite gender” phase that soon follows, the “i finally got this figured out” phase, the “lull in the excitement/this is rather monotonous now” phase, the “first child phase/adjusting to each other as parents with new demands on time” phase, the “adjusting to a second child” phase, the “kids under 5” phase, the “moving out of in-laws/moving in with in-laws” phase, the “new job phase”, the “resurgence in marital passion” phase, the “seven year itch”, the “mid-life crisis”, etc.

    Okay that was meant to be mildly humorous, but my point is that marriage itself is constantly changing. You see a resurgence in volunteerism during some of these phases, but yet another phase presents itself and the volunteer pulls back out. The reality of life, and marriage, is that priorities are constantly shifting around and the higher ones need to be respected at the expense of the lower.

    For myself, I used to be Ameerah of Qabeelat Wasat while my husband was Ameer when we first brought it to Chicago. My first child was about 18 months old. It worked wonderfully until we needed an Ameerah with more of an “on-camera” presence in classes and at events. The Ameerah role suited me when it was more behind the scences/logistics but not when it required so many demands on my physical presence. That was too difficult with a toddler,and considering we wanted another baby soon too, it was time to pass the buck to someone who could fulfill the role to its fullest. It was win-win.

    Between Siraaj and myself, we’ve gone through waves of volunteerism that have mirrored what was going on in our marriage and family life, and I am very proud to say that never for a second did our marriage or family life suffer, and if it looked like it was about to, we restored balance right away. The fact is that marriage and parenting is more important than volunteering on an individual level. You can always put volunteering on pause or find a new outlet that better suits the demands of your marriage and family. There will always be up and coming bacehlors and bachelorettes or older and freer couples who can reimerse themselves together, but if you put marriage and parenting on pause it can have serious consequences. We all have an immediate, individual responsiblity to our marriage and family to insure its solid, whereas volunteering is more like fard kifaayah. you get me?

    Honestly, when I see a brother stop volunteering because his wife just had a baby or a sister stop volunteering because she’s a stay-at-home mom, I tip my hat to them. It isn’t easy to step away from these projects for the sake of the family (“taking one for the team”) but it’s the right thing to do. This just happened with our Ameer in Chicago, and even though his stint wasn’t long, I feel very warm and fuzzy inside to see a man committed to being an active father. Those people will be back at a time and in a place that works for them and insha’Allah there kids will join them when the time comes.

    • Nayma

      January 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Honestly, when I see a brother stop volunteering because his wife just had a baby or a sister stop volunteering because she’s a stay-at-home mom, I tip my hat to them.

      I too tip my hat to them! :-)

    • Algebera

      January 4, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      Aslamu-alaikum:
      VERY NICELY WRITTEN MashAllalh,
      I LOVE these COMMENTS:
      “The reality of life, and marriage, is that priorities are constantly shifting around and the higher ones need to be respected at the expense of the lower.

      and this one
      “that never for a second did our marriage or family life suffer, and if it looked like it was about to, we restored balance right away.
      and this one

      “Honestly, when I see a brother stop volunteering because his wife just had a baby or a sister stop volunteering because she’s a stay-at-home mom, I tip my hat to them.”

      and this one

      “I feel very warm and fuzzy inside to see a man committed to being an active father.”

      Prioritizing is not only important in volunteering or family, but other aspects as well like charity and time.
      Charity is also in priority, you know to your family first, than relatives, than community, orphan, wayfarer………and so on. I think when people give to in time and money at the EXPENSE of family and children they feel need to have immediate gratification, while most of things that have an everlasting affect require long term commitment and sometimes doesn’t come with immediate papparazzi, but it has a LOGRYTHMIC effect.
      salam

      • Algebera

        January 4, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        salam
        I have to correct myself, DEFINITELY ORPHAN and WAYFARER is important….but what i meant was sometimes there are orphan in families and people decide to give to TIMBUCKTU.

    • Hebah Ahmed

      January 7, 2011 at 4:54 AM

      Asalam Alikum,

      Masha Allah excellent article! I think anyone who is active before marriage and/or kids goes through many stages of activity. Life is a constant challenge to balance all the priorities of one’s life. May Allah always keep our intentions pure.

      I do agree with Olivia in almost all of her comments from first hand experience. The only thing I would like to add is for singles or married couples without children to give excuses to people when they marry and have kids and not to be upset when they begin to pull out. Also avoid laying a guilt trip on them and constantly pushing them to be as active as they were. I know personally that if you do not re-prioritize it can take away from the rights of the spouse and the children, which I think should be the most important prioritiy, and cause problems in the marriage/family. I also tip my hat to fathers who are now seeing that children need both parents, not just the mother.

      When people voice concern over my husband and my inability to do as much as I use to, I tell them we need to take a time out to raise our 2 children properly and then in a few years there will be 4 people working for Allah’s sake instead of just 2, Insha Allah.

      Allah knows best.

    • Raniah

      January 10, 2011 at 8:38 PM

      I agree with Olivia’s comments, especially her last paragraph.
      I also respect and look highly upon those who take their family responsibility as their first and foremost. It is very difficult to step away from being very active within a community, and sacrificing all of that for the sake of your family. But with a growing family, comes more responsiblity, and one that I think is number one above all else. After all, we will be questioned about our families on the day of judgment, and whether we raised them to the best of our abilities or not. That is not to say that a person can’t have a family and remain active within the community. HOwever, especially when one’s children are young, that is the time that the parent is needed the most. As the children grow up, it becomes a bit easier to start partaking in more responsibilities within the community, as you involve your children.

      I know this was something that I battled with when I first had my child. When one is very active within the community, and then suddenly is put in charge of a little infant that demands so much, it sometimes was difficult to adjust. But alhamdulilah, once we see the importance of the role of family, and especially that of mothers, you realize that your reward insha’allah will also be great with your family. For every letter of Quran a child learns from his/her parents, that parent will be rewarded, and so much more if that child grows up to teach others. Every salah he/she prays, the parents will be rewarded for teaching it to him/her. and so on.

    • Samina

      February 11, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Honestly, when I see a brother stop volunteering because his wife just had a baby or a sister stop volunteering because she’s a stay-at-home mom, I tip my hat to them.

      Agree with you 100% on that! But Sarah mentioned something important in her article that i thought was interesting. It shouldn’t be that his or her volunteer work stops all together – it should be more so that he or she passes on the torch so that the show can go on. and i love the suggestion of this: One suggestion: Initiate shadowing. When a core volunteer is headed towards marriage, recruit a newer volunteer with potential to shadow him/her. This volunteer will be trained thoroughly by the time the newlywed volunteer’s grace period begins. This is a what I call a leadership quality!

  8. MR

    January 4, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Virtual Islamic work was my treatment.

  9. Bintwadee3

    January 20, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Baarak Allaahu feekum for your analysis and practical solutions. May Allaah increase you both in rizq and barakaah, and may He allow us to implement these (and other) solutions, bi idhnih. Ameen!

    -Maymuna Mulukhiyya ;) [or was I ma2louba? I can’t remember :( ]

  10. Awais

    January 22, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Great article, mashaAllah! I think a key component after marriage/parenthood is learning to focus your efforts. Find out how you can contribute most meaningfully based on your expertise, experience, and interests and that will help guide which activities you should pursue with your increasingly limited spare time! And also, for the single brothers and sisters, the advice of the Prophet (SAW) certainly applies “…take advantage of free time before you become occupied…”

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