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Parenting Series | Part VI: Sexual Education from an Islamic Perspective

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

It is never easy to talk to the children about sex or sex related issues. In fact, even more difficult is to decide at which age we should educate them about these issues though we must realize that Sex Ed is more than just explaining intercourse to the children, and it may not be as difficult to get to the real topic if we keep taking care of the smaller issues related to it from an early age.

Raising children with Islamic values entails frequent religious discussions at home, including Qur’an and hadeeth studies. I said earlier that it doesn’t have to be at a “scholarly” level, rather, it involves simple studies of the meanings of Qur’anic verses, reading ahadeethbooks, discussing Islamic articles or listening to online lectures, etc.

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Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

Whosoever gives me a guarantee to safeguard what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I shall guarantee him Jannah.” (Bukhari)

As eager parents for the betterment of our children’s akhirah, we keenly train them in safeguarding what is between their jaws from a very early age, like ensuring that they know the harms of lying, backbiting, hurting others’ feelings with their tongue, and not using offensive words, but we  ignore the same emphasis on safeguarding what is between their legs. We think that shutting down conversation about private parts is sufficient to teach them how to safeguard it. We must acknowledge that the issue of safeguarding private parts is repeatedly mentioned throughout Islamic texts:

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وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ

“And those who protect their private parts” (Mu’minoon: 5)

وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

“…and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard…Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.” (Ahzab: 35)

When children go through these ayahs or ahadeeth, they ask questions and we must be ready to, age-appropriately, answer their questions.

Educating children about their body parts:

Private Zone: From a younger age, around 2-5, children should be taught about their private parts and the necessity of keeping them covered and protected from others. As mentioned before, it is very important to educate them about molestation. Young children need frequent reminders. It may be a good idea to talk to them every now and then about how their private parts are off limits for anyone else and if anyone ever tries to touch them, then they must immediately tell their parent/s.

One of the common misconceptions is to believe that educating or emphasizing the importance of safeguarding private parts will put “ideas” in a child’s mind. A number of parents follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” methodology. This is not only wrong but is equally harmful. We talk to our children about the perils of talking to strangers or crossing the road, etc. because we realize the dangers of keeping children ignorant about their safety, hence we prepare them ahead of time. Similarly, if this subject is left unexplained, we leave the doors of danger open for our children.

Curiosity: Sometimes children become curious about others’ body parts. If they are not explicitly taught what is expected of them, and especially why, then they cannot be blamed for “experimenting” with their own, their sibling’s, or their friend’s private areas.

Spiritual Hygiene: As we teach them the physical hygiene of their private parts, we must concentrate on the spiritual hygiene also: Tell the children that Allah loves those who protect their private parts, and doing the opposite is pleasing to shaytaan. This can be explained in an age appropriate way. As they grow older, the deeper meaning of the ayahcan be told.

When the discussion about the body parts is kept open from the beginning, it only makes it easier to take it to the next step. As the children grow above 5 years of age, parents should determine according to each child’s level of maturity and circumstances in educating them about more complicated issues. Nevertheless, IF a child asks a question, it must be answered truthfully.

Let us discuss a few commonly asked questions:

  1. What is the difference between a girl and a boy?
  2. Where do babies come from?
  3. Why can’t mommy pray?
  4. How does the baby get in mommy’s tummy?
  5. What is Sex? (a number of questions go under this category) Why do people want to have GF/BF? What is adultery (zina)? Why do people commit adultery? And so on.

Parents, always keep in mind:

  • Tell the truth: Remember babies don’t come from the stork.
  • Keep a smile on your face, but don’t joke around.
  • Make an eye contact; appear confident even if your heart is beating 200 beats/min.
  • Only answer the question; don’t voluntarily offer too much information.
  • Appreciate them for approaching you and not asking anyone else.

I’m going to suggest a few answers for each question. Let’s discuss them in order:

1. What is the difference between a girl and a boy?

Explain the difference between a girl and a boy including the difference between the private parts using whatever names a child may have for their private parts. It is a good time to shortly and age-appropriately drop a line or two about how their bodies are different and that’s why Allah has made them responsible for different tasks in life. They can also be told about how emotionally they are different too, but this explanation may not sink in until after 8-10 years of age. It will help them understand the different roles and responsibilities Allah has assigned to different genders.

2. Where do babies come from?

Draw a small diagram to show a child where babies stay in mother’s womb and how Allah‘azza wa jall has given the mother’s body the capability to pass out the baby through the private parts. They will be surprised and let them be. Explain to them that this is the system Allah has made. Most likely they will ask, “Does it hurt?” Be honest and say, “Yes it does, and that is one of the reasons why Allah has made mothers so special and has ordered children to listen to their mothers and fathers.”

Seize the opportunity to teach them what Allah has asked them as children:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا ۖ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا ۖ وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا ۚ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي فِي ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ إِنِّي تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِي

It is also a good time to encourage them to memorize the du’a. This way, not only have you answered them truthfully, but you also showed them that discussing these issues, in a respectful manner, is not a taboo in Islam as Allah Himself has acknowledged a mother’s difficulty of child bearing.

I remember my son once said, “I am so glad my wife will get pregnant and not I!” I told him to appreciate his wife for going through the difficulty. It is also a good way to start training our young sons to be responsible and kind husbands from an early age.

3. Why can’t mommy pray?

After a certain age, blood passes through woman’s private areas and she cannot pray or fast during that time. Next, explain briefly and in simple terms the biological reason of periods. Make sure you don’t overlap into the topic of reproduction.

If your child asks why you (or someone else) is not praying, please do not give false or tricky answers like, ‘I’ve already prayed’ or ‘I don’t have wudu’, etc.  We have discussed this before that false information is a lie.

When my daughter was around 6, I told her that something happens in a woman’s body and she cannot pray during that time. I explained to her that this is what Allah has said in the Qur’an, and when she is older I would explain to her fully but if she becomes very curious and wants to know then she should ask me. She agreed. Later, once she started readingBulugh-ul-Maram, around 8 years, I explained it to her. I also advised her not to educate her younger sibling about it and that she should keep the discussions/questions between us. However, if she was going to a public school, I would have told her earlier.

Also, this was 8 years ago. Unfortunately, the way our society is progressing, I would not take the same approach with my younger one. Hence I advise if your daughter is around 5 or 6, then educate her about menstruation depending on her level of maturity.

Training our sons to be better caretakers of their womenfolk:

Similarly, explain menstruation to your sons as well. Also, take this opportunity to explain to them the hormonal changes and emotional difficulties that a female goes through at this time. Encourage them to be patient with their mothers and sisters and remind them to be understanding towards their womenfolk’s mood swings. Again, it is a good way to train our sons to be good future husband and care takers of their womenfolk.

Insha’Allah we will continue next week.

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

65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Christine

    May 25, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    Wow, thanks for this!
    I don’t have any children (only 17!) and am not Muslim, but I come from a very religious and traditional background, and to me this sounds like a very reasonable, intelligent and clever way to deal with such an issue.
    There is a nice balance between saying nothing and risking children to find things out from their friends or doing things they shouldn’t without knowing it, and revealing way too much to children who are not ready to find such things out.
    This way the necessary information is conveyed, and children will be able to pick up the right social and moral attitudes about this matter.
    Great piece!

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      May 27, 2011 at 4:04 AM

      Thankyou Christine. I am glad you liked this article.

      It is true that we cannot shield children form the society they live and their friends, I believe that as long as the primary education and training is offered by the parents and the communication and relationship is strong enough for children to keep turning back to their parents, it will be easier for them to face many challenges in the real world!

    • Avatar

      Ali

      September 1, 2015 at 11:51 PM

      Indeed sadly kids, nowadays are learning from pornography to deal with this issue which is completely fake and a evil lie. WAKE UP parents, pornography leads to other avenues, even to zina and much worst corrupting the soul . Wake up parents and teach from a young age. Children are naturally curious and the internet is filled with mixed information and do you want your kids watching porn on their computer at the age of 10 or even below!? WAKE UP NOW!

    • Avatar

      mahpara

      April 27, 2016 at 1:50 PM

      I am a teacher in Aps boys .i cant see my students indulged in wicked things .I want to teach them about difference in men and women and how to respect the women as well as how to save from the bad impression of media and net about wicked relations .I got useful way to guide them .

  2. Avatar

    WM

    May 25, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    Salamu `alaykum,

    Just to let you know, there is a response to your previous article floating around online:

    http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/rsa/4302/

    Regards.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 25, 2011 at 7:43 AM

      There’s already a discussion ongoing on Part Vb

      Note, a response to this response is already in, awaiting editorial review.

  3. AnonyMousey

    AnonyMousey

    May 25, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    Kitaab at-Tahaarah, people… best way to educate your kids about, well, everything they need to know on this subject, pretty much.

  4. Avatar

    Coorled38

    May 25, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    I wonder about question number one…point out how emotionally they are different? Seriously? Is this in reference to the “fact” that girls are taught they are emotional creatures unable to think clearly while boys are taught they should just suck it up and man up? If you are teaching this “fact” to your child at this young age it’s no wonder this horrible stereotype still exists.

    I might also add…while teaching your sons to “be patient” with menustrating women’s mood swings…do not teach them that these mood swings result in menustrating women being emotional, scatter brained, and deficient in their religion merely because they bleed once a month. That particular stereotype AND hadith need to go by way of the dinosaur.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      May 30, 2011 at 3:40 AM

      Coolred,

      women are emotionally and physically different from men, it is also proven biologically!

      If boys are given proper tarbiyyah about their role as boys/men (and not left to learn from the “cultural” practices) and taught properly about how females are different (though the reward of good deeds for male and female is equivalent)
      then I”m sure inshaAllah the “stereotyping” will not exist, rather, they will grow up to be kind, loving and respectful men towards their womenfolk, bi idhnihi t a’ala

      • Avatar

        Coorled38

        May 30, 2011 at 4:42 PM

        I agree Umm Reem with everything you said…but the most important word you used in your comment is “if”…a 2 letter word that has such huge connotations and consequences. I raised my boys inside my home to respect and care for females (starting with their own sisters etc and including those they might meet) but then they would leave the house and encounter their culture, in the street, in the mosque, in the schools, that teach them this respect is not needed because males are in charge and females are just there as and when needed by males.

        “If” can only work if there is a concerted effort to make it work….but for the most part…that “if” is ignored while culture and stereotypes prevail.

  5. Avatar

    Haleh

    May 25, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Jazakillah khair for putting so much time and effort in doing this 7 part series on such a critical topic.
    It takes a brave and committed sister masha’Allah to tackle such a challenging subject. I hope that everyone becomes more comfortable about addressing these issues with their children. They truly need our guidance and support.

