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Advice for New University Students: Work Hard, Play Hard, PRAY harder

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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

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

Are you a young Muslim starting university this month? Or a mature student, looking to improve your career prospects? Either way, life is about to change big time – new surroundings, new friends, and new opportunities – along with new trials, new temptations, and new traps. Change can be good, and change can be bad: so listen to the sage advice of some seasoned MM-ers to ensure that your life changes for the better, insha’Allah!

ISoc2Sick

A classic tip from King’s College London graduate, Bushra:

“Seek out your university’s Islamic society and SIGN UP! They will be your lifeline out in the scary world of student-hood.”

Logo for one of the best ISocs in the world. I may be biased.

A lot of ISocs (a.k.a. MSAs for you Americans) have Freshers’ (first-year) events in the first few weeks of term for new students. You can contact them before you start via their websites and Facebook pages (Google is your friend). If your university doesn’t have an ISoc, try searching for Muslim cultural societies, like Pakistani, Indonesian, Malay, Arab, Somali, etc. Even if you’re not from those cultures, they should still welcome you, and at the very least, show you where the best places to pray and eat halal are , inshā’Allāh.

It’s also important to remember prayer room etiquette: give salām, smile, be friendly and welcoming to all. Just because someone doesn’t seem as pious as you are (note: thinking you’re better than others is a sure sign to check yourself!), or they pray a little differently than you, doesn’t provide any excuse for you to give them the cold shoulder. You don’t want your prickly nature to be the reason why someone doesn’t offer their ṣalāh in congregation, or avoids attending circles of knowledge, or even regular ISoc socials, a‘ūdhu billāh.

“Don’t be judgmental- whether you are super-practicing or not. University will introduce you to many more different characters than those at school and will test your own patience by making you accommodate for these people. It will refine you.” – Bushra

Freeeeedom!

Beware the price of freedom.

A warning from graduate of Imperial College London, iMuslim:

“Don’t let your first taste of ‘freedom’ go to your head – especially true for those sisters like me, who were rolled up in cotton wool most of their young lives! Suddenly teachers and parents aren’t there anymore to keep their beady eyes on you, and Shayṭān’s whispers becomes more like Shayṭān on loudspeaker!”

Without raining on your parade, the amazing high of your first few weeks away from home can also be dangerous for your īmān. You don’t realize how much of your Islam is dependent on the opinions of family and other authority figures until they disappear from view. Strangers, especially non-Muslims, aren’t going to care whether you pray your ṣalāh, or ‘eat of the good things’. Now it really is between you and Allah; time to familiarize yourselves with His Attributes: As-Samee’, the One who hears all; Al-Baseer, the One who sees all; and Al-‘Alīm, the One who knows all. In conclusion: feel free to disobey Allah in the place that He can’t hear you, see you or know about it. {smile}

However, greater freedom and a strange place also has its advantages:

“Starting uni is a great opportunity to renew yourself. Often school can be a very suffocating place because there is so much peer pressure from your friends – and even the people you dislike! If you’ve always wanted to start praying, wear hijab, clean up your language, volunteer more, and so on, but your peers were holding you back, uni is the best time to break the chains, wipe the slate clean, and start again with a ‘bismillah‘.” – iMuslim

Friends Forever

The heart is precious. Be careful who you let in.

Leaving behind childhood friends can be hard, especially if it takes time for you to make new ones. As lonely as you may feel at times, try not to fill that void in your heart, and the gap in your social calendar with just any company:

“Surround yourself with good people. Not just ISoc members, but also good friends on your course who may not be Muslim, but they live clean, and they respect you and your faith. If you left one bad group of ‘friends’ behind, don’t fall into the same trap again now you’ve been given a second chance. The Prophet, ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: ‘A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.’ [Sunan Abu Dāwūd]” – iMuslim

Campus Superstar

You are going to spend a lot of time in here. Study tip # 1 – try not to fall asleep.

With all the fun of new friends, clubs, and societies, you may forget that university is actually for something called, STUDYING.

To help you along, here are some awesome study tips from University of California student, Meena, and University of Washington graduate, Safia:

“Don’t give up the work habits that you established in high school. Most people have chiller schedules once they go to college and all forms of self-discipline and timeliness disappear. The hardest workers will do the best. Being “smart” isn’t enough. Make iḥsān in everything you do – even school.” – Meena

“Be a known presence, not just in the university community at large, but also in the classroom. It’s critical to visit during office hours and get to know your professors more. This is more general academic advice (of course, it’s a da’wah opportunity also), but when you familiarize yourself with the teacher, it has many advantages:

  • One, they’ll know you’re a serious student because you went beyond the classroom.
  • Two, the more memorable you are to professors, the easier time you’ll have getting the critical letters of recommendation that you will need for jobs and grad school.” – Safia

And a bucket load of academic advice from Wharton School of Business MBA grad, Amad:

  • Remember why you are at college: to earn a degree. Keep the focus. It’s only 3-4 years and if you put your mind into it, you’ll reap the benefits
    for the rest of your life. You almost have to treat it as an extremely important investment that may dictate your career, your future family, and where you might live.
  • Talk to senior students in your major. You can usually get great advice on professors, classes, and when you need something to lighten the load, professors who repeat the exam questions every year!
  • It’s not important just to “like” something to make a career out of it. If you want to be bread-earner, then you have choose something that will get you a job after you graduate. It affects what area you might be able to make a living in. For example, if you desire moving to the Middle East at one point in your life, scan the jobs that may be available in the region.