    Thanks again for your beneficial contribution. BarakAllaho fiki.

    Haleh

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      May 27, 2011 at 4:05 AM

      jazakAllah khiar haleh for your kind words! :)

  6. Avatar

    Bintulislam

    May 25, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum!

    I’ve always found this topic a bit treacherous.I am single(21) and definitely have no kids But I do have younger siblings and my mother actually brought us up following the “don’t ask;don’t tell”methodology.It worked for us.But as I see the world and the hazards to which we might subject our youngers to by keeping them in the dark is horrifying.I’d rather talk to my kids about all of that.But again I don’t see why we should actually elaborate the whole story of pregnancy to kids esp. to kids of very young age(I don’t think they need to know that) and also the menses discussion to be held with boys and girls alike.Does sound a bit odd.

    Anyways.It was a good and informative read.:)

    JazakAllah Kheirun!

    -peace

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      May 27, 2011 at 4:12 AM

      BintulIslam,

      So what do you suggest should be said when children ask, “where do babies come from” or when they see their mother pregnant with their siblings and ask questions about it? :)

      Or what should be told to sons when they ask why their mother is not praying? OR when they read Qur’an with meanings and go through the verses of menstruation?

      • Avatar

        Bintulislam

        May 27, 2011 at 6:09 AM

        Hmmm….I think we could tell them that they are not praying because they aren’t ‘paak’ (pure) to offer prayers at that time[and I think even the verses use the same vocabulary not the whole endometrium shedding its spongy layer theory every month so that an egg which was released by the ovaries didn’t get fertilized (Kid:what is fertilization?)its the fusion of male sperms and female ova(Kid:how does male eggs get in there?)O_O,now do you really wanna answer that.:).And about the babies,we could say that mothers are the one who bring the babies in this world(keep it simple),we could go in elaboration suitable to that child’s age and understanding and wisely.Avoiding giving them un-needed info(And lying too).Ignoring which might ‘put ideas’ in their mind(like said above)…and is liable to pollute them–and that happens.You see,I remember reading this in an article about ‘Haya’ (it was a long a time ago)and that article described how the sexual desires can be triggered by just ‘the ideas’ in even a human kid(who has not even reached puberty)unlike animals who reach a particular age to have such desires-now you might think I am painting it with a wide brush but there is a possibility.

        I would also like to share that I have SO many aunties,even now 2 of them just had boys mashaaAllah and one is still gestating–I have never even heard the children going into demanding that much detail or even realize that their mom’s pregnant-their general perception is that ”the mommy’s gotten fat” whether you tell them this or not.That innocence is what I would like to preserve. :)

        http://www.abezsez.com/2011/05/nine-months-pregnant-again-alhamdulillah/

        • Umm Reem

          Umm Reem

          May 27, 2011 at 6:54 AM

          BintulIslam,
          we had this discussion earlier in the series whether educating children about menstruation or reproduction in a pure vulgar-free way will take away from their “innocence”? I don’t think so. Neither, it goes against the definition of haya (read the first few parts of the series)

          I do not believe that telling the children “mother is not pure” is the correct answer. Because, if the mother is not pure then she can find a way to get pure and pray (as there is no excuse not to pray- we teach this to our children from a young age).
          Some children might as, what is ‘being pure’ mean!

          It is a fact of life, when it is told in a matter-of-fact way, children do not get “ideas”, instead they perceive it in a normal way and move on. It is only when we try to make something “suspicious” then they become curious about it.

          And just because you don’t know doesn’t mean your nephews have not asked. :) Most parents have experienced otherwise. And besides, the link you post is from a sister living in Duabi, not in US.

          • Avatar

            bintulislam

            May 27, 2011 at 10:39 AM

            I will definitely go through the previous parts of this series.InshaaAllah:)Till then I stick to my take on haya.:D

            If this post was exclusively for Muslims living in America or other non-Muslim countries then I cannot comment.See I live in Pakistan.:)It would be definitely better for kids to learn about this stuff from their parents than other sources.Which could prove themselves lethal.

            But in case of Muslim countries I guess you could go for what I said earlier.:)

          • Avatar

            umm_ismael

            June 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM

            Aoa, I live in Pakistan and though am 32 and a mother of 2, i still wish that we would not adopt the stay in the dark policy in our country. Globalization has effected every sphere and children are exposed to so much more than at my age. Its good to be natural as ALLAH has created things. When i was expecting and my older one jumped on my stomach, i candidly told him that ALLAH had put a baby in my stomach. And thats how I talk to him now. I said ALLAH only sends the babies that are with Him, once they have a mama and a baba and they become husband and wife.(why?) because they have to take care of the child together. etc etc etc There are ways to tell a child and that is much better than lies- I applaud you for this series – May ALLAH Reward you manifold. ameen

      • Avatar

        Umme Zaid

        April 7, 2016 at 8:51 AM

        I think the main goal is to maintain haya and innocence as long as we can. For example when young kids ask why cant mom pray we can tell them the ayah and hadith that describe it and say that there are days when women can’t pray and that you would explain to them when they are older.
        As far as babies in stomach we can also take the same approach. Allah makes the baby in the stomach and when it is time mom will go to the hospital and baby will come out. Does the doctor have to cut the stomach. Yes sometimes:) We can always say we can explain more once you are older.
        I strongly believe that teaching the kids understanding of the quran and studying ahadeeth from an early age will give them a lot of knowledge without explicitly telling them.
        Being a pediatrician myself I strongly believe that the schools go overboard in teaching kids sensitive topics and details too early leading to unnecessary and sometimes dangerous experimenting. These topics should be taught only by a parent and never in a group setting but rather one on one to maintain the haya so they know that we don’t talk about these topics freely with one another.

    • Avatar

      Apricot

      May 27, 2011 at 3:53 PM

      As-salamu Alaykum,
      Well, as you stated, you do not have children. Just wait until you do, insha’Allah, and they start asking very pointed questions that you cannot possibly escape from. :) Note that this depends entirely on the personality of the child. I grew up as a non-Muslim in the U.S. and never asked my parents anything about this topic and felt very uncomfortable when my mother spoke to me about menstruation. My daughter is also like this and does not like me to broach the topic at all. My sons, on the other hand, ask a lot of very specific questions. They have all been raised in a Muslim country, so that has not stopped them from being curious (despite the fact that they are all very shy). To a point, I agree with not offering too much extra information, but kids have a way of extracting the information they want, and you will have to eventually make a choice: be honest, lie, or brush them off.

      • Umm Reem

        Umm Reem

        May 28, 2011 at 1:09 AM

        Bintusislam,

        My article was not exclusively for Musims in west. Muslims in Muslim countries also need to read and breakaway from “hush-hush” mentality. The communication is especially needed there because this topic is still a taboo in East and children/pre/teen learn all this, maybe not as early as in the west, but they do but it is all done discreetly.
        I don’t know if parents really believe that their children don’t know or do they chose to turn a blind eye.

        As for haya, I think it is misplaced in pakistan. When it comes to educating the matters of religion, then haya cannot be an excuse, though it must be discussed modestly but what needs to be told, must be discussed.

  7. Avatar

    Saira Andleeb

    May 26, 2011 at 2:00 AM

    I agree with BintulIslam.
    Instead of telling children every intricate detail why cant we tell them only what they can comprehend and digest. Like why not just tell them this much that the baby comes inside of the mom’s tummy and the doctors bring it out. Why the whole diagram thingy? Telling the truth doesnt mean telling every intricate detail… especially to a child of a very young age.

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      May 26, 2011 at 6:44 PM

      Except that the doctors don’t bring it out, the woman does =)

      When I explained this to my girl, I didn’t use a diagram, but I didn’t make any bones about the fact that it does come out of the private part. She doesn’t understand exactly how that happens, but she knows that’s the exit. That’s what most kids want to know–how does it get out of the stomach? Saying the doctors bring it out doesn’t really tell them, because the next question is, “The doctors bring it out of where?” (additionally, the hippy in me doesn’t like the credit being given to the docs =) )

      When we were in Indiana we saw a cow have a baby. It was rather educational. You could tell the cow was uncomfortable, but it dealt with it. I think touching on this subject also helps to eliminate fears of childbirth.

      • Umm Reem

        Umm Reem

        May 27, 2011 at 4:22 AM

        agreed :)

        Diagrams can be shown/made for older children. I am giving suggestions to parents to get the discussion going.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      May 27, 2011 at 4:19 AM

      Saira,
      And what will you tell children when they ask, ‘and how does the doctor take it out, does he cut your tummy?’

      I agree, telling the truth doesn’t mean telling every intricate detail, but this is a sensitive subject. Yes, I agree that the information should be age and circumstances sensitive (i.e public/islamic schools vs. homeschooling) but this is also a matter where children have “blind” trust over their parents. So if at any point, they find out information which does’t completely coincide with the information given by the parent, then it runs into issues of trust. Parents have to be very careful.

      And lastly, we are living in a hyper sexualized time and society so we have to take a suitable approach. We are no longer in a time where the details could be spared until later.

  8. Avatar

    Saba

    May 26, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    MashaAllah great sereis. Love the “don’t tell them children came from a stork”…LOL
    I was told they came from Allah via the angels…that sufficed for a little while…=)
    Jazkallahu khayir this series is really helpful for us

  9. Avatar

    Coorled38

    May 27, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    And while you are explaining to your children about a Muslim woman’s menses and why she “cant” pray while on it…do you also explain that due to this biological act of her body that she is declared deficient in religion and considered an emotionally challenged child that cannot make coherent choices for a week out of the month?

    Somebody commented higher up that “there is no excuse for not praying”…and yet…here we have one. God tells us that the whole purpose of our creation is to worship him…to pray. The prophet had to haggle 50 prayers a day down to 5 because apparently he realized better than god that humans simply couldnt pray that much and still have some sort of life…but it’s very telling as to how important prayer is to god. In the quran god gives no excuses for NOT praying…merely gives reasons they might be delayed…but then made up as soon as possible….ex sleep, sick, travelling. Muslims are told to pray even if their finger is the ONLY thing that can move to show the physical act of prayer. All of those instances are excuses for delaying prayer…but not for missing it completely. The prayers must be made up ASAP…or in the case of travelling, shortened. But pray you must.

    Prayer is the only thing that stands between Muslims and god on judgement day. They alleviate some of the sins you have done.

    Muslims claim that the menses is a “pollution” or a “sickness” …and yet..being sick does NOT preclude one from prayer. It must still be done to the best of ones ability. Describing the menses as a pollution is just horrible. Biological functions are just that…biological in nature…they are a necessity for the body to function properly. To consider for a moment that god has feelings of abhorrence or disgust towards a biological function of the body he created to do just that is demeaning to god in my opinion. Bringing him down to the level of humanity that find such things cringe worthy or dirty. God says “pray to me”. Period. (pun intended) To claim that god does not accept the prayer of a muslim woman that has blood between her thighs…even though he has established prayer as the ONE thing muslims must do to stay on the straight path…to alleviate sins…to keep in rememberence of him throughout the day…to wake up from warm beds…to stop whatever one is doing throughout the day…prayer is essential to muslims….but then muslims turn around and say…even though we have all of these words from god telling us how important prayer is…how we are meant to do it no matter what…how leaving prayer is like leaving the religion…one simple ayat in the quran is taken up and held as a banner as to why women are dirty, polluted, and deficient in religion and cannot pray for one week of the month for the whole of her life once puberty is reached. One ayat…that doesnt even state she cannot pray…it merely says dont have sex with her as it could harm her (possibly assuming that if she doesnt feel harm..then its ok?)

    Since there is no stated punishment for prayer while on your menses (after all…who would know you are except for god anyhow) then I would go ahead and pray. If god doesnt accept it…you havent lost anything…but if muslim clerics have pulled a big one over the eyes of muslims…convincing them that women cannot pray while on her menses simply because she is a walking pollution…in an effort to reduce her to a deficient emotionally incapable child for much of her life…I would be outraged and take matters into my own hands and pray anyways. It is completely up to god to accept or reject your prayers in the end…nothing to do with what or how muslims feel about it.

    • Avatar

      Apricot

      May 27, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      Coorled, Are you a Muslim? Are you a woman? It is hard to respond to your post without understanding your background.

      A Muslim woman can still make supplications to God while menstruating but not take part in ritual prayer.

      It is a huge blessing not to have to make ritual prayers during that week of the month as one is usually very tired and needs the rest.

      • Avatar

        Coorled38

        May 27, 2011 at 5:47 PM

        Apricot….what does my religious status or gender have to do with what I have written? The prophet said…judge the message…not the messenger.

        As for it being a huge blessing not to make ritual prayers for that week…once again you are likening the menses to a sickness…in which case…even the sick have no excuse for not praying..merely delaying for a period…or reducing the actual motions to something more comfortable.(even just moving your lips)..but there is no excuse for actually stopping prayers while sick unless in a coma or something.

        Anyone can make supplications to god at anytime anywhere…but they are not prayer…they are basically mini messages…or text messages to be down with the slang. Prayers are a must and there is no excuse for a muslim to miss them. Period.

        I also find it interesting that muslim women cannot fast for ramadan either…yet missed fasting days are to be made up…but not the missed prayers. Why this descrepancy? Both are pillars of islam…both are enjoined on all believing muslims…yet one is completely disregarded for muslim women on her menses and the other is stopped…and made up later. How has this become acceptable islamic practice when god mentions many many MANY times in the quran that prayer and fasting are a MUST at their prescribed times.

        • Umm Reem

          Umm Reem

          May 28, 2011 at 1:27 AM

          Coolred,

          The laws of Islam are not derived only from Qur’an but from the ahadeeth also. Hence, though it does’t say anywhere in Qur’an to not fast/pray during menstruation, the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalm had ordered Muslim women to do so:

          ‘Aa’ishah said: “We used to menstruate at the time of the Messenger of Allaah, and we were commanded to make up the fasts, but we were not commanded to make up the prayers.” Agreed upon.
          The one who commanded them thus was the Prophet, sallallhu alihi wasalam. As he, sallallahu alihi wasalam said: “Is it not the case that when one of you menstruates, she does not pray or fast?…” (al-Bukhaari)

          Having said that, we do not believe that menstruation is a way of undermining Muslim women’s faith. Maryam (as), Khadeeja, Fatimah, Aisha (radiAllahhunna) all menstruated but all the men of our times put together cannot claim to have better/more iman than them…

          The reward of the good deeds is given equally to men and women without any discrimination. We are not allowed to pray during menstruation and inshaAllah we will be rewarded for submitting to Allah’s Will and obeying His orders. I take it as a Mercy from Allah.

          • Avatar

            Coorled38

            May 28, 2011 at 12:27 PM

            I dont expect everyone to agree all the time…not really my intention to change anyones mind. Im pointing out things and asking questions, but with the huge controversy surrounding hadith…I have no idea why you (any you) would accept hadith that clearly make something forbidden that god did not within the quran. This is similar to the stoning law…it is not in the quran while clearly stating that lashing is the punishment given…yet muslims accept the idea that stoning is the required punishment simply because hadith say so. You would think god would have managed to slip in an ayat or two declaring this horrible punishment in there somewhere. The same with fasting or praying while on her menses…why not actually put those words in there? If god can bother himself to mention no sex while on her menses…why not add a couple more words and say no fasting or praying either. Simple, direct, and no ambiguities or discussion or reliance on nonreliable hadith.

  10. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    May 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    Coolred – the Qur’an instructs us to heed the Sunnah and Ahadeeth.

    “Wa atee’ Allaha wa atee’ ar-Rasool…” – And obey Allah, and obey the Messenger

    The words of the Messenger of Allah were not from his own desires, but were revelation (there’s an aayah for this as well).

    Over 1300 years of Islamic sciences and scholarships, from the science of Qur’anic aayat (e.g.those which were abrogated from recitation but not practice) to the sciences of hadith (authenticity of every chain of narration, evaluation of every narration’s legal implications, etc.) cannot just be thrown out the window and ignored or labelled “false.”

    • AnonyMouse

      AnonyMouse

      May 28, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      “Wa maa yantiqu ‘anil hawaa/ illaa wahyun yooha” – Surah an-Najm; He doesn’t speak from his own desires, but rather it is revelation.

      Coolred, before writing off the Sunnah and ahadeeth, please do your research! The skewed interpretations of ahadeeth do not warrant disregarding them entirely.

      • Avatar

        Coorled38

        May 28, 2011 at 3:19 PM

        I did not ever claim they should be disregarded completely…I merely said they could not forbid or require something unless the quran does as well. They are meant as back up…not replacement. If they are forbidding something which the quran does not…then they are a completely different set of rules and obligations contrary to the quran…they are not backing it up but rewriting or adding law where there was none.

        • Avatar

          Coorled38

          May 28, 2011 at 3:26 PM

          As far as not “speaking from his own desires…” the word used there is “revelations”…when the prophet was revealing ayats then he was in his prophet mode…so to speak and thus…not speaking his own words. However, when not in prophet mode (revealing revelation) the words coming from his mouth are his own. Regardless of whether he is explaining, directing, ordering, thinking out loud etc…those are his own words…not revelation. He might be referring to the quran while directing, ordering, thinking out loud etc, but still, his own words.

          hadith are other people hearing him, seeing him, hearing about him etc and thus, unless he is in his revealing revelation mode (prophet mode) then they are hearing his own words…seeing his own actions. If there is no forbidding of prayer or fasting in the quran for muslim women…and the prophet comes out and says it is forbidden (while he has no right to do so) then those are his own words, his own directives, his own rules…how can they be revelation when the quran is the revelation…hadith or sunnah are secondary sources that are meant to support the First and Only source of revelation…the Quran.

  11. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    May 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Related to the discussion:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/gender-and-schooling/201105/blogging-lgbt-families

    They’re introducing the concept of gays, lesbians, and bi/transsexuals from Kindergarten!

  12. Avatar

    Coorled38

    May 28, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    Anonymouse…Obey Allah and obey the messenger”….why do you (any You) assume that means that every word that is uttered by the prophet is religious in nature or straight from god etc? Are we to assume the prophet was never just a man uttering his own thoughts and opinions but always always a prophet who had no ability to say anything other than what he was told too? In other words, was he only a prophet, or sometimes a prophet while revealing prophetic things…and an ordinary man at other times?

    Obey the messenger means to obey him in matters pertaining to the quran…if there is guidance in the quran and the prophet relates to it, or instructs on it etc then obey him because essentially you are obeying the directives in the quran…but if he is speaking on his own giving his opinion about personal feelings (such as what he liked to eat or didnt like…there are hadith on that too) does that mean Muslims should avoid what he personally did not like to eat etc?

    The prophet could not forbid what god did not forbid…he couldnt allow what god did not allow…and what he was silent on muslims should assume the best about it and go from there. God does not mention prayer or fasting being forbidden in the quran…why are muslims to assume hadith forbidding that are viable when they are forbidding something god did not forbid? They are in direct contradiction to the quran and gods directive to pray and fast for every capable muslim at it’s prescribed time. No excuses. Period. I dont understand why that is such a hard concept to het past.

    Yes…you can ignore 1300 years of “false” science” of hadith etc if they are in direct contradiction to the quran. Scholars of the past use to say…my words are put out there with the best of intentions but if I am proven to be wrong then dont follow what I have said. Now days….the catch phrase is…scholars said it so it must be true. End of story. Scholars also declared the world flat and when one man came along and tried to claim otherwise they ordered his death…even though the accepted concensus was that the world was flat but evidence pointed to the contrary.

    Put simply, there is simply no reason to forbid muslim women from prayer and fasting while on her menses. Because she has blood between her thighs? Really? This makes her impure or sick or needing mercy from god? Why? Why do we assume humanlike qualities towards god regarding women in finding them impure or sick or needing his mercy for something he supposedly created within them? Why not show mercy for muslim men who must work all day and take care of family at night and require him not to wake for fajr prayer because of his exhaustion? Why is this mercy selective in this regard?

    A sick person, a truly sick person that requires medication, rest, care…still must pray…even just to move a finger or lips…and the only mercy shown is that the physical movements can be reduced…yet a woman on her menses is forbidden to pray at all. And while women do experience discomfort, pain, weakness etc during that time…they are not sick (many women can go about their day with no discomfort or inconvenience at all)…yet why the disparity in this mercy of god? Sick muslims should still pray but menustrating women cannot?

    • Avatar

      Inqiyaad

      May 30, 2011 at 12:26 AM

      @Coorled38
      Amazing logic! You state that, “To consider for a moment that god has feelings of abhorrence or disgust towards a biological function of the body he created to do just that is demeaning to god in my opinion. Bringing him down to the level of humanity that find such things cringe worthy or dirty.”

      How about this? ‘Humans have invented sanitary products because they find it cringe worthy and dirty. Humans look down on people who do not pay attention to sanitation and hygiene. But God (according to your argument) is less elegant than humans to declare it as dirty.’