More practical advice can be found in this must-read MM post.

Don’t Forget Your Roots

This is how happy your pops will be when you call him (before you ask him for more money).

Our EIC, Hena – alumni of Wellesley College and the University of New Orleans – keeps it real:

Call your mom!! Dad, siblings, grandparents, and old friends too – if you call them and keep in touch, it is less anxiety for them and they won’t think that you have changed.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – but also more forgetful! Don’t let the excitement (and stress) of college life make you forget those who helped you to get there in the first place. That goes double for the One who provides for you in every way: Al-Razzāq. Keep in touch with your Creator via your daily worship, dhikr, and regularity of good deeds.

We hope that our sincere advice is of benefit to you. May you be successful in your studies, and enjoy every moment of this new and unique life experience, Ameen!
Feel free to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments below.

Related Article: A Message to Anyone Interested in a College Degree

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 22, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    Yesterday, I began plans to enrol in and resume some free online programs. This post is a pleasant coincidence.

    College wasn’t my first taste of freedom; I was free long before that.

    Most students take college as a social theater. They and some lecturers made all sorts of horrible remarks concerning my principle, ‘I know why I’m here,’ until the end of the first year when it became obvious I had the highest GP in the entire year (approximately 2500 students in my year).

    The courses I had very little interest in were those with repeated exam questions; BORING!

    I surrounded myself with trustworthy colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) who kept me informed of the latest academic information. I, in turn, assisted them with their courses, including courses far removed from mine.

    Interacting with lecturers and Professors in and out of the classroom was a hallmark of my college life; some of them are still my friends. The downside included a lecturer ignoring me during lectures saying anyone who has additional comments to make should come to her office. I never did; interaction starts first IN THE CLASSROOM. Some other lecturers misconstrued my visits as an indication of nuptial interest and repeatedly planned my marriage informing the town without my knowledge and approval. I played along behaving as if I was unaware of the plans until I had had enough. I crushed the party.

    I don’t do clubs. They are a very easy way to make collective enemies and for someone like me who naturally makes more enemies than friends, I keep clear of any membership/ regular attendance of societies until I know who’s running the show. I am more of a freelancer; I belong to everyone.

    Always learning,
    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Umm ibraheem

      September 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      I am confused by what your comment is supposed to mean….it’s all very abstract? Which country did you attend university?

      • Avatar

        Umm Sulaim

        September 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Which part of my comment is confusing so I can explain?

        My words are in response to the article.

  2. Avatar

    Yasmin

    September 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Thanks for these great reminders! My only advice is to try your hardest and when it comes time to take the exams have Tawakul in Allah (swt). I always like to repeat surah Fatihah once and Surah Ikhlas three times before taking any exam!

    • Avatar

      umm abdullah

      September 24, 2011 at 8:31 PM

      Assalamualaikum

      I agree about placing our trust in Allah. But reciting surah fatihah and surah ikhlaas,… you might have to ask a trustworthy scholar about that. It’s better to make a general dua before your exam. Allahu ‘Alam.

  3. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Anyone have any study tips, how to ace the course?

    Not pass or decent grades- actual top marks?

    • Avatar

      mimi

      September 28, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      Assalamu’alaikum,

      Some tips based on my undergrad years:

      Find people who have already taken your courses and ask if you can borrow their course notes, assignments (e.g., labs for science students), and written tests/midterm exams. It doesn’t mean you study any less (or copy their work: so wrong!) but having this resource really helps to understand expectations and the amount of effort you’ll need to put in.

      If a prayer time starts and finishes within a lecture, you can do this: place a small MP3 recorder on your desk to record the part of the lecture you’ll miss, and then leave to pray.

      I did well in almost every course I went to see the professor outside of class time. You get an idea of what they expect, what material is most important to study, etc. Visiting the professor with one or more fellow students is best. Think of your Profs as your teachers and remember the amount of respect our religion requires us to give to our teachers (when you do that it’s not so hard to talk to them, whether M or F)

      I formed many ‘acquaintances’ in uni and just a few lasting friends (1 or 2 in 4 years). You don’t have to become close friends with every person you meet- just be helpful, friendly, and respectful to the students you work and collaborate with.

  4. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Also, what kind of sleeping patterns should Muslim students have? Do/should/could they pray in jama-a. What about for fajr? Is qiyaam in the picture?
    In the article da’wah was mentioned.. Is dawah an obligation?
    To what extent should a Muslim student take a non-Muslims as awliyaa? I mean how close can one get when the other desires you to party, yet you desire for them jannah?
    How can one pray dhuhr/asr? Do they conflict with lecture times?
    If a male student has a female teacher, what kind of advice regarding lowering the gaze.. I mean I have no problem staring at the blackboard/PowerPoint.. But any advice about this issue?

    Quite many questions I know, but if anone has any advise about any of them it’d be greatly appreciated.

    Assalamu alaykum.

    There is another thing.. What is the greatest benefit in university? Something you weren’t expecting, some kind of freedom, the change in atmosphere which allowed you to grow in..

  5. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    From personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

  6. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    Khattab, from personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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

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

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

My bubble burst

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

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

Friendships were developed on good deeds

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

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

Made me thankful

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

People want to do Good

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

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

Smiles

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

It’s ok to cry

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

Learning to say no

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

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawah through action

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

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

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

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

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

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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Work on yourself

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

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

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

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

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

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

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

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

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

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

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

4. Don’t overthink it

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

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

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

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

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

5. Work to bridge religious differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

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

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

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

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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