      This is where revelation comes in, to separate ‘notion’ from reality. Because if it were up to humans and the flawed logic of some, they would put Him down like you did and still claim to be glorifying Him.

      While you are at it, you would want to check up a dictionary and find that ‘sanitary’ is synonymous to ‘unpolluted’.

      You wrote, “one simple ayat in the quran is taken up and held as a banner… One ayat…that doesn’t even state she cannot pray…it merely says dont have sex”

      Attention all, welcome the authority on Islam ‘Coorled38’ and be all ears! Seriously, where do you get that this is the aayah that is used to exempt women from praying. Your bedazzling competency at exegesis (or lack of it) is only matched by your courage at spouting out this ignorance!

      Yes, Muslims cannot miss a prayer that has been obligated upon them. Prayer is not obligated during menses. I really don’t understand why that is such a hard concept for you to register. Oh, let me also try the pun you used. Muslims do not believe that menses are a sickness. Period. Ritual purity (as per Islamic requirements) is a precondition to prayer. The Prophet said that this is not achievable during menses and so the prayer is waived. End of discussion!

      You seem to be trying too hard to peddle the idea that ‘if it is not mentioned in the Qur’an then there is no basis for it, even if the Prophet has clearly ordered/prohibited it and it has been recorded meticulously and beyond any doubt.’ UmmReem and Anonymouse have already directed you to the authority of the Prophet and Hadith. Simply put, Quran is from Allah but, so is the Messenger from Allah.

      For now, I will just point out the inconsistency in your argument. For the sake of argument, I will accept your ‘text message’ analogy. But if your analogy is acceptable, where did we get the ‘email’ format from that you are encouraging women to use instead of the ‘text messages’? The Qur’an does not describe the template and even punctuations that are used in the framing of this ‘email’ format that you are talking about.

      It is clear that it is you who is trying to pull a fast one here, and not the Muslim clerics.

      Your claim that it is alright to disobey the messenger and go ahead and pray during one’s menses is outright ignorance and can have serious repercussions. The punishment could actually be very severe according to the degree one’s obstinacy.

      Since you are such a fan of depending only on the Qur’an, consider this:
      i. Surah: 4, Ayah: 150
      “Verily, those who disbelieve in Allâh and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allâh and His Messengers (by believing in Allâh and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, “We believe in some but reject others,” and wish to adopt a way in between.”
      ii. Surah: 11, Ayah: 59
      “Such were ‘Ad (people). They rejected the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and disobeyed His Messengers, and followed the command of every proud obstinate (oppressor of the truth, from their leaders).”

      The crime of the nation of ‘Ad was two fold. First they rejected His Ayat. In the case of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), one of the Ayat would be the Quran. Second, they disobeyed the Messenger. Anyone who disobeys Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is falling into this second crime.

      So when it is mandatory to follow the Prophet (peace be upon him), it makes sense you record his statements and watch his every move. That is exactly what his companions did.

      You seem to have a pretty clear picture what God should and should not be. What He should order and what He should not. Go ahead and fabricate your own god. Or may be you already have materialized your god in the form of your desires!

      • Avatar

        Coorled38

        May 30, 2011 at 2:02 AM

        Inqyaad..”How about this? ‘Humans have invented sanitary products because they find it cringe worthy and dirty. Humans look down on people who do not pay attention to sanitation and hygiene. But God (according to your argument) is less elegant than humans to declare it as dirty.’”

        I did NOT say that god finds such things dirty…I said that Muslims want to enforce the belief that he does by forbidding women from prayer while on their menses because they are dirty…or impure. I said…this gives human like feelings or qualities to god that does not exist. He is above such things.

        Wow..as for the rest of your comment…I do not fabricate anything…I have spent years among Muslims whose very existence is spent on distorting, fabricating, and inserting into Islam what isnt there. I have no desire to do so simply because it’s too time consuming and I have better things to do with my time.

        OBEY the prophet does not mean to write down and follow every minute action, thought or word he spoke…what..are we robots who are programmed to act exactly like another human being without choice? Without deviation? OBEY the prophet is meant in regard to what he reveals of the Quran. The Quran itself says nobody and that means NOBODY can make forbidden what god did not…or allow what god did not…but here you are saying the prophet had that right and did so…by forbidding women to pray on their menses when god did not. That makes no sense to me…and if that makes me arrogant or all knowing then that is YOUR opinion. God tells me nobody has that right…and who should I believe….YOU…the consensus of muslims who have granted the prophet this authority he doesnt have…or god?

        I havent made a “clear picture of what god is or isnt…what he can order or not” etc…where have I said this? I am speaking of how muslims have given the prophet authority to do what he simply had no right to do. (whether the hadith is correct and accurate is something else beside the point)

        If I were to pray during my menses…in open (well personal) defiance of what you claim the prophet ordered (or forbid) who would know? You? Clerics? the Prophet? NO. The only one who would know is god…and god should be the only one that knows because any prayer that I perform is for god and myself…not muslims. So the absence or presence of my menses has nothing to do with anyone else but ME. Why so freaking hostile about this issue? Why do muslims get so darn touchy about a Muslim womens pure or impure state while praying…whose business is it anyway her state of purity or impurity except her own?

        • Avatar

          Inqiyaad

          May 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM

          @Coorled38
          That is exactly my point and I repeat, “This is where revelation comes in, to separate ‘notion’ from reality. Because if it were up to humans and the flawed logic of some, they would put Him down like you did and still claim to be glorifying Him.”

          Again, you are trying to peddle this idea that it is only the Qur’an that we are supposed to follow and disregard the prophet. Anonymouse, UmmReem, Apricot, Julz and myself have pointed out to you that what you want us to believe is not true. In fact, the Qur’an itself, the authority of which you cannot begin to question, obligates the obedience of the prophet.

          Instead of responding to those arguments, you told UmmReem that you are aware of the arguments. And then, you turn around to spout the same ignorance. Considering this, the only argument you are putting forth is, “Coorled38 has ignored those arguments. Therefore, they are invalid.”

          Not to mention the inconsistency of your argument, as I pointed above. The bone of contention for you is, “why can/should women only supplicate and not do the actual ritual ‘full’ prayer when nothing in the Qur’an prohibits them.” And my point was, where from did you get the structure of the “actual, full, ritual prayer”? The answer is, the Prophet!

          I would suggest that you go back and read the article by UmmReem and try to see if you agree or disagree. If you agree then it is good. But, if you disagree then you could share the specific reasons for your disagreement with specific arguments and then we could begin to talk. You might also want to consider the following in case they are not mentioned in UmmReem’s article.

          i. Surah: 4, Ayah: 80
          “Whosoever obeys the Messenger, indeed he has obeyed Allah. As for those who turn away, We have not sent you to be their protector.”
          ii. Surah: 3, Ayah: 50
          “Likewise confirming the Torah that has been before me and to make lawful to you some of the things you have been forbidden. I bring you a sign from your Lord, therefore, fear Allah and obey me.”
          iii. Surah: 53, Ayah: 2-3
          Verse 2: “your companion (i.e Muhammad, peace be upon him) is neither astray, neither errs,”
          Verse 3: “nor does he speak out of desire.”

          iv. Surah: 3, Ayah: 31
          Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me, Allâh will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

          What the prophet speaks (even apart from Quran) is not out of desire, but rather guidance from Allah. When he orders something, it is obligatory and there is no scope for missing what he has ordered, and vice versa with prohibitions. The default is to follow the prophet in whatever he does, unless there is evidence that it is specific for the prophet. Anyone who denies this has fallen into disbelief as mentioned in the ‘Quran’. For example:

          i. Surah: 4, Ayah: 150
          “Verily, those who disbelieve in Allâh and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allâh and His Messengers (by believing in Allâh and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, “We believe in some but reject others,” and wish to adopt a way in between.”
          ii. Surah: 11, Ayah: 59
          “Such were ‘Ad (people). They rejected the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and disobeyed His Messengers, and followed the command of every proud obstinate (oppressor of the truth, from their leaders).”

          Personally, you can do what you want to do and then deal with Allah on the Day of Judgment. But if you want to come on to this forum and tell us what our religion dictates or does not, all the while ignoring the very Qur’an that you profess to bear as a standard, then yes, I am freaking hostile to this attitude. Very much like you are to the authority of our Prophet sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, or may be even more.

          • Avatar

            Coorled38

            May 30, 2011 at 4:02 PM

            Nowhere did I say disregard the prophet…I said you (any you) are giving him authority he simply did not have. He cannot allow what god forbid or forbid what god allowed. Simple. You would have to assume that if women were forbidden from praying while on their menses then god would mention it right along with the ayat about not having sex with them. Why leave it out and then rely on hadith to forbid it when there was never any gaurantee that those hadith pertaining to a woman’s menses would ever had stood the test of time (been written and remembered etc). Why would god leave something as important as women having this excuse, reason, mercy for not praying to hadith to inform us when putting a few words in the quaran would have been the more logical choice…and god is the most logical, right?

            I am not blaming the prophet, accusing him, or anything else..hell I dont even believe most of the anti women hadith he is proported to have authority over….if you read my post clearly I am saying that Muslims have given him authority to order things that god did not give to anyone…not even prophets.

            And yes…when it comes to my menses I will do as I please because it is a personal issue that is between me and god…Muslims as a whole should have nothing to say about a women who prays on her menses because it simply isnt there business what state she happens to be in while praying. As I mentioned…who the heck would know her state anyhow except for her and god?

        • Avatar

          Inqiyaad

          May 30, 2011 at 5:01 PM

          @Coorled38
          “He cannot allow what god forbid or forbid what god allowed.” Agreed! I will add that he would never ever do it.

          What others and I are saying is this, “whatever he (the prophet) forbids or allows, God has forbidden or allowed it, respectively. God has given the Prophet that authority.”
          Why don’t you just go ahead and refute those verses from the Qur’an that I quoted and/or UmmReem’s article, piece by piece. Don’t you think that you are denying the very Qur’an, which is so dear to you?

          You wrote, “if you read my post clearly I am saying that Muslims have given him authority to order things that god did not give to anyone…not even prophets.” Please tell us what is your understanding of these statements from the Qur’an, “Whosoever obeys the Messenger, indeed he has obeyed Allah”, “fear Allah and obey me”, “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me”

          Again, the bone of contention for you is, “why can/should women only supplicate and not do the actual ritual ‘full’ prayer when nothing in the Qur’an prohibits them.” And my point was, where from did you get the structure of the “actual, full, ritual prayer”?

          Please show us the verses from the Qur’an that describe the ‘actual, full, ritual prayer’ in detail. Afterall, God has allowed the “actual, full, ritual prayer” in the Qur’an and Muslims are playing spoilsport by placing restrictions!

          As to why God did not do something or do something a certain way, I repeat, “You seem to have a pretty clear picture what God should and should not be. What He should order and what He should not. Go ahead and fabricate your own god. Or may be you already have materialized your god in the form of your desires!”

          Do what you please, but don’t come here and tell us that this is what God wants from us, without evidence, while pretending how important the Qur’an and Allah are to you. Just blabber!

          • Avatar

            Coorled38

            May 31, 2011 at 9:40 AM

            I answered in another comment to Julz how hadith hardly play a role in teaching Muslims how to pray. It is commong knowledge that Muslims learn by watching other Muslims…NOT by reading hadith.

            Obey the prophet in what he says according to the quran on what god already said. In other words…when he is explaining, relating, revealing the quran then you must obey THAT. Because to obey him is to obey god..gods words, orders, instructions etc. Once again, not every word that came from his mouth was revelation. Not a hard concept to understand.

            As for rendering my comments as “blabber”…the one thing that turns off people from discussing anything with Muslims is how they will quickly resort to name calling and childish bullying tactics such as that. If I am wrong or misguided…then say so…I dont mind. I dont profess to be perfect but I can and do have opinions about a great many things. Not all of them agree with the consensus…so what…so Im just a blabbering female now?

            It’s a pity that “preach with beautiful words” is only used on the people that agree with you…the ones that dont actually need “convincing”..eh?

        • Avatar

          Inqiyaad

          May 31, 2011 at 11:41 PM

          @Coorled38
          Let us look again at your arguments vs that of UmmReem’s, Anonymouse’s, Apricot’s, Julz, and mine.

          According to us, Allah has exempted prayers during menses because the prophet said so.
          Vs
          According to you, Allah has not prohibited the “full, actual, ritual prayers” as the prohibition is not mentioned in the Qur’an. In other words, there is no statement in the Qur’an that qualifies the obligation of “full, actual, ritual prayers”.

          With regards to this argument, I had asked you, where in the Qur’an is the description of the “full, actual, ritual prayers”, in the first place? Because, according to you nothing has been left out from the Qur’an, for the prophet to dictate.

          Others and I are still waiting for you to enlighten us about this?

          On the flip side, about the authority of the prophet

          We said, obey the Prophet because Allah said so in the Qur’an.
          Vs
          You say, obey the prophet is qualified by….

          The numerous verses quoted in UmmReem’s article and above in my comments and that of others, supporting the authority of Prophet are absolute statements. But where from did you get that qualifier? Please share with us the specific qualifiers for specific verses that have been quoted.

          If you cannot address this by quoting from the Qur’an then we are left with, ‘because Coorled38 said so’.

          As for your statement, “…how they (muslims) will quickly resort to name calling and childish bullying tactics such as that…”, Does calling someone ‘freaking hostile’ and ‘darn touchy’, as you did, fall into this category of ‘childish bullying tactics’? And who beat the other at doing that?

          Also, it is interesting how your understanding of ‘blabber’ starts as that of an adjective describing your comment (for rendering my comments as “blabber”) and by the end, it transitions into a ‘blabbering female’.

          If you go back and read my comment in context, you will figure that I had highlighted ‘without evidence’ in the previous sentence. So it is your comments that seem blabber to me. Not because you disagree with me. But because you have been writing quite a bit, without a single bit of evidence to back up your statements or trying to refute the evidence presented by so many of us here!

          وَيُجَادِلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِالْبَاطِلِ لِيُدْحِضُوا بِهِ الْحَقَّ وَاتَّخَذُوا آيَاتِي وَمَا أُنذِرُوا هُزُوًا

          “but the Unbelievers dispute with vain argument, in order therewith to weaken the truth, and they treat My Signs as a jest, as also the fact that they are warned!”

  13. Avatar

    julz

    May 30, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    Coolred,

    Both QURAN and Hadiths should be guidance for all muslim. In the quran we are instructed to do our prayers (sholat), but the practice and the details on how to perform sholat is in the hadiths.

    • Avatar

      Coorled38

      May 30, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      julz…if a new convert was to come up to you today and ask how to pray…would you give them a book of hadith and say read that…it will tell you all you need to know about prayer…or would you take them to the mosque and show them the how to pray. Show them the physical aspects of prayer along with the words that should be spoken?

      I want to know of any muslim out there, whether it be a parent, friend, imam, what have you…that gives a book of hadith to teach someone how to pray. Nobody does that…they SHOW them how to pray with physical movements and possibly a booklet on ayats that can be spoken etc.

      Pray as you SEE the prophet praying…Muslims, for centuries, have watched other muslims pray in order to learn how to perform prayer. Nobody reads a book of hadith to learn how to pray. Not to mention, hadith are a haphazard collection of sayings about what someone saw the prophet do, how many rakats, what he might have said during a particular prayer etc…they are by no means a concerted collection of step by step instructions on HOW to pray. You will not find that anywhere in hadith. If you want to use hadith to learn how to pray you would have to go through them…pick out a collection of them that touch on every different prayer (and some have way more than others) and piece together a picture on how to pray and what to say based on them. Very complicated and nobody bothers to do that.

      So then why use this absurd excuse that we need hadith to teach us to pray when obviously muslims do not use hadith for that purpose. Muslims watch and learn. Period. If muslims across the planet stopped praying wholesale…not another prayer was performed for…say two generations (to allow forgetfullness) THEN quite possibly hadith would be useful in this regard to kick start the art of prayer again…other than that…hadith as a source of learning how to pray makes absolutely no sense.

  14. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    May 30, 2011 at 3:33 AM

    Going back to the content of the article:

    Here is an interesting read (from islam-qa) on teaching boys about menstruation and the women not hiding the fact, from their maharim, that they were menstruation:

    It was narrated from Kurayb the freed slave of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas told him that he stayed overnight with Maymoonah, the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who was his maternal aunt. He said: I lay my head on the end of the pillow and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his wife placed their heads on its side. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) slept until midnight, or shortly before or after, then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) woke and started to rub the sleep from his eyes with his hands. Then he recited the last ten verses of Aal ‘Imraan…
    Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4571; Muslim, 763.

    Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This indicates that it is permissible for a man to sleep alongside his wife without being intimate with her in the presence of one of her mahrams, even if he has reached the age of discernment. Al-Qaadi said: In some versions of this hadeeth it says: Ibn ‘Abbaas said: I stayed overnight with my maternal aunt one night when she was menstruating. Even though the isnaad of this version is not saheeh, it contains a very interesting idea, because Ibn ‘Abbaas would not have asked to stay overnight on a night when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) may have wanted to be intimate with his wife, and his father would not have sent him there unless he knew that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have no need to be intimate with his wife – because it is well known that he would not have been intimate with her when Ibn ‘Abbaas was there sharing the same pillow with them and he was watching to see what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did, and he did not sleep or he only slept a little.

  15. Avatar

    Muslimah

    May 31, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    My daughter is almost nine, and my son is seven, and these questions, of course come up.

    Every year, probably until they are teenagers, these questions will come up in different forms, for different reasons, and I have answered them according to age.

    My daughter just learned at the most basic level why women sometimes can’t pray, and how babies come out. More details will come as she asks, matures, and grows.

    agree with Um Reem in responding with truth, and not giving too many details out all at once.

    It’s sad that people are afraid to be honest with kids, because when you make up stories, tell lies (yes they are lies), or make the topic all “hush hush” it teaches the child unhealthy shame, and a mistrust to come to you in the future for questions where they do need direction.

    And we know where they will get their learning and guidance from after that, don’t we!

  16. Pingback: Parenting VII: Sexual Education from an Islamic Perspective | MuslimMatters.org

  17. Pingback: Sex & Sexuality: An Islamic Perspective | ISLAMIC SPOTLIGHT: ISLAMIC NEWS, STORIES, HADITH, DOCUMENTARIES, LECTURES, NASHEED AND MORE DEEN RELATED ARTICLES

  18. Pingback: Sexual Activities Beyond The “Norm”: What Should We Teach Our Teens | MuslimMatters.org

  19. Avatar

    Ali

    July 5, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Sorry about the opening sentence of my previous comment. Forgive me.

  20. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part I: Swimming Against The Current - MuslimMatters.org

  21. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part II: Change in Parents is Essential - MuslimMatters.org

  22. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part III: Change in Parents Continues - MuslimMatters.org

  23. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part IV: Connection with Qur’an and Instilling Islamic Character - MuslimMatters.org

  24. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part V: Why Parents Need to Provide Sexual Education to their Kids - MuslimMatters.org

  25. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part V(b): The Reality of Sex-Education in Public Schools - MuslimMatters.org

  26. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part IX: Teen Idols – Crushes, Love & Heartbreak - MuslimMatters.org

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  28. Avatar

    jesusmyprophetFaiza

    July 16, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Assalam alykum, what appropriate names can be used for private parts to educate children?

  29. Pingback: Islamic Parenting Book | Anakku Harapanku Dunia Akhiratku

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#Life

Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriage

Like many people in my mid-20s, I approached my parents about getting married and initially chose to use a more traditional route. That is to say, creating a resume – or biodata – and sending it to matchmaker aunties. I wanted this approach because I wanted to be able to balance my American, Desi, and Muslim identities. I wanted things to be done in a halal way with my parent’s knowledge. However, over the past 2 years, my experience with the process has left me jaded.

Before I continue, I want to preface with two things. The first is that my parents are wonderful. We’ve butted heads, but I recognize that they are doing what they think is best, via a method that they’re used to. Providing critical feedback of the method should not be taken as critical to my parents.

The second is that while I have critical feedback, I am not intending to discredit the entire process. Meeting people through family is hardly a bad thing, and maybe what some people need. It is very possible that I will still end up using this process. That said, there are changes that need to be made, especially in the modern world. I want to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters can get an idea of what the process is, and what they’re in store for.

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Superficiality

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. They are, in total, the person’s education/career, info on their parents and extended family, and pictures. There’s nothing written about the person’s personality barring, perhaps, a few sentences about their interests. This doesn’t provide any real depth of information about the other person at all.

Then there is the emphasis that is placed on the pictures. It is important to acknowledge that physical attraction plays a role in all of this. I think one of my early mistakes was that I was trying to pretend it didn’t matter at all, and that’s not reasonable for a marriage. The problem, however, is that given the lack of personal detail in the written part of the bio-data, we are left with the photo being the most personal piece of information presented. Unless you really care about where a person’s grandfather went to University in the 1940’s, that photo ends up being the most important thing you’re making your choice on.

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Like “Tinder, but safer,” a friend said to me, as I explained how these situations played out. That’s not far off from how the experience played out for me. We’re not given much time to make a decision on the bio-data, so the result is the superficial, un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

How many times have I heard, “Oh, she’s too fat,” or “Oh, she’s too short,” or “Too tall,” or “She’s pretty dark isn’t she?” Bengali speakers will recognize the word “moyla,” [dirty] used to describe women who are slightly darker, which is terribly problematic.

It’s not just that women are being chosen based on their looks alone, but on top of that, they’re being held to Eurocentric notions of what is deemed attractive. We’re all being held hostage to a standard designed by and for an entirely different race of people, and I have been told that it would be weird for me to be attracted to a darker-skinned woman because in the minds of many, dark skin is undesirable.

The superficiality is worse for women, but even as a guy I felt it. I’m fine with how I look, but you can only hear, “Oh, your face looks weird in that picture,” or, “He’s not tall enough,” so many times before it starts to mess with you. Men face another superficial judgment as well: the problem with men being reduced to their ability as moneymakers. I’m a graduate student and there are people in my class who have a spouse and children and are making it by just fine on the stipend we receive. But, inevitably, it will come up that I’m not making tons of money, so how can I support a family? While recognizing that men do have an Islamic responsibility to financially support their families, it troubles me that the process boils men down to one thing and one thing only – money, and not just having enough of it, but lots of it.

Age

I’m relatively young, 27 in May, and so when I started this process two years ago, I told my parents that I was willing to go +/- 3 years, just because I thought that would be a good range to encompass people I’d have some similarities with. However my prospect of an older wife – even a day older – was rejected with quite some vigor. I’ve been disqualified from matching with some women because they were born just a couple of months before I was.

The majority of the biodatas sent to me are of women still in college, between the ages of 19 and 22. It doesn’t matter when I say that’s too young, or how that I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone who hasn’t fully grown up yet. I get told that I’m wrong.

Do you know how many random aunties and uncles have told me that a 7-8 year age gap is necessary to make a marriage work because otherwise, the women “will demand too much?” It’s shocking that I’m being told specifically that I need a wife young enough to be manipulated and shaped to my desires. When I push back on this, I’m, again, told that I’m weird.

I’m being constantly told to reconsider my age preferences as if wanting to marry a woman in her mid-20’s is a weird thing to do when I myself am in my mid-20’s. The sheer number of times I face this makes me think it’s an inherent flaw in how our cultures think, and not something unique to my situation. This is to say nothing of the fact that people will, to our face, tell me (26) that I’m too young for marriage, but my sister (25) is rapidly passing her expiration date.

Race

As a Bengali man, I have no problem marrying a woman of Bengali descent, but it’s annoying that even in 2020, it’s seen as a taboo to marry outside of your race in Desi culture. I personally have had it conceded to me, that if I choose an Indian or Pakistani woman on my own, that might be ok, but nothing else. Not an Arab. Certainly not someone with (black) African descent. And a white/Hispanic/black convert would cause a genuine scandal.

And even this concession is not universal, as there are many Bengali parents I know who will not let their child marry anyone outside of their own culture. Even when people have pushed through it and married outside of their ethnic backgrounds, there is still gossip and concern as to how the parents could “let this happen.”

Going into this I thought, “Well, all I have to do is show a few videos from Imams talking about how inter-racial marriages shouldn’t be taboo for Muslims,” but it doesn’t matter how many of these clips I show, it falls on deaf ears.

I understand the concern of losing culture and heritage to life in the West, I get it. But if I want to teach my kids about their Bengali roots I can do that with a wife of any background, and if I don’t want to teach them, having a Bengali wife isn’t going to make me any more likely to do so.

Ultimately, the feeling I get is that the older generation wants in-laws who they can go and have chai and gossip with, to do traditional things they saw their parents do with their in-laws. And again, while I empathize with the desire to do something familiar, this seems like an unhealthy reason to dictate why your children can’t marry someone from another race or culture.

Classism

I understand that families need to mesh and that it makes things easier if there are similarities that exist. However, in what world am I reading a biodata and seeing what a woman’s uncle does for a living, and then deciding that she’s marriage material?

It doesn’t work for me that way, but it works on the minds of the older generation, and there are even ways of working the class distinction to your advantage. Uncles in the community have actually told me that marrying into a “lower class” may be good if you want someone to be subservient to you because they’re thankful you brought them to your status. But they’ve also told me that marrying a “higher-class” woman isn’t bad either, because a rich father-in-law could have its perks. Caveat- beware of them being snobby with you, since you may be expected to be thankful, subservient one instead.

I can’t even wrap my head around what people are talking about here, but it’s yet another factor that I end up having to deal with during this process.

Religion

I want a wife who cares about the deen and prays 5 times a day, and I want this not to be a controversial take.

I have been told that’s unrealistic. Literally a couple of weeks ago, an auntie told my sister that ‘modern women’ do not pray regularly and so I should not expect that in a future wife. She said this, of course, to my sister who is both a modern woman and someone who prays five times a day without fail.

It’s crazy to be told that I’m being too picky because I want a wife who already has her religious-ness established. I have been told, by both aunties and uncles, that it’s better for me to marry a wife who isn’t too religious yet so that I can shape her deen. This isn’t about mutual growth in faith as you may hope for in a marriage. This is about controlling women with religion by only teaching her what I want to teach her. When older women tell you this, it raises so many concerns about what they’ve been through and what they want future generations of women to go through.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me. I don’t mean to fetishize anybody, but I want a wife whose religion drives to be bold, to stand up for what’s right, to be outspoken. I want to partner with someone whose religiosity pushes me to be a better version of myself, not to do what she’s told.

Marry Back Home

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me, as someone who has lived their entire life in the US, to think that I’ll mesh much better with someone with a similar background. This isn’t universal, some people will genuinely get along better with people from “back home,” and that’s fine, but this needs to be a personal choice.

Yet, I keep getting told that it would be better for me to marry from “back home.” I have been told, straight up, if you bring a wife over here, she’ll be more “indebted,” to me because I brought her to America. Setting aside that I don’t want to marry someone who just wants to marry me for a Green Card, why would I want to marry someone who feels like they owe me?

I fail to see how marrying from “back home” is an issue of compatibility in this case, it feels way more like an issue of subservience.

You can see here that the concern isn’t about finding a spouse who matches with my personality, it’s about finding someone who’ll come and cook and clean and bear children for me without speaking up about it because they feel like they owe me. Which segues to…

Gender Roles

I want to preface this section by saying that this is one topic where my parents haven’t, at all, been the source of my concerns, but rather, this something that comes up when talking to certain members of the community.

For men, there is an emphasis on making money to provide for a family, and for women, raising children and taking care of the home. There’s no problem with this model, but it is not the only model. It’s a valid option, but I am being told it’s my only choice.

In the eyes of many, the preference is to pick a homemaker. This seems at odds with the desire to select a woman with a good education, making it seem that I’m then not expected to let her utilize that education professionally. After all, it could be embarrassing for me if my wife makes more than me, and I have been told to be careful, because a wife who makes too much money could be “too independent.”

I must also be careful to stay in my exclusive role as a moneymaker too, and not try to go beyond that. I had pictures with my nephews in biodata because they mean the world to me. I was told to take them out because somehow a man taking care of children is deemed…bad?. I also like cooking. I once said this to an auntie and I remember her saying, “Why do you like doing girl’s stuff?”

Quite bluntly, I don’t want a wife who will only cook and clean and raise children for me. I want someone I can share those duties with because they’re my equal partner, an idea that, to me, keeps getting glossed over in this process. Every couple deserves the opportunity to figure their marriage out for themselves.

Quick Marriages

There are limits to what we can(‘t) do as Muslims. I understand that we shouldn’t have 3 year-long courtships or live together before getting married, and I am not advocating that. But we should be allowed some time to make such an important decision. I’ve been shown bio-datas and have been expected to come back with an answer in two days – just two days – about whether the information on this piece of paper is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Please, can we have a few months? Can we talk, and try to make sure that this is the decision we want to make (chaperoned)? When reviewing potential spouses, try to make sure everyone is one the same page about how much time you give to each other in order to avoid heartbreak and confusion.

Nature Of Relationship With Parents

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship. It’s relatively open and comfortable, but it’s still a Desi parent-child dynamic. Expressing a dissenting opinion is disrespectful, which means it can be harder to speak up without fear of disappointing them.

Plus, my parents and I never openly spoke about sex or physical attraction, at least not in-depth. To go from that to suddenly having to talk to your parents about the physical aspects that you’re looking for in a wife is awkward, and it can lead to miscommunication.

It’s a culture clash on top of a generational one. I have a hard time articulating what I want to my parents, and it’s not easy to figure out. If you know this before starting the process, you can make an effort to speak as openly about things as you can. You can even recruit an older cousin or friend, or an Imam you trust to help you. Don’t do what I did and go by yourself, have people to support you to make sure you and your parents are communicating well.

In Conclusion

It’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll get everything you want in a spouse. There will be compromises that are made, whether they be with yourself or with what your parents want. But don’t sacrifice on the points most important to you. Determine those, know what your must-haves are, and negotiate on other things. Make sure your potential spouse is on board. It can be awkward, especially with how many of us were raised, but talk to your potential spouse about these important things.

While this was a reflection of my own experience, I place emphasis on the aspects I feel are more universal. Speaking to other Desi Muslims in my age bracket, it certainly does seem that my concerns are relatively common. Obviously, there are individual factors that are at play, but these were things that came up regularly when speaking to elders in the community.

I also, again, want to stress that this isn’t an attack on my parents. While I have a level of frustration with how this situation has played out, I recognize that this is what they’re used to. And to their credit, they have made some concessions. Furthermore, it’s not just parents who are playing a role in this. The (often unwarranted) voices of certain elders are given undue emphasis, and that, I think has complicated the situation even further.

Ultimately, I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t consider arrangements or biodata, but if you do, then you must openly discuss this with your parents. Make sure they know what you want, and stand firm if it’s something important, even if it complicates things. It may put a strain on your relationship with your parents, but it’s better to open about things now than to have anger and resentment towards them for years later.

I’ll end with a specific piece of advice to the brothers: You have a duty to learn about why these issues are red flags and to push back on them yourselves. Women can be labelled as too rebellious if they push back themselves, and we need to be aware of this. Speak up for your (biological) sisters, family members, and friends when you notice their discomfort. Make sure you establish with your potential spouse that she is actually on board with the process, not just going along with it because she feels that she needs to. It might be awkward, but it’s important to establish a clear line of communication with someone even before you get married.

May Allah bless us all with happy, healthy, and fruitful marriages. Ameen

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#Society

Black Youth Matter: Stopping the Cycle of Racial Inequality in Our Ranks

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

As we joined the rest of America in celebrating Black History Month and commemorating the legacy of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., with tweets, infographics, and sharing famous quotes, racism and colorism continue to plague the Muslim community. 

When we hear of a weekend course about the illustrious muadhin of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Bilal Ibn Raba’ah, may Allah be pleased with him, or a whitewashed cartoon movie based loosely on his life, we flock to the location. When the imam retells his story during a Friday sermon, we listen intently and feel inspired, we smile in awe upon hearing about his fortitude in the face of incessant torture. We cry while reliving the part where he enters the city of Makkah alongside the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) victorious, and calls the adhan atop the Ka’aba. 

Then, we leave. 

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We return to our homes and all but forget about it until the next time he is brought up— unless we are Black Muslims. Like King, his impact comes in waves, maybe once a year like MLK Day or like Black History Month, for many of us. Yet, there were more Black companions and renowned Black Muslims in our history, just as there were countless civil rights leaders who fought for racial equality in America. For many of us who are not American of African descent, we live our lives unperturbed by the implications of ignoring the racial disparities that exist within our own places of worship.

However, it is our youth that bear the brunt of this injustice. 

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an incident that made me reflect deeply on the effects of racism and fear on our youth and the Muslim community. After picking up my son from middle school in Baltimore County, I drove to a nearby 7-Eleven for some snacks. While I was standing in line to pay for my groceries, I noticed that the man behind the counter was Muslim. From his outward appearance, accent, and name tag, I guessed he was South Asian. We greeted each other with salaam, a smile, and a head nod of camaraderie.

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As he was ringing up my items, a group of chattery students still in school uniforms, approached the entrance of the convenience store. The cashier looked up horrified, and in mid transaction swung his arm back and forth as if swatting a fly. I turned to look at who he was gesturing to and saw the children were swinging the door open to enter. They were about 6 African American children from the same public middle school as my son. In his school, each grade level wears a different color polo with khaki pants as part of their uniform, so I could tell that most of them were in his same grade level.

“No! No! No!” the cashier cried harshly, “Out!”

I turned to him grimacing in disbelief, surprised at his reaction to the kids and then I noticed his expression. He had a look on his face of fear coupled with disgust.

One child cheerfully told him, “I got money, man!” My head turned back and forth from the students to the cashier. He reluctantly said, “Fine,” but as more students followed, he added sternly, “Three at a time!” I wondered if this was a rule when one of the girls in the group said, “Yeah, three at a time y’all,” and the majority stayed back, as if they were familiar with the routine. Some of them rolled their eyes, others laughed, but they remained outside the door. The cashier followed the ones who entered with his eyes intently as he finished bagging my items. He looked genuinely concerned. I tried to make light of the situation and get his attention away from the children, asking, “The kids give you a hard time, huh?” He smiled and nodded nervously, but I was not satisfied with his answer. 

As I swiped my debit card to pay, I felt troubled. My maternal instincts were telling me that I should defend these children. I felt anger and helplessness at the same time. These kids were tweens or barely 13 years old, yet they were being judged because of the color of their skin. There was no other logical explanation. They were not rowdy or reckless, not any more than any other child their age. They did not look menacing; in fact, they were all smiling and joking with one another.

Yet, this cashier, my Muslim brother, was looking at them as if they were a threat. The same way some white American may look at a Muslim sporting a beard and thobe boarding a plane.  

I tried to find excuses for his behavior. Perhaps he had a bad experience, or he was having a bad day. Could some of the kids from the middle school have stolen something before and this prompted his apprehension? There is some crime in this neighborhood located in the southwestern part of Baltimore County, on the outskirts of the City. Could he have suffered from some type of trauma that led to his anxiety? Maybe there was a fight in his store one day? Yet, even if any of these assumptions were true, I still felt like he was overreacting.

After all, these were just kids.

In Dr. Joy Degruy’s book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, she mentions that policing continues to represent one of the most pervasive and obvious examples of racial inequality; one that even the youth are unable to avoid. She cites an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, highlighting a study by UCLA, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston, Massachusetts, Penn State, and University of Pennsylvania that investigated how black boys were perceived as it related to childhood innocence. They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. 

They found, “converging evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” Consequently, African American youth are often unfairly singled out as troublemakers. Click To Tweet

On November 22, 2014, a 12-year-old African American child, like my son and his middle school peers, was fatally shot by police while he played with a toy gun in a playground. The child, Tamir Rice, was just a young boy playing cheerfully outdoors, but police officers regarded him a threat, demonstrating the ghastly reality of the above-mentioned study. After hearing about this atrocity, I remember telling my own children that they can never play outside with nerf guns or water pistols, out of fear of this happening to them. This is the type of world our children are living in. As Muslims, why do we choose to be part of the problem and not its solution?

Black youth

Junior football team huddling together

As I walked through the door and past the group in front of the 7-Eleven, all I could think about is that the kids were no different than my son who was sitting in the car, hungry, waiting for me to bring him some food. The only difference was that I was there to defend him, if need be. The children did not have an adult to stand up for them against the discrimination to which they were being subjected. I felt guilty for not saying more. I also remembered an incident where a group of African American youth were turned away from the tarawih prayers at a local mosque, not too far from the 7-Eleven, during the month of Ramadan, because they were perceived to be “too rowdy.” This prompted me to write about this incident; to speak up for them now, and to remind myself and other Muslims that the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us compassion. 

He said, “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Even when a bedouin came into the masjid, the House of Allah – a place much more sacred than any convenience store – and urinated, yes urinated there, he still treated him with dignity. (Muslim)

The students standing at the door of the 7-Eleven were just going in for a snack. Even if they had been misbehaving, the gentleman at the counter could have addressed them with kindness. Similarly, the youth at the local mosque just wanted to pray tarawih. Now imagine the impact it had on them to be turned away from praying with their brethren during the month of Ramadan. 

I sat in the car where my son was waiting and found him looking out the window, unaware of what was happening. We were parked far from the entrance.

“Do you know any of those kids?” I asked him. “Yeah, the girl on the right is in my gym class,” he said.

My heart sank more and as we sat in the car, I wondered, what would have been the cashier’s reaction if the kids had been white? More than likely, he would not have treated them the same way. This racial profiling leads to devastating consequences. A recent news report by WUSA9 revealed that the state of Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young black men, according to experts at the Justice Policy Institute. Their November Policy Briefs for 2019 entitled, Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland, revealed that disparity is most pronounced among emerging adults, or youth ages 18-24, where, “Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.”

“Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.” Click To Tweet

What was most troubling about the incident at the 7-Eleven was that the students had been conditioned; they were already used to being treated that way. It was routine for them and business as usual for the Muslim cashier. While he may believe that he is doing the right thing, by averting a potential “problem,” the harm that he is causing has greater ramifications. He is adding to the trauma these children are already experiencing being black in America. Black students in Baltimore County were not even allowed by law to earn an education past 5th grade in 1935, and 65 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, the county’s schools are still highly segregated. Local and federal leadership in America have continuously failed African Americans, and it is disheartening to think that the immigrant Muslim community is headed in the same direction. 

I was haunted by this incident and returned to the 7-Eleven a week later to ask the cashier or the owner of the store about their (mis)treatment of the middle schoolers. I parked directly in front of the glass doors of the entrance and it was there where I saw a sign typed in regular white computer paper that read, “AT A TIME NO MORE THAN THREE (3) SCHOOL KIDS ARE ALLOWED IN THE STORE & please do not bring bags inside the store. Thanks.” I had not seen the sign before, maybe I overlooked it the day of the occurrence. Nevertheless, I went inside and spoke with the owner of the franchise, a Muslim gentleman who greeted me with salaam. I asked him about the sign outside the door and the reason why the middle schoolers were treated like would-be criminals. He explained that students from local schools have stolen goods from the convenience store on many occasions. To prevent this, they established a rule that only three unaccompanied school children could enter at a time and they were not allowed to bring their backpacks. The owner further added that crime and vandalism were prevalent in the area. Unfortunately, because this side of town is predominately African American, the blame falls disproportionately on this group. 

Nevertheless, patrolling and intimidating the African American youth in the area is not the solution. As Dr. Degruy stated in her book, “The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity.”

A thirty-four-year veteran police officer named Norm Stamper wrote a book about racism in the criminal justice system entitled, Breaking Rank, (2005) and he mentioned that, “It is not hard to understand why people of color, the poor, and younger Americans did not, and do not, look upon the police as ‘theirs’… Do the police protect ‘the weak against oppression or intimidation’ or do they oppress and intimidate the very people they’ve sworn to protect?” Likewise, this young generation will begin to see Muslims of all colors as no different, if we take the role of the oppressor. 

When Abu Dharr insulted Bilal ibn Rabah, may Allah be pleased with them, by calling him, “O son of a black woman!” and the Prophet, peace be upon him heard of this, he rebuked Abu Dharr and said to him, “By the One who revealed the Book to Muhammad, no one is better than another except by righteous deeds. You have nothing but an insignificant amount.” We may have read or heard this and other narrations before, however, we fall short in implementing these teachings.

In Malcolm X’s Letter from Mecca, he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.” Yet, as Muslims living in America, we are not fulfilling our role in eradicating racism from our own ranks. We are making race our problem. With so much injustice plaguing the world, the time is now to embrace the youth, celebrate their diversity, and let them know there is a place for them in Islam.

Sometimes it takes one person to stand up and point out the wrong to set the right tone. The sign at the 7-Eleven in my neighborhood has been taken down.

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No-Nuptial Agreements: Maybe Next Time, Don’t Get Married

marriage

 “Nikah is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me.”

–Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Narrated by Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)

Many Muslims have experienced marriage, then suffered a subsequent divorce as a financial, emotional, and social meat grinder. Some critics have noted the divorce system seemingly exists primarily to benefit itself; the lawyers: mental health experts, investigators, forensic accountants.

They form an entire industry dedicated to extracting the wealth of a disintegrating family, often forcing the middle class or working class into poverty and bankruptcy. All of this happens without any noticeable benefit to society. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

For many, divorce happens multiple times. A divorced person who gets remarried is more likely to get divorced again.

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While men often complain about how the “family court” system is against them, the reality is that women often bear the financial brunt of divorce. Divorce is more likely to drive women to bankruptcy than men.

After one or two divorces and a few lost years of retirement savings or a decade or more of home equity, another “marriage” starts to look downright irrational. My advice to such people: stop getting married, at least under state law. Get a nikah and a “no-nuptial agreement” instead. Allow me to explain.

Fun with Words

It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about virtually anything unless we have a common understanding of the meaning of words we are using.

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In law, even ordinary words have definitions that defy conventional understanding or even common sense. Basic familial terms like “son,” “daughter,” “father,” and “mother” have state law definitions that are different from what those words mean in Islam or our understanding. Under state law, “parents” can adopt adult “children” a similar age to them or even older, and have the same status as a biological child. In Islam, an adopted child is not the same as a biological child and does not have rights to inheritance in Islam.

In law, even words like “life” and “death” don’t always mean what you think they mean. A living person can go to court to dispute his death, demonstrate he is living, breathing, speaking, and everyone agrees he is the “dead person” in question, yet, he is ruled legally dead. Famously, corporations are legally people and are immortal.

Law is not the same thing as truth.

Similarly, it is folly to conflate nikah, the thing that exists in Islam, with marriage under state law. In different states, rules for who and under what circumstances people can get married can vary. One thing that all the state law definitions have in common is that they are not marriage in Islam.

What is Marriage?

For marriage, there is a state law definition, there is an Islamic definition, and there is the definition that the individual married couple has. Under state law, two men can be married to each other, but three men cannot be. In Islam, marriage (let’s call it nikah to be more precise) is a halal social and sexual relationship, and there are rules in the fiqh that are different from state law.

Under some state laws, “secret marriages” with no witnesses or publicly available registration are part of the law and commonly used. In Islam, there is a witness requirement for nikah. None of the rules in Islam require the state’s approval for nikah.

The third definition is how each couple sees their marriage. It is a flexible institution. To the extent it is an economic, social or familial partnership can vary widely. Couples may live together or apart. They may have one income or two.  They may share the same social circles or share none of them. The variations are endless.

Domestic Partnerships

For most of the history of legal marriage in the United States, marriage can only be between one man and one woman. States started allowing for “domestic partnerships” to give some “benefits” of marriage to same-sex couples, like employer health benefits and hospital visitation.

In many instances, these were available almost exclusively to same-sex couples, even after same-sex marriage became part of the law in all states. However, as of January 2020, California opened up domestic partnerships to everyone, including different-sex couples.

As a practical matter, domestic partnerships are simply state-sanctioned marriage by another name. It is notable though some jurisdictions may have limited domestic partnerships that are something less than marriage. In most states that have it, the same family law system, for good or ill, that comes with marriage under state law is also true of domestic partnerships.

While domestic partnership combined with a nikah is available to Muslims in states where it exists, there is no real advantage to using it.

No-Nuptial Agreements

For decades now, in the United States, there has been no taboo against men and women openly having sexual relationships with each other, living and raising families together outside marriage. Courts have long recognized these people should have contractual rights with each other.

When a man and women live together, those involved may be gaining something and giving something up. So if a man promises a woman something, and the agreement is not founded merely on sexual services, the state should enforce those promises, not in family court but civil court.

Marvin started it all

The principle case that established this is the California case of Marvin v. Marvin in 1976. A couple broke up, but the woman wanted to enforce promises made to her by the man. The man felt such a commitment should not be enforceable because, among other reasons, he was legally married to a completely different woman when this non-marital relationship started. Under California law, at the time (abolished by the time the case got to the court), this was criminal adultery.

No-nuptial agreements (sometimes called cohabitation agreements or Marvin agreements) can be used by couples when they want to have enforceable contracts but do not want to subject themselves to the family court system or the family code. They can include provisions of mahar, sharing expenses, equity as well as dispute resolution processes like arbitration and mediation.

The couple can also document limits on what they agreed to to what is in writing. For example, during a breakup, one party may be able to claim an oral promise the other party never made and potentially have it enforced in court. A written agreement protects both parties and the understanding they had when they entered into the relationship.

These agreements have a broad utility for many different kinds of couples. However, for some couples, the main benefit would be documentation that nobody is under the illusion that this is a marriage under state law. It is a private contract between two individuals.

Example of a No-Nuptial Agreement

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren. Both want to put their adult children at ease that this relationship does not exist for predatory financial reasons – a common fear when parents marry later in life.

Salma, 58, does a nikah with Sheher Ali, 62. They also create a no-nuptial agreement. Sheher Ali is a widower, and Salma is a divorcee. They both have their separate assets, including their own homes. Each has adult children and young grandchildren.Click To Tweet

Salma and Sheher Ali do not plan to live together, which is common for couples their age. They mostly pay for their expenses themselves. They may spend the night at each other’s homes whenever they want but will split time with their separate children, grandchildren and social circles. Sheher Ali pays for joint vacations and outings. He agreed to a mahar. Both agree in writing they did not marry under state law.

Sheher Ali and Salma can still call each other husband and wife, since that is true for them and everyone they know. Both keep all of their finances separate, and each does their independent estate planning where they name each other as partial beneficiaries of their estates as required in Islam. The two also complete HIPAA forms allowing each to see the other’s private medical information and name each other in Advance Healthcare Directives so they can make healthcare decisions for each other.

Legal Strangers

Unmarried couples are “legal strangers.” Doctors won’t share healthcare information. Islamic spouses don’t get an inheritance from a no-nuptial agreement spouse by default. They don’t get things like tenancy by the entirety, community property, or elective shares in places where such things exist. As I described above, though, this can be remedied. However, as I described in the example above, the “legal stranger” aspect of the relationship may be more of a benefit than a downside in some cases.

Some “benefits” of marriage under state law are against Islamic principles.  For example, some state laws that provide for “elective shares” are diametrically opposed to the Quran’s share of inheritance.  Muslims must follow Islamic rules of inheritance anyway, which are different from default state rules, so being under state law is no special advantage. Even with proper planning, the downsides of the “legal stranger” problem still may come up in extraordinary contexts, however, such as lawsuits.

Immigration and Taxes

Another concern is that employee benefits to spouses and dependents don’t generally extend to those with no-nuptial agreements. Immigration law does not allow a path to the United States through the “family unification ” process for those with a no-nuptial contract. Marriage under state law (or the law of a foreign country recognized in the United States) may be the most practical solution in such cases.

In some cases, state-sanctioned marriage may lead to lower taxes. Other legally married couples may experience the so-called “marriage penalty” and pay higher taxes than couples with a no-nuptial agreement. Couples may often find they will pay less in taxes with a no-nuptial agreement than they would if they were married under state law.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

One may wonder, to avoid the “meat grinder” of the family court system, why not just get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? It’s accurate that in general, having such arrangements are superior to not having them. These agreements offer greater certainty, though by no means total confidence, on how a divorce would end. There are disadvantages to such an agreement over no-nuptial agreements, however. A big one is that divorce is still in the family court system.

Many Muslim men, especially immigrants, may perceive cultural biases cause a stacked deck against them in family court. The nature of these agreements may make this perception worse. Sometimes, courts treat prenuptial and postnuptial agreements with a presumption of coercion. It is different from an ordinary contract. The family court system is often free to be more paternalistic and make a husband prove he did not force his wife to sign a document.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which will be worded differently in the different states that adopted it, provides for a process to make these marital agreements harder to defeat. However, the process is perhaps arguably more expensive, cumbersome, and awkward for a couple than a no-nuptial contract. Talking about a prenuptial agreement with a fiancé may be more uncomfortable than bringing up a no-nuptial arrangement and nikah. Without a state-sanctioned marriage, a written agreement is essential. Many people perceive the pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements as both optional and, perhaps unfairly, as a sign of mistrust.

Custody and Child Support

Unfortunately, there is no agreement you can come up with that will pre-settle child support and custody. A judge will decide those things.

It does not matter if you have a “plain vanilla” marriage governed entirely by your state’s family code, a prenuptial agreement, or a no-nuptial agreement. Children are not parties to such a contract. No court anywhere will subject a child’s care and welfare to such things.

For custody and child support, courts in family court will use the sometimes hard to define standard of “best interests of the child.” One Massachusetts family law attorney in a popular divorce documentary cryptically joked that she called children in the system  “little bags of money.” They are often a significant reason family law cases are so profitable for lawyers, mental health professionals, investigators, and everyone else.

No Protection for Poor Life Choices

A good rule to follow is never to do nikah with a person capable of having children unless you are sure she or he can be trusted to raise your future children, and you have made peace with making child support payments to this individual if your relationship ends. If you have a child, you may be suck with a child support order. There is no getting out of this one.

As an Islamic estate planning lawyer, the most important advice I can ever give anyone is not to get a proper estate plan. It is not to get a good lawyer. Of course those things are good, indeed no-brainers, but they have limits. The most important advice is to choose a spouse wisely. If you fail here, there is no law, no lawyer or document in existence that can turn back the clock. A no-nuptial agreement may make a future breakup easier than a family court divorce. There is still no guarantee it won’t be a complete mess anyway. Good documents are never a substitute for poor life choices.

“The Law of the Land”

Islamic institutions like masajid are conservative don’t like taking needless risks, as they should be. Many will not officiate a nikah unless there is a marriage license. They usually will not officiate bigamous marriages, on account of it being illegal.  Of course bigamy, like marriage, has a specific legal definition under state law. One almost universal refrain is that as Muslims we need to follow “the law of the land.”

No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the 'law of the land.' It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is. Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam.Click To Tweet

But what if that term did not mean what you think it means? No-nuptial agreements are in full conformity with the “law of the land.” It is not a marriage under state law. Nobody is claiming that it is.  Limiting nikah to marriage under state law not based on Islam. Recently, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, a large masjid in the Los Angeles area, changed its nikah officiating policy. Instead of always requiring marriage certificates, they will also recognize no-nuptial agreements.

Masajid Should Welcome No-Nuptial Agreements

Masajid should have standardized policies and procedures in place. Every masjid should have carefully considered policies to protect the vulnerable and the institution. No masjid wants to open themselves up to a “drive-by nikah” or other nonsense. One policy may well include mandating a no-nuptial agreement when there is no marriage certificate. There is no reason to believe one protects people and institutions better than the other.

Nikah is a vital sunnah for us. It is not something that should be in the shadows, secret, or something shameful. It is fundamental to how we organize our families and communities. When it’s done right, it helps us strengthen our iman, bring us closer to our communities and our loved ones. State definitions of words should not always be your guide to right and wrong.

It is appropriate that Muslims want to do the sunnah of nikah at the masjid, publicly and with friends and family watching.  We should recognize and celebrate every new couple that has done a nikah in our communities. Never mind the state has not sanctioned it.

The state statute book has its definition, we have ours.

